Posts Tagged ‘hotel review’

Exploring Greece: A Stay at The Kenshō Boutique Hotel on Mykonos

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The glam/rustic Lobby of the Kenshō

If you’re planning a trip to Mykonos and looking for someplace chic and interesting to stay, be sure to check out the Kensho Boutique Hotel in Ornos Beach. It’s just a short walk to the upscale beach clubs on Ornos Beach, and has a more laid-back vibe than touristy Mykonos Town.

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Exterior of the Kenshō Boutique Hotel & Suites

Mykonos Town is only a short cab ride away. After dark, the Kensho is ideally situated halfway between Mykonos town and the after dark hot spot of Psarou Beach. My visit was during shoulder season, and the beach clubs were being boarded up for the season.

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Whitewashed exterior of the Kensho

The concierge staff at the Kensho was top notch and made sure we had plenty of things to see and do and gave great restaurant, activity and recommendations.img_8471

View of Ornos from the Kensho

The property has 35 rooms, suites and a villa and the top rated spa in the area. There is an award winning on-site restaurant which serves Mediterranean specialties and excellent cocktails which can be enjoyed in the glamorous dining space, by the pool, or on the rooftop deck space.

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Live edge table in the restaurant

The modern bohemian vibe of the Kensho makes it a great choice for design lovers. While the decor is mostly warm whites and wood, the layers of texture make the property very special and welcoming. The Kensho opened in 2016 and still feels new yet it has hit a stride with it’s well polished service.

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Left: Lounge chairs Right: Pool vibes at the Kensho

The Kensho boasts a hot tub on the roof and several rooms with private plunge pools. There are swings in the lounge area and cozy throw blankets for guests to use if the famous Mykonos winds kick up. My room was a VIP Junior Suite with a swing on the deck and a plunge pool, which was not surprisingly brisk during the October weather. The room was cozy despite it’s large size. The setup would be ideal during peak summer heat.

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Poolside lounging at the Kensho

With only 35 rooms, the Kensho is intimate. The prime pool side lounge chairs and sundeck can get packed during sundown. The vibe is buzzy but not over the top.

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The rooftop lounge is a popular spot for cocktails

Get a spot early!

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Roof top hot tub at the Kensho

The hotel car is a gleaming Range Rover  that offers complimentary transfers to and from Mykonos Town and other nearby locations.

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Left: Sunset in Ornos Right: Bougainvillea 

Wifi was strong and free throughout the property. The gym was small but had all the essential equipment.

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Cool lighting fixtures at the Kensho

While large, my Junior Suite was cool and cave like and had a comfortable work area. The shower was a bit dark, but there was ample closet space and a well stocked mini-bar.

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Outdoor yoga space at the Kensho

If you’re a first time visitor to Mykonos and aren’t sure where to stay, consider dividing your time and spending a few days in Ornos. It’s happening but less chaotic than other parts of the the island including Mykonos town.

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Basket swings in the lounge area

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Cozy lounging area at the Kensho

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Left: wood, stone and warm shades of white Right: cool planter 

The breakfast spread at the Kensho was impressive with a variety of cold dishes as well as eggs made to order. Don’t miss the strapastranda (Greek style scrambled eggs) and the tasty bougatsa (filled phyllo pastries).

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Enjoying the swing at the Kensho

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Lobby of the Kensho Spa

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Left: slightly steam punk details in the spa bathroom Right: groovy details in the Kensho spa

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Thoughtful furnishing choices in the dining area of the Kensho

One of my favorite things about the Kensho is how thoughtful the design of the property is. Not only does the furniture in the Kensho look stylish but it is all comfortable and works well for guests.

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Left: Tasty gyro from room service Right: Aperol Spritz by the Kensho’s fire pit

The hotel is happening but quiet by Mykonos standards. It’s a perfect choice for sophisticated guests who are foodies and appreciate design. The crowd was cool — and like the property itself- good looking.

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Mediterranean tapas at the Kensho

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Details are everything at the Kensho

The spa has a boutique for products and there is a well curated gift cabinet.

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Left: Cappuccino froth Right: Egg menu at the Kensho breakfast

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Salmon, cheese and meats at breakfast

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Left: Bread selection Right: Choice of cheese

My suite had a coffee maker in case I needed a caffeine boost before breakfast service began. The minibar had a nice edit of treats.

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Fruit featured on the breakfast spread

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Impressive selection of  bite-sized desserts on the breakfast buffett

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Rainbow at the Kensho reception

I booked my stay at the Kensho through JMAK Hospitality, which has a small but on point edit of properties in Greece.

KENSHŌ Boutique Hotel & Suites
Ornos Beach, 84600
Mykonos, Greece
T. +30 22890 29001 / +30 22890 78788
F. +30 22890 27010
Athens offices: +30 210 7209911-4
E. info@kenshomykonos.com

Rates start at $355 USD

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Exploring Maui, Hawaii: a Stay at Travaasa Hana

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Pool and the Pacific at Travaasa

If you want to drive the Road to Hana at a more relaxed pace, and stay for a night (or three) in the Hana area, Travaasa Hana (formerly known as the Hotel Hana Maui) is the best bet for the luxury traveler. There are other options in town (including Airbnb properties), but if you want a full-service property, Travaasa is the way to go. Travaasa also offers a stay three nights and fly for free promotion that allows those who want to skip driving the Road to Hana altogether.

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One of the charming Ocean Bungalows at Travaasa Hana on Maui

Not all rooms at Travaasa are created equal. The Ocean Bungalows are located across the street from the main hotel complex, near the pool and fitness studio. They are more expensive than the Garden Junior Suites and worth every additional penny. Our first room was a Garden Junior Suite and only had a standing oscillating fan for cooling. It was tolerable but not pleasant.

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The Ocean Bungalows had lovely breezes coming off the water, and newly refurbished bathrooms. It was a much more pleasant environment overall. The ocean bungalow also had a spacious lanai (balcony) which was great for viewing the sunset or enjoying a drink.

Rainbow time lapse at the Hotel Travaasa Maui

I shot this time lapse of a rainbow appearing from my ocean bungalow at the Hotel Travaasa Maui.

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Rainbow views at the Hotel Travaasa Hana on Maui

While the Hotel Travaasa does not have it’s own beach, it’s a mere 10 minute walk from the property to Hana’s gorgeous Red Sand Beach (also known as Kaihalulu).

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Bed in an ocean bungalow

Hana is not a highly populated area and while all the hotel staff were very nice, service was uneven. The bellman who showed us to our room the first night (a Garden Junior Suite) did not point out where the hotel’s pool was located. When we ordered cocktails from room service, they failed to make note of our room number and we had to call back. The staff made up for the error by comping the round of drinks.

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Lovely renovated bathroom in the Ocean Bungalow

Tennis courts and a rec room are some of the other facilities on the Travaasa Hana property .

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Another view of the bedroom of an Ocean Bungalow at Travaasa

Travaasa rates can be all-inclusive or priced a la carte. We opted for a la carte and think it was the right choice. While there isn’t a wide selection of full service restaurants in the area, there are several food trunks that served tasty tacos and bbq that are perfect for lunch or a quick snack.

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The living room of the Ocean Bungalow at Travaasa Hana

All rooms come stocked with coffee makers and banana bread, a local specialty.

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The ocean bungalows at Travaasa

Travaasa also offers a schedule of cultural, culinary, and adventure experiences as well as fitness classes. Some are free, others are offered for an additional fee. There is also a spa on the property. I can’t vouch for any of the classes or spa services since we used Travaasa as a home base for Hana and spent most of our time off the property exploring the area. The spa and fitness class space did however look lovely.

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Sunshine on the Ocean Bungalows

I really enjoyed Hana and would happily stay at Travaasa Hana again. But I’d be sure to book an Ocean Bungalow and I’d want to have my car with me so I could continue to explore the area and not be isolated on the property.

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Entrance to Travaasa Hana

The restaurant on property was fine but not exceptional, and service is more laid back than you will find in the other resort areas of Maui like Wailea or Kaanapali.

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Breakfast at Travaasa Hana

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A view of the Ocean Bungalows at Travaasa Hana

Travaasa isn’t cheap but I’d happily stay here again. It’s not the place for you if you require five star service or strong A.C., but it’s a lovely place to use as a base to explore the Road to Hana and the Kīpahulu District of Haleakala National Park.

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Rocks along the walk to the Red Sand Beach

If you are staying at Travaasa, please keep in mind driving the Road to Hana after dark is dangerous and plan your driving time so that you arrive before dark. Hana doesn’t have a buzzing night scene but it a good night’s sleep can help you beat the crowds at some of the best attractions in the area by getting on the road early after a good night’s sleep.

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Maui’s Red Sand beach is a 10 minute walk from Travaasa

The vibe in Hana is chill and relaxed, so you just kind of go with it and enjoy the island vibe. It’s fantastic.

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Pink clouds at Travaasa Hana on Maui

Travaasa Hana Maui

5031 Hana Hwy
Hana, Hi 96713

Tel: 808-248-8211

Room rates start at $450

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Exploring Minneapolis: Celebrating the Legacy of Prince on The Official Paisley Park VIP Tour

 

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Prince art decorating the Performer Suite at the Loews Minneapolis Hotel

Last week I spent a few days in Minneapolis, Minnesota and used the opportunity to take the Official Paisley Park VIP Tour. I have always been a music fan and Prince has been an essential part of the soundtrack of my life. My brother and nephews live in Minneapolis and were game to join me on our trip to the suburb of Chanhassen where rock icon and musician Prince built his multipurpose estate and production compound in 1987.

Note: Paisley Park has a strict “no photos” policy, and asks guests to power off their phones when on the grounds. There is a photo opportunity available for purchase, where guests can have their picture taken next to a 10 foot high mural of Prince and get the image files on a Paisley Park flash drive. I bought this opportunity but my flash drive does not work, and I am attempting to get the image files from the staff at Paisley Park.

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The dining room in the Performer Suite of the Loews Minneapolis

Prince died without a will, but while taking the tour it seems clear that he had thought about his legacy and had always had plans for Paisley Park to ultimately become a museum. The other guests on the VIP Paisley Park tour enhanced our experience immensely. They were all die hard Prince fans, most wearing purple clothing. All came from out of town and one said the ticket price to her first Prince show cost $7.99. The tour of the creative bubble universe Prince created at Paisley Park was fascinating, moving and at times surprising.

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The living room of the Performer Suite 

Prince was very private and his living quarters at Paisley Park are not among the spaces guests are allowed to explore. Some of the highlights of the tour included seeing Prince’s office, complete with coffee table books and personal photos and listening to unreleased jazz tracks Prince was working on in Studio A, where they were recorded.

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The bedroom of the Performer Suite at the Loews Minneapolis

Even those only slightly familiar with Prince’s music will be impressed by the collection of gold and platinum records on display. The Academy Award Prince for Purple Rain was front and center in the Purple Rain room, as well as several Grammys (a few of which could use a polish).

The tone and seriousness our tour guide used was respectful and very human. It’s clear that Paisley Park staffers were Prince’s de facto family and those working there seemed reverential without coming off as fanboys. Several guests were moved to tears when they found themselves in front of Prince’s urn, a replica of Paisley Park that is kept in the atrium of the complex, near where a trio of doves live in decorative cages.

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Waiting for the elevator at the Loews Minneapolis Hotel

Exploring the various rooms of Paisley Park many of Prince’s costumes and shoes are on display and they do not disappoint. I felt like the tour fee was easily justified when the other guests on our tour spontaneously broke into song and dance in the Graffiti Bridge room. Even my high school and college age nephews understood how deeply Prince’s work affected his fans.

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The baby grand piano in the Performer Suite at the Loews

Paisley Park’s colorful Prince-centric murals and on-site night club further show how the musician created his own pocket universe. We even got a chance to paddle away on Prince’s in-studio ping pong table. Video and audio clips are presented in the same spaces they where they were created. Many of Prince’s musical instruments including multiple cloud guitars and custom pianos are sprinkled throughout the tour.

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Prince art in the Performer Suite at the Loews Minneapolis Hotel

There is gift shop on the tour, complete with a cafe where guests can order the pancakes Prince was so fond of that have been immortalized in this David Chapelle skit.

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Fan Tributes at Paisley Park after Prince died in 2016

If you’re visiting Minneapolis and want to further pay homage to Prince, I suggest staying at the Loews Minneapolis Hotel, where I stayed in the Performer Suite, which is decorated in muted grays and purples, complete with Prince art and and a baby grand piano.
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Prince Tributes put up at Paisley Park after the artist’s death in 2016

The Loews Minneapolis also close to First Avenue, the legendary club that Prince performed at since 1981 and where several scenes of Purple Rain were filmed.

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A purple symbol created by a fan at Paisley Park in 2016

LOEWS MINNEAPOLIS HOTEL
601 1st Avenue North Minneapolis, Minnesota, 55403
Phone: 612-677-1100
Reservations: 1-877-880-8918

Paisley Park

Address: 7801 Audubon Rd, Chanhassen, MN 55317, USA

Paisley Park hours operation are as follows:

Monday and Tuesdays: 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Thursday: 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Friday : 9:00 am – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday: 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Sunday: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Paisley Park is closed Thanksgiving and Christmas.

General Admission $38.50 (Additional $7.50 (service fee plus facility fee) per GA ticket )

VIP Tour $100.00 (Additional $11.75 (service fee plus facility fee) per ticket)

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Exploring Montenegro: A Stay at the Aman Resort Sveti Stefan

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A view of the Aman Resort Sveti Stefan and the Budva Coast

Montenegro has only been an independent country since 2006. This emerging Balkan destination seems like an unlikely location for an upscale Aman resort, but after spending a few days at the Aman Sveti Stefan, I totally get it. The vibe is chic European Bond villain lair, with the former island resort now connected to the mainland by a narrow narrow isthmus, with an active security detail making sure only guests get to the resort.

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One of the pools at the Aman Sveti Stefan

Sveti Stefan’s coastal location has been used as stronghold on the Adriatic coast since the 15th Century. It has a Game of Thrones luxury resort vibe that is highly unique.

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Stunning from every angle: the Aman Resort Sveti Stefan

During the communist era, Sveti Stefan was occupied by the Yugoslavian government and used as a posh resort for guests. In 1972, the hotel received a Golden Apple award for it’s exclusive upscale excellence. Now, as Montenegro gains traction as a bubbly destination for the European yachting set, the Aman Sveti Stefan is once again very well positioned.img_4194

Boats on the Adriatic

Since Montenegro gained independence it’s Adriatic coast has been an emerging destination. This Balkan country is beautiful. The Adriatic coastline is picturesque and stunning, and is not yet overcrowded. The Aman makeover of this former fishing village has restored the red-tiled roofs to perfection, and magically kept a few small churches intact (including one next to a swimming pool). They’ve even maintained some of the fortress-like elements so it feels as though the resort’s history is incorporated in it’s design.

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Balkan Zen at the Aman Sveti Stefan

The Aman brand of Zen goes Balkan in a way that keeps it luxe yet understated. But you still feel ancient bones of the resort. The water closet in my room was clearly located in what was once a closet. The stone walls and fortress windows don’t have the cross ventilation you would expect from a new build. But the curving streets are immaculate and the outdoor dining areas dotted with Olive trees and gorgeous infinity pools with stunning views of the Adriatic.

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A view from my room at the Aman Sveti Stefan

The understated vibe of the Aman Sveti Stefan is a nice counterpoint to the flashy Porto Montenegro, located 33 kilometers away, where the “more is more” asthetic reigns. The closest airport to the resort is Tivat, but that is only going to help you if you’re flying in from Kiev or Moscow. Most guests fly into Podgorica or Dubrovnik, which are are hour and 2 1/2 hour drive away. NOTE: The drive from Podogrica to Sveti Stefan is not great for those prone to car sickness. The stretch of road is beautiful but dizzying. I found this drive nauseating, and I am usually unfazed by car travel.

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Aman style bathtub

Like all Aman resorts, you never feel like Sveti Stefan is crowded. The resort has 58 rooms and is well laid out. There are gorgeous spaces for meals inside and out, a gorgeous spa I did not have time to check out, and some lovely public spaces and courtyards. The service is top notch. The food… well, there is a reason that Montenegrin cuisine is not yet “a thing.” The Aman’s restaurant was as good as any I tried during my time in Montenegro, but there was not a dish on it that I wanted to order twice.

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Pool and church next to the Adriatic

I am just not a fan of the cuisine in this part of the world. It’s vaguely Mediterranean but not and somehow the disconnect is especially jarring for me. I’ve had similar dining experiences in Croatia and just found the food underwhelming. This could be personal preference, but I did not get this feeling Montenegro is the next big foodie destination. Fortunately cocktails are delicious and the environment lends itself to an Aperol spritz (or three).

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A gorgeous spot for a cocktail at the Aman Sveti Stefan

Yet I am now more intrigued than ever by the Balkans. This is an interesting part of the world with some interesting not-so-ancient history. The new influx of money makes Montenegro kind of fascinating.

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Left: Linguine with clams Right: Adriatic oysters

The resort offers all sorts of interesting experiences (including several by boat). All come with the price tag one usually associates with Aman properties. Boat experiences are weather dependent and ours got cancelled due to rough seas.

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Spritz o’clock in Montenegro

The Aman Sveti Stefan is a great choice for travelers who are interested in exploring the Balkans and want to stay at a highly atmospheric and unique property. It is a logical extension of a trip to Croatia.

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The view towards Budva from the Aman Sveti Stefan

Montenegro is a great place to visit if you’ve already done the coast of France and Italy, but it’s not really a substitute. This destination is best suited for the more adventurous traveler. The scenery is just as stunning but the surrounding vibe still has some post-communist charm. Service outside the resort can be hit or miss.

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Vertiginous views at the Aman Sveti Stefan

Like all Balkan supermodels, the Aman Sveti Stefan has great bones, and no bad angles.

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The atmospheric streets of the Aman Resort Sveti Stefan

May’s weather was temperamental, and cooler than I would require to lounge at the beach. But Budva had plenty of beachgoers that found the Adriatic warm enough. The resort would be especially appealing during the peak summer months.

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Gorgeous details on a small church on Sveti Stefan

Without doubt, the Aman Sveti Stefan is one of the most atmospheric luxury properties I’ve ever experienced. But I don’t think it’s for everyone.

View of @Amanresorts Sveti Stefan from Budva is today's virtualvacay #Montenegro

Adriatic coast framed by the old fortress of Sveti Stefan

This property is slightly edgier than other Amans I’ve visited… but that is also it’s appeal. It’s unique and isolated and wildly historic. You can’t help but feel like you’re wandering through the streets of King’s Landing as you find your way to dinner.

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Luggage cart still life at the Aman Sveti Stefan

This is the Aman of choice for GOT fans and intrepid travelers looking for someplace a bit different.

Sveti Stefan 85315
Montenegro
Tel: (382) 33 420 000
Fax: (382) 33 420 222
Email: amansvetistefan@aman.com

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Your syrup is served, Ritz style

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€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.

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

Rates from $1,098.10 USD

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