Since I work in hotels, people ask for my advice all the time: "Are the bedspreads really clean?" "Can I trust the safe in the closet?" "Do I have to pay those ridiculous fees?" One of the most common questions I hear is "Where should I stay?" That's my favorite inquiry. I've worked at many different properties during the past eight years, and I've stayed at even more during my travels around the world, so I definitely have my opinions. Allow me to share with you some of my favorite hotels around the world. The reasons why they make the list might surprise you!
The most special property on my list will always be The Milestone Hotel and Apartments in Kensington, London. The Milestone is not only where I had my first hotel job, it's also where I met my husband. But sentimentality aside, it's got to be one of the loveliest hotels anywhere. It's a small boutique hotel, and the rooms are individually decorated with exquisite taste. The service is impeccable, with a very high staff-to-guest ratio. And its location is superb; many rooms overlook Kensington Palace, in Hyde Park.
The Milestone is just one gem in the collection owned by Red Carnation Hotels. While I also worked at The Chesterfield Palm Beach, in Florida, my second-favorite Red Carnation property has to be The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa in Cape Town, South Africa. Although this hotel is located slightly outside of town, its stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean in front and of the Twelve Apostles mountain range behind make up for its ever-so-slight remoteness.
The best thing about Red Carnation hotels is the consistency: Stay at any of these properties, and you know you will have a stunningly beautiful room in the perfect location with five-star service. The only drawback? Take a deep breath, sit down — and then look at the prices!
Also in the take-your-breath-away price range are the properties of the Morgans Hotel Group. These are the see-and-be-seen hotels you read about in the tabloids. I particularly like the Mondrian in Los Angeles — people-watching by its pool is a great way to waste a sunny Southern California day. And the Asia de Cuba restaurant there is one of my all-time favorite places to eat — try the duck with bok choy. Also fabulous is the Clift in San Francisco.
Located right off Union Square, the Clift has a super bar, the Redwood Room. This lounge, named for the warm wood paneling said to be carved from a single redwood tree, is ultra-glamorous. But the best part of any stay at a Morgans property is the sleeping! Their beds are the best I've found. Crisp yet soft white sheets, snuggly duvets and marshmallow-fluffy pillows — their beds are a dream!
But it's not all about expensive rooms for me. Two of my favorite stops are good ol' roadside rests. I live in Florida, but my family is in Louisiana. Sometimes we make a road trip of going back for visits, and the Hilton Garden Inn in Daphne, Alabama, is our halfway stop. It's right off the interstate, the rooms are clean, the staff is friendly and helpful, and the hotel serves a great breakfast — everything you want when taking a break from the road. The same holds true for the Holiday Inn Express in Minden, Louisiana. It has to be one of the best-run franchised properties anywhere. I love it when hotels like these two get it right: convenient location, clean facilities and great staff — all at a reasonable price.
Las Vegas is one of my favorite destinations, and I once had the privilege of living in the area. Even when I lived there, I still wanted to stay at a hotel — The Venetian, to be exact. Walk into the lobby, look up, and let the ceiling artwork take your breath away. Take the time, also, to visit the lobby of The Venezia Tower (a separate wing of the hotel); its sumptuous artwork and private gardens and pools will make you think you've stumbled into the palazzo of an Italian noble family. These people know how to make a lobby! The suites at The Venetian are just as beautiful (every room is a suite), though the last time I went, they needed a bit of a touch-up because of normal wear and tear. However, I'm sure that's been taken care of, as the service at this property is outstanding. I have had some small service issues there, but all hotels have service breakdowns from time to time.
What The Venetian does, however, is make it right when they do wrong — and that's a true sign of good service. Also visit the on-site Canyon Ranch Spa. It's one of the best hotel spas I've found. Oh, and don't forget the restaurants, especially Bouchon, Aquaknox and the Grand Lux Cafe. I also catch the art exhibits at the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum, and the shopping is wonderful, and don't forget the casino — get the picture? The Venetian showcases some of the best of what Las Vegas, and for that matter any great resort, should offer: everything in one place, and everything done well.
And finally, more sentimental favorites — the Avenue Plaza Resort and Spa and the Sheraton New Orleans, both in New Orleans. What's so special about these places? Nothing, really, except location, location, location. Yes, folks in New Orleans are known to rent hotel rooms for the sole purpose of having a base camp along the parade routes during Mardi Gras. At the Avenue Plaza, you can catch most parades along the St. Charles route, and the Sheraton is a great spot to watch the Canal Street parades. It's the combination of a prime viewing location with the benefit of a bathroom and a place to rest your head if the partying goes a little overboard that makes these hotels special. I have many fun (and somewhat hazy) memories of Mardi Gras at these two locations.
There you have it: some of my favorite hotels around the world. This list is by no means all-encompassing — there are many more places that I love. But these hotels always stand out in my mind when I think of a great getaway. Email me and let me know what your favorite hotels are, and why — I'd love to write about them in a future column!
Amy Bradley-Hole has worked in the hotel industry for many years in many different positions and at all types of properties -- from small luxury boutique hotels to large resorts, both in the United States and abroad. E-mail her or read more of her articleson Tripso.com!