As part of my final review of 2018, here’s a short summary of everywhere we stayed between July and December. A series of firsts here: first visit to Canada, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and all of South America; first experience using a guided expedition in Peru; the first time I’ve ever been to New York with more than $10 to my name. And the first time I realised what a pervert Jean-Michel Gathy is, with his obsession with see-through toilets.
Baur au Lac
Arguably better located than The Dolder Grand, almost certainly better rooms (not suites), and certainly less miserable staff around, but I couldn’t help but miss that tranquility that The Dolder Grand has to offer. A hotel that will neither delight nor disappoint you. If you want to be in central Zurich it is the best option.
Park Hotel Vitznau
Like finding out your soul mate is actually Hannibal Lecter. A variety of disappointments, but not enough to make us reconsider having our wedding here next year.
I heard nothing good, but I left feeling good. Ignoring their idea of what a toilet door should be, the rest of the hotel is a beauty. A delightful spa, good food and reasonably priced.
La Reserve Geneva
An anomaly in the portfolio. Whereas Paris and Ramatuelle are phenomenal properties, Geneva looks they were given it instead of a pair of socks at Christmas and weren’t sure how to politely return it. Someone once told me “Four Seasons is never the answer”. In Geneva it is.
Hotel de Crillon
One of the most beautiful city hotels, in one of the most beautiful cities. Fix the soft product and it will be legendary.
One of the most over-rated city hotels, in one of the most beautiful cities. Fix everything and it will be semi-decent.
Baccarat, New York
You can’t polish a turd, not even with crystal. The tiniest bedroom I’ve ever had (or at least on par with Rosewood London) in a suite, single vanity, awful view, average everything else. It felt like everything is shiny and beautiful, but nothing manages to stand out from the bling. I would go elsewhere next time.
Good food, awful room, average hotel. The best of a bad bunch in this fine city.
Still taunts me, as I am unsure if it’s actually even remotely good. I think so, but I know for certain it’s not worth the price.
Fairmont Pacific Rim, Vancouver
Awful. Just awful.
Peninsula Beverly Hills
A short, but sweet stay. The Peninsula brand continues to impress me.
Not as good as the $100m build costs would suggest. Once the prices come down it will be a more-than-reasonable offering within Fiji, but for now there’s Laucala breathing down their neck and laughing in their face.
Still not perfect, but an absolute mad house of enjoyment. Our favourite hotel of the year.
A short, but even better stay than The Peninsula. The Dorchester brand continues to impress me. Having explored some of the other properties in Beverly Hills, this would certainly be my choice.
The Setai, Miami
I used to hate all Miami hotels. Hate them, I tells ya. I would consider them good for Miami, dreadful for anywhere else. Then The Setai managed to turn things around after new owners came in and everything was alright in the world. Yet then they defaulted to being somewhat idiotic during this stay, causing a variety of mistakes that retaught me a valuable lesson: don’t go to Miami.
My 7th stay and amongst the best ever. What a turnaround from last year, when they collectively ruined my and Lucie’s year, along with the entire Greek economy. It was that bad. Now it’s back to its brilliant best and, by jove, I loved every second.
Singita Mara River Tented Camp
It’s Singita, but not as we know it. Far too basic for my liking.
What. A. Lodge. I cannot even begin to understand who they thought they were competing against, when they decided that they must have 2 tennis courts, 3 boutique shops, Netflix in every room, high-speed Internet throughout, a full-size pool table and a fully featured spa and gym. It reads more like a Bond villain’s weekend pad than a safari lodge. Oh, and the animal sightings and guide were superb.
A brilliant lodge, packing in all the features I would have expected in Mara River Tented Camp. It’s tented, so it’s still rustic, but they really managed to make it a truly luxurious experience.
A bucket list experience that managed to live up to the hype. A great lodge, with an even better experience to go with it.
Anywhere that presents the bedroom as open to the elements and surrounded with insects, is not going to win my approval. The facilities, such as the stables and hide by the watering hole, are very cool, but the lack of game viewing meant my bloodthirsty nature was not appeased.
Like Mara River Tented Camp, just with bigger rooms. And the best game viewing I’ve ever seen anywhere. Certainly not the standard of Singita in terms of luxury, but if you’re on safari to see something die, there’s no better way to see it than here. Other than jumping out in front of a pride of hungry lions whilst dressed as Bambi.
Not even Great Plains luxury. I am a man of luxury, and it is not to be found here. For those who really want to go back to nature.
A bit like the Saxon of Nairobi, minus the service. Such a beautiful property, but in being there less than 24 hours we suffered a variety of errors, not least finding someone’s nail in our bathroom.
Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath
Beautifully reminding me why I decided to not bother visiting any English countryside properties this year.
Just my luck that I’d leave one nauseating hotel and find myself in another. I never thought I’d say this, but thank god a Marriot has opened in Reykjavik.
Beautiful, beautiful property, but badly in need of some proper management.
Basic, but the service and food made up for it. The hassle to get here outweighs the benefits, though; I’d rather have gone to Switzerland.
Sol y Luna
Another boutique property that did everything possible to make please us, but their stinginess was always lurking, like a monster under the bed. In the end, they fell that bit short. Still recommended, but we would try somewhere else next time.
Not a hotel, but as expensive as one. Worth doing, but only once. Like donating a kidney.
Short, flawless stay. The room sizes may sound small, but size only matters when you ineffectively use it. As they say.
Hotel del Parque
A surprising joy. The feel of the Raffles Singapore, sat within your own private park (on Monday and Tuesdays). Shame it’s facing the airport, but that really is all there is to complain about.
A wonderful property in the wrong place, at the wrong time. The Galapagos is the worlds most boring country.
Four Seasons Casa Medina
As with a few others on this list, even during a short stay, how they managed to screw up so many times is a wonder, but it is still a beautiful hotel. I would return.
I still find myself starring at the craftwork throughout this hotel, even 2 years after their refurbishment. I just wish the soft product could compete against The Connaught, especially on Christmas joy.
Not bad at all.
Looking forward to next year’s posts!
Just to let you know there is life out here appreciating your research. Thank you for saving me a trip to the Galapagos.
My year in summary if anyone should be at all interested:
The Brando – very slightly sterile accomodation but the location, local service and wildlife more than make up plus the inflight service from Steed on the Air Tahiti flight from Auckland was memorable…
Explora Easter Island – one flight a week from Tahiti to Easter Island makes this a great itinerary. Explora did a great job of showing us around. As good as it gets on Easter Island and definitely worth the effort to get there.
Villa Feltrinelli – a repeat offender, the manager Markus Odermatt reads people and situations brilliantly. Take La Contessa boat over to Punta San Vigilio and the chopper from the croquet pitch back to the airport. Marvellous.
Adler Mountain Lodge – surprise hit of the year and back to ski in a couple of weeks. Southern Hemisphere style property in Europe with AMAZING views. Bit Germanic for Italy but none the worse for it
Post Ranch Inn – those views still impress. The accomodation starts to feel a teeny bit dated but is beginning to assume a slightly vintage Californian charm. Spotting four planets over dinner one night without getting up from our table was memorable,
My final two entries are the most over-hyped of the year – Heckfield Place and Hotel Sanders, Copenhagen, both Conde Nast Hot List but distinctly luke warm in my experience. What am I missing?
Thanks, Sarah! And thanks for the prior Heckfield Place review – it helped us avoid it over Christmas and wait until the spa opens next year.
I feel that having not liked the Galapagos, we would really struggle with Easter Island. After Tahiti it sounds perfect though, but next time we’d likely have to stick it onto a South America trip, so I reckon it’ll be a fair few years before that happens.
Post Ranch Inn is on the list, along with a few others from the States (Twin Farms, The Point, Blackberry Farm, to name a few). Maybe next year, if life is still being kind to me.
As for Conde Nast, I think you’re missing only the fact that most of the properties were never even visited by journalists, and if they were, they never had to pay a penny, so value for money is outta the window. Even billionaires want value for money, so when that is lost on the review, anywhere can be good. Especially if you’re in a penthouse.
Having visited both Easter Island and the Galapagos In 2017, you will not enjoy Easter Island. Instead of animals looking at you, there are the gigantic Moa. It’s a fascinating story on why they are there and what they represent, but once you have seen them… At Explora where we stayed you may or may not have others with you on your hikes out and about. Massage was wonderful.
Twin Farms seems to have the most favorable reviews, although what there is to do there for that kind of money, I still don’t understand. I loved The Point, but husband hated it. Of course, I didn’t let him go fishing. The reputation for Black Berry Farms is that they nickel and dime you for everything. None the less, I look forward to your reviews.
We continue to add to husband’s streak of catching a fish a month whilst I find us a very pleasant place to kick back, relax and observe while he does so. That means, Delphi Club in the Bahamas, Copal Tree Lodge in Belize, Arroyo Verde in Argentina, and then a beat on the Test in England for our journeys in the next five months.