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.)
Last month I reported on great après-ski traditions at resorts out West. Don't worry, East Coasters, here are four top-notch resorts closer to home, each with an après-ski scene to rival anything in the Rockies.
In the Adirondack region of New York, Whiteface Lodge's signature après-ski drink is the Campfire, a soothing blend of bourbon, local apple cider, scotch, and sage. Where better to enjoy a liquid Campfire than by an actual campfire? The Lodge agrees, and has built two large lean-tos around a fire pit. Cushy seating, blankets, and mountain views allow guests to relax under the stars while still enjoying the comforts of resort life. And a direct phone line to the hotel concierge means that a Campfire by the campfire need never be far away.
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Hotel Breakwater South Beach - up to 29% Miami Beach, Florida A Miami Beach icon since 1936, the Hotel Breakwater South Beach, on Ocean Drive, mixes Art Deco pedigree with newly revitalized interiors.
La Valencia - up to 41% off La Jolla, California With its blend of Hollywood history and jaw-dropping views, La Valencia embodies the old-school elegance of La Jolla, San Diego's tony enclave tucked against a cove.
St. James's Club Resort & Villas - up to 41% off St John's, Antigua and Barbuda Its endless activities menu, all-day kid's club, and close proximity to Antigua's airport make St. James's Club an ideal family-friendly Caribbean resort.
At the Hotel Bel-Air in Beverly Hills, head bartender Allen Allam will teach you secrets of the Japanese hard-shake method for mixing bespoke cocktails. During an hour-long class in the lustrous bar lounge, learn the recipe for such signature drinks as Dragon's Fire and Monroe's Passion, a potent fusion of ginger juice, fresh passion fruit puree, Thai chili syrup and Barcardi 151 rum. (Actress Marilyn Monroe was a regular at the Bel-Air.) Other tricks of the bar trade are also revealed. Allam demonstrates techniques for stirring and garnish cutting, as well as how to employ essential barware like slow-frozen Clinebell ice, stainless steel muddlers and gold-plated strainers. Beverage director Rob Harpest provides colorful cocktail history commentary as Allam pours. Afterwards, slip into one of the lounge's banquettes under larger-than-life celebrity portraits to further your liquid research. From $100 per person, minimum six per class, 14-day advance reservation required.
Returning to the scene of his salad days, Peter J. Frank encounters a more mature Miami.
I spent my teenage years in South Beach before it became “South Beach”—dancing at roving parties in run-down hotel ballrooms; shooting late-night pool with drag queens at dive bars; scarfing Cuban sandwiches on the sand at sunrise. I mellowed—eventually—but Miami seemed to prolong its adolescence. While the clubs grew slicker and the hotels more expensive, partying remained the point.
The 2008 recession was a wake-up-grow-up call, and in the years since, the city has become more urbane and (dare I say it?) dignified, with a Frank Gehry–designed symphony hall and, of course, Art Basel. A wave of new hotels has rolled in, and more are on the way. But what does it mean to be a grown-up hotel in South Beach?
In honor of Valentine's Day, Vacationist, T+L's flash-sale site, is offering an extra 10% off all travel deals, starting at 6 a.m. PST to 12 midnight PST. Where to whisk away your plus one? Choose from the following hotels, or go to Vacationist for more:
How many flowers does it take to say I love you? Renaissance Hotels thinks 27,000 should do the trick. That’s the number of multicolored blossoms bedecking the $15,000-a-night Valentine’s Day suites, which are available for the remainder of February at any of their worldwide properties. Upon booking, almost every inch of a room's interior becomes awash in a mélange of brightly-hued petals, from the bed to the walls to the nightstand.
If you can’t stomach parting with enough cash to buy a new car for a one-night stay, Renaissance is offering romance packages for the big weekend at a more palatable rate ($299.) Breakfast, cocktails, and candles are included, along with a designer floral arrangement. A conventional bouquet of roses will just have to suffice.
Nate Storey is an editorial assistant at Travel + Leisure.
Their couples' Spellbound Massage, available only February 14–17, uses products containing pheromones—those naturally occurring chemicals that are elemental in occurrences of natural "chemistry."
It's $175–$250 for the 60- or 90-minute versions; on V-Day itself you and your partner can even opt to have the treatment in a "Valentine Suite" decked out with (what else?) candles, rose petals, soft music, and chocolate truffles.
From the spa it's just a few steps to the hotel's fantastic restaurant, Culina, Modern Italian for the special four-course menu ($85 per person) featuring oysters and lobster. (Look for Larry Flint—he's a regular). And from there, of course, you're just steps away from the spacious rooms upstairs overlooking the City of Angels.
New evidence suggests dental tourism is skyrocketing, with a now estimated one million people traveling outside their home country for affordable dental treatments and enhancements. According to medical travel resource Patients Without Borders, most tooth tourists are from the U.S., with Europe a close second—with the majority seeking implants, crowns, root canals, and smile makeovers.
And while Hungary, Poland, Thailand, India, and Singapore are fast emerging as top spots for dental work, some are traveling to the U.S. for treatments. Call it Reverse Dental Tourism. And it makes sense, given Americans' worldwide reputation for flaunting mouthfuls of pearly whites. But these aren't your average bargain-hunting snaggle-toothed tourists.
Dr. Michael Apa, a partner in New York-based Rosenthal-Apa Group and pioneer in Facial Aesthetic Design, is one of the world's top cosmetic dentists. Beyond catering to celebrities such as Matt Dillon, Chloë Sevigny, and the Trumps, he also services many of the Middle East's royal families, who pay upwards of $30,000 for his mouth makeovers—and who decamp to New York City for weeks at a time. As a result, Dr. Apa not only helps people looks years younger with porcelain veneers and facial asymmetry adjustments, but his practice also acts as de facto concierge and travel advisor. He was recently honored with a Five-Star Diamond Award from the American Academy of Hospitality Science for being "One of the Finest Dentists Worldwide." Travel + Leisure recently caught up with the doctor in NYC: