Tis the season. The Strasbourg Christmas Market draws thousands of visitors each year for the biggest holiday market in France. Sprawling across the picturesque alleyways of half-timbered houses in front of the Cathedral, festive with lights and decorations, the market is straight out of a fairy tale. In its 431st year, this market is as about as merry as it gets. The scent of mulled wine and warm gingerbread fills the streets. Stalls brim with handcrafted ornaments and delightful gifts. And with the new high-speed train connecting Paris and Strasbourg, this border city in Alsace has become like a Paris suburb. In fact, the TGV has added extra trains just for the holiday season and now folks can check out the Strasbourg Christmas Market on a simple day trip from Paris.
High-rollers will get a kick out of this. Caesars Palace, the world's best known resort-casino, has just raised the betting limits to appease the biggest gamblers in the world. Starting this week, players can bet up to $50,000 per hand at blackjack and also on line bets at craps. These are the highest betting limits in Las Vegas.
Around the world in 24 days? Just pony up $97,970 for a five-star Abercrombie & Kent itinerary onboard a Boeing 757 reconfigured for just 50 passengers. Or how about perfume? Get your hands on the world's most expensive fragrance: a Baccarat crystal container with a 5-carat diamond set in 18-karat gold containing 500 ml (17 fl oz) of the Imperial Majesty version of No. 1 for Women. Asking price? $215,000. Or maybe you covet a designer cat for your sweetheart? The price tag for an Ashera (hybrid breed resembling a mini-leopard) is $22,000. Reuters has the scoop on the priciest holiday gifts out there.
One of the most exciting things to come out of Art Basel Miami Beach (the prestigious art show closed yesterday) was the launch of The Florida Room at the legendary Delano Hotel. The media's abuzz about the new lounge on the Miami scene. What's the big deal exactly? Lenny Kravitz designed it! That's right-- the NY-based Kravitz Design Inc. teamed up with Morgans Hotel Group to create The Florida Room. Billed as a "modern day speakeasy," the sophisticated subterranean space features live musical performances nightly, with internationally-renowned DJs taking over the late night hours. Latin-inspired specialty cocktails include a fresh Raspberry Mojito and The Florida Room Punch. Hipsters sit back and enjoy the smoked bronze mirrored ceilings, crystal chandeliers by Swarovski, and grand piano that's a replica of Kravitz's own. To quote Kravitz from the official press release:
"My aunt had a place in her house where everyone played, hung out, listened to music and where all the fun was had, called the Florida room," said Lenny Kravitz. "We decided to create a space with this theme in mind but that also had the feeling of the old piano lounges in the resorts back in the 50's in Florida, Cuba and New York City. I love the rich musical history of Miami Beach. The Beatles, James Brown and Frank Sinatra all spent time here. We see the Delano as having this same kind of rich history and also took cues from this to envision the place I always wanted at the beach, but hasn't existed here in a long time."
The Mile-High City is getting a new luxury addition. Listed as one of Frommer's "Top Destinations for 2008," Denver has experienced a "recent renaissance." With over 300 days of sunshine per year, Denver is one of the sunniest cities in the U.S., simply brimming with down-to-earth cosmopolitan delights. And now Ritz-Carlton is coming to town. The opening date has been delayed until January 11, 2008, but the hotel's debut has been much anticipated. With the largest guest rooms in the city, The Ritz-Carlton Denver provides majestic Rocky Mountain views and luxury to match, just minutes away from the very best that Denver has to offer. The 202 guest rooms (including 47 suites) are chock full of elegant amenities (think 400 thread-count Frette linens, plush terry robes, five-fixture bathrooms with oversized tubs, Bvlgari bath essentials, flat panel, high definition LCD TVs, and cappuccino makers). And that's not all. The hotel will be home to Elway's, the signature restaurant named after Denver Bronco quarterback and NFL Hall of Fame Inductee John Elway and the FORZA Fitness Club, a complete facility with indoor pool, free weight gym, and basketball court. The best part of all? The Ritz-Carlton Denver is pet-friendly.
Manhattan is simply magical during the holidays. What better place to stay in the city than The Peninsula New York, the landmark building ideally located on Fifth Avenue and 55th Street in Midtown? There's a reason this prestigious hotel has received the AAA Five-Diamond award for eight consecutive years, and is listed as one of the top three hotels in New York by Conde Nast Traveler's Gold List. Decadent facilities (like the glass-enclosed pool and sumptuous spa) are complemented by absolutely impeccable service (we wouldn't expect anything less from a Peninsula hotel). Amid the hustle and bustle of hectic holiday preparations, take some time to be pampered in style. The Peninsula New York's restaurants and bars are favorites among the New York business crowd and include the hotel's fine dining restaurant, Fives, and the popular Pen-Top Bar & Terrace with stunning views of New York. Fives is going all out for Christmas with marvelous Prix Fixe menus with holiday favorites like Grilled Beef Tenderloin and Warm Chocolate Soufflé Tart. On Christmas Eve, enjoy festive decorations and live music ($95 per person), and on Christmas Day, the Buffet Brunch features traditional delicacies like Free Range Roast Turkey with Traditional Gravy and Prime Rib with Horseradish Cream. Exciting buffet selections include a seafood raw bar, carved meats, aged cheeses, delicious vegetarian dishes, and desserts ($125 per person, Champagne inclusive. The price is $85 per guest aged 13-20, and $45 for guests 12 years and under.)
Overlooking the St. Lawrence River just 30 minutes from Quebec City, fresh, untracked powder blankets the trails: a real winter wonderland. The NYT sings the praises of this oft-overlooked ski destination: "the mountains of Quebec's suburbs are the hidden jewels of the early ski season." Why choose the crowded slopes of Vermont when you can opt for this magical wilderness setting, combined with a stay in one of North America's oldest and prettiest towns: Old Quebec City? Mont Ste.-Anne is "the biggest of the resorts within a half-hour of Quebec only 10 percent of the annual visitors come from the United States." Plus, a trip to Quebec means a stay at the award-winning Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, the majestic heritage hotel that is itself a landmark in this UNESCO World Heritage Site, situated high on a bluff in the historic city center. Spend the day on the slopes or out on the town, soaking up the European charm of Quebec City, and then kick back après-ski in your very own castle. Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac has put together a Ski Package which includes accommodations, full buffet breakfast at Le Café de la Terrasse, and one day ski lift ticket at a choice of two mountains: Mont Ste-Anne or Stoneham. Starting from CAD 369 per night, available until April 27, 2008.
Leave it to Dubai-- the world's novelty capital, home to the biggest, baddest, and most outlandish-- to open an ice lounge. There are now 9 ice bars globally and of course Dubai has caught on to the trend. Chillout, the $3 million bar made entirely of ice (40,000 tons of it!), opened in the Times Square Shopping Center this past June. Enjoy nibbles from an Asian-fusion menu served on ice plates, and sip your Shirley Temple in a tumbler made of ice. (Be forewarned: alcoholic drinks are *not* served in this joint.) There are even ice sculptures depicting Dubai's skyline and a 7-foot chandelier carved from ice. Pony up the $17 cover charge and you'll get one drink and a hooded parka, wool gloves and insulated shoes for your time in the bar.
Keep winter blues at bay with a Vegas getaway and get luxury for less at The Venetian. In the center of the action on The Strip, the resort's got plenty of wow factors: authentic gondola rides on the Grand Canal, the Guggenheim Museum, excellent live entertainment, top-quality restaurants, and the Canyon Ranch Spa... Talk about the ultimate winter playground. Skip the holiday frenzy and luxuriate in style at The Venetian, where you can unwind in one of the newly remodeled Luxury Suites for a mere $149 per night with their exclusive holiday rate. Available until January 3, 2008. (Weekend rates are slightly more at $199 per night.)
December 6, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
East Coasters, grab your skis and snowboards. Snow is falling in the Laurel Highlands and winter weather is in the forecast. Mystic Mountain-- 25 acres of fun, short lines, friendly trails and experienced instructors-- will be open to welcome skiers of all levels on Saturday, December 8, 2007. This is Western Pennsylvania's ideal learning environment for first-timers, but there is also plenty of terrain for the pros. There are 10 slopes, ranging from beginner to expert, with a 300 foot vertical drop, three lifts-- 100 percent illuminated for night skiing. Easily accessible and incredibly popular during its 20 year history, Nemacolin Woodlands Resort is your indoor and outdoor winter destination. With winter weather on the horizon, you'll find all sorts of activities at the resort: dog sledding, surrey rides, snow-tubing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. But if snowsports aren't your thing, head inside and indulge in some special holiday treatments at the world-class Woodlands Spa or fine dining with French flair at the AAA Five-Diamond Lautrec restaurant.