Friday, December 21, 2012

TRAVELLING WITH CHILDREN, part 1, Four Seasons Gresham Palace

Budapest in December instead of flying off to sunshine and pristine beaches?  We asked one of our sales consultants, Tommy, a new father, to tell us all why he made this choice for his latest break…and how it worked out.

Click for a larger panoramic view of the city from the Buda side


“This being the first trip as a small family, we thought the distance was perfect, just above 2 hours flight, no stopovers, no time difference or anything like that. An excellent chance to try out travelling with an infant.
The flight with Norwegian worked above all expectations. Our little baby Theo was in a brilliant mood charming all the onboard staff with fits of giggling.
On site in Budapest, Four Seasons was waiting for us right after luggage claim and swiftly we were rushed off to the waiting Mercedes with a big throne of a child seat. Being in a car seat is not really Theo’s favorite activity, but this time he was all smiles, and looked quite like a little prince being driven around.

The Little Prince

Upon arrival at the hotel, all luggage was whisked away and we entered the beautiful lobby of the Gresham Palace. Built in the beginning of the 1900s it has been many things, but it’s extremely suited to being a Four Seasons hotel.
Art Nouveau grace
Directly we are shown to our room, very classic in style, marble and thick carpets, separate shower and soaking bathtub and an amazing view over the chain bridge and the Buda Castle over the Danube river.
View of the Danube from our room

Hospitality for little ones


Now comes the special hospitality for babies and their parents! Small gifts start dropping in, a nice bottle of wine, some baby toys, canapés, bottle warmer, diapers, extra towels and fresh fruit. It really made us feel extremely welcome as a family, and we felt secure in good hands.
Theo with all the nice things
Upon examining the room closer we also found child sized bath robes, not really small enough for our little toddler, but it is the thought that counts right?


Great dining


I must mention the restaurant. Excellent breakfast with buffet style for most things but egg dishes are made a la minute.

One thing all guests must do (and it is not a recommendation, it is a Must)  if they spend a weekend in Budapest is to book the Four Seasons Sunday brunch. Italian themed during our stay, we sat for a good two hours eating our way through Italian delicatessen. Same as breakfast, much was buffet style but all the hot dishes were prepared a la minute.

Besides this fantastic location and great food, the thing that really struck us the most about this place was the impeccable service and hospitality. Everyone from front desk, cleaning, room service, restaurants and concierge had a very good sense of service and you really felt them doing their utmost to make all clients happy.


Exploring with baby

 

Magical lights
Tearing ourselves from the hotel we started exploring Budapest. Walking around the neighboring areas we discovered the city was very easy to get around in with a baby stroller. Good sidewalks and crossings and never any real problems. The only downside was that in the Christmas markets it could get quite narrow, and we had to cross many of the small genuine restaurants and cafés off our list just because they were too small, but fortunately there were many to choose from.

Christmas lights the dark

We quickly felt that it was a city that has a lot to offer, beautiful sights, museums and architecture, great food ranging from Goulash to Sashimi at Nobu and a buzzing market with lots of local handicrafts and the smell of glüehwein hanging in the air.

Ice rink at the Christmas market
So all in all, perfect trip for a short getaway: short flight, lots to see, great food and great hotel. What else do you need? Ah yes: for a family all members should be welcome…and we were…."

How to get to Four Seasons Gresham Palace

30 minutes by car from Budapest International Airport

Who to stay

Discerning couples and families...

Special offer

We must point out the incredible offer of stay 3 pay 2  (or stay 6 pay 4 etc) for stays until 30 April 2012. Phone or mail one of our offices.



Note: All images are informal snapshots by Elina Örmin, apart from the B/W image by Four Seasons

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO MARRAKECH

On our Select Collection trips to Marrakech we like to combine a luxury hotel in the medina with a stay in the Atlas Mountains - for the best of both worlds. 


La Mamounia

Night magic at Mamounia

Probably our favourite hotel in the city of Marrakech. La Mamounia is a stunning property right in the medina, but you feel as if you are in the countryside thanks to the massive gardens. One of the property walls is actually the wall of the Medina and you enter through an impressive gate.


Pool with cabanas in the lush garden

The hotel is in classic Moroccan style, with exquisite details throughout the hotel. Service is really good and all the common areas are beautiful.
This is the place for all who want to experience Marrakech in true Select style in a marvellous central location.
Classic Moroccan style
Our tip is to book a park view room. The Koutobia view is towards the street so you miss the whole oasis feeling, and it feels more like a city hotel. The Agdal view is over the pool, which is nice, it works, but it's just a (nice) pool. The park is what makes Mamounia unique so that is the place you want to view. Also, Park is cheaper then Agdal for some reason.
However, if you are needing a deluxe Park room with an extra bed, be aware that they are actually below ground. They are half a staircase down so you get absolutely no view whatsoever. They have made these rooms a little larger to compensate, and that is whey they can take the extra bed. So if needing an extra bed we strongly suggest you upgrade to a Junior suite.

How to get to La Mamounia

15 minutes by car from Marrakech International Airport.  La Mamounia offers its own VIP lounge at the airport.
Though not the usual Select-style airline, Norwegian is very convenient for Marrakech and very good for a low cost carrier. You get what you pay for, a seat with limited pitch but nice staff onboard. Food on the plane is not inspiring so we recommend you eat before departure. Wifi onboard is a great idea, but it's excruciatingly slow.



Note that if you make a package with Select Collection including Norwegian you get advantages not available if you book individual items yourself on the internet.



Select added values

Bottle of champagne in Executive suite, Signature suites and Riads. Space available complimentary upgrade, guaranteed complimentary early checkin and late checkout

We definitely suggest combining with an out-of-town property.

Kasbah Tamadot


One hour from the Medina is another world - Kasban Tamadot.
Views to dream of...
Snow on the Atlas mountains behind
Kasbah Tamadot - late November 2012
Sir Richard Branson’s secluded lodge up in the Atlas mountains features stunning views from almost everywhere, and a stable with donkeys and dromedaries. And lots and lots of activities both within the hotel and  in the surrounding areas.

Our private terrace in our hideaway in the Atlas mountains -
great place to drink champagne and stare at the views
Don’t consider anything less than a Berber tent if you want to pamper yourself. They are absolutely amazing, especially the ones with plunge pool. Deluxe suites are also very attractive (see the terrace  in the above image - a place we loved being). 

Deluxe room accommodation

Kasbah Tamadot is a gorgeous place for relaxing, hiking and exploring. If you spend a whole week in Morocco you will enjoy combining this mountain hotel with a city property.



And also lazing in the sunshine amidst stunning panoramas

In a nutshell

A very good value for couples and families - if you like an active holiday or just want to relax and enjoy the views and the spa.

How to get to Kasbah Tamadot

45 min by car from Marrakech International Airport

Select Added values

Bottle of wine and fruit in the room. Complimentary upgrade, early checkin and late checkout if space is available.


Note: Images are informal iPhone snaphots by Select team. The others (images 2, 3 & 4) are (c) La Mamounia & Virgin Kasbah Tamadot

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

SPA CHECK THAILAND, part 1, Kamalaya



Losing weight is not a problem. It’s a pleasure. That is what all the guests tell you at Koh Samui’s famed wellness sanctuary Kamalaya. Most people on a weight control programme lose around 2 kg in a week while enjoying a pleasant active holiday. Our Select Sales Manager Ulrika lost 4 kg.

Firstly – the food is great – good protein, fruit and vegetables –  tasty, fresh and full of colour. 

Secondly, it does not feel like a clinic. Kamalaya is beautiful, lush and tropical, surrounded by rainforest and mountains, not far from the beach.

“The beach is just a walk down the hill,” says Ulrika, adding: “Though on the first day it’s a tough walk up again, at the end of the week you are so fit you can almost run up.”

You don’t have to do anything at Kamalaya – you can treat it just like a beach resort and lie on a sunbed.  Or join gently into yoga and mystical moments in this undeniably exotic place.

But we recommend you sign up for a wellness package.  For one thing a package very cost-effectively includes three meals a day, ordinary healthy food, detox fare or  a la carte eating, and a lot else. For a pre-booked wellness package (for min 7n stay) all Select customers get a voucher for 150 euros worth of extra treatments.
For a charge guests can even drink ecological wine and beer at night. But our Select team noted that almost no one opted for the vino. They were so satisfied with fabulous fruit drinks, wheatgrass shots and so on.

At Kamalaya your treatments are from top experts who combine holistic therapy and science…. You can choose between packages focused on ideal weight, optimal fitness, detox, stress and burnout, even sleep enhancement.  Detox and “ideal weight” are very popular  programmes.

Ideal weight (Ulrika's  chosen programme) is a lot about shape and toning – not just the number of kilos. So stomach massage, detox treatments like far infra-red saunas, body scrubs, wraps and so on aim at reducing cellulite – the big enemy of the body beautiful.

Where you are makes a big difference when you get treatments.  “The treatment rooms are wonderful,” says Ulrika. “Only three walls – you hear the sounds of the sea and the singing of birds…”
There are also a range of holistic activities you can join to get fit, feel calm and happy  – apart from yoga, there is Pilates, stretching, and in the evening lectures and Thai dancing.
For some programmes you also get a personal trainer...

On top of that we think that the staff are fantastic, and the accommodation lovely… especially the beach front villas…
Note: Images are all informal iPhone snapshots by Select.
Select added value - in addition to the 150 euro voucher for prebooked treament package, you get complimentary upgrade, early checkin and late checkout if space is available. See also our web page, and our CEO Leija Graf's blog on Kamalaya's detox programmes.



Finally we pass the word over to one of our customers, Elisabeth Whitefield, who has just returned from Kamalaya:





"It was a wonderful place, with so much warmth. Professional but still personal. Perfect for me; I felt better than I ever imagined was possible. 
I will definitely return…"