LUXURY HOTEL INSIDER
February 10, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
In the dark, dismal throes of winter it's easy to fantasize about the antithesis: St. Pete's lively White Nights of Summer, when sunlight dances over the pastels of the city's buildings, lingering late into the night and inspiring people to flood the streets in understated celebration. A journey to St. Pete's is a once-in-a-lifetime must. The time to go? During the last 10 days in June, when darkness never falls, and the White Nights festival showcases ballet and dance. The city is aesthetically marvelous and steeped in culture, history and romance. Footbridges grace winding canals, framed on either end by majestic statues, and haunted by musicians drinking beer and playing guitar under the stars (or—in the case of the summertime—the endless waning sunlight).
Sites to see: With its huge dome standing proud over the Petersburg skyline, St. Isaac's Cathedral is even more extravagant on the inside: its interior a mix of marble and mosaic. The Hermitage Museum rivals the Louvre, with its overwhelming collection of art housed in the grand imperial palace on the banks of the Neva river. The Russian Museum, located in the former Mikhailovsky Palace, offers a breathtaking collection of works by Russian artists. Or follow the steps of famed Russian novelist Dostoyevsky, or his character Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment. The city is rich in the literary haunts of Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, and Tolstoy.
February 9, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The French are supersizing it. In the small, historic seaside port of Rochefort, near La Rochelle on the country's Atlantic coast, expert craftsmen have undertaken an enorme project: the reconstruction of the 65 meter ship that carried the legendary General La Fayette to join General Washington and the American leaders in their fight for independence in 1780. When it was first constructed, the Hermione required 11 months of work by hundreds of skilled workers; its reconstruction will take 10 years, and cost $10 million. This is the ultimate symbol of Franco-American fraternity, and an emblem of France's past naval strength. And a brilliant museum to visit, off the beaten path in France.
The biggest, baddest party of the year (leaps and bounds better than Mardi Gras) has been announced, and this is the year to go. Proudly emerging from reconstruction efforts after Hurricane Katrina, NOLA is as enticing as ever, though there's still a long way to go. And tourism's the ticket to get there. Following its historic tradition, 2006 Jazz Fest promises to be an awesome show, with Fats Domino already signed on to the line-up of legendary musicians. In fact, organizers have announced the show will take place over two weekends, April 28-30 and May 5-7. Advance tickets are $30 per day, and if you act fast, there might still be room at the stunning Windsor Court, consistently awarded as one of the world's finest hotels.
Windsor Court Hotel, Official Site
Windsor Court Hotel, Five Star Alliance
The cat's out of the bag. The ladies are flocking to the AAA five diamond Greenbrier for the March 8-12 scheduled Women's Wonderful Weekend, a relaxing four-day weekend designed just for women. The 4th annual event features an array of talented speakers, including authors Gail Sheehy and Christine Martinello, who lead sessions covering a range of topics (women's health issues, spiritual and mental growth, women in leadership roles, techniques to reduce stress, finance, fashion and beauty, etc). And of course besides the motivational discussions and reflection on personal growth, there's a birthday bash dinner party, "Not So Extreme Makeovers," and plenty of opportunities to divulge in the superb Greenbrier Spa. Rates are on the Modified American Plan (includes breakfast, dinner and a $50 spa voucher) and start at $380 per night single occupancy and $325 per night double occupancy.
The Greenbrier, Official Site
The Greenbrier, Five Star Alliance
That's right, the charming city of Aix is paying tribute to the great artist—this is the father of modern art we're talking about!-- all throughout 2006. Indeed, Cézanne's light-filled paintings have become inseparable symbols of the Provençal setting they depict, the landscape that helped create the artistic genius that influenced Cubism, Fauvism and abstract art. Head to the south of France for the spectacular exhibit Cézanne in Provence, which features over a hundred of the artist's works, with 80 oil paintings and 30 water colors—all associated with the region around Aix. Now at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., and showing at the Musée Granet, Aix-en-Provence, from June 9 - September 17, 2006. Additionally, starting April 8th the Tourism office will be operating a shuttle bus service to tour special Cezanne sites, including the studio at Les Lauves, the manor at Jas de Bouffan, and the quarries at Bibemus. The Cézanne 2006 season also includes performances, concerts, exhibitions, and music and dance. To really do it right in celebrating Cézanne's Provence, shack up at the Villa Gallici, an elegant paradise (and destination hotel) just 10 minutes from the town's historical center. (Where you can sip an aperitif on the statue-flanked terrace, overlooking the pool and Florentine gardens, before indulging in the evening's gastronomic feast.)
Villa Gallici, Official Site
Villa Gallici, Five Star Alliance
Leave it to the NYT to spill the secret: Rome in wintertime just can't be beat. Off-season hotel rates, end of season sales means shopping galore, the perfect lack of gawking crowds, and a plethora of (warm) indoor cultural activities. Where to stay? The stunning, historic Hotel de Russie (this is one of Rocco Forte's many European gems) boasts gorgeous terraced gardens and central courtyard, a peaceful oasis in the heart of the city near the Spanish Steps. And the Spa—with Turkish steam bath, hydropool, jacuzzi and sauna—ain't too shabby either.
Hotel de Russie, Official Site
Hotel de Russie, Five Star Alliance
This is it. The sports event of the year and fans are already going nuts. Our advice? Get ready, set, and book those hotel ressies ASAP before rooms book up for the June games (scheduled June 9-July 9). The official site is loaded with info about this year's World Cup and its host cities of Hamburg, Hanover, Berlin, Gelsenkirchen, Dortmund, Leipzig, Cologne, Frankfurt, Kaiserlautern, Nuremberg, Stuttgart and Munich. Our picks:
In Hamburg, head for the Raffles Vier Jahreszeiten which has been the city's symbol of impeccable service for over a century. The furnishings are exquisite: 16th and 17th century Flemish Gobelin tapestries, Baroque cupboards and Renaissance chests. (The mags Travel and Leisure and CNT also love this joint, and its kick-ass spa is listed as a Leading Spa by LHW.)
In Berlin, which is just hopping with trend-setters these days, there are a plethora of worthy establishments, including the Kempinski Hotel Bristol (with its kickin address), the Radisson SAS (with its 25 meter AquaDom cyclindrical aquarium in the lobby), and the beloved favorite, Schlosshotel Im Grunewald, the historic castle hotel that offers only 54 exclusive rooms and 12 suites, designed by the one and only Karl Lagerfeld.
In the heart of Bavaria, you simply can't go wrong with Munich's Mandarin Oriental or the Bayerischer Hof, dating from 1841 and now the country's largest privately-owned hotel (with central location and rooftop pool to boot).
Now get moving.
Brokeback Mountain was filmed in Canada? (Ang Lee pulled a fast one on us with this Hollywood cost-cutting maneuver.) This fact doesn't seem to deter the hundreds of callers who have contacted the Wyoming tourism office, who want a little piece of that scenery. The phones are ringing off the hook and callers don't seem to give a hoot when they learn the truthful location for the set. The mountains and rugged wilderness of the "cowboy state" are just too tempting. Do you too want a piece of that scenery? The elegantly rustic cabins of the Jenny Lake Lodge, set beneath the glorious Teton range, are a good bet; satisfy your inner cowboy with trail rides, flyfishing and hiking around the Old Western style ranch. Of course you could always take it up a notch at Jackson Hole's Rusty Parrot, which is one of the country's great luxury stand-outs.
Check out the miraculous "Snow Show"-- at least in the NYT feature today. A team of artists and architects suffered frost-bitten fingers and sub-zero temps to construct a series of exhibitions out of snow in the village where most of the Alpine Olympic events will be held. The six projects were created by the artist Daniel Buren and the architect Patrick Bouchain; Carsten Höller with Tod Williams and Billie Tsien; Yoko Ono and Arata Isozaki; Paola Pivi and the firm Cliostraat; Jaume Plensa and Norman Foster; and Kiki Smith and Lebbeus Woods. Budgeted at $1.33 million, the works are grandiose and fantastic.
January 30, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Get yourself to the metropolis of music for the 2006 gala for Wolfgang Amadeus' 250th birthday. In Salzburg, the composer's birthplace, the entire city has become a stage, with 55 first performances, 36 operas, 260 concerts, and exhibitions galore. Soak up that culture-- just revel in it!-- while spoiling yourself at the Hotel Sacher Salzburg, located in the heart of the city on the banks of the Salzach River. The preferred hotel of statesmen and royal families, the turn-of-the-century Grand Hotel has a long tradition of luxury and style, usually booked solid during the annual Salzburg Festival. Of course, it's the place to stay during Mozart's birthday extravaganza.
Hotel Sacher Salzburg, Official Site
Hotel Sacher Salzburg, Five Star Alliance