Travel is at last on the agenda: this trio of sublime and indulgent hotels sprang up while we were away
by Hamish McDougall
Cheval Blanc Paris
Where else to begin, but with Paris. And moreover, the Cheval Blanc Paris – the latest incarnation of the ultra-luxury hospitality brand. Taking up a pre-eminent riverside location overlooking the Pont Neuf, 16 years in the making, and set in the hometown of parent company LVMH’s global HQ, Cheval Blanc Paris rises to the occasion with an inimitable mix of warmth, poise and deep luxury.
The art deco building has been brilliantly restored by architect Peter Marino to afford 72 rooms and suites that take in magnificent views of the Seine, the historic Île de la Cité and the Left Bank. Inside, the enveloping beige tones are endlessly inviting and set off against timber, marble and the occasional flash of metallic accents.
Beyond the rooms, if you can bear to leave them, the line-up of dining options promises a destination in its own right. Plénitude, by three-Michelin starred chef Arnaud Donckele, headlines the list, which also includes a brasserie, an Italian eatery, and Limbar – which appears to be part patisserie, part cocktail den.
And when all that gourmandising and elegant repose takes its inevitable toll, there is the Dior Spa. Six divine-looking suites promise to leave guests “visibly enhanced, and deeply content.” The wellness offering is completed by a salon, pool, and a trio of hammam, sauna and snow shower. “Besides the origin of the materials, a key part of sustainability is being made to last – longevity both in terms of quality as well as design.”
Should one inexplicably need a change of pace, there is the Seine on your doorstep, along with the neighbouring Samaritaine department store – a grand old Art Nouveau dame lovingly restored by LVMH. The now decidedly upmarket mall is home to a clutch of the conglomerate’s brands, as well as additional shopping and dining options and a quintessential Parisian atrium.
Villa Igiea, Palermo
Beloved for its statement design and individualised approach to luxury hospitality, Rocco Forte’s boutique portfolio of only 15 hotels took on the historic Villa Igiea in Palermo this June. And the travel lane to Italy couldn’t come soon enough.
The sublime cliffside location by the Tyrrhenian Sea is made even more so by a signature scattering of ruins. The palazzo itself dates back to the late 19th Century and for decades has been a favoured retreat for royalty of both the European and Hollywood varieties.
The Art Nouveau interiors have been restored to glory by design director (and Sir Rocco’s sister) Olga Polizzi. The grand rooms and suites carry the brand’s masculine aesthetic, updated here with Sicilian touches and local antiques, which nevertheless struggles to draw attention from the glittering sea views.
The headline Florio Restaurant takes up residence in the palazzo’s storied banquet hall, while the sandstone vaults have been transformed into a cocktail bar, and a gorgeous poolside pavilion makes for a bar-restaurant with those endlessly alluring views.
Beyond the sublime grounds of Villa Igiea, Palermo is of course home to other historic and richly decorated palazzos, the old town’s fountains, churches and Duomo, as well as markets and piazzas. Day trips encompass medieval villages, 12th-Century towns, and the ancient Greek temple and amphitheatre of Segesta.
A glancing swoon over Boulevard Magazine’s launch issue cover of reveals our love of interior design firm Yabu Pushelberg. Its enviable creations exude a poised warmth paired, on occasion, with a whimsical touch that lends each project a flavour of its own.
So it was a joy to find the firm at the heart and soul of The Londoner’s re-imagining of a corner block on the iconic Leicester Square. This ‘super boutique’ hotel launched in September with the ambition to bring personalised service and intimate spaces to its repertoire of 350 rooms.
The design does a lot of the heavy lifting in this regard, with the suites in particular presenting myriad individualised touches – cocktail corners, a backgammon nook or private marble bar. They’re complemented by designer furniture and offbeat art pieces, along with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Leicester Square.
The hotel boasts one of the largest habitable underground spaces, extending 30m below street level with a warren of bars, spas and lounges. Most enchanting is The Residence – a series of three rooms reserved only for guests, which include The Drawing Room, The Y Bar and Whisky Room. A roving Residence Cart offers complementary morsels from baked treats in the morning through to anitipasti in the evenings.
Additional amenities include a gin-forward tavern and French Mediterranean restaurant Whitcomb’s, which spills onto a Leicester Square-side terrace. Another entire underground floor is dedicated to The Retreat, which hosts a pool, gym, private trainer, spa, salon, nail bar, barber, and super-food-cafe. In case you need to recover from all those gins, escargots and rare whiskies.
First published in November 2021.
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