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Polo? Skeet Shooting? Luxe Amenities for the Rich (and Not-So-Rich) at Casa de Campo in the DR

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  Site Where: Casa de Campo, La Romana, Dominican Republic
July 31, 2015 at 10:35 AM | by | ()

One of the things that makes Casa de Campo appealing is that it has everything from nicely-designed rooms that start at $187, villas that start at around $850 and go up from there, and truly extravagant owned properties. This makes it not just a hotel or resort, but a community – granted, a pretty wealthy community. But no matter where you find yourself in that rich and fabulous scale you still get to experience everything the resort’s got going on.

The sugar-baron owners of Casa de Campo started out with sugar cane fields, then added a rum distillery (which produces a very nice sipping rum, Atlantico, which is a crime to hide in a sweet sissy cocktail so make sure to try some straight), then purchased and expanded the hotel in order to house their visiting business colleagues. From there, the Fanjul family started adding things as they saw a need or which friends and guests started asking for.

What that means is that today the resort has a horse ranch, a shooting center, a marina and even a small town. This is, of course, in addition to the family-owned La Romana Airport and a cruise ship port that was recently built. Holy mega wealth.

Although this contributing editor would have been pretty happy simply putt-putting around in her golf cart (one comes with each room and villa) looking at all the lush and lovely scenery, I recognize that this might not be everyone's idea of a trip to the tropics. So in the spirit of sharing, check out what else you can do below.

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Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic is Ready for its Close-up: An Inside Look

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  Site Where: Casa de Campo, La Romana, Dominican Republic
July 30, 2015 at 4:48 PM | by | ()

We recently had the chance to have a look at the luxe 7,000-acre Casa de Campo in the DR so that we could sus out exactly why celebs like Beyoncé and Jay-Z, The Kardashians, Michael Jordan and the Clintons – even the final two episodes of The Bachelorette last season were filmed here – choose this resort as their tropical home-away-from-home.

We think that the answer is this: When you close your eyes and imagine a chic West Indies design idyll – dark mahogany wood, stone flooring (the native Coralina stone with a distinctive mottled pattern), sandy taupe furnishings, crisp white sun shades and linens to match – this is the place where it actually exists. Add to that rooms that are over 600 sq ft and villas that can be bought or rented and sleep up to 14 people (or more if you’re creative), and it’s quite the set-up.

Lots of room and villa pics below!

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We All Scream for the Ice Cream Flight at The Pierre New York

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  Site Where: 2 East 61st Street [map], New York, NY, United States, 10065-8402
July 22, 2015 at 5:42 PM | by | ()

It’s been a hot one, alright. Temperatures have been at record highs across much of the US, so you can be forgiven for wanting to break your summer diet to indulge in a little frozen treat.

The Pierre, a Taj Hotel (and part of Leading Hotels of the World), has come to the rescue with their Summer Ice Cream flight at Two E Lounge. You get four miniature-sized cones in these delish-sounding flavors:

- Wild Blueberry Verbena

- White Peach Raspberry

- Alphonso Mango

- White Chocolate Strawberry

And no – the frozen goodness is not over – you also get a 70% Dark Chocolate Pistachio Parfait Pop and, to carry you from serious indulgence to overindulgence, two Micro Macarons.

The Summer Ice Cream Flight ($12) is available exclusively for Summer 2015, served daily from 3 p.m. until close until September 7. Order two and dinner's done.

[Photo: The Pierre, a Taj Hotel]

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An Inside Look at Hotel Schweizerhof Bern in Switzerland

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  Site Where: Bahnhofplatz 11, Bern, Switzerland, 3001
April 30, 2015 at 5:07 PM | by | ()

The last hotel on our ramble through Switzerland takes us to the country’s capital of Bern and the uptown chic hotel, the Hotel Schweizerhof Bern (part of Leading Hotels of the World and Swiss Deluxe Hotels).

This 99-room property’s been around for more than 150 years and in 2005 the hotel shut down for a major reno (you know the story: you’re a new owner so you absolutely have to re-decorate) and, six years and 50 million Swiss Francs later, ta-da! Now it’s a stylin' five-star superior property.

Designed by Maria Vafiadis from MKV Design in London, our 410 sq ft Deluxe King Room was decorated in earthy taupes and grays with dramatic stainless steel and black-and-white glass bathrooms. Floors were done in herringbone oak which kept the room warm in feel and the view was of the rooftops of the Old Town (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). It had the feel of a luxe pied-à-terre.

Room perks include the minibar with its complimentary beer and soft drinks, a Nespresso machine and kettle, free WiFi, locally-made comfy linens, a Japanese soaking tub AND a shower, a window in the bathroom that opens and has the same aforementioned view, and Bulgari White Tea toiletries (this writer’s fave of the Bulgari line).

See the rest of the hotel pics in the image gallery!

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3 Killer Views at Fairmont Le Montreux Palace in Switzerland

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  Site Where: Avenue Claude Nobs 2, Montreux, Switzerland, CH-1820
April 23, 2015 at 5:10 PM | by | ()

We do like to wax poetic sometimes over the killer views we find from hotel rooms all over the planet, but the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace in Switzerland (part of Swiss Deluxe Hotels and Leading Hotels of the World) has not one, not two, but at least three killer views that we noticed recently. It seems that wherever you go you’re faced with another scenic vista of mountains and lake (Lake Geneva, to be exact).

We’re sharing those vistas here with you in a minute, but this isn’t the particular scene that prompted Deep Purple to write their hit, Smoke on the Water, while staying at a hotel nearby this illustrious hotel that’s played host to many a rock star celeb.

No, that scene, which probably included the aforementioned vista, was of a fire started by a fan with a flare gun (kids, don’t try this at home) at the famed casino close to the hotel where Frank Zappa was playing in 1971. Rumor has it that the band Deep Purple looked out their window this particular December to see flames and smoke rising from the building and were so inspired that they penned the song. And where did they end up recording said song? At Le Montreux Palace.

But back to the views we saw. The first is from room 118, a Junior Suite category room. This Mediterranean-like room in butter yellows, creams and light pebble greys (reno’ed in 2009), has a small balcony that looks out over Lake Geneva PLUS a French balcony off of the bedroom side of the room to give you the same scrumptious view. Most rooms, in fact, have either a balcony or veranda in this 236-room property. The Junior Suites also come with a sitting area with a desk, coffeemaker, a bathroom with both a tub and a shower, the brand’s Le Labo Rose 31 toiletries and, our favorite, a mirror/TV that swivels so that you can watch CNN in the living room or from your comfy bed. WiFi’s part of the package for President’s Club members, which is free to join.

Plenty of pics of the room and the other killer views in the photo gallery!

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All About the Killer Views and Weird Spa Treatments at Switzerland's Palace Luzern

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  Site Where: Haldenstrasse 10, Lucerne, Switzerland, CH-6002
April 22, 2015 at 2:00 PM | by | ()

Okay, it’s time to 'fess up: This writer has fallen in love with Switzerland in a mad, gushing “I can’t live without it” sort of way. And why? Aside from its other qualities, it’s beautiful. I’m telling you this so that when I describe the Palace Luzern hotel as being a great spot to take in Switzerland's delights, you’ll understand the importance of that statement.

The hotel (part of Swiss Deluxe Hotels and Leading Hotels of the World) is situated right on the tree-lined, lakeside pedestrian promenade, with views stretching out over Lake Lucerne to the Alps in the background. Can't you just feel yourself relax as you take in that mountain view? Plus it's only a short walk to Lucerne’s quaint Chapel Bridge and Old Town.

But the hotel is not content to rest on its scenery laurels. The first time this 1906 property had a major overhaul was after WWII, during which time it had been used as a military hospital. Then, in 2005, the hotel opened its one-of-a-kind spa and reduced the number of rooms from 168 to 136 so that guests, i.e. you and me, could spread out more. Then, in 2013, 42 additional rooms were renovated, leaving us with 129 rooms and suites, and that brings us all the way to now, with the Davidoff Cigar Lounge having opened in February and the new restaurant, Marlin, replacing Jasper with a newly-deigned menu. Whew!

More scenic pics in the photo gallery!

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Patina Singapore is Nearly Ready for Your 24-Hour Stay

April 21, 2015 at 8:34 AM | by | ()

It feels like we’ve already waited too long for the 24-hour stays, possible calligraphy classes and six full stars of the Patina Singapore, but the wait is nearly over – because they’ve now set August 1 as the opening date.

At least, that’s what they say on the Leading Hotels of the World website (there’s still no info on Patina Hotels’ own site). But should you try to book, you’ll find reservations are only open from September 1. Perhaps they’re hoping to open up the August rooms nearer the time. Perhaps they’re playing it safe. Or perhaps they enjoy making us wait longer.

Either way, there’s a nice surprise – a really nice surprise – with the rates.

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Hanging Out (And Over) the Giant Singing Bowl at Palace Luzern

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  Site Where: Haldenstrasse 10, Lucerne, Switzerland, CH-6002
April 17, 2015 at 12:35 PM | by | ()

Right now, many of you are probably going, “What the…?” Well, let me introduce you to the one, the only, 1.2 ton, 6’ wide Giant Ceremonial Singing Bowl – the only one of its kind in the world and found at the Palace Luzern hotel (part of Swiss Deluxe Hotels and Leading Hotels of the World).

Traditionally used for meditation, Tibetan Singing Bowls are kind of like inverted bells. The rim is struck by a mallet to produce a harmonic sound and reverberation that is said to both relax and soothe. The folks at the Palace Luzern decided that if a little bowl is good for you, then a gigantic one must be terrific.

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A Look Inside Madrid's Hotel Villa Magna

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  Site Where: Paseo de la Castellana 22, Madrid, Spain, 28046
March 27, 2015 at 3:00 PM | by | ()

Don’t you love it when a hotel does a reno and decreases the number of rooms rather than increases them? The Hotel Villa Magna in Madrid (part of Leading Hotels of the World) renovated the property between 2007 and 2009 and we mean gutted it – demolishing everything but the building’s façade and the floors – and took the room count from 182 to 150 rooms and suites. This leaves you with some of the most spacious rooms in Madrid.

Madrid-based interior designer Thomas Urquijo is the master planner behind the design, which is best-described as contemporary elegance. There's a touch of Bauhaus, Viennese Secessionism and Louis XVI styles all thrown in there, with both public and private spaces bathed in earthy greys and off-whites. Furniture is a combo of restored antiques and modern additions, and one nice touch is the colorful artwork found throughout the hotel, all part of the private collection of the hotel’s Portuguese owners who, we were told, also own the Four Seasons Lisbon.

Found in the posh Salamanca district, right in the heart of Madrid’s ritziest shopping, the hotel’s rooms and suites are broken down into seven separate categories, starting with the Magna Room all the way to the Insignia Suites. But get this: the smallest room category, the Magna Room, is a whopping 376 sq ft. As a comparison when we stayed at the ME Madrid in one of their Energy Rooms (the last room category just before you hit the suites) it was only 265 sq ft. Sometimes bigger really is better.

See all of the pics in the photo gallery!

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The Reverie Saigon Is a Vietnamese Dream

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  Site Where: 22-36 Nguyen Hue Boulevard, 57-69F Dong Khoi Street, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, District 1
January 2, 2015 at 8:25 AM | by | ()

Just in time for the New Year! It’s another Times Square hotel, but not Manhattan; this one is in Ho Chi Minh City, aka Saigon. The Reverie Saigon – the latest addition to the Leading Hotels of the World group – will open February 1.

It’s part of the modern Times Square building in District 1, taking over the 27th-39th floors of the building, and has 286 rooms. Don’t expect traditional Vietnam looks, though – it’s been designed by four Italians, who’ve lent it an opulent, almost Venetian feel. Rooms look very different from each other – you can go from an over the top frilly headboard and gilt mirror combo (above)…

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Like Raffles, 50 Years Ago: Inside The Strand, Burma's Most Historic Hotel

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  Site Where: 92 Strand Road, Yangon, Myanmar
November 19, 2014 at 9:51 AM | by | ()

Mingalabar! All this week we'll be focusing on one of the fastest changing hotel scenes on the globe: Burma, or Myanmar. (For Burma or Myanmar, see here - as fence-sitters, we'll be using the two interchangeably throughout the week.) We’ve already covered your hotel basics, and looked at Yangon’s most expensive hotel. Today, we’re sticking with Yangon, but checking in at one of Burma’s most historic properties.

Call it the pulling power of Belmond, but most tourists visiting Yangon have Governor’s Residence in mind as the landmark hotel here – whereas, actually, sitting quietly in the middle of town, is The Strand: a stately neoclassical building that opened in 1901 and has, over the years, hosted the likes of George Orwell, Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham, and Noel Coward (or for those of you who like your celebrities of a more modern bent: Mick Jagger, David Rockefeller, Chelsea Clinton and the King of Tonga).

The Strand has a fascinating history: initially billed as “the finest hostelry east of Suez” and once owned by the Sarkies Brothers (of Raffles Singapore fame – in fact it looks a bit like Raffles), it fell into disrepair in the 1960s before reopening in 1993 as an all-suite, five star hotel with just 31 rooms. These days, it’s a member of Leading Hotels of the World (their only property in Myanmar). But with a renovation that has remained true to the original – no new wings, no swimming pool, no fitness center added – does it cut the mustard?

As we said yesterday, that probably depends on your requirements.

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Don't Try to Stay Dry at the DRY Bar in Madrid’s Gran Meliá Fénix

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  Site Where: Calle de Hermosilla, 2, Madrid, Spain, 28001
September 5, 2014 at 4:10 PM | by | ()

We just love a good play on words because while “staying dry” at Gran Meliá Fénix’s DRY Bar is possible, with an 84-page bar menu, it’s probably not the time or the place.

The bar, whose full name is the lengthy DRY Cosmopolitan Bar by Javier de las Muelas, has a tantalizing selection of bevvies that fall into categories such as DRY & Tonics, Exotiks, Sensory, and a full page of Beer Cocktails (remember we saw this as a trend during Cocktail Week?). But it’s really the Classics, as in martini classics, that the bar most wants you to try, because when you do, you join a select group.

Each person who orders the Extra Dry Martini (€13 or $17) officially becomes a—as in you get a certificate and everything—proud supporter of the “Javier de las Muelas Dry Foundation, created for the development of the cocktail world.” Your certificate states your martini order number, as does the martini counter above the Bar’s bar.

You’ll be drinking your lip-smacking, mouth-drying martini (gin is certainly the thing here with 60 varieties available) in a clubby, woody type of bar where you feel you can stay and sink into the furniture for a while.

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