Tag Archives: luxury travel

Rooms with Views: Helvetia & Bristol Florence

A Christmastime stay in a very Florentine hotel…

Centrally located just a stone’s throw from Florence’s Piazza della Repubblica, the Helvetia & Bristol is quiet and tucked away. The entrance on a small side street one could easily walk past if it weren’t for the welcoming doorman and red carpet. Once inside the elegant front room is more drawing room than lobby and the decor is very much that of a traditional Florentine aristocratic house. Soft neutral colours, latticed window panes and polished wood floors are what is expected of grand European hotels.

Made all the more pretty with the Christmas tree and touches of Christmas red around the hotel. White pillar candles light up the staircase, poinsettias accent the reception and lobby. Two weeks before Christmas and a stay here made me want to spend the entire holiday here. It was so enchanting it made it easy to forget about a quick stroll down nearby Tornabuoni for a bit of shopping. I wanted to sit down, relax and have a cup of tea.

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The public spaces around the hotel are classically styled but not too dated or cluttered. The Winter Garden makes for an airy and light breakfast room in the mornings and fine dining by evening. In the summer there is outdoor seating, but right now, during the cold season, all dining is indoors and tables are decorated with sprigs of red berry branches and holly. My thoughts of tea turn to vino and the small bar area off the lobby stocks a good bar and has a European cafe feel to it.

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The guest rooms are reliably traditional if a bit simple with polished wood furniture and antiques throughout and luxurious wall fabrics. The room I stayed in was an upgrade to a bigger room so there was more space, a loveseat and a small balcony which is always a treat. However in the winter chill and rain I didn’t get to use it as much as I would have liked. The marble bathroom was quite large with the rich scented Etro bath products which are so colourfully delightful to look at with their bright bottles.

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The warm experience was further enhanced with the welcoming staff. Everyone from the concierges to the wait staff to housekeeping were helpful and always with an ease of smile. Clearly they are used to the international tourist and the quality of their service reflected their experience.

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There are many wonderful hotels in Florence and I am going to add this one to my list. It has the advantage of a great location and is close to major attractions, restaurants and shopping. While not a small hotel, it does feel intimate and cozy. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay, and especially for a festive Christmas in Florence stay.

Please note, I paid for my own stay and my review is based on my personal experiences while staying at the Helvetia & Bristol Hotel

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Rooms with Views: L’Hotel

In the heart of Saint Germain lies a jewel box with a history…

Blink and you will miss it. The discreet door to L’Hotel, one of the few truly luxury 5 star hotels in Paris’ Left Bank, is tucked away on a side street not far from Place Saint Germain. Upon entering into this small hotel a gilded jewel box reveals itself. Plush velvet sofas behind sweeping curtains, a domed spiral staircase, Empire moldings, are all fanciful and opulent. And incredibly romantic which is exactly how you want to feel when you are in Paris.

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By now you will know that Oscar Wilde stayed here. There are homages to him, his letters framed, and you can stay in what was his room, though it has been refurbished and restyled to fit the more glamorous surroundings of the hotel as it is now. The hotel has a distinguished history,  gone through several owners and updates, and has kept its cache through many generations of celebrities. The hotel went through a major refurbishment in the 60s and from then on L’Hotel became the place to be seen.  Serge Gainsborough and Jane Birkin stayed here in their heyday only adding to its mystique.

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The bijoux hotel boasts 20 gorgeous bedrooms of varying size and design, each one entirely different and unique yet all glamorous and luxurious. Antique styled bathtubs, marble bathrooms with lavish satin drapes and bedding accented with a few antiques depending on your room. There is a very stylish apartment suite, the Oscar Wilde suite, and 4 different sized bedrooms categories, all quite deluxe. It all feels quite decadent and you just want to lounge on the bed and drink champagne.

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For all its small spaces, the hotel packs a lot in limited areas and makes the most of creating creative drama in every corner. There is a fine dining restaurant and romantic bar area where on occasion live music is played. The bar is the star here as it is intimate with low lit corners, dark marble. Front and center is a small yet opulent bar serving elegant cocktails. If all that isn’t enough, they even managed to put in a Hamman pool in the basement which is private and can be reserved in advance. It will be hard to step out the door and see Paris… but you must!

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So stylish, and completely Parisian, a stay at L’Hotel is a posh treat. It has an authenticity of place. Paris, especially the favourite Left Bank is at your feet, if you can get out the door.

Please note, I paid for my own stay and my review is based on my personal experiences while staying at the L’Hotel.

Rooms with Views: Hotel Caruso

In elegant Ravello, the Hotel Caruso feels like a castle in the air…

There are hotels and then there are exceptional hotels. Those special properties that are not just about luxury but about extraordinary travel experiences that remain a warm feeling long after you left. The Belmond Hotel Caruso atop Ravello is such a place. The Caruso embodies the elegance and exceptional natural beauty of the Amalfi Coast capturing its essence in the property’s cascading gardens, painterly views over the sea, and an infinity pool in the sky that leaves you flying.

The ease of relaxation welcomes you, the staff are extremely friendly and sincere in their kindness and smiles. Every need of the guest is done with effortless grace, from the breezy check in to the fairies who do the turn down service at the end of the day. The hotel reflects something grand and formal but with the ease of a friend’s summer home.

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The spacious rooms are decorated in period wood furniture with bright regional majolica tiles and crisp luxury linens. The bathrooms are, like so many Belmond properties, grand and well equipped. A deep bathtub as well as a large shower, and a generous supply of bath products from Penhaligons. Everything throughout feels luxurious. From the balcony you can see the sea falling endlessly into the horizon.

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Then there is the property itself. Terraced gardens, including a chef’s garden where fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs are grown for the restaurant kitchen. Vaulted windows with views of the sea and coast which offer quiet corners to rest or the perfect place for a cocktail. A gourmet restaurant serving a creative menu of local specialties, of course overlooks the sea. There is even a champagne bar in one of the garden spaces or check out the grand tour fashioned bar space indoors with frescos on the walls.

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The public spaces are flawless and offer so many different choices of views and moods, one could be perfectly happy never leaving the hotel and still feel they had experienced the Amalfi Coast. But the piece de la resistance has to be the breathtaking infinity pool overlooking the sea from high above in this castle nest. The sharp blue of the pool melts into the blue sky above and the sea below that from the air you are swimming in the sea.

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Ravello is just outside the door and the main piazza short walk away. The concierge desk will arrange anything, from sightseeing tours, to custom excursions to experience the best in the area. Lemon grove tours, meeting a local artist or craftsmen, even a helicopter tour can be arranged. Ravello itself is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

The Belmond Caruso is perfection. There is so much to see and enjoy along the Amalfi Coast but here is a place to also relax and savour the flavour of the area at a much slower pace. Both the property and the staff are there to bring happiness, sunshine… and even a bit of limoncello into an exceptional stay.

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In Brief…

Rooms: Spacious, many with views of the sea. Luxury bathrooms with a cornucopia of designer bath products from Penhaligons. Beds are heavenly to sleep in.

Property: Elegant outdoor and indoor spaces with balcony views and manicured gardens throughout.  Fine dining restaurant with outdoor seating in season, and a full breakfast buffet in the morning. Fresco lounge bar, or choose from the champagne bar or terrace bar overlooking the gardens. And an infinity pool floating over the sea below.

Extras: The pool must be mentioned again as it is one of the most breathtaking in the world. Should you venture out of the hotel, there is a regular shuttle service to Amalfi town, and a private boat for hotel guests.

Please note, I paid for my own stay and my review is based on my personal experiences while staying at the Belmond Hotel Caruso.