Hotels

Il Sereno Hotel

Lake Como is the right choice for a luxury holiday and the iconic lake is definitely a sight to see. When you do come, you will want to stay at a hotel that exceeds all of your expectations. This is why Il Sereno is your only choice.

Location

You do not go to Lake Como to not stay along the shores. Il Sereno is on the banks of the lake, so you can enjoy the views directly from your hotel room. Because of this, you can also take one of the hotel’s own boats (designed by Ernesto Riva) to get to the hotel.

Interior Design

This hotel features beautiful surroundings, with panoramic views incorporated in the design of the hotel. While it is luxurious, it is also much understated compared to other hotels. Instead, it focuses on the beauty of the lake through the floor-to-ceiling windows that also bring in a lot of natural light. This means visitors are not distracted from Como’s tranquil waters and picturesque mountains.

Amenities

There are 30 suites available, ranging in size between 40 and more than 200 square meters, with all of them facing the lake. The other amenities of the hotel will also make sure you have nothing but the most relaxing holiday ever. The full-service spa can be found under original arches that are at least a century old.

You can also enjoy the warm, sunny days at the large sundeck before enjoying the 60-foot long freshwater infinity pool hanging over the lake. This is definitely one of the highlights of the hotel. And yes, the water is heated to be at a comfortable temperature all-year-round.

The restaurant by Milan’s one Michelin-starred Ristorante Berton chef Andrea Berton serves the delicious dishes like locally-sourced fish in a casual setting. Visitors can also enjoy service along the pool bar and the Il Sereno Bar and Lounge.

Services

Guests can expect full service, from the special arrival by boat to the personalized attention during their stay. The full-service spa offers in-room treatments, and the pool club has attendants catering to your needs. The fitness center also has trainers available whenever guests require one.

The hotel also makes it easy for guests to explore the lake. You can rent one of the private wooden motorboats to go somewhere for a picnic or just to enjoy the surroundings from a different perspective. Other than that, Il Sereno has its own private water limousine called the Vaporina del Lago, complete with a driver ready to take you up and down the lake at any time.

Overall

Luxury does not have to be ostentatious, and instead, something as quietly elegant as Il Sereno can still give you the holiday of your dreams. In fact, the whole design was made simple on purpose to not distract you from the breathtaking surroundings of Lake Como. Just make sure you bring your favorite outfits for those hundred photos you will definitely take during your visit. And for the best experience, stay at the Il Sereno for an unforgettable holiday.

Convent de la Missio

A holiday in Spain requires only the best accommodation. With the never-ending sightseeing, one definitely needs a daily refuge. I particularly found mine in the luxurious sanctuary of Convent de la Missio. Not only was it beautifully curated, the service I experienced was outstanding.

Location

The hotel is located in 07003 Palma de Mallorca, Islas Baleares, approximately 2 km from the legendary electric train railway in Ferrocarril de Soller. What made me ultimately pick the area is its proximity to the majestic 14th-century Gothic-inspired Bellver Castle, one of the few circular castles in entire Europe.

Interior Design

The interior of this renowned boutique hotel is beyond description. I found the designs rich but not quite ostentatious. I particularly liked the play of earth tones and warm lights that filled every space, from the reception to the patio. The walls are painted white and cream, the furniture pieces are beautiful minimalist designs. Once you step into the building, you immediately sense the relaxed, calming vibe every traveler so desperately craves.

The exterior is equally gorgeous especially at night. Well-illuminated, this 17-century hotel is a spectacular Mediterranean beauty.

Amenities

All rooms look sophisticated, complete with WiFi access, study desks, television sets, and of course, mini bars. I checked into a room with a canopied bed, mini salon for receiving guests, and a balcony. The city view is dramatically splendid at night.

I have friends in the city who sometimes dropped by and together we would dine in the Michelin-rated restaurant right within the hotel – Marc Fosh. The dishes are flavorful Mediterranean cuisine with a twist. It also boasts of an Art Bar that not only offers a range of time-honored wine and spirits, but also an exhibit of gorgeous artworks.

Apart from the restaurant, Convent de la Missio has a pool, a bar, a fitness center, and a meeting room for those keen to meet clients and friends privately. I personally love lounging by the pool just before hitting the buffet breakfast table. It’s a nice reading nook when you want fresh air and sunlight. The area is non-smoking, so fresh air is guaranteed.

Staff

Concierge is available for those who need extra helping hands for carrying the luggage. This service is extremely helpful for me because I am never without at least 5 bags. I have been to many destinations and rubbed elbows with different hotel staff. I can guarantee that the service at Convent de la Missio is above par.

The staff, from the receptionist to the room attendants, are all friendly and accommodating. I may not be capable of speaking Spanish but I was able to put my message across without any hindrances. That is, there were no wrong food orders or directions.

Overall

Convent de la Missio gives every guest a truly rewarding stay. Choosing it is an ultimate value for money. The place is artsy but definitely not the distracting kind. Its atmosphere is warm, calming, and friendly. You don’t get intimated nor lost because there’s always a cheerful staff.

Since it’s within the commercial center, the shops are within reach and the transportation is convenient. I even availed of the hotel’s airport transfer, a rather wise decision especially if you are taking a late flight.

Fontelunga Hotel

If you’ve seen Under the Tuscan Sun, then you know the kind of experience you should get when you book a hotel in Tuscany. I was not kidding when I booked a room at Fontelunga Hotel, expecting that I will get to see a sunset view of the fields and olive gardens just as the movie portrayed.

Location

Fontelunga Hotel is located at Arezzo, Italy. If you’re coming from Florence, then it will just be an easy one hour drive away. An hour of driving does not seem appealing especially if you are coming from a long flight or a business trip but I recommend staying awake to take in the routes going to the hotel. If this is your first time in this side of Italy, then you would love to know that there are several tourist destinations like the Pienza and Siena are just less than an hour away.

Interior Design

When you approach the hotel, you will suddenly wonder if you are going to a local’s house or a building. Don’t be fooled by the facade as with its simple exterior comes with a sense of calming sensation for anyone who wants to escape the city life. It was nice to see that all the blue shutters were open which made the place feel more inviting.

Upon checking in, I was directly led to my room. To my amazement, it did not look like anything from the outside. Instead of having brick walls as I would think Tuscan homes have, I have a room that was stark white with shades of light blue and cream. It is somehow reminiscent of Greece in the age of Mamma Mia.

Amenities

For a boutique hotel, Fontelunga Hotel offers a lot of things. It has its own pool and tennis court. However, they don’t have an in-house spa which is understandable. Nonetheless, I appreciate their effort to get me a spa appointment in my room. During my stay here, I also availed of their guided tours. They don’t hold these tours themselves but I just gave them the places I wanted to go to and they sent me a few quotations to choose from.

Staff

What I love the most in this boutique hotel are the services they offer to make every guest have that Tuscan experience. I was fortunate enough to reserve a seat at their bi-weekly dinners. These bi-weekly dinners, as I was told, were made to replicate how life is in Tuscany – where people (even strangers) gather around a long table and get to know each other. This became the highlight of my stay here. People were so welcoming and kind and seeing the stars above our heads just painted a very serene picture.

Overall, there is nothing I would change in this boutique hotel – not more rooms, not more furniture. It is lovely the way it is. I also loved the fact that they made sure they gave what they can to all their guests. Whether it was a car rental or a cooking class, they didn’t miss out on the services that can make your stay enjoyable. If you are planning to stay here, I recommend booking some of their tour packages like the cooking classes and the horse rides.

Amangani Luxury Hotel and Resort

Found at the top of a small hill by the foot of the Teton Mountains is Amangani. When I first heard about it, I didn’t understand that it was an American-inspired hotel save for the location that it’s in. But just a quick search on Google and I found it to be one of the most American hotels I’ve ever seen. This immediately made me want to book a suite there. And I did.

Location

Amangani is located at the crest of the East Gros Ventre Butte and is at least 7000 feet above sea level. If you’ve heard about the Jackson Hole Mountian Resort, then Amangani is just a 20-minute drive from there. Thanks to its location, you can already expect wilderness everywhere. When it’s spring and fall, you will be able to see all sorts of animals around the area. Luckily I was able to book a room here during the time when wildlife was abundant.

Interior Design

When I was approaching the hotel, I was greeted by a wide driveway. Upon entering, I was welcomed by a very warm room. Even if it’s not winter, it gave me the impression that it was cold outside. The walls were lined with rocks and the banisters and furniture were wooden. Even the reception was designed with varnished wood.

My suite didn’t fall short as well. I booked the Spring Gulch Suite which was spacious enough to accommodate four people but I had the room all to myself. Although the suite has the same color palette as all the interior of the hotel, it had a modern air with it. I guess it’s because it had a modern fireplace by the windows. My room was overlooking the Snake River so it was perfect that it had a lot of windows.

Amenities

In terms of amenities, Amangani has all the basics – dining areas, a fitness center, and a spa. I particularly didn’t do much inside the hotel because they were offering a lot of outdoor activities. I myself felt excited to go out and try the hot air balloon and visit the stables. The stables were just a short walk from the hotel which was very convenient. They also have a huge infinity pool overlooking the mountain. I recommend dipping there during the morning so you can watch how serene everything is.

Service

After enjoying the stables and the hot air balloon on my second day, I booked a massage in my room. I ordered the healing therapy which focused on removing the tension in my body. The masseuse was very professional and I can say the massage made me feel calm and stress-free. In fact, every staff at the hotel was very professional and all of them gave me a warm welcome especially when I first arrived at Amangani. It’s obvious that they are used to giving world-class service.

Overall, my stay at Amangani is one of the best. The design of the whole place definitely complemented the location and I would definitely visit for another time. I have yet to experience Amangani when it’s winter.

Sea Five Boutique Hotel

Beyond being a few steps away from the beach, one of the most important things for me when looking for a hotel in Camps Bay is finding one that is peaceful and relaxing. I live in a big city, which is why being in the middle of so much action during my holiday is really not what I wanted. I found this and much more during my stay at the Sea Five Boutique Hotel.

In fact, it feels much less than a hotel and much more like a huge beach house. While it is only about 300 meters away from the beach and a few blocks away from the sunset strip, you cannot find a better location.

Location

Thanks to being close to the beach, you can expect wonderful views of the sea. If you are looking for a relaxing beach holiday, you cannot be any closer to the water. Plus, you cannot imagine how beautiful the sunsets are from your balcony or from the beach.

The Sea Five Boutique Hotel is located at Camps Bay, which is not just the most accessible beach in the area, but  is also where everyone goes for a night out. But because it is several blocks away from the bay, it is much quieter compared to the other hotels around.

Interior Design

This hotel does not have huge signage but its beautiful architecture, which is more ostentatious than others in the area, is not easy to miss. The design has both South Africa and Mediterranean influences, with the building looking like a huge beach house. Its size is just big enough to give guests ample space to enjoy their holiday, but not too big that people feel lost.

The rooms have been designed by top South African interior designers, with the color palette a neutral mix of sand, blue, and brown. The end result is luxury while not compromising on comfort.

Amenities

The whole boutique hotel has 7 rooms for you to choose from, and I splurged on the one with the view of the sea. The rooms are all beautiful and with all the comforts you can expect from a luxurious hotel, plus extras like Nespresso station and underfloor heating in the bathroom.

The hotel also has open amenities, the favorite of mine being the lounge-bar area where you can chat with fellow guests. It also leads to the deck and the swimming pool. There are lounge chairs where you can work on your tan or go for a dip.

Service

The Sea Five Boutique Hotel is small enough to be able to offer its guests a very personalized service, with guests being able to request for nightly turn-down service. Breakfast is on offer and when guests are hungry, the staff is eager to prepare them a snack anytime.

From the very first time I saw the hotel, I knew that it would be a unique experience. The prices are quite reasonable for a luxurious beach house, especially during low season. Not only is the hotel beautiful and complete with the amenities that will make your stay comfortable, but the location is fantastic.

It is perfect for couples without kids or those looking for a weekend break (kids under 8 are not allowed). After a couple of nights with these views and the attentive service, you can truly destress and have the beach holiday you have been craving for.

The Peninsula Shanghai

I went to Shanghai in the summer for a business trip. I booked a 4-day, 3-night stay at the Peninsula Shanghai simply because it was right in front of The Bund where historically designed buildings lined up the street. It was also the first hotel to be built in the area after a few decades.

The Architecture

My first impression of The Peninsula’s facade was that it was bland. Its walls were a brown-gray color and its windows took a shade of green because of the curtains. It looked serious to me save for the green awnings near the entrance. However, it looked very big. It towered among trees and the nearby buildings and I could say that its architecture was meant to be at The Bund.

It also had its own driveway that doubled as a courtyard. Right in front of the hotel’s entrance were small fountains that gave life to the hotel.

The Interiors

When I entered the lobby, I found myself in a high-ceilinged room where a restaurant was right in the middle. There were barely any walls. Instead, there were giant columns made of marble. Since I went there for the summer, the marble was a welcoming sight.

If I could describe The Peninsula in one word, it would be “Paris”. Although I was in Shanghai, The Peninsula brought me to a time when Paris was full of architecture like this. There were cream and beige colored walls, carpets, and marble posts. This theme was consistent everywhere, but what made it unique to The Peninsula Shanghai was that it retained features of Shanghai – there were ivory and celadon green ornaments everywhere.

The Amenities

Since I was taking a business trip, I did not roam around the hotel as much as I wanted. However, I made sure that I used their swimming pool every morning. The Peninsula’s pool is located at the third floor and it opens at 6 AM. It was convenient for me because it gave me enough time to relax without having a lot of people splashing around.

The pool is a vast marbled room. It’s indoors and it made me feel like I was in Beverly Hills. The ceiling had glass on it and you can see the sun’s rays pass through it. This room was my favorite among the other amenities because the water was heated to the right temperature, there was a fireplace at the end of the room and a terrace where you can eat a healthy meal overlooking the British Consulate.

The Staff

Last but definitely the best of my experience was the staff. Upon arrival at the airport, The Peninsula already had a ride for me going to the hotel. When I arrived, they had people carry my luggage straight to the room without stopping at the reception. It was a great relief for me because, with the people in the restaurant, I wouldn’t want to hear the chatter of the whole room when I arrived.

The staff was warm and welcoming and they made my whole stay feel very hassle-free. Since it was my first time in Shanghai, they helped me navigate through the city, emphasizing how beautiful The Bund is which was a few steps from the hotel.

Ballyfin Demesne

Ballyfin Demesne has a rich history although the mansion that I stayed in is nothing like the mansion that was here years ago. This 600-acre estate was owned by a few prominent Irish families and it was first converted to a school until it was again transformed into a country house hotel.

On my trip to Ireland, I stayed at the Ballyfin Demesne simply because I wanted to experience what it was like to live in a mansion. It’s been considered as Ireland’s most lavish Regency mansion and it’s also a five-star hotel. Complete with Irish customs, design, and scenery, Ballyfin Demesne invites people to their estate of 600 acres.

Location

Ballyfin Demesne is at the heart of Ireland and right at the foot of the Slieve Bloom Mountains. As a traveler, I am often used to hotels near shores but rarely do I come across a hotel very close to a mountain. I don’t know the safety precautions for that, but I am sure that the hotel has the best location for a peaceful stay.

My intention when I visited Ireland was to have some peace and quiet away from the work I was doing. Ballyfin Demesne offered exactly that because it only had twenty rooms in the hotel. There wasn’t any crowd when I went there and even if I saw a few families, the place was so big it didn’t feel like it was crowded at all.

Interior Design

When it comes to design, nothing is like Ballyfin Demesne. I immediately fell in love with the interiors because it barely reminded you that you were in a hotel. Instead, I felt more like a big celebrity or politician living in a mansion.

The Entrance hall as they call it has mosaic tiles that you wouldn’t think could match the orange of the walls. But the wooden furniture, the deer’s head, and the cream-colored lamps made everything come together perfectly. Moreover, all the other reception rooms each had a character of their own – the Rotunda being the most state-like.

But apart from the actual design, there is one more part of the mansion that I think is underrated. These are the paintings hung on the walls. They were all made by famous Irish painters that portrayed landscapes of Ireland.

Amenities

Ballyfin Demesne has at least six reception rooms, some are facing the lake, the mountain, etc. It also has its own library which I personally enjoyed. It had its own fireplace and at least a thousand books on walls and cases.

Unlike other luxury hotels, Ballyfin Demesne focused on having amenities that will make you feel like you’re at home. Instead of having state-of-the-art fitness centers, business rooms, and recreation rooms, the hotel gives you gardens, walks, and sitting rooms.

My stay at the Ballyfin Demesne was a memorable one. It really does feel like a vacation because it didn’t feel modern at all. The whole place was reconstructed to resemble how the old mansion looked like and I can say they did a great job. The management of the hotel did not bother you and this was a break from all the socializing and the bustling of the people. Staying at the Ballyfin Demesne is definitely the perfect vacation for a retreat to country life.

Mandarin Oriental Tokyo

When I was invited to an event at the Nihonbashi Mitsui Tower, I was surprised that it had a hotel in the same building. Usually hotels have buildings of their own or they occupied space on their own so they can house the amenities, rooms, suites, and many more. To my surprise, this particular hotel, the Mandarin Oriental in Tokyo, only occupied the top floors of the Nihonbashi Mitsui Tower.

Location

Nihonbashi Mitsui Tower is located at 2-1-1, Nihonbashi Muromachi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo. It is only a few minutes’ walk to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (you can actually view it from the hotel) as well as the Tokyo Station.

To be exact, Mandarin Oriental occupies the top 9 floors of this building, specifically from the 30th to 38th floors. My room was located on the 32nd floor and this fact alone scared me because of my fear of heights. Don’t get me wrong, the view was nice and the location was strategic. I was able to go around to shop during my free time and I got to the Imperial Palace gardens on foot in no time.

Interior Design

In spite of my fear of heights, the interior of the hotel made up for the fact that it was occupying 9 floors in a building the establishment did not have all to themselves. It was all glass and lights that I felt every bit as luxurious in every corner of the hotel.

The lobby is a high-ceilinged room with posts on the sides. All the windows are made of glass and it took advantage of the sun. The light that it cast on the furniture and floors illuminated the room and it was the most beautiful sight.

I had the same lighting effect in my room. You can easily spot the Japanese-inspired design because of the technology and the minimalism that went with it. At the same time, the color scheme was composed of white, orange, and brown hues that blended with each other perfectly to make the room feel oriental.

Amenities

For a hotel that only has 9 floors, it also has 9 restaurants. A few of those restaurants like the Tapas Molecular Bar and Sense have been awarded Michelin Stars. Mandarin Oriental also has an indoor spa which was commended for being one of the 25 best spas in the world.

I took the time to try out the spa for myself. Everyone who makes a spa appointment was offered a foot ritual which was a symbol to wash away all the bonds to the material world. There was also a menu of Western and Asian spas. After my appointment, I found myself wanting for more so I went and visited their Sanctuary Chapel.

Staff

For a very Asian hotel, I did not have any trouble communicating with the staff. They were very accommodating especially to a foreigner like me who did not know much about Japan. I think they noticed that I did not know how to go around and so they helped me understand the directions from maps. They were also very open to all the questions I asked which was more than I could ever want from a hotel staff.

Overall, I would say that the Mandarin Oriental in Tokyo is a great hotel. I had a great time and my fear of heights was easily allayed because of the warm and cozy feel of the place.

Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo

I was planning a leisure trip to Italy when I first encountered Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo on one of the trip review sites. At first, I thought it would be one of the hotels that would scare me since it looked old and located just across the Greek Theatre. Fortunately, I took a chance and booked myself for a 4-day stay there. It was single-handedly one of the best hotels I’ve ever been to.

Location

Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo is nestled at the heart of Sicily. It is situated perfectly between views of the Greek Theatre, Mount Etna, and the Sicilian Coast. Without stepping outside the hotel, you would already feel as if you’re in those three places. Although it’s a 45-minute drive from Catania Airport, it’s a good enough price to pay for what awaits you in the hotel.

Interior Design

Stepping inside the hotel, I didn’t know what to expect. Well, I thought it would look like any other Sicilian-inspired hotel since it is just fitting to have the same design in that area. However, Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo is more than just Sicilian architecture. The moment you step out of your car, you will be greeted by a bougainvillea walk. Flowers are weaving around a trellis as you make your way to the doors. Even if the hotel is at least a hundred years old, you would think that it was just there for a few years. There were polished yards everywhere (not to mention trees lining the pool). The interior was well-maintained with mixes of beige, light pink, and blue windows all around. If you ask me, it’s one of the best subtle color palettes you’ll see in a hotel.

Amenities

Now let’s talk about amenities. At a glance, the hotel has around 70 rooms and suites combined. Of course, it has its own pool which I love because there was something uniquely Sicilian in its design. Just beside it is a restaurant that offers an American buffet breakfast, but there are days where it also serves Mediterranean cuisine. There’s also a wellness center for people who want to exercise and meditate. You can even ask for a private massage to your room.

Staff

Since the hotel is so huge, what made it easier for me to get around was the hospitable staff. Most of them are locals and it was a great experience knowing that they personally make me feel welcome in their town. They were very helpful in directing me to the different amenities of the hotel, too. And even when I asked for a ride going to the beach, they easily reserved a slot in the shuttle for me.

Overall, a stay at the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo is something I would repeat over and over again. Unlike other hotels that stand out from their surroundings, this hotel fits perfectly with its interiors and design similar and yet very captivating. Just by walking around their halls made me feel that I was whisked away to a different time and place.

Bali-Viceroy-Hotel

Viceroy Bali

Arriving in Bali is like arriving in an island paradise. However, being greeted by the warm and genuine hospitality of Indonesian guest relations staff at the Viceroy Bali makes you feel right at home. This is exactly how it felt like when I was given the chance to stay for 3 days, 2 nights at the famed Balinese boutique hotel.

While the hotel is situated a few kilometers from the white, sandy beaches that have made this part of the world almost as iconic as the marbled beaches of Tahiti, I learned that it is actually a favorite among travelers who prefer to be a lot closer to the bosom of Mother Nature and slightly far from the crowd that flood the nightlife streets of Bali. It’s a simple hotel that has all the makings of a 5-star, making you never want to leave its warm embrace.

Set in Bali’s famed Valley of the Kings amidst lush greenery and providing a stunning view of the turquoise sea, Viceroy Bali is perfect for couples, honeymooners, and small families who prefer a more intimate experience. Good thing I was treating my partner to an exotic experience of a lifetime.

It’s a boutique hotel that offers more than what five-star accommodations I know of can with its array of 25 elegantly designed, meticulously adorned, and beautifully curated private pool villas that provide a breathtaking view of a jungle ravine. It’s a view that is worth posting on Instagram.

One of the best things I about the Viceroy Bali is its location. You get this feeling that you are actually being treated to the unique sound of Mother Nature. There’s the chime of a gently rolling river that magnificently rises from the verdant valley floor. It’s something that I vividly recall as the one sound that greeted me in the morning and shushed me back to sleep.

Getting to Viceroy was never a problem since the accommodation gave us a ride. The view along the way is simply marvelous, taking us to a pleasant transport all the way from the airport through fascinating Balinese countryside and greeted by the smell of freshly-made Pisang Goreng or the more sumptuous Babi Guling. It’s not centrally located, yet the heart of the action is right within walking distance. I believe the hotel can arrange a ride just for you, too.

The thing about Viceroy Bali is that we’ve been given the chance to be just like royalty throughout the entire duration of our stay. With the staff always eager to please us, it’s like partaking in the royal traditions of the local kingdom.

The CasCades Restaurant is truly something. The alfresco dining it provides is quite a blessing since I got to renew my passion with my partner over several orders of Sate Babi while looking at the vast expanse of the blue Pacific.

I’ve been fortunate enough to stay at Viceroy Bali. Now I know how the King and His Royal Court felt like when they were served with such dedication and commitment. It may be far from Bali’s center of attraction, yet it lies much closer to my heart.

For information on travel to Bali visit http://www.balitourismboard.org/