Travel

Travel

January 9 2008




China's first carbon-neutral hotel, the hip 26-room URBN Hotel Shanghai, will officially open this spring. Conceived by owners Scott Barrack and Jules Kwan, URBN promises to be the start of a new boutique hotel empire.

No strangers to luxury developments or to China where they have lived for 10 years, the two plan to open another 20 URBN hotels in China in the next three years, starting with Beijing, Hangzhou, Dalian and Suzhou. The hoteliers will go as green as possible by rehabilitating existing structures, using recycled materials, maximizing green space and introducing eco-friendly solutions.



Beyond co-founding boutique real estate investment and development company Space Development with Kwan, the California native Barrack has established several property companies in China, including Space International specializing in luxury French Concession district properties, and Inn Shangha, the city's first serviced boutique apartment complex. Sydney, Australia-born and raised Kwan is an alternative media and property development expert.

The partners have a unique, personal perspective on what works and what doesn't for a luxury traveler in China. To give visitors a true Shanghainese urban experience - something they felt was missing - they invited international Shanghai-based collaborators with similar sensibilities to convert a 1970s post office building to the stylish URBN Hotel Shanghai. The result is an impressive fusion of contemporary and Chinese design.



URBN's spatial concept, interior and facade design are by A00 Architecture, a partnership of three Canadian architects, best known for conversions of Shanghai's historic houses into unique residences. The hotel's interior designer is Brazil native architect, Tais Cabral, known for her commercial, cultural, residential and retail work in Paris, as well as her furniture design. By Tuija Seipell

 
 

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Travel

July 18 2007




The most fabulous example of a hotel combining drama, surprise, luxury and comfort is hiding in the heart of the historical, artistic and night-club haven of Montmartre in Paris. Opened in June 2007, the restored aristocratic mansion The Hotel Particulier de Montmartre has definitely decided to grow up. The two masterminds behind the project are Morgane Rousseau and Frederic Comtet who with the help of Mathieu Paillard have managed to mix art and comfort brilliantly in their unusual hotel.



The owners commissioned well known artists, designers, sculptors and architects to create an intimate five-room enclave of exceptional atmosphere and charm.



One of the distinctive rooms is the 'vegetable room' designed by New York-born, Paris-based contemporary artist Martine Aballca. With her interpretation, she wishes to evoke hanging gardens, trees and the play of sunlight and shadow. The other artists involved in creating one of the compact private suites are photo artist Natacha Lesueur (room theme: Curtain of hair), painter Philippe Mayaux (Window), fashion and textile curator Olivier Saillard (Poems and hats) and illustrator and creative director Pierre Fichefeux (Tree with ears).



Finland-born Mats Haglund of Chanel, Colette and Paul & Joe boutique fame, created the private living room. He used the personality of the proprietors as his starting point and furnished the salon with originals of classics by Arne Jacobsen, Mies van der Rohe and Alvar Aalto.



From every window, residents can view the luscious and intimate garden created by Louis Banech, one of the landscape designers responsible for revitalizing the world-renown Tuileries Gardens.



With that much artistic and design cache, The Hotel Particulier de Montmartre will not have difficulty attracting a clientele. But to get there, you must leave the nightclubs of Montmartre, start thinking like former Montmartre residents Salvador Dali, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh, and locate the secret alleyway between l'avenue Junot and la rue Lepic. Continue to the Sorcerer's Stone and pray that the iron gates will open for you. By Tuija Seipell



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Travel

July 3 2007




Do & Co Hotel is located in Vienna's District 1, on the pedestrian-only Stephansplatz, right in the middle of the most historic part of this mindbogglingly historic city. The hotel of 41 luxurious rooms and two suites opened in May on the sixth floor of the famous, glass-walled Haas Haus building, but it is the view that really takes your breath away. What you see from the Haus is a straight-on, full-size, real-life panorama of St. Stephen's Cathedral -- Stephansdom -- that has defined Vienna since 1147 AD. It is the sound of this Cathedral's massive Pummerin (big bell) that announces the official arrival of the New Year in Austria.



The original Haas Haus building was a furniture and interior decor store, Philipp Haas & Sons. Several reconstructions later, the grand-daddy of modern Austrian architecture, Pritzker prize winner Hans Hollein, designed the current glass-steel-concrete structure. It opened in 1990 with notable disapproval by traditionalists. Hollein was also behind the latest upgrade that included the Do & Co hotel.

Do & Co, the hotel's holding company, is known worldwide for its first-class airline and event catering business and its Do & Co Restaurants and Cafes. In the Haas Haus, it operates also Vienna's hot spot, the ONYX Bar (pictured above) on the 6th floor, and Do & Co Restaurant (7th floor), plus luxurious event space on the 8th and 9th floors with amazing views over Vienna.



The heritage of the company's Istanbul-born founder and majority shareholder, Attila Dogudan, is reflected in the colorful touches interspersed in the Do & Co hotel interior by Amsterdam-based FG Stijl. The firm's partners, British Colin Finnegan and Dutch Gerard Glintmeijer, have managed to unite Dogudan's Turkish heritage and Vienna's prissy past with understated modern luxury. Your room will come equipped with Kilim bedspreads, chocolates from Viennese confectionary institution Demel (also owned by Do & Co), and a Bang & Olufsen flat screen TV. By Tuija Seipell

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Travel

May 6 2007


To categorize the new Indigo Patagonia hotel and spa in Puerto Natales, Chile, as a cool place is to make use of the word cool in both its old and new meaning.

The old cool – as in somewhat coldish, refreshingly chilly – is a fitting description of the six-storey, 28-room block of a building. It is also a perfectly appropriate way for the hotel to be here in the middle of Patagonia’s fresh magnificence.

In the new main hotel building, Chile’s favorite modern architect Sebastian Irarrázaval has managed to encase a balance between understated Northern European luxury and a  straight-forward humility toward the surrounding environment. 



Indigo is not a product of indulgent architecture that attempts to take over the scenery. It is an honest, almost college-dormish building that fits in its place as if it had always been there while also standing out as something one wants to explore. That has also been the appeal of Patagonia to adventurers, mountaineers, kayakers, trekkers and nature-lovers for decades. With its ancient ice fields older than time itself, fjords deeper than anyone can fathom, air and sky clearer than seems natural, and vistas more humbling than you can be prepared for, Patagonia makes you feel a bit like an intruder and yet you are unable to resist its lure.

At Indigo, the new cool is evident both outside and in. The red corrugated-metal facade sports huge white lettering that indicates the various floors and spells out “indigo.” This creates an almost  surreal effect, as if the facade were a fake prop onto which the lettering is being magically projected. All the while, the building looks way more industrial than residential.



Inside, touches of luxury and attention to detail are everywhere. From the natural materials – wood, basketry, cotton and linen – to the neutral color palette and ever-present vast windows, everything helps you ease into the main attraction of Patagonia: the natural world.     

The new Indigo Patagonia hotel is a fusion of the three owner’s ideas. Climber and publicist Hernán Jofré’s brought along his love of nature, chemical engineer Ana Ibañez contributed impeccable taste (we can thank him for the elegance of the interior), and Olivier Potart added vision and fantasy. The Chilean, Spaniard and Frenchman dreamt up the concept of the new hotel and converted the eight-year-old original Concepto Indigo hotel into the new hotel’s restaurant. The two buildings now cozy up to each other spectacularly unmatching yet happily at home as part of the town’s low and semi-vacant skyline.
 
Perhaps it was the owners’ international backgrounds that affected Indigo Patagonia’s particular mix of mountain chalet and safari hut and then balanced it harmoniously and meticulously by the over-arching touch of northern calm. The rooms exude comfort and simplicity and the large windows everywhere let you see where you are.



Nowhere is it more evident that you are in the lap of luxury and rather close to heaven, than in the top-floor spa. The sauna and two massage rooms are great, but soaking in one of the three outdoor Jacuzzis overlooking Fiordo Última Esperanza  (Fjord of Last Hope) when you really know you’ve found bliss.  
 
The town of Puerto Natales (pop. 18,000) in the province of  Última Esperanza is on the mainland but connected to the sea by channels. You can get there, for example, by taking one of the daily flights from Santiago de Chile to Punta Arenas and then driving 250 km to Puerto Natales. The area is best known for the Perito Moreno glacier, Fiordo Última Esperanza, and for  Torres del Paine National Park that is on the UNESCO world heritage site tentative list. By Tuija Seipell



Travel

April 22 2007


Aqua Dome is a 140-room, four-star-plus hotel and spa complex in Tirol Therme Längenfeld, the Tyrolean Alps in Austria. The altitude must have had an effect on the planners and designers because the place is out-of-this world heavenly.

The services are impressive and the facilities absolutely beautiful although somewhat counterproductively named with words too difficult to pronounce unless you speak German. The dome-ceilinged, glass-walled thermal spring hall Ursprung (Origins) is the main indoor area with two pools and a huge waterfall. From there, you swim via two canal pools to the amazing outdoor area, Talfrische (Freshness Valley). With its illuminated structures and steaming vessels it resembles the potion-making lab of a gigantic but friendly sorcerer. The two canals lead to a cone-shaped illuminated tower. From there you proceed to the three bowl pools that look like gigantic martini glasses. Bobbing in one of these eight-metre-high bowls that are 12 to 16 meters in diameter, you can gaze upon the Alps and contemplate your good fortune.



The beauty center and spa are known as Morgentau (Morning Dew), the rest room (not a bathroom but a room for rest) is called Besinnung (Reflection) and the view terrace is called Umsicht (View). Gletscherglühen (Glowing Glacier) is the impressive “sauna world” with various Finnish saunas from earth lodge and hay sauna to a loft sauna, a steam cathedral, a salt water (they call it brine) grotto, herbal bath, ice pool and a panorama whirlpool. The fitness center called Gipfelsturm (Peak Push), the kids’ area called Alpen Arche Noah (Alpine Noah’s Ark), the medical center (Medalp 4health) plus several restaurants ensure that everyone’s needs are met.

Aqua Dome is one of the six VAMED Vitality World resorts, all located in Austria.



What also impressed us about Aqua Dome are its architecture and its surroundings. Aqua Dome is located about 70 kilometers from Innsbruck and 180 kilometers from Munich in Längenfeld in the heart of the beautiful 67-kilometre-long Tirolean Ötztal valley known as a thermal springs area since the 16th century. Aqua Dome’s 3000-year-old, 40-degree Celsius sodium-chloride-sulphate-sulphur thermal waters flow from this ancient valley.

The Aqua Dome is Austria’s largest tourism project of recent years. It has revitalized tourism in the entire area, long known for fabulous hiking, skiing, mountaineering and white water rafting.

We don’t know about you, but we’ll climb a mountain or two any day if the reward is a warm evening spent in one of Aqua Dome’s misty martini glasses. By Tuija Seipell


Travel

April 9 2007


My first thought when asked to review a ‘boutique’ hotel, was something along the lines of ‘God help me’. It seems this new breed of hotel was designed purely for city boys and city girls to pour money into for the duration of yet another pointless business trip.  Overpriced, understaffed, and all because people want a kooky carpet in every room. 

So it was with a strange recalcitrance that I walked into London’s Zetter hotel for my Sunday night stay. The former 19th century warehouse sits on the Clerkenwell Road amidst design houses and refurbished blocks in the increasingly trendy Farringdon. Opened in 2004 by Michael Benyan and Mark Sainsbury — the pair behind acclaimed restaurant Moro in nearby Exmouth Market — the focus is strongly on cutting edge-design and eco-friendly living. Natural light floods in from the building's five-storey semi-elliptical atrium, while a borehole drilled beneath the property provides water purified and bottled for drinking.

The tiny lobby is dominated by its chandelier of pink glass calla lilies, and offers three options. To your right, a wood panelled, cork stooled bar, with the Mediterranean themed restaurant beyond. To your left, a small, perfectly formed reception desk. And straight ahead, the red mirrored, boudoir themed lifts. 



Reaching the fifth floor, the aspects of design suddenly become more apparent. The large atrium pushes natural light through the building, and the artwork from local artists breaks up the slightly drab pastel décor. My room for the evening didn’t feel like your bog-standard abode. The eclectic mix of original Penguin Classics, wide screen TV and soft furnishings felt more like an affluent teenagers bedroom than twenty something playground. The enormous wood decked balcony matched the room in size, while London’s newly emerging skyline provided the perfect backdrop.

Add to this ambient mood lighting, free wireless broadband, DVD player and access to a 4000-track music library, my preconceptions of ‘trendy’ hotels suddenly seemed a bit archaic.  The hotel has done away with the outdated amenities that characterise so many other establishments. Most rooms don't have a mini-bar or tea-and coffee-making facilities. Instead, coffee and vending machines on each floor dispense everything from champagne to disposable cameras. Greeting fellow travellers in matching robe and slippers while buying a bottle of champagne is surprisingly relaxing.  

What started out as another over priced, poncy auberge, became a well thought out, modest getaway for the design orientated traveller. But then again, there’s nothing worse than a pretentious critic being proved wrong. By Matthew Hussey

Travel

March 3 2007




Atkin's Architecture Group recently won the first prize award for an international design competition with this stunning entry. Set in a spectacular water filled quarry in Songjiang, China, the 400 bed resort hotel is uniquely constructed within the natural elements of the quarry. Underwater public areas and guest rooms add to the uniqueness, but the resort also boasts cafes, restaurants and sporting facilities.

The lowest level runs with the aquatic theme by housing a luxurious swimming pool and an extreme sports center for activities such as rock climbing and bungee jumping which will be cantilevered over the quarry and accessed by special lifts from the water. With a stunning visual presentation as shown here, it's no wonder this project took home the first prize. This is a fine example of an ultra modern facility co-existing amongst its natural environment.
by Andy G



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Travel

February 19 2007


As a brand, the  W chain of boutique hotels has practically claimed the concept of luxury to be its own; turning their properties into - must-do destinations for the hip, famous and wealthy. Just the mention of a new W property going under construction creates an immediate buzz that few other international brands could generate.

The latest W, and quite possibly the jewel in W's empire - is the newly opened  W Retreat & Spa in Fesdu Island, Maldives. Already critics and patrons seem to agree  its as close to paradise as you'll find on earth; a luxury playground whose physical beauty is almost overwhelming, where guests are totally indulged on every level.



The W experience begins even before you even arrive. Male airport boasts a chic W operated transfer lounge, where guests are greeted with all the modern conveniences of a big city airport - drinks, food, magazines, plasma TV and internet. It's here that new arrivals are supplied with a W kit before boarding the seaplane to W'ss private island.

From the moment of arrival its obvious that W is a master of branding. Stepping off the seaplane, I was greeted by a fleet of  W golf buggiesì with W styleù number plates - lining the pier waiting to take guests to their villa. Even the luggage trolleys were shaped into a W.
 


Forget the bi-level Beach Oasis villas, W Maldives is all about the water Ocean Oasis villas, they are truly exceptional, sexy even. It's almost as if  they've gone to every other island in the Maldives and taken the best their competitors had to offer and made it better, giving it the unique W twist that makes most W hotels standouts in their cities.



Ocean Oasis villas boast private plunge pools (or hop down the steps and dive into the turquoise lagoon if you'd prefer) and massive daybeds built for serious relaxation. Inside, the villas offer peep through glass sections of flooring in the living rooms so you can check out the marine life swimming below. Flip a switch to illuminate underwater lights for a night-time peek at the fauna. Stay connected while cast away with Samsung Plasma TVs, BOSE gadgets and High-Speed Internet Access (but who comes here to use the internet?). Drift off in the signature W king bed.



Even the names of some of the places have been carefully chosen.

WAVE - Water sports facility
AWAY - Spa which even has a hair salon but only for blow-drying, yep its that kind of resort.
DOWN UNDER - Snorkeling gear provided
SWEAT -  Fitness Center   

Oh, and you have to just love the Whatever/Whenever Service. They will deliver whatever you want, whenever you want it, just dial whatever/whenever from your room.



All of the restaurants are excellent. The breakfast buffet from the Kitchen restaurant is brilliant (pic above), the Fish restaurant is extraordinary and the seafood BBQ buffet at FIRE was amazing, they've certainly got the food part right.

There's a games space with table tennis, table soccer, billiard table, but not just any table billiard table, and they have the coolest brands of everything.

Which brings me to the guests. This is the serious Jimmy Choo gang, Sex in the City by the beach. I spotted one woman who changed her bikini and outfit three times every day.

If it all sounds too relaxing, you can indulge in a bit of partying at '15 below', the subterranean nightclub which plays host to some of the world's top DJs. As for the spa, we werent sure he would apart from the underground nightclub, 15 Below, the see through Kayak's and the snorkeling) are these mobile kiosks splattered around which have fridges stocked with ice creams - drinks - sun   tan lotion - all free to use whenever you feel like it provide more than a few moments indulgence.

Everything about the W Maldives resort is perfect, its the perfect fantasy Island. - Bill Tikos.

BEST TIME TO GO
NOW UNTIL MAY

COOL FACTOR
By far the coolest thing on the island (apart from the underground nightclub, 15 Below, the see through Kayak's and the snorkeling) are these mobile kiosks which have fridges stocked with ice creams - drinks - sun tan lotion - all free to use whenever you feel like it.



FACILITES
Night club and wet pool bar, Infinity edge pool, Watersports including kite surfing, Hobie Cats, water-skiing, parasailing, windsurfing, canoes, jetskis, scuba diving, handline fishing, excellent snorkelling, table tennis, pool tables and table football, Yoga, Fitness centre

COST
Villas from US $735 per night

 

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Travel

February 12 2007




If celebrity patrons are an indicator of a hotel's popularity, the Maldives super-lux Huvafen Fushi is about as hot as it gets. George Clooney popped in for lunch last month, Kate Moss partied in her Ocean Villa, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes booked in a massage during their honeymoon, Alexander McQueen had left when I arrived and when I left the island, Stefano Gabbana of Dolce & Gabbana and John Galliano were set to arrive (separately).



Trendsetting Huvafen Fushi has been raising the benchmark since its first inception two years ago. Opening its doors to feature the world's first underwater spa, Huvafen Fushi has since earned its spot on the coveted Conde Nast Traveller MagazinesUK and US Hot List.

This discreetly luxurious, contemporary retreat is located on its own lagoon on a tiny island in North Male Atoll. I arrived late into the night direct from Singapore, the flight doesn't get in until 10pm (note: book Emirates instead to arrive during the day).



When I was escorted into my over-water bungalow, I felt like I'd walked into an Apple store/Armani showroom, with a bed in the middle surrounded by all my favorite gadgets. Surround sound Bose indoor/outdoor music system, Plasma TV screens, Bang & Olufsen phones, iPod Nano with an incredible selection of music that had already been installed, a separate massive bath which overlooks the ocean, my own private plunge pool, oversized king size bed, Frette linen, designer furniture (including pieces by Frank Gehry) electronic curtains, waterfall shower, the list goes on and on.



Waking up in the Maldives is something everyone should experience before they die. The view from the bed in my room overlooked the plunge pool which overlooks the Ocean. It’s an incredible sight, serious postcard material.

The day at Huvafen Fushi starts off with a buffet breakfast in Celcius, luxe-but-laid-back dining on a white sand floored deck branching out over the lagoon. Next it's off snorkeling where you'll see the most amazing colored coral and sea life including sting rays. It takes approximately 3 hours before you realize you have a tan, the sun is extremely bright and even with 30+ sunblock, you tan quite fast and you notice tan lines by the time you've finished breakfast.



My day was busy, yet I did nothing. I snorkeled, I tanned, I read, I snorkeled again, I read more, I walked over to the over-water gym, and walked back out (are you kidding, who can face the gym on holidays) and before I knew it, the sun was already setting.  So I headed to Umbar to order a cocktail and sit back in the seriously comfy lounge chairs and watch the sunset while the chill band played, very Cafe Del Mar. The music, the sunset, the people, the atmosphere  - it's an amazing vibe. Dinner at Salt restaurant (barefoot) is a highlight. The food was fine dining at its best, as good as anything you'll find in the world's best restaurants.

Famously, the highest point in the Maldives is only four meters above sea level, so perhaps its not surprising that the Huvafen spa is underwater, something totally exclusive to this resort.  It's like entering a glamorous fishbowl where you are the main attraction to the fish. It's the perfect environment for a massage. I chose the Maldivian monsoon ritual massage and it defies description. All I can say is that I don't think I will ever be able to top the experience. Incredible is an understatement.



BEST TIME TO GO
NOW UNTIL MAY

COOL FACTOR
The friendly, laid-back staff: guests in pavilion accommodation get a 24-hour butler service, while the rest of the resort gets a FISH (Fast Island Service Host), which amounts to the same thing. The underwater spa is a must.

FACILITES
Three restaurants, a lively bar, a seriously cool well-stocked underground wine cellar, an over-water yoga pavilion and the world's first underwater massage treatment rooms complete the picture.

COST
Bungalows from US$880

This year, Huvafen Fushi is proud to announce three new initiatives. An übercool 70ft luxury yacht, an exclusive compilation with one of the world's most famous DJ and Producer, Ravin from Buddha Bar, Paris as well as an uplift to the world's first underwater spa.



When Huvafen Fushi first opened two years ago, Per Aquum Resorts, Spas & Residences, CEO, Tom McLoughlin, commented, "This is just the beginning. We will continue to refine the original Huvafen Fushi concept, while constantly pushing the boundaries in delivering the ultimate guest experience."

Huvafen Fushi has certainly made this statement its driving force with more amazing concepts on the way. - Billy Tikos

Travel

December 10 2006


Singapore is the latest city to unveil a new themed room hotel, putting the 'b' into boutique as it's never been before. The new generation design hotel is all about individuality and intimacy - the anti hotel if you will - more Hollywood mansion than mega hotel chain.



Singapore's fabulous New Majestic Hotel fits the bill, with 30 unique rooms designed by prominent artists and designers. Showcasing a mix of vintage and new furniture, the rooms adhere to different themes from the 'Hanging Bed Room' where murals span whole walls through to the incredible Aquarium Room where a glass-encased bathtub sits in the middle of the room. by Lisa Evans



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