Thursday, February 27, 2014

HOTEL CHECK AUSTRALIA, part 2, Capella Lodge

Just returned from Down Under, Select travel consultant Johan Paloheimo talks about two amazing Australian islands: Lord Howe, a Pacific paradise that belongs to New South Wales; and Kangaroo Island – Australia’s Galapagos.

Here Johan reviews Capella Lodge, a boutique gem in our Select Collection. His next blog will jump to Kangaroo Island…

An unusual Pacific paradise, part of New South Wales

Capella Lodge Lord Howe Island

As you approach the island after a 2 hour flight from Sydney it feels like you are arriving back in time, to a time and place when it all started. The mountains, lagoon and the mesmerizing ocean coexist in perfect harmony.

We realized our stay was going to be extraordinarily soothing when we were met by Robin from the Lodge, who said: “Do you need to work on your mobile?…eeh no, there is no connection...” 

Just 5 minutes from the small airport, the lodge itself has the best location with fantastic views over the crystalline turquoise ocean, green fields, enormous pine trees, soaring mountains and, across the road, cows.

A beautiful mixture of worlds, seen from the hotel entrance

This island is a haven for nature lovers.

Pines and palms...worlds to discover

There are birds that fly backwards, beautiful coral reefs (in fact the most southern hard coral reef on the planet), subtropical rainforest, tropical rainforest, conifirs …  an extraordinary mixture of tropical and temperate eco zones. Species that are found nowhere else include the flightless woodhen and the world’s largest stick insect that was feared extinct until its rediscovery on Balls Pyramid (islet adjoining Lord Howe).

We snapped it ... the endemic Lord Howe woodhen.

We saw so many sea turtles, different species of terns, birds, butterflies…you name it, they got it. But no snakes unlike the mainland Australia. So we are talking about paradise.

Sand, sea and mountains...
Franjipani scenting the air

Tropical forest
Conifirs mixed with green grass and tangled subtropical bush

Top notch

Food and service is top notch at Capella Lodge and since they have a community of about 350 island residents all tours are done in co-operation with local companies.

Every night you can enjoy pre-dinner drinks on their outdoor veranda from 18:00 – 19:00 and the sunset just in front of the lodge. The hotel’s bar staff compose a new drink for every evening, very delicious drinks indeed. The food is really good and the menu changes every single day. 

On Tuesdays they always have a 7 course dinner, every other day they have a 4 course dinner. The menus change all the time depending on what fish they get that day, what vegetables they have received from the mainland and so on. Breakfast is a small but perfect affair, the only things that are kind of buffet style are the fresh fruits, toast and cereals. All hot food items like eggs are ordered à la carte and the chef always has a daily breakfast special.

Rooms

Capella Lodge has only 9 suites and we stayed in a Lagoon Loft Suite.  This suite has a ground floor living area and the upstairs room holds the bed.  Both floors offer floor-to-ceiling windows and a patio with ocean views.

Our lovely suite



The highest room category is called Lidgbird Pavilion, which has a plunge pool, ground floor living area and upstairs master bedroom.

The owners, Baillie Lodges, have really thought of all the small details. Every suite contains a backpack for each guests staying in that specific suite, beach towels, AC, TV and other amenities.
My only regret was that we stayed for only three nights. Next time we plan a week or so.
                                                                                                                                                               

What you do…

Tropical Chill

Outside the restaurant you have an outdoor lounge area with a plunge pool, sunbeds tables and chairs.

Lounging at Lord Howe
We did a snorkeling tour to a nearby island which was brilliant. We saw rainbows of colour and myriads of fish - the reefs are every bit as fantastic as the corals I saw in the Maldives.

Paradise beaches and coral reef
The beaches are lovely white sand. Every guest at Capella Lodge has their own bike, and this is the best way to explore the island. Hop on your bike and head for the beach, if the beach gets crowded (we are talking about maybe one or two other couples) you just bike to the next beach.

Since Lord Howe Island has a community and around 350 people who are permanent residents on the island Capella has chosen not to include lunch and private excursions in the room rate.

The staff at Capella are fantastic, you really get 5 star service. 

The housekeeping staff work their magic every day, and the room was done every morning while we were having our breakfast. The restaurant staff are superb and they really know their wines and food; the service is flawless, nowhere near pushy. Just very genuine and with a very warm feel to it. 

Who to go

This is a five star nature experience - a very boutique, intimate and romantic Lodge for people who can do things by themselves – take a bike out exploring, walk, borrow the hotel car etc.  Tours are all operated by small local companies, not the hotel. 

How to get to Capella Lodge

2 hour flight from Sydney or 1 hour 45 minutes flight from Brisbane by Qantaslink.


 
The post office :)

Friday, February 21, 2014

SKIING IN SWITZERLAND, part 2, Badrutt's Palace

Neil Bedford continues his Alpine travels amidst dazzling slopes and glittering luxury. Now he takes us to one of the world's most exclusive and glamorous addresses, Badrutt's Palace, St Moritz. 

The white glitter above St Moritz

Welcome to ...

It is hard to beat the Badrutt’s Palace welcome at St Moritz train station. Before we can catch our breath in the crisp Swiss mountain air, an immaculately dressed porter takes our luggage and walks us through the snow to a waiting Rolls Royce. Our friendly chauffeur immediately puts a smile on our face by telling us tomorrow’s forecast for blue skies, sunshine and fresh snow overnight. The ideal arrival and things only got better….


Better and better...

Badrutt’s Palace Hotel

Synonymous throughout the world with chic, elegance and class, St Moritz has no equal in luxury, lifestyle and exclusivity. It was therefore only fitting that we stay at the town’s most prestigious address, Badrutt’s Palace Hotel.



The perfect location overlooking Lake St Moritz

A magnet for royalty and the rich since 1896, Badrutt’s Palace oozes history and glamour from it’s stone façade pores. While such history evokes a sense of assured luxury, it was pleasing to discover that the hotel has managed to combine a contemporary change with it’s indelible history. The tapestries and classical furnishings of the hotel’s Le Grand Hall contrasting with the modern face of Nobu restaurant; the contemporary ‘wet zone’ ideal for keeping the aches of a days skiing away; the rooms themselves are grandly styled in the bedroom and living areas while the state-of-the-art bathrooms show a touch of modern style where it is most appreciated.



Wet zone with multiple saunas and steam room plus
 indoor and outdoor pools
Modern bathroom
  
Suite with a view
 
Deluxe room

Six dedicated dining venues would spoil even the most particular of gourmets while the legendary Palace wine cellar with its 40,000 or so bottles and 900 labels is equally impressive. The Head Sommelier is in his element sharing his wine knowledge and Select Collection are delighted to arrange private tours.



Winter views from heated pool


St Moritz

The origins of St Moritz as a winter resort date back to September 1864 and while the British were the first winter guests, it is now much more likely that you will find St Moritz’s visitors enjoying an afternoon tea of champagne and caviar rather than traditional Earl Grey and scones. The champagne lifestyle extends up the slopes as well with some of the Alps finest restaurants located near the mountain summits.


Spoiling even the gourmets...





The destination’s reputation for all the finer things in life does something of a disservice to it’s on piste delivery. In fact skiing around St Moritz feels distinctly underrated to us. Speedy and modern lifts; over 350km of pistes included many featured in World Cup races; a healthy mix of blacks, reds and blues; south facing slopes accessible on either side of the valley depending on the stage of the season; floodlit skiing on Friday nights; and views that will literally stop you in your tracks. All this plus the famous Hahnensee run which is regarded as one of the most beautiful downhill runs in the Alps; noted for its peaceful setting and stunning panorama as well as for the high demands it will place on your skiing skills. In addition to downhill skiing St Moritz is one of the premier regions in the Alps for cross-country, with 200km of trails, some floodlit, amid stunning scenery and with reliable snow.


Breathaking skiing

The facts

Reach St Moritz by Swiss Air flight to Zurich followed by 3h 30 train or 2h 30 car. (Or 30min flight from Zurich to Samedan airport by chartered flight).
Stay at Badrutt’s Palace from €490 per night 9-30th March.
Book all your arrangements with Select Collection for the best rates and service as well as complimentary lift pass for stays of 2 nights or more.



Friday, February 14, 2014

HOLIDAY IN TRANSIT, part 1, Four Seasons Doha

Our guest blogger Sonja Catani starts off our new series on how to turn transit time into a wonderful addition to your holiday. She kicks off with Doha and the immaculate Four Seasons, enjoying a lavish day in transit with delights from spa and sea to social life... 

A lovely long day in transit on the beach/in the city
 at Four Seasons Doha.

Make Transit Time into Vacation Time

As we happily travel the world as Weekend Hoppers we sometimes encounter the problem of transit time. Having tried six-hours-is-really-not-that-bad or hey-in-eight-hours-you-have-plenty-time-to-enjoy-the-premium-lounges we finally agreed that it really isn’t that fun, however fancy the lounges are, to sit in an airport after a fantastic long weekend in Burma or the Seychelles.

Sonja Catani contemplating transit

We decided to make transit time into vacation time and turn something that could be bothersome into something that adds extra value to the whole vacation.

In January we tried out the concept in Doha, Qatar, with the help of our friends at Select Collection. We arrived in the morning from Yangon, Burma. Qatar Airways premium services had prepared our one-day Visa and it was quick and easy to clear customs in the premium line. Outside we were greeted by a impeccable chauffeur from Four Seasons Doha who drove us in a luxury BMW 5-series including wifi, TV, cold towels and international newspapers, to the hotel.


Superb car service


Beach & city, wifi & food 



Four Seasons Doha - a beach and city combination
with that magnificent Four Seasons touch

Four Seasons Doha is located on the West Bank City Center Doha. You get the combination of beach resort and city hotel, of course with that special Four Seasons super personal service that few other hotels ever manage to get quite so right. We had a superior room on the seventh floor facing the green-blue waterfront and left our carryon luggage in the room and went straight down to the beachside with the pools and restaurant bar. 

My husband who never carries any mental weight over work-related must-do’s, happily sat in the sun and read a book and swam in the ocean. 


Sunbeds and ocean

I sat in the shade writing Social Media updates and found it to be the best way to mentally slowly prepare for the  check-in to daily life in Sweden. I hate when you’re thrown from one extreme to another, like from great champagne breakfast in Yangon to dark rainy winter Tuesday in Stockholm. Here in Doha I could quietly go through all my e-mails, slowly get used to the idea of soon having to wear winter boots and grandmother's furcoat, but still enjoying the last day of sun and warmth. Wifi works all over the Four Seasons property so it was easy to get all those To-Do lists out your head before enjoying a fantastic lunch.

You can choose between 3 restaurants for lunch; the Italian Il Teatro, the beach-side Pool Grill or the Pan-Asian-fusion Nusantao. We chose the latter. 

Our choice was  Nusantao

Nusantao chefs at work to delight

The restaurant boasts four different top chefs all representing one Asian country. The food was fantastic. The tastes were well balanced and the portions great small sizes so that you could pick and mix and try many different tastes. It even works well with us that are on a constant diet running away from carbohydrates. If you wanted to alter a course, it was no problem for the attentive and professional staff to arrange that.

As lunch was an occasion to linger for quite some time, great company and all the different plates made three hours run by in a flash and hence made me almost late for my Spa appointments...

A fantastic spa

The Spa at Four Seasons is enormous, but it still feels very cozy. Once more I can just marvel at the attention of the staff that were well aware of my name and in a very personal, but in a discreet way took care of me. I got the grand tour of the whole spa and made a mental note not to eat so much at lunch next time. I really would’ve wanted to try the gym. It’s got the same ultra modern equipment as my Gym at Grand Hotel in Stockholm has, but with an even wider selection of equipment. The gym is airy, light and attractive. One floor up there’s a beauty saloon under Franck Provost brand that I also will use next time to give my hair a proper pampering before heading back to mittens-and-hat land.

In the spa treatment area

The hydra spa area has a large pool and several small pools with different hydra treatments for back, legs, neck and head massage. 
Plunge pools for treatment

There’s a cold plunge pool that I found rather funny, as it was 17 degrees water, about the exact temperature that we have at our summer place in Sweden… on a warm day… But the Spa does have an actual cold-room in the women’s private shower, Jacuzzi, sauna and changing room area. I did try it even if felt a bit like something out of a Scorsese film featuring the mafia and the hiding of unwanted collateral damages. But I’m sure it’s good for the body’s immune system and for releasing endorphins.

I got a fantastic 1-hour Balinese massage from a very skilled and nice Balinese woman who despite my snoring and come to think of it I might even have drooled in my sleep, didn’t bat an eyelid or look at me in a pitiful way. She was of course extremely professional and well trained as all therapists in the Four Seasons Spa.

My husband, the life lover and happy go lucky guy spent these hours bathing, using the light therapy room and rounded up with some healthy smoothies in the Aprés Spa Café. I was happy to spend hours in the spa-area and even if I had checked most of my beauty products through all the way to Sweden, there was nothing missing from the complimentary array of products ranging from Crabtree and Evelyn to ecological well-selected products.


Tropical pool area at dusk

Some Swedish connections...

As we had had such a long lunch we opted for cheese and red wine in the Library Bar instead of a dinner. As we ambivalently tried to choose wines from the wide selection of imported wines, the Food and Beverages Manager Thomas approached us. He turned out to be Swedish and had a long career from Grand Hotel where he used to be Managing Director, which of course kind of explains why we were so impressed by the food and the wine selections at Four Seasons. We were then introduced to Madeleine who is the Spa Manager and hear and behold, also from Sweden. We had a great chat and I was especially happy to hear about all the sustainability and charity projects that Four Seasons have launched through their spa and the products on offer in the shop.

Social life in transit

Our evening in Doha was rounded up with great accidental meetings with lots of fun people and once again it was proven how small the world is as we met an investment banker who it turned out had worked in the same French Bank as my husband. We made great friends; we loved the wine, cheese platters and service.

Obviously you can go outside the hotel and visit the museums (unfortunately closed as we were there on a Monday), the Souks or any of the shopping centres. For us the hotel offered so much, that we didn’t even use the kind offers from the concierge.

Home refreshed

The fantastic vacation day in Doha transit was nearing it’s end and we took a short nap in our beautiful room before our chauffeur took us back to the Premium lounge at Doha airport. We boarded Qatar Airways after midnight, and as we now only had a two hour time difference, we arrived early the next morning in Stockholm – well rested and feeling more flexible and vibrant than any other given Tuesday morning! The flat beds in Qatar Airlines Dreamliner are of course a benefactor, but most of all it was because of the exceptional vacation day at Four Seasons Doha.

Thank you Stephan for a great welcome and many happy laughs, you are all invited to try Swedish 17 degrees sea water any summer day!

Thank You to Select Collection for letting us be “test bunnies” for Turn Transit Time into Vacation Time. It’s a great concept and we will be sure to use it again!

More pictures can be found on Instagram hashtag #weekendhoppers

Sonja Catani



Sonja Catani is a communications consultant and part time writer. She travels extensively with her husband, a former banker who can fall asleep anywhere whilst Sonja hardly ever sleeps. To match these two personalities and their high expectations on luxury and exotic travel we at Select Collection are always coming up with new ideas and fun solutions to make their world-wide Weekend Hopping trips as valuable and satisfactory as possible.

Note: Planning a holiday in transit?  Ask your sales consultant to tailor-make a package for you.

Monday, February 10, 2014

SKIING IN SWITZERLAND, part 1, The Chedi Andermatt

Neil Bedford our product manager is a connoisseur of luxury, and an enthusiastic skier who brings English determination and a spirit of adventure to the mysteries of Alpine activity. After a ski weekend at the Chedi Andermatt, opened in December 2013, he introduces us warmly to a new hotel that fits well with its maxim “Alpine chic meets Asian sleek”. 

Neil snaps some action above Andermatt.
He finds the hotel is a fantastic mix of modern design and local touches, with huge fireplaces, fur cushions, soft leathers and dark wooden floors offsetting clean and sleek granite, stone walls and minimalist theme.  He also finds that that the ski area has something for everyone, both beginners and experts…

Cosy relax areas at The Chedi Andermatt

Where?

The Chedi Andermatt lies in the heart of the village of Andermatt, only 25m from the train station and 150m from the nearest ski lift. The village is small but it does have some good restaurants for those who want to step out of the luxurious environment that cocoons you within The Chedi.


Andermatt station just opposite The Chedi

Rooms

Very impressive size, design and style – and views. 


What a view!


Our favourite rooms are south facing to Gemsstock Mountain though all 104 do have views of the surrounding mountains.  



Gemsstock suite

Dark wood floors contrast with indulgent soft leathers, fur cushions and cosy sofas.  Cuddle in cashmere blankets on your private balcony while also warmed by the fireplace which sits very stylishly in a glass wall between room and balcony. The bathroom features double vanity, large deep soaking tub, separate rain shower, where you luxuriate with Acqua di Parma toiletries. All features (including fireplace) are controlled by iPad remote. 


Deluxe room - 52 sqm.

Added Value

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

Spa

Stunning 2400 sqm spa and wellness centre on two floors. In the spa (age 16 and up) there are 3 hydrotherapy pools of different temperatures with water jets/Jacuzzi, sauna, 2 x steam rooms, plunge pool. In keeping with GHM style, it is very Asian themed – from staff to treatment menu to style. In  addition to the spa a 35m indoor lap pool enclosed by glass roof and walls gives amazing views of the Alps.

This is the absolute perfect set up after a day on the slopes or even if you want a day off the slopes completely! 


Main pool - swim a length if you need more than skiing 

F&B

Some of the most beautifully presented food I have seen in the Alps. 


Fine fine-dining

More fine dining

Breakfast and all day dining at The Restaurant features European and Asian cuisine with open kitchens and a stunning 5 metre high glass cheese cellar.

Breakfast room
In the Japanese Restaurant (winter season only, tasting menu from 80 CHF) take a table or have front row seats at one of the two bars for sushi/sashimi or tempura. Plus you can retreat to a wine&cigar library.

Japanese restaurant

Chedi afternoon tea happens by roaring fires in the lobby/relax areas;  tapas at the main pool; snacks, live music, fire, furs and cocktails in the superb après ski (and late into the night) bar. 

Ski service

There is a ski room in the hotel., and it offers excellent service and equipment to buy or hire. It costs around 40 CHF per day for skis, boots and helmet while the ever helpful  concierge will arrange your lift pass, 50 CHF per day. You can arrange everything on arrival, no need to book in advance.

Getting there

Train

The train takes 2 hrs from Zurich airport to Göschenen, followed by complimentary 10 mins car transfer to the hotel. If you are travelling to/from another ski destination in Swtizerland, as I did, then you should certainly take the Glacier Express to/from Andermatt station - this train goes between Zermatt and St Moritz (8 hrs) with stops along the way and incredible views from its panoramic windows throughout. 

Car

Zurich Airport 90mins 
Milan Malpensa 2hrs 


Ski slopes

You enjoy 120 km of pistes and ‘guaranteed’ snowfall. One side of the valley is ideal for advanced and off piste, the other for all standards. In 2015/16 Andermatt should also be connected to Sedrun ski area accessing  another 130km of pistes.

Access:
Nätschen Mountain. It is 150m walk from the hotel to the lift (or they can drop you off), then take a mixture of train and lifts to connect with other slopes. Or take the train from Andermatt station (every hour) for a 15min journey winding up the mountains to the central ski area. Ideal for families, slopes offer runs of all levels including beginners.

Gemstock Mountain. It is 5min drive (complimentary pick up/drop off from hotel on request) to cable car for a two stage ascent up to 3000m for challenging red and black runs as well as superb off piste.


Apres ski/lunch on the mountains is a mix of simple shacks to larger restaurants, all boasting memorable views and hearty Swiss fare. 


Ski hut high on the slopes







Tuesday, February 4, 2014

SPA CHECK, Kamalaya - in transition

A beach holiday among waving palms, with the occasional glass of wine? Or rigorous days to get fit and focus on a healthier way of living? You don’t have to choose – you can combine both at Kamalaya, a destination spa on the magical island of Koh Samui.
Beautifully tropical Kamalaya - view from the restaurant

Our sales manager Ulrika Thelander has just returned from Kamalaya to see how clients can take a holiday that brings both health and happiness.

She enjoyed the beautiful sandy beach... 
And a meal on the beach

Revelled in tropical skylines...

Admired rosy sunsets...


Luxuriated in comfortable accommodation...
... with views

But she also did what she felt she needed to do … she got fit and lost weight with exercise, treatments and delicious healthy food. 
Ulrika enjoying a coconut shell filled
with coconut water

The programme she chose was called Optimal Fitness (more about that below). Ulrika lost 3kg there and continued to lose weight at home with her healthy routines. She also feels so much more relaxed and has recuperated from our High Season stress.

Interestingly  she noticed a new trend…

It used to be mostly women on their own at Kamalaya. Sometimes men. But increasingly, couples are coming to Kamalaya and small groups of friends. You now see more people enjoying a little wine with their meals and sitting at the talking tables. Other guests of course continue  to avoid alcohol and choose to sit at the non-talking tables to keep their focus on their rejuvenation programmes and off the outside world.

Ulrika’s major tip is:

Take fullboard!!!!!!!!!!  The food is great and it is very good value for money, as so much more is included.
They have menus for Detox and Ideal weight – including lots of protein such as 4 different sorts of fish (seabass, red snapper, salmon and  black cod), chicken, eggs, prawns and tofu.

Tasty dinner

Delicious breakfast incuding wheatgrass
Garden salad with salmon

You also get afternoon tea, coconuts brimming with coconut water to sip, detox juices, fruit juices, vegetable juices – all kinds of different teas, wheatgrass shots etc.

A lot of treatments are included if you choose well. Ulrika got:

All beverages excluding imported drinks and alcohol
A body bio-impedance analysis
A wellness consultation
A 60 minute fitness evaluation
A followup wellness consultation
5 personal training sessions of 60 minutes each
5 far infrared saunas of 30 minutes each
A 90 minute vital essence oil massage
2 traditional Thai massages each 90 minutes
A 60 minute traditional Asian foot massage
A Super Stretch session of 60 minutes

And feel free to fill in  time at the gyn
...and relax on the lovely property with its
 Oriental ambience

If interested in possibly booking Kamalaya to have a lovely tropical break and get a new start in life, ring us at Select in one of our offices.

Select clients who book a package of min 7 nights always get inhouse credits and other added values.