Beyond a Place of Worship: Three Extraordinary Hotel Chapels

August 2nd, 2022

Beyond serving as places of worship or religious celebration, these extraordinary hotel chapels are portals into local customs and architectural and artistic traditions. Many have been painstakingly restored to their original splendor, offering visitors a chance to travel back in time—to the Italian Renaissance, the Andean Baroque movement in Peru, and the Byzantine period in Greece.

Kalesma Mykonos

Located on the grounds of Kalesma Mykonos, the recently completed church of Agios Dimitrios is an exquisite ode to the island’s Byzantine past, brought to life by Greece’s top contemporary artists and design talents, including creative agency Saint of Athens. As many of the island’s aristocratic mansions contain worship areas with ornate religious imagery, the owners of Kalesma Mykonos wanted to pay tribute to this local tradition. Greek design firm K-Studio oversaw the church’s Cycladic architecture, while the interiors—a collaboration between Studio Bonarchi’s Vangelis Bonios and graphic designer/illustrator Gerasimos Chatzis—drew on a range of influences, including references to great Greek hagiographers, Hellenistic elements, and Byzantine heritage. A typeface was specifically created for the church’s interiors: a predominantly black Byzantine, tribal script with shining gold accents that depicts the Passions of Holy Week. An original soundtrack by musician Stefanos Giakoumakis borrows from the vibrations of the surroundings, fusing the sounds of water and air with choral and orchestral elements.

Monasterio, A Belmond Hotel, Cusco

Walking inside the San Antonio Abad Chapel at Monasterio, a Belmond Hotel, you can’t help but feel the city’s Baroque history wash over you. Built on what was once the Palace of Inca Amaru Qhala, the church—constructed in the aftermath of the 1650 earthquake—features soaring ceilings with large-scale oil paintings in elaborate frames and a resplendent gold altar. It’s an astonishingly beautiful backdrop for weddings and other religious ceremonies. Guests can also exchange their vows within the cloistered walls of Monasterio’s main courtyard, amid grand stone arches, scented gardens, and a 300-year-old cedar tree. It’s no wonder the hotel has been recognized as a historical landmark by Peru’s National Institute of Culture.

Villa San Michele, A Belmond Hotel, Florence

Declared a National Monument in 1896, the Church of Villa San Michele all Doccia is a Renaissance-era masterpiece, complete with artworks that rival those at the country’s greatest cathedrals and galleries. Belmond faithfully restored the structure in 1988, washing the façade with distilled water and installing steel reinforcements to its weakest parts. The apse and the high altar are flanked with pietra serena columns, and there are four holy water stoups, two of which date to 1515, which is believed to be the year of the church’s original completion. Art aficionados can gaze up at Nicodemo Ferrucci’s Last Supper fresco, which has graced the walls since 1642 but was painstakingly restored in 1999, revealing details previously unseen, like the oil lamp above Christ’s halo. There is also a partially preserved 15ht-century fresco of the Ascension of Our Lord; a painting by Santi di Tito, who also completed works on the Vatican; and a stone coffin bearing the insignia of Pope Eugene IV. A colorful highlight is the 400-year-old wisteria, the only of its kind in Florence to bloom twice a year.

What’s New in Europe?

April 12th, 2022

Now that warm weather is on the horizon, Europe is gearing up for the summer season. Here are some newsy bits not to miss…

 

UK

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee will take place in London June 2-5. How a few hotels are celebrating…

·      The Kensington, in the Royal Borough with its classic London feel, has a package with a private royal walking tour with resident Blue Badge Guide exploring the links and history of Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park and St. James Park through monarchs ranging from Henry VIII to Queen Victoria to Princess Dianna and of course Queen Elizabeth II.

·      The recently renovated Le Magritte Bar at The Beaumont has a special Jubilee Cocktail made with very Keepr’s English Raspberry and Honey Gin, Chambord, King’s Ginger Liqueur, lemon juice, grapefruit juice, rhubarb bitters and English sparkling wine. The specialty cocktail coincides with the opening of the new Terrace overlooking Brown Hart Gardens, a alfresco drinking and dining destination with 1920s-style rattan armchairs and café tables surrounded by lush greenery.

·      On June 5th, catch the train at London Victoria Station for an afternoon tea celebration on Belmond’s British Pullman featuring Windsor Great Park Sparkling Wine from Her Majesty’s own estate. The wine served at Buckingham Palace is produced in limited quantities and is crafted from the classic champagne grape varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. This journey is in partnership with pastry chef Claire Clark MBE and the Luminary Bakery, a non-profit bakery founded to help create jobs, community, and support for women in the workplace. Each couple will receive a copy of Luminary Bakery’s Rising Hope cookbook and Belmond will also make a donation for every ticket sold.

·      Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisions, A Belmond Hotel, Oxfordshire is hosting a series of summer experiences including exclusive access to Sir Paul and Lady Getty’s home and the rarely seen castellated library, including the first edition of Caxton’s printing og The Canterbury Tales, Anne Boleyn’s Psalter and the first folio of Shakespeare’s “Comedies, Histories and Tragedies” on June 16; and an alfresco garden party at the property hosted by Raymond Blanc in honor of Bastille Day on July 14.

*JetBlue also announced a July 19 launch of direct flights between Boston and London.

 

GREECE

Chef Costas Spiliadis of the Milos Restaurant group is returning to his Greek roots with the debut of the 43-room property in Athens: xenodocheio Milos. inside two heritage-listed neoclassical buildings (sandwiched between the historical Pláka and trendy Kolonaki neighborhoods). In addition to being within walking distance of the Acropolis and nearby historic sites, it is the only luxury boutique hotel in the city.

 

When it opens for its second season on April 21, Kalesma Mykonos will introduce a newly redesigned restaurant with uninterrupted water views on two sides, a new hand-painted mural in its onsite chapel, and several suites that have been expanded into one-bedroom villas with full outdoor kitchens and grills.

 

IRELAND

Dromoland Castle’s 18-hole golf course will be in peak condition prior to hosting the 2022 Women’s Irish Open in September (the first women’s professional golf tournament to be held in the Republic of Ireland since 2012).

 

ITALY

Belmond is partnering with internationally acclaimed art gallery Galleria Continua on an exclusive project, entitled MITICO, that will kick off during the Venice Biennale (April 19-22). This project represents the beginning of Belmond’s participation in Venice’s world-renowned artistic and cultural programming. Each of the four participating artists will install works in landmarked Belmond gardens across Italy—beginning with Indian artist Subodh Gupta’s “Cooking the World” installation in Cipriani’s Casanova gardens during the Venice Biennale. In May, three major installations will be revealed: Argentinian artist Leandro Erlich’s “Window & Ladder” at Tuscany’s Villa San Michele; Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto’s “Accarezzare Gli Alberi” (L’Etrusco) at Castello di Casole; and a garden installation by Cameroonian artist Pascal Marthine Tayou in Sicily’s Grand Hotel Timeo.

 

Additional Belmond getaways:

At Splendido Mare and sister property, Splendido, discover the Portofino that has lured artists and writers to the coastal town throughout the centuries. Following a complete restoration that debuted last summer, Splendido Mare is the epitome of Italian glamor, with a picturesque location overlooking the yacht-filled harbor and 14 rooms filled with Ulrich Guglielmo armchairs, Carrara marble surfaces, and works by Italian painter Gabriele Cappelli.

 

At Belmond’s Cipriani, the city’s most iconic stay, guests will have access to exclusive experiences that will deepen their perspectives and whisk them away from the crowds. During tours of the Fondazione Cini Library and the 13th-century Library San Francesco della Vigna, rare books and preserved manuscripts will be on exclusive display for Belmond guests. Meanwhile, at the tiny island of Giudecca, guests will tour medieval pharmacies, visit an authentic gondola boatyard, and meet one of the last “moecante” (soft-shelled green crab) fishing families.

 

A hidden treasure of the Amalfi Coast, Ravello is known for its cliffside gardens and dramatic Tyrrhenian Sea scenery. Guests at Caruso, an 11th-century palace set on a cliff’s edge 1,000 feet above sea level, have exclusive access to secret underground networks deep below the historic town full of archeological treasures from Roman times.

 

Set on a craggy coastline on the secluded Sicily’s Bay of Mazzaro, Villa Sant’Andrea has been dazzling visitors since the 1950s. After a day on the hotel’s private beach, guests can meet members of the Rodolico family, who have been building handcrafted boats since 1908 or spend an afternoon with a fisherman and enjoy lunch inside his home overlooking the Messina Strait.

 

FRANCE

Nestled within a Mediterranean jardin overlooking the Cote d’Azur is the cliffside retreat, La Réserve Ramatuelle opens for the season in May following last summer’s refurbishment courtesy of Jacques Garcia. This comes just in time for all business-class airline La Compagnie’s new seasonal route from Newark to Nice (launching May 7).

SPAIN

Located just off Passeig de Gracia, Almanac Barcelona recently launched VIRENS, a new vegetable-forward restaurant helmed by Michelin-starred chef Rodrigo de la Calle of Madrid’s acclaimed El Invernadero. Growing up as the son of a farmer, chef de la Calle and his family would move with the seasons: autumn in Castilla-La Mancha for the harvesting of corn, winter in Andalusia for olives, and spring/summer for mixed vegetables in their huertas in Aranjuez. Guests can expect dishes that spotlight seasonal ingredients like fried artichoke hearts with liliaceae cream and white asparagus with black garlic demi-glaze and capers. To compliment the menu, the VIRENS team makes in-house fermented and sparkling beverages, such as kefir, kombucha, and mead.

 

Mallorca is an island of many sides, and at La Residencia, guests can truly choose their own adventures. Belmond guests can round out their visits by touring a neighboring country estate and enjoying a picnic on the grounds of the Sa Bassa Blanca museum. For a different feast of the senses, meet acclaimed winemaker Javier Jara for a walk through his 15th-century winery, Son Sureda Ric. The experience will conclude with a bossa nova performance amid vines, with Javier on the guitar and his talented wife, Carmè, on vocals.

 

SWITZERLAND

Located 10 minutes outside Switzerland’s second-largest city, La Réserve Geneva feels much farther thanks to its location within a 10-acre park on the shores of Lac Léman. With Europe’s largest alpine lake for its front yard, the property is more like an urban resort. At over 20,000-square-feet, the Nescens Spa is the largest in the city. (The Nescens brand was developed by Professor Jacques Proust, a pioneer in anti-aging medicine, at Geneva’s Center for the Prevention of Aging at the Clinique de Genolier.)

 

CROATIA

PONANT will debut its iconic three-masted sailing yacht, Le Ponant, following a complete refit led by Jean-Philippe Nuel Studio in July. With a 1:1 staff-to-guest ratio and welcoming just 32 guests, PONANT invites travelers to feel as if they’ve stepped aboard their own private yacht. The first voyage will depart on July 10 with a seven-night itinerary, Croatia, under sail aboard Le Ponant. Sailing roundtrip from Dubrovnik, travelers will explore seven Adriatic islands. After cruising through the Bay of Kotor, ports of call include Mljet, known for its national park; Korčula, including a private performance of Moreška, a traditional sword dance; Vis, with an optional diving excursion to World War II shipwrecks; and Brač for a winetasting in the town of Bol. Prices start at $10,890 per person based on double occupancy.

 

private pools at hotels around the world

September 11th, 2020

Hotels with Stunning Views, Even from the (Private) Swimming Pools

Spotting wildlife, gazing at constellations, sipping chilled rosé, cooling off from the desert heat – these are all activities best enjoyed from a plunge pool. A private place to take a dip is a deal-breaking amenity for many when hitting ‘book,’ especially heading into this new world of travel. In fact, luxury travel advisor network, Virtuoso, says that it’s been one of the most requested in-room features from their clients in recent months.

Here are our favorite places around the world to float.

 

Views of Ocean

Maldives: For those looking to travel as far away from home as possible (we don’t blame you!) Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi awaits. The property opened on July 1, 2019 as the first luxury resort near the capital city of Malé in the last decade – making for a quick and seamless yacht ride from the airport anytime, day or night. Every single villa on the island – whether on the beach, reef, or stilted over the ocean – is equipped with a private infinity pool, dining gazebo, and an outdoor deck with a swinging daybed. Guests staying in a Stella Maris overwater villa can take a traditional dhoni boat straight to their pool and spend the night gazing at both southern and northern hemispheres stars.

Anguilla: Situated in a secluded are of the newly-renovated resort, the multi-story Beachfront Pool Villas at Belmond Cap Juluca have private swimming pools just steps away from the white sands of Maundays Bay. Guests can sway to a private, in-villa reggae concert from the comfort of their own pool float.

St. Barth: New four-bedroom villas at The Christopher, designed by Olivia Putman (daughter of Andrée Putman) blur the boundaries between inside and out and use a mix of natural materials including bamboo, sandstone and volcanic stone, accented with pops of the hotel’s signature orange. With large decks and private pools, they meld the privacy of a villa rental with the comforts of a hotel.

Mykonos: Once home to Greek gods and a favorite destination of Jackie Kennedy as well as artists, poets, designers and actors, Mykonos has long been in the spotlight. But the whole story of the island is rarely told. Enter Kalesma, opening in Spring 2021. Set on a hilltop above Ornos Bay and just under two miles from Mykonos town, Kalesma’s 25 accommodations will be spread across five acres and set against a lush hillside blanketed with 20,000 plants. All suites will offer unobstructed lookouts from the private patio, as well as a full-sized personal heated pool.

Côte d’Azur: La Réserve Ramatuelle is nestled within a cliffside jardin overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Just 15 minutes outside St. Tropez, the property feels like a well-kept secret. Each of the 14 villas comes with its own private garden and pool. The three-bedroom Villa No. 2 has 22,000 square-feet of gardens with unbeatable views of the Mediterranean Sea. Wall-to-wall windows open to the outside, seamlessly blending indoors with outdoors, where an al fresco dining and entertaining area and a private infinity pool and Jacuzzi overlook Cap Taillat.

Thailand: Set among 17 acres of tropical gardens, Belmond Napasai offers a secluded retreat with a collection of standalone villas and suites overlooking Baan Tai beach on Thailand’s Koh Samui. For the utmost privacy, guests can book one of the oceanfront pool residences ranging from one to four bedrooms. The multi-level private homes each feature a massage sala, direct beach access and an oceanfront pool.

Views of Desert + Mountains

Namibia: andBeyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge opened October 16, 2019 after a 10-month complete rebuild in one of the world’s oldest deserts and adjacent to an International Dark Sky Reserve. Ten 1,400 square-foot guest suites have desert views from every corner with thoughtful touches like butler hatches with secret, solar-powered freezer drawers stocked with ice cream and Namibian craft beer;  in-room fireplaces and artist easels; large private verandas with outdoor showers and fire pits; and chilled plunge pools to offset the desert heat. Need more about the pool.

Marrakech: Situated just steps from Jemaa el Fna, Royal Mansour is a quiet oasis with an open-air courtyard and the calming fragrance of orange blossoms. The palatial estate, owned by the King of Morocco, is the only all-riad property in Marrakech. No elevators; no carts; no rooms; no crowds. Dotted along petal-pink walkways are 53 private, three-story riads with rooftop terraces and private plunge pools. The Grand Riad is the crown jewel, with a rooftop terrace spread over two levels with a pool that offers views out to the Atlas Mountains.

Views of Wildlife

Costa RicaNayara Tented Camp opened in December 2019 as one of the very first luxury tented camps in Central America. The 21 tented accommodations are dotted up a hillside with unobstructed views of the towering Arenal Volcano. Set in the lush rainforest – home to wild flora and fauna like hummingbird, colorful macaw, and over 15 sloths – each tent has an expansive terrace with a private pool fed by warm mineral springs sourced from the volcano.

South Africa: andBeyond Tengile River Lodge is located in South Africa’s private Sabi Sand Game Reserve, which is known for its unmatched leopard sightings. With a name that means tranquil, the lodge features nine floating suites that look out over the Sand river from a forest and each suite offers river views. After a morning game drive, guests can swim in their own personal pool while spotting the elephants and buffalo that regularly graze in the river.

 

Views of Vineyards

Napa Valley: The three new Maple Grove Villas at Bardessono Hotel & Spa in Napa Valley are available to book individually or as one three-bedroom retreat. The villas have stocked wine fridges, fireplaces and outdoor “cocktail pools” with lounge seating. Bardessono Hotel & Spa is one of only three Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum-certified hotels in the county. Located in Yountville, cuisine reigns king here, with more Michelin stars per capita than any other place in America.

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