Hotel Crush: Troutbeck

As the temperatures dip this November, I am dreaming of the tropical paradise of Laucala Island in Fiji. Laucala, pronounced “lah-tha-la” is more than a hotel; it is an over the top private island experience that caters to the luxury traveler’s every need. With just 25 villas set amid coconut plantations, turquoise lagoons and deserted beaches, the experience is truly personalized to you. Your Tao (literally translated to “my friend” aka butler) will cater to your every need from setting up dining on your private beach to horseback riding through the rainforest (on the island’s own 8 Fijian horses).

Posted on April 25, 2018 and filed under HOTEL CRUSH OF THE MONTH.

Just Back From...

Dispatch From Paris

france veritas

Just back from a memorable diversion in Paris where I decided to stop over en route home this week. With all that has happened I wanted to reconnect with the city that we all love and visit some of my favorite friends and places albeit in just a few short hours.  Three weeks after tragedy plagued this city I wanted to see first-hand what the situation was really like, absent the influence of exaggerated sensationalist media. And boy am I glad I did.

For some strange reason I had not been to Paris in 5 years and like so many things you love, you forget how amazing they are until you encounter them; Paris being no different.  From the minute I entered the city’s outskirts I was smitten with its utter beauty and elegance.  From the stately blue mansard roofs and intricate stone facades, I was instantly struck with elation of returning to something special.  The city is just beautiful inside and out.  From a random corner to a small trash dispenser, it’s no wonder Paris is the world’s muse.  Even in the rain (and boy did it rain) Paris is gorgeous -- the shimmer on the cobblestone streets, the glimmer of the lights on towering iconic monuments and the twinkle of the drops on the windows of endless elegant buildings lining the street.  Indeed, Paris is like our second home – our escape for a dose of all things fabulous.

I felt just as safe and easy going walking down Rue St. Honoré as I do Fifth Avenue. Any fears were instantly diffused as soon as I stepped on the pavement.  There were no barracks, no army men with rifles, nothing was closed or in lockdown mode.  There was a heightened sense of security but nothing at all frightening. It felt like an ordinary day in Paris.  Of course, anything can happen anywhere at any time, and no place is too far off the map to be a target (like who’da thunk San Bernardino, CA?); but the way I see it we all have two options -- retreat or move on.  It is clear Parisians chose the latter. As so many have declared to me in classic French tone “are we going to let them defeat our entire life and crawl under our mattress or will we defy them as move on with life!?!”  But the French, whose DNA emerged from the endless defiance of the French Revolution, don’t just move on with life. They savor it.  Joie di Vivre – the “Joy of Life” -- as they say… and so it is.  Just three weeks after the terrorist attacks, Paris removed its shrouds of morning, brushed off its ashes, and picked itself up – out of respect for those who perished and defiance for those who did it.   Surprisingly, Paris was abuzz.  Bars were full and there wasn’t an empty seat at any restaurant I passed on an ordinary Tuesday night.  Indeed, Parisians were all out and about living their life.  The sprawling Christmas market (marché) was bustling and the streets were alive with locals.  The Tour Eiffel was illuminated with all its pomp and glory boasting its glittering flashbulbs and bold searchlights heralding the city with an air of freedom and defiance as if so say “F-U….we are still here; we shine. We win. You Lose.” 

Walking through the streets and seeing so many friends gave me a sense of ownership and pride, as though that were my flag flying everywhere.   And then it occurred to me that Paris was indeed my city and that attack was on me like everyone else walking through the streets.  That’s why I think we all feel like this hit home so much and so frightened.  I don’t see as many people fretting over the recent incident in Mali as they did in Paris.   Just as so many felt connected with New York after 9/11, I feel connected to this global “sister” city that has claimed a piece of so many of our hearts.   It seems while we sprang from the British, we have always identified with the French.  From fashion to food, the French lead our trends and our values. And though our flags are different, they have the same colors representing the same values of freedom, equality and liberty. From the time they salvaged us from the British during to the American Revolution to our rescue on the shores of Normandy our connection to this country has never dissipated.

Even if you don’t live there, anyone who has been to Paris has a favorite random corner, a favorite café or bistro and most of all, a favorite memory.  Just walking down any alley feels like stepping through an epic novel or movie set, whether Les Miserablés or Midnight in Paris.  It is the City of Love and a city we all love in one way or another. Indeed, there is a piece of Paris in all of us.

Yes they can be arrogant, but they are also oh so elegant.  There is this incredible ambiance in the air whether you are on Ave Montaigne, San Germain-des-Prés or the sprawling Champs.  It is a sanctuary for all of our passions, our indulgences and senses. From the fragrances radiating from its luxury hotels, to the opulent edifices, to the sensual fabrics in its boutiques to the orgasmic flavors of its gastronomic temples, Paris inspires something in everyone.   Just walking through each hotel and noticing the attentive attention to detail with every random cup of coffee accompanied by a symphony of endless accessories including dainty delights that can be framed as art anywhere else.  No one does luxury hospitality like the French. Not the Americans, not the Asians nor the British.  From dainty mainstays like a silver ring holder in a bathroom, a delicate china egg holder at breakfast, or even a thoughtful cushioned floor mats set beside the bed at turndown so your sleepy feet emerge on a cloud of comfort rather than a hard floor.  The perfume infused air is standard quo and everything just seems to be done with delightful pomp and circumstance.  Yes it is fussy, but it is utterly fabulous.

During my brief stay I visited each of the top 15 luxury hotels in Paris and I fell in love with every hotel again as if it were my first encounter.  I wanted to move in to each and each was my favorite for the moment I was there.  It is no different that loving every one of your children. The one you are with is your favorite at the moment you are with them but yet you love them all the same when apart….   The glamour of Le Bristol with its local ladies doing lunch in the glorious garden and food worshippers savoring flavors in Epicure.  The perfect blend of tradition, vibe and whimsy continues to lure me to the venerable Plaza Atheneé wondering who I will see munching on something wonderful along its arcade or in its ultra-cool bar. And then there is the opulent Le Meurice, a longtime favorite overlooking the Tuilleries in a most enviable location.  Oh, and who could overlook the refreshed yet historic Ritz Paris, making a strong comeback specializing in making ladies feel like Parisian princesses stepping past a host of fashion elite soon to flood its halls.  Around the corner the slick Mandarin with its dainty butterflies is oh-so-chic and then there is the stately Peninsula with its signature aviator rooftop. Both nod to the Asian influence on French culture while the Art Deco temple of the Prince de Gaulle pays homage to the city’s Art Deco era. It has been perfectly restored by Pierre Yves Rochon who is still orchestrating the refresh at the venerable Four Seasons George V, showroom to Jeff Leighton’s indelible creations and forever a place to see and be seen over a power lunch. But then there is the cozy boutique La Reserve with its private salons and endless options in the middle of everything… and of course the dreamy Shangri La set in a former Napolean home with the most dramatic postcard views of the Tour Eiffel.  And who could leave without at least a night cap at Le Royal Monceau, with an elegant vibe epitomizing the new Paris.   They are all so amazing that it is hard to decide where to stay next.   Anyone who has had the privilege to experience these special places knows that it is not just about the beautiful spaces.  It is about the heart and soul -- the people behind them that makes it all so special.  It is about the thousands of ladies and gentleman who make memories for everyone, who go above and beyond for us all and are the true ambassadors of this city.

As you would expect though, while locals are filling hotel bars and restaurants, tourists have not yet returned.  Thus these palaces remained quite empty (some at 20% occupancy) while many shops were struggling without visitor support.   And while some may feel like this is not the time to talk about Paris or try to exploit the situation by promoting amazing values in the wake of the great fallout, there is another side to consider.  There are hundreds of thousands of people and families who depend on our visits to put food on their tables and clothe their children. People who could be out of a job without a flow of tourism coming back to support them.   With over 83 million visitors to France every year, tourism accounts for over 33% of the income for Parisians and over 7% of the French GDP. 

The people behind the hotels, the shops, restaurants, and the bars all need us now more than ever and we all need to step up.   Remember, Paris does not just belong to the Parisians. Paris is our city. 

So this is not about being insensitive to a tragic situation; it is about rising to the occasion and emerging from a crisis stronger than before. It is about brotherhood.  It is about supporting our fellow when he needs you most. It is about uniting the world in peace and freedom.  No different than our liberation on the shores of Normandy, it is about Liberté, égalité, Fraternité, It is about YOUR Paris.

Join me in participating in a host of upcoming initiatives we will be rolling out with our partners and feel free to step up with any ideas you may have. 

Bienvenue Paris


Posted on December 15, 2015 .

November Hotel Crush of the Month

The excitement I had to stay at the 1 Hotel was too hard to contain. I literally sprinted out of the office on Thursday evening and went straight to the hotel to check into my room. I did not make detours because all I wanted to do was flop on the massive bed and soak up the fresh smells of the 1 Hotel. You see, I say fresh smells because the entire hotel is made from re-purposed and natural materials and sprinkled with greenery in every corner. It is also very modern – I would say it is geared towards traveling millennials but not limited to this demographic. It also caters to the adventurer, the yogi, the nature lover, and also the luxury traveler.  The feeling you get when you stay at the 1 is similar to being in a peaceful oasis. Well, that was how I felt at least. I am simply in LOVE with this hotel. It recently just opened its grand doors (which are made of thousands of branches and twigs). Upon entering, the nicest front desk staff greets you and checks you in to your room then hands you a welcome present. The key for the hotel is a recycled circular piece of wood. Some say the rooms can be a little small, but for me, being only 1 person at a whopping height of 5 feet and 1 inch, it was the perfect space.  If you had a time lapse of the room it would have consisted of me lying on the bed , in the window alcove, standing in the all glass cubed shower, sitting on the ground, sitting in the chair, and milling around in the bathroom, for a straight 14 hours.

I loved every inch of my room. I felt so warm and cozy. The hotel was designed by nature. Everything is inspired by what is around us every day. This is why it feels and smells fresh when you walk inside. The hotel also uses as much natural light as they can, with giant windows all around the hotel. Some rooms have a view of central park which adds to the oasis feeling. You could step out of the nature and go right into nature again merely steps away. I had a city view which I really enjoyed because I could sit in the alcove and people watch. Even though it was a short stay, I wanted to experience it completely so I utilized the accommodations and worked out in the gym (which has the best state of the art work out equipment) and ordered room service from the hotel restaurant, Jams, which is an entity in of itself.  I ordered a delicious burger with the most amazing toasted bun and fresh French fries. I highly recommend this burger but then again, I am a burger girl. I definitely gobbled it up faster than I should have. The coolest part about room service was that I ordered it all from the smart phone on the bedside table. I also controlled the TV, lights, and texted the front desk from this smart phone. This system is actually becoming very common in luxury hotels. It is a lazy person’s (i.e. me) dream. The service at the 1 was perfect and accommodating. I was so relaxed staying at the 1.  My crush on this hotel is very real and I am thankful for getting to stay the night!  

We are not a brand, We are a cause.
— Barry Sternlicht CEO & Chairman of 1 Hotels

Posted on November 23, 2015 and filed under HOTEL CRUSH OF THE MONTH.

T + L A-List 2015

Ovation Travel is proud to announce that three of our top advisors have been named to the Travel + Leisure 2015 A-List!

Please click on the names to be directed to the articles. Congratulations to Jack, Julie, and Marcella!

Posted on October 7, 2015 .

Coming Back, Cabo!

On September 14, 2014, Hurricane Odile hit Los Cabos like a bull, injuring hundreds, flattening homes, and wreaking havoc on the coastline with winds up to 125 mph. Over 30,000 tourists were stranded to weather out the storm without electricity, phone service, and drinkable water. The vicious hurricane tore off the roof of the Terminal 1 in the Los Cabos International Airport, making it difficult for the Mexican authorities and U.S. State Department to airlift tourists out of the ruined city.

Although it seemed as if Los Cabos has reached one of the most destructive points in its history, most of the destination has been repaired and improved, and is now looking better than ever. Only 17 days after the hurricane, Los Cabos was already back in the game. The airport, streets, marina, beaches, and even the power, were are all back in business in no time.

Many hotels endured major damage to their properties, but they seized the opportunity to take on all-new repair and renovation projects and come back better than ever. Three of our favorite hotels have undergone major improvements to their resorts:

One&Only Palmilla

One&Only reopened with a new steakhouse called ‘SEARED by Jean-Georges Vongerichten’, completely refurbished rooms and suites, new adult outdoor lounging areas, and a brand new spa and fitness center. With the added enhancements, along with the warm and genuine service that they are known for, The One&Only Palmilla is better than ever.

Esperanza, An Auberge Resort

Esperanza’s extensive re-design was led by acclaimed interior designer Mary Alice Palmer of HKS Architects and landscape architect George Girvin. The 57-room beachfront resort features completely transformed guest rooms, a refreshed Cocina del Mar restaurant and Lounge Bar, an enhanced pool along with a terrace with new cozy lounge spaces and cabanas, and a revitalized spa. The resort is even offering a travel package and special spa promotion titled, “Rediscover Esperanza”.

Las Ventanas al Paraiso, A Rosewood Resort

Las Ventanas reopens its legendary Five-Diamond resort and resets the bar for luxury. Several unbelievable guest experiences and comforts have been added to the personalized service that Las Ventanas is known for. The highlights of the enhancements include the all-new team of Villa Hosts, who make it their job to deliver the most luxurious experience to guests staying in the resort’s Signature Villas, along with the brand new Las Ventanas 2015 Rio GT56 luxury Yacht, which offers guests the opportunity to explore the seas of Los Cabos. Many new winter experiences have launched, including a unique Whale Safari to discover the magnificent whale species that migrate to Baja California each winter, and the all-new Bulgari Tea Bath, which includes Mexico’s first and only Tea Sommelier to curate a special tea to compliment the guest’s chosen fragrance. New summer experiences include an authentic cooking class in the pre-Hispanic technique of “barbacoa,” a personal tequila tasting and consultation with an expert Tequila Master, a thrilling treasure hunt through scenic Baja, a unique opportunity to create a pearl at Baja’s only pearl farm, and new “Dog Butlers” to care for the resort’s four-legged guests.

Posted on August 5, 2015 .