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.

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