I know tons of bloggers are doing their “best of 2013” lists and I said I wouldn’t…but I just can’t resist. I love hotels. I’m a complete sucker for everything from stately, historic grande dame hotels to sleek and stylish boutique properties. I am admittedly not a backpacker. If the choice is up to me and my budget, I will always choose to stay at a hotel (or apartment) instead of a hostel when I hit the road. That said, I’m pretty knowledgable about what makes a good hotel stay, so you all can trust that any place I recommend is clean, safe and full of character. My love for hotels has brought me to my current career, and I was fortunate enough to stay at some great hotels this past year. I really hope I don’t come off as a complete asshole for writing this post but the fact is, I see hotels as my home when I travel because, well, they are! Here are a few of my favorite homes of 2013.
I’m sure I’ll get some hate for this sentence but I was not impressed with Barcelona. I’ll do a later post about my gripes with the city later, but the highlight of the trip was my stay in the Mercer Hotel. Located in the Gothic Quarter, the oldest area of Barcelona, the Mercer Hotel is set inside a historic building with portions that date back to 1st century AD. Swoon. The design is characterised by old meets new with giant stone archways and wood floors mixed with a sleek rooftop pool and glass-enclosed courtyard. Textured walls might be my favorite design element in the entire world, so I audibly gasped at the stone wall in my room and could barely move once I crawled into the plush bed. You’ll notice a theme with the hotels on this list because I really love hotels that showcase a sense of place in their design elements and Mercer Hotel did just that. The way this property is designed would not have made sense anywhere but the twisting, medieval labyrinth that is the Gothic Quarter. A night at the Mercer Hotel will cost a pretty penny (think upwards of 250 euro) but if you’re celebrating something or just want to splurge one night, this is the place to do it.
I still dream about Royal Davui Resort. Even my love-jaded ass knows that it was the most romantic place I’ve ever been to in my entire life. Set on a private island a la Swiss Family Robinson, this kids-free paradise (AMEN) is made up of 16 private bungalows or “Vales” in Fijian. Each vale has glass walls in the living room and bedroom area so that no matter where you walk, you have a gorgeous view of the sea. Each vale also has private plunge pools attached to individual balconies and sundecks. As you can imagine, I met at least two couples on their honeymoons and it’s on my bucket list to go back with my own special someone. If you make it to Fiji for a vacation, go all out and book your reservations here. For a money-saving tip, book your trip through travel package services like Costco Travel or Expedia Travel. One couple I met booked through Costco and it was their third time using the service, saving them hundreds of dollars.
So I guess I have a thing for glass walls. This past spring I went on a 2-week road trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains and Waynesboro, Virginia was my final stop. I was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted and ready to call it quits one night before the end of my trip, ideally skipping Waynesboro, VA entirely. I’m so glad I didn’t. Waynesboro is where the Blue Ridge Parkway starts and it’s home to a darling bed and breakfast called The Iris Inn. Innkeepers Dave and Heidi are so welcoming without being overbearing – usually a hard mix to find when staying at a B&B. In addition to six rooms and three private cottages in the main inn, Dave and Heidi have jumped on the glamping trend by unveiling six modern and luxurious cabins placed right into the forest on stilts. The glass wall of the cabins overlooks the Shenandoah Valley, offering complete privacy and feature screened-in decks with hot tubs. It was too cold for me to enjoy the hot tub, but waking up to a full view of sunrise over the valley was absolutely breathtaking. This is my kind of camping 🙂
No matter where I go, Washington D.C. will always be one of my favorite places in the world. Since I’m from the area, I guess it’s understandable that I haven’t stayed in many hotels in DC, but this year I decided to do a staycation for my birthday. The nation’s capital has tons of hotels but I’ve noticed that they all seem to be giant chains which I’m not a fan of because they all tend to have major design similarities across the brand portfolio. God…I’m such a snob. Anyway, I wanted to stay somewhere that was historic but still had all the modern amenities I know and love, and had design elements that gave a nod to DC in a cool, non-stuffy way. Enter The Jefferson. Located on 16th street, arguably the main artery in The District, The Jefferson is a luxurious, boutique hotel that houses some irreplaceable collectibles from its namesake, Thomas Jefferson. I was floored when I saw my hotel room. It was unbelievably spacious and had an elegant and calming color-scheme and charming design elements like the Monticello blueprint designed curtains. I seriously considered tossing that throw pillow in my suitcase and hoping that no one would notice. We also dined at the dark and cozy wood-paneled bar, Quill which has an awesome lobster BLT!
Oh Charleston. I wanted to love you, but you left me with nothing but feelings of “meh”. I don’t know what it was about Charleston that left me so underwhelmed,but I’m pretty sure my expectations were too high (this seems to be a recurring problem in my life, when will I learn?). That said, just as in Barcelona, my opinion of a place was saved based on my lodgings. Zero George does everything right. Everything you picture about Charleston from quaint, historic buildings to sweet and charming residents, you will find at the Zero George Inn. My only complaint about the property is that there wasn’t a full-service dining option when I visited, but the inn had only been open for two months so I think that status has changed now. Zero George is made up of five historic buildings (circa 1804) that surround an enclosed courtyard where guests can relax on porches or benches. The rooms are surprisingly large and are designed part Southern chic part French romantic. I am SO glad that whenever I think of Charleston I will have thoughts of this inn because in my mind, it is the quintessential Charleston experience.
Does the term “nautical luxury” exist? If not, I’m creating it. I literally almost cried when I had to leave The Inn at Perry Cabin. St. Michaels is a small fishing town located on the eastern shore of Maryland and is pretty unassuming. I never would have thought twice about St. Michaels except to visit during the summertime for some Maryland blue crabs until I stumbled upon this luxury property during my research for a story. One look at the colonial mansion style resort had me hooked. Obviously designing an entire hotel with a nautical theme can go from gorgeous to tacky in about 1.5 seconds, but thankfully that is not the case with Perry Cabin. Each room is designed differently but I can tell you that mine felt like being in a cross between a luxury yacht and a summer home in New England. The color scheme was a mix of muted neutral tones with pops of color like navy blue, chocolate-brown and tangerine. There were so many thoughtful marine elements like a giant steamer trunk that actually housed a flat screen tv (see above) and framed vintage photos of sailboats and different forms of sailing knots. I also adored the branded hotel cruiser bikes that guests could snag to cruise the town anytime they wanted.
Who would have thought that there’d be a Bavarian-style lodge located in the mountains of North Carolina? Although it looks wildly out-of-place from the exterior, the decor of the Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville somehow mixes with the Southern mountain town cool of Asheville. I visited Asheville in the springtime but I imagine that in the wintertime, this luxurious alpine-themed hotel is the place to be. The dark wood and stone in the lobby area was paired with burgundy red curtains and antlers sprouting from walls and acting as chandeliers. The property has an art and music theme, meaning that you’ll find rotating works by local artists sprinkled throughout the lobby and hallways, in addition to vintage music instruments serving as art pieces. The Red Stag Grill is absolutely fantastic – specializing in European comfort food and utilizing local mountain ingredients.
While I can’t say that I loved everything about Villa de Palmar, the view alone is worth an honorable mention. First let’s start with the not-so-greats. I was shocked to discover that this hotel has no real beach. What you see in the picture is basically that the edge of the hotel drops down to a rocky area that has a very low tide so the water is actually about 50 feet from the sand and super shallow. Giant bummer. Now the positives. This resort has an all-inclusive option which would normally make me back away slowly but THE FOOD IS AMAZING. Usually the number one complaint about all-inclusive resorts is that the food is terrible and the drinks are watered down but that is not the case with Villa de Palmar. I also loved that the resort is keyless, so to open your hotel room, everyone receives a wristband at check in with a microchip in it that unlocks their room. Genius!
What hotels did you visit this year? Have you been to any of the places on this list or are you planning to visit them in 2014?
I visited these properties as a media guest but don’t worry, all opinions are my own.