Monthly Archives: March 2017

Spa Resort

We discover that the vibrant friendliness, courtesy, and attentiveness we’re feeling is part of the Pueblo Bonito culture. The December 2016 opening of The Towers is part of a resort within a resort concept that Pueblo Bonito is thrilled to introduce. The overwhelming early response on The Towers is evident in a winter occupancy rate of 94 percent.

The sun rises, and we start the day with a hot cup of coffee on our balcony. Our suite’s sweeping view of the Pacific Ocean is a great way to recharge. We’re on vacation, so we saunter down for breakfast at the Peninsula Restaurant. We savor juice, fruit, and a croissant while observing the artistry of the early morning Towers sand sculptor. We are captivated watching Juventino shape a giant image of the sun on the beach. We learn that guests make special requests for what they’d like as tomorrow’s image. This breakfast is one for the memory books as we ponder what’s on our first day’s itinerary.

We are energized by our satisfying breakfast, so we sneak a glance at The Towers poolside activity board. The eclectic array of options have us thinking twice about staying in relax mode. The activity board reveals that, amidst perfect 82-degree temperatures, we can indulge in salsa dancing, beach yoga, blackjack strategy, Spanish lessons, learn the perfect Margarita recipe, or even take on Thai boxing. On our first day in paradise, boredom is nowhere to be found.

Ocean Golf, Whale Watching, and Best in Spa

Pueblo Bonito’s The Towers has aligned itself with some of the most famous brands in the world. None other than Jack Nicklaus designed Pueblo Bonito’s new golf course. A three wood down the beach from The Towers is the amazing Quivira Golf Course, an 18-hole layout featuring extreme elevations and more ocean holes than any course in Los Cabos.

If you wish to experience one of Cabos’ natural wonders, then an excursion is in order. Your concierge or butler can arrange for a whale watching tour. Los Cabos’ Pacific Ocean is famous for its steady humpback and gray whale migration during the winter months.
For many, simply relaxing is why they choose The Towers and Los Cabos. Plus, the word is out that Pueblo Bonito’s Armonia Spa is rated as one of the Top 5 Spas in the World. We are in a no-lose situation while contemplating healing therapies, anti-aging facials, or the intriguingly titled Four Hands Massage. At a destination where the air is exceedingly fresh, there is even a treatment billed as the RoyaL Oxygen Body.

Resort Luxury with Heart
After an excursion, spa treatment, golf, swimming at the pool, or a delicious meal at one of The Towers’ four restaurants, we decide to stretch a bit and explore the beautifully landscaped grounds. Five minutes into our walk we stop dead in our tracks and ask about the colorful ornaments hanging from the trees.

The courtyard trees showcase a family of glass hearts. Some are red, some are white, and some are gold. What is the story behind the hearts? At the core of this multi-million dollar resort is an unspoken pledge to honor the Los Cabos environment. In a destination where the air is so fresh and the marine life is so plentiful, the hearts are a reminder to nurture what draws vacationers to the Baja.
The hearts are created by a local artist from the hundreds of pounds of recycled glass that the hotel generates. Pueblo Bonito believes it’s important to give something back. This imaginative touch is another example of how The Towers is a luxury resort with heart. On our last day at The Towers, we bid farewell to Alexis, and take a deeply purposeful breath of extreme Los Cabos air. That’s when it hits us that The Towers at Pacifica has collected another heart. This time they’ve stolen ours.

A Modern Wine Country ‘Throwback’

If Napa Valley’s immense popularity has kept you at bay for fear of crowds, traffic ensnarements, and three-deep wine tasting bars, consider a visit to sister valley Sonoma.
Just beyond Napa’s western hills lies this quieter version of wine country. Locals describe the area as what Napa used to be – quaint, authentic, and unspoiled. And no better representation of Sonoma’s relaxed and genteel aura will you find than MacArthur Place.

MacArthur Place on your travel wish list:

A Sense of Place

Originally a prestigious 300 hundred-acre vineyard and working ranch with prized trotters, the lush 19th century estate – originally owned by the founder of Sonoma Valley Bank – is now home to this luxurious inn and spa. The focal point, the original two-story manor house – believed to be one of the oldest Victorian homes in Sonoma – is set off from the street by the original white picket fence. 64 luxuriously appointed room and suites within 20 buildings now line the property, each maintaining the integrity of the original Greek revival Victorian-style design.
Location, Location, Location

Just four blocks from quaint Sonoma Plaza, MacArthur Place is perfectly situated for exploration by foot, bike (compliments of the hotel), or car. Sonoma’s historic Plaza is fittingly surrounded by historic sites such as Mission San Francisco de Salano, Jack London Park, and the home of General Vallejo. Check-out the nearby wineries (i.e. Buena Vista, Kendall-Jackson, Ferrari-Carano), shops, fine dining, and galleries. Peruse the latest selections at nearby Readers’ Books. Hike, bike, or jog the many local trails, play golf or tennis, horseback ride, or take a hot air balloon tour high above the valley. Whatever your pleasure, a leisurely stroll through the hotel’s own park like setting is a must – seven acres of lush gardens filled abundantly with roses and flowers, fountains, sitting areas, fantastical sculptures by local artisans, and a giant sized chess set.

Gracious Ambiance

Stepping into the hotel’s ‘library’ is akin to stepping into a Ralph Lauren ad. Sumptuous fabrics cover the overstuffed chairs and couches amongst which a blazing fireplace glows. Play chess, checkers, or any assortment of board games on the rich wood tables under amber-hued lighting. Check-out a DVD from the vast selection to play in your room which is similarly and opulently adorned: pillow-topped plush beds with down comforters and the highest quality linens, fluffy robes, fireplaces, original artwork, hydrotherapy tubs or rain showers, quality bath products, wet bars with Keurig coffee makers, an assortment of mini-bar drinks and treats, flat-panel televisions, and DVD players with six-speaker surround sound.

Delicious Additions

 Your MacArthur place stay includes a complimentary evening wine hour, and a lavish continental breakfast. Where warmer temps make Napa the king of cabernet, Sonoma’s cooler temperatures lead to the exquisite chardonnays and pinot noirs that are featured each evening from 5pm – 6pm in the library. A different label is poured each night, meaning longer term guests will get a nice sampling of the area’s bounty. A luxe cheese, fruit, and nut plate is also offered, as is a lovely tray of mini sweets. Relax, mingle with other guests, or grab a table next to the fire for a game of chess. In the morning, enjoy a bountiful breakfast buffet in the hotel’s restaurant: yogurt, granola, pastries, bagels, homemade jams and jellies, juices and coffee are served in a warm and welcoming setting. For dinner, you’ve got many neighboring choices, but why leave the premises when MacArthur Place’s award-winning restaurant ‘Saddles’ is just steps from your room. Saddles specializes in steaks, chops and fresh seafood, and is often named as one of the country’s best steakhouses. Located in the property’s original 5,000 square foot barn, the space honors its ranch heritage with authentic décor such as the display of colorful cowboy boots over the bar, and the playful use of leather saddles for some of the seating. The bar is known for its martini selection (more than a dozen oversized choices) and a wine list that features outstanding selections from Sonoma and Napa.

Resort-like Amenities:

A state-of-the art spa (in the site’s original pool house), heated outdoor pool, and whirlpool provide resort-like relaxation. The Garden Spa offers more than 40 different massage, facial, and body treatments, many utilizing aromatherapies derived from flowers, herbs, and plants found in the property’s gardens. Several treatments are wine inspired, such as the Red Wine Grape Seed Bath in the indoor 20-jet hydrotherapy tub, or a Chardonnay bath in the outdoor teak wine tub, each allowing for wine country immersion without uncorking and imbibing a single bottle, and proving there are many ways to enjoy the magic of Sonoma wine country.

Resort in Southern Sicily

 The Donna Coraly Resort is an oasis of style and tranquility.
History lies at every turn; the backdrop is of a fortified masseria dating from the 1380s with a moat and private family chapel, while secluded beaches, ancient sites at Syracuse, and magnificent baroque towns are a short drive away.

Today, it hosts a discreet and comfortable retreat run by Lucia Sinatra di Cameni, where luxury, style, relaxation, fine food, Sicilian wine and attention to detail are paramount.

Working tirelessly with architects and designers, she has transformed the rooms where the farm workers and their families lived for generations into the five intimate suites of the Donna Coraly Resort.
Each bear Sicilian women’s names, reflecting the strong matriarchy within the family: Carmello (the most popular female name on Sicily); Costanza (a Sicilian Empress); Angelia (after the heroine in the romance Il Gattopardo); Rosalia (the patron saint of the capital Palermo); and Maruzza (from the character in the novel Il Malavoglia).

Individually-designed, each has a private garden that leads down to the thermal pool within the rejuvenated botanical garden.
“The suites all complement each other in the detail, with the figurine heads of the ladies’ names they carry and with hand-painted inlaid tiles,” said Lucia.

When taking on the project, retaining her family’s farming heritage was central to the plan.

As we wander through the Hortus Conclusus – the revived estate garden – our path takes us beneath a jasmine arch to a traditional Sicilian carrubba tree with a stone monument commemorating the signing of the 1943 armistice.

“This is a replica,” explains Lucia, “the original having been destroyed. The US had requisitioned the estate as their headquarters in 1943 but the family was allowed to stay while the armistice was signed in the middle of farmland where the American tanks were lined up.”

The garden is now lovingly tended and laid out with cactus, lavender, rosemary, flowers and bushes. A 200-year-old cypress tree rises above while walnut, olive, almond, orange, lemon, avocado, mango, palm and fig trees grow nearby, with all nourishing the modern Donna Coraly kitchen.

“It is the re-creation of the Hortus Conclusus – the enclosed garden,” she continues. “We find people like to spend a lot of time here, either relaxing by the pool or walking around among the plants.”

Evidence of the horticultural past is all around – the cistern wall of the tank used to water the original garden survives and there is what was once the mill for olive oil production, a tradition Lucia is endeavoring to revive at San Michele

Food, wine and fine dining, as you would expect, are an integral part of the experience at Donna Coraly, a resort named after Lucia’s grandmother Coraly Grande Sinatra, who was a noblewoman with aristocratic links across Europe. The family are Italian barons even today.

Lucia and her staff have created a defining ambience to the resort. Time matters little; breakfast, lunch and dinner are designed to suit the guest, not the kitchen rota.

On lawned areas, we gather for pre-dinner drinks against borders of rich, white rose bushes, the blooming Snows of Etna variety. As the sun sets, our small group drifts towards tables for dinner, choosing from a traditional Sicilian menu of dishes such as aubergine parmigiana; seasonal vegetable flan; pasta of Penne “alla Norma” of aubergine and dry ricotta cheese; or spaghetti with bottarga: salted mullet/tuna roe.

My main course was the fresh fish of the day, sea bass, served with a light tomato topping, though fillet of veal/beef or succulent pig was an option and the almond parfait as dessert – although the chef’s Tiramisu was also popular. We finished with coffee and a sip of Amara, orange-tinged liqueur using Sicilian orange peel.

Lucia has created a wine list favoring the island’s wines where possible and to accompany our sea bass we savored the La luci Sicilia dop from Agrigento.

Guests stay at Donna Coraly – an hour’s drive from Catania airport – from two to 13 nights, often reluctant to move on from this Sicilian idyll.

Set off the beaten track, hiring a car is a wise move to explore the surrounding area of the island which holds immense variety from the maternal, yet maverick active volcano, Mt Etna to the wonders of Greek and Roman architecture in towns such as Agrigento, Syracuse or Segesta and the Norman cathedrals and Arabic masterpieces. The island bears the imprint of all who have passed through across the past three millennia.

Syracuse – the birthplace of mathematician Archimedes – and Ortygia is a 15-minute drive away to explore the city and Duomo and then experience the Greek and Roman amphitheatre, where you can see performances of Greek tragedy or opera during the summer evenings.
Nearby is evidence of the limestone quarries from which the amphitheatres were built and an intriguing ‘cavern’ 23m high and 65m long and known as the “Ear of Dionysius” for its superb acoustics.

The unique light in the cavern – named after ruler Dionysius I – was to prove an inspiration almost 2,000 years later to the renowned Counter Reformation artist, Caravaggio. That is most visible in the painting the Burial of St Lucia, which currently hangs above the altar in the church of St Lucia near the Duomo on Ortygia.

The baroque town of Noto is a 20-minute drive and there are several fine beaches and lidos including the lovely Porto Ulisse, with umbrellas and sunbeds laid out across the sandy beach, while Scicli – where the popular TV detective series Montalbano is filmed – is also worth visiting.the Donna Coraly Resort which, after sightseeing, offers a hideaway in the Syracuse countryside and time to relax by the pool amid stunning, scented gardens.

 

Historic Hotels of America honors

The 17 awards, announced during a gala dinner at The Pfister Hotel, ranged from Hotelier of the Year and Hotel Historian of the Year to Sustainability Champion and Best Historic Restaurant in Conjunction with a Historic Hotel.

“Mr. George has an amazing craft of storytelling and leads his history talks as if he were reliving a memory. His attention to guest satisfaction and his warm welcome to each guest makes all who enter The Battle House a WOW Experience!” wrote Battle House General Manager Margo Gilbert in her nomination letter for Moore.

The Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa’s rotunda is one of myriad architectural highlights found in the more than 160-year-old hotel in downtown Mobile

Gilbert also noted Moore was one of the first people hired to “bring ‘Mobile’s Living Room’ back to life,” when it reopened in 2007, following a 30-year hiatus and full renovation.

“As the hotel’s historian, (Moore) has toured thousands of guests through the historic Battle House. He goes above and beyond in everything he does. So much so, we named our gift shop after him. From helping royalty during Mardi Gras to listening to elderly women reminisce about their proms here to welcoming international business leaders to our vivacious city, Mr. George has done it all and done it well,” she wrote.

The Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, , Golf Club & Spa in Point Clear, Ala., was named Best Historic Hotel in the more than 400 guest-rooms category Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013, during the Historic Hotels of America 2013 Annual Awards at The Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee, Wis. (File photo)

Lawrence Horwitz, executive director of Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide, said Thursday’s honorees represent the finest in the nation.

“They inspire travelers to discover and experience the treasures where America’s history was written,” Horwitz said.

Other 2013 award winners are as follows:Historic Hotels of America New Member of the Year: The Jefferson in Washington, D.C. (1923)

Historic Hotelier of the Year: Dennis Costello, Historic Hotel Bethlehem in Bethlehem, Pa. (1922)

Best Small Historic Inn/Hotel (under 75 rooms): The Wort Hotel in Jackson Hole, Wyo. (1941)

Best Historic Hotel (75-200 rooms): Gettysburg Hotel in Gettysburg, Pa. (1797)

Best Historic Hotel (200-400 rooms): Ojai Valley Inn & Spa in Ojai, Calif. (1923)

Best City Center Historic Hotel: The Willard InterContinental in Washington, D.C. (1850)

Best Historic Resort: French Lick Resort in French Lick, Ind. (1845)

Hotel Historian of the Year: Bob Tagatz, Grand Hotel in Mackinac Island, Mich. (1887)

Legendary Family Historic Hoteliers of the Year: The Morrissey Family, The Saint Paul Hotel in St. Paul, Minn. (1910)

Best Historic Restaurant in Conjunction with a Historic Hotel: Plume at The Jefferson in Washington, D.C. (1923)

Best Social Media of a Historic Hotel: The Stanley in Estes Park, Colo. (1909)

Historic Hotels of America Sustainability Champion: Timberline Lodge in Timberline, Ore. (1938)

Historic Hotels of America Heritage Award: The Marcus Family, The Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee (1893)

Historic Hotels of America Community Leadership Award: The Lenox in Boston (1900)

Historic Hotels of America Lifetime Achievement Award: Thierry Roch, former executive director, Historic Hotels of America