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Hotel St. Paul

Montreal 's Hotel St. Paul is a beautifully restored building, designed in the Beaux Art style. The elegant facade welcomes you into a surprisingly ethereal interior. Throughout, the hotel`s decor was inspired by the Canadian landscape - earth, ice, fire and sky. The careful restoration of this heritage building has been awarded top honors by the City of Montreal. The historic landmark has been transformed into an elegant yet simple space. All amenities specific to a boutique hotel have been carefully designed to let you experience the best out of your stay. Hotel St-Paul welcomes you to the luxury of modernism within an historic framework. The Cube restaurant offers a market-fresh menu daily. Chef Eric Gonzalez carefully selects the finest quality produce of the season. He creates one-of-a-kind tastes with his innovative approach. The hotel's second floor offers four meeting spaces equipped with state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment and high speed Internet access. Allow the St-Paul to fulfill your wishes - possibly your dreams.
Stats :-120 rooms, 1 restaurant, 1 bar.
Competitive Edge :-Stylish contemporary rooms in a prime Old Montreal location.
Rooms to Book :-10th-floor rooms, with 13-foot ceilings and views of Place d'Youville. Don't Miss :-Fricots, the Québécois version of tapas, at the new Vauvert restaurant.
Cos:-Doubles from $286, including breakfast.
Contact:-
355 Rue McGill
Old Montreal
(866) 380-2202 or (514) 380-2222
www.hotelstpaul.com
7:49 AM 1 comments

Little Palm Island Resort & Spa

You wake up to a blissful quiet, broken only by a heron's call and the gentle lap of waves. You snuggle closer. A cloud of soft linen envelops you in a comfortable cocoon. You dream of your trip here last night on The Truman, the 35 foot launch named after one of the island's most famous guests, and glide again through sultry waters to arrive at this remote island full of Jamaican palms and exotic blossoms. And you wonder if you can ever leave. Tucked offshore of Little Torch Key and accessible only by boat or seaplane, the resort is a world unto itself, alive with hidden pleasures. Crushed seashell paths wind through lush gardens to thatched-roof bungalows, which serve as your guest quarters. Extra spacious, each suite and grand suite has romantic touches such as a king-size bed draped in butterfly netting, verandahs with ocean views and, in some rooms, private outdoor showers and jetted tubs. From the lagoon-style pool to the meditative Zen Garden or the cozy Great Room library, a perfect serenity sweeps over you as you wander the island. Oversized hammocks beckon from the trees. Lounge chairs nestled in the sand call from the beach. And at the end of the day, return to your private bungalow for peaceful seclusion to dream again.
Stats:- 30 suites; 1 restaurant; 2 bars.
Competitive Edge:-One of Florida's most romantic and secluded retreats.
Rooms to Book:-For privacy, the Mockingbird Suite; the Willet Suite is set between the beach and the pool.
Don't miss:-A guided flats-fishing excursion.
Cost:-Doubles from $1,760, including meals. No guests under 16.
Contact:-
Overseas Highway
(Mile Marker 29 Oceanside)
(800) 343-8567 or (305) 872-2524
www.littlepalmisland.com
7:47 AM 1 comments

The winner takes it all (well, a £50 gift card, anyway)

Gift card competition

Only a select handful of Mr & Mrs Smith bloggees know their Balearics from their Aeolians, it transpires

In the second of our photo competitions, we challenged you to tell us where in the world this heavenly hilltop was. And lucky winner, Chris McAtominey from London, correctly identified this majestic Mallorcan vista.

‘That’s Valldemossa in Mallorca,’ he said.mirabodevalldemossa
Quite right, Chris.
‘Lovely shot too, with the sunset falling on the town,’ he added. (Not that it was flattery that won our eagle-eyed victor the day.)

Commiserations to our two runners-up, who narrowly missed becoming the proud owner of a £50 Get a Room! gift card.

We’d like to suggest that clued-in Chris put his prize towards a stay at nearby Mirabó de Valldemossa (above). OK, he could play out of left field and book something unrelated like… ooh, I don’t know… think of a number… Thirty Two – but even without the half-ton back-hander, you’ll find Mirabó’s serene, sun-kissed 16th-century olive farm charm is worth every penny.

Read our full review.

Get your training for next month’s competition in now, by browsing our fabulously informative Destination guides. You never know. It might help.

Until September…

7:47 AM 0 comments

Sundaes and sunny days

So far, summer 2009 has lacked sunshine in every sense. We’ve seen a generous onslaught of rain, we’ve lost the King of Pop and a perfectly coiffed Charlie’s Angel and the sound of someone sneezing on a tube is enough to send swine-flu-dreading commuters scuttling for cover. Our medicinal mood-booster? Ice-cream. Pure and simple. What can be more optimistic, especially in this umbrella-necessitating weather, than sitting down to a towering sundae, drizzled in chocolate sauce, chopped nuts and sugar crystals? Ancient Man used to perform sun dances to banish the clouds; at Smith HQ, we’ll put our faith in the gooey stuff.

In a mission to spirit up some warmth and cheer via several large ice-cream sundaes, I head to Fortnum & Mason’s Parlour Restaurant in Piccadilly, cagoule and brolly in hand. F&M is a British institution and rightly so, having built up a reputation for quality treats over the last 300 years. Many a day’s London browsing has ended with a quick recce in the Food Hall (the lavender- and rose-flavoured chocolate creams are dangerously addictive), but this is my first trip to the shop’s ice-cream-obsessed eatery.

The Parlour Restaurant

Located on the first floor, the Parlour Restaurant (right) is a bright and airy space, popular with bag-laden shoppers, child-pacifying parents and couples craving a sugar hit. It’s decorated in the style of a ’50s Italian gelateria, with ice-cream-inspired decor in pistachio, vanilla and chocolate shades, scoop-and-sauce murals on the walls, glass lamps stained with a choc-ice effect, and a pretty raspberry-ripple curved bar. Having settled down in a breezy spot by the window (perfect for Piccadilly people-watching) we decide to check the Parlour Restaurant isn’t just a one-trick pony, by beginning with a non ice-cream starter.

I opt for Gresingham duck with quails egg on a herb bap, and my partner in (culinary) crime goes for a smoked chicken open-sandwich with anchovy (below). Both are delicious, washed down with a glass of crisp white Soave. This place may be designed with kids in mind (there’s even a Tots menu) but it’s got more than enough charm to keep adults happy, too. There’s not a cloud on the horizon. (My mood is most certainly on the up.)

Smoked chicken and anchovy bap

Having polished off our baps, we settle down to the serious business of ice-cream selection. Given the menu (a love-letter to the frozen stuff), this is no mean feat. My accomplice goes for a Boozie Fruits cocktail sundae and after umming and aahing over a ginger, honey and vanilla number, I go retro and order a knickerbocker glory. I blame my nostalgic choice on the shop-window display – a tribute to the English seaside, complete with sand castles, a pearl-draped mermaid, a giant fake ice-cream and F&M treats scattered like plundered treasure across the kitsch beach. There’s even a soundtrack of waves and seagulls cawing away in the background. If you can’t make it to the Kent coast this summer, head here instead.

Boozie Berrie Sundae

Our ice-creams emerge resplendent in their glass bowls, topped with straw-like conical wafers lined with chocolate and hazelnut praline. I reckon I’ve won – my glory by name, glory by nature comes scattered with sugar crystals and lashings of cream crowned with plump raspberries (right). My mood plummets again when it’s time to leave, so to restore good humour, we wander around the Food Hall, picking up some Gamekeeper’s Relish, beer mustard, chilli jam and marzipan fruits – booty enough to inspire a picnic, were we not already full to the brim with ice-cream.

St James's Club & Hotel

There are yet more glamorous ways to picnic on F&M goodies this summer, too, when you book in to St James’s Hotel & Club. This stylish and dapper townhouse hotel in Mayfair (think exclusive gentleman’s club with a valuable portraiture collection, Murano chandeliers, decadent boudoirs and polished stone bathrooms) has developed three picnic packages bursting with tasty F&M treats that can be delivered directly to your preferred picnic spot – choose from nearby St James’s, Green or Hyde Park.

A Fortnum & Mason's outdoor picnic

There’s nothing lowly about even the most basic package (catered for two), which includes overnight b&b, plus an alfresco feast of olives, ham or pork rillettes with crusty bread, poached salmon or chicken, mozzarella and tomato pie, salad, strawberries and mint, and a bottle of viognier (right), stylishly presented in a F&M cool bag with cutlery (£265). Pick of the ‘nics is the gourmet hamper package, including beef carpaccio, Scottish lobster, Blanc de Blanc champagne and a bottle of Chablis Premier Cru, delivered in a wicker basket with glasses, plates and cutlery.

And if the sun does refuse to shine, you can always enjoy your picnic hamper in the comfort of your luxurious, silk-wallpapered room back at St James’s Hotel & Club. Now if only the bods at F&M could think up a way of including an ice-cream sundae or two into those hampers, summer 2009 really would be la dolce vita

7:46 AM 1 comments

Hotel of the week: The Crescent, Los Angeles

How to follow a fabulous Portuguese farmhouse, a cosy Norfolk cottage and a trad Thamesside inn? Why, with another equally stunning boutique property, of course. This week, our fickle fancies turn to…the_crescent_hotel

The Crescent, Los Angeles

the_crescent_balconyStyle Upscale monochrome villa
Setting Rarified Rodeo Drive environs

Why this week? Venice Beach is calling, the chic boutiques of Rodeo Drive are summer-quiet and the incredible variety of cuisine at LA’s stellar eateries (Koi, Lucques, Spago) is yours for the savouring.

Our favourite bits Book a Brighton Street-facing room and let the sunshine show off ththe_crescent_boee light-loving shades-of-white decor, textured fabrics and sleek furniture in all their pristine glory. Laze on a sofa over cups of tea on the tree-shaded patio (above). Lounge over nattily named cocktails (try a ‘Seven Wet Pom-Poms’) in the lobby bar. Linger over angel hair with clams or flatiron steak under the stars – elbow to elbow with the A-list – at the hotel restaurant, Boé (left).

Mr & Mrs Smith say ‘The Crescent must have been a sensational house. Formerly the kind of establishment known for its hourly bookings, it’s now a small style hotel, a far cry from its former bad self, tucked away in the heart of the_crescent_bedBeverly Hills. A honeyed stucco facade conceals minimal-chic interiors by designer Dodd Mitchell, the man behind Hollywood’s hippest playgrounds, and the restaurant is a star attraction, drawing in Mena Suvari, Liz Hurley, Courtney Cox et al.’

Read our full review

7:45 AM 0 comments

Visit Painswick this month. You’ll thank us.

hapennyjkMy heart belongs to Painswick. No, it’s not a tubby waistcoated Dickens character, it’s an adorable tiny town in the South Cotswolds. I’m a shallow soul really. A gorgeous boutique hotel, a sprinkling of couldn’t-be-cuter shops (Ha’Penny Antiques, left), an excellent deli and a country pub and I’m smitten. Throw in your chocolate-box Cotswold-stone village setting and some gorgeous gardens to while away an afternoon in and I’m head over heels. And my reason to share this is to urge you to go this month: they’re having an Painswick Summer Art Festival throughout August.

I couldn’t believe my luck when we managed to get a last-minute weekend deal at Cotswolds88 during summer. We spent half our time trying to guesstimate how much of Britain would jump at the chance to experience a staycation weekend that went a little like ours and the other half plotting how and when we could get there again. In a nutshell, and to whet your appetite to follow in our footsteps, our two-night stay went a little like this…

olivasFriday night: After wending our way through Gloucestershire’s gorgeous country lanes, we rock up at postcard-perfect grey-stone country mansion which conceals super-stylish boutique hotel, Cotswolds88. Wander out into peaceful village, find award-winning deli, Olivas (left), for afternoon tea. Caper about in graveyard of St Mary’s taking pictures amid those bonkers yew trees and shouting puns such as ‘Suits yew, sir’ all the while. (Trip on gravestone while running for self-timer picture, below left, and end up with leg graze that raises eyebrows later on back at hotel – but I digress.) Return to hip hideaway, drink some champagne-based aperitifs (sidestepping the pre-supper cocktail suggestion from young waiter of a White Russian; eek), eat like kings (delicious steak, guys); hit the sack.

the-chairman-painswickjkSaturday: Wake up, wolf a carb-load for breakfast, ditch newspaper banging on about credit crunch and swine flu in favour of more village wandering. Better for the soul. Discover bookshop in 14th-century National Trust cottage, stroke resident basset hound, buy decades-old children’s book as gifts for only a few pounds. Wander ‘high street’ browsing the sprinkling of shops, including a Tudor post office, buy a cute hand-printed card in the Chairman (left) to send to friend stuck in bed with aforementioned porcine affliction. See a leaflet and make note to self to mention Painswick Summer Art Festival on Blog…

For the full technicolour and we-did-this-we-did-that hotel write-up, see my proper Costwolds88 review online.

What to see and do in postcard-pretty Painswick?

Here are my eating, strolling and shopping recommendations…

rococoRococo Gardens Painswick GL6 6TH (+44 (0)1452 813 204)
It’s fairly small, but perfectly formed. Pretty follies pop up in green flower-filled grounds, with a good old fashioned not-as-easy-as-it-looks maze to tackle. The tea shop isn’t to be sniffed at – a decent Ploughman’s and carrot cake provided a heartier lunch than we’d expected.

Little Fleece Bookshop on Bisley Street, Painswick GL6 6QQ (+44 (0)1452 812 264)
Collectors of quality secondhand and antiquarian books will thrill at the copies stacked from floor to ceiling, while browsers will find this 16th-century National Trust building worth earmarking alone for a visit.

The Chairman on New Street, Painswick (+44 (0)1452 810 8200)
The antique rocking horse should grab your attention, and then once you’re lured inside it’s hard to resist one of the many handicrafts or antique furnishings. Even the greetings cards are irresistible.

Ha’penny Antiques on Tibbiwell, Painswick GL6 6XX (+44 (0)1452 813 712)
This tiny gift shop opened three decades ago and is now run by the original owners’ daughter, Kate. Floral teapots, pretty pottery and ribbonned cushions are just some of the curiosities to bring out the Magpie in browsers.

Olivas Delicatessen on Friday Street, Painswick GL6 6QJ (+44 (0)1452 814 774)
Far from your typical Cotswolds tea shop, Brian and Ximena Nunez have not only brought a taste of their native Colombia courtesy of the coffee that is served at this tiny hidden-away cafe and deli, but there are heartier home-cooked delights on offer for lunch and dinner as well as traditional cream teatime treats.

st-marysSt Mary’s Church
Grade I-listed church celebrated particularly for its 100 – or thereabouts – yew trees which are the stuff of Painswick’s best-known folklore. Sorry about the posers in the pic – it didn’t look as glam when I fell backwards onto aforementioned tombstone.

eton-messThe Woolpack Inn (+44 (0)1452 813 429)
This timeless little country pub overlooking a valley one side, and a church the other, is especially popular for Sunday lunch (definitely call in advance). Beloved by Alex James and the hip Cotswoldian brigade, it can fill up quickly, so they split lunch into two sittings, 12pm and 2.30pm. We recommend the Eton Mess, pictured.

7:45 AM 0 comments

August debuts: Basque beauties, Catalan castles and Sardinian spas

It’s that time again when we reveal the new hotel debutantes we’re inaugurating into Smith society. We’ve combed the beaches of San Sebastián, searched the coastal charms of Empordà and scoured the heavenly excesses of the Hamptons to bring you the very best of the boutique-hotel world this August…

Movie-mad Astoria7 in San Sebastián lets you stay with a film star in a city where there’s more Michelin stars per inhabitant than anywhere else in the world. What’s more, if you head to this Belle Epoque beauty in September, you’re almost guaranteed a star-spot as the International Film Festival sets up camp in the city. Not far away, sing along to the Sound of Music at Arguibel in the Basque Country fishing port of Guéthary – all that timber and greenery gives a very Swiss-Alp feel.

Arguibel

Sticking with mountain ranges, we traversed the Pyrenees on our boutique-hotel trail and found a grand old castle close to the Costa Brava cliffs in Empordà. The majestically mediaeval Castell d’Empordà is just east of Girona, in the Catalan countryside. And if a city break is more your thing, be tempted by ME Madrid – a hip urban hangout hiding behind an imposing 20th-century façade in the centre of the capital.

If you have frazzled nerves to soothe, retreat into the hillside spa at Petra Segreta Resort in Sardinia. This peaceful old farmhouse sits in a whitewashed hamlet on the Costa Smeralda, close to the beaches of Olbia.

And over in the Hamptons, vacation with high society while there’s still time. Stay at family-friendly East Hampton Point, a collection of suites and self-catering holiday cottages with its own marina. There’s also the 1770 House, a vintage clapboard villa with classic colonial charm.

Petra Segreta

More jetset jamborees await near St Tropez – we’ve discovered a lively boutique hotel with its finger on the party pulse: Kube Hotel is Miami-like and minimalist, with three fabulous bars to choose from.

Astoria7

In Britain, our Edinburgh collection has a new friend – the Chester Residence may look vintage from the outside, but inside it’s sleek and modern all the way. And it’s just a short way from the action on Princes Street. Book fast if you’re heading up for the Fringe Festival.

Next month, we’ll be staying in the very bonny Scotland and revealing a special boutique retreat waiting in blissful isolation in the Trossachs. We’ve also ventured to Cornwall and Hampshire, and Spain gets another look-in, too. Oh, and there’s a couple of Texan treats in store as well. Stay tuned…

7:42 AM 0 comments

Competition: win a £50 hotel gift card

Last month we ran a competition on the Smith Travel Blog to win one of our nifty new boutique-hotel gift cards (congratulations again to Lindsay, who spotted Kata Tjuta in Oz a mile off), and it was so darn successful, we decided to take it monthly.

So, lady travellers, gentleman journeymen and all voyagers in between, welcome to our second ‘Where in the World’ travel quiz. This month, we’re giving away a £50 Get a Room! gift card (alternatively, that’s US$85 or AU$100, depending on your geography). You can spend the card on a stay at any hotel in Smith’s worldwide collection, (not wishing to influence your decision in any way, but we’d suggest checking out our new stylish Spanish stays in Empordà and the Basque Country), either by booking online or by calling our round-the-clock Travel Team.

So, all you have to do is take a look at the image below – and tell us:

Where in the world are we?

Gift card competition

This splendid sunset was captured on camera by Smith’s own Sabine Zetteler while on a recent hotel-hunting jaunt. It’s tricky, but given the fact that the last one proved so easy for so many of you, we thought it was time to test your travel mettle.

To enter, just leave your answer in the comments and remember, the more accurate, the better. We’ll pick a winner next Monday (10 August) and contact them via email to arrange delivery of the prize. We won’t publish correct answers until then, but, to make it a smidge easier, we will include any wrong answers that come in between now and Monday in the comment thread.

Best of luck.

7:39 AM 1 comments

3 Romantic Luxury Hotels in Bali

Looking for a Luxury hotel in Bali for your honeymoon or simply a relaxing holiday in Indonesia? Here are three of the most romantic Bali hotels available on venere.com.

Offering an array of luxury hotel facilities and services, such as massage, yoga, spa, and swimming pool, these resorts are also three great places to enjoy a spiritual retreat in Asia.

1. Villa Kubu Hotel – Seminyak, Bali

Nestled among the luxuriant Indonesian vegetation, Villa Kubu Bali offers luxury accommodation in sumptuous vacation villas located within a 10-minute walk of Seminyak Beach, a lively seaside resort full of bars, restaurants and designer shops.

Perfect for either a romantic honeymoon in Bali or an exotic holiday with your family, this fantastic luxury hotel boasts an intimate atmosphere and has a spa & wellness center.

Each villa of Villa Kubu Hotel offers all modern comforts and has a garden with gazebo and private swimming pool. Butler service is also available to ensure even the most demanding guest an excellent stay in Bali.

2. Uma Ubud Hotel – Gianyar, Bali

Members of the COMO Hotels & Resorts group, the Uma Ubud is a Bali luxury hotel located in Gianyar, only a few miles from Ubud city.

Overlooking the wonderful landscapes of the Tjampuhan Valley, this Bali hotel boasts interiors by Japanese designer Koichiro Ikebuchi and offers a wide range of services and amenities including conference and meeting facilities, bar and restaurant areas, outdoor swimming pools, gym, shuttle service and babysitting service.

The Uma Ubud Hotel is the perfect place for travelers seeking for body health and spirituality. The COMO Shambhala hotel spa & wellness center offers sauna, steam baths, pool, treatment rooms, reflexology area, meditation, yoga lessons. In addition, diet meals are available at the COMO Shambhala health restaurant.

3. Alila Ubud Hotel – Ubud, Bali

The Alila Ubud Bali is a luxury boutique hotel situated in the Indonesian village of Payangan, only a few minutes drive from Ubud and the mystic Ayung river. Designed like a traditional Balinese village, this luxury hotel in Bali offers an array of top-quality facilities and services in a peaceful environment.

Hotel amenities include an award-winning swimming pool with breathtaking panoramic views over the stunning Balinese countryside, private gardens, secluded courtyards, shady terraces, an excellent restaurant, a library, a boutique and an art gallery featuring contemporary Indonesian pieces.

The Alila Ubud Hotel also has a luxurious spa providing a vast choice of body and hair treatments, massages and meditation therapy.

7:38 AM 0 comments

Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal voted Budapest's "Best Luxury" hotel among top Europe and world hotels


by TripAdvisor

CHI Hotels & Resorts (CHI) announced that its superior five-star Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal, a Wyndham Grand Collection hotel, has been voted ‘Best Luxury’ hotel in Budapest, Hungary and among the ‘Best Service Europe Top 20’ and ‘Best Hotels in the Top 25 World Cities’ by the leading TripAdvisor® Travelers' Choice™ awards 2009.
Winners for the 2009 awards were determined by a combination of TripAdvisor's Popularity Index and traveler ratings of specific attributes. TripAdvisor's Popularity Index is a system that determines traveler satisfaction based on a variety of sources, including TripAdvisor hotel reviews and travel articles and opinions from across the web. The hotel review process also allows travelers to ‘grade’ hotels based on a variety of attributes, including cleanliness, value, and suitability for specific types of travelers. The Travelers' Choice awards, the only honors representing the unbiased opinions of millions of travelers, are among the most coveted awards in the global hotel industry.
“We are absolutely delighted with the result,” said CHI Hotels & Resorts’ CEO and managing director Tony Potter. “This jewel of a hotel has been collecting accolades ever since it opened its doors in 2002, when it immediately won Europe’s ‘Best Hotel Architecture Award’ and later the International ‘Five-Star Diamond Award’ for its commitment to excellence in luxury amenities and top quality services. The hotel is now also on the privileged list of ‘The Most Famous Hotels in the World.’ The TripAdvisor recognition is of particular significance as the awards are based primarily on guests’ experience and expectations. The fact that we not only matched, but even surpassed, last year’s performance on the Tripadvisor awards, reflects our commitment to maintain the highest standards of luxury and services possible in all our hotels. This latest award, and the fact that the property is a Wyndham Grand Collection hotel, promise a great future for this flagship property, as well as for the luxury Corinthia brand, whose portfolio will next year be boosted with new properties we are currently developing in Sharm El Sheikh and London."
The Corinthia Hotel Budapest is a member of the newly-repositioned, upper-luxury Corinthia Hotels brand and of The Wyndham Grand Collection. The hotel was painstakingly restored through the personal initiative of Corinthia Hotels’ founder and the owning company’s (IHI) chairman and chief executive officer Mr. Alfred Pisani and is a faithful reconstruction of the 110-year-old Grand Hotel Royal. It is owned by Malta-based International Hotel Investments plc (IHI) and managed by CHI Hotels & Resorts, a hotel operating company that is a joint venture between IHI and Wyndham Hotel Group. Among its many amenities, the Hotel features a majestic ballroom and a unique ‘Royal Spa’ - an extensive Euro 4 million renovation of an original 19th century spa that has once again regained its rightful place as Budapest’s most luxurious and imposing Spa facility.


Corinthia Hotels’ portfolio features award-winning properties that include the Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal in Budapest, Hungary and the Corinthia Hotel Prague in the Czech Republic. The Corinthia Hotels portfolio also features the elegant Corinthia Palace Hotel and Spa and the splendid Corinthia Hotel St. Georges Bay in Malta; the superior five-star Corinthia Bab Africa Hotel in Tripoli, Libya; the modern Corinthia Hotel Lisbon in Portugal; and the renowned Corinthia Nevskij Palace Hotel in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Corinthia Hotels brand is associated with the ‘Wyndham Grand Collection’ tier of upscale hotels worldwide.

7:35 AM 0 comments

Warm up to Thermotherapy at the Scandinavian Baths, Loews Hotel Vogue

Loews Hotel VogueLooking for a dose of Europe close to home? You’ll find a little piece of France close by in Montreal, where cobblestoned streets and sidewalk cafes conjure the Old World. You’ll get a dose of the city’s legendary joie de vivre and Québécoise hospitality at the Loews Hotel Vogue, where epicurean pleasures await. Right in the heart of Vieux-Montreal, the hotel encourages guests to experience the age-old European tradition of thermotherapy at their SPA Le Scandinave. Loews Hotel Vogue has designed a special package so that guests can appreciate the energizing properties of the thermal baths. Here’s what it includes: accommodation in a luxurious room for 2 nights, a Loews Banana Split breakfast with fresh squeezed fruit juice per person, a Lather “Fly away” amenity travel kit, and access to the Scandinavian baths– with locker rental and towels and sandals. You’ll want to bring your bathing suit. Note: You can add on a 60-minute Swedish massage for just $72 per person. Rates for the package start at $250 per night.

Psst. Click here for Gridskipper’s take on Montreal’s best outdoor terraces

[Map]

7:34 AM 0 comments

A Unique Stay in Rome: Villa Spalletti Trivelli Has a Private Garden

Villa Spalletti TrivelliIn just a five-minute walk from Trevi Fountain, you’ll find an urban villa brimming with luxurious delights. A unique historic residence, Villa Spalletti Trivelli has a pretty Italian garden with its very own gazebo and fountains. Formerly the residence of a noble family, the hotel retains the feel of an elegant private home, filled with antiques from the Spalletti Trivelli family. The wood-paneled library– overseen by the Ministry of National Heritage and Culture– boasts the original book collection of Count Spalletti Trivelli. There’s even an honesty bar in the drawing room. To transform the villa into a luxury hotel, a three-year restoration was launched in 2004. Today the Villa has all the creature comforts and contemporary technology: 42-inch plasma TV, Internet, direct-dial telephones, sumptuous king-size beds covered with Fiandra linen sheets. And with only 12 guest rooms and suites, guests are assured exclusivity and privacy in a charming ambience.

7:34 AM 0 comments

Pilates at Parrot Cay Resort: 6 Night Retreat in November

Parrot Cay

We can’t think of a better spot* for an intensive five-day Pilates Retreat. Forbes calls Parrot Cay a “fantasy island”– supremely popular with the Hollywood set. No wonder Bruce Willis chose it as the setting for his destination wedding. From November 8-14, 2009, Parrot Cay’s resident Pilates teacher, Lynda Lippin will be hosting a retreat– for both beginners and the more advanced. Lippin will be offering 16 hours of classes over a five-day period, ensuring that each student gets a private session (and lots of attention). Practicing Pilates for 20 years, Lippin has owned several award-winning Pilates studios in the U.S. Priced from $6,026 (single occupancy).

*It’s possible to do an “Island Buy-Out.” Just 1.5 hours from Miami, this small island in the Turks and Caicos– 1000 unspoilt acres with a mile-long powdered beach– can be rented out in its entirety.

7:34 AM 0 comments

New in Park City: Dakota Mountain Lodge and Golden Door Spa, The Waldorf Astoria Collection

Dakota Mountain Lodge and Golden Door SpaThere’s a new luxury hotel on the block in Park City and there’s been quite the buzz about its $159 introductory rates. As the only ski resort in The Waldorf Astoria Collection, the new Dakota Mountain Lodge promises to up the luxury ante in Utah. What’s so hot about the 175-room resort? For starters: the new Frostwood Gondola, which offers ski-in/ski-out convenience just adjacent the resort, with assistance from the doting ski valets. Another plus: The 16,000 square foot Golden Door Spa, where you can soothe tired muscles after a day on the slopes. Also on-site: the Spruce restaurant and lounge, sister to the award-winning resto in San Francisco. Each of the accommodations is uniquely appointed with custom designed furniture and designer carpeting. Big bathrooms have large jetted tubs, most with separate glass-enclosed showers. Large kitchens are fully-equipped and boast stainless Viking appliances and abundant granite counter space. In addition to the low rates, the special introductory offer means a fourth night free when you stay three consecutive nights.

[Map]

7:33 AM 0 comments

Fall Deals: Jamaica’s Half Moon Resort for just $159

Half Moon JamaicaLooking for sugary sand beaches dotted with palms? A little fun in the sun? Montego Bay’s Half Moon can deliver the dream. Go for a dip in one of the (count ‘em!) 51 swimming pools, play a round of golf on the Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed course, swim with the dolphins, play croquet or basketball, go horseback riding, unwind at the Fern Tree Spa. The elegant, colonial-style Half Moon welcomes you to paradise. You can snag discounted rates at Half Moon with the “Fall Family Time Package,” starting from just $159 per night, minimum three-night stay required. Available September 1- October 31, 2009, the package includes accommodations, an invitation to the manager’s cocktail party, and unlimited use of the resort’s tennis courts, fitness center, paddleboats and kayaks.

7:33 AM 0 comments

Tea Time in New York: Two E Bar and Lounge at The Pierre, New York

The Pierre, New YorkWe’re a little giddy over the $100 million renovation of The Pierre, the Fifth Avenue flagship of Taj Hotels, which we reported in June. The guestrooms have gotten a marvelous makeover. What’s more– the Central Park luxury hotel has opened Two E, a bar and lounge designed by Alexandra Champalimaud with custom furniture and a central bronze bar. Curious about the name? It’s derived from the hotel’s address at 2 East 61st Street. In addition to light fare and classic cocktails, guests can partake in either “traditional” ($55) or “sweet” ($45) afternoon tea service every day from 3-5 p.m. Dive into a selection of finger sandwiches, freshly baked ginger scones with Devonshire cream and Meyer lemon curd, and pastries like the Banana Rum Opera Cake. Sweet Tea Service ($45) skips the savory snacks. Coffee addicts will be pleased to learn that there’s also a Coffee Bar serving French press coffees, espresso and cappuccino.

[Map]

7:32 AM 0 comments

Copenhagen Living: Denmark’s First Floating Hotel

Copenhagen LivingBrand new on the hotel scene in Copenhagen: a floating hotel, Denmark’s first. Newly opened in June, CPH Living has an ideal location on the inner harbor in the middle of the city. From every room, you can see the town hall clock tower. Danish artists designed the 12 rooms, decorated with custom-designed furniture and original artwork, showcasing steel and precious woods. Rooms are equipped with wireless Internet and flat-screen TVs, so you can stay connected as you watch the boats sail by through floor to ceiling windows. Talk about a room with a view! Nice touch: Floors are heated. Enjoy your breakfast in-room or on the sundeck (pictured).

7:32 AM 0 comments

Best of Brazil: Ponta dos Ganchos Exclusive Resort, Emerald Coast

Ponta dos Ganchos Exclusive Resort

Imagine a place where the lush rainforest touches the surf, where sandy beaches are sheltered by a horseshoe of islands, and 25 swanky bungalows afford dazzling views of the emerald sea. Nearby fishing villages offer a fresh catch and a slice of traditional life. Such a place exists– south of Sao Paulo near Florianopolis on Brazil’s aptly named Emerald Coast. Escape to Ponta dos Ganchos– a member of Relais & Chateaux– and you’ll experience one of the country’s most exclusive beach resorts.

Ponta dos Ganchos Exclusive Resort

Lounge on the beach, take to the high seas by boat, or explore one of the best scuba diving spots in South Brazil: nearby Alvoredo Island. Sun-burned? Retreat to the resort’s private cinema for a flick or get a massage at the SPA by Christian Dior. There’s also a tennis court, fitness center, and pool. Note: Guests under the age of 18 are not permitted.

7:31 AM 0 comments

Russian Lace for a new Amsterdam Hotel Design Concept

Lace-Hotel-Amsterdam-by-Dima-Loginoff-01

I was just talking about the Dutch influencing the UK and the US in the 17nd century. But we also influenced the Russian Czar Peter the great who lived a couple of years in The Netherlands to learn the craft of ship building. The wooden Czar Peter house in Zaandam, north of Amsterdam where he lived is still a tourist attraction today.
This cultural bond with Russia has recently culminated in Russian president Medvedev opening the Amsterdam branch of the Russian St Petersburg Hermitage museum, the Hermitage Amsterdam together with our Queen Beatrix. In its first month it drew over 100,000 visitors, which is not bad for a medium sized museum.

Lace-Hotel-Amsterdam-by-Dim

Now I would like to introduce you to a young Russian Designer Dima Loginoff. He wants to bring Russian lace back to Amsterdam in the form of a concept of the Lace Hotel. I take it he has looked a bit to Dutch designer Marcel Wanders who also thinks lace. As I quoted in a prior “The future is back to knitting” and lace is the result of a sort of knitting isn’t it?

Lace-Hotel-Amsterdam-by-Dima Loginoff- Interior

Lace-Hotel-Amsterdam-by-Dima Loginoff- Interior

Dima’s concept won the prize “design without limits” at the Design Debut Contest 2008 in St. Petersburg, While Russian lace should cover the facade of a traditional Amsterdam canal house a textile ceiling is provided for in the lobby and restaurant, huge historical redesigned prints of Diane de Poitiers and Gabrielle d’Estrées. So the circle is full:-)

7:30 AM 0 comments

Books about the common roots of UK, US and Dutch societies

the_island_at_the_center_of_the_world_the_epic_story_of_dutch_manhattan_and_the_forgotten_colony
In my previous post I promised to share two books I’m currently reading.

Recently, on occasion of their return to Texas, we offered a farewell dinner to an expat couple that had resided with us as long stay guests. They concluded their stay in The Netherlands of over three years with the observation that there are more similarities in character between Americans and Dutch that they would have believed. They also pointed me to a recent book of Russell Shorto, The Island at the Center of the World, that gives some background explanation.

It is an epic story about the discovery of New Amsterdam and it’s early years as a settlement of the Dutch West Indies Company (in Dutch Geoctroyeerde Westindische Compagnie). The book is based on historic material kept under dust for ages, but popped up in Albany, New York, of all places. For over 25 years there sits a historian who is in the process of translating over 12,000 Dutch language documents dating back to the first half of the 17nd century. The Dutch were too tidy and destroyed most of their West India Company’s archives so it is a sort of wonder this new material popped up. It is known as The New Netherland Project or NNP. Do visit their site as they have a wealth of material!

I learned Englishman Henry Hudson discovered New Amsterdam on commission of the Dutch East India Company (VOC or Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie). On a former trip he had discovered Newfoundland on commission of the British Muscovy Company, in search of a northern passage to the India. He had hoped that via the rivers Hudson or Connecticut he could reach the great lakes and from there there was a passage to India.

Going Dutch by Lisa Jardine

When buying The Island at the Center of the World I stumbled on the book Going Dutch, How England Plundered Holland’s Glory by English writer Lisa Jardine.

Coincidentally Robbert Russo penned an insightful column for the New York Times Going Dutch about how an American looks at Dutch society.

Lisa uses the subtitle more as a eye catcher than as a flag covering her cargo: She describes the early 17nd century more from a view of an art historian. How thinkers, architects, landscape architects, sculptors and painters from the low countries influenced the English courts. How members of the Royalists party got refuge in The Hague during Cromwell’s reign and how the various European courts especially those who were not in the Roman Catholic league like the Spanish were related, intermingled and intermarried and tried to cooperate in their struggle against the Spanish. All up to the year 1688 when William and Mary took over the English throne.

It is really fun to read the two books together. If you’re interested in Dutch, US and/or UK history both books are a must read!

7:30 AM 0 comments

Dutch Return Head of Ahante Chief to Ghana

Nana Baido Bonso (or Bonsu) II

Nana Baido Bonso (or Bonsu) II

In 1838 a Chief of the Ahante tribe, Nana Baido Bonso (or Bonsu) II, killed two Dutch soldiers who invaded his farm. He was court martialled, hung and beheaded. His head was send over sea and ended up preserved in a bottle in Leiden University University Centre for Medical Research….I assume the chief did what every farmer would do to uninvited invaders of his property….

The issue of Nana Baidoo Bonso (or Bonsu) II’s head came to light when a Dutch historian Arthur Japin raised it during former President John Kufuor’s official visit to the Netherlands in October last year.

After hearing the story of the head, the former President instructed the Ghana Embassy to negotiate to secure the release and the return of the head.

After much negotiation the Dutch government finally allowed the release and the head was finally returned to Ghana on July 24.

I’m currently reading two books that shed new light on the influence of the Dutch on both the UK and the US. I will come back with the names and bearings. This is why this story drew my attention. It is part of our colonial history. I’ve not read much about it in our Dutch press….tellingly?

The people of Ghana will be glad to have the opportunity to give the chief peace with a proper ceremony…

7:29 AM 10 comments

Endangered Species: Travel Blogger – About Getting Death Threats – What would you do?

Justice Denied IPI

This morning I received an e-mail from a fellow travel blogger. The mail contained a comment of a reader who is not amused by the author’s posts, to say the least.

The comment reads [off course I have edited out the foul language]:

Youguys have nothing but trying s**ttiest to pick on someone else’s business website and whatever youguys are doing is such a bad idea.
I will find out who the f**k youguys are and hire some sort of vietnamese gangs to f**k anyone whoever are female in your f**king
family.
then I would love to see your f**kin’ head chopped off and have all kinds of s**t down in your f**kin’ neck, alright?
Don’t go around and do things like that and if I ever get to see this kind of s**t once more then since I know who the f**k you are and you better be careful…
Thanks for the co-operation…

Sic! This is not funny. What to do? Erase it as spam? My first reaction is “A big no! Lodge a complaint with the provider through which the comment was posted and the provider used as “e-mail” adress.”…but it is very easy to impersonate somebody so there is no guaranty the perpetrator will be found. Furthermore I would lodge a complaint with the local police.

So most likely it won’t help. However further than that you couldn’t go if you’re an average blogger on a small budget (smaller at least than the Landlord of my prior post who can afford to sue first and talk later). Maybe it helps getting it out of your system.

If you look up death threats in various search engines you get all sorts of results. At least you’ll see it happens more. Austrian based I.P.I. International Press Institute from which I borrowed the picture, watches over Free Speach. But further than noticing that journalists are threatened and even murdered and offering public concern. They offer no handbook how to handle threats…

The incident kept in the back of my mind and I decided to post about it. Recently another befriended travel blogger got a threat of a civil law suit and took a sabattical week to get it out of his system. I hope this helps my friend getting it out of his system. I also hope the community of travel bloggers offers some thoughts here.

7:24 AM 0 comments

Twitter and the Lawsuit Happy Landlord

Lawyer in Court
Among today’s Twitter trendy topics I want to share this little story with you:

An ex tenant in Chicago twitters about a bad experience she had with a Chicago based Landlord. The landlord sues her seeking $ 50,000 in damages.

The Chicago Sun Times came with the news. Mashable picked it up.

The sheep in Twitterville are deeply upset about the Landlord who allegedly commented “We’re a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization,”

Now, again according to Mashable, the Landlord comes with a press release:

For Immediate Release
July 28, 2009
The following statement can be attributed to Company X [name deleted ed.]

The response to our libel lawsuit has been tremendous. We would like to take this opportunity to clarify some confusion concerning the circumstances surrounding our lawsuit against Mrs B [name changed ed.]
I would first like to take this opportunity to apologize for tongue in cheek comments that were made previously regarding our approach to litigation. This statement is not in line with our philosophy towards property management and was taken out of context.

I need to set the record straight on a number of issues.

The facts that gave rise to this Twitter lawsuit were discovered in the course of due diligence relating to a class·action lawsuit first filed by Ms. B. [ed.] relating to alleged Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (RL TO) violations. It is our position that this lawsuit is completely baseless and was waged merely as a pretext to address an underlying disagreement that Ms. B. had with regards to her apartment. This is a classic example of tenants trying to manipulate the controversial RL TO for their benefit.

No mold was ever found but her unit was one of several that experienced an overnight leak during roof repairs in late March 2009 caused by an error made by an external contractor. At that time. we immediately contacted all affected tenants to assess and resolve any reported water damage that occurred during these repairs. Ultimately, all tenant grievances were quickly and amicably resolved, except Ms. B.[ed.]

She moved out of her unit on her own volition June 30, 2009 at which time there was no evidence of mold in her apartment.

On June 24th, much to our surprise given her previous silence. Mrs B sued X, and we are currently defending this claim which. again, we believe has no merit. In conducting our due diligence into this matter, we identified B.’s [ed.] public Tweet regarding mold and acted to protect our reputation just as we would for any other related comment made in a public forum.

As you can imagine, allegations of mold are taken very seriously by our organization . We are proud of the fact that Company X [ed.] is recognized as one of Chicago’s premiere apartment leasing and management companies because we understand the importance of quality customer service and a well·maintained living environment.

We look forward to presenting our side of this matter before the court and putting the unfounded accusations of a single, former tenant behind us so we can focus on continuing to serve our more than 1,500 existing tenants throughout the Chicagoland area . ~

So there is more than just a claim for one tweet…. However it is once more a warning sign:

Be always careful what and how you communicate on the world wide web: The lady in question will shed some tears as well as the Landlord who made the “tongue in cheek” comment…. same counts for hotel reviews… I’ve read already about a case in Florida about a hotel suing a reviewer because he had insinuated the hotel was gaining from improper guest behavior (Unfortunately I forgot to jot down the corresponding links)….