European Vacation Plans Anchored to a Sense of Place
July 23, 2018 by Hidden Doorways
European vacation plans can often be aided by choosing not only the destination to be visited, but the hotel to be booked. In fact, it is not unusual to see a European vacation built around the hotel as the destination, especially if it is central to the European vacation experience.
To some, a European vacation is aspirational. To others it’s an annual affair, especially during the summer season when countryside is awash in greenery. Local fairs, food celebrations and music festivals abound.
For those vacationers who want to match hospitality experiences during their European travels with the joys of being in the destination, here are five hotel suggestions from Kurtz-Ahlers & Associates that will not disappoint.
Six Senses Douro Valley, Portugal
Summer and wine make a sublime match at this resort in the Douro Valley, one of the world’s oldest wine regions. In this European vacation experience, wine is front and center and it infuses every aspect of the stay. It is there to be sampled, mixed, sipped in fantastical wine and food pairings or small plate extravaganzas, and sensually doused and dripped in inspired spa treatments.
A preserved 19th century manor, the hotel is a former great house of 57 rooms, suites and villas that preserve much of the effects of the era in rustic luxury design. But plenty of 21st century touches can be found, such as room service ordered via through an app that also operates the lighting, window coverings and TV.
A spacious spa and two pools provide entrée to the healing elements of this property. The locally made lemongrass soaps maintain a citrus scent that permeates the property. A schedule of visiting healing practitioners has been launched for special wellness programs and retreats that will be hosted at the resort through the summer.
Naturally, dining follows suit with local organic picks from the garden that find their way into daily menus and cocktails. Try the chilled peach gazpacho and sweet basil ice cream. Traditional Portuguese fare is available in the Vale d’Abraão. The Chef’s Table option gives guests a chance to watch action in the kitchen up close, as the chef creates such signatures as chargrilled leeks, garden figs and goats’ cheese or smoky peaches and presunto ham that are plated and matched with the best of the Douro wines.
Almanac Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is often at the top of a list for a Europe Vacation plan and a new luxury hotel in the Catalan capital is ready to heed the call. Almanac Barcelona in the buzzing city center recently opened as a 91-room homage to modern architectural vision and progressive artistic design, all along Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes and within an easy amble to some of Barcelona’s iconic draws.
Almanac Hotels, with new luxury properties scheduled to open in Prague, Zagreb, Budapest and Vienna, focused on design with the Barcelona property. Barcelona designer Jaime Beriestain took décor into the ‘20s era of gilded opulence but kept muted tones and rich textures for the rooms and suites – many with terraces overlooking the city.
The property prides itself on service – a concierge is on duty 24/7. A precious spa offers a selection of facial and massage treatments designed by the prestigious French Anne Sémonin brand.
Top on the list of hotel attractions, however, is what’s atop the hotel. A multi-tiered rooftop terrace offers stunning panoramic views across Barcelona. The swimming pool is a good spot to take a break from explorations on a hot summer day. By night, the rooftop turns into a city scene with custom crafted cocktails sampled over the lights of Barcelona.
Ett Hem, Stockholm
At Ett Hem, located amid private townhouses and posh residences in the Östermalm section of Stockholm, guests on a European vacation can live like locals as the property’s name literally translates into “at home.” The palatial stead offers 12 private upstairs guestrooms, each individually furnished in variations of Nordic chic and ranging from small, cozy doubles to large king suites, with most rooms showing high ceilings, antique ceramic wood-burning stoves and bath tubs.
Guests roam the grounds and garden and find the living room with grand piano and honesty bar. The house has a library lined with intriguing design books. A casual kitchen with a large and inviting wooden table bolsters the at-home comforts. Breakfast is often taken in the sunny conservatory or garden. The kitchen is the heart and soul of the house and produces seasonal menus using local produce. And it wouldn’t be Sweden without the sauna, located on the ground floor adjacent to a small gym.
Although it is a home, Ett Hem is not without a strong focus on service. The staff are living guides to Stockholm, so do not forget to ask them about their favorite local spots.
From Ett Hem’s location, city center of Stockholm is a leisurely 10-minute walk. Ett Hem is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World.
Finca Cortesin, Costa del Sol, Spain
Long ago, there was a traditional, family-owned Andalusian estate, set in the rolling hills of southern Spain. Endless pastures, historic olive trees, and beautiful Mediterranean vistas defined the exquisite private estate, known to be one of the most scenic locales in the country. One-thousand years later, the estate serves as the home of the luxury resort of Finca Cortesin. Set just outside the coastal settlement of Casares, the resort is a short drive away from Sotogrande—the European Playground for polo, golf, and sailing.
Casares is a magical village of cobbled streets and milk carton houses clustered in the hills, within easy reach of the sea and in the shadows of a well-preserved 12th century castle. Such charm is reflected in this Andalusian resort of Moorish courtyards, vast arches, aged flagstone floors from a monastery in Portugal, tapestries and portraits of noblemen, lanterns casting romantic soft hues, and richly upholstered furnishings. While it was not built 400 years ago, it looks like it could have been, until one comes across the three swimming pools, Jack Nicklaus golf course with 14 holes on cliffs over the sea, and a worth-the-trip Michelin-starred restaurants.
Find 67 suites as well as six villas and 25 residences here all overlooking 525 acres of gardens, rolling hills and the ocean beyond. Days are spent exploring Medieval villages, sunning at the resort’s beach club and pools, playing golf and enjoying local wines and cocktails on the Levantine-inspired rooftop. The resort is located less than an hour from Malaga Airport (AGP) on the Costa del Sol.
The Beaumont, London
This boutique art hotel in a quiet corner of Mayfair puts the visitor in throwing distance from Hyde Park and Selfridge’s but offers plenty of inside pleasures as well. Art Deco styles combine with contemporary sensibilities to, at once, transport guests to a simpler era and at the same time provide plenty of cultural panache. This is especially true with the hotel’s eclectic art collection culminating in the property’s piece de resistance: ROOM.
The feat by British artist Antony Gormley is a living artwork that pushes out from the façade of the Beaumont to become a room of its own – a veritable cathedral of Cubist block design. Gormley’s spare, oak-clad bedroom is reached through a pure white marble bathroom which retains the Art Deco motif, as does the comfortable sitting room with its plush furnishings. The Beaumont’s other 72 guest rooms and suites keep the Art Deco tone and offer plush accommodations, many with a separate foyer, wardrobe and dressing room.
The property marks the first hospitality venture by legendary London restaurateurs, Corbin & King (The Wolseley, the Delaunay, etc.). The Beaumont’s Colony Grill Room keeps with the Jazz Age motif with a menu of 1920s favorites, such as lobster à la Russe, Yankee hot dogs, Arnold Bennett omelettes, chicken pot pies, with a slice of red velvet cake or a build-your-own sundae to top off the meal.
Adding to a pampered European vacation experience, a chauffeured Daimler is available for local drop offs. But the location, close to royal park spreads, art galleries and iconic shopping spots, will make walking the streets of Mayfair an equally pleasant choice.