Posts Tagged ‘luxury hotel’

Exploring the Riviera Maya: Andaz Mayakoba, Mexico

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The Cenote-inspired lobby of the Andaz Mayakoba

I recently spent a few days at the brand new Andaz Mayakoba just north of Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The chic beach resort, located within the Mayakoba Eco-Resort, opened in December 2016.

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Birds of Paradise in the Andaz Mayakoba Lobby

Located about 45 minutes from the Cancun International Airport (CUN), It’s the just the sort of spot on Mexico’s Riviera Maya that appeals to luxury travelers who want the golden sand of Caribbean beaches without the spring break vibe of a mega resort.

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One of the three pools at the Andaz Mayakoba

I was suprised to find that Cancun was only 4 1/2 hours from Los Angeles by plane, and my flight had tail winds and landed thirty minutes early. The user-friendly nature of Mayakoba makes the resort geographically desirable from both US coasts, since Miami is only 90 minutes away by plane.

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Colorful octopus mural by Senkoeat the Andaz Mayakoba

I was amazed by how well-oiled the resort Andaz Mayakoba ran after being open less than a month. The service was surprisingly seemless. We were the first guests to occupy our suite. The only “tell” I could find of the property’s newness was trying to find out how to adjust the fan in my suite’s bedroom. Matainance showed up and we figured it out together in less than a minute.

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Fun floaty toys at the Andaz Mayakoba

All the construction on the property was finished and there are a few murals that were not yet complete, but that also allowed guests to have a chance to spot Playa del Carmen-based street artist Senkoe on the property.

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Left: Pool side at the Andaz Mayakoba Right: Colorful patio furniture on the suite’s patio

Keeping with the clean, contemporary, and cool vibe of the Andaz brand, the Andaz Mayakoba also has some cool Mexican touches. There are some local snacks in the complementary mini-bar.

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The Mayakoba Resort is technically located in Playa del Carmen, but it’s a destination unto itself. Mayakoba features luxury hotels from Fairmont, Banyan Tree, and Rosewood and now the Andaz. It’s less than 15 minutes to the main drag of Playa del Carmen, but you won’t want for anything if you never leave the resort.

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Rainbow in paradise at Mayakoba 

Mayakoba also has a Greg Norman-designed golf course, El Camaleón, a tennis center, and a nature trail and bike path that connects all the individual hotel properties. This helps the resort feel big but not overwhelming. It’s not a mega-resort and it’s low profile makes it feel more connected to lush mangrove jungles and Mexican landscape.

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Ferry service at the Andaz Mayakoba Resort

There is even a ferry service connecting all the properties, making it easy for guests to stay at one property and dine at another. Complimentary bikes are available for guests to cruise from the Andaz to the any of the other Mayakoba properties. There is even a cenote, or water-filled sink hole, right on the Mayakoba property.

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Guest rooms at the Andaz Mayakoba

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In-room tequila set up at the Andaz Mayakoba

The rooms at the Andaz are contemporary Mexican chic with lots of light and colorful accents. Each building of the resort boast colorful bird murals painted by Senkoe.

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Interior of a bedroom at the Andaz Mayakoba

Our suite was spacious with a huge bedroom, walk in closet, bathroom, living room, two balconies and plunge pool.

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Mayan whimsical touches in the interior of the Andaz Mayakoba

I really like the laid back luxury of the Andaz brand. Service is top notch but not intrusive. The staff at the Andaz Mayakoba is very friendly. Jorge, who was in charge of taking care of us at the property, introduced himself to me as “your new best friend.”

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Another view of the Andaz suite living room

The Andaz has 214 guest rooms, 41 of which are suites. It is a family-friendly resort and has a kids club called Kimbo that hosts a killer movie night under the stars that adults are known to crash.

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Set up for movie night at Kimbo, the Andaz Mayakoba’s kids club

With three pools and generous stretch of white-sand beach, the resort doesn’t feel cramped. Of course there is also bright and airy spa with outdoor rooms that I did not have time to visit during my brief stay at the property.

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Margarita with lemon at OllaTaco

There are four restaurants on the Andaz property, with my favorites being the seafood-centric OllaCeviche. I was also delighted to lear that OllaTaco serves tacos for breakfast on extremely cute Mexican wrestler plates.

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Patron tequila at OllaCeviche

OllaCeviche also has a nice cocktail menu featuring Mezcal and tequila-based cocktails. It’s patio boasts a nice view of the beach.

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Chilaquiles + Mexican wrestler plates = win

Two days was not enough time to stress test all three pools and the beach. I did make a point of taking the nature hike and cenote tour, which is offered daily. It’s a cool way to check out one of the natural limestone sink holes and learn about their lore without too much effort.

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Left: a spicy Mezcal cocktail at OllaCeviche Right: broiled lobster tail for lunch

After spending a few days at the property my husband told me that he could “stay here a week.” This is high praise coming from a notoriously fical guest who usually gets sick of every property’s food after three days.

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Portrait of Jorge, my new best friend at the Andaz Mayakoba

One thing I especially liked about the Andaz Mayakoba experience was that while it had all the bells and whistles one needs in a Mexican luxury beach resort, it wasn’t isolated. You can easily head to a different hotel for lunch or dinner without requiring a taxi.

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The chapel interior in El Pueblito

The resort has El Pueblito, a small traditionally inspired Mexican village, complete with a cooking school, a church, art gallery, and a coffee shop that Jorge told me had the best coffee in the area. He was right!
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Left: exterior of the Chapel Right: a statue in the Chapel

The chapel hosts a Catholic mass on Sundays that is attended by guests as well as employees.

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Dappled light in the Mayakoba cenote

Two days wasn’t enough to fully explore all the Andaz has to offer and I’m certain I’ll be back soon to check out that spa. Room rates start at about $450.

ANDAZ MAYAKOBA RESORT RIVIERA MAYA

Carretera Federal Cancun-Playa Del Carmen Km. 298

Playa del Carmen-Solidaridad, Quintana Roo, Mexico, 77710

Tel: +52 984 1491234

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Exploring Stockholm, Sweden: a Photo Essay

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The view from Södermalm

I recently returned from an Arctic Adventure to Swedish and Finnish Lapland with Photo Enrichment Adventures. My first stop was Stockholm, Sweden, where I spent a few days getting over jet lag and exploring the “Capital of Scandinavia.”

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Love locks- they’re not just for Paris

Some of my favorite things about Stockholm were exploring the Nobel Museum in Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town. I enjoyed the charming cafes and interesting old streets in the area.
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Swedish still life in Södermalm

Södermalm was my favorite area of Stockholm, with it’s trendy restaurants, cafes and creative vibe.

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Taking a boat tour is a classic way to see Stockholm

If you’re into boats, don’t miss the Vasa Museum, one of the best experiences you’ll ever have with a sunken ship. I did not get to visit the Abba Museum, but I’m big on saving something for the next trip.

Swedish Zen at the Miss Clara Hotel

I stayed at the Miss Clara Hotel the first few nights. Located in a gorgeous 1910 Art Nouveau building that used to house a girls school, the vibe was modern and quiet, and had a lovely sauna in the basement.

Window shopping in Gamla Stan (old town)

Stockholm is chilly in the spring, with it’s waterfront location bringing winds off the Baltic sea.

A cute Stockholm native

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a Swedish Frenchie in old town

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Salmon, salmon and more salmon

I got to try a traditional Swedish smörgåsbord with all the trimmings at the Grand Hotel. Lingonberry jam, smoked fish, and the house 1874 Grand Aquavit to wash it down.

Skål! I’m a fan of the Aquavit

Flavored with caraway, anise and fennel, the aquavit reminded me of the Brennivín I tasted in Iceland.

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Stockholm at night

I did some night shooting in Stockholm in preparation for heading to Lapland and chasing the Aurora Borealis. I was colder during the night shoot in Stockholm than anytime during the lapland part of my trip, due to winds. But I do like I the images I got of the city at night.

I couldn’t resist taking a selfie in gorgeous Stockholm window light

The light in Stockholm was beautiful at times and flat at others. But the window light was so delicious I couldn’t resist taking a selfie on my iPhone 6s.

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A Stay at J.K. Place Roma, Italy

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Living La Dolce Vita in the library at JK Place Roma

The focus of my most recent trip to Italy was exploring the Tuscan wine country, but I wrapped up the trip with a couple of days in Rome. I spent one night at my new favorite hotel in Italy, the JK Place Roma.

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The vibe at JK Place Roma is very Mad Men-chic

My stay at the JK Place Roma was brief, but it didn’t take long for this small, chic urban hotel tucked away on a side street near the Piazza Borghese and within walking distance to the Spanish Steps to win me over. We arrived before our room was ready, and the gracious concierge escorted us to the library and poured us a round of Aperol Spritz while we waited for our room.

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Left: cinema books at the JK Place Roma Right: I was very Happy flipping through Pharrell’s coffee table book 

We had no problem kicking back for a spritz (or three), enjoying the speedy wifi, and flipping through the fab collections of art books in the library. The Library at JK Place properties can put a Taschen book store to shame. They are like a thing.

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Love this mid-century light fixture in the JK Place Cafe

The vibe is  very mid-century glamorous at JK Place properties and you feel like someone’s pampered house guest with impossibly chic friends. Just looking at the interior design was inspiring (and a welcome respite from the August heat).

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Left: The glam cafe at JK Place Roma Right: Sunlight pours into the JK Place Cafe

Breakfast is included in the room rate and while my flight departed too early for me to check out the spread for myself, I have a close friend who also stayed at the hotel a month before me and asked her for her review.

She said, “They had many choices laid out for a buffet (all the usual stuff: baked goods, fruits, juices, yogurts, granolas, cheeses, charcuterie, smoked fish, etc.), plus they were eager to make you anything you wished for in the kitchen. We had a variety of eggs cooked to order. The service was very friendly and attentive.”

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Fruit in my spritz

This is consistent with the JK brand (I’m still blown away when I remember the breakfast spread at the sister property, JK Place Capri).

This time, my stay was courtesy of a free night earned in the LHW Leaders Club Unlimited (my husband is a Leader’s Club Unlimited member, which seems especially useful in Italy).

When our room was ready, the concierge led us there. Even the elevator, which had velvet banquettes built right in, was fabulous. Our room, a JK Classic, was not huge, but it was big enough by Roman standards.

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Rule #1 of visiting Italy: skip the bread. I broke this rule and this bread was delicious.

More notable was the unusually large bathroom which was almost as big as the bedroom, with a huge shower stall, impressive vanity and dressing area.

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Salmon rilette served in the the J.K.  Cafe

A few notes about how they roll at JK Place: bar snacks are generous and tasty. You can make a meal out of the olives alone. There is also one choice that I’m sure was meant to be “quirky” that I find irksome: the music.

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The cozy but chic bedroom had some fabulous photography

While I am a bit of a music snob, I usually enjoy music. I also think it’s fun discovering interesting cover versions of songs (think Kawehi’s Heart Shaped Box).  Not so the soundtrack at J.K. Place. The hotel’s atmosphere music was straight up offensive to my ears.

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The bathroom at JK Place Roma

The playlist that featured almost entirely all female cover songs, like Eliza Lacreda’s version of King of Pain or this awful version of Dani California. My friend who stayed there a month before me is also an audiophile, and she found the music choices amusing. So it’s a personal taste thing. Fortunately, I found Aperol spritz took the edge off my dislike for the soundtrack.

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Aperol spritz with a statue at the JK Place Roma

My biggest problem with JK Place Roma is that I didn’t stay nearly long enough to enjoy it fully. There is so much to see and do in Rome that I didn’t get to sleep in late in the crisp, cool sheets or sample the breakfast buffet for myself. Clearly I need to book another stay at J.K. Place Roma so I can check out the hotel in more detail.

J.K. Place Roma

Via di Monte D’Oro, 30,

00186 Roma, Italy

+39 06 982634

Rates from $609.00 USD

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A Stay at the Dorchester in London

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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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

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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.

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A peek inside the minibar- filled with with British classics

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Fresh roses in the suite area

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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.

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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.

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The bread pudding served in the Bar at the Dorchester

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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 Grand Hotel et de Milan, Italy

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Stylish and quirky decor in the Grand Hotel et de Milan’s Visconti Suite

Last month I made a super quick trip to Milan for some personal business. My husband and I decided to stay at the Grand Hotel et de Milan because of it’s central location and proximity to the the Duomo Cathedral.

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The living area of the suite was large, but there was not a lot of usable space on the table

We booked the hotel through LHW, as my husband is member of their Leaders Club Unlimited program, and we like the perks. One of them was getting complimentary airport transfers to the hotel, and room upgrades. The hotel has an interesting history. It’s located in a converted 18th-century mansion that was was home to opera composer Giuseppe Verdi. The hotel still has a Verdi suite in his honor.

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Photos from Visconti’s plays and films were featured in the Visconti Suite

As an LHW Leaders Club Unlimited member, my husband got an upgrade from a room to the large, one bedroom Visconti Suite, named in honor of Italian director Luchino Visconti. The suite’s aesthetic design featured an eclectic mix of old school ornate antiques and modern touches. Framed prints of stills from Visconti’s many plays and films hung on the suite’s walls.

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The work desk in the suite’s living room did not allow for much work

The suite’s desk in the living room was it’s weak spot– the entire surface was covered with phones, books, and a sound dock, leaving very little space to set up a laptop. There were also too few power outlets for business travelers with multiple devices. The hotel’s excellent staff brought up a power strip to solve the problem. Still, this suite is better designed for leisure travelers than business people.

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A vintage steamer trunk at reception at the Grand Hotel et de Milan

The bathroom was modern and designed in marble, but this being Europe, the shower stall was a bit small. The hotel had a nicely equipped gym. Breakfast was included (because of LHW Unlimited perks) and served in a beautiful room lit by Murano glass chandeliers.

Grand Hotel et de Milan

Via Alessandro Manzoni, 29, 20121 Milano, Italy
+39 02 723141

Rates start at $402 USD

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