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A FEW OF MY FAVORITE PLACES IN 2008

Concordia9

    Most of us are eager to forget 2008 and move on to better things in 2009. But there are a few hotels that I discovered this past year that bear revisiting, three special places that stand out. A stay at any one of them is energizing and a fitting way to greet an eagerly awaited new year.

Estate Concordia Tents, St John, USVI
    What does Estate Concordia (above), visionary Stanley Selengut's tent camp on the tip of St. John prove? That you don't need to be a billionaire – or even a millionaire – to enjoy some of the most beautiful island scenery in the word. Not when rates start at $105 per night. Estate Concordia Tents

Ashford-castle-hotel

Ashford Castle, Cong, County Mayo, Ireland
    The phrase "Irish castle" covers a lot of ground — was the edifice in question really a castle, or just a grand retreat for an Anglo-Irish family — but it strikes a chord in many Americans, of Irish descent or not. Ashford Castle in County Mayo was once the fishing lodge of the Guinness family. It feels like a rambling house –  a very big house, granted — with grand bedrooms and four poster beds and certain staff that might have served as extras in Father Ted. The floors squeak, the paneling is dark, the paintings are important and the grandeur is palpable. You could imagine spending a week here, going fishing on the island-dotted Lough Corrib, which it overlooks. Taking a falconry course. Sipping Guinness and reading an Elizabeth Bowen novel while looking at the changing sky and the fountain that frames the view. Oh, and paying homage to The Quiet Man, which was shot here and in the neighboring village of Cong. There may not have been any knights on the premises, but John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara stayed here — American royalty, in other words. A stay here is, in short, magical. And with a stronger dollar, a bit more affordable than it once was. Ashford Castle

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Hotel du Lac, Vevey, Switzerland
    My most enjoyable hotel stay of the year? Hard to say, but the Grand Hotel du Lac in Vevey, Switzerland ranked high. It was the hotel where Anita Brookner set her novel, Hotel du Lac, and it has an amazing location, on the shores of Lake Geneva, overlooking the French Alps. When I first stayed here, about 11 years ago, it was all faded glory, in a quiet city tucked between Lausanne and Montreux best known as Charlie Chaplin's refuge after his Hollywood blacklisting. But the Grand Hotel du Lac has been reborn as a "Grand" hotel, thanks to Pierre Yves-Rochon, the same decorator who did the interiors of the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris. It's beautiful and sublime, with a view across Lake Geneva and the French Alps that I never tire of. Grand Hotel du Lac


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