Posts Tagged ‘spa’

People of the Blue Lagoon: a Photo Essay from Iceland’s Most Popular Geothermic Spa

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Smeared with silt, I thought this woman had a Ziggy Stardust vibe

In most countries, proximity to a power plant makes a location highly undesirable for both health spas and hotels. For me, it brought up images of Blinky, the three-eyed fish from the Simpsons. But that’s not the case in Iceland, where much of the Nordic country’s power is geothermal.

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Ladies in the Blue Lagoon

Due to it’s unique location over still-shifting continental plates and multitude of volcanoes, Iceland is able to produce much of it’s power by harnessing nature. The outflow from such plants is lovely geothermal hot springs, like The Blue Lagoon.

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Bartender in the Blue Lagoon

Located off the road that connects Iceland’s capital of Reykjavik to the Keflavik International airport, The Blue Lagoon is perhaps Iceland’s most famous Geothermal spa destination. It’s easy to book a day tour here from Reykjavik and it’s a popular choice for visitors looking for things to do on a layover in Iceland, and those getting ready to depart from the nearby Keflavik International Airport. Even Beyonce and Jay-Z took a dip in the famous blue waters during their trip to Iceland.

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Toes in the Blue Lagoon

I first visited the Blue Lagoon in 2005, and the spa has made some significant improvements in the last decade, with more on the way. Construction is underway for the Blue Lagoon Luxury Hotel which is scheduled to open in 2017. Now there is a swim-up Lagoon Bar, where you can order Gull beer or wine and enjoy it without ever leaving the water, which remains a steady 100 °F (or 38 °C). The bartender just scans your entrance bracelet so you can settle your bill when you check out.

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If this image were scratch and sniff, you’d smell sulfer

Both Ana and I found the cold beer an enjoyable contrast to the warm mineral waters. There was a two drink maximum, which makes sense since lounging in the mineral water and rubbing yourself with clay and algae can be dehydrating. The Blue Lagoon’s vivid blue color is the result of sunlight reflecting on silica and algae, the water itself is an milky white. The minerals, silica, algae and mud, are considered good for your skin (but bad for your jewelry and swimsuit). There is even a clinic where the the water is used to treat skin conditions including psoriasis.

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Guests at the Blue Lagoon slather themselves with mineral rich mud

There are four different packages to choose from, with entry starting at €35 and ranging to €135 for the Luxury Package (which includes a table at LAVA Restaurant). Rumor has it you even rent the entire place out for yourself for $5,000 an hour.Packages are less expensive when you pre-book them online, but do not include transportation to and from the Blue Lagoon, which can be a pricey taxi ride away. Many tour companies in Reykjavik offer combination transportation and spa packages.

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Getting muddy at the Blue Lagoon

Unless you’ve brought your own towel, the €50 Euro package is the way to go. It includes your first drink and towel rental. While your nose does adjust to the sulfur-rich odor of the air, I definitely did not find myself with an appetite, so a meal might be overkill.

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Bridge over Iceland’s Blue Lagoon

Yes, it’s pricey. But a visit to the Blue Lagoon is it’s a delightful way to spend a few hours.

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With his ink, beard, and mud, The Whisky Pirate was my favorite person to photograph in the Blue Lagoon

Germaphobes need not worry, unlike dicey hot tubs, the water in the Blue Lagoon naturally refreshes itself every 40 hours.

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Swimsuits are available for rent. I’d advise not bringing your favorite bikini, the minerals are harsh are on delicate swimwear fabrics. My bathing suit remains crispy after repeated rinsing.

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Sample of Blue Lagoon beauty products come to you via employees like this guy

If you’re squeamish to smear yourself with clay, employees carrying trays of sample beauty products are on hand to encourage you to give it a try.

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Silt and mineral rich water in the Blue Lagoon

Please note: The Blue Lagoon will be closed for renovations January 5 – January 21, 2016.

Blue Lagoon Iceland

contact@bluelagoon.com

+354 420 8800

Opening hours:

1 October – 31 December* 9:00 – 20:00

Tickets from 35 EUR (pre-booking is required)

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A Stay at The Prince Hotel St. Kilda, Melbourne

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The sunny reception area at the Prince

I first stayed at The Prince Hotel on a trip to Melbourne over a decade ago. I immediately fell in love both the Aussie chic boutique property and the St. Kilda neighborhood.

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The living room of the Prince Premier Suite

But boutique hotels age in dog years– and a lot can change (or needs to change) over the years. While I still adore the property, and particularly the it’s pleasant staff, the hotel is really in need of a makeover. Design details which seemed so innovative when the hotel opened now feel stale.

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The bedroom area of the Prince’s Premier Suite

My room- the Prince Premier Suite- was well maintained and still had a great bathroom with a fabulous free-standing tub and gorgeous light. The balcony off the bathroom felt a tad neglected and in need of some “freshening up.” The carpet in the hallways is visibly showing the wear and tear. The bright pink chair in the hallway, which once seemed like a bright and bold choice, made me think, “Wow. You’re still here.”

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Left: The large soaking tub and Right: natural light fills the contemporary bathroom

The light-filled bathroom with it’s huge soaking tub was my favorite feature of my suite at the Prince. It’s definitely stood the test of time and provides enough space and light for a couple to share, although the sink and shower area are a bit cramped in comparison.

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REN amenities in the bathroom

One of the hotel’s best features is it’s Aurora Spa, which I did not have a chance to visit this trip. The Prince also has a great dining option, Circa. The public spaces are beautifully maintained and breakfast was delicious and included in my room rate.

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The breakfast room at The Prince

One of the hotel’s prime features is it’s location, just above St. Kilda’s gay friendly Prince of Wales Public Bar (this means both Kylie and Danni Minogue are in heavy rotation when the jukebox is working). The Prince of Wales also has a Bandroom which is staple of Melbourne’s music scene featuring both local acts and international ones– Michael Franti and Spearhead played here earlier this month.

I still love the Prince and recommend it for those who want a pleasant place to stay in the area. But boutique hotel connoisseurs won’t find anything edgy or innovative here.

The Prince

2 Acland Street, St Kilda
Melbourne, Australia
thedesk@theprince.com.au
+61 (0) 3 9536 1111

Rates start at $133 USD

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A Stay at Maia Luxury Resort on Mahe Island, Seychelles

Panorama of the view from villa 218

I visited the Seychelles for the first time in December, 2014 and stayed at Maia Luxury Resort using free nights my husband earned as member of LHW’s Leaders Club Unlimited program. Maia Luxury resort is small and intimate, with just 10 oceanfront villas and 20 panoramic villas.

A fountain in the private plunge pool of villa 218

We were picked up at the Seychelles International Airport by chauffeured car and driven the 40 minutes to the resort (we arranged the car transfers directly with the hotel for € 100 each way). Upon arrival, we were quickly checked in before being taken to Villa 218 by golf cart.

Left: views of the Indian Ocean from Maia Right: Plantains as an in-room amenity

Villa 218 is a panoramic villa which has incredible 180 degree views of the resort’s stunning peninsula location and the Indian Ocean below.

Maia’s luxurious bungalows and personalized butler service mean there is very little reason to leave your room, although it’s worth doing. I was glad I lured beyond the confines of my villa to check out Maia’s award-winning Balinese style spa and the hotel’s main restaurant, pool, and beach area.

Floating flowers at Maia Luxury Resort

The restaurant serves Asian, Indian, and Creole food with focus on fresh seafood and tropical flavors. The Indonesian dishes were standouts. We also had a memorable dinner in the resort’s Wine Boutique where the hotel’s sommelier showed us some of the resort’s most interesting wine bottles.

Left: chaises in the pool of villa 218 Right: Maia Resort’s main pool area

The resort has a high staff to guest ratio and focuses on personalized service. At first I found the service a bit intrusive, but once we spoke to the management we were able to step it back to a more comfortable level.

Pastel sunsets are the norm at Maia

The food was great from both room service as well as in the hotel’s main restaurant. I was impressed with my massage treatment at the spa and was glad I left to room to get it.

I still can’t get over this outdoor bath & shower at Maia

Maia’s away-from-it-all vibe reminded me a bit of Imanta Punta Mita.

A Balinese style daybed in Villa 218

The in-room amenities are Bulgari and the addition of sunscreen was appreciated.

I loved the tropical, elegant and zen decor in the rooms

The king sized bed was comfy, and wifi worked throughout the villa and in most of the public areas. It was hassle-free.

The fan helped keep things cool and the mosquito netting went mostly unused during our stay

The Sunset Pool Bar

Maia has an impressive collection of Cognac

Room service sushi at Maia

The front door of villa 218

There were other guests at the resort during our stay but we did not see or interact with them much. The resort seems geared towards privacy. This spot is great for couples or honeymooners who enjoy luxury and privacy.

Views of Maia Luxury Resort’s private stretch of beach

Watching a pastel sunset from the beach at Maia

Obligatory toes-in-the-sand selfie

This was the closest I got to other guests at Maia Luxury Resort

Villa rates start at $2,313.53 USD per night (making this property an excellent choice for free nights redemption as part of the LHW Leaders Club program.)

Maia Luxury Resort

Address: 5th June Ave, Anse Boileau, Seychelles

Phone:+248 4 390 000

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

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

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

The reception desk  of Bank restaurant

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

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

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

The living room of Park Suite 430

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

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

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

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

The king-sized bed in the bedroom of Suite 430

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

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

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

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

The gleaming white bathroom

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

Serene marble bathroom in suite 430 at the Park Hyatt Vienna

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

Blaise Mautin toiletries at the Park Hyatt Vienna

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

A table at Bank restaurant

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

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

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

Left: juice and dairy Right: dried fruit for breakfast

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

Park Hyatt Vienna

Am Hof 2

Vienna,  Austria, 1010

Tel: +43 1 22740 1234

Fax: +43 1 22740 1235

Email: vienna.park@hyatt.com

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A Stay at Ladera Resort, St. Lucia

When your room is missing a wall, it definitely qualifies as Glamping

On my recent trip to St. Lucia, I stayed at two different properties, both in the Soufriere area of the Island. First up was Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort.

Next, I stayed at Ladera Resort for 3 nights, which I covered in detail for the Glamping.com blog (Arrival and Day 1, Day 2, Day 3).

Ladera’s pool sits below it’s bar and Dasheene Restaurant

The two hotels are located close to each other. Ladera even sends guests via shuttle a few times a day to Sugar Beach, since the resort is located in the lush hills between the Pitons, and not right on the ocean.

Not surprisingly, we bumped into some of the same couples we met at Sugar Beach. It makes sense to move around if you’re spending more than a few days on St. Lucia, and the combo gives a nice mix of beach and rainforest and two very different vibes.

Left: Swing over the pool in our room  Right: The indoor “living room” of PR 3 had Piton views

Ladera is the more unique of the two resorts. Since the rooms are all missing a wall, guests are truly getting a 5 star glamping experience. You’re at one with the elements, be it sun, rain, or stars. You’re not exactly roughing it though, the wooden rooms have all the necessary creature comforts (including wifi). But if you’re the type who is going to freak out if you see a gecko in you’re room, then Ladera probably isn’t for you.

Cool in-room amenity: a star chart and binoculars

I love resorts with a non-generic vibe and personality, so I adored Ladera. I also thought the food at Dasheene, their on-site restaurant, was the best of the hotel restaurants I tried. The Caribbean kingfish and jerked shrimp on sugar cane skewers were standouts, and cocktails were a few dollars less expensive than those I drank at nearby resorts.

The mosquito netting is sexy– and helpful when your room is missing one wall

Left: Colorful tiles in the rainforest themed Rainshower Right: The rainshower could easily fit two people… or maybe five

St. Lucia is definitely a couples destination. There were a lot of honeymooners at Ladera, and the hotel is situated for maximum privacy. Missing a wall does mean that you hear the nature outside, the cicadas at night, and the occasional couple in the throes of ecstasy in the next room (good for them!).

Side by side sinks in the wooden bathroom of PR3

Ladera has a top notch staff that can help arrange sightseeing, tours, or any other needs you might have. Their spa is very basic, but the technicians are great (I got a very reasonably priced deep tissue massage that hit the spot).

Ladera’s vibe is eco-chic: wood, boulders, and exposed to the elements

Funky pots and sexy shadows are part of Ladera’s organic charm

Ladera’s social center is the pool, bar, and restaurant area. The bar has spectacular sunset views and saves the best front-row seats for in-house guests. Non hotel guests have to pay a cover fee just to check it out. Local musicians play during brunch and dinner, and the vibe is casual Caribbean elegance and divinely laid back.

Waiting in the bar at Ladera

Lush green landscaping and fun tiled ponds add to the resort’s charm

The Spa might not look fancy, but the treatments are fantastic

The gym is good for working off the rum-based cocktails and fabulous breads served at breakfast

A friendly local in the bar

Peg, a local bird, joined me for breakfast

What I liked most about Ladera was how fun it was. The food was fine-dining quality, but there are just enough local touches that keep it unpretentious and decidedly not stuffy. The guests were also low key and chill. Tables are adorned with madras napkins, and squirt guns meant for fending off local birds who invite themselves to your meals and want in on your tasty bread basket at breakfast.

Left: Drinking a coconut in the bar Right: an omelette made to order for breakfast

Ladera isn’t cookie cutter or generic, and neither are it’s guests. It’s an unforgettable place to spend a few days for a special occasion like a romantic weekend away, an anniversary, or a honeymoon.

A jerked fish wrap for lunch in the bar

Ladera’s bar menu had killer chicken satay, and rum and lime cocktails

Caribbean kingfish for lunch at Dasheene Restaurant at Ladera

The band sets up before dinner in Ladera’s Bar Area

Guests gather poolside to take in the spectacular Piton sunsets

Guests thinking about Ladera should know that it’s not located right on the beach, and while their is shuttle service available, I didn’t even use it as I spend my days at the pool or exploring the surrounding area. There are plenty of taxis available should you miss scheduled shuttle service to Sugar Beach.

Paradise Ridge at night

Ladera Resort

Soufrière,

St. Lucia, West Indies

Resort Reservations: 866-290-0978

reservations@ladera.com

Rates start at $475.00

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