Monday, August 25, 2014

HOTEL CHECK VIETNAM, Amanoi

Aman has made its debut in Vietnam with Amanoi. One of the most discerning Select Collectionites, our Managing Director Fredrik Ljung, reviews this new option for a luxurious beach holiday in Vietnam...

Above a sandy beach and Beach Club, Amanoi  overlooks pictureque Vinh Hy Bay, offering the streamlined elegance and serene privacy that you expect of Aman resorts, perhaps more so. This newest Aman hotel has truly stunning facilities to match the stunning location.


The ultimate in privacy and views


The Beach Club - and quiet beach

Location

Amanoi has a dramatic location on rolling hills sloping down to the ocean. A vast amount of land has been bought to ensure absolute privacy and no neighboring resorts. There is no nearby village worth mentioning. Once here, you stay here.

Transportation around the resort is by buggies due to the distances and the terrain. Walking to the beach club from the welcome pavilion takes around 15 minutes.

You fly into Nha Trang Cam Ranh airport and the transfer to the hotel takes around 1 hour and 30 minutes. The distance is only 55 kms but it is a slow drive due to traffic. The drive from the airport will take you through urban areas of Nha Trang along the coast and out on into the countryside.

Facilities

The cliff pool area
The yoga pavilion beside the lake by the spa

The luxurious spa

Apart from the Beach Club with watersports and a lap pool by the beach, the resort facilities include two great tennis courts, a quiet cliff pool at the resort's highest point, a great gym with the latest equipment, a yoga pavilion, luxurious spa suites, two steam and wet suites which guests can use free of charge. They are booked for private use and feature a steam sauna, a lukewarm Jacuzzi and a cold dip plunge pool as well as loungers, bathroom and shower. These wet suites are amazing to use before spa treatment or in conjunction with exercising in the gym. The spa treatments are pricy compared to other 5-star resorts in Vietnam. Expect to pay 130 USD for 60 minute massage and 180 USD for a 90 minute massage, but then it is a true luxury experience in a spacious spa suite.


Dining

Fresh and colourful 

The impressive main pavilion is the only option for evening dining; it has one outdoor area and one air conditioned area. The menu is limited but Management has promised to improve options following our feedback. The good news is that the kitchen will prepare dishes that are not on the menu. Also, the Beach Club is open for lunch and has a much more extensive menu with a lot more of the Vietnamese dishes.

In villa dining – a reasonable selection of dishes can be ordered. Pricing is high for Vietnam but lower than most other Amans. Expect to pay 10-15 USD for a starter and 20 USD for a main course. An imported steak would be more – around 40 USD. A glass of house wine is 15 USD. Good quality wine and champagne is very expensive. (A bottle of non vintage champagne is 200 USD).

Pavilions

The resort has 31 pavilions that are identical but divided into 4 categories depending on view or with or without pool.
1. Pavilion (viewing the mountains or the lake)
2. Ocean Pavilion (viewing the ocean)
3. Pool Pavilion – private pool and views
4. Ocean Pool pavilion – private pool and ocean views

Our accommmodation  with elegant  Feng Shui

All pavilions have been carefully integrated in the lush vegetation and offer complete privacy. The standard of the interiors is very high, the highest I have ever experienced at an Aman resort. It is very spacious with a big bedroom/living room area and spacious bathroom area with 2 wardrobes, double vanities, shower, separate bath and toilet. The pavilions also feature a big flat screen with plenty of channels, something not always the case in an Aman.

Another view of a pool pavilion

All pavilions have an outdoor deck. The pool is quite a good size.

Villas – the resort has 5 multi bedroom villas (3,4 and 5 bedrooms). The ideal accommodation is the 5 bedroom beach villa which is not on the beach but very near the beach club with full ocean view and a very big private swimming pool. The villa consists of 5 separate pavilions (not attached) and one living room/library pavilion and an outdoor dining sala. No other accommodation at the resort is near the beach club, only this unit.

Worth noting

No adapters required for Scandinavians since Vietnam has French plugs. Sound systems in rooms are for iPhone 4, but adapters for iPhone 5 can be requested.

English skills are currently somewhat lacking among the staff. But what works is that you never need to mention your room number or sign any bills when consuming. This is something I really love when staying at an Aman.

The beach is attractive but quite small.  Suntanning and languishing on sunbeds takes place elsewhere - often at your private pool.

Why we like Amanoi 

Amazing hardware
Stunning location
Extremely private
Great facilities
You never mention your room number or sign any bills

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO MYKONOS

Our Norwegian travel consultants look at one of the most glamourous spots in the world, and our chosen hotels...

Between Mykonos’ rocky formations, gods have fought in legend, pirates have found their den and the world’s most famous people have swum. Mykonos is maybe the most beautiful island in Greece with the sun reflecting on the white landscape and the sandy beaches. And it is still celebrities’ island.

Mykonos remains as expensive as it always was, maybe the most expensive place to holiday in Greece, though definitely worth it if you consider the high standards and the glamour. This is the way they want it to be and they have succeeded.


Iconic Greek island charm and glamour
Families, couples, singles, young and old all enjoy Mykonos. If you want to party this is the place, if you want champagne on the beach it’s there, if you want a traditional Greek tavern and family holiday it’s easily arranged, and if you want to be alone on a beautiful beach – no problem – there are almost 100 beautiful beaches to choose from and isolated rocks in the middle of the sea where you might meet a goat or two.

The main town of Mykonos – Chora – is a small and picturesque white-chalked village with narrow alleys with cafes, restaurants and designer shops like Luis Vuitton and Juicy Couture and much more. There is also a small city beach and a pier where cruise lines like Silversea, Seadream and Seabourn lets their guests start their exploration.

Our chosen hotels – Mykonos Grand and Petasos Beach Resort  –  are both located 10-15 minutes from Chora on different beaches. We stayed at Mykonos Grand.

See map showing beaches and hotels…


MYKONOS GRAND 


Perfect pool area at Mykonos Grand

This hotel is beautifully built in the Cycladic tradition of white-chalked walls and blue, red and green details of wood. It is built on a slope with the reception on top and three rows of rooms with stairs between (and elevators). Below them you find the suites, all with full Seaview and then there is the Pool Area. There are also a few Suites at higher levels with total privacy.

Its certainly worth it to take a  seaview room – our favourite being the Premium Seaview Room (renovated in 2014 with egg-shape bathtub) and the Superior Seaview Rooms (renovated in 2009 with egg-shaped bathtub and open plan bathroom).


White, fresh, elegant rooms

There are five kinds of suites with Jacuzzi baths or private pools. . Perfect for a honeymoon is the Executive Suite. Deluxe Suite with Private Pool is close to the beach. The oversized master bathroom has a deep soaking Jacuzzi tub for two, separate walk-in rain shower, steam cabin, double vanity and a Technogym treadmill.

The Althea Spa and Fitness Center is located close to the pool and offers all you need with new state of the art Tecknogym equipment. It is nicely air-conditioned, but has no view to the outside, only the mirrors showing how hard you work. The Spa has some very luxurious treatments.

Dining

Mykonos Grand has 2 restaurants – the Dolphins of Delos open for Breakfast and Dinner and the Aqua & Sole by the pool that offers light meals for lunch and early dinner. Then of course you will also want to dine out…

There are 2 further restaurants on the beach a short walking distance – the Hippie Fish and the Pili Restaurant, both reasonably good tavernas with traditional Greek cuisine with a touch of France. Good, but not excellent.


Lunch in Hippie Fish - image by another of our inveterate Select travellers, Ann Jurk

.
In Chora there are several good restaurants – like the famous Argentinian steak house UNO CON CARNE and Catari Restaurant for Italian dishes. And at Hotel Belvedere there is also NOBUYUKI MATSUHISA’s Sushi restaurant.

For traditional Greek Cuisine our taxidriver  recommended  SPILIA in Agia Anna , and TO MAERIO in Kalogera. According to our friend Theo at The Margi we should also visit KIKIS at Agio Sosti. Unfortunately we did not have time to visit either this time.

Location
The location is 4 km from the airport and 4 km from Mykonos town. Since it is difficult to find a taxi (only 30 taxi cars on the island) I suggest to use the hotel’s shuttle bus that goes from the hotel every hour and is free of charge.

Petasos Beach Resort & Spa

This is the sister property of Mykonos Grand and has the same style of rooms, though a bit more modern, and built on flatter ground (while its sister property is built on a slope). They have a brand new spa – Aqua Marine – of 500 sqm and one restaurant – the V.I.P.

White, fresh and contemporary
By contrast this resort is more See and Be Seen for the young and chic, whereas the Mykonos Grand exudes casual elegance and old money.


View from Petasos Beach Resort

Dining with a view, close to it all

Nightlife

Go to Chora at night if you want to party. The most popular and famous bar at the moment is Jackie O’ http://jackieomykonos.com/ This is a gay-friendly bar for adults only. ODE bar is also popular and so is Remezzo. A good start is Galleraki in Little Venice for cocktails before  exploring the rest. Party all night if you want to…

Taxi/Transport

Mykonos Grand has free shuttle transport from/to the hotel/Chora, but the first is at 18.00 to town and the last back is 23.30. Petasos Beach has no such service.

The taxi licenses in Greece are given based on the number of inhabitants on each island, not counting the summer guests. So, on Mykonos there are only 30 taxis. This makes it hard to find a taxi quickly between 23.00 and 02.00 at night. There are some pirates that can be found around the minimarket at the entrance of Chora, but we recommend booking a private driver with the hotel.


Beaches

Agios Yiannis – Where Mykonos Grand is situated is a quite nice beach where the hotel has a private part with complimentary sunbeds for hotel guests.

Platis Yialos Beach (next to Petasos Beach Resort) - there is a small harbour next to the beach where small taxi boats leave regularly to nearby beaches such as Paraga, Paradise, Super Paradise, Elia and Agrari

Nearby Petasos Beach Resort - Psarou Beach offers the popular Nammos restaurant. 

Kalo Livadi – 10 km from Chora, quite large and on the south part of the island, between Elia and Kalafatis. Good for families.

Ornos Beach – 3 km from Chora on the way to Mykonos Grand, very picturesque and family friendly.
Elia – 10 km from Chora. Fine sand, easy access and a great crowd. Gay friendly

Panormos – 5 km from Chora – one of the islands alternative “progressive” beaches – good for surfing –no sunbeds.

Kalafatis Beach – 12 km from Chora. Good for windsurfing and diving, with schools on site.

Super Paradise Beach – 7 km from Chora; this is the famous beach. Beware of narrow steep roads to get there and expect nude sunbathing on the beach. Gay friendly. Wild parties, clubbing and unlimited fun are the trademark of this beach. This is also the location of Jackie O’ Beach Bar and Pinky Beach – see and be seen, not for too-sensitive souls.


Other experiences

-  A spa treatment at the outdoor Spa Pavilion at Mykonos Grand located under the main pool area, overlooking the crystal clear waters of the Aegean and listening to the sea waves during the treatment

-  A romantic dinner on the beach, as seen in the movie Shirley Valentine 

-  A yoga or Pilates private session at the inspiring outdoor amphitheater at Mykonos Grand





Thursday, August 14, 2014

HOTEL CHECK LONDON, Brown's

Luxury in London. Where to stay in the unmissable city? Product Director Neil Bedford continues his report on our London Collection with a look at London's first hotel, Brown's...

Brown's

Arriving in quaint Albemarle Street and being welcomed by Brown’s doormen in their top hat and tails gives you an immediate sense of history and tradition. In fact Brown’s was London’s first ever hotel having opened its doors in 1837 under the watchful eye of Lady Byron’s maid, Sarah, and her husband, James Brown. 

Bought and revamped by The Rocco Forte Collection in 2003 it is now made up of 11 Georgian townhouses. The split level hallways and almost hidden reception and concierge desks makes it feel like a place for only those in the know. Distinguished guests have included presidents and prime ministers, royalty and writers…






Rooms

Rooms

A distinctive mix of old and new. All 117 rooms and suites have been designed by Olga Polizzi and her exquisite blend of styles and vintage gives a unique charm. In the living spaces rich and heavy fabrics combine with more contemporary artwork and antiques, while the bathrooms feature timber and mosaic detailing. The most beautiful suite is the Kipling Suite, named after the author Rudyard Kipling who always stayed at Brown’s and penned the Jungle Book here.

Dining

One of the best restaurants in London, the HIX Mayfair menu is all about big British flavours. Mixed beets with Cachel blue. Norfolk treacle tart with clotted cream. Each plate as much of a work of art as the Tracey Emin and Bridget Riley that hang on the walls.

Named in honour of British photographer Terence Donovan, the Donovan Bar’s walls are lined with over 50 of his black and white prints. Order the signature Donovan Martini and take a seat in the ‘naughty corner’ with Donovan’s more risqué pictures.

A quintessential English experience - afternoon tea in the atmospheric English Tea Room at Brown’s indulging in a choice of 17 teas, delicate pastries and finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserve, and freshly baked cakes, with the option of Champagne.

Gym & Spa

The small spa at Brown’s is the perfect place to escape the city’s hustle and bustle or prepare for that big event. In three treatment rooms (book well ahead) you can enjoy signature facials by NuBo, luxury facials by Carita Paris and body treatments by Aromatherapy Associates. The gym is open round the clock or use the hotel’s own jogging map to explore nearby routes.

Location

3mins from Green Park tube in the heart of Mayfair. The shops in the area are temples to luxury goods and its restaurants are among the finest in the country. When visitors tire of eating well and trying on designer clothes, they can have a drink in an exclusive Mayfair bar or relax in one of Mayfair's many sumptuous hotels…of which Brown’s Hotel is one of the most prestigious. 

Nearby Brown's:


  • Green Park (5 mins) - The mini park plays host to lunching commuters and tourists in almost equal measure. Excellent people watching spot. 
  • Hyde Park (10 mins) - There's something for everyone in Hyde Park, from swimming and boating in the Serpentine to concerts and exhibitions. 
  • Old Bond Street (5 mins) - Designer shops and art galleries.
  • The streets of Mayfair (on your doorstep) - London’s most bespoke galleries, theatres, boutiques, bars, cafes, restaurants…
  • Soho (5 mins) - Countless drinking holes, excellent restaurants, unique boutiques and varied nightlife 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

HOTEL CHECK LONDON, The Arch

Continuing his report on Luxury in London, Product Director Neil Bedford looks at a hotel well situated for shoppers - The Arch...

The Arch
The residential feel of the street means you are almost surprised to discover The Arch - just a small sign above the doorway differentiating the hotel from Madonna’s house opposite. The Arch spans seven Grade II listed townhouses and two mews homes, all of which contain 82 rooms and suites. Pieces of art by emerging British artists can be found throughout the hotel, punctuating the formal spaces created by the glorious Georgian architecture.

Art and Georgian architecture


The setting for perfect service

Particularly noticeable about The Arch is the pleasant attitude of the staff. They are all very at ease speaking to you about the time of day or making the most complex arrangements for an evening out in the city. It feels as if they are genuinely keen to know you and want to make your time in London as special as it can be. Previous Select Collection families staying here have had their children’s favourite Podcasts downloaded to the room pre-arrival, the more private booths set aside for them at breakfast and even their own childlren's checkin routine.

Rooms

Room with character

Suite

Junior Suite

Vibrant standard room

Superior Room

The bright and airy rooms are filled with colourful fabrics that bring an instant warmth. Striking wallpapers complement the classic Georgian features, including original sash windows that envelope the rooms in natural light. For your creature comforts they are filled with the latest technology including Sky HD TV, internet radio, an extensive library of Oscar winning films, iPod dock, free soft drinks from the minibar, Nespresso machine and complimentary Wifi. The luxurious bathrooms are equally impressive with stunning black granite and mirrored finishes, revitalising rain showers, Malin+Goetz products, state-of-the-art flat screen televisions at the end of the baths and bath pillows for a truly indulgent bathing experience.

I stayed in a Junior Suite on the 5th floor and even with just one piece of luggage it was good to have the extra space. Some suites are blessed with kitchenette or private courtyard - a rare treat in a central London hotel.

Rooms on the lower floors boast higher ceilings that are a feature of buildings from the era.

Dining

Hunter 486 is the hotel restaurant/bar where you can take breakfast (a cold buffet plus a la carte hot dishes), lunch or dinner. A casual relaxed atmosphere means this is an ideal spot for friends and family though perhaps less so for a romantic occasion. For a change of scenery you may wish to venture further afield and there are some excellent choices within walking distance.
  

Gym

The Arch ’s gym is available exclusively to guests, 24-hours a day and features the latest fitness equipment by TechnoGym, from treadmills and cross trainers, to rowers and weights. There is no spa but the hotel has a close relationship with several nearby.

Location

Just 5 mins walk from Marble Arch tube. The surrounding area is one of the most historic in London and is home to some of the world's most affluent and famous. Situated on the northeast corner of Hyde Park the hotel is perfectly located for avid shoppers with Oxford Street just minutes away.


Nearby The Arch:

  • Oxford Street/Bond Street (5 mins) - All the favourite High Street shops as well as Selfridges department store.
  • Marylebone (5 mins) - A classic British neighbourhood full of wealthy residents, Madame Tussauds, classic British pubs, elegant boutiques and retail outlets.
  • Knightsbridge (30 mins) – Walk through Hype Park to the exclusive area of Knightsbridge with iconic department stores like Harrod’s and Harvey Nichols competing for your attention.
  •  Hyde Park (5 mins) - There's something for everyone in Hyde Park, from swimming and boating in the Serpentine to concerts and exhibitions.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

HOTEL CHECK LONDON, 45 Park Lane

Luxury in London. Looking at where to stay in the endlessly intriguing city, Product Director Neil Bedford continues with a look at 45 Park Lane...

45 Park Lane

Entering the new Dorchester Collection property - 
just over the road from The Dorchester


The smart but discreet 45 Park Lane is just steps away from sister hotel The Dorchester but so very different. Contemporary interiors designed by New York-based Thierry Despont - architect, curator, artist and designer - take inspiration from his own idiosyncratic world of art, history, technology and design. Modern art is scattered around like confetti and together with the intimate size of the hotel makes it feel more like a private residence or club. 

Rooms

Only 45 rooms, all of them very generous in size and with beautiful modern décor. In this, intimate hotel, all rooms face the park. There is a casual but luxurious aura.

Room interiors are decorated in a contemporary art deco style of rich dark materials, contrasting with light colours and sensual textures. From the entry level categories enjoy bespoke furniture and hi-tech amenities including a state of the art Bang & Olufsen television. Floor to ceiling windows in most rooms afford views over Hyde Park. The Executive Deluxe Rooms on the 8th floor are some of the most popular with their private balconies overlooking the park.

For something truly special the exclusive Penthouse Suite can be found on the roof of the hotel. A wrap-around balcony offers panoramic views of London while inside guests will find a spacious living room and separate oval dining room. 


Junior Suite


Dining

A striking central staircase leads to the first floor featuring Bar 45, famous for its delicious sliders and exotic cocktails. For fine dining visit CUT at 45 Park Lane, internationally-acclaimed chef Wolfgang Puck’s first restaurant in Europe, a modern American steak restaurant. Delectable dishes range from prime Wagyu beef to succulent lobster and creative salads. Relax at weekends with brunch and a Bloody Mary, custom-made to your liking, as you listen to live jazz.


Gym and Spa

A small fitness studio is available 24 hrs a day and massage treatments can be provided in room. Guests are welcome over to The Dorchester to use the larger gym and spa.




Generous rooms
Dazzling modern decor

Fashionable lounging spaces

Location 45 Park Lane

Only 5 mins from Hyde Park Corner tube. Strategically located in London's exclusive Mayfair on Park Lane (between Marble Arch and Hyde Park Corner), 45 Park Lane is within easy access to London's most exclusive shopping areas, including New Bond Street, Old Bond Street and Knightsbridge. Oxford Street and Piccadilly are also close by while peak and quiet are easily found in Hyde Park which the hotel overlooks.

Nearby 45 Park Lane:

  • Oxford Street/Bond Street (1 0mins) - All the favourite High Street shops as well as Selfridges department store.
  • Buckingham Palace (15 mins) - Visit the working headquarters of the Monarchy, and the place where The Queen carries out her official duties (only open late July – end September).
  • Knightsbridge (15 mins) – Walk through Hype Park to the exclusive area of Knightsbridge with iconic department stores like Harrod’s and Harvey Nichols competing for your attention.
  • Hyde Park (over the road) - There's something for everyone in Hyde Park, from swimming and boating in the Serpentine to concerts and exhibitions.
  •  The streets of Mayfair (on your doorstep) – London’s most bespoke galleries, theatres, boutiques, bars, cafes, restaurants…
  • Soho (15 mins) - Countless drinking holes, excellent restaurants, unique boutiques and varied nightlife

Friday, August 1, 2014

DUBAI OPEN BY SELECT COLLECTION


The one-day golf tournament “Dubai Open by Select Collection” was held at Saltsjöbaden Golf Club on Wednesday. We had a fantastic day with great golf and warm weather (with thunder and refreshing rain).

There were 60 golf players competing - Select clients and members of Café Opera Golf Club and Saltsjöbaden Golf Club.  The tournament was sponsored by the Dubai tourism authority ("Definitely Dubai"), Emirates, Callaway and Park Hyatt Dubai Creek Hotel.

The winners were…


First Prize, an airline ticket to Dubai with Emirates and 3 nights stay at Park Hyatt Dubai – 
Margaretha Bjurling

Second Prize (a Callaway golf bag) – Sebastian Hansson

Third Prize (90 minutes’ massage in our Select Collection Spa) – Anette Tjärnvall

Peter and Kia Hansson (right), pro´s at Saltsjöbaden, organizers of a great golf tournament and BBQ lunch. Together with Ulrika Thelander (left), sales manager at Select Collection Stockholm 
.

Some of the Select clients who took part in the tournament
Lars Procheus, Veronica Bane, Mats Arnhög and Lisa Arnhög


Anna Fernström (left), Bo Fernström, Leif Carlsson and Ulrika Thelander (right)
our enthusiastic Select Collection golfer and tournament organizer,
who is also Sales Manager at Select Collection Stockholm


Our next golf tournament will be at the lovely Ulna Golf Club in September  - stay tuned for more news.