Aldershot Travel Burlington's Blog

The Return of a Legend: Singapore's Raffles Hotel Re-opens

It's one of a handful of heritage hotels around the world that define a destination. The storied Raffles hotel is synonymous with Singapore. 


And after closing for more than two years for restoration and re-imagination, Raffles re-takes center stage as a hospitality icon in this South-East Asian city-state – and the world.



First opened in 1887, Raffles' restoration retains what makes the hotel a treasure. It's a magical place in Singapore: a combination of gracious luxury and expansive tropical colonial design that stirs your historical and travel imagination. Polished teak verandahs and white marble colonnades clustered around lush tropical gardens evoke the romance of life-changing travel.

Add the famed Raffles butlers discreetly providing legendary service, visitors to Singapore are transported to another era of transformative travel and legends in the making. 

The hotel was declared a National Monument a century after it opened. It's treasured by Singaporeans, who deeply value its breathtaking architecture, singular heritage, and Raffles' place in local, Asian and global history. 


They continue to proudly share epic tales of the early years of the hotel and of modern Singapore. You can't visit Singapore without hearing about the times when the occasional tiger would wander into the hotel's Long Bar from the jungle, and legendary authors, playwrights, taste-makers and trend-setters and empire builders called Raffles home during their time in the East.

The restoration maintains and enhances Raffles as an incomparable luxury oasis for today's well-traveled. The revitalized Raffles Singapore offers enhanced luxurious all-suite accommodations, across nine distinct suite categories. The hotel has added three more types of suites so guests can choose among: State Room Suites, Courtyard Suites, Palm Court Suites, Personality Suites, Residence Suites, Promenade Suites, Grand Hotel Suites and Presidential Suites.

 
The hotel is the center of social life and society in Singapore. The refreshed oasis in ultra-modern Singapore delivers a compelling mix of culture, beauty and gentility. Vibrant lifestyle experiences and exclusive dining concepts are designed for international visitors and Singaporeans to meet, stay, shop, dine and celebrate.

 
The Raffles Arcade has been newly outfitted with a charming Raffles Boutique and various bespoke retail brands. Guests and locals will also delight in exploring the worldly restaurants and bars at Raffles Singapore, including restaurant collaborations with
 
  • Chef Anne-Sophie Pic, of the three-Michelin star Maison Pic in Valence, France;
  • the venerable French Master Chef Alain Ducasse; and
  • Chef Jereme Leung, known for his innovative Chinese cuisine.

And one of the most famous places within Singapore, Raffles' Long Bar, begins a new chapter too. Under palmetto fans, guests will continue to enjoy the hotel's most famous cocktail invention, the original Singapore Sling, along with the timeless tradition of tossing peanut shells on the floor.
 
Singapore's heritage treasure is back. This is where it all started, and faithful to its roots, a refreshed, re-imagined and revitalized Raffles Singapore continues to define emotional luxury lifestyle.
 
Not just in Singapore. Raffles continues its tradition of gracious living, intuitive service and meaningful experiences. Raffles has grown beyond Singapore. Connoisseurs of life choose Raffles around the world for its heritage, beauty and gentility, and for the extraordinary way they feel staying at Raffles. Each Raffles, whether in Paris, Istanbul, Warsaw, Jakarta or the Seychelles, is an oasis where travelers arrive as guests, leave as friends and return as family.
 
You can look forward to more Raffles around the world, too. The return of this flagship property to Raffles Hotels & Resorts paves the way for the expansion of the brand to new destinations in cities such as Udaipur, London and Boston.
 

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Images: Raffles Singapore
 
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 Whether you love Old Havana colonial style, rhythms and cocktails, Mid-Century modern tropical, Rat Pack vibes, or contemporary luxury urban resort on a world's top beach... Puerto Rico's El San Juan Hotel fits the bill.


Following a post-hurricane, $65-million reno, this grande dame of Puerto Rico society and must-visit destination for visitors to Puerto Rico's capital is back - in spectacular style combining all three eras and captivating your travel imagination.
The El San Juan Hotel alone is worth the trip to this US island territory! 

It's ideal as a destination tropical resort for your whole vacation or destination wedding/ vow renewal / business event, or as an extension before or after your Caribbean cruise embarking or disembarking from Puerto Rico; the El San Juan Hotel is 5 minutes from the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport, 10 minutes from San Juan Cruise Port… and 15 minutes from historic Old San Juan, on 2 miles of Isla Verde Beach that's been voted the Best Urban Beach.

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Think Overwater Villas are the Height of Exotic Luxury Travel? Try This UNDERwater Villa
It puts new meaning into being immersed in the local natural beauty. The pristine waters of the Maldives are epic, surrounding one of the world's most romantic, remote and legendary tropical eco paradise destinations. 

Now you can sleep alongside your sweetheart or family as well as the rich marine life that animates the waters of these tiny islands in the Indian Ocean. Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is a pioneering resort: the first international hotel in the Maldives, the first underwater restaurant, and now, the first undersea residence.


It's called the Muraka, or 'coral' in the local Maldivian language, and it is an extraordinary way for up to 9 guests to experience of one of the world's most breathtaking marine environments. Specialized aquarium technology was used to create the 2-story villa, consisting of above-sea-level space, and a spiral staircase to an underwater suite more than 16 feet below sea level with a king size bedroom, living room, and bathing area under a dome with 180-degree views of the ocean.

Sleeping in an undersea dome is an almost surreal vacation, but the overwater part of the villa above is unforgettable, too. More bedrooms, one with an ocean-facing bathtub, more bathrooms, gym, space for a butler and private security, living room, kitchen, bar and dining area with a deck facing the sunset, and another deck with an infinity pool facing sunrise. 

The Muraka butlers are dedicated 24-7 to hyper-personalized service. They are also ambassadors of the Maldivian island experience for undersea villa guests, sharing their passion for culture, the environment and adventure throughout your custom-crafted stay at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island.


The resort is located in the Maldives' best diving and snorkeling locations. It melds harmoniously with the environment, flowing from island, over the ocean, to the overwater/undersea residence.


You can double down on the undersea experience at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island at its trailblazing underwater restaurant. Ithaa Undersea Restaurant is also a world's first, where the fusion local and Western lunch and dinner menus, fine wine pairings, and mid-morning cocktails are accompanied by a panoramic view of coral gardens 16 feet below the surface of the ocean.

 
Ithaa Undersea Restaurant is one of dozen resort restaurants and bars that regularly make 'best of…' lists. Conrad Maldives Rangali Island also features an overwater spa and a Spa Retreat, and experiences inspired by the local environment and culture round out the ultimate island escape. Sunrise and sunset yoga practice. A meditation pavilion. A 5-hour journey to inner tranquility via a unique Zen revelation. A Spa Retreat with over a dozen water villas, its own restaurant, and a selection of therapies including a signature treatment inspired by the beauty practices of Maldivian women, including a heated coconut stick massage and organic, pineapple and papaya body scrub.


Consciously-designed villas and suites, from ultra-private beach villas nestled amongst the rich tropical landscape with direct beach access, to overwater villas ranging from private and romantic, to expansive for an extended group of family or friends, complete with sundecks, hot tubs steps into the sea, spa treatment rooms and more, provide the iconic Maldives vacation.
 
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7 Castles in Ireland Where You Can Stay
St. Patrick and the Emerald Isle. Dramatic coastline. Historic towns and cobblestone streets. Pubs and parties. Folklore and green pastures… and castles.
 
Hundreds of castles and manor houses dot the Irish countryside. They not only evoke Ireland's storied past. Many allow you to live out your inner fantasy world of warrior kings and legendary princesses during overnight stays.
 
Look for a tour of Ireland that allows you to lay your head at some of these stately homes:

Ashford Castle, County Mayo

 
You'll be joining the illustrious ranks of not only early Irish nobility when you stay at Ashford Castle. British royalty, American presidents and sports and entertainment superstars have all stayed at 800-year-old Ashford Castle. It's a 5-star resort lifestyle in a magnificent French chateau style building on a 26,000 acre estate – complete with is own school of falconry, horseback riding, fishing, archery and clay shooting, as well as more modern pass times like a spa, golf, kayaking, tennis, tree climbing and zip lining.

 
Ashford Castle has been voted the best resort in Ireland and one of the top three in Europe.
 

Bantry House, County Cork

 
Since the 1700's Earls of Bantry have occupied Bantry House overlooking Bantry Bay on Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way on the southern coast. You can stay in one of the finest historic manor houses in the country in luxurious bed and breakfast or self-catering style.  

 
As well as the Wild Atlantic Way, you'll want to explore Bantry House's elegant gardens especially when the azaleas and rhododendrons are in bloom. The design is dramatic with seven terraces – the house is on the third terrace - 100 steps, and a fountain.
 

Drumoland Castle, County Clare

 
 Another magnet for global political figures and celebrities, 5-star Dromoland Castle is the ancestral home of the O'Brien family that traces its roots 1000 years back to the famous High King of Ireland Brian Boru. 

 
400 acres of Irish heaven include a top-rated golf course, walking and cycling trails, tennis, hiking, horse riding and pony carriage rides, traditional archery, falconry, fishing and clay shooting. Deluxe décor and luxury living include a spa, afternoon tea, casual and fine dining that once earned a Michelin star.
 

Ballyfin Demesne, County Laois

 
Your travel imagination may picture your castles with gothic towers, but don't miss Ireland's most celebrated Regency / Georgian mansion. With only 20 guest rooms, you'll feel like you're lord of the manor at this 5-star Georgian country house nestled on 600 acres at the foot of the scenic Slieve Bloom Mountains.

 
It's the ultimate mix of old world charm and modern home and hotel comforts – and perfect to take over for a special, destination family or even business event.
 

Ballynahinch Castle, County Galway

 
Voted #1 Irish luxury castle hotel, Ballynahinch is an elegant 17th century castle with magnificent views over 700 acres of woodland and rivers. Relax indoors by one of six open log fires or dine in elegance at one of Irelands' best restaurants. 

 
Take long walks or cycling tours with backdrops against the 12 Bens Mountain range along the Wild Atlantic Way. Or climb onto a boat for a guided trip of its famous salmon and lobster fishery.
 

Crom Castle, County Fermanagh

 
Lord and Lady Erne still dwell at the historic seat of the Earls of Erne, magnificent Crom Castle in Irelands' beautiful Fermanagh Lakelands (pictured top). But the castle's West Wing can be yours, it's available year round for up to 12, with even a cook provided if you wish. 
 
Nearly 2000 acres at Crom are a unique nature reserve with one of the largest semi-natural woodland remaining in Ireland, the largest surviving area of oak woodland in the country, and one of the largest freshwater habitats in the British Isles. You can see two rare butterflies and pine-marten, the largest heronry in Ireland, wild geese and deer.
 

Lismore Castle, County Waterford

 
Some of the most notable names of Europe and the Americas over the last few centuries have visited and stayed at this 12th century castle of the Dukes of Devonshire. Fewer than 30 guests at a time enjoy truly regal hospitality, with use of the castle and estate facilities, and even the Duke's personal butler and staff. The Castle kitchens create formal, informal, indoor and outdoor meals from local and on-site ingredients.

 
Live like the Irish nobility with salmon fishing, golf, horse riding and racing, kayaking and boat trips, even kite surfing, scuba and hot air balloon rides.
 
Make sure your next vacation to Ireland includes a stay fit for a king on one of the Emerald Isle's historic castles.  

(Images courtesy ireland.com)
 

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Champagne Vending Machine at this NOLA Hotel Makes Every Day New Year's Eve
The motto of New Orleans is 'Let the Good Times Roll'. Nowhere is that more true than at the local Ritz-Carlton, which now boasts the area's first permanent champagne vending machine.


This classy, tongue-in-cheek interpretation of lobby fixtures in sadder hotels holds 320 'piccolo' (mini) bottles of liquid celebration, and blends right into the hotel's festive seasonal décor and events.


A nearly life-sized gingerbread NOLA streetcar dominates the lobby, with festive gingerbread making and decorating events throughout advent for the young and their grown up family members who want to sip while they decorate.

Christmas Eve 'Reveillon' feasts throughout December pay tribute to New Orleans' and Louisiana's French founding residents, along with 'Papa Noel' teas and breakfasts, and a Christmas Day 'Jubilee' extravaganza.


As exciting as those are, it's the New Year's Eve 6-course masquerade dinner and ball in partnership with iconic champagne brand Moet et Chandon, that tops out the festive season with champagne taking center stage.

And before New Year's is even over, the Mardi Gras carnival season in New Orleans has already begun.


With a full calendar of festivals and celebrations, never-ending good times really do roll one into another in New Orleans.  The city's 24-hour alcohol serving times plus relaxed policy towards carrying your drinks into the street (a couple of restrictions do apply: only in plastic cups and only in the French Quarter) make the Ritz-Carlton's lobby champagne vending machine not only festive but even practical.  

So whatever celebration brings you to New Orleans, you can let your good times roll in the Big Easy anytime with an elegant bubbly and a hotel home base on Canal Street just a block from Bourbon Street at the edge of the French Quarter.


Start your Trip!


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This Macau Hotel is the World's First 'Exoskeleton' High-Rise

Macau is anticipating a surge in visitors with the opening of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge that links the two cities and mainland China together by land for the first time.

The Morpheus hotel will be a big part of the allure of a trip to Macau. Designed by the acclaimed celebrity architect Zaha Hadid before her passing, the hotel at Macau's new City of Dreams complex is the world's first high-rise held up by a free-form 'exoskeleton'.

Imagine: no need for internal structural or supporting walls! That innovation literally opens up the interior to entirely new design opportunities. And the hotel's design takes full advantage.

First: the outside. It's a visionary feat of architecture and technology. The extraordinary exoskeleton that gives the hotel its structural integrity itself becomes sculptural design. Two towers connect at the base, separate, twist, then merge together again 40-storeys up. Where they separate, abstract voids appear, suggesting a figure 8 that of course is a lucky number in Chinese culture (especially helpful if you're in Macau to gamble!) The towers are even connected by a breathtaking sky bridge.

This architectural masterpiece was inspired by traditional Chinese jade carving techniques that create fluid forms from hard materials. The Morpheus appears light and delicate but in fact contains four times the weight of iron used in Paris' Eiffel Tower! And the ridges of the exoskeleton provide shade for heat control.

Inside this art-like skyscraper, freed from structural walls, a design like you've never experienced before. The hotel atrium occupies the height of the entire hotel between the two towers! And the voids create vast interior spaces, and along with high-speed glass elevators, guests have breathtaking views of both the city and the unique interior with high tech solutions and art installations by famous global artists and even street artists.

Restaurant lounges and bars occupy bridges running through the structure' central void.

Alain Ducasse at Morpheus, City of Dreams (photo credit: Pierre Monetta)

If you can tear yourself away from the view, you'll be in another world first, this one culinary. The World of Ducasse at Morpheus is a partnership with iconic chef Alain Ducasse. For the first time ever, an entire hotel floor is devoted to two Ducasse restaurants and bar.

Alain Ducasse: Small Spelt from Haute-Provence, Seasonal Vegetables, Shaved Black Truffle (photo credit: Pierre Monetta)

There's also a partnership with Parisian chef Pierre Herme, also known as 'the Picasso of Pastry', as well as Yi at Sky Bridge, the world's only Chinese fine-dining restaurant serving a mix of Chinese regional dishes in Japanese omakase-style.

You'll find other world-firsts in the spa, with its in-house Spa Butler concept and the first spa in the world to feature real snow in its 'Snow Garden'.

The spa and the appropriately-named Sky Pool top the 40-storey hotel, over 400 feet above the hotel interior below, a spectacular view of the Macau skyline.

Then there's the gaming salons and world-class collection of retail stores. Morpheus and the City of Dreams cement Macau's status as the one of the world's top grown-up fantasy escape/entertainment destination.


Start your Trip!


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'Glamping' in Laos: Luxury Tented Villas are a Rosewood Resort First

Laos may be one of the last, best-kept secrets in South-East Asia. Now, travelers looking for an immersive vacation in the unspoiled environment, unique culture and French-Laotian heritage of Laos have the perfect ultra-luxury destination: the tented villas of the new concept Rosewood Luang Prabang.

It's Rosewood's second resort in Southeast Asia – and its very first world-wide to feature tented villas.

It's a dream 'glamping' (glamorous-camping) destination. Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage site in the heart of Laos, where the mighty Mekong and Nam Khan rivers meet. It's the ancient capital and current cultural center of Laos; surrounded by misty mountains with waterfalls and pools of water in the forest, countless temples and a lifestyle true to both traditional Laotian and colonial French culture.

The Rosewood Luang Prabang fits right into this idyllic escape. Nestled in untouched forest just outside the city, the resort is harmonized with the terrain, centered around a natural waterfall and river.

Its designer was inspired by the tradition of Laotian hill stations, a French colonial tradition where gracious hosts welcomed travelers to the remote corners of Laos.

Sleep: River, Forest, and Tented Villas

The resort still retains that feel of intimate but luxurious isolation in a dense, tropical forest. 23 accommodations meld into the terrain adjacent to a river or waterfall, or float above the ground amongst the treetop foliage. Some have private swimming pools, oversized balconies and outdoor wooden bathtubs. There are 6 tented villas.

That already makes them one of a kind. But each space also has its own unique design, evoking French-Indochine ambiance and hospitality with original artifacts and antiques of bygone Luang Prabang.

Tented Spa Villas with Traditional and Holistic Wellbeing Programs

Even spa services take place in the other-worldly environment of 3 tented villas in a peaceful corner of the property overlooking the river. All mind and body therapies draw from nature, and guests are guided to select herbs and plants from resort gardens for tailor-made treatments. In addition to Western techniques, nearly lost local healing practices have been resurrected and are provided by a respected local healer using ingredients he forages in the surrounding forest.

The wellness program also offers holistic experiences and retreats.

Dining in a Laotian Forest

Farm to table? How about forest to table. Or fishing boat to table. Dining at the resort reflects the harvest at hand: local farmers, fishermen and foraging, transformed into authentic local cuisine and even dishes influenced by historic Laotian royal court entertainment.

There are two dining venues: Laotian farm-to-table restaurant called The Great House and a relaxing river-view spot with the evocative name The Elephant Bridge Bar for light bites and hand-crafted cocktails with a tropical flair and local botanicals and spices. But reflecting the fluid arrangements of tents, villas and other buildings on the resort by the river and in the forest, guests also have the option of poolside dining, from sunbeds, cozy cabanas or breezy tables on the terrace, even custom-designed meals served at scenic places on the grounds – the ultimate luxury picnic!

Play and Explore

The leafy tropical environment surrounding the Rosewood Luang Prabang is ideal for relaxation and activity on and near the resort. In nearby gardens, you can enjoy classic games of petanque or croquet. A forest-enclosed swimming pool is next to a natural waterfall – not to mention the famous nearby waterfalls and series of natural pools in the forest that are one of Luang Prabang's claims to fame.

In addition, the resort creates customized experiences for guest interested in immersing themselves in local Lao culture: local traditional artisans, ethnic hill-tribes and farming communities, historic mansions, ancient Laotian temples, and lifestyle of the communities along the Mekong river. Adventurous and hands-on travelers can trek through the forest and forage for a meal prepared with those ingredients, take a guided mountain bike tour through remote landscapes, weave textiles or form ceramics, harvest seasonal produce alongside local farmers, or take an elegant Laotian river boat cruise along the Mekong.

Giving Back

Rosewood Luang Prabang is also the site of the first hospitality school in Laos, a philanthropic project providing students with professional hospitality training.

The Rosewood Luang Prabang is not only one of the most truly one-of-a-kind resorts you will ever stay in Asia or the world; it's also on the ground floor of a growing interest in travel to this fascinating and evocative country.

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How does a hotel become the most photographed in the world?  Many hotels have spectacular architecture, magnificent and dramatic settings... but very few hotel silhouettes define the destination. 

Fairmont's Chateau Frontenac is to Quebec City what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris.  The hotel not only evokes the grace and elegance of the French castles that inspired it.  It is literally the high point of this historic, 400 year old city's UNESCO world heritage site.  Although it appears to rise from the French Middle Ages, in fact, it dates from the late 19th century, and in 2018 celebrates 125 years of being a can't miss experience of a trip to Quebec City. 

Join BestTrip.TV's exploration of the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac's historic character and anniversary multi-million dollar makeover.

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What Happens to Worn-Out Hotel Sheets? A Good News Story

How many times can your hotel sheets be slept in once, then washed, and slept in again before they're too worn to use one more time?

We don't know.

But we do know that there's now a better end story for used sheets than landfill or being tied together to form an escape route out the back window in a romantic comedy.

Westin Hotels has decided that there's more to their famous 'Heavenly Bed' sheets than thread count. In fact, their new upcycling program for used linens is making every thread count.

The hotel chain's Project Rise: Thread Forward transforms dated bed linens into all new fabric: a soft, breathable jersey material. Then it's made into kids' pajamas.

It's a sustainability program, yes, but it speaks to even more than a commitment to the environment. Westin has embraced and established groundbreaking Wellness programs for its guests. 'Sleep Well' is one of the pillars of that program, and Westin has been inspired by studies that show a third of adults and majority of children don't get enough. Westin also recognizes that for more and more of us, giving back is also important to our sense of well-being.

These kids' jammies hit all those buttons.

It's the first large-scale textile upcycling program in the industry. In the first 5 months, 50 Westin hotels world-wide collected a mind-boggling 30,000 pounds of linens, that were turned into thousands of sets of children's sleepwear.

Westin is working with charities to distribute pajamas to children in need, whose insecure circumstances contribute to poor sleep. New York, Toronto, Mexico City, and Cape Town are among the first cities where Westin is sharing the gift of sleep outside its hotels. Sadly, pajamas are among the most-requested items of charities that support low-income families. Putting on pajamas contributes to a bedtime routine that can help provide children with the healing power of sleep.

Which is why Westin guests will also be able to buy a pair of pajamas for kids in their own lives, with proceeds benefiting the program.

The jammies come in kids' sizes 2-8, all in a playful, unisex design of a child rising over a moon with a book – a nod to a better sleep empowering a better day.

It's a multi-level wellness win: for the environment, the well-being of Westin hotel communities, guests and hotel associates who came up with the idea and whose participation makes the program possible.


Westin hopes their program inspires change and textile upcycling throughout the travel world. It's certainly a way you can feel good about being kind to the planet, and to others, when you travel.

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40 New Ways to Score Marriott Rewards in 2018

If you're collecting Marriott Rewards points, 2018 is a very fine year.

Marriott International is launching 40 hotels across its 8 luxury hotel brands in 2018.  That's 40 new places around the world to accumulate points towards Marriott's loyalty program, from Savannah to Tel Aviv to Hobart, Tasmania.  

It's all part of a busy couple of years for the world's largest hotelier, which is opening at least one hotel every 14 hours! in a three-year period.

2018's new luxury hotels span your favorite places to see the world in the ultimate comfort with the most supreme travel experiences: The Ritz-Carlton, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, St. Regis, W Hotels, The Luxury Collection, EDITION and JW Marriott. 

The group of hotels and resorts already has a footprint in 60 countries, and with 200 more hotels in the pipeline, it's expanding to include 25 more countries, from Iceland to Cuba, from Nepal to the Philippines.

Whether you're traveling for business, leisure, or 'bleisure', a stay in one of Marriott's luxury hotels or resorts is an experience in living your best life. That may be creating a signature dish at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman’s Culinary Studio, prioritizing wellness tapping into on-demand fitness with JW Marriott’s Behind the Barre program, recharging in an over-water villa at The St. Regis Maldives or exploring one of the world’s most energetic cities through a W Insider.  The hotels occupy remodeled palaces, skyscrapers, and breezy beachfront escapes.

Pack your bags now for:

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel de La Paix, Geneva as well as China’s scenic Jiuzhaigou Valley, plus renovations of key properties including The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin and The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul.

The debut of the Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Los Cabos, distinguished from the Ritz-Carlton brand by an intimate, culturally immersive experience with a caring, human touch.

St. Regis Hotels & Resorts celebrates the opening of St. Regis Rome in 2018, as well as openings in destinations such as Cairo and Amman.

W Hotels, the 'luxury rebel' brand, has an unprecedented year of openings in 2018, from Tel Aviv, and Dubai to Brisbane and Panama City. (W Hotel Singapore pictured below).

EDITION – the collaboration between Marriott and boutique hotel innovator Ian Schrager – sees 7 new hotels across 3 continents in 2018. The hotel brand's timeless design, uncompromising quality, true originality and impeccable modern service, expands with two additional properties in Shanghai and Bangkok in Asia, Bodrum and Barcelona in Europe, its first outpost in the Middle East in Abu Dhabi, plus two more US properties in Times Square and West Hollywood.

The Luxury Collection's more than 100 hotels take you to some of the world's most inspiring places.  Authentic and indigenous experiences are the hallmark of the brand, which sees 10 new hotels in 2018 around the globe, including Los Cabos, Savannah, Vail and Okinawa.

JW Marriott's modern luxury finds new homes in Nashville and the Maldives, and renovates more than half of its 79 hotels and resorts, including Bangkok and Grosvenor House. (JW Marriott Venice pictured, top)

So if you have a taste for luxury, 2018 gives you 40 more ways to pad your Marriott Rewards points tally and get that much closer to indulging in more travel with the authentic, immersive, local access these luxury hotels and resorts offer their guests.

 

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Montreal's marquee hotel in the heart of the city has been restored to its 50's and 60's roots in a stunning makeover that marries the sexiest elements of sleek mid-century design - with some modern interpretations that take this landmark hotel to the forefront as a travel and lifestyle destination.

Pick up a dry martini and join us on a tour of the very sexy, redesigned hotel with our friend, Ulya Jensen, principal designer of Ulya Jensen Interiors.  She shares with us her favorite spaces in the newly-renovated Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth hotel.

Start your Trip!

 

 

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Viva Versace: 4 Travel Destinations to Commemorate the Fashion Legend

Gianni Versace's dramatic and random murder over 20 years ago on the steps of his Miami home continues to capture public attention in continuous movie, TV and pop culture references.The Italian fashion impresario changed the face of high fashion and became a symbol of popular culture, dressing 90's icons like Diana, Princess of Wales, linking the music and fashion worlds in his association with Cher, Sting, and Elton John, as well as breaking new ground as openly gay, accompanied by his partner on the international party scene.

The fashion house Gianni Versace founded became synonymous with opulent designs and vivid color, and the Greek mythological Medusa head symbol of Versace is unmistakable. Following his 1997 death, Gianni Versace's sister Donatella famously took over as the face and creative force behind Versace, so her brother's vision lives on for us to experience today.

Versace Flagship Boutique, Milan. Photo Credit

Of course you can make your way to the Versace flagship store in Milan, or other high-fashion global capitals.  But Versace is not just about shopping. Here are 4 travel destinations where you can live the opulent Versace lifestyle.

 

Photo Credit

Miami, Florida: The Villa Casa Casuarina 

Gianni Versace was killed on the doorstep of his Miami residence: a Mediterranean Revival mansion surrounded by the Art Deco pastel buildings on Ocean Drive in the heart of South Beach.

Before his death, Versace had added an entire new wing and a pool, restored the property, and undertook a redesign in true Versace style. After his death, the Versace Mansion was sold, and today, it's a luxury boutique hotel.

The name reflects its original identity when it was built in the 1930's – but guests at today's Villa Casa Casuarina discover many elements from Gianni Versace's restoration and redesign. It's a unique experience of the fashion figure's personal and private expression of style.

If you stay at the Villa Casa Casuarina, you can swim in the Million Mosaic Pool that Versace had lined with thousands of 24 carat gold tiles. The villa's Mediterranean Revival style dovetailed with Versace's famous Greek mythology inspiration; the pool he designed features the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon. And of course, the fashion house's Medusa emblem also makes appearances. The new owners take their stewardship of Versace's vision seriously, securing a resident artist to maintain the mosaics and frescos Versace created for the villa.

Photo Credit

Versace's former dining room is now a celebrated restaurant 'Gianni's', and the rooftop views of the ocean on the across iconic Ocean Drive are the same the designer would have enjoyed during his stays.

Gold Coast, Australia: Palazzo VersaceThere are two Versace branded hotels in the world, and a third on the way. The first Versace hotel is on Australia's beach holiday destination, the Gold Coast. Its founders call it the world's first fashion-inspired hotel.

The concept was proposed in 1997 and was inspired by Gianni Versace's well-known love of architecture, plus the fact that Versace - alone at that time – was the only fashion house with a home collection that covered all hotel needs from dinnerware to linens to upholstery fabric. Of course, it also had an unmistakable aesthetic synonymous with over-the-top luxury.

Since 2000, the Palazzo Versace has been a beacon of style and decadence on the Gold Coast. The architecture pays homage to Versace's fascination with ancient Greece: a postmodern building interpreting neoclassical architecture, on an exclusive waterfront setting.

Inside, it's all Versace with bespoke furnishings, décor, ambiance, and Italian craftsmanship that respects the couture roots of the Versace brand. Award-winning restaurants, spa and wellness center, a private marina, the country's first water salon cabana lifestyle… and of course a Versace Boutique are all part of the Palazzo Versace experience.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Palazzo VersaceDubai's epic extravagance mirrors the Versace opulence, so it's no wonder that the second Palazzo Versace was built in this extraordinary city.

Neoclassical architecture meets elegant regional Arab influences in the building's design. Three pools showcase elaborate mosaics, and landscaped gardens have glorious views of the surreal Dubai skyline. The iconic Versace Medusa head is a constant reminder of the fashion house's influence.

Donatella Versace personally designed exclusive interior bespoke furniture, fabrics, wallpaper and décor items for the hotel, its 215 rooms and suites, and 8 restaurants and bars, each of which has an alfresco terrace, reflecting the classical, Mediterranean inspiration of the hotel, as does the internal courtyard. Versace design is even reflected in the kids' areas.

Hand-crafted is almost an understatement: Nearly a dozen Italian artists were brought in to hand-paint designs on walls, and 1.5 million marble tiles were hand-laid to form the extraordinary lobby floor mosaic (top image).

At Sea: Regent Seven Seas CruisesThe Regent Seven Seas Explorer has been called The Most Luxurious Ship at sea, and its designers also tapped into Versace's unmistakable iconic style for the ship's signature restaurant, Compass Rose.

Photo: BestTrip.TV

As you dine on European-inspired Continental cuisine in the elegant, glittering setting, you'll be dining from Versace porcelain. Four hundred specially-designed Versace place settings are featured in Compass Rose on the Explorer, with other ships in the fleet featuring different Versace dinnerware designs and their signature Medusa head symbol.

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Travel like a Rock Star: W Hotels' Sound Suites

You know it's something you've always wanted to say: "I'm with the band".

You and your friends may have never realized your high school dream to be famous recording artists. But it's not just actual rock stars, indie bands and electronic music creators who can have the ultimate 'destination recording experience'.

W Hotels' Sound Suites allow anyone to go on vacation, and lay down some tracks as well as work on your tan. Four W Hotels around the world: Bali, Barcelona, Seattle and Hollywood, all have the one-of-a-kind Sound Suites.

It's just the type of development we'd expect from the hotel chain that set the bar for modern, stylish, artistic lifestyles. W Hotels feel more like independent design hotels, but as a chain, they have celebrated, empowered and integrated the works of creators of music and the arts, with a global music director and advisors, signature music experiences and an immersive experience of the local creative scene in each hotel.

Their North American Music Director, Chicago-based producer DJ White Shadow, known for his work with Lady Gaga, came up with the idea for W Sound Suites, and the brand has run with his concept, implementing W Sound Suites with professional grade sound equipment and top technology for audio production. You'll find Native Instruments and Shure state of the art sound equipment like a keyboard, DJ system, professional-grade headphones and microphones, as well as Yamaha acoustic guitar and Fender bass for professional musicians and aspiring guests to use in music sessions.

The professional sound studio set up lives in W Hotel signature style. The W Hotel Barcelona, for example, which has Europe's first W Sound Suite, features murals from local visual artist Ricardo Cavolo. A 'fire' for music and design come together in the original art that inspires Sound Suite musicians. W Sound Suites have space to accommodate your entourage with a lounge, a living room, as well as soundproof recording and mixing space, so you can raise the roof with your sound.

Support for music creativity goes beyond the space to hold your own private recording session with amenities like stylish restaurants, room service, pools and gyms and spas and bars of the hotels. Musicians booking a W Hotel Sound Suite may also have access to Master Classes, sound engineers and other local experts through the hotel's Music Curator.

W Hotels Sound Suites bring out – or resurrect - the music creator in us all. We love the idea of booking Sound Suites for guy and girlfriend getaways or bachelor parties… for the musically-inclined, it's a once in a lifetime blast! W Hotels see the suites as not just for recording artists on creative retreats, but as a way to support amateur and emerging talent – all within the artistic, creative vibe of the signature W Hotels environment.

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There's a New Tallest Building West of the Mississippi

With a hotel. And the highest open-air bar in the Western Hemisphere.

The Wilshire Grand Center on famous Wilshire Boulevard towers 73 stories over downtown Los Angeles' historic, entertainment, financial, arts, and sports districts and added new texture to the city skyline.

The tower is spectacular. A glass-clad skyscraper topped with a spire that makes it 1099 feet (335 meters) tall, more than 80 feet higher than the US Bank Tower it has overtaken for top spot in the West. (But nowhere near the height of America's tallest building, One World Trade Center in New York, that's a U.S. record-breaking, symbolic 1776 feet (541 meters) tall).

In a nod to its status as a landmark of America's West, the skyscraper's silhouette is inspired by Yosemite’s Half Dome, with an iconic sail for the West's pre-eminent oceanfront city. (Top Photo Credit). Programmable LED lighting illuminates the peak and down the spine of the building for a riveting and changeable evening cityscape.

Inside, take a high-speed, double-decker elevator for a 50-second ride, and you're transported into the breathtaking setting of the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown's Sky Lobby on the 70th floor.

Magnificent panoramic views and L.A. –inspired design in the Sky Lobby set the scene for your visit to the 900-room hotel, restaurants, bars, open-air observation deck and rooftop pool where global travelers and locals can mingle amongst some of the city’s new and most coveted venues – with the best view in town.

Each hotel room has floor-to-ceiling windows for panoramas of the West Coast sunsets and the City of Angels.

Restaurants make the most of the one-of-a-kind scenics, with VIP booths, floor-to-ceiling privacy screens and private views of the L.A. skyline – as well as foodie features like a cheese atelier, a charcuterie cave and a 1200-label curated wine list.

And at the very top of the tower, imagined as a 'city in the sky', the highest outdoor perch in the country and even the hemisphere. On top of the 73rd floor is Spire 73 – the tallest open-air bar in the Western Hemisphere. This rooftop lounge offers surreal views of the entire city, chic fire pits, signature cocktails and a wide selection of whiskey, and culinary experiences to rival the view.

Plus, in eco-friendly California, sustainability take center-stage, and the building is LEED Gold certified. It was constructed using recycled, locally sourced materials, hotel guest room pods were fabricated off site to reduce waste materials, and on an ongoing basis, building orientation, lighting and thermal energy storage reduce energy use, water-efficient landscaping and storm water collection used for cooling ensure the smallest environmental footprint for the tallest building in the West.

Ideally located in the heart of a revitalized, dynamic downtown, the Wilshire Grand Center and InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown have added a new and spectacular way to experience the United States' second-largest city.

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If you're looking for a room with a view in Marseille... this is it.

The Hotel Dieu might be the the best piece of real estate in Marseille. Part way up the hill next to the historic harbor, occupying the best vantage point overlooking the iconic view of the old port and the church on the opposite hill, Marseille's Hopital Dieu dates back to the 1700's.

As a hospital, it served the oldest neighborhood in all of France, where sailors, immigrants from around the Mediterranean, nuns and beggars, artists and artisans thronged. The care center of the community finally closed its doors, and the building sat empty for years...

Until a city-wide renaissance of style, design and culture included the transformation of the hospital building into a luxury, design hotel where the historic architecture meets stunning contemporary design, and a view without rival in France's largest port city.

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A New Place for the Best Views of Old Havana

The Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana has opened in Havana. It's the Cuban capital's first five-star luxury hotel, located in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Old Havana. And it is the first foray into the Americas for Europe's oldest luxury hotel group Kempinski.

The hotel is a revival of an historic six-story colonnaded building begun in the late 1800's. It lived through various incarnations as Cuba's first European-style department store, a silent film theater, and later, government offices, slowly decaying like much of the historic architecture in isolated Cuba. Its re-imagination as a luxury hotel brings the Manzana building back to its glory days… and then some.

Now as a 246-room urban lifestyle hotel, the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana, with its whitewashed façade, is again a landmark and beacon of style in Old Havana. A cool, pale color palette, with vivid tropical hits of pinks, teals and purples, cements its design hotel credentials.

Rooms all have ceilings 4-6.5 meters ( 13-20 feet) in height, contemporary furnishings and many have large French doors/windows perfect for admiring the patio and city views. Worth mentioning is the air conditioning and wi-fi, which, along with truly luxury levels of service, you can't take for granted in the up-and-coming tourism destination of Cuba.

A 100 square meter (10,000 square foot) spa by Resense, and a business center round out amenities that include six bars and restaurants covering every whim of entertaining around the clock.

When in Cuba, as they say… so of course there had to be a cigar lounge. You are guided through a Cuban cigar experience by a cigar sommelier who also suggests a perfect beverage pairing – with Cuban rum, naturally.

And the spectacular roof top bar is the best place in the city for incomparable scenic vistas day or night over Old Havana’s Parque Central, and El Capitolio (a replica of the U.S. Capitol). The panoramic rooftop views are icing on the cake of this hotel that is at once majestic, high-style, and fun.

The Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana has reclaimed the building's position as a hub in the centre of the Old Havana. As Cuba continues its upward trajectory towards full-fledged modern tourism, it provides an international urban lifestyle hotel experience for that luxury group of travelers, visitors to its bars, restaurants and spa. It also sets a high bar for new arrivals on the luxury travel scene in Cuba's capital.

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Paris Landmark Hotel Re-Opens after $200-million Renovation

When you renovate a palatial, historic landmark on one of the most famously elegant squares in one of the most fabled travel destinations in the world, there's a lot at stake.

The Hotel de Crillon has dominated Paris' storied Place de la Concorde since the 1700's. Originally the Parisian home of the illustrious Count de Crillon, the palace has been the site of world-changing events, where Marie Antoinette had music lessons, international treaties were signed (including French recognition of the American Declaration of Independence), and a hotel since 1909 where celebrities, aristocracy, royalty, politicians and artists continued to make history. Now after its 4-year renovation, its latest re-invention has been revealed.

We aren't disappointed. With incredible vision and work by world-renowned architects, designers, artists and artisans - even an artistic director – the Hotel de Crillon is back, a palace reinterpreted for the modern day luxury traveller. Imagine the challenge: to strike a balance between conservation and transformation. But the hotel has emerged as an elegant expression of the spirit of Paris and a celebration of French art de vivre.

The opulence remains. It is awe-inspiring, bridging the 18th and 21st centuries – and still oh so very Parisian: exquisite, elegant and a bit irreverent.

The exquisite Neoclassical façade and grand reception rooms on the second floor are classified heritage landmarks, so designers were working with a heritage building. But everywhere you can discover a fresh and modern twist, even as beloved and unique objects, that are symbols of the hotel’s history, can still be found throughout the property, from the amethyst chandeliers to gold and crystal Baccarat decanters.

Today's Hotel de Crillon features:

124 Guestrooms: 78 Rooms, 36 suites, and 10 signature suites elegantly decorated with bespoke furnishings, beautiful antiques and carefully chosen objets d’art.

  • The hotel’s 10 signature suites are the crown jewels of Hôtel de Crillon, and considered among the very finest in Paris. The Louis XV boasts a stunning private terrace with picture-perfect views of the Eiffel Tower, while the Marie-Antoinette suite reflects a regal, feminine spirit with pearl-gray décor and touches of rosy pink.

  • Karl Lagerfeld, renowned designer of the house of Chanel and a great 18th century admirer, decorated the two exceptional suites on Place de la Concorde which embody his personal vision of French chic and modernity.

3 heritage landmark salons for meetings and functions:

  • The salons are listed heritage landmarks, with soaring six meter ceilings dating from 1775-1776; French interior palace design of adjoining rooms allows them to be opened and joined for larger events.

5 distinct dining and drinking venues including:

  • Gastronomic restaurant L’Ecrin, where you can savour bold, unexpected, creative dishes of the young and Michelin-starred chef in the intimate 18th century décor of the Salon des Citronniers;

  • La Cave's intimate wine room;
  • Brasserie d’Aumont with an eclectic, quintessentially Parisian atmosphere complemented by revisited brasserie classics;
  • Jardin d’Hiver, casual garden-style gathering place, one of the hotel's most historic spaces, where you can relax at teatime, sip post-shopping champagne, or indulge in exquisite sweets;

  • Les Ambassadeurs, the chic 60-seat bar that is the new place to see and be seen in Paris. A festive vibe animates the heritage setting (the ceiling is a registered landmark) thanks to live music nightly, meticulously crafted cocktails, and an exclusive carte of prestigious champagnes.

Whimsical courtyards by a renowned French landscape architect.

A newly created swimming pool graced by a mural by a noted ceramic artist, fitness studio, and full-service Sense, A Rosewood Spa for wellness-conscious and stylish guests.

Sophisticated style and grooming venues for men and women, including Hair Salon by David Lucas, Barber by La Barbière de Paris, and Shoecare by Devoirdecourt.

Hôtel de Crillon has long since secured its iconic status as a one-of-a-kind hotel destination, a living testament to the very best way of life France has to offer. Its rebirth radiates timeless, chic contemporary French lifestyle in an undeniably luxuriant historic setting.

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Video: Fogo Island Inn: Daring Design meets Ancient Fishing Community

In colorful Newfoundland turn of phrase, you might say that Fogo Island is far away from far away. The island is remote; only accessible by ferries and helicopter flights that defy dramatic weather and waves to drop visitors on a a rocky outpost in the North Atlantic that until recently was a centuries-old, declining fishing community. This is not where you might expect to find a hotel that has won world-wide acclaim for its architecture, experience, social responsibility, and design.

Designer Karen Sealy and BestTrip.TV visited the extraordinary Fogo Island Inn to see what happens when local maritime craftsmanship meets 21st century global design.

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Grocery Delivery Program makes Hotels more like Home... or an Apartment Rental

Imagine a knock on your hotel door. Instead of a voice saying 'Room Service', you hear: 'Grocery Delivery'. Long stays at hotels just got better for families, business road warriors, and anyone who wants the health, comfort, choice, and even cost benefits of cooking in your hotel rather than relying entirely on restaurants or wasting time trying to find a grocery store in an unfamiliar city.

According to research done by Hawthorn Suites, Wyndham Hotels' extended stay hotels, 2/3rds of us want to cook in hotel rooms. If you're a Millennial, that rises to nearly 90 percent who think it would make hotels feel more like home.

Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham, Rome, GA

So they've partnered with Instacart, a retail delivery service, and Peapod, the leading online grocer in the U.S., to launch a program delivering groceries straight to you in your hotel through a few easy clicks online or on your mobile. Through the hotel's Homemade@Hawthorn site, you can get someone else to pick up your staple breakfast items, your child's must-have snacks, the energy foods you need to stay up late working on the updates for tomorrow's presentation, the ingredients to cook a meal you know your whole family will eat, that vegan dinner for all your friends, or to stay on your own healthy regimen when you're away from home at one of their long stay hotels.

The handy service – currently piloting at eight Hawthorn Suites hotels in the Chicago, Philadelphia, Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C.; Hartford, Conn.; and Orlando areas – is the brand's newest offering developed to help long-term guests maintain their routines and feel at home away from home.

Grocery delivery is the next and natural step of an in-suite culinary program that started with curated, chef-selected featured recipes on the Homemade@Hawthorn site. It was designed for hotel living, serving up seasonal, home-cooked recipes from award-winning chefs that can be easily prepared in a fully equipped in-suite kitchen.

Acclaimed culinary minds Chef Hari Nayak – a New York-based chef, restaurateur, author and culinary consultant – and Chef James Rigato – former Top Chef competitor and owner of the award-winning The Root Restaurant & Bar and Mabel Gray in Michigan – were tapped to create a new, summer season of exclusive, easy-to-make recipes designed for hotel living.

Each home-cooked dish – like a decadent pub cheese and ham sandwich, colorful summer pasta with vegetables, and a refreshing watermelon salad – was designed to be easily prepared in 30 minutes or less. And although you may be inspired by the recipes on the website for your travels, they will taste just as good when you also make them at home!

This innovation could tip the scales in favor of hotels over 'sharing economy' apartment rentals that come with fewer amenities and more hassles. Grocery delivery gives travelers access to fresh, familiar, healthier and cost effective food you can prepare yourself in an environment that includes the safety, amenities, locations and conveniences of a hotel.

We think this is a winning travel recipe for long term business travelers, groups of friends and families planning extended stays during the summer holidays or throughout the year.

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40 Years Later: Where is the 'Hotel California'?

It's one of the most loved travel songs of all time. And February 26th, 2017 marked the 40th anniversary of the Eagles' Hotel California. It really was forty years ago, in 1977, the band's most popular song was released as a single from the Eagles' album of the same name, and entered the Billboard Hot 100 charts.

Hotel California quickly won a Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1978. But it also became a cultural icon for generations since. Its guitar solo is consistently named one of the greatest ever, and the roadtrip song is now in the Grammy Hall of Fame.  Want it playing in your head the rest of the day? Here's a link to the Eagle's performing it. (Photo: The Eagles in concert performing Hotel California, 2010 tour in Australia. Photo Credit.)

So where is Hotel California? Well, the album cover art made it pretty clear. It featured a picture of the fabled Beverly Hills Hotel.

Photo Credit

Somehow, fans with big imaginations wove conspiracies about a deeper, hidden meaning, but the band members say it's just not so. Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and Don Felder share writing credits for the song, and Don Henley has made it very clear that the song was about 'a journey from innocence to experience... that's all…'

'We were all middle class kids from the Midwest, ‘Hotel California’ was our interpretation of the high life in L.A.'

The Beverly Hills Hotel is still the essence of Hollywood's luxury pedigree. The Mediterranean Revival style hotel, in its trademark pale pink and green, is one of the most renowned hotels in the world. 

Photo Credit

Constructed in 1912, in the middle of bean fields where rich polo players used to practice, the Beverly Hills Hotel was built BEFORE that city's existence. The hotel was strategically built on a prominence above the main road, and resembled a palatial, colonial mansion. Each of the rooms has its own balcony and is designed in the Beverly Hills Hotel colors. The Sunroom of the hotel, containing Californian craftsman furniture, provides vistas of the Pacific Ocean.

Polo players were quickly replaced by the cream of Hollywood society: film stars, studio bosses, celebrities, and rock stars.  In its earliest days, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Rudolph Valentino, and Will Rogers flocked to the new destination, ultimately building homes nearby.

They transformed the bean fields to one of the most prestigious addresses in the world. The Beverly Hills Hotel is the prime occupant of Sunset Boulevard, in the city that established itself around the hotel, and adopted the hotel's name.

Beverly Hills became a symbol of the glamorous 50's and 60's, and the Beverly Hills Hotel welcomed royalty like Princess Margaret, Princess Grace, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, who rubbed elbows with leading lights of Hollywood: John Wayne, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack, Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall, the Beatles… the list goes on and on.  

The Beverly Hills Hotel became known as the 'Pink Palace', with legendary stories emanating from the hotel's guest rooms, bungalows in the 12 acres of gardens, and the Sand and Pool Club, whose white sand was imported from Arizona, and made the pool area look like a beach.

Old Hollywood lives on today. The Beverly Hills Hotel had a100-million-dollar-plus renovation in the 1990's, and more remodeling and restoration for its 100th anniversary in 2012. That year, the hotel was named the first historic landmark in Beverly Hills.

Today, the Eagles' 'Hotel California' is part of the Dorchester Collection of luxury hotels, and guests can still soak in the atmosphere of legendary Hollywood glamour.

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Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts Makes 5-Star Award History

Business, leisure luxury hotel brand earns more Forbes 5-Star Ratings in a single year than any other hotel brand. 

2017 is a banner year for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.  It marks the second consecutive year the hotel brand, loved by fans of luxury travel, has topped Forbes Travel Guide ratings with a record number of Five-Star Properties.  How many have you stayed at?

Forbes Travel Guide has awarded a Five-Star rating – its highest honor – to 30 Four Seasons properties worldwide. The recognition marks the largest number of Five-Star ratings awarded to a hotel brand in a single year in the list’s nearly 60-year history.  

Star ratings are awarded by a team of professional inspectors, who anonymously evaluate properties against up to 800 rigorous and objective standards. The guides' goal is to provide consumers like you the insight to make better-informed business and leisure travel decisions.

In the words of Forbes Travel Guide, its inspectors “travel the world to assess hotels, restaurants and spas against up to 800 objective standards.” Star ratings ultimately emphasize quality of service. Five-Star properties are defined as “outstanding, often iconic properties with virtually flawless service and amazing facilities.”

Forbes Travel Guide rates properties in 42 countries throughout the Americas, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, with plans to add the Middle East and Africa for 2018.

4 Four Seasons properties earned their first Five-Star designation this year, including Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay (pictured top of page), Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan (pictured above), Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest (pictured below) and Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel (pictured second from top).

The 30 Four Seasons properties that earned Five Stars in 2017 are:

  • Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta
  • Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay
  • Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan
  • Four Seasons Hotel Boston
  • Four Seasons Hotel Chicago
  • Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo
  • Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues Geneva
  • Four Seasons Hotel Firenze
  • Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris
  • Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest
  • Four Seasons Hotel Guangzhou
  • Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake
  • Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong
  • Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
  • Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole
  • Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills
  • Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane
  • Four Seasons Hotel Macao, Cotai Strip
  • Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea
  • Four Seasons Hotel New York
  • Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach
  • Four Seasons Hotel Pudong, Shanghai
  • Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, Mexico
  • Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco
  • Four Seasons Hotel Seattle
  • Four Seasons Hotel Toronto
  • Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver
  • Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC
  • Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler
  • Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel

Forbes Travel Guide formally bestows the ratings at a Five-Star Awards Ceremony and Banquet in New York City on March 1, 2017.

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5 Destination Wedding Sites in Mexico... that aren't the Beach

A dream wedding on the beach in Mexico… or not.For some couples planning to get married or renew vows in coveted destinations in Mexico, it's just not their style to have sandy feet and sea salt-crusted hems of gowns on that special day. Even if you love a beach vacation, you might want a different venue for the ceremony itself.

We've got you covered with 5 spectacular, fairytale venues that aren't on the beach - although 4 are in beach resorts. 

Bonus: all of these hotels/resorts are terrific for the friends and family of all ages traveling with you.

Mayan RuinsWhere: The Occidental at Xcaret, Mayan Riviera

What we Love: Mayan archeological ruins (pictured above) are the star destination wedding or vow renewal location of the Occidental at Xcaret. This exclusive area offers a beautiful setting that looks out onto the Caribbean from a rock outcrop, fine white sand, and the ruins of a Mayan temple. The combination of nature, culture and Mexican tradition in a setting of great beauty and ecological value, nestled in an unbelievably beautiful cove.

And not only can you have a civil ceremony or a symbolic ceremony, you can also celebrate in the Mayan tradition.

Crystal-Clear CenoteWhere: Sandos Caracol Eco Resort in Playa del Carmen

What we Love: A secluded, immersed-in-nature venue is the cornerstone of its 'Green Wedding': a wooden deck over a cenote (say-NO-tay) – a natural, fresh-water-filled limestone sink hole. Live Mayan drum music, organization of donations to the less fortunate, a tree planting, and even a Temazcal ritual for the couple at the Spa can be arranged.

Weddings can also be held in a gazebo on the white sand beach and on the chic rooftop terrace. The resort is affiliated with the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association and welcomes and supports the community.

Sunset Colonial RooftopWhere: Rosewood San Miguel de Allende

What we Love: In the mountains of Mexico, UNESCO World Heritage site San Miguel de Allende is an enchanting, preserved colonial town with cobblestone streets, colorful facades, red rooftops, an ornate Gothic church surrounded by a traditional Mexican plaza. The 'stepping back in time' feel is balanced by a famously thriving cultural scene; the town is an artists' colony inhabited by ex-pats from around the world.

Rosewood San Miguel de Allende is a fairytale destination wedding hotel. Couples can marry or renew vows in historic churches and chapels in town, or at the hotel's lush gardens, lavender lawn or the spectacular rooftop terrace. A sunset wedding on one of the 'hottest rooftop terraces in the world' would be unforgettable. An animated, and truly Mexican callejoneada can accompany your guests to the venue with live music (Mariachi or estudinatina) and toast with tequila for the happy couple.

Rock GazeboWhere: Dreams Huatulco Resort & Spa

What we Love: located on Tangolunda Bay, Dreams Huatulco Resort & Spa overlooks the dazzling golden beaches and the sapphire blue waters of the coast of Oaxaca. Set among lush jungle, soaring mountains and coral reefs, there's a perfect ceremony venue everywhere you look. But we love the gazebo set against the rocks next to the sea for its rustic, almost primeval and earthy feel. 

The resort's Waterford Yours Truly toasting flutes program provides you with a premium memento of your day, and Free Anniversary Nights programs give you an excuse to re-visit the happy day year after year. We also love that the Dreams Huatalco Resort & Spa is Rainforest Alliance Certified.

Sky TerraceWhere: Azul Beach Resort by Karisma, Mayan Riviera

What we Love: The Sky Wedding takes your destination wedding ceremony to the next level - literally! Imagine saying vows overlooking stunning 360-degree views from the private rooftop terrace that makes you feel on top of the world. Sky Weddings are available at a number of this family of resorts in Mexico: Azul Beach, Azul Sensatori Mexico, Generations Riviera Maya.

Gourmet Inclusive® restaurants and bars combine a selection of mouthwatering à la carte menus and exotic drinks in a variety of settings. And there's a Romance Experience Menu and the personal service of resident 'Romance Maître D's' who help you plan the perfect romantic getaway uniquely designed for your love story.

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Accor's New-Concept 'Millennial' Hotels: 'Revolutionizing' Travel?

French company Accorhotels is launching JO&JOE, a new hotel concept it says is 'disrupting' traditional hotel codes and 'reinventing' the hotel experience in design, food&beverage, service and lifestyle, blending 'the best of private-rental, hostel, and hotel formats for solo, groups, pairs or family 'tripsters'.

A lot of jargon, but what does it mean for travelers?

JO&JOE hotels are an economy option that will be located in on-trend European and global city-center locations close to public transportation and a city's major points of interest.

The design and experience focuses on the hotel as a 'vibrant living space' for 'Millennial-minded trend-setters' who value sharing, spontaneity and experience.   So you don't have to be actually under 30 to appreciate the JO&JOE approach, just in tune with millennial trends:  mingling of locals and travelers in an 'open house' environment, offbeat design, digital ecosystems and a next-generation approach to food and beverage.

Is this really new? Would we want to stay? Would you?

Live:

JO&JOE is possibly more about its 'open house' lifestyle than a place to lay your head. Designers envision welcoming both 'Townsters' (people living nearby) and 'Tripsters' (people in town to explore) who treat the hotels as an annex of their own living rooms at home. 

Common areas and interaction foster community living and a full calendar of programs, from concerts, yoga classes or DIY workshops. JO&JOE local teams and the Townsters and Tripsters themselves help keep hotels active and buzzing, using the brand's geosocial app as a social accelerator which helps bring people together, enabling Townsters and Tripsters to connect, meet, initiate events, share tips, or arrange to get together for a meal or a walk.

 

We see this as a great step towards two things increasing numbers of people – not just Millennials – are saying they want more of when they travel: 'authentic' local experiences and meeting local people.

Sleep:

Stays at JO&JOE are incredibly affordable, with target price points starting at only €25. Think about it: less than 10% of what a city center hotel in a major travel destination like Paris would cost.

JO&JOE hotels will have a private area called "Happy House" where 'Tripsters' can relax, work, cook or wash their clothes, just like at home.  And you have multiple sleeping options:

  • 'Together':  an ingenious modular sleeping area that guests share without sacrificing privacy, with spacious beds, private lockers, reading lights and USB ports, shared recreation areas and bathrooms.
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  • 'Yours': rooms and apartments for two to five people with a private bathroom and, sometimes a kitchen area. Ideal for small groups and families, the space offers a completely different look from a conventional hotel room thanks to originally shaped and extremely comfortable beds.
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  • 'OOO!' (Out Of the Ordinary): unexpected and unforgettable accommodation, different at each JO&JOE, including yurts, hammock and caravans.

Dine:
Also incredibly affordable. Dining options begin at €10 for a menu, and also reflect a supposedly Millennial spirit with a focus on interaction, sharing, local, and healthy cuisine:

  • A central bar with unique design and high street visibility to encourage local residents to join guests enjoying a wide range of drinks, with a selection promoting flagship local and craft products. 
  •  
  • Local, affordable craft cuisine serving quality food without the frills through simple, authentic, and warm restaurant concepts: grills, open flame barbecues, woks or wood fired pizzas. 
  •  
  • Collaborative kitchens offers guests a showcase for their culinary talents and a stage for sharing their best recipes. Guests can stay on budget by using the space to cook meals, just for themselves or for a whole tribe. 

If this means the demise of the sad, $30 Club Sandwich, we're on board. We're also excited to have a place to create a meal after a visit to a local market, BUT where you can also order a terrific local wine and enjoy a cozy, healthy meal if you don't feel like cooking or trekking back out to find a restaurant after a long day exploring.

Our conclusion? It might not be a revolution, but this new hotel brand is delivering in style the innovations and lifestyle more and more travelers - not just Millennial 'tripsters' are looking for when they visit a new destination.

We can easily see JO&JOE's new concept hotels being a terrific part of many holidays: families with young adult children, teens, and even small kids, fun, on-trend couples and solo travelers who want to connect with locals and local trends, on its own or integrated into a larger trip like a pre- or post-cruise, group/escorted tour, or balancing a more traditionally-structured trip.

So stay tuned!  In the coming year, Accorhotel's first JO&JOE's will roll out in Paris and Bordeaux, France, as well as Warsaw, Poland, Budapest, Hungary, and outside Europe in Rio and Sao Paulo, Brazil.   It has plans to expand rapidly around the world, launching 50 hotels in 'destinations popular with Millennials' by 2020 to catch the wave of the future of travel.

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Get Thee to a Convent in Old San Juan El Convento, originally a 17th century Carmelite convent, has been listed as one of the world’s best places to stay by both Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure magazines. read more
Stay on a “Cruise Ship” right on the edge of a mountain in South Korea

One of the most unusual hotels in South Korea, the Sun Cruise Resort & Yacht will make you feel like you are on a cruise but you are actually right on the edge of a mountain! This resort hotel is ideal for travelers who want to experience a cruise but are afraid of the open sea.

Sun Cruise Resort & Yacht is located in Gangneung city on the east coast of South Korea. The city is known for its majestic mountains and sandy beaches. You can take a quick tour of the city before “boarding” your hotel. Its numerous attractions include the Seongyojang House, Gyeongpodae Pavilion, Ojukheon Residence, Ojukheon House & Ojukheon Municipal Museum, Gyeongpoho Lake, and Ohdaesan. The best way to get into the city is by bus, car, or train from numerous point in South Korea. The nearest international airport to the city is the Samcheok Airport, located in city of Samcheok, about 47 kilometers away.

The world’s first on-land cruise themed resort, Sun Cruise Resort & Yacht affords guests the best sunrise view in the entire country. It has five types of rooms ranging from standard, family standard, family deluxe, luxury and junior suite, all of which are furnished like a room on a cruise ship. Facilities and amenities include a karaoke room, indoor gymnasium, a sea water outdoor pool, souvenir shop, convenience store, a sky lounge, Korean restaurant, European restaurant, and a bakery. The resort area which surrounds the hotel features a sunrise garden, garden park, a glass and a platform observatory, sculptures, and an exhibition hall.

Enjoy a "cruise" without getting seasick at the Sun Cruise Resort & Yacht in South Korea! Call your travel agent for details.