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If you're feeling wistful this weekend, a good way to kick back and set out on a magical hotel journey—without ever leaving your home—is to flip through Assouline's new 160-page Luxury Collection book, which is part of their Hotel Stories series.
The Luxury Collection: Hotel Stories devotes a mini-chapter to each of the 80+ hotels under Starwood's chi-chi Luxury Collection brand. There's history, and celebrity interviews, and design details—but you can technically find those things anywhere on the internet. What really makes the book stand out are the photos. Rich, full-color, splashy images of ITC Mughal, Gritti Palace, Al Maha and tons more.
While drooling over the images, we managed to scan a bit of text too. Here are five takeaway facts about Luxury Collection we didn't previously know:
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The hotel, originally built in 1923, has seen plenty of stars through out the years; it was where Hollywood's movers and shakers stayed while visiting the Texas city. It has seen everyone from Elvis Presley, Judy Garland and Katharine Hepburn in its glory days, to Jessica Simpson and Lebron James more recently after a 2008 refurb.
The new owners, HEI Hotels, plan to update the lobby-bar with modern furniture and take advantage of the unique courtyard to attract Dallas' social-set to the Uptown area hotel. Already, the landmark Beaux-Arts building has changed the restaurant name to T/X, and serving up revamped Latin-American cuisine. We do appreciate when hotels give their properties a little love and spruce things up a bit, even when they're historical legends.
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Last month, the 500-room Radisson Blu Mall of America became the second Radisson Blu to open in the US (after Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago). But one thing that sets this place apart from Chicago (and all other subsequent Rad Blus) is that it directly connects to the Mall of America, with its 530 shops, 5 major department stores, multiple food courts, indoor theme park, and 14-screen movie theater. If they want, hotel guests can even arrange for a personal shopper and bag pick-up to maximize the experience. Rates from $174/night.
For more mall hotel awesome-ness in Hong Kong, Dubai, and Houston, read on!
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As we recently mentioned, we had the opportunity to step inside the Prince de Galles hotel during our time in Paris and see what Starwood has been cooking up over the course of two long years of renovation and restoration.
Pierre-Yves Rochon oversaw the redesign of the hotel’s lobby and guest rooms & suites, while Bruno Borrione created the restaurant and the bar. Both were on hand to walk us through the various spaces and explain the thinking behind their work. Here are some of the impressions we walked away with.
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Fans of the hit ABC show Shark Tank ought to perk up when they hear about a new package being offered by the Westin New York Grand Central. Dubbed the "Game Changer," the three-night package offers aspiring entrepreneurs a premium Corner King room (pictured), complimentary New Balance sneakers and workout clothes (for lending only), and free WiFi.
Pretty sweet deal, right?
Oh, wait. We almost forgot the most important part! "Game Changer" guests will also receive a half hour consultation with the shark himself, Daymond John, via Skype or in person. Yes, the FUBU man himself.
The package is named after Game Changer Meetings, a service designed to connect business people all over the world with top experts in their respective industries. Of course, it depends what your chosen industry is. For example, if it has anything to do with suspicious-looking cigarettes, then these guys probably can't help you.
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We're no strangers to celebs having total meltdowns in hotels (hi, Charlie Sheen! hi, Lindsay Lohan!), so when we read about 27-year-old actress Amanda Bynes' recent spaz-out at the W New York Times Square, we thought to ourselves, "Of course."
In Touch reports that Bynes was enjoying a month-long extended stay at the hotel recently, when her erratic behavior started to creep out employees in a big way. According to the article:
"…an employee 'found her curled up in the corner of the gym smoking — with no pants on!'"
Apparently, Amanda never got around to reading our handy guide on "What Not To Do In a Hotel". Because we'd definitely file that one under "do not do." Ever.
Bynes has certainly been having a tough time lately (On Thursday, a day after her 27th birthday, she announced she had an eating disorder). And she was also photographed wandering around Times Square (probably en route to her hotel) holding a FedEx package, but then explained on Twitter that the girl in the photographs "was an impostor." Um, right…
As we see it, the W Times Square might actually be her best bet for the time being: earlier this year, the hotel was offering a detox program with supplies for a six-day juice cleanse (the promo's expired, but then again, we're sure they could bend a few rules for the former star of She's The Man.
Fiji is paradise; end of conversation. In this super tropical location in the middle of the South Pacific, you can only imagine that a hotel will capitalize on the best it has to offer: lush terrain, crystal blue beaches and sunset that make you look forward to the sun going down. In the island nation, there are only a few better locations for catching all of those points mentioned and more, Sheraton Fiji Resort.
Most of the resorts on the island have beach frontage, but the Sheraton is lucky enough to be placed on the corner of the island so it can brag about having double beach-front property. Each room is positioned to take the best advantage of, at least, patio views of the Pacific; and while ours was a bit interrupted, it was still nice to wake up and see the surf.
One of the best parts of the entire resort, besides the Flying Fish restaurant, is the open-air lobby that opens up to a gigantic pool, then on to the beach and then on to the open Fijian waters. Perfectly positioned to frame the breath-taking sunsets that casts an orange and red light onto the pool and outdoor diners.
Another amazing part is a little-slice of Fiji, a group of beautiful ladies selling their jewelery, clothing and wood-carvings right on the lawn. On agreement from the hotel, the pop-up shop is full of not only great Fijian souvenirs, but a warm "bula!" and a peek inside the local culture.
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We've started a series of what’s trending in hotels these days: What’s Out, What’s In. Do we like what we see? Think it's a dud? You be the judge!
What’s Out: Windsurfing and jet skis
What’s In: Stand up paddle boarding (SUP)
As synchronized swimming fell out of favor after the 1950s and windsurfing mania waned in the 1990s, another wet trend has emerged: Paddle boarding. And with so many hotels getting in on the action and upping the game (yoga paddle boarding, anyone?), we think it may just be here for awhile.
For the luxury crowd, Raffles Praslin Seychelles offers complimentary stand up paddle boarding so guests can take in the stunning Indian Ocean scenery. If your main goal is to simply enjoy the Seychelles' waters aboveboard and not below, the resort also launched hourly lessons for new users, with an expert teaching you the proper way to stand on the board, keep balance and paddle (what -- all at the same time??).
Another luxe resort, the Paresa Resort in Phuket, Thailand offers straight-up SUP, but then raises the challenge level by combining stand up paddle boarding with yoga. Their “Yoga on the Ocean” program begins at sunrise or sunset when you paddle your board out on the indigo Andaman Sea and enjoy a yoga class floating on your watery yoga mat.
Rio may be in the spotlight as it adds 16,000 rooms in preparation for the 2016 Olympic Games, but ask Starwood Hotels and they’ll tell you that of Latin America is “under-hoteled,” not just Brazil.
They’ve said it out loud, and they're doing something about it. Citing a "strong commitment to the Latin American market," Starwood has opened 12 properties in the past two years and plans to reach 100 total hotels by the end of 2013. Seven hotels are scheduled to open by the end of this year and another 20 are already in development beyond that.
Currently, Starwood has 71 Latin America hotels with 15,300 rooms in 13 countries.
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Thankfully after the Biebs (and his Beliebers) had moved on to wreak havoc elsewhere, did we arrive in Paris earlier this week, where we had a chance to preview the soon-to-open Prince de Galles hotel.
Starwood’s entry into the highly competitive Parisian palace hotel market, the Prince de Galles is part of its Luxury Collection, and one of a number of their historic European hotels that's been on the receiving end of many a million for restoration and renovation the last few years.
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Menus are great and all, but sometimes you want to feel like you're ordering something really special. We hunted around for Manhattan's best "secret" hotel cocktails. You won't find any of these listed on the menu, but they exist alright. Now, can you keep a secret?
Upstairs at The Chatwal, the red leather booths and jazz trio humming along in the corner certainly set the mood, but our favorite part about the Lambs Club bar is definitely the cocktails. Next time you go, try something different and order the Guillermo Wallace ($18), a tangy blend of Milagro Blanco tequila, lime, grapefruit, honey, a spritz of peated Scotch and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Yes, part of this cocktail's charm is watching the bartender add the final 'spritz and a sprinkle'—the other part is drinking it!
3 more off-the-menu cocktails after the jump!
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Here's one advantage to being located next to Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, CA: Aloft Cupertino, which opened yesterday, is now the first Aloft hotel to feature Apple TV devices in all 123 guest rooms. This is great news for anyone not interested in paying $15-$20 just to watch an in-room movie (ie, us, and pretty much everyone else).
The ingenious little box-shaped devices (pictured) basically allow you to stream music, TV shows and movies on iTunes, Netflix, Hulu or MBL.com straight from your Apple device onto an HD TV.
So while it's a handy thing to keep around the house, it works just as well—if not better—in a hotel. Wanna order room service while running through all the episodes of Downton Abbey? Or watch the Angels vs. Giants game in your bathtub? Or sing (loudly) along with the cast of Glee? The possibilities are endless.
And if being able to stream all your favorite media for free wasn't enough, the hotel will make things easier by resetting the boxes each time a guest checks out (that way, your account settings won't be compromised). Aloft will even go ahead and sync up iTunes to match whatever country you're from
Of course, you'll need reliable WiFi to actually access the content on your iPhone, iPad or iPod. And luckily, Aloft is one of the upstanding brands that offers it free.