December 9, 2011

Just for the Holidays

The holidays are a time to splurge.

As temperatures start to drop in New York City, everyone seems to be talking about upcoming travel plans: where to go to enjoy the snow, and where to go to escape it. This is also the time of year when people are scrambling to come up with creative gift ideas for loved ones. Why not plan a weekend away with a partner, family member, or friend? It will be money well spent if you get to enjoy some of the indulgence too.

One of my favorite ways to splurge is with a Relais & Chateaux weekend. This collection of luxury hotels delivers on two things that are important to me for a special getaway: strong character and delicious food. Here are some suggestions for special hotel weekend getaways — in the US and abroad — that I would love to receive as a holiday gift.

The Supper Room in Glenmere Mansion

1. Glenmere Mansion

Located just 50 miles from New York City in the lower Hudson Valley, this Tuscan-inspired villa provides a serene escape from the city. Check back for my full review and interview with the Supper Room’s chef in a couple weeks — I just stayed here in November. This Gilded Age mansion perched on a hill is the perfect example of what makes a Relais & Chateaux property so special. Beyond the luxurious soaking tubs and fireplaces, this hotel has a charismatic innkeeper, a great story of how it was restored, and two divine restaurants to choose between.

Sheen Falls Lodge and River Sheen

2. Sheen Falls Lodge

The countryside of Ireland might not have a reputation for gourmet fare, but Sheen Falls Lodge is one glowing exception. Located outside Kenmare in County Kerry, Sheen Falls Lodge is an ideal home base for exploring the nearby Ring of Kerry. While the scenery around the lodge is fantastic, you might be tempted to take a seat by the fireplace and order a hot drink instead. Not only does this hotel offer one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever eaten, but the evening dining experience with the rushing River Sheen in the background is unforgettable. Don’t miss the tour of the impressive wine cellar during a visit.

sunny breakfast room at Blantyre

3. Blantyre

Tucked into the Berkshires is a Tudor manor where I could happily become a regular guest. Between the Potting Shed Spa, wood-burning fireplaces, and shelves filled with carefully selected books, Blantyre is simply my kind of retreat. Come here if you like the sound of enjoying a cocktail before dinner in the parlor to the sound of live piano music. The food lives up to the atmosphere, with a surprise chef’s tasting menu that I still dream about.

shopping in Megeve, France

4. Chalet du Mont D’Arbois

Travelers looking to embrace the snowy season should consider a trip to Megeve, France. Not only will you have the opportunity to hit the slopes, but this Relais & Chateaux property is home to Le 1920, a restaurant with classic French service. Add a little romance into a snow getaway by dining at Le 1920 while snow falls just beyond the French doors. This should go without saying, but don’t leave without a serious sample of the cheese plate.

Malta

5. Xara Palace

For warm weather instead of snowy slopes, head to the island of Malta, just off the coast of Sicily. Here high above the island in a medieval walled city is Xara Palace. Exploring the quiet streets of Mdina and stumbling upon the sandstone building that houses Xara Palace is one the most distinct moments of my time spent in Malta. Take a seat in the dining room before sunset and watch the entire island of Malta change colors right before your eyes.

This property has all the characteristics of what makes the Relais and Chateaux collection one that I trust: history, a true sense of place, and an experience that can’t be mimicked elsewhere.

Readers, where are you going for the holidays this year?

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Category

Country Escapes, Cuisine as Cultural Experience, Culinary Adventures, Hotels, Luxury Travel, Right at Home: Travel within the US, The Whole Shebang: International Travel, What Strikes Your Fancy Today?

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