Café Royal, the 150-year-old Regent Street institution once frequented by the likes of Oscar Wilde and Virginia Woolf, is on track to reopen in December—as a hotel. It’ll be the second member of The Set—a new collection from Alfred and Georgi Akirov, the guys behind Jerusalem’s Mamilla hotel—after Amsterdam’s new Conservatorium. The 159 rooms will have historic touches such as timber and bronze ceilings and fumed oak paneled walls. The property will also feature a revamped Grill Room and Domino Room, an Akasha Holistic Wellbeing Centre with a lap pool and a hammam, and a private members club. hotelcaferoyal.com
Christine Ajudua is Travel + Leisure's London correspondent.
If you’ve stayed at a Firmdale Hotel, such as London’s recently reopened Dorset Square($$), you know that the group’s design director and co-owner has an affinity for patterns and embroidery. Kemp—who just completed a new collection for Chelsea Textiles and a book, A Living Space (Rizzoli)—reveals her inspirations on the road.
Biarritz, France: “The shop Mimi’s Corner (33-6/19-13-31-31) is owned by an eccentric Outsider artist who vandalizes pictures; I bought four of Queen Elizabeth II for the Crosby Street Hotel. Staying at Hotel du Palais($$$$) is like being on the bridge of the Titanic, with sweeping views of the Atlantic.”
The Rhode Island town that conjures up Gilded Age mansions and yacht clubs is getting an injection of youthful energy thanks to the Attwater, a reinvention of a fusty old inn. Designer Rachel Reider put a colorful twist on the 1910 building, splashing the 12 rooms in nautical blues, lobster reds, and driftwood grays. Add in-room iPads and a café serving house-made Oreos, and you have the makings of a modern coastal retreat. It’s not your great-grandfather’s Newport. 22 Liberty St.$$
This classic 9-room inn a block from the Kennebunk River is hosting a pumpkin carving contest this Halloween. Pick up a pumpkin at nearby Patten’s Berry Farm and take it to the pumpkin carving station. The pumpkins will be displayed on Halloween night, when a panel of judges will select the winner. The prize is a free night’s stay to be used anytime between October 2012 and the end of April 2013. Doubles from $159/night. www.captainfairfield.com
The inspiration for Steven King’s The Shining, this hotel has an on-staff paranormal investigator who will take you on a five-hour ghost hunt—if you’re brave enough. There is a range of other ghost and history tours available, and the hotel puts on a Murder Mystery Dinner on Friday, October 26, and a Shining Ball on Saturday, October 27 ($89 per person). Doubles from $169/night. www.stanleyhotel.com
Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Orlando, FL
Book this package for a 3-night stay at Loews Royal Pacific Resort (on-site at Universal Studios Orlando), a 2-day ticket to both Universal Orlando theme parks, early park admission to Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and one night admission to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal, where you can experience mazes and haunted houses featuring “The Walking Dead: Dead Inside” based on AMC’s series and “Welcome to Silent Hill” based on the video games and film franchise. From $609/adult ($203/night per adult). www.loewshotels.com and www.halloweenhorrornights.com
Virginia Hotel, Cape May, NJ
A restored 1879 landmark building just a half a block from the beach, the Virginia Hotel has cottages as well as rooms in the main house. Its Creepy Cape May package includes continental breakfast, two drinks at the on-site Ebbit Room, special Fat Witch treats, and a Ghosts of Cape May Trolley Tour through the town’s Victorian streets with a guide who will relate the paranormal findings of ghost writer Craig McManus along the way. Doubles from $140/night. www.virginiahotel.com
Three years after the country’s 26-year civil war ended, Sri Lanka’s recovery is well underway. I spent two weeks traveling in Sri Lanka at the end of January and was amazed by the changes taking place. Colombo, the capital, is unrecognizable. Old colonial buildings once enshrouded in barbed wire and concrete walls are now out in the open, with fresh coats of paint. A few major restoration projects have turned historic buildings into dining and shopping destinations.
Launched in beta last week, the new hotel booking website with the memorable name, WantMeGetMe.com, challenges its growing list of top hotels to entice a new breed of traveler—wannabe VIPs—with luxe amenities, everything from complimentary Wi-Fi and valet parking to guaranteed upgrades and champagne.
This “Catch Me If You Can” approach is the first of its kind for a travel site, and given how many travelers nowadays already expect special treatment, the future of this free members-only site looks bright. But let’s take a closer look.
When it comes to reliable, easy-to-use tech amenities, hotels have lagged confoundingly behind what most travelers have at home or on their smart phones or tablets. Even at many so-called state-of-the-art properties guests wrestle with inscrutable room controls, ornery A/V setups, and awkward communications systems. Thankfully, some hotels are now stepping up their tech game—for real.
What’s Here Now
These days, any property worth its room rate offers free Wi-Fi. But too often it’s exceedingly sloooow. Solution: many hotels (including the Radisson in San Diego and the Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo) are rolling out 100 Mbps Internet service, which is fast enough to download an album in three seconds.