For much of the 1970’s, my father was a traveling salesman, moving across the country by car and plane. Upon returning home, he’d empty his nicked hotel keys into a green wooden crate. The box lived on the top shelf of my parents’ closet, and I used to pull out a chair and stand on my tippy-toes to reach it, then lie on the floor and sort the 200 or so keys by fob shape, destination, or hotel chain. For a little girl in a one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment, that box of keys was a window to the exciting world outside.
Each key tells a story. There’s one from the Host Motel, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where Dad found himself during the historic flood of 1972. There’s another from the scary Rodeway Inn in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he knew to put a chair under the doorknob at night. (“But they had great ribs,” he insisted.) There are the many Ramada Inns, from exotic places like Portland, Oregon, and even more Howard Johnsons and Holiday Inns, whose purloined towels hung neatly in our bathroom—I imagined the stylized star to be our family crest. One lone cast-iron key from the King David Jerusalem was pilfered during my parents’ honeymoon; the Quality Inn in Omaha was from the night I was born, Dad off to chase a deal. My father would rave about the gym at Chicago’s Hyatt Regency O’Hare because it was such a luxury—those keys signified boom times.
With a new book out this month and a pop-up store at Barneys New York through November, Vietnam native Muriel Brandolini has truly landed on the style map. Here, the designer tells T+L about the country that informs her textured, vibrant interior designs.
Q: What are some memorable moments from your last trip to Vietnam?
A: I stayed at the Victoria Sapa Resort & Spa (doubles from $175) and trekked with a guide to the isolated Hoang Lien Son mountain range, near the Chinese border. Wandering through the Bac Ha Sunday Market in Sapa in search of crafts and textiles is extraordinary.
From a mobile safari camp to a resort on a private island, T+L rounds up the most exciting openings—plus two coming soon.
India: Oberoi Hotels & Resorts has done it again, with a 202-room property on the outskirts of New Delhi. Just 15 minutes from the airport, the Oberoi, Gurgaon(doubles from $706) features suites with private pools, 24-hour butler service, a cigar lounge, and Delhi’s first 24-hour spa—because you never know when the desire for a massage may strike.
Italy: Giorgio Armani returns to his hometown—and Italy’s fashion capital—for his second hotel venture, opening soon. Like his first property, in Dubai, the Armani Hotel Milan(rates not available at press time) promises to have as sleek a silhouette as Armani’s ready-to-wear. Sheathed in a glass box above the atelier’s flagship store, the 95-room hotel (with the city’s largest guest rooms) is just steps from La Scala Theater.
Hungary’s capital has always had a few things going for it: classical music; Art Nouveau architecture; a wine scene just out of town. Design and luxury, not so much—until this year. Opening in June, the 67-room Rácz Hotel & Thermal Spa(raczhotel.com; doubles from $336), near the city’s main shopping street, has dramatic chandeliers and views of the Royal Palace, but the real draw is the 16th-century, unesco-designated hammam spa with domed ceilings. Up next this summer: the 102-room Buddha-Bar Hotel Budapest Klotild Palace(buddhabarhotelbudapest.com), the second hotel project by the renowned Parisian hospitality group, with an Asian themed bar and a restaurant with—yes!—an enormous Buddha as its centerpiece. Further evidence of Budapest’s new Golden Era of Design? WAMP(wamp.hu), a burgeoning monthly fair showcasing everything from fashion to dishware by local young artists.
Nine days in the Sardinian town of Cagliari in 1921 was all it took to inspire D. H. Lawrence to write one of the last century’s great travel narratives, Sea and Sardinia. Spend a night at the Lighthouse Capo-Spartivento, on the southernmost tip of Sardinia, and you may be inclined to pen a classic of your own. Set on an isolated promontory 350 feet above the Mediterranean, Italy’s first and only lighthouse hotel was built in 1856 by the Italian Navy, which still operates its third-story lantern. As for the floors below, owner Alessio Raggio has spent 20 years perfecting the place, filling the four barrel-vaulted guest rooms with Murano-glass chandeliers and enormous circular beds facing the sea. You can book one suite or take over the entire property (including two “apartments,” with ceilings made of glass, for better constellation viewing). Also on hand: three chefs preparing just-caught fish to order, a cistern turned cellar brimming with Sardinian wines, and untamed private beaches. Chia; farocapospartivento.com; doubles from $550, including breakfast.
Photo by Roberto Patti/Courtesy of Faro di Capo-Spartivento
Food adventurers lamenting that they’ll never see the inside of El Bulli, now that the temple of experimental cuisine on the Costa Brava is being transformed into a cooking foundation, have reason to celebrate. Mad-scientist brothers Ferran and Albert Adrià have another trick up their sleeves. The just-opened Tickets, in Barcelona’s former cabaret district, aims to reinvigorate that Catalan staple, the tapa—with an Adrià twist, of course. “We want to offer a new approach to a traditional cuisine,” says Albert, whose nearby, more classic tapas bar, Lolita (formerly called Inopia), still draws lines around the block, even after five years. At Tickets, guests can grab a seat at one of six themed bars, including a parrilla grill station and another devoted to Mediterranean ingredients. On the menu: inflatos (fried, aromatized cereals) and artichokes with smoked Idiazábal cheese serum. For the concoctions that made El Bulli famous—sliced Parmesan ice cream, spherified “olives”—choose something off the menu at the cocktail bar, 41. As its name might suggest, Tickets is dining as entertainment, a concept driven home at the Technicolor dessert area, set beneath a big-top tent, where staff theatrically greet guests with flattering comments. “Only if they deserve it,” Albert says. 164 Avda. del Paral-lel; 34/93-423-2448; dinner for two $90.
Here are some of the hot new urban hotels from around the globe:
Buenos Aires Prodigal son Hernán Gipponi (who ran the restaurant at the Guggenheim Bilbao, in Spain) returns to his native Buenos Aires as head chef at the food-centric, 27-room Fierro Hotel Palermo(doubles from $170). Gipponi’s menu is the highlight, but don’t miss the killer wine cellar or the seventh-floor pool.