Luxury Hotels

Tuscany -Miami – UAE – India

The Baccheschi-Berti family, above, enter the Italian luxury hotel theatre. Carlo and Aurora Baccheschi-Berti and their sons Neri, Brando and Corso will, by March 2021, have two lovely properties, both of which excite Girlahead.  Castello di Vicarello, in the Maremma region of Tuscany, was a 12th century castle that they have turned into what will eventually be a 15-key palace, complete with 11th-century wedding chapel plus on-site olive groves and, thanks to keen viticulturalist Brando Baccheschi-Berti, a high-quality vineyard. Castello di Vicarello will make a perfect sibling to the family’s city hotel, the nine-key Vico Milan, at Corso Genova 11. It is Neri Baccheschi-Berti who is overseeing the conversion of what was Aurora Baccheschi-Berti’s fashion business, Bungai (before that is was the Legnano racing bicycle factory): he envisages Vico Milan as not only a stylish home-from-home but also as a place to work, meet and relax,  for guests and locals alike to mingle.

**

Italy has so much history, and castles and palaces just seem to belong there.  It is difficult for new countries to compete – or IS it?Bulgari announced yesterday it will open in Miami Beach in 2024. The 100-key Bvlgari Hotel Miami Beach, at 100 21st street, will be the first ever Bvlgari Hotel in the USA. It is on the waterfront with access to Miami beautiful beaches. True to Bulgari format, Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel will redesign what is currently a 1950s Modernist property. Not so exciting in Girlahead’s view is that food will be yet again by Niko Romito who seems to believe in set tastings rather than what you, today’s busy wellness traveler, might want.

**

The UAE has one significant contender in palatial language, the $2.5-billion Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. This opened in 2005, and it is a kilometre long, with wellness at both ends, and 1,150 employees to look after a mere 394 rooms (Michael Koth is currently evolving this into a Mandarin Oriental). Not to be outdone, Dubai now has two palaces. Its Emerald Palace Kempinski opened in late 2018 with over 6,000 crystal chandeliers, 400 seats for Ducasse dining, 390 stately bedrooms, a 23-room spa and one white Leipzig grand piano. In 2019 Caesars Palace opened on Bluewaters manmade island, next to what will be the world’s largest Ferris wheel. This is actually a lifestyle palace, ready for new-luxury junkies of all ages – read more about it, in days to come.

**

Meanwhile, but still on the palace thread, let us go to India. Listen, below, to Puneet Chhatwal, CEO/MD of Mumbai-based IHCL, talking about Taj’s unique palaces.

Read more
Luxury Hotels

Golden Triangle – Dubai – Stockholm – Bangkok

Want a different Christmas, or any time, gift? Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort, in Northern Thailand, has an idea that is unique, and philanthropic.  It is partnering with Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation to allow zoom calls with Santa Claus, who will introduce you to these gorgeous gentle giants.  Additional creative gifts which also support conservation efforts include a year-long support of one of the three elephants rescued due to COVID-19, monthly updates and pictures will be provided – alternatively, fund feeding one of the resort’s elephants for a month, or support a week anti-poaching activities.

**

Mandarin Oriental hotels in the Middle East think the holiday season has already come – the group has just been awarded Hotelier Middle East‘s best group in the area. Mandarin Oriental Jumeira Beach Dubai GM Werner Anzinger says his 256-room hotel, which opened February 2019, has probably helped the group grow (it is currently converting Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi and the equally-iconic Al Faisalah in Riyadh). Girlahead loves going into Mandarin Oriental Jumeira Beach Dubai, its entrance court , thanks to designer Jeffrey Wilkes, an interior orchard of 14 glass and stainless trees, all some 12 feet high and nestled around decorative pools. Style is further helped by having a tempting caviar bar and café to one side. A few days Werner Anzinger hosted a casual lunch, outside on The Bay terrace, looking past palest avocado and bluebell-coloured salt and pepper mills at bright sunflower-coloured sun beaming down on the azure ocean and, closer in, lovelies from around the world sunbathing or using calories on the public running track that so usefully goes right past the hotel.  Modern luxury includes a memorable ambience, great and healthy eating, and lots of wellness work-out.

**

For as long as anyone can remember the question has been the same, and unanswered.  Why are ‘big hotel brands not in Scandinavia?’  Intercon did flirt with Stockholm, in the form of The Grand Hotel.  Now Hyatt goes into the Swedish capital. This very morning it was announced that Hotell Reissen Stockholm, which has a history going back to a coffee house in the 1750s, will become part of Hyatt’s Unbound Collection. All 144 rooms are redecorated with a Swedish slant, and many, to give an authentic ambience, have private saunas.

**

Ambience and associated aesthetics are essential in design of hotels, both inside and out. Bangkok-based Bill Bensley understands this perfect – Girlahead is forever mindful of the shiny silver animals he designed to enliven the exterior pool at St Regis in Bangkok, and the gorgeous grounds at Capella Sanya, on China’s Hainan Island.  Listen to Bill Bensley’s words of wisdom, below.

Read more
Luxury Hotels

Dubai

Girlahead says hello from Dubai, the biggest success story in luxury travel right now. This is an Emirate with a population of 3.3 million that has kept the pandemic at bay. Over 150,000 tests continue to be done every day and if someone tests positive, it is isolation for all those around – and, unlike so many other destinations, there are plenty of hospital beds if needed.

**

No wonder all Dubai’s hoteliers are smiling (above, see Jose Silva, CEO of Jumeirah – we are outside Burj Al Arab, which re-opens on 15th December). Hotels are in many cases running at 100% occupancy, with long stays. Four Seasons was so overwhelmed with business that it has flown in a task force of 50, from around the world, to help. Those task forcers from, say, Moscow and St Petersburg will be here, in the divine climate that is Dubai right now, through mid-January.

**

Girlahead revelled in a night at One&Only The Palm, in the most perfect villa (#704) imaginable. It is right on the beach, with its own 8 x 5-metre private pool.  The villa is not too large, and it is light and bright and you can see where everything is, and work the technology without a PhD in electronics.  Early morning, doing a pre-mango hike, we passed dozens of rabbits frolicking in the exterior greenery (apparently some regular guests, who account for 50% of all business, order extra room service items so their favourite bunnies can breakfast, too).  At One&Only The Palm, by the way, dine outside, over-water, at the perfect 101 seafood restaurant.

**

It was actually seafood most of the time, in Dubai. Burj might not yet be re-open but its outdoor Sal restaurant, part of its beach club, is a superb lunch venue, again over-water. All around were the local and foreign lovelies, a couple of hundred or more, shelling out good money for a day on a lounger, with $100 food-drink credit thrown in (as Girlahead so often says, it is not cost but VALUE that should differentiate luxury these days). Jose Silva understands what today’s new-look luxury requires.  Tomorrow, for instance, sees the opening of the Jumeirah Arrivals Lounge at the airport. Fly in, exit past Customs and there is this Presidential Suite-look lounge, food-drink-showers 24/7, complimentary to anyone going to a Jumeirah hotel and – and this is the clever part – to ANY blogger or would-be social media success. Smart move, Jumeirah.

**

Watch more Dubai, to come. Meanwhile, let us switch to history, in the form of palaces. King of the palatial luxury hotel scene is Puneet Chhatwal, MD/CEO of IHCL, which includes Taj’s iconic palaces. Here him now, on MARY GOSTELOW GIRLAHEAD PODCAST

Read more