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September 26, 2013
By Alia Akkam | Hotels

Refined Elegance in Cusco, Peru
Courtesy of Palacio del Inka

Cusco, Peru’s heady heights have a way of ambushing visitors with altitude sickness, so it is delightful when, upon arriving at Palacio del Inka, cordial staff usher you to a sofa and procure a cup of restorative coca-leaf tea to sip during check-in. Drinking the ancient remedy helps ward off dizziness, but it is just one of the many authentic reminders of Cusco’s glittering past to be found at the lovely hotel.

After a $15 million design revamp, the 203-room Palacio del Inka, a Luxury Collection property built on once-sacred Incan grounds, is now a grand ode to its city’s golden days. Beyond the simple red-tiled roof and blue-and-white Spanish Colonial façade, the dramatic reception area—with sunlight streaming through the vaulted ceiling and a sleek stone floor—is awash in colonial-era oil paintings.

Historic Cusco is, of course, the gateway to Machu Picchu and the nearby walled fortress of Sacsayhuaman, but when the hiking and ruins-gawking is done, find respite in Palacio del Inka’s intimate, lantern-filled spa. Keep the post-massage bliss going with a ritual that kicks off in the steam room, continues with pummeling jets in the therapy pool and ends in a Jacuzzi.

Wandering the city’s cobblestone streets and bustling plazas leads to the discovery of airy eateries like Greens Organic (135 Calle Santa Catalina Angosta; 51-8/425-4753), where you can unwind over bright-yellow chile trout tiradito. But do spend a night dining at the hotel’s restaurant Inti Raymi, amid a maze of doorways and courtyard sight lines. Vibrant Peruvian produce factors into dishes like aromatic white-truffle-potato soup and sage sauce-drizzled baked pork loin with mashed sweet potatoes. For a nightcap, sip a pisco sour at Rumi Bar, which flaunts an original Incan wall that is more than 500 years old.

The mansion-like Casa de los Cuatro Bustos suites (from $400), with their 13-foot–high ceilings, are worth the upgrade, especially those with balconies that overlook Incan masterpiece Coricancha, the temple of the Sun God. But the standard guestrooms (from $315)—dark wood, maroon hues, leather-wrapped headboards—are just as dreamy. 259 Plazoleta Santo Domingo; 51-1/518-6500; starwoodhotels.com.

August 28, 2013
By Ingrid Skjong | Hotels

Fashion-Forward Cocktails
Courtesy of Dorchester Collection

Champagne could easily be considered the fashion world’s drink of choice, but for the next few months the Dorchester Collection will be toasting in style with cocktails. Beginning September 5 (the start of New York Fashion Week) and continuing through October 2 (the end of Paris Fashion Week), five hotels will serve exclusive drinks inspired by the finalists of this year’s Dorchester Collection Fashion Prize.

“Our bar managers are well versed in creating stylish bespoke cocktails, they are all familiar with the fashion crowd as it forms a large part of their clientele, and they relished the creative challenge of interpreting the designers’ ethos and collections,” says Julia Record, director of communications.

To get a sense of each finalist’s style, the mixologists pored over look books, sketches and videos. Robert Rouleau of Bar Nineteen12 at The Beverly Hills Hotel worked from color swatches and a cocktail drawing by Fyodor Podgorny and Golan Frydman of Fyodor Golan; the resulting Marilyn (Champagne, peach purée, strawberry syrup, lemon-peel garnish) is a nod to the designers’ love of Marilyn Monroe. William Oliveri of Bar 228 at Le Meurice in Paris concocted the Berry Lace (rosé Champagne, strawberries, raspberries, brown sugar, lime juice, fresh mint) to complement Huishan Zhang, whose feminine designs show lots of lace. The Dorchester (London), Le Richemond (Geneva) and the Hotel Principe di Savoia (Milan) will also serve a signature drink.

This year’s Fashion Prize judges include Tank Magazine executive fashion director Caroline Issa, fashion writer Derek Blasberg and stylist Penny Lovell, and the winner (announced on October 29) will take home a $33,000 endowment and mentoring opportunities with the judges. Awarded since 2010, the honor has proven to support burgeoning talent and solidify Dorchester’s own fashion legacy. We’ll raise a glass to that. dorchestercollection.com.

August 14, 2013
By Francesca Giacco | Hotels

A Touch of Tennis at Trump Soho New York
Courtesy of Trump SoHo

One of the most anticipated late-summer events in New York is the US Open (August 26 through September 9), the Grand Slam championship tennis tournament that draws elite players and eager fans to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens.

Trump Soho New York, located on Spring Street in Manhattan, is celebrating the spectacle this year with a special package, never before offered to guests, called Game. Set. Match. (available August 15 through September 15). “The offer was designed with the tennis enthusiast in mind,” explains general manager Andreas Oberoi. “It adds a few extra touches of luxury to the overall US Open experience.”

Tickets to the Open and private transfers to the Tennis Center can be arranged through the hotel’s concierge, and those extra touches include a bottle of organic sunscreen for courtside UV protection and a 30-minute massage at The Spa at Trump. Carrying on the sporty theme is the hotel’s wellness program, which keeps health-minded guests on track via sensible in-room dining choices with nutritional information listed (gluten-free items are available) and Travel Fit, which gives guests Under Armour fitness togs, pre-loaded iPods and workout tips, making winning form that much easier to maintain. Rooms start at $575; 246 Spring St.; 212-842-5500, trumphotelcollection.com/soho.

July 17, 2013
By Tina Isaac-Goizé | Hotels

A Second Life for a French Manor House
Courtesy of The Chateau de Thil

Given its legendary châteaux and spectacular countryside, Bordeaux—unlike Alsace, Burgundy and Champagne—has never had an official route des vins. That will change in the fall, thanks in large part to the popularity of Les Sources de Caudalie (sources-caudalie.com), a boutique hotel, Vinothérapie Spa and epicurean destination in the region. Added to its offerings this summer is Château le Thil, an 18th-century manor house and vineyard that has found new life as a bed-and-breakfast.

The Cathiard family—in particular sisters Mathilde Thomas and Alice Tourbier—is behind the enterprise. Located just opposite the clan’s grand cru estate of Le Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Les Sources de Caudalie is named for the cult Caudalie beauty brand that is based on grape-seed extracts. Locals call the family, simply, “les Caudalies.”

Château le Thil, located roughly a mile from Les Sources de Caudalie, was built in 1737. The Comtesse de Clary (Josephine Bonaparte’s sister-in-law) renovated it in the mid-1800s; the royal connection remained intact for the next several generations. “Two-hundred years ago, Smith Haut Lafitte and Le Thil belonged to the same family,” says Tourbier, adding that the manor endured as a favorite summer retreat for various branches of nobility descended from Queen Victoria a century ago. “We’ve brought them into a family circle again.”

Freshly renovated, Château le Thil opens onto three spacious salons housing eight rooms and one suite. (An additional room, a suite with a private terrace, and a swimming pool will follow shortly.) Tourbier teamed with her mother for the decor, which varies from room to room, but the overall feel is rustic antique chic: Chantilly chandeliers, imposing wooden wardrobes, trunks, tables and chairs furnish spaces decked with dove-gray walls enlivened by colorful fabrics.

Motifs range from classic toile de Jouy and grape clusters in the Rouge Merlot suite (No. 2) to a lush landscape in the colonial Retour des Indes room (No. 7) to a mustard-hued Pierre Frey tribal print in the Lascaux & Co. room (No. 5). All bathrooms have twin sinks, clawfoot tubs and showers. And because all accommodations are in the front of the building, each offers views of rolling greenery, ponds and the oak-lined allée royale that leads back to Le Château Smith Haut Lafitte and Les Sources de Caudalie. Rates start at $325 (rooms), $520 (suite); Chemin de Smith Hait Lafitte; 33-5/57-83-83-83; chateau-le-thil.com.

June 12, 2013
By Shivani Vora | Hotels

Topping Rose House in the Hamptons
Courtesy of Topping Rose

The Hamptons is famous for grand homes and beautiful beaches. Given the tony ambiance, however, upscale accommodations in the area are in surprisingly short supply. Which is why Topping Rose House—a new hotel, spa and restaurant in Bridgehampton run by restaurateur and chef Tom Colicchio—is such a welcome arrival.

The 22-room property dates back to 1842, when Abraham Topping Rose, a local dignitary and county judge, built the 6,000-square-foot main house in a Greek Revival style. It remained a private residence for more than a century and housed a variety of businesses before co-owner Bill Campbell, former chairman of Chase Card Services, bought the land in 2005. He received a permit to turn the crumbling building into a hotel in 2010.

After a lengthy construction process, which included restoring the original hardwood floors and resurrecting three covered terraces, Topping Rose opened officially on Memorial Day weekend. (The restaurant debuted last fall.) Architect Roger Ferris was excited to refurbish the existing structure and to create several new, modern buildings on the same site. “This architectural strategy of combining historical and contemporary forms in close proximity to one another is at once a great challenge and a great pleasure,” he says.

Rooms, which start at a spacious 400 square feet, are spread out among the main house, four cottages and a studio and feature plush amenities like Frette linens, Chadsworth & Haig bathrobes, Naturopathica toiletries and customized minibars. But the best perk might be the opportunity to enjoy Colicchio’s seasonal American cooking at the eponymous restaurant. A one-acre farm grows the majority of the operation’s produce for dishes that emphasize creatively prepared vegetables. Try the sugar-snap peas, asparagus and saffron served with grilled monkfish or ravioli with dandelion, goat cheese and truffle honey.

Co-owner Simon Critchell says the hotel is meant to be a haven. “It’s ideal for people who want to come to the Hamptons but don’t want the hassle of having a house,” he explains. “We have your needs covered.” Rooms start at $850 (including breakfast); One Bridgehampton–Sag Harbor Tpk.; 631-537-0870; toppingrosehouse.com.

May 15, 2013
By Ingrid Skjong | Hotels

A Piedmontese Paradise
Vaclav Sedy

The Boroli family, owners of Locanda del Pilone—an inn and Michelin-starred restaurant located in the Langhe region of Italy—and a nearby winery called La Brunella, are as tied to the surrounding land as the grapevines they tend. In the Langhe for more than 150 years, the Borolis opened their doors to visitors last fall, introducing their beloved area to a new audience.

“It’s a lovely and quaint environment to indulge in some of the most simple pleasures in life: food and wine,” says winemaker Achille Boroli. “Many guests have told me that they enjoy staying at Locanda del Pilone because even though it’s a luxury inn, you get the feeling that you are at the home of an Italian friend.”

The six-room inn is a restored farmhouse; part of the restaurant is made of bricks from the original structure, which dates back to the 1600s. Food factors in heavily. Executive chef Antonino Cannavacciuolo and chef Misayuki Kondo produce delicious regional dishes at the Michelin-starred restaurant. Fish is popular (the area is a 90-minute car ride from the Mediterranean coast) and Piedmontese recipes, like pasta parcels stuffed with eggplant, mozzarella, sea urchin and tomato water, shine, as does the 1,200-bottle wine list of Italian, French and American offerings. (The surrounding Cascina Bompe vineyard grows Dolcetto and Barbera grapes for the Boroli winery.)

Located near the town of Alba, the inn offers cooking classes, truffle-hunting expeditions, wine-tasting seminars, hot-air balloon flights and horseback riding. But the panoramic views—from the Maritime Alps to Monviso to Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn—could be all you need to properly disconnect. Rooms start at $130; suites, $325; 34 Frazione Como; 39-0173/365-477; locandadelpilone.com.

May 01, 2013
By Alia Akkam | Hotels

A Posh Retreat in Cartagena
Moris Moreno

Casa San Agustin sits in the Old City of Cartagena, Colombia, where colonial history thrives in colorful, balcony-strewn buildings overlooking narrow streets and lively plazas packed with rum-sipping locals. Boutique hotels populate this charming city on the Caribbean coast, but 30-room Casa San Agustin, which opened last November and includes six commodious suites, stands out for its authenticity and contemporary elegance.

Set in a trio of 17th-century whitewashed buildings, Casa San Agustin embraces Colombian culture—past and present—at every turn, from a ceramic urn perched regally on a stone staircase to a reverence for natural materials like jute. Cartagena’s history is most prominently felt at the intimate L-shaped swimming pool, marked by the striking, well-worn remains of an original aqueduct.

Days are searingly hot here, so an afternoon siesta is welcome. Guests head for the rooftop solarium or the library, where restored frescoes, gooseberry-infused water and an honor bar await. Those worn out from exploring circa-1500s cathedrals and eating bountiful lunches of shrimp ceviche—don’t miss the homespun version at La Cocina de Pepina (Callejón Vargas 9A-06) in the funky Getsemaní neighborhood—will relish the four-poster bed in the earth-toned guestrooms. High ceilings feature old wooden beams; the spacious bathrooms include hand-painted glazed tiles and Ortigia Sicilia toiletries.

Restaurants cram the city’s streets—and they should be savored—but a night in-house at Alma is a must. Helmed by chef Héctor Aguilar Valle, who previously worked in Lima, it showcases internationally influenced South American dishes like octopus carpaccio heightened by olive tapenade and lobster risotto topped with slow-braised-oxtail marmalade. There’s no better way to end the evening than with a drink in the courtyard surrounded by lush greenery—other than finding a post-turndown square of sweet tamarind paste sitting on your nightstand. Rooms start at $450; Calle de la Universidad No. 36-44; 855-272-1122; hotelcasasanagustin.com.

April 10, 2013
By Chadner Navarro | Hotels

A Fendi Suite at Oil Nut Bay
Christian Horan Photography

Oil Nut Bay, the luxury residential and resort community located in the British Virgin Islands, recently unveiled a collection of suites called The Cliffs—three units set into the hilly edges of the peninsula overlooking the Caribbean Sea. While each features such high-style amenities as green roofs, solar panels, an outdoor shower and a plunge pool, the 1,334-square-foot penthouse, which sits atop the other two and has a full-size pool, is decorated exclusively with chic Fendi Casa furniture. “By selecting Fendi Casa, we knew we wanted to convey luxury through fine-crafted Italian furnishings,” says David V. Johnson, chairman of Victor International Corporation, the property developer.

The one-bedroom spread is done up in a classically elegant style rooted in sophisticated shades of black, white, gray and taupe. Fendi’s most iconic home-decor items elevate the extravagant vibe of the space, including the masterfully embroidered Prestige sofa, the sleek Kubus pouf and the popular Princess bed in the master bedroom. Rates start at $1,500 ($2,500 for the penthouse); Virgin Gorda; 284-393-1000; oilnutbay.com.

April 03, 2013
By Ingrid Skjong | Hotels

Farming at Travaasa Austin
Courtesy of Travaasa Austin

Travaasa Austin, known for its active, adventurous offerings, added a new pursuit to its roster on April 1: farming. With 3.25 acres of crop-producing land, a head farmer and a collection of agriculturally geared classes, the operation is a serious one by any measure.

“The farm is large enough to warrant a tractor but small enough to seed, plant, weed and harvest everything by hand,” says resident farmer Kim Grabosky. “It can become as complex and diversified as we can dream it.”

The main field grows mostly vegetables, producing nearly 80 varieties including okra, eggplant, beets, onions and peppers. A three-quarter-acre orchard within the plot grows fruits (lemons, limes, clementines, kumquats), with indigenous pecans, edible flowers and all manner of herbs (curry leaf, sage, yarrow) rounding out the harvest. About half of the crops begin growing in the farm’s greenhouse, and Benjamin Baker, Travaasa’s executive chef, makes good use of the seasonal, locally sourced produce.

But while the culinary advantages of a farm this size are obvious, Grabosky wants guests to learn. Classes on basic seed germination, composting and chicken tending—a hundred laying birds of different breeds populate part of the acreage—take place in a 2,300-square-foot activity garden. Her current focus is on soil microbe health, which she says supports the entire health of the enterprise, and she has big plans for the farm, including the addition of bees and more exotic perennials such as avocados and guava. Ultimately, however, she wants visitors to leave with a better appreciation for and understanding of the foods they eat.

“Getting out in the field and learning with your hands takes things to a higher level,” says Grabosky. “That’s what I’m looking to do—to build an experience for the guest that they can’t easily access in their everyday lives.” At 13500 Farm to Market Rd. 2769; 512-364-0061; travaasa.com/austin.

March 20, 2013
By Ingrid Skjong | Hotels

El Encanto Opens in Santa Barbara
El Encanto by Orient-Express

Opened on March 18 in the hills of Santa Barbara, El Encanto—92 bungalows set amid seven acres of lush, manicured landscape—is an iconic destination poised to continue its coastal-California reign. An escape for the likes of Clark Gable and other Hollywood notables for nearly 100 years, the property highlights two styles of architecture, California Craftsman and Spanish Colonial Revival, and is the product of a $134 million renovation that included both aesthetic and eco-friendly upgrades. (Orient-Express worked closely with the Historic Landmarks Commission and the County of Santa Barbara’s Building and Safety Division to ensure the changes stayed true to the original.)

Each of the bungalows features a singular design, a private patio or garden and awe-inspiring views of the Pacific Ocean. Tie-ins to the hotel’s surroundings appear often. At the concierge desk, a piece of art by Damien Hirst—an abstract depiction of butterfly wings done in a silk-screen made with diamond dust—nods to the hotel’s location along a butterfly migration route. Plants like wisteria and jacaranda hit full bloom this time of year, and the seven-room Spa at El Encanto offers a signature treatment that includes a body scrub of Pinot and Cabernet grape seeds, brown sugar and Kaolin clay.

On the culinary front, two gardens, one for regular produce and one specifically for Japanese herbs, propagates the local approach. El Encanto’s own Holstein cow, Ellie, produces milk used to make a special cheese exclusive to the hotel, and executive chef Patrice Martineau executes dishes like dashi-poached local halibut with rosemary flowers and the hotel’s fabled Floating Island dessert of meringue and crème anglaise. The setting is so picturesque, guests are encouraged to explore the environs. Rooms start at $525; 800 Alvarado Pl.; 805-845-5800; elencanto.com.

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