Florence

It’s hard to resist the complex flavors and rich history that comes with drinking a glass of vino. And heck, it’s hard to resist sipping on wine even without all that history…but it is noteworthy — and fascinating: In a process dating back to 6000 BC (well before the Romans epitomized the drink across the Mediterranean), the transformation from crushed grapes to delectable alcoholic beverage has been an important part of the human tradition — whether it be celebratory, religious, you name it.

From the Greek Isles to Australia’s Yarra Valley, from Chardonnay to Shiraz, some variation of the grape stuff can be found the world over. And for the discerning traveler looking to explore a region’s gustatory offerings, many wineries await with open arms (and free-flowing wine) to offer tours of their operation and — most importantly — samples of their best vintages. Picturesque backdrops set the scene across the globe for a truly delicious (and perhaps tipsy) experience. So whether you’re a wine aficionado or an eager wino student, pack your bags and make sure to bring a corkscrew, because these far flung locales have just the bottle of wine for you.

1. Napa Valley, California

napa

Napa Valley — home to some of the most charming cities in the U.S. — is also one of the world’s best wine-growing regions, with hundreds of wineries sprawling across the rolling hills. Wineries can occasionally feel a little touristy (it’s not uncommon to see a tour bus parked outside), but perhaps that’s inevitable in one of the world’s top wine-tasting destinations. The valley is actually divided into fourteen sub-regions, each suited to a particular grape, so you can map your tour based on your wine preferences.

Where to Stay: If you’re daydreaming of a luxury stay in the heart of wine country — complete with impressive views, rustic-luxe charm, and lavish  amenities — you can’t do much better than the Harvest Inn. Each guest receives a bottle of wine upon arrival, and many rooms overlook the neighboring vineyards of St. Helena.  Read More »

{ 0 comments }

View from the Pool Terrace at the Grand Hotel Minerva, FlorenceIf asked to picture a postcard version of Florence, the views from the Grand Hotel Minerva are most likely what would come to mind. The lovely rooftop pool and terrace offer up some of the most picturesque views in the city, and many rooms have balconies offering similarly excellent outlooks (most balconies have great views of the Santa Maria Novella Plaza, and those on higher floors have spectacular views of Florence’s skyline). All rooms and suites are spacious, with high ceilings and elegant furniture, and bathrooms are modern (if a little tight). The hotel’s central location, high-end restaurant, and regal historic ambiance make it easy to justify the splurge. Read More »

{ 0 comments }

Ever dreamed of being king or queen of a castle? Lord or lady of the manor? Well, you’re not the only one — and plenty of hotels around the world can make that dream come true. We scouted out nine luxury hotels that were formerly the elaborate private homes of blue bloods, aristocrats, and royals, from an Irish castle to a Gatsby-era Gold Coast mansion. Feelin’ fancy? Then check these out.

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, Ireland

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, Ireland

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, Ireland

This charming stone manor house dates to the 18th century and the 450-acre country estate embodies the sort of wild country beauty that Connemara is famous for. Past owners of the lands have included the O’Flaherty clan (the 16th century “Pirate Queen,” Grace O’Malley, married into the clan and was one of its more noteworthy members); Richard Martin (a member of Parliament nicknamed Humanity Dick for founding the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals); and the Indian Maharaja, Ranji, who bought the estate in 1922. Read More »

{ 0 comments }

There are those who say that your room on vacation doesn’t matter — you won’t spend any time in it anyway, right? Wellll, being the hotel geeks that we are, we have to respectfully disagree. That kind of logic is perfectly fine if you’re hopping hostels, but the truth is, the hotel room is a major component of a vacation experience for most of us. And if that hotel room provides a stunning outlook of the place you traveled all that way to see, all the better. That way you won’t miss a moment of experiencing your wonderful destination. These nine views aren’t just nice, they’re jaw-dropping — taking your vacation to a whole new level.

Jade Mountain, St. Lucia

Jade Mountain Resort, St. Lucia

Jade Mountain Resort, St. Lucia

The guest rooms at Jade Mountain are among the most luxurious in the world, and all have a missing fourth wall featuring stunning views of the Caribbean Sea and St. Lucia’s iconic Pitons. Most also offer private infinity pools. This romantic resort is an architectural marble, built into a mountain about 100 feet above the sea. Read More »

{ 5 comments }

Some hotels are more than just hotels — they are former castles, royal residences, or Gatsby-esque mansions. Or they opened their doors many years ago to offer accommodations of unsurpassed luxury, attracting royalty and famous names. These grand dames around the world have drawn on their rich pasts in order to offer present-day magnificence.

Grand Hotel Baglioni, Florence

Grand Hotel Baglioni, Florence

Grand Hotel Baglioni, Florence

Housed in the former residences of the Bertolini princes, the Grand Hotel Baglioni lives up to the grand image painted by Florence’s past. The hotel is filled with heavy-handed regal touches and ornate decor from top to bottom. The 193 rooms are very spacious (not often the case in a historic building), and feel luxurious, decked out with classic Italian furnishings, large leaded windows, gorgeous dark wood (the ceilings, floors, and furniture), and equally spacious dazzling white bathrooms. Both the rooftop garden and Terrazza Brunelleschi restaurant offer stunning views of Florence. Read More »

{ 0 comments }

The term “boutique hotel” can be applied to a host of very different properties — whether quaint or trendy, traditional or avant-garde. But they all have at least one thing in common: They’re intimate, and fewer rooms means fewer guests get to experience them, so staying at one can feel like discovering a secret hideaway. But secrets are no fun if you don’t get share them — so we’re spilling the beans on 11 of our favorite boutiques across Europe.

Draycott Hotel, London

Draycott Hotel, London

Draycott Hotel, London

This 35-room combo of Edwardian townhouses is warm and intimate with a country home feel, and in a great location for exclusive West End shopping. With wonderful boutique perks such as the free English afternoon tea (guests at other hotels will have to pay at least a £15 premium to enjoy such a tradition), free pre-dinner champagne, and free hot chocolate before bed, it’s hard to find much at the Draycott to complain about. Unless, of course, your priorities are a pool and fitness center, both of which the hotel lacks. Read More »

{ 1 comment }

Sunset in Antigua

Gorgeous sunsets can be found all year-round, but summertime is a particularly nice season to take in a beautiful dusk view with a mai tai in hand. We’ve shown you some incredible sunsets before, but we’ve created a second edition of amazing views we’ve seen more recently. From Caribbean beach destinations to bustling metropolitan cities, we found 10 more incredible sunsets from our travels around the world.

 

{ 1 comment }

Visiting Europe is often composed of a whirlwind tour, during which visitors hurry from one tourist destination to another. Therefore — in between trips to museums and monuments — finding the time to breathe can be surprisingly difficult. To help speed along to the moment where you actually find relaxation — you’re on vacation, after all — some of our favorite hotels across the pond are outfitted with top-notch spas designed to get you to that “Ahhh” feeling faster than you can say “Euro Trip.” Whether all you want is some downtime in the sauna or a deep tissue massage, these properties have you covered. So sit back and relax—the Louvre will still be there tomorrow.

1. K West Hotel & Spa, London 

The intimate spa encourages relaxation at every corner.

K West is a smart and sophisticated option in London, with its main attraction being the beautiful K Spa. Featuring sleek style and impressive facilities — the hydrotherapy pool and “Snow Paradise” room are particularly noteworthy — the spa is well-regarded throughout the United Kingdom. The “Snow Paradise” room is meant to follow a hot steam treatment, and is based on Finnish spa techniques of using hot-cold therapy to stimulate circulation and the immune system.

Read More »

{ 0 comments }

Some hotel weddings are gorgeous, some not so much, but they often all kind of feel the same. That’s where we come in — we’ve discovered some of the most beautiful and unique wedding venues in hotels around the world. Whether you want to say “I do” on safari, in a cloud forest, or at a Gatsby-esque mansion, these hotels deliver on the romance. Check them out here, and get inspired for your own big day (or vow renewal)!

For the Nature Enthusiasts: Selva Negra in Nicaragua 

Chapel in the middle of a rainforest? Check that off your list.

For outdoorsy couples looking for an authentic eco-lodge experience on their wedding day, Selva Negra is the real deal. This family-run organic farm and coffee estate in Nicaragua has accommodations ranging from hostel rooms to private bungalows, as well as a lush, cool mountain setting that’s rich with wildlife (expect howler monkeys, lizards, agoutis, and all types of birds). Couples can get married at the on-site chapel — which the owners built for their own daughter’s wedding — beneath Selva Negra’s cloud forest.  Read More »

{ 0 comments }

Ballnahinch Castle, one of Ireland's most beautiful historic stays, has played host to Pirate Queens, members of Parliament, and an Indian Maharaja.

Europe’s rich history is alive and well at these amazing hotels. Seeming to appear straight out of the history books, these castles, palaces, and monasteries have been the host to some of our world’s most interesting — and sometimes notorious — affairs. Pirate Queens, famous authors, scheming politicians, and celebrities of days past and present have walked through these corridors — and now you can, too, just by clicking through our slideshow.

{ 0 comments }