June 2012

Owner Stephanie Rooijakkers with her pooch Lola.

The Boardwalk Hotel, a 14-room property situated on a former coconut plantation, has long been one of the island’s hidden gems. Original owners Geert and Julia bought the property in 1987 to use for their windsurfing business (Aruba’s constant trade winds make the sport exceptionally popular here), and it quickly became an insider destination for windsurfing and kitesurfing devotees.

The hotel’s location is a large part of its appeal for water sports fans: It’s located just north of most of the High-Rise hotels along Palm Beach, and across the main road from Fisherman’s Huts — where the turquoise sea is ideal for both sports, with waist deep water for hundreds of feet and a sandy bottom free of rocks.

But the times, they are a changin’. A 320-room Ritz-Carlton property, slated to open in 2013, is being constructed right across the street from The Boardwalk, obstructing its views — and soon, it will bring more crowds to Fisherman’s Huts.

The Boardwalk Hotel’s new owners — Stephanie and Kimberly Rooijakkers, a pair of blonde, fit Belgian twins who bought the hotel last year — have mixed feelings about the Ritz-Carlton. Yes, the obscured view is unsightly, and the resort will extend Palm Beach, pushing the wind and kitesurfers farther north. But the Ritz-Carlton will also bring attention to the area and allow The Boardwalk to broaden its appeal: specifically, the owners hope to attract families, couples, and groups.

The decor will be a part of this evolution. While Geert and Julia designed the hotel with a Southeast Asia vibe, the twins have implemented a Coastal Living style. Dark woods throughout the grounds have been painted white, and new bright orange, green and turquoise accents give the casitas a cheerful “Hamptons-esque” appeal. Future plans include the addition 12 new casitas, and modern updates to the beach-y rooms.

The entrance to the Boardwalk literally transports you to paradise.

Not everyone is happy with the changes. While walking to my rental car after shooting the property for Oyster, a sporty gentleman (who had clearly spent the morning wind surfing) called my name and ran after me, asking if I was a journalist.

“Yes, I am,” I answered.

“Are you writing a piece about the hotel?”

The man wanted to express his doubt about the new ownership. It has been his home way from Boston for years, and he had genuine concerns that the twins would take the hotel in an undesirable direction.

“It’s not like the old days, and I don’t think it ever will be,” he said, pointing to the fresh white paint. “There are more families and kids running around now. Before it used to be all wind and kitesurfers — it was our little secret.”

It’s true that the clientele is changing, but the hotel’s sense of community remains. “People know it’s a small hotel here, and they tend to talk to each other more, ” Stephanie said. The property will remain a low-key haven, where guests can kick off their flip-flops and unwind. Each casita has a private porch, with a hammock and charcoal barbeque. And it’s still very much a hidden gem. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it; the hotel, with a garden-like atmosphere tucked behind an iron fence, is hard to spot, especially when the eye is naturally pulled towards the large Marriott properties and massive Ritz-Carlton construction site along the beach.

Grounds at the Boardwalk. Rather, comfy seating.

As for the wind and kitesurfing? Even if it moves a bit farther north, the hotel will still be a convenient home base — and fans of the sports can still talk shop with the owners, who are kitesurfers themselves. In fact, they first discovered the hotel when they stopped by to buy a kitesurfing harness.

The pint-sized pool is positively dreamy.

Of course, running and growing the hotel has certainly had its ups and downs. “At first it was frustrating. I like to do things with my hands and see the results. So the first few months were really hard because it felt like nothing was happening quickly,” Stephanie said. Luckily, the twins’ father is a regular visitor. “He likes to come by the property a few times a week and see how things are going and help with handiwork.”

And even more changes could be in store down the road. Stephanie, a foodie who is eager to provide guests with dining recommendations around the island, may start feeding visitors as well as lodging them. “I really want to have my own restaurant, and it will happen someday.”

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If you’re London-bound for the 2012 Olympic Games, chances are you’ll get inspired while watching thousands of athletes push their bodies to the max. Sure, you may not be inclined to train for a triathlon in your spare time, but a little run through a historic park sounds nice, right? Or maybe you’d rather skate through the streets of London? Whichever your preference, you can easily get a workout in during your time abroad. And to help you keep it cool, we’ve found all the spots where locals like to break a sweat. Perfecting your British accent, however, is up to you.

The Workout: Run in Hyde Park

The Hyde Park Suite at the Lancaster London

The Hyde Park Suite at the Lancaster London

Originally a deer park for Henry VIII in the 16th century, Hyde Park is a popular spot among visitors and locals. Its numerous memorials and monuments as well as beautiful gardens may make it an ideal park for a stroll, but don’t let the sights distract you from getting in a solid workout: Turn your jaunt into a jog and run along one of the park’s many footpaths. And if you start to feel a bit woozy, don’t fret — a celeb may just come to your rescue! After all, Dustin Hoffman called the paramedics back in May when he saw a runner collapse in the park. Good news: The dude ended up being fine. Better news: He can forever tell the story of the day Dustin Hoffman saved his life.

  • Where to Stay: On the north side of Hyde Park, the 416-room Lancaster is a behemoth compared to most London hotels. Its soaring height means some upper-level rooms have beautiful views of the park.

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Look at that view: Who would’ve guessed that a Canadian city-scape could rival one of our own stellar NYC lookouts? [Ed. note: Sorry, we're biased.] At the Thompson Toronto, the rooftop bar offers gorgeous views and is furnished with sexy, striped loungers. Plus, the walls of glass surrounding the area lend an open, airy feel to the space and the rooftop’s infinity pool speaks for itself. But the hotel’s cool amenities don’t end there; down below there is a state-of-the-art screening room, the renowned Scarpetta restaurant, and a yoga studio to ground you – in case all of that open air gets to your head.

Thompson Hotel

View from the Rooftop Bar at the Thompson Toronto

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The Best Road Trips is a weekly summer series highlighting our favorite getaways from major cities all over the United States.

Some associate Boston with crooked old cobblestone streets, the American Revolution, and clam chowder. (Yum.) And it’s got all that. But those who work and play there know that it’s also filled with sprawling convention centers, progressive universities, and biotech research facilities. A forward-looking town with an eye on the past, Boston combines the charm of a New England harbor town with the mindset of a bustling, modern metropolis. And sometimes, its non-stop vibe can seriously wear a resident out. So if you’re a Bostonian looking for a weekend escape, why not hop in the car and head to a not-too-far destination where you can find some R&R? Get your bags packed and set your GPS: We’ve got some miles to cover.

Road Trip #1: Boston to Kennebunkport, ME

  • Total Driving Time: 1 hour, 42 minutes
  • Distance Covered: 85.4 miles
  • Take This Trip If: You want to bask in the sun like a quality Kennedy or Bush family member would.
Life's a beach.

Life's a beach in luxe Kennebunkport.

A Jonathan Adler-designed guestroom at the Tides Beach Club? Sign us up.

A Jonathan Adler-designed guestroom at the Tides Beach Club? Sign us up.

Enjoy the view from Adirondack chairs at The Colony Hotel.

Enjoy the view from Adirondack chairs at The Colony Hotel.

Originally settled in 1610, Kennebunkport was a small fishing village that experienced an economic boom during the shipbuilding era. But it wasn’t until after the Civil War that Kennebunkport became what it is today: a summer retreat for wealthy families. In fact, former President George W. Bush’s great-grandfather’s compound, Walker’s Point, is located in Kennebunkport, and both he and his father (also former President Bush) have hosted foreign dignitaries at the summer home. What, you may ask, attracts the elite crowds to this Northeastern haven during the summer months? The private-feeling beaches are the area’s main draw and activities such as kayaking, whale-watching, golfing, and fishing are also popular pastimes. If you’re looking for a cozy hotel that’s also spot-on chic, The Tides Beach Club is the perfect choice. Fully renovated in 2011, the hotel’s vibe is South Beach-esque and trendy while maintaining a quaint New England feel. Two suites designed by Jonathan Adler, spectacular ocean views, and a contemporary restaurant with a sophisticated menu are just some of the upgrades that came with the renovation. For a more budget-conscious option, stay at The Colony Hotel. This historic hotel has a welcoming attitude to both kids and dogs, attracting families with its heated saltwater swimming pool and private sandy beach.

  • Top Driving Tip: Don’t forget about all the neighboring areas: Kennebunkport is a great launching point for visiting nearby towns like Ogunquit — known for its long sandy beaches and as being Maine’s biggest LGBT destination — or York, to see the famous Neddick Lighthouse.

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St. Laurent Bar and Lounge at the Fairmont le Chateau Frontenac

St. Laurent Bar and Lounge at the Fairmont le Chateau Frontenac

The 618-room Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac is a grand and ornate Quebec City landmark. It’s housed in a 19th-century castle, which was used as a stopover destination for Canadian Pacific Railway riders, and is full of ornate design features, such as a grand double staircase, wood paneling, coffered ceilings, and chandeliers. Rooms are elegant, and even though standard rooms start relatively small, some have fantastic river views. Amenities include a beautiful indoor pool with Jacuzzi, steam rooms, and a fitness center. Le Champlain is a fine dining restaurant with sweeping views, and the St. Laurent Bar has live jazz once a week. Due to it’s gorgeous views, top-notch dining, and rich history, the hotel is not only one of the most luxurious options in Old City but also a destination in itself. Check out more incredible photos after the jump or read our full review now» Read More »

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Credit: Edward Simpson/ Flick.r

In case you guys didn’t know, we’re huge music fans here at Oyster. (See here.) So we decided to team up with our go-to source for cool bands, artists, and shows, Relix magazine, to put together a comprehensive Summer 2012 Music Festival Guide. Inside, you’ll be able to find Oyster’s picks for area lodging, while Relix has the dates, lineups, and all the details you forgot to check because you were busy picking out a fringed vest or cut-off shorts to wear. So whether you’re gearing up to see Red Hot Chili Peppers at Lollapalooza, My Morning Jacket at the Newport Folk Festival, or Neil Young at Outside Lands, Relix and Oyster have you covered.

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We’ve already waxed poetic about our love of all beach hotels. After all, there aren’t many feelings much better than cool sand between your toes, sun on your shoulders, and an ocean breeze through your hair. The hard part, is, naturally, finding that great beach. Thankfully, we’ve done the research for you and found six of the greatest hotel beaches around the globe.

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As one of the most romantic (and exclusive!) hotels in the country, the San Ysidro Ranch, a Ty Warner Property in Santa Barbara exudes refined luxury. The cottage-style inn is nestled between the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains and features charming rustic furnishings – including canopy beds, brick fireplaces, and eclectic decorative pieces like this sleepy little piglet. And we wouldn’t expect anything less adorable from Mr. Ty Warner, the man who gave us Beanie Babies.

The Olive Room at the San Ysidro Ranch, a Ty Warner Property

Read our caption after the jump, then enter your own in the comments section below!

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Credit: Mikhail Shapaev/Flickr

For the past month, soccer fans around the globe have been glued to Euro 2012. It’s been a rough-and-tumble path to the finish line, but come this Sunday only one team will be left standing. First, though, are the semi-finals: Portugal vs. Spain; Germany vs. Italy. (In other words, let the bloodbath begin — on and off the field.) We may not all be extreme hooligans, but we sure don’t mind posing as one for the exciting finish. And where’s a better place to reign in it with a cold one and root for your squad with a passionate fury then besides fervent locals cheering on their respective teams? The teams’ hometowns, naturally. Check out these awesome watering holes that’ll welcome your hooting and hollering with open arms for the finish of Euro 2012.

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Courtesy of Travel Channel

Last night, Anthony Melchiorri and the Hotel Impossible team (Ed. note: How much do you love Blanche?!) headed to the elegant sailing town of Newport, Rhode Island to help a hotel — one with a confused identity, at that — reclaim themselves as a legitimate, desirable spot to post up while exploring the scenic waterfront neighborhood. And although the city sees three million tourists annually, not many of them were staying at the Newport Inn. At least before Anthony came in! Thanks to his hard work, unique ideas, as well as Blanche’s creative sensibility, the HI crew turned a dilapidated motel into a desirable, quaint inn. See what we loved most about the episode after the jump!

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