Re-bucket list II

Stay again

(Banyan Tree Phuket pool villa)

So, once you've acheieved your dream of finally revisiting that places you have not been able to forget, there's the small matter of where you will sleep when you get there.

In fact some hotels are so amazing that you might just be tempted to visit a destination simply to have the excuse to book in to a favourite one you might have stayed in years ago.

Here's our re-bucket list!

Aldrovandi Palace, Rome, Italy

The Aldrovandi is not a royal palace although it has noble connections. Last century its prime location in Rome's most prestigious area made it ideal as a girl's boarding school attended by young ladies of Italy's aristocratic society, including some from their own palace: King Victor Emanuel III's daughters, the Savoy princesses slept here. 

The understated elegance, polished marble, immense flower arrangements and discreet service puts this at the tops of any list like this that we make. Its location adjacent to the Villa Borghese gardens gives it breathing space, but still its only a brisk walk to the centre of Roma.

Please, let there be a next time: for another chance to wander in the gardens.


Alvear Palace, Buenos Aires, Argentina

The opulent Alvear Palace Hotel attracts wealthy guests and no wonder. Located in a part of town flanked by parks and with boutiques and fine restaurants within walking distance, its palatial grandeur is everyone's fairytale dream. If you dine in its restaurant, La Bourgogne, headed up by chef Jean Paul Bondoux - the only Relais Gourmand chef in South America - then be very glad. There is not better food in France.

After hitting hard times, financially, a couple of decades ago, Buenos Aires is once again on the up and up. It has always been a gracious city and it is regainingits glory days.

In BA again? Spend a couple of hours enjoying one of the world's best hotel breakfasts in L'Orangerie. Read more.....


Banyan Tree Phuket, Thailand

First impressions count for a lot, and arriving in this hotel many years ago, late at night, we were unprepared for the luxury of our pool villa. Banyan Tree Phuket has several of these and it is an absolute luxury to literally step from your room into the waters in the total privacy of the walled garden.

One night we dined in the gazebo at the other end of the pool, served delicious Thai food by our personal waiter.

If we go again: take an elephant trek in  the nearby jungle.


Best Western Hotel Paradiso, Naples, Italy

The Best Western Hotel Paradiso clings to the cliff, high above the Bay of Naples with one of the loveliest grandstand positions you could find anywhere in the world. It was here we witnessed the most amazing coincidence as the moon rose dramatically right over the centre of Mount Vesuvius and threw a silver path across the water right to our feet as we dined on the outdoor terrace.

Next time: (You guessed it) try to coincide with the full moon at the same time of year.


Cape Kidnappers, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

On the gusty exposed clifftop on the north island of New Zealand, who could expect a luxury guesthouse and top golf course? Sure there are snowy white sheep and in tiny niches in the cliffs, nesting boobies (a seabird), but this is also a place people come to relax and play golf and eat and... whatever they feel like.

This is the wine-rich, food-loving Hawkes Bay region and Cape Kidnappers named for Captain Cook's manservant who, in 1769, apparently sick of sailing, jumped ship, although Cook feared he had been kidnapped.

The Maori people and early settlers knew the rich volcanic soil was ideal for all sorts of crops and gardens. A vineyard was established in 1851 making this the country's oldest winemaking region, but it wasn't until the 1920s that the wine industry really took off. Now its wineries produce some of New Zealand's best reds.

Just one more time: Take the 4WD tour of the property and linger at the 250-metre high cliffs. Read more.....


Grand Hotel Cocumella, Sorrento, Italy

Sorrento, has assumed almost mythic status over the last hundred or so years. Keats came here. So did Goethe, Dickens, Ibsen, and a jet-set of recent stars.

Last time we stayed at Cocumella our large suite had a mound of cream brocade pillows on the enormous bed,  two bathrooms, and an outdoor terrace with ocean glimpses. La Cocumella began life as a Jesuit College, and downstairs we found remnants of architecture from that time. It has been many things in its long life, beginning as a school and convalescent house in 1637, then later an orphan's boarding school and today, a fine hotel.

Its location on a hundred-metre cliff facing back towards Naples and Vesuvius gives it an unparalleled position however its name is thought to be derived from the name of the nymph Colomeide, which translates as 'honey bottom'. 

Next time must-do: Visit nearby Herculaneaum as well as Pompeii.


Gravetye Manor, East Grinstead, Sussex, England

You have to realize that Gravetye Manor was built in 1598, set on 1000 acres of woods and gardens, with quite a history. Smuggler's Lane hints at the odd bit of contraband at one time and who knows what other secrets lie here.

It's also the quintessential gracious British bolt-hole. Think jugs of the purest sweetest water from a spring on the property that has been supplying water to the residents there for half a millennium, in each room. Think milk-in-first tea in bone china cups. Think port by the fire after dinner.

Nearby in the woods is Pooh Corner and you can amuse yourself playing Pooh sticks. Ask the staff what that is.

Next time: Wander the gardens laid out by uber-gardener William MorrisonRead more.....


Hotel de Crillon, Paris, France

Paris offers an endless number of places ideally suited to the tastes and expectations of the rich and famous. Hotel de Crillon, overlooking the Place de la Concorde, was once a palace, a real one, and it still feels as if you could bump into a duchess in the corridor. As indeed you might.  F&T was lucky enough to stay there once and the staff really do treat all their guests like royalty. There is also one of the finest views in Paris from here, looking across the Place and towards the Champs Elysees.

But we have to wait: The hotel is renovating and will reopen in 2015. Read more...


San Domenico Palace Hotel, Taormina, Sicily, Italy

The San Domenico Palace Hotel is a former 14th-century monastery. It has made the transition exceptionally well if the wall-full of plaques and framed certificates in the foyer mean anything. When we visited, we wandered the hotel admiring its restrained placement  of (possibly) priceless statues and ceramics. Tables and chairs stood invitingly in the cloistered gravelled courtyard with its palms and potted shrubs, while downstairs the monastery feel was more apparent. We strolled through the gardens, then at the wall overlooked the cobalt curve of the bay below. To the right Etna was modestly wrapped in cloud.

If we ever stay here again: stay longer end see Etna's tip and shop in the fashionable shopping street.


Summer Lodge, Dorset, UK

Summer Lodge is a Red Carnation property, affiliated with Relais & Chateaux. It's a country house with plumped cushions in the parlour, cream teas in the drawing room, local produce for the restaurant, and the sort of deferential discreet service you dream of. It would fit well in Champagne or Burgundy. It's elegant, but not too grand. Exactly right for its location.

A Georgian listed house, built in 1798, it is set upon four acres adjoining a vast deer park. The nearby village of Evershot is quintessential England: weathered stones, thatched roofs, window-boxes and tilted headstones in the graveyard.

Just once again: Dawdle through nearby Evershot and along the country lanes. read more....


The Langham, Shanghai, China & London, UK

As  hotel chains go, The Langham brand is one of the finest, in my opinion. Everything from the ubiquitous pale pink on every piece of hotel information and stationery, to the breakfasts (ah, yes, the one in Shanghai is a standout) to the views (our room in London gazed out across the rooftops to the London Eye) and faultless, never-too-much-trouble service.

The Langham Hotel (above) is a stalwart of London's hotel scene.  It has been welcoming visitors (many of them celebs and royalty) for 140 years. When F&T visited, from our suite high up in the building we could glimpse Big Ben and the London Eye across a sea of grey slate and even greyer tiled roofs and chimney-pots. It has, however, won its place on the record books for another reason. It is believed to be here where the tradition of afternoon tea was born.

Next time: Indulge in a high tea in London. Read more...


The Lugger Hotel, Cornwall, UK

There's a sense of mystery about Cornwall, and never more so when you head towards the tiny coves that notch the coastline. On the south coast at Portloe, the whitewashed Lugger Hotel, a 17th-century smuggler's inn, is a sparkling gem on the tiny ring of a bay, scarcely large enough for the few fishing boats that still use it.

Lunch on the balcony, or dinner in the superb restaurant - especially on fish from those same boats or local Falmouth Oysters and fresh crab and lobster - has to be a high point of any visit. Guests work up appetites scrambling along the coastal pathways admiring some of Britain's best views.

Next time: Watch the sunrise across the water. read more....


The Milestone Hotel & Apartments, London, UK

The Red Carnation group has several properties in London that are deluxe enough for a duchess, but so personal and gracious you don't feel out of place. The watchword of the group is ' no request too large, no detail too small', and we certainly found this to be the case.

We had been booked into one of the Milestone Hotel 'apartments', a richly decorated and furnished two level space crammed with books, rugs, paintings, ornaments and goodies. It was so welcoming and comfortable - and, well,  personal - that I almost bolted after opening my door there, as for a moment I thought I must have broken into somebody's private apartment. Instead I sneaked peeks in the various drawers and cupboards just to make quite sure they hadn't allocated us the owner's suite by mistake.

Just one more time: cross the road and explore Kensington Gardens, read more......


Trulli, Alberobello, Puglia, Italy

These quaint little houses, found only in this part of Italy, are all almost identical: conical stone roofs, often with occult-looking signs painted in white on them, and round whitewashed walls. A major surprise is that mostly a trullo is not separate and round as a yurt is, for instance. Usually several diminutive towers are linked to a single base so it is no wonder they are generally described in the plural, trulli. Perhaps this came about over time as families grew, it was easier simply to build on another trullo.

The one I want to return to is Il Vignale in Fasano. Up close a trullo is every bit as fairytale-ish as they all appear from a distance. Inside, whitewashed rooms have arched openings between them, and they are full of little ledges and corners, and niches to put things in. It's truly trulli  heaven. 

Just one more time: Wander the cobbled streets of nearby Alberobello, the trulli-epicentre. read more...


Vila Bled, Bled, Slovenia

The neatly framed postcard view of Lake Bled and its island church through both the bedroom and lounge room windows of our room at Vila Bled would have alone been enough to make me want to return. They surely would have been just as happy to relax over a meal on the shaded terrace too, again with that magic view across the lake to the thousand-year-old fortress of Bled Castle on the opposite cliffs.

But here it comes with a side-serve of history. This was Tito's guest house, the dorm where he put up his friends high and low. Haile Selassie, King Hussein, Kruschev, Nehru , Indira Gandhi and Nasser all stayed here at one time or another.

Just one more time: Travel to the nearby fields and see the folk-art paintings on beehives. read more..... 

(photography: Gordon Hammond)




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