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Despite optimism and tons of hotel openings in some places, especially Europe, we all know the travel industry isn’t completely out of the water when it comes to the financial crisis.
One hotel group that's been feeling the squeeze is Rocco Forte Hotels, a small family-run collection of hotels across Europe, including Brown’s Hotel in London and Hotel de Russie in Rome. After a difficult few years, this month the group dropped both Rocco Forte Abu Dhabi, the first hotel to be introduced solely with the group name, and The Augustine in Prague.
We only bring this up because The Hotel Inspector was the name of the UK’s (first-out) version of Hotel Hell, and that show was hosted not by Gordon Ramsay, but by Alex Polizzi. Serious hotel geeks know that Alex's clan are owners of Rocco Forte Hotels. It’s all coming together!
Well, we had the chance to stay at Brussel's Hotel Amigo for our own hotel inspection and will say that it does pass inspection, so Polizzi (or Ramsay) needn't have worried.
The hotel has 173 rooms and feels cozy and intimate. The decor is very authentic with original Surrealist artwork and other Belgium touches scattered throughout, and leans more toward a contemporary, refined style in both the public areas and the rooms.
Hotels are getting in a holiday mood! Usually around this time, we spotlight all the delicious holiday cocktails that hotels concoct for the season. Don't worry, we're not giving up the booze but we are keeping tabs on all the wonderful, wild, and in some cases, weird Holiday Hotel Decorations that hotels put up this year. Seen some great holiday decor in a hotel recently? Send us a snapshot!
Just down Albemarle Street from London's famous Brown's Hotel sits Sir Paul Smith's flagship store. It's all a charming, traditionally British area, so it only makes sense that the hotel will be partnering up with the fashion designer for their Christmas decorations. Smith and his team will design a tree with hand-decorated ornaments to adorn the Brown's lobby from December 3 to January 2, 2011.
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Boobs. That's what the German Oktoberfest celebrations is all about, right? Wrong, but we're at least close. On September 18th, Munich will tap the first kegs to kick off the month-long festival of beer, brats, bretzeln (pretzels) and yesboobs too. You see, the Bavarian traditional costume for women is a Dirndl, a highly decorated peasant dress of sorts, which is typically specially made and heavy on the cleavage-baring.
If you're thinking of heading to Munich for Oktoberfest this year and you like the look of these Dirndls, the the Rocco Forte Collection property The Charles Hotel at the center of the city has a deal for you: their "Dressed for Oktoberfest" package.
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The largest hotel suite in all of Germany, as we showed you yesterday, sits at the top of a palatial private villa turned 5-star hotel, in the ritzy neighborhood of Sachsenhausen in Frankfurt. This property, the Villa Kennedy of the Rocco Forte Collection, is a restored historical complex originally built for a banker family in 1904, and which also housed the Max Planck Institut for the Advancement of Science before becoming a luxury hotel.
These days, the expansive courtyard and sprawling suites are known more for housing celebs, politicians and CEOs than test tubes and scientists, but one thing remains the same: that this is an exclusive, pristine property.
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Above the staircase where President Kennedy once stood during his famous visit to Germany to give his "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech, now sits the country's largest hotel suite. Villa Kennedy's Speyer Suite measures an impressive 3,509 square feet, has three bedrooms, a chef's kitchen with Gaggenau appliances, and completely bulletproof windows.
Chances are, since the Villa Kennedy (of the Rocco Forte Collection of hotels) is the best show in town when it comes to 5-star hotels in Frankfurt, that when the big celebrities and politicians are in town, they stay in this suite. It also helps that it's got a private elevator, panic buttons in the rooms (just in case), a massive entrance hall, and an impressive dining room inside one of the Villa's turrets, that lends itself well to interviews and photoshoots.
No, we didn't stay here, but just had a drool-tastic look around.
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Inside the lobby atrium at the Villa Kennedy
Last time we popped into a Rocco Forte Collection hotel, it was nearly a year ago when we treated ourselves to tea on the rooftop terrace of Berlin's Hotel de Rome. But then, it is slightly difficult to hit all the Forte uber-luxury hotels; there are only 13 all around the world.
This week however, since we're back in Germany, we had to get ourselves all up in the Villa Kennedy, a 163-room 5-star property which was once a private family home and also a stop on President John F. Kennedy's trip to Germany for his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech.
Although we didn't sleep herejust downed a cappuccino and toured the magical castle-like placeexpect a full photo gallery and more early next week. Lookif a big name celebrity or official is in Frankfurt, then this is the place they're calling home temporarily. It's not completely out of range for regular travelers though, since weekend rates start at 220 Euro per night.
Yes, Oktoberfest is back! Or will be back on September 19 with the Lord Mayor of Munich cries, "Ozapft is!" ("It's been tapped"). But if you're planning on making your way to Munich for the festivities, we recommend doing two things.
First, read our tips for Surviving Oktoberfest. We attended it last year and if you'd like not awake the morning after with rain-soaked pants and vomit-covered sneakers, then you'd do well to heed our advice.
Second, checkout the Oktoberfest Package from the Charles Hotel, a Rocco Forte property, in the city's old Botanical Gardens.
Not going to Europe this summer? This might tempt you. Stay two nights at a Rocco Forte Collection hotel (with 12 to choose from in places you’d like to be anyway, like Rome, Prague, Berlin and St Petersburg), and they’ll throw in a third for free.
The only caveat – the offer is only valid for stays during high summer, between July 27 and September 4. Unfortunately, that’s also when most of the locals will have deserted places like Rome for the seaside – but hey, at least the buses will be a little less crowded.
With this offer, the Hotel de Rome in Berlin costs $861 per room for the three nights – not so bad for $287, given that it includes breakfast (although it excludes VAT). Brown’s Hotel in London, meanwhile, will set you back $950 for the full stay. So now all you have to do is choose which one.
The Rocco Forte people are busy right now if it wasn't enough to open their first resort with the Verdura Resort in Sicily, they're also hitting eastern Europe for the first time when the Augustine Hotel in Prague opens on May 14.
This place is a 101-room hotel overlooking the Wallenstein Gardens, and the hotel itself is made up of seven historical buildings, including the 13th century St. Thomas Monastery. The coolest part is there are still monks using parts of this monastery and hotel guests might glimpse them going about their monkly tasks.
The décor and furniture are all in the good taste you'd expect for such a respectable-sounding area; in fact, the whole hotel looks elegant and classy in a way that really seems right for a stay in Prague. It's also central and close to Charles Bridge and other sightseeing spots.
The Augustine seems to be starting out with a 3 for 2 package: this works out at €960 ($1,250) for three consecutive nights for a Classic Queen room including breakfast, but it's only valid from opening night until the end of May.
Our Super Secret Hotel Maven network extends far and wide and thanks to another SSHM, we have a mini-guide to Russia's luxe hotels--perfect for ballers, high-rollers and Russian mobsters. It's a mini-guide because it's really only a few hotels in St. Petersburg and Moscow. Up first: The Hotel Astoria. Enjoy.
It's not easy to travel to Russia if you're a picky Angeleno with the sniffles. Recently, though, I did the difficult and braved the subzero temperatures. I saw the two main cities, St. Petersburg and Moscow, and explored the cultural treasures of each. More importantly, though, I made stops at each of the city's key hotels for tours of the facilities and rooms, and have smuggled my reports back to familiar soil.