Monday, May 22, 2017

GLAMOUR & INTIMACY AT BELMOND SPLENDIDO

Indeed splendid. Our international team of travel advisors were all blown away by Belmond Hotel Splendido – not just the stunning views, but the refined service and heart-stirring ambience…




In this elegant hotel overlooking the beautiful coastline of Portofino, you get a feeling of travelling back in time to the glamorous fifties.  


There is a wonderful ambience, tinged with glamour and intimacy. Sitting in the cocktail bar, you can imagine the illustrious cast of celebrities and royal dignitaries that have spent time there, enjoying the atmosphere and no doubt some raucous celebrations over the years.


In the bar with its hand-painted walls and marble floors an international set gather every night for cocktails and to enjoy the music. The resident pianist Vladimir Gatto has worked at Splendido for 30 years, and is something of an in-house celebrity! He will most likely ask if you would like to sing with him.

Antonio Becalli, the legendary Bar Manager, has been at the hotel 47 years creating cocktails – including one he designed especially for Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. He mingles with the guests and joins in with the singing and dancing; a real character and part of the furniture. His Bellini is noted by many guests as the best in the world!

The formal Italian restaurant La Terazza has an extensive menu and comprehensive wine list. The stunning terrace overlooks the coast line of Portofino. The food is of a good quality. The dress code is smart. You can either sit on the terrace to enjoy the sublime views and classic atmosphere, or in the more formal dining room inside. Service is professional, and attentive but not intrusive.





At the Pool restaurant – open daily for lunch only 1-4pm they serve buffet style appetizers, pizza that will be baked in front of your eyes in the wood fired oven, and a selection of pastas, salads and grills.

Down at the piazetta at the harbour,  enjoy authentic Italian food at at Chuflay. The service is personal and this restaurant is more casual than La Terazza. A perfect spot for people watching in the midst of the colourful harbour.




The staff are highly professional with a hospitable humorous manner lacking formalities. Nightly entertainment with pianist.

Child friendly? Honeymoon-friendly...

Belmond Hotel Splendido is not the ultimate place to bring your children and is more a destination for couples including honeymooners. They do have a kids club called the Smile Club where children between 4-12 are welcome. Here the children can enjoy everything from pizza baking, ice cream tasting or going for a fishing excursion. There is no kids pool but they do have a children’s menu!

Rooms


Balcony with a view to die for - our room looking over Portofino harbour

A room with a balcony is a way to make the most of your stay. New from this year, all types of junior suites have balcony, and they are all facing the sea. All of the junior suites are different. The junior suite superior is the smallest, and junior suite executive is the largest. They are differently decorated, some a bit more modern and others the classic style. Some have separate bedroom and living room. All of them have separate shower and bath tub.

For families there are some interconnecting solutions including a presidential suite interconnecting to a junior executive via entrance door. On some floors the suite may be splendid but the view may be less so – so ask our advice.

A newly renovated room with the inspiration of the lush green flower-filled gardens and some old fashioned glamour

A nice excursion


View of Portofino from our boat. We took a boat from Portofino to Camogli a little village, following the hilly coastline.

How to get there

Colourful Portofino reflected in the calm bay
The small town of Portofino is located 45 km east of Genoa, which will be the closest airport. 

Driving: Driving time to the hotel is from 40-50 min, depending on traffic. The airport is served by Alitalia, British Airways (from Gatwick), AirFrance/KLM, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines and a raft of budget airlines such as Ryanair, AirDolomiti and Vueling. There is a highway (A12) from the airport to Rapallo, and from Rapallo onward to Santa Margherita. 

Bus: From the Santa Margherita Ligure station, there is a regular bus service to the Martyrs Square of Liberty in Portofino. Journey time is about 15 minutes and costs around 3 Euro one way. The road ends in Portofino, and it is a car-free zone - so private transfers from the airport are recommended.

Train: You can also easily reach Portofino by train: The closest train station to Portofino is Santa Margherita Ligure-Portofino. 

The following are some Trenitalia (www.trenitalia.com) route options:

FROM ROME: Roma Termini – (change at Rapallo) – S. Margherita Ligure-Portofino (Travel time: 4hrs 41mins)
FROM GENOA: Genova – S. Margherita LigurePortofino (Travel time: 45 mins) (costs around 3 Euro)
FROM FLORENCE: Firenze S.M. Novella – (change at Pisa Centrale) – S. Margherita Ligure-Portofino (Travel time: 5hrs 12mins).

Ferry: If you’re staying on the Ligurian coast, a great way to visit Portofino and enjoy views of the coastline is by ferry. There are a number of ferry and boat services that link towns on the Ligurian coast. See www.traghettiportofini.it, www.battellierigenova. it and www.golfoparadiso.it.www.golfoparadiso.it.

Getting around

Within Portofino, walking is the best option. The town is not large and most hotels and beaches are a short walk from the harbour. A regular, scheduled shuttle service is available between Belmond Hotel Splendido and Splendido Mare (or take a leisurely, 10-minute walk). The hotel offers free parking and garage for their guests. Prebooking is necessary. 


To get around on the water, you can rent this boat


Note: the train and bus information is subject to change

For more about our fabulous hotels in Italy see our SELECT COLLECTION WEBSITE.

This post was based on a group report by a team of Select Collection travel advisors after a recent visit: Ilse Nyman (Finland), Laila Ånestad (Norway), Astrid Solvik (Norway), Collette O'Connor (UK), Louise Lundius (Sweden), Magdalena Sundberg (Sweden) .

images by Select Collection team and Belmond

Monday, May 15, 2017

ON THE EDGE OF THE WORLD AT BELMOND CARUSO


Belmond Hotel Caruso. You come here for views to break your heart, pampered serenity and utmost romance.  Below lies Ravello, one of the prettiest villages in Italy with cute cafes and boutiques, and lemon groves plunging into dazzling sea.


Plunging views from Belmond Hotel Caruso




One of Italy’s most romantic spots is beside the iconic infinity pool that seems to float to the edge of the world.  Lunch is served close by, starting with a beautiful salad buffet followed by a la carte menu. Pizza is highly recommended! You can even arrange to dine on the very edge.



Sip a cocktail, munch pizza, dine in divine style or simply dream on the edge of the world

Lunch in the gardens above the Mediterranean blue
The Belvedere restaurant also adds magnificent views to the experience of the authentic Italian cuisine – especially in summer on the open terrace. 



Open terrace in summer

But we recommend that you eat out more than once as there is a big choice of cafes and restaurants and some hidden gems in the village of Ravello.


Glittering private dinner at Caruso

It is fun to explore Amalfi by foot seeking culinary and other treasures.


In the village - a real Italian atmosphere




Another must is to jump aboard the traditional wooden boat Ercole and see the gems of the Amalfi Coast with a complimentary boat tour.  You can also do daytrips to Amalfi and Positano.


View of Positano from the boat
Perfect for a romantic getaway. To avoid the crowds and traffic go during spring or autumn (May/April and September)  


OUR ASSESSMENT

Perfect for a romantic getaway, in a setting of fabulous gardens, with amazing 360 degree panoramic views, and closeness to picturesque Ravello. Enjoy great housekeeping and spacious rooms. 






But be aware this is not easy terrain for driving around – with steep and winding roads. Nor is it ideal for wheelchairs or people who find trouble walking on stairs and slopes.  If you like duvets – you need to order them as the norm is blankets. The spa is limited to one treatment room.

The rooms are a bit of a “jungle” in the sense that price may bring greater size but does not necessarily bring a better view and/or a balcony. We can help our clients choose the best rooms with the best views.

Herb garden to add to the Mediterranean flavours

Many steps

TIP

Order breakfast in the room to enjoy your private view – no extra charge..

QUICK FACTS

Lemon country

No of rooms: 50  



Ravello is in the region of Campania within the province of Salerno (SA) in Southern Italy. The “Amalfi Drive” stretches over 50 km from Sorrento to Salerno, passing Positano, Praiano, Amalfi, Atrani, Minori, Maiori, Cetara and Vietri Sul Mare.

The nearest airport is  Naples. Distance from airport to Ravello is 59 km and it will take c. 60 min by car to the hotel. Rental car is a challenge, and NOT recommended in Ravello, as the roads are narrow and curved and parking is very limited, especially in the high season. It’s also possible to reach the hotel by bus but best solution is a transfer by the hotel.

The small town of Ravello is easily explored on foot. SITA buses run frequently between Ravello and Amalfi (which is the main bus terminal on the Amalfi Coast for connections) and taxis are available near the main bus stop in Ravello 

Distance from nearest town/shops/restaurants: 0 meters (Ravello). 

Distance from Ravello to Amalfi: 7 km - Taxi costs around EUR 45 one way.

This post was based on a group report by a team of Select Collection travel advisors after a recent visit: Ilse Nyman (Finland), Laila Ånestad (Norway), Astrid Solvik (Norway), Collette O'Connor (UK), Louise Lundius (Sweden), Magdalena Sundberg (Sweden) .

For more, visit Select Collection website HERE

Images by Belmond and Select Collection.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

A JOURNEY THROUGH ARGENTINA – IN STYLE

From sizzling Buenos Aires to end-of-the world Patagonia, seeking the best accommodation, and stunning natural and cultural treasures, our Select “posse” of three Travel Advisors explored Argentina by plane, car and horseback; as well as their own six feet… 


Like "gauchos" - Tina, Erland & Linda - Select Collection travel advisors from Sweden & Norway riding in Patagonia

Here they suggest an itinerary that samples the flavours, colours and rhythms of that vast country, including cultured wine and food destinations, the thundering Iguazu falls, and carved glaciers in remote Patagonia. Time to explore slowly walking, riding, cycling…or wearing crampons...


9 DAYS IN ARGENTINA 

Day 1-3: Buenos Aires

The capital Buenos Aires is sophistication and art, passion and playfulness. Never seems to sleep. We explored the effervescent city on foot as much as we could. You need at least three days to get a good round feel.

Art and history


Palermo

Our favourite part was Palermo Soho. One of the largest of the city´s districts. Palermo has gained its place as the centre for new trends in design, art and food, as well as becoming one of the most vibrant places in which to enjoy night life in Buenos Aires.

Food magnet - Palermo Soho

Carefree al fresco mood


Recoleta

Colonial history, broad avenues, sophisticated mansions and important museums. A must see here is the elaborately decorated Recoleta cemetery, surrounded by green spaces.

The famous cemetry is in itself history


Puerto Madero

The newest neighborhood where the port had once been. Find the city´s tallest skyscrapers and recycled warehouses turned into offices and restaurants. Green spaces blend with views of the Rio de la Plata.


San Telmo

With an aura of art and nostalgia, this Bohemian area is a favourite of artists and intellectuals  - cobbled streets, antique stores, tango venues and cafés.


Colourful paint jobs

Colourful al fresco dining San Telmo

La Boca

Italian immigrants built simple homes out of wood and corrugated iron painted in different colors, making La Boca one of the most colourful places to visit in the city.



La Boca - art and imagination


The Select team enjoying La Boca

Tango

Don’t miss the Rojo Tango show – having a meal and local wine puts you in the most receptive mood to enjoy the saucy show.



WHERE TO STAY

Four Seasons Buenos Aires is one of the latest places to be among the city’s fashionable elite – sipping a Des Coya martini at the open bar Pony Line or dining at the modern, informal Elena restaurant, one of South America’s best - we had a fabulous dinner there..

It has traditional suites in an the mansion and contemporary style rooms in the newer section.

Our team enjoys the sun in front of the mansion

Contemporary elegance in the lounge at Four Seasons

The outdoor pool at Four Seasons

For those who like it really different Faena Hotel & Universo is innovative, arty, stylish and very trendy with Philippe Starck interiors in an old grain warehouse, a see-and-be-seen outdoor pool area, five restaurants and nightly cabaret. It is the home of the famous Rojo Tango Show. The location at the revamped Puerto Madero is the final blessing

Stunning Starck interiors at Faena Hotel



For classic luxury - Alvear Palace. A real palace that flows over with opulence, Has fabulous features and a sense of traditional formality that appeals to many.

Stunning glass cupola in the palace
.

Day 3-5: Mendoza

A green oasis with wide boulevards and atmospheric plazas, surrounded by rich vineyards at the foot of the Andes. The area is a haven for wine tasting and gourmet eating. Visit local wineries on horseback or by bike. Join winemaking activities and harvesting from end Mar to mid Apr.

With a backdrop of snowcapped mountains, this is some of the most attractive wine country in the world – with modern wineries and resorts amidst vineyards. The weather averages 300 sunny days per year, helping to make high quality wines.

Mendoza wine - Gimenez Riili Gran Reserva

October-April are the best months for visiting Mendoza - from the planning season through harvest.


WHERE TO STAY

The Vines Resort & Spa is very stylish and modern. It was our favorite hotel during our whole Argentina trip.  It is within reach of the region’s top wineries such as Clos de los Siete and O. Fournier and lies in the Uco Valley, a high altitude region about an hour south of the city of Mendoza (appr. 1 ½ hour from Mendoza airport).

Magical views from the Vines with mountains beyond mountains

Set amid 1500 acres of vineyards and gardens, The Vines has only 22 villas (1 & 2 bedrooms), some with unobstructed views of the Andes. The 2 Bedroom Deluxe Villa where Tina and Linda stayed in is 250 kvm of indoor and outdoor living space, including a deck with a gas fireplace, lounge chairs and an outdoor tub.

Flaming sunsets (not our image)

Beautiful views from the villa

The trendy bathroom

The common pool area looked very inviting and peaceful overlooking the Vines and the Andes.
The Seven Fires restaurant at The Vines is famed for its cuisine under master chef Francis Mallmann. Twice a week the master chef grills meat in 7 different ways on open fires.  Add on an extra night as there is so much to do – including working out at the gym in the vineyards.

At the foot of the Andes lies Cavas Wine Lodge – tranquil, private and romantic – 45 mins from the airport. The hotel is located in Lujan de Cuyo with many famous wineries in the vicinity. The 18 rooms are like small cottages with a rooftop terrace. All rooms are facing the Andes mountain. Everyone talks about the amazing sunsets and starwatching on the rooftop at night but we had bad luck with the weather during our stay. Each room has an outdoor shower, plunge pool and wood burning fireplaces.

Bedroom at Cavas Wine Lodge


Cavas Wine Lodge - all about wine 

The owners Martin & Cecilia were very passionate and the service was friendly and professional. They organize complimentary wine tastings every evening. For an extra charge you can also have a cooking class, go horseback riding, do some trekking etc. 7 bikes are for your disposal on first come first serve basis.

A winetasting and lunch at the winery El Enemigo (20 minutes for the hotel) is recommended. It is owned by the famous winemaker Alejandro Vigil. The garden is nice and they have a great art collection.

Day 5-7: Cafayete & Salta

Fly to Salta in the Andean foothills, a city founded by the Spanish in 1582, with Colonial architecture, friendly ways and usually sunny weather.   Salta is at 1152m above sea level and Jan, Feb, Mar are the warmest months at 26 to 28 deg C - very pleasant time to visit the area.



From Salta we took the stunning three hour scenic drive through contorted mountains and canyons to captivating Cafayete, a picturesque small town famous for its Torrontès (white) and Malbec (red) quality wine production – there are 35 wineries. The vineyards are backed by spectacular soaring mountains.


Rugged terrain
From Salta to Cafayete

Lush vineyards in Cafayete

WHERE TO STAY

Patios de Cafayete is an enchanting rustic guest house or Spanish hacienda in a Colonial homestead, with an authentic feel, outdoor pool and stunning views of the Andes and Calchaquil valley.
Features include its own winery and a fountain in a courtyard, and it has a charming oasis feel in the middle of the vineyards. All the rooms here are different. The property is 5 mins by bike from the town.

Riding is a good way to explore 


A fountain in a courtyard adds authentic atmosphere



Outoor pool


Grace Cafayete is a modern five star hotel with villas for families spread out in gardens with parking space. There is an indoor pool with views. Enjoy gourmet tasting meals – then wham away extra calories with gym, tennis, golf, riding, polo, cycling.The hotel decor is straightforward but the views are stunning.

Just 10 mins walk from Cafayate town or 5 mins by bike. This small town provides a local restaurant and shopping for souvenirs. 

Restaurant at Grace Cafayete

If unable to travel directly to Cafayete from Salta - or if you have enough time over to take in the Colonial city - we recommend a friendly guest house in Salta, Legado Mitico, with the air of a discreet private club. It has no restaurants but it is situated in the old town round the corner from a choice of restaurants.


EXCURSION


Worth seeing north of Salta is the Salinas Grande salt flats and Quebrada.

On the way from Salta to the salt flats
Lunch at the Salinas Grandes Salt flats (3000m above sea level)

Market , Quebrada De Humahuaca (on the way from Salta to Salinas Grandes Salt flats)


Day 7-9: Calafate  

The haunting landscapes are dominated by the mighty Andes and boast magnificent sunsets. Here you can explore the astounding icefields  – ride in a boat on a glacier lake among chunks of floating ice, and hike wearing crampons on top of the famous Perito Moreno glacier in Los Glaciares National Park.

Perito Moreno glacier ... an adventure trail when wearing crampons

Ice falling into the lake, which can be explored by boat

Mountains and glaciers in Los Glaciares National Park.


Bird life

Boat trips from Puerto Bandera provides views of the Upsala and Spegazeini glaciers.  in additional to the impressive Perioto Moreno Glacier which we visited.

WHERE TO STAY

Eolo – Patagonia’s Spirit is the best hotel in the area and a good base for exploration, only 50 mins from the Park and 40 mins from Calafate. This magical lodge is a member of Relais & Chateaux,  and lies on a big estate of 3000 ha with lake inhabited by flamingos.


Lake Argentino

Set out with a tasty packed lunch to explore by bike, 4WD or on horseback (as our travel advisors did), or stay home to relax in the indoor pool and savour the cuisine whilst taking in views of wild landscapes.

There are 17 rooms. We recommend the Corner Suites which have more windows and  better views of the dramatic landscape.

Views out to the Andes from Eolo Lodge

Corner suite with wrap round view

The entire lodge´s decoration combines a deliberate antique style with modern comfort. Its big windows and cozy sofas will invite you to enjoy the colors of the sky and landscapes but at the same time give you a homey feeling. Eolo has saunas and a heated indoor pool (unfortunately no view from the pool). They have one spa treatment room and we recommend you book treatments in advance. The hotel has one restaurant with a la carte breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food was very good and varied. The service is also excellent.

The lodge is closed from 25 April  until September/October due to low season. Recommended length of stay: 2-3 nights.


EXTENSION OPTION 1: IGUAZU FALLS – BRAZIL

One of the natural wonders of the world. There are some 270 falls thundering over a precipice. The most well-known is the Devil’s Throat where half the waters of the mighty river seethe powerfully into a chasm. Fly to the Argentine side of the falls and cross the bridge into Brazil with our guide. The Argentine side has 80% of the falls, which really need a full day visit - while the Brazilian side has only 20% of the falls but has a lovely Belmond hotel in the national park,,,


Devil's Throat at Iguazu Falls

Rainbows in the spray


WHERE TO STAY

Belmond Hotel Das Cataratas is the only hotel in Iguazu National Park - which has leopards and pumas, colourful birds and tropical rainforest as well as the thundering waters. Enjoy poolside dining, live music, tennis, tropical gardens and the bird park.

You can walk up to the edge of the nearby Devil’s Throat to absorb the force of nature. The image  is taken 1 mins walk from the hotel. Belmond offers the best view and you have the chance to visit them before the National Park opens to public.



1 mins walk from the hotel

Grand dining room at Belmond Hotel Das Cataratas
The distinctive facade of Belmond Hotel Das Cataratas

The recommended time to explore Iguazu Falls is March, parts of April, August, and September bearing in mind heat and rainfall in this tropical area. If it rains the falls get all the more impressive - so if you fancy getting wet in the spray, travel when it is hottest and rainiest Dec-Feb.


EXTENSION OPTION 2


URUGUAY – JOSE IGNACIO

Uruguay is a small country with a big heart, known for huge steaks, vast ranches and unspoilt beaches. Watch flaming sunsets on a wild beach in the laid back village of Jose Ignacio, a magnet for jet-setters who hide away and melt into the Bohemian atmosphere – with good restaurants to be found along rustic roads. High season is November to February.



WHERE TO STAY

Pools at Bahia Vik

Bahia Vik – a friendly, avant-garde hotel lies on a strip of land between two beaches – popular Brava beach known for surfing and laid-back Mansa beach.  The hotel’s 11 bungalows, with unique design in wood, steel and zinc, overlook quiet Mansa beach and the sunsets. When the sun goes down people gather at the hotel’s restaurant La Susana for fresh ceviche, sociable atmosphere and stunning views.

Living room in the Titanio bungalow


One of the bungalows at Bahia Vik

Upper living room at Bahia Vik

For a change from Bohemian beach life, you can ride horses at sister property Estancia Vik, with ranch house amidst fields and mountains. 10 mins by car. 

For more about Select Collection FOLLOW THIS LINK.

(C) IMAGES & REPORT BY SELECT COLLECTION: Tina Vestin (Sweden); Linda Isberg (Sweden); Erland Stubmo (Norway)