Inviato http://inviatotravel.com A Luxury Travel Blog. Fri, 11 Aug 2017 15:08:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.6.6 Just Checked Out: Lone Mountain Ranch, Big Sky Montana http://inviatotravel.com/2017/08/11/just-checked-lone-mountain-ranch-big-sky-montana/ http://inviatotravel.com/2017/08/11/just-checked-lone-mountain-ranch-big-sky-montana/#respond Fri, 11 Aug 2017 11:55:54 +0000 http://inviatotravel.com/?p=10110 Continued]]> For years I have been wanting to take my children to a dude ranch and have an authentic western experience. While I love our summers spent at the beach, the glorious instagram photos of Big Sky and Montana’s landscape had been giving me some serious fear of missing out. There’s a reason why they call it God’s country.

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But Big Sky is not just about scenic beauty and dude ranches. It boosts some of the best skiing trails in the USA, and trout fishing is practically a religion here (Brad Pitt filmed A River Runs Through It here). It’s bragging rights include some famous part-time residents … ever heard of a guy named Tom Brady? Ben Affleck or Bill Gates?

My youngest child Hadley spent a fair amount of time this year in third grade studying National Parks and fell in love with Yellowstone Park. She was desperate to see wildlife up close, so I planned a mother-daughter wild wild west vacation. We donned our cowboy hats, dusted off our boots and headed out to the 100- year old Lone Mountain Ranch over 4th of July week.

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The Ranch

Lone Mountain Ranch (LMR) was originally a cattle ranch and was the first place in Montana to offer electricity, so it is not surprising that wifi is challenged in most areas and there is no phones or televisions in the cabins. They take the word unplugged here to a whole new level and while it took 24 hours to adjust, I ended the week feeling connected to nature and well rested. I survived without CNN!

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While the all-inclusive LMR does not offer some of the luxurious trimmings (such as room service or spa) that you would find at, say, The Ranch at Rock Creek or Brush Creek Ranch, it is accessible via a direct flight from the east coast and runs at half the cost (the other two lodges can run well over 5K a day for a family of 4). Additionally, LMR is a recent addition to the National Geographic Unique Lodges of The World, offering daily private tours of Yellowstone National Park with the best guides in the world. It is also an Orris-Endorsed fly-fishing lodge.

Cabins

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There are 27 cabins, ranging from 1-6 bedrooms, to choose from on the property. In 2016, the ranch underwent a renovation that is still taking place in the off-season (the ranch closes Oct/Nov and April/May). We were lucky enough to stay in Bitterroot, one of the renovated one-bedroom cabins.

I personally loved the Pendleton accent throws and pillows as well as the collage of Montana license plates that served as wall art. The difference between renovated and older cabins is night and day so request in advance for a freshly-renovated cabin.

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Cuisine

I have never stayed at an all-inclusive property that had decent food which is why I tend to avoid them at all costs, but LMR’s Horn and Cantle farm-to-table restaurant delivered at every meal. While Montana is known for its meat dishes, there were plenty of options for vegetarian and vegan guests.

Horn and Cantle restaurant
Horn and Cantle restaurant

The Saloon on property was a nice spot for an after dinner drink while the children made s’mores around the campfire.

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After a few days into the trip, the same rotating menus began to lose their luster so we decided to leave the property and check out Big Sky’s food scene. We absolutely adored our meals at Lotus Pad (Asian) and Ousel and Spur for pizza. 

Amenities/Activities

There is an endless list of activities (horseback riding, archery, whitewater rafting, fly-fishing, mountain biking and so forth) to do at LMR and the outlying area. A kids club is open from 9-4 for younger kids, allowing you to do some activities on your own as well.  See tips below for recommendations.

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The daily room rate at Lone Mountain Ranch includes breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks; non-alcoholic beverages and most activities on property. White water rafting, fly fishing and off property hikes are extra. The ranch provides complimentary transportation in their new Suburbans or Mercedes Sprinters to/from the Bozeman Airport to the property, about an hour drive.

Review by Elisa Carbone Brown

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Ivory Only Belongs On Elephants http://inviatotravel.com/2017/08/04/ivory-only-belongs-on-elephants/ http://inviatotravel.com/2017/08/04/ivory-only-belongs-on-elephants/#respond Fri, 04 Aug 2017 19:13:03 +0000 http://inviatotravel.com/?p=10079 Continued]]> Four years ago I witnessed my first, and what I hoped my last, Ivory Crush. I had the privilege then of attending a private event in Denver where six tons of ivory – representing what once was about 1,000 elephants – were to be crushed. This was ivory confiscated over the years from illegal wildlife trading, now the 4th most lucrative and corrupt organized business in the world.

The purpose of this and other crushes held world-wide (270 tons of ivory have been crushed to date in 22 countries), aside from honoring and mourning the fallen victims, is to send a global message that this brutal business will not be tolerated. That these elephants did not die in vain. Witnessing all these pieces of ivory displayed – once living breathing elephants – broke my heart. It was an emotionally draining day.

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Ivory Crush 2013

On my flight home from that event, I wrote a post ‘The Trip That Crushed Me’ which subsequently and unexpectedly went viral. My intention then was to educate people about what was happening, why this crisis should matter to them and how each and every person has the power to help end the aimless slaughter of elephants. If you want to know what you as an individual can do to make a difference, please give it a read.

Yesterday, I attended another Ivory Crush – my third held in the United States. The prior one was held in Times Square in 2015 where one ton of ivory was crushed. This one was held in Central Park where another two tons of ivory confiscated since 2014 were destroyed. All of the ivory was discovered due to the admiral undercover work of 300 New York officers – 95% of it from New York City! And half of it from one store in particular, Metropolitan Fine Arts and Antiques right on 57th Street off of 5th Avenue. Over $4.5MM of ivory was discovered and confiscated in that location. The fact that this store is still open, despite the penalties the owners had to pay, infuriates me.

One piece confiscated from the Metropolitan Fine Arts & Antiques store in Midtown
One piece confiscated from the Metropolitan Fine Arts & Antiques store in Midtown. How many elephants died for this?

The ivory displayed at the event yesterday were once 100 or more elephants. Babies, juveniles and mothers (poachers don’t discriminate) that were either gunned down, speared or poisoned for their tusks. Even a measly inch of ivory. Most of the 200+ orphans that have been rescued at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an incredible wildlife conservation organization and sanctuary for orphaned elephants in Kenya, are victims themselves of the ivory trade. They arrive traumatized, having watched the brutal murder of their mothers and other members of their herd. Some, despite heroic efforts, do not recover from their loss.

A few of the orphans from the DSWT in Kenya
A few of the orphans from the DSWT in Kenya

The ivory on display yesterday would be worth over $8MM on the black market.  As I walked past table of endless ivory trinkets, the word consistently mentioned by speakers before the ivory was destroyed came instantly to mind. Disgusting. There was nothing pretty about these intricately carved statues, jewelry and trinkets. I picked one up to personally bring to the crusher (it was probably valued at a few thousand dollars). All I saw was a ghost of a beautiful, intelligent and peaceful animal that was killed to make that pathetic carving.

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Since the first crush I attended, so much progress has been made in the U.S. in the battle to safeguard elephants from the poaching crisis. While the global ivory trade was banned in 1990, the illegal industry has thrived illegally due to the insatiable demand for ivory from a growing middle class in Asia. In the U.S., the ivory trade is banned and loopholes state to state have been tightened as individual states such as New York, California New Jersey and Hawaii have enacted their own statewide bans.  This is important as the United States is the 2nd largest importer of ivory and New York State is the largest state. The bans are making an impact. The ivory displayed today are from the largest ivory busts in NY State history.

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But the fight is way from over. In the last seven years alone, the African elephant population has dwindled 30% to an estimated 350,000 today. Almost 100 elephants a day, or 35,000 elephants a year are killed for their ivory. In addition to poaching, elephants also face the daunting challenges of worsening droughts (climate change is real), human population growth and dwindling habitats, all escalating human-wildlife conflicts. They are not the only ones by the way: tigers, lions, rhino, wild horses, pangolin and so many other treasured species are at the risk of extinction at our hands.

Two jumbos observed at a watering hole on my last trip to Kenya
Two gorgeous jumbos observed at a watering hole on my last trip to Kenya

I, like so many others, remain hopeful and committed to endlessly fight for these majestic elephants – the most iconic, the largest and most intelligent animal on the planet.  It is truly a battle against good and evil. And I believe good will ultimately prevail.

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With some of the orphans at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Visit dswt.org to foster an orphan!

 

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Just Checked Out: Le Saint Hotel, Paris http://inviatotravel.com/2017/07/31/just-checked-out-le-saint-hotel-paris/ http://inviatotravel.com/2017/07/31/just-checked-out-le-saint-hotel-paris/#respond Mon, 31 Jul 2017 15:54:50 +0000 http://inviatotravel.com/?p=9998 Continued]]> I am definitively a Left Bank lady. Since I was a college student doing a semester abroad at the Sorbonne in Paris (eons ago), I have always felt most comfortable navigating the quaint streets of St. Germain than any other arrondissement. Like an old favorite sweater, St. Germain just feels comfortable.  Each time I return, I love to just stroll around revisiting favorite boutiques, bistros and parks (some sadly gone, others exactly as they were) and discovering new ones.

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Every once in a while, I am tempted to stay in a new locale such as the hip Marais or chic Faubourg St. Honoré. But then, I always change my mind.  I prefer to stay in the neighborhood that feels like a home away from home, even though the challenge of finding a place with larger than post-card stamp accommodations has often left me frustrated.

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The last time I was in Paris with my 10-year old daughter (see an older post Paris with a Tween) and strolling around, I passed by the quiet street of Rue du Pre aux Clercs and a beautiful flower-adorned facade of a hotel I had never seen before. I took a picture (below) for future note.

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Photo I took in 2013 of Hotel Saint Vincent now Le Saint

I was pleasantly surprised to read sometime last year that the owner, Bertrand Plasmans, had also purchased the two adjoining hotels on both sides and merged the three entities as one address, Hôtel Le Saint, in January 2016. The timing was perfect to check out this ‘old/new’ address out as I planned a long weekend in Paris with my younger daughter for a repeat mommy-daughter trip.

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The Saint identifies itself as an intimate property of 54 rooms and suites decorated in the style of an elegant Parisian family home. Bertrand Plasmas, also the decorator and director who lives in St. Germain, has painstakingly chosen every fabric, antique and furniture for Le Saint, most from neighborhood merchants. As such, the hotel embraces a very distinct Left Bank personality welcoming to travelers and locals alike.

Spanning from the corner of Rue de l’Université to the middle of Rue du Pré aux Clercs, there is no denying from the outside that this is a beautiful hotel. The flowers adorning the windows are even more abundant than when I passed by last time, along with the classic shutters flanking the tall French windows to all the rooms. A few small tables are now positioned outside for those who want to enjoy a cafe or cocktail during good weather.

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Internally, Le Saint did not disappoint. Even though it is now operating as one hotel, you can still see the distinction of the former three hotels which in my view lends to its charm. On the corner (the former Lenox Hotel) is the jewel-toned Kult restaurant and lounge, while on the other end is a more Provencal-style lobby with a grand limestone fireplace (I imagine it is a perfect place to lounge on a cold winter day). Flanking the two ends is the small but welcoming reception desk.

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If Monsieur Plasmans sought to achieve this as a distinctive hotel in style of an elegant family home, he IMG_9349succeeded. If you are more into modern and trendy hotels, you won’t like it here. But if you want a place that is authentic, freshly renovated top to bottom with a sharp attention to detail, Le Saint deserves a look.

From old-style room keys (no electronic cards here), fresh flowers in your room (you can pick your own in the lobby or they will create a bouquet for you) to the hand-selected fabrics, materials and fixtures, you are in old-world Paris. But don’t confuse old world to mean outdated. When the hotels were combined, a complete overhaul and neo 19th century renovation ensures guests of all the modern conveniences they could want.

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Location-wise, I could not imagine a more ideal base to be with all my favorite haunts no more than a 10 minute walk away (see a list of them below and in our Paris City Guide). Le Saint is conveniently situated a few minutes walk from Boulevard St. Germain (and equi-distant to two metro stations – St. Germain, Rue du Bac) and the Luxembourg Gardens on one side, the Seine and the Louvre/Tuileries directly across from it, and Musee D’Orsay to its left. A local neighborhood map created exclusively for Le Saint guests came in extra handy with some great new places I would never had otherwise known about.

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Complimentary bikes at the front of the hotel make it easy for guests to explore further on their own. And while there is a small fitness center in the hotel, I would eschew it for a scenic jog along the Seine. For any of you with a teen, a new Golden Goose store is just around the corner (embrace or avoid). While the hotel is in the heart of St. Germain, it is on a very quiet street. After a long day enduring crowds, I welcomed the serenity of this sanctuary with open arms.

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During our stay in June, the hotel was completely full with a nice mix of guests. While many were Americans (couples and families), we met a few locals who regularly came by Kult for breakfast or coffee. There were also some very stylishly dressed guests staying there for Men’s Fashion Week.

The staff couldn’t be more hospitable and were refreshingly gracious and friendly during our stay. My husband was committed to finding a place to play tennis with a pro, no easy feat to find in Paris where the  few tennis clubs around are private. The staff met to the challenge who found us a terrific pro and court time in Luxembourg Gardens (who knew!). Best, I had a very happy husband.IMG_9284

We had the opportunity to meet the amiable owner during our stay who often can be found greeting guests and making sure everything is in its perfect place. Monsieur Plasmas takes great pride in his hotel, deservedly so, and happy to give guests a bit of history behind the hotels as well as local neighborhood tips.

The Rooms

There are 54 rooms throughout the five-floor hotel – one suite with a private terrace, 10 junior suites and 43 rooms. The 43 rooms are distinguished in size as Classic (most interior courtyard rooms), Prestige and Superior. About half of the rooms have wood floors, while others are carpeted so if you have a preference, ask ahead of time.

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While it is one hotel now, there are still three elevator banks accessing guest rooms. The first section (rooms beginning with 1-4), formerly the Hotel Lenox, is closest to Rue de l’Université.  The second section (what was Hotel St. Vincent) is accessed through the middle elevator (rooms beginning 5-7). The third section (rooms beginning with 8-12) is the former Hotel St. Thomas Aquin which has a Provencal-style sitting area with fireplace. These are the more traditional style rooms for guests who prefer a more traditional style. Unlike the other two sections, less physical construction was done here during renovations so rooms tend to be smaller than the other sections.

I stayed in the 1st section in a Junior Suite #304 which I requested based upon a photo I had seen on Instagram. Just as depicted in the photo, our suite was beautiful with large windows looking over the Rue du Pre-aux-Clercs, plenty of space (Although we were three and the suite accommodated a small cot, I would recommend it for two people) with a separate water closet from the bathroom. The bathroom, tiled attractively in a gray marble, was modern and light (thanks to a full window) although a bit smaller than some of the other baths I saw in other Junior Suites.

Our Junior Suite #304
Our Junior Suite #304

I had the opportunity to visit a few other rooms in the other categories. Some rooms have lower ceilings than others (particularly on the first floor or the top floor)and vary in size. The Junior Suites are my personal favorites, especially the corner suites, as they are the most spacious. For families, I recommend the Junior Suite combination #302 or #402 (corner suite) connecting to #303 or #404. These are the brightest rooms and have particularly spacious baths.

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Suite with Terrace

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The owner personally supervised the renovation of all the  rooms (I am told he presided over every fabric, paint color and hardware choice). All are decorated in a universal Parisian style but in six different ambiances – blending varying combinations of Japanese, English and neoclassical. Beautiful black and white prints by photographer and artist Pierre-Elie de Pibrac commissioned for Le Saint give many of the rooms a whimsical modern touch, as it did ours.

The Junior Suites are refreshingly spacious for left bank standards. I particularly appreciated the fresh cut flowers and daily local handmade chocolates on our bedside.

Restaurant

Open daily from 7 am to 1 am, the stylish and attractive Kult serves as Le Saint’s onsite restaurant, cafe and bar. Breakfast, which was included in our rate, comprised a small but delicious buffet of hot and cold items as well as anything you would like to order off the menu. I also liked coming here at the end of the day for a cocktail.

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Other

A hammam, small exercise room and treatment room are offered in the basement but this is not the focus of the hotel. Best to walk or jog along the Seine, which is so close by. Or better yet, borrow one of the complimentary bikes conveniently place at the entrance of the hotel, a popular choice among guests!

I instantly fell in love with Le Saint the moment I stepped through its doors. Simply put, it has a lot of soul. The combination of a warm welcoming staff, beautiful interiors (and spacious suites) and a quintessential location is compelling. This may be my new home away from home.

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Revisiting some favorite Paris haunts and discovering new ones

Although our visit to paris was for a brief three nights, it was enough time to revisit some of my favorite spots. Chez Julien, still pretty as ever with some of the best people -watching, was a disappointment this time. Short-staffed and packed (more tables are outside now than inside during good weather), the service was awful.  I would still go back and give it a try, but not on a Saturday night.  Relais d’Entrecôte, around corner from hotel on 20 Rue Saint-Benoit, serves a good steak frites experience although I am sure there are better, it is convenient, quick and always a hit with the kids. Cafe Marly, inside the courtyard of the Louvre, is still one of my favorites for breakfast or lunch (request a table on the patio overlooking Pyramid). Sushi is he menu! Breizh, a Marais stronghold for crepes, is still going strong and rezzies are a must. It’s a perfect stop for lunch before battling the crowds in the Marais.

View from Cafe Marly
View from Cafe Marly

We also discovered two new spots we loved. Daroco, a new trattoria in the former Jean Paul Gauthier boutique, serves amazing focaccia and truffle pizza. Eggs & Co, not far from the hotel, is a great spot to know when you are craving a classic American breakfast. Walk in only, go around 10 am to avoid waiting in a  queue.

Aside from food: The newly opened Le Grand Musée de Parfum, housed in a 19th-century mansion across from the Bristol on 73 Rue Faubourg, just opened in December . It’s a unique and wonderful sensory experience over three floors that was a nice alternative to traditional museums. Even my husband, essentially dragged there, approved. Merci, the concept store on 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, never disappoints. I always stop by Jamin Peutsch to check out their creative, hand-made bags and never leave empty handed.

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For any first timer new to Paris, Bateaux Vedettes, which departs hourly from the Pont Neuf,  is still my favorite way to go to show off the city. Get a ticket in advance and go for 10:15 p.m. cruise to make sure you are perfectly situated in front of the Eiffel Tower when it starts sparkling. It’s a sight to behold that never gets old.

But for the most part, I am happiest with no particular itinerary and can aimlessly walk through the streets of the Left Bank. A special map created for Le Saint guests (available at the front desk) of 60 unique spots in the St. Germain kept us intrigued. We found some really cool places we would never have discovered such as Magasin Sennelier (a tiny store providing art supplies since 1887 on 3 Quai Voltaire), Buly 1803 (a gorgeous 1803 pharmacy providing all sorts of special body care products in beautiful packages on 6 Rue Bonaparte) and Librairie Alain Brieux on 48 Rue Jacob that would fit right in a Harry Potter film with all sorts of potions, books and artifacts.

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Many people have asked me if we felt safe while we were in Paris. With recent terrorism incidents in London and Paris, it is understandable to be a bit nervous. We couldn’t have felt more safe during our visit. The weather was beautiful and it seemed like everyone was out on banks of Seine. The restaurants were full. We hung out late, in a large crowd,  at night watching street performers in front of Notre Dame. While admittedly I kept my family close and was a little on edge, it dissipated quickly. People were enjoying themselves, as they should, in the City of Lights.

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Inside Look: East, Miami http://inviatotravel.com/2017/07/10/inside-look-east-miami/ http://inviatotravel.com/2017/07/10/inside-look-east-miami/#respond Mon, 10 Jul 2017 12:21:44 +0000 http://inviatotravel.com/?p=9969 Continued]]> This past Memorial Day weekend I had the chance to check out EAST, a new lifestyle in Miami that opened exactly one year ago in the heart of Miami’s Brickell district. It is the first property in North America for the Hong Kong-based Swire property group best known for the Upper House in Hong Kong and the Opposite House in Beijing.

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Lobby

East is located inside the brand new Brickell City Center a 500,000 square foot shopping center with 5 levels of luxury shopping, a selection of restaurants and even a movie theater. It’s only 15 minutes from the Miami airport and close to the now popular destinations of Wynwood, the Design District and South Beach.

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The design is signature East, a striking mix of ancient eastern influence and modern-day design. The 352 guest rooms are modern and airy with a pared down and clean-feeling decor. All the rooms have balconies and floor-to-ceiling windows with stunning views facing Biscayne Bay and the Miami skyline (every bathroom even has the quintessential bathtub with a view). Speaking of views, a little-known secret is the view from The Crush, EAST’s venue space on the 39th floor has one of the best views in town of Miami.

Residence Suite
Residence Suite

 

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Corner King

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At BEAST, the on-site gym, guests can bring their personal trainer or reach out to the Guest Experience team to book a local fitness pro.

While I was there, I had the chance to go to their Asian inspired rooftop bar and garden called Sugar on the 40th floor. I went on a Saturday night just before dinner and it was absolutely jam packed. It’s a stunning bar with spectacular views, lots of greenery and little spots to sit and eat tapas and take in the breath taking views in an open air setting. Most notable about the design are the glass walls that surround the roof so that even if you are seated the gorgeous views are still unobstructed.

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Sugar

 

After a drink I went back down to the 5th floor for dinner at Quinto la Huella, an outpost of the well known restaurant near the fashionable beachside town of Punta Del Este in Uruguay. It’s a huge restaurant of nearly 10,000 square feet with indoor/outdoor seating with plenty of art work, organic white washed furniture, stucco walls and wood and organic finishes give it a very natural and beachy flavor. The menu features lots of seafood, potatoes and even Uruguayan grass fed beef all cooked with their unique fire-cooking method. Their waiters wear traditional Uruguayan poncho type uniforms and there is even a large wood burning fire grill on display in the center of the restaurant all emphasizing the South American influence.

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After dinner I made my way back up to the roof for a peek inside the property’s much buzzed about “secret room” called the tea room. There is a very large carved but unmarked door and the attendant even gave a special ‘secret knock’ in order to allow my entry. I entered into a dimly lit lounge area with more spectacular views a DJ spinning great music. It is basically a small nightclub with a long bar as well as several tables and seating areas. The best part about this room is that they allow a very select amount of people inside so that it feels ‘secret’ and special with a cool vibe but not at all crowded like most after hours spots in Miami. I’d include a visual but photos are not allowed adding to its allure.

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East is a great choice for a young but sophisticated traveler who likes to be in the center of everything with lots of options for entertainment, great food, bars and convenience.

Review by contributor Karen Larrain. Photos courtesy of Karen Larrain and EAST Miami. 

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Postcard From Nekupe Sporting Resort, Nicaragua http://inviatotravel.com/2017/06/15/postcard-from-nekupe-sporting-resort-nicaragua/ http://inviatotravel.com/2017/06/15/postcard-from-nekupe-sporting-resort-nicaragua/#respond Thu, 15 Jun 2017 14:09:26 +0000 http://inviatotravel.com/?p=9931 Continued]]> Last fall, I was struggling to plot my guy’s birthday celebration. With island, ski and city vacations already on the books for winter and spring break, I was chomping at the bit for something different. I love the beach, but I wanted a bit of adventure and like with each celebratory trip I plan, it had to be a destination we had never been too and one that we could do in four nights to get back to our five children and work obligations. The search was endless and everything I found kept falling short until I had a Meg Ryan moment and my inbox told me “you got mail”. The Conde Nast Traveller 2017 Hot List was out and Nekupe, a new ‘all-inclusive, intimate 8-room sporting resort for exploration and indulgence’ captured my attention.

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Nicaragua, once an infamous country of covert arms deals and guerilla warfare was on my bucket list since its 2013 makeover with the opening of Mukul, a 38-room beach resort on the Emerald Coast (my review of Mukul coming soon). I decided to check off two boxes at once, and planned a Nicaraguan road trip. I packed my safari and surf attire and hit the road….the mothership was calling me home.

Nekupe Sporting Resort and Retreat is Nicaragua’s first luxury countryside resort, located 40 minutes from the historic colonial town of Granada on an 1,800-acre nature reserve. Nekupe, which means ‘heaven’ in Chorotega – the indigenous language of a native tribe in Nicaragua – opened in November 2016.  Nicaraguan philanthropists Theresita and Alfredo Pellas Jr. were driven by their love of travel, adventure and their country and set out to create a destination where people could reconnect with each other and nature. They teamed up with Feng Shui specialist Iside Sarmiento to use the practice’s principles to influence the design of the resort including the four villas and the La Residencia. Each space is aligned to specific cardinal orientations to receive positive and enhanced energies.

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Each guest is assigned a private ranger for the duration of their stay who creates a bespoke itinerary after getting to know you and understanding the intentions of your trip through several phone calls and emails prior to your arrival.

I arrived at Nekupe from the country’s capital Managua, which can be accessed by flights through Miami, Florida (the flight is about 2.5 hours). We hired a private driver and made the somewhat bumpy two hour drive making me wish I skipped the drive and opted to land in style on Nekupe’s helipad via private helicopter.  While luxury resorts are popping up throughout Nicaragua, the growth of infrastructure is slow and the main form of transportation on unpaved roads in many areas are still ox carts and horses.

The gates to Nekupe are grandiose. As they opened up and my private ranger Felipe was waiting in an ATV,  all I kept hearing in my head was the famous quote “ladies and gentleman, welcome to Jurassic Park”.  Nekupe is surrounded by lush mountain and volcano landscape, giving guests an immediate connection to mother earth, while the warm neutral tones of the property provide a sense of peace and tranquility throughout your stay.

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We spent the majority of our time on property with Ranger Felipe, listening to stories about the land, the Pella family history and the country of Nicaragua, all while riding horses, off roading through muddy fields on an ATV, hiking, indulging in cigar and rum tastings and hitting up the target range where I went ten for ten and showed the boys how it was done, thank you very much.

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Accommodations

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The eight-room resort is comprised of a main residence, La Residencia de Doña Thirstier, situated in the center of the reserve, and four villas thoughtfully positioned near La Residencia. Each accommodation offers a luxury ATV for guests to navigate throughout the resort.

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La Residencia de Doña Thirstier

The 24,000 square foot estate offers four accommodations – two grand suites, Roble Grand Suite and Caoba Grand Suite – each 1,300 square feet, one king bed in each, and two additional suites, Cedro and Cortez – each 870 square feet, with two queen beds each. Grand Suite bathrooms in La Residencia feature outdoor showers and views out to the reserve and deep soaking tubs for each guest room. The whole estate can run up to 10K a night, but if the whole Residencia is not booked, guests can book one of the rooms and have access to the whole estate, except the other bedrooms which would be open for bookings.

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The Villas

The villas are steps from the Residencia and where we stayed. Three villas, Guanacaste, Genizaro and Madroño, are 1,000 square feet and can accommodate up to two rollaways which make them a great option for families who do not want to splurge for the Residencia.

Jicaro, the honeymoon suite is 700 square feet and where we chose to stay. Each villa comes with one king bed, living area and bathrooms with a soaking tub and shower. While the floor-to-ceiling windows and open terraces allow glorious natural light and views of the outdoors including Mombacho Volcano, it was the special touches by the staff at turn down that made the room truly come to life. Luxurious bathrobes and slippers await you on the bed, while the soaking tub is hot with floating orchids surrounded by lavender scented candles taking romance to a whole other level.

The Food 

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Nekupe’s farm to table cuisine was inspired by Theresita Pellas’ own cooking. The menu is comprised of  traditional Nicaraguan fare with a modern twist using a bounty of native ingredients, sourced from the onsite garden and local purveyors. I am a true foodie and I can honestly say the rancho huevos was the best breakfast I had ever had in my life.

The lunch menu ranges from salads to burgers with a daily special that highlights a local dish. A selection of fresh squeezed juices, cocktails and snacks are served throughout the day at Casa Club which we sampled in between activities. The tapas style snack menu during our stay offered grilled vegetables, fresh cheeses, ceviche, empanadas and sliced filet over homemade bread. The candlelight dinner menu changes daily with both vegan, vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. Everyone dines at Nekupe in the Casa Club or at home dining can be provided if you are staying in the residence.

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Amenities & Activities

Nekupe has one swimming pool, two tennis courts, a series of elite gun ranges, ropes course, horseback riding, ATV off roading trails, biking, culinary classes, painting classes, cigar and rum tastings, state of the art fitness facility, yoga classes, game room, spa and the exquisite Casa Club, Nekupe’s exclusive lobby lounge and communal gathering area where five star dining options leave a long and lasting taste to be desired. As we were the only guests at the resort at this time of the year, we had it all to ourselves.

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Nekupe is for the traveller who is looking for a sense of discovery at the world’s best hideout. The meticulous grounds, luxurious accommodations and mesmerizing landscape provided the restorative escape promised and the endless amounts of bespoke activities fulfilled my adventurous desires. On the morning of departure I took a solo hike of the property and reflected back on all that transpired over the past few days. As I stood high up on the hill, I felt in that moment as if I I was the last person left on earth … and that’s when it hit me, this is the purpose of Nekupe. It was not just an adventurous destination, it is also a place for spiritual transformation which is why it has quickly earned every ounce of glowing press it has been receiving. As we drove away through the tall pearly gates of heaven, I was sad to leave but I knew I would return again, but next time with the whole family….oh yeah and by helicopter!

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Review by Contributing Editor Elisa Brown. Photos courtesy of Elisa Brown and Nekupe (via Murphy O’Brien). 

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Just Checked Out: The Norman, Tel Aviv http://inviatotravel.com/2017/06/08/just-checked-out-the-norman-tel-aviv/ http://inviatotravel.com/2017/06/08/just-checked-out-the-norman-tel-aviv/#respond Thu, 08 Jun 2017 16:21:09 +0000 http://inviatotravel.com/?p=9708 Continued]]> I introduced The Norman in Tel Aviv here on Inviato shortly after it opened with much fanfare in October 2014. This chic boutique hotel has been universally praised by the travel media and guests alike as a breath of fresh air in a city that has had limited exciting hotel options until recently.  Two and half years later after its opening, I finally had the opportunity to stay at The Norman with my family during Spring Break in Israel.  Before I organized anything else, even my flights, I booked our rooms at the hotel. With only 50 rooms, The Norman gets booked up way in advance, especially for connecting rooms and suites.

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Israel is a small country, roughly the size of New Jersey, and an increasingly popular destination, particularly in March and April when the weather is close to perfect. It felt like half of Manhattan descended upon the country the same week as us! Our plan was four nights in Tel Aviv (serving as a base for some excursions to Caesaria, Haifa and beyond), two nights in the Negev Desert and two nights in Jerusalem.  If I had to do it over, I would do the same itinerary but add an extra day in Jerusalem. If there is one place you don’t want to be rushed, it is Jerusalem. It’s that special.

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Our first stop was The Norman, where we spent four nights. Independently owned by a British family, The Norman is housed in a private mansion – or rather two as it consists of two original 1920s Bauhaus-style villas linked by a common courtyard. Both buildings, designed by the same architect, are Class A protected as historic heritage sites and went through eight years of painstaking renovation before becoming the stylish and sophisticated hotel it is today.

It was obvious during our stay that The Norman is equally popular as a destination spot for cocktails in the Library Bar or for sushi at the top floor restaurant Dinings as it is as a hotel. Not surprisingly, we bumped into many New York acquaintances during our stay who were either guests or stopping by for a night cap. I heard through the grapevine that another hotel was being developed by the family (perhaps outside Israel). I am not sure if this ‘leak’ is in fact true but I’m keeping my ears peeled.

We loved the central location of The Norman – far enough away from the business district and its mammoth-size hotels (Hilton, Intercontinental, Sheraton and Dan Tel Aviv to name a few) and on the edge of the fashionable quarter of of Neve Tzedek. Rothschild Boulevard, the main promenade running through the ‘White City’ quarter, has lively cafes and buildings displaying beautiful examples of Neoclassic and art-deco architecture. The beach is about a 20 minute stroll from the hotel (go through Shabazi Street which has wonderful artisan jewelry stores and boutiques to peek into, although you might not make it to the beach) but you can also ask for a complimentary shuttle if you just want to get there quickly. Complimentary bikes are also on hand if you want something a bit in between the two.

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Many of the 50 individually designed rooms in the hotel possess floor-to-ceiling windows, hardwood floors and modern baths. The 20 spacious suites – particularly the Penthouse suites with private terraces –  are the most coveted and hard to book (and the most expensive!). As the hotel was solidly booked during our stay, I did not have an opportunity to inspect any of the suites but friends who did have raved about them. As a family, we found the connecting rooms on the 1st floor worked the best for us (see Room Tips below. As we switched rooms midway through our stay, we experienced different rooms). There are only two sets of connecting rooms so book well ahead if you have young children as they go quickly.

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Suite
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I loved the spacious foyers on each floor rather than narrow hallways you typically see in hotel.  You feel like a guest in someone’s mansion rather than hotel. In many respects such as this, the hotel reminded me of the  Park Hyatt Palacio Duhau in Buenos Aires.

IMG_8372 One of our connecting corner rooms

One of my favorite spaces to lounge after long days of touring was the inviting 1940’s style Library Bar. It was definitely one of the most picturesque hotel bars I have ever seen. The bartenders here takes the art of the cocktail very seriously. The cocktail list is extensive and they will whip you anything you like. The recommended Crazy Earl cocktail didn’t disappoint.

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We also loved the breakfast room of the hotel.  You can take breakfast inside or outside in the courtyard when it is warm enough and you can choose to eat from the small but enticing buffet or the ala carte IMG_8245menu. At least one person in your group needs to order the decadent carmelized french toast. It is out of this world as is the bread pudding that comes out steaming hot from the kitchen. It is gone in a matter of seconds. And the Israeli coffee is divine!

I was most impressed by the exquisite but subtle details throughout the hotel. From floor to ceiling, there are unique and inspiring pieces to admire like the salt-encrusted violin from the Dead Sea, now encased in glass on one wall of the Library Bar.  The inlaid wood floors, lighting (one which I am still trying to buy) and the serious art collection (ask the concierge for a tour as art pieces are throughout the hotel, most by local artists with galleries nearby) would impress even the most critical eye.

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The rooftop pool was disappointingly closed while we were there for some renovations. It was a bit too chilly too swim anyway!  The outdoor patio adjacent to the sushi restaurant, Dinings, on the top floor was open and a wonderful place to lounge with a cocktail in the evening.

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We were very pleased with this stylish, sophisticated and timeless hotel and would not hesitate to stay at The Norman again or recommend it to others. Although next time, I think I will splurge for a suite.

Other general Israel touring observations and insights:

  • Flying to Israel: As I fly long haul flights often, comfort is key for me. Seat Guru is my best friend when picking airlines and seats!  From New York, El Al and Delta offer direct flights into Tel Aviv. El Al is the most popular but its planes are outdated (no flat seats in Business Class, poor entertainment systems) as are the Delta flights. For this reason we chose to do a quick connection through Toronto and fly the Air Canada’s 787 Dreamliner which offers hands down the best business class to Israel. It was the best decision we made. On the return flight, customs is conducted quickly at the Toronto airport so you don’t need to do it in New York. It does add an hour or two to your flying time however.
  • The VIP Service offered at Tel Aviv airport is worth getting for your arrival, especially if you are on a packed flight from New York. The walk from the plane to passport control can be very long. With VIP service, a representative meets you at the airplane, drives you in a car directly to customs and escort you through passport control and customs, avoiding the often long queues. This may often save up to an hour of your time.  Either your tour company or hotel can arrange this for you (it is about $200 for 4 people). Worth every penny!

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  • Choosing a tour company or guide: Almost everyone who travels to Israel for the first time or in a large group uses an Israeli-specialist travel company who arranges everything A-Z for you, including your hotels. There are many and they vary greatly (as we found in our own research) in quality and pricing so its important to do your homework and compare. A reputable company will speak to you, learn about your interests and send you a proposed itinerary with an estimate before committing. We have a list of vendors used by colleagues and friends who come highly recommended and you can contact me at jackie@inviatotravel for a list.

For me, given we were only a family of four and on a shortened schedule time schedule with specific ideas of what I wanted to do in mind, I preferred to work directly with a guide. I had reviewed enough of my friends itineraries and conducted enough of my own research to know pretty much what I wanted.  Many guides are freelance when not working with a tour company and it just takes a bit of asking around (just ask on Facebook!) and interviewing (if they are too inexpensive, be wary and make sure they are accredited) to find one that works for you which is how we found our incredible guide, Kobi.  As you are spending almost your whole time with your guide, it is important you find the right fit!

Working with a guide direct allowed us to adapt our schedule as needed (which we did almost every day – a huge benefit) with free time to explore on our own when we wanted (and to sleep in a little rather than wake up at 7 am!) and the savings were huge (up 3x lower than going with a tour) as our guide was also our driver.  This takes extra preparation on your part if you go this way (although a good guide will work with you on your itinerary in advance which is critical due to driving distances, traffic and the need for advance reservations at many places). For us, it worked perfectly. We lucked out with our incredible guide Kobi even though I’m sure we drove him a bit crazy.

  • Aside from its history and geography,  Israel is very much a foodie destination. The culinary experience is so much more than Israeli salads, falafels and Hummus, although I would be perfectly happy with that! Our most special experiences in Israel were surrounded by experiencing the many different tastes of Israel: an incredible, enlightening and FUN culinary tour of Carmel Market in Tel Aviv (a must with Inbal Baum of Delicious Israel), a special lunch at a small Bedouin village in the Negev Desert, and tastings at the stalls in the Arab, Muslim and Jewish souks in Old Jerusalem. Not to mention the long list of amazing restaurants we dined at.  And the fresh baked bread everywhere, don’t get me started on the bread! A special ‘Eating our Way through Israel’ post is coming shortly!
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  • Unique experiences.  One thing important to me in my travels, especially with my children, is to not only travel consientously but also to find non cookie-cutter experiences that are special to us.  IMG_8390Discovering unique opportunities off the beaten path is my favorite part of the planning process and it typically ends being our most memorable experiences during our trips. Adding a mitzvah project to our itinerary that we could give back to was important to me so we chose together to visit the Israel Guide Dog Center in Beit Oved, an hour outside hotel which was an enlightening and fun experience (if you are lucky you will get to see new litters of future guide dogs like the ones on the right).

Other special add ons to our itinerary such as a private Bedouin lunch with a family in the desert (not accessible to tours), a private tour with a renowned doctorate of animal behavior and ecology of the Ramon Crater, a private tour of a military base through the Friends of the IDF with the opportunity to meet woman soldiers defending Israel and a special culinary tour of one of the food markets in Tel Aviv with Delicious Israel made our trip particularly special.

Dr. Haim Berger of Negev Jeep Tours
Dr. Haim Berger of Negev Jeep Tours
  • It goes without saying that a visit to Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem is a must. A planned visit for an hour turned into three hours. I could have spent a full day here but it can be tough on the little kids. The Childrens Memorial was particularly impactful. Note Yad Vashem is closed on Saturdays. It also offers special Bar and Bat Mitzvah programs that are worthwhile to explore if this is one of the reasons for your visit to Israel.
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  • We spent two nights and one full day in the Negev desert staying at the Beresheet Hotel (now a Virtuoso property!), a stunning hotel right on edge of the Ramon crater. The views from the hotel were stunning. Rates are offered inclusive or exclusive of meals, but as there are no real options nearby, I would recommend getting an inclusive rate. Only a few 2-bedroom family villas, which we had, as available as room options. While they are not directly in front of the crater, they offer private plunge pools and are close enough to the edge (Our villa was #142, which was close to main building. Others might require a golf cart to get there). I recommend at least a night at this special place. Make some time to do a crater tour with the incredible Dr. Haim Berger of Negev Jeep Tours during the day. Evening star-gazing tours are also available.

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  • In Jerusalem, we stayed at the historic King David hotel despite my initial inclination to stay at the modern Mamilla in the Old City. Our experience was unfortunately disappointing. We had requested and confirmed renovated rooms (only offered currently on the 5th and 6th floor of the hotel) facing the old city. Upon check-in, however, we were told we were ‘upgraded’ instead to larger connecting suites that were not in fact renovated or on the floor we were confirmed for. This happened to other friends staying at the hotel a few days prior as well. While incredibly spacious, the suite was outdated, dirty and unsatisfactory. While the concierge was very helpful and knowledgeable and the historic relevance of the hotel did not go unnoticed, our experience left us soured and I would be hesitant to recommend it to others unless they were assured renovated rooms.

 

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Just Checked Out: Belmond El Encanto, Santa Barbara http://inviatotravel.com/2017/05/30/just-checked-out-belmond-el-encanto-santa-barbara/ http://inviatotravel.com/2017/05/30/just-checked-out-belmond-el-encanto-santa-barbara/#respond Tue, 30 May 2017 21:14:12 +0000 http://inviatotravel.com/?p=9801 Continued]]> Ever since I watched the 2004 film Sideways, I have wanted to visit California’s Central coast. Over the last few years, I have seen a few friends and colleagues migrate to Santa Barbara and its nearby towns, remarking on the relaxed lifestyle, Mediterranean-like weather and it’s many other outdoor and cultural attractions. It was due time to visit the ‘American Riviera’ – as Santa Barbara is often referred to for its fine wine, hilly landscapes and oceanfront views.

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Santa Barbara

A girls getaway originally slated for Scotland (we are unabashed Outlander fans) was scrapped without hesitation for a more ‘rejuvenation-style’ type trip to sunny Santa Barbara.  The timing in late April worked well for both of us as we both had nearby business to attend to afterwards. The plan was simple – relax, hike, drink some fine wine, and spa over three nights. A girls version of Sideways, if you will, without the drama.

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I considered a few places for us to stay, from Bacara Resort and Spa in nearby Goleta to the romantic San Ysidro Ranch and ocean-side Four Seasons Biltmore, both in the outskirts of Santa Barbara. But it was the legendary 100-year old Belmond El Encanto hotel that captured my attention. The location of the 7-acre property, the only 5-star Forbes hotel in Santa Barbara, with drop-dead views (or so it appeared on the website) of the Pacific ocean made it an easy choice.

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Facing a 97-mile drive after we landed at the Los Angeles airport, we picked up a Mercedes convertible (after all we were in ‘getaway’ mode. The convertible turned out useless however as it was a hard-top that had to be physically removed) for a two-hour journey to the hotel.  We experienced the infamous L.A. gridlock which was a bit of buzzkill to start a vacation. But after we got out of bumper to bumper traffic, the last hour of our drive on the 101 North, which hugs the coastline, was breathtakingly gorgeous.  Following recent heavy rains, literally everything was in bloom.

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A quick detour to Jeannine’s Bakery in Montecito for a bite on the way and we arrived at El Encanto after a few winding streets up the into the hills of Santa Barbara.  The entrance is so inconspicuous, we literally drove right past it.  In hindsight, it’s a fitting introduction to the essence of El Encanto as this hotel basks in its understatedness. As we arrived at the tail end of the weekend, the hotel was seemingly quiet except for guests attending a small wedding in progress (I snuck around to take the picture below because the setting was so pretty) and a few people from Los Angeles staying over to see Willie Nelson perform at the nearby Santa Barbara Bowl (which features an impressive roster of upcoming concerts this summer including John Legend, Blondie, Tears for Fears, Depeche Mode and Boston – am I giving away my age?).

But even at full capacity, I doubt this serene sanctuary would ever feel crowded.  That is one of the reasons El Encanto has long been a popular discreet hideaway for celebrities looking to escape for a few days. When it opened its doors as a hotel in 1918, El Encanto quickly became a favorite mainstay of silver-screen stars Clark Gable, Carole Lombard and the like.  I am sure there a lot of good stories behind the walls of these ivy and wisteria-lined bungalows and cottages at this 100-year old property, Maybe even a ghost or two?
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Wedding in progress during our arrival
Wedding in progress during our arrival

From the moment we left our car at the valet, all stress from everyday life (and admittedly watching too much CNN) dissipated. It is supremely difficult not to feel immediately relaxed here. Taking in the fresh air, with the sun on your face and contemplating the postcard-perfect views of the Pacific Ocean directly beyond the expansive hilltop terrace – which, in my view is the crowning glory of El Encanto – will do that for you. But it is the intoxicating scents of honeysuckle, lavender, jasmine and bougainvillea that descend upon you from the moment you step on to the property that enthralled us (‘How can I bottle that smell?’ my girlfriend asks). It was like being in one big outdoor spa.

To truly appreciate Belmond El Encanto, you have to know a little about its origins. Back in the 1870s (that is when the eucalyptus trees on the property were planted), the original 4-acre property was used to house faculty at a nearby college (the old UC Santa Barbara campus is across the street) . The ten-room Craftsman and Spanish Colonial-style houses and cottages are all still intact and used as guest accommodations today. Not until 1918 did the property turn into a hotel. It operated as one until 2004 when it was sold to the Orient Express Hotels (now Belmond). A long seven years transpired before the hotel re-opened in 2012.  During that period, Belmond put significant funds into restoring all the original architectural details, updating accommodations and adding a spa, fitness center and saltwater pool.

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It was evident, as I walked the brick winding paths that take you throughout the property, that Belmond went to great pains to keep the historical integrity and charm (incidentally this is the translation  of ‘encanto’ in Spanish) of the property intact. The hub is the main house which contains reception, an attractive small bar and lounge area, and the indoor/outdoor dining spaces. Other than the spa and fitness room, these are the only indoor spaces. Here, the outdoor setting is the star. Sitting on the terrace with a glass of wine in hand as the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean is a pretty special place to be. 

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When not chilling at the pool or getting a massage, I enjoyed exploring the property, checking out the arbor-covered cottages tucked throughout the 7-acres. In one short walk, I encountered a 1928 wishing well (original to the property) the Arbor and Lily Pond where you can feed the turtle and Koi residents during the day (at night, the frogs come out and get pretty vocal serenading their mates) and five beautiful ceramic pigs, gifts from the Belmond Maroma property scattered throughout the property.  But wherever you turn your head, the glistening Pacific ocean is always visible to remind you to go outside the property to check out the beaches! 

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Rooms

Cottages and bungalows are spread widely across property. While many are stand-alone, there are some that are adjoining or in quads (like ours).  All the original cottages are spacious at an average of 560 square feet and were updated before the hotel re-opened in 2012. It should be noted, however, that strict landmark guidelines apply to the property and, as such, the structural design has stayed intact. For sure, that is part of the charm and personality of the hotel but in some rooms, the small original windows do not bring in enough natural light. 

Our accommodation was a top floor Premiere Deluxe double-bed bungalow (although not a bungalow in true sense as was part of a 4-suite complex). #1804 was a comfortable room with a very spacious bathroom outfitted with a deep soaking tub and shower. It was simply designed, similar to other bungalows I inspected, with a large flat screen TV, fireplace, and terra-cotta floors. While perfectly comfortable, the terrace was too small to fit more than a small chair and the room felt particularly dark as only one window. The room was also very close to the main entrance which, while convenient, doesn’t have the charm of being further immersed in the lushly landscaped property. Which is the whole point of being here.The next time I return to El Encanto (and I will), I would definitely upgrade to a stand-alone cottage or at least request a lower floor bungalow which feature spacious patios (see Rooms to Get below). 

We appreciated the deliveries of delicious fruit plates, cheese, wine and champagne during our briefly stay. We did have a few glitches with our room upon check-in which were addressed quickly but I believe were due to some staff communication/training issues when we were there. This is one area that could have been improved during our stay.  It felt understaffed in many areas and the service just fell short of my expectation for a 5-star property.  

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View from our room
View from our room

During our brief time here, we accomplished what we set out to do – hike, relax, eat great food, and drink great wine.  Belmond El Encanto could not have been more ideally located for our mission as it is within 5-10 minutes of the incredible beaches, hiking trails, the authentic town of Santa Barbara as well as within 30 minutes drive from the Santa Ynez valley and its many wineries.  It is a place that feels private and remote yet it isn’t as you are smack in the middle of one of the most beautiful places with so much to do and see.  What sets it apart from many other properties I have visited is that it hasn’t strayed from its original style which is lost in so many renovations I have seen. Aside from modern conveniences, it simply feels timeless. 

Things To Do 

For a relaxing outdoorsy girls getaway, Santa Barbara is about as good as it gets (although I can do without the LA traffic. Note to self: next time fly directly into the local airport). There is no shortage of things to do. Wineries, beaches, mountains and amazing restaurants are just a starting point.  Here is a small sampling of suggestions.

Return To Freedom wild horse sanctuary in Lompoc CA
Return To Freedom wild horse sanctuary in Lompoc CA

Whale Watching. The Santa Barbara area offers some of the best whale watching in world with 20 different species of whales. Spring is sure bet for whale watching – even from the Pier – especially when new calves are on display. Ask the concierge about the 2-hour cruises that take you right from the marina.

Wild Horses. Just one hour drive North and you can visit Return to Freedom, a 300-acre wild horse rescue and sanctuary, that opens one Sunday every month to allow visitors to see and learn about the 175 wild horses it rescues and takes care of. 

Historic District and State Street. The town of Santa Barbara is host to great restaurants, cultural attractions, great shopping, and a wonderful farmers markets on Tuesdays. 

Hikes. (see Tips below)

Wine Tasting. This is a given as you are in the heart of one of the best wine regions in the U.S. Napa and Sonoma may be better known but Sideways has uncovered the secret of the Santa Ynez region, along with the towns of Los Olivos, Solvang and Los Alamos, less than an hour drive North of the hotel. If you are deprived of time, no worry. Hit the Funk Zone and the self-guided Urban Wine Trail  and check out the many wine tasting rooms in an old industrial complex (Riverbench, Whitcraft, and Santa Barbara Wine Collective are some notable ones recommended to us).

Where to Drink and Eat 

Cocktails

Boat House at Hendry's Beach
Boat House at Hendry’s Beach

Test Pilot – A tiki-inspired craft cocktail bar in the Funk Zone.

Good Lion – A swanky speakeasy serving tapas and inventive cocktails.

Boat House at Hendry’s Beach (unofficially known as ‘Dog Beach’) – a must at least once during cocktail hour from 3-6 or at sunset. Located right on Hendry’s Beach, this is where you can get your dog fix or just watch the surfers.

Bakeries (breakfast, lunch or picnic fare)

Helena Avenue Bakery
Helena Avenue Bakery

Renaud’s Bakery. On State Street, this Parisian style bakery is known for having the best chocolate croissants.

Jeannine’s Bakery. Located on Coast Village Road in Montecito as well as in Santa Barbara. Known for their breakfasts.

Helena Avenue Bakery. Decadent French toast.

Restaurants

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The Lark. Named one of the top 100 Hot Spots in the country on Open Table, The Lark is a very popular urban eatery housed in a former fish market in the Funk Zone. Always packed and very good! Make reservations well ahead of time and ask for outdoor seating when the weather is nice.

Loquita. A hot new tapas joint in the Funk Zone and sister restaurant to The Lark just around the corner. Sit at the bar or the beautiful outdoor (and heated) garden with fire pit. Loved it here!

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Olio e Limone. Italian restaurant that is a favorite of many locals and considered one of the best Italian restaurants in the area.

Mony’s Mexican. Very casual Mexican in the Funk Zone. Known for their tacos and salsa bar. Most always packed.

La Superrica. One of Julia Child’s favorite restaurants when she lived in the area, this cash-only small shack serves excellent but simple tacos. Usually a line out the door. Highly recommended by a foodie friend!

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Spotlight On: The Vik Retreats in Uruguay and Chile http://inviatotravel.com/2017/04/11/spotlight-on-the-vik-retreats-in-argentina-and-chile/ http://inviatotravel.com/2017/04/11/spotlight-on-the-vik-retreats-in-argentina-and-chile/#respond Tue, 11 Apr 2017 14:34:14 +0000 http://inviatotravel.com/?p=9363 Continued]]> Ever since I first read about the opening of the stunning ranch hideaway, Estancia Vik, seven years ago, it has been on my expansive bucket list. Since then, three more properties under the Vik ‘luxury retreat’ brand have opened, including one in Chile.  Each are completely different but spectacular in their own right.

Ania Wroblewska, a luxury travel consultant with Inviato Travel booking partner & NY-based Virtuoso agency, Classic Travel, was fortunate to visit all four properties this past October. I am thrilled that she agreed to provide us a thorough overview on each of these properties to share with our readers:

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I first learned about the VIK properties when, still a lawyer, I was “inspirationally planning” trips that my work schedule would have never allowed me to take. I was dreaming about South America and, as a huge wine enthusiast, I happened upon Vina Vik in Chile. The property, with its own winery and gorgeous vistas, looked out of this world. The internet rabbit hole led me to more and more articles about the Vik family (the owner, Norwegian Alexander Vik was named the Most Interesting Man in the World in 2014 by Forbes – you can read why here) and I quickly learned that there were three other properties in Uruguay. I was hooked and vowed to visit all four properties sometime in the future.

Fast forward to 2016. As a luxury travel consultant at Classic Travel, I was invited this past October to stay at two of the Vik properties and do a site inspection of the other two.  Of course, I jumped on the opportunity. Each property is completely different: Vina Vik is ultra modern and all about wine; Estancia Vik is a Spanish colonial-style hotel/ranch that is all about Uruguayan art and culture; Playa Vik, a contemporary beach villa with stunning views of the coastline, oozes romance;  Bahia Vik are beachy bungalows out on the Uruguayan dunes.

VINA VIK

We started our trip with a 2 night-stay at Vina Vik in Chile, the latest addition to the Vik portfolio and the only hotel outside of Uruguay. In order to get there, we flew to Santiago, Chile where we were picked up by the hotel driver for the two and a half hour drive to the hotel (for a quicker and more exciting option, I recommend splurging for the 40-minute helicopter transfer). I woke up groggy from a jet-lagged nap in the car to peer up to a Frank Gehry-esque building surrounded by an emerald lake, mountains and a vast winery.

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As this is not your typical hotel with separate reception space, we were greeted in the living room pavilion of the hotel. The hotel was designed to feel like home (albeit not your everyday home). In fact, Alexander Vik and his family spend time at the hotel each year and utilize it as one of their (many) personal homes.

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Vina Vik is simply spectacular and clearly no expense was spared in the building and design – from the titanium roof (Titanium has a thermal capacity to withstand the climate of the Chilean wine country), Frette linens and robes in the rooms to the individual design of each of the 22 rooms with custom artwork and furniture.

No room is the same and, when booking, guests are given a room menu to pick the best suited room for them. Make sure you do this as waking up to large portrait of a transsexual homeless woman pushing a trolley full of trash may not be everyone’s cup of tea! You may prefer the whimsical Redonodo Suite with its colorful polka dot headboard, the Azulejo Suite where you will wake up everyday to two Oscar-esque velvet dresses hanging over your bed, or my favorite, the Shogun Master Suite which will transport you to Japan. See the slideshow below to see some of these rooms:

Click to view slideshow.

The rates at Vina Vik include all meals, drinks and hotel activities, with the exception of some specially designed bespoke experiences. Alas, this is not the typical “all inclusive experience” – the food is of the highest quality and the wine served is of course the winery’s own. Breakfast is a buffet with a menu of made to order eggs. Lunch and dinner are casual affairs with no set menu. The chef prepares two main dishes and an appetizer based on what is fresh. During my three day stay, I ate foie gras, beef tartar, garden vegetable tempura as appetizers and duck, octopus and lamb for the main entrees. Everything was fantastic. If you are a picky eater or have food allergies, do not worry as the chef adjusts the dishes to each guest’s preference. If you do not like the options offered, they will find an alternative.

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What I loved most about the hotel the most was that it is not only great for adults looking to combine a vacation with a tour of the winery but is ideal for entire families as well. The hotel offers plenty of activities for everyone: horse back riding, hiking, bike riding, fishing, yoga classes with a view of the infinity pool, paintball, and cooking classes. Kids can visit the garden and pick their own vegetables from the garden or get eggs for breakfast from the henhouse. Even the tour of the winery can be done with kids – the adults get to sample the wines and kids grape juice.

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After our two night stay at this exceptional property we were whisked back to the Santiago airport for a quick flight to Montevideo in Uruguay. We were heading to the Punta del Este area, the ‘Hamptons of South America‘. The three Uruguayan VIK properties are a two-hour drive from the Montevideo airport but the drive did not feel long and I was amazed by how beautiful the countryside was – full of farmland, estancias, and open fields.

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ESTANCIA VIK

On our way for a 2-night stay at the ultra modern Playa Vik, we stopped for a tour of the sister property, Estancia Vik. As we visited in October, the property was empty and closed, although the manager was in the process of getting the property ready for a weekend buy-out. The Estancia experience begins during the arrival on the long unpaved road through 4,000 acres of pastures and undeveloped lands with the white-washed hotel looming in the distance on a small hill. This may not be one the “hot hip” properties in Punta del Este but it certainly feels special.

Estancia caters to those who want to be close to the beach (only 1 mile from the ocean and 20 miles from Punta del Este, on southernmost tip of Uruguay), but are looking for a respite from the nearby hotspots making it a fantastic choice for families with children who want to experience the best of what Uruguay has to offer. Built in the Spanish colonial style, Estancia offers colonial architectural elements like adobe walls and red tin roofs, accented by clean white lines, expansive public spaces and, as in all other VIK properties, original contemporary art. Just as at Vina Vik, each of the 12 guest rooms is completely different and features 18 Uruguyan artists creating an impressive gallery of modern local art.

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Estancia Vik offers something for everyone – you can partake in horseback riding along the nearby river, canoeing (offering the chance to observe indigenous birds) and even take private polo lessons, play tennis or challenge your family to a paintball match. Or you can simply laze around the spacious main building and pretend you are the owner of a beautiful country estate. A small and scenic outdoor pool provides respite from the hot summer weather and the game room offers pool table, ping-pong table and board games for the perfect family evening. And, of course, with its short distance from both Jose Ignacio and Punta del Este, beach time is only a few minutes away.

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BAHIA VIK

Bahia Vik, opened in 2014 and deemed one of the hottest hotel openings anywhere, did not disappoint. I was immediately blown away by the Klimt-esque ceiling mural by a Uruguayan artist, which welcomes you in the entrance hall. As with the Estancia, local art is seen throughout the property – from larger-than-life portraits of the Vik family in the dining room to vibrantly colored bedrooms and unique bathrooms.

 

Much like its sister properties, no room is the same at Bahia Vik, enticing guests to want to see each and every room to find their favorite. Ten of the 37 rooms are located in the main building, spread between the first and second floor, which offers stupendous views and can be taken over to form a family suite. The remaining 27 rooms are spread out among 11 stand-alone bungalows with one, two and three bedroom options. Each bungalow is made of different material making them unique. One might be made from Uruguayan staple whitewashed adobe while another one may be clad in titanium or covered entirely in sand. The hotel also offers a four-bedroom villa for bigger families that comes with exclusive use of a private pool in front of it.

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Estancia Vik offers a small gym and game center room around an interior courtyard as well as four pools with mind-blowing views of the dunes and the water. With 37 rooms, Bahia Via is the largest of the VIK properties and perfectly suited for families with children.

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PLAYA VIK

We arrived at Playa Vik at dusk, just in time to see the dramatic sunset over the rugged coastline of Jose Ignacio while sitting on the edge of the black granite infinity pool protruding from the hill on which the main hotel building is built on. Despite our rush to get out and photograph the stunning views (and selfies), we managed to notice the epic bronze door sculpted by Uruguayan artist Pablo Atchugarry reminiscent of gates that might have protected ancient Rome. In fact, the entire property is a work of art. Thanks to its uber-modern design by world famous Uruguayan architect Carlos Ott (famous for the Paris Opera House, the National Bank of Dubai and the Carlos Curbelo airport in Punta del Este), the hotel is recognizable from a distance due to its “living-roof” planted with Uruguayan wild flowers.

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The Ott-designed masterpiece consists of six grass-topped, glass-and-steel villas that revolve around the main building the Viks refer to as “the Sculpture.” The main building is home to three of the most spectacular rooms on the second floor and public spaces on the main floor, including a comfy living room, a library with a wide selection of books and a formal dining room. As with the other Vik properties, art is everywhere. A stroll into the library reveals a James Turrell wall installation and a striking acrylic bench by Zaha Hadid. The pièce de résistance, however, is the view – stunning and unfiltered view of the azure Atlantic Ocean. At night, the dramatic infinity pool is illuminated by a celestial pattern with small fiber-optic lights lights, making the guests feel as though they were swimming in the Milky Way while listening to crashing ocean waves.

While children are welcome in this property and the hotel offers 2 and 3 bedroom suites perfect for families, the best rooms are stand alone rooms in the Sculpture building perfect for couples In fact, with its Milky Way illumination and a cozy fire pit and its relaxed quiet ambiance, Playa Vik oozes romance, making it the perfect place for couples. Its location in the Jose Ignacio Village allows guests to go for romantic strolls through the neighborhood and along the beach.

Photo Oct 21, 12 00 34 PM Playa Vik barbeque Photo Oct 21, 12 01 36 PM

How to get to the Uruguayan Properties:
The best way is to fly into Punta del Este and drive for 40 minutes or to fly into Montevideo and drive for two hours.

When to go:
Vina Vik in Chile is a year-round destination but the most pleasant months to visit are October to April. Summer (November to April) is warm with lots of sunshine. Over their winter (June to September), you’ll see the Andes wreathed in snow but the weather is chilly and rain can be an issue.  Spring-like September is Chile’s national independence month, and is full of activity.

For the Uruguayan Vik properties, ‘the high season’’ is between Christmas and mid-January when Argentine families escape. There is a 7-night minimum during festive season. Due to the high demand for these properties, we recommend you book at least a year in advance for holiday breaks. As of the publishing of this post, only one suite is available at Estancia Vik during the winter holiday 2017/18. All other Vik properties are sold out.

Post and photos by Ania Wroblewska at Classic Travel and not for reproduction 

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Inside Look: 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge http://inviatotravel.com/2017/03/17/inside-look-1-hotel-brooklyn-bridge/ http://inviatotravel.com/2017/03/17/inside-look-1-hotel-brooklyn-bridge/#respond Fri, 17 Mar 2017 12:10:59 +0000 http://inviatotravel.com/?p=9574 Continued]]> I am embarrassed to say, in all the years I have lived in Manhattan,  I never stepped foot on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge. It may well have been another country. Other than knowing this is where the River Café and Girls is located, I’ve been pretty ignorant about this wonderful borough.  So when the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge opened two weeks ago right in Brooklyn Bridge Park, I jumped at the opportunity to do a private tour of this exciting new property and get acquainted with the area. Although the subway is just as efficient from the Upper East Side, I took a short Uber ride down the FDR last Thursday, a sunny but windy day.

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View from a 5th Floor room at the 1 Hotel South Beach

Just over a month ago, I stayed at the 1 Hotel South Beach property and was introduced to their eco-luxury concept (You can read my review here as well as the background and premise of the 1 Hotels). The 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge is the third (Miami and NYC are the other two) property of this fairly new hotel brand and the first developed from the ground-up. The waterfront hotel, housed in the former Domino Sugar Factory, was a five year undertaking in the making. The drawings were nearly complete for the property when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012. Waterfront zoning changes required the building to raise its base by three feet without increasing the overall building height, requiring a massive redesign. The 10-floor 194-room hotel, once fully completed by Fall, will have five restaurants, a spa, fitness center, along with plenty of indoor and outdoor event space. And what about transportation, you ask? A complimentary Tesla house car provides guests transportation wherever they want to go within three miles and provides a complimentary shuttle service to subway stops and Wall Street three times daily. If you want more exercise, you can take one of the Citi Bikes to explore the neighborhood.

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The location of the hotel, right on the foot of the 85-acre Brooklyn Bridge Park, could not be more ideal. The restored Fulton Ferry Landing (one of Brooklyn’s most historic sites, marking the first ferry service between Brooklyn and Manhattan in 1642) and landmark River Café (also recently renovated) are a stones throw away. The beautifully restored 1922 carousel, Jane’s Carousel (above), is open year-round. Bike paths run from Pier 1 to Pier 6 with Pier 2 offering over five acres of basketball, bocce, and other sports as well as a roller rink . And then there are the vistas of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. It’s a photographer’s dream.

Public Spaces

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One of the first thing you notice when you walk through the entrance of hotel is the front desk – or rather what is behind it. The massive Jarrod Beck installation is constructed of remains of rubber roofing stripped from a retailer’s roof after a tornado.  Right by it is another installation, this time at the foot of the industrial-style stairs leading to the 2nd floor. The 6,000 rock installation was created to evoke a sense of place – particularly the port and bridge surrounding the hotel.

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The industrial aesthetic that continues throughout the impressive open air lobby/lounge (as well as the entire hotel) is softened with luxurious shaggy rugs, ottomans and pillows and natural leather seating. I loved the unique combination of textures – ropes, bricks, marble, stone, glass and wood.  Not just any wood, mind you. Almost everything is reclaimed here (over 50% ratio, I am told) whether it is beams found in neighboring factories, walnut from Brooklyn Bridge Gardens or pine flooring from the Old Crow Distillery in Kentucky. Most of the furniture was designed by the local Brooklyn furniture designer, Uhuru.

A look at 1Hotel Brooklyn Bridge.

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Uhuru is not the 1 Hotel’s only Brooklyn partner.  An important part of the 1 hotel’s mission is to create deep ties with the community. Even before the hotel opened, the 1 Hotel partnered with the NYC Restoration Project to locally plant 500 trees. They are partnering with Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy to create joint events and activities. The 25-foot living green wall of plants in the lobby, as well as all the plantings on property and in the guest rooms, was created by the Brooklyn husband and wife team Harrison Green. Works from other local artists such as Olivie Ponce and Daniel Phillips, whose photography, sculpture and video installations using reclaimed items from abandoned and demolished Brooklyn buildings, can be seen in the guest rooms, 2nd floor and even on the chimney roof!

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The industrial feel is not just decorative.  For example, those massive pipes you see in the lobby below are actually collecting rainwater to irrigate Brooklyn Bridge Park. Impressive, right?

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Rooms

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There are 194 rooms, including 28 suites, at the 1 Hotel. Worth noting is that there are no twin or queen beds in any of the rooms. Just king beds.

The 1 Hotel’s sustainable architecture ethos continues in the rooms from the recycled wood chips used for your room keys to the repurposed leather scraps used for room numbers. Even Do Not Disturb signs have been creatively replaced with Now and Not Now rocks.  In the rooms (or anywhere in the hotel), you won’t find a single plastic bottle. Triple filtered taps and in-room glassware are used instead, already resulting in 750,000 saved water bottles to date. Likewise, low flow fixtures and optional shower timers have saved 10 million gallons. As a guest, you not only have to respect that but it makes you more conscious about being less wasteful when you get home.

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All the rooms feature custom hemp blend-filled mattresses (incredibly comfortable, I might add), natural cotton knit towels and robes, cozy cotton socks to take home (instead of slippers).

I was able to view two of the Skyline Suites 504 and 507 (pictured above). Aptly named, these premium rooms (there are 16 of them) offer unobstructed views of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Skyline and the Statue of Liberty. These suites can be connected to neighboring rooms for a family or group and are twice the size of the standard rooms. 

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Restaurants 

Shortly, the 1 Hotel will feature five food and beverage options: a main restaurant (still under wraps but due to open in May), the Neighbors Cafe, the lobby, the roof, and 10th floor lounge. An outdoor space with fire pit will be opening soon as well.

Already open is Neighbors, a bright and airy floor-to-ceiling windowed café featuring artisanal grab-and-go sandwiches and panini. Local vendors such as L’albero dei Gelati for gelato, The Jam Stand for artisanal jams and Bocce’s Bakery for all-natural dog biscuits are prominently featured. Only the coffee, from farm-to-table Columbian roasting company Devocion, is exotic.

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Similar to the other 1 properties, there is a lobby farmstand providing fresh fruits, nuts and granola daily.

Event and Outdoor Space  

The 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge provides 20,000 feet of indoor and outdoor event space. 11,000 of the event space will be next door in the Meadow Rue, ideal for receptions.

The 2nd and 10th floor holds most of the hotel’s event space. There are several board rooms and meeting rooms  (all named after plants found in the park), all which provide floor to ceiling spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline. The hospitality lounge spanning most of the 10th floors makes for an incredible entertainment space with private access to the rooftop.

Which takes us to the 11th floor Roof, one of my favorite spaces of the hotel. I was able to take a quick walk (it was really windy!) on the 3,500 square roof, complete with a three-foot plunge pool for guests. I’m not sure any views get better than this – it’s pretty breathtaking.

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What Else? 

I’m very excited for the Fall opening of one of my favorite spas at the hotel: the British-based Bamford Haybarn Spa (also at the South Beach hotel). with nine treatment rooms. A 50-seat screening room one floor below lobby will feature screenings and also be available for private rental. The 24-hour fitness center on the 2nd center,  Field House, offers weights and personal training. Yoga is offered on Sundays (conveniently, there are yoga mats in every room).

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I can’t wait to return to the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge on a warm Summer evening and take in the stupendous views on the rooftop. Or maybe I’ll come for their Full Moon party on May 10th or one of their candlelit evenings they offer each month to raise awareness for global brightening (next dates are March 27, April 26 and May 25).

The 1 Hotels are taking their eco-chic concept next to China (2018) Cabo San Lucas (2019) and Silicon Valley (2019).  I was sold after my stay at 1 Hotel South Beach and even more so by this visit to the 1 Brooklyn Bridge hotel. I left both properties inspired, wanting to be a better citizen of the planet. I am sure I am not the only one.

Note: The 1 Hotel Brooklyn has a Spring ‘Say Hello to Brooklyn‘ offer valid through June 30th. Receive a complimentary upgrade, $25 to spend on food & drinks at Neighbors and a $10 Lyft credit or 2 ferry passes with your booking.  With every reservation, 1 Hotel will donate to a local organization to plant new trees.

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Inside Look: The Whitby Hotel, New York City http://inviatotravel.com/2017/03/13/inside-look-the-whitby-hotel-new-york-city/ http://inviatotravel.com/2017/03/13/inside-look-the-whitby-hotel-new-york-city/#respond Mon, 13 Mar 2017 20:53:43 +0000 http://inviatotravel.com/?p=9494 Continued]]> It would be hard to find a more devoted fan of Kit Kemp – interior designer extraordinaire and co-owner of the Firmdale Hotels – than me. Over the course of the last few years, I have visited each one of their ten hotels in London and New York. Each luxury hotel has its own unique personality, style, and loyal clientele but all possess the same signature design aesthetic: vibrant prints and colors overlaid with unique antique and modern pieces that Kit Kemp personally discovers or creates.

The Ham Yard Hotel, their most recent hotel in London and flagship property is one of my favorite places to stay (it will be my fourth time this summer. You can read my reviews here and here) – l love its energy, ‘urban village’ concept and prime Soho location. And as a New Yorker, I always make a point to drop in at Crosby Street Hotel in Soho for breakfast and lunch any chance I get.

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The opening of the latest Firmdale hotel (its tenth in the portfolio and second in New York), The Whitby Hotel, has been highly anticipated since the announcement it was being developed. Located on prime real estate Midtown on 18 West 56th Street, The Whitby opened two weeks ago on March 1st.  I was fortunate to get a private walk-through two days later. The main restaurant, The Orangery, and adjoining bar, The Whitby Bar, are not open yet (they will open March 20th) and some of the rooms are still being finished.  But I saw enough to be once again blown away by Kemp’s creative design mastery.

I recognized many of the same trademark items at the Whitby as other Firmdale hotels: floor-to-ceiling windows in the guest rooms, mannequins, Rik Rak products and so forth.  But The Whitby Hotel, like each and every other sister properties, has its own distinct personality. I definitely saw touches from the Ham Yard (the back lit vessels on the walls, long bar and hanging baskets in The Orangery, for example) and Crosby Street (the cinema and event spaces in particular). YetI also detected a host of new botanical and floral influences throughout the hotel.  l was particularly enchanted by the whimsical Wedgwood “mythical creatures’ china (a Kit Kemp design you can purchase here) in The Orangery, the fantastic Christopher Farr and Chelsea Textiles fabrics used on the guest room headboards, cushions and pillows and pretty much everything I saw in the downstairs Reading Room.

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Whatever it is, it works beautifully. I instantly felt uplifted the minute I walked in the front entrance. And walked out wanting to completely redecorate my apartment!

I look forward to returning to The Whitby Hotel for tea, on that wonderful china of course, at the end of March!

Public Spaces

On the street level, you will find the main public spaces: reception (below), guest-only Drawing Room and The Orangery and the Whitby Bar.

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The Drawing Room below is for guests only and a lovely place for guests to sit by the fireplace, grab a drink at the honesty bar or have a classic English tea.

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The Whitby Bar is simply a gorgeous space with beautiful upholstered banquettes, colorful hanging baskets and a captivating collection of vintage china plates that Kit Kemp collected from her travels – each has a different story.

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The impressive 30-foot pewter bar has a collection of hanging baskets originating from different areas of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The Orangery, reserved for hotel guests, has vaulted ceilings and skylights that bring in natural light. A spectacular wall of 40 beautifully crafted vessels are lit from within.  A similar aesthetic to the Ham Yard, yet here each vessel features a different landmark New York building or bridges etched into it.

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The Guest Rooms

There are 86 rooms and suites on 16 floors, each with their own design and color scheme. No two rooms are alike although you will find the trademark mannequin, granite and marble baths with double basins in each along with Kemp’s line of Rik Rak products (I’m addicted to the lavender, eucalyptus pillow, linen and room mists. I bought a few at The Ham Yard). The Whitby Suite – a 2,000 square foot 2-bedroom suite occupying the entire top floor will be the crowning glory. Disappointingly, I was unable to view it as it is not yet ready.

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(I love these headboards, especially those that are embroidered! Each one is different and exclusively for The Whitby Hotel.)

During my visit I was able to visit several of the Junior Terrace suites and Deluxe Rooms. Rooms start at the Superior Room level – these rooms are located on the 2nd floor and are about 330 square feet.  Luxury Rooms are slightly larger at 350 square feet. Deluxe Rooms are located on the 9th and 10th floors.

The suites begin at the Junior Suite level which provide a larger seating area at 450 square feet.  I was able to view a few of the six junior terrace suites on the 12th and 14th floors. These are spacious airy rooms with corner terraces, an open plan sitting area and king size bed. My particular favorite was #1408, a corner junior terrace suite that is especially nice for views and light.

Junior corner terrace suite #1408
Junior corner terrace suite #1408
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Event Spaces

Beginning in April the private event space, comprising of two floors below street level, will be open for private events, meetings and screenings (reservations are open now). 

The 130-seat state of the art theater is available for private screenings.

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There are three private event rooms – Araminta, Anrep and The Reading Room. The Araminta and Anrep rooms can be combined for one beautiful party or event.

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Event Lobby Bar

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Above, the Araminta Room features a fantastical wallpaper mural on its walls by Melissa White, a British designer and painter of decorative interiors.

Below, the Anrep Room is named after Boris Anrep, the late Russian artist known for his mosaic prints featured in the National Gallery and Westminster Gallery. The prints of his mosaics adorn the walls of this room (the originals can be found in the National Gallery)

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My favorite room though is the Reading Room, a stunning 832-square foot room with hundreds of carefully curated books, organized by genre. The space fits about 48 people perfectly for an elegant sit down dinner or 100 people for a reception.  I am just going to have to find a reason to do a private event here.

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