August 19, 2011

Ellenborough Park is a good bet for horseracing fans

Luxury country house hotel Ellenborough Park is a surefire bet for horseracing aficionados.

This 16th century Cheltenham  beauty, which once lived life as a girls' boarding school, is minutes from one of the country's most famous racecourses. Some rooms even overlook the finishing line.

But there's more to Ellenborough Park than horses and history. The plush spa with juice bar, heated outdoor swimming pool and impressive gym mean there's plenty to do if a day at the races doesn't appeal.

Food is taken seriously here. The Beaufort Dining Room offers fine dining at (relatively) affordable prices and there's the sporting-themed Tudor Club Brasserie, where you can scoff a burger next to jockey and horse trainer types.

Our Luxury room in the main house - there's also the modern Woodland Court - was chintz-free and elegantly designed, with a stand-alone bathtub, incredibly comfortable bed and raised seating area with leaded windows framing views of the pretty Cotswold countryside. 

With its thoroughbred good looks, Hotel Girl would take a punt on Ellenborough Park for an indulgent weekend break.

April 28, 2011

Dream South Beach set for June opening

Dream South Beach - Junior Suite, Angled View - David Durback.jpgLike many hotels in this economic climate, the Dream South Beach has been plagued by a series of delays.

When I visited the hotel a few weeks ago, it was starting to take shape - but looked like there was still a way to go.

The hotel is made up of two buildings joined together - Palmer Hotel and Tudor House - in a fab location on Collins Ave.

Some of the rooms were open and sporting the same gorgeous blue and white decor as the Dream New York.The dim lighting is perfect for sleeping off a hangover. 

Standard rooms are small so it's worth paying the extra for an upgrade. The lobby was still pretty bare, and the rooftop pool and lounge still under contruction.

From what I saw, it's going to be great addition to the SoBe hotel scene, so let's hope the hotel keeps its promise of a June opening date. And with opening rates of $179 night, it's a dream come true. 


April 5, 2011

Hotel review: Does the Cape Grace still measure up?

Exterior main.jpgMany trendy hotels claim to give guests a 'sense of place', but the Cape Grace genuinely feels steeped in its Cape Town surroundings.

At first it's hard to put your finger on why, but a closer look reveals little unique details that do the trick. It could be the handpainted fabrics in the lobby featuring sketches of South African landmarks.

Or it could be the Huguenot chocolate from Franschhoek left on our pillow each night, or the locally-produced Charlotte Rhys toiletries.

The Cape Grace is an iconic hotel and has a location to match. The hotel is two minutes' walk from the Victoria and Albert waterfront and has the imposing Table Mountain as its backdrop.

Our 'rooftop terrace' room was large and elegantly designed with South African art and antique furniture. The terrace overlooking a working harbour, Green Point Stadium and Table Mountain was an idyllic spot for sipping coffee in the mornings.

However, the most memorable feature of the Cape Grace is its staff.  The concierge didn't just book our restaurants for dinner, she booked a car to take us there and back. Chauffeur service is complimentary for guests going anywhere within a 20km radius.

All the staff spookily knew our name and had intimate knowledge of everything from my nut allergy to which day we planned to go up Table Mountain.

It's this type of service that ensures the Cape Grace still stands tall among the other luxury hotels popping up in the city.

No free wi-fi tops hotel gripes list

setai.bmpIt's no surprise that having to pay for wireless internet has topped the list of hotel pet peeves on

People compained about all kinds of things, from thin towels to unexpectedly early housekeeping visits, but none could complete with worries over Wi-Fi.

After all the griping going on about these extortionate charges, it's amazing that hotels haven't realised how much this is getting on guests' nerves.

Although, it looks like some hotels are catching on. On my trip to Miami last week, The Betsy, The Setai (pictured) and Little Palm Island in the Keys thankfully all gave free internet access. But Hotel Chatter has plenty of horror stories of hotels charging up £25 a day. Shame on you W and DoubleTree.

What's the most you've ever paid for Wi-Fi?


March 30, 2011

Hotel Girl samples the new Aman Spa at The Connaught

connaught_2.jpgThe Connaught opened the UK's first Aman Spa last November as part of the hotel's £70 million refurbishment.

The spa is small but beautiful, full of cool marble, granite and fresh flowers. Beside the treatment rooms is a swimming pool with cascading waterfall and hi tech fitness centre.

Treatments represent the locations of the Aman Resorts, including Thai and Indian, but I opt for The Chinese Experience.

The friendly therapist Korn eases my feet into a green tea bath and begins with a foot rub as she tells me not to worry if I fall asleep during the treatment.

As it's two and a half hours long, I think that's a distinct possibility, but the minutes pass quickly as I'm scrubbed, rubbed, steamed and showered to within an inch of my life.

As I relax afterwards with a cup of green tea, I feel smooth, sweet-smelling and so relaxed I can't imagine why I've ever felt a minute of stress in my life.

Aman, Korn tells me, is Sanskrit for 'peace', and if you can't find that here, you won't find it anywhere.


Aman Spa at The Connaught.jpgThe China Experience is £280

January 24, 2011

Inside the Diane Von Furstenberg suites at Claridge's

Anyone who loves Diane Von Furstenberg will be in heaven in these suites designed by the lady herself.

The lovely Claridge's PR Simon Neggers, who treated me to a tour, explained that Diane took a very hands-on approach to designing the rooms.

The rooms are full of the prints and patterns you'd associate with DVF fashion designs.

And there are lots of thoughtful touches such as Murano glass, handcrafted items from Bali, handcrafted rugs and photographs from DVF's own travels through Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Four have been completed so far including the stunning Piano Suite (third picture) and there will be 20 in total.  





January 16, 2011

Another Four Seasons is coming to London

fs london.jpgJust as excitement builds about the reopening of the Four Seasons London Park Lane (pictured), news has reached Hotel Girl of a third Four Seasons coming to the city.

Gerald Ronson's property firm Heron International has been granted planning permission to build a sibling skyscraper for its 46-storey Heron Tower in Liverpool Street.

The building, which will cost £500m to build, will include a hotel and residential complex managed by Four Seasons.

There's no idea of timescales yet, but this is one I'll be keeping tabs on.

In the meantime, I've been reading about Amaranto, the lovely new Italian restaurant to open in the Park Lane hotel, designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon, who was also responsible for the Savoy refurbishment.

January 5, 2011

Hotel Girl Review: One&Only, Cape Town

amazing bath.JPGLOCATION:  One&Only has chosen a vibrant location for its first city property. The hotel is a couple of minutes walk from the atmospheric Victoria and Albert waterfront, where clowns, jugglers, mime artists and street musicians entertain the throngs. The city centre, with its museums and shopping at Greenmarket Square, is a short taxi ride away.

FIRST IMPRESSION: The One&Only is a large and lavish hotel and makes a first impression to match. As you walk into the lobby, your eyes are drawn to a three storey picture window framing a breathtaking view of Table Mountain, with the hotel's glamourous cocktail bar in the foreground. At either end of the vast lobby are the hotel's restaurants: the first African branch of Nobu and Reuben's, which opened in October after Gordon Ramsey was forced to close his Maze outpost.

marina room.jpgTHE FACTS: Flamboyant gambling and hotel magnate Sol Kerzner opened the hotel in 2009 in one of the most expensive hotel developments South Africa has ever seen. Mariah Carey sang to Nelson Mandela at his no-expense-spared opening party.

The resort is comprised of Marina Rise, a crescent shaped block of 91 rooms and suites, and a separate Villa Island with 40 suites. Our entry-level room was very spacious, at least 63 sq metres, and decorated in understated shades of orange and brown. The bathroom was the ultimate in luxury with his and hers Perspex basins, a free standing bathtub and rain shower.

The swimming pool area, built around a man-made island, is a blissful place to wind down after a busy morning exploring Cape Town. Friendly staff bring complimentary fruit skewers and smoothies.

WHO'S IT FOR: Couples looking for a sophisticated retreat that's still close to the buzz of Cape Town.  Families are also welcome: the hotel has a fully supervised KidsOnly programme.

A GOOD BASE FOR: The V&A is a convenient starting point for exploring the city. The ferry to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned during the Apartheid era, departs from here three times a day. A ten minute taxi will take you to the immaculate beaches of Camps Bay and Clifton.

WOW: The chic Island Spa, the largest spa in Cape Town, is set on its own lushly landscaped island and offers heavenly ESPA treatments.

HOW MUCH: £396 per room, per night, including breakfast

exterior of hotel.JPG

September 17, 2010

Hotel Girl checks into the Cumberland's Hendrix Suite

The Cumberland Hotel in London has created a Jimi Hendrix suite to mark 40 years since the guitar hero's death. 

hendrix.jpgThe Marble Arch hotel is the last place Hendrix stayed before he died from an overdose on September 18 1970.

The hotel was a place the star sought sanctuary and  - as one music journalist puts it -where he would go "for the purpose of meeting various young ladies when he wanted to keep away from the various other young ladies that he was seeing".

The new Hendrix suite is somewhere I'm sure he'd love to entertain today.

Opening the door from the simple corridors, the decor hits you between the eyes with rainbow wallpaper, leopard print cushions and fibre-optic lights.

The designers Mary Gannon and Cynthia Garcia have added lots of thoughtful details, such as a retro telephone, framed newspaper articles about Hendrix and wall-mounted guitar.

Guests can really immerse themselves in the era with a DVD of Hendrix's last ever concert at the Isle of Wight on a plasma TV and a tape of his last interview on an iPod. Surely this must be heaven for any Hendrix fan.

A night in the Jimi Hendrix Suite, available from September 20, costs £399. The price is based on two people sharing and includes bed, breakfast, and a bottle of Jack Daniels.

You can see a video of the suite here.















September 6, 2010

W London launches seach for an 'insider'

The new W London Leicester Square doesn't do recruitment the easy way - oh no. The Starwood brand's first London outpost is casting aside online or newspaper ads in favour of an X Factor style audition process.

J Alexander H&S colour crop.JPGThe hotel is seeking an 'insider' - or concierge to you and me - and is asking potential candidates to apply online at

The judges, which include America's top model 'star' J Alexander (pictured), have high expectations:

"They go out every-night, they know duchesses and drag queens, they can get a table on Friday at 8pm anywhere, their parties always finish the next day.

"Culturally their references need to be broad, high and low, and they need to be aware of major events internationally. They attend first nights, openings, and visit new restaurants and bars within the first 2 weeks of opening."

If that all sounds a bit much, console yourself with a sneak peek of the new hotel, coming 'early 2011'..w london.jpg

About Hotel Girl

Chloe Berman
Deputy Head of News
Travel Weekly

A TW Group blog

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