Entries in ‘Lodging’ Journal

Eco-Friendly Hotels that Make Travelers Happy

Wednesday April 16, 2014 at 11:11 AM | 0 Comments

Even though Earth Day reminds us to think about our environmental footprint each April, some hotels make an earth friendly commitment year round. Here are a sampling of eco-friendly hotels worthy of a shout out. One of my favorite hotels — Boone Tavern, made it on Booking.com’s eco-friendly hotel list.

Historic and eco-friendly Boone Tavern, Berea Kentucky

Historic and eco-friendly Boone Tavern, Berea Kentucky

Boone Tavern in Berea, Kentucky is proof that history can meet modern times. Built in 1909, this beauty that’s also a Historic Hotel of America, is part of Berea College and a showcase for its culinary and hotel management programs. The hotel and tavern’s renovations include: energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, energy star lighting, solar tubes and skylights, heat recovery coils, and low VOC paints and adhesives. Guest rooms and common areas feature handcrafted furniture that represent Kentucky’s craft heritage, as well as, Berea’s fame as the Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky.

Boone Tavern rooms feature hand-crafted furniture

Boone Tavern rooms feature hand-crafted furniture

Along with the environmentally friendly building that earned Boone Tavern its LEED Gold Certification, Boone Tavern’s restaurant is another reason to visit. The restaurant’s traditional American cuisine features locally grown ingredients. Signature dishes like “Chicken Flakes in a Bird’s Nest” and “Spoonbread” are the don’t miss, although I can vouch that anything on the menu is splendid. Still, the spoonbread is what you will talk about years later.

ecofriendly Bardessono-Courtyard

The eco-friendly Bardessono courtyard has a stunning view

If you go, take time to browse in Boone Tavern’s gift shop and the other shops that line Berea’s streets. There’s a reason why this is the folk art capital. The hotel’s shop includes items made by the college’s students. Hand-woven items and hand-crafted furniture are part of the bounty.

One of Nancy’s favorites also made it on the eco-friendly hotel list. Bardessono Hotel and Spa in Yountville, California is a perfect pairing for a trip to Napa Valley and wine tasting. As Nancy discovered during her stay at Bardessono, one of three LEED Platinum-certified hotels in the United States, “it is easy to be green while looking stunningly chic.”

Cavallo Point where almost every room has a stunning view

Cavallo Point where almost every room has a stunning view

Cavallo Point in Sausalito is another California hotel with LEED Certification. The reuse of historic materials and landscaping with native plants are just part of Cavallo Point’s dedication to achieving the Green Seal Environment Standard for U.S. Lodging Properties. The hotel’s energy-efficient appliances that automatically switch to sleep mode when not in use and the programmable thermostats and motion sensors that reduce heating and cooling costs are some reasons why Cavallo Point is an eco-friendly hotel. The property doesn’t use Styrofoam containers and it recycles plastic. Refillable soap dispensers and cloth napkins are other environmentally friendly practices within the hotel.

At Cavallo Point, going green comes with a view. Most of the resort’s guest rooms have views of San Francisco, the bay or the Golden Gate Bridge.

City Flats Hotel, Grand Rapids--a resuse of a landmark jewelry building

City Flats Hotel, Grand Rapids–a resuse of a landmark jewelry building

Michigan is another state with two eco-friendly hotels that deserve applause. City Flats Hotel in Holland was the first hotel in the Midwest to achieve LEED Gold status. Step inside for proof that eco-friendly, luxury and creativity go hand in hand. Each of the hotel guest rooms has its own unique flair. Each hotel room’s green decor includes: cork flooring installed with low-VOC adhesives, naturally hypoallergenic bamboo linens, curtains lined with a black-out fabric to reduce energy needed to heat and cool room, light fixtures with energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs, and countertops made from Cradle to Cradle (C2C) Certified recycled glass and concrete. Also, hotel furnishings are locally made.

The CityFlats Hotel in Grand Rapids is another Michigan hotel with LEED Gold Certification. Its eco-friendly combo includes the unique features of the City Flats Hotel in Holland and is an example of turning a city landmark into a new use. The building was once Fox Jewelers.

Along with booking at any of the hotel’s websites, check out Booking.com.

Post courtesy of Jamie Rhein of Midwest Travel Writers Association.  All photos except Bardessono courtesy of Booking.com. Bardessono photo by Nancy D. Brown.

Review: Secrets the Vine, Cancun, Mexico

Friday April 11, 2014 at 6:06 AM | 15 Comments

champagne, "Secrets The Vine"

Guests receive champagne upon arrival at Secrets The Vine Cancun

Wine tasting in Mexico? Yes, ma’am. While most people associate Tequila, Corona and guacamole with Mexico, I’m going to let you in on a secret – Mexico makes some good wines. Mexico is staking a claim in the vineyards of Baja California. I learned about the wines of Mexico will staying at Secrets the Vine Cancun, an adults-only resort with a wine theme woven throughout the luxury property.
 
 

 
Secrets the Vine – honeymooners to baby boomers

"Secrets the Vine" pool

Fan coral designed by Artist Jan Hendrix blends into the hotel facade at Secrets The Vine Cancun, Mexico.

From jet-setters to baby boomers, Secrets the Vine Cancun caters to a wide range of travelers. I couldn’t help notice the honeymoon and birthday banners draped across the doors of a select few hotel rooms. This 495 room all-suite property appeals not only to special occasion celebrations, it’s also for the art and wine lover.

 
Secrets the Vine wine theme

Secrets the Vine Cancun features contemporary design elements from the fan coral by Artist Jan Hendrix in the hotel’s exterior facade, to murals painted by Marta Ramirez and wine art on display throughout the hotel.

A bottle of Mexico’s tinto vino (red wine) was waiting for me when I checked into my Junior Suite in Cancun. Don’t miss Secrets The Vine Bar. Outside the 4,500 bottle wine cellar is where Master Sommeliers lead daily complimentary wine tastings at 1:00 & 3:00 p.m. If you wait until 5:00 p.m. the price moved from free to $20.

 

"Secrets the Vine Cancun" Vine bar

4,500 bottle Vine Bar at Secrets The Vine Cancun

 

Secrets the Vine Preferred Club status

For a luxury vacation, it’s a good idea to upgrade to Preferred Club status.  It’s not much more expensive and offers a good return on investment including access to Concierge service, daily continental breakfast, cold and hot hors d’oeuvres and private bar in the private lounge level and your own butler.

All rooms are ocean view, offering Caribbean Sea or Nichupte lagoon vistas. Sunsets are best viewed from the Hard Rock Hotel side, while more shade is available on the balcony next to Sandals resort. My Preferred Junior Suite #2618 looked out to the ocean and lagoon and rented for $700 per night during March. Check the website for current hotel rates.

While I’m not a big drinker, I do love the fact that I have access to the mini bar and won’t be charged for a small tin of Pringles chips or small bag of peanut M&M’s. The mini fridge is loaded with beer, juice, soda and water. Of course, your butler will stock it with all your favorite goodies if you ask.

More perks, free phone calls to the United States and Canada when placed from your hotel room. Insider tip – make sure to call to a land line, as calls to mobile phones are charged at higher rates. All rooms offer free WiFi and preferred guests receive two complimentary items ironed, unpacking and packing service and complimentary shoe shine is available.

 

"Secrets the Vine" junior suite

Secrets The Vine Cancun Preferred Junior Suite

 

Secrets Spa by Pevonia

What beach vacation is complete without a trip to the spa? A day pass to Secrets Spa by Pevonia is $75 if you feel tired and jet-lagged from travel. If money is no object, indulge in a wine therapy treatment. Arrive early to your spa appointment and soak in the hydrotheraphy pool after steaming in the sauna. Follow this with a Pinot Noir Escape exfoliation ($105) d’vine wine massage ($175) and d’vine wine facial ($99) Heaven!

"Secrets Spa by Pevonia" spa

Relax at Secrets Spa by Pevonia

Secrets the Vine dining

If beach and pool time trump spa time, there are several pools and hot tubs to keep you happy, as well as seven restaurants at Secrets The Vine. I sampled crab rangoon, spring rolls and shrimp pad Thai at Dragons Oriental Dining, an Asian fusion restaurant. Bluewater Grill is popular with steak lovers (try the shortbread cookie with caramel filling and ice cream for dessert.) Olio features Mediterranean cuisine and is open to all resort guests for lunch, while dinner is reserved for preferred club level guests. For the seafood lovers and those wanting a bite poolside, Sea Salt Grill offers a tasty shrimp cocktail with a view of the ocean.

"Sea Salt Grill" shrimp cocktail

Shrimp cocktail at Sea Salt Grill Secrets The Vine

Check in: 3:00 p.m.

Check out: 12:00 p.m.

Insider tip

While all-inclusive resorts are not necessarily known for fine dining, Secrets the Vine is an exception to the rule. If you find yourself in Cancun in March don’t miss the Wine & Food Festival Cancun – Riviera Maya.

For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter and follow SecretsTheVine on Twitter.
If You Go:

Secrets The Vine Cancun +52 (998) 848-9400

Cancun, Qintana Ro

Mexico 77500

Article written by and photos courtesy of  Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. I was a guest of Secrets the Vine Cancun. All opinions are my own.

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The Liberty Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts

Wednesday April 9, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 0 Comments

The luxurious Liberty Hotel in Boston is the former Charles Street Jail.

The luxurious Liberty Hotel in Boston is the former Charles Street Jail.

This name of this gorgeous hotel that opened in 2007 at the foot of Boston’s posh Beacon Hill neighborhood, is ironic. You see, the Liberty Hotel is the former Charles Street jail. Among the guests that checked into the jail  (against their wills)  were some well-known inmates including James Michael Curley, Malcolm X, Sacco and Vanzetti, suffragists imprisoned for protesting when President Woodrow Wilson visited Boston in 1919, and World War II prisoners of war from the German submarines.

If you’re wondering how a former jail could end up a luxury hotel, the answer is: good bones. The jail was designed by prison reformer Rev. Louis Dwight according to a 1790s humanitarian scheme. Granite walls form of a cross with four wings that from a central octagonal rotunda, 90-ft above a spacious atrium. Thirty huge, arched were added to provide natural light and ventilation.

Much of the jail’s beautiful structure was incorporated into the Liberty Hotel. Today, beneath the atrium are five dining and drinking establishments, CLINK, Alibi, Scampo, the Liberty Bar, and Catwalk. Above, cell blocks have been replaced with 300  luxurious guestrooms. A landscaped courtyard is the former exercise yard and what was once the “drunk tank” is now a bar called Alibi. Irony or no?

The Liberty Hotel made Conde Nast’ Traveler’s 2014 Gold List of the World’s Best Hotels.

The light-filled atrium of Boston's Liberty Hotel.

The light-filled atrium of Boston’s Liberty Hotel.

The Liberty Hotel
Tel. 617.224.4000
215 Charles Street, Boston MA 02114

Photos and post contributed by Lisa Dion of Friscomama.