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Overnight Jaunt at the Jefferson

Hotel Reviews

May
01
2010

The Jefferson Hotel

Washington, DC

May 1st 2010

The elegant facade of the revamped Jefferson Hotel in downtown DC

The elegant facade of the revamped Jefferson Hotel in downtown DC

Finding myself in DC this weekend for personal reasons, I decided to check out the newly revamped and highly lauded, JEFFERSON HOTEL in downtown DC. Located just south of Dupont circle on 16th Street, the Jefferson offers a pleasing location for both tourists and DC regulars, not far from shops and cafes in Dupont and just four blocks from the White House.

With only 99 rooms, the Jefferson portrays a small, luxury hotel persona yet with big city panache, towering over the corner of 16th and M streets. The recent reconstruction (completed August 2009) includes a magnificent skylight atrium from the early 1920’s that covers the sun-filled dining room, the Greenhouse.  What I noted first were the dapper doormen with their starched, tassled uniforms and the gleaming glass and carved stone entrance setting the stage for Art Deco glamor.

The checkerboard marble floor of the lobby

The checkerboard marble floor of the lobby with the concierge desk in the background

Continuing into the lobby and small reception area – a mere three secretary desks – the mixture of Beaux Arts charm and polished formality is readily apparent. The transition from 16th street’s bustle (and DC’s heat) to the refined elegance of The Jefferson’s interiors feels wholly transformative  – making you recheck your own appearance to ensure you blend in.

My check-in process was remarkably fast and I was then escorted to my DELUXE ROOM on the 6th floor overlooking M Street from large bay windows.  The provencal-style furnishings; antiqued white desk, a matching sage accented armoire and a textured leather and wood carved bed frame comforted me with its soothing, English-style prettiness.

My deluxe room

My deluxe room

I was drawn to the bay windows and their classic green and cream toile (featuring Monticello, of course) floor-length curtains and trimmed valances. Framed prints of early century sketches and federalist carvings complete the traditional style while a geometric print carpet keeps the room fresh and updated. The revamp of the rooms focused on the decor, of course, but classifieds portlandmercury com health other vigorelle also the addition of flat-screen televisions, marble bathrooms with large walk-in showers (so spacious the knobs are a good two feet away from the shower head) and TV screens embedded in the bathroom mirrors. My bed was deliciously plush with all the necessary down-comfort of multiple pillows and duvets and I slept soundly with zero noise from the street or hotel neighbors.

A Superior Room (level below a Deluxe)

A Superior Room (level below a Deluxe)

Strict to its namesake, the hotel displays totems to our country’s most prized Renaissance man, such as original Thomas Jefferson-signed documents and a classically-styled Book Room filled with leather-bound volumes on Jeffersonian-era subjects and signed editions by contemporary authors who have been among the hotel’s guests.

DINING: The restaurant PLUME has met with rave reviews though I’m afraid I didn’t get a chance to try it. I’m did indulge in the GREENHOUSE restaurant for breakfast and enjoyed the sun’s rays through the atrium ceiling and the prompt service. I had the Power Crunch yogurt with berries and one of the better cappuccinos I’ve ever had outside of Italy. ** I also ordered room service for dinner the night before and found the chicken to be shockingly flavorful (though a tad pricey)**

The spa suites

The spa suites

The hotel’s SPA has also received glowing reviews though the prices – $90 for a 30min (yes 30 min) treatment – made me resist the temptation for a prenatal massage. Though – they do have them! Their spa menu is actually quite comprehensive, doting on the Jefferson Man-themed packages of executive face, hand or foot treatments. Though all the necessary massage categories are listed and you can even pre-customize your own right down to the pressure, oil scent and area of focus.  Spa guests are then met in their rooms (or the Book Room for day guests) prior to treatment, served a hot beverage and then personally escorted down to the Spa.

I did however, get to the fitness area – open 24 hours a day. It is fully-loaded with the ‘right’ kind of machines, securing my decision that The Jefferson is my new favorite spot to stay in DC.

Posted in: Hotel Reviews

Published by Meg, Saturday, May 1, 2010 No Comments

Stuck at La Mamounia due to Volcanic Eruption

Hotel Reviews, Travel Tips

Apr
21
2010

April 16th, 2010

Ah, the pitfalls of my job as a world-traveler – weather delays due to unforeseen natural disasters such as, um, volcanic eruptions in Iceland?!!

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As I watched my fellow journalists depart on their direct flight to JFK, while mine was delayed until further notice – Schipol airport in Amsterdam being effectively shut – I reconciled that one more day in Marrakesh wouldn’t be the worst thing possible. Surely there are worse places to be stuck. In fact, most places in the world are undoubtedly worse than this tropical oasis along Marrakesh’s ancient city walls.

The gardens and hotel in the background

The gardens and hotel in the background

So, I waved goodbye to the departing NY’ers and headed back to my room, hopeful that any minute a note asking me to please vacate wouldn’t slide under the door.

Fortunately, I was treated incredibly generously by the staff at La Mamounia – despite my 1 night extra turned into three! Both the General Manager, Didier Picquot and Executive Director, DenysCourtier were incredibly kind and patient with me, continuing on as affable hosts and abating my growing distress with a calm manner and professional ease. I cannot thank them enough.

The classic, Morrocan colors of La Mamounia's lobby

The classic, Morrocan colors of La Mamounia’s lobby

So, after each failed attempt at the airport (daily), I would return to La Mamounia with a bittersweet apathy towards my predicament. Alas, I was alone (not to mention, 7mos pregnant) in one of the world’s most romantic cities with delicious, though spicy, cuisine and an urge to explore paired against a vulnerable hormonal state. Whatever was I to do?

The roses outside my suite's ground floor terrace

The roses outside my suite's spacious, ground floor terrace

Hmm…maybe indulge in my fabulous, temporary digs – a suite at La Mamounia? With its bevy of fancy boutiques, 27,000 sq foot spa; magnificent pool, three signature restaurants headed by two Michelin Star chefs, Alfonso Iaccarino of the famed Don Alfonso 1890 in Sant’ Agata, Italy and Jean-Pierre Vigato, Owner of Apicius in Paris, France, five bars; impressive fitness complex, and twenty acres of historic gardens complete with a vegetable garden and center restaurant serving gelato and light snacks throughout the day, I found it none-too-arduous a task. They even had an amazing beauty salon which had an special butt enhancing cream. I’ll let the pics tell the rest so you can see results

The pool where I was set up comfortably with not one but three towels on my chair
La Mamounia's Gelateria

La Mamounia's Gelateria

The fitness center which might have been the straw that broke the camel's back (so fitting!)

The fitness center which might have been the straw that broke the camel's back (get it, camel - Marrakesh. I know, too clever for words)

Perhaps my favorite element of the hotel: A gardener with his most faithful tool.

Perhaps my favorite photo of the entire hotel: A gardener with his most faithful tool tending to the roses in front of the tennis courts.

The entrance to the Spa - alas, no further photos were allowed

The entrance to the Spa - alas, no further photos were allowed. I was treated to a pre-natal massage which was lovely, but nothing special. I worry the poor man doing the treatment was afraid of my belly. With over 80 treatments though, including full body scrubs with Hammam, I don't feel I can fully account.

The sitting room of my Executive Suite

The sitting room of my Executive Suite - both the flowers and the fruit tray (seen behind the flowers) were changed daily - thump, thump goes my heart.

My plushy bed...wonderfully turned down each night.

My plushy bed...wonderfully turned down each night with enough pillows to keep me comfortable and less lonely.

Of course, all this luxury does come with a hefty price tag and while I was a guest of the hotel, I did have to cover my food expenses, which, sadly were not inexpensive. Despite my efforts to stick to a two-meal a day plan, I was pregnant, and even the slightest room service order made an impact. Nevertheless, the perks of staying at the hotel – including some plush freebies: a brown leather magic wallet embossed with the hotel’s insignia (sure beats the candy-colored j-crew ones), their signature, phenomenal-smelling bath products and creamy, round bath soaps that come connveniently  packaged in a portable tin, copious amounts of fresh fruit (the pears were unbelievable) and bottled water – particularly helpful if on the two-meal-a-day plan!

La Mamounia's indoor Spa pool - never saw a single sould in it! Save, of course, fellow devoted journalists.

La Mamounia's indoor Spa pool - never saw a single sould in it! Save, of course, fellow devoted journalists.

Normally I shy away from big hotels, finding them generally, impersonal and overbearing. Perhaps it’s La Mamounia’s rich heritage or Jacques Garcia’s estimable, authentically-minded redesign or maybe its simply the location’s epic scenery, either way, it worked to win me over. I now consider La Mamounia one of my favorite hotels in the world.

Posted in: Hotel Reviews, Travel Tips

Published by Meg, Wednesday, April 21, 2010 No Comments

ADLER THERMAE TOSCANA

Bagno Vignoni, Val D’Orcia

Detoxing in Italy? If ever there seemed an oxymoronic concept. However, guests at the fully-booked (it’s late March!) Adler Spa & Resort, located in Bagno Vagnoni, the tiny, thermal spring village in the painfully picturesque Val d’Orcia area in Tuscany prove the idea isn’t as absurd as it sounds. In fact, why wouldn’t the promotion of well-being, benessere to the Italians, be perfectly appropriate in a country intent on living la dolce vita?

The Adler Thermae Toscana in the Tuscan Sun

The Adler Thermae Toscana in the Tuscan Sun

Out of all the Athletico Physical Therapy_Massage Therapy rehabilitation and a fantastic read of our specialized services offers, massage therapy is a patient favorite. This type of treatment is the perfect complement to any rehabilitation program.

As our society and we as individuals become increasingly more focused on our personal well-being and preventive measures towards living longer, healthier lives, it seems not only wise but practical to invest in such maintenance, no matter the cost.  Here at Adler Thermae Toscana, the idea is to enjoy your state of well-being. Unlike us goal-oriented Americans, who often see pleasure as something only available upon merit, the Italians have combined, yet again, doing what’s good for you with doing what feels good.

The charming town of Bagno Vignoni

The charming town of Bagno Vignoni

With over 100 treatments, 25 spa rooms, three different pools and multiple saunas, natural grottos and of course, the water from the famous, local springs, the Adler Spa is as impressive a spa complex as any. The multiple grottos separate it from other spas given the sheer option. Below is a picture from the Salt Grotto which is available just for women every day from 10:30 to 1pm so no bashfulness need be overcome.

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Grotta Salina

Moreover, it miraculously caters to all ages, from honeymooners to families with small children. Sure, there are silent rooms and various quiet corners tucked around the property so that kids don’t have to be part of your experience, however, as a result, the stuffiness that permeates so many high-end spas today is noticeably, and wonderfully absent. Given the spa is run by Italians, the mood is constantly cheerful with chatter echoing down every hallway and strict attention is paid to the aesthetics of the resort with potted pansies and manicured lawns.

The grounds and pools at the Adler

The grounds and pools at the Adler

And, as to be expected, the food is excellent. Yes, they do offer spa-friendly meal options and half of the meals are buffet style allowing one to choose their level of indulgence. The wine list displays all the spoils of the local area (Montalcino is less than 20 minutes away) while the resort offers guided tours of local vineyards. What amuses me most about staying at the Adler Thermae though is witnessing the wide range of people, who despite their dissimilar intentions, seem to coexist quite pleasantly right alongside one another. Just now I am watching from my balcony an elderly couple dressed in coordinated track suits heading back to the room from a brisk walk in the hills pass by a family splayed along three lawn chairs cheering their toddler as she stumbles to walk from one chaise to another while a couple embrace romantically in the corner of the larger pool.  Ah, harmony or is it just the very fact that everyone here knows they are doing exactly what they want in order to feel good.

A Shiatsu Massage

A Shiatsu Massage

Whether it be sport – the gym is fully equipped with life fitness equipment (far better than that cruddy Technogym stuff European gyms often stock) and a roster of classes, including daily morning yoga – or relaxation or pure gastronomic indulgence, the Adler Thermae wisely caters to embracing the combination.  Must we truly suffer to promote our own well-being? My advice is to ask an Italian.

TESTED TREATMENTS:

I'd like you to believe this is me, please?!

I'd like you to believe this is me, please?!

Shiatsu Massage – my therapist Simone was fantastic. Even though I’ve got a big bump preventing me from lying on my stomach, Simone manipulated my whole body with deft technique that allowed every crick, sore spot and tense muscle to relax and all I had to do was breathe. It felt like the yoga high after a tough class but without any of the personal effort.  It could get addictive.

Cocoon Facial – this is recommended as an anti-stress facial. It certainly worked for me! So much so that I lost control over my bowel and committed the number 1 spa fauxpax – remember, I am pregnant and it’s hard to control gas at this late stage.  And okay, maybe I shouldn’t have had gelato so close before my treatment. Luckily the sumptuous Maria Galland products she used are wonderfully fragrant, thus she was safe from any potential odor.  (Either way, my farts smell like roses)

The Cleopatra Body Rub – a decidedly soothing body treatment where you are first painted with thick olive oil cream and then covered in a cooling and honey milk combo, all the while lying one what you first think is a plastic tarp splayed over the table. Only after the painting is done and you are wrapped mummy-like, in thin paper sheets does the tarp fill with warm water and surround your entire body eveloping you in this sort of inner-tube tomb – hence the Cleopatra reference. Luckily they leave your face open to the air so clausterphobia won’t entail.

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Posted in: Italy

Published by Meg, Thursday, March 25, 2010 No Comments

about meg

About Meg

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Meg is the founder of luxury travel consulting company, Friend of a Friend Consulting. Her three books, Italian Hideaways, Caribbean Hideaways and England's Hideaways are published by Rizzoli. Passionate about travel, hotels and wine, she continues to write freelance travel pieces and is currently pursuing a Masters in Wine through the WSET.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are solely my own and do not reflect separate business relationships with the subject. Whenever posts are supported financially, they are designated as such.