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A Stay at Le Bristol in Paris (Thanks to LHW Leaders Club Unlimited)

Cleo, the most famous resident of Le Bristol, lounging in the lobby

On my recent trip to Paris, I had the opportunity to spend a few nights at Le Bristol on rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. What I knew about Le Bristol is mostly for it’s role in Midnight in Paris (it’s where Rachel McAdams’ and Owen Wilson’s characters stayed). I remembered it looked really expensive.

Curving stairs and a glamorous vintage caged elevator add to Le Bristol’s glamorous atmosphere

Left: fresh fruit and wine welcome amenity Right: the flowers on the vanity

Fortunately my husband is a Leaders Club Unlimited member of LHW hotels, and Le Bristol had award availability for a few nights. Score! So I spent a very lovely few days in room 714 of this old school luxury hotel… and it was FABULOUS.

The classic desk

Room 714 was huge by Parisian standards. The vibe at Le Bristol is old world luxury, but the property has all the requisite tech perks, including easy to use, speedy wifi (free for Leaders Club Unlimited members).

Traditional elegance in the vibe at Le Bristol

The bed was uber comfy, and the bathroom, while simple in style had the most impressive water pressure I’ve experienced in Paris. The tub was huge, well designed for soaking and filled quickly.

Left: the shower had serious power (and La Prarie amenities) Right: the separate water closet

Suddenly I had a dilemma– I did not want to leave the room to explore Paris.

Le Bristol’s bathtub worked for serious soaking

As lovely as the room is, the true star at Le Bristol is the service. It was flawless. Every request was handled exceptionally well.

The view from room 714 into the courtyard

Le Bristol Breakfast Menu

Another perk of the LHW Leaders Club Unlimited: not paying € 85 per person for breakfast (it’s an included benefit).

Poached eggs just taste better in Paris, especially when they are free

Behold: perfectly styled fruit at breakfast

Obligatory breakfast bread basket shot

The dining room at Le Bristol

While in my heart I’m a Saint-Germain girl, I’m also never going to turn down a chance to stay at Le Bristol. It’s legendary reputation is well deserved and the service is perfection.

Hôtel Le Bristol Paris

112 rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré
75008 Paris
Tel: +33 (0)1 53 43 43 00
Fax: +33 (0)1 53 43 43 01
reservation@lebristolparis.com

Rates start at $1128 USD

Check the LHW site for special offers

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Glamping in the South Pacific: A Stay at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Resort

Sunset sail at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in Fiji

Editor’s Note:

Earlier this month I visited the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in Fiji on assignment for Glamping.com. You can read my full daily trip reports on the Glamping.com Blog here. I don’t want to repeat myself, so this post is a more traditional hotel review for readers of this blog.

- Jen

Poolside at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Resort

The last time I visited Fiji I was on my honeymoon. Having just celebrated a milestone anniversary, my husband and I thought it was time to re-visit the South Pacific island country we had such fond memories from. I was thrilled to find a Glamping.com property in Fiji, so started pinned down dates at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in early October. The resort is one of the world’s first eco-resorts and has, as one would assume with the name “Cousteau” attached, an excellent reputation for it’s SCUBA diving program.

The Musical welcome at JMC Resort Fiji

There are not a lot of flights from the US to Fiji, so we booked business class on Fiji Airways direct flight from LAX to Nadi, Fiji. For the record, Fiji Airways rocks. The 11 1/2 hour flight was painless and the the airline has extremely friendly flight attendants and a gorgeous, minimalist livery with tribal accents. We spent a few nights in Nadi to recover from jet lag before hopping on the smaller plane to the island of Savusavu, where the resort is located.

We were greeted at the Nadi airport by Mini, a representative from the resort who helped manage to pull some strings to get us on an earlier flight to the island. It was our first interaction with the personalized service for which the resort is known. All the staff was helpful and very friendly. I also liked that they all wear very legible name tags, so you don’t feel pressured to memorize everyone’s name. There is high staff-to-guest ratio, so it’s a thoughtful touch.

Garden Bure #18 was our home away from home

We arrived to a musical greeting and a lovely message of “welcome home,” which sets the tone for the resorts laid-back-yet-attentive management philosophy.

Our room, a thatched room traditional Fijian”bure,”was not ready when we arrived so we just chilled out near the pool in the adults-only “serenity area.” Wifi worked on the day beds and staff checked on us frequently to make sure we had everything we needed… including several fresh, young coconuts to drink.


Note: EVERYTHING tastes better when served in a coconut

Left: the seated hammock for our Garden Bure Right: a seaside seating area

The rooms upscale yet simple thatched huts (called bures), cooled by fans. The bathroom was suitably luxurious with dual sinks and a good shower. The staff put out mosquito coils every night and will hang mosquito netting above your bed upon request (we requested it). There are no televisions or telephones in the rooms, but you don’t miss them. Our garden bure was not the quietest room, as it was situated close to the Bula club (the on-site club for young children) and family pool. Couples might prefer booking an ocean front bure should you want more solitude.

Simple island elegance is the vibe in Garden Bure #18

Overall the resort did a great job keeping both families and children happy. Each child is assigned a Nanny during their stay, and their are activities for both younger children as well as teens. Basically EVERY family member has a good time at the resort. I shocked to find myself enjoying the crab races that were intended for the kids. The kids programs have a eco-education theme to them that I thought was a nice touch, and the resort employs a lot of locals so it gives you a great sense for the warmth of the Fijian people.

Plenty of seating areas and a well staffed activities center are big draws at the resort

September and October are high tourist season in Fiji (due to Australian school holidays) and are known for having the best weather. My stay experienced unseasonable rains, but that didn’t hamper the fun as much as my tanning and photo opportunities. The thatched roofs above the poolside day beds kept me dry and there were plenty of umbrellas available if you wanted to dash to your bure.

Visiting the private island belonging to the resort was one of the highlights of the trip

One of the resort’s not-to-be missed features is a visit to it’s private island, which is about 10 minutes away by boat. The island can be booked for a picnic lunch or a romantic dinner for an extra charge at this all-inclusive resort.

Left: A kayak on the private island Right: Palm tree shadows on the private island’s private beach

The activities staff packed us a cooler full of beers and water (bottled Fiji, of course) and gave us a radio in case we wanted to be picked up earlier than our pre-arranged time. It was fun to explore the small island with it’s perfect sandy cove beach and covered dining area. A few beers in we were giggling and screaming “Wilson” a la Tom Hanks in Castaway. Our return ride arrived right on time and we were shuttled by boat back to the resort in time for happy hour.

Just in case you were wondering… no tresspassing allowed!

The resort has a different theme each day… be it Fijian Culture, Ecological Awareness, or Rainforest Exploration. This is a nice touch and keeps the routine from getting monotonous. There are various excursions both on the resort grounds as well as off the property so you can get a hit of culture even if you never leave the resort’s grounds. It’s a great program.

One of the views from JMC Fiji’s Private Island

There were daily snorkeling trips for both adults and teens, and the activity center had plenty of catamarans and upright paddle boards available for those who prefer to stay above the water.

The resort’s pool is the social hub

The center of the resort’s social activity is the resort’s pool and dining Vale ni Vakayakavi. The evening activities (such as dance performances and the aforementioned crab races) also take place in this space.

Left: perfectly ripe papaya for breakfast Right: a corn cake with bacon, tomato, and greens

The food at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji resort was local, fresh, and excellent. It was far better than any of the food I had in Nadi and the portion sizes are perfectly sized so that your well fed but still fit into your bikini.

Daily Specials listed on the board at breakfast

Trying the daily breakfast specials

All but alcoholic beverages are included in the room rate and the crazy delicious Mai Tais were well worth the splurge.

A cooking demonstration during “Fijian Culture” day

Soup and salad at lunch

A table set for a family at the dining vale

The coconut braised plantain we learned to make during the cooking lesson

Two of the resort’s standout dishes: the thinly sliced pork with island slaw and the tuna udon

Enjoying a Kava Ceremony with the Kava boys, who performed nightly

The most memorable night was on Fijian Culture day when the proteins for dinner were cooked in a traditional Fijian lovo pit, and served buffet style in palm frond serving baskets.

Left: the traditional Fijian Lovo cooking pit “before” Right: the “after” shot of the lovo cooking pit

The nightly torch lighting ceremony

Most of the guests at the resort are from Australia and New Zealand, with the US being the third strongest market. The guests were all friendly and I felt a tad guilty that I could not engage in their convivial cricket and rugby rivalry banter, as I do not speak either cricket or rugby. 

A table set for 2 for dinner at the resort’s vale

Left: chicken drumsticks  at dinner Right: braided palm serving bowls on the buffet at the lovo dinner

Poolside lantern glowing at night

Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort Fiji

All inclusive rates start at $980.

Address: Lesiaceva Point, Savusavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji
Reservations (toll free in USA & Canada): (800) 246-3454
Direct: +1(415) 788-5794
Email: info@fijiresort.com

Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort features 25 bures (Fijian bungalows).

Disclosure: Much thanks to the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Resort and Glamping.com for partially sponsoring my stay.  All opinions expressed are my own, based on my experiences during my stay at the resort.

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A Stay at the Andaz Maui at Wailea

The adults-only pool at the Andaz Maui lit up at night

I recently visited the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort in Hawaii for the first time. The Andaz definitely caters to a younger/hipper crowd than some of the other high end hotels in the area. If you’re looking for in-your-face Hawaiiana, look elsewhere. The Andaz Maui has warm, zen minimalist vibe.

The Modern Facade of the Andaz Maui

My husband and I arrived before check in time, and our room (we booked a suite) was not yet ready. The Andaz host suggested we head the Bumbye Beach Bar to wait until she came to escort us to the room. The bar had wifi access (no password required), great views of the lagoon pool and Mokapu Beach, and particularly delicious Mai Tais. After two rounds, our host showed us to our suite, room 640.

The resort’s open and airy entry

The staff at the Andaz was friendly and top notch. I was particularly impressed with the concierge. She remembered my food allergies and made sure they were passed on to restaurants, even when we changed restaurant picks or re-scheduled reservations.

The seating area in living room of suite 640

Suite 640 was spacious, well laid out, and technology friendly– great for a modern day couple who both work remotely. 

Left: the work desk in room 640 Right: The dining room table in 640

There were several pools, including an adult/no kids one and several cabanas for hire, which was nice. Loved the wifi access (even at the beach) and I always appreciate the no password required. Every hotel should be this tech friendly.

The welcome amenity and lei

If I had to nitpick, I thought the ukelele player in the Lehua Lounge could have bothered to wear an aloha shirt. I also noticed a few room service trays lingered in the hallways a bit longer than the should have. Minor complaints for an otherwise fabulous stay.

The patio was filled with modern furniture and comfortable

One of the Andaz’s most amazing features is Morimoto Maui restaurant, which is FANTASTIC. My husband and I almost always get tired of every hotel’s restaurants after three days. Not so with Morimoto. We dined there four times during our stay and I’ve been missing it since I got back. Even if you choose to stay somewhere else in Wailea, don’t miss heading to the Andaz Maui for dinner at Morimoto Maui.

Left: the window seat in room 640 Right: a reading nook in the bedroom

The room’s king sized bed has sliding doors that can open to the shower windows

The walk-thru shower and soaker tub in Suite 640

My husband thought the furniture in our suite could have been more comfortable, however I had no issues with it. I LOVED the bathroom’s huge shower and soaker tub. The room was quiet and I slept well in the king bed.

The hanging chair on the patio was a great place to watch the Wailea sunset

The Lagoon Pool at the Andaz Maui

How fun is this indoor sandbox in the reception area of the Andaz Maui?

Yogurt with granola on the breakfast buffet at Ka’ana Kitchen

The breakfast spread served at Ka’ana Kitchen was amazing. Since my husband is a Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond Member member, our breakfast was included. The staff went out of there way to clarify which menu items were not included so there were no surprises on the bill. (Note: The Breakfast Amenity for Diamond Gold Passport members was recently downgraded.) The mimosa made with passionfruit and guava is not to be missed.

Delicious Mai Tai served at Lehua Lounge

The view from Bumbye Beach Bar

Obligatory selfie in sunglasses of the Andaz Beach Crew

The Andaz Beach Crew was very helpful and also has a great instagram account @andazbeachcrew.

Gorgeous sunset as seen from room 640 at Andaz Maui

Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort

3550 Wailea Alanui Drive

Wailea, Hawaii, USA, 96753

Tel: +1 808 573 1234

Rates start at $423.00

Andaz Maui on Twitter

Andaz Maui on Instagram

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A Stay at the Belmond Villa San Michele in Florence, Italy

Gorgeous views of Florence from the Villa San Michele

There are a lot of luxury hotels to pick from in Florence, but there is only one in Fiesole hills in a converted 15th century former monastery that has a facade attributed to Michaelangelo– The Belmond Villa San Michele.

An alter from Villa San Michele’s former life as a monastery in reception

My husband and I chose the property from among LHW’s excellent edit of Italian properties. I love repurposed buildings and the Villa San Michele has managed to keep much of the Renaissance charm of the monastery intact while providing all the expected perks, luxuries, and excellent service that are expected from a Belmond property (note: The Belmond Brand was formerly known as Orient-Express).

Interior hallway at Villa San Michele

With gorgeous terraced gardens, a pool, a fabulous restaurant, a fitness center and a kids club on site, you don’t have to leave Villa San Michele to have a great time. But the staff wants you to get the best out of your time in Florence so the hotel offers a complementary shuttle for the 15 minute ride to the city center.

A simple and elegant room at Villa San Michele

The 21 guest rooms and 25 suites are classically elegant and surprisingly spacious considering some of them used to be monks cells. The bathrooms are modern and stocked with Bulgari amenities.

Marble drenched master bath at Villa San Michele

A bowl of fruit and bottle of Champagne were our welcome amenities. There was also a card from General Manager, Aaron Kaupp, inviting us to a wine reception on the lawn. When the General Manager goes out their way to meet with guests, you know that the service is top notch.

I’m guessing the monks didn’t eat this well

The breakfast spread is impressive, with an amazing selection of baked goods, meats, cheeses, and fruits in addition to cooked items. Eating delicious pizza for breakfast on the covered terrace overlooking Florence was especially delightful.

The baked goods on the breakfast buffett

The hotel’s concierge, Maurizio, the concierge was so great, we had him make our dinner reservations for our entire stay in Florence. He also set us up on a crazy good wine tasting tour of the nearby Chianti region.

Buffalo mozzarella, tomatos and pizza in the atmospheric La Loggia restaurant

Eggs Benedict and breakfast delights

Lobster pasta for lunch at Villa San Michele

Such a pretty dining experience

The covered terrace of the hotel’s La Loggia restaurant

Villa San Michele’s Gorgeous green lawn and terraced gardens

Stunning views overlooking Florence at Villa San Michele

A dreamlike archway at Villa San Michele

You can check out special offers (including stay two nights, get your third night free LHW offers for Villa San Michele here.

Belmond Villa San Michele

Via Doccia 4, 50014 Fiesole, Florence, Italy

Tel: +39 055 5678 200

Email: reservations.vsm@belmond.com

Reservations: + 39 0185 2678 803

Rates start at $711.39 (534.00 EUR) for Classic Double Room (with complimentary American Breakfast)

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A Stay in a Park Suite at the Park Hyatt Vienna, Austria

Bank, the hotel’s restaurant, is a deco beauty

During my recent trip to Europe, I got the chance to spend the night at the Park Hyatt Vienna, which had been open all of 2 1/2 weeks prior to my one-night stay. Housed in a building that was once a bank, the Park Hyatt Vienna is an Art Deco gem with all the usual understated elegance that one expects from a Park Hyatt, but with the added bonus of New Hotel Smell! The modern interpretation of deco design is a refreshing change from the old world Imperial design choices at other top Vienna hotels.

The reception desk  of Bank restaurant

My husband is a Hyatt Gold Passport member with Diamond status, so we were upgraded to room 430, a Park Suite which was huge, stunning, glamorous and vastly exceeded any expectations one can expect for a €300 hotel room in Europe during the summer.

The former bank’s vault has been converted into an indoor pool

The architectural highlight of the property was the spa and pool. What was the former bank vault has been converted into the Park Hyatt’s indoor pool. You enter through the vault doors. The fitness center is well equipped, open 24 hours, has great air conditioning and overlooks this inspired space.

The living room of Park Suite 430

The hotel’s vibe is Deco glam, but not too flashy. Park Suite 430 featured a large living room with a desk, a lighted vanity, a huge television (perfect for watching the World Cup), a seating area with a sofa and two chairs, and a packed mini-bar. The bedroom seemed a bit cramped for the king-size bed, but the crazy beautiful bathroom was huge and more than made up for the bedroom. The closet space exceeded what I have at home.

Left: a peak inside the Mini-bar Right: A bowl of fresh fruit welcome amenity

When you book a stay at a just-opened hotel, you except there will be some kinks. But when you stay at a just-open luxury business hotel in Austria, you do not expect that the wifi will not work in your room.

Problems are to be expected, and the staff at the Park Hyatt all seemed aware of the problem. Red flag #1: there was no IT person on property who could come to our room  to help us troubleshoot the issue, instead, the IT person recommended I call the service provider. After spending several frustrating minutes on the phone with a service center in the Philippines– who seemed entirely unaware of the hotel’s existence– help came in the form of Park Hyatt Vienna employee Philipp F., whose title I believe was Director of Rooms.

The king-sized bed in the bedroom of Suite 430

Philipp handled the situation well. He both acknowledging the hotel’s ongoing wifi issue, and looked for a temporary solution. He offered to upgrade us again to a Park Executive suite which might have better connectivity, but we declined. We were on a tight FedEx deadline, and we needed send off some time-senstive documents and enjoy the soccer game. Philipp made  the situation far more tolerable by sending up a round of Aperol Spritz (which sounds extra fun when said with German accent).

Left: the vanity in room 430 Right: the desk had ample plus and glam lighting

While the wifi workaround didn’t last long in room 430, connectivity wasn’t an issue in the lobby and common areas of the hotel. I had speedy connections in in Bank restaurant, as well as the cigar and whiskey lounge, The Living Room.

Philipp went above and beyond the call of duty by making sure that our FedEx got to it’s destination that night, delivered via taxi.  The staff at the Park Hyatt is excellent, and as attractive as the hotel itself. They handled the situation superbly.

The gleaming white bathroom

The bathroom was spacious and sublime. In addition to the deep tub, there was a huge shower with both a rain shower and powerful second hand shower, and water stayed where it should. The Park Hyatt Vienna also was my first experience with a Black Mambo hairdryer– which puts all other hotel hairdryers to shame.

Serene marble bathroom in suite 430 at the Park Hyatt Vienna

Breakfast was included (a Diamond status perk) and served in Bank restaurant. The spread was as impressive as the former bank space itself. Food selections ranged from muesli and cheese to all the usually cold and hot dishes as well as a chef making eggs to order. Next time I’m in Vienna I hope to check out Bank for dinner– the space is beautiful and had a few chef’s tables tucked in and around the open kitchen.

Blaise Mautin toiletries at the Park Hyatt Vienna

One thing about the hotel’s design struck me as odd. There seems to be only one elevator for all 143 guest rooms. It wasn’t an issue during the weekend when the hotel wasn’t fully occupied, but it seemed like it might be one during the morning business meeting rush.

A table at Bank restaurant

Left: a table tucked in the open kitchen Right: eggs made to order at breakfast

Cereals and fruit galore at the Park Hyatt Vienna’s breakfast buffet

I wish I was more of a breakfast person when I saw the buffet. The service was good and my English Breakfast tea was quick to arrive and quickly refreshed, my eggs perfectly poached.

Left: juice and dairy Right: dried fruit for breakfast

With a glorious building and great staff, I expect the Park Hyatt Vienna will figure out it’s wifi issues quickly and become one of Vienna’s top business hotels… it’s certainly the prettiest.

Park Hyatt Vienna

Am Hof 2

Vienna,  Austria, 1010

Tel: +43 1 22740 1234

Fax: +43 1 22740 1235

Email: vienna.park@hyatt.com

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