Thursday, August 22, 2013

HOTEL CHECK GREECE, Amanzoe

Here you can expect perfection. Ada, senior sales consultant from our Oslo office, returns to Amanzoe, which impressed her with its classical Grecian grace even before the opening. Now she declares the finished product to be "totally amazing"...

The first view walking up the stairs is "wow"

Perched on a hill on the Peloponnese, Amanzoe is stunning. It looks and feels as if you have moved back to the days of Socrates, but with a lot more comfort. A light wind blows between the columns and makes the heat acceptable.


View of the main restaurant over the reflection pool -
reception in the distance


Children's pool
The pool restaurant
It takes 10 minutes to drive to their beach club (on an upgraded part of the road). Up on the mountainside the view is breathtaking and the atmosphere is calm, quiet and serene. Marble is used throughout and to bring light into the rooms. The marble in doors and some walls is cut so thin you can almost see through - it is translucent.


View from main restaurant over reflection pool

Rooms


The rooms or Pavilions are absolutely gorgeous, spacious and light. Every pavilion has a nice large terrace with a lap pool and dining table that can also be a massage bed. The difference in the room types is the view and the size of the pool (6m& amp; 12m). Inside the rooms you have all possible technical finesses and with immersed bathtub and high ceilings it feels very exclusive, but comfortable.
View of garden and mountain-view pavilions

Dining

There are 3 restaurants. The main restaurant is inside and outside, like dining in the Parthenon temple in Athens.
View over reflection pool and greenery to the Main Restaurant

View from the restaurant



The pool restaurant is more informal with just a few tables beside the main pool. The Beachclub restaurant is at the beach. Ada had lunch by the pool and they served light meals and salads, very tasty.

View from a table in the pool restaurant  -
a corner of the pool visible

Other facilities

View from the yoga studio

They have a nice little shop and a library, large  fitness room with all the latest equipment for Pilates and others, and a Yoga Studio open at 3 sides with amazing view of the Olive groves in the area, very peaceful.

One of the spa treatment rooms

Part of the excellent gym

The Spa is huge, with seven double treatment rooms and two Hammams. One of the treatment rooms are for water shiatsu. Rooms for changing and relaxing are found inside each “room".

How to get to Amanzoe



The drive from Athens to nearby village Porto Heli takes minimum 3 hours. The road is a good country road, but very winding and up and down mountains, offering spectacular views.
The last 2-3 km is a corrugated gravel road.

Special offer



Some more charming little details:

The reflection pool ends in this view platform -
great place for a cocktail before dinner.
They burn live flame there in the evening


Entrance to the pool area


Library - all part of enjoying the peace


Thursday, August 15, 2013

HOTEL CHECK THAILAND, Soneva Kiri

Neil Bedford takes us to an island he highly recommends as one of the paradise spots in Thailand...

Koh Kood is big but it feels like a private island, and Soneva Kiri like a jungle-draped hideaway.  This is a beautiful spot to relax, soak up the sun, enjoy excellent dining. The beach is stunning, a long stretch of fine white sand with a peninsula creating two beaches that are lapped by beautiful aquamarine water.
The top accommodations (the reserves) are outstanding.

Not least this five bedroom reserve, a haven
for an extended family or small group


Soneva Kiri is not the place for those who want hype and fast living. The villas feel very peaceful and rustic - and when you are in them you enfolded by nature, wood and greenery. The actual destination is sensational for the beach and the feeling of being hidden in the jungle.
The villas
We liked our Hill Villa Suite. They are bigger than comes across on website/floorplans and very well presented in simple, open plan wooden style. Very hidden away and private due to being enveloped by the jungle…which means you have intimacy rather than view. After a few days you get used to the fact that you always need to go outside to get between rooms, even to reach the toilet.

Facilities are good – Bose speaker system around the villa, large flatscreen with good selection of DVDs available from reception, sunbeds and numerous lounging areas around the pool. All villas have their own golf buggy for you to use.


The next category is the Cliff Villa Suite...


Cliff Villa suite - sunset, trees & ocean
Layout similar to the Hill Villa suite. The main difference is your view toward ocean and sunset. The villas are built into the forest giving a feeling of total privacy.

Ocean Villa Suites are my top choice for a couple. Definitely worth the upgrade. Better views, better villa layout, more open to the sun if you do want to lounge about sunbathing by your pool and of course direct access to the beach and sea. The beach you access is perhaps not as good as the main beach (there are no villas on the main beach) but still very nice.





Palms and beach - ocean front villas

This is also a very good category for a family with two children as the luggage room can be made into a children's room and closed off from the parents - both rooms with their own access to bathroom area.

The Private Reserves are a serious upgrade in terms of price and wow factor. Although in essence they are still simple wooden villas they are much more open outside, rather than being concealed under a canopy of jungle. Beach (in particular if you have children) and cliff reserves recommended over hill.

Private extended family paradise -
5-bedroom private reserve


Dining 

Excellent throughout.

Breakfast - a mix of a la carte and buffet offering really good quality and choice.

Champagne with breakfast?


...and delicious fresh pastries

Lunch - at the beach club they have Thai and Western plus an small buffet and wood fired pizzas. Perfect lunch and respite from the sun.

Dinner – choice of three restaurants of which two are open daily. All we ate was high standard, well made and well presented. The sunset boat journey to get to the famous Khun Benz was a highlight and the village restaurant they have set up here is really unique. Beach BBQ (once a week) also brilliant.

Sundowner drinks either at The View (or the beach) are a must do. Sensational views.
We were daily visitors to the ice cream bar and chocolate room. Nom nom nom...







And differences. Waiter making airborne
delivery for our treepod dining

To best enjoy treepod dining you need to do it at breakfast or lunch as at dinner time you will have too many insects and won't see any view in the dark. Its an experience to try once.
 Tip: I strongly suggest booking Soneva Kiri with the all-inclusive supplement. It will almost certainly work out cheaper and considerably less hassle at meal times.

Spa and more

Top quality treatments as expected and good set up. 

Service - very good. Lack of good English only evident at breakfast when the cooking stations are manned by cooks whose skills are evidently kitchen rather than language based - but you just need to exercise a little patience and get into the luxuries of  “slow life”. The Mr Friday concept worked very well.

Cinema Paradiso is an amazing experience. We had the place to ourselves (by chance) and enjoyed cocktails, popcorn (and Love Actually) under the stars.

The main pool area generally doesn’t get used but if adults are taking a long lunch then kids can happily be playing in the nice pool. “The Den” is a good concept for the kids club good for rainy days as indoors without aircon.

How to get to Soneva Kiri

1 hour by scheduled shared plane transfer from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport to Soneva Kiri Airport, then 5 mins speedboat ride to the resort.
 






Neil Bedford, doing a hotel  inspection

Monday, August 5, 2013

SPA CHECK THAILAND, Banyan Tree Spa Sanctuary

Neil Bedford talks about a relaxing spa on Phuket for those who just love being pampered - and reminds of a great special offer for Select customers...

Nestled amid peaceful gardens, this Phuket spa resort lies in an extensive complex that includes 3 km of beach and 6 living lagoons. Banyan Tree Spa Sanctuary comprises 14 one-bedroom pool villas, and is located in the same resort complex as Banyan Tree Resort and DoublePool Villas by Banyan Tree.
Your private pool
The spa sanctuary itself has no restaurants or facilities and most guests tend to stay in their spacious villas by their private  pools for the majority of the time.
You do have the option of the beach and several restaurants in the complex (all are 5-10 minutes buggy or bike ride).

Laguna Beach 


Poolside restaurant at  Banyan Tree Phuket

Location

20 mins from Phuket international airport.
A great arrival. Foot massage in your villa

Why Go 

  • Spoil yourself with daily spa treatments – either ‘in villa’ (in a beautiful bale by your private pool) or in the main (and vey well equipped) hotel spa.
  • Enjoy the time you never seem to get at home to read a book or three.
  • Sunbathe by your own private pool.
  • Occasionally cycle down to the beach.
  • Play a game of tennis or enjoy a round of golf on site.
  • Dine in your villa or take a taxi to some of the best hotel restaurants in the area.

Why not to go

For more rigorous spa addicts, you may miss disciplinary health meals, lifestyle consultations and strict wellness goals….this is more about just enjoying the pleasures of relaxation.

Treatments


In villa massages to break up your time sunbathing by your pool.
Your private massage area
In the spa you can try anything from traditional Thai massage to ‘tropical rain mist treatments’ and everything in between.
Banyan Tree Spa

Spa treatment room

Banyan Tree’s therapists are world renown for their expertise. Indeed the Banyan Tree Spa Academy Phuket was set up here in 2001 and all Banyan Tree therapists working in their hotels around the world must qualify from this academy.


Villas

Measuring 550 square metres (including outdoor area) the villas are presented in traditional Thai architecture and d├ęcor with a blend of modern touches. Lagoon or garden views keep the peaceful feel of the property. The spacious pool is big enough for an actual swim and all come with Jacuzzi tubs.
Breakfast by your private pool
In the bedroom, floor-to-ceiling glass windows form an almost 360 degree panorama to the bed to give the feel of floating on a tranquil lotus pond. A dining room with TV/DVD set up dives some refuge when tropical showers arrive.

Dining

 

At nearby Banyan Tree Resort, Thai cuisine at Saffron, buffet breakfasts and Mediterranean cuisine at Watercourt, light lunches at the Banyan Cafe, French Vietnamese cuisine at Tre.

In a nutshell - and an offer

We think this is the ideal place to enjoy to quality treatments and a very comfortable pool villa for a genuinely fantastic price. For a one week escape with unlimited in villa massage treatments please see our fantastic offer here.

Friday, August 2, 2013

GUEST BLOG, Palma de Mallorca, Castillo Hotel Son Vida

This week we have a guest blogger - one of our loyal Finnish customers gives us his family's experiences of a hotel in the hills, far from the crowds of Mallorca. Esa, Cleo, Kalle and Kasper Rautalinko enjoyed the quiet calm and luxury of Castillo Hotel Son Vida for a week in July...and found it great for families. What is more - even The Saint would have liked it for style...

Cleo, Kalle and Kasper Rautalinko
Esa Rautalinko writes:
Castillo Hotel Son Vida proved out to be an excellent choice. The hotel is charming, located on the hills overlooking Palma giving outstanding views to the sea and Palma. The Son Vida area (not just the hotel but a larger area containing a couple of other hotels and private residences) is very exclusive and the area perimeter is guarded or at least the traffic is monitored, so the place is an oasis of tranquility.
Getting to Palma is easiest by taxi, taking about 10-15 minutes and costing 10-15 €.

Good taste and style

The hotel has been renovated a few years ago and the atmosphere is classic yet contemporary. Good taste is present everywhere and Spanish traditions are present in a nice way: a lot of dark wood, marble and classic furniture.
The staff is very helpful and friendly, sometimes a bit leisurely about things, but it doesn´t really matter. At the end of the day, the experience is very pleasant and relaxing. The hotel and its service take you back to the 1960s in a contemporary way: professional and courteous service given by people who are proud of their craft. Sitting by the poolside gives you a totally different experience than anywhere else; why, hard to say.
If Roger Moore´s “Simon Templar - the Saint” was still around, this would be his hotel of choice, no question! Probably the setting with the furniture, the service and clientele just make the combination. Quite a lot of families with small kids were there too, but somehow everything was serene and calm. By the way, the pools are lifeguarded, which always is a bonus.

We were also greeted very nicely by Select with some champagne, red wine, fresh juices for the kids, chocolates, fruit, nuts etc. Thank you!

Dining


Palma is not within a dinner walk´s distance, so prices are not designed to be competitive. But what great menus and quality of food does the Castillo offer! The food is throughout excellent offering local and other Spanish specialities as well as international cuisine. Just to name a few, their gazpacho is the best we have ever had as well as their rack of lamb. The wine list is very extensive as well as their drinks list and selection of whiskies.

And as the icing on the cake, desserts are excellent as well as their house specialty: a variety of differently constructed gin & tonics. And let´s not forget about the breakfast: simply put awesome! So the Castillo is a (wealthy…) foodie´s paradise!

At the time of arrival we were given vouchers for the whole family for a massage and also for afternoon tea. They also have special massages for youngsters and the experience was very good as well as the excellent afternoon tea (it is advisable to pre-order it).

The by far most pleasant surprise was that we were given free half board vouchers. The vouchers worked as everyone would like them to work: no separate half board menus. You just ate what you wanted, the whole family, in all restaurants. You just paid for the drinks. What a treat!

Spa & leisure

My favorite place in a hotel is the gym and in the Castillo it is rather small but well equipped, open 24/7 and not too crowded. Also the spa with its services is very good, although pricey, but yes, the “physical activities“ side is well organized. There is also an illuminated tennis court, excellent surrounding golf courses and great biking routes, so the Castillo is a good base for an exercise filled vacation.
Swimming pool

Golf courses


Rooms



Suite

We had a combination of a Deluxe Suite and Grand Deluxe Room as the suite was nor bookable for a family consisting of two adults and two 10-year-olds. The rooms were not interconnected, but they were located at the end of an corridor and there was an extra door just before our rooms enabling us to keep the room doors open if so wanted. The suite was number 560 and the room 559. The suite was well equipped with two smallish balconies, overlooking Palma and the sea from the 5th floor, so the setting was very pretty.

The suite was not bookable for the family and we had to take an extra room which we did not use at all. After the first night the staff saw that we all had slept in the suite and they asked if we all wish to sleep there. When we said yes, there was no problem and we utilized the sleeping sofa that already was in the room and the staff delivered everything necessary.

In a nutshell

It is very hard to find anything negative about the Castillo Hotel Son Vida, almost nit-picking. Yes, the service can be a bit leisurely at times. Yes, the prices can be a bit on the high side, but what do you expect? As always when travelling, you need to keep track of your expenses, remembering that vouchers given at the time of arrival can somehow be forgotten by check-out.
Overall: An excellent hotel which has been noticed by celebrities, too. Ex-German footballer Oliver Kahn was among the guests as well as Cristiano Ronaldo some time ago. We would definitely go there again!

Why go

+ Atmosphere and tranquility

+ Views and surroundings

+ Staff

+ Cuisine

+ Sporting possibilities

+ Stylish old-school rooms

Things to note 


-       Palma not within a walking distance

-       Service sometimes a bit leisurely

  

The Rautalinko family rating (4-10): 9

Esa, Cleo, Kalle & Kasper

Select loyals

Note: the first two images by Rautalinko family, the others (c) Castillo Hotel Son Vida