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Blakes Hotel, London

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, August 05 07:00 AM

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Boutique before boutique was a thing on the hotel scene, Blakes opened in London in '78. It continues to warrant its place in the A-list firmament (check out comments by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Mickey Rourke on the hotel's Web site), especially now that it's undergoing a multimillion-dollar refurb.

All the decadent hallmarks of East-meets-West interiors by Lady Weinberg (née Anouska Hempel) have been maintained in the 47-room property. The billowy gossamer whites and French Provençal trompe l'oeil of the Corfu Suite is the stuff of dreams, and you could reenact scenes from Wuthering Heights in the dramatic Library Suite. Every room will be refreshed (half of them have been so far), and now you can take tea in The Courtyard, a Japan-inspired garden retreat lined with bay trees, and sweat off the crumpets later in a new top-of-the-line gym.

Like celebrities, true originals never go out of style--they just come back stronger after getting a little work done.

Photo: Courtesy of Design Hotels

"Saving Grace" App

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, August 04 07:00 AM

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Just because you're always on the road doesn't mean you're any good at packing. Somehow, the cab is always honking outside as you hurriedly shove things into a carry-on. Thankfully, there's a new app to help whip your suitcase into shape.

Meet Saving Grace, your own personal trip organizer. Created by the folks at Grace Hotels, this helpful (and free) app asks what kind of trip you're taking and suggests specialized, thematic packing lists. You can adjust them, add or subtract categories such as baby stuff or videography, check things off as they go into your bag, and save lists for future use. Grace also looks after your other pretrip chores, by suggesting that you clean out your fridge and stop your mail before heading out. And you don't even have to send her a postcard!

Photo: Courtesy of Grace Hotels

Holey Books at The Hole, New York City

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, August 03 07:00 AM

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If your bookcase is begging to be adorned with a confetti-filled egg or a plastic breast--or you just want to do some arty gawking--get thee to the Hole, a spunky gallery and purveyor of oddball objets d'art that just soft-launched on the Bowery in NYC.

Founded by refugees from the former Pop art/fashion/party powerhouse Deitch Projects, the Holey Books store is like a museum shop stripped of pretense and injected with DIY downtown grit. The evolving collection of items currently includes rare zines and comics, art books, limited-edition hoodies by Dearraindrop, tees from Terence Koh, and a selection of Native Shoes (a fashionable Franken-sneaker that's part Top-Sider, part Croc).

Works by up-and-coming artists on display in the gallery don't come cheap, but all you need to bring home one of the 200 custom-commissioned posters from the likes of Harmony Korine and Assume Vivid Astro Focus is $75 burning a hole in your pocket.

Photo: Courtesy of The Hole

Block Island, Rhode Island

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, August 02 07:00 AM

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Block Island celebrates its semiseptcentennial (that's a 350th anniversary) this year, which means the old gal is livelier than ever. A season-long party is in full swing, including vintage ship displays, concerts, and festivals, such as the Taste of Block Island weekend (September 23-25). And you're invited.

Stay here:
The Atlantic Inn
Built in 1879 on a hilltop just outside the main town of New Shoreham--the smallest U.S. state's smallest town--the Atlantic Inn is a gracious place to enjoy life's little pleasures. Antiques and a ban on TVs and radios lend the 21 individually styled guest rooms a Victorian sensibility. You'll wake each morning to warm pastries and house-made granola served on a wraparound veranda. Children play tetherball in the backyard; a sunny garden provides a relaxation spot for parents. Among all this yesteryear charm, it's easy to unplug and soak up the island's timeless natural beauty.

Eat here:
Three Sisters
Three Sisters, a one-room wooden cottage on Old Town Road, is the sandwich shop of choice for beach picnic-bound islanders with coolers to fill. Favorites such as the Hippie Sister (a roasted vegetable and hummus wrap) and the Twisted Sister (turkey, bacon, Cheddar, avocado, and romaine) are scrawled on a chalkboard. Too lazy to head to the beach? You can chill at the picnic tables outside--or in a hammock--while the kids play with gratis hula hoops and spoil their dinner with gooey chocolate-chip cookies.

Drink here:
The Porch at the National Hotel
Most of Block Island ends up at the National Hotel's scenic wraparound porch at one point or another. Mostly for the postcard-perfect view of sailboats in Block Island Sound silhouetted against sunset-pink skies. But also to throw back a few ice-cold lagers and catch up on the local gossip.

Photo: Courtesy of Block Island Tourism Council

The Historic Park Inn Hotel, Mason City, Iowa

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, August 01 07:00 AM

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You've cruised around Oak Park, gotten misty at Fallingwater, and crisscrossed the country to both Taliesin east and West, but now there's a new box to check off on your Frank Lloyd Wright bucket list: The Historic Park Inn Hotel in Mason City, Iowa. After 30-odd years of decline, the last unicorn of Wright-designed hotels is reopening August 15.

And just what does an $18-million gut renovation get you? Prairie School genius. Gone are additions that parceled the 101-year-old building into offices; fixed are the cantilevered roofline, distinctive brickwork with multicolored terra-cotta detailing, and the lobby's art-glass skylight. The original hotel and a connected bank building (also by Wright) now house 27 suites appointed with dark wood, claw-foot tubs, and salvaged tiles. Furnishings and fixtures, some reproduced from other Wright structures such as Chicago's Robie House, sit pretty in subdued earth tones.

Short of winning the lottery or nodding off at the Guggenheim, this is your best chance to sleep in a Wright.

Photo: Courtesy of Wright on the Park

Prices and other information were accurate at press time, but are subject to change. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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