The Georgetowner selected a handful of renowned, world class travel experts, who shared with us their favorite international, domestic and local travel destinations of the last year, offering a wealth of insider travel information that even the most traveled readers are sure to appreciate. From resorts tucked away in the canyon valleys of Southern Utah, to romantic Italian villas and hidden local gems, here you will find plenty of reasons to start booking your tickets and packing your bags.
One of the most distinct voices in luxury travel, the alias Andrew Harper has long been known for his insightful reviews of small and unique hotels, resorts and travel destinations. Traveling incognito, he searches the globe for distinctive new properties while candidly reassessing classic hotels and luxury resorts. His renowned newsletter of review, The Hideaway Report, has an abiding passion for classic hospitality and refined service amid peaceful surroundings. Mr. Harper shared with us his 2011 Grand Award Winners for international and domestic resort destinations.
Domestic: Lake Placid Lodge, Lake Placid, New York
In 1882, a German family built themselves a rustic camp from which they could enjoy the dramatic view of Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks. This remained a private residence until 1946, when the property was sold and reopened as a hotel. However, in late 2005, the main building suffered a catastrophic fire.
The lodge reopened in 2008. Today, the front hall is once again a classic Adirondack interior, its wood floors covered with area rugs, a welcoming fire in a stone fireplace, cleverly crafted furniture made in the distinctive regional “twig” style, and a stairwell filled by a towering birch tree.
There are 13 rooms and suites in the main lodge and an adjoining building, plus 17 cabins beside the lake. Our cabin proved to be a haven of comfort, with…a stone fireplace and picture windows. The furniture was a mix of antiques and handcrafted pieces by local artisans.
The main lodge is full of spaces that are just as cozy and appealing. Artisans, the formal dining room, offers a seasonal New American menu. Wood-paneled Maggie’s Pub, with its fireplace and tables set by the windows, is just the place for a first-rate burger and a pint of the locally brewed Ubu Ale. Lake Placid Lodge is an iconic American resort, and its restoration has been a remarkable success. For more information, visit LakePlacidLodge.com
International: Il Salviatino, Florence, Italy
Just four miles from the center of Florence and set amid 12 acres of formal gardens on a lane leading up to the exquisite hill town of Fiesole, Il Salviatino occupies an historic cream-colored villa that enjoyed a heyday during the 16th and 17th centuries, when it was home to the powerful Salviati family. In September 2009, it opened as a 45-room hotel, having been subject to a $60 million restoration.
The terrace…has one of the most extraordinary views of Florence we have ever seen. Today, it stands as a small masterpiece of Old World style and hospitality. See more at Salviatino.com
Anne Morgan Scully
President of McCabe World Travel, Anne Morgan Scully has been in the industry for over three decades and currently serves on boards for Ritz Carlton, several cruise lines, and a number of travel, hotel and resort companies. In 2010, she was named one of the top 10 leaders in travel by Travel and Leisure magazine. Anne shared with us some of her favorite resorts in the country.
Amangiri, Canyon Point, Utah
Amangiri is one of the most stunning new resorts in the American West. God is the chief architect of this resort. Amangiri is set on a 600-acre expanse of wilderness in Southern Utah, tucked into a protected valley with sweeping views over colorful, stratified rock towards the Grand Staircase. Architecturally, the resort has been designed to blend into the landscape with natural hues, materials and textures a feature of the design. The structures are commanding and in proportion with the scale of the natural surroundings, yet provide an intimate setting from which to view and appreciate the landscape. And you can drive out and explore the area in the resort’s BMW Z3!
The resort offers 34 suites in total: 13 Desert View Suites, 14 Mesa View Suites, one Terrace Suite, two Pool Suites, two Terrace Pool Suites, the Girijaala Suite and the Amangiri Suite.
The swimming pool is set within a sunken courtyard framed by the Pavilion and rock escarpment. It wraps around the rock to finish with a hot tub that sits at the base of a rock wall. The pool’s lounging terrace features king-sized day beds and pairs of sun-loungers. Their 2,322-square 25,000-square foot Aman Spa is a vast complex of stone, water features and streams of light, offering a number of unique treatment venues. The Spa offers single and double treatment rooms in addition to two outdoor treatment terraces with spectacular views of the mesas.
Activities include treks, guided hikes, biking, rock climbing, boating trips, archaeological tours, hot air ballooning, scenic helicopter or fixed wing flights, equestrian adventures, and more. For more information visit Amangiri.com.
The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, South Carolina
This is an easy weekend getaway from Washington…only an hour and a half flight to Charleston South Carolina. Truly one of America’s most luxurious resorts, it is located along the pristine shores of Kiawah Island, South Carolina.
This exquisitely designed hotel is also only thirty minutes from downtown Charleston, which captures the spirit, history, and charm of southern hospitality and some of the best southern comfort food there is—barbeques shrimp and grits are among most guests favorites. And their ice cream parlor is not to be missed.
With its 255 gracious guestrooms and suites, The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort is the finest oceanfront hotel built on the East Coast in the past 20 years. Each spacious room features luxurious five fixture baths, large marble showers, dual vanities, private water closets, shuttered bathroom windows and ocean view balconies. A private concierge level offers the most exclusive, personalized services and private elevator access, while the concierge club features exquisite food presentations throughout the day. In addition, families and adults can enjoy two oceanfront pools, with music and poolside & beachside service.
Kiawah Island is a golfer’s paradise with five competitively designed master golf courses. In fact, three of Kiawah Island’s golf courses ranked on Golf Digest’s list of “America’s Top 75 Resort Courses,” and Conde Nast Traveler recently listed the Resort among the top “50 Golf Resorts Worldwide.” See for yourself at KiawahResort.com.
The W South Beach, Miami, Florida
I just returned from this hotel and was in awe of the design and energy of the hotel! This is the playground of celebrities and on the boardwalk of the fashion jet set! This oasis has been created by international tastemakers, framed by famed art deco and in the heart of Miami’s hottest nightlife.
As palm trees sway to a salsa beat, nosh at the chic Mr Chow and Soleá, mingle your way across six cool bars, linger in the Living Room, pamper at Bliss Spa, or cool off in lushly landscaped pools. For more information visit WHotels.com/SouthBeach.
Carlyle Fairfax Smith
Carlyle Fairfax Smith is the consulting publicist of Carlyle International, a boutique communications agency that focuses on luxury hotels, spas and destinations. Her insight into the world of upscale and luxury lifestyles is distinctive, with deep knowledge of the luxury traveler and hospitality industry. Discussing some of her favorite travel destinations, Carlyle proved her value as a consultant and offered a dazzling breadth of options for all types of travelers.
International: Ireland & Bali
“Irish Hospitality” lives up to the hype and Ireland is as close to East Coast as it is to California. Beauty, History and easy access. Shannon International Airport is a mere five hour flight from the U.S. and a six mile drive from Dromoland Castle (if worlds away in every other regard).
In particular I like The Dromoland Collection, which comprises of Dromoland Castle and Castlemartyr Resort, two of Ireland’s finest and most celebrated hotels. The hotels in this collection embody the legendary Dromoland tradition of incomparable hospitality complemented by exquisite surroundings, yet each possesses a distinctive style, character and charm all its own.
Castlemartyr Resort: nestled in the unspoiled rolling countryside of East Cork near the ruins of an 800-year-old castle, Castlemartyr Resort’s crowning jewel is a classic 18th century manor house. The Manor has been magnificently restored and elegantly enhanced to offer 109 deluxe guest rooms, gourmet dining, an expansive world-class spa and welcoming, impeccably styled interiors. Opportunities for outdoor pursuits abound both on the estate, which includes an inland-links-style golf course designed by the renowned Ron Kirby, and in the surrounding region. For more information visit CastlemartyrResort.ie.
Dromoland Castle, located in Newmarket-on-Fergus, County Clare, was built in the 16th century. Majestically set on the shores of Lough Dromoland, it is surrounded by over 410 acres of breathtaking scenery, including a championship parkland golf course. Lavish interiors, fine food and superb wines complement the deluxe accommodations of the Castle’s 99 guest rooms, while Dromoland Castle Golf and Country Club, an intimate spa and traditional outdoor recreational opportunities ensure a unique guest experience. See for yourself at Dromoland.ie.
In Bali, Viceroy Bali has a real WOW factor, with gravity defying, thatched villas set on the edge of a steep ravine, overlooking the Petanu River gorge in Bali’s mountain foothills. With amazing hillside views, the most tranquil and scenic spa, some of the best food in Bali and immaculate service, this is a truly romantic retreat close to the artist’s village of Ubud. Some new villas are opening later this year. ViceroyBali.com.
Local: Talbot County, Maryland
Talbot County invites visitors to experience the perfect balance of rural simplicity and urban refinement. With the timeless beauty of the Chesapeake Bay as their backdrop, the county’s sophisticated small towns, charming country byways, and wide array of activities offer something for everyone who appreciates the opportunity to relax, reflect, and renew.
Easton, celebrating its three-hundredth year in 2010, sits at the center of Talbot County. It is a remarkable hybrid of historical and hip, humming with energy, pedestrian friendly, and ranked as one of the best places to live in the nation. Museums and other cultural centers, festivals of all sorts, historic sites, shopping, convenient access to outdoor leisure activities, and a welcoming, sophisticated populace make Easton a uniquely appealing visitor experience even for groups with diverse interests.
Oxford, located south of Easton on the Tred Avon River, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The first incorporated town in the county, it was officially founded in 1683. Until the American Revolution, Oxford was an international shipping center, surrounded by tobacco plantations and home to a number of prominent national figures. Later it thrived on oyster harvesting and packing and other watermen’s trades, even as tourism and leisure activities increased. It guards its peaceful personality, architectural integrity, and small-town virtues to this day.
St. Michaels, situated on the elbow of a peninsula reaching deep into the Chesapeake Bay, is cradled between the historic Miles River and Michener’s Broad Creek. St. Michaels is a gathering spot for lovers of laid-back leisure. Its maritime museum, marina, tree-lined streets, and architectural treasures are the perfect backdrop for the town’s many fine shops, galleries, and boutiques.
Tilghman Island is a water lover’s wonderland, home to the last commercial fleet of lightning-fast oyster-harvesting skipjacks. Surrounded by the Chesapeake Bay and the Choptank River, the island offers a full range of water sport rentals, unique sail and motorboat excursions, and ten mapped water trails. For those who prefer to keep their feet dry, Tilghman Island has no lack of benches, porches, decks, and docks from which to appreciate the entrancing beauty of the bay, river, and marshes.
I would also highly recommend Talbot County as a budget travel destination, with a great selection of rental houses, luxury hotels, country inns and bed & breakfasts. There are accommodations and activities to suit any budget. And yet people feel as if they’ve been away and have an opportunity to relax and enjoy. The Talbot County Office of Tourism offers comprehensive information and trip planning services. Visit them at TourTalbot.org to find out more.