Luxury Hotels


Instant images of a ‘brand’ are changing fast. Who, ten years ago, could have envisioned that an Intercon would look like this?  The rendering above is Bellevue WA’s forthcoming 208-room INTERCONTINENTAL HOTEL – BELLEVUE AT THE AVENUE.  Announced yesterday, it will occupy nine floors of a 26-story tower within the sprawling mixed-use complex at the heart of Bellevue’s retail and cultural district.Developer is Fortress Development Group LLC, whose CEO Andy Lakha recalls growing up next to INTERCONTINENTAL HOTEL KARACHI.

Ah Girlahead remembers that hotel well. It was a traditional ‘Intercon’, with a rooftop grill where flambees were a specialty. Fire departments would have a fit these days!

But think how brand images have changed across the board. The stunning month-old MARRIOTT RESORT PALM JUMEIRAH DUBAI is a case in point. Owner-designer Mohamed Ahmed Al Moose deliberately set out to do something different. It seems to be a 14-floor glass house that has 608 bedrooms, minimum size 41sq m and all looking out to the resort’s own beach and out to sea.   There are ten dining places, including a brasserie that has wine, yes wine, on tap. The whole place is FUN – and GM Gerrit Schmitt wears sneakers.

Perceptions are changing the whole time.  Even a Marriott sibling brand, Ritz-Carlton is evolving. The first time Girlahead was aware of a new look was at RITZ-CARLTON BAL HARBOUR, designer Yabu Pushelberg.

 And now, apparently, RITZ-CARLTON NEW YORK NOMAD is the one to watch. Once again Yabu Pushelberg is among the designers – others include Martin Brudnizki and David Rockwell. Hotel GM Bastian Germer came from EDITION.  Plus ça change.

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Luxury Hotels


It’s a national holiday in India today.  Republic Day celebrates the adoption of a new Indian constitution on 26th January, 1950.  Every day, however, seems like the best holiday in the world when you arrive at FALAKNUMA PALACE, just outside Hyderabad, by glorious carriage, as above.   Falaknuma is owned by Turkish Princess Esra Jah and Taj has a long lease on it.

Princess Esra was first of the five wives of His Exalted Highness Rustam-i-Dauran, Arustu-i-Zaman, Wal Mamaluk, Asaf Jah VIII, Muzaffar ul-Mamaluk, Nizam ul-Mulk, Nizam ud-Daula, Nawab Mir Barakat ‘Ali Khan Bahadur, Sipah Salar, Fath Jang, Nizam of Hyderabad and Berar, Honorable Lieutenant-General, Faithful Ally of the British Government. Like everyone in his family, he had a varied life, ranging from Harrow and Sandhurst through to sheep-farming in Western Australia. He died in Istanbul last Saturday, aged 90 – his heir, to titles that are now merely titular, is Princess Esra’s son, a photographer.

Tales abound of the photographer’s great-grandfather using a diamond the size of the koh-i-noor as a paperweight. What is fact, today, is that the 60-room palace has endless stories to tell.  Here is the world’s longest dining table, seating 101 on seven joined pieces of oak to give a total length of 108 ft, with perfect sound from one end to the other. Here is the world’s first-ever telephone exchange, There’s the library, with 5,900 books, and so on, and so forth.

There are 32 acres of hillside and gardens to explore, and a spa with hammam, and afternoon tea on pink and white china, with five delicate Belgian chandeliers overhead.

Girlahead wonders if the late Nizam ever remembered what he once had when he he was sheep-shearing in Australia – which, by the way, also has a holiday today. Happy Australia Day!

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Luxury Hotels


Tonight’s the night, to set the world – or at least Scotland – alight.  It’s Burns Night, and they are celebrating at THE BALMORAL, Edinburgh’s Rocco Forte beauty. Thanks to the leadership of hotel boss Richard Cooke, they do a superb job in special events. Tonight, for instance, whisky specialist Cameron Ewen, above, will lead a Burns specialist. From 6pm there will be welcome cocktails, light bites and guided tastings of Highland Park and The Macallan.

Special events in special places make special sense. If that is true, consider this.  Over the Coronation of King Charles III, household name Geoffrey Kent , of A&K fame, personally leads a 20-person tour of top British castles, including behind-the-scenes at Windsor Castle.

From 1-9 May, the group will be welcomed to Cowdray House, a picturesque Tudor estate with beautifully landscaped gardens, by my co-host, His Grace the Duke of Roxburghe. This is the perfect entrée into a thrilling life of fine motorsports and polo (my own sport of choice),” says Geoffrey Kent. “Then we will fly by helicopter to the gem of the Scottish borders, Floors Castle, the Duke’s ancestral seat, surrounded by gentle hills, woodlands and riverscapes. From there we have the chance to enjoy country pursuits including golf, clay pigeon shooting, off-road driving and fly fishing.”

The tour includes a memorable day at Goodwood where the motor races in Downton Abbey were filmed, and those on the tour will be invited to get behind the wheel themselves after instruction from professional race car drivers. There’s an opportunity to watch and play polo, with a private lesson from professional players at the Cowdray Polo Academy, where Geoffrey Kent once played with King Charles III – then The Prince of Wales – as captain of the Windsor Park Polo Team. Helicopter transfers offer scenic views of the British countryside, as well as avoiding the long drives between the estates.

This all reminds Girlahead of the late-lamented touch company R&I which evolved into Country Houses & Castles which in turn, under the much-missed Susie Worthy, became Noteworthy . In those now-gone days, accommodation was nearly all in privately-owned palaces. Now, A&K kicks off this Coronation tour by staying at CLARIDGE’S. That, honestly, is true style.

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