Thursday, March 31 07:23 PM
The new Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong, kicked things up a notch when it opened this week...well, quite a few notches. The world's highest hotel towers more than 1,600 feet above the city, stretching from the 102nd to the 118th floor in Kowloon's International Commerce Centre.
In the 312 rooms, luxe textures are featured in the leather headboards and in velvet armchairs arranged around the floor-to-ceiling windows. The 10,000-square-foot spa, five restaurants, and an open-air bar and pool with a 2,100-square-foot ceiling LED screen on the 118th floor are as over-the-top as the views of Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong Island, and the surrounding mountains. Welcome to the high life.
Photo: Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton
Wednesday, March 30 07:19 PM
Anyone who has seen a James Bond movie knows the appeal of a vintage skiff, its buffed wood deck glinting in the sunlight as it darts through some bustling Italian waterway. Now a new handcrafted vessel by boutique boat maker Caribiana has brought that retro romance into the 21st century.
The slick Caribiana 23-foot Sea Skiff ($95,000) has the timeless buttery leather upholstery, bronze hardware, and teak and mahogany woodwork, but there's also a powerful four-stroke engine and a custom-colored hull. Each craft is personally delivered with a case of Champagne and Steuben toasting flutes--because a boat this handsome should be christened in style.
Photo: Courtesy of Caribiana
Tuesday, March 29 07:16 PM
There's nothing quite like eavesdropping on an interesting story. Electric Literature's new Broadcastr app plugs you into some really juicy tales, making it both socially acceptable and useful to "listen in" while traveling.
The free app uses a geolocator to find and play stories about your location, anywhere in the world. Some come from famous writers and comedians such as Michael Showalter, some from oral history organizations, including the project run by the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. But most are insights from local folks who really know the neighborhood you're in. And if you have a good tale to tell, you can submit it, too.
It's like having a tour guide, a friend, and a window into all the little heartbreaks and triumphs that make up the life of a destination.
Photo: Courtesy of Broadcastr
Monday, March 28 07:09 PM
If a tropical resort built on a cocoa plantation sounds like someone has dipped into your wildest dreams, we're just about to make your day. St. Lucia's newest arrival is Hotel Chocolat, the brainchild of two British chocolatiers. Go on, pinch yourself.
On this 140-acre, 18th-century plantation, you can learn the entire chocolate-making process, helping to harvest and roast the beans and, of course, taste the finished product. Or you could simply retire to one of the six cocoa- and cream-colored cottages with gauze-draped four-poster beds, ocean-facing chaise longues, and open-air rain showers. (Eight additional villas will open in October.) The restaurant takes its inspiration from the hotel's crop, with dishes like yellowfin tuna with cacao pesto. Talk about a delicious getaway.
Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Chocolat
Friday, March 25 07:02 PM
Blizzards and ice storms and snowpocalypses are giving way to warmth, and with that, the patios and gardens of New York City will fill with sunseekers. The newest alfresco fun? La Birreria, a 5,000-square-foot beer garden set to open later this spring on the roof of the Batali/Bastianich foodtopia, Eataly, in the Flatiron District.
Copper vats will turn out microbrews created by U.S. sudsmeister Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head fame and Italians Teo Musso of Birra Baladin and Leonardo Di Vincenzo of Birra del Borgo. The unfiltered, naturally carbonated brews will be hand-pulled through traditional beer engines and paired with pizza and sausages. And there's a retractable roof, should Old Man Winter decide to make a last-ditch appearance.
Photo: Courtesy of Samantha Decker
Thursday, March 24 06:58 PM
The upcoming royal wedding may have everyone's hearts aflutter, but the real flap should be over the new London Syon Park: This Waldorf Astoria hotel, sitting on 200 acres on the outskirts of the city, has its very own butterfly house.
The 1,000 winged lovelies in the lobby were inspired by the original butterfly house once located on the grounds. Outside, manicured gardens mix with sprawling parkland, where guests can play croquet, try their hand at archery, fish for trout, or picnic among rare flowers. Famed chef Lee Streeton (formerly of Brown's Hotel) draws inspiration and ingredients from the gardens for the British fare served at the hotel restaurant, The Capability (named for Capability Brown, who designed and landscaped the park in the mid 18th century). Decor in the 137 guest rooms and suites marries modern and old-world luxury--marble and limestone are complemented by flat screens and Apple technology. In other words, it's a royal indulgence.
Photo: Courtesy of Waldorf Astoria
Wednesday, March 23 06:53 PM
What with all the fees for checked bags these days, the name of the carry-on game is generally as-big-as-you-can-get-away-with. Of course, once you touch down, you're stuck walking around with the world's largest handbag. But not if the design duo behind Haerfest have anything to do with it.
New York-based brothers Tim and Dan Joo have created a classic soft-leather and cotton shoulder bag (in black, navy, and grey) that folds completely flat ($380). Slip it into your roll-on or into that bottomless pit you're passing off as your personal item, and you'll be able to unfold it on arrival and sightsee footloose and backache-free.
Photo: Courtesy of Haerfest
Tuesday, March 22 06:51 PM
Children are our future, and if you treat them well--perhaps with a luxury cruise in the South Pacific--you'll be surprised by how they lead the way. At least that's the idea behind Paul Gauguin Cruises' new ten-night sailing headed up by Jean-Michel (son of Jacques) Cousteau.
Cousteau aims to get your kids on board with conservation by giving them an up-close introduction to the wonders of French Polynesia. Lectures aimed at both parents and children describe the ecology of the Society Islands and the Tuamotus, and the explorer leads dives to legendary spots like Rangiroa, home of the world's second-largest lagoon. Because what kid (or kid at heart) wouldn't want to protect the ocean after coming face-to-face with a playful dolphin?
Paul Gauguin Cruises' Jean-Michel Cousteau Oceanography Sailings, May 25 and June 29, 2011, $4,447 (double occupancy).
Photo: Courtesy of Paul Gauguin Cruises
Monday, March 21 06:44 PM
Lots of hotels try to up the luxury ante with amenities you never knew you needed, but the decadence of having a private place to float and chill still tops our list of favorite perks. And few hotels do plunge pools with as much style as the new Casa de La Flora in mellow little Khao Lak, Thailand.
Each of the property's 36 cubelike villas opens onto a private ebony-bottomed plunge pool, obscured from view by lush hedges or stone walls. The angular structures, with minimal mod interiors and Apple in-room technology, pay homage to midcentury Brutalist architecture. But we fail to see anything brutal in those floor-to-ceiling Andaman Sea views.
Photo: Courtesy of Design Hotels
Friday, March 18 06:40 PM
In a destination as beautiful as Bali, it's little wonder that traditional architecture blurs the lines between indoors and out. The W Retreat & Spa, opened earlier this month in Seminyak, finds inspiration in that tradition. Sea breezes whistle through the open-air lobby; in the 237 guest rooms, floor-to-ceiling glass walls, please-touch green stingray headboards, and mother-of-pearl panels allow for constant reminders of the surrounding beach and jungle.
The hotel's scene-y collection of restaurants and bars includes the three-story beachfront WooBar, which is open to the elements, while Fire puts the focus on an open kitchen. But don't worry--the resort has been careful to add plenty of lush coves and hidden corners, because some things shouldn't be on show for all to see.
Photo: Courtesy of W Hotels Worldwide
Thursday, March 17 06:35 PM
Today, your average American is gearing up to throw back a green beer (or four) in honor of St. Patrick's Day. But when it comes to drinking, you've always been above average. So we suggest that you celebrate like the real Irish do, with serious alcohol and people who know how to drink it.
Sure, the new Wood & Vine in Hollywood isn't an Irish bar, but that's exactly its selling point on this most green of days. Instead of elbowing through the amateur masses, you can sip one of the bar's small-batch whiskeys from the comfort of a buttery leather armchair. And you can't help but find the craic among the pretty people who flock here for truffled duck-fat fries. Good food, good friends, good drink. Just as St. Patty would have wanted it.
Photo: Courtesy of Wood & Vine
Wednesday, March 16 06:31 PM
Sure, your digital can shoot 100 photographs in a minute, zoom the length of a football field, and store weeks of vacation shots. But does it have style? Our new favorite camera does.
The Fujifilm FinePix X100 has a body James Bond would be proud of, all pebbly leatherlike finishes and retro '50s dials. But it's much more than a pretty face. The X100 has the same size sensor as your average digital SLR, a high-tech optical viewfinder (so you can shoot using the digital display or peer through the old-school range finder), and the ability to film some quality video. That's our kind of straight shooter.
Fujifilm FinePix X100, $1,199.95
Photo: Courtesy of Fujifilm
Tuesday, March 15 06:26 PM
Location, location, location. Any restaurateur knows that's the key to success. And no one knows it better than the folks behind The Cube, a futuristic new pop-up restaurant. The 1,500-square-foot structure will be attached to the rooftops of some of Europe's landmark buildings for three-month stints this year. First stop? Belgium, where it will sit 100 feet up atop the Arcades du Cinquantenaire in Brussels' Cinquantenaire park from late March through early July.
The glass restaurant (complete with terrace) was designed by Milan-based architects Park Associati and is covered in a laser-cut aluminum "skin" that adds a sci-fi touch. It seats 18 diners at one long table and has an open kitchen, where Michelin-starred Belgian chefs Sang Hoon Degeimbre and Bart de Pooter will alternate days behind the stove. Next stop, Moscow? Stockholm? Zurich? Only The Cube knows.
Photo: Courtesy of Park Associati
Monday, March 14 06:24 PM
An entrance flanked by outsize topiary, and 270 guest rooms in periwinkle and midnight blue lit by furry lamps. Inspired by Jean Cocteau's 1940s French fantasy flick, La belle et la bęte, the new Mondrian Soho is every bit the cinematic dream world that designer Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz intended.
The fantasy continues in the hotel restaurant, Imperial No. Nine, a soaring space with mirrored tables reflecting chandeliers dripping with crystals. Here, chef Sam Talbot creates shareable plates of sustainable seafood dishes. After dinner, guests can disappear into Mr. H, a scarlet-hued speakeasy already awash in pretty young starlets. Now if that's not a dream stay, we don't know what is.
Photo: Courtesy of Morgans Hotel Group
Friday, March 11 07:17 PM
Los Angeles has its fair share of beautiful people. So it makes sense that one of the city's top museums would want to put that beauty on display. Enter Ray's and Stark Bar, the newest addition to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, named for Ray Stark, the late film producer and former LACMA trustee.
Ray's glass-box design, by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano, makes people the exhibit. Outside, museumgoers observe diners noshing on seasonal Mediterranean fare prepared by chef Kris Morningstar (formerly of District and Mercantile). Inside, diners survey museumgoers frolicking in Chris Burden's famous lamp-post installation, Urban Light. The open-air Stark Bar offers similar people-watching opportunities as well as market-fresh cocktails. Just don't overdo it and make an exhibition of yourself.
Photo: Courtesy of Dustin Downing