Every man needs an island
The best way to visit the lagoon city—one of Europe’s most romantic but also one of it’s most touristy—is, arguably, to stay just off it. The six-hectare private island of San Clemente is a bucolic parkland planted with groves of limes, elms and cypress trees. It’s just a 15-minute boat ride from San Marco, with a free shuttle that runs every 30 minutes. The 190 rooms and suites of the Kempinski hotel are located in a beautiful former monastery and church dating from the 12th century. They are surrounded by lush gardens and antique courtyards. The island also has three restaurants, three bars, a pitch-and-putt course, a tennis court and a 20-metre heated outdoor pool. Suddenly trawling through the Guggenheim is looking less and less appealing.
Pearl of the Danube
When hilly, residential Buda and historic Óbuda on the western bank of the Danube merged with flat, industrial Pest on the eastern side to form the modern city of Budapest in 1873, a beautiful and vibrant hub was formed. If you haven’t yet wandered the meandering cobbled streets of the World-Heritage listed Buda Castle district, had a dip in one of the city’s many thermal springs,or feasted on goulash and strudel, there’s a big shiny new reason to go. Housed in a protected historic building near the river, Budapest’s first Ritz-Carlton sits a stones throw from the Four Seasons and the Danube River. Its 170 luxurious rooms and 30 suites have picturesque views of the magnificent St Stephen’s Basilica, and the spa, due to open in December, will have a large swimming pool, gym, sauna, steam room and three beauty treatment rooms—a true Oasis in the heart of the old town. Did I mention there’s strudel?
Amsterdam must be the most misunderstood city in Europe, with its reputation for red lights, stag nights and “wacky baccy” often eclipsing the reality of the arty haven of canals, higgledy-piggledy canal houses and world-class museums. The W hotel sits right behind Dam Square, making it the perfect place from which to rent bikes and explore. Anne Frank’s house and the Rembrandt museum really are both musts. Return to sip champagne in the rooftop pool overlooking the royal palace, feast on steak inMrPorter or enjoy a treatment in the spa. Whatever you do, it’s a perfect base from which to discover the capital of the country of Edam, Gouda and tulips.
Did you miss me?
Coco Chanel lived there, Hemingway liberated its bar from the Nazis and Sophia Loren declared it “the most romantic hotel in the world.” Such a storied address is the Paris Ritz that when its owner, Mohamed Al-Fayed, closed it’s doors in 2012 for a full renovation, many feared too much change. In fact, the US$450 million, four-year redesign has maintained all the hotel’s former tradition and glory, while modernising for the 21st century. Guests can unwind in the fabulous new Chanel spa, enjoy the chic gardens year-round due to a newly retractable roof, and even enjoy paparazzi-free access thanks to a new secret tunnel. Its days as a high-life haven of indulgence and intrigue may well, it seems, live on.
Steeped in rich history, Champagne is not only famous for its sparkling namesake but is home to the historic city of Reims and the Château de Vaux-Le-Vicomte, famous for its gardens. Cruising on Belmond Pivoine between Meaux and Châlonsen-Champagne along the Marne and Canal láteral à la Marne, you’ll pass undulating hills filled with vines and pretty canal-side villages.
Cruising the Canal de la Marne au Rhin through the heart of the Alsace region, you’ll pass forests and castle ruins on isolated hilltops between Arzviller and Strasbourg. There’ll be private visits to châteaux and vineyards and days in Lutzelbourg and Saverne before you wind up in Strasbourg, the culinary capital of Alsace.
Prices start from 5,200 euros per person for a six-night all-inclusive cruise based on eight guests travelling.
(Text by Chloe Street)