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The world is officially in "Countdown to Christmas" mode and now, so are we. Every day until Christmas we'll be featuring a hotel that's in a holiday mood--whether it be with gigantic gingerbread houses, over-the-top Christmas decorations, thrilling lighting displays and best of all, Santa appearances. But of course, any hotel can assemble a fake tree, put on some lights and declare themselves "festive." Which is why we're looking at hotels that are really going ALL OUT. Know of a hotel that's super excited for Christmas? Let us know!
Let’s face it: At the beginning of the Christmas season, we have warm, fuzzy thoughts of snuggling in front of the fire with a hot toddy in hand and "A Charlie Brown Christmas" on the telly. Next thing you know, we’re fighting with crowds in malls, dragging the Christmas tree through the damn door, and making grocery lists for the three full days it’ll take to make all those holiday family feasts. Where did that warm, all-over glow go?
The Berkeley Hotel in London’s Knightsbridge is doing all they can to bring that fleeting festive feeling back with their rooftop Winter Cinema.
Known as a happening rooftop terrace overlooking Hyde Park in the summer, the hotel’s Health Club & Spa has transformed the space into a pine-filled forest with twinkly lights, rustic-chic wooden chalets built for two and a cinema screen more than large enough to accommodate Jimmy Stewart’s face.
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The next time you’re checking into The Dorchester and they ask you to state your name, you could just say, “Bond. James Bond.”
With the release of William Boyd’s new 007 novel, Solo, a few short weeks back, you can—quite literally—insert yourself in the story at The Dorchester. The London hotel is the setting for the opening scene of Boyd’s new Bond book, in which 007 is described as treating himself to a 45th birthday breakfast in 1969. In the book, Bond’s breakfast at The Dorchester consists of “four eggs, scrambled with pepper sprinkled on top, half a dozen rashers of unsmoked bacon, well done, on the side and a long draught of strong black coffee.”
If you order Bond’s birthday breakfast, the hotel will help set the scene by offering you an iPod loaded with hits from the 60s, giving you an extract from a national newspaper and the menu from 1969, and serving your breakfast silver service-style in keeping with the 60s. Once a week, a table will be chosen at random to be charged The Grill's 1969 price, a sum just short of £2 ($2.70).
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Polo season is in full gear in the UK and will be starting soon enough in the rest of the world. Whether it’s polo-inspired cocktail menus, training with the polo pros or exclusive access to top matches, these hotels want you to experience polo paradise.
Three of the world’s top polo matches take place in Argentina, so it’s a pretty big deal there. The new bar at Four Seasons Hotel Buenos Aires pays homage to the sport and to the revered Argentinean polo team, La Dolfina. However, the Pony Line Bar and Lounge may be clad in brown leather and have a riding motif throughout, but it ain’t a sports bar as you know it to be.
It’s more for the urban sophisticate who wants to try the housemade chorizo and oxtail empanadas to go along with his or her artisanal locally-produced Stallion beer than the Bud Light and wings crowd. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that—we like a good stack of salt-and-pepper wings as much as the next guy or gal. We’re just sayin’.)
If you want to get an even bigger taste of the game, as a hotel guest you can visit La Dolfina Polo Ranch to learn more about the sport and why Argentina is reputed to be so good at it. Rates start at $595 in October.
The Lowry Hotel in Manchester is trying to spice up the life of business travelers with a new program called the Ultimate Cycling Experience that lets them get behind the bars at the Manchester Velodrome, an Olympic-sized cycling fast track.
The package is meant as a team-building exercise for companies and groups to treat their employees/members during a business trip. The Lowry Hotel has partnered with the National Cycling Center to offer a one-hour training session with a professional biking coach to help riders learn how to tackle the banked track. Participants are then allowed to race against each other in a one-lap time trial. After, the group gets an "awards ceremony" back at the Lowry in the form of a three-course dinner.
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Last week we told you about LA’s Four Seasons offering up a ½ oz shot of the revered Louis XIII Rare Cask 42,6 cognac for a healthy $1,000 a pop. Now we’ve found out that The Bar at The Dorchester in London has fired a shot over their bow, so to speak, thereby upping the cognac war ante.
To celebrate the launch of the Louis XIII Rare Cask 42, 6, the house of Rémy Martin asked this Dorchester Collection hotel to create the ultimate “Louis XIII Dorchester Experience.” For the first time ever, you can taste all four Louis XIII ‘expressions’ side by side: Louis XIII, Louis XIII Black Pearl, Louis XIII Rare Cask 43,8 and the recently launched Louis XIII Rare Cask 42,6. With only 20 flights available and most of the Louis XIII Rare Cask and Black Pearl now sold-out worldwide, there’s no time to lose.
And it gets even better.
Pillow Perks, the UK's first nationwide reward program for independent and boutique hotels, will officially launch this September. Members earn 1 point for every euro they spend on room rates and at on-site facilities (restaurants, bars, golf, spa), and can begin redeeming said points once 3,000 are accumulated. Free reward nights start at 1,000 points a night.
Now, it is unfortunately only open to UK properties at the moment, and the fact that you need to accumulate 3,000 points before redeeming means it has limited benefits for US-based travelers. Membership does, however, get you free Wifi, a welcome drink/chef snack, and a free room upgrade, so it's worth signing up if you find yourself looking for a place to stay in the UK.
Like most reward programs that pop up, time will be the judge of its success. Right now, Pillow Perks is hoping to get 25 properties registered by the time it launches in September. As always, you have the power as the consumer to determine its success -- obviously, the more travelers that sign up, the more interest properties will have.
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In response to a growing number of toiletry bags being left behind at its hotels, Travelodge conducted a study of UK travelers that revealed they were grossly underestimating the value of the bag and its contents.
Louis Vuitton and other designer bags are obviously worth a pretty penny, but we're talking about the contents of everyday toiletry bags that, while seemingly meaningless, carry a surprisingly high replacement cost. The study found that while the average toiletry bag and its contents are worth about $240, the British travelers estimated that they were worth only $80.
This, obviously, got us thinking. How much is our bag and its contents worth? We must admit we are very simple travelers -- we don't have a lot of stuff -- but a quick inventory revealed that even the most basic items would still be kind of annoying to replace. Here's a rundown of our bag:
In a quest to raise money for charity as well as for purposes of publicity, Travelodge constructed a demo of their new room design at the summit of Britain’s highest peak, Ben Nevis (4,409 feet), at the end of June. A team of 36 made the 11-mile round trip journey, including the construction of the room, in about eight and a half hours. It was built upon the still-remaining snow and consisted of two walls, a bed, a duvet, a sheet with four pillows, a chair and a picture.
Not quite an ice hotel, but close!
The effort, while on one hand only a novelty, was able to raise almost $79,000 for charity, which we obviously applaud. Apparently this is not the first time Ben Nevis has hosted a hotel. The Temperance Hotel operated at the summit from 1894 to 1916 as a barracks for climbers during the summer months.
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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: Hotel-branded pens and notepads as keepsakes
What’s In: Souvenirs inspired by the history and culture of the hotel
Fess up: The last time you stayed in a hotel, did you take the little pad of paper and pen with the hotel’s name on it? Everyone takes the toiletries, but if you’re a serious hotel geek, that cheap pen disappeared too. We get it. And so do hotels.
If you want a more lasting or glam souvenir though, these hotels have what you need.
The Washington School House hotel in Park City, Utah was a former school built in 1889 that even has its own motto: "Where old school is the new cool". As a playful nod and a wink to their educational roots, guests will find a notebook and pencil set waiting when they check in.
The Hyatt Regency Atlanta Downtown recently completed a $65 million transformation that included the opening of Market – a self-serve, around-the-clock stop for all your snacking needs (including a fancy-dancy touch-screen soda fountain that dispenses 126 different drinks). Food in Georgia trends towards down-home goodness, and the Executive Chef’s homemade BBQ rub, at $5 a pop in Market, lets you experience that Southern comfort all over again.
The sleek Yabu Pushelberg-designed Modern Honolulu likes to serve a little quirk with its chic. The hotel leaves complimentary sarongs and ukuleles in each guest room for you to use during your stay. But if you like them so much you can’t live without them, the sarongs and ukuleles are available for purchase so you can strum away ‘til your heart’s content.
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The raison d’être of Marriott’s Autograph Collection is to provide not just a place to lay your weary head, but to give you an experience based on different themes like Culinary Delight, Artistic Getaway, Urban Excitement or Sporting Adventure. (For added fun, you can visit their Facebook page and have your autograph analysed to see which theme suits you best. It was shockingly accurate.)
Now they’re bringing that concept to the UK for the first time with the addition of two upscale hotels: Threadneedles in London and The Glasshouse in Edinburgh.
Threadneedles is set in the heart of the Square Mile, the original site of the Roman settlement that started it all. Being in The City, you’re close to St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Borough Market and the Tower of London.
The hotel is in a former Victorian bank and blends the traditional with the contemporary. The lobby is dominated by an elaborate stained-glass dome from 1856 and the hotel has a see-and-be-seen restaurant and bar for the business crowd, Bonds. For those of you who have really latched on to the theme idea, you’re looking at Urban Excitement, Culinary Delight, Wedding Celebrations and Historic Explorations at this boutique hotel.
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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: Seaweed facials
What's In: Facials with gold, diamonds and other sparkly things
Diamonds and other precious metals and gems are sparkly and luminous; why shouldn’t your skin be the same? See what the hotel spas below are doing to make your skin radiate with good health.
The Dorchester Hotel in London offers the Carol Joy London Diamond Facial. Following ten years of research and three years of development, Carol Joy London products are created with some of the most precious beauty ingredients around (who knew that Golden Millet Oil was like pure gold?).
This intensive facial includes exfoliation with a diamond-head contraption that is said to be gentler than the traditional crystal ablater (we just like that word –- it sounds kind of bad-ass). While that’s going on, you’re being blasted with an Oxyjet machine that produces 95% pure oxygen to cool and soothe your skin and stimulate collagen production. The result? A firmer, clearer and more glowing you. The price for beauty, in this case, is £205 ($279).
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The Savoy in London, managed by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, is launching its new Art Deco restaurant concept on Thursday, May 2: Kaspar's Seafood Bar & Grill. By naming it Kaspar’s the hotel is keeping alive one of its most celebrated (and superstitious) guests.
Here’s the story: In 1898, South African diamond magnate Woolf Joel held a dinner at The Savoy for fourteen guests and one cancelled at the last minute. The dinner continued, but one superstitious guest announced that death would come to the first person to leave the unlucky table of thirteen. Joel took that gamble and a few weeks later he was shot dead in Johannesburg.
To avoid a repeat performance and damage to its reputation, The Savoy offered a member of the staff to sit amongst tables of thirteen thereafter. However, unable to discuss private matters or tell ribald jokes, this proved to be unpopular with guests and thus, in a stroke of genius, Kaspar the cat was born.
This three-foot sculpture of a cat was made in 1926. For 90 years , The Savoy has been happy to oblige parties of thirteen with Kaspar's company, where he wears a jaunty napkin around his neck and is given his own place setting to enjoy every course.