Thursday, 11 October 2012

Travel: Out of the ordinary

Living North: Issue 125

You’ve booked the flights and planned the unmissable sights for your city break, but choosing that unforgettable place to rest your head can often seem like a mammoth task. Let us lend a hand with our pick of slightly more unusual hotels...

Baroque Around The Clock




Saint James was Paris’ first hot air balloon airfield and a stomping ground for budding Parisian intellectuals, but in its latest incarnation as a chic neo-classical country mansion, its lofty reputation still remains. The château’s decor blends its rich history with over-the-top touches. A grand staircase sweeps through the monochrome hallway gallery to greet guests, leading to the 48 inventively decorated rooms. With hints of fantasy and folly, the atmosphere of the suites and guest rooms reflects tasteful eccentricity of their designer. Baroque prints and Parisian antiques are offset by leopard print, plasma TVs and bright Hermès fabrics in the suites. The hotel is set amongst its own private gardens just off the famous Avenue Foch, close to the luxury boutiques of Avenue Victor Hugo, and the magnificent Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower and Tuileries Gardens are all nearby.

Guests can take advantage of the equally fantastically designed Library Bar with its laden bookcases and spiral staircase, and the fine restaurant and spa offer quality time to unwind. If the weather permits, the picturesque outdoor seating area has an ambient atmosphere, with a Montgolfier gazebo reminiscent of the grounds’ rich hot air ballooning past. Each room at Saint James Paris has its own unique atmosphere, and with such memorable design and an air of exclusivity, the hotel is a haven of luxury.

Saint James Paris, 43 Avenue Bugeaud, Paris, 75116 www.saint-james-paris.com
From £276 per night. Fly direct from Newcastle to Paris Charles de Gaulle with Air France


A view with a room

Built in 1925 as the ultimate antidote to humdrum hotels, the beautifully restored designer Gran Hotel La Florida sits proudly atop Mount Tibidabo, boasting unparalleled panoramic views of Barcelona, the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees. After a saunter down Las Ramblas and a bite to eat at an authentic tapas restaurant, this hotel offers modern opulence and a place to rest your head away from the crowds in its refurbished, deluxe suites. Every room takes advantage of the spectacular landscape, with vast windows overlooking the unmissable city views. Elegantly decorated suites with marble bathrooms await, whilst works by Catalan artists add a touch of local flavour. Appreciate the unprecedented views from a hammock or jacuzzi on a luxurious private balcony.

Relax in the winter sun with a glass of sangria accompanied by live music at Miramar, the glamorous swimming pool terrace perched on the mountainside, before an aperitif or cocktail in The Lobby Lounge Bar followed by a bite to eat in the hotel's restaurant, L'Orangerie. Offering reinterpreted traditional Spanish, Catalan and Mediterranean cuisine, inventive dishes are complemented by a choice of over 350 wines from their fantastic selection. The restaurant offers a unique vantage point and perhaps the most magnificent view in the city, of the unmistakable Gaudi structures. Meanwhile, the therapies and treatments offered at Zen Zone Spa, beauty centre and gym are an ideal way to rejuvenate and invigorate after a long day spent exploring the plazas and promenades of Barcelona.


Gran Hotel La Florida, Barcelona, Spain www.hotellaflorida.com
From £127 per night. Fly direct from Newcastle to Barcelona with Easyjet


First-class

Escape the bustle of London’s streets and take refuge in the magnificent grandeur of The Landmark, conveniently located in the vibrant West End near the shopping hub of Oxford Street. Following a day taking in the sights and sounds of the cosmopolitan city, a night’s rest awaits in this five star haven, originally constructed in 1899 as a railway hotel putting up well-heeled travellers during the ‘golden age of steam’. The centrepiece is a stunning glass-roofed atrium, soaring eight stories and dotted with Juliet balconies. Once a central courtyard for guests to depart from in horse-drawn carriages, and later transformed into a dance floor in the roaring twenties, it now adds a unique and Continental mood to the Winter Garden restaurant and the informal Gazebo lounge.

The 300 lavish guest rooms are amongst the largest in London, and each is finished with classic Victorian features, sumptuous king sized beds and Italian cream marble ensuites. Opt for a luxurious suite with spectacular views overlooking the atrium. Softly lit chandeliers, neoclassical oil paintings and vast floral displays add to the palatial Victorian atmosphere, but alongside the plethora of classic touches, the rooms tick every mod-con box. Breakfast is served in the natural light of the atrium amongst palm trees and birdcages to set you up for a day exploring the capital, with Marylebone tube station just across the road. The Landmark is a favourite of Keira Knightley, Freddie Flintoff and Justin Timberlake. Sipping champagne in the hotel’s sleek Mirror Bar, you’ll feel quite the celebrity too.

The Landmark Hotel, 222 Marylebone Road, London www.landmarklondon.co.uk 020 7631 8000
From £650 per night. Fly direct from Newcastle to London Gatwick with Flybe or to Heathrow with British Airways


Blank Canvas

Brussels is known for its quirky art scene, which gave rise to René Magritte and the lovable cartoon character Tin-Tin. In fact, the city is known as ‘the capital of comic strip’, with a comic book route and museum honouring the art form. Incorporating its creative past, The White Hotel offers an ultra-modern place to rest your head in Ixelles, just south of the centre of the cultural melting pot of Brussels. Having been described as less staying in a hotel and more ‘staying in art’, the dazzling white walls and flawless furnishings are effortlessly minimalist rather than clinical, providing the perfect blank canvas for new and innovative artwork, created by up-and-coming Belgian artists. The hotel even offers a range of art and quirky designed homeware and furnishings for sale in the lobby and online. Whether your stay is in one of the aptly named 'White Rooms' or 'Superwhite Rooms', each bright and spacious suite features a different limited edition piece of art or furniture; a truly memorable quirk.

As a hotel-come-gallery, the original atmosphere attracts young creatives and professionals, and it’s situated just moments away from the stunning architecture of UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Grand Place, as well as the iconic Manneken Pis fountain. The city’s famous department stores and business district are within easy walking distance, and a stroll through the chestnut trees down the Avenue Louise is a must. The White Hotel provides the perfect base for taking in the culture of Belgium's capital city, so treat yourself to some moules-frites followed by a taster or two of Belgium's infamous chocolates and tasty wheat beers at the nearby fine restaurants and luxury shops. Alternatively, scooters and bikes can be rented out from the hotel during the day for whistle-stop sightseeing.

The White Hotel, Avenue Louise, Brussels www.thewhitehotel.be
From £60 per night. Fly direct from Newcastle to Brussels with Brussels Airlines


Waterway getaway


When taking a trip to the most romantic city in the world, it makes perfect sense to opt for the best and most luxurious place to stay. A tranquil boat ride down the Grand Canal brings you to this stunning Art Deco influenced palatial hotel. Situated next door to the famous Palazzo Pisani-Moretta, close to the Ponte di Rialto and just a 20 minute stroll from Piazza San Marco, the terracotta-fronted Palazzo Barbarigo is perfectly placed for a plethora of must-see Venetian sights. As an exclusive waterside hotel built in 1569, arrival by boat is a novel requirement, with a private dock available to guests and waterside transfers at your request. The hotel’s 18 intimate suites and contemporary guest rooms overlook the Grand Canal or, on the other side, the picturesque charm of the Rio di San Polo. The Art Deco styled suites boast unique theatrical decadence, with velvet chaise longues and love seats in warm chocolate and berry tones complemented by feathers and fringes, and contrasting with the modern luxury of touch-screen TVs in bathroom mirrors and cool black marble flooring.

Whether by gondola or on foot, a day spent discovering the enchanting floating city with its unique waterways, museums and Gothic architecture can be rounded off by watching the sun set from the Palazzo Barbarigo’s canal-side balcony terrace. To complement the romantic atmosphere in the heart of the city, sip an aperitif or an expertly made cocktail in the elegant lounge bar, which also offers snacks, platters and patisseries throughout the day and evening. The next morning, if you can tear yourself away from the uber-sleek, king size four-poster beds, a generous selection of tasty a la carte breakfasts awaits in the chic breakfast room, or add a lavish touch to your break by taking advantage of the hotel’s room service. The Palazzo Barbarigo provides the perfect base to explore Venice, and with its waterside charm it offers a truly unique break.


Palazzo Barbarigo Sul Canal Grande, 30125 Venice, Italy www.palazzobarbarigo.com
From £167 per night. Fly direct from Newcastle to Venice with Jet2.com from May to November


Modern Bohemia

It is impossible to meander through the cobbled streets of Prague without experiencing a growing fascination for the history of the bohemian city. The ornate Astronomical Clock, quaint alley of Golden Lane and fascinating Mucha Museum are amongst many of the must-see attractions, and with Gothic architecture, relics and Art Nouveau facades around every corner, Prague is begging to be explored. The Augustine Hotel was created from seven separate buildings, including the ecclesiastical 13th century Augustinian St. Thomas Monastery which, to this day, still provides a home to practicing friars and gave the hotel its name. The 101 rooms and 16 suites boast glorious views of the courtyards, the monastery chapel or Prague Castle. Each has been individually designed by Czech artisans in a sleek and modern style, contrasting with the historic exterior of the hotel. The ‘Tower Suite’ is a particular highlight, located high up in the monastery’s astronomical tower.

The chic glass walled courtyard offers a unique setting for experiencing modern Czech brasserie cuisine in the Lichfield Restaurant, named after photographer Lord Patrick Lichfield, which can be followed by a relaxing digestif in the traditional barrel-vaulted cafe and bar. The sympathetically restored baroque ceiling frescoes are the crowning glory of the historical ambience. Drink in the essence of Prague’s history in St Thomas Brewery Bar, housed in the cellar of the former Monastery brewery building and complete with 17th century stalactites and stalagmites. Overall, the Augustine Hotel lets you experience a rare juxtaposition of the historical and modern day Prague, and provides an unforgettable stay.


Augustine Hotel, Malá Strana, Prague www.theaugustine.com
From £112 per night. Fly direct from Newcastle to Prague with Jet2.com

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