After a little break over the summer, I’m back and raring to go. Just to get you in the mood for indulgent trips away (to field off those impending chilly times), here’s my big reveal of some of the best hotels on the planet.
BEDKNOBS, DESIGNER SHOPS AND SO MUCH MORE…
There are a handful of hotels in the world that offer their guests more than the usual hotel experience. Enter their lobbies and you step into a world that is designed by an interiors guru, a restaurant that is the talk of the town, unbelievably luxurious rooms, spas with the latest indulgent treatments and even avant-garde boutiques. Here’s my pick of the top five uber-fashionable addresses. Be prepared to be wowed.
HOTEL BYBLOS HOTEL, ST TROPEZ
One of the original trendsetting hotels, Hotel Byblos was first opened in 1967 and instantly attracted a jet-set crowd. Let’s face it, when Mick Jagger chooses you as his wedding location – he married Bianca here in 1971 – you know you’ve got something right. Purchased by the innovative Groupe Floirat in the 1980s, the hotel went on to double in size and, most importantly, has continued to keep one step ahead with what’s in vogue in the hotel scene.
These days the 97-room resort is still the epicenter of the Cote D’Azur’s summer party scene. Its glamorous devotees practically set up camp from April to October in its infamous Les Caves du Roy nightclub. George Clooney, Jack Nicholson and Beyoncé have all been known to throw some shapes here. It’s a more sedate crowd that flocks to Alain Ducasse’s restaurant, Spoon By Byblos, but there’s still a buzz to be found in its plane-tree-shaded garden nonetheless. Here, you’ll see the beautiful ones tucking into Ducasse’s wonderful modern take on Provençal dishes: think Sea Bass with local artichokes and shellfish ravioli in a spicy tomato syrup.
Ironically, perhaps, Hotel Byblos was originally designed to emulate a simple Mediterranean village so the property looks charmingly rustic on the outside, with its red and yellow stucco buildings surrounded by olive trees and eye-popping bougainvillea. As you might expect, though, inside, attention to detail is second-to-none. Each of the rooms have been individually designed by Mireille Chevanne, the mother of the CEO of Groupe Floriat. No two rooms are the same, although most are light-flooded and spacious, with brightly coloured textiles, antiques and huge tubs. Looking to make a statement? Then book the exclusive Riviera Suite, which has been revamped for Summer 2012.
Home to the first Sisley Spa, guests can also enjoy such gems (literally) as the Anti-Aging Hydrating Treatment, which uses malachite stones, said to help water circulation in the skin thus leaving you radiant.
Talking of which, you couldn’t cater for a ‘radiant’ crowd on this stretch of coastline without offering some retail therapy and, here, Hotel Byblos comes into its own. Forget the humble hotel boutique, there’s a mini arcade of shops featuring the Byblos Boutique that offers one-off collaborations with top-end brands. New for this year are exclusive Champagne by Cristal, limited edition pens by Montblanc and specially designed luggage by Pinel & Pinel and Jaefer-LeCoultre. It doesn’t get more Byblos than that.
CAPELLA PEDREGAL, CABO SAN LUCAS, BAJA CALIFORNIA
When it comes to unforgettable hotel entrances, Capella Pedregal has to win hands down. Boasting a 300-metre long tunnel entrance, carved through a mountain and illuminated by twinkling lights, guests emerge to find themselves in a stunning private retreat, away from the paps’ prying lenses, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Due to Cabo San Lucas’s close proximity to LA and its spectacular natural beauty – think pristine beaches, desert landscape and rugged mountains – this is the location of choice for many Hollywood big hitters. Jessica Alba, Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox and Gwyneth Paltrow all regularly touch down here. Not surprisingly, then, given this starry clientele, the offering here is other-worldly. Aptly, there’s an in-house astronomer in case anyone feels the need to discuss the stars, (not those found on screen). All guests have their own personal assistant, who is at their beck and call during their stay, as well as a personalised food journal, in which you can record your foodie experiences.
Rooms are Mexican chic and utterly gorgeous – terracotta hues, rustic tiles and sleek wall-mounted fires combine to impressive effect. Traditional Mexican pieces are dotted around and if you like what you see, you can even purchase many of them in the Capella store. A high-end boutique, it stocks luxury homeware, much of which was originally sourced for the hotel. The highlight, though, are the huge plunge pools found in each room (some with more than one) with picture windows offering a stunning vista over the ocean. Each room even comes complete with binoculars so you can spot the passing humpback whales from the comfort of your tub.
The starry offering continues at The Auriga Apa. It’s designed around a pool so guests can swim to their treatments rooms, if they so wish (walking is so last year). Treatments include the Lunar session, based around the moon’s cycle, and a unique ancient, traditional healing with a Curandera (a Mexican folk healer). No doubt appealing to a New Age clientele is the suitably wacky Light of Sound Therapy, which uses chimes and the stimulation of acupressure points, to promote positivity. Meanwhile, an A-list fitness trainer is on call in case you over do it at one of the three restaurants.
The highlight of these is El Farallon, an al fresco seafood restaurant built into the cliffs, offering stunning panoramic views. But foodie offerings also stretch to tequila tastings, organic farm tours, during which you can choose your ingredients for your evening meal, and authentic Mexican cuisine at the casual Su Cocina. It’s simply out of this world.
DELANO HOTEL, SOUTH BEACH, MIAMI
Competition is fierce in this city when it comes to trendy destination hotels. But top of the pile is the Delano Hotel South Beach, owned by the ultra-cool Morgans Group, and which was revamped earlier this year.
The scene is set the minute you arrive in the unique indoor/outdoor lobby. Don your shades – they are a prerequisite here, not least because of Philippe Starck’s startling white-on-white interiors. Just be careful not to knock into any of the designer’s collection of art and furniture, from the likes of Antonio Gaudi, Man Ray, Salvador Dali and Mark Newson, which is strewn throughout the hotel.
Despite its sleek, urban appeal – public areas have a cute villagey feel – with almost no separation between the outdoor and indoor spaces. Witty touches include the Orchard, conceived as outdoor salon. It’s filled with whimsical ‘vignettes’, including an antique daybed, an oversized chessboard and a pool that has chairs and tables planted in it. The whole effect is of a surreal stage set.
Talking of pools, the Delano has to have one of the most iconic ones in the world – surrounded by towering palm trees and exquisitely styled day beds. Factor in direct access to the beach and the famous rooftop Agua spa (offering state-of-the-art SJAL treatments), and you have what could possibly be the most stylish coastal retreat on the planet.
But the Delano’s heart belongs to the night. From the new signature Italian restaurant Bianco (you guessed it, it’s all white) to the just-launched subterranean bar FDR at Delano; from the communal dining at Umi Sushi and Sake Bar to the ultra glam Rose Bar, with its upholstered pink-coloured walls and bespoke Venetian chandeliers. This place is positively sizzling when it comes to after-hours.
And hotel shopping? It doesn’t get any cooler than at Delano’s. It’s in-house shop Base World (baseworld.com) is a destination in itself, offering cutting-edge music, cult fragrances, hip jewellery, art, magazines and much, much more. Want to be in with the in-crowd? Then this is the place to be.
HOTEL LONE, CROATIA
You’d be forgiven for not instantly thinking of Croatia when trying to recall a hip holiday destination. Beautiful scenery and aquamarine waters? Yes. But cutting-edge boutique hotels? Unfortunately not. But then you’ve probably never stayed at Hotel Lone.
Looking sure to put Croatia on the map with the fashion cognoscenti, this sleek minimalist showboat, on the outskirts of the picturesque Mediterranean town of Rovinj, was built to resemble a white ocean liner floating along the coastline. And it doesn’t disappoint.
Surrounded by an ancient forest, its natural location makes its futuristic Y-shaped architecture even more dramatic. While at first the design concept seems to nod towards an urban palette, with bespoke furnishings from the likes of Patricia Urquiola, Richard Schultz and David Rowland, you slowly realise that inspiration has in fact been taken from the area’s unique natural landscape. Large mirrors are hung at random intervals to reflect the forest greenery and brilliant ocean light into the public spaces. The airy lobby has creamy stone floors, sandy yellow furnishings and a bold leaf mural – to bring to mind the nearby beaches. And inner garden areas blur the distinction of outside and in.
Rooms continue this theme – especially those on the first floor. Here sunken spa baths are found on terraces that are edged by a shallow infinity pool that runs the length of the hotel. Bathrooms are connected to bedrooms by glass walls, allowing swathes of natural light to flood in. Corian, oak and terrazzo are all used throughout to give a pared-back natural yet luxurious feel.
The mood is echoed in the indulgent spa, where natural tones of wood, stone, water and gold create the ultimate getaway. Sunken rooms offer ocean-like hydrotherapy beds, while treatments use locally-grown lavender, rosemary and olive oil.
When it comes to dining both town and country palettes are catered for. There’s traditional Croatian food at Restaurant L, contemporary dishes at ON and seafood and sushi at Bar E.
The piece de resistance here, though, is the new concept store Prostor, that is dedicated to Croatian design. Located in the lobby, the huge shop offers designer clothes from up-coming Croatian designers, such as Madame Demode, design toys from Antiforms by Ivan Levak, contemporary art, jewellery and home accessories. It’s priceless.
LONG BEACH, MAURITIUS
Mauritius is known for its ultra luxurious beach resorts. If you want an exotic idyll, this is the place to come. But, until the opening of Long Beach last year, many of these boltholes were largely of the same ilk – a ‘tropical’ design ethos, the prerequisite seafood restaurant and vaguely chintzy interiors. Long Beach, on the east coast of the island, has changed all that with a nod to more of an urban style.
Developed by Sun Resorts (the name behind the other stand-out addresses on the island – namely, Sugar Beach, Le Tousserok and La Pirogue), it aims to bring a new vision of contemporary chic to the popular holiday destination.
The resort is centered around a European style piazza, with shops, bars and restaurants – perfect for an evening passeggiata or people watching, while the 255 rooms are arranged in crescents, each with a sea view and their own section of beach. Architecture is unfussy and clean and interiors have a cool retro 1950s feel with a fruity colour palette – lime greens, tangerines, strawberry reds and melon yellows. Huge king-sized beds, WiFi, LCD flat screen TVs and spacious bathrooms offer a luxe factor while pretty lighting, fashionable furniture and well-thought out deck areas give a restrained elegance to the surroundings.
There’s an inventive approach to dining, too – with five different restaurants. From casual Chinese at Chopsticks to fine cuisine, Japanese style at Hasu. Le Marche has a theatrical approach to cooking with seven open kitchens and an inventive European menu while Italian eaterie I Sapori, with its sacks of flours, braids of garlic and baskets of fresh produce, could have been airlifted from a back street in Bologna.
Shopping also doesn’t stop at one offering with a beach boutique, jewellery store and a cute handicraft outlet with handmade items sourced from the local villages.
One thing that Mauritius is renowned for is its plethora of superb spas and the Equa Spa meets its competition face on with an intelligent approach to pampering. Destination treatments are developed around Thali’Sens – in which each two-hour session is made up of exfoliation or a body wrap (or both) and a massage. The outdoor spa pavilion overlooks the lagoon while inside the hammam is the perfect place to lose yourself for a while. It’s the perfect find.
This article is in the current issue of Kensington and Chelsea Magazine