Wednesday, March 25, 2015

LUXURY & SKIS IN THE ALPS

Cosy Alpine luxury. Tommy EbbestÄhl (who grew up on skis in the Swedish north) has just returned from a brief ski trip to Zermatt. Here he gives his impressions of two small luxury hotels...


Mont Cervin Palace

I was surprised when I stepped through the doors of Mont Cervin Palace. I think the palace in the name fooled me a bit - it was not palatial in any way but very cosy, personal and laid back. The suites were really nice, all food we had within the hotel was very good and all the service was warm and genuine.


The ski shop and the ski room were amazing, very clever to have a locker for each hotel room to store your stuff in, very smart. We did a inspection of the hotels winecellar which was really appreciated by the whole group.

The pool and SPA area was also very nice. Parts of the pool are outdoors, which was a nice touch.
This hotel and Petit Cervin and Monte Rosa are all along the main street of Zermatt so very close to each other. More about the Select Collection ski programme HERE.



Riffelalp

My personal favorite was Riffelalp; we stopped for lunch whilst skiing and I really loved the place. Right in the middle of the slopes, ski in and out, very classical ski feeling to it and a magnificent view of the Matterhorn from the outdoor pool, it does not get much better then this. Rooms were very nice, more chalet feeling, which really suits the location and the atmosphere.


How to get there



Swiss

We flew economy outbound and business back and I was very positively surprised by both. Economy was ok, a snack during the flight and free alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages. In business the food was really good, same chairs but middle seat taken out.
Very nice flight I would say.

Trains

It is a little intimidating imagining landing there and not having any arrival service or anything. The trains are very close, and the signs are pretty good, but still it is a little confusing considering you do not have an exact train number or similar; you just take the first best train. Imagine being here with three kids, lots of ski equipment and so on? Then I would really recommend a car transfer.

Onboard the train is really nice, we had first class and it was really comfortable.

Tommy EbbestĂ„hl is a senior sales consultant at Select Collection. More about our ski programme HERE.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO SONEVA KIRI

We took the ultimate 3G (three generations) holiday at Soneva Kiri, a deeply private paradise on the jungle island of Koh Kood where all villas have the freedom of their own buggy and service is totally total…

While two generations had a rejuvenating and enriching holiday, the third generation was simply in heaven. She danced with joy at her first sight of the beach villa and it's pool wrapping around the master bedroom...





Adored the jungle bathroom with its bright sofa and daybed...





Took ownership of the vast deck with huge corner sofa under cover - four more sofas and two sun loungers by the pool, and two more down at our private beach...



Down at our beach she created sand sculptures, explored the sealife on the rocks and tried to induce romance in hermit crabs – while we watched her from our sunbeds...





Though the main beach is a piece of shimmering paradise, the colours of a picture postcard, it was at first hard to motivate her to leave our private villa domain to go there.





Luckily there was one sure manouvre. Ice cream. Tonight (after dinner) you can have as much ice cream as you like. In fact we all can (he he) if you come with us to the main beach…

Soneva Kiri icecream  parlor offers 62 flavors - served all day (free) to 11pm. Just next to the rich joys of the chocolate room - also foc. A place for a pilgrimage at the end of a day of water, fun and sun; In candy colours with a beautiful view the parlour perches at a high point with a view down clean slopes of timber decking past the bar, the shop, the library...







This pink and sugar candy coloured paradise for kids and adults brought joy, and provided motivation in learning to snorkel...


Among the banded blues and aquamarine of Koh Kood's crystal sea.

Dining ever so beautifully

All the restaurants lie in beautiful settings with views of deep blue sea and tropical greenery, where you eat freshest home grown greens and organic foods. 

Views restaurant (fine dining) was our favourite. In 'winter' - gorgeous sunny January - the sun set at 7pm Soneva Kiri time (6pm Bangkok time ) so that was the moment to arrive at the bar highest up to see the fiery red ball drop towards a haze over the sea.


Then we sauntered down to a dining platform where the breeze caressed bare arms in the pink-tinged air...



Another exciting dining destination at Soneva Kiri is Benz - a genuine Thai eatery in a wooden house on stilts over the deep green river; here you feast in the glow of evening  on a 7 course menu embracing giant prawns, meats, spicy sauces and Thai specialities like fried banana flowers.





When owner Sonu Shivdasani tasted the restauranteur's food at a stall in Bangkok he invited Khun Benz to live and carry out her art a 10 min boat ride away from Soneva Kiri. A lovely ride from the pier along the seashore and up a picturesque river cleaving its way among mangroves, you pass fisherman's cottages on stilts on the river bank. A typical Koh Kood sight these rivers with genuine Thai life going on almost as it has done for centuries.







Other dining options are the bar...




And the beach restaurant (mainly for lunch, but two magnificent beach barbecues were arranged while we were there).





Beach feasts! With a magical atmosphere of fire torches and candles, the soft sound of water on coral sand - and tables weighed down wth mountains of seafoods and meats to grill. You can also create your own wok dinner:  choose from newly picked veggies from the organic garden including home grown mushrooms - delivered fresh and tasty beyond belief at your romantic table by the sea.




The famous tree pod dining was not in operation as this period is low season. Quite inexplicably it was low season though January is the driest month on Koh Kood. We had sun every day for 8 days. The other charm of late January is that it is very  quiet and there is a miraculous sense of owning it all. Arriving at the sparkling white main beach we were often the only guests there to soak in the picture perfect beauty and take our pick of sunbeds or shady swing beds, dip in the warm crystal water.

An endless day of being truly alive

Start the day at the magnificent breakfast spread with staff on hand to chop up your choice of fruit - papaya passion fruit and other tropical delights - and a room of cold cuts and home made yoghurt, cereals and organic nuts. Or just sit in sun or shade served giant cappuccino and a wide range of eggy creations. You will always be sweetly served - the staff are nice, gentle and harmonious, many of them locals from the island's population of fisherman.

Sit there for hours. And think what to do today.



Maybe get the children to the Den to join in its endless activities while you go on a diving or snorkel tour to a vibrant reef.? Take a sailing or windsurfing lesson,..



Work out at the gym? Bliss out at the quietly soothing spa with its boardwalks among the mangroves. The massages are out of this world.


Heated pool at the spa for total relax

A visit to the observatory with its powerful telescope to see the full moon or the rings of Saturn is one of the musts. Another popular excursion is walking to the waterfall or a jungle tour - exploring virgin rain forests with creatures like gibbons hiding away.

Jungle luxury

Actually the jungle is all around us at Soneva Kiri... 

The huge property is a green and glistening tangle of lianes and big shiny leaves. Just hopping in our personal buggy and driving around the narrow winding lanes is an adventure. Even more so in the evening when fire torches line the way. It is breathtaking to drive over the hilltop through flickering jungle and down through the coconut grove to the main beach. 

What a beautiful picture postcard beach, night or day. The shining white coral sand that squeaks as you walk. The sea that runs from pale turquoise on the beach to aquamarine and bands of midnight blue. And with  plenty of vacant sunbeds, beach bed swings and shady tables,








Probably end the day at the open air movie house where popcorn is served and the tree frogs sing under starry tropical skies. There were two movies every night while we were there - one for kids.

Happiness and sheer simplicity brings bonding between people and generations. Problems cease to exist and if they do arise - just ask your butler Mr or Ms Friday - dial 1 on your personal villa mobile.

Our Mr Friday helped us over and over



Getting to Soneva Kiri 


Soneva Kiri took care of us from the moment we stepped off our international flight in Bangkok and escorted us through passport control and onward via limo to the domestic airport. From here we flew in a smart Cessna with soft leather seats and landed on a small neighouring island. Already our Mr Friday was waiting to escort us to the speedboat and our first sight of Soneva Kiri looking like a fantasy world with canvas towers peeping out of the greenery and the palms waving hello. And of course, they confiscated our shoes…so we were barefoot when we stepped on shore…



Bare feet, canvas, bamboo, crooked wooden poles, harmonious and eco friendly, and yet the ultimate in luxury, space and privacy.

That's Soneva Kiri - but there is lots more...

SLOW LIFE - Sustainable-Local-Organic-Wellness Learning-Inspiring-Fun-Experiences




Recycling water, creating compost and even biogas



Growing organic vegetables


Nature adored

And luxury in attention to details. Here you wash sand off your feet when you come from the beach...the banana leaves love it...
More about Soneva Kiri on our SELECT COLLECTION website: CLICK HERE.



Thursday, March 12, 2015

HOTEL CHECK MALDIVES, Anantara Kihavah

One of our enthusiastic travel bloggers, Ann Jurk, visits the Maldives for the third time to discover Anantara Kihavah. She declares herself entranced, delighted and "in love" with the island resort. 

Yes. We have experienced such wonderful resorts, yet I found Anantara impressed me in a special way…



Over water villas

Ann's over water "home" 


How to make you feel welcome

In a spacious water villa

I stayed in an Over Water Villa, elegant and yet with a rustic feel.  In the large bathroom there is a big bathtub with glass floor so you can see into the sea. There are also two showers one inside and one outside.

An unusal window into the lagoon


You have direct access to your private pool from the bedroom/living room. The sundeck is spacious with two sunbeds. I prefer the Overwater Villa to the Beach Pool Villa. Though they are the same size the  overwater villa feels bigger.


Eating

Even if the Island is small you have many restaurants to choose between and I tried them all!



In-villa dining


SEA - one of the world's few underwater restaurants. The view is best at lunch time
SEA
SEA. I went twice to SEA (underwater) restaurant both for dinner and lunch. Fish float by your eyes outside the window, under water. Here you have a set menu (different if you eat dinner or lunch). I recommend eating at lunch time because you will see the sealife much better.


FIRE

FIRE is the restaurant that I liked the most. The restaurant only has a few places so always book in advance! Here you will be served Japanese food from an open kitchen.

SALT serves very tasty Asian food. Here you have many dishes to choose between.

SKY is more like an overwater bar but you can have some small tapas also. Go here to see the sunset, amazing!

PLATES is the buffet restaurant and here you also have the breakfast. After two days in the resort I didn’t have to go and get my breakfast -  the staff already knew what I wanted, omelet and natural yogurt with fresh fruit.

Plates buffet restaurant


MANZURO, located at the pool area. A cozy Italian restaurant with nice food and of course a lot of nice wines. I would like to give the food and beverage team a big praise for their knowledge and service. The staff did make a big impression on me!

Reasons to love Anantara...

 The service level was fabulous and the staff always had a smile on their faces!
 All restaurants keep up a high standard - see above.
 I went to the gym almost every day and Dimu served me with towels and cold water. After that he took care of my daughters and introduced them to a lot of new sports.
 The SPA was amazing with overwater treatment rooms. There was also a relaxing area at the back with Jacuzzi, beds and different snacks. I went twice for treatments.
 Common swimming pool, this one is located at the Italian restaurant. Even though all accommodations have their private pool I like to have the opportunity to swim in the common pool. Especially if you are travelling with children.
 Kids club, though not big, it had plenty of activities. Cooking classes at the Fire restaurant (making sushi), complimentary dolphin cruises and Henna tattoo among others.

Keeping kids happy

Returning guest

The prior reason I would like to go back to Anantara is for the kindly staff and the food.

How to get to Anantara Kihavah


The resort is located in the Baa Atoll only 30 minutes by Seaplane from Male.

We flew Business class with Turkish to Male.
Travelling in business class is always nice. Turkish has a new business class with high quality and high comfort. There are flat beds with a big pillow and a large and soft blanket. It doesn’t feel as if you spent many hours on the plane. We flew from Stockholm in the evening to Istanbul and departed from Istanbul to Male at 01:00. Perfect I think because then we just slept for 8 hours.

Ann Jurk, 20141120


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO ZANZIBAR

Norwegian consultant Astrid Solvik describes her visit to this equatorial island with its lovely beaches, restless ocean, fascinating Stone Town and intriguing Arabian past. She visits two of the Select Collection hotels: one perfect for those who like it personal, and one perfect for those who like lots going on...

Essque Zalu Zanzibar


Essque Zalu is a friendly and personal boutique hotel. It is located in Nungwi, on the northern part of the island, about one hour from the airport and Stone Town. This is a nice drive, through local villages and green lush nature. At Essque you still find some local life nearby, including local restaurants.

On arrival I was given a nice welcome, with a small introduction before I was taken to my room. The minibar is empty on arrival, They call this a customized minibar, and fill it up with whatever the guest prefers. I missed a docking station and also coffee and tea making facilities but enjoyed the possibility to charge phone and tablet in the safe and free wifi throughout the hotel.

Essque jetty. There are big tidal differences but at low tide you can still dip into the sea at the far end of the jetty,

Suites & villas

There are 40 suites in total. Ocean front suites are in the front row facing the sea. Ocean view suites are in the second row, and the rest are garden suites. Rooms on first floor are often allocated for families since the rooms are a bit larger than ground floor. The villas, 9 of them, have 3 and 4 bedrooms with pool.

Oceanfront villa

Villa
Suite


The food is good at Essque. In low season they serve an excellent a la carte breakfast (Nov + April + May). Dinner is served a la carte in the main restaurant. In addition there is an a la carte restaurant. The lunch I had out at The Jetty, was very good, with a good selection of dishes with local influence. The hotel recommends that guests also have dinner at one of the local restaurants, where they serve fish and shellfish, beer and wine.


Facilities

I tried the spa, and was very happy with my treatment. The pool is a 15 meter long saltwater pool, with sunchairs around and the pool area faces the sea. A gym will be ready this year..

Even though the water will be gone for many hours of the day, due to low tides, you are able to dip yourself into the water from the pier.


Lounge
Low tide


Low tide near the pier - where swimmng is still possible


The Residence


Situated on the south west coast, about one hour drive from the airport and Stone Town.
This is a much bigger resort than Essque, with a stunning pool villa concept. The resort has more facilities, and sporty, active people will enjoy the range of activities. 

With regard to Zanzibar's tidal differences, there is a big difference between high and low tide at The Residence and at low tide you cannot take a dip in the sea.





Villas

There are 66 pool villas. All villas have a pool, and there are bikes parked outside of every villa. It is easy find your way around, or you can be taken around by buggy.

Nothing is missing in the villas. Here you have a docking station, coffee and tea making facilities, free wifi in room, TV and DVD player, minibar filled with water and soft drinks,a great bathroom with bathtub and separate shower as well as an outdoor shower, with cold water only.

Our villa
Our bed

Our view


Food

Main restaurant, the dining room, serves buffet for all meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food is international, with no local influence. 

The other restaurant, the Pavillion, is open for dinner only, buffet style with different themes every night throughout the week. The food here was rather good.

Small lunch dishes are also served by the pool with same menu as the room service. Quite mundane - mainly pizzas, burgers and pasta dishes.

Facilities

The spa has a small outdoor pool area, but also a steamroom, sauna and a well equipped gym.

When it comes to activities, the resort offers floodlit tennis courts.

They also offer free snorkeling trips for guests every day, which last for about one and an half hours in total, including the boat ride. This is not the best spot for snorkeling. If you pay for a private snorkeling trip, they take you to another spot, about 40 minutes from the hotel. The conditions for diving and snorkeling here are better.

They often use Selous safari park for safari for their guests, which makes a good combinations since they offer direct flights from Zanzibar into the park. This can actually be done as a full day excursion. See the list of excursions recommended for Zanzibar.

Excursions to recommend on Zanzibar

Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site. With colorful markets, narrow streets with an old fort and the sultans palace.
Visit the birthplace of the legendary Freddy Mercury
Snorkeling and diving, Mnemba island
Dhow sunset cruise
Jozani forest reserve is a forest and large mangrove swamp. Here you find red Colobus monkeys, Sykes monkeys, the tiny antelope duiker, and also birds and butterflies.
Big game fishing
Dolphin safaris
Two turtle sanctuaries near Essque, one where you can swim with turtles.
The newly open Cheeta’s Rock, http://cheetahsrock.com/

History


They gained independence from colonialism in 1963, forming a republic with Tanganyika (mainland) and Zanzibar, with the new name Tanzania. Some 97% of the people on the island are Islamic.
Zanzibar consists of several islands. The main island Unguja and Pemba are the biggest of them, and are where most of the people live.

Climate

The island is close to equator so they have warm weather all through the year, average temperature is about 27 deg C in summer, October to May. And average 25 deg C in their winter, June to September. Rainy season is April and May, called the long rains. Short rains in November with afternoon showers.


See our web page at www.selectcollection.com