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The theme of Paris’ Hotel Montmartre Mon Amour, is love – or rather passion, expressed by celebrated French writers, singers and actors caught in the tumultuous grip of extreme feelings. But this isn’t some cheesy hotel with afternoon bookings – it’s a four star boutique hotel, re-opened in the spring of 2012. It has been redone with the sheen of modern amenities, the background of literary tradition and the chic ambiance that comes from artfully created decor.
Sandrine Alouf, the designer, has created an ode to passion, artistically expressed through brilliant color, lighting, photos and print. She calls herself an “atmospheriste”, which seems to describe the spell she casts. The hotel’s atmosphere begins on the street, for it is perched on a hill below the famed Sacre Coeur Church, in the fabled district of Montmartre. Until l860, Montmartre was to be a village with its own vineyeards. Then it became home or hangout to artists ranging from Maurice Utrillo to Eric Satie. Today there are many sidewalk artists as well as casual restaurants.
“From the moment they walk in, I want to immerse the guests, to put them in a different state”, Alouf continues. Throughout the hotel her paeon to passion continues. It can be passion for the neighborhood, for Paris, for art.
The colors hit you first: the entranceway done in pink and brown gives way to dramatic red and black – the red, seen throughout, has been carefully chosen. The small lobby extends to a library that includes books by some the famous writers depicted in the hotel: Baudelaire, Verlaine, Hugo, Rimbaud. On the library wall you get the first glimpse of the print theme that will continue in the rooms.
“First to love, then to say it, then to write it, then to kiss… on the mouth, the eyes and elsewhere,” wrote Victor Hugo to Juliette Drouet the woman he loved for 50 years without ever living with her.
Among the 24 rooms, eight (deluxe) pay homage to mythic couples including Edith Piaf and the boxer Marcel Cedran, her greatest love who died in a a plane crash. Imbedded in the wallpaper, specially designed by a British company, are retro black and white photos of Cedran and of Piaf, each alone.. Other such rooms depict Sartre and de Beauvoir, Charles Beaudelaire and Jeanne Duval and Apollinaire and Lou. She was indifferent to him, but his passion gave rise to great work – 220 letters and 75 poems. Indeed, a long domestic life is not the hallmark of these couples.
The four “superior” rooms are all about Montmartre at night, with it’s history of the Moulin Rouge..
The twelve “classic” rooms are designed around the themes: Secrets of Love, Stolen Kisses and Paris My Love. But you can’t survive on romance alone, and all rooms have free wifi and flat screen televisions with 50 international channels. The bathrooms, which are in a separate room from the toilets, have both hand held and rain showers, and small glittering tiles.
The rooms, like the hotel and the neighborhood itself are small.
Not so the buffet breakfast, which includes high quality cheeses and cold cuts, eggs and cereal, buttery croissants and very French coffee with steamed milk. A special touch is the heart-shaped waffles.
Among the thirty-something staff, there’s no “attitude”. They are eager to help, whether that means carrying your suitcase up in the tiny lift, printing out a map of the neighborhood or suggesting a restaurant or calling a taxi.
Hotel Montmartre Mon Amour, 7 rue Paul Albert, Paris 75008. phone +33 01 46 06 03 03.
By Barbara Kingstone
“The rain in Spain stays mainly in the Plain”?? Well, not the few days I was there, and in Madrid, no matter how I felts about the pelting rain, as the wind whisked the umbrella out of my hand, it didn’t dampen this majestic city. I say this even as I skipped over puddles.
The architecturally wonderful city still has touches of Moorish walls from the 9th century. But even in this dismal economical time for the Spaniards, they seem to continue to renovate, improve their heritage buildings making old palaces into official buildings, and majestic old houses into hotels. As much as they attempt try to sort out the massive traffic jams, even though gas is hugely expensive, it hasn’t kept the cars off the roads or their sense of fearless driving cannot be ignored even by the jaded traveler. Nor has it stopped their passion for food and restaurants always seem to be filled both for lunch and dinner, from modest to the most expensive. Madrid is as dynamic in so many areas with endless activities, it’s a rare treat for history buffs and art lovers.
Where does one start the sight seeing? The famous rectangular shaped Plaza Mayor seems like a likely point.
Surrounded by 3 storey houses and 237 balconies it has only one 4 story house, Casa de la Panadera, a former bakery which has the only painted, colored fresco facade on the square.
Nearby, is the famed Botin Restaurant of suckling pig fame (Calle Cuchilleros 17) and is the oldest restaurant in the world. Of course, writer Ernest Hemingway ate here. But then there are so many plaques about ‘Papa’ that it is a stretch to even think that he ate his way through this foodie’s city. He must have been one great gourmet or gourmand.
After seeing the centrally located, Plaza Oriente, with outstanding architecture which includes the Royal Theatre, the 18th century Royal Palace and palatial gardens filled with over 40 sculptures, all overseen by a massive bronze statue of King Philip IV. Even in the unusual downpour, it may have been sensible to head back to the wonderfully remodeled, De Los Letras Hotel. But there was much more to thrill the senses in my limited time, so,I resisted that urge.
And just when you think you’ve seen almost all, there’s the outstanding Gothic revival style, Catedral de la Almudena with a fine neo Gothic interior.
The Golden Triangle (aka., Art Walk), is not a short walk. But it is charming and certainly traffic -filled boulevard that is tree-lined street, surrounded by monumental and I add, majestic buildings. Know that a day in this area would only be scratching the surface. Besides, the renowned Prado Museum, (Goya, Velazquez, El Greco masterpieces) there’s also Reina Sofia, with more avant garde canvases and celebrating the 20th anniversary (2012), the famed collection at The Thyssen Bomemisza Museum,(featuring some of the best 18th-20th century artists), a private collection second only to Buckingham Palace’s art collection. It was gifted to Spain by the late Baron and his still feisty, widow, Baroness Thyssen Bomemisza. The Baroness T.B. has her own on-loan, modern art collection next to this building and housed in a most modern edifice built especially for these extraordinary canvases.
There are so many indoor and outdoor markets in Madrid, from food to really fine mid century furniture and also various true flea markets. I wasn’t expecting to find perfectly wonderful new merchandise probably brought in for the day from a nearby store and also wonderful hand crafted jewelry designers who stand behind their stalls talking about their craftsmanship. On Sundays the Plaza de Cascorro, dating back to mediaeval times, is the place to be along with many of the locals. Besides it’s fun to see the mimes and buskers perform. There are over 1000 street sellers. But don’t expect to make it to all of them in one day.
Madrilenos and Madrilenas love street life and no matter where you go, there are always happy looking groups, often eating tapas or other special snacks. My favorite food market is the unusual San Anton (24 Augusto Figueroa Street) with a covered 6,000 square metre building on 3 floors, each with its own designation and where you could either do your marketing or find a place to sit and eat. But it’s the third floor with an excellent restaurant and a terrace,reservations needed. From here you get a great night view of the city scape. Both of these eateries are worth the time and Euros for a fine meal and the fine house wine. It also seems to be the ‘de rigeur’ spot for the young, chic, trendy, fun loving locals who stand about on the lower level eating, flirting, smoking and drinking.
But if there’s any mass appeal, it’s when there’s a soccer game. Every bar, hotel lobby, plaza, any place with a TV screen or computers, is where crowds gathers and the hoots and hollers are loud and clear. Soccer is big and there seems to be a game everyday.
What also seems to be huge is the major garden, the main park is Parque de el Retiro, second only in size to New York’s, Central Park and the big surprise is to find interesting sculptures and promenades or hear a concert or possibly take a row boat. There’s love in this truly exuberant city of Madrid and smooching couples seem to be far from self conscious about their attraction ‘du jour’. Love is like a perfume that permeates the city. It’s in the atmosphere.
LUNCH OR DINNER
Iroco Restaurant Calle Velazquez 18, Tel 34 919431 7381
The avant garde decor is so New York style. The structure is typical of a colonial style with wrought iron and teka wood furnishing. And when actor Tom Cruise was wedded to Nicole Kidman, they filmed in Madrid and ate often at Iroco.
1. Estado Puro Palacio de Tepa on Plaza del Angel serves the best tapas but also larger meals.
2. It would be a shame not to lunch at Cafe de Oriente, Plaza de Oriente 2, Tel,3491 547 15 64. It may be located in a vaulted basement of a former 17th century convent but each area is as elaborate as the creative meals. Order Braised codfish with pepper ragout and “pil-pil” and you won’t be disappointed. And don’t miss the Aljibe room where there’s a transparent floor which showcases the ancient wall of Madrid.
1. La Capilla de la Bolsa with super food and music. Once the Chapel SantaCruz, it then became the Madrid Stock Exchange Happily it has maintained the Baroque vaulted ceilings and original columns so while sitting in the midst of history, eating Mediterranean cuisine is an great experience.
2. Have another craving for tapas?, then head directly to La Camarilla. Calle Cava Baja 11. Tel 34 91 354 0207
3. Perhaps one of Spain’s great innovations is that you can purchase you favorite products and have them cooked up for you for a small supplementary charge.
BREAKFAST AT DE LAS LETRAS HOTEL
If you’re lucky you’ll have the opportunity to stay at De las Letras Hotel on Via Gran. This grand old apartment building has kept its integrity with their lovely mosaics, the original tiles, marquises staircases, original elevators (no longer in use but certainly a conversation piece) ,molding and wood paneling. Each floor has been decorated room with originality, and have a different color scheme and all refined contemporary and edgy art still has a hint of historic factor. And in each room, there are phrases, paragraphs from the two owners’ favorite books. There’s also a fine spa. And the breakfast at their bar/restaurant is something to rise and shine for. Buffet style but with hot choice, presented so artfully that it’s difficult to be the first to break the pattern of the ham, breads, fruits displayed plates.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE: HOT) and its award-winning Starwood Preferred Guest® (SPG®) program announced a new promotion where members can save 30%, 40%, or 50% of their Starpoints on Free Night Awards at 21 of the SPG program’s most luxurious resorts in the United States and Canada. Similar to the SPG program’s long-standing Free Night Award policy, there are no blackouts on standard rooms with this promotion. To participate, members simply have to register, complete their Award stay at one of the 21 participating resorts from October 21, 2012 through December 20, 2012, and then will receive a bonus back of up to 50% of the Starpoints redeemed.
“Redeem & Reward is a one-of-a-kind promotion and a first for SPG, giving our members the opportunity to stay at some of our most lavish resorts with the opportunity to save significantly on redemption,” said Chris Holdren Senior Vice President of Starwood Preferred Guest. “We strive to provide members with the best value for their Starpoints, and this promotion gives our members the ability to share a unique experience with those closest to them.”
Whether hitting the slopes or the beach, it’s the perfect time to redeem Starpoints for a late year getaway. Redeem & Reward allows members to receive Starpoint savings at some of the program’s most coveted resorts including; The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort, The St. Regis Aspen Resort and W South Beach Resort.
Participating resorts and their eligible Free Night Award savings include:
50% Starpoint savings:
- The Phoenician, a Luxury Collection Resort, Scottsdale, AZ, USA
- The St. Regis Aspen Resort, Colorado, USA
- The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, Puerto Rico, USA
- The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort, Florida, USA
- The St Regis Monarch Beach Resort, Dana Point, California, USA
- W South Beach, Miami Beach, Florida, USA
- Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa, Hollywood, Florida, USA
40% Starpoint savings:
- W Retreat & Spa- Vieques, Puerto Rico, USA
- The Westin Trillium House, Blue Mountain, Ontario, Canada
- The Westin St. John Resort & Villas, VI, USA
- The Westin Mission Hills Resort & Spa, Rancho Mirage, CA, USA
- The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa, Cayman Islands
- The Westin Resort & Casino, Aruba
- Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort & Casino, Bahamas
30% Starpoint savings:
- Sheraton Steamboat Resort, Steamboat Springs, CO, USA
- Sheraton Wild horse Pass Ranch Resort & Spa, Chandler, AZ, USA
- The St. Regis Deer Valley, Park City, UT, USA
- The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, Scottsdale, AZ, USA
- The Westin La Cantera Resort, San Antonio, Texas, USA
- The Westin Savannah Harbor Gold Resort & Spa, Georgia, USA
- The Westin Whistler Resort & Spa, BC, Canada
SPG Redeem & Reward registration is open through November 30, 2012. For more information and to register please visit www.spg.com/r&r.
by Barbara Kingstone
From the front of The Hazelton Hotel in Toronto’s Yorkville area, it’s small wonder that guests can be a bit confused which door leads to the hotel. Firstly, there’s the door to the costly condos on the 4th and 5th floor, then to the exclusive retail store and then for one of the city’s most popular restaurants, called One. Finally,in the lobby there’s a small greeting staff, waiting and ready to assist.
Once inside the lobby, it quickly becomes clear that Yabu Pushelberg, one of the most sought after interior designers world -wide, who just happen to be Torontonians, have set up a singularly stunning, subtle venue. And also added is a secret scent that is so encompassing, one can’t help being aware of the freshness of the delicate presence of lavender and jasmine in the air. After all, there is only one first impression and it may as well be the best there is to offer if you want to be considered in the highest rung of global luxury ‘digs’.
Here bronze colour velour (don’t shrug. This fabric is luscious) and seating groupings are separated from each other in quiet sections of this airy but not large area. Small gold-leaf coffee tables separate the chairs with dark grey velour. It may sound staid but to break up the traditional, there are unique designer tan leather chairs, silver mesh window coverings that take on the impression of chain mail, huge and important bronze sculptures which have a major presence. It’s in the style of a1940s Hollywood Gentlemen’s club, with a touch of black and a lot of class.
And the important art work, I soon discover, continues throughout the hotel and the rooms.
Off the lobby there is a dimly lit niche for the reception area.
One doesn’t expect Madonna and Elton John to have to register here but those lesser known, or regular clients, don’t have to be concerned about who sees them in this pricey hotel.
And yes, the celebs love The Hazelton so there’s no mistaking that this 62 room, 15 suite boutique hotel is up there on the list of where to stay in this booming city where the world’s second most important film festival- TIFF- takes place annually and yes, the stars do come and rooms are reserved months ahead of time.
The palette of ecru, cream and grey are shot throughout the entire premises. And what great suites, enough to take photos and want some of the aspects and ideas duplicated in own their home.
It was during the Toronto International Film Festival that I met with the General Manager David Mounteer and his assistance Katerina . Most rooms were occupied and Madonna and her very large entourage were about descend. But that said, I was taken to a few of the suites to see a few layouts. Stunning, large, and but with the modernistic, lucite/stainless steel edge that many of the new hotels have. It’s a softer rendition and the flow of each room, each different, all have similar textures walls, counters and floors
The larger suites like #220, have a dressing area that leads to the bedroom and the bathroom. Here the doors, looking like part of the wood paneled walls when pulled closed for privacy. The sinks and counter space is separated by the bathroom’s entrance. No cost was spared with the Galaxy marble counters, a top- end espresso machine, the finest linens, European imported modern faucets in all the bathroom, frosted glass areas where needed.
Also, important in this lively part of the city, most rooms have balconies that overlook the fashion or the residential streets.
But perhaps the most innovative is that each floor has a business centre where in this smallish area, there’s a, computer, a printer, fax, copy machine..no charge.
And there are various categories from Superior rooms which are their standard ones, but are larger than most that exist in other hotels. Deluxe, Luxury, Junior suites, an Executive suite, and The Hazelton, The Avenue, The Bellair, all one of a kind. The last three suites are named after bordering or nearby streets. Rates are expectedly high. starting in the $500 range up to a few thousand dollars a night.
What is the big surprise for this small stately building is that there is a spa. Four treatment rooms using the Swiss made creams and lotions, Valmont, have top estheticians. While waiting for my facial, in a small, candle lit niche, I was served herbal tea. Katherine only available during the TIFF week, was so very knowledgeable and also mentioned throughout the1 1/2 hour facial, which product she was about to apply and why. It’s complimentary to the VIPs at this time. I did come away looking a glossier with my now baby soft skin.
The floor below has a salt water filled lap pool. Although narrow, it’s long enough for a good swimming work-out and the gym, again not huge, is filled with the best equipment to be had.
As a New Yorker told me in the black-etched, mirrored elevators. “It may be my first time here and in Canada, but it certainly it won’t be my last. It’s a great city and the hotel is one of the most stunning, well serviced I’ve ever stayed at,” he said, his cap just perfectly placed as though a stylist may have given him some hints. And this recommendation from a jaded movie mogul, here to see the film offerings and from a man who has probably stayed at the best around the world. Toronto’s The Hazelton Hotel, is now fair competition for the world’s top rated boutique Hotels.
Red Carnation Hotels’ Duke of Richmond Hotel located on the island of Guernsey, United Kingdom is set to undergo extensive upgrades in an attempt to become the areas second 5-star attraction. The 76-bedroom hotel currently features a cocktail bar, heated swimming pool coupled with a gorgeous outdoor terrace and a classy restaurant.