Ever wanted to live like a local in a new destination, with, say, your own kitchen, living spaces, backyard, and neighbors? Then T+L's Global Guide to Villa Rentals is your go-to resource. Even better: renting a house or apartment can often translate into big savings. Each week this month, we'll feature a standout property we love—with a price tag that's easy on the wallet.
The Details: You can indulge your inner Anglophile at this 17th-Century, five-bedroom property, set on 280 acres of working farmland. Cook up farm-fresh eggs for breakfast in the light-filled kitchen, camp out with a Charles Dickens novel in the private garden (and, on cooler nights, in front of the living room's open fireplace), or take a pastry-making course at the famous Daylesford Organic Farm, just two miles away.
Coming attractions on the arts calendar: reinvigorated classics and celebrated traditions. Here, some of the highlights.
New York City: The two-month-long Season of Cambodia festival is a collaboration between the Phnom Penh–based nonprofit Cambodian Living Arts (a T+L Global Vision Award winner) and dozens of cultural institutions citywide. Dancers, sculptors, puppeteers, and others will showcase Khmer heritage, both traditional (Royal Ballet of Cambodia) and contemporary (rock band Dengue Fever). April 9–May 25.
Amsterdam: It’s an artistic double Dutch: both theRijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum reopen this spring after major makeovers. The former, closed for 10 years, has added an Asian pavilion; Rembrandt’s Night Watch now takes pride of place among Vermeer’s pensive maidens and Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrian dress. At the latter, van Gogh’s sunflowers and self-portraits come home again to Gerrit Rietveld’s Modernist building.
Jean Nouvel. Christian Lacroix. Kenzo Takada. And now, Karl Lagerfeld. Over the last half-decade, a star-studded cast of designers and architects has helped transform the half-century-old French Sofitel brand from a random collection of dusty hotels—some elegant, some forgettable—into a serious player among international luxury hotels.
This is all thanks to a new direction from CEO Robert Gaymer-Jones, who over the last six years whittled down 81 sub-par properties from a group of more than 200 into a collection of 120 hotels that have been upgraded and reflagged into distinct brands. They include the Sofitel flagship (the Nouvel-designed Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom, for one), Sofitel Legend for historic properties (the Sofitel Metropole in Hanoi and the soon-to-open Sofitel Montevideo among others), and So, a line of new style-conscious boutiques. (Recent openings include So Bangkok, where Lacroix did the lobby and staff uniforms, and So Mauritius, where Takada designed eight light-filled villas.)
I am a hotel nerd. At the start of each year, I scan the next 12 months for openings to obsess over. Here, five newcomers that have me at the edge of my seat.
United States I’ve found a new way to play out my Wild West fantasy. Set on 1,600 acres deep in the Colorado Rockies, Cresto Ranch(pictured) opens in June with a main lodge in a restored 19th-century farmhouse and eight safari-style tents, all with en-suite bathrooms, gas stoves, enormous beds, and—color me happy—private porches where you can daydream while gazing out at the vast wilderness. The retreat is four miles down the Dolores River from sister property Dunton Hot Springs, a luxury pioneer in the Rockies. (And yes! Cresto guests can pop over to Dunton for a dip).
If you’ve never tried a villa rental, consider making it your travel resolution for 2013: more globetrotters are discovering that renting a house or apartment while abroad allows you to truly live like a local while letting you explore the beautiful, hidden corners of popular destinations such as Italy and France. And it’s more common than ever to find companies that offer the amenities of a resort experience—daily housekeeping, concierge services, fully stocked refrigerators, and more.
Stay tuned for T+L’s Villa Rentals package in the March issue, but in the meantime, we can’t contain our excitement over this month’s debut of ThinkIonianIslands from Londoner Huw Beaugié and his Palermo-born wife, Rossella, the duo behind the highly regarded ThinkSicily and ThinkPuglia. The 15 properties—hidden on secluded beaches or in the lush countryside—are offering visitors better access to the less-discovered islands of Lefkada and Meganissi, located off the coast about a three-hour drive from Thessaloniki.
Ever wonder what that $30-a-night “resort fee” on your recent hotel bill was actually paying for? Depending on the property, it could have covered anything from Wi-Fi and “complimentary” bottled water in your room to gym and business center access—which you may not have even used during your stay. Either way, you were going to end up paying for it, no matter how enticingly low that advertised rate was. This practice of tacking on additional (and sometimes mandatory) fees to basic rates is known as “drip pricing,” and is most commonly encountered in resort destinations such as Hawaii and Vegas.
Last week, as I was en route on a flight that would give me the final handful of miles necessary to keep my frequent flyer status in 2013, I pondered my year in air travel: Priority reservations. Priority check-in. Priority boarding. Priority seating (case in point: a recent last-minute flight change cost me nothing and resulted in a free bump to Economy Comfort). Not to mention the frequent upgrades to business class—sometimes while traveling on reward tickets. Or the two free checked bags. Or the TSA PreCheck qualification, paid for by my airline, which let me sail through security with my shoes on my feet and my laptop buried deep in my carry-on. And all the handy drink and snack vouchers—there’s nothing like a hummus snack or some red wine to help those hours in the air whiz by!
This is all owing to the fact that I stayed loyal to my airline (and, of course, I traveled a ton—my addiction to boarding passes is severe). As comfort in the skies increasingly comes at a premium, my resolution in 2013 is to do everything in my power to maintain elite status. Sadly, most airline programs’ entry-level tiers don’t offer much in the way of perks these days, but you don’t need top-tier status to reap significant benefits: I’m going for mid-level elite to keep all the awesome perks I mention above. My game plan? Travel much (I need 50,000 miles), travel far (roughly, the equivalent of two round-trip tickets from New York to, say, Bangkok, plus another round-trip flight from New York to Honolulu), and travel smartly (you can earn qualifying miles through airline partnerships with credit cards, hotel stays, and even car rentals). And now for the fun part: where to go in 2013? Here’s hoping that wherever it is, it will come with some sweet upgrades (or at least a free hummus snack).
Jennifer Flowers is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @JennFlowers.
Penny-size pancakes, inch-high rice cookers, itty-bitty sushi. Re-ment—hyper-perfect plastic miniatures of foods and kitchen gadgets that I discovered in Tokyo’s legendary Kiddy Land toy store—embodies what I admire most about Japanese culture: a laser-like focus on detail, devoted to even the most mundane parts of life, and a near-religious obsession with cuteness. Re-ment is a spin on Cracker Jack: a toy comes in a small box with a token piece of candy, and you never know what you’re going to get (please, let it be the vintage toaster!). Some surprises even grown-ups can’t resist.
Jennifer Flowers is an associate editor at Travel + Leisure.
Looking for a spring getaway? Here, our favorite finds, from an urban oasis to a sandy resort.
Country The Pig, Brockenhurst, England Opened: July 2011 Rooms: 26 (16 in the main house; 10 in the stable yard) Top Feature: Foraging excursions in the surrounding New Forest and on the nearby coast Best For: Adventurous foodies Beaulieu Rd.; 44-15/9062-2354; doubles from $196.
Beach St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort, Miami Beach Opened: Jan. 2012 Rooms: 243 guest rooms and suites Top Features: 25 private beachside cabanas and personal butler service Best For: Sun-soaking cosmopolites 9703 Collins Ave.; 877/787-3447; doubles from $1,250.
So you’ve eaten your way through Italy. You know your pecorini from your parmigiani. You’ve already ordered the latest edition of the Silver Spoon, that classic Italian cooking tome that's resided on many a nonna’s shelf since 1950. If that’s the case, the second-annual Identita New York—a two-day event in New York City next week where six of the bel paese’s most celebrated chefs will show off their cooking prowess alongside six American culinary bigwigs—might already be on your radar.