Luxury Hotels

Geneva – Zurich – Maldives – Mike Batt and the world

Geneva’s next luxury hotel will be the Oetker-managed 26-key all-suite Woodrow, a 1901 building on the shore of Lake Geneva (after opening 1901 as Hotel Bellevue it was then a bank). Now, redesigned by Pierre-Yves Rochon with all food from Robuchon, a 21-metre indoor pool and a Guerlain spa, the hotel is ready-to-roll. Prime mover behind this magical transformation is Bastion Management’s ceo Christophe Aldunate, an obviously versatile gentleman worked in the past at Cannes’ Martinez before moving east to Hyatt’s Palais de la Mediterranée in Nice. His many current hats include heading C Koya Development, Invest Hospitality, part of Crest Hospitality, which owns 11 restaurants in USA, a Geneva chocolatier, and Sunseeker’s Isle of Man-registered largest yacht, also Rochon.

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Swiss news comes in thick and fast. Three hours after Oetker Collection announced the above, Mandarin Oriental announced what will be their third hotel there, joining Mandarin Oriental Geneva, formerly Hôtel du Rhône, by Georg Rafael, and Mandarin Oriental Lucerne, formerly the Palace, part of the Victoria-Jungfrau Collection. Now MOHG will take over management of the 1838-vintage Savoy Baur en Ville, in the centre of Zurich. Credit Suisse Group will close the hotel in 2022 and it will re-open two years later as an 80-key beauty, designed by Tristan Auer (at the moment, by the way, the hotel offers 65% reduction for the over-65s).

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Looking ahead, you have until 30th November to book a long stay at Anantara Veli Maldives. Any time during 2021 you can move in, for as long as you like, via its Unlimited Stays in Paradise deal. Girlahead would, if she could, simply relocate there for the whole year. For a one-off payment of $30,000, including taxes and service, you get an overwater villa with free breakfast, and 25% off other food and drinks, and spa. When you need to go to Male for shopping or any other reason, transfers are complimentary.

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And do not forget, says Girlahead, that wherever you stay, do make sure it is safe, from the pandemic and all that means.  Thank goodness for the global stay-safe verification being set up by Jeff Arnold, Chairman of Forbes Travel Guide, and its CEO Filip Boyen. Such other admirable parties as Hermann Elger, President of Sharecare, and Michael Batt, Founding Chairman of Internova, are also key. Hear Batt now, on MARY GOSTELOW GIRLAHEAD PODCAST

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Luxury Hotels

Longyearbyen – Paris

When Girlahead overnighted in Longyearbyen, capital of Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, it was one of the area’s 100-plus days of 24/7 darkness a year, but fortunately not having to venture outside meant there was no chance of running into the 3,000 or more polar bears who are reputed to roam freely here.  Interestingly, Longyearbyen’s 2,400 human population have a globally-respected weekly newspaper, Svalbardposten, edited by the astute Hilde Røsvik, whose thoughts are read avidly, on paper by some locals and online by policy makers in Oslo and, worldwide, by many concerned with geopolitics within the Arctic Circle.  It looks as if the best Longyearbyen hotel today is Svalbard Hotell, whose three buildings offer everything from fully-equipped long-stay apartments through to family and single-double rooms, plus one Polar Bear Suite, which reminds Girlahead of her so-happy stay in the Antarctica Suite of Friôrik Pálsson’s absolutely lovely Hotel Ranga in the heart of Iceland – there is a taxidermist’s treasure, a polar bear, in the hotel’s lobby (and there are also make-you-laugh stools, from Italy, in the bar, as shown above).

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The Collection Morozov at Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris has postponed a Russian show, orginally set to open in February 2021, until the end of June 2021. The theme is French and Russian works gathered in the early 20th century by two Moscow patrons and collections, Mikhaïl and Ivan Morozov. Among the many other happenings in Paris in 2021 is the opening of the 149-room Kimpton St Honoré Paris on Boulevard des Capucines. Operating as the Samaritaine de Luxe store from 1917 to 1981, it has been converted by designer Charles Zana and wellness includes an indoor swimming pool and spa: the original 103-year old elevator rises to a rooftop terrace with café. Hotel GM is Jean-Paul Dantil.

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Finally, let us start-the-week at that City of Lights, Paris.  First, if you can do see a brilliant teledocumentary based on firefighters, including a young woman on her first serious assignment, at the tragic Notre Dame Cathedral a year ago. Now listen, perhaps again, to one of France’s best-known hoteliers, COO of The Dorchester Collection, François Delahaye, below.

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Luxury Hotels

Simply Sunday – think South Pole

Look ahead. 5th January 2022 is the centenary of the death of Arctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton CVO OBE FRGS FRSGS, one of the principal figures in what is known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. Book now, as others are already doing, for Quark Expeditions’ Celebrating Shackleton: Journey from Antarctica to South Georgia,  22nd December 2021 to 10th January 2022. The trip starts, and ends, in Buenos Aires.

Ernest Shackleton, born in Ireland in 1874, was schooled at Dulwich College, south of London (where Girlahead’s father taught, obviously much much later). He succumbed to a heart attack 5th January 1922 at Grytviken, South Georgia, leaving a widow and five children, and gigantic debt. There will be two relevant historians aboard throughout: Tim Jarvis re-enacted Shackleton’s expeditions and subsequently wrote Chasing Shackleton, and Dr Ross MacPhee, a curator at Washington DC’s American Museum of Natural History, which hosted The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition exhibition (he is also author of Race to The End: Amundsen, Scott, and the Attainment of the South Pole).

And look at THIS.You will be travelling with two, nine-seat helicopters from Luxaviation and you, like all 199 passengers on this unique journey, will have at least one complimentary chopper expedition. How about THAT, asks Girlahead?

This journey is on Quark’s brand-new Ultramarine ship, currently being built in Croatia. It has 102 suites, from 22sq m single cabins up to 53sq m (1.5 bathrooms, separate dining room and so on). The ship has a dedicated storage room for the parkas and boots that Quark provides – switch ski-in/ski-out to zodiac-in/zodiac-out. No need, therefore, to pack Polar gear.  You do not need black tie, either, but many like to dress up for the first and last nights onboard. There is a 24/7 gym and full spa, and onboard laundry but hold your breath and do not expect a launderette.

Quark Expeditions is, as part of UK-based Travelopia, owned by KKR, and headquartered in Seattle WA. Average customer age is 55-70, though lowering the whole time: top business is American, followed by Asia (especially US-based Chinese), and Australia and UK.  But, says Quark’s Man in Toronto, David Tangay, he was talking to remarkably-youthful Quarkaholic of 99 a couple of days ago…

(Ultramarine obviously has the very latest in onboard communications and, so relevant right now, air circulation and other wellness necessities. Talking of which, says Girlahead, listen to Mike Batt, Chairman of Internova, partnering with Forbes Travel Guide in verification for wellness-safe travel, below)

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