Inviato Travel Your Luxury Travel Insider Sat, 14 Apr 2018 14:39:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Inside Look: Seven Pines Resort, Ibiza Tue, 13 Mar 2018 13:36:57 +0000 Continued]]> Ask most people what comes to mind when they think about the island of Ibiza and you will typically get the same vision:  lively nightlife, big party scene, and a hippy-chic beach-loving crowd. And, yes, for the most part, Ibiza lives up to all the hype.  Top DJs from around the world descend upon the island every summer to play in its legendary megaclubs and bar-packed squares in the villages fill up with boho-trendy jet-setters just looking to have a good time. This may, in fact, draw you to the island or have kept you far away. If the latter, it’s a shame as there are so many other under-rated aspects of this beautiful island to boast about such as its quaint cobblestone villages, sandy secluded coves, World Heritage reserves and towns, cliffs and pine forests, and beaches. And, it goes without saying, some pretty killer sunsets.

Just one year after the opening of Nobu Ibiza made headlines on the island last summer (read our review here), a fresh face is on the island that will be changing the way people consider Ibiza.  One that is offering a luxurious alternative that wasn’t previously available for those looking for more privacy and understated luxury while still being able to partake in all there is to offer on the island if they want to. And while many other hotels shut down the end of the season, this one will be open year-round for those that prefer to come in quieter months or just can’t bear to leave.

Opening this May, Seven Pines Resort, Ibiza is a completely new ‘holistic’ village-style resort that has quietly been built from the ground up over the past two years, which is surprising because I only heard about the resort a few months ago. How did I not hear about it this place?  But I must admit, I do prefer places that fly a little a little below the radar rather than others that create way too much fanfare before they even open. It makes sharing an ‘inside sneak peek’ of a place with readers all the more exciting for me. Something else that impressed me?  Seven Pines is already a member of Leading Hotels of the World before it even opens (no small feat, mind you, for a new brand, as I know the stringent standards one must pass to become an LHW property). So you just know this place has something special going on.

One of the particular attributes that attracts me to the Seven Pines Ibiza property begins with its incredible setting on the island. Located on the west coast of the island, above what I am told was an ancient smugglers cove, Seven Pines is spread out on 13 previously uninhabited acres both on top of a cliff and the edge of a lush pine forest (hence the name Seven Pines).  Overlooking the sea, the property has direct views of the small rocky island Es Vedra that juts out of the sea. Many claim the rock has magical mystical powers and there are quite a few interesting stories about it, I hear.  The resort is well enough removed from the fray but close enough that it is easy to leave the resort to hit the clubs when you have the urge to dance (although you will have ample opportunity to do it at the resort) or do some sightseeing.

All 186 accommodations at the Seven Pines are suites in varying sizes but are spacious by any means. Spread out throughout 13 acres throughout the resort, each of the newly built white-washed suites will have open room concepts in serene tones and contemporary furnishings to blend with the natural surroundings of the outdoors and respect the island’s Ibizan flair.  Each suite comes with an expansive living room, its own House Bar (I mean, after all, this is Ibiza!) with a selection of wines, alcohol and mixers and Illy coffee machines. 1-3 bedroom villas but can be configured for larger groups or families to a villa style accommodation. The largest suites, the Cliff Suites (prime for sunset viewing) will have their own private pools and gardens. Reserve one of those for me, please!

While Ibiza has so much to offer in nightlife and food, and the town is not far away, guests will be hard-pressed to leave with all the offerings inside the resort. There will be two restaurants and four bars on property for guests to choose from with a focus on healthy, Mediterranean cuisine.  The View, located clifftop overlooking the sea, will have its own bread oven and, at night, a Korean cooking Robata grill. Chef’s Table will feature an interactive open kitchen. Cone Club will focus on a Mediterranean tapas style menu with Arabic and Asian influences featuring community tables in a relaxed and fun atmosphere.  Pershing Yacht Terrace will be the go-to spot for cocktails with an outdoor firepit and amazing views.

The resort will not fall short on amenities. Two outdoor pools (infinity and lagoon style – pick your style) will be on the property. If you tire of gazing at the sea or having a dip in the pool, the beaches of Cala Codolar and Cala Conta are both just a few minutes walk away. For the pièce de résistance, guests can charter the resort’s own Pershing yacht for transfers or charter trips – perhaps even to Es Vedra island which they have been gazing at every day.

With the focus on well being,  it is only natural to expect that a spa will be a big focus of the resort.  Pure Seven, The Spa will offer medical and wellness spa treatments in six treatment rooms as well as a yoga studio for classes, an indoor and outdoor gym, outdoor jacuzzi, saunas and steam room, and a salon for mani/pedis and blowouts if your beach hair is just not working for you.

All this will be overseen expertly by General Manager, Markus Lueck, formerly the GM of Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna, who has an impressive roster of 5-star properties under his belt.

Who will Seven Pines appeal to demographically, you ask? I would easily respond back with a question: Who wouldn’t it appeal to? 

Seven Pines is now open for bookings for May and beyond. As a Classic Travel Luxury Collection property, your rate at Seven Pines includes the amenities below. Ask us about special opening offers!

Photo renderings courtesy of 12.18 Hotel Management. All rights reserved. 

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Postcard From: The Loren at Pink Beach, Bermuda Mon, 12 Mar 2018 12:11:53 +0000 Continued]]> Being a former fashion editor for many years, when I think of fashion shows I generally think of cities like Milan, Paris or New York. I was both surprised and delighted when I got an invitation to Bermuda to stay at the sleek new hotel, The Loren, that was hosting a masquerade party to officially kick off Bermuda’s fashion festival in their stunning new spot. Of course, I accepted, what better way to celebrate Halloween? I was not disappointed, to say the least.

I was hosted by Steven King, an English financier who purchased the property of the former home to the Pink Beach Club on an eight-acre stretch of cliffside beach on the southern coast of the island called Pink Beach. In fact, you can find the former hotel’s signage hanging in the hotel’s namesake outdoor restaurant. Three years later, the new hotel opened in Spring 2017 but this fashion festival kick-off masquerade party also served as a fun excuse to celebrate the opening of The Loren.

King originally enlisted the help of his young daughter in naming the hotel after thinking of naming it after a large rock that sits in the water directly in front of the hotel. But when he was informed that the rock’s name was ‘Halfway’ (an old military bearing mark on the water route between The Castle fort on Castle Island and the fort at Devonshire Bay), he understandably decided against naming the hotel similarly. We agree, The Loren rolls off the tongue much better! 

What makes this hotel so noteworthy? A few things. First of all, this is the first new hotel to be constructed on the island in several years. It’s modern, sexy and sophisticated with an impressive decor and an equally impressive art collection which includes a group of black and white photos depicting some of the well-known guests who have visited the island over the years. The design and attention to detail from the bed linens, the luxurious bathrobes and room amenities to the carefully selected books, private art collection displayed throughout the hotel and even the custom-designed carpets (a map of Bermuda) would challenge any other luxury hotel in a cosmopolitan city.

King, who spent many years traveling for work, was ‘hotel obsessed’ and spent years noticing design details in every room he stayed in, even counting the steps between different objects in his various rooms. This is certainly not the old pink and green, overstuffed sofa and shell patterned Bermuda of our parent’s day.

There seems to be a wave of new hotels coming to the island. At the masquerade party, I met the couple opening a Ritz Reserve which is scheduled to open this summer and there were whisperings of the St. Regis opening a new hotel as well. All of this seems like a bittersweet stroke of luck given the horrible news of massive hurricane destruction in much of the Caribbean lately.

The Loren feels intimate as if you were at someone’s posh modern hideaway. It was refreshing to not have to feel stressed out about scheduling anything during my stay. It was very easy getting tables at the two on-site restaurants, the gym had only a few people at a time and the hotel was even able to score me a last-minute hair appointment right before the masquerade party.

All 45 ocean-view suites at the hotel are very spacious at over 600 square feet, with floor-to-ceiling windows and large comfortably furnished terraces. The light, airy and modern decor feels very relaxing and I inevitably spent most of my time out on the terrace looking at the turquoise waters and enjoying the breeze. This extra outdoor area is such a bonus and truly makes the room feel super deluxe.  There are spacious marble bathrooms with free-standing tubs, Malin & Goetz products, rain showers and the most comfortable and luxurious bathrobes I’ve worn in a long time.

King Suite

Outside on the grounds, you will find two large heated infinity pools cliffside, stylish cabanas and of course the spectacular stretch of private pink-sand beach. Yes, the sand truly is pink (proof, below)! Within the hotel, there is also a small gym, a spa with four treatment rooms, a hair and nail salon, and a kids club.

The lobby itself is quite impressive with glass walls showcasing the views and a floating spiral staircase that leads down to the bar and the hotel’s two restaurants below: Marée, an elegant dining room and outside, the Pink Beach Club (PBC) which is more casual for all-day dining. The latter also has an incredible view out over the Atlantic Ocean – perfect for the requisite Instagram shot to make your friends at home jealous. Whatever you do, do not leave without sampling the dry-aged Pink Burger – it is crazy good.

The Pink burger

The Loren is open year round and it’s important to note that Bermuda is a surprisingly fast and easy destination considering it is less than a 2-hour direct flight from most East coast airports. I should also mention that my stay on the very last weekend in October was warm and sunny with 80-degree daytime temperatures and easy warm swimming in the ocean. For a quick getaway, this makes The Loren an ideal spot to head any time of year.

Review by Karen Larrain

Photo credits: The Loren and Karen Larrain

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Our Favorite New Hotel Openings For 2018 (All 70 Of Them!) Tue, 13 Feb 2018 14:30:37 +0000 Continued]]> Towards the end of each year, one of my favorite things to do is research and assemble a list of hotel openings I am most excited about in the year ahead. Since 2010, I have been publishing an Annual List (visit our archived ‘Annual Top List’ here), narrowing down my favorite openings to a typical 10, 15 or 20 hotels.  This year, things went a bit differently which is why my list debuts a month later than usual.

To be frank, the sheer number of anticipated luxury hotel openings in 2018 is just mind-boggling. Big brands the likes of Montage, Starwood, Ritz, Four Seasons, and Rosewood are opening at a rapid pace while niche brands Nobu, Aman, Six Senses, Capella and Edition (a lifestyle brand between Ian Schrager and Marriott) have their own ambitious plans. Then there are flourishing ‘brands within brands’ to keep up with such as Montage’s Pendry, Ritz’ Reserve, Starwood’s Tribute Portfolio, Hyatt’s Unbound Collection, and Marriott’s Autograph Collection while retail companies like West Elm (6 hotels are planned for 2018) and Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy are getting in the luxury hotel game in a big way. One more thing: certain destinations are just having a crazy, mad hotel explosion.  Cabo San Lucas, Nashville, and Shanghai, for example. Even Tel Aviv is having its own boutique hotel boom in one ancient corner of town.  It’s enough to make a girl go mad.

This is just the Marriott portfolio of brands under its umbrella

So, as you can see, putting together my list this year took a bit of extra time. And the list just kept getting bigger and bigger. At the end of the day, I ended up with 70 hotels I really loved from a list of God knows how many. It was fruitless to attempt to cut it down to 20, so I didn’t.

Aside from my list getting a tad longer, a few other things are different this year. I can guarantee you, among the most press-worthy openings, you will find some pretty unique and cool hotels sprinkled on my list, not on any other of the top 2018 lists (such as Travel & Leisure, AFAR, or Conde Nast Traveler) out there.

Also new this year are links directly below some featured hotels, enabling you to access special preview opening offers, check rates, and Virtuoso benefits and book the hotel directly online. And for those that don’t have links, well we can help you with that! As an affiliate travel partner of Virtuoso member luxury agency Classic Travel for over the past two years, Inviato and the team of Classic Travel advisors here in New York have been assisting travelers with their travel plans – from simple hotel bookings to complex itineraries. I am grateful and proud to be working with such a fantastic, experienced team.

If you are not following Inviato on Facebook and Instagram, please do so as you will find almost daily updates on new hotels, special updates, and places I or my contributors are scouting out. Or just visit for some travel inspiration. You can also subscribe to our newsletter to get our latest hotel reviews, sneak peeks at the latest hotel openings and special hotel offers to your e-mail box every quarter.

On to our most exhaustive and comprehensive list yet. I hope a hotel or two on the list inspires you to create some new exciting travel plans. Maybe to go somewhere even you never expected like Bhutan, Bolivia or Montclair N.J.!  Great hotels often do.

List updated as of 4/4/18


New Jersey

The George Inn. 20 minutes from Manhattan in Montclair, New Jersey (yes, you read correctly, New Jersey), a new luxury boutique hotel is arriving. A 1902 private Georgian home with landmark status which was later for many years a residential hotel is being transformed into a 32-room luxury boutique hotel by husband and wife team Steven Plofker and Bobbi Brown (yup, that Bobbi Brown of cosmetics fame). A little old meets new with antiques found during personal travels and from personal collections and Brown’s love of all things English will be present throughout the hotel including afternoon tea and scones in the cellar and a library sitting room with fireplace. But expect some fun and luxurious touches such as fire engine red mini-fridges from Smeg and Hudson Bay blankets. Opened April 1, 2018.

The George Inn (photo credit: The George Inn)


Several new luxury hotels have cropped up on the scene already this year in Nashville, America’s ‘music city’. Named a top destination in 2018 by several travel publications, new direct flights will be offered from London starting this May making the city increasingly popular worldwide. In addition to an insane music scene, a growing foodie scene and a revitalized downtown district has brought in a flurry of new hotels.

Noelle, Nashville.  Just opened, the 224 room/80 suite boutique hotel, located in the heart of downtown Nashville, sees itself as more as an experience than a hotel, immersing guests in the local culture. Formerly the city’s first luxury property when it was built in 1929, the building has been restored and the hotel is now part of Starwood’s independent Tribute Hotel’s portfolio. All original details (such as brass hardware, terrazzo floors, art deco patterns in the ceilings, and granite walls) have been restored. There is an onsite boutique selling new and vintage clothing and goods, a rooftop bar Rare Bird opening later this year and one Makeready Libations and Liberation already open. Opened January 2018.

Holston House Hotel. Also recently opened is this 191-room hotel in an iconic 88-year old Art Deco building, one block from Lower Broadway (aptly named Honky Tonk Highway).  The Holston House Hotel is part of Hyatt Hotel’s new Unbound Collection. The design maintains the historic craftsmanship of hotel and the building’s original art deco details. There is a rooftop pool with a bar Tenn on Top with live music and onsite restaurant TENN. Opened January 2018.

Holston House, Nashville

Fairlane Hotel. This 81-room boutique hotel downtown off of Union Street will be opening this Spring in a midcentury building with interior design harkening a 60s & 70s modernist sensibility. On-site will be an all-American grill Ellingtons Bar & Grill and Mile End Deli – the famous Montreal-Jewish deli (Romi, are you reading this?) for hand-rolled bagels, biscuits and mile-high sandwiches. Opened March 1, 2018.

Fairlane Hotel, Nashville

A 169-room Dream Hotels will be opening a hotel in the former Utopia Hotel in the Printers Alley District.  Housed in four buildings, the massive hotel will have six dining and nightlife venues. Opening  December 2018. 

The Bobby Hotel. Lastly, a 144-room lifestyle boutique hotel is slated to open in the Spring. I am not sure what it is about but it will feature ‘a 1967 Greyhound bus on the roof terrace for late-night parties’. So, there’s that. Opening Spring 2018.

Blackberry Mountain, Smoky Mountains. One of my favorite places on the planet is Blackberry Farm in the Smoky Mountains where I spent a blissful family Thanksgiving holiday several years ago.  Well, more excitement is brewing as less than seven miles away, the Blackberry Mountain folks are building a sibling 5200-acre estate. Accommodations will consist of six cabins, 13 cottages, and multi-bedroom homes. While the 4,200-acre Blackberry Farm focuses on farm tradition, wine & food, Blackberry Mountain will concentrate on a more ‘active and wellness experience’ with multi-outdoor sports, yoga, spinning and pool. Thankfully, guests will be able to dine and do activities at any of the properties. The opening just moved from Late 2018 to February 2019 (contact us for more information and reservations).

Photo taken during our time at Blackberry Farm


Perry Lane Hotel, Savannah. The 167-room boutique hotel housed in two buildings opening in the landmark historic district of Savannah will have a pool and bar on both rooftops, a restaurant and wine market. Part of the Marriott/Starwood Luxury Collection. Opening May 17, 2018.

Perry Lane Hotel (photo credit: Perry Lane Hotel)


Edition West Hollywood, Los Angeles.  Edition Hotels is helping complete the transformation of Los Angeles’ hip and young West Hollywood from gritty to sleek with the addition of a 190-room/20-residence hotel on West Sunset Boulevard. A requisite rooftop pool and dining venue are confirmed. Opening End of 2018.

Edition West Hollywood (photo credit: Edition Hotels)

Nomad Hotel, Los Angeles.  Sister hotel to the Nomad in New York City, the newest Nomad hotel opened on the West Coast only a few weeks ago. Housed in the historic 1923 Giannini Building that used to serve as the Bank of Italy’s headquarters, everything about this 241-room hotel designed by French interior designer Jacques Garcia is spectacular. Chefs Humm and Guidar (the team behind Eleven Madison Park) are managing the cafes, bars, and restaurant. The 5,000-square foot rooftop indoor/outdoor space with pool, alfresco café, and cocktail bar are already promising to be the new hotspot this year! We will be stopping by for a look/see when we are in L.A. in March. Opened January 2018.

The Hoxton, Los Angeles. A super hip and hot brand in Europe, Hoxton Hotels is targeting Los Angeles as the brand’s 2nd property opening in the U.S. after its opening in Portland this Summer. Set in the former headquarters of the Los Angeles Railway Authority dating back to the 1920s, this 174-bedroom hotel will feature the brand’s first rooftop pool. Opening Late 2018.

Lido House, Newport Beach. In addition to a new property called the Westdrift in Manhattan Beach, Marriott’s hip Autograph Collection is building another new hotel in Newport Beach, located in the Lido area of the former City Hall. Designed as a Cape Cod style authentic beach house retreat, the hotel will consist of 130 rooms and five tri-level private cottages with an on-site restaurant, The Mayor’s Table and Topside, a rooftop bar and lounge, pool, and spa. Opening April 2018.

Rosewood Miramar Beach, Montecito. Following the opening of Hotel Californian and Ritz Carlton’s takeover of Bacara Resort last year in Santa Barbara, comes Rosewood’s 124-room/37 suite and multi-family bungalow property, the sole resort in the area with a private beach. Sixteen miles of prime beach real estate to be exact. Formerly on the site of Miramar by the Sea, the new Miramar Beach Resort will include two pools, a spa, beach club, several restaurants and a bar. After a brutal Fall and Winter of wildfires and mudslides, this will be a welcome addition to the Montecito/Santa Barbara area to bring back tourists and I plan to definitely visit soon.  Opening delayed from Summer 2018 to January 2019.

Rendering of Rosewood Miramar Resort

Virgin Hotel, San Francisco.  In contrast to Los Angeles, very little is going on in the luxury hotel landscape in San Francisco. Except for the addition of the new The Proper Hotel last year, the city could use some spicing. We are happy to report this new welcome addition this year. Following its first hotel in Chicago in 2015, Virgin Hotels will open a 192-room hotel in San Francisco hotel (followed by 6 more hotels planned in 2019 and 2020 in the U.S.) in the SOMA neighborhood on Fourth & Folsom Streets, The Kelly Wearstler-designed property is expected to have multiple restaurants and bars along with a rooftop bar (visualized below).  Opening Spring/Summer 2018.

New Mexico

Bishop Lodge Santa Fe. One family-friendly property opening I am particularly excited about this year is the reopening of the Bishop Lodge under the Auberge Resorts brand.  Auberge has taken over the former 1920s ranch and is completing the $75MM renovation and development of a 120-room/suite luxury ranch resort in time for the ranch’s 100th birthday this Summer. Situated on over 300 acres in the Sangre de Cristo foothills of the Rocky Mountains, this property will likely be an instant favorite for families with activities galore for everyone: horseback riding and stables, two pools, glamping tents, fly fishing, and much more. Opening Summer 2018.

Bishop Lodge Santa Fe


Miraval Austin. The wellness retreat Miraval will make its first foray outside of Arizona with the debut of Miraval in Texas Hill Country this Fall. Set on 220 acres and featuring 170 rooms designed by interior designer, Clodagh, the spa resort will feature its signature fitness, spa, and wellness programs with state-of-the-art facilities, including an equestrian center. Opening November 2018.

Miraval, Tuscon


Four Seasons, Montreal.  Marking its return to Montreal after two decades of absence is the debut of the Four Seasons Montreal which will be opening around the corner from the Ritz on de la Montagne street on the foot of Mont Royal park. In addition to a 163-room 18-floor hotel, there will be 18 new luxury condos and a direct walkway to the 250,000 square-foot luxury Ogilvy/Holt Renfrew department store. Opening Late 2018.



Wilderness Safaris Bisate Lodge (2017)

Volcanoes National Park: When I went to Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda in 2015, there were only two real viable lodge choices: Volcanoes Safaris’ Virunga Lodge and Sabinyo Silverback Lodge, where I stayed (which recently itself underwent a total refresh of its guest rooms and public rooms this January). The opening of Wilderness Safaris’ gorgeous 6-bedroom Bisate Lodge in 2017 dialed up the luxury quotient in this wilderness to a whole new level. Opening this year and 2019 will be two new luxury lodges (note there are only 80 permits a day to see the 8 families of gorillas in Virunga at a maximum 1-hour time limit so book far in advance and always check if permits are available first. Prices rose in 2017 to $1,500 pp for 1 hour). Details are scarce but we have high expectations for both properties given they are the excellent One & Only and Singita brands:

Photo Credit: One and Only Rwanda

One & Only Gorilla Nest. One and Only enters the party with its new Nature Resorts properties, beginning with the Gorilla Nest, right in the foothills of Virunga Mountains.  It’s other recently opened property in the new Nature Resorts collection, the all-inclusive 22-room resort One & Only Nyungwe House, is also in Rwanda.  Located on the working tea plantation of Gisakura bordering Nyungwe National Park, a haven for primates, Nyungwe House opened in late 2017.  Opening Late 2018.

Following behind One & Only but taking bookings already is the 8 suite/1 villa Singita Kwitonda Lodge on 178 acres ($1500-$1750 pp/per night).  Opening Late 2019.


Mombo and Little Mombo Camps, Okavango Delta. Both Wilderness Safaris camps, known for their amazing location and abundant wildlife viewing in the Okavango plains, have been newly rebuilt with 100% solar power and a light footprint. The nine-suite Mombo Camp, one of the first safari camps in the Delta when it opened 30 years ago and its three-suite sister camp Little Mombo, have both been updated with the same aesthetic – classic original safari details with luxurious touches such as free-standing copper baths. Tents in both camps have high ceilings, a larger layout, day beds and spacious outdoor decks with private plunge pools. Opened January 2018.

Little Mombo Camp. Photo Credit: Mombo Camp.

Belmond Savute Elephant Lodge, Chobe. Within Chobe National Park (known for its large concentration of elephants) and on the banks of the Savuti Channel, this luxurious lodge is undergoing a complete rebuild in time for a summer unveiling. The new lodge will be completely eco-friendly with 12 luxury tents on wooden platforms with private decks (to see the elephants come down to drink in the late afternoon), and a new elephant Hide to view elephants at eye level. Opening June 2018.

Belmond Savute Elephant Camp (Photo Credit: Belmond)


Forest Chem Chem Camp, Tarangire National Park. A new addition to the beloved and luxurious Chem Chem and Little Chem Chem Camps in Northern Tanzania was recently announced a few weeks ago. The new Forest Chem Chem Camp, only 15 minutes away from Little Chem Chem Camp and along the Tarangire River and Tarangire National Park, will be an exclusive ‘for hire’ tented camp, ideal for families who want privacy and a bonding experience. With two vintage tents and one family tent, it is ideal for 6 adults and 2 children. Opening June 2018.

Little Chem Chem (Photo Credit: Chem Chem)


andBeyond Bateleur Camp. One of Africa’s most iconic safari camps, located on the edge of the Masai Mara (where several Out of Africa scenes were filmed on the Great Rift), andBeyond’s intimate Bateleur Camp (next to larger andBeyond camp, Kichwa Tembo) is going through a complete refurbishment and reopening staggered over six months. When I was in Kenya this past October, I was fortunate to do a walk-through of the camp before it closed and see its new plans.  The new camp will be stunning – retaining the classic ‘20s romantic Hemingway aesthetic but with lighter colors, more spacious accommodations and many new amenities such as two swimming pools with an al fresco dining deck, a coffee bar that converts into a gin bar by night, a fitness center and massage sala. The 18 guest tents will be expanded to 1,044 square feet each with indoor and outdoor space and en-suite bathrooms (with indoor and outdoor showers) and a new 2-bedroom family unit for larger families.  Staggered reopening (North camp of nine tents opened March 2018 and the south camp of nine tents opening June 8).

andBeyond Bateleur rendering (Credit: andBeyond)

South Africa

andBeyond Tengile River Lodge. Located in the Sabi Sand reserve on the bend of the Sand River, this is the newest addition to the andBeyond safari camp portfolio. The new environmentally-friendly lodge will have nine ‘floating’ suites on the riverbank with sunken lounges, decks over the river and indoor/outdoor bathrooms opening out to the forest. spa unfenced borders Kruger Park.  Opening December 2018.

andBeyond Tengile Lodge (Photo credit: andBeyond)


Oberoi, Morocco. The brand’s first hotel in Morocco, due to open in 2017, is expected to open shortly, just 20 minutes south of Marrakech. Located on a 25-acre property of citrus and olive groves with views of the Atlas Mountains, the resort will have 84 villas and suites each with their own pool, a 21K square foot spa with Turkish hammam on a private island, and three restaurants.  Opening May 2018.


Four Seasons Resort Seychelles. Four Seasons is building their second resort in the Seychelles due to open in March, just in time for direct flights from London to the island on British Airways. The new resort will be situated on 933 exclusive acres in the private island of Desroches (a 35-minute flight from the mainland of Mahé) with 71 villas, suites, residences, and bungalows with their own swimming pools on a private 9-mile white sandy beach. Also included: an anti-gravity yoga pavilion, world-class fishing excursions, and an on-site Aldabra giant tortoise sanctuary.  Opened March 1, 2018.


Tel Aviv: I absolutely love the Norman Hotel, but it has no competition. Tel Aviv has been in dire need of some new luxury boutique hotels for some time (I mean, enough with the massive 400-room convention-style hotels). All that is thankfully changing with the opening of three new hotels – all in the ancient seaside port neighborhood of Old Jaffa – in the next few months.

Setai, Tel Aviv. Getting all the buzz right now with a soft opening in February, this is Setai’s second Israel property (the first hotel opened 8-months ago overlooking the Sea of Galilee). The 110-room luxury hotel, on the site of a former 13th center Ottoman prison near the Clock Tower in Old Jaffa, will feature a ‘modern meets old’ style with an outdoor infinity pool overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. We had clients who visited a few weeks after opening and sadly the hotel was not yet ready for prime time and felt understaffed. I was also disappointed that the ‘acting’ GM failed to respond to our email when our clients had issues upon arrival. Disappointing. Opened February 15, 2018.

W Hotel Jaffa, Tel Aviv.  Following the Setai’s opening, right around the corner in Old Jaffa, is the Spring opening of the 125-room/38-suite trendy W brand in a former 19th-century convent. The hotel was originally planned to open last Spring and has been delayed. The W will offer a signature restaurant, bar and W Living Room (W’s take on the hotel lobby) as well as a spa and fitness center and outdoor pool deck. There have not been any new details in the news or on the website of this $50MM project recently, so I am looking forward to its debut.  I passed by the property last March when I was in Tel Aviv and loved the location. Opening March 2018 (Latest update: As of 3/3, the website indicates the hotel is delaying the opening once again until June).

The Drisco Tel Aviv. Formerly this was the Jerusalem Hotel built in 1866 by two American colonists, the Drisco brothers in the American Colony of Tel Aviv right outside of Jaffa. When the hotel closed in 1940, it was used as a British military headquarters, and later housed Jewish refugees arriving in the newly formed country. After being abandoned and neglected for decades, a $35 million investment and 10-year restoration project has brought the hotel back to life as a 42-room luxury hotel named The Drisco (a member of LHW). Opening delayed from April to June 2018.

Six Senses Shaharut. More than an hour’s drive from Tel Aviv is the Negev Desert but if you wanted to stay overnight or more, there has only been one game in town: the Beresheet Hotel. We stayed there last March and the scenery is simply stunning. But I admit I am excited to hear Six Senses is opening a 58-villa (each with a personal pool) and suite luxury resort on 46 acres (one of seven new resorts worldwide Six Senses is opening through 2019) in the Negev Desert, taking luxury to the next level in this incredible desert setting.  You can expect a Six Senses spa, an indoor and outdoor pool, yoga studio, on-site attractions such as an Earth Lab, camel stables and an open-air amphitheater and a host of activities from overnight camel camping to extreme sports, hiking, jeep safaris and wine tours. I would absolutely go back just to experience this place and the scenery again. Opening November 2018.


Shanghai. Shanghai is hot, hot, hot with six luxury hotel openings this year alone: W, Amanyangyun, Middle House, Edition, Bulgari and Rocco Forte Shanghai. Deservedly, the city and its new hotel openings deserve a post of its own this year as does the booming destinations of Cabo San Lucas, Nashville, Tel Aviv and the Maldives.

Among this group, the 111-studio style room (102 residences as well) Middle House, whose interiors are by Milanese architect and designer Lissoni Piero is particularly exciting with its bold modernist design using local craftsmen, blending old and new. The hotel, the 6th hotel (including EAST Miami reviewed here) under the Swire Hotels luxury brand, will offer three restaurants onsite: a contemporary European café, an Italian eatery, and a Chinese restaurant. Opening April 2018.

Occupying the upper eight floors of a 48-story building, the Bulgari Shanghai will offer panoramic views of Shanghai’s dramatic skyline from each of its 82 rooms and suites. The hotel will include a whopping eight restaurants and bars including a three Michelin-starred chef Justin Tan running a Chinese fine dining restaurant, a Bulgari Spa, and a fitness center. Opening March 2018.

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Amanyangyun. The most exciting, unique and historic of these Shanghai openings is undoubtedly the new Aman property located just 17 miles outside of Shanghai. Amanyangyun, Aman’s 4th destination in China, has been receiving incredible reviews, in the month since its opening on January 15. Painstakingly developed over a fifteen-year period, an endangered village of 50 400-year old Ming and Qing dynasty houses and 1,000-year-old camphor trees were preserved and transported more than 400 miles to Shanghai’s Minhang District, then painstakingly dismantled and restored on the new site to create what the Aman is today: 13 Antique Villas along with 24 newly constructed Ming Courtyard Suites transported. Opened January 2018.

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The Murray, Hong Kong. Opening this month, the Murray is one of the most anticipated openings in Asia this year. The 25-floor hotel is housed in a colonial-era heritage building in the heart of Hong Kong’s central business district of Hong Kong. Each of the 336 rooms features all-marble baths and harbor views and herringbone wood floors.  The hotel will have a rooftop with panoramic views of Hong Kong and several restaurants and bars. Opened February 2018.

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Anantara Quy Nhon Villas, Vietnam. Created as both a luxurious beach and mountain hideaway in Southern Vietnam outside the historic city of Quy Nhon (between Ho Chi Minh City and Hoi An), this new Anantara property will consist of 25 private pool villas for guests to relax in between local excursions and activities. Opening Mid-2018.


Capella Ubud.  I am downright in love with Capella’s first branded Bali property, a small luxury camp of 22 tents in a lush rainforest. Each of the extravagant tents has private plunge pools and decks near the Wos River with en-suite, open-air bathrooms. The camp also includes a spa with 3 tented treatment rooms, 2 restaurants (plus private dining on a rice paddy – that’s interesting!), an Officers Tent for afternoon tea and evening cocktails and an Armory. Capella Personal Assistants for guests will arrange visits to the nearby Monkey Forest Sanctuary and other local excursions. Designed by the same architect, Bill Bensley, who designed the Four Seasons Chiang Mai and Golden Triangle Tented Camp among others. An instant addition to my growing bucket list. Opening May 2018.


Six Senses, Bhutan. With 82 rooms in total, guests are encouraged to stay a few nights in each of the five individual satellite lodges within this upcoming unique Six Senses Resort across Bhutan rather than settle in just one place. Designed with a sensitivity to the Buddhist culture and remote surroundings, each of the lodges is located within remote, diverse landscapes. Guests can observe traditional farm life, wander through rice fields, and explore ancient ruins. Opening August 2018.

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Six Senses Fiji. The new Six Senses Fiji will be one of nine Six Senses properties opening this year, this one with its own private beach on Malolo Island. The resort, with 26 villas, each with own plunge pool, and 60 residential villas, will be 100 percent solar-powered and the first micro-grid in the world to use Tesla batteries. Any wood used in the construction of the resort will be offset with a nearby reforestation project.  An integrated Wellness program will include yoga, meditation and spa treatments for guests. Opening April 2018.


Baglioni Maldives. Over 7 new resorts are opening up in the Maldives in 2018 but the Baglioni, their first property outside Europe, is my favorite.  Located on Maagu Island, a 40-minute seaplane ride away from the Maldives capital of Malé, the Baglioni will have a family-friendly (kids-club included) luxury island resort with 96 garden, beach and over-water villas. In addition to sunset fishing expeditions on traditional wooden “Dhoni” boats and a yoga pavilion, guests can expect world class diving at the resort with its own PADI five-star dive center. The resort will also have four restaurants (of course one is Italian!). Opening Summer 2018.


Cabo San Lucas. Holy Moly, four big brands are opening properties in Cabo this year, not to mention a few others. There must be something in the water.  Luckily, the Los Cabos International Airport has been anticipating the hotel boom as it is already finishing a $48MM multi-year refurbishment and expansion. It will be adding five new gates and a VIP lounge by the end of the year.

Montage Los Cabos. Los Cabos has some of the most stunning luxury resorts anywhere (Las Ventanas, Esperanza, and Chileno Bay for example) but it will be hard to compete with the location of the new Montage Los Cabos when it opens this May. This is Montage Resorts’ first hotel outside the U.S.  Perched on 39 acres of white-sand beach (and one of the few swimmable beaches in the area!) overlooking Santa Maria Bay, I stayed at this site when it was the Twin Dolphin Hotel 18 years ago and it was beyond stunning. The Montage will have three swimming pools, a 12,000-square-foot spa, 18-hole golf course, tennis courts (not easy to find in Los Cabos), and a children’s program. Opening May 2018.

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Nobu Los Cabos. The young Nobu Hotel brand has nine hotels in its portfolio already and will be almost doubling its portfolio in 2018 with five more properties in Marbella, Los Cabos, Barcelona, Chicago, and Riyadh. In Cabo, Nobu is opening a 200-room property. Similar to their other properties, Nobu Los Cabos will have a Japanese-inspired design with a focus on its Nobu restaurant. Opening Sometime 2018.

Zadún, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Los Cabos. The fourth addition to the high-end Reserve portfolio (and the 2nd one in North America) of the Ritz-Carlton will come to Los Cabos, Mexico with the introduction of Zadun. Located in the Puerto Los Cabos development, the resort will feature 115 suites and villas with private butlers (many with their own private plunge pools), one of the largest spas in Cabo, two golf courses and a desert botanical park.  Opening Summer 2018.

Four Seasons Los Cabos at Costa Palmas. The Four Seasons Resorts will open its 3rd Mexico property in Costa Palmas with a 145-room resort with multiple pools, five restaurants, spa, a private marina, a two-mile beach, and Robert Trent Jones II golf course. Opening Late 2018.

In addition to these hotels, the Hard Rock, Le Blanc and Garza Blanca Resort (a Preferred Hotel) are also expected to open in 2018.


Blackadore Caye, Belize. Scheduled to open sometime later this year is eco-hideaway Blackadore Caye, an unpopulated 104-acre island, behind the world’s second-largest barrier reef, West of Ambergris Caye. Two things that are exciting about this ambitious eco-resort: 1) it is owned by none other than actor and environmentalist, Leonardo DiCaprio (who bought the island for $1.75 million 10 years ago) and 2) it is designed to be completely transformative in terms of ‘green hospitality’. Think solar-powered, plastic-and-pesticide-free and net-zero-water. Information on the exclusive 36-bungalow/36 residence resort is still very hazy and there are no new images in the last year but we do know it is being designed by Jean-Michel Gathy (of Aman Venice, Amanyara, Nizuc, and the Setai), that there will also be an ecological research station and observatory, and that half the island will be a protected wildlife reserve. Sometime end of 2018. Maybe.

Serafina Beach Hotel, Puerto Rico. Delayed due to the devastation by Hurricane Maria, the 96-room ocean-front Serafina Beach Hotel is set to make its debut this Spring in the trendy Condado district, just five minutes from Old San Juan. This is the first hotel from the from the creators of the New York-based restaurant group Serafina (anyone in NYC who loves pasta knows them!) so we expect this hotel to attract a lot of buzz and a hip scene. Which is much needed for Puerto Rico. Please go and visit! Digging the beachy/contemporary décor of this hotel!  Opened March 2018.

Silversands Grenada.  The first five-star resort in Grenada, the Silversands will be a modern resort located on the southwestern coast’s Grand Anse Beach. With 44 suites and nine residential villas, 3 restaurants (including a rum and cigar lounge) and the longest infinity pool in the Caribbean, it will be the first major luxury hotel to open along the Grand Anse Beach in more than twenty years, so it’s a big deal. Opening July 2018.



Hôtel Lutetia, Paris.  Originally built as a luxury sister property to Paris’s oldest department store, Le Bon Marché in 1910, the legendary Hôtel Lutetia has been shuttered since 2014, and has been undergoing a massive 4-year renovation ever since. This opening is on pretty much everyone’s 2018 list as this is the latest Grand Dame in Paris to get a major makeover since the Hôtel de Crillon and Ritz Paris. Now part of The Set group, the 184-room/47 suite hotel will have a new contemporary design.  The on-site restaurant, Lutetia Brasserie, will open under 3-Michelin star chef Gerald Passedat. Opening May 15, 2018.

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Cheval Blanc, Samaritaine Paris. While everyone is anxiously awaiting the opening of the Lutetia, it is the Cheval Blanc opening that I am most excited about in Paris.  Located in the old La Samaritaine on the banks of the Seine (one of Paris’ first department stores), the new luxury hotel arm of Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy will open the boutique hotel by the end of the year. The 72 room/suite Cheval Blanc will have a distinct Art Deco design by Peter Marino, the designer of many of the Louis Vuitton stores. There will be a Givenchy Spa, restaurant, and brasserie. Following the footsteps of the Cheval Blanc hotels in Maldives and Chamonix, this flagship property should be a guaranteed hit, especially with the fashion set. Opening Late 2018.


The Fife Arms, Braemar. A Swiss couple with an art empire has invested millions of dollars to restore a historic landmark hotel in the scenic town of Braemar in the Highlands and make it something special.  The Fife Arms, once a 19th-century hunting lodge of the Duke of Fife, is being brought back to life as a 46-room luxury hotel this Summer with a spa, traditional pub, 40-seat cinema and the couple’s contemporary art collection adorning many of its walls. Designed by Russell Sage (The Zetter Townhouse, The Goring and Savoy Grill), it should be a beautiful restoration. Opening Summer 2018.


Kettner’s Townhouse, London. The newest venture from the Soho House Team and the 2nd stand-alone property in London after Dean Street Townhouse in 2009, Kettner’s Townhouse is a 33-bedroom Georgian townhouse, champagne bar and French restaurant (one of the oldest in Soho, established in 1867 and operating for 151 years!). The restaurant has a new makeover and the 20’s boudoir-style rooms have the right combination of style, comfort, and space. Our favorite: the ‘Big’ rooms featuring super King-sized beds overlooking Greek and Romilly Street with antique bathtubs and walk-in rainforest showers. Opened January 2018.

Also coming out of the Soho House team in London, look out for the opening of the White City House Members Club and Hotel in the old BBC Headquarters in West London – a city within a city already called the ‘new Shoreditch’.  Opening April 2018.

Belmond Cadogan, London. The historic hotel, operating since 1887 on Sloane Street in Knightsbridge, the Cadogan Hotel has been undergoing a major renovation since 2014 under the Belmond brand. All rooms and suites at this luxury boutique property as well as public spaces have been redone and reconceptualized (the number of rooms being reduced from 65 to 54) to bring back the hotel’s glamour with some new contemporary touches.  Reopening Sometime in 2018.

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Vintry and Mercer, London. The 92-room contemporary independent hotel (SLH) is in London’s ancient Vintry Ward (the hotel name is inspired by Vintry and Mercer Guilds – trading guilds in wine and fabrics) by the team behind The Ampersand Hotel.  Three onsite dining spots will include a speakeasy cocktail bar, a restaurant serving Mediterranean small plates and a rooftop terrace restaurant with charcoal oven and views of the city. Opening Spring 2018.

L’Oscar, London. Housed in a former Baptist Church in the Holborn section of London, L’Oscar is being touted as the sexiest new hotel in London before it even opens. Designer Jacques Garcia, who created the très sexy interiors of La Reserve and Hôtel Costes in Paris (as well as La Mamounia in Marrakech and New York’s Nomad Hotel) is doing his dramatic thing here: think 39 lavish guest rooms in deep purples, rich reds and golds in silks, velvets and damask fabrics, hallways embossed in purple leather, and custom perfumed lotions. The hotel’s restaurant, Baptist Grill, will be in an octagonal former chapel. The hotel’s preview website is like an Eyes Wide Shut advertisement. Opening Spring 2018.

The Langley, Buckinghamshire. I am a sucker for anything British so this goes on my list.  The former country estate and hunting lodge of the third Duke of Marlborough, The Langley will be transformed into a 41-room luxury hotel and 2,500 square foot wellness spa on 500 acres in the Buckinghamshire countryside – all just a 40-minute drive from London.  Guests can also partake in the cognac and cigar bar. Very proper, very lovely and part of Starwood’s Luxury Collection. Opens Summer 2018.


Katikies Mykonos. Following the success of hotel on Santorini, Katikies will be opening a second hotel on the island of Mykonos. On Agios Ioannis beach, the hotel is built on the side of a sloping hillside with open sea views. Whitewashed rooms with private verandas and hot tubs. Swimming pool, boutique, and spa. LHW status already. It is also the only hotel in Mykonos to offer 24/7 concierge service from anywhere on the island though hotel-provided mobile phones.  Opening June 1, 2018.

Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens. Four Seasons’ much-anticipated opening of its first hotel in Greece is expected for mid-summer. Taking over the famed Astir Palace located on a 75-acre peninsula, 16 miles south of Athens on the Riviera, Four Seasons has invested over $100MM in the renovation and restoration of the hotel. The new 303-room hotel will have a spa, three pools, eight restaurants, lounges and bars, a beachfront promenade with two beaches and an upgraded marina, sure to make this resort an instant hit for travelers looking to rest on the mainland before or after island hopping.  Opening June 2018.


Hotel Savoy, Florence. This amazing Rocco Forte property on Piazza Della Repubblica is closed for a 6-month renovation ending in April that will cover enhancements to the entrance and lobby, reduction of guestrooms from 102 to 80 to provide more spacious accommodations and a redesign of guest rooms using local craftsmen and artisans. Included in the redesign is a new Duomo Presidential Suite with its own wing and a 2-story suite on the 5th floor with panoramic views of Florence. I am a big fan of all the family-friendly luxury Rocco Forte properties – I stayed at this one three years ago with my daughters, enjoying a wonderful experience thanks to the warm, personal service from its staff, spacious and beautifully-designed rooms overlooking the piazza and central location. I would go back in a nano-second.  Reopening April 13, 2018.

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Hotel De La Ville, Rome.  Rocco Forte has announced its plans to double its portfolio of 10 over the next few years in the Middle East, Europe and Asia. Complementing its Hotel de Russie property in Rome will be Hotel de la Ville, an older hotel that is being completely renovated on top of the Spanish Steps. Opening End of 2018.

La Certosella, Capri.  Very hush hush! You won’t hear much about this opening probably until it actually opens.  The boutique property across from La Scalinatella near the center of town has been closed for renovations for some time and we heard it is expected to open sometime this summer. Sometime in 2018.

Hotel Vilòn, Rome. Located next to the J.K. Place Roma, overlooking Palazzo Borghese, this chic and elegant boutique 18-room/suite hotel housed in a former mansion literally just opened (it is an SLH property). Onsite is cozy but modern Italian bistro restaurant and alfresco courtyard for tea or cocktails.  Ask for a room with a view of the Borghese private gardens. Opened March 2018.


WarsawRaffles Europejski. One destination I’ve longed to visit is Warsaw Poland. Now I’m bumping it up on my list as the new Raffles Europjski unveils soon in a major landmark building right next to the Presidential Palace in the historic district of Warsaw. The Raffles Europejski Warsaw, originally opened in 1857 was one of the grand European hotels of its heydey until it was destroyed in WWII. Now, the Europejski has been completely restored. The 106-room hotel will be truly something special, showcasing its Polish heritage – from contemporary artists to the chefs in its restaurant and will even have a recreation of the famous Lourse Warszawa Patisserie. There will be a cigar lounge, spa and indoor pool among other features. Opening May 1, 2018.

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Nobu Hotel Marbella. The Nobu Marbella will be the first Nobu to open in Spain in 2018 followed by Nobu Barcelona (a 250-room refurbishment of the Gran Hotel Torre Catalunya, the Barcelona Nobu will be designed by architect David Rockwell). This adults-only hotel, located on the Golden Mile that links Marbella’s old town to Puerto Banus, will have an exclusive beach, Six Senses spa and 49 guest rooms and suites. Guests, of course, will have priority access to the main feature of every Nobu Hotel: the Nobu restaurant. There will be other unique restaurants on this property including an Italian trattoria, a contemporary tapas restaurant, classic Argentine asado and a chic rustic outpost of Ibiza’s famous Chiringuito. Come with an appetite. Opened March 2018.

Mama Palma Mallorca. Known for their stylish cafes and restaurants in Ibiza and Spain, the Cappuccino Group will be making its first step into the hotel business with the opening of the 36-room/28-suite boutique hotel Mama Palma. Housed in a 1930’s Art Deco building on Plaza Cort in front of Palmas Town Hall, the hotel will feature a small cinema, spa/wellness center, large terrace garden with wine bar and a Japanese restaurant.  But the key focus of the hotel will be the interiors by famed interior designer Jacques Grange, who will be retaining the sexy 1930’s era feel of the hotel’s architecture. Opened March 2018.


Edition Barcelona. With seven openings scheduled in 2018 in cities around the world like Bangkok and Abu Dhabi, Edition Hotel’s first Spanish opening is the one I am most eager to see, even if for the younger set. Located next to the Barcelona Cathedral and Santa Caterina Market yet just steps away from the beaches, the 100-room hotel will feature a bit of everything: a restaurant, lobby bar and sky bar, swimming pool, state-of-the-art fitness center, and nightclub.  Opening Summer 2018.

Seven Pines Resort, Ibiza. The newest buzz on Ibiza since the opening of Nobu in 2017, but appealing to a different clientele. A cliff-top resort on the West coast of Ibiza overlooking the sea, Seven Pines Resort offers guests privacy, luxury and beautiful surroundings with whitewashed Ibicenco-style accommodations. Opening May 2018.


The Retreat at Blue Lagoon, Iceland. I may be the only person who has not been to Iceland yet or who does not have Iceland on my short future itinerary.  Even for those like me who haven’t yet been enticed, that will all change with the upcoming opening of the first on-site luxury hotel on the Blue Lagoon, one of Iceland’s biggest tourist attractions. The Retreat will offer its guests an exclusive and private spa experience to the geothermally-heated, milky-blue mineral-rich waters. Built into an 800-year-old lava flow, all 62 rooms at The Retreat will feature floor-to-ceiling windows and offer sweeping views of the dramatic landscape. Opening April 2018.


Altu Qala.  People are just starting to talk about Bolivia, one of the least visited destinations in South America. Altu Quala is the first stylish hotel opening this year in the colonial city of La Paz, enticing more people to take notice. In a painstakingly restored 1930s mansion, the boutique property will have 10 rooms (half of which are suites),  a rooftop bar, and a café off the lobby for hotel guests all in a mid-century meets neoclassic style. Opening delayed from March to Summer 2018.

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Postcard From Amanera Mon, 29 Jan 2018 12:00:05 +0000 Continued]]> This month, we booked guests, self-proclaimed ‘aman-junkies’ at the Amanera in the Dominican Republican for a spur of the moment Winter Getaway weekend. Having been to five other Aman properties already over the past few years, they were chomping at the bit to check out this property a little bit closer to home.

Amanera, open only since 2015, is Aman’s second property in the Caribbean (Amanyara in the Turks & Caicos is the first). Perched on a dramatic clifftop overlooking a crescent-shaped Playa Grande beach, Amanera sits on 2,000 acres of virtually untouched land of jungle, mountains, and palm trees along seven miles of Atlantic coast on the northern shore of the island.

Here is their postcard of their recent stay:

Thanks to the winter blahs and a paid-off credit card, my husband and I took off and visited Amanera (‘meaning ‘peaceful water’) in the Dominican Republic. Being quite familiar with the Aman brand, we had very high expectations, and the contemporary resort, perched on a cliff overlooking the Playa Grande, didn’t disappoint. In fact, we did something we’ve never done before at a resort. We never left it.

Upon arrival at the airport in Puerto Plata, we were greeted by a fast-track agent (a service that is provided by the Aman) who whisked us through customs and hooked us up with our Aman driver. The ride to Aman is a little over an hour, so we nibbled on tasty tropical treats as we passed thru quaint fishing villages. We were humored by the frenzy of the locals racing around on motorbikes as there are no traffic lights to slow things down. Our driver handled the chaos like a pro and delivered us to Aman scratch-free.

There are no signs anywhere announcing Amanera. Exclusivity, privacy and VIP service is the overall intention of the Aman team. Our welcome was gracious, with an offering of refreshing hand towels and drinks. Then, a  ‘buggy’ awaited to deliver us to our Hilltop Casita, our home for the next few nights, and where we were checked-in.

Our immediate impression was “wow.” The casita interior/exterior could win a design award and probably has, in truth. Expansive sliding glass walls provided a seamless flow between indoors and out. Multi-level patio nooks with ocean views inspired reading and yoga practice. The sleek wood-paneled living room/ bedroom totally set the tone for relaxation. Natural stone, pastel tiles, and waterfall shower (along with a freestanding bathtub) framed by tropical gardens made the bathroom an oasis of calm.

The property consists of 24 casitas (12 with private pools), each with a unique view of the sea. The Casa Grande is the bi-level central hub of the resort where the cool infinity pool, main restaurant, library, open-air bar and lounge, cigar lounge, and fitness center are located.

Club de Playa, the beach club, also has a restaurant serving lunch/dinner on the beach. We liked mixing it up between the two restaurants – the beach club served more Mexican style fare compared to Casa Grande which served Italian-fusion and local dishes.

There’s also a kids’ pool for those with families. Surfboards, kayaks and kiteboards are lined up if you’re so inclined to get up from your lounge chair.

I would recommend you not to miss out on the Wellness Casa which offers holistic spa treatments. Even my husband, who’s not a massage fan, raved about his two-hour Moon-Waning purification treatment. I opted for the marine algae scrub, organic coconut oil massage and facial to perk up my winter-weathered skin. The therapists were wonderful, the treatment rooms beautiful. A divine state of bliss accompanied us to dinner each night.

There are two clay tennis courts and a spectacular golf course (under repair from Hurricane Irma, the 72-par Playa Grande Golf Course boasts the highest number of ocean-side holes in the Western Hemisphere) which is scheduled to reopen in June.

There are off-site excursions, but once we fell under Aman’s spell, we didn’t want to leave the property. The classes sounded like fun, but we preferred to putter around instead, lounge by the beach to read and watch for whales. We did hire Jess, a delightful yoga instructor from Manhattan for some yoga. We enjoyed practicing with her on our casita patio, talking about meditation and her singing career.

Overall, Amanera is an unparalleled experience. Tranquility, adventure, romance, sports, cultural excursions and culinary experimentation…. this getaway it has it all!

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Ten (and a half) Reasons Why I Love The Four Seasons Hualalai Tue, 23 Jan 2018 12:00:31 +0000 Continued]]> This December was our 2nd time back to the Four Seasons Hualalai on the Big Island of Hawaii for our family’s Winter holiday vacation. Our first time at the resort was also the first time for any of us in the Hawaiian Islands. We experienced the resort for only a few nights (we lost one night due to a blizzard in New York that delayed our flight) before spending the rest of our vacation in Oahu but had a good enough taste of Hualalai (you can read that review here) to know that we absolutely wanted to come back. We just had to get off the waitlist. No easy task at this coveted resort for Festive Season. But with luck and patience, we found ourselves back in paradise again.

This time, our family spent 10 blissful days and nights at the Hualalai. For someone who gets restless in one place usually after five or six days, I found myself in a paradoxical state at the end of my stay. I was reluctant to leave. I wanted to stay longer*.

* It did not help matters when a friend who stayed behind at the resort texted photos of turtles, cocktails, and sunsets as I sat in our NY-bound plane in Honolulu four hours delayed on the tarmac. 

Here are simply 10 1/2 reasons (in no particular order) why I love the Four Seasons Hualalai:

  1. The Setting Is Just Insanely Gorgeous. The resort is expansive yet not overwhelming, stretched alongside the ocean with a dramatic contrast of lush fauna, palm trees, black lava rock and green lawns, all devotedly tended to by staff. Sitting on an ancient land division that was once a fishing village, Hualalai spans a whopping 865-acres with an ocean-paved walk spanning the main areas of the resort (the pools, restaurants, beach and guest suites). 243 rooms and 51 suites are housed in four, low two-story crescent-shaped clusters ALL facing the ocean that seamlessly blend in with the landscape so that you feel like you are in a tropical oasis and not at a hotel. Romantic, dramatic and lush are words that come to mind.  No wonder this place is such a beloved honeymoon destination. 


2. The Most Breathtaking Sunsets that I have ever seen, bar none, are here. Every day. Photos just don’t do it justice. 

3. Wildlife Is At Your Feet, Literally.  During my stay, I watched humpback whales breaching in the ocean from my lounge chair, passed sea turtles sunbathing on the sand and even spotted a rare Hawaiian monk seal (the official state mammal, only 1,200 Hawaiian monk seals exist in Hawaii today due to fishermen nets – they are now endangered) during a short beach walk. A unique feature of the Hualalai that both children and adults enjoy is Kings Pond, a 1.8MM gallon salt and freshwater aquarium enclosed in a natural lava rock stocked with 4,000 fish (98 species) and manta rays. Here, you can snuba or snorkel in the stocked pond and participate in educational sessions.

4. It Is A Fitness Haven. A hub in itself, the 8-court Tennis Center, 28,000 square foot spa, and fitness center is pretty much the happening scene at Hualalai in the morning and early evening. Any given day, there is a multitude of yoga, stretch, pilates or spin classes in session, private fitness and tennis instructors working one-on-one with guests, and tennis clinics.  Guests have both indoor and outdoor access to state of the art weight machines, treadmills, bikes (including two pelotons!), and a lap pool. And it’s packed!  My only suggestion would be for the hotel to add more Peloton bikes during the holidays as I was only able to snag one twice during my stay due to a long wait list (and someone made off with one of the clip-ons for one of the bikes). The pros here at the tennis center are excellent and one of us was always on the courts each day.

5. The Boutiques Are Really That Good.  Meticulously curated with the hottest designer beachwear, jewelry, and sandals, the two on-property clothing boutiques stock many of the hip brands you know and covet from Net A Porter and Everything But Water as well as specialty L.A. brands. There is also a James Perse mini-boutique with custom hooded Hualalai sweatshirts that sold out in a nanosecond (I snagged the last two). Almost daily during the holiday season, different designers such as Letarte and Alice and Olivia set up ‘pop up’ trunk shows at the boutiques.  You can easily drop a few $$$$ here.  You might think about leaving a little extra room in your bag to take some items on your way home. 

6.  The Food Is Both Yummy and Healthy. There are four restaurants at the Hualalai to choose from and they are all pretty wonderful. I love the health-conscious menus (gluten-free, almond, soy are offered at all the restaurants). I think the Hualalai might be the only resort where you can actually lose weight on vacation!  The breakfasts at Ulu Ocean Grill (included in your Virtuoso package!) which offered something for everyone (I loved the fresh fruit selection and the ‘make your own’ protein shakes) and lunch at the super casual beach-front Beach House for fish tacos were my favorites. The kids loved Surf Shack for Italian Ices and the Hualalai Trading Company where they got their late afternoon sugar fix of locally-made ice creams and shakes (and iced skim cappuccino for me).  I never ate so much tuna poke! 

7. The Service IStellar. From beginning to end, we found the staff to be attentive, eager to please and pretty happy to be at the Hualalai. Many at the hotel greeted us by our name from the very first day.  If there was an issue that needed to be addressed, it was done so immediately. During the day, whether we were at the pool or at the beach, someone would always be coming by with fresh ice water, mini-smoothies, fruit popsicles and the like. Very pleased, indeed.

8. Our Suite was Sweet. We couldn’t have been happier with our spacious 2-Bedroom, 3-bath Superior Ocean Front Suite in the Palm Grove section – so close to the ocean with perfect views of the sunset each and every night.  We loved the generous closet space, oversized terrace, and super-comfortable beds. And the girls loved the massive flat-screen TVs … all three of them.  I was sorely tempted to take home the Hawaiian kimono bathrobes provided in our bathrooms. 

Our view from our suite every morning

9. The Resort Is Super Family-Friendly. While all Four Seasons properties are family-oriented, most with Kids For All-Seasons programs, I found the layout of Hualalai particularly ideal for families, where my tween and teen girls could run free without worry. Three different family pools appeal to different age groups while two adult-only pools allow those adults without kids (and with, of course) to escape for some serenity. During the Festive season, there was an endless list of activities each day for both younger children through Kids For All-Seasons (under 12) and older kids. In the latter category, Peter Hansen from Maine’s Camp Manitou runs a program allowing kids to participate in unique activities offsite such as stargazing at Mauna Kea, night swimming with manta rays and trips to the volcano.  While my girls didn’t participate in that program this time, they enjoyed getting surfing lessons on a private beach, snorkeling in Kings Pond, participating in the Junior tennis clinics in addition to typical kids stuff. 

10. I Loved The Laid-Back Ambiance.  Leave your heels and fancy outfits at home. Cover-ups, bathing suits, sandals and wedges, no fuss dresses, and exercise wear are all you really need here (but in the latest designer styles, perhaps?).  Yes, you will definitely see a recognizable face or four from the TV or movie screen or news but no glitz/no fuss is the operative word here. ‘Laid back luxury’ is the best way to describe it – just the way I like it when I go on vacation, seeking to escape everyday life.

10 1/2  They know how to throw a kick-ass New Years Eve Party. Apparently every year, the resort has a different theme. This year it was Alice in Wonderland. I was impressed. And it is hard to impress me. The fireworks, after-party, and DJ were all top notch. And I have to admit it was pretty cool to be the last place in the United States to ring in the New Year. 

Did I mention the sunsets here were sick?

So, yes as you can see, we loved the Hualalai. The Hawaiian sunsets, perfect weather, ocean breezes along with morning Kona coffee must have had a lasting effect on us. When we got back to New York to pick up our new puppy just a few days later, we named him … Kona. It suits him, don’t you think?

Kona Magid, at 7 weeks old

See you next December, Hualalai.

Some Last Tips 

As hard as it is to leave this self-contained oasis called Hualalai, it would be a shame not to explore the beautiful Big Island during your stay. Our first time on the Big Island, we did a helicopter tour to see the dramatic scenery of the island and to see Kilauea Volcano (which is still very active). It is a must do (we used Paradise Helicopters).  This December, we left the resort twice, taking advantage of the Hualalai’s on-site Hertz car rental service which made touring the island so easy. Some of our favorite stops this time:

  • Hapuna Beach. A wide public white sandy beach, just 20 minutes north of resort where you can rent boogie boards or just body surf. $5 per car parking.  Pick up paninis, sandwiches or salads at Trading Post at Hualalai or go into Waikoloa Village about 10 minutes East to pick up picnic food.
  • Lava Lava Beach Resort. After the beach, head to Lava Lava Beach Resort, located between Hapuna Beach Resort and Hualalai at Aneho’omalu Bay in Waikoloa. This locally owned beach shack restaurant is right on the water, has live music, tiki lamps, and a terrific, fun atmosphere. The food is just ok but you are here for the ambiance (your kids will love it for Instagram posts). During the holiday season, I recommend you get here by 4:30 to snag a table as this place is extremely popular. Extremely casual.
  • Dolphin Journeys – I do not frequent or participate in any animal attractions that take animals from the wild – it is cruel, inhumane and the worst display of greed. But I was excited to hear about Dolphin Journeys from other friends at the hotel, which takes you to see wild dolphins, whales and manta rays in their natural habitats in the ocean. It is an intimate and educational experience where you keep respectful distance from wildlife while having an opportunity to see them up close in their habitat. We spent about 4 hours swimming near Manta Rays, near hundreds of dolphins and seeing humpback whales (and hearing them underwater).


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Just Checked Out: The Dewberry, Charleston Thu, 14 Dec 2017 13:45:00 +0000 Continued]]> Frequent Inviato contributor, Romi Howard (and Chef of Romi’s Table) was seeking a quick and easy weekend getaway to spend some quality time with her husband in November.  After coming off the completion of a 6-month gut renovation of their apartment, finishing the NYC marathon (her 3rd!) and harboring an Australian transfer student for six weeks in a tiny makeshift rental in the middle of it all, she needed to restore and indulge. What a better place to set sights on than Charleston South Carolina, ranked last year as the World’s Best City by Travel & Leisure. A city that is often defined by its Southern charm, cobblestone streets, and antebellum architecture, Charleston is now also a well-acclaimed foodie destination.


We had major time constraints this year so our usual far-flung destinations were all ruled out. A recent article on Charleston in Town and Country magazine left us intrigued. The 90-minute flight from JFK paired with a last-minute decision of our friends to join in on the fun sealed the deal. After all, Charleston’s reputation is predicated on its myriad food selection, and its dedication to libations whereby the local mixologists are revered like royalty. We figured this place was best enjoyed with another couple.

It was then time to select a place to stay. While there were plenty of compelling hotel choices in Charleston to choose from (Belmond Charleston Place, the Spectator, The Restoration and Zero George to name a few), we ultimately decided on the newly opened The Dewberry. I cannot stress enough how right our call was to stay there.


The Dewberry hotel was originally the home of the L. Mendel Rivers federal building, commissioned by JFK in 1964. The building was significantly damaged by Hurricane Floyd in 1999 and left dormant for a number of years until a visionary developer, John Dewberry, bought the building in 2008.  After an extensive and painstaking head-to-toe renovation of the property, it was finally opened as The Dewberry in 2016.

As you’re pulling into the property for the first time, you can tell immediately that there’s something special about this hotel. The distinct brick and marble external facade was preserved as was the original wood flooring throughout the hotel and in many instances the original marble (including the outside marble tables where my husband spent much of his time on the phone doing work albeit with a perfectly mixed drink in hand, crafted by the top Charleston mixologist Ryan Casey who holds court at the library bar).  But it was the mid-century aesthetic that that especially caught my eye – from the palm-shaped chandeliers to the cherry paneling and funky Poul Kjærholm sofas. Here, they’ve captured and bottled up the 50/60s ‘mad men’ vibe and transformed it to something very current, cool and chic.

I love some of the southern touches incorporated into the hotel as well. Their exceptionally curated in-house mini boutiques, ‘Hunt’ and ‘Gather’ Fieldshop is a hip take on a bait and tackle store, edited by Garden and Gun magazine (an odd mix, Garden & Gun, don’t you think?). You’ll want to buy everything in these outposts.

The Living Room

For me, a hotel is often defined by its bar (if you haven’t already figured it out from my other reviews) and The Dewberry does not disappoint in this regard. The glass-enclosed Living Room, named to feel as such to guests, holds center court in much of the main floor of the hotel and is where the hotel guests and locals come together, particularly at night. Part lounge-gathering spot with a speak-easy vibe/part sophisticated bar (and a beautiful brass one at that), this is the pulse of the hotel and it is always buzzing. I loved it.

The Restaurant

Henrietta’s is the hotel’s main restaurant. A mahogany-paneled space in the style of a French brasserie, it is a lovely room. In warmer climates, you can eat outside which I can imagine would be wonderful. We had breakfast here in the mornings. Especially notable was the chicken sausage and, of course, the grits.

The Location 

The Dewberry Hotel is perfectly situated off-center of Charleston’s downtown district, across Marion Square and within minutes from the best shopping, restaurants and bars. It is close enough that everything is easily accessible to you but removed enough that it is not too hectic.

The Service

A shout out is needed for the sublime front of the house service, most notably for their concierge staff headed by the very genial and exceptionally dapper Chief Conciege, Larry Crosby. He was beyond helpful with every request, has an intricate knowledge of the city and was always available at the drop of a hat to do our bidding. The consummate professional with a personalized touch, Larry was a total gem.

The Rooms

There are 155 rooms at the Dewberry, 48 of which are suites. The lead in rooms are the Signature King rooms at 292 square feet. They are a bit small in size but cozy nonetheless and offer adjoining options in this category, which offers a great option for families. At the next major category are the 1-Bedroom Suites. All the one-bedroom suites feature floor-to-ceiling windows and face Marion Square.

We booked a 1-bedroom suite and were very pleased to be upgraded to the highest level category accommodation, the Charleston Flat. These 24 loft-like accommodations are their most spacious rooms at 511 square feet and located on the corner of every floor. Each feature a King canopy bed, glass-enclosed bathroom and in-room bar (curated by the hotel’s Executive Chef).

Our Flat (#604) faced the Ravenal Bridge (the longest cable bridge in the U.S.) and Charleston Harbor.  Aside from the outstanding views, the cozy Irish linens, the juxtaposition of Southern charm and modern luxury throughout the room and the feel that you’re in your own ‘flat’ as they are designed to feel like an apartment. But the coolest feature for me about the Flats are the marble-clad bathrooms: the flats are the only rooms with the enormous cast-iron freestanding tubs. Just heavenly.


Other Notable Features 

There is both small gym and a spa located on the second floor of the hotel but we did not use either of them during our short stay. Complimentary bikes are also available at the hotel to explore the area. There is a pretty rooftop terrace, which I imagine is wonderful during warm weather – for cocktails or yoga (or both simultaneously).

The Dewberry’s quintessential location, hospitality, and modern/mid-century chic design coupled with old world charm and historical character was a winning combination for us. We absolutely loved it and would heartily recommend it for anyone coming for a visit to Charleston.

Charleston as a destination was a fabulous long weekend getaway and was especially fun with another couple. It’s easy to get to from New York, the Southern hospitality charm is infectious, the food and drinking options are endless, its historical references give it an added character and the people are kind.

The Charleston Firehouse. The friendliest firemen you will find!


Charleston is a great foodie town and there is a dizzying array of outstanding places to choose from. Some that we managed to tackle and highly recommend include:

Halls Chophouse. Old-school steak house with fabulous Sunday gospel brunch. Try to get a table downstairs for the best vibe or in the front room upstairs otherwise you’re relegated to Siberia in the back upstairs.

Fig. Mike lata and Jason Stanhope’s ode to low country cuisine. This restaurant put Charleston on the culinary map and has not looked back since. Try to snag a rezzie at least a month out or you won’t get one. And order the fish stew. It’s magical.


The Ordinary. In my opinion the best restaurant in Charleston and a must on your list. Another Mike lata project. But this is in a former bank located on King Street focusing largely on fresh oysters and seafood. I LOVED this place. The service was sublime as well.

Leon’s Oyster Shop. Do not miss.  You must go here once for either brunch or lunch. Serving southern comfort food like char-grilled oysters, fried chicken and brussel sprouts in a renovated garage. Great vibe. 

Conversely you can check out 167 raw. But with VERY limited seating and a no reservation policy, you’ll likely be waiting for up to two hours for a table. Nevertheless this place is the real deal so try to get there if you can’t get to Leon’s.

The Obstinate Daughter for brunch or lunch on Sullivan island.  Order the boiled shrimp. Order some oysters. Have a Bloody Mary.

Other restaurants to check out include:

Cru Cafe. Casual fare. Go for porch seating.

Hominy Grill. Great for low country shrimp and grits style brunch

Little Jacks Tavern/McCradys Tavern both by native son and culinary maestro Sean Brock. Lively. Great for burgers.

Peninsula Grill. Classic Southern fare. Velvet walls. Go for the 12-layer coconut cake.

Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit. The line out the door is SO worth it and is worth the hype. You can’t not have biscuits while in the south and if you can figure out the day they have the chicken pot pie biscuit, make sure you are in the line waiting for it. The woman who mans the cash is hands down the coolest lady in Charleston.



While I don’t drink coffee, my husband and our friends are HUGE coffee drinkers. Charleston coffee shops are some of the best and coolest out there. These are the big four in Charleston and worth checking out. DO NOT go to a Starbucks when you can hang out here instead. Oh, and buy a hip t-shirt.

Black Tap Coffee. 70.5 Beaufain Street.

City Lights Coffee. 141 Market Street.

Kudo Coffee and Craft. 4 Vanderhorst Street.

The Daily. 652 King Street.


Notable shops that I particularly loved were:

Skinny Dip.  345 King Street. A new concept store (Charleston is the 2nd retail location after Nantucket) with an an eclectic, fun mix of established brands, local designers and kids brands in clothing, home furnishings and artisanal products. The 2nd floor hosts a special spot serving tea, lemonade, coffee and ice cream.

Hamden Clothing. 314 King Street. The Dover street market/former Colette of Charleston.  Very well curated, I would shop here all the time if I lived in Charleston.

Worthwhile. 268 King Street. Yet another store that I adored. Unique gifts from laboratory perfumes and Parisian creams and soaps to artisan ceramics and plates and Rick Owens pieces in the back. This shop in a converted feed store knocks it out of the park.

Photos courtesy of Romi Howard and The Dewberry. 

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Inside Look: Relais Christine, Paris Mon, 04 Dec 2017 14:49:58 +0000 Continued]]> Over my many times in Paris, I have often strolled through St. Germain passing the Relais Christine, a boutique hotel tucked away from the street via a beautiful courtyard. One winter, I could not resist peeking inside the cozy lobby with its roaring fireplace and vowed to stay there. I had that chance nine years ago when I checked into the Relais Christine for a girls Paris getaway in December. As it was a last minute booking, not that many rooms were left. We stayed in a Deluxe duplex that unfortunately was a bit dark (as it faced the back) and cramped to our liking. Still, I loved location and ambiance of this charming Left Bank hotel .


Formerly an Augustine Monastery and then a 16th century private residence housed in a hôtel particulier, the Relais Christine (named after King Henri IV’s daughter) opened as a hotel in 1979.  Owned by the Bertrand family (who incidentally own the Brasserie Lipp and Angelina), the Relais Christine remains one of the few 5-star properties on the Left Bank. Known to many as the quintessential discreet hideaway – Parisian to its core – it is located on a quiet side street in the heart of the Left Bank, steps away from some of the best cafes, bistros and galleries as well as the Seine. The hotel finished a two-year multi-million renovation this summer and I am excited to unveil the updates they have made to the property without sacrificing its distinct personality.

Parisian designer Laura Gonzalez was charged with redesigning the property while retaining the French style guests love. Ms. Gonzalez drew inspiration from old stones of the College of the Austin Friars Abbey upon which the hotel was built. She mixed influences from various periods – including trimmings and velvets that evoke British chic; French style chandeliers and furniture gathered from design markets and antique shops; and 18th-century Chinoiserie porcelain.  The result, as you can see below in the guest rooms, is a wonderful balance of modern with traditional period design.

Relais-Christine6 (1)



Each of the 48 room and suites has been redesigned thoughtfully over a period of four years in a chic intimate style using the finest French luxury fabrics such as Pierre Frey and Hermès along with contemporary materials such as brass and marble.  No two rooms are alike.  I love the use of her brilliant fabrics and contrasts mixing multiple patterns (it reminds me of a more traditional version of Kit Kemp’s brilliant style in the Firmdale Hotel properties in London and New York).

Most of the Carrera marble bathrooms have walk-in showers, a rarity in Paris. It is worth splurging for larger rooms and those facing the street or the courtyard for the most light. My preference is the one of the four suites (large enough to accommodate large families) on the ground floor that open up to the courtyard garden. Request these way ahead of time as they tend to go fast.

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Also part of the renovation is the newly expanded Guerlain Spa, housed under 13th century vaulted ceilings that date from the Middle Ages.  The spa now includes a sauna, jacuzzi, small but modern exercise room and two treatment rooms.

I was excited to see the lobby and drawing room was lightened up while still retaining its warmth when I was there. There are various clusters for places to lounge – in front of the fireplace (ideal during winter), paneled nooks for reading books newly purchased from Shakespeare & Co. or for tea or a snack and at the hotel’s honor bar. During spring and summer, the private flowered garden and courtyard is a delightful respite.

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It’s worth noting that Relais Christine is a sister hotel to the 49 room St. James Hotel and Club, a 5-star hotel housed in a chateau in the 16th arrondissement. Relais Christine is not a Virtuoso property but it is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Relais Christine currently has a few specials on offer from 370 Euros (Cosy room) including the Winter Treats Offer: A complimentary buffet breakfast for two, and one ticket per person for a cruise on the Seine thru March 31, 2018.  Amenities in each of the rooms include free wifi, Bluetooth speakers, Fragonard amenities (bien sûr), Nespresso coffee makers, 24/7 room service, and complimentary bicycle rentals.

St. James Hotel & Club



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Just Checked Out: Hotel Santa Caterina, Amalfi Tue, 14 Nov 2017 13:38:08 +0000 Continued]]> After a whirlwind three-city Europe tour over ten days in June this summer, during an unusual heat wave over most of Europe, my only goal was to decompress somewhere by the sea before we flew back home. While my husband departed with our older daughter to hand her over to summer camp, I stayed on with my younger daughter to enjoy a few last days on the Amalfi Coast. The last time I stepped foot in this scenic area of Italy, I was a college student (and on a much smaller budget, mind you). A reunion was long overdue.

Choosing Hotel Santa Caterina over other choices on the coast or the island of Capri for four nights was an easy choice. Santa Caterina, a grand and classic hotel, is a long-time favorite among many friends and the hotel is known for being particularly family-friendly. I also loved the fact that the Santa Caterina is one of the few hotels that is still family-owned since this it was purchased in 1880 and opened as a hotel in 1904. In fact, we had the pleasure of meeting three generations of the Gambardella/Gargano family, who still own the hotel, during our stay.


I vaguely remembered the hair-raising turns on the 90-minute drive to Amalfi from Naples airport the first time I came here. The winding roads, particularly during the last 45 minutes, will make even the most stoic person queasy, especially as you ascend the cliffs towards the hotel.  But trust me, once you arrive at the hotel, any grumpy thoughts will disappear instantaneously as you take in the jaw-dropping scenery before you. Perched cliffside, Hotel Santa Caterina feels as if it is suspended over the Mediterranean sea and the Gulf of Salerno. It’s postcard-perfect (or more appropriately, Instagram-perfect).

But it was the tiered tree groves of lemons, limes, apricots, oranges and bougainvillea, not the views, that won me over. Each morning, as we walked under the groves from our room to breakfast, I reveled in the intoxicating scents of the fruit and flowers. I want to bottle that smell. The visual combination of turquoise sea, dramatic cliffs, and fruit groves makes the Hotel Santa Caterina a Instagrammer/selfie-taker’s dream come true. Not surprisingly, there were plenty of poseurs with their iPhones at the resort.




As it was just my daughter and I, we booked one of the more basic rooms at the hotel, a Partial sea-view Double Room, and were fortunately upgraded at the time of booking to a Direct Sea View Double with balcony. Our room was located away from the main hotel in an Annex, which was secluded and quiet, with spectacular views. Our room was a bit small but opening the louvred doors to our balcony to the incredible view of the sea and the town of Amalfi each morning was all I could hope for and more. The daily plates of fruit and chocolates  in our room along with a stuffed animal for Justine was a nice touch.

Another unique feature I appreciated (and most likely other guests too – 40% of the guests at the hotel are repeat bookers) of the Santa Caterina is that it is one of the only properties on the Amalfi Coast with direct sea access. While most other hotels in the area dispatch guests to public beaches or satellite beach clubs, Santa Caterina has its own private beach club with pool. The salt water pool is situated 10 stories below the lobby, which you can access by stairs or the glass elevator from the main lobby. After one or two times up and down the steep steps to pick up a forgotten item in the room, that elevator becomes a godsend. The staff at the pool are eager to please and can be quite entertaining – they like to put on a show for guests.


We spent three very hot days at the hotel relaxing by the pool, swimming in the refreshing waters of the sea (with is cordoned off for safety and guests are provided floats), and then departing late afternoon to explore the towns of Ravello and Amalfi, staying for dinner at local restaurants. There were plenty of children of all nationalities at the hotel, most of them finding each other and making friends at the pool. Justine made many friends there, playing for hours with the owner’s grandchildren in their villa at the hotel.

Hands down one of our best decisions we made during our stay was to hire a private boat for the day to see and swim the grottos and cruise around the coast. Our boat was arranged easily through the hotel, which offers a fleet of boats in various sizes and rates (ours was about 880 Euros for the day), which conveniently comes right up to Santa Caterina’s dock to pick you up. From 10-5, we enjoyed a speedboat with Antonio, our young and adorable captain who spoke ‘not so much’ English but who was eager to accommodate our ‘hit’ list for the day. As it was a brutally hot day, we canceled plans to walk around Capri and opted instead to go for several swims in the stunning grottos, cruise around the islands and have lunch at La Fontelina ( an incredible restaurant only accessible by boat). It was my favorite day with my daughter on the whole trip – on any trip really. We felt like movie stars. It was a blissful way to end our vacation.

When To Go

Living large on the Amalfi Coast doesn’t come cheap. The area caters to tourists, especially Americans, and I was disappointed how touristy the town has become. Even in early summer, the area felt bursting with with buses, tourists and cruise lines. I can only imagine how busy (and expensive) it is in high season. To eschew the crowds, I would return in May or September.

The Location

The hotel’s location on cliffside perch overlooking sea is quite stunning. Less than half a mile from the town of Amalfi, the hotel offers frequent complimentary shuttles into town (you can walk but I would not advise it as there is not much room to walk on the busy narrow road. As the shuttle ends at 6:30, it is worth noting that a taxi or car is required to get to restaurants in Amalfi and Ravello, which can be pretty expensive.

The Rooms

Bedroom Suite
Bedroom Suite

There are 54 rooms at the hotel and 16 suites with various layouts and room categories. Each individually unique, rooms are decorated simply, with traditional Italian furnishings and hand-painted ceramic tile floors. Modern comforts such as USB ports (If I never had to carry a converter again, I would be very happy), flat screen TVs, and blowdryers are provided in every room as are Bulgari toiletries.

Rooms and suites are spread throughout the property – some in the main building, others in an annex a few minutes walk away while other specialty suites are tucked away in the groves.

My daughter and I were in Room 73 – a double room with direct sea view in an annex a few minutes walk from the main hotel.  While I was first skeptical of being away from the hub of the main building, we liked the distance from the main building as it gave us the opportunity to walk through the beautiful lemon and orange groves several times each day.

Rates during summer start at 880 euros for double rooms. Double Rooms are fairly small and basic so we would recommend booking the junior suites or suites which are generously sized and have open plan living and bedrooms. It would be pointless to stay here and not have a direct sea view, so make sure you request one at time of booking.

The Service 

Most of the professional and warm staff from the family-owned Hotel Santa Caterina have been there for decades. From pre planning to end, service was exemplary – attentive to our every need.  The concierge responded immediately and proactively with recommendations for us before and during our stay and was always spot on with his choices.  The only exception to this was one incidence at lunch at Al Mare when our server was perpexingly indifferent and unhelpful – we were one of the only guests in the restaurant.

The Food


There are two restaurants at the hotel. Restaurant Santa Caterina is the main restaurant for breakfast and dinner and most guests opt to eat al fresco on the terrace overlooking the sea during the evenings. The restaurant serves classic and delicious Italian dishes. While appealing mostly to adults with its elegant atmosphere, the other diners and staff could not have been more welcoming and friendly when we dined there one night. Al Mare is a more casual restaurant located on a shaded terrace overlooking the pool and sea serving yummy fresh pasta, fish and brick oven pizzas during lunch.  Breakfast, included in our rate, is a standout with many buffet options and hot items to please anyone.

Places to Eat in and around Amalfi


There are plenty of amazing choices in the area. We hit a few, all great, among the many recommended to us by the concierge and friends:


Acqua Pazza

Eolo (inside and outside seating with sea view)

Trattoria da Gemma – an upscale traditional restaurant with view over main square of Amalfi, famous for its fish soups.

Donna Stella – A wonderful and very casual pizzeria located outside under the lemon groves. Delicious pizzas and very family friendly.

Ravello and beyond

Cumpa Cosimo – A classic family fun Italian restaurant run by Grandma Netta – entertaining atmosphere with great ambiance and food. Must go!

Lido Azzurro (overlooking the sea, fish dishes, closed Mondays. Good for lunch)

Rossellini’s in Hotel Palazzo Sasso – Gourmet restaurant with stunning views (in Ravello)

Hotel Caruso – also in Ravello. More formal restaurant.

Lo Scoglio – Decades old institution accessed by boat with simple delicious seafood.

La Fontelina – A must for the people watching and scenery alone but also serves delicious fresh past and seafood! Accessible only by boat. Was our favorite even though it is outrageously overpriced. Maitre d sizes you up to determine what table you get!

La Fontelina
La Fontelina
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Back (again) to Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, Kenya Wed, 08 Nov 2017 13:00:35 +0000 Continued]]> It was my third time back to Giraffe Manor last month and it’s beginning to feel like my home away from home. Giraffe Manor is my preferred first stop after my plane lands in Nairobi.  I can’t wait to arrive at this special place, say hello to old friends (both two and four-legged) and settle down in one of twelve rooms at the 1930’s English manor.  Even though I am here for a brief stay each time, I always look forward to the warm hospitality of the staff, the crackling fire in the fireplace in the evenings and the first sights and smells of Africa after I land. I love that everything feels exactly the same as I last remember it.


But in fact a few things have changed at Giraffe Manor – the only hotel in the world inside a Giraffe sanctuary – since I was there exactly a year prior. A bit of a baby boom is going on at the Manor. In addition to a 1-month old baby born to Kelly last month, another was born to Daisy just two days before I arrived. The timing is particularly ironic as  Daisy had just given birth to a baby exactly the same time a year ago when I was there.  I must be channeling something. At this moment, there are 12 giraffes on the 12-acre private property:  6 adults and 6 babies, the most ever at Giraffe Manor.


These aren’t just any normal giraffes. They are the endangered Rothschild Giraffes, one of three different subspecies of Giraffes (Maasai and Reticulated are the other two). There are less than 800 Rothschild giraffes in the wild today. Found mainly in Kenya, Rothschild Giraffes are distinguished by others by their lighter patches and lack of markings on their lower legs, appearing as if they are wearing white socks!


Another change this time around? This was my first time staying in a room in the Garden Manor, built in 2011. While most guests prefer the original Manor for its authenticity, I love the cozy and intimate Garden Manor. Adjacent to the Main Manor,  the Garden Manor is a smaller replica of the Main Manor and it impossible to tell that it is not part of the original structure. I particularly admired the ‘giraffe’ art hanging on the walls of the manor. This time I stayed in Arlene’s Room, a superior room on the 2nd floor with an ensuite bath and shower that was full of period charm, including the antique loo.

While Arlene’s Room does not have a balcony or terrace to feed the giraffes from its windows, the windows face the main patio where all the action happens below in the morning. Sure enough at 6 a.m. the giraffes walked up with their elegant gait looking up at the windows to see what guests were up to feed them some food (Tip: the giraffes hang out at the Manor for food until about 8 a.m. so it’s important to wake up early to experience breakfast with the giraffes. 7 a.m. is the perfect time to be at breakfast). I have been at Giraffe Manor three times now and the excitement of seeing the giraffes at dawn has not dissipated one bit. It’s my ‘welcome to Kenya’ moment each and every time.



There are two new accommodations built this year in an expanded section of the garden wing. Eddie and Salma rooms, named after two resident giraffes (as are the other rooms) are superior double rooms. Edd is a ground floor room with its own veranda in the gardens. Featuring stained glass windows framing a King bed, this is a perfect room for two adults but a pull-out sofa accommodates a child as well. Directly above Edd, is the Salma room which features a balcony overlooking the lunch terrace , perfect for an intimate meet and greet with the giraffes in the morning. This room features two twin beds that can be converted into a double with a sofa couch for a child if needed.

Most people choose Giraffe Manor for the giraffes and the ‘Out of Africa‘ ambience (the Karen Blixen Suite even features some of her belongings). The food (high tea in particular aside from the Giraffe breakfast) and the warm, hospitable staff also deserves special praise.

Afternoon tea at Giraffe Manor
Afternoon tea at Giraffe Manor


But another aspect that I admire about Giraffe Manor, perhaps not well known to guests, is their priority to give back to the communities and wildlife in Kenya. A portion of each guest’s hotel night at Giraffe Manor goes to wildlife conservation projects across Kenya. That’s not all.  Giraffe Manor is one of four luxury lodges that make up the The Safari Collection, run by 4th generation Kenyans Mike and Tanya Carr-Hartley.  The Safari Collection runs and avidly supports a few chosen projects in conservation, education and health. I had the privilege to meet Mark Boyd who runs the community and conservation programs during my stay and was impressed by the impact they have made and their priority to have a positive influence on the people and environment in Kenya. To learn more about The Safari Collection’s projects and impact visit here.

Getting a room at Giraffe Manor is pretty tough, but not impossible. With only 12 rooms total in the two Manors, accommodations are booked over a year in advance.  Booking through The Safari Collection directly or also staying at another of three luxury Safari Collection lodges in the portfolio – Solio Lodge in Laikipia, Sasaab in Samburu and Sala’s Camp in the Masai Mara – may help your chances. Not a bad proposition as they are some of the best lodges in Kenya offering incredible wildlife viewing.

Catch up our previous posts on Giraffe Manor and other reviewed destinations in Kenya.



Photos courtesy of Jackie Cittone Magid and Giraffe Manor.

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Postcard from the Watergate Hotel, Washington D.C. Mon, 06 Nov 2017 18:41:38 +0000 Continued]]> The nation’s capital holds a special place in my heart – it is, after all where I spent four years of undergraduate school. As my college was in the heart of the city, I enjoyed getting to know the neighborhoods of Georgetown, Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan and Foggy Bottom. It was cool having the IMF, World Bank and the White House only a block from our dorms and professors and lecturers who worked on Capitol Hill or inside the Reagan administration.  The only thing missing then to warrant it a perfect college town was decent restaurants.


I have been back only twice to Washington D.C. since college but a college reunion weekend in October (coinciding with family weekends of every school in D.C. and a Marathon) gave me the excuse to catch the 3-hour Acela Express from Manhattan on a perfect Fall/Indian Summer weekend. A lot has visibly changed in D.C.: the construction craziness plaguing the city for the last 20 years was gratefully inconspicuous. New neighborhoods, such as Glover Park, have cleaned up and are thriving with hip restaurants and shops. And, the dining scene is hot, hot, hot  (foodies will not be disappointed) with so many more choices than I ever had as a student. Of course, some things haven’t changed: the White House is still there, two blocks from Thurston Hall. But I am not sure I will ever look at it the same again with the current resident in it.

Barcelona Wine Bar in Glover Park
Barcelona Wine Bar in Glover Park

Walking often from Foggy Bottom to Georgetown, I used to pass by the nearby infamous Watergate Hotel (the site of the greatest American crime scene in history — so far). Then, there was no reason for me really to go inside. But ever since the Watergate hotel re-opened in June 2016 after a major design overhaul, I have been looking for an opportunity to walk through those doors. With 2017 marking both the 45th anniversary of the Watergate break-in and 50 years since the Watergate first opened its doors, this was the perfect time.

The Watergate hotel originally opened in March 1967. Designed by Luigi Moretti (a significant influence on the urban design of Rome in the 60s), the hotel was known for its innovative, contemporary style and was the playground for the Washington elite to mingle with Hollywood royalty. Then the Watergate break-in happened on June 17, 1972 which led to the resignation of President Nixon. The Watergate became infamous (and, unbeknownst to many, the Watergate is also where Monica Lewinsky sought refuge after her affair with President Bill Clinton emerged).  After that, the Watergate was never the same. It fell into disrepair with many different hands taking it over and closed in 2010.

Now, reopened in October 2016 with a new bold look that was created to compliment the existing architecture of the hotel, the Watergate is once again making headlines  with a fresh look and appeal. The new owners, with the help of London-based designer Ron Arad, have re-designed the hotel’s 336 guest rooms and 24 suites, installed a 15-yard indoor swimming pool and a new 12,500 square foot spa and fitness facility. Three new restaurants and bars completes the new redesign: Kingbird restaurant, a contemporary restaurant off the lobby with outdoor seating on the Potomac riverfront; The Next Whisky Bar, a whisky bar off the lobby; and Top of the Gate, an outdoor rooftop bar with 360-views of the Potomac River, Georgetown, the Capital and Washington Monument. Sounds great, right?

Entering the Watergate for the first time, my first impression was a lobby that felt a bit more ‘nightclub’ than lobby. The mid-century design, with its shiny, sculptural metal reception and curved wall of whisky bottles marking the entrance of the whisky bar off the lobby, was created to make a lasting impression. And it is, honestly, pretty cool. But, for me, the whole aesthetic was a bit jarring to my eyes during the daytime. For anyone experiencing a bit too much drink from the night before, sunglasses are essential here in the morning. 


I did get a kick out of the staff uniforms designed by ‘Mad Men’ costume designer Janie Bryant especially for the hotel.  A bit ‘Mad Men’ with a modern twist. They give a sense of character to the hotel.


Nearly all the guest rooms feature views of the Potomac River. My Deluxe King room was perfectly comfortable – contemporary and masculine although a bit generic – more tailored it seemed for a business than a leisure traveler. The bathroom, with floor to ceiling marble tile, was spacious and new. The rooms feature a ‘state of the art in room control system’ but for the life of me I could not figure out how to turn the lights on or off.

There were subtle, clever nods everywhere to the hotel’s history: Room keys featuring ‘No Need To Break In’, pencils with ‘I stole this from the Watergate Hotel’…even a typewriter font on the stationary evoking newspaper copy from the 70’s.


For conspiracy-seekers, anyone just interested in the Watergate’s past or someone just looking for a one of a kind accommodation, it’s worth checking into the new Scandal Room. On October 20, the Watergate unveiled room 214 to the public – the official ‘room where it happened’. Opened to coincide with the 45th anniversary of the break-in, the room was designed by Lyn Paolo – costume designer of the hit show Scandal (how fitting) and acknowledges its storied past with subtle and not so subtle touches everywhere.

I took advantage of the incredible weather by grabbing a quick cocktail at the 5th floor rooftop bar Top of the Gate.  With 360 views (including the neighboring Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts) and music piping from somewhere, this is the spot to enjoy the sun set over the Potomac. For me, this was the best feature of the Watergate.



The only minor hitch during my brief overnight stay at the Watergate was the service. While the reception staff was very friendly and courteous at check in and check out, the lack of service during the morning was embarrassing. A dozen people (remember this was family weekend for almost all the colleges so almost every hotel was fully occupied) were piled up waiting at the complimentary coffee station that was empty in the lobby for over 30 minutes waiting for a cup of coffee. Despite repeated requests by many to the front desk, no one came to advise the frustrated and caffeine-deprived guests. It didn’t leave a good lasting impression.

The location of the Watergate has its many advantages. It’s a short walk from both Foggy Bottom and Georgetown. And on the banks of the Potomac, it is a 2-minute from the Rock Creek Park where you can take a jog or walk along the river. I enjoyed waking early to watch people crewing on Potomac – it felt like the world was out on that particularly glorious Sunday morning.  In the evening, it should be noted, it is advisable to take a quick taxi or uber when leaving the Watergate complex. Virginia Avenue can be busy and most restaurants are a short drive away. 


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