Thursday, February 28, 2013

HOTEL CHECK ITALY, Four Seasons Firenze

Yet another of our Select Collection team has visted the amazing Four Seasons Firenze - and been blown over like all the rest of us. Its hard to get closer to perfection suggests Ada, one of the well travelled consultants from our Oslo office. Ada also has some tips on what to see, and where to shop and eat in the "Renaissance city"...


Perfect for a short break, or a celebration. Four Seasons Florence is a beautiful hotel, an oasis within the city with a huge private park. This hotel felt like a palace with a young atmosphere, which you feel at once as you arrive. The perfect combination of classic style, and fresh young atmosphere. It’s hard to get closer to perfection.

A glass roof for a fresh light feel amid Medici treasures
All staff are casual and kind, no arrogance found in anyone, from chef to manager. They have a very good team that really makes you feel welcome. And a very good concierge...
All the rooms are different and they are in two different buildings at each end of the park. The main building Palazzo della Gherardesca  has 79 rooms and The Conventino has 37 rooms. As the name shows the Conventino used to be a small convent. All rooms are beautiful, all have high ceilings, some with Renaissance frescoes from the 15th century when the Medici family ruled.


The smallest room is the Superior Room of 39 sqm and the largest is the Royal Suite of 233 sqm.

Prince and Princess feel - just a corner of their
amazing space

We stayed in a premier room

Many rooms can be connected. The property is full of romantic corners inside and out. Perfect for honeymoon and wedding. See our last blog...
The hotel offers a well equipped gym and attractive spa (though did not get a chance to try it).  There is  one all year restaurant, The Palagio, for fine dining…wonderful cuisine. An Al Fresco poolside restaurant offers more casual dining in summer.  The Winery offers the finest wines of Tuscany.
Four Seasons works closely with



One, two, three, four...five icecreams. At
Carapina they are irrisistible



Local butcher, the famous Dario


We visited all three and we suggest our clients should do the same. Have an icecream (or five) at Carapina after a citytour in Florence, visit the Antinori family’s new winery – like walking into a James Bond movie – and have a lunch at Dario’s hidden restaurant – amazing.

Getting around Florence

Charming small town where the centre is restricted to pedestrians only, so very few cars.
Vespas are everywhere due to this rule, but you can easily cover the centre by foot from the hotel.
Good shopping of leather bags etc at the Santa Croce Leather School
The markets of Florence are charming and why not buy good Parmesan Cheese and hot Salami while there. http://www.aboutflorence.com/typical-markets-in-Florence.html
Plenty of museums and galleries – we saw the Science Museum, which was really interesting. Another must is to see The David in the Academy Gallery. Bookings are advisable most of the year so do ask our consultants about our Concierge service.

Good restaurants we visited:
BUCA LAPI RESTAURANT  http://www.bucalapi.com/home-eng.htm
For dinner, amazing meat dishes
For lunch with a nice glass of wine.
We made our own Pizza on this restaurant – fun for small groups and families. Need pre-booking. Do make use of our concierge service.

How to get to Four Seasons Florence

20 minutes by car from Florence International Airport or 1 hr from Pisa. Florence is a small and well functioning airport except when there is heavy wind. Since they close the airport fairly often the locals prefer Pisa (60 minute transfer). Our flight was with Swiss Airlines via Zurich, one way economy and one way Business. The main difference is the food. On these short flights the seats are the same in Business, but there is more sense of space as the central seat has been removed.
Images in blog style snapped by our Select Team apart from image of Royal Suite by Aleah L Stanbridge Photography. For further images see our last blog




Inevitably marble and huge




Thursday, February 21, 2013

WEDDINGS WITH SELECT COLLECTION, part 1, Four Seasons Firenze


HAUTE COUTURE WEDDING.




For a fairytale wedding, one of the new hot places offered by Select Collection is a 16th century Palazzo in Florence, part of the fabulous Four Seasons Firenze. Brought into the 21st century with restored frescoes and luscious Rococo finesses, the palazzo is alive with romance. 


Click images for an idea of the fabulous details 



Among glittering ballrooms and seductively gorgeous suites, the hotel also offers a tiny medieval chapel.

Click image to zoom in on angels dating back to the Medicis



In this chapel you could say your vows, or maybe just have an intimate wedding dinner while 16th century angels hover over you. 


Two guests or a thousand?

As experts in couture travel, we have arranged intimate wedding celebrations here. But weddings of up to a thousand guests are not a problem. 

A big green park presents a romantic backdrop to Four Seasons Firenze,  with sculptures, fountains and giant trees, overlooked by al fresco restaurants and bars, swimming pool, Jacuzzi and garden spa.

This park comes in handy for marquees for large receptions or outdoor tables under the trees. 

Natural romance in abundance
For small weddings, you could dine romantically on a roof terrace overlooking the park. Menus can be drawn up under the guidance of a Michelin-star chef.

Couture wedding

Of course weddings are created by couture from an a la carte menu of possibilities. Select Collection will add on the details you want to make your own totally original wedding. Flowers, wedding cake, photographs, hairdos, and a big choice of live music forms from cello to harp, jazz to opera. Or of course a DJ. 

The couple’s room in the spa has a white and gold Rococo theme, where the couple can choose to prepare for (or recover from) the wedding with a ritual of treatments...

For sublime relaxation, rejuvenation and new life

When the prince met the princess…

What is more you would have to go very far to find more romantic fairytale suites for the newly weds. Or the entourage. 

For the prince and the princess - the Royal Suite
click for fairytale details

The Royal Suite's fabulous private dining

Or a Renaissance suite?
Or a gallery suite?

And then back in the public areas - why leave the hotel
 when  the renaissance is around you

Tuscan honeymoon

And if you wish to escape to a more rustic Palazzo among Tuscan vineyards for your honeymoon, Select Collection offers a choice of romantic country hideaways. Tuscany was made for romance…

Note: 1st & 4th image (c) Four Seasons, the others by Aleah L Stanbridge Photography

Thursday, February 14, 2013

HOTEL CHECK SOUTH AFRICA, Mount Nelson

Our Select team stays at the iconic Mount Nelson, built long before the popular Cape Town Waterfront. We find this Orient Express hotel seeped in history but still very much alive ...




At the top of an impressive palm lined drive, the hotel buildings ramble through a huge lush garden in a coat of eye-catching  pink.  This was the bright colour mixed to cheer people up after the first world war. In fact Mount Nelson dates further back to the Boer War…

They still call it "Mount Nelson pink"

In those days the Mount Nelson was owned by the Union Castle cruise line, and housed all the important travellers to Cape Town. Winston Churchill stayed here as a young war correspondent and British Dowagers sipped afternoon tea on the veranda….

You can still drink afternoon tea  here under the whirling ceiling fans, with a difference. Once held away by apartheid, bright young professionals of the new South Africa are here to enjoy cucumber sandwiches and American cheesecake, side by side with international guests.

Cheesecake & sandwiches from a totally loaded buffet ...

It is a very social event. Mount Nelson is a vibrant meeting place at its three restaurants as well as a haven in the city amid fountains, perfumed flowers and stunning views.

Peace, trees and flowers...

Table Mountain looms up above it, with
the " table cloth” a mystic presence
after a day of 30 deg C

Path through the vast hotel park to tennis courts below
The odd sporty guest runs past in tennis togs, others sun by the family swimming pool, or a quiet one for adults only. All in a quieter vein, a whole street of typical Cape Town Victorian houses has been turned into the spa.

A typical street of  the old Cape Town - now the spa

Librisa spa

Family pool at the Oasis wing

Picturesque accommodation choices

Garden cottages backed by Table Mountain 
Another whole street has been turned into garden cottage suites with one and two bedrooms. A great place if you love the old “semis” with lacework trimmings dating back to the days when everything was so much more British.

Or you have your choice of fairytale suites, like the one we were upgraded to in the Helmsley Wing. The suites are MASSIVE  and the furnishings full of old romance...

A deluxe  "Junior suite" in the Helmsley wing  - the TV rises
out of an antique cabinet when you press a button...

The Helmsley was once a separate hotel, and has not taken the
Mount Nelson pink due to its culturally protected status

If that is too dated  for you, there are 30 newly renovated rooms in the Oasis wing, glittering with freshness – very light with white,  silver and blue – in categories Deluxe rooms and Junior Suites.


Newly renovated deluxe junior suite in Oasis wing
Great view from the new rooms:
From the Oasis wing - towards Signal Hill

Lovely terrace of a suite in yet another separate wing
The hotel was 100 years old in 1999 – and has welcomed guests like Nelson Mandela, George Bush, Dalai Lama, John Lennon (who signed in as Mr Greenwood). And the wives of Duran Duran who caused a stir when they tanned topless at the swimming pool.

Could that be why this one is for adults only...?

Cape Town is a laid back city full of sporty things to do – fun and festivals. It is also a deeply cultural city. If its museums you want, you are close to them here at Mount Nelson. Just a stroll down the grand palm lined avenue ….and you are in the historical areas of Cape Town. 

Dining around

For waterside dining it is 10 minutes taxi to the Waterfront – and 10 minute to Camps Bay with a free shuttle. But if you would rather walk, browse and dine, the residential area of Gardens and Kloof Street is trendy, full of small low key eateries – very well priced.

"At home":

Marvellous breakfast at the Oasis restaurant

Buffet of different toasted muslis, yoghurts, fruits plus an extensive choice of hot items. This pleasant Oasis Restaurant is tantalizing for lunch too – its old buffet concept has made way for an a la carte Mediterranean-inspired menu with some local classics like Cape Malay chicken curry.

Lunch at the lobby veranda restaurant was also excellent and very well priced :

Vegetarian curry with the freshest taste of newly toasted
spices, served with the lightest samoosas.

We also had smoked trout at that pleasing restaurant on the veranda – beside big tropical flowers reminding that we were ...

...far from the snows of Stockholm

In a nutshell

209 rooms & suites, 3 restaurants, spa, gym, 2 tennis courts, 2 swimming pools including one for adults only, kids club, large gardens with sculptures, lawns, trees  & flowers.

Who to stay

Discerning couples and families, especially if you appreciate the old Cape Town and Colonial traditions, mountain views and greenery and flowers around you - not to mention sculptures and corridors of art.

How to get to Mount Nelson

20 minutes by car from Cape Town International Airport

Select added value

A local amenity in the room

Note: All images are informal in blog style

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fashionable fun in London


A celebration of Fashion, Travel and Luxury!  Mix them into an evening and you have a fabulous recipe for success. Together with Banyan Tree Hotels, designer Melissa Odabash and the elite Harpers Bazaar magazine, our team at Select Collection Mayfair held a fun event in London this week, with prizes and treats. Our attendees were our VVIPs for the night….


We think the pictures tell the story. But don’t miss our links at the bottom of the blog – with some special offers.

Consultations at our Select Collection Pop Up
Travel Boutique

And here is the Pop Up Travel Boutique

There were wonderful prizes including a holiday to Banyan Tree Madivaru in the Maldives staying in a Tented Pool Villa with full board and including  flights...

Click for a closer view of the prizes

A Melissa Odabash  Holiday Wardrobe

More Melissa...


Competing

.And the winner is...


Winning or not - lots of fun was to be had...


Bubbly

Complimentary Express Manicures

Goody bags galore with girly treats


Canapes


And some brave men were in attendance amongst all the lovely ladies...

...Justin Purves of Banyan Tree and renowned international
designer Julien MacDonald

...and one canine fellow

Do not miss out on our continued exclusive offer with Banyan Tree and Melissa Odabash. See www.selectcollection.com/banyantree for everything you need to know.

A special thank you to Bronwen Batey and all of the team from Banyan Tree, All at Romanski, Fleur, Laurianne, Melissa and all of the Melissa Odabash Team, The Nail Technicians, the superb catering staff and of course thank you to all of our wonderful guests for making this a fabulous evening!

Collette (left) and Bronwen Batey

Select Collection team with
Melissa Odabash (centre)
In the backgound our samples of sand reminding about those divine beaches...