Posts Tagged ‘luxury’

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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Exploring the Riviera Maya: Tulum, Mexico

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Bohemian chic vibes at Be Tulum

Tulum, a small resort town on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, has been a much buzzed about destination for a while. It’s developed enough to have great food and some chic eco-resorts, but still intentionally off the grid and understated to keep the vibe low key.

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Gorgeous pool at Be Tulum

For those who want a dose of Mayan culture with their vacation, it’s even got the Tulum Ruins, right on the beach.

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Sandy white beach of Tulum

My husband and I recently visited Tulum for a  couple of days, and two nights wasn’t really enough to explore the area and chill out. Confession– I did not even get to explore the ruins on this trip. But I loved the area so much I’m planning a return visit as soon as possible.

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Bicycles are the preferred form of transport in Tulum

For luxury travelers like me, wifi access is a necessity and not a privilege and many of the resorts in Tulum are intentionally devoid of it. We chose to stay at Be Tulum, a luxury eco-resort that had strong wifi and great reviews.

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Interior of a suite at Be Tulum

While not a true business hotel, I was impressed that the wifi signal worked all the way to the white sand beach.

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Interior of a suite at Be tulum

Be Tulum also has next level margaritas, chic rooms, and a lovely beach with multiple daybeds. It’s not a business hotel so you won’t find a proper desk in your room, but if you can handle the distracting ocean views while checking email, it’s a lovely place to spend a few days.

Greetings from #Tulum is today's virtualvacay #Mexico

Sunhat in Tulum

Friends of mine have also spoken highly of the rustic chic Azulik and all-inclusive luxury resort Kore Resort Tulum, although I did not get a chance to check them out for myself.

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Morning walk on the beach in Tulum

My favorite places to visit are those with a vibe or spirit. Tulum definitely has a vibe. There is a effortlessly chic thing going on that is sort of hard to describe but easy to spot.

Cloudy morning time lapse from Tulum

Watching the sun rise one morning, I saw a lot of toned legs and dogs get walked on the beach. You can’t help but notice that there are a lot of beautiful people in Tulum. It’s a gorgeous spot where pretty people gather. I enjoyed people watching here and would like to spend a few more days doing that.

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Cloudy sunrise in Tulum

Located about an hour and forty five minutes by car from the Cancun airport, Tulum is fabulous destination on it’s own or combined with another spot on the Mayan Riviera. I split by time in Mexico between Mayakoba and Tulum.

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 Day beds on the beach

NOTE: I’ll cover my stay at the new Andaz Mayakoba in a future post.

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 Vacation vibes at Be Tulum

As relaxed as Tulum is, you still need reservations if you want to get dinner at some of the interesting restaurants. We got to Hartwood before 6 pm and did not manage to get a table.

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The chilled out bar at Be Tulum

According to the concierge at Be Tulum, Hartwood only take reservations by email and it usually takes a few days to get a response so if you wan to eat there be sure to book ahead.

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Shrimp tacos at Be Tulum

But there are plenty of good dining options in the area. Be Tulum’s restaurant had a great menu for breakfast and lunch, with the shrimp tacos being a standout item.

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Mezcal cocktail at Gitano

Foodie friends suggested Gitano. It’s a gorgeous space and has the prettiest cocktails in town.

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Basil guacamole with jicama at Gitano

Gitano’s menu of modern Mexican food, includes small plates with nice touches. Like the basil guacamole with jicama served with roasted corn tortillas. Their Sopa de Lima and ceviche were also delicious. 4v1c5961

Laid back romantic atmosphere at Gitano

Be sure to have cash on hand when going out to eat in Tulum. Many of the small restaurants only take cash. Both pesos and US dollars were accepted.

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Gitano exterior in Tulum

The food scene is getting more exciting in Mexico’s Mayan Riviera and I’m sure there are more small spots to check out in Tulum.

 

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Come with cash!

For those who can only spend an afternoon in Tulum, local institution Ziggy’s Beach Club  allows diners to use their sun loungers and amenities for $25 USD per person per day. Ziggy’s also has wifi.

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Magic hour in Tulum

Tulum is a place I look forward to getting to know better. I think I’m going to be coming back here soon.

Be Tulum

Address: Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila Km.10, Zona Hotelera, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

Ziggy’s Beach Bar

Address: Carretera Tulum – Boca Paila Km 7,5, Zona Hotelera, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

Gitano Tulum

Address: Beach Road Km. 7, Boca Paila, QRO, Mexico

reservations@gitanotulum.com

Hartwood

Address: Carretera Tulum Boca Paila 7.6Km, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

open for dinner only, 6-11pm closed Monday and Tuesday

 

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Glamping in Australia’s Red Centre: A Stay at Longitude 131

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One of the luxury tented accommodations at Longitude 131

Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, has been on my list of places to visit for years. Last month I finally got my chance to visit Australia’s Red Centre, with a few nights at Longitude 131. With a reputation for being the finest accommodations in Outback glamping, Longitude 131 doesn’t come cheap. My husband and I tried to maximize our bang for the buck by staying one less than the recommended three nights/four full days, and attempting to see as much as we could during our time.


First glimpse of Uluru HyperLapse (shot on iPhone 6)

The cranked up pace was a bit too crammed for me. While I totally enjoyed my time, I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been so hurried. I also had a difficult time with jet lag on this trip, which did not help the situation.

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Some of the stunning scenery seen on excursions from Longitude 131

My hotel review posts usually feature lots of images of hotel room interiors and bathroom amenities, but photographing the room did not happen during my brief stay at Longitude 131.

Fortunately Longitude 131’s own website photos are very realistic. The tents are glamorous and comfortable, but we did not spend much time there other than to sleep or change clothes. The bulk of your day at Longitude 131 is spent exploring nearby Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which was the point of the whole trip anyway!

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My first glimpse of Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock

We had about 35 minutes from the time we arrived at the Longitude 131 until we headed out for our first excursion, the Mala Walk around the base of Uluru,  followed by a sundowner and light bites in the Kantu Gorge.

The guides at Longitude 131 are friendly and great and I felt that I learned a ton on this excursion. The couple I met from Sydney who were staying the recommended three days seemed more relaxed than I was (and less jet lagged).

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Left: sunrise at a viewing area in Kata Tjuta National Park Right: My room at Longitude 131

Both my husband and I were tired when we returned from this excursion, so we skipped the formal dinner service and headed straight to our tent.

I fell asleep immediately and woke up in time for a quick bite before heading out for our next excursion, headed to a sunrise view point in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. The Kata Tjuta range (also known as the Olgas) domes are visually interesting, and the sky and scrubby landscape looked gorgeous in the soft morning light.

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Gorgeous desert landscape and clouds at Kata Tjuta

After admiring the sunrise at Kata Tjutas we headed out on the lovely Valley of Winds hike , which can range 6-10 km around a sacred Anangu men’s site in the domes of Kata Tjuta. We finished our hike just before the day got too hot. The only thing missing was a cold beer before we headed  to the Cultural Centre in the park for a visit. Then we got back to Longitude 131 in time for lunch.

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A view of the Kata Tjutas at sunrise

Our day finished with the Uluru sunset excursion (again complete with cocktails and nibbles). It was a delightful day. Dinner that evening was served at outdoors under the star filled skies at Table 131 set up outside. Once again, jet lag made me decide to skip the main course and get as much sleep as I could.

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A vibrant sunset view of Uluru (Ayers Rock)

Your days are paced similarly to those on safari at Longitude 131– most activities happen around sunrise and sunset leaving the hottest hours in the middle of the day free for you to enjoy the resorts lovely pool, the nearby Cultural Centre in the park or even arrange a camel ride or motorcycle ride. Unlike being on safari, you come to Longitude 131 for the landscape and outdoor activities, not for the wildlife. You might see some wild camels or feral cats, but this is not the place for those who want a game viewing experience.

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Yummy steak for lunch at Longitude 131

All the food and beverages at Longitude 131 were excellent.

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Left: Pasta with shrimp for lunch Right: a colorful salad with edible flower at Longitude 131

While I did not eat every dinner I was totally satisfied by the appetizers served during the sundown excursions and did not feel I needed much more.

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 Glacial toothfish and broccolini for lunch at Longitude 131

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A stunning sunset view of  Longitude 131 Resort

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Rainbows in the bathroom at Longitude 131

My Longitude 131 experience was very good. I made the decision to do a shorter, more concentrated trip and I’m not sure I’d recommend that unless you are 100% over jet lag or the sort of person who loves having every minute scheduled.

I was impressed with my experience enough that I am now curious about other Baillie Lodges and am considering a visit to Kangaroo Island on my next trip down under.

Longitude 131

Yulara Drive,
Yulara Northern Territory 0872,  Australia
Tel: +61 08 8957 7131
Fax: +61 08 8957 7130

Luxury tent rate is $1,200 AUD per person, per night including all dining, open bar with premium wines and spirits, in-suite bar, signature experiences, and return Ayers Rock Airport transfers.
My trip was booked through Suzy Xiu at SmartFlyer.

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Nemi Eco Villa: A Next-Level (and Green) Private Villa Experience in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

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A view of the chic and green Nemi Eco Villa in Puerto Vallarta

One of the highlights of my recent trip to Puerto Vallarta for the NAJTA conference was the opportunity to tour some of the newest hotel properties in the area. The standout was the Nemi Eco Villa, a chic, contemporary and green property located in a quiet residential neighborhood called Amapas which is situated close (3 minutes drive or 10 min walk) to downtown Puerto Vallarta and a 10 minute walk to two favorite local beaches – Playa Los Muertos and Playa Conchas Chinas.

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Left: The bar and outdoor space near the pool Right: the gorgeous naturally filtered pool 

I usually gravitate towards hotels because I like having concierge services and amenities at my disposal. But as part of a couple who sometimes travels with other couples, the private villa experience has always seemed appealing at first glance. It’s when you look closer and find that not all the rooms are equivalent and read the fine print when the appeal fades.

That’s where Nemi Eco Villa succeeds– this was the first property I’ve seen that I could easily envision renting out the entire six bedroom, eight bathroom property for myself and friends, and I think it would work for everyone. Even better, if you have enough people to fill the 4-6 bedrooms, the Nemi Eco Villa goes for $800 for 4 bedrooms during the low season to $1500 for all six bedrooms during the high season, with a three night minimum.

This is about the same rate you’d pay at a generic, forgettable name brand hotel in the Hotel Zone.

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This sofa is crafted from repurposed shipping pallets

Nemi Eco Villa started as a passion project for the then Chicago-based architect who had duel citizenship and his wife, who were drawn to Puerto Vallarta’s vibrant ex-pat community. The villa, which can be rented as 4-6 rooms, was built by Max Living and Design and consists of rooms build from re-purposed shipping containers off site. The furniture includes custom sofas built from reclaimed wood from shipping pallets. The property features speedy wifi (great for those wanting to stay connected), solar panels, a 40 foot naturally filtered pool, and grey water toilets.

None of these green choices make the property any less luxurious, instead they make this the ideal choice for tech and design savvy travelers in their 30s to 50s who a villa experience and those who are interested in these new technologies and systems.

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Left: staff can order food from local restaurants like Tapas Barcelona Right: A dining area in the main living room

Nemi Eco Villa also comes with staff. There is a housekeeper, gardener, and houseman and bartender. You get a chef for daily gourmet breakfast and afternoon snack/cocktail hour. Food & beverage are not included in the room rate, instead the staff just gives you the grocery bill. The chef can be hired to prepare dinner on site as well, although most guests prefer to go out to check out the thriving local restaurant scene. Staff can help with reservations and sourcing additional needs (like a driver).

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Ron, a fellow NATJA journalist, kicking back in Pod #3

The entire villa can be booked for private events such as weddings and books up a year in advance for holidays like Christmas and New Year’s Eve. With such great on-site amenities and a reasonable price point, Nemi Eco Villa is a great fit for those who want a luxury villa experience that is contemporary, cool, and cutting edge. This place is ideal for destination parties like birthdays or holidays, or a get together with friends and family.

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Nicole, one of the owners of the Nemi Eco Villa, in a queen bedded pod

All the bedroom pods feature queen or king beds and have features like outdoor hammocks and showers. Bedroom pod #3 was originally the prototype and is the master suite.

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The stylish and airy living room

The main level features a living room, kitchen, the dining area and a communal lounge, a bathroom and tons of indoor/outdoor space around the show-stopping naturally filtered pool, whose distinctive green water is filtered by sand and plant life and is devoid of chemicals and chlorine.

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Left: the poolside lounge Right: local fabric and art in a bedroom pod

The villa is comfortable and crisp and features a lot of local touches like fabric and artwork. There are energy efficient air conditioning units throughout the villa for when the tropical cross breezes aren’t enough.

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Looking at one of the bedroom pods from the outside

Some rooms feature outdoor showers and hammocks. The master pod has a small kitchenette and the most luxurious bathroom, which includes grey water collection and bio-digester. None of these features feels preachy or intrusive.

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 Bathroom details from bedroom pod #3

All these eco-friendly details are attractive and bold choices which allow guests to consider if some of these green technologies might work for them back home.

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A hammock on the terrace of one of the bedroom pods

Nemi Eco Villa has a passionate and cool couple of creatives behind it and they want their guests to be happy. That vibe is what you feel at Nemi Eco Villa, once you get past the cool “wow” features.

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Another gorgeous view from the Nemi Eco Villa

Nemi Eco Villa is a very intriguing private villa at a very accessible per room rate. Now I just have to decide who I’m inviting when I book this place, and how long we want the bartender to stay to make margaritas by the pool.

Nemi Eco Villa

Address: Calle Gardenias 223

Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco 48399

Phone: 1.888.276.1953

Email: info@agavevillasmexico.com

Much thanks to NATJA for arranging the New Hotel Infrastructure tour in Puerto Vallarta. Without them, this post would not be possible.

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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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