Travel Writer & Author

Month: August 2017

Pousada de Lisboa Review

Lisbon hosted its first Web Summit last November, and my daughter Jen Lew, a high-tech social media strategist & web designer, was one of 53,000 attendees. When she invited me to accompany her, I offered to book accommodations, always a challenge during major events. The fortunate resolution was a stay in one of only 90 rooms at the culturally significant and comfortable Pousada de Lisboa, opened in June 2015. Though I had never stayed at a Pestana hotel, its affiliation with Small Luxury Hotels of the World assured me, and I booked four nights in the restored art-filled building.


Pousadas are nationally protected and preserved properties within Portuguese castles, convents, palaces, monasteries and historic buildings. In this case, the stunning edifice formerly housed the government offices of the former prime minister and dictator António de Oliveira Salazar. It is one of 33 Pousadas the Pestana group updated and transformed into hotels with amazing character.

Architect Jaime Morais retained many of the original 18th-century architectural elements, including high ceilings and a stunning staircase, and added modern bathrooms, a fitness center and the Magic Spa featuring an indoor pool, sauna, Turkish bath and a variety of body and beauty services.

Location is one of the hotel’s major advantages, as the front door opens on the important Praça do Comércio — Lisbon’s major downtown water-front plaza facing the Tejo River. While some rooms view the iconic São Jorge Castle, ours — a large, elongated corner space on the second floor with a seating area — faced the square, bordered by golden-hued buildings and outdoor cafés. It is also home to The Wines of Portugal tasting room. Just outside the hotel door — amidst cyclist-driven tuk tuks and tiny touristic vehicles — I wiggled into a sidecar and had a great time zipping around with a guide.

For breakfast, we ate in the light-filled solarium, and at night we dined under the curved brick ceiling at Lisboeta, a well-regarded restaurant where Chef Tiago Bonito —Portugal’s 2011 Chef of the Year — reigns. When I returned to Lisbon in May, I discovered a new and more casual dining venue: RIB Beef & Wine, a popular steakhouse.

Pousada de Lisboa

Praça do Comércio 31-34
1100-148 Lisboa, Portugal
tel 351 21 040 7640


Written for Global Traveler

The 10 Best Spas for Men Around the World

Traditional spas might focus largely on the fairer sex—but not every wellness experience is for the ladies. As more men join the spa-going crowd, an increasing number of treatments, therapies, and programs are targeting those with a Y chromosome. From facials for him to fitness retreats for serious athletes, the following spa experiences have been designed with the not-so-fair sex in mind.

Read the full story at
Robb Report


TÓTEM, a newly refurbished 64-room boutique hotel in Madrid, is housed within a 19th-century, neoclassic building in the city’s Salamanca district. The venture by the Marugal Distinctive Hotel Management Portfolio and Small Luxury Hotels is situated along the Calle de Hermosilla in the exclusive, grid-patterned neighborhood built in the mid-1800s for the aristocracy and haute bourgeoisie. The beautifully fronted residences still attract the wealthy patrons who shop in its chic boutiques, dine in its Michelin-starred restaurants, and stroll toward the grand Paseo de la Castellana and the famous Parque del Buen Retiro.

The five-story building—complete with Juliet balconies on nearly all levels—reflects a model typical of the era: an entry floor that currently houses reception and a bar/lounge dining concept, and a first floor with 12-foot-tall ceilings that formerly topped aristocratic salons.

The façade, stairway, railings, and balconies of the original aristocratic home are protected by laws governing Spanish heritage assets. Architect Gerardo Mingo updated the functionality of the structure, which had operated as a hotel since the 1960s. Mingo reduced the room number from 67 to 64 to accommodate a few suites, while also replacing the small windows within the restaurant to frame grander views.

Nori Furlan and Paco Llonch of Corium Casa, a Barcelona-based interior design studio, oversaw the refurbishment of the entire hotel, facing the challenge of preserving the original, state-protected elements of the building, while adding contemporary sophistication. That meant the 19th-century pine staircase, complete with its iron railings and wood-topped handrails, and the building’s courtyard atrium, which was adapted into the new bar and lounge through the installation of a precisely proportioned, pergola-style roof. “Our goal was to create a welcoming and quiet ambiance in the bar and lounge,” explains Furlan. “The slatted ceiling repeats the material in the oak floor, permits the entry of natural light into the area, and adds exactly the amount of warmth that we wanted to give to the space.”

Crafted with a mixture of wool tweed and stately velvet, modern furniture injects warmth into the lobby spaces done in varying shades of blue, gray, and pink teamed. Bespoke glass-topped, steel tables further amplify the contemporary aesthetic, while in the bar and lounge, a floral wallpaper in blue and gray adds a playful touch.

The hotel’s sleek, light-filled restaurant, Hermosos y Malditos, a 21st century gastropub, draws its name from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and The Damned. Furlan and Llonch anchored the open space with contemporary furnishings—think wood tables, wood chairs with yellow and light blue upholstered seats, and slim banquettes in heather gray. Save for moldings, painted walls are left unadorned to allow the Salamanca streetscape beyond the windows to provide the backdrop. A wall behind the service bar is warmed with pages from the novel and a round hanging lamp—a found object reminiscent of the novel’s pre-World War I setting. “In the restaurant, we designed the little curved wall lamps of painted metal, which were inspired by an antique model,” Furlan explains.

Vestiges of the 19th century also punctuate guestrooms and suites, all of which feature restored the plaster work, oak and brass touches, and traditional moldings. Large mirrors reflect natural light filtered in via windows that look out on the street or courtyard. Small bespoke couches and desks enhance the space, while wood-framed, abstract sculptural paintings by Yaya Mur add interest.

Furlan and Llonch embraced the original indigo blue on the first floor, while injecting a palette of light brown and gentle gray hues across others, with punches of  yellow (a greenish tone for curtains and a bright tone for desk chairs) and black—in the form of swirling Negro Maquina marble sourced from northern Spain and geometric floor tile—in bathrooms. The twosome also resolved the issue of slanted walls on the attic floor by installing skylights and a wall-length shelf to deliver both a chic design element and space for a desk, storage, and mini-bar.

“As much as possible, our intention was to preserve the 19th century, period character of the building, while making it function it as an elegant, up-to-the minute hotel.”

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