Category Archives: Hotel and Resort

Luxury Resort

Best Maldives Luxury Resort

Resorts that keep an eye on the environment, while also offering an array of activities and farm-to-table dining, have become an attractive option for many people.
Kingsmill Resort is an environmentally-friendly resort that exudes elegance. Located in historic Williamsburg, Virginia, a place steeped in honored traditions and genuine southern hospitality, this grandiose resort attends to every detail.
Built on former plantation grounds that once peppered the area in the 1600s through 1800s, Kingsmill retains those magnificent traits with grand accommodations, gracious hospitality and stately service.

Environmentally-friendly practices at Kingsmill include water conservation, an integrated pest management program that focuses on minimizing the use of fertilizers and pesticides as well as resort-wide recycling. The resort’s three golf courses (one is for members only) are natural habitats of bald eagles, hawks, and other endangered birds which are protected and not disturbed on the grounds.
After a long day on the golf course, indulge in total relaxation at the Kingsmill Spa. Your worries start slipping away in the warm and tranquil reception area. Tension and stress begin to melt away the moment you’re guided down the hushed corridors, and as you ease into your plush robe and slippers. The transformation continues with your pampering spa treatment or salon service. And the luscious experience is extended in the cozy quiet room or on the comfortable deck, perhaps with a glass of wine and light spa fare.

With four restaurants on site, foodies will rejoice in a variety of culinary options that please the palate, featuring cuisine that celebrates seasonal ingredients with an array of fresh vegetables. For a truly savory treat, order the Maple Miso Glazed Brussels Sprouts that are expertly combined with white Miso, maple syrup, olive oil, sea salt and a sprinkle of black pepper.

Landscaping manager Brad Bryan has passion for gardening that rivals a chef’s passion for food. Last year he started with a modest garden and only grew a couple varieties of tomatoes and Habanero peppers. As the crops increased he brought them to the chefs, who became eager to see what he was going to bring each week.
Bryan provides summer tours of the on-site gardens, which add to the natural beauty and landscaping. And now guests can go to the restaurants and actually try this fried green tomato that Bryan discusses during the garden tours. This affords the guests the same intimate relationship with the produce that the chef gets to experience.
Exquisite accommodations ensure the ultimate in comfort at Kingsmill. From elegant guest rooms to spacious condos and exclusive lakeside cottages, guests are able to choose the accommodations that best suit their needs.

Activities abound at Kingsmill and throughout Williamsburg itself. The resort features such adventurous options as Segway Tours, scenic bike rides, a sports indoor and outdoor pool along with a slide and lazy river pool. A marina offers jet skiing, Pontoon Boats, Sea Cycles and kayaks.
Kingsmill is a world class resort that never forgot its roots, and its ongoing sustainability efforts surely enhance its special appeal.

Cove Resort

Timber Cove has long been known as a rustic refuge at which to refuel, relax, and reconnect. And now, newly reimagined and renovated by architectural firm Gensler and Los Angeles-based designers Robert and Cortney Novogratz, this iconic property has added posh modern amenities without losing its former bohemian vibe. ‘Legacy’ guests – those who have been visiting since the 1960’s – will still recognize the hospitable warmth and free-spirited character they’ve known and loved, but now they’ll also find indulgences that combine to place Timber Cove in the luxe hotel big leagues.

Nearly all of the 46 rooms (each with original layout) have cove or ocean views and feature throw-back LP players (with a LP lending library in the lobby), yoga mats, cozy robes, modern fireplaces, Nest heating/cooling systems, and Russian River Roasters coffee. Comfy beds feature sumptuous linens, down comforters, and Pendleton throw blankets. Original pieces from established artists such as Jimmy Mezei, Jeff Canham and Emily Nathan grace the walls, and binoculars are provided for sea-life sightings. Book one of the eight suites, and enjoy snacks and a beverage-stocked refrigerator (including local craft beers) – all complimentary.

Common areas feature redwood and stones preserved from the resort’s former life. The expansive Great Room retains its floor to ceiling stone fireplace and welcomes visitors with a visually stunning entryway inspired by classic 1960 Frank Lloyd Wright architecture. Modern and retro furnishings feature tribal textiles, white fabrics, worn leather, and preppy plaids. An Outdoor Living Room offers porch swings, billiards, ping-pong, and one of two on-property fire pits

Situated on 23 acres, the property begs to be explored, and the best and most entertaining way to do so is to follow Sophia von Gierke’s ‘Treasure Hunt.’ (Ask for it when you check-in.) The 11-year-old daughter of co-owner Jens von Gierke (Michael Barry is the other owner), Sophia directs guests to 19 interactive vantage points. Examples: #5 – Sit on the green bench and name three things you see. #7 – How wide is the base of the biggest Eucalyptus tree in the grove? #10 – How many faces do you see on Bufano’s obelisk? Sophia winds you through the property, past the events lawn, the bocce ball court, and Cupid’s Wall, and on through to the Coast Kitchen dining room, the resort’s destination level restaurant.

Like its resort surroundings, Coast Kitchen’s tangible connection to nature is palpable. The kitchen, led by hospitality veteran and chef of 30 years Phillip Kaufman, celebrates local fisherman and foragers. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Coast Kitchen’s changing menu embraces the coastal location; many items come from the sea, including the Poke Duet with Ahi Tuna Poke and Salmon Poke with avocado and Nori, Seared Farm Raised Baby Abalone with pickled herb salad and caper brown butter and the Shellfish Sampler highlighting hyper-seasonal fish and seafood, such as oysters, mussels, lobster, crab, and ahi poke, served with Migonette and Tabasco Jellies. Timber Cove Bar offers an extensive list of spirits, local wines and beers. Try one of their delicious craft cocktails while sitting at the fire pit that overlooks the resort’s namesake inlet.

New York City’s Hotel

The moment you approach The Mark Hotel on 77th Street in New York City, a block from Central Park, you realize this is a very special place.
Affable doormen accommodate your every need, while a heated awning ensures your comfort while waiting for a cab should the weather turn brisk. This is one of New York’s most luxurious boutique hotels, and the staff goes to great lengths to ensure that your stay is filled with special moments.

The Mark Fall Foliage Package personalizes a tour of Central Park. The tour takes guests through a scenic view of Central Park via The Mark Pedicab, stops for a Jean-Georges Picnic in the Park with cinnamon-tossed, caramel-filled donuts and hot cider, and drops guests off at The Metropolitan Museum with two cocktail vouchers to view Cornelia Park’s Psycho Barn exhibition at the rooftop bar. The Pedicab will wait for its guests outside The Met and transfer them back to the hotel to complete the tour. With Central Park at their doorstep, guests of the hotel can stop by The Conservatory Water Boat Pond in Central Park to try their hand at The Mark’s chic new black and white striped fleet of remote controlled sailboats. It’s a great way to spend some time in the park

The Mark Hotel affords easy walking access to museums, upscale shopping venues and fine dining. In addition to the fall foliage tour, the hotel is offering a number of specially designed packages in order to provide guests with a unique perspective of all that Manhattan has to offer. Dive into the New York art scene with a cultivated experience from The Mark, including a private guided tour at the museum of your choice, personal chauffeur for six hours, an “Artist’s Afternoon Tea” served in your room. Insider VIP access to special exhibits at MoMA, studio tours with popular artists and private gallery viewings are also available exclusively to guests.

There’s no such thing as cramped quarters at The Mark as each guest room and suite offers maximum comfort and spacious accommodations. Suites range from 700 square feet to an outrageous 4,788 square feet for the Five Bedroom Terrace Suite. Fit for royalty, it features a living and dining room, foyer, eat-in kitchen, terrace and 5.5 bathrooms.

Dining at The Mark is an experienced to be savored. The Mark Restaurant by Jean-Georges displays the artistry of Jean-Georges Vongerichten, one of the world’s pre-eminent chefs. Here, your taste buds embark on a culinary journey of land and sea that never fails to captivate one’s senses. Char-grilled octopus, crispy potato with smoked paprika and herbs is a delectable appetizer that sets the stage for a very enjoyable evening of gourmet dining. Grilled Red Snapper, braised fennel with carrots and Cerignola olives will please even the most refined palate, while grilled lamb chops with smoked chili glaze and broccoli rabe is a delightful entree.

While undergoing a design transformation in 2009, the hotel turned to renowned French designer Jacques Grange. The result is striking, and combines grand spaces that provide serene havens of quiet luxury. Despite the abundance of activities nearby, guests are tempted to spend hours inside this historic building soaking up its exquisite ambience. The luxury of Old World comfort along with avant-garde design makes this boutique hotel a New York City gem waiting to be discovered.

Make The Marker Your San Francisco Hotel

The San Francisco-based JDV hotel group is known for creating hospitality experiences grounded in local culture, and The Marker is a resplendent example. Located in the theater district, just blocks from celebrated Union Square, the boutique hotel percolates with urban energy and San Francisco style. 208 newly refurbished guest rooms echo the vim and vigor of the vibrant locale, and impressively grand and spacious common areas reflect the iconic status of the turn-of-the-century building. It all adds up to a superior San Francisco experience. Here are a few more reasons to make The Marker your San Francisco go-to: The Marker is ideally located in an area dubbed ‘Tendernob,’ near the city’s best shopping, theaters, restaurants, and museums. The Moscone Convention Center and SOMA district are just a few blocks away, as is the newly remodeled SFMOMA. Take a brisk walk up one of San Francisco’s iconic hills and you’re at Nob Hill, home to Grace Cathedral, the classic Big 4 Restaurant, and Huntington Park. Prefer to explore on bike? The Marker can set you up with their in-house bicycles, allowing you to easily cruise down Market Street to Bay views and the Ferry Building farmer’s market.

Spacious Suites and Comfortable Rooms

Few downtown boutique hotels offer the space of a Marker suite. Recently renovated, each provides ample area to spread out and make yourself at home. Other guest rooms are equally inviting and feature colorful striped walls and floral accents, pillow-top beds, and down bedding. Luxury bath products are by Jonathan Adler. Fido is also welcome; the hotel has pet-designated rooms and offers pet amenities such as a plush doggie bed and a turndown treat.

The Extras

 From fresh lemon water in the lobby, to a nightly 5:00pm – 6:00pm wine social hour, to coffee and teas in the morning, The Marker is known for giving its guests a little something more. Enjoy unlimited PressReader access, in-room spa services, and free wi-fi. Each room features a LCD flat-screen TV, iHome stereo systems and an honor bar. The plush lobby ‘living room’ serves as a communal space for guests to relax after a day of sight-seeing. Comfy couches and cozy chairs surround a large central stone fireplace, and a corner game table beckons for a game of backgammon. A complimentary onsite fitness center provides everything you need to stay in shape: treadmills, ellipticals, spinners, yoga mats, and free weights.

Tratto

The Marker’s in-house, signature restaurant features house made limoncello, grapefruit-cello, and orange-cello. Need we say more? This spirited, cocktail-driven restaurant – a favorite with neighborhood locals, the pre and post theater crowd, and of course hotel guests – serves rustic Italian fare in a convivial atmosphere inspired by the Italian happy hour tradition of “aperitivo.” Menu items are simple, delicious, and meant to be shared, such as the house-made pastas and sausages, pizzas, seasonal vegetables, and seafood, all prepared simply for the fullest expression of flavor. The full bar features traditional Italian cocktails with a twist, such as the eponymous ‘Tratto,’ featuring their limoncello, Four Roses bourbon, vermouth, and angostura bitters, of the ‘Molto Buona’ with El Dorado Rum, orgeat, limoncello, and strawberry shrub. Create your own ‘Boozy Italian Soda’ with your own choice of spirit and their selection of house-made Italian Sodas. Beers and wines are sourced from the best of the West Coast and Italy. High ceilings and arched windows let the sun shine in during the day. After dark, the space takes a dramatic turn as classic Italian movies (silenced, but with subtitles) take center stage on the bar’s wall – a little Joie de Vivre whim that separates this lovely hotel and restaurant from the pack.

Resort in Islands

Enjoyed the hour drive to the Park Hyatt Mallorca from the international airport in Palma because it gave me time to enjoy the island’s landscape. On the two-lane blacktop we sailed past smalls towns and isolated houses surrounded by neat fencing. Goats and sheep grazed in open fields and there were orange groves, almond orchards and miles of olive trees planted in precise rows tracing the contour of the rolling hills
In 2016 the Park Hyatt opened the 5-Star resort on the northeastern coast of the island. Set against the dark red Cap Vermell mountains, the hotel looks like a miniature village organized around a courtyard called Plaza de Torre.

Three story villa-style buildings line the terraced hill above the courtyard. One hundred and forty-two rooms and suites are grouped into neighborhoods, each named for the trees planted around the buildings—Lemon, Olive, Pomegranate, Pear, Orange, Almond, Cherry and Fig. When the trees bloom, the fragrance of their blossoms perfumes the hillside.
To reflect Mallorcan traditions, local materials were used in the construction of the hotel. The hotel’s pastel sandstone facade was quarried from nearby Santanyi. The landscaping utilized 70,000 native plants, some edible like the lavender and rosemary that line the walkways between the residential buildings.
Even though they are newly planted, the trees, flowers and perennial aromatics are thriving. I visited several months after the opening. The Spanish jasmine was already entwined on the metal fencing bordering the pathways. Colorful, vibrant flowers were in full bloom. Fruit was ripening on the olive, lemon and orange trees.

In a few years the grounds of the hotel will become a lush garden, delighting guests and supplying fruit and herbs to the restaurant kitchens.
My sunny room in the Limonero or Lemon complex was on the second floor. Like the other rooms on upper floors, mine had a large private terrace overlooking the grounds. Rooms on the ground level have an outdoor patio with a garden.
I had work to do, so I appreciated the Wi-Fi, an efficient desk and wall outlets that accepted many types of electrical plugs.
For the complimentary coffee and tea service, there was a set of Narumi Bone China. The Nespresso machine produced coffee with perfectly formed crema. My bathroom had a shower and a bathtub, a Duravit high-tech toilet, Grohe fixtures, marble tile and an imbedded television in the mirror.

The Serenitas Spa

Taking relaxation to the next level, the hotel offers amenities and treatments in the Serenitas Spa. The large complex has a sauna, relaxation room, outdoor cold water vitality pool, hairdresser, manicure and pedicure salons and seven treatment rooms, two of which are set up for couples with private steam rooms.
Creating a total experience, each treatment room has a bathroom, shower, free-standing Barcelona bathtub and a private patio.
Promoting wellness, the therapies include exfoliating scrubs using local herbs and oils, heated basalt stones, a crystal quartz sand bed, seaweed and clay wraps, facials and deep muscle massages. What I really needed was to relax and get a good night’s sleep, so I chose the aroma therapy massage.
Lying on my stomach, my face was positioned over an aromatic cupping of hot water, lavender and clove buds oil, rosemary sprigs and pine bark. The aromas enveloped me as the massage therapist, Valentina, worked on my arms, legs, shoulders and back. Very quickly I found myself in that wonderful massage-dream state. Half awake. Half asleep.
When the massage was over, Valentina led me to the beautifully appointed relaxation room with airy shears hung from the ceiling. For refreshment, she placed a porcelain tea pot and cup next to the daybed and offered me a snack of walnuts, black raisins and a deliciously tart green apple.

The Clement Hotel Delivers

A few days later at check-in, you’ve likely forgotten your answers to this initial email query, but The Clement has not. Waiting for you in your gorgeously tailored suite is a bottle of red, a bottle of white, and a small bottle of bourbon. A large bowl of fresh guacamole welcomes you, as does a platter of gourmet cheeses and pâtés that you listed as your preferred snacks. You ponder the additional delectables you should have included on your ‘favorites’ list…Swiss chocolates. Russian caviar. Only the red M&M’s.

No detail has been overlooked at The Clement Hotel, Palo Alto’s newest urban retreat – a luxurious and private residential-style haven where nearly every wish is their command. The Clement promises a ‘6-star,’ all-inclusive experience, and it delivers. Food, drink, and snacks are at your beck-and-call, around the clock. Guests can enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner prepared as specifically as you wish, in the open kitchen with the hotel’s presiding chef. The seasonal menu changes frequently based on market availability, and possibly based on guest preferences. (You indicated a preference for tuna poke on your guest inquiry. It’s on the menu. Coincidence?) A guest pantry – open 24 hours – features an ever ready selection of Kara’s mini cupcakes and a freezer stocked with Palo Alto’s artisanal Tin Cup Creamery ice cream. Need a caffeine fix? Help yourself to a steaming mocha, latte, or cappuccino. Celebrating a special occasion or a successful business transaction? Champagne will be waiting on ice. Enjoy your repast in the dining room, the outdoor dining terrace, in a cabana at the private roof-top pool deck overlooking the Stanford campus, or in your suite.

The Clement’s 23 spacious suites (one bedroom, two-bedroom, and tandem suites) offer modern and sophisticated comfort with an array of carefully curated amenities of the highest quality: Matouk linens and Frette towels and robes, two 65” Samsung IPTVs, Nespresso Vertuoline coffee machines, electric kettles, and stocked refrigerators. Spacious, stone-lined bathrooms feature heated floors, heated toilet seats, large soaking tubs, rain head showers, in-mirror televisions, and luxe olive oil bath amenities by 80 Acre Products. Sleek window shades open and close with the push of a button.

The Clement is owned and operated by Pacific Hotel Management (PHM) and is named after its president, Clement Chen, a seasoned hotelier who has utilized his exacting standards to fashion a superior retreat that pleases the most discriminating traveler. (PHM also owns the neighboring Westin and Sheraton.) The Clement is art-filled, polished, urbane, and exceedingly comfortable. Open just more than six-months, it’s already a favorite of visiting venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and professors who fill the the suites mid-week and appreciate the privacy and security, the office-supply stocked desks, The Jury Room (the hotel’s state-of-the-art boardroom that is available for small meetings and private dining), and the second floor fitness center. But weekends are reserved for the R&R crowd, and Palo Alto serves up no better place to be pampered and indulged. The Clement is within walking distance of the chic shops and restaurants at Town & Country Village and Stanford Shopping Center. The Stanford campus provides miles of walking and jogging trails, and the roof-top pool and Jacuzzi are heated to just the right temps. Feel like stepping out for a meal? Hotel staff will recommend any number of lauded eateries within close proximity. But the true beauty of The Clement is one need not leave the property at all to experience the allure and energy of Silicon Valley. That too is all-inclusive.

Belmond Maroma Resort

As happens at Belmond Maroma Spa and Resort.
It can be forgiven this time, though, as this ‘hostess’ is a red parrot. “This is Avelida, a parrot from this region, our hostess,” I’m told by the actual human hostess as she leads me through the warm leafy courtyard of the hotel. There’s other wildlife in the surrounding area too, including coatis (like raccoons), harmless small snakes, monkeys and iguanas, though, apart from the parrot, the only animal life I see during my stay here are a few cats doing exactly the right thing to do here: taking it easy.
Around an hour from Cancun, or 10 minutes outside of Playa del Carmen, Belmond Maroma Spa and Resort sits on the shores of the Yucatan peninsular in the region of Quintana Roo, looking out onto the Caribbean ocean. Turning off the main road, through a security gate, it’s reached via a long driveway that cuts through the forest. The main building has the feel of an old hacienda, built by an architect as his holiday home, with fountains, an elegant courtyard where Avelida sits on a perch, a large swimming pool and a restaurant leading down to the beach. Suites are just a short walk away, and they’re certainly worth the walk.
‘Suites’ feels like an understatement; the place where I spend two days feels more like an apartment or house. Just inside the front door, there’s a vast living room, with a writing desk, coffee machine, fridge and a little bar area, all set up around a colorfully striped sofa and chairs. Following the general worldwide trend at top hotels for helping guests ‘disconnect’, there’s no TV.

The living room connects, via large glass doors, to an outside balcony, with a couple of big comfy chairs, looking out onto palm trees, a beach and the inviting ocean. All this space for two people already feels like a luxury, but we’re just getting started.
In the other direction, the lounge links into a huge bedroom, with a central four poster bed, the white sheets decorated for our arrival with an ornate design of orange flowers. There’s a recliner/lounging bed in the room too, where you can lie back and look up at the domed red brick ceiling and big black cast iron chandelier. The effect is surprisingly homely, but on a grand luxurious scale. Colorful paintings by Mexican artists provide a bit of a modern edge. The flooring throughout is a kind of copper/terracotta marble, which feels like it comes from a Roman or Tuscan villa. There are big sea shells in little coves inside the walls. The rooms look especially pleasant and atmospheric at night, when staff come in to do an extensive turn down service, lighting candles on tall candlebras and your selection of four fragrances in the aromatherapy burner.

The bathroom’s also huge, with two sizable separate his-and-hers sink areas on either side, framed by cool lanterns, with space between the sinks for a romantic bathtub, big enough, at least, for two people. There are more candles arranged around the main tub or ‘pool’. The products provided are organic and homemade, including aromatic honey shampoo and conditioner, and oatmeal soap. Here at Belmond Maroma, one shower wouldn’t be enough, though; there are two showers inside the shower room, for showering together, should it take your fancy, and on the other side of the glass, a door leads to an outdoor shower that’s surrounded by forest (and a privacy wall).
We’re not nearly done yet. Next to the bathroom, there’s a personal gym area, with a running machine, yoga mat, and exercise ball, all of which goes guiltily underused during my stay. Outside, there’s a second lounging area, with a private plunge pool looking out onto the ocean, along with chairs, a table and, this part of the Mexican coast’s essential item, a hammock, hanging wall to wall. I explore up a small staircase to find a roof space. It’s empty, but some guests apparently use it for doing yoga, looking out onto the ocean. This is a place where I could, and do, happily spend a lot of time, not least on the balcony, drinking a good bottle of Pinot Noir and looking out over crashing waves.

“Relax your mind, your body and your spirit,” the masseuse whispers in my ear, which is pretty easy to do when there’s a hot towel around my neck and shoulders, her hands gently massaging my skull. She wafts a fragrance of eucalyptus and ginger under my nose before a quick footbath and footrub, then begins a 50-minute full body massage to a soundtrack of Indian sitars and Brian Eno’s ambient works. It’s a great, firm massage with rosemary oil, working aches from shoulders and back, head to toe, so relaxing that I think, perhaps, I briefly nod off once or twice.
We’re greeted by name again by the waiters in the evening, taking our table by the window and ordering, first, cocktails, then a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon for a good wine list. My girlfriend thinks the tlayuda de pulpo Maya (Mayan octopus) might be the best she’s ever eaten, perfectly cooked, soft and delicious, and my starter of Mexican crispy brie cheese is hard to fault too, indulgent and served with guava sauce and hibiscus jelly. Good seafood is abundant on the Riviera Maya, one of the reasons I like eating here so much, so while my girlfriend goes for the chef’s recommendation of roaster snapper with sautéed potatoes, saffron aioli and fennel, I tuck into seared blackened yellowtail amberjack, with roasted veg and celeriac puree. We leave, full and happy, warmed by mescal and wine.

Hotel Esencia

My impressions of Hotel Esencia, a chic boutique hotel on a relatively quiet undeveloped strip of the Riviera Maya in Mexico’s Yucatan region, halfway between Playa del Carmen and Tulum were way off. The site features quirky illustrations, pleasant and playful, like colored-in takes on the New Yorker, but they don’t scream style, sophistication or luxury.
The hotel itself doesn’t scream those things either. It just does them all – style, sophistication and luxury – incredibly well, but quietly, discreetly and seemingly casually.
We’re met by our bubbly personal concierge and given a quick guide to where the spa, restaurants, pool and beach are, walking past a lawn where a deep blue and a pure white peacock are roaming free, before being shown to our villa, where our bags are already neatly stashed.
Esencia, a white hacienda-style mansion, was originally built as the private home of Italian duchess Rosa d’Ferrari. Now, alongside the mansion, there’s also several villas, a total of 30 rooms or suites, which keeps things on the small and intimate side, especially compared to some of the giant luxury hotels found along the Riviera Maya.

We settle into our villa, which is on the edge of the beachfront gardens. The bedroom is simple but stylish, decorated floor to walls to ceiling in white, which feels both cool (as in fashionable) and cooling (as in temperature), with both AC and fans to aid that effect. Windows, fitted with electric blinds, let in light, but we’re surrounded by jungle, so it feels pretty private inside. There’s a large, incredibly comfy bed (also in white) at the heart of the room, with a potted plant and copies of the New Yorker and Vanity Fair on the bedside shelf, and a comfy sofa area in front of a big TV that barely gets used during our whole stay. The music system does get some action though, with the hotel’s pre-programmed mix of Pink Floyd and other chilled tunes working well. A writing desk by the window looks out onto the jungle, and there’s good Wi-Fi inside the suite, which is handy as I need to, sadly, keep on top of a few work matters while I’m here.

The smooth white continues into the bathroom, with white flooring and walls, twin white sinks, a big white oval bathtub and a spacious rain shower room. Toiletries provided are both organic and locally made, containing ingredients like Yucatecan lime, avocado and coconut, while the soap is made of agave, the plant responsible for tequila and mescal.

A door from the bathroom leads out onto a private little area with two loungers and our own small plunge pool. Although my girlfriend takes a restful dip in it to cool down, the pool doesn’t see much use, as it’s hard to beat the beach and ocean location just a minute’s walk away. The duchess clearly had an eye for a fine location, building her house on the difficult to pronounce but very easy to enjoy Xpu-Ha beach, a curving bay of cool fine powdery white sand with translucent water. Apart from Esencia guests, it’s empty – very pleasantly so.

We watch the sunset down at the end of the beach, then spend an incredibly calm evening by the main swimming pool (which also goes underused, because of the excellent ocean swimming on offer), sitting on comfy loungers beneath trees lit romantically with orange bulbs, working our way through mescal cocktails.
Afterwards, we make our way to the poolside and oceanside Garden Restaurant for dinner, where the menu is modern Mexican, with plenty of fresh seafood, which makes sense given how close everything is here to the sea. I tuck into a crispy crabmeat coquette with avocado puree as a starter, which is tasty enough, but a main of two big chunky yellowfin tuna steaks, perfectly pink and served on Mexican caponata, is delicious. My girlfriend is also highly impressed with her grilled octopus, a hard ingredient to cook perfectly, but nailed here, served with roasted cherry tomatoes, roasted baby potatoes and parsley oil. We’re both equally impressed by a place of juicy jumbo shrimp sautéed in tamarind honey sauce, with saffron rice. My dinner’s great, but I’ll admit to having a little ‘order envy’.

We wake in the morning, well-rested, to the gentle sound of birdsong in the jungle, and find the pre-ordered tray of tea and coffee on the verandah, along with a basket of croissants, muffins and pastries – a pleasantly laid back start to the morning.
The whole of the day is spent relaxing. There are two swimming pools here, one for families with a shallow shelf dominating the site, for toddlers to be able to stand, with another larger, quieter child-free pool across from it. But we spend most of our time on the beach, on loungers where waiters occasionally come by with fresh coconut, skewers of fresh fruit or to take a drink order.

We break only for lunch, which includes tasty deep fried avocado chips and a healthy quinoa salad with shrimp, beetroot and grains, then make our way in the evening to the spa, where the dusk air has a pleasant aroma coming from the fire near the entrance.
There’s a rustic earthy feel to the spa, far away from the modern clinical feel of some modern spas. It’s warmer and homelier, designed with flowing walls, according (apparently) to Mayan principles of energy flow. We sit for a while in robes in a chill out area, a candle gently flickering, before our joint treatment starts.

Esencia, it has to be said, is a romantic place to stay, despite being, unlike some other hotels in the area, also open to families with children. And the Essence of Love spa treatment, as the name suggestions, ups the ante even further. It starts with a ritual, a Mayan blessing as my girlfriend and I close our eyes, fragrant smoke surrounding us. We take our place on a bed which has been decked out with a heart shape of rose petals, soft music playing in the background, for a full body massage with vanilla cream. The masseuse suggests this is not a “hard massage, just gentle, easy, like a little dance,” but actually there’s some decent pressure applied too to work out knots in shoulders from too much time spent as a computer.
At the end of the massage, my girlfriend and I are positioned face-to-face, and left alone in the room, an open door leading to a steamy room with a round pool that looks out onto the cool green forest. The rim of the pool has also been carefully decorated with rose petals. We soak for a while, occasionally lifting a relaxed limb to pick up a glass of champagne or a chocolate-covered strawberry from the tray at the poolside. I’d guess that there have been a few engagement rings brought out here at moments like this.

The Moments In Resort and Hotels

The Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass is a showcase of Pima and Maricopa tribal heritage. National Geographic Traveler Magazine named this property to its first ever “Stay List,” described as a celebration of the “150 Hotels You’ll Love” in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. In partnership with this magazine, the Tourism Industry Association of America recently awarded the Resort the TIA Odyssey Geotourism Award for Sustaining an Indigenous Culture and Community.

One of the Resort’s unique features is their Cultural Concierge. It is a must that one connects with her to take a complimentary tour highlighting the history and culture of the Pima and Maricopa tribes that have inhabited central Arizona for more than 2,300 years. Her tour also interprets the significance of the many vibrant murals, pottery pieces, works of art and Native American stories found throughout the resort.

Aji Spa is a world unto itself. From the moment you enter, mosaic tiles depict the symbolism of the four directions: east for illumination, south for sandstorms that bring rain, west for the setting sun and north for the water of life. One of the signature treatments here is their Blue Coyote Wrap. The Spa Director, explained that this wrap is a metaphor for the spa as a whole – offering unique treatments and an environment where guests can free themselves from stress and return to a natural state of peace. Belen Stoneman is the Native American Healer for Aji Spa. In this role, she utilizes a sacred holistic approach to healing the mind, body and spirit through therapeutic massage.

Mind, body and spirit aligned – now let’s talk food. One of the nation’s most highly lauded restaurants, Kai, is the first ever Native American restaurant to garner both the AAA Five-Diamond Award and Mobil Travel Guide’s Five-Star Award. Kai’s Michelin-trained Executive Chef, Michael O’Dowd has worked diligently to learn traditional recipes and presents them in a new setting, thus paying homage to the past while weaving a new culinary future for Native American-inspired cuisine.

After dining – a peaceful stroll. The Resort has recently completed a two and a half mile Interpretive Trail that runs alongside the property’s storied Gila River. More than fifty signs detailing the culture, history and plant life of this river community can be found along the trail. Many of the signs focus on the vegetation that’s historically significance to the Pima and Maricopa people. The signs feature a picture of each plant and denote what it was used for and its significance to the Gila River People.

The Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass experience is one that blends a rich tableau of images and designs reflecting the beauty and mystery of the desert and its people. Belen Stoneman, this woman of Native American spirituality, says “The No.1 rule for me is that Creator God and the spirits do everything.” Here, indeed, everything is done with spirituality and authenticity. Dreams are caught in a web of stories that entertain, educate and inspire.

Carrying on the Dream Theme
Less than a half hour from the Wild Horse Pass is another unique and spectacular property:the Arizona Biltmore, A Waldorf Astoria Resort. Designed by architect Albert Chase McArthur with Frank Lloyd Wright’s collaboration, the “Jewel of the Desert” opened in 1929. Celebrities spent Hollywood’s golden years here; Marilyn Monroe loved the Catalina Pool, Irving Berlin penned White Christmas, and at the bar, the famed tequila sunrise was invented. Ronald and Nancy Reagan honeymooned here and presidents from Herbert Hoover to George W. Bush have been its guests. There’s glittering history around every corner on the property’s 39 glistening acres right in the heart of Phoenix.
As a long-time buff of all things Hollywood in the 40s, I was over the moon at the chance to visit this property and Wright’s designs and inspirations were icing on the cake. The Arizona Biltmore, a Waldorf Astoria Four Diamond property, is now modern and stylish though happily it still retains its original Gatsby-era feel.

In my brief stay, I nonetheless got in some memorable experiences: I had a deep, luxuriating massage at Spa Biltmore administered with a turquoise-sage muscle cream! and I dined at Wright’s Restaurant, gazing out at the Phoenix Mountain Preserve beyond. This was a special culinary repast that told the story of the Arizona desert with dishes that drew from the region’s heritage and culture. A short stint on the tennis court and then, too soon, this dream idyll was over. But – no regrets. By immersing myself in Pima tribal culture and meeting the beautiful, impressive healer Belen Stoneman, to being transported back in time for some glitzy Hollywood glamour and then enfolded in Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic architecture, my personal dream-catcher gathered a host of sweet reveries that I’ll cherish whenever I think of this magical Arizona visit.

Vietnam Checks Out Country’s Hotels

“If you’re only going to visit Vietnam once there’s no doubt this is the way to do it,” said Andrew Carroll, global head of sales & marketing at Exotic Voyages.

The journey begins at one of the South East Asia’s most storied hotels, Sofitel Metropole Legend, which first opened in 1901. Steeped in history, former guests include such luminaries as Charlie Chaplin, Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene. In 2009 the property underwent such a dramatic restoration that it landed on Conde Nast Traveler’s Hot List – normally reserved for new hotels.

The property offers respite during a two-night stay with days spent immersed in the local food scene with everything from a market and street food tour to sampling egg coffee (a sweet, soft meringue-like topping over strong Vietnamese brew) in the cafe where the popular local drink was first created.

Guests then head north to Halong Bay, where thousands of limestone karsts pepper teal waters. Accommodation for the night is on a Paradise Luxury Cruise, a 41-meter-long boat with four spacious decks, a spa, Jacuzzi, restaurant and bar. In the morning the experience reaches new heights with a 25-minute seaplane tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Departing from the country’s French colonial past the traveler’s next stop is a stay at the country’s hottest hotel debut, The Reverie Saigon. Unapologetically opulent and quite unlike anything Vietnam has seen before, the design is all Italian with Italy’s best furnishing brands collaborating on the interiors. During the three-night, four-day stay in the city, guests visit Cu Chi, a vast network of tunnels used by the Viet Cong during the war, and have the additional options including taking in the city by night with a Vespa tour.

The last three nights of Quintessentially Vietnam are at Amanoi Ninh Thuan, a secluded beach retreat near Nha Trang, where guests can unwind with complimentary water sports from sailing to snorkeling at the resort’s private beach, on the tennis court, or with a daily yoga and Tai Chi class. The special offer also includes a free upgrade to an Ocean Pavilion room, and a complimentary bottle of wine and Vietnamese dinner set for two.

The new package can be booked from January 10th to March 31st, 2017 with travel taking place between January and October 2017. Rates start at US$2,982 per person and vary depending on the month of travel. The US$1900 saving, off Exotic Voyages regular price, is based on two persons sharing accommodation. The offer excludes international and domestic airfares and meals and drinks not mentioned in the full itinerary.