Posts Tagged ‘classic luxury’

Exploring France: A Stay at the Newly Renovated Hôtel Ritz Paris


Classic fluffy bed goodness at the The Hôtel Ritz Paris

On my recent trip to Paris, I had the opportunity to stay at the Hôtel Ritz Paris for the first time. The iconic Parisian property located on the Place Vendome re-opened in 2016 after a four year renovation led by French architect Thierry W. Despont that is rumored to have cost over $400 million. Yet the property doesn’t shout “updated.” The upgrades are subtle and sublime, focused on adding more natural light to the hotel, updating the technology, and restoring it to a modern day version of Belle Époque glamour that would continue to lure today’s jet set, who care about things like speedy wifi, ample electrical outlets, indoor/outdoor dining and Black Mambo hairdryers.


Looking up at the gorgeous main staircase at the Hôtel Ritz

While I have long been a customer (and fan) of the hotel’s Bar Hemingway (which seems strangely untouched by the renovations), this was the first time I actually spent the night at the property. I did not stay in the one of the hotel’s suites but in room 126, which was still all kinds of fancy.


Ritzy stairs

The Ritz has an over-the-top traditional luxury vibe and excellent service. After being shown to my room, I was asked if I’d like to have someone unpack my suitcase for me. Since I like to keep it real, I passed on this service but appreciated how casually it was offered. While I’m not the traditional Ritz guest, I could not find a flaw with their service. It’s omnipresent and invisible. You are not going to spot an unattended housekeeping cart in the hallways of this hotel.


The working desk at the Ritz

The 19th Century over-the-top traditional elegance of the Ritz is not usually the type of hotel I’d pick and I knew that before going. But it’s fun to mix it up at hotels. There was a moment around midnight at the hotel’s Ritz Bar when I realized I was the only woman in the room not wearing Chanel, unless my nail polish counts. This is not really surprising since designer Coco Chanel lived at the Ritz for decades, and the hotel has a Chanel Spa.


An extremely comfortable chair in the corner of room 126 at the Ritz Paris

The famous guests of yore are name dropped throughout the property. There’s the previously mentioned Bar Hemingway (no longer accessible from the side entrance post-renovation) with it’s €30 cocktails and €18 mini hem burgers, and €1500 Ritz Side Car, which in 2001 was named the most expensive cocktail in the world.



Left: a beautiful welcome amenity Right: Marie Antoinette would approve of the vomiting swan faucets

Tea is served in the gorgeous flower-filled Salon Proust. There are historic suites named after luminaries including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Charlie Chaplin. I did not see any reference to Diana, Princess of Wales, who ate her last meal at the property with Dodi Fayed, son of the hotel’s current owner, Mohamed Al Fayed.


The gorgeous Salon Proust

The hotel’s restaurant, L’Espadon, has a one Michelin star restaurant for lunch and two Michelin stars for dinner. I did not eat at either since I got sick and spent much of my time in the wonderfully fluffy bed and large marble bathroom. But I can vouch for the property’s room service. It was excellent and they honored my request for chicken soup (not on the menu) at all hours of the day. My room was blissfully quiet and my bed fluffy and comfortable. If you have to get sick while traveling abroad, the Ritz is a great place to do it.


Flowers at reception

Breakfast was included in my room rate and it was as rich and over-the-top as one would expect. The hotel’s Place Vendome location is perfect for the fashion week and shop-til-you-drop set. I’m a woman who is more comfortable in Saint Germain than in the 1st Arrondissement, I’m not sure I’d go out of my way to stay here again. But if you have the chance, particularly on an expensive account, it’s divine.

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Left: French toast it’s native environs Right: Very rich Eggs Benedict

I will definitely return to the hotel’s Bar Hemingway, which remains of my favorite hotel bars of all time.


Your syrup is served, Ritz style


€30 Earl Grey martini at the Bar Hemingway 

Travelers who favor the gilded aesthetic of Emirates Airlines are the ones most likely to be comfortable at the revamped Ritz. It’s fabulous in every way.


Ritz Paris
15 Place Vendôme 75001 Paris, France
1 800 745 8883

Rates from $1,098.10 USD

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A Stay at the Dorchester in London


 Classic luxury is the vibe at the Dorchester

On my recent trip to London, my husband and I decided to go the classic luxury route and booked a stay at The Dorchester when we found a “pay for two nights, stay for three” deal in the Offers section of their website.  I’m a fan of the brand and am particularly fond of The Hotel Eden in Rome and had a great experience at their sister London property 45 Park Lane.


Flowers in the lobby

The Dorchester oozes serious classic luxury. From the oversized floral arrangements in the lobby to the butler delivering a spot of tea from room service, this hotel has all old school London trademarks, without being boring or stuffy. The service is top notch, and friendly. The doorman even entertained me with stories from when he lived in L.A. for a few years during the 80s.


The living area of room 810

We were upgraded to Park Suite and to say the room was large is an understatement. The living area was huge, with a dining table that worked as a desk for two, and a large seating area with overstuffed couches and chairs. It was clear the room could be joined to the adjacent room, so the suite was suitable for families, or executives traveling with assistants that want both proximity and privacy.


The fire exit map at the Dorchester

The fire exit route map on the door was unlike one I’ve ever seen before. It lacked room distinctions, because the property can combine rooms various ways to accommodate guests, whatever their clients needs may be.

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Left: This Asian cabinet housed the minibar Right: a bold mix of patterns

The bedroom was also generously sized. Suite 810 was also blissfully quiet, thanks to double-paned windows. The dreamy bed was easy to sink into and hard to get out of since it was so comfortable. Maybe that’s why I never made it to the hotel’s gym during my stay?


Succulent centerpiece on the table of Suite 810

The Suite overlooked Hyde Park and had an enormous dining and living area that closed off entirely from the hallway leading to the bedroom. There was a powder room off the hall next to the living room, so the master bathroom still had privacy.


Oversized comfy couches in the living area of a Park Suite at the Dorchester

The Dorchester knows that it’s the little things that make a hotel feel like your home away from home. From the Champagne welcome amenity to the delicious shortbread biscuits in the minibar, I never wanted for much during my stay.

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Orchids in the London morning light


The gleaming marble master bathroom

The master bathroom had loads of marble, dual sinks, great light for getting ready and a fabulously deep soaking tub.


A peek inside the minibar- filled with with British classics


Fresh roses in the suite area


The gorgeous fruit basket (and Champagne) were the welcome amenity

My husband and I found our favorite feature of the hotel was the sleek and contemporary Bar at the Dorchester. The space was cool and felt casual and sexy, and had a large list of classic cocktails.


The Bar is a great spot for variety of cocktails, including an inspired Gin & Tonic

I went for an unusual gin & tonic suggested by my waitress. The Bar also had a nice menu and the succulent olives were some of the best I’ve had outside of Italy. The bread pudding was a standout.


The bread pudding served in the Bar at the Dorchester


Royal Salute on display at the Bar at the Dorchester

High end whisky, including Royal Salute Scotch, makes it feel like a lot of very big business deals get done (or at least celebrated) in this bar.

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Left: Salmon at lunch at the The Grill Right: A spot of tea from Room Service for breakfast

The Dorchester has newly renovated The Grill restaurant and it’s gorgeous. Filled with Murano glass chandeliers and fine cuisine, it was a joy to just sit in the room during lunch and breakfast. I did not try the hotel’s more formal three star Michelin Alain Ducasse restaurant or China Tang.

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Champagne in the gorgeously renovated Grill

If you’re interested in a prime Mayfair location and classic luxury, the Dorchester is a classic for a reason. If you can’t stay overnight, come check out the flower-filled promenade for high tea or have a drink at the Bar.

My husband feels more comfortable at the more sleek and contemporary 45 Park Lane next door, which is closer to our own personal aesthetic, but he very much enjoyed a few days at this London Classic.

The Dorchester
Park Lane, Mayfair
London, W1K 1QA

Suites and Rooms Reservations: +44 (0) 20 7317 6530
Fax  +44 (0) 20 7629 8080

Rates from $650.38

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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


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 at Villa D’Este Lake Como, Italy

The view from our Lake View Junior Suite in the Cardinal Building at Villa D’Este

This summer I visited Italy’s Lake Como for the first time. It’s stunningly beautiful, even though the weather was mostly rainy during my visit. My husband recently joined LHW’s Leaders Club Unlimited and LHW has an exceptional edit of hotels in Italy, including Villa d’Este.

Pool on the lake at Villa D’Este

We booked a executive Room Garden View but were upgraded to a Junior Suite with Lake View in the Cardinal Building, which was a very nice upgrade. As a Leaders Club Unlimited member, my husband was also given Three course complementary lunch for two at The Verandah (without drinks).

The view from Bar Canova

Some of the entrees, such as smoked sockeye salmon with caviar were € 80. The total value of this unpublished Leaders Club unlimited perk was around $300.  I would not have known the prices if my husband had not told me, this is the sort of old school hotel that gives the woman the menu with no prices.

Art in Bar Canova

Once we got into our Junior suite, we found a bottle of Prosecco as our welcome amenity, and a stunning view of the lake.

Classic Italian luxury is the vibe at Villa D’Este

Service at the hotel was top notch, and the bathroom smelled wonderful. Staff was very friendly, on top of everything and the concierge took care of all our restaurant reservations.

Boats at Villa D’Este

The hotel was offering daily boat excursions on the lake complete with a tour guide and a 90 minute stopover in Bellagio for € 90. I was going to go but choose not to because of the weather (and the bed was really, really comfortable).

Rainy but beautiful morning on Lake Como

The property has over 25 acres of grounds and gardens and huge fitness center complete with indoor pool. Due to the rain, the outdoor pool was closed during much of my stay.

The Queen’s Building at Villa D’Este

Breakfast for two was included in our room rate and the food and service was good. My only criticism– the breakfast buffet was not as impressive as everything else at the property.

Stunning gardens at Villa D’Este

It was also fun instagramming pictures from the property and having “George Clooney’s Villa” pop up as a possible location.

Pasta and tomato soup al fresco

Villa d’Este was not cheap, but the great service and luxe accommodations made up for the dicey weather.

Aperol Spritz at Canova Bar

The hotel had even set up a lounge and big screen television in one of the rooms on the ground floor to make a top notch lounge for World Cup viewing.

Sun & an Aperol Spritz

Villa d’Este is open from March through November.

Villa d’Este

Via Regina, 40

22012 Cernobbio, Italy

Tel +39 031 3481

Fax +39 031 348873

Rates start at $696 .78 (€ 520.00)

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A Stay at Le Relais Christine on the Left Bank of Paris

Blue Skies over Relais Christine

On my recent trip to Paris, I split my time between the Saint James Paris and Relais Christine, and for me it was a winning combination. But it’s Relais Christine that felt most like home. It’s an ideal spot for a weekend in Paris.

The left bank chic lobby at Relais Christine

Located in a converted mansion on a quiet street in the 6th arrondissement,  Relais Christine is the heart of all the action in  St-Germain-des-Pres (my Parisian neighborhood of choice).

Seating areas in the common areas at Relais Christine

The hotel is small, chic and charming, with only 51 rooms and suites, each of them a bit different. The property has the same owners as the Saint James Paris, so this intimate left bank property has the same relaxed yet refined service standards.

I loved the slanted roof  of my junior suite at Relais Christine

I stayed in a lovely junior suite with étoile fabric on the walls. I liked the separation of space between the bedroom and living area and non-cookie cutter vibe. When I toured the property and saw other rooms, some were more modern in design. All had been outfitted with modern bathrooms, although the styles varied from room to room. I found the variety appealing.

The welcome amenity was this lovely fruit bowl

There isn’t a traditional hotel bar at Relais Christine, but it’s not really required because of the hotel’s location– there are so many bars and restaurants a few steps away.  The common area featured strong wifi, and an Honor Bar where guests can help themselves to a tipple or glass of wine.

The bedroom of my junior suite at Relais Christine

The bedroom was both cozy and chic, with ample closet space. I felt like I was living in a real Parisian apartment, only with a great concierge to help me make dinner reservations.

Left: Argan bath amenities Right: the cozy but modern bathroom in my junior suite

My bathroom wasn’t large, but it had dual sinks and a great showerhead.

The suites at Relais Christine would work well for a family

All my Paris faves were within walking distance from Relais Chrisine. There’s a Mariage Frères tea salon literally around the corner and a Ladurée a few blocks away on Rue Bonaparte. I walked to both Notre Dame and Musée d’Orsay after enjoying breakfast at the hotel.

Left: peeking into a few different rooms Right: some bathrooms have more modern styling

A whimsical room with a pop of color at Relais Christine

Relais Christine has suites that would work for families and couples, but also had great non-suite rooms that would work for solo travelers.

Left: a modern bathroom at Relais Christine Right: dual sinks in a junior suite

It may be intimate, but Relais Christine has everything you need, including a very nicely equipped gym and spa in the basement.

Work off those carbs in the Relais Christine gym

The breakfast spread (included in the room rate) was lovely, and had made to order hot items as well as a variety of meats, cheeses, and gorgeous pastries.

Breakfast at Relais Christine

Breakfast at Relais Christine is served in this cozy and atmospheric cellar

the breakfast buffet at Relais Christine

There will be carbs, this is Paris!

I didn’t try the apple tarte tatin, but it sure looked delicious

All guests are welcome to use the Relais Christine loaner bikes, which is nice. A few of the suites had patios with courtyard gardens, which would be really nice if you’re staying more than a few days.

A night view of one of the garden suites at Relais Christine

Relais Christine is a gem of luxury hotel on the left bank.

Blue Skies above St. Germain at Relais Christine

Room rates at Relais Christine start at $459

Relais Christine

3, rue Christine – 75006 Paris
Phone: +33 (0)1 40 51 60 80
Fax: +33 (0)1 40 51 60 81



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