Tag Archive | "London"

The Café Royal Hotel: Legendary London at its Luxurious Best

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Hotel Café Royal, London

Hotel Café Royal, London

By Ruth J. Katz

Steeped in history ever-so-glamorous, the Hotel Café Royal is, simply put, a London legend.

Established in 1865 by Frenchman Daniel Nicholas Thévenon (who later anglicized his given name to Nicols) and his wife Celestine, Café Royal immediately became one of London’s finest dining rooms, the epicenter for international café society. Its location, in Piccadilly Circus, literally put it at the nexus of Londinium, as the metropolis was originally known.  Renowned for its extraordinary and excellent wine cellar, Café Royal gained the reputation as the place where the smart set downed its Château d’Yquem and Château Lafite.  After it was purchased by the current owner, The Set (which has properties in Amsterdam and in Paris) in 2009, it was shuttered for nigh on to three years, while it was artfully renovated and historically restored to its former grandeur and glory. When the curtain was lifted and the ribbon cut, its simply jaw-dropping splendor was unveiled.  Arguably the jewel in the crown of this stunning hotel is the famed Oscar Wilde Bar, formerly the Grill Room.

The Oscar Wilde Bar

The Oscar Wilde Bar

This club-like brasserie, established in 1865, was the then go-to boîte for the bold-faced names of the era. Literati, titled gentry, marginal artsy types, and gadabouts met and drank convivially here, among the gilded columns and ornate statuettes. It was also here that the near-mythical Oscar Wilde, playwright and author, dallied with Lord Alfred Douglas, son of the Marquess of Queensbury, establishing a relationship that resulted in three horrific lawsuits; the upshot of those litigious clashes was Wilde’s sentence to two years’ hard labor. Ultimately, this sordid history and the subsequent legal shenanigans formed the backdrop of playwright Moisés Kaufman’s searing œuvre, Gross Indecency.

It was also here in this staggeringly spectacular and over-the-top chamber that the Duke of Windsor courted and canoodled with Wallis Simpson; Aubrey Beardsley debated with Whistler; David Bowie retired Ziggy Stardust (and quite a merrymaking gala that was, dubbed by its host as “The Last Supper”); and Mick Jagger, the Beatles, and Elizabeth Taylor pirouetted ’til the wee hours. History is infused in these walls, and if only they could talk.

The restoration is a sight to savor. (The overall hotel renovation was undertaken by David Chipperfield Architects, which seamlessly merged the old and new—it is a Grade II-listed building—and the historical restorations were executed by specialist-architect, Donald Insall Associates). A tip, if you visit the Oscar Wilde Café:  Wear sunglasses, as the gobsmacking ormolu might just blind you. It is so over-the-top that it is, in a word, perfect! With its mirrored walls, wood-rich parquet floor, sumptuously paneled moldings, gold-leaf and frescoed ceilings, and fiery-red banquettes and settees, it is so majestic and dramatic as to defy description. I dallied for a few hours here, sipping Champagnes (I will say, the drinks menu is overwhelming, with its inspired cocktails and unusual offerings), and nibbling on the delicious small plates, each a culinary surprise. Afternoon tea is also served here, and I cannot think of a more ornate and worldly place for imbibing a cuppa’.

It’s worth a parenthetical note that when, a few years ago, The Importance of Being Earnest was playing in the West End, a mere few steps away at the Harold Pinter Theatre, the hotel offered a “Wilde Package,” and I suspect it was pretty wild, too. Remember, it was Wilde who said, “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”

The Green Bar

The Green Bar

Hotel Café Royal was the second member of The Set, a developing collection of hotels created to redefine the concept of the luxury hotel for sophisticated, design-literate travelers in the 21st century. Located in existing landmark buildings, each member of The Set is rooted in the history and culture of its location while mindfully catering to the contemporary needs and desires of its guests. Adhering to the intrinsic DNA that makes for a grand, old-world hotel, the designers, nonetheless, infused the framework with current concepts, offering amenities that are 21st-century, among the glam and poshness of yesteryear.   The Lutetia in Paris, a member of The Set, is slated to open next year, and I am curious to see it, as I have stayed there and found it be a grand old dame, fading in her stateliness, and in need of a facelift.  I suspect she is getting that roadwork now.

Guestroom at Hotel Café Royal

Guestroom at Hotel Café Royal

As for Café Royal, it could not be a better blend of its imperial roots and modern technology, peppered with the best hotelier’s personal cossetting and coddling.  The rooms (160 of them) are sleek, elegant, and tech-loaded.  A panel on the wall controls everything; let the bellman show you, lest you get caught in the technosphere.  My serene room, accented with rusticated Portland stone and earthy-toned soft furnishings (including soft-as-butter Frette linens), was virtually over Piccadilly Circus, yet it was remarkably quiet, with the double-paned windows; I could hear nothing of the din outside the window.  There were button-controlled black-out shades, sheers, and daylight-curtains, so I could decide just how much twinkling holiday cheer (I was right above the Christmas lights of Regent Street).  The bathrooms and amenities were sublime and every detail in the closets was well thought out—where to hang this, how to polish that, what to do with rain-soaked shoes.

Worth mentioning, also, is the delightful and seductive Café at Hotel Café Royal, with a Regent Street entrance in case you are not staying at the hotel, but want an alternative to Starbuck’s, Patisserie Valerie, or Caffè Nero.  It is a charming sweets shop and pâtisserie, serving breakfast as well as snacks and light fare all day long.  It features absolutely intoxicatingly delicious and heartbreakingly beautiful délices. Some of the tempting treats on the general patisserie menu include strawberry crispy mousse, almond sponge, and lemon curd; pistachio and apricot mille feuille; passion fruit, ginger, and chocolate éclair. There is a newly launched dessert-tasting menu for anyone willing to challenge his or her glucose-tolerance level!

Occupying the first floor of the exquisite building is The Club, designed to be a comfortable and creative space for members (you are a short-term member if you are staying in one of the hotel’s suites), simultaneously dazzling and welcoming. Precious historic spaces have been sensitively modernized to create an elegant sanctum and exclusive haven in the heart of the city: a place where members are encouraged to pursue their creative vocations, to work, socialize, network and relax.

Akasha Swimming Pool

Akasha Swimming Pool

If you want to ensure relaxation, head to the Akasha Holistic Wellbeing Centre after check-in, to soothe and smooth away jet lag.  It’s an urban sanctuary spanning more than 13,000 square feet, hidden below Regent Street. The spa offers a trusted approach to holistic wellbeing, with the natural elements—earth, water, fire, and air—as its underpinnings, and features a state-of-the-art-gym, large lap pool, Watsu pool (for underwater shiatsu), sauna and private hammam/steam room; the spa uses luxurious brands, Valmont and Sodashi, not found in too many other spa-retreats.

You will get a sense of just how Zen the hotel is, when you alight from the elevator and walk to your room. The hallways are lined with what appear to be shoji screens, back lit.  It was a short hike to my room, and I was tempted to leave Reese’s Pieces to find my way back.  And frankly, finding my way back, is what I think about now—I cannot wait to spend another few nights, next trip to London, at this lovely, welcoming, and top-tier hotel.

 

The Details:

Hotel Café Royal

68 Regent Street, London W1B 4DY

+44 (0)20 7406 3333

Guestrooms from £440 (approx. US$640); suites from £810 (approx. US$1,178)

 

The author of five books, Ruth J. Katz is the former style/travel editor of Promenade magazine.  She has written extensively for both The New York Times and New York magazine and has served as an editor or contributing editor at numerous magazines, including Redbook, Classic Home, Golf Connoisseur, and The Modern Estate.

 

 

 

 

One Aldwych

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One Aldwych, London

One Aldwych, London

By Richard West

I am here to relieve your angst and ennui that often arises whence cometh that seasonal oxymoron, Summer Vacation.  Your concern that the undiscovered city doesn’t deserve even an imaginary airline ticket; staying in the slight-run-downiness of Hotel Earle in “Barton Fink” instead of the promised “new and improved”; meals that have you thinking fondly of licorice pizza. A Groucho Marx quote is the trip’s coda: “I’ve had a wonderful evening but this wasn’t it.” Calm thyself. Admittance to the Land of Cockaigne, the land of plenty, is insured in three words: London, One Aldwych.

The Lobby Bar dominated by Andre Wallace’s “Boatman with Oars” at One Aldwych, London

The Lobby Bar dominated by Andre Wallace’s “Boatman with Oars” at One Aldwych, London

London, the great English city living in two time signatures at once: the urgent and the always. Aesthetically interesting, culturally enriching, eatfotainment from around the world. The past on every street, the future never too far away. One Aldwych, the perfectly located chic hotel. Stroll across the street, hike past Somerset House, and stand mid-Waterloo Bridge: downstream, The City, London’s new skyline, Tate Modern, the Millennium Bridge; upstream, Parliament, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace. Betwixt and between these centers of money and power, One Aldwych on the edge of bustling Covent Garden. Inside, the eyegasmic Lobby Bar dominated by Andre Wallace’s “Boatman with Oars”, one of the hotel’s 350 modern art pieces; the hidden, comfy guest lounge; spa and large pool; the mezzanine’s Indigo restaurant, London’s first that is entirely gluten-dairy free without sacrificing tastes.

A bedroom at One Aldwych, London

A bedroom at One Aldwych, London

The rooms? Quiet, orchid-elegant, enveloping pillows /large bed, delivered newspapers, shower temperature gauge and a deep bathtub. In our experience, never a room next door sounding like boot camp in the chimp house. “Splendesdo”, writer Bill Bryson’s word when splendid proves too weak.

Here’s the summer lagniappe: if you book with One Aldwych, July 14-September 11, you can choose amongst relaxing (and learning) programs during their Summer Urban Retreat carte du jour. Many are free: in the Lobby Bar, drink reception Thursdays, live music Fridays; children’s films Saturdays (3:30), adults (6 p.m.) in the 30-seat screening room; on Fridays, a complimentary hour-and-half tour of Covent Garden led by one of England’s acclaimed Blue Badge guides. Not free but not much, a private tour of Somerset House’s Courtauld Gallery of Impressionist art; a different-from-the-public backstage tour of Theatre Royal Drury Lane; food and drink master classes led by exec chef Dominic Teague and mixologist Pedro Paulo.  Note bene: contact the concierge for the tour bookings.

The basement pool at One Aldwych, London

The basement pool at One Aldwych, London

I chose Blue Badge guide Sophie Campbell’s splendesdo Covent Garden tour. Some highlights: brief histories of several of the area’s Shakespearienced 13 theaters, including the Lyceum, Royal Opera House, and Theatre Royal Drury Lane; a stop at The Lamb and Flag, one of London’s earliest pubs (first mention, 1722); the smaller, older St. Paul’s Church, opposite the Covent Garden Piazza, the “Actor’s Church” with memorials of past greats inside and two remaining gas lamps outside; near the Seven Dials intersection, Neal’s Yard, original home of the city’s organic food shops; opposite the Royal Opera House, the Bow Street Magistrate’s Court (est. 1740) bringing to mind Dickens’ Inspector Bucket in “Bleak House,” Britain’s first fictional detective.

Repast at One Aldwych, London

Repast at One Aldwych, London

Apres-tour and a rest, dinner at One Aldwych’s Indigo: cured Loch Duart salmon appetizer; the 28-day dried aged grass-fed Scottish beef with accompanying hand-cut chips, truffle mayo, a leaf salad; a Chateau Mazetier 2014  Bordeaux; finally, a caramelized banana, custard, bitter chocolate sorbet.

The One Aldwych experience perhaps will summon up poet Philip Larkin’s verse on a summer holiday: “You’re as fine as summer weather/May to August all in one/And the clocks, when we’re together/Count no shadows, only sun.”

One Aldwych Hotel

 

Richard West spent nine years as a writer and senior editor at Texas Monthly before moving to New York to write for New York and Newsweek. Since then, he’s had a distinguished career as a freelance writer. West was awarded the National Magazine Award for Reporting in 1980 and is a member of Texas Arts & Letters. He lives in Amsterdam.

Richard West spent nine years as a writer and senior editor at Texas Monthly before moving to New York to write for New York and Newsweek. Since then, he’s had a distinguished career as a freelance writer. West was awarded the National Magazine Award for Reporting in 1980 and is a member of Texas Arts & Letters. He lives in Amsterdam.

Letter from London

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By Bill Triplett

Not that you ever need an excuse to pop over to London, but in case you’re looking for one – and happen to like art, photography, and Sherlock Holmes – well, you’re in luck. Museums are kicking off the fall season with some pretty impressive exhibitions; even the Regent Street shopping area and at least one toney tea salon are featuring new artworks; and the world’s most popular fictional detective is getting his very own exhibit.

Muriel Maxwell, American Vogue  Artist:   Model Muriel Maxwell in white sunglasses putting on lipstick, wearing red-white-and-blue turban, andv holding a red-and-white striped bag. 1939   Credit line: © Condé Nast / Horst Estate

Muriel Maxwell, American Vogue
Artist:
Model Muriel Maxwell in white sunglasses putting on lipstick, wearing red-white-and-blue turban, andv holding a red-and-white striped bag. 1939
Credit line: © Condé Nast / Horst Estate

I recently had the opportunity to spend some time in one of my favorite cities in the world. Warm or cold, rain or shine – or maybe I should say rain or less rain – I don’t care. I love it. Moody weather is just part of London’s personality, which almost dares you to dislike it.

The Victoria & Albert Museum had just opened an extensive exhibit featuring the fashion photography of Horst P. Horst – or just Horst, as his contemporaries knew him. Considered one of the best in the business in the middle part of the 20th century, Horst worked regularly for Vogue, shooting upward of 90 covers and countless more prints for inside the magazine. Those covers are carefully displayed, and they give you a sense of not just fashion in the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s, but also of what the upper echelons of society were like in those days. The models’ poses and expressions say as much about the era as the clothes they’re modeling.

Not surprisingly, Horst was a lifelong pal of Coco Chanel, and he counted Noel Coward, Marlene Dietrich, and Salvador Dali among his friends. Thanks to Dali, in fact, Horst had a brief flirtation with surrealism, and those photographs are included in the exhibit. You’ll likely recognize many a famous face he photographed, particularly among his black-and-white portraits, which include a haunting shot of an elegantly dressed, recently married, 17-year-old Gloria Vanderbilt – looking like she wouldn’t be out of place at a funeral. (Horst: Photographer of Style, now through January 4.)

If Old Masters are more to your taste, the V&A should still be on your itinerary since it also just opened an exhibit reassessing the work of and influences on Britain’s own much-beloved John Constable. Curators I spoke with said they want to demonstrate the influence of great classical painters who preceded him (Raphael, Rubens and Claude Lorrain, among others) by showcasing some of their most acclaimed work alongside his.It’s a marvelous collection of classical landscape masters. (Constable: The Making of a Master, now through January 11, 2015.)

And come the middle of October, the National Gallery will turn a light on the later works of Rembrandt. The intent is to show how the 17th century master still possessed extraordinary technical prowess and intense passion as he aged. The exhibition will feature both well-known paintings as well as rare drawings and prints. I managed to get a quick preview: Spectacular pieces. (Rembrandt: The Late Works, October 15 through January 18, 2015).

An Age An Instant

An Age,  An Instant

Art is everywhere in this town, it seems. The Regent Street shopping district is now home to 13 original artworks (mostly sculptures and installations) specifically commissioned for the area. This has been going on for several years now, but I happened to be in town not long after the addition of one of the latest pieces – “An Age, An Instant,” a pair of bronze gates evoking images of pocket-watch gears, an homage to the area’s long association with fine watch-making. The artist, Rona Smith, is young, clearly talented, and, as I found out when I met her, modest and charming. The experience of making a piece for display in one of the city’s most popular districts was “nerve-wracking,” she said, but energizing as well. The piece is at the entrance of New Burlington Mews, just off Regent Street. Well worth stopping by.

Nearby, the uber-hip restaurant Sketch has turned to designer India Mahdhavi and artist David Shrigley to transform one of its dining areas into an all-pink salon with more than 200 framed drawings on the walls. It’s the largest collection of Shrigley’s work ever exhibited, and each one tends to be a simple image with droll commentary. It ain’t cheap: Afternoon tea will set you back $50 or more. But it’s a lavish affair complete with caviar and quail egg along with your cucumber and salmon sandwiches — champagne, too, for a few extra quid — and the atmosphere is unique. If you’re looking for delicious indulgence with an exquisite cuppa, this is the place.

The highlight of my four-day visit was stopping by the Museum of London, which is about to open a massive exhibit – the first of its kind in more than 60 years – on the character of Sherlock Holmes. I was able to get a sneak-peak at things, plus a few minutes with the two curators, and I’m fairly certain even the hardest-core Holmesians will be intrigued.

By displaying authentic period items mentioned in the stories – a particular type of shoe, or dress fabric – the exhibit is a way to “tour” late-Victorian London. For instance, in one of the stories Holmes concludes from ink stains on a woman’s sleeve that she is a typist. “We looked at chemisettes and bodices that typists wore at the time and actually found one with ink stains on it,” said Timothy Long, the museum’s fashion curator.

Museum of London objects for Sherlock Holmes Exhibition

Museum of London objects for Sherlock Holmes Exhibition

But a main focus of the exhibit will be on where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle got his inspiration for the character. Thus, several hand-written pages from Edgar Allan Poe’s original manuscript of “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” which is known to have been an influence on Conan Doyle, will be on display for the first time in Europe. Another focus is on Holmes’s famed ability for scientific deduction, which principal curator Alex Werner said will be exemplified by displaying clues mentioned in stories, such as feathers with a particular residue. Holmes’s clothing will also be part of the exhibit, and also the kinds of disguises he so often employed: Be on the lookout for authentic wigs and fake mustaches from the era.

The exhibit will be different and separate from the Sherlock Holmes Museum, which is located on Baker Street, and which “uses actors and props to convey the idea that Sherlock Holmes is a real person and genuinely lived,” said Andrew Scott, media officer for the Museum of London. “We are quite explicit that Sherlock is a fictional character [and] our objects are all authentic… and the majority date from the time when Conan Doyle was writing.”

Might have to come back for this one. (Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die, October 17 – April 12, 2015).

You can easily overdose on museums in London, but each one really is different – as are the respective gift shops. (Yet another thing I love about museum-hopping here.) Of course, there’s so much else to do and see in London. I’ve found the city’s official tourism website, visitlondon.com, is extremely helpful, especially the homepage with its info on free sites/attractions and cheap eats and digs. And with airfares starting to come down for the fall and winter, well, it’s just one more excuse – reason, I mean – to go.

William Triplett is the former DC bureau chief for Variety. Triplett has written about various destinations, from Scotland’s Inverness and Paris’s Pere Lachaise Cemetery to Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon and the Beatles’ old haunts in Hamburg. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, The Baltimore Sun,and Capital Style.

William Triplett is the former DC bureau chief for Variety. Triplett has written about various destinations, from Scotland’s Inverness and Paris’s Pere Lachaise Cemetery to Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon and the Beatles’ old haunts in Hamburg. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, The Baltimore Sun,and Capital Style.

41 Buckingham Palace Road Hotel

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By Richard West,

My wife and I recently visited London and the alarming question arose: how to escape half of humanity seething around Big Ben/Parliament/Westminster Abbey and the other half to’ing and fro’ing in front of Buckingham Palace and the Royal Mews, both halves dressed as if awakened in a laundry hamper, then moving along at a speed best described as digestive.

Answer: follow the advice found these days on any London postcard stand: “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

The Executive Lounge at 41 Buckingham Palace Road Hotel

The Executive Lounge at 41 Buckingham Palace Road Hotel, London

Thus we carried on into the quiet (and calm) foyer of the small, boutique 41 Buckingham Palace Road Hotel, opposite the Royal Mews, at once leaving the street turmoil for the civilized amenities of traditional England. Downton Abbey’s butler, Carson, wouldn’t be out of place here, but instead, we were escorted by the eternally perky and helpful resident manager, Lauren Hargrave, to the hotel’s only occupied floor, the fifth, to the all-important omphalos of 41, the Executive Lounge near the other 28 rooms.

It’s the awesumptious manorial library you always wanted: a kindly gent offering a complimentary glass from four Champagnes; the Honesty Bar stocked with liquorials across from the Grazing Bar (canapés like cheese straws/olives/egg dip/chocolates/candied nuts) that after 8 p.m. becomes Plunder the Pantry, more substantials (cheeses, pies, quiches, smoked salmon, cured meats, wicked desserts). Speaking of, there’s real decadence nearby, a small fridge stocked only with free Haagen-Dazs cups not far from the complimentary Soap Tray: perhaps a bar of Avocado and Olive Oil? The exec lounge also serves menued breakfasts, afternoon tea, and casual dinners.

Conservatory Suite at 41 Buckingham Palace Road Hotel, London

Conservatory Suite at 41 Buckingham Palace Road Hotel, London

Why leave? Because your room is equally swell. Ours was long rather than the usual boxy hotel layout, a foyer that flowed into a living room that segued into the bedroom, all in the hotel’s ebony-and-ivory décor that brought to mind elegant formal wear and the marbled black-‘n-white patterned  floor of the Great Hall in Queen’s House down river in Greenwich where time is deemed official. Along the way, three bathrooms, one a shower only.

Of course the obligatory free wifi, newspaper, His/Her slippers, but also, unusually, a bathroom scale, espresso maker, aromatherapy pillows, ipod accessories, Penhaligon toiletries. Even rarer, common sense: only one phone button (“Whatever, Whenever”) and just one shower knob that reads “On/Off.” Genius. Oh yes, a Pet Concierge for your VIP, Very Important Pet, who shouldn’t travel without a Pet Turndown Service, Pet Bathrobe, Pet Bed and birthday party, etc.

And on your last night, on the bed a long-stemmed rose and scattered rose petals. After being as well taken care of as Henry James’s sentences, what else to do but carry on?

41 Buckingham Palace Road Hotel

41 Buckingham Palace Road

+44 (0) 20 7300 0041

www.41hotel.com

 

richard-west-300x225     Richard West spent nine years as a writer and senior editor at Texas Monthly before moving to New York to write for New York and Newsweek. Since then, he’s had a distinguished career as a freelance writer. West was awarded the National Magazine Award for Reporting in 1980 and is a member of Texas Arts & Letters. He lives in Amsterdam.

When the Going was Good: Our 30 Favorite Trips in 2013

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departure-sign

The incredible team that puts together Everett Potter’s Travel Report every week is a well-traveled bunch. So asking our contributors about their favorite travel moment in 2013 produced joy, angst and lengthy answers, as well as the inevitable,  “Just one?”

Herewith are some highlights from our travels in 2013.

F8

BRAZIL

Riding a horse out of dense Brazilian rain forest and into a clearing where the Atlantic came into shimmering view, during a modified version of the horseback-and-hiking trek between two of my all-time favorite hotels, Fazenda Catucaba and Pousada Picinguaba. I was with the owner on a scouting mission for what will eventually become a two-day trip from the mountains to the sea (he’s hoping to get it going next year), with stops for gourmet picnics with the fazenda’s homemade cheese and breads and a night of glamping in a safari-style campsite, though virgin UNESCO-protected forests so untouched that we walked much of the way behind state park guides wielding machetes to break a path. – Ann Abel

 

f9

CHICAGO


I’d never really thought of going to one of the country’s biggest cities to unwind by a pool until last winter. My husband, daughter and I wanted to fly off to a beach for a relaxing winter getaway, but her UChicago break was too short. Our solution: we booked a mini-suite at the Four Seasons Chicago and promised ourselves we wouldn’t let the fact that all of Chicago was at our doorstep entice us to get into urban mode. Happily we kept our promise. The hotel’s Roman-columned pool, with a huge Jacuzzi and light streaming in through the skylight and floor-to-ceiling window wall let us forget how cold the Chicago winter was. We ventured out once to walk to one of the museums and take a shopping stroll down Michigan Avenue. But mostly our weekend consisted of lazing on the lounge chairs, swimming in the warm pool, and sipping cool drinks in the graciously-sized Jacuzzi. Oh yes, and enjoying room service. Pina colada anyone? – Geri Bain

 

nyc-door

NYC

By far it was taking my first solo trip with my son to New York City. For his birthday if there was anywhere he could go in the world, where would it be? “New York City,” he said and pointed to it on the map next to his bunk bed. “It’s my favorite place in the universe.” We spent one epic day and night in the city — stayed at the fun and funky Ace Hotel in Midtown (“What’s a record?” he asked while playing with the turntable), hit the NYPL’s Children’s Literature Exhibit, the Nathan Sawaya Lego Art exhibit, rode the subways (“Better than a rollercoaster!”) and had a fancy dinner downtown at Chef Ryan Hardy’s Charlie Bird. And to celebrate the big day? An appearance in the Today Show crowd, a stroll through the Lego Store at Rockefeller Center, lunch and gelato at Eataly and “The Lion King” on Broadway. Even the train rides in and out of the city were a hit. More importantly we got to share our love of travel, discovery, food, people and art  together! – Amiee White Beazley 

 

F10

CANADA CRUISE

Just back from my best travel experience this year–sailing out of my home port, New York City at night (a thrill!) and cruising up the Atlantic coast to Canada on Regent’s Navigator.  All of the stops were fun–Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Saguenay, Quebec and Montreal, but the real surprise was visiting familiar close-to-home places like Newport and Bar Harbor that I’ve loved on land but found a treat seen from a new perspective, as ports of call.  – Eleanor Berman

 

F11

FLANDERS

Out on the road, every year has its special moments.  The Belgian province of Flanders, just beyond the center of Ypres, is where some of World War I’s bloodiest fighting occurred and where many events of the Great World War I Centenary will be celebrated in 2014.  Standing in Essex Farm Cemetery, beside the mossy bunker of the medical station where Lt. Col. John McCrae, a doctor, penned his poem, “In Flanders Fields,” I gazed out at the lines of headstones and could almost see those long-ago battlefields and hear his famous words: “In Flanders fields the poppies blow/Between the headstones, row on row.”  – Monique Burns

 

F 1

COLORADO

My best travel story of 2013 was staying up Little Woody Creek Valley with a recently-sited mountain lion, in a guest house once visited by Margaret Thatcher. The former Prime Minister happened to die while I was staying there, so each time I went for a walk, I imagined the mountain lion might appear and I’d suddenly find myself having tea with the Iron Lady in the ever after. – Melissa Coleman

 

F12

MONTEREY, CA

One of the most memorable moments of our family trip to Northern California last summer took place during a guided sea kayaking tour of Monterey Bay. Just at a spot where the winds got strong and paddling got a little rough, a rollicking band of sea lions and harbor seals swarmed around us and started clowning around for what seemed to be our amusement.  Seals were playfully nudging our kayaks and diving in between us.  Sea lions pups were leaping out of the water and striking funny poses midair.  It was hard to take our eyes off of them.  Talk about the greatest show on earth! -Jessica Genova

 

F13

PERU

The Andean Explorer, PeruRail’s luxury train service between Cuzco and Puno, is the greatest surface transportation trip I have ever taken in Latin America — and certainly the best choice for traveling to or from Lake Titicaca. The journey is not short — a full day, in fact — but the 10 hours go by quickly. One reason is the excellent entertainment: two different bands and dance troupes, featuring music and folklore from both the Sacred Valley of the Incas and the Andean plateau, perform in the morning and afternoon. A leisurely lunch consisting of regional specialties is included in the train fare, as is afternoon tea. Following lunch, the talented bartender in the observation car gives lessons in mixing Peru’s classic cocktail, the pisco sour. The scenic highlight of the journey — best enjoyed from the open-air rear car — is watching the sunset over Lake Titicaca, framed by the majestic peaks of the Bolivian Andes.  The staff provides friendly and attentive service throughout the journey; and given the international make-up of the train’s passengers, there are many opportunities to strike up interesting conversations with fellow travelers from many different countries. Cuzco and Machu Picchu are deservedly the leading tourist attractions in this part of the world; but Lake Titicaca — the highest navigable body of water in the world, and home to the fascinating people who live on the lake’s artificial floating islands — is a very worthwhile excursion. Especially since getting there is now half the fun. – Buzzy Gordon

 

F14

BRAZIL

Return to Brazil – from the toucans flying overhead, monkeys rustling the trees and up-close mists of Iguazu falls from our base at the newish Orient Express Cataratas – to the chic cobblestone streets, stylish boutiques, great dining and fabulous beaches of Buzios – to the always touristy but for a very good reason Christo in Rio, along with climbing up the base of Pao de Acucar / Sugarloaf Mtn. Bring on the Olympics and World Cup! – Cari Gray

 

F15

ALASKA

You’ve just marveled at Alaska’s great receding Mendenhall Glacier and have heeded the ranger’s suggestion to head to a nearby stream. Even forewarned, you’re still startled by the sight of the bear pushing purposefully through the high grass toward the shallow water.  As if scripted, she enters the stream. Snatches a slow moving, spawning salmon.  And drops it in the grass maybe 15 feet from your privileged perch on a fenced, raised boardwalk built expressly for this moment. Her two cubs join her, but get little of this catch, as the sow bites hungrily into the fish.  You’re so close that you hear the salmon bones crunching.  – John Grossmann

 

F16

MINNESOTA

Mall of America…where else can you ride a roller coaster, see a movie, eat in any one of 60 restaurants, witness a wedding in a Vegas-style marriage chapel, shop for Chanel, buy naughty lingerie or a hockey stick and have any part of your body pierced? Minneapolis itself was an eye-opening experience for this admitted New York City snob.  – Shari Hartford

 

F2

HONOLULU

While checking out the Saturday Farmer’s Market at Kapi’olani Community College in Honolulu, my husband and I ventured up to the hillside cactus and succulent garden on the campus. Pretty wonderful we thought. And then we discovered the “po.e.tree,” a virtual tree of poems written by visitors and clipped onto a hodgepodge of branches. (See if you can find mine in the pic.) Best part, though, was spotting Moriso Teraoka, a 100th Infantry Battalion Vet who founded the garden in ’88 with a donation of plants and still helps to maintain it with a battalion of volunteers (that’s him hiking up the stairs). Sweet guy for such a prickly project. – Linda Hayes

 

F17

ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA

I’m not one for life-sized, wax replicas of historical figures. But in the Yusupov Palace on the Moika River in St. Petersburg, the waxen likenesses of the men who attempted the murder of Rasputin– and of the infamous Siberian “Mad Monk” himself at the end of the table–changed my mind. There, in the dark and creaky basement, the aristocracy will give the huge, fire-eyed peasant poison enough to kill a horse….but not, it turned out, to kill him. Instead, the seemingly indestructible mystic will undergo one of the most bizarre and protracted demises in history. It’s a mesmerizing and memorable stage set. – Dalma Heyn 

 

F3

THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

Floreana was the highlight of our family trip to Ecuador. Spent one perfect day viewing century-old tortoises, dining at a ranch with descendants of the island’s first settlers, and then snorkeling by ourselves with mega-sized sea turtles and none-too-shy sea lions. -Steve Jermanok

 

F18

AMSTERDAM

My Best 2013 Travel Moment was witnessing, firsthand, the power of travel to heal. In June, still reeling from the death of my mother and difficult ongoing divorce negotiations, I went to Amsterdam to do two stories for EPTR. Just being airborne gave my spirits a lift; experiencing a healing Watsu spa treatment gave me the first chance to unexpectedly be in touch with my mourning and the gifts of my mother’s life. New vistas, new energy, new perspective and new hope for the future sound like a lot of baggage to put onto a four-day trip, but that’s what happened. Travel expands and travel can help the healing process. I discovered that, and am grateful for it. – Mary Alice Kellogg

 

F19

LONDON

I rented an attic apartment atop a house in the Kilburn section of northwest London for two weeks – very basic, but light-filled, quiet and equipped with a small kitchen and bath – and spent my days writing, looking at art, and walking, walking, walking as I discovered areas and aspects of the city that, despite having visited nearly a dozen times before, were previously unknown to me. It was, far and away, the most enjoyable travel experience of my life. – Marc Kristal

 

F20

MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN, CA

Last April, the ski writers association held its 50th anniversary meeting at Mammoth Mountain, in California. The day I arrived it seemed like spring and I was concerned about having enough snow. O me of little faith! The first morning, I awoke and discovered that a storm overnight had covered the mountain and our base area with a blanket of new snow. We skied joyfully the next few days (though it was a tad windy!) On one particular day, I skied with a retired ski writer who spends many of her days in Vermont. She was not just beautiful to watch; she was swift. I had trouble keeping up with her. When I asked how old she was, she said in a conspiratorial voice: “I’m 84, but I don’t want people to know.” I replied: “You’re my hero!” – Grace Lichtenstein

 

F21

THE LOIRE VALLEY

Even though I’ve lived in Paris for years, I hadn’t done a long, comprehensive trip of the Loire Valley chateaux in many years, so it was a huge pleasure to rediscover their magnificence during a week-long trip this past May, the perfect time for visiting this part of France. I especially loved Chenonceau for its fairy-tale elegance and Villandry for its magnificent gardens and history–it was restored by a passionate couple–Joachim Carvallo, a Spanish nobleman, and Anne Coleman, a Pennsylvania steel heiress, who met while studying medicine in Paris. Other great finds were the Restaurant Olivier Arlot in Montbazon and the superb wines of the Domaine de la Taille aux Loups by winemaker Jacky Blot in Montlouis. – Alec Lobrano

 

F22

PRAGUE

I expected to be overwhelmed by Prague’s wealth of baroque, art nouveau, and gothic buildings. But I was speechless when I discovered cubist architecture unique to the Czech Republic. In 1911, Joseph Gočár designed the Herbst department store, now the landmark House of the Black Madonna and the Grand Café Orient where I had a cubist donut. Those prismatic architectural forms also welcomed me, a privileged houseguest, to my friends’ flat. – Julie Maris/Semel

 

F6

RAROTONGA

We’re on Rarotonga, a reef-ringed isle in the middle of the South Pacific. Rarotonga has palm trees and beaches and tropical fish, but it’s best known for its church singing. We go to church. The singing is magnificent; harmonies that start with a couple of men in a back pew, then ascend through the pews and climax with the choir. I’m floored with the beauty. That’s the first revelation. The second comes when I notice what one of the choir ladies is doing during the sermon. Happily, Effin Older caught the moment with her Canon. – Jules Older & Effin Older

 

F23

SPAIN

Tapas crawl in San Sebastian, spiritual heart of Spanish tapas culture. – Larry Olmsted

 

F7

SANTA FE

The highlight for 2013 has to be our July visit to the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market. This colorful gathering of some 150 artisans from all over the world–Korea, Israel, Mexico, Tajikistan, you name it–lets market-goers get up close and personal with the men and women who bring their wares and sell them on the spot. So you’re free to strike up a conversation with a woman from the Ok Pop Tok weaving collective in Laos, or a wood carver from Mexico who’s been proclaimed a national living treasure. One day we attended a lecture and demonstration of Tuvan throat singing, which turned out to be both fascinating and remarkably moving. (Quick: Can you find Tuva on a map?). Even better, the artisans are given the tools to return home and work in their villages to build solid businesses from their traditional crafts. All in all, we look forward to making it an annual pilgrimage.  – Tom Passavant & Karen Glenn (photo)

 

Photo1(1)

KAUAI

The view over Hanalei Bay on the north shore of Kauai must be one of the wondrous in the world, a backdrop of rugged mountains that form the Napali Coast, a dragons’ back covered in green. This is where my wife, daughter and I went on a short voyage on a handmade sailing canoe, crafted and captained by a local guy named Trevor Cabell. Trevor took us snorkeling among 250 pound sea turtles and provided commentary on a 60-something local surfing legend as the guy caught the biggest wave of the day, 50 yards from where we floated. Then Trevor hoisted sail and off we went on a thrill ride across the waves racing into Hanalei Bay. With the extraordinary green background, it was not hard to imagine Polynesians sailing the Pacific and approaching this same shore. Covered in salt spray, we seemed to be  flying over the breaking waves, as Trevor guided the outrigger using his paddle as a tiller. When the canoe finally touched the beach, I realized that what felt like a journey had been merely a two hour trip on the Bay. That’s when you know that the going is good. – Everett Potter

 

Oscar Wilde sculpture

DUBLIN

An unexpected breath of joy in colored stone: A leafy retreat in Dublin’s Merrion Square shelters a beloved memorial to Oscar Wilde, nonchalantly lounging on a massive boulder in a natty green jacket with quilted red lapels and cuffs, looking at his long-time childhood home across the street at 1 Merrion Sq. Nearby, Wilde witticisms, graffiti-like, cover two black obelisks, to wit, “I have nothing to declare except my genius.” – Joan Scobey

 

F24

NYC

New York City — where I’ve lived twice in my adult lifetime—once again welcomed me like an old friend in 2013. My husband, Joe, and I explored Manhattan from stem to stern, including a tour of the historic aircraft carrier Intrepid at Pier 86, a stroll along the Highline elevated park and a preview of the poignant and powerful 9/11 Memorial.  We made a delicious detour to Chef Mario Batali’s Eataly, browsed the beautiful book collection at Rizzoli and meandered through Central Park on perfect fall days. You can go home again, even if just for a holiday. – Julie Snyder

 

F25

JAMAICA

My most memorable travel moment of the year was rafting in Port Antonio, Jamaica. A “captain” on the log raft beside us was coaxed into singing the “Banana Boat Song (Day O),” a traditional Jamaican folk song made popular by Harry Belafonte.  The gentle soft crooning combined with the murmuring sound of the mini rapids of the river was soothing. (At least until the person next to me decided to sing along.)  – Gerrie Summers

 

EVO-JSH009166C

OREGON

I was on a ski trip to Oregon’s Mt. Bachelor last March. The nearest hotel was about 20 miles away in the town of Bend. I didn’t relish the idea of driving that far every day to get to the slopes, but then I didn’t know the highway ran straight through the Deschutes National Forest. Massive rocks, towering trees, and sweeping vistas at every turn. Hope to do again soon. – Bill Triplett

 

F5

AMSTERDAM

Best  Moment:  Standing with my wife in late July afternoon sunshine looking at our new home in an old canal house on Amsterdam’s Herengracht Canal. – Richard West

 

F27

SAN JUAN, PR

Paddle boarding with my bride — this was our 25th anniversary celebration — in Condado Lagoon, San Juan. Manatees with Ben Turpin mustaches (Note to 16th-century sailors: You really thought they were mermaids?) kept rising to the surface, where they lingered so we could get a good look at them. From there we went to Roberto Trevino’s Bar Gitano, a tapas bar in the Condado. Who knew they’d have soshito peppers sauteed in olive oil and salt? We polished them off and then drank way too much, but what the hell, great food + a great lady. – Ed Wetschler

 

F28

PARK CITY, UTAH

This June, I finally understood what local say about Park City, Utah – you come for winter, you stay for summer. I discovered the wonders of mountain biking on terrain I’ve skied so many years. And I dined on Main Street with 2,300 others one summer’s night to experience the resort’s fine cuisine. – David McKay Wilson

Smart Deals: The Royal Child at The Athenaeum Hotel, London

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Queen Elizabeth making sandcastle at Craigwell House in Bognor, on view at The Athenaeum Hotel in London this summer.

Queen Elizabeth making sandcastles at Craigwell House in Bognor, on view at The Athenaeum Hotel in London this summer.

What’s the Deal: In a summer that will include HM The Queen’s Coronation Anniversary and the birth of a Royal baby, The Athenaeum Hotel, in the heart of  Mayfair within sight of Buckingham Palace will offer its own celebration. Between Saturday, June 22nd and August 31st, the Athenaeum will be hosting an exhibition of more than 40 rarely-seen photos of the Royal family’s children, from Victorian times to the present day. The ‘Royal Child’ exhibition, curated in partnership with Royal Life Magazine, includes a striking, never-before-published image of HM The Queen making sandcastles in Sussex at the age of four (see above). On weekends until the end of August, guests will be able to view the photographs over a sumptuous afternoon tea in the Hyde Park suite and listen to the insights from Royal photographer Ian Pelham Turner and Helena Chard.

 What’s the Backstory: The Athenaeum’s Royal Summer Afternoon Tea will include honey roast ham with Royal Park honey, arugula and red onion marmalade sandwiches, along with Royal drop orange blossom scones with rich Devonshire clotted cream and homemade English strawberry jam. Not to mention traditional British cakes and pastries, including Victoria sponge cake with Royal icing, Battenberg cake and English strawberry tartlets. The Athenaeum was named 2012 winner of the Top London Afternoon Tea award from the Tea Guild.There are two sittings per day at weekends, priced at £60 (approximately $93) per person.

 What are the Details: The Royal Child’ Photography Exhibition and Royal Tea accommodation package starts at $823, based on double occupancy, and includes  a deluxe room, two places at the Royal Child afternoon tea and two tickets for Buckingham Palace – The State Rooms and Garden Highlight Tour. Rates include full English breakfast daily, all drinks and snacks from the mini-bar, tax of 20%, free meals for children under 12, one-way transfer from any London airport for a three-night stay or round-trip for a five-night stay.  Subsequent nights are $579.

 Booking: Call 800-335-3300 or visit www.athenaeumhotel.com/

Europe This Summer: Airfares Up, Hotel Rates Down

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EiffelTower

By Larry Olmsted

There has been a lot of talk the past six months about rising airfares, here and abroad, but summer vacation season to Europe is when leisure travelers typically get sticker shock, with peak season fares ratcheted up.

The bad news is that fares are higher this summer to the most popular western European gateways. But the good news is that in most cases the increases are pretty small, not enough to make travelers change plans. For instance, according to leading travel booking website Orbitz.com, flights from the US to Dublin jumped all of 1% from summer 2012 to summer 2013, meaning you will pay on average $8 more than last year. Hardly a game changer.

But the most notable thing for summer travel is that in some European markets hotel rates are down so significantly they make up – or even surpass – any airfare increases. Read more at Forbes.com

 

DSC_0067-150x150   Award-winning travel journalist Larry Olmsted is a Contributing Editor to US Airways Magazine and Cigar Aficionado Magazine and “The Great Life” columnist for Forbes.com

 

Smart Deals: David Bowie & Radisson Blu Edwardian, London

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David Bowie & striped bodysuit for Aladdin Sane tour 1973Design by Kansai YamamotoPhotograph by Masayoshi Sukita© Sukita The David Bowie Archive 2012

David Bowie & striped bodysuit for Aladdin Sane tour 1973
Design by Kansai Yamamoto
Photograph by Masayoshi Sukita
© Sukita The David Bowie Archive 2012

 

Smart Deals: Radisson Blu Edwardian, London, a collection of stylish London, has partnered with the Victoria and Albert Museum to offer their guests tickets to the “David Bowie is” exhibition, which runs from March 23rd until  July 28th, 2013.

The Backstory: ‘David Bowie is’ will feature more than 300 objects including Ziggy Stardust bodysuits (1972) designed by Freddie Burretti, photography by Brian Duffy; album sleeve artwork by Guy Peellaert and Edward Bell; visual excerpts from films and live performances including The Man Who Fell to Earth, music videos such as Boys Keep Swinging and set designs created for the Diamond Dogs tour (1974.)

The Deal: The Radisson Blu Edwardian, London “David Bowie is” package includes; overnight accommodation and breakfast for two, plus a pair of open tickets to the “David Bowie is” exhibition (worth in excess of $128) from just $257 per room, per night.

Fine Print: Taxes are extra. The package is available at the Radisson Blu Edwardian, Vanderbilt, Mercer Street and Hampshire hotels. Exhibition tickets are valid for any day or time, and include fast-track entry.

Booking: Visit www.radissonblu-edwardian.com/davidbowieis

 

 

Our Grand Tour – First Stop, London

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Jenny Keroack (left) and Geri Bain, on the Grand Tour.

She Said; She Said

By Geri Bain & Jenny Keroack

Inspired by the grand tours of aristocrats past and the more recent adventures of TV’s Gilmore Girls, 18 year old Jenny Keroack proposed that she and her mom, travel writer Geri Bain take their own grand voyage. This summer the two set out to share as much of the Old World as thirty days would allow. Setting out from London and finishing in Barcelona, they recorded their favorite places and activities. Jenny’s are in italics while Geri’s are in regular type. Read about their adventures, explorations and all the schleps in between. The following is their first installment, logged from London, England.

We decided to jump right into our new time zone with a busy first day in London and neither jet lag or the on-off drizzling rain were going to stop us. After a quick check in at our hotel, we walked to Westminster Abbey, continued on to the Imperial War Museum and kept going until 10 p.m. that night.

London’s May Fair Hotel

Settling In: From the May Fair Hotel, we walked everywhere–from Bond Street (about five minutes) to Trafalgar Square (about 20 minutes) to the Globe Theater (about 45 minutes). We loved the location, but the best part of staying at the May Fair was its feeling of intimacy and pampering. The front desk clerks and concierge greeted us each time we returned “home” and pitchers of flat and sparkling water and apples in the lobby were a welcoming touch. We never made it to the spa but we enjoyed the international mix of fellow guests at breakfast and afternoon tea and keeping our eyes peeled for celebs at the bar. It was also fun knowing that the Bachelorette TV show had filmed a recent episode here and celebrities like Pink have made this their base in London.

Fighter planes inside the Imperial War Museum.

Imperial War Museum (IWM London). We entered a grand atrium filled with fighter planes hovering in the air and war vehicles on the floor– some open to exploration. My reason for coming was the “Secret War” exhibit, where the double lives of England’s undercover agents are revealed in the guns, gadgets and other personal items along with film snippets and interactive displays. Jenny was drawn to the walk-through World War I trench exhibit, realistic to the stench and sounds of war. Having just seen the movie War Horse, the recreation of trench life with life size model soldiers and video clips, felt quite impactful.

The National Gallery: I’ve always been captivated by Greek and Roman mythology, especially the more romantic characters like Zeus, Cupid and Minerva. I found a ton of paintings depicting these and other characters at the National Gallery. One room actually had three versions of Paris awarding the apple of beauty to Venus. If I lived in London, I’d spend a lot of time here. The collection spans from the 13th century to the present, and amazingly, as in most London museums, there’s no admission fee..

Shakespeare’s Globe is a faithful reconstruction of the original open-air playhouse.

Shakespeare’s Globe: When the narrator of Henry V spoke about “this big wooden O” (referring to the circular wooden theater) Jenny poked me and said, “this wouldn’t make sense anywhere else”. She was right. The Globe is a special place to see Shakespeare’s work and, as in the Bard’s time, seeing plays there needn’t be expensive. Standing room, which fills the center of the open-air theater, costs only £5. More expensive seating under the thatch roof keeps viewers dry and comfy. Since it rained quite heavily the night we went, we were glad we’d bought seats. The music–lyres, recorders and drums–added to the historic feel. All that was missing was spectators in period dress and ripe fruit being thrown on stage to make us really think we’d traveled back to Elizabethan London.

Piccadilly Circus: Not even kidding, I would go to a place called Piccadilly Circus just because it’s called Piccadilly. That said, its name is not the main attraction. It’s essentially a much more charming version of Times Square and in the center of a great shopping area. What struck me most about the Piccadilly area was that you would come out of a store, bags in hand, and be staring at some black marble statue and behind that would be some neon sign and behind that would be a strikingly beautiful Victorian building. The blend of old and new—and the shopping–definitely warrant a trip.

A mounted sentry at Horse Guards Arch.

London by Bike: We used the same company, Fat Tire Bike Tours, as on our last trip to Europe and were not disappointed either time. The owner told my mom that their tours consistently use a basic script that each guide personalizes. The guides are funny, nice, and take you to the main sites such as Buckingham Palace and Westminster. They also tell interesting stories, such as one about the statue of George Washington at Trafalgar Square that actually stands on Virginian soil because Washington said he would never set foot on British soil again.

Next stop, Oxford.

 

Geri Bain, a widely published travel writer and editor, has written about more than 60 countries and contributed to publications including inc.com, N.Y. Daily News and Robb Report. While travel editor at Modern Bride magazine, she wrote an acclaimed guide to Honeymoons and Weddings Away. She is a past president of the New York Travel Writers Association and former editorial director of Endless Vacation magazine.

18-year-old Jenny Keroack wrote for the Observer Tribune from 2009 to 2012 and has been published in the Riverdale Press and Elegant Lifestyles. She was a researcher/blogger for the N.Y. League of Conservation Voters last summer and will be studying political science at the University of Chicago this fall.

No. 11 Cadogan Gardens, London

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The hotel’s discreet exterior, in the heart of posh Chelsea. Courtesy of No 11 Cadogan Gardens

By Ann Abel

While splashy new hotels like the Bulgari and the Corinthia battle it out for pre-Olympic prominence, the under-the-radar hotel-ification of No. 11 Cadogan Gardens offers proof positive of the charms of British reserve and discretion.

The 54-room hotel is nothing if not discreet, holding onto its heritage as a private club for Victorian elites even though it’s now a public hotel owned by the same family that runs the more established, conservative Cadogan hotel nearby (famously the site of Oscar Wilde’s arrest for gross indecency in 1895). A rabbit warren of dark-wood-paneled corridors and spiraling staircases, the place has an air of rakish glamour: it’s clubby, posh, and perfectly suited to its tony Chelsea environs.

No. 11 Cadogan Gardens’ “mirror room,” one of the hotel’s many alluring spots for a small meeting or dinner. Courtesy No 11 Cadogan Gardens.

There’s also just enough cheekiness, the form of pink chandeliers, vintage black-and-white photos of celebrities behaving badly (I was disappointed to learn that these were purchased from a Hollywood dealer, having initially convinced myself the stars been photographed at No. 11), and so many mirrors that when my property tour led me to the “mirror room,” one of many glam spaces for small dinners or meetings, I had to laugh. It’s an alluring room, though, and made me wish I’d had a half-dozen Londoners I’d needed to hold court with.

The guest rooms are individually decorated and range from the demure beige room I was given (no. 208) to the wildly seductive Valesques Suite, with its red-velvet-draped four-poster bed and red velvet coffee table. (There are also four private apartments with their own garages.) Their bathrooms belie the building’s late-19th-century roots, as they’re on the snug side. (Historical charm, right?) I found mine more than comfortable but rarely spent time in it, preferring the serene, modern drawing room with its enticing fireplace during the day and the sexy, film-noir-ish bar after dinner. Let the hordes clamber for trendy points; the quiet members-only vibe suited me just fine.

The hotel had been open about three weeks when I visited in early June, and already the service was beyond seamless. The front desk staff escorted me every time I got lost looking for the restaurant (in the basement), and a bartender raced up two flights of stairs to adjust my room’s thermostat himself after I’d asked if the heat was still working. (This was England in June, after all.)

A wood-burning fireplace makes the drawing room a cozy spot for tea.Courtesy No 11 Cadogan Gardens

There are flashier addresses in London, hotels that feel more state-of-the-art and cutting-edge, with epically scaled spas and Michelin-starred chefs. But ultimately, many of them could be anywhere. No. 11 Cadogan Gardens struck me as something much more precious and rare: a place that could exist only in London.

Rooms: £225–£1,600 plus VAT. +44-(0)20-7730-7000, cadogan-hotel-london.com

 

Ann Abel has written about travel more than a decade. She was a senior editor at ForbesLife and the executive editor of Luxury SpaFinder. She has also written for Robb Report, Modern Bride, Girlfriend Getaways, Tablet Hotels, and Equinox’s Q blog. When not traveling, she is learning to fly at Trapeze School New York.

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