Travel Writer & Author

Tag: Resort


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.”

Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort

Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort, just 20 minutes from Faro airport, is located along the Algarve, Portugal’s 100-mile southernmost Atlantic coast. It’s the first European outpost of Anantara, a Bangkok-based brand known for its “destination experience,” which focuses on what is local, indigenous, and authentic.

For the April 1, 2017, opening of the sprawling and stunning 280-room hotel, the interior design team redecorated the existing building adding Portuguese art and artifacts, including cork, tin, and hand-crafted ceramics (in the spa, Jorge Marques’ hand-painted his ceramics with traditional olive tree motif) plus iconic local design elements, such as chimneys, a symbol of the region.

Having arrived post-midnight on the last half-hour TAP Portugal flight from Lisbon, I didn’t step out on my balcony until morning. That’s when I viewed the building’s yellow limestone blocks, which surround the grand main pool (one of five), and the Arnold Palmer designed 18-hole golf course (one of six nearby courses).

Breakfast offered a plethora of healthy options: baskets of oranges, peaches, and apples; glass samovar-like jars filled with freshly squeezed juices labeled Algarve orange, Alcobaca Apple, Tropical fruit, Carrot & Orange, ABC (apple, beetroot, carrot) plus, in pitchers, Tomato and Detox of the Day. A buffet offered sliced oranges, diced watermelon, quartered kiwi, papaya, figs, fresh and jarred yogurts, smoked salmon, assorted cheeses, and platters of sliced ham, including the famous Pats Negra—from pigs who eat chestnuts and almonds—and which is sliced by hand, because it is so delicate.

One bread table displayed baguettes, rolls, pastries, and whole breads on a board; another presented only gluten-free options. Still, the pastry chef passed around tempting croissants and pastries. Along with covered chafing dishes with scrambled eggs and a variety of meats, there was an English-speaking omelet maker who sautéed what I selected: onion, peppers, mushroom, scallions, and tomatoes before adding one whole scrambled egg and some liquid whites. Foodies, vegetarians, gluten-free aficionados, and people with dietary restrictions can make special requests and eat well at Anantara.

Locally sourced Portuguese ingredients dominate in treatments, including a coffee exfoliation and citrus-based powders, oils, and citrus tea from the local orange groves.

At Ria, the lunchtime outlet, seafood reigns: fish soup, teeny local clams, sweet and huge Tiger prawns, octopus salad, oysters, lobster, a variety of grilled freshly caught, local fish and bacalao, the famous Portuguese cod dish. For fine dining, Emo offers a fixed-price tasting menu, which can be paired with some of the 350 wines selected by sommelier António Lopes. Mine started with grilled Atlantic scallops drizzled with truffle oil, pan-fried sea bass served with shiitake mushrooms, Portuguese beef in a red wine sauce, a light orange-sorbet pre-dessert, and a Madagascar chocolate-hazelnut dessert. Healthful fare is also available on the Lobby Bar menu along with seven Petiscos (tapas) which include garlicky cooked carrots, bruschetta topped with red and yellow peppers, and a bean salad served in a tiny glass.

The bar faces the Lobby “Tree” sculpture, made with grafts of acacia and pine and surrounded by small chimneys, where a soulful Fado concert is performed by a singer and guitarists each evening at 7:00 pm.

Promontorio Architects chose the uppermost floor for the spa and constructed window walls that separate the indoor heated swimming pool, hammam, and sauna from the terrace where guests can do yoga and Pilates on a grassy stretch and relax on chaises, enjoying the expansive views of the ocean. Each of the seven treatment suites has its own fully equipped dressing room with sink, a beautiful box for jewelry, a large mosaic tiled shower, and a lavatory.

The treatments fuse holistic Asian wellness rituals, including Thai massage in a dedicated room with mats on the floor, Tingsha meditation bells, and a future Ayurveda specialty. Locally sourced Portuguese ingredients dominate in treatments, including a coffee exfoliation and citrus-based powders, oils, and citrus tea from the local orange groves.

My therapist, Renata, met me at reception and escorted me directly to a double treatment room with a private outdoor terrace equipped with a whirlpool and chaise lounges. The 90-minute Anantara Signature Massage started with an almond milk foot bath and coffee scrub/exfoliation. The massage incorporated local orange and almond-infused oil started at the toes, and worked its way to my face and scalp, before Renata twinkled the bell, announcing its end.

During the three days and four nights or my visit, I discovered the diverse appeal of the Algarve traveling by van, raft, jeep, taxi, and tuk-tuk along the 136-mile coastline. Portugal, Europe’s least costly beach, and golf destination offers countless coastal communities—from ancient Moorish fishing villages to dense seaside high-rise communities to golf resorts and hotels for every taste and budget.

Read the full story at Insiders Guide To Spa’s


Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort
Vilamoura, Portugal
+351 289 317 000


Find Bliss at the Ritz

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Spa Palazzo at Boca Raton Resort

Having recently visited the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, we were more aware than during prior visits of how closely the Boca Raton Resort replicates the regal Spanish hilltop icon. This waterfront estate sprawls from its main building to a high-rise tower (yes, with superb views from Cielo, its excellent top-floor restaurant) and across to the golf club. Sleek yachts dock at the marina behind the hotel, and a ramp leads to the classic teak launch, which transports guests across to the far bank of the Intracoastal Waterway where we stayed at the oceanfront Beach Club. Our room and terrace faced its pools and the Atlantic Ocean. Read Full Article

By Irvina Lew

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