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Family Friday: Cozying up to the Catskills


The symptoms were reaching dangerous levels. After being cooped up with our twin three-year-old boys in a 900-square-foot NYC apartment in the dead of winter, my husband and I had a serious case of co-op-cabin fever. The cure: Get out of dodge—and burn off some energy—as quickly as possible. My only prerequisite: BRING A FULLY CHARGED iPAD WITH US IN CASE OF A MELTDOWN.

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Imagining the Employee Handbook at the New Hemingway Hotels & Resorts

Hemingway Hotels & Resorts

News broke late last year about Hemingway Hotels & Resorts, a brand inspired by Papa himself, to be set in his favorite haunts (Key West; Venice), with clubby bars and well-stocked libraries. We couldn’t help imagining what the staff-training manual might look like.

Hemingway Hotels & Resorts Employee Handbook

Congratulations. If you are reading this, you have demonstrated preternatural bravery and unapologetic machismo, and are now eligible for employment with Hemingway Hotels & Resorts. Below, a few customer-service notes before we proceed with training.

No. 1: The essential question is not: is the customer always right? Rather, it is: does the customer have what it takes to be right? For that matter: do you?

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Civita di Bagnoregio: Italy's Hilltop Hideaway

Civita di Bagnoregio

It takes some effort to reach Lazio’s remote outpost of Civita di Bagnoregio, which teeters on a hilltop an 80-mile drive from Rome: the only way in is a steep uphill walk via a quarter-mile-long footbridge. Go through Civita’s gate, first carved out by Etruscans 2,500 years ago, and you’ll find a crumbling time capsule of ivy-clad arches, crooked cobblestoned lanes, and sun-flooded piazzas where the hamlet’s handful of residents gather and socialize. Speak a bit of Italian and someone might invite you over to taste their just-made lemon jam; linger in a café and you may bump into characters like Professor Medori, who can recite every poem ever written about Civita by heart.

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Four Seasons: Two Openings in China

Four Seasons Pudong

The Four Seasons Hotel Chain continued its China streak with the 2012 opening of a 187-room property in Shanghai’s Pudong district (above). Design firm Wilson Associates has created some seriously sexy interiors—ebony woods, stingray-colored smoked glass, and a red–black–grey palette—while SPIN and AB Concept will probably create some visual fireworks with the two restaurants, Camelia and Shang-Xi.

The chain’s real showstopper, Four Seasons Guangzhou, however, opened last July. It occupies the 70th to 98th floors of the 103-story IFC mall and has a 30-story atrium, swish red–white–gold interiors, and an extensive contemporary art collection.

Four Seasons Guangzhou Lounge

Jennifer Chen is Travel + Leisure's Asia correspondent. You can follow her on Twitter  @xiaochen6.

Photos courtesy of Four Seasons Hotels

Trip Doctor: Egypt Hotel Tweets SOS

Tahir Square

Hotels have harnessed social media to their advantage in innumerable ways in recent years, usually for marketing and customer service initiatives. But the medium has even more powerful and profound applications, as evidenced by the harrowing recent example of Egypt’s Intercontinental Semiramis, located adjacent to Tahir Square in Cairo.

As demonstrations in the city have escalated in recent days, the hotel has found itself in the hot seat. Two days ago, things took a particularly frightening turn as a group of armed marauders apparently used the demonstrations as an opportunity to break into the hotel and begin looting. After its attempts to reach the police for help yielded nothing, the hotel began sending out SOS messages on Twitter—the medium of choice for Egypt’s protest movement. The hotel’s Twitter feed reflects the staff’s growing desperation; “PLEASE SEND HELP #EMERGENCY! WE ARE UNDER ATTACK!” reads one tweet from the early-morning hours of Monday. A little later: “SOS If anyone knows anyone in #Military #Police #Government, please send help! Thugs in Lobby #Emergency #Tahrir #Jan28 #Egypt”

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Comment Card: Anonymous Letter to Hotel Housekeepers

housekeeping note

Dear Housekeeping,

Sorry to bother you, but can we set a few ground rules? First of all, we love the nightly turndown—thanks for the macaroons!—but really, it’s not necessary to reseal the bed each morning with the decorative coverlet, bolsters, and throw pillows. It might as well be padlocked shut. (We’d considered a siesta after lunch, but unwrapping everything was too much work.)

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Trip Doctor: How to Avoid Hotel Wi-Fi Fees

Hotel Wi-Fi: Tether

If you’re an Android user and staying in the U.S., you’re in luck: free apps such as FoxFi let you share a mobile data connection with your laptop at no extra cost. For everyone else, Tether’s service ($29.95 per year) will connect your laptop to your mobile devices via Bluetooth or USB. If you’re traveling internationally, XCom Global rents foreign-based hot spots with unlimited usage for $14.95 a day. Not-so-frequent travelers should try Boingo Wireless, which lets you access hot spots around the world. Subscriptions start at $7.95 a month and can be activated as needed. Bonus: many of its hot spots are in hotels.

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Photo courtesy of Tether

Hotels Prep for Increased Chinese Tourism


Global hotel brands—from Starwood and Hilton to Four Seasons and Anantara—are scrambling to meet the needs of China’s increasingly peripatetic middle class. Last year alone, 78 million Chinese were expected to travel abroad, spending upwards of $80 billion. Here, a few of the perks and programs being rolled out to make them feel at home.

• Chinese chess and mah-jongg games
• Avoidance of the number 4 (considered unlucky) in room and floor assignments
• Slippers (wearing shoes indoors is seen as unsanitary)
• Packets of jasmine and oolong tea
• Red flowers in rooms instead of white (red = good fortune; white = funerals)
• Chinese-language newspapers and TV channels
• Dim sum and congee for breakfast

Photo by iStockphoto  

Vacationist Hotel Deals: New York City, Napa, St. Lucia + Santorini

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St. Giles Hotel - The Court - up to 31% off - New York, New York
This Manhattan hotel has a prime location: it's close to Grand Central Terminal, the Theater District, and Fifth Avenue shopping.


Meadowood Napa Valley - up to 29% off - Napa Valley, California
A foodie-focused Napa Valley resort that's set among 250 lushly wooded acres in a small, private valley.


Rendezvous - up to 53% off - Castries, Saint Lucia
This boutique all-inclusive on Saint Lucia's Malabar Beach delivers honeymoon-worthy vacations or just a quiet escape.


Zannos Melathron - up to 63% off - Santorini, Greece
It's an unbeatable combination: Relais & Châteaux's ace service, a medieval castle-like construction, and stunning views of Santorini's legendary sunsets.

Vacationist.com is brought to you by Travel + Leisure and LuxuryLink.com.

From top: Photos courtesy of St. Giles hotel; Meadowood; Rendezvous; Zannos Melathron.


The Goring Hotel Receives Royal Warrant

Goring Hotel

During the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Queen Elizabeth II broke with hundreds of years of protocol and agreed to rent out the lavish rooms—or so-called “state apartments”—inside St. James’s Palace to various companies during the Games. Only holders of the Royal Warrant—companies with long-standing ties to the royal family—were able to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime offer.

Holding a Royal Warrant signifies that Her Majesty prefers that company—or brand—over others. And the list grows.

Just this week, for the first time in history, The Queen granted a Royal Warrant to a hotel. The Goring, the 103-year-old Edwardian property near Buckingham Palace in London's Belgravia neighborhood where Kate Middleton slept the night before her wedding, was honored. “To be able to display Her Majesty’s coat of arms is something that the staff will be enormously proud of. Without doubt this is the most important recognition,” claims Jeremy Goring, great-grandson of the hotel’s founder.

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