A private island resort is one thing. An entire archipelago in one of the most ruggedly beautiful, previously inaccessible parts of the world is a whole other level. Proof: The place runs entirely on solar energy, but the air conditioning works perfectly.
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Wicker and rattan are well-deployed, fabrics are all crisp natural whites, sage greens and light blues, and everything is indoor-outdoor wherever possible: Each casita wall is constructed with louvered slats to let in the breeze, massive doors slide open and turn the whole room into the chicest screened-in porch ever.
Even the shower can be had both ways, depending on which way you position the door. Islas Secas marks its arrival. This, its third venture, was 10 years in the making. The challenge?
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The highpoint is, of course, the cascading cataracts themselves, viewed with a private guide at canny times of the day. Like many special hotels, this one is tricky to find. There are no sign posts. No terrace on the street flowing with hotel guests and a stream of waiters with spritzes. Only the discreet stone archway that leads off the square to what was once a private family home—then a school run by nuns—indicates you have arrived.
The designers have excelled in filling this space with natural light and drama with a mix of both vintage and new furniture. Their vast, custom-made walnut beds and in-room cocktail bars with integrated stereos are real highlights. Among the crush of boutique offerings in medieval Palma, Can Bordoy captures the true heart of the place in a way worthy of the moment. Finland's handsome capital has never topped the list of Nordic cities on a traveler's radar.
It doesn't have an Old Town like Stockholm. Or the food scene of Copenhagen though Tommi Tuominnen's mini empire is starting to change that. It didn't even have a hotel doing for the city what The Thief did for Oslo. Until— until —last May, when homegrown hotel group Kamp turned an old newspaper publishers a couple blocks from the water into a modern Grande Dame.
The stylish St George walks the line between show pony for local design and emporium of international tastemakers. There is the charmingly minimal blond wood desk and chairs in each sunlit room, where function matches design in a way to make Alvar Aalto proud. Ai Wei Wei's wonderfully bizarre hanging dragon commands the space downstairs from the check-in desks. Down the checkered hallway, a Monocle cafe where sharply dressed Finns tap at laptops and sip strong coffee channels Stockholm but serves the city's most fragrant rye rolls, a Finnish staple.
The 18th-century building was originally designed by Onni Tarjanne, who also did the National Theater across town; it's why the grand public bar resembles the old winter gardens, with its canopy of plants and pale blue walls, that were fashionable in the s. It's an appropriate way to modernize the city's past, in a hotel that will finally land it on the traveler's itinerary. Parisians are not so unlike Londoners and New Yorkers. Come Friday, they, too, hightail it to the country for 48 hours of blissfully slower living.
Their options for where to spend the weekend have been mostly restricted to ancestral manors and castles that require serious mileage to reach—as well as a dress code at dinner. Design Studio Be-poles, which was responsible for the louche interiors of Le Pigalle hotel, did a fine job of keeping the countryside in focus here, placing plants throughout and blending raw materials such as corkboard in the rooms, which were used to store grain in the s.
As Paris moves in a direction that feels increasingly hipster, Le Barn is the type of place where those breathing new life into the city go to recharge. Did Grace Kelly have a sense of humor? If so, you might think of the gorgeously reinvented University Arms as the Grace Kelly of hotels. Cambridge has been arguably the smartest town around since about A mere years later, it has a hotel to match.
If it all sounds a bit over the top, it is. Blond wood and glass walls render the whole triple-deck interior Champagne-colored and the golden-leafed sculpture hanging in the atrium is truly lovely. Very large bedroom terraces, indoor and outdoor pools and jacuzzi all offer panoramic views of the world-famous and now UNESCO World Heritage-listed vineyards, while the top-floor bar has access to the cellar's different Champagnes as well as views that look over the vineyards. As anticipated openings go, this one was a humdinger: Stories about the extraordinary restoration of Heckfield Place made the rounds for 10 years before the redbrick Hampshire mansion opened to guests last September.
On site are two restaurants overseen by super-chef Skye Gyngell, who has the run of acres of organic farmland to fuel her menus, and a seat cinema showing new releases three times a week. Like Babington House some 20 years before it, Heckfield confirms that big-city tastes can translate to the country, and that doing so does not mean compromising the intimacy urbanites so desperately seek when needing to escape for a long weekend. It takes imagination and sensitivity for a global brand to turn a much-loved local favorite into a chic little beach hotel without accusations of cultural imperialism.
Soho House has done just that with this Barcelona arrival. There are only 17 rooms, including one duplex with a private terrace, so staying here feels more like a cheeky weekend away with your best friends. Everybody greets each other in the restaurant, where lunch is selected from an ice-packed fish counter, or when claiming their striped sunbed on the beach. DJs in the bar—a stunning space where the floor-to-ceiling windows let a sea breeze in—provide gently rocking vibes in the evenings.
Massages using Cowshed products are given outdoors on the terrace. The vibe in Garraf is off-beat. With this opening, Soho House injects the town with an alluring dose of urbane sophistication and the right amount of local sensibility. It was tired, of course. Rising Scottish star Adam Handling runs the restaurant, bar, and tearoom, designed with relative restraint by Russell Sage, who also did The Fife Arms.
Belmond has planted its U.
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Set away from the hubbub on Ramatuelle beach west of the town proper, and tucked behind the sand dunes, it is the antithesis of loud-money Saint-Tropez. There are 10 simple, whitewashed cabins, designed by Madison Cox, the man behind the Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech.
Then last year the place was given a spruce by Italian interior designer Monica Damonte. She turned to old pictures and vintage furniture to recreate the feeling of the golden age. Time travel is not at odds with modern luxuries though. Though it is tough to resist the deep-blue Mediterranean, so close you can hear the lapping waves.
This is the riviera, brought back to its roots. In its Adelaide cocktail bar, large-scale black and white prints pop against maroon walls and golden curtains that surely recall the fabulous living rooms of the smart designers along Via di Monserrato, a Gimlet or three is a revelation.
Rather brilliantly, he found ways to make it feel relevant and not forced, which rarely land so easily in Rome. Staying at this converted 18th-century townhouse places guests properly amongst the muck, and with three bars and restaurants from which to watch the daily life unfold with an elderflower cocktail in hand, naturally. Interior designer Dorothee Meilichzon took her cues from the neighborhood when decking out the 50 rooms with textures, shapes, and colors.
Petite guestrooms have luscious greens, blues, and pinks; against this palette the plump all-white beds seem like fluffy, cozy clouds.
Tiny wooden stools near windows with ball-gown length drapes create the atmosphere of a Parisian parlor. Though when the bustle of the 2nd all gets a little too much, the ideal escape is on the rooftop, where gin joint The Shed serves a mean vodka with lemongrass to young locals who will no doubt be dressed better than yourself.
Paris rarely feels as fun as it does from the inside of a hotel run by a bunch of bartenders. The overall feel is far from austere, because of the floor-to-ceiling shelves of antique books, collection of tropical plants that borders on a mini rainforest, and sumptuously upholstered furniture—good luck getting back up after sinking into one of those wool-lined moon chairs.
Drinks on the gambling floor and in the lobby-level Pink Bar put the focus on locally distilled spirits such as Sarajishvili brandy. At the heart of this stretch of long beaches backed by rolling olive-and-wine country is Orbetello, a laid-back town in Grosseto with something of a Spanish feel, scenically set on an isthmus in a coastal lagoon.
Now its chef, Andreas Caminada, is giving them reason to stay the night. Last October, he opened the exquisite Casa Caminada in a born-again barn on the castle grounds, where rustic ambience is tempered with urban touches, and authenticity replaces the musty luxuries ubiquitous in Swiss mountain-palace hotels. Upstairs, 10 sun-flooded rooms retain original exposed beams, enhanced by reclaimed larchwood parquet floors and furniture custom-made by local carpenters.
To soften the masculinity, Patricia Urquiola added pops of refined Italian style, including brass-and-magenta-linen loungers for absorbing sunshine or finishing a novel. It is unexpected and fabulous. The airy new restaurant offers buttery and crunchy maluns crumb-like dumplings made with shredded potatoes and walnut tortes baked in a volcanic-stone oven.