The Luxury Guide to LA

Soho WareHouse Downtown LA | Photo by Soho House
Soho WareHouse Downtown LA | Photo by Soho House

From famous places to stay and eat to exclusive experiences, here’s everything you need to plan a luxury holiday in the City of Angels

Los Angeles County’s sprawling expanse can be a daunting adventure for first timers and returning visitors alike, but know where to go and the rewards come thick and fast. Explore West Hollywood, venture out past the breakers of Marina del Rey or dine in one of the top restaurants in the City of Angels – and that’s just the beginning. Read on for some of the best luxury options for shopping, sleeping, relaxing and playing in the City of Angels.

STAY

Los Angeles is currently undergoing a hotel boom – specifically boutique-style properties. 11 new hotels are set to open in the next two years,  from the artsy district of Downtown Los Angeles to the revitalised, world-famous neighbourhood of Hollywood, set to reaffirm the city as one of luxury and style.

 

Soho Warehouse (Downtown LA)

Soho Warehouse is the third L.A. outpost for the London-based chain, which opened on the south side of the Arts District in Downtown Los Angeles in August 2019. Soho Warehouse spans more than 10000 square metres, making it one of the biggest standalone Houses and the first with guest rooms on the West Coast. The property includes bedrooms, a gym, club spaces, a rooftop with a pool and some serious LA cool vibes.

 

Silver Lake Pool and Inn (Silver Lake)

In September 2019, Silver Lake Pool and Inn opened at Sunset Junction just south of the lively intersection of Santa Monica and Sunset. The 54-room boutique property run by Palisociety Hotels features an elevated pool deck and Marco Polo, a coastal Italian-inspired outdoor restaurant and bar.

 

The Hoxton, LA (Fashion District, Downtown)

Chic British brand Hoxton debuted The Hoxton, LA in September 2019 in a transformed 1925 building that was once the headquarters of the LA Railway Authority. Located in Downtown L.A.’s booming Fashion District at 11th and Broadway, the 10-storey hotel features 174 guest rooms, three restaurants including one on the roof, multiple bars and a rooftop pool.

 

Downtown L.A. Proper Hotel (Fashion District, Downtown)

Proper Hospitality, the new brand headed by former Viceroy Hotels Chief Brad Korzen, has opened their first Los Angeles hotel in Downtown L.A.’s Fashion District located at the site of the former Case Hotel. The 13-storry property, which was originally built in 1924, has 148 rooms. Caroline Styne and Suzanne Goin – the legendary James Beard Award-winning L.A. restaurateurs known for a.o.c., Lucques, Tavern and The Larder – oversee the hotel’s first-floor restaurant, as well as the rooftop lounge.

EAT & DRINK

Yamashiro

In a private location in the Hills, Yamashiro is an Asian fusion restaurant. First completed in 1914 for the purpose of a private estate, Yamashiro was built to replicate a palace in China. In 1920 the hotel was sold to become a ‘400 club’, exclusive only to top celebrities. Today it is a famous location to film movies such as Memoirs of a Geisha, Blind Date, Playing God and Nocturnal Animals. The Asian Fusion restaurant features a sushi bar, robata grill and teppanyaki grill for those who want to have an interactive dining experience, or you can laze in the lounge and be waited on like the A-Lister that you are.

The menu ranges from $18 USD per dish, all the way up to $240 USD for their A5 blindly cut Wagyu steak.

 

The Providence L.A.

The Providence L.A. is a two-star Michelin-rated fine dining restaurant serving gourmet seafood. The private chef’s table is a small glass dining room just for your table, situated in the kitchen so you can watch Michelin magic unfold before your very own eyes. You will be able to interact with kitchen staff and get the chance to speak with Chef Michael Cimarusti when served each dish.

Seating starts at approximately $225 USD per person.

 

Somni

Opened in 2018 and situated inside SLS Beverly Hills, a Luxury Collection hotel, Somni, a two-Michelin-star restaurant, is dedicated to providing a truly exceptional dining experience. A 10-seat chef’s counter faces an exhibition kitchen, where a team of 12 chefs creates a 20-plus-course tasting menu. The restaurant is available for private events and bookings.

Chef’s Counter at Somni starts at $265 USD per head. Somni x Geist Collab dinner starts at $495 UDS per head.

GET AROUND

 

Black and White Car Rental

The licensed car rental provider offers standard, luxury, and exotic cars with three locations in the heart of Hollywood, LAX and Beverly Hills. Founded in 1994, they have been recognised for providing excellent customer service, competitive deals on standard cars, and for carrying the newest model luxury and exotic vehicles.

A Ferrari Spider costs approximately $2,200 USD per day.

 

Luxury Liners

The Luxury Liners Sun Coast is a 145-foot yacht that can hold up to 12 guests and features two main salons, a huge bow that’s perfect for partying or sunbathing, four staterooms, two indoor dining areas, three outdoor deck dining areas, multiple flat screen TVs, surround sound system, Jacuzzi, helipad, gym and more. To add to the experience, private chefs and bartenders are available to create custom food and drink menus. From its home harbour in Marina del Rey, the Sun Coast can be chartered to cruise within the bay or just outside the breakwater of Marina del Rey. She is also available to charter north towards Malibu or across to Catalina Island.

Sun Coast yacht starts at $15,293 USD per charter.

 

Orbic Air Helicopter flight

Orbit Air’s two-hour flights provide champagne for guests to sip as they take in aerial views of LA’s sights, from Griffith Observatory, Hollywood Bowl, and Dodger Stadium to Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Downtown L.A. skyline, and coastal enclaves like Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades. Feeling bold? Opt for one-on-one ground instruction and the chance to fly the helicopter during the tour. Land on a rooftop helipad overlooking the city or a mountaintop above Malibu’s stunning beaches. Interesting fact: up until 2014, L.A. had a law in place for four decades whereby high-rise buildings had to have a mandatory helicopter landing pad. This was abolished in 2014, however there are many still there, providing landing opportunities right in the heart of the city!

Flights start at $249 USD and go up to $599 USD depending on the package.

 

The Private Suite at LAX

The Private Suite is a private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). It typically takes 2,200 footsteps from car seat to plane seat, but for members of The Private Suite, it’s a mere 70 footsteps. Members of The Private Suite don’t have to wait in crowded lines because private TSA screening is done in the building, and The Private Suite team handles ticketing and luggage. Members spend their pre-flight time in a private suite, each with its own bathroom, food service pantry, a two-person daybed, and a runway view of aircraft landing and taking off. When it’s time to board, Private Suite members are driven in a BMW 7 Series sedan across the tarmac directly to their aircraft.

Annual membership fee starts at $4,500 USD.

PLAY

 

The Whaling Club

Exclusive parties in L.A. are a regular occurrence, but for regular folk who have this on their bucket list, we’ve found an exclusive invite-only cocktail party that you (might) be able to go to. The Whaling Club is one of LA’s most exclusive invite-only pop-up cocktail parties held monthly in the home of owner Dan Scott, GM of Son of a Gun (seafood restaurant in L.A.). To get on this exclusive invite-list is almost impossible unless you know someone. Each month, Dan serves his A-list guests with unique cocktails combined with ingredients that are (almost) impossible to even get in the US.

 

The Staples Centre Private Suite

The Staples Centre in L.A. is one of the most popular venues for basketball games where you can see A-listers front row cheering on their team. If you want to watch a basketball game in style, the Staples Centre offers private suites for those who want to impress and entertain their guests. Perks include VIP early access, your very own attendant, two preferred parking passes, and access to the exclusive San Manuel Club (where guests can experience a bar and buffet dining away from the crowds).

Private suites range between $2,500 – $6,000 USD depending on what game/concert is on and the desired package. Courtside seats start at $2,700 per game (price varies depending on teams playing).

 

Porsche Experience Center Los Angeles

Located in Carson, the Porsche Experience Center (PEC) is a 62-hectare venue with a 6.5 kilometre driver development track, state-of-the-art driving simulators, a retail store with exclusive PEC branded merchandise, and fine dining at Restaurant 917. Inside the 4500 square-metre building, which is also the new home of Porsche Motorsport North America, guests can get an insider’s look at historic Porsche race cars and the workshop team. Drivers can pilot the latest Porsche models through eight different driving modules.

Prices range from $235 for the one-hour Cayenne Off-Road experience to $2,500 for the Accelerated GT3 RS Program, a four-hour advanced car driving session that will push you to your limits.

 

VIP Experience – Universal Studios Hollywood

Take your visit to Universal Studios Hollywood to the next level with the VIP Experience. Tour the movie industry’s busiest sets in a special trolley (golf cart) and access areas not open to the general public. Visit actual sound stages where blockbuster movies and TV shows are filmed. Explore the Property Department, home to thousands of set pieces and decorative items used for film and television production. Enjoy VIP privileges with escorted priority access to all rides and attractions, including Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Expert VIP guides will immerse you in the past, present and future of Universal’s world-famous Backlot, and your VIP guide will take you straight to the front of the line at all rides and find you the best seats at all shows. Other perks include valet parking and VIP entry to the park, a light breakfast in the exclusive VIP lounge, and a gourmet lunch in the private VIP dining room.

VIP Experience starts at $299 per person.

RELAX

 

The Ritz-Carlton Spa

Travellers can treat themselves to The Ritz-Carlton Spa, located within the glamorous hotel in Downtown L.A. It offers a variety of innovative therapies, including the Garden to Glamorous Seasonal Scrub, which incorporates ingredients harvested from the hotel’s rooftop garden. The luxury day spa is the largest in Downtown L.A. Spanning 750 square metres that include treatment rooms, a couple’s suite, a co-ed sanctuary, separate lounges with eucalyptus steam rooms and cold-plunge showers, a hair salon as well as a boutique.

Garden to Glamorous Seasonal Scrub is $260 USD for 80 minutes. Red Carpet Radiance is $305 USD for 80 minutes.

Spa by la Prairie

Hotel Bel-Air’s famous Spa by la Prairie is visited by stars such as Jennifer Aniston who swear by their treatments. You can spoil yourself with facials starting at $150, but if getting a real celebrity treatment is on your bucket list, the Signature Valmont Facial – Vitality of the Stars for a cool $1,000 will give you that celebrity glow.

Facials start at $150 USD and goes up to $1,000 USD.

 

Ciel Spa

Ciel Spa by Pearl Recovery Retreat and Wellness is a haven of tranquility, located within the elite SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. It provides guests with spa treatments from the best therapists in the world. Feel relaxed and at ease among the warm, white tones and billowing curtains throughout the 5,000 square foot space.

Hyperbaric treatment is $250 USD an hour. P50 Body Polish treatment is $225 USD.

SHOP

 

Westfield Shopping Concierge

The concierge at Westfield Century City (located across from Sephora) is on-call and ready to assist with transportation, restaurant reservations, and gifting needs. International travellers can use LanguageLine, a three-way video interpretation service in more than 200 languages, including Cantonese and Mandarin. For exclusive access there’s The Private Suite, dedicated to celebrity and VIP services, complete with a secure private entrance and elevator. The Private Suite provides direct entry to Century City’s restaurants, theatres, and Westfield’s retail experience of more than 200 boutiques. They even have a dedicated dog park for the pampered pooches!

 

The Beverly Center

Beverly Center is a monolithic eight-story shopping centre located at the edge of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, between La Cienega and San Vicente boulevards. Luxury stores include Balenciaga, Burberry, Gucci, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Prada and Versace, to name a few. After a few hours of shopping you can treat yourself to a luxury dining experience with restaurants such as Cal Mare and Akira Back Steak.

 

Melrose Place

On two blocks adjacent to West Hollywood’s Design District is a collection of luxury boutiques including Santa Maria Novella, Marni, Bottega Veneta, The Row, Oscar de la Renta, Monique Lhuillier, and Mansur Gavriel. Share a photo of a beloved pet (cat, dog, bunny—you name it) within the ivy-clad walls of Irene Neuwirth (ireneneuwirth.com), a fine jewellery boutique located across from the charming Alfred Tea Room, and the jeweller will create a hand-carved pet-portrait ring painted with crystal quartz and set with precious and semi-precious stones. A yellow-gold version of such a ring, with .15 diamond carats, is priced at $8,930.

Not Just a Pretty Face: Hotel Chadstone Melbourne

Hotel Chadstone Reception
Hotel Chadstone Reception

Striking good looks, top-notch dining and a stand-out spa mean even the skeptics will be wooed by Hotel Chadstone, whether they like shopping or not…

“I only drink champagne on two occasions. When I am in love, and when I am not.” These words from Coco Chanel certainly ring true when you’re a guest of the new Hotel Chadstone Melbourne. The quote is printed on a coaster, which sits under a complimentary bottle of sparkling water on the bedside table in my Deluxe Suite, and by the time I spot it I’m already two glasses of bubbles in. How did they know? Clearly, I’ve been set up – lured into a state of uninhibited self-indulgence by the room’s luxurious ambience. Or, it could just be that as a female in my early 30s, I am the ideal clientele for Hotel Chadstone. In fact, the property has has been entirely designed with women in mind.

In the room there’s a plush king size bed fit for a queen, a Chromecast-enabled Smart TV, a bluetooth speaker, gourmet mini-bar and a Nespresso machine solidifying the hotel’s five star tag. But there’s also a bathroom the size of a studio apartment with not only double basins and a freestanding tub, but a dressing table with a velvet stool and a makeup mirror as well as designer Balmain amenities that most women would swoon over (although the fact that the products are unsustainable minis doesn’t go unnoticed). They’ve really thought this through. The palette, too, is unashamedly feminine with a soothing wash of soft pink, grey, gold and white.

But it’s not all marshmallows and musk sticks at Hotel Chadstone, and thank goodness for that. The interior throughout the hotel sidesteps saccharine style with all the class you’d expect from a design-focused brand like MGallery by Sofitel (a part of Accor Hotels), and a global architecture firm like dwp. The emphasis, instead, is elegantly art deco, and it’s not hard to see where the $130 million it took to build the hotel, went.

Sexy, dark wood panelling, wallpapered walls, textured glass, tonnes of granite and marble of every colour imaginable, curated artworks and just the right amount of glamorous gold detailing; there are so many tactile qualities to the hotel I want to get all touchy-feely with everything I see. And the curves – oh, the curves! Who needs right angles? Not Hotel Chadstone. Arched doorways, globe lamps, round tables, circular sofas… even my suite’s floor-to-ceiling windows are impressively convex, so that the outside of the building slightly resembles a woman’s figure. The view over the parking lot might leave a little to be desired, but then we are in the suburbs.

On first hearing about Hotel Chadstone, I was skeptical. As the name suggests, the hotel has been built right next door to Chadstone – The Fashion Capital, which is the largest shopping centre in Australia, located in the south-eastern suburb of Malvern East, 17 kilometres (about a 30-minute drive) from Melbourne’s CBD. I was skeptical about its suburban location, its possibly polarising female-skewed design, and its reliance on those visiting Melbourne for weekend shopping trips for bookings – especially when there are plenty of other places in the city to indulge in some retail therapy.

But, I guess there’s a reason Accor is in the business of hotels, and I just humbly write about them, because the hotel is, at is turns out, rather fabulous. Male guests – of which there are plenty – seem to be as content as the female, and underneath the gleaming first impressions is an experience that exceeds, in my opinion, that of the often outdated five star hotels currently found in Melbourne’s CBD.

Arriving in the hotel lobby I audibly “wow”d, struck by an overwhelming sense of expense and plenty of design drama. There’s an entire nook the hotel calls a ‘fashion and design library’, currently dedicated to Tiffany & Co and showcasing Tiffany Blue boxes and black-and-white photographs of Audrey Hepburn. Not to mention, it’s easy to completely lose track of time watching the mesmerising digital art projection dancing around on the opposite wall. There are so many things to admire in the lobby alone, It’s hard to know where to fix your gaze.

The spa, Holism, is equally gorgeous and feels like a real cocoon of calm in the ‘burbs. There are nine treatment rooms, a yoga studio and a wellness light lounge – although I’m not exactly sure what that is. I indulge in a Wellness Warrior facial, and having had my fair share of result-less facials over the years, am slightly taken aback when my skin noticeably glows for days afterwards, if I do say so myself. Like the rest of the hotel, aesthetic is a top priority at Holism, even down to the staff uniforms, which are noticeably on-trend and which I would happily wear myself, whether I worked at Holism or not. But under the picture-perfect exterior, again, is real substance, with the incredibly attentive staff demonstrating a level of professionalism, skill and knowledge found in top-tier city spas.

As for the the hotel’s two restaurants, they do not disappoint. Warm and comforting Pastore, located on the ground floor, is Chef Restaurateur Scott Pickett’s Italian-influenced all-day dining venue, serving up breakfast, lunch and dinner. Pastore – the Italian word for ‘shepherd’ — honours the area’s heritage as a pasture and orchard, with a sharing menu that focuses on woodfire-fuelled cooking, creative antipasti (house-cured duck prosciutto, anyone?) and exceptional handmade pasta. Don’t skip the botanical cocktails or wine, either. There’s a strong wine list of Italian varietals from local producers, and plenty of premium pours offered by the glass thanks to an in-house Coravin system.

Sitting alongside the indoor pool on the top floor, meanwhile, is glamorous Altus with its views of the Dandenong Ranges and elegant ambience that nods to the great champagne bars of the world. An excellent high tea is served here, and on Saturdays and Sundays the place is brimming with tables of women sipping bubbles and taking photos of the mouth-watering tiered morsels and the wine glass chandelier hanging from the roof.

For those with a savoury palette, the spot makes an equally dreamy choice for a sundowner, thanks to those curvaceous, full-height windows. The dishes served at Altus are as tasty as they are beautiful, made with seasonal ingredients sourced from the Victorian countryside: zucchini blossoms with stracciatella, macadamia and romesco; lamb tenderloin with eggplant crème, feta, burnt orange glaze, kale and 3 cheeses… it’s all delicious, and a testament to the new wave of excellent locally-rooted Modern Australian cuisine coming out of kitchens across the country.

Much to my surprise, I even find myself rather taken with Chadstone – The Fashion Capital, and as I check out of Hotel Chadstone after two nights, I can see myself returning with my mother or a group of girlfriends for a weekend of shopping and pampering – which, of course, is exactly what the geniuses behind Hotel Chadstone predicted. The walk from the revolving door of the hotel lobby to the shopping centre takes under sixty seconds straight down a travelator with absolutely zero barriers to entry, so take this as a warning. Or don’t. As that champagne-loving fashion icon once said: “Whoever said money can’t buy happiness didn’t know where to go shopping.” I think Coco Chanel would have been right at home at Hotel Chadstone.

 

sofitel.accor.com

The Most Highly-Anticipated Hotel Openings of 2020

Arctic Bath Sweden

From a floating arctic retreat and secluded safari adventure to a boutique hotel in a famous French palace, here is our mega-list of hotels opening in 2020 that we just can’t wait to visit…

AUSTRALIA

Heritage Room at The Tasman, Hobart, Tasmania
Heritage Room at The Tasman, Hobart, Tasmania

The Tasman, Hobart

Tasmania

Tasmania is certainly on a roll with hotel openings. The Tasman is slated to open in Hobart in September 2020 with 152 luxury guest rooms and suites, an upscale restaurant, lobby lounge and whisky lounge. Set in an historic, 19th-century building, the original features of the heritage building will be revived for today’s luxury traveller by Sydney-based hospitality interior design firm JPDC.  Not to mention, The Tasman’s location on Parliamentary Square means that travellers will be close to cultural attractions in the heart of Tasmania’s capital

Sequoia at Mount Lofty House
Sequoia at Mount Lofty House

Sequoia Lodge

South Australia

Nestled among the Piccadilly Valley at the foot of  the 30 acre Mount Lofty estate, Sequoia Lodge will offer 14 guest suites with access to a private club lounge, gardens, sundeck and natural spring-fed hot pools from September 2020. The property will be separate from the original Mount Lofty House, with the private retreat having its own guest relations team and secure entrance, while guests will have access to all of the property’s amenities including personalised service at the three-hatted Hardy’s Verandah Restaurant, Arthur Waterhouse Lounge and Stables Day Spa. Overseen by Horbelt with input from local architects and designers, every room in the 75-square-metre open-plan suites will display 180-degree views. 

Guests of the Lodge will also have access to a catalogue of experiences that celebrate South Australian stories, not available to the general public. These private behind-the-scenes tours with local winemakers take guests up-close and personal with native icons or local identities and brands. Sequoia Lodge is conveniently located just 15 minutes from Adelaide CBD in the highlands of the Adelaide Hills, renowned for its local wine and produce, and will be the South Australian capital’s first luxury lodge.

sequoialodge.com.au

Oval Hotel, Adelaide, South Australia
Oval Hotel, Adelaide, South Australia

Oval Hotel

South Australia

Oval Hotel, situated at historic Adelaide Oval, will also open in September 2020. Designed by Cox Architecture and Carr, the Oval Hotel incorporates new technologies like using mobile phones to access rooms, order room service or book a car, and every room will have a unique view of the parklands or St. Peter’s Cathedral. 

Hill of Grace Restaurant offers fine dining overlooking the turf of Adelaide Oval, with a wine selection headlined by Henschke’s acclaimed Hill of Grace series and a seasonally created degustation menu. Bespoke Wine Bar & Kitchen provides a menu showcasing the depth and variety of South Australia’s food and wine and views that take in both the Oval and the parklands. Oval Hotel will be within walking distance to Adelaide’s retail centre, the River Torrens and the Riverbank entertainment precinct, which includes the Adelaide Casino, Adelaide Convention Centre and Festival Theatre complex.

ovalhotel.com.au

ASIA

Capella, Bangkok, Thailand
Capella, Bangkok, Thailand

Capella

Thailand

When it opens in early 2020 on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, Capella Bangkok will be a sophisticated pied-à-terre in Charoenkrung, the city’s oldest and most historic paved road known for its fashionable cafes, bars and art galleries. The hotel, from exclusive Asian brand Capella, will have 101 suites and villas with panoramic river views, private villas, a riverfront gourmet restaurant overseen by Michelin-starred chef Mauro Colagreco, as well as a specialty bar serving creative cocktails and desserts. There will even be a Capella Library and Capella’s award-winning Auriga Spa.

capellahotels.com

Premium King Guest Room at Kimpton Tokyo Shinjuku, Japan
Premium King Guest Room at Kimpton Tokyo Shinjuku, Japan

Kimpton Tokyo Shinjuku

Japan

Kimpton Tokyo Shinjuku, from San Francisco-based Kimpton Hotels & Resorts, is slated to open in early 2020, just in time to host guests for the Tokyo Olympic Games. Located in the skyscraper district that is home to many of Tokyo’s tallest buildings, the 162-room hotel will feature Kimpton’s signature bold, playful design inspired by New York’s art and fashion scene. Kimpton Tokyo Shinjuku will showcase plenty of Japanese culture, including its three locally inspired restaurants. Guests will find complimentary morning coffee and tea in the ‘living room lobby’ and an evening social hour.

kimptonshinjuku.com

Harding Boutique Hotel, Sri Lanka
Harding Boutique Hotel, Sri Lanka

Harding Boutique Hotel

Sri Lanka

The six-suite Harding Boutique Hotel is scheduled to open on the Sri Lankan south coast in early 2020, with dense coconut groves to the east and west, ocean and beach frontage to the south, a dynamic local community to the north, and just a 30-minute drive from the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Galle Fort. A new venture from Sri Lankan-Australian entrepreneur Paul Harding, whose great uncle was one of Sri Lanka’s first hoteliers, the Harding Boutique Hotel, which can be rented out exclusively, was designed by British architect Jonathan Ashmore. The private accommodations boast generous private balconies and views over the Indian Ocean, as well as sea-facing private baths. While there won’t be a restaurant, there is an open-air roof terrace with 360-degree views over the palm tops.

hardingboutiquehotels.com

Bedroom at the Ritz-Carlton Nanjing, China
Bedroom at the Ritz-Carlton Nanjing, China

The Ritz-Carlton Nanjing

China

The Ritz-Carlton Nanjing will offer 295 guest rooms and suits with city, Xuanwu Lake and Purple Mountain views from May 2020. All five restaurants and lounges will have skyline views and guests will be able to enjoy an indoor heated swimming pool, luxury transportation services, business services and meeting and event spaces that include two ballrooms.

ritzcarlton.com

Six Senses Bumthang, Bhutan
Six Senses Bumthang, Bhutan

Six Senses Bumthang

Bhutan

Six Senses Bumthang will debut in the second quarter of 2020. The Himalayan lodges will reflect the brand’s commitment to wellness and sustainability while highlighting Bhutan’s culture, hospitality and spirituality. Each of the five lodges will be different in style with the interiors inspired by Bhutanese architecture, from the simple lines of the natural timber furniture to the bukharis (a traditional woodburning stove), and vegetable-dyed, antique-washed Himalayan rugs. Calling on Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness philosophy, the properties also offer sunrise meditations, holistic spa treatments, private astrology readings, butter lamp lighting ceremonies and hikes and treks through forests.

sixsenses.com

WOW King Suite at W Chengdu, China
WOW King Suite at W Chengdu, China

W Chengdu

China

Opening in July 2020, W Chengdu will be nestled amidst Chengdu’s Central Gaoxin District and offer 297 signature W rooms that draw form modern Chinese design and local elements. Guests will be able to relax or stay fit at the hotel’s AWAY spa, FIT and Wet facilities, and when it comes to enjoying the tastes of W Chengdu, have access to Yao Yen, the Chinese cruise restaurant and Zing, the pan-Asian fusion restaurant. Guests will be able to take in the views at Spark rooftop bar or sip cocktails at the Living Room.

marriott.com

Fort Barwara Living Room, India
Fort Barwara Living Room, India

Six Senses Fort Barwara

India

Six Senses is refurbishing the 700-year-old Fort Barwara, originally owned by the Rajasthani Royal Family, in Rajasthan. Set to open in 2020 on 2.2 hectares,  Six Senses Fort Barwara will incorporate a palace and two temples within the walled site, 48 suites, a bar and lounge and two restaurants, which will serve classic dishes and modern cuisine incorporating fresh local ingredients.

The 2800-square-metre Six Senses Spa and fitness centre is to be housed in the original women’s palace and will offer comprehensive ayurveda treatments and meditation in addition to the brand’s wellness programs. There will also be two swimming pools, banquet areas, a retail boutique and a kids’ club. Six Senses Fort Barwara sits directly opposite the temple Chauth ka Barwara Mandir, with Ranthambore National Park, home to tigers, leopards, sloth bears and other wildlife, just 30 minutes from the property, and Jaipur a three-hour drive away.

sixsenses.com

Orient Express Mahanakhon, Bangkok, Thailand
Orient Express Mahanakhon, Bangkok, Thailand

Orient Express Mahanakhon

Thailand

It has been 137 years since the Orient Express took its maiden voyage from Paris, and now the world-famous brand prepares to make a grand re-entrance onto the international stage with the opening of the first Orient Express Hotel, located at King Power Mahanakhon. French designer Tristan Auer has reimagined the original Orient Express carriages, delivering old-world art deco style to the modern 78-storey skyscraper – the tallest building in Bangkok’s bustling metropolis.

Orient Express Mahanakhon Bangkok features 154 rooms including nine suites and two penthouses, as well as an entire floor devoted to wellness, featuring an outdoor pool and Jacuzzi plus signature Orient Express Spa by Guerlain. There is a rooftop observation deck and rooftop bar, while all rooms provide views over the Far East ‘City of Angels’. Foodies will also be well looked after, with restaurants Mott 32 and Mahanathi by acclaimed Australian chef David Thompson set to open in the hotel.

orient-express.com

NORTH AMERICA

Living room at Commodore Perry Estate, Austin, Texas
Living room at Commodore Perry Estate, Austin, Texas

Commodore Perry Estate

Texas

Opening in spring 2020, the Commodore Perry Estate will be the first urban retreat in the dynamic setting of Austin, Texas. Owned by Auberge Resorts Collection and designed by Ken Fulk, the 4-hectare resort will offer 42 rooms and 12 suites, and amenities including an organic urban farm, Lutie’s – the signature garden restaurant – a members club and a serene outdoor swimming pool.

Built during the Jazz Age in 1928, Commodore Perry Estate was originally the country home of Commodore Edgar and Lutie Perry and was designed by Dallas architect Henry Bowers Thompson in 1927. Located just north of The University of Texas at Austin in the historic neighbourhood of Hancock, Commodore Perry Estate is surrounded by English gardens, spring-fed Waller Creek and a stone wall, enclosing the property.

aubergeresorts.com

Treehouse Suite at One & Only Mandarina, Mexico
Treehouse Suite at One & Only Mandarina, Mexico

One&Only Mandarina

Mexico

Set upon one of the last remaining beachfront jungles in the region, One&Only Mandarina will offer a combination of 104 free-standing villas that each with their own private plunge pool and 54 private homes. Jetty Beach Club, located on the resort’s private beach, will serve the freshest catch of the day, while an oceanfront, adult-only destination, elevated above the cliffs, will be helmed by a celebrity chef, serving his signature take on Mexican cuisine.

The One&Only Spa will feature a collection of six enclosed treatment rooms. In addition, the resort will have a fully equipped fitness studio, outdoor yoga palapa and a specialised outdoor gym. Guests to the resort can also access the open ocean from The Jetty, hike through nature trails, visit the Mandarina Polo & Equestrian Club and take children to the KidsOnly club that introduces the natural world to young, curious minds.

oneandonlyresorts.com

Bedroom at The Ritz-Carlton, Mexico City, Mexico
Bedroom at The Ritz-Carlton, Mexico City, Mexico

The Ritz-Carlton, Mexico City

Mexico

Rising 58 stories in the heart of the financial centre, the home of The Ritz-Carlton, Mexico City will add a striking structure to the city’s skyline. Located on floors 36 to 47, the hotel will offer views of Chapultepec Park from each of its 153 accommodations and private residences. Luxury amenities include a Club Lounge, a Mediterranean-inspired bar and restaurant, a spa, pool, fitness centre and meeting and event spaces. The Ritz-Carlton, Mexico City is set to open in summer 2020.

ritzcarlton.com

Aman New York
Aman New York

Aman New York

New York

Slated to open in late 2020, Aman New York will offer 83 rooms and suites in the Crown Building on the corner of Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. The 26 storeys of Aman New York overlook Central Park, giving guests and residence access to New York City’s iconic greenery and boutique shops.

At Aman Spa guests will be able to relax in the 20-metre indoor swimming pool and an all-encompassing spa journey that includes a double treatment room, sauna and steam rooms and an outdoor terrace with cabana, daybed and fireplace. Dining at Aman New York will range from the subterranean Jazz Bar to the wraparound Garden Terrace that overlooks Central Park and include Italian dining options at Area, Aman’s interpretation of Japan’s washoku dining tradition at Nama and a Wine Library.

aman.com

Ambiente Sedona, Arizona
Ambiente Sedona, Arizona

Ambiente Sedona

Arizona

Opening December 2020, Ambient Sedona will be North America’s first landscape hotel. Blending with the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona, Ambiente will give guests the opportunity to experience and embrace the natural beauty that surrounds them in one of the world’s most stunning locations. Ambiente will be comprised of 40 cubed-shaped guest Atriums that are elevated above the ground by steel piers and constructed using floor-to-ceiling, bronze-tinted glass and matte-charcoal and rusted metal.

Developed, owned and managed by Two Sister Bosses, a Sedona family-owned and operated company, Ambiente is being built with a focus on sustainable methods and organic, modern architecture that complements the surrounding topography and minimises the impact on the land. Designed by award-winning, Scottsdale-based ASUL Architects, the pier-method to building Ambiente’s Atriums allows each Atrium to be rotated and individually hand-placed at very specific angles to fit, as best as possible, within the existing trees and flora, thereby maximising the views.

ambientesedona.com

Alaia, San Pedro, Belize
Alaia, San Pedro, Belize

Alaia

Belize

Being developed in partnership with owner Andrew Ashcroft, new property Alaia will include 56 two-bedroom condominiums and eight oceanfront villas, available to purchase as holiday homes. The property will be located on the southern part of Ambergris Caye in San Pedro, with more than 1,000 feet of beachfront, and guests can relax on the rooftop pool, attend events and party at the Beach Club, scuba dive with the onsite Belize Pro Dive Center, enjoy VIP access to the San Pedro Sailing & Watersports Club and get creative at the Live Art Gallery.

alaiabelize.com

MIDDLE EAST

Six Senses Shaharut, Israel
Six Senses Shaharut, Israel

Six Senses Shaharut

Israel

Six Senses Shaharut will be set upon a cliff in Israel’s Negev Desert, where guests can witness a sunset panorama. Approximately 18 hectares of land will house the 60 suites and Six Senses Spa that are designed to integrate with the desert topography and preserve the natural terrain. Accommodations comprise junior suites plus one- and two-bedroom villas and a three-bedroom retreat, all with private pools. 

An all-day restaurant will serve a fresh buffet breakfast and á-la-carte selections. A poolside bar and grill will open for lunch and dinner, and a juice bar and alchemy bar are located at the spa. Fresh ingredients will be harvested seasonally from the resort’s own gardens, or, when possible, from local farmers at the nearby kibbutz (an agriculture-focused Israeli community). Special attractions will include an Earth Lab, camel stables that offer daily rides, an open-air amphitheater, tented Bedouin dining experiences and electric powered cars on the property. Six Senses Shaharut is slated to open to the public in early 2020. 

sixsenses.com

St. Regis Cairo, Egypt
St. Regis Cairo, Egypt

The St. Regis Cairo

Egypt

Egypt is back on travellers’ radars, and those wishing to explore Cairo can stay in the St. Regis Cairo from June 2020, where 366 rooms, suites and apartments will be on offer. Guests will have access to state-of-the-art facilities, seven restaurants and bars and views of the Nile River and Old Cairo. Guests will also have 24/7 access to the St. Regis Butler Service.

marriott.com

Anantara Mina al Arab Ras al Khaimah Resort, UAE
Anantara Mina al Arab Ras al Khaimah Resort, UAE

Anantara Mina al Arab Ras al Khaimah Resort

United Arab Emirates

Opening in late 2020, Mina al Arab will offer 300 guest rooms, suites and overwater villas on the the northernmost emirate of the UAE. Guests to Mina al Arab can dine at a specialty Asian overwater restaurant, seafood grill restaurant and beach and pool bar, and relax at the outdoor swimming pool or the Anantara Spa. Ras al Khaimah appeals to nature lovers because of its diverse ecosystem that includes beaches, a desert and the mountain of Jebel Jais. At Mina al Arab, guests will have access to a discovery and eco-learning centre that builds on the emirate’s rich local ecology.

anantara.com

Jumeirah Muscat Bay, Oman
Jumeirah Muscat Bay, Oman

Jumeirah Muscat Bay

Oman

Set in the cove of Bandar Jissah between the Al Hajar Mountains and the Gulf of Oman, Jumeirah Muscat Bay is just 15 minutes south of Muscat city centre and 40 minutes from Seeb International Airport. In addition to 206 spacious rooms, the hotel will include a state-of-the-art Talise Spa with luxurious treatments for those looking to unwind and world-class bars and restaurants for dining and sunset drinks.

The resort’s conference and banquet facilities will reflect Oman’s growing attraction as a business destination while the dive centre and other watersport activities will speak to those looking for a bit of adventure in 2020. Parents and caretakers can drop their children off at the Kids Club, where daily programming is guaranteed.

jumeirah.com

Nobu Hotel, Tel Aviv, Israel
Nobu Hotel, Tel Aviv, Israel

Nobu Hotel, Tel Aviv

Israel

With a vision crafted by Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman, the Nobu Hotel Tel Aviv will place the concept of a luxurious hotel around energised public spaces. Nobu Hotel Tel Aviv will be located at 55 Rothschild Boulevard and 66 Ahad Ha’am Street amid one of Tel Aviv’s original neighbourhoods. The hotel will offer 38 thoughtfully designed rooms, and large garden, fitness centre, pool, outdoor spaces and a private rooftop, ideal for events.

Founded by Nobu Matsuhisa, Robert De Niro and Meir Teper, the Nobu brand aims to integrate its luxury hotels with the lively world capitals inhabited by Nobu. Guests at Nobu Tel Aviv will have access to the famed tree-lined Rothschild Boulevard as well as biking paths, dining, shopping, internationally acclaimed theatres and art and cultural events.

nobuhotels.com

AFRICA

Xigera, Botswana
Xigera, Botswana

Xigera

Botswana

Guests to Xigera can explore the African bush in a country with one of the world’s fastest growing economies from June 2020. Nestled on the western side of the Moremi Game Reserve in the heart of the Okavango Delta, Xigera will be comprised of 12 fully air-conditioned suites. Each suite will reimagine the safari experience by displaying South African artwork by famed artists such as Porky Hefer, Andile Dyalvane and Dylan Lewis.

Owned by Red Carnation and the Tollman family, Xigera prides itself on the quality of its 105 staff and guests are sure to receive all the attention they may desire since the property can accommodate a maximum of 24 guests at once. This intimate experience will begin with a light air transfer or charter plane ride to the Xigera suites that are poised on stilts and connected by elevated walkways. Xigera is also dedicated to sustainability through projects such as eliminating single-use plastics, running the lodge 100% on solar power and implementing thermodynamic geysers to provide hot water while minimising energy usage.

Guests looking to unwind can be pampered at the two lily-inspired spa rooms, sleep-out under the night sky or peruse the contents of the wildlife-focused library. When it comes to dining at Xigera, guests can expect to be greeted by an interactive kitchen and dining room that will serve African-inspired cuisine and Mrs. Tollman’s signature dishes.

xigera.com

Kisawa Sanctuary, Mozambique
Kisawa Sanctuary, Mozambique

Kisawa Sanctuary

Mozambique

Opening in summer 2020, Kisawa Sanctuary will be a combination of 12 one, two and three bedroom bungalows set across 300-hectares of private sanctuary beach, forest and sand dunes on Benguerra Island, Mozambique. Each 230sqm bungalow will be set within four square-kilometres of private accommodation and include personal beachfront, a swimming pool with open deck space, shaded day area, outdoor kitchen, massage hut and personal e-bikes as well as mini mokes.

A team of food enthusiasts will attend to guests’ 24/7 hospitality needs. Guests will be able to choose from four dining venues, two bars and endless on-location culinary experiences. Kisawa’s stand alone spa, the Natural Wellness Center, will specialise in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic offerings. Inspired by nearby Mozambican dwellings its range of treatments will include massages and multi-day detox retreats. Additional on-property facilities include a gym, yoga and meditation pavilion, tennis court as well as water sports facility. From its beginning as a 3D digitally designed space, Kisawa Sanctuary has partnered with Bazaruto Centre for Scientific Studies to maintain harmony with the natural environment.

kisawasanctuary.com

EUROPE

Arctic Bath Sweden
Arctic Bath Sweden

Arctic Bath Sweden

Sweden

Reservations are open at Arctic Bath Sweden, a floating hotel and spa in the Lule River, located approximately 50 kilometres from the Arctic Circle. With 5-bed and single bed cabins available, Artic Bath Sweden’s intimate setting allows for guests to focus on proper nutrition, regular exercise, peace of mind and care of the body, all while surrounded by one of nature’s most magnificent settings.

All hotel guests will have access to the cold bath and sauna during Spa opening hours, while additional spa experiences include traditional Swedish massages and face treatments. The chef’s set menu will be local, eco-friendly and fresh, and nature experiences include dogsledding, viewing the Aurora Borealis, moose calling, cross country skiing and nature hiking. Wondering about a group retreat? Artic Bath Sweden offers the possibility of renting out the entire property… you know you want to.

arcticbath.se

Can Ferrereta, Mallorca, Spain
Can Ferrereta, Mallorca, Spain

Can Ferrereta

Spain

Located in the quaint rural town of Santanyí in the south east of Mallorca, Can Ferrereta will house 32 rooms and suites in an historic 17th-century grand house surrounded by gardens. Many of the bedrooms will feature private patios and terraces, while the hotel’s signature suite will offer a private swimming pool and garden.

Can Ferrereta will be home to a Mediterranean restaurant, OCRE, complete with a Mallorcan patio, serving delicious seasonal dishes made with local produce. There will also be two bars, one of which will be a pool bar and restaurant named LA FRESCA, situated alongside the 25-metre semi-Olympic swimming pool. A gym and spa, named SA CALMA with hammam and indoor pool will also be available to guests. Guests can explore the town of Santanyí from the comfort of Can Ferrereta or simply choose to relax within the hotel’s walls, beginning spring 2020.

hotelcanferrereta.com

Garden view at Le Grand Contrôle, Château de Versailles, France
Garden view at Le Grand Contrôle, Château de Versailles, France

Château de Versailles, Le Grand Contrôle

France

Ever wanted to stay in a palace? How about one of the most famous palaces in the world? Now you can, with the opening of Le Grand Contrôle at the Palace of Versailles in the second quarter of 2020. From the hotel company behind magnificent La Bastide de Gordes, Le Grand Contrôle will be made up of just  fourteen suites. The building has been fully renovated, taking into account the last inventory of 1788 and ensuring that the interiors are filled with restored period furniture and collections of priceless art objects.

Guests of Le Grand Contrôle will have behind-the-scenes access to the Domaine de Versailles and be able to explore the palace and the Petit Trianon on a private guided tour. Guests will also be welcome to wander freely around the French gardens, as Le Grand Contrôle will have direct access to the Orangery and the Lake of the Swiss Guard. 

Not to mention, the property will have a restaurant from one of France’s most awarded chefs, Alain Ducasse, where haute-French cuisine will take inspiration from recipes of the past while providing views of the gardens and the Orangery. Staff will be trained in the art and ceremony of 18th-century dining and the entire evening meal will allow guests a glimpse into the pomp and ceremony of the Napoleonic era. At the Valmont Spa guests will be able to choose between treatments or use the 15-metre indoor pool. A royal experience, indeed.

airelles.com

Kalesma, Mykonos, Greece
Kalesma, Mykonos, Greece

Kalesma

Greece

Embedded in the natural surroundings of Ornos Bay on the southern end of Mykonos, Kalesma will provide guests with the choice of one, two and three bedroom suites. The one bedroom suites will have a private terrace that boasts a heated swimming pool and lounge area that overlook the Aegean Sea. The two and three bedroom suites, referred to as Grand Villas, will offer guests ensuite bathrooms, Technogym fitness rooms, full-fitted kitchens, heated pools and a Villa manager to take care of all guest requests and preferences.

The communal restaurant will offer Mediterranean meals while the Pool Bar and Aloni lounge offer spaces for guests to relax with a drink in hand. Those looking to be a bit more active can join in activities such as a guided day trip to Delos, scuba diving, food tours, nightclub booking, private event planning or shopping in Kalesma’s botique. Kalesma also has plans to open a private spa service by 2021.

kalesmamykonos.com

Bvlgari Hotel, Paris, France
Bvlgari Hotel, Paris, France

Bvlgari Hotel Paris

France

The Bvlgari Hotel Paris will offer 76 rooms, most of them suites, and a full range of luxury facilities including a spa with a 25-metre pool and a Bvlgari restaurant and bar opening to a charming courtyard garden. The hotel will be located at 30 Avenue George V; this Avenue forms with the Champs Élysées and the Avenue Montaigne the famous “Triangle d’Or”, one of Paris’ most exclusive and distinctive areas offering a wealth of luxury shopping, entertainment and cultural attractions. The Bvlgari Hotel Paris is being designed by the Italian architectural firm Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel, and the renowned Parisian architects Valode & Pistre.

bulgarihotels.com

UNITED KINGDOM

The Pig at Harlyn Bay, Cornwall, United Kingdom
The Pig at Harlyn Bay, Cornwall, United Kingdom

The Pig at Harlyn Bay

Cornwall

Nestled in a refurbished 15th-century house, The Pig is just a short stroll from Harlyn beach, Constantine Bay beaches and Trevose Golf Club. Each guest room maintains its original individuality while the larders are fully stocked with locally-sourced and vintage treats. The Kitchen Garden will offer guests a menu filled with home-grown produce and locally sourced foods that will be completely dependent on the 25-mile radius surrounding The Pig. Guests can check into The Pig at Harlyn Bay from June 2020.

thepighotel.com

Pan Pacific London, United Kingdom
Pan Pacific London, United Kingdom

Pan Pacific London

London

Slated to open in Q4 of 2020, Pan Pacific London will be situated just across Liverpool Street train station at One Bishopgate Plaza. The hotel will offer 237 guest rooms and suites designed by Yabu Pushelberg, and the hotel’s Signature Suite, perched on the 18th floor, will provide guests with views to city landmark, The Gherkin. Housed within this luxury hotel will be the Square Mile’s first dedicated smart ballroom that can hold up to 370 guests in a banquet seating, along with six meeting spaces. The Studio Lounge will be equipped and available for early arrivals and late departures. Other amenities include an indoor lap pool with views of the street, spa treatment rooms and a fitness centre.

panpacific.com

Artist Residence, Bristol, United Kingdom
Artist Residence, Bristol, United Kingdom

Artist Residence

Bristol

Located in the heart of the St Pauls community just minutes from Bristol’s city centre and Stokes Croft, this boot factory-turned-boutique hotel is slated to become a 23-bedroom bolthole and neighbourhood hangout. Expect a coffee shop, bar, kitchen, event space and garden, serving simple, honest food and drink all day, every day. The Artist Residence will offer guest 10 options of rooms and suites from which to choose.

artistresidence.co.uk

What to Expect from Edinburgh’s Floating Hotel

Fingal Edinburgh
Fingal Edinburgh

Phil Hawkes reminisces about Royal Yacht Britannia, before boarding a retired vessel ingeniously converted into a luxurious boutique hotel.

It’s July 1, 1997 and emotions are running high around Hong Kong Harbour. We’ve just watched the British contingent – Prince Charles, Governor Chris Patten and PM Tony Blair – sail away precisely at midnight on Her Majesty’s Royal Yacht Britannia, steaming slowly into the dark night as the last of the fireworks celebrate this momentous occasion…the handover of Hong Kong to China.

There are cheers and tears – and more than a few beers – at this event, described by some as “the last call” of the British Empire and its colonies. Over two million people are at the harbour or watching from the surrounding hills, and not only the few British, Australian and other expats. There is also a huge turnout from the local population, each of them wondering what the next chapter would be like after 100 years of Colonial government.

Fast forward to July 2019, 22 years later, and we find ourselves in Edinburgh, Scotland. To be more specific we’re at Leith, the capital’s port precinct just a few miles away from the famous castle. And here, in all her glory, rides RY Britannia afloat in her enclosed dock, fully restored and looking like the princess of the waves she once was.

Again, we can feel the emotion as we’re met by charming host Roger Moran, a retired police security officer now proudly welcoming guests and showing them around the ship with its precious treasures. He tells us that more than 400,000 visitors came aboard last year to marvel at the royal living quarters, the dining rooms which have hosted the world’s business and political leaders, artwork and photographs of the ship’s colourful history, the bridge and crew decks, the impressive engine room…and now a smart café added for public enjoyment. One interesting fact: many of the overseas visitors are Chinese, old and young. They too have a sense of history, it seems.

But wait, there’s more. Permanently moored nearby is Britannia’s little sister MV Fingal, a retired Lighthouse tender which has been converted into luxury boutique accommodation. She has 23 guest rooms, each named after one of the lighthouses Fingal used to service and supply around the wild and treacherous seas of western Scotland. Fingal has put in the “hard yards”, so to speak, and now in retirement she’s welcoming guests who are looking for a very different accommodation experience while visiting big sister Britannia close by.

We walk the plank, literally, and enter Fingal’s classy reception area where our engaging hosts Charlotte and Charlie explain that the Foundation responsible for RY Britannia saw the opportunity to give Fingal a new lease of life, pumping over five million pounds into the ship’s transformation. And it shows. Every detail down to original brass fittings and Davy lamps is perfect, mirroring the Art Deco interiors of Britannia and a hint of royalty. Princess Anne occasionally visits, and has her own suite on board, we’re told.

Our guest cabin is named Cape Wrath, which seems a bit ominous for a married couple, but we enter anyway and are immediately reassured as we look around at a tranquil interior, and out through the porthole window to the dock. A king size bed beckons, and on it we notice the beautiful woollen tartan throw and cushions specially created by local weaver, Araminta Campbell whose designs were inspired by the lighthouses and their beams. We later visit her at the studio nearby, but textile lovers be warned: she has irresistible hand-crafted woven items for sale you may not be able to resist.

In the cabin there’s a desk, a wardrobe, and a bathroom almost as big as the bedroom. There isn’t a bath, but a monster rainshower compensates, as do the Noble Isle toiletries, slippers, fluffy robes and huge towels. Best of all, there’s underfloor heating as well as reversible aircon for those cool Scottish nights.

A ship’s tour reveals a private dining area which can seat 60 of your closest friends for a banquet, or more likely a royal occasion when Princess Anne throws a party (she’s the Patron of the Northern Lighthouse Board). Down below, engineering buffs will appreciate peering through the glass wall showcasing Fingal’s impressive engine room, beautifully lit and polished to within an inch of its life.

Now to the upper deck Lighthouse Bar for an evening cocktail or glass of pinot, and a selection of share plates such as Scottish salmon smoked on board, or a tasty cheese platter. This is not a full dining menu, rather the kind of supper you enjoy after too many of those big fish ‘n chips lunches that Edinburgh is known for. The Bar is also famous for its decadent afternoon teas and full Scottish breakfasts, which can keep you going all day, and this is our well-rehearsed technique to avoid unnecessary lunch calories (and extra expense).

Fingal is certainly our idea of luxury and comfort in a unique floating ‘hotel’ that goes hand-in-hand with a tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia, an experience not easily forgotten… much like the events of July 1, 1997.

 

fingal.co.uk

 

Video from Fingal.co.uk

Hiking Italy’s Mighty Dolomites

Dolomites, Italy
Dolomites, Italy

Northern Italy’s almighty Dolomites are a year-round adventurer’s paradise. Endless peaks make for endless challenges, but the rewards are abundant at all altitudes

“Good morning, buongiorno!” It’s a pretty standard greeting from concierge in an Italian hotel, but what followed was slightly less typical. “There,” he announced with grandeur, arms opening wide, “is your playground.”

And what a playground. I am standing in the lobby of Alpina Dolomites Lodge, an inviting space which opens up to a spectacular panorama of the famous Italian peaks.

“What would you like to do today? Mountain bike, road bike or hiking in those mountains, or all of the above?” he laughed, but I was tempted. All of the above, after all, is exactly why I am here.

My adventure playground for the next week, the Dolomites have long played this role for Europeans, particularly in winter when the setting becomes an extensive ski network. In the warmer months, the mountain range becomes a renowned hiking and biking destination, and I plan to get a solid fix.

Spanning the provinces of Trentino and Alto Adige, and encroaching on neighbouring Veneto, the UNESCO World Heritage Site comprises numerous peaks, 18 of which rise to 3000-metres-plus. Looking at the soaring range, it is hard but fascinating to imagine the high-altitude battles that took place here between the Italian and Austro-Hungarian armies during World War I. How brave such men – boys even – must have been. This rich and bloody history only fuels my desire to explore.

My first stop is Ortisei, a small village in Val Gardena and home to about 4600 people. The area ranges from around 1125 to 2518 meters above sea level and is famous for its artfully carved and decorated wooden sculptures, which can be seen dotted throughout town. Traditional hotels and buildings, and a quaint main street, bolster the village charm, but it’s the gondola that captures my attention. It is, after all, how I will be heading up the mountain.

Once on high, and surrounded by incredible 360-degree views, trails are well signposted and the terrain is mostly flat and walkable. Until, that is, you’re ready to continue the ascent. Jagged peaks beckon at every turn and there are hikes for all levels – steep, flat and gradual.

The next morning, we take the adventure to the road. Hairpin turns make up much of the 20-minute journey from Ortisei to Suisi, where Alpina Dolomites Lodge is located. Sitting atop the Alpe di Suisi plateau, with the gondola lazily gliding by, the lodge is perfectly positioned for all things outdoors. This is also celebrated within, with the hotel design inspired by nature and natural materials used heavily throughout.

It’s not long before I noticed the lodge’s mountain bikes – available on a first come, first serve basis – and I am off, starting out with a 10-kilometre ride to the base of the 2956-metre Sassopiatto. I have my eye on reaching the summit – the very one I’d been admiring from Alpina’s oversized windows. Riding is easy at first, the flats between lush cattlefilled pastures providing the perfect warm-up. After a five kilometre uphill grind to the beautiful Zallinger mountain hut, we stow our bikes and continue on foot.

At the base of Sassopiatto, also known as Plattkofel or Sasplat, we change our plan. Given an overnight dumping of snow, we decide we are a little lightly dressed for the conditions and continue on an alternate loop trail, slightly off-piste in sections, back to the bikes.

By late afternoon, we’re back at the lodge, exhausted and deeply grateful for the fresh apple strudel and hot chocolate on the deck. As the sun drops, I take stock. An incredible adventure behind me, the spa ahead of me – what a life!

The spa, which includes pools, saunas and steam rooms, isn’t the only way to relax at Alpina Dolomites Lodge. The lobby bar is well patronised thanks to the comfy chairs and lounges, and the stellar views. There is also an expansive deck with comfortable seating and blankets – a wonderful spot to settle in with a book and a drink – and two restaurants, including the fine-dining Mountain Restaurant. But first, sink into the luxury of the cigar lounge for an aperitif.

I am sorry to leave, but I must as the village of San Cassiano beckons. Located in the valley of Badia, San Cassiano – population 900 – is another quaint town, located at 1537 metres above sea level and at the foot of the Dolomites’ Lavarela and Conturines peaks.

“Cortina d’Ampezzo, in the province of Belluno, is my final destination and the renowned tourist resort puts on the glam. Also known as Cortina, the ‘Queen of the Dolomites’ is larger than my previous pitstops. It boasts great shopping and dining, helping create a buzzing atmosphere, but the village feel remains.”

I am staying at Rose Alpina, a beautiful heritage hotel dating back to 1850 and oozing boutique charm. A lazy buffet-style breakfast is strategic – today I plan to reach the Lagazoui summit and sustenance is key.

Walking switchback after switchback, it is about 45 minutes before we arrive at Rifugio Scotoni, where we pull up for a snack, to rehydrate, and to take in the beautiful meadow surrounds. I crane my neck to preview the journey ahead. It is steep and this rest will serve me well.

Up we climb for another 90 minutes, past alpine lakes, snow flurries and imposing sheer rock faces, and through rocky boulder fields, before finally reaching the summit, 2750 metres above sea level. The panorama of surrounding peaks and neighbouring valleys is the stuff of postcards, but there’s just nothing like the real deal.

After covering 25 kilometres, with a vertical gain of about 1500 metres, we feel we’ve earned our celebratory drink, and the wood-fired pizzas don’t hurt either. Food is no afterthought at Rosa Alpina with dining to suit all tastes, including the most refined palates – in-house Restaurant St Hubertus is the proud recipient of three Michelin stars.

Cortina d’Ampezzo, in the province of Belluno, is my final destination and the renowned tourist resort puts on the glam. Also known as Cortina, the ‘Queen of the Dolomites’ is larger than my previous pitstops. It boasts great shopping and dining, helping create a buzzing atmosphere, but the village feel remains.

Home of the 1956 Winter Olympic Games, Cortina is gearing up to host the 2021 Alpine Ski World Championships and will co-host the 2026 Winter Olympics alongside Milan. My visit is considerably less masterful, although not for want of trying.

I am back in the saddle today, albeit with a little assistance. I have never used an electric bike before and, as a traditionalist, I baulked at the suggestion. No way, I think. I won’t do it. I’m fit enough to climb anything or die trying.

Within minutes, I am converted. Remarkable as they are, these mountains can and will be torturous, even for the experienced rider. Whether you rely on it heavily or just call on it every so often, the e-bike makes sure you reach your destination without hurting your feelings and falling over from exhaustion.

We ride for more than eight hours, covering many more kilometres than we could have on a traditional bike. We’re aiming for Prato Piazza, a plateau located 2000 metres above sea level. With every turn, a new and dramatic vista is unveiled and, thanks to the e-bike working in the background, we can truly take it in.

As we continue our ascent, the fog thickens and soon the views have fallen away. We are surrounded by clouds. And it’s just like heaven.

The Details

The international airports of Venice, Italy and Innsbruck, Austria, are both about 150 kilometres from the Dolomites. Rates for Alpina Dolomites Lodge start from €485 (about A$790) per room.

alpinadolomites.it/en

Rates for Rosa Alpina start at €740 (about A$1200) per room.

rosalpina.it

Nature and Nurture at Six Senses Ninh Van Bay, Vietnam

Six Senses Ninh Van Bay, Vietnam
Six Senses Ninh Van Bay, Vietnam

Long celebrated for its wellness credentials, Six Senses Ninh Van Bay, on Vietnam’s east coast, is also putting sustainability at the forefront of its considered approach

There is a sound system that plays meditation music in the afternoon. That’s not surprising, I suppose. I am at Six Senses Ninh Van Bay in Vietnam, part of the resort chain renowned for its commitment to all things wellness. But I am not in my villa. And I am not in the pavilion. I am in the chicken coop and yes, the music is for the chooks.

It’s more of a chicken palace, truth be told. There’s a playground, obstacle course, perches galore, and even a chicken bar complete with crystal chandelier. I reach into one of the nesting boxes and grab a couple of still-warm eggs, place them in a woven basket and hop on my bicycle to deliver them to the chef for my breakfast. Forget about meditation and yoga, I think this might be the best morning routine ever.

Accessible only by boat, Six Senses Ninh Van Bay is just north of the popular tourist resorts of Nha Trang, but you would never know it. With hectare upon hectare of jungle, 700 meters of white sandy beach and a backdrop of towering mountains, it feels like I have entered Jurassic Park. But I don’t think even Universal Studios could create the stunning scenery that surrounds me here.

The resort’s 59 villas, all with private pools, have an opulent Robinson Crusoe-vibe with thatched roofs, ruggedly hewn timber walls, an outdoor shower, giant wooden soaking tub and bamboo accessories.

Along with the 160 happy chooks (and 20 roosters to keep order), there are 1800 square metres of organic vegetable gardens that produce more than 40 varieties of edible plants for the kitchen. Next to the garden stands an oil distillery, which produces organic lemongrass, cumquat and eucalyptus oils for the spa. Four solar panel stations provide hot water, and a wastewater treatment plant produces grey water for the gardens. Then there’s the water filtration system, fed from a nearby reservoir, that uses reverse osmosis for the glass-bottled drinking water. Energy and water use, vegetable production, even the crown-of-thorn starfish numbers are monitored and posted on a large sign at the ‘Earth Lab’ for resort guests to see. Transparency is a significant part of Six Senses’ sustainability game.

Impressed by these efforts, I scour my villa for anything off-brand – single-use plastics or anything that isn’t ‘zero waste’ – and the only thing I can come up with is one shower cap. Bravo.

Riding my bike along the dirt paths surrounded by ancient boulders, I half expect a dinosaur to emerge from the lush, dense jungle. Cruising around on the bike, complete with a personalised name-plate, is a highlight for me, but if biking is not your thing, you can always call for a buggy.

As with all Six Senses properties, nature takes centre stage at Ninh Van Bay, and my trek to Bai Nho is by far the best resort hike I have ever done, despite stiff competition. For two hours, my guide Ninh and I traverse hilltops, walk across the top of narrow stone walls, clamber over giant boulders, and scurry backwards, rope in hand, down steep ravines. We end up on the top of Hon Heo Mountain overlooking the bay before joining a family of langur monkeys on a private beach where we are picked up by boat and taken back to the resort. I highly recommend it if you enjoy a bit of a challenge and are reasonably fit. It was absolutely incredible and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

Not a hiker? Not a problem. There are dozens of activities on offer from romantic sunset cruises on traditional wooden boats to temple and shopping excursions back on the mainland. Your ‘Guest Experience Maker’ is on-call around the clock and can arrange everything during your stay.

Of course, wellness is important at Six Senses and the spa has recently been renovated, adding a new gym and several extra treatment rooms, along with a steam room and sauna that overlook a waterfall. Whether it’s trying an aerial yoga class in the new yoga pavilion (more challenging than I thought), indulging in a relaxing massage, or meditating to the sounds of the singing bowls in the glass meditation space overlooking a stream, I kept finding reasons to return to the spa.

“We end up on the top of Hon Heo Mountain overlooking the bay before joining a family of langur monkeys on a private beach where we are picked up by boat and taken back to the resort. I highly recommend it if you enjoy a bit of a challenge and are reasonably fit. It was absolutely incredible and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.”

After meeting with on-site naturopath Dr James Aravind from India, I decide to add a wellness program to my stay. My consultation begins with a non-invasive health screening to measure key physiological biomarkers of health, including metabolism, cardio fitness, circulation, hydration and oxygen distribution, and the results are used to prepare an individualised program. I was a bit skeptical at first. I wasn’t sure how putting my hands and feet on a tablet-type machine for a few minutes was going to produce the information I normally get from a blood test. But after going over the results with Dr Aravind, it was amazing to see that the health issues identified were the same problems my GP at home had previously highlighted, although they were explained to me in far greater detail than my doctor would ever have time for.

Eat with Six Senses is another initiative focusing on good health. Head chef Alex has been with Six Senses for four years and explains the three guiding principles: food should be local, seasonal and sustainable; cooked from scratch using natural ingredients; and uphold the idea that ‘less is more’ in terms of how far ingredients have to travel. Most choices on the menu fall under this program, which make it easy to stay healthy and still enjoy fabulous food. Meals are fresh and flavourful and can be enjoyed at four different venues (along with in-room dining). The main dining area, Dining by the Bay, has a focus on Vietnamese specialties like pho, and local seafood, but there are also favourites such as grilled Australian beef, duck and braised pork belly. For something intimate, reserve the candlelit wine cave, an authentic hillside rock cavern that is bound to heighten the senses. Dining by the Rocks is the signature restaurant, its clifftop location overlooking the bay making sure of that. To reach the fine-dining, adult-only venue, you’ll need to climb 163 stone steps, but both the view and the meal will make the effort worth your while. For casual all-day dining, check out Dining by the Pool, and don’t miss the complimentary ice-cream bar and coconut-water station next door.

As for my new health regimen, Dr Aravind advises I stay away from excess sugar (goodbye ice-cream), drink more water and take up meditation to relieve stress. The good news is my cholesterol is fine, so those visits to the chickens for fresh eggs each morning continue. And so, too, the beautiful state of calm the simple daily ‘chore’ inspires.

The Details

Transfers to Six Senses Ninh Van Bay are available from Cam Ranh Airport. Rates for a Beachfront Pool Villa start from $1467.

sixsenses.com/resorts/ninh-van-bay

Hayman Island: A True Blue Beauty

Hayman Island by InterContinental
Hayman Island by InterContinental

It is a renowned holiday destination approaching its 70th birthday, but that doesn’t stop the surprises from coming at InterContinental Hayman Island Resort

I make it a rule not to shop when I go on holiday. Not because I don’t want to, but because for me, shopping in a new destination full of shiny, pretty things is like peeling the lid off a tube of Pringles – once I pop, I can’t stop. My accountant would definitely tell me it’s something I should avoid at all costs, so it’s a good thing he can’t see me as I pack for my departure from Hayman Island and try to fit two pairs of shoes that I didn’t have on my way over into my suitcase.

In my defence, I’d bet that few would be immune to the charms of InterContinental Hayman Island Resort’s boutique-meets-food-store, Grove, even if your vice is a glass of wine at the end of the day, rather than a new silk kaftan. I guarantee your resolve will be toast when you discover not only bottles of wine for sale, but also cheeseboards and takeaway platters you can take to the beach or back to your room. It’s refreshing, to say the least, to find a resort that has cottoned on to the fact that sometimes all you want is an easy grab-and-go snack, rather than a full-service meal in a restaurant… for the third time that day.

Equally refreshing are the filtered water fountains scattered around the resort, where you can fill up your complimentary water bottle as often as you like. “We’re not nickel and diming people,” General Manager at InterContinental Hayman Island Resort Mark Eletr tells me on an August afternoon in the impeccably designed interior of oceanfront restaurant, Aqua. “We serve free water in all of our restaurants – we’re not making you pay $16 for a bottle of San Pellegrino.”

This is something I can definitely get on board with, and I am happy to discover similar sparks of ingenuity during my three-night stay – my first time on the island, despite its lengthy tenure as a resort destination and countless iterations. They might not be in your face, but they will bring a smile to your face – things like the self-serve juicing station at the expansive and pretty darn magnificent buffet breakfast, where you can get your mixologist on and make a fruit and veg elixir worthy of a Millennial’s Instagram story.

Just don’t go looking for a plastic straw to complete the picture, nor should you get your hopes up about adding to your bathroom miniatures stockpile – there is a strict no single use-plastic policy at Hayman Island. Plus, the only sunscreen for sale is reef-safe, and state-of-the-art in-room technology conserves and maximises energy on the island. “We take environmental responsibility very seriously,” Eletr explains. “We want people to feel that they are being responsible when they come here… and that we are a responsible operator.”

These eco-conscious decisions are part of a broader sustainability initiative by InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), which announced in July that its entire hotel estate of almost 843,000 guest rooms will switch to bulk-size bathroom amenities by the end of 2021 – the first global hotel company to do so.

And there are other changes taking place at IHG. Hayman Island, which opened on July 1, is one of four resort openings for InterContinental this year, as it evidently expands further into the leisure resort space. It’s a recent development for a brand that has historically been known for its city locales and sleek, universally appealing (aka inoffensive) corporate style. The opening of a ‘destination location’ property like Hayman Island InterContinental Resort, then, is a big statement.

“I think we’re going to see rapid growth in this particular space for the InterContinental brand,” Eletr says. “I think what is a really interesting shift is how [IHG is] starting to think in terms of how can they grow into this resort leisure [space with] very unique properties.”

Eletr adds that InterContinental has a history of going into unusual buildings and surprising cities where the luxury sector has not really penetrated yet. The onsen-inspired ANA InterContinental Beppu Resort & Spa in the emerging Oita Prefecture in southwestern Japan, the region’s first international luxury resort, is a clear example of this. InterContinental Lyon – Hotel Dieu in France, which opened in June after an extensive four-year restoration of an historic former hospital, also shows the brand’s appetite for incorporating boutique-inspired, unique design and a sense of place into their new properties.

“It’s good to see InterContinental changing its flavour a little bit to be much more experiential, to be much more holistic, and to be much more grounded to each individual location… so you come to Australia or you go to Beppu and you’re having those very local experiences,” Eletr says. “You have to anchor the resort to the location. [At Hayman Island] we want that message that we are a truly immersive luxury experience – you will feel like you are on holidays from the moment you step onto our boat and into our care.”

“It’s good to see InterContinental changing its flavour a little bit to be much more experiential, to be much more holistic, and to be much more grounded to each individual location… so you come to Australia or you go to Beppu and you’re having those very local experiences. You have to anchor the resort to the location.”

Mark Eletr

General Manager, Hayman Island InterContinental Resort

Immersive. It’s a word being thrown around even more than ‘luxury’, ever since the travel industry determined that luxury travellers want experiences, not things – but what does it actually mean to visit an immersive resort? I’m not sure even the consumers, to whom the word is marketed, know. For Eletr, InterContinental Hayman Island Resort is immersive because the guest experience of the resort is inextricably linked to the natural environment and there is an overwhelming locality to a stay there.

The Great Barrier Reef is a mere 35-minute boat ride away, and the island itself has reef systems just off-shore, like that found at Blue Pearl Bay, or in the coral gardens off Langford. On land, you can also do a three- to four-hour trek that will take you around the coast and back around behind the ultra-luxurious Hayman Island Residences – currently for sale with an eight-figure price tag.

“It’s all too often that you’ll go to a destination and you won’t be able to access things, you’ll only see it from the surface. And when you go into the restaurant the menu is full of imported product and imported wine… and the spa product is an international brand. We wanted everything to be really honest and local and authentic and value-driven… yes we are doing Italian [food], yes we are doing Asian [food], but it’s all local product and it’s served in a very Australian style.”

He’s right about that. The Australian-ness of the staff at InterContinental Hayman Island shines through – a relaxed, friendly and personable but still professional approach, all served up with that unique accent Americans love to call ‘cute’. “I think the Australian style of luxury is not having this robotic, cookiecutter style of service,” says Eletr. “That’s not that relevant anymore.” He calls the Hayman style “heartfelt hospitality”.

“We don’t want that Maldivian style of luxury where there’s staff falling from the roof… we want meaningful interactions and people can really walk away thinking, ‘wow, there’s such a human element to Hayman; it’s not just about the hardware, not just about the beach’.”

On the subject of those purely superficial elements, however, they do deserve a mention, because InterContinental has done a great job of breathing new life into Hayman Island. They haven’t gone so far as to start from scratch, following the destruction of Cyclone Debbie in 2017, which caused the island’s subsequent two-year closure. Most of the resort’s buildings pre-existed and that ginormous pastel blue pool – loved by many – is ever-present. But the interiors have been redesigned and reinvigorated with an art deco-inspired, mid-century flourish and a neutral, coastal palette broken up with the occasional modern pop of colour. It’s all very easy on the eye.

And if you think there is something familiar in the air… you’re right, it literally is in the air – InterContinental’s signature fragrance. I notice it as soon as I walk into the lobby and surprise myself by proclaiming, “It smells like InterContinental”, to a few raised eyebrows. I couldn’t tell you what the actual scent is, but that’s not really the point. This brilliant, subtle sensory tool not only creates a sense of luxury, but also subconsciously sparks a feeling of comforting familiarity – and affinity with the brand. Smart.

As for the accommodation, my Executive Room is huge, and the bathroom and dressing room design is well thought out, although I sense the credit for that may go to a previous resort iteration. Do I get all tingly over the ‘iconic’, bright blue Hayman pool, a step from my deck? Not particularly. As far as pool designs go, the industry has moved on and I’d much sooner opt for one of the resort’s luxurious beachfront suites. But there are plenty of impressive features inside the room itself to admire, like a spacious lounge area, coffee machine and a gorgeous four-poster bed. Not that I spend much time in it – there is simply too much else on offer, and before we leave island life and head back to civilisation, it’s time for an ocean adventure.

I head off on a boat with my group of eager, wetsuit-clad travel companions who have decided they’ll be damned if they let a little rain stop them from the day’s snorkelling adventure. The ocean’s hue is a far cry from that quintessential, postcard-worthy ‘Whitsundays blue’ you’d expect, and the sky’s clouds are an anti-tropical shade of grey, but nothing is raining on their parade. We’re at Hayman Island, after all, and she’s a true blue beauty, come rain or shine

The Details

Rates at InterContinental Hayman Island Resort start from $750 per night. Transfers to the island aboard InterContinental’s boat cost $210 per person, one way. Seaplane and helicopter transfers are also available.

ihg.com

Review: Crown Towers Melbourne

Crown Towers Pool, Melbourne
Crown Towers Pool, Melbourne

Size: 150 square metres |Price: from $1419 per night | Reviewed by: Gary Allen | Details: crownmelbourne.com.au

Hotel

When you hear the name Crown Towers Melbourne, you might immediately envisage the carnival atmosphere of a busy casino, but this luxury hotel is so much more than that. In fact, if casinos aren’t your thing, you can avoid the spectacle all together. With a grand entrance and lobby, Crown Towers is beautiful right from the start. There are two ‘sister’ venues, Crown Metropol and Crown Promenade, but Towers is most certainly the ace. Once touted as the first genuine five-star luxury hotel in Australia, it still dominates Melbourne’s South Bank skyline. There are 482 rooms spread out over 43 floors and some amazing views over the city, particularly from the higher floors.

Suite

A true oasis, my two-bedroom Tower Suite featured floor-to-ceiling windows and, given my position on Level 20, offered views I won’t soon forget. At night, the city is brightly lit and at its most beautiful. Get rid of the TV, I say, it only hinders the vista. Both bedrooms are large and well-lit with whitemarble ensuites. The master bath will have you eager for a long soak. A separate dining room includes a large round table, making private meals easy and stylish, if that’s your preference. Decor is tasteful with calming beige and mauve tones, and soft blue-velvet lounges. You’d be forgiven for opting to stay in.

Locale

Conveniently located on the Yarra River in South Bank, Crown Towers puts you close to everything from sights and attractions to CBD shopping and public transport options, great for exploring Melbourne’s character-filled neighbourhoods. There is also a locale of a different kind right at your doorstep: Crown Towers itself is a thriving hub with plenty of shopping and restaurants.

Eat In

Dining options are as impressive as they are vast. Big names such as Neil Perry’s Rockpool, Guillaume Brahimi’s Bistro Guillaume and Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner are on site along with renowned Spice Temple and plenty of others. At Bistro Guillaume, the locally caught John Dory was exceptional as was the Cape Grim steak tartare. But this is a French-inspired bistro, so the twice-baked soufflé with Roquefort sauce is a must. Save room for dessert. Breakfast, lunch and dinner is served in the Conservatory Restaurant on Level 3. Buffet and a la cart dining is available, and with stunning views of the river, marble floors and beautiful decor, you will want to take your time.

Special Touches

Melbourne weather is notorious and there isn’t a better place to be for those rainy, cold days than Crown Towers’ spa. Awarded a highly prized four-star rating by the 2019 Forbes Travel Guide, Crown Spa boasts a massive indoor pool with soaring ceilings and abundant natural light, a large fully equipped gym, a salon and treatment rooms. The Aqua Retreat offers steam rooms and vitality pools as well as private lounge rooms – facilities that are available only to those who have booked a treatment. There’s really no better excuse.

The Big Green Apple: Sustainability in NYC

Aerial View of the High Line
Aerial View of the High Line

Packed with sights, style and a whole lot of personality, New York City is undoubtedly one of the world’s most irresistible destinations. As Kate Symons discovers, the city that never sleeps is also leading the way on sustainability

It had been three years in the making. Three years since I first tasted ‘7 Minutes in Heaven’, the smoothie of my dreams from The Butcher’s Daughter in New York City’s Nolita neighbourhood, and three years waiting to taste it again.

It was as delicious as I had remembered, but as I strolled those famous streets, admiring the cast-iron architecture characteristic of Downtown, I soon realised something was amiss. My drink was undrinkable. Literally. It refused to travel up the straw. The lovely paper straw. The lovely, environmentally friendly paper straw. The lovely, environmentally friendly paper straw that, as it turned out, had been ruthlessly sliced open by the razor-sharp prongs of the cup’s lid, rendering it useless.

Imperfect as they may be, the paper straw, it seems, is the eco-effort du jour in New York City, at least for now. There wasn’t a plastic cousin in sight during my recent visit, an effort worth noting and applauding.

Of course, the city’s sustainability efforts go far deeper than the humble straw. In fact, the Big Apple is the most sustainable city in the United States and 14th globally, according to the 2018 Sustainable Cities Index, which ranks cities on the pillars of people, planet and profit. When graded solely on the planet categories, NYC drops to 20th globally, but still out-ranks all USA contenders.

This might come as a surprise. Thanks to pop culture, even those who have never visited NYC understand it is a city densely packed with people, vehicles and buildings. The convergence of people and resources is one of the unique challenges in urban environments, yet a highly visible commitment, from government level right through to straw-rejecting citizens, is keeping New York City at the forefront of sustainability.

For environmentally conscious travellers, there are countless ways to minimise on-the-ground-impact – using the extensive public transport system or, better still, walking or cycling; visiting green landmarks such as the High Line, the elevated rail line-turned-linear park hovering over the city’s West Side; and eating at farm-to-table restaurants, to name a few. Choosing sustainability-minded accommodation to name another. It’s not always simple. Greenwashing (when organisations falsify their environmentally friendly efforts) can be hard to spot, but there are credentials that will help identify authenticity. The NYC Carbon Challenge, for example, involves 19 hotels that have committed to reducing building-generated emissions by 30 per cent by 2025. Among them, the city’s two 1 Hotels: Central Park and Brooklyn Bridge.

In the heart of Midtown, 1 Hotel Central Park is an ivy-covered beauty with eco-credentials to match. It was designed using reclaimed and locally sourced materials, which is evident throughout the property, while low-energy lightbulbs, a triple-filtered purification water system, and fresh farm-to-table dining offerings are among the many initiatives that expand on the hotel’s sustainability ethos.

On the other side of East River, 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge is equally mission-driven. The aesthetic is similar – raw materials, light-filled spaces, abundant greenery – although the journey to get there was quite different. Arash Azarabarzin, President of SH Hotels & Resorts, which operates 1 Hotels, says a ground-up construction, such as the Brooklyn project, presents a different set of challenges and opportunities.

“The urban density does come with its own set of challenges, including ageing infrastructure, conflicting priorities, and increased environmental stressors,” Azarabarzin explains. “When we build a 1 Hotel in an urban context, we strive to understand the boundary where we can provide a positive impact to the environment given the environment’s constraints.

“For new builds, we are able to truly innovate around building systems and, in particular, with the opportunities around the mechanical systems because there is less of a concern around space constraints. For existing buildings and adaptive reuse projects [such as 1 Hotel Central Park], our opportunities lie in reclaiming building materials and thereby reducing the overall embodied energy of the project.”

New-build innovation was rarely more evident than during construction of 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, which coincided with Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Due to the destruction caused in the area, waterfront zoning changed, requiring 1 Hotels to raise the building 36 inches, or a touch over 91 centimetres. New regulations also restricted increasing the building’s overall height. An extensive redesign was required and the result is a building that not only avoids storm surge and flooding, it also captures rain water to reuse on site and in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

A LEED-certified project, the waterfront hotel operates entirely on wind power, boasts energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, uses filtered water in all taps, sinks, and showers, and relies on green cleaning solvents. Refillable bathroom amenities, wooden room keys, cardboard coat hangers and the like are par for the course, and even the handwritten welcome note is penned on bio-degradable, seed-infused paper. Plant it, water it, and watch it grow. Blooming marvellous.

Azarabarzin says providing guests with mindful moments throughout their stay instigates engagement and further strengthens the hotel’s sustainability initiatives.

“For environmentally conscious travellers, there are countless ways to minimise on-the-ground-impact – using the extensive public transport system or, better still, walking or cycling; visiting green landmarks such as the High Line, the elevated rail line-turned-linear park hovering over the city’s West Side; and eating at farm-to-table restaurants, to name a few. Choosing sustainability-minded accommodation to name another.”

Already a world-leader, New York City stepped up its sustainability game in April by updating targets set by the city’s OneNYC strategy, originally announced in 2015. Carbon neutrality by 2050 and zero waste to landfill by 2030 are two key objectives; the city also became the first in the world to require all existing buildings of 25,000 square feet (about 2300 square metres) or more to lower their energy usage and emissions. This regulation has enormous potential. Almost 70 per cent of emissions in New York City come from its buildings and, citywide, about 50,000 buildings are in excess of 25,000 square feet.

Coming in at 386,000 square feet, The Dominick is already on the case. Last year, the SoHo hotel became the second property in NYC to receive the Green Seal Bronze certification, an acknowledgement of its commitment to sustainable, efficient and recyclable services. 

The Dominick General Manager, Edward Shapard, says a genuine commitment to sustainability is not only good for the planet, it is increasingly important to guests.

“Today’s travellers are looking to stay at hotels that help them reduce their environmental impact and provide a local experience,” he says. “As this consumer intention continues to grow, we are continuing to amplify our efforts to seamlessly combine luxury with sustainability.” 

As part of the hotel’s commitment all major heating, ventilating and air-conditioning units follow schedules, which allows for decreased energy consumption; 90 per cent of lighting has been switched from halogen or fluorescent to LED, which has decreased heat emissions from 80 per cent to about 10 per cent; and a food-waste management system funnels refuse into Manhattan’s sewage, reducing landfill waste.

The food waste system is run by ORCA, touted as the leading technology in environmentally friendly waste management. It works by using air, along with water and microbiology to turn food waste into an environmentally safe liquid.

Shapard says keeping abreast of new and emerging technologies is critical to maintaining the hotel’s lofty green standards.

“As technology improves we look to stay on the cutting edge, constantly looking to evolve our initiatives and programs in lockstep with the trends,” he says. “For example, we are working to complete the conversion of all lighting to LED, applying this to the entire building to make The Dominick as energy efficient as possible.”

To be sure, cutting-edge technology is a long way from paper straws, but actions big and small are required to better protect our environment. And while the so-called concrete jungle is already an extraordinary travel destination, the lure of a green jungle is surely even stronger.

The Details

Learn more about nightly prices and booking availability at:

1hotels.com/brooklyn-bridge

1hotels.com/central-park

thedominickhotel.com

Review: Four Seasons Hotel, Sydney

Four Seasons Hotel Suite Lounge
Four Seasons Hotel Suite Lounge

Four Seasons Hotel, Sydney / One-bedroom Presidential Suite / Size: 107 square metres / Price: $4390 per night / Reviewed by: Richard Bunting / Details: fourseasons.com/sydney

Hotel

I have walked past Sydney’s Four Seasons Hotel on many occasions and can rarely help but glance inside to see what lies within one of the country’s most prestigious luxury hotels. Excitingly, I have now had the opportunity to experience the icon for myself. The building is a well-established part of the Sydney skyline, having opened in 1982 as The Regent. Ten years later, Four Seasons took over management rights and, in 2002, the rebrand was complete – Australia had its first Four Seasons Hotel. It remains the only Four Seasons in Australia today.

Earlier this year the hotel remodelled 517 of its guestrooms to a design that evokes tomorrow’s Sydney. The extensive makeover included a fresh, light palette with updated furniture and new amenities line – Christian Lacroix.d updated furniture and amenities.

Suite

At 107 square metres, the Presidential Suite has ample space with a large living area that includes a huge TV, Bluetooth connectivity, a luxurious couch and armchairs, a desk, and a small but entirely appropriate dining table.

The specially set-up tent, with a single king mattress and gift pack for our daughter, Emma, was a special touch. From the gift pack, the personalised bathrobe, etch-a-sketch and glow sticks were a particular hit.

The bedroom was enormous, and the extremely comfortable bed was dressed with enough pillows in which to lose yourself. Another large TV is fixed in the bedroom, however, with a large floor-to-ceiling window offering a view of Sydney Harbour – bridge included – you’re unlikely to use it.

The same spectacular views are available from the bathroom, another spacious area, complete with an oversized tub positioned next to the window.

Locale

Located in Circular Quay, the Four Seasons is ideally positioned for guests to experience the best of Sydney and its stunning harbour. Exceptional dining experiences are at your doorstop, whether you choose The Rocks, Circular Quay or beyond, while cultural awakenings await at the world-famous Sydney Opera House or the Sydney Theatre Company at Dawes Point. For active guests, a morning run could easily take you through the beautiful Botanical Gardens and Woolloomooloo. With the new tram system running along George Street, the retail areas of Pitt Street Mall and Town Hall will be just a few stops away.

Eat In

Its name an ode to the origins of many a relaxing drink, Grain Bar is a stylish lounge bar in which to stop and unwind. Treat yourself to a cocktail from the impressive list, curated by world-acclaimed barmen Cedric Mendoza.

Meanwhile, Mode Kitchen & Bar, open for lunch and dinner, is a hidden gem worth visiting even if you’re not a Four Seasons guest. Positioned towards the rear of the lobby, the restaurant offers a friendly and casual atmosphere, and the open kitchen adds a fabulous energy. I highly recommend the Mayura Station Wagyu rib-eye, a mouth-watering cut that I am still thinking about.

Special Touches

What we loved about our stay at the hotel was the service. The staff are friendly and willing to assist, but not too intrusive. The perfect mix. Additionally, staying in a suite at the Four Seasons includes exclusive access to Lounge 32. Here you can enjoy an afternoon drink and canapes, host a business meeting or enjoy a long, lingering breakfast to see you through the day.

 

*The magazine version of this review included images for the two-bedroom Presidential Suite