Luxury Hotels

Rancheros eggs and more, luxury at a beach-set hotel

Blessing on arrival

Blessing on arrival

Look at any map of Mexico’s Highway 307, more or less in a straight vertical line south from Cancun, and you see its east side is dotted wall-to-wall, or rather side-by-side, with luxury resorts. Some are just cookie-cutter. The gal, of course, goes for the unique. Viceroy Riviera Maya is ideal for honeymooners, intimate birthday parties, getting away from it all and de-stressing. This is the place to chill out and feel cocooned, with continual memorable moments during your stay. It starts on arrival. No buggies here – the resort is on seven acres, a compact strip that gently rolls down to the ocean. As you walk down, you pass the spa, where you are blessed, to bring you luck.

Garden-set water tubs appear to bloom

Garden-set water tubs appear to bloom

The meandering path wends its way through the undergrowth, with occasional ‘blooming’ water urns. I go past villas that have just a tiny hint of Hobbit, in a charming way – they are thatched, with gardens framed in vertical tree trunks that in some cases give total privacy, in others are partly open, but no-one looks in (within, in your private outdoor space, you have a curvilinear plunge pool). For the most privacy, of all the 41 villas you might well choose 51 as it is right on the beach and the furthest from any madding crowd – most villas are the same, 1,700 sq ft with one big room, inside, rising to an open cathedral ceiling, and inside, and outside, bathroom, leading off.

Pedro Lara is the boss

Pedro Lara is the boss

A big plus here at Viceroy is the lovely staff. And the food is good – GM Pedro Lara worked his way up the professional food ladder, mostly with Rosewood. I loved watching the sun rise as I sat at the beach-set Coral Grill waiting for my breakfast to arrive. Having gone for the full-English, a PIG-out, at The PIG at Combe only five days ago, today I chose the most popular Mexican, Huevos rancheros, rancheros eggs. This dish, which is farmers’ basic, is basically eggs any style, topped with salsa, served on re-fried black beans (dried beans re-activated and flavured with seasonings) atop soft-corn tortillas but here it is served with sides of a potato cake, and two triangles of deep-fried cheese, and of course I had extremely spicy Rancheros sauce. (A version, by the way, is Huevos divorciados, divorced eggs, where each egg has a different sauce.)

Another day dawns in this beautiful place

Another day dawns in this beautiful place

As I ate I read today’s news, from the satellited newspaper, its pages tied in green ribbon (it was hanging outside my door, in a hessian bag). There are lots of happy memories here at this friendly luxury hotel. On arrival, you are offered a selection of home-made local soap slabs, and your butler cuts off portions of your chosen ‘flavour’ – I loved the strawberry one, and I was given a wrapped chocolate soap to take home. I loved the way the sommelier carried over a table with all necessities, carafe and glasses, for us to try a really nice La Tercer Vía Baja California. I am sorry not to have been there to try the grill class, or private dining at the end of the hotel’s 300-feet wood-boardwalk pier. I am extremely glad, however, that I experienced that beautiful sunrise. NOW SEE THE VIDEO, BELOW, OF MY VILLA.

 

 

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Luxury Hotels

Riviera Maya’s one-off luxury hotel

Two miles of private beach

Two miles of private beach

For those who want a unique luxury hotel in Riviera Maya, Esencia is the natural choice. At present those staying in its mere 31 rooms and suites have nearly two miles of absolutely private white sandy beach (as of 2017 eight more suites will be added). Everyone staying is waited on hand, foot and to every whim, when wanted but otherwise left alone, by 180 willing and smiling team members. These are, says the gal, led by two ‘different’ hoteliers, the onsite boss, Yurij Gabassi, left above, who admits he was always a rebel in his youth in Molle, southern Sweden, and his deputy, the equally characterful Alessandro Rossi, formerly a Prada executive.

View from the Princess' bedroom, up 56 stairs from the ground

View from the Princess’ bedroom, up 56 stairs from the ground

Esencia was built as a private home by an Italian princess, now up in heaven. It became a hotel and was bought in 2014 by Kevin Wendle, obviously another character with a history of various successful media and technology start-ups and a personal penchant for collecting furniture by such names as Le Corbusier, Serge Mouille, Pierre Guariche, Charlotte Perriand, Pierre Jeanneret – some of his pieces, together with his paintings by, well, Botero and Warhol and a few others, are discreetly set around public areas of the hotel. The day he actually bought Esencia, Kevin Wendle happened to sit opposite Yurij Gabassi, then helping a Frenchman reposition failing hotels throughout Riviera Maya, and persuaded him to jump ship, to land on, and lead, Esencia.

All rooms have a Mykonos-Santorini feel

All rooms have a Mykonos-Santorini feel

It does sound as if Kevin Wendle has a lot in common with Steve Jobs, by the way. Mr J was a micromanager who was also a genius and apparently Mr W, who spends a lot of time at Esencia, is the same. But the result is brilliant. Every year, every one of the rooms, which all look like Mykonos or Santorini inside, white white white and nothing else except for a few highlights, are completely stripped and re-made, to achieve perfection. Colour highlights include local Mexican scatter rugs and cushions (a feeling of locale also comes into the minibars which, apart from Veuve Clicquot, hold exclusively Mexican products). More colour is in the collateral, either royal blue, or sunflower and white stripes, specially designed by C.S. Valentine of Bogus Studio.

All spa rooms have plunge pools looking straight out into undergrowth

All spa rooms have plunge pools looking straight out into undergrowth

This is the luxury resort for the discerning, the entertainment and fashion crowd – Jason Wu married here, this April. No names are mentioned but celebs include rock and sports stars, and also finance biggies. They love the spa, a round structure with five wedge-shaped rooms all with private plunge pools looking straight into the undergrowth. They love the two-floor open-sided yoga pavilion and, oh, the boutique is filled with totally covetable items, jewellery and shoes and robes and more, even for little kids (one of the two pools is family-friendly). See why I say this is a unique resort? SEE A VIDEO, BELOW

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Luxury Hotels

Sybaritic Single feels strongly about luxury hotels’ toiletries

Champagne, a Baccarat flute and roses...

Champagne, a Baccarat flute and roses…

The Sybaritic Single is a light traveller who prefers to fly with only his hand luggage. He remembers which luxury hotels provide high quality bathroom amenities so that he can leave his own shampoo and conditioner at home. Unfortunately, there are very few such places.

From his experience, Four Seasons Moscow and its sister in St. Petersburg provide some of the best quality products. In the Russian capital, the wide selection is all Roberto Cavalli (see above) – and who would have thought that Cavalli was so good in bathroom amenities! The selection even includes bath foam infused with one of the couturier’s most seductive perfumes.

The Lion Palace in St. Petersburg followed a more timeless route with the entire range being sourced from Santa Maria Novella, a noble Florentine house dating back to 1612 and considered one of the oldest pharmacies in the world. The brown bottles, designed to look antique, might not be as user-friendly as the Cavalli tubes, but the quality of the products is simply impeccable with the results comparable to the finest hair salons.

There are also many hotels which go for a brand name rather than the actual product quality. Hermès manufactures incredible leather accessories, but is it really good in making shampoos? After a few trials, the Sybaritic Single never touched it again. The same is almost always true when hoteliers prefer to source local artisan bathroom amenities. While hand soaps are hard to get wrong, hand lotions often leave greasy marks instead of hydrating. The local communities might manufacture great olive oil, but do they indeed possess the latest skincare production technology?

However, there is one separate category of hotel toiletries which the Sybaritic Single finds the most annoying. On one of the recent trips, he discovered what he thought was an incredible shampoo and a great conditioner, presented in no-brand bottles. During the three days that he spent at the hotel, he could not be happier since his hair needed minimal styling and still looked great. Towards the end of his stay, he made a promise to return to the hotel just for the amazing hair products. This was also a rare occasion when he actually packed some extra shampoo in his trunk.

A bad surprise followed on day four. Suddenly, his once perfect hair turned absolutely flat and lifeless. Clueless, he decided to go through the shampoo’s ingredients and could not believe his eyes – the no-brand ‘Made in China’ product was laden with all types of silicone. Banned from top quality shampoos, the silicone made the hair glossy after just one use, but when used for longer it effectively suffocated and affected the scalp. It took almost a week to recover the damage. Was this an intentional trick of the hotel, similar to some establishments which hang skinny mirrors in their gyms or remove body scales from the rooms, or was it plain housekeeper arrogance? The Sybaritic Single does not know but prefers to stay at luxury hotels which do understand their bathroom amenities.

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