Luxury Hotels

Japan’s sword-making, Vienna’s latest luxury hotel development – hot news!

The gal has a pair of steak knives from the New York Grill at Park Hyatt Tokyo. The hotel’s so-stylish GM Hervé Mazella explains they come from Seki, in Gifu Prefecture, known as Japan’s best sword-making area.  These knives looks exquisite, and they cut like swords, which is not surprising – each blade has been tempered 65 times, Damascene style and sharpened to hombazuke perfection.  In fact what is so impressive is that Japan’s Ryokan Collection suggests putting a visit to sword-making – see image above – into a Japan itinerary.

To see Iaido, the traditional art of swordsmanship, start at Kyoto station. Board a shinkansen bullet train for the one hour trip to Okayama, to transfer to Kifu No Sato by private car.  Visit Iaido master Trevor Jones and learn about Iaido, a martial art that originated in Japan. You will have a chance to learn the movements of drawing the sword. This is a great opportunity to see and experience samurai culture. It’s also the perfect place — Mimasaka is the birthplace of  swordsman Miyamoto Musashi.

This will be a memorable day. Lunch is at Mitakien, a teahouse located in the middle of a pretty forest glade. Enjoy delicious natural cuisine cooked with fresh local ingredients – a highlight main dish is sansai ryori,  made from wild plants that grow in the area. The last stop for today is the Ishitani Residence where used to be a temporary residence for upper class Samurai when they traveled to Edo (now Tokyo) for sankin kottai that every daimyo was required to spend every second year in Edo. If time permits, drop by the sake brewery which is only a few minutes’ walk away,


The just-announced forthcoming Mandarin Oriental, Vienna will be will be a conversion of a heritage building that originally served as the city’s commercial law court from 1912 to 2003. Mandarin Oriental, Vienna is located in a peaceful street in District One of Vienna within the Ringstrasse. It is in easy walking distance of the city’s major attractions, including St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Imperial Palace, Vienna State Opera and a wide range of restaurants and bars.

Conversion of the property is already underway, and restoration will preserve many of the building’s original design elements.  151 bedrooms will surround a central courtyard with restaurant, bar and outdoor garden. The Spa at Mandarin Oriental will be complemented by a pool and fitness centre. Residences at Mandarin Oriental will be located on the building’s top two floors, private access to the roof (several of the 17 apartments have outdoor terraces). Developers are real estate and wealth management specialists Brisen Group, and designers are London-based Gowith ddard Littlefair.


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Luxury Hotels

Simply Sunday: Lyon offers luxury food-for-thought

In 2010,  “Gastronomic Meal of the French” was added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list, says Richard Barnes. To further this achievement, a French taskforce for food heritage and culture was appointed to launch a call for projects among local authorities. In June 2013, Lyon was chosen to host one of the four International City of Gastronomy projects, alongside Tours, Dijon and Paris-Rungis.

Fast forward to 2019, when Lyon saw the final touches added to what was the largest private renovation venture carried out to date on an historic monument in France – the Hotel Dieu project – a vast (two hectares) development, which saw Lyon’s central hospital complex closed – to be transformed into an extraordinary new centre of activity and life for the city.

One out of three Lyonnais was born in this place – giving it a special attachment to the local community. All buildings (except the International City of Gastronomy) were acquired by Crédit Agricole and the restoration work was conducted by Eiffage Construction.  Along with International City of Gastronomy, the complex houses the five-star InterContinental ]Lyon Hotel Dieu, with 143 rooms, a 2,740 sq m convention centre, shops, cafés, restaurants, offices, 11 apartments and a private car park. The external areas include courtyards, a cloistered walkway and historic gardens, all of which make for a relaxing setting.

This listed building, which covers a surface area of 51,500 sq m, was renovated in accordance with the highest professional standards, so as to respect the buildings’ architecture and structure. It has now been launched as a dynamic hub for the inhabitants of Lyon, expanding the city’s reputation.

InterContinental Lyon – Hotel Dieu was reimagined by renowned interior designer, Jean-Philippe Nuel. He focused on maintaining the original beauty and architecture of the building. The “monastic yet sophisticated” design was inspired by the historical use of this place – as the city’s hospital for more than 800 years – combined with the desire to create a destination for global travellers.

The highlight of the property is the Dôme Bar – nestled in the heart of the hotel within the grand dome. Originally housing a chapel, today the dome is a space where hotel guests and locals come together under its 32m high ceiling. Originally designed by Jacques-Germain Soufflot, architect of the Pantheon in Paris, Soufflot was called away during the project and he never saw the dome finished. The dome has since been named in his honour as the “Soufflot Dome”.

Meanwhile, the hotel’s restaurant, Epona, extends along the hotel’s front façade and opens on to an interior courtyard and garden. Head chef Mathieu Charrois offers world-class Lyonnaise dishes with a modern twist. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the hotel’s main restaurant is a destination in itself.

Lyon, former capital of the Gauls, extraordinarily rich in history (dating back 2,000 years), is now positioning itself as an ideal tourism ‘hub’ in France – with day trips to Burgundy and Dijon, Paris or Marseille made very simple thanks to France’s TGV train network.

Thanks to its history, Lyon – and the new hotel – are an exceptional attraction for residents of new world countries such as the USA and Australia, for whom ancient walls such as these exist only in fairy tales and school books.

The International City of Gastronomy, for its part, covers a surface area of 3,930 sq m, which is devoted to the theme: “gastronomy, at the crossroads of food and health”. Learning to eat well, while associating health with pleasure, boosting preventative measures, and discovering and furthering the latest breakthroughs in research, are the main missions chosen for this great and innovative project.

A permanent exhibition trail sees exhibitions on the history of Lyon’s gastronomy, great chefs and Mères Lyonnaises (female chefs), and the Hôtel-Dieu, as well as a digital space presenting the gastronomic meal of the French, terroirs and the making of meals. A space dedicated to the nutritional challenges of tomorrow, an interactive “World Gastronomy Atlas” room and a “MiamMiam!” (Yum-yum!) fun food space, introduce children to the pleasures of eating well.

The ambitious project of the Valley of Gastronomy is based on a selection of offers that allow to share and discover the know-how – a collection of remarkable experiences to live once in a lifetime – existing tourist gourmet offers related to gastronomy, wines and/or local products.  As long as it is located within the perimeter of the Valley of Gastronomy, any tourist activity for the general public that enhances gastronomy, wines and local know-how can claim to be part of the destination.

The combination of the Valley of Gastronomy with the International City of Gastronomy in Lyon and InterContinental Lyon – Hotel Dieu make a winning trifecta for travel professionals around the globe looking for exceptional new ideas for high-end clients.  GM of this unique luxury hotel is Madelijn Vervoord.

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Luxury Hotels

Luxury Bloc will elevate Prague further up the luxury ladder

It’s time to take Central and Eastern Europe seriously, says Prague-based Gabriela Markova. That is why she is organising the first ever luxury trade show for that area.  It will be at Mandarin Oriental, Prague, 13-16 September 2020 (see the view, above, from the hotel’s Presidential Suite). This is the opportunity for the world’s savviest luxury suppliers to go after high-spending travellers from Central and Eastern Europe.

Gabriela Markova cites Deloitte figures:  the ultra-wealthy segment of Central and Eastern Europe has grown at a rate of 7.6%, matching the combined growth of the same segment in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. From Poland, January-August 2019, outbound trips upped 6%; from the Czech Republic the figure for the same period was 5% (and from Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland it was merely 2%). At least until 2030, the EU Ministry of Foreign Affairs expects Eastern European outbound tourism to grow 5-6% a year compared with all-Europe’s outbound forecast of 2-3%. Eastern European travellers love exotic destinations. Their visitor numbers to Vietnam rose 17.2% from 2018 to 2018, versus 7% for the whole of Europe. Thanks partly to better airlift, Kenya saw Polish visitors rise 28% in those 12 months. Central and Eastern Europe as a block upped visitation to Greece by 24% in 2019,  Japan saw a rise of 12.7%, the Maldives recorded 11% up, and Thailand 10.8%.

This is why Luxury Bloc is hosting 50 top travel advisors for one-to-one meetings with such top properties as Fregate Island Private, Terre Blanche and Rosa Alpina, plus a list the most exclusive brands (think Chedi, Mandarin Oriental and Raffles). You will see such names as ILTM, Traveller Made and XO Private.

Luxury Bloc kicks off on Sunday 13th September with a cocktail talk by New York-based futurist Daniel Levine, Executive Director of the Avant-Guide Institute trends consultancy. This will be followed by a welcome dinner cooked by teenage graduates from a Prague charity foster home. Monday and Tuesday will be serious business, with 15-minute pre-arranged tabletop meetings for exhibitors to get to know the luxury buyers.

Gabriela Markova is a highly-respected luxury distribution professional who has variously been indispensable to Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group and later to Velaa Private Island in the Maldives.  For Luxury Bloc, she has selected Mandarin Oriental, Prague, as host hotel for business and social events – and she alternatively recommends staying at suggests the city’s Aria Hotel, Prague, five minutes’ walk away.

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