Luxury Hotels

Sybaritic Single heads for a new Abu Dhabi luxury hotel

The Sybaritic Single spends more time at luxury hotels than he does at home. Naturally, exquisite welcome rituals have become an integral part of his art of arrival.
There is nothing more banal than offering a glass of Champagne to a guest at the beginning of a dinner or being served a one upon check-in. An unusual, fresh cocktail is so much more appropriate. It will also tell more about the host and his refined taste – a chance too good to be wasted. Though for some Champagne can be the safest bet.
Earlier this week, the Sybaritic Single happened to be in Abu Dhabi and was lured to spend a night at the Sofitel Corniche. As a top-tier member of AccorHotels Le Club, he expected to be surprised – in a good way – at this new hotel.
Upon arrival, he was presented a démodé welcome drink voucher (vouchers of any sort are so-not-luxury). Curious by nature and eager to get rid of the nasty piece of paper, he ascended to the bar on the 36th floor.
Disappointingly, he was offered a limited selection of wine options from the specific “Welcome Drink” menu, one red and one white. Forget any bubbles. The “white” seemed a harmless choice. Moments later, he got a hearty pour of the Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, Sierra Grande 2018 (retailing at £6.69 a bottle) in a catering-class stem glassware. No Champagne or a French white at the hotel which prides itself of the French penchant for fine living?
The bar’s sound system was blasting Joe Cocker’s “Trust In Me” (1992) as the Sybaritic Single concluded that sometimes no welcome drink at all would be a better option than being offered a truly appalling one. Especially at a luxury hotel where one expects to be delighted. He quickly walked away to reunite with own Baccarat red crystal flûte – and with his own emergency stock of Cristal 2009, in the peace and comfort of his room.
And where has the Sybaritic Single experienced the best welcome? Undoubtedly, it must have been at another Sofitel far far away – at the Metropole in Hanoi.
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Luxury Hotels

DUCO gathers all Italy’s top luxury hotels in Florence

The St Regis, Florence

Some years ago Carolina Perez, of the enterprising Perez family of Brazilian travel advisors, was instrumental in starting São Paulo Travel Week.  This was sold on to Reed and Carolina, who has always loved Italy, started afresh, with DUCO.  As she explained at the first one, April 2018, Italy is so important it warranted a show all of its own.  This is the event for Italy’s luxury hotels to sell themselves to the world (Paolo Mancuso, Director of Projects & Business Developments at ForteVillage Resort, Sardinia, Italy, one of the properties exhibiting, again, at the second annual DUCO Travel Summit, held April 1-5, 2019, in Florence, said he received a lot of business after the first show).  The gal headed to Florence to coincide with DUCO, which unusually moves venue from day to day.

Some tables were on the balcony looking down into the restaurant

Yesterday was at Four Seasons Milano, today is St Regis – the former Grand Hotel – and tomorrow will be Belmond Villa San Michele.  The 265 exhibiting hotels have to move accordingly, and the 160 invited travel advisors, nearly two-thirds from the USA, are bussed as appropriate.  Today, at St Regis, the elaborate mezzanine meeting rooms and even the open gallery that goes around the main restaurant are taken up by tables.  Hoteliers stay put, and at the gong which sounds every 15 minutes the travel advisors rush from one venue to the next. Lunch today is hosted by the adjacent Westin, in a rooftop space that gives marvellous views over the Arno (I had a jolly good tasting of assorted burrata and mozzarella cheeses, including tiny mozzarella affumicata balls, and balanced all this dairy with a dozen or so cherry tomatoes).

Jack Ezon, Carolina Perez

Carolina  Perez certainly had many of the top advisors: Jack Ezon, for instance, heads the new Embark consortium, and this man who has been known to arrange seven-day weddings in the Italian countryside for household name Americans was just as keen as others to learn what is NEW.  I loved the way that in place of a standard directory there was a really informative and humorous colour sketch book, showing what is where in which province of Italy – helpful to those do not even know where Lombardy IS. The book also lists exhibiting properties in various categories. Interestingly, there are 39 properties of 20 rooms or fewer – the smallest is the two-room Holy Deer San Lorenzo City Lodge, Rome.

DUCO display board

The opening educational included fashion specialist Paolo Zegna, of Ermenegildo Zegna, talking about the link between luxury brands and high-end travel. Last night there was a grand gala, tonight and tomorrow there are evening cocktails. After it is all over participants have a chance to do retail, at The Mall Luxury Outlets. During my short stay I was impressed by this rare opportunity to study one destination in depth.  IF YOU WANT AN IDEA OF THE HUBBUB THAT IS NONSTOP DURING THE WORK SESSIONS OF A SERIOUS BUYING-AND-SELLING LUXURY EVENT LIKE DUCO, SEE THE VIDEO BELOW

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Luxury Hotels

A funny thing happened, not on the way to the forum but at Park Hyatt Milano

Hotel on right, Galleria ahead

Park Hyatt Milano is a luxury hotel right next to great Italian shopping, and that says a lot. Come out of what was built in 1870 as a bank and turn right and you are immediately in Milan’s most famous historic mall, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, built in 1865 by architect Giuseppe Mengoni. The photo on the left shows how this is a Park Hyatt that has a discreet front entrance – as does, admittedly, Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme, which the gal has several time walked right past instead of stopping and going in.  But regulars know this entrance of course. Much of the business is from the USA, with UK coming in second.  In summer the 115-room hotel is regular base for Middle Easterners, some of whom take day trips to Lake Como.

Risotto, Milan style

I was there for lunch with two lovely people who make this hotel work. Ilaria Bucci and Nicola Ultimo both seem to know all there is to know about Milan and its social mores, and how to attract yet more people to come, and stay even longer. They filled me in pretty quickly, and they insisted that at least one of us try a local risotto, saffron flavoured and made with Carnaroli rice. Now this, it seems, is very special, certified by the national cooperative for selected seeds, ENSE, and the best Carnaroli is from the small Riserva San Massimo, a mere 100 hectares in all. There are two specialists, Cristiano Guizzardi and Dino Massignani, whose sole job is, it seems, to perfect the growing of this rice.

Ilaria after the iPhone mix-up was unravelled

So lunch was fascinating. I heard how at each Milan Fashion Week Gucci does a complete buy-out of the entire hotel, to put up their special guests and to use, too, for business entertaining.  I heard how, for Italian millennials, there is no such word as No, they want anything and everything, exactly when they want it, and how all ages have switched from traditional martinis to mixologists’ specials.  And then, oh dear, lunch went belly-up.  My iPhone suddenly switched to Italian, and it wanted a six-digit password (mine is four). Ilaria brilliantly got the hotel’s IT specialist in two minutes – always the sign of a really good hotel – but he was flummoxed.  Only when I got up to go did both Ilaria and I realised our stupid mistake.  I had earlier been trying to use HER iPhone. No wonder we both collapsed in gigg

The mystery statue, unveiled

And then I returned to the Galleria.  Before lunch I had been waiting for the unveiling of a shroud-covered statue (see the image above).  I was fascinated by the faces of people around – see the video below. Athough the stated unveiling time of 1 p.m. had come and gone, nothing had happened. After the iPhone mx-up, or unravelling of the mix-up, I went back to the Galleria and there was a splendid lifesize bull. Displayed thanks to the magazine Milanofinanza.it, this was Milano Capitali, by Francesco Messina (he saw it as a positive symbol of financial power).

It is also a reminder that for some tourists it brings good luck to spin round on the Turin bull in the mosaic floor in the centre of the Galleria floor. WATCH A MILANAISE CROWD GATHERING JUST BECAUSE IT IS GATHERING – AND MOST PEOPLE HAVE NO IDEA WHY

 

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