In Prague, I trust. It‘s actually a city that never disappoints, in terms of lifestyle, food and cultural highlights. When it comes to hotels, there has always been the one choice, however this time I wanted to changed the side of the River and check-in at the city‘s most luxurious design hotel. Personally, I think that The Emblem is the best located hotel in the entire city, being a few steps away from Staromestske Namesti (Old Town Square) and the Charles Bridge. Prague castle is a bit far away but do the walk over the world‘s oldest pedestrian bridge. Having talked about the location in general, let‘s proceed with the hotel in general. Arriving from Vienna is particularly convenient as they use a Railjet on the four-hour-ride which is the best way to travel on the Austrian and Czech railway system. In particular, you can score great deals on the website of the Czech railways and therefore I went to Prague for as low as 24 euros in first class.
An Uber ride later, I arrived in front of The Emblem and was immediately offered help by the kind receptionist. The hotel itself didn’t look too big, more intimate and private. We were shown to the lounge where we waited to do the check-in. Within a minute check-in began and the young receptionist asked me to do the paperwork. I like the idea to have the check-in done in a chair at the lounge rather than standing at a reception desk. Nearly 5 minutes later he offered to show me to the room, which was a Queen Dom on the first floor overlooking the street. During my stay, the hotel had some issues with the key cards and I therefore had to go down to the lobby more than once - I was very annoyed by this but turned out that the door lock didn’t open when leaving the room so once I paid attention to this matter all was fine.
In general the rooms have a very sexy appeal with cool wallpapers and wood floors. All interior furniture is by Italian designer Maxalto and really fits the total ambiance. With the bed being super comfy, the room size didn’t matter much. This was also because the entree felt like a walk-in wardrobe. I appreciated the small details such as the cool minibar that came along with a small in-room shop selling Happy Socks and Prague accessories along with a Nespresso coffee machine. Right between the entree and the bedroom was the bright bathroom. Even tough the entry-level category only comes with a shower-tub combo, I didn’t mind much as it was solved in a good way and the pressure of the shower was adorable. A single vanity, a toilet and one bath towel per person were waiting along a set of The White Company bath products. Unfortunately the shower came as a conditioning shampoo so there was no additional conditioner provided. I also missed essentials as a toothbrush and shaving kit, tough did not explicitly ask for it neither. Probably they bring this upon request.
Beside the beautiful room, I also very much loved the other common grounds such as the lobby lounge and the Maharal Club, the hotel's basement. It used to be a quite known private members club back then when I was living in Prague three years ago, however seems that today it is mainly used for in-house guests and events happening from time to time. It's also the place where the complimentary happy hour happens from 5 to 7 pm daily. This includes a bottle of white wine along a red one - both from Czech Republic and drinkable, sometimes the Concierge joins to have a chat and asks about the plans for the night. We had the pleasure to meet the concierge as well and told her that we planned to have dinner at the Aria Hotel's famous restaurant Coda overlooking the old town. She immediately told us that it would be a great idea but we wouldn't have any chance getting a table without a reservation. She said she will try to call the hotel but then disappeared with a group of other guests never coming back nor leaving a note if she called the restaurant or not. Well, thats one of the moments you - as a guest - have to realise you are staying at a mid-class five star hotel and not the Ritz Carlton or Rosewood.
The staff at least tries their very best to act like a five-star crew and we did enjoy it very much but it lacks a bit the difference. There was no wow-moment happening during my stay and even tough they were always helpful and friendly with the door problem, they never apologised for the inconveniences I had (one time I had to go down to the lobby in bathrobe with completely wet bath shorts and hair just to get a new key) - not mentioning the elevator which took minutes to arrive since there is only one going from the spa to the first floor.Luckily the room was on the first floor and this issue helped me staying active by taking the staircase. Something to say about the spa is that it is beautifully appointed (one of the nicest ones in Prague) with a sauna, steam room and showers along a huge relaxation room. The friendly at the spa desk wasn't the most welcoming person, tough managed to get me a 30 minute session in the rooftop jacuzzi - which is simply worth the splurge of about 38 euros for 30 minutes. I can understand that the Emblem is charging for the jacuzzi since it only seats two persons and if someone falls asleep in there, you don't have any chance to use the jacuzzi as well. While I am against paying for spa facilities (excluding treatments where staff has to actively spend time on you), this fee didn't seem to be disturbing to me.
The Emblem is actually a great spot for foodies being situated in an interesting area of Prague. Within the hotel, there is one of Prague's best steak houses called George Prime Steak. I have been there three years ago and already then it was fantastic (not cheap tough). On the same street a bit ahead you have the fine dining Italian La Finestra as well as the bistro-like La Bottega di Finestra, one of my all time favourite spots to have breakfast or lunch in Prague. So don't mind booking a room without breakfast, do the 50 meters walk and enjoy best coffee along extremely fresh orange juice, flawless eggs Benedict and fluffy homemade bread. Plus the atmosphere is so much more attractive than any hotel breakfast room. On Sunday, I didn't dare asking for a late check-out and stored my luggage at the front desk to do a bit of shopping until my train left for Vienna in the evening. And I mean who wants to be in a rush when enjoying a piece of Savoy Dort at the famous Cafe Savoy, Prague's most wonderful and best coffee house.
All in all, the Emblem is a great design hotel in a truly unique setting in the old town of Prague. With the main square being right next to the hotel and Charles Bridge within 5 minutes walking distance, it is simply the right place to stay for first-timers. The young crowd is attracted by the proximity to some of Europe's best clubs (tough you cannot hear or see the party crowds in the street passing by the hotel) as well as by the famous Hemingway Bar being not too far away - the best bar in Europe and quite sure the best in the world when it comes to authenticity and quality of the drinks. If my enthusiasm about that city doesn't make you wanna go to Prague now, enjoy the pictures and for sure The Emblem will do the rest. Enjoy the ride and take care!
I was guest of The Emblem Hotel for the weekend, tough paid for all extra expenses by myself. As usual, all above written expresses my personal opinion and has not been influenced.
We’ve entered the second half of 2018 now, which means opportunities for planning trips before the year is out are beginning to run short. Of course, it’s not too late to book holidays a few months out, and you can always take a drive or a short flight to nearest beach or big city you may want to visit. But before you know it, opportunities for planning bigger luxury getaways in 2018 will be drying up. Before we reach that point however, we have a few suggestions for fun and in some cases luxurious vacations you can still plan throughout Europe this year.
Belgian Grand Prix
Any time you get a chance to see one of the Formula 1 Grand Prix races, it’s worth the effort. These days one of those races is happening in Belgium, and specifically at the Circuit of Spa Francorchamps, located in the magnificent region of the Ardennes. The event itself, as an outdoor sporting competition, can be a little bit on the casual side. But there’s some exclusivity to it as well given that tickets can become pricey in a hurry. And what’s more, this event gives you a nice excuse to visit the aforementioned region. There you can enjoy luxury accommodations, great local restaurants, and perhaps most notably, hydrotherapy in the famous baths of Spa. It’s a relaxing place for an autumn getaway, and a great luxury travel option in 2018.
2. Ryder Cup in France
The Ryder Cup is considered to be one of the most enjoyable events on the golf calendar. Held every two years and contested between an American and a European team of top professionals, it’s a tournament that’s as much about pride as anything else (particularly given that there is no prize purse). This year’s tournament will be held in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, Paris in late September, which should make for a spectacular time. There’s always something wonderful about witnessing professional golf in person, and needless to say you can also make a beautiful holiday out of a few days in Paris before the weather gets too cold.
3. Holidays In Vienna
By this we don’t mean general holidays, but actually specific celebrations of the holiday season. Truthfully, these can be incredible in lots of the major cities around Europe, but Vienna has always done the holiday season in particularly lovely fashion. If you book a nice hotel in the middle of town leading up to Christmas, you’ll get to see what’s effectively a fairy tale unfolding through the streets. There are lights everywhere, occasional snows, public markets, public concerts, areas for ice skating, and plenty of people merrily enjoying the whole scene. If you’re one to travel for the holidays, it’s definitely something to think about.
4. New Years In Berlin
If the Christmas holiday is best in Vienna, it might be fair to say the New Year is best celebrated in Berlin. It’s actually been written about as the best city in Europe for New Year’s, thanks mostly to a vibrant nightlife scene and a festive tradition of counting down to midnight at the iconic Brandenburg Gate. As with the holiday season in Vienna, booking a nice hotel in the middle of the action for a few days on either end of New Year’s Eve can get you right in the middle of the festivity and leave you with an unforgettable Berlin experience.
What has always been a secret travel tip for US and Canadian citizens becomes more interesting to Asian and Europe travelers alike - Chile. The longest country in the world is one of the narrowest as well, has got high mountains, the driest place on earth and also the southernmost tip you can travel on this planet. A county that couldn't be more diverse to be honest. And I think I would have never made the step to actually make the trip if I Lukas wouldn't have called this country home for nearly six months. You might have been right if you consider stop reading this as you think the flight costs a fortune to the end of the world. Actually it was when Alitalia signed bankruptcy in summer 2018, when flying to „El Fin del Mundo“ became affordable. I scored a business class ticket on the longest flight of my life (and yes it was worth each penny even tough service was mediocre) for roughly 1.5 k euros. Two years ago this was the regular rate of an economy class ticket from Munich to Santiago. Thanks to Alitalia‘s dumping price you now no longer have to worry about the Italian airline having its last day of operations as Latam Airlines threw out stunning rates for as low as 1.1 k euros for a return ticket in Business class. While the seat for sure is better at Alitalia, why not trying out Latam who is famous for their staff and fleet of brand new Boeing 787s.
I flew into Santiago directly from Rome where I connected from Milan and although it was the longest flight of my life with 15 hours pure flight time, it went by very fast and I was not travelling for more than 24 hours which was pretty cool. As we had a flight out to the Easter Islands departing at 7 am, there was the need of a layover in Santiago. This is actually one of the most annoying things about Chile: you always have to connect through Santiago and connection times are actually quite bad (due to the distances, flights have to depart early) making it impossible to catch another flight on the same day you arrive. Consequencing in an overnight each time you change in SCL. For the first day we squeezed through the city to exchange money, check out the hotel and have dinner at the Borago restaurant - the country‘s rising star and best introduction to the country‘s culture.
For Easter island I recommend to stay for a minimum of five days. Even tough we managed to see nearly everything in our four days, the flight is so terribly expensive that you simply have to stay for one more night. Good part: Both, Hanga Roa and Explora will get you a full expedition programme so no worries that you will miss one sight during your stay. Plus don‘t think too much about the trip including a point-of-no-return flight, meaning once passing a certain point in the Pacific, Easter Island airport is the only place to land. We also loved the food on the island and were surprised by the lovely shops selling cool Polynesian fashion.
After Easter Island we flew back to Santiago, stayed for another short night where we discovered Bellavista District before we showed up slightly too late for our Sky Airlines flight. By the way, LATAM is the only airline to book even if it is (slightly) more expensive. Sky Airlines is the Chilean copy of Ryanair and is never on time, seats you on separate seats away from each other even if on the same booking and also decides to re-book you without no reason. This way we were re-booked on the 11 am flight to Punta Arenas instead of the booked 8 am flight just because we arrived at 6.50 am and not at 6 am. For everyone being excited about Patagonia: Plan this trip wisely and book months in advance, plus also get you sorted with transfers as the distances are massive. We were picked up by the Patagonia Camp and drove for the entire afternoon until we reached a totally different scenery than where we landed.
To say one thing first: Patagonia is simply stunning. It‘s the place all people living in New York City, Hong Kong or Tokyo dream of. A place that is so remote that you don‘t have any telephone reception and the only smell that accompanies you is the purest of air you always dreamed of. Your only connection to the world is the WiFi access (only in the main areas) which often does not work properly. Let‘s be honest: You booked a flight to the end of the world, drove for five hours and passed about ten houses just to check out your Instagram account? Well, I don‘t think so neither. Unplug and enjoy nature. And please: Chile is not the place for high heels, suits and notebooks, you simply don‘t need em. When in Patagonia (Chile) you rather stay in Puerto Natales and if you brought a bigger wallet, check in at a hotel inside the Torres Del Paine national park so that you don‘t have to unwind the two hours drive each way from Puerto Natales daily. I recommend Patagonia Camp or the Explora on Salto Chico (prepare to pay Aman-prices).
Border crossing to Argentina
Normally you stay in Patagonia for a week or two to best enjoy the different flora and fauna or trek the W - the world‘s most famous trek. Fly back to Santiago and stay for a night to add a week at Atacama or do as we did and take the bus over the border to Argentina. Being Millennial generation-born in a EU-Schengen area having no border controls anymore when doing road-trips, Lukas and me were totally excited for the border crossing by bus. Everyone has to leave the bus and get a stamp inside an office before being able to move forward. Do this twice - one time in Chile for leaving the country and once in Argentina to immigrate. We then arrived later in the evening in the pretty town of El Calafate, actually the prettiest spot of entire Patagonia to see the famous Perito Moreno glacier. Having stayed at the Eolo Lodge, we can gladly say we have seen the best of everything.
Our initial plan was to go all the way up to Puerto Varas by bus, however this idea was soon vanished as the boat between the Argentinian and Chilean border did not go anymore. So our last stop in Patagonia was the uber-expensive Aguas Arriba Lodge which finally was the most remote accommodation we both stayed at. A two-hour bus drive brought us to El Chalten followed by a taxi drive of two hours to be taken by boat to the lodge within another 10 minutes. Not counting the flight from Buenos Aires to El Calafate. After our stay in Lago del Desierto we went to the Argentinan capital and waived goodbye to Patagonia. We came to the conclusion that even tough it is stunning and unique, it‘s sufficient if you have seen it once in your life. We recently did a tour through the Dolomites and had the same feelings as in Patagonia - just for tenth of the money we spent for the entire trip.
From Uruguay to Puerto Varas
So instead of taking the bus all the way up to Puerto Varas passing by Cochrane, La Catedral de Marmol and Futalefu we took the ferry over to Uruguay, rented a car and discovered Colonia, the interesting capital Montevideo and obviously we headed to Punta del Este for a bit of Cote d'Azur bliss. Even tough Punta is pretty nice, we preferred to stay in sophisticated José Ignacio that reminded more of the Bahamas than South America. Chic shops, great eats and luxurious hotels included. Totally loved it. We flew back to Northern Patagonia and discovered San Carlos de Bariloche which was nice and is a great spot for water sports and rafting, tough can compete with Switzerland easily. On the other side, Puerto Varas and the views of the volcano were simply stunning an worth the little detour.
Wine Valleys and Valparaiso
We still had a week left to discover Valparaiso and the wine valleys of Chile. To be honest we could have gone to Atacama desert as well but we had enough of lodges and exploring so I thought why not going to Chile again on another occasion, now as I have a reason. We rented a car in Santiago at Sixt and got upgraded again free of charge (second time and great experience again) - our road trip through the Andes towards the Pacific has started. We have passed by Casablanca (the famous wine town) where we stopped at Casas del Bosque winery. Once we arrived in Valparaiso we felt like in a Seaside version of Prague thanks to the Bohemian buildings and lifestyle. When in Valpo, stay in a Hostel they said so our first night we spend in a totally chic hostel until we moved into the most luxurious property on Chile's beach side. From Valparaiso we drove to Concon to take surf lessons and to watch the sunset over Valparaiso from the Dunes of Concon. That was one amazing day!
Our last stop was the Colchagua Valley where we stayed the first of our three nights at Lapostolle Clos Apalta Residence - one of the best hotels we have ever stayed at - before we changed for the main highlight of this 4-week trip: Vina VIK. Owned by Mr Alexander Vik, this architectural highlight is named best resort of South America and for a reason. All inclusive also means sipping the 100 Dollar bottle of VIK's Signature wine along the Michlin-worthy food. From tanning at the pool to seat 1 A for a transatlantic red-eye.
Chile, it was a blast and the coolest trip I have taken for years!
A few Impressions of Buenos Aires
Set above the main valley of South Tyrol, Dorf Tirol is a small town that has got some of the best views in Italy's northernmost region. To make sure a few things beforehand: yes, we totally love the area and it's hasn't been our first time there. Actually, it hasn't been the first time at the property neither but my last stay is quite some time ago, back when I was a small child but already as fascinated by hotels as nowadays. Not related to our beloved Castel Fragsburg, the Hotel Castel in Tirolo, they both actually have got nothing in common - beside the views perhaps. It was the first weekend of June, the weather supposed to be superb, but guess what: it was totally disappointing and for the very first time it was raining when I went to South Tyrol. Well, you can't have everything I always tell myself when being seated in Business Class instead of First Class and that's what life is made of. Work hard on your dreams and you are going to achieve them. Driving over the windy Timmelsjoch - the most sophisticated alpine pass passing by quite a few Ferarris and Porsche, we arrived in what seemed to be a blossom of natural perfumes. You simply have got no choice than arrive by a convertible or motorcycle - in order to best inhale the scent of Dorf Tirol when you literally inhale every single one of the blooming flowers.
After a tour of approximately three hours, we drove into the front desk area of the Castel which is appointed as a roundabout. Stepping into the hall, we were greeted and interestingly there was not much to fill out before the tour started. While we saw a few guests holding a glass of rose (what seemed to be a welcome drink), we were not offered anything to refresh. The friendly lady showed us to the pool and the bar before we took the elevator to the top floor to see our generous Penthouse Suite. I always say if your stay is short - make the best out of it. Actually, the Penthouse Suite was once the biggest of all suites before the Dobitsch family (now operated by the second generation) refurbished the entire hotel and added even bigger suites below the outdoor pool. To be honest, I would still go for the Penthouse Suite instead of the new Weinberg Suites as the Jacuzzi on the terrace and the stunning views of the valley pretty much win the game.
We opened the door and to the left was a guest toilet with bidet and wash basin with the open layout walk-in wardrobe and plenty of space on the right side. A little bit ahead on the left was the bathroom that offered double vanities, walk-in shower as well as a bath tub and a towel heating rack. All toiletries were by a no-name brand and actually did not match the sophisticated ambiance and quality standard of the hotel. Maybe this could be changed by providing a better quality south Tyrolean brand or brands such as Etro or Ortigia to remain Italian. Towels were replaced during turn-down service and could be a little bit softer. In general I liked the appeal of the bathroom, the style with the wood and the good lightning. Before we walked into to the bedroom, we passed the living room that came along a corner dining table for four with a selection of welcome amenities like chocolate, fresh fruits and water plus a friendly note addressed to both of us (very attentive) and a sofa right next to an armchair opposite the television and minibar. While the minibar is at an extra charge, I was surprised to see a good selection of high quality products. Prices were adequate, though at these room rates, soft drinks could be given for free.
Next to the main highlight - the terrace - I fell in love with the cool bedroom that had a writing desk, another television along the high quality bed with lots of pillows. Of course the terrace was accessible from both, the bed- and living room. During the huge refurbishment of the Castel, the owners did not just renovate all rooms from inside, they also added chic outdoor furniture to upgrade the terraces of the rooms. I very much loved the lounge chairs under the glass that covered the entire terrace making it even adorable during our rainy day. Well, no need to mention that the Jacuzzi (it takes about 5-10 minutes to fill it) is the absolute highlight and we could have enjoyed it for another week. Since it has to be refilled for every guest, it felt very hygienic - if not economic. For turn-down service they offered to refill the drinking water and close the blinds. When we were all set inside the room, we were seeking to discover the spa area. Being a wellness hotel since the moment wellness became popular in South Tyrol, a stay at the Hotel Castel always something special.
As Cesar Ritz already said, it's all about the location! And Hotel Castel is no exception. I don't remember a hotel that is settled into the wineyards that perfect that it feels like the wineyards would look boring without it. The different levels and pools blending in the scents and colours of the nature, the palm trees in the garden bringing the Mediterranean into the Alps as well as the lightly round shapes that form the Hotel Castel's signature look. As soon as the sun came out for not even 10 minutes, I couldn't dare a dip into the lovely mosaic-tiled outdoor pool - and honestly could have stayed forever watching the mosaics becoming like the Amalfi Coast when the sun breezes through the heavy clouds and reflects the green of the mountains into the blue of the pool. This is one of the moments, a trip to South Tyrol comes up for all the events in the last weeks. When the sun waived good night for a less spectacular sunset (due to the clouds), I headed back to the indoor pool that unfortunately felt little too cold considering the refreshing outside temperatures. To all my surprise we remained the only guests at the pool from 6 to 8 pm, which was amazing as we could enjoy the entire sauna area on our own. There are quite a few amenities such as a herbal sauna, a steam room, a heated relaxation room with herbs along the classic Finnish sauna and panoramic relaxation room.
One of the better things about hotels in South Tyrol and the Alps in general is that hotels come with a half board, meaning they not just include breakfast but also a set menu for dinner. Hotel Castel is famous for their Michelin-starred Trenkerstube overseen by Mr Wieser - a celebrity chef in the area. So all guests of the hotel have the choice between the included half board menu and an a la carte or set menu at the Trenkerstube (there is an extra charge for this). Since the main menu in the half board area sounded nice, we decided to leave out the Michelin experience (also because we were scheduled to dine at a two Michelin starred restaurant the night after). Our initial plan was also to feature the dinner in a separate review but as the staff only served three of the four courses, there is actually no real difference to half board services at other luxury hotels around Hotel Castel.
Being Thursday, the starter consisted of a antipasti buffet that was spread over quite a few tables where the breakfast is normally served. From different kinds of salmon, various cold meat, scallops, prawns and little lobsters to fresh oysters. There was also a selection of vegetarian dishes. I have to admit that the quality - of the buffet and the entire dishes - were outstanding and beyond the regular half board standards in this area. For the middle course, the menu was built up that it looked like you can only choose one of the options which were clear ox soup with vegetables, a pasta dish or sorbet variation. I would have loved to have two of these dishes, but since the menu read like there has to be a choice, we hesitated. To be honest, the actual highlight waited for the main course which was a sea bass grilled in salt crust and prepared in front of the guest. Not just that the service is special but also the fact to serve an entire fish as a half board menu is just outstanding and makes a generous impression. Now I was happy I just ordered one Primi Piatti and didn't go for the Spaghetti, too. Even tough the fish alone would have been enough, we were treated..
That one was the one I was most eager to experience due to the recent renovation and the nonexistent pictures of the design outcome pre-stay. I normally want to know what to expect from a hotel and do these kinds of experiments very wisely. This time we had the choice between Bad Schörgau (Sarn Valley) and the Hotel Turm (Völs am Schlern). Both, Lukas and me went for the second one above the first due to the views and being inside the Dolomites area. Turns out that in the end it was the better decision as the weather changed and it was the most amazing sunshine we have had in these four days. Also, the views did not disappoint as we were overlooking nearly entire South Tyrol. Whereas the other option would have been a Michelin-starred dinner along a morning packed with spa treatments but no view. Since our plans changed and we scheduled the departure at 11 am - Hotel Turm was chosen wisely in regards to the spa treatments and lunch reservation at the other hotel.
Although the drive from Rosa Alpina began stunningly towards Val Gardena, the however rain passed our path half way. Interestingly we dried off when we finally arrived down in the valley. From there we were taking a less popular road towards Kastelruth (an amazing town with a soon completely renovated property, too). This road was simply OMG - I know South Tyrol pretty well, sometimes even better than locals, however, I was speechless of this views. I never saw the northernmost region of Italy from that point of view. You have the Etsch valley on your right and then you have the Seiser Alm massive - Dolomites at its best - on the left. From time to time you pass by another town until you continue to Völs. Right by the church in the heart of the town, you will find the Romantik Hotel Turm, a family-run boutique hotel that also claims to be a wellness property. There is no real indication that you are allowed to drive to the main entrance, but I think there is just no one that cares if you are allowed to or not (Hands up - it’s Italy after all so regulations aren’t taken too strictly, and that’s why I love that place). We parked our motorcycle in front of the main entrance the entire night and it didn’t seem to be an issue at all.
Check-in was alright, having handed over the IDs and being shown to the room - we missed a welcome drink as well as a tour of the hotel, especially since it was our first time at the hotel. Our room was on the first floor overlooking the church and the valley with a balcony that did not (maybe yet cause it looks like it is planned) any separation to the neighbors which was really awkward. Whenever we have a great evening we hang around on the terrace for a late-night cigar and another bottle so even, in this case, there was no possibility for the neighbor to not be disturbed. I mean ours didn’t seem to care about us so it was a fine situation but I would not want that someone can glimpse into my room at night. Also, I found it odd that there was no furniture on the spacious balconies, so we had to remove the armchairs from inside - again no problem but I can imagine that from time to time the floor won’t look as nice as without having to move the furniture from inside. On the other side, the beds look really nice as they are four-poster and come with quite a selection of pillows. While Lukas slept well, I felt that it was extremely hot inside the room so I opened the window a bit and within minutes it was alright.
In general, the room layout is open-plan so that it seems to be bigger than it actually is. The toilet is in a separated room with a bidet and totally new, while the shower is in the corner overlooking the town square. At first, I didn’t register the black-out curtain in the shower so I might have attracted a few odd looks from downstairs, at least Lukas was clever enough not to share his personal area with the town. Short interruption by a bathroom expert: the pressure was alright with a slight room for improvement, the hand shower could have an installation to hold it, otherwise I liked the romantic light in the shower and the hotel branded wine-based toiletries were also better than expected for a four-star hotel. I loved the design of the vanity desk as well as the two armchairs that were positioned towards the television. Plenty of wardrobe space came along with a minibar trunk where a selection of four wines was placed along the usual minibar items and a few magazines - I guess the trunk also serves as a writing desk.
Let’s proceed with the main highlight of the hotel which is the wellness area with a heated indoor- and outdoor pool. Actually, the spa came up to the expectations and the salt cave is really as impressive as on the pictures. Just lying there and relaxing in a room full of candles and water is really one-of-kind. The sauna area looks very authentic, too and everything seemed to be in good condition. To all my surprise we were the only ones in the sauna area and also once we headed to the pool where we made ourselves comfortable on two chic lounge chairs. By the time I woke up from the afternoon nap, the entire poolside was occupied and people seemed to have returned from the daily activity or hike. One of the things I liked most was the black tiles of the pool that gave the feeling to be swimming in an Aman pool and that view of the Rosengarten tough, I mean I couldn’t say this location didn’t impress me. While everything was good, it was very disappointing to see they do not provide any towels in the entire wellness area beside very small sauna towels. You are required to bring them along with your pool bag (there are two separate towels for the shower), however, we didn’t see them at first so I went to the spa reception where they immediately provided us with two pool towels and all was well.
Another thing Lukas and me were extremely excited for was the Aperitivo. Two glasses of Prosecco were ordered and a few hors-d'oeuvres came along with the typical Italian drink - just like it should be down here in Bella Italia. After our pre-dinner drinks, we had a seat on the romantic terrace of the hotel with an amazing view. There comes the biggest mistake of the stay: while we have booked half board, nobody ever informed us of what menu would be included or not. So I went for the creative menu while Lukas took the traditional one. In the end turns out that we have to pay 37 euros for the difference of the creative menu. This incident makes me as a guest slightly upset as I was never informed of the charge nor what the half board would be. Normally this would be a reason to not give the hotel a second visit. Lack of communication with the customer but charging rates that have never been communicated is really annoying. There is nothing wrong if the staff informs that there is a half board menu but you can choose whatever you want for a surcharge of (be specific). Interestingly our server even told us that we can choose whatever we feel we want to set up our own menu. While Lukas was all fine, I felt cheated. Anyway, the food was really good and we were even served a selection of South Tyrol’s typical Strudel as well as a cheese buffet in the stunning wine cellar. I started my menu with a variation of Foie Gras along with a herb soup - both were excellent and very tasty. Obviously, we went for a South Tyrolean wine that tasted just perfect in this nice setting. For the main course, we had venison and duck, a nice selection for an Italian restaurant.
I was impressed by the idea to serve the Strudel in a separate area and to turn the dinner into an experience where the guests have to walk. In addition to the main dessert, you had the choice between quite a few excellent sweet wines from South Tyrol. Later we climbed down the wine cellar but honestly did not have any space for cheese. A compliment to the owner who is still working in the kitchen and doing an excellent job being one of the region’s finest half board restaurants (or a la carte in my case). If they would have handled the pricing situation differently service would have scored better, otherwise, they were attentive. On the other side, the bar team was a blast with extremely good knowledge and great attitude. They arranged everything for a late night drink on our room balcony.
South Tyrol is an extremely pretty place. So pretty that the demand for hotels nearly doubled within the last years. It‘s not that it hasn‘t always been pretty but more likely it is one of the safest places to travel and thanks to its massive amount of privacy a place that is not just frequented by the posh New York crowd. Many hotels are now extending their buildings and add about 100 percent more rooms. To all the disadvantage comes that nearly most of the hotels in South Tyrol look identical. Here comes the Rosa Alpina. Being lead by the Pizzinini Family, this place is a total exception - in all terms. Speaking of design, the Hotel & Spa Rosa Alpina has always been on my bucket list due to the distinctive and matching interior design. It‘s one of those hotels you just want to see to be sure there are still very excellent properties that pay attention to style and the surroundings. Situated between the two famous ski resorts Cortina d‘Ampezzo and Corvara in Badia, San Cassiano might be less known to ski tourists than it is to Gourmets. With one three-Michelin-starred, one two-Michelin-starred and a one-Michelin starred restaurant, it is actually the smallest inhabited town in the world with six Michelin stars.
Obviously, Rosa Alpina is home to the three-Michelin-starred restaurant and it is also fair to say that it is the only member of the Leading Hotels of the World in town. During our scenic drive over multiple stunning passes (the most amazing was Karerpass tough), we arrived at the main entrance of the hotel at around 5 pm. Unfortunately, a group just headed towards check-in and we thought we had to wait for quite some time, however, the Front Desk Manager winked us over to do a separate check-in. This was very attentive and the young trainee did a good job in checking us in, however, we missed the idea of an easy welcoming drink eg refreshing Prosecco or at least refreshing towels. Anyways we handed over the IDs and were shown towards our suite. Located on the second floor, we were allocated a spacious and quite new Loft Suite named „the dreamer“. We both, Lukas and me, fell in love with the name as well as the suite itself.
Just right at the entree was a walk-in wardrobe with a safe, then followed some more wardrobe space on the left side, a minibar with some snacks (at an extra price), the writing desk with a television and Bose sound system just opposite the vast double bed that actually was king size. Moving along the open-plan living room with super comfy seating area, there was also an open fireplace along another seating option and a bathtub on the other side overlooking the Dolomites as well as a Hammam cabin between the bed- and bathroom. A huge window front opened onto the spacious balcony with a seating option for two. The bathroom was very spacious and bright with a huge walk-in shower, double vanities, a separated toilet and bidet along an array of guest toiletries such as toothbrushes and paste, shaving kit and two full sets of hotel-branded toiletries - which were not just generous in size (125ml per bottle) but also amazing of smell and quality. To sum it up the best hotel-branded toiletries I have tried and one of the coolest suites we have stayed in so far.
Since we already had commitments for the dinner, we weren‘t able to enjoy the famous three-Michelin-starred St. Hubertus restaurant. In case we would have had the time for a dinner in-house, I think I would have gone for the recently reinvented Grill Restaurant anyways as I loved the idea of having a cool diner somewhere in the Dolomites. Actually, the menu reminded me a lot of our dinners at the Italian outpost of Four Seasons Prague. In general, I had the feeling that the owners are two well-traveled hotel experts that put in all the currently demanded ideas and concepts. Just one example is the fact that time has passed for the poor quality toiletries or it‘s not the guest‘s duty to call the front desk and ask for toothbrushes when escaping for a weekend getaway. I mean seriously, you are unpacking the Ferarri or grabbing the Harley so why the hell would you have space for the utilities you shall get at a „Leading Hotel of the World“ anyway? Another new concept applied to Rosa Alpina is the dine-around idea with half board restaurants becoming less trendy.
Why would you fly to South Tyrol if you would have to dine at the same restaurant for one week? At Rosa Alpina, you can decide between the Grill Restaurant, the Fondue outpost or the three-Michelin-starred St Hubertus. Why else would you go to the Northernmost part of Italy beside the food and scenery? Of course, the wellness and spa areas. Nearly every South Tyrolean hotel has a sauna or a pool, but it‘s the Pizzinini family that offers one spa for adults only and one family spa. While the pool is bigger for families, the adults-only area impresses with a stunning design being recently opened. A chic indoor pool is located between the seamlessly perfect relaxation area and sauna area with a biological sauna, a Finnish sauna as well as a steam bath next to the cold tub and bar just opposite the waiting area that looked just as photogenic as a cover of the Architectural Digest. When an originally scheduled wellness time of one hour turns into two, it‘s a sign of how relaxed we felt at this spa. Actually, I learned that a perfectly styled spa makes such a big difference in the relaxation outcome.
Right in time for dinner, we asked if we could call a taxi for the reservation at La Siriola. I was totally impressed when the Front Desk Manager (she was extremely attentive) offered us to drive up the five minutes in Rosa Alpina‘s uber-luxurious Audi limousine. We went down and were immediately driven to the restaurant. There was no charge and it was one of the coolest hotel cars we have used. This point goes to Rosa Alpina for exceeding my expectations. When we came back to the suite after an amazing dinner, we were simply speechless as two hiking bags and caps were waiting for us as a farewell gift. Sometimes I have these exact expectations of a Leading Hotel - this time I was looking forward to a heavenly bed (along a flawless service). Rosa Alpina came up to this expectation and finally I had one of the best sleeps since quite a time. We have kept the doors onto the terrace open and even tough the main road is theoretically a bit below the hill, we didn't hear anything besides a few birds.
Having slept like a baby, Lukas and me were so ready to explore the breakfast buffet. When I saw the selection of Italian ham behind a bar to be cut freshly for each guest, my expectations were exceeded. Before even having a look onto the vast selection of sweet dishes (that didn't just look stunning but tasted even better), I was flashed by the egg dish. Even tough they didn't have Eggs Benedict, the scrambled eggs were flawless as the service by (what I think was) the Maitre. Needless to say that the Cappuccino tasted as good as on the Amalfi Coast. I have tried the local cheeses and also the salmon and I have to admit, the quality of the products was simply excellent. Honestly, one of the best breakfast buffets in Italy - just like at Hotel Santa Caterina Amalfi or Principe di Savoia. Again, Rosa Alpina showed it's not about the amount of products but it really depends on the quality of the offer.
Weekend getaways are always such a thing. Being based in Vienna, options are plenty with destinations such as Lisbon, the Balearic Islands, Greece or Tel Aviv - just to name the ones most demanded in 2018. But when you did so many crazy things already, this looks like an option everyone can do. So well, why not taking advantage of Austrian Airlines’ recently launched light fare to North America with only hand luggage? I mean if they start selling a no-baggage tariff there might be a reason behind it. On a scale from 0 to 10 how crazy is it to go to Chicago for a weekend trip? And a weekend means leaving Europe on Friday at 11 am and going back from the US for Europe on Sunday afternoon. Since I was totally into the idea to get a hop over the lake in Business Class, I booked this trip knowing I wouldn't get much sleep. What I needed was a solid luxury hotel that isn’t too much American mainstream. Interestingly, Chicago’s hotel scene is no short in cool hotel concepts, however, I always wanted to stay at a hotel designed by no one else than Ian Schrager.
That’s when I booked a room at the Ambassador Hotel (formerly known as the Public Chicago) in order to feel the cool spirit and being impressed by a new design and interior style. Pre-departure I got some recommendations from our US Expert Vivian, who couldn't tell me much about the location so I was hesitating if the location of the Ambassador Hotel is good enough for the short stay. Obviously, I wanted to make the most out of this short time in Chicago. Anyways the biggest of all problems was Chicago traffic. It took me an hour and a few minutes from the O’Hare Airport to the amazingly located Hotel Ambassador. To all my surprise, the hotel is actually located in the third row to Lake Michigan and the promenade could be reached in under a minute walking. Next surprise was the complimentary bike rental by the hotel - even though I did not manage to find out if it is prohibited to use the pedestrian way in the US. Anyways, riding a bike didn’t seem to be as fashionable as taking an Uber or Lyft here.
Check-in went extremely smooth and the staff handed the keys over to me in under a minute - welcome to the birthplace of efficient check-ins. My room was on the 14th floor (in total there are 17) and I had one that was overlooking the John Hancock Center as well as the Four Seasons - so basically it was overlooking central Michigan Avenue. At this point, I have to say that I totally loved the layout of the room as it felt unique even though it was similar to any hotel room in the world. All the design finishings and lights made the room very beautiful and bright. The cool carpet and wood panels gave the interior design a perfect touch. Obviously, the center of the room was the huge king size bed that was extremely comfortable (well, after coming from Europe your day is even longer so, of course, I slept like a baby). There was a writing desk in front of the window with power sockets as well as a chic armchair overlooking the skyline. Further amenities include a television, huge minibar as well as a convenient in-room shop where items like caps, Marvis toothpaste, and further cool amenities could be purchased. I really loved this stunning idea and would also include it in a hotel if I ever operate one ;).
While the room looked totally new and stylish, you could actually see the original roots of the hotel due to the shower-tub combo (although I would not use the low bathtubs) - anyways the white bathroom fitted perfectly into the design in the end and was not a little issue for me. The toiletries were by Maison Marigela and smelled quite refreshing. As usual in a solid five-star-hotel in the US, the toilet was not separated and there were limited amenities provided. Since the hotel sold Marvis toothpaste and a shaving kit, I assume there is no such thing as complimentary guest products like a toothbrush or shaving kit. In the end, I hesitated to ask and unpacked one I took from the luxury stay in Capri. Housekeeping didn't arrive for a turndown service (I wouldn't have expected one at a four-star rated property) but since I was staying in the room on my own I was fine with the two bath towels. The following day, the replenished the towels of course and even added another set of toiletries which I think was very attentive.
Since the main purpose was to explore Chicago, I didn't plan to spend much time in the room - however, in the end, I spent quite some time digesting the amazing skyline views. I left the room after I took a post-flight shower and changed into summer fit clothes - hello 90 degrees Fahrenheit. On the bike driving through this huge city, I felt like the flight was days ago and could immediately start enjoying the city's architecture and its many shops along Michigan Avenue. I passed the river to have a look under the Cloud Gate in Millennium Park before I drove to the Navy Pier for a real US beef and fries along a Chicago brewed beer on the shore of Lake Michigan before I drove into the sunset filled Goethe street which is filled with the city's most picturesque luxury condominiums and the Ambassador Hotel. Well, the location wasn't Four Seasons or Peninsula like, but at a third of their rates, you get a chic hotel in one of the most sophisticated areas of town a bit off the bustling Michigan Avenue.
On the next day, I did some more sightseeing and then queued up for a prime seat at the Signature Lounge at the 95th on the John Hancock Center and then spent the rest of the afternoon sipping Rum Punch and some other local drinks to watch the sun set over the capital of Illinois. Since I wasn't in the mood for the fanciest dinner in town, I headed to a local diner serving one of the best spare ribs I have had in ages. The rest of the evening was spent in a Chicago Classic: Andy's Jazz Club. Another sleep later, I headed to the 3Arts Club Cafe for a late breakfast (note breakfast is generally never included in US Hotels) and it was amazing. Also, if you are traveling on a lower budget head to the building (Restoration Hardware Chicago), bring a drink and walk up to the rooftop. It's not even one of the most stylish rooftops in the world, it's also without service meaning nobody rushes you while you enjoy the orange sky slowly meeting the skyscrapers of this bustling town. The following morning, I asked for a late check-out which was granted without further discussions and free of charge so I had a quick shower after another walk and then changed into the business attire in order to arrive in style back in Europe. A few glasses of wine, a delicious four-course dinner as well as a breakfast on my Austrian Airlines flight later, I found myself in the office at 9 am. That was one hell of a weekend.
I was guest of the Hotel Ambassador Chicago, however all above written expresses our own opinion and has not been influenced.
Somewhere in between a weekend escape to Chicago and a reunion with my best friend coming back from South America, there was an extended weekend thanks to a bank holiday. Lucky me that I am based in Vienna for the spring, I am also able to benefit from Austria‘s many bank holidays, whereas Lausanne is a working city full of stress and not even a single bank holiday all over the most wonderful season of the year. Well, not debating why Vienna is the number one city in the world to live in - it‘s all about the weekend getaways. Flying for your smile was never easier when you work near the airport for six months, so obviously it took me 30 minutes from the work desk to seat 6D en route to Milano Malpensa airport. Yes, that one airport that is one of the furthest city airports in the world. Having touched down, I was grabbing a Fiat 500 convertible to fulfill my Italian Dream. My colleague Niklas joined me for the trip and soon afterward we were driving down the ridiculously expensive highway direction sea. Having passed Parma and La Spezia, we were approaching the pretty seaside town of Forte dei Marmi, what seemed to be the Hamptons of Italy.
Driving down the driveway of Augustus Hotel, we were peaceful for a moment inhaling the pretty structure and gardens. Parking the car was easy and within a minute we were greeted by the Guest Relations Manager of the property who checked us in and took us on a tour of the hotel. Maybe we skipped the welcome drink (that would have suited just perfectly) and were shown around the hotel before the friendly lady in black suit accompanied us to the beautiful and recently renovated room. Even though the hotel is still the same from outside, it has been completely renovated and now offers state-of-the-art technologies, better WiFi coverage, and brand new bathrooms. The only thing reminding of the good old days is the air conditioning which seemed not to work during our stay or maybe it was due to the cold temperatures at night so opening the window did the work. That‘s one of the huge advantages when staying at a resort in Italy - you can sleep with open doors and don‘t need to worry about anything.
Our Deluxe Room had two extremely comfortable single beds with excellent bedding and linens, a walk-in wardrobe with a big safe, a writing desk plus a sofa that could be turned into a third bed as well as an armchair and table in the center of the room. There was a massive terrace with dining table as well as two lounge chairs overlooking the pretty gardens. On the other side of the room was the spacious and light-filled bathroom with double vanities, Jacuzzi tub overlooking the gardens, toilet, and bidet as well as a separate shower. All toiletries were branded by upscale Florence-based perfumer Lorenzo Villoresi and perfectly matched the surroundings. Housekeeping was coming to the room twice so we always had fresh towels and new toiletries. The highlight was the balcony in the bathroom just because it is nice waking up, getting fresh in the bath while enjoying the sound of the birds as the wind breezes through the door. The first thing you realize is the smell of pine trees and freshly brewed coffee from the restaurant terrace right below. I mean getting up was harder.
Once we were all set, we changed into the beach outfit and were again shown the way to the beach club by the guest relations manager. Actually, Hotel Augustus is split up into the hotel part consisting of a few villas and the Nave building and the Lido part - an old villa that once belonged to the founders of Fiat who made Forte Dei Marmi to the celebrity hotspot it is nowadays. So you can consider Hotel Augustus as the birthplace of the Tuscan Riviera jetset. A hidden tunnel leads from the Augustus Lido (which is across the street from Hotel Augustus) under the main street to the amazing beach club. Tommy Hilfiger himself couldn't have done a better job - the design of the Augustus Beach is just perfectly matching the look and feel of this pretty place, frequented by A-list celebrities throughout the summer season. The heart of the beach club is the Bambaissa restaurant with its bar as well as the pretty changing cabins along the heated saltwater pool.
All staff members at the Augustus beach were extremely friendly! No idea if it‘s because their workplace is one of the prettiest in the world or they love their job. The hostess welcoming us was so friendly and always remembered our names - it was fun talking to her. Also, the lady allocating the cabana was super-friendly and even tried to find the missing ball in order for us to play beach Pingpong. When we selected our cabana we were impressed as it‘s the first time we had this kind of beach setup. Inside the cabana were two chairs, a dining chair, two sun beds along with a table that could be locked so you can stow all your personal belongings and don‘t need to worry should you fall asleep. Some people may be disturbed by the beach vendors that even pass Augustus Beach - since it is an area belonging to the public - should consider it as a normal thing. For me, it‘s part of these huge beaches and since they are not offensive at all, I was absolutely fine with the three passing. As soon as we were ready to sunbathe, another friendly staff member arrived and asked if we would like to have a drink. So before we could even enjoy the sun, we had a lovely talk with the waiter who brought us a chilled bottle of sparkling water.
You can guess it already, I was so impressed by the design of the club that I wanted to have lunch on the terrace of the Bambaissa restaurant. Therefore we also wrote a piece about the restaurant H E R E ! After lunch, I dipped into the Mediterranean sea for the first time of the year (it was 20 May) and was totally refreshed when I left the beach club for the spa where I scheduled my massage at 5 pm. A very genuine lady was welcoming me and showing the way towards the treatment room. I received a 60-minutes full body massage that was much better than expected at the beginning. She focused on all pain areas and even refreshed the feet after the treatment which was a nice touch. As usual at these exclusive holiday resorts, the treatments are quite pricey but the quality is still good and no bad surprises are to be expected.
Of course, it was time for an Aperitivo and I decided to take advantage of the hotel's complimentary shuttle into the heart of Forte dei Marmi. What's better than to have a seat at one of the several bars on the main squares, order a Spritz and being served a tray of hors-d'oeuvres while you can just sit back and start people-watching. Forte dei Marmi boasts interesting views from fashionable young crowds, Italian entrepreneurs and high-profit CEOs to millionaires in their best ages with pretty accompanying. Linen and yacht-style is definitely an appropriate attire not to look underdressed in one of the prettiest seaside towns of Tuscany. Both evenings, I had dinner at the hotel's main restaurant which I think is a great opportunity during low season as the town tends to desert out in the late hours whereas during the summer season there's party until the early morning.
Your guess is correct, I didn't manage to party "Forte" since I was tired of swimming, sunbathing and cycling around the Tuscan Riviera already. Well, I was rewarded with a breakfast that was a solid 10 out of 10 - even for Italian standards. Spread over two rooms it was definitely one of the biggest breakfast buffets I have seen in a luxury hotel in Europe with everything you could dream of - literally. The only downside was that the Eggs Benedict were charged extra at 10 euros and before I could even order one to at least get a feeling for the breakfast dishes, I found myself completely full having had Focaccia, best Prosciutto, and fresh Mozzarella. I was also happy to find homemade jams, warm pancakes, scrambled eggs, a vast selection of fruits and amazing cakes and sweet dishes - yes I could easily go back for the breakfast. Check-out was without any hassle and in general, the stay at Augustus Forte dei Marmi was a totally great 9 out of 10. I came home extremely relaxed and even managed to get a nice tan. A purely successful weekend so to say.
We were guests of the Hotel Augustus and therefore hosted for the weekend. Nevertheless all above written expresses our own opinion and has not been influenced.
The Charming luxury lodge was our last stop in the Argentinan part of our 5-weeks South American trip. Located on the lovely lake Nahuel Haupi and just a ten minutes drive from San Carlos de Bariloche, the hotel is directly situated on the lakefront with an outstanding view. The whole city of San Carlos de Bariloche is very colonial and remembers of a small city in Canada or Switzerland and actually, the whole interior style of the hotel is matching this area perfectly. The small wooden suites and wonderfully designed gardens are fitting in this stunning nature just as perfect as they could. Staying in this place is like a time journey to a romantic place during the colonization of Argentina.
When you think about Argentina and tourism you probably think about the capital Buenos Aires, which is one of the most beautiful cities we have visited with a unique and very cool vibe, and maybe you think about Mendoza the wine area close to Chile, because you’ve read that on one of you’re wine bottles. Some will think of the Iguazú falls close to Brasil. After all, it is definitely worth to visit the Patagonian part, which is not only consisting of the world famous Perito Moreno glacier or perhaps Ushuaia where the boats to the Arctic depart. There is also Bariloche which is mostly known for skiing holidays in South America (you’ll probably think skiing??? In South America???) but yes skiing in the Andes is probably a unique experience, too. However, Bariloche has so many things to offer in summer as well, just as hiking, biking trips or white water rafting.
We arrived via the main street, worth driving because you have so many amazing viewpoints and stops close to the lake, wanting to take a picture of every side of the lake. The wonderful blue colors with the big mountains in the back - heaven for all mountain and nature lovers. When we reached the property it was just after Valentine’s Day so everything was decorated with hearts and love symbols which made this place even more like in a fairy tale. We were warmly welcomed and the nice young guy at the front desk who also accompanied us to our private lodge.
Our private spa suite was a twin bedroom room with a full lake view and a small wooden terrace in front. All rooms are obviously available with a big king size bed, too. The room was matching perfectly to the rest of the hotel and designed like an old Swiss chalet with lots of dark wood. The room was separated into three parts, in the first, there were the two beds, with a lovely view over the lake out of bed. The second part consists of a walk-in closet and a small kitchen and the third and best part was the private in-room spa with a huge shower which could be used as a steam bath with several flavors and colors to choose too, a sauna which we used every day at least once. All the parts were super easy to adjust. And the highlight of the room was the big bathtub with integrated jacuzzi and a full lake view obviously.
Right underneath our room were the hotel's pool and spa area. An outdoor pool which is heated all year round to 25-28 degrees Celsius and two jacuzzis where you could rest and enjoy the wonderful scenery after a day of hiking, rafting, sightseeing or just a wonderful day of relaxation in this lovely hotel. Also, they do have a public panorama sauna. The first day we visited the city of Bariloche and strolled through the city. Definitely worth to see are all the little chocolate stores - another point why they call this place “Switzerland of South America”. Mostly they offer a great variety of delicious sweets.
In the evening we decided to go to the Kunstmann brewery which is very close to the hotel. You can try the homemade handcrafted Argentinian beers which do have a German background. They also do have a German-inspired restaurant. Both, beer and restaurant are recommendable. The second day we started relaxed again with an amazing breakfast. Starting with a selection of freshly prepared eggs, of course, we chose our favorites: eggs Benedict. The breakfast buffet is not too big but offers a great variety of bread, cheese and fresh hams, Cornflakes, and mueslis, as well as an amazing fruit selection. Obviously, you have to try a hot chocolate. At least you never know when you return to Bariloche! From our point of view, the Charming Lodge is well worth the trip and a stay at this little piece of heaven on earth.
We were exlcusively hosted by Charming Lodge however all above written expresses our own opinion based on our personal experience.
Local design paired with the simplicity of Japanese elements
Only 49 rooms making it an intimate boutique hotel
Secluded infinity pool exclusively for Nobu guests
All-rounder resort: Several restaurants, beach-club, huge gym, Spain’s best tennis club and private access to Marbella’s most prestigious night club
Five years after the first Nobu Hotel opened in Las Vegas, Chef Nobu Matsuhisa and co-owner Robert De Niro just opened their third property in Europe. Built inside the well-known Hotel Puerto Romano, Nobu Marbella currently offers only 49 guest rooms and suites, although a total of 81 rooms are planned to be under operation by the end of the year.
The hotel winds around ‘La Plaza’ which is often referred as the ‘heart and soul’ of the hotel. Surrounded by several restaurants and bars, it is the place to be in Marbella when the sun sets, and a picture-perfect Andalusian styled square the next morning.
After a quick, 35 minutes’ drive from Málaga Airport we arrived during a sunny morning at the small entrance, just right off Marbella’s main road where our car and luggage were quickly taken care of. The lobby itself consists only of two check-in desks though the living room called “Nobu Lounge” is right next to it, featuring several couches, a coffee machine and a small bathroom.
As our room was not ready yet, we headed to the Nobu Restaurant and got a first impression of what “Nobu” really means – attentive service, tranquil atmosphere and high-quality products. It was even better knowing, that we will have more opportunities throughout our stay to try more of their individually created dishes. Later that day, it was finally time to explore our room. We had generously been upgraded to a Studio Suite which could not have designed in any better way. The simple design had been perfectly adjusted with local touches though it is probably easier to let pictures speak for themselves.
The generously sized marble bathroom featured a rain-forest shower, a huge bathtub, a double-sink and Natura Blissé amenities. What really stood out, was the service though. We were in our room from 6pm to 8pm and several goodies were brought up. An Aperol cocktail to start the evening? Why not! The second time it knocked on our door, we were presented some delicious pralines and the third time a small bottle of Sake. (It’s almost tempting to stay in your room and not go out ;-) )
The next morning, we headed back to the Nobu Restaurant where you have small, yet high quality buffet and a few, “Nobu-styled” a la carte options. Nevertheless, it was of course still possible to get classic dishes like Egg Benedict or Pancakes. The buffet consisted of fresh bread and sweet temptations provided by Celicioso (their famous gluten-free café), cold-cuts, fresh salmon and all kinds of fresh fruit, nuts, cereal and local treats. As already mentioned, service was attentive and extremely personal. They remembered our drink choices after the first morning and constantly encouraged us to try more of their local dishes.
While you can use all three pools from the Puerto Romano hotel, the highlight is of course the Nobu Pool which can only be accessed by guests of the Nobu Hotel and therefore guarantees a peaceful and quiet environment. Drinks and small bites can be ordered right at the pool bar and the staff is there, for everything you may need. (like sunscreen… Asking for a friend ;-) )
What really impressed us, and I already mentioned it above, is the variety of activities possible. Keep in mind, that the hotel still has less than 50 rooms and you can access the huge tennis club “Tennis Brothers Marbella” (owned and also frequently used by the Djokovic family ), a Six Senses Spa, a private beach club (probably open from June onwards) and the famous open-air nightclub “La Suite”.