Right in Florence: The Savoy

June 10, 2012 in ITALY | Comments (0)

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Savoy pavement nightcap

Ten out of Ten for location on Piazza della Repubblica a short walk from the main attractions of the Renaissance city.  A soothing Roccoforte hotel with classic Tuscan restaurant  opening out onto the square, where you can dine al fresco in summer, watching people flow by.  Not to forget the hotel’s pleasant service and a concierge who can book you restaurants and find you tickets for Michelangelos’  David or the Uffizi, thus avoiding impossible queues.

Food prices did not seem over the top compared with other delightfully placed restaurants – but the prices of individual items at breakfast could seem irksome. The continental buffet breakfast does not include your eggs but is adequate for Nordic peoples with delicious cured meats and hunks of Italian cheeses. Not to mention the pleasant feel of eating al fresco (under sunshades), encircled by the privacy of the Savoy’s rosemary bushes, or in the restaurant opening out onto the pavement through glass doors.

Here you watch Florence come alive with locals heading for work or tourists arriving or departing. Fortunately this Piazza is not the scene of frenetic over-activity. No special features just here bring busloads to stand in formation around the tour leader with flag upheld. Yet you are among fashion shops and just a short walk from the Duomo, Uffizi and Ponto Vecchia. Plus if you have been shopping and need a new suitcase you are in the world of classy items of leather luggage. And if you have misjudged the weather (like we did) and have been meditating upon an Italian leather coat, there are 15 outlets just from one leather coat factory in Florence – and many more. Actually high quality at relatively low prices.

Rooms at the Savoy feel tastefully and demurely luxurious – though small as five star rooms go. However, if you have views of the Piazza out front or the Duomo out back they feel much larger. Our Executive room (a mere 27 sqm) gained a sparkle and sense of space from the fifth floor view of the sky and the square.  Rooms are contemporary with a Tuscan feel emanating probably from the bedspreads which bring in a softer country touch. The small bathroom was richly adorned with marble and mosaics, with toilet and bidet squeezed in – and shower over the bath. Roccoforte amenities add luxury touch.

Big plus for us at the Savoy was that an ironing board was quickly delivered by friendly Francois the porter – in contrast with no do-it-yourself ironing opportunities being available at the Four Seasons where the cost for pressing was equivalent to buying a new dress at H&M or Zara (which are actually just a few steps from the Savoy along with designer outlets).

With such hot real estate on Repubblica one can understand that room size is not the main allure at the Savoy. Lead in size Classic feels small (25 sqm)  but as already noted Executive feels adequate (28 sqm), uplifted by higher position and better view. Deluxe definitely is more spacious at 32 sqm and studio at 38 sqm.  In addition to 88 rooms there are 14 suites.

Their equivalent of Presidential (Suite Repubblica) is 70 sqm and can be interconnected with a deluxe  room for more space. Highest suite with best view is Suite Brunelleschi (50sqm) including steam room (no balcony) – this is also the newest suite.

As to accommodating children, they have many connecting rooms, and deluxe rooms and suites take an extra bed for a child. Among child-friendly features hotel boasts special crockery designs for kids and special food including pizzas (one called Pinnochio). Gifts are adapted to various age groups, starting at a teddy on the pillow for the little ones; learning guide to Florence for older children in English and other main languages; DVDs for kids.

Note: the restaurant L’Incontro is under a 2 Michelin starred Chef Fulvio Pierangelini. Did not try it except for breakfast –  the concierge was on the ball for dining arrangements and booked us close by in a former cloister, where we had our favourite Aubergine Parmigiano for very affordable price.

Nice feature is the free gym on the top floor with a view of the Duomo.


Villa Mangiacane: vines & roses

June 7, 2012 in ITALY | Comments (16)

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Entrancing Tuscan views from Villa Mangiacane

For lovers of the Tuscan countryside – a palazzo housing a country hotel  gloriously placed among its own vineyards and olive groves in the Chianti area. Rustic in feel, eclectic in style and opulent in decorative details Villa Mangiacane is an intimate hotel. And historic.  It was built for a Cardinal in the Machiavelli family and another Machiavelli, Nicolo,  wrote the Prince in a stone house on the opposite ridge.

His name  lives on in a restaurant on that ridge called Albergaccio Di Nicolò Machiavelli,  easily reached by a walk through the vineyards. And  the spirit of his times lives on in the original villa with its frescoes restored  and the rooms exquisitely furnished – a long labour of love by a South African who bought the then rundown villa as his own palace. Later turned into a hotel.

While the  suites and lounges in this building have kept a more Italian style, a newer wing by a South African architect is more eclectic in details, with African art and trendy modern touches.  

Africa runs out too into the Tuscan gardens – among the lawns, pools and roses, there are dozens of sculptures from Zimbabwe.  It can seem a little uncanny as if the owner’s other existence is ever present in his palace in Italy.

Signs of his personal life and tastes  – photo albums and books lie casually between frescoed walls, on the comfortably furnished verandahs of the original villa, and in the cosy lounges, one the scene of complimentary afternoon tea. And his imagination is also evident in the flamboyant Royal suite with its influences that seemed to be Thai, African and Moroccan along with perhaps some basic Italian.

Though not quite what you expect, Villa Mangiacane is a great place to chill. Just to linger. A sparkling swimming pool lies amid open lawns behind the main building – a pool bar opens later in the summer, and  a second pool lies in shadier position by the Machiavelli villa, adorned by sculptures invading from the African garden. The signature sculptures from long ago stand on the gateposts – two stone dogs – to illustrate the name Mangiacane (eat dog), trying to rise imposingly above lush growth.

Roses, lemon trees, herbs and of course encircling vineyards create a heart warming Tuscan ambience of colour and fragrance. Come good weather, which we did not have, you can dine in the garden. Actually we dined off property every night, generously provided with a free shuttle and booked by reception.

This is a boutique hotel with only 27 rooms, and you get very personal treatment by the GM Juan and his multinational staff, though I did not meet a single Italian among them.

Your life is their life it seems. Where will you eat tonight? What will you do tomorrow? Far from trying  to trap you at the hotel to spend money in their own gourmet restaurant, they are keen for you to have a really rich Tuscan experience. Whether hiring a car for you for the day to get to the architectural gem of Siena, or arranging a Chianti wine tour just for you (quite costly),  or booking you at the Accademia Gallery to see Michelangelo’s  David and on the complimentary shuttle to Florence. Or to nearby San Casciano.

The little town of San Casciano is a gem only 5km distant with narrow streets lined with small shops, eateries and fragrant rose bushes. And we were encouraged to try all the restaurants and trattorias there – they booked our tables and gave us free lifts back and forth to we could have that experience. Not just us – but many other guests took advantage of this opportunity.  I have never known such generosity in a hotel.

San Casciano turned out to be a great place to eat local food at very reasonable prices  – our favourites were Cinque de Vino and  Cantinetta del Nunno.  I would go back anytime.

Accommodation

In the newer building (also housing reception and dining room) there are a row of Superior rooms with private gardens, some with plunge pools. The category below that is the Classic rooms – not recommended to top luxury customers. Rising up into a tower was our room – a so called Junior suite. It did not feel at all Junior. Downstairs a lounge with easy chairs, sofa  and attractive items of furniture (no TV – that is upstairs). The sitting room opens into a huge bathroom with a big round bath and adjoining shower with opens sides, two basins and dressing tables, and more private toilet and bidet. Upstairs is a cosy bedroom with massive bed – very dreamily comfortable – luxury linen and pefect pillows. We loved our room, but in the unseasonable cold weather it took a while to warm up on entry. And when the rain turned into gentle sun we did envy the private garden next door where people were relaxing on sunbeds while their kids played in the plunge pool. Their plunge pool, looking a bit opaque when we arrived, was cleaned up and sparkled.

We also saw a Deluxe room, with generous bathroom but rather small bedroom. And another junior suite, this time with the bathroom upstairs.  Others we saw in the Machiavelli villa were the Royal Suite and a Terrace suite. Lounge and romantic bedroom. There is one two-bedroom suite on the upper terrace.

Weddings & cooking courses

The wine cellar is rented out for weddings along with the accommodation above it – the Royal suite. Their prices are very competitive with Florence. And like so many Tuscan country hotels, they offer Tuscan cooking courses in a dedicated kitchen. You dine what you cook at the adjoining table.

How to get to Villa Mangiacane

25 minutes by car from Florence International Airport. There is a free shuttle from Porto Roma – a circle just outside the Florence city walls. From the city centre a taxi ride to Porto Roma cost 6 euros.

In a nutshell

A place for a great Tuscan holiday with plenty of help to dine around taste wines and discover the charms of Tuscany. The mood is laid back, personal and friendly with every effort made to help you – but little misses do happen, and effectiveness is not always evident. Like the complementary afternoon tea. The girl at reception was not sure if it was at 3pm or 5pm. She then assured as 3pm – but it turned out to be around 330 pm that day. One of the staff ran back and forth carrying the tea things over the sculpture park from the kitchen to the Machieavelli villa till all was in place in the attractive sitting room. And then we had delicious freshly baked cake and tea with a choice of bags…we were the only two there among the albums and frescoes.


Breakfast in Tuscany

June 3, 2012 in ITALY | Comments (1)

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Four Seasons park view

Notes written 20 to 26 May during breakfast at three hotels in Florence and in the surrounding Tuscan hills. I enjoy the sense of place arising after a morning cappuccino…especially in Italy.

Monday Four Seasons Firenze

Strains of violins, with Rococo nostalgia and flourish. In tune with the décor of the Four Seasons dining room, elaborately lavish and ornate, but in taste. Perfectly in style.  I try to drink it in. It is an experience to be here – perfect lifestyle.

I ask for vanilla tea. A polite pause. He returns. We have no vanilla tea…pause. But we have… my mind runs to Ceylon tea in a yellow bag. Wrong. “We have real vanilla beans in hot water”. I remembered my usual morning tea with Oatley cream but felt that too much so asked instead for hot milk. So I now have a delicate jug of hot milk and await the real vanilla tea. It comes in a silver pot, while music ripples and triples. But I realize it is divine vanilla water without tea.  I finally delicato ask for tea to add to my vanilla. It finally comes  but my glasses are off so I allow him to gently ruin my vanilla with Earl Grey. The mystery tea (mystery why people think it is superior).

So that was a failure despite the best intentions. My morning caffeine is still required.

Charming waiter with a melodious Italian voice asks: Was your tea right now?

Oh, I said, not wanting to tell him I don’t like Earl Grey – he has been so keen to please. So instead I say: Now is the time for my coffee.

Americano?

Latte please…café latte. Now that was fine.

My omelette was also a Four Seasons experience in ultimate service. I asked Could I have an omelet with cheese and tomato … no meat. My charming waiter said: I have better – with mozzarella and herbs and tomato.

Delicious. And now I cannot eat more. I do not even need the delights of the buffet, among which is date cake tasted yesterday as subtly sweet as you could wish, like a mere whisper of temptation.

I am waiting for A. She is not ready yet.

The breakfast room opens into the private park. And so do the best rooms look that way into the greenery. Our room doesn’t – it looks into narrow lane Borgo Pinti. Where the main entrance is.

It has rained like a drain so further visits to town seem horrendous. Luckily Four Seasons is an art study and a romance kick all in itself.

And by the way – I have found out – they do keep a small stock of almond milk. Now why didn’t I think of that for my tea or my cappuccino?

 

Wednesday Villa Mangiacane

 A quiet moment with the tinkling of piano music, soft and fluid. My perfect cappuccino. The shabby chic chairs with purposeful chips in the gray paint have charm. A little Shetland pony stands outside the window, where the view stretches out over Tuscan countryside. Under the white grey sky a soft fertile green with patches of woodland, vineyards and olive groves.

The main feel here at Villa Mangiacane after two nights is contentment and ease despite the rain. It’s the highly personal service; though laced with unexpected interludes and little eccentricities, you feel friendliness overall.

I had no idea when booking the car that the hotel was so casual and generous with shuttles – i.e. lifts to town (Florence) or “the village” – the pretty little provincial town of San Casciano (Cashana) 5km away. Not it turned out according to timetable, but on demand – if they can fit you in.

Apart from great local dining and coffee bars al fresco , we found two shops for sunglasses (Dior, Gucci, Dolce cabana etc) cheaper in this village than in Florence, and a designer “outlet” from Milan in the cute narrow shopping streets lined with roses.  And four shoe shops. So we lost desire for our car that was to be an escape from what we imagined would be a snobbish place – an old palace built by Machiavelli – “nobleman’s home”.

In fact Machiavelli never lived here. He wrote The Prince in one of the houses on the ridge facing his palace. He oversaw the designs and his plans are now in the Uffizi. He died before he could move in.

His architect was also the designer of the Duomo in Florence, we were told. So at some stage the direction of the villa was changed to give a view of the Duomo – now golf ball size on the horizon. They obtain permission every few years to cut a V shape in their own woodlands. Next cut is next year 2013, said Juan, the GM.

The hotel is richly attired in eclectic fashion, with haunts of history and fancy – all embraced by vines and Tuscan greenery – somehow gently unpredictable, warm and exuberant, Italian style. But actually no longer owned by an Italian. A South African has bought it as a home from home and costs of maintenance made sense of turning it into a hotel.

Thursday Villa Mangiacane

 Cappuccino in Italy. Where else can it taste so good? Cake today for breakfast instead of croissants. The same cake as at complimentary afternoon tea. Delivered bit by bit on a tray by a girl who crosses the park from the kitchen to the comfortable lounge in the original villa Machiavelli with its Baroque frescoes and details.

Last night we crossed through the vineyards (500 metres)  to restaurant Albergaccio Di Nicolò Machiavelli in the little hamlet on the ridge, Sant’andrea. We were told it is better than the restaurants we experienced earlier in San Casciano:  Cantinetta del Nunno and Cinque di Vino. However  I preferred the San Casciano eateries. The pasta at Machiavelli was cold in areas and warm in others, as if reconstituted from  pre-prepared ingredients of different vintage. Cheese sauce does need heat to taste good. We sent it back and finally it did taste right. But not before I had remembered our experiences in Provence. Roadside restaurants with tourists dining rather than locals, ALBEIT picturesque and Provencal, did not perform well in culinary terms. In Machieavelli we saw just tourists from our own hotel.  The simple Nunno with its modest prices was full of locals (and some tourists also booked there by our hotel).

Carmen is playing, as the mist clears and sunshine floods the grapevines, with a shimmering haze over distant trees. Life is good. Second cappuccino even better: round, foamy, rich.

We are entitled to omelette with our buffet breakfast  – which otherwise costs 20 euros. Nice omelette. The buffet is not huge, but it has quality, strawberries and kiwis, luckily some plain yoghurt among all the fruity ones in plastic tubs, some hams and cheese for those who like to eat that on their bread…adequate. It is the view and the ambience, not to forget the cappuccino that makes it delightful.

Friday the Savoy Florence

View of Piazza della Repubblica through glass doors. Quiet now – last night brimming over with life. Icecream festival, merry go round, yellow benches under canvas. But the icecreams dripped in the heat after a 28 deg C day and we dumped them in the trash. Then made for the inviting street tables of the Savoy with the privacy of a ring of Rosemary bushes. Coffee 6 euro. Definitely worth it for the sensation of living out Florence lifestyle in the balmy evening (at last), with the pulse of a live band floating over from another pavement cafe in the Piazza.

This lively square is a haven of peace in comparison with the Piazza adjoining and surrounding Duomo–number one item to tick off the ‘must see’ list.  Other must sees close by are the somewhat tarnished glamour of Ponte Vecchio, and the huge weight of Renaissance and medieval heritage that is the Uffizi. Then  past the Duomo and the long queues you reach Galleria dell’accademia and the uplifted wonder of the original David,  surrounded by worshippers and duty visitors with itching hands (not allowed to take snapshots) – though they make up for it next to the gigantic burlesquely coloured David copy in the Accademia courtyard. Miles of facebook smiles.

But back to the Savoy. You get the must sees close by and the must be’s (moments of being, like sitting at the Savoy tables staring out). Here and now.

Ten out of ten for location said the Australian woman at the next table…also staring out…

Her name is Goldie.

Been cruising and staying at Leading Hotels (she is a member). She was disappointed they hadn’t upgraded her at the Savoy from her Classic room, when she had been upgraded everywhere else. Her room was too low down she felt. Our executive room on the 5th floor (same level as the gym) was small but uplifted by sky and the view of the whole square. My confidante Goldie was rather upset over having to pay extra for her eggs when she had buffet breakfast included. But the small buffet was excellent quality – most Scandinavians would not need more than the espresso or cafe latte (included), Parma ham, salami, smoked salmon and big choice of cheeses – not sliced neatly with your obligatory cheese slicer, but put out in hunks of the best. Fresh breads of course. And fruit salad of tropical fruit chopped small.

Now I love Italy, A. said, adding: I remember annoying men in Rome but here they are normal. Indeed, they look appreciatively, but do not goggle or coo, and certainly bottom pinching days are over even for gorgeous girls. Or is it just the North? The North was always held up as an example of Italian refinement.

But back to the Savoy. Yes 10 out of 10 for location and a soothing Roccoforte hotel with Michelin star restaurant, al fresco dining, pleasant service. Food prices not over the top for your Michelin starred dinner. Plus the concierge is on the ball to help with dining Tuscan fare out on the town.

PS

I used to think that plastic Davids in all the shop windows cheapened the David – just imagine how many Davids and other treasures are featured in Facebook merely because someone is smiling in front of them. Or am I a hopeless snob…who has never forgiven facebook for changing the face of chats to be so surface oriented, compared with the deep world of the imagination called up by the first chat sites when you used communications programmes rather than www platforms.


CRETE – NEW LUXURY & PAST

June 15, 2011 in GREECE | Comments (0)

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PLAKA

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Plaka restaurants - pretty waterfront

Past Knossos and the Minoan Palaces of the past – one hour beyond Heraklion – you come to what is marketed as the St Tropez of Crete.

This luxury mile  or two is centred on Elounda – once a poor fishing village on the site where an ancient city sank into the sea. Here luxury hotels have upped the ante on luxury in Greece ever since the 1980s. Here you have Minoan Royalty suites and Palace suites and Royal villas to attract old style Royalty and pop queens and kings. Here you have private pools galore…and Lady Gaga herself might see the horizon of her pool run into the sea and sky.

So (nudge nudge) what is it like? Times have been hard for Greece and prices have been forced to drop a little with 10-30% early booking discounts and other ploys in this once uncompromisingly expensive area. But luxury lingers on, albeit with free half board and buffets that keep guests in the hotels – so there is less of the dining out among waterfront tavernas type of thing.

We enjoyed a week staying at three hotels in and near Elounda and Agios Nikolaos (Elounda Mare, Blue Palace and Daios Cove). No time to get back to Knossos, but we did linger in Plaka, the small fishing village facing Spinalonga island (“The Island”). Invited to enjoy raki, guitars and grilled vegetables. And we did enjoy the ambience of Agios Nikolaos with its long waterfront and authentic Greek feel – modern Greek with wifi and sofas by the sea. It was in Agios Nikolaos that we found what we had been looking for.

We were seeking vegetarian moussaka. First we tried Elounda.  We shopped till we dropped from hunger – instead finding 6 euro sunglasses with distinctly borrowed design  – thanks so much …

The unusual moussaka was a long time finding. “Moussaka is a meat dish,” they would say patiently. But we had eaten it before on Crete several times. This time we almost got eaten ourselves as we searched, or so it felt, by the men lurking in front of restaurants with the job of catching clientele from passers-by. Used a guilt trip style to get you in…(you dont trust me – you dont think I got good vegetarian food?) whereupon I was presented with halloumi from lunchtime totally drenched – I mean inky with balsamic vinegar – surrounded by chips that seem to froth from old age. But later we found a really nice couple of restaurants via our hotels. Diaos Cove had even prepared for our visit by ordering vegetarian moussaka for us from the chef .  And returning to Pacifae in Agios Nikolaos  – the very restaurant where we ate the world’s best veggie moussaka at the full moon 6 years ago – we managed to order an equally lucious dish for the next night.   Actually Crete has a long tradition of mainly  vegetable diet with a little fish – meat was a rare treat and only tourism has made it a necessity, or so we were told.

Meanwhile behind Elounda and the “riviera” the mountains brooded with rich colours and mystery.  Couldn’t resist driving up into mountains behind the tourist crush, where you need a lot of cold nerve not to mind the drops and the cars that head át you rather than put their wheels too close. I still remembered the black arm bands.

My first visit to Crete was a long time ago. We caught local buses – and lived on a pound a day. It was rich experience though a little hazardous, especially the buses that did some kind of slalom down mountain slopes. In those days many men were wearing black arm bands. If you asked them what they were for, it was a relative that died in a traffic accident.

Now we had an Avis hire car to roam in. Both at the well advertised traditional village of Kritsi (where I so wished I wanted to buy a beautiful lace tablecloth to support the women) and behind touristy Elounda we saw signs that the passed live on still. Very old ladies were herding goats along the mountain roads. In 20 years they will all be gone…

That is the Greece I most remember.


ROOMS TO FOOD – NO PIZZA

May 30, 2011 in GREECE | Comments (1)

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Wandering along Elounda Mare's private waterfront

Above – a small gallery of images of Elounda Mare. This hotel presents one of the early examples of luxury on Crete. And one of the best. Its hard to beat your own pool when it gazes over that view. Not to mention marble galore, jacuzzi, rain showers…and plenty of loving detail. It’s old established luxury in wholesome style. This is your hideaway – if you can find it. Indeed hidden in a maze of stone pathways.

The rooms in the main building were nice. On the top floor the suite had amazing view, looking over the intricate puzzle of the flat bungalow rooftops and beyond over the sea.  Rooms were decorated much like the bungalow rooms. But they are just not the same thing. If you have the money dont consider anything but a bungalow at Elounda Mare…

The images also give a glimpse of what we ate under the ancient carob tree. No pizza…

More info about Elounda Mare in my earlier posts.

Images (c) Aleah / Binah Creative Arts, except for the swimming and walking snapshots


MORE OF THAT MAGIC PLACE

May 29, 2011 in GREECE | Comments (1)

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Welcome to our superior bungalow no. 2

Elounda Mare seen through the delicate eye of a lens .

The gallery above takes us into the delightful superior bungalow no 2, with heated pool and view of the sea. We explore among natural stone walls and maze of stone paths in gardens full of flowers and other surprises. Find a private beach within the walls of Elounda Mare overlooked by its Yacht Club restaurant. Then comes night and moonlight on our terrace. Breakfast…a la carte and buffet picturequely placed, all with style and quality.

– pix by Aleah / Binah Creative Arts


TROPICAL HIDEAWAY – FOUR SEASONS AT ANAHITA

March 7, 2011 in MAURITIUS | Comments (1)

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Four Seasons from the bridge linking island and resort

If the rainbow people are the ultimate wealth of Mauritius, Four Seasons has tapped its gold. This resort is an island unto itself of calm and happy faces, and friendly intuitive service. Everywhere you feel pampered in the most warm and delicate way. This is due to careful policies to keep staff happy, I was told by everyone I asked for the secret formula.

The site chosen for Four Seasons Mauritius at Anahita made many on the island raise eyebrows when construction began as there was no natural beach. Human ingenuity has created sandy beaches round a private island, paved banks, running pools and a deliciously tropical feel. Another twitch of the eyebrow was directed at the architecture as it seemed unMauritian, with its dark gleaming marble in open corridors. Of course it is very Four Seasons with its striving for perfection and a gentle corporate touch. But when you stay there you also feel it is very Mauritian. Because of the staff, the food, and the exquisite villas you are brought closer to the island’s “earth”.

There are a total of 133 villas and residences (latter with one or two bedrooms). Most of the villas are along the beaches of the island or facing the lagoon mangroves. A big team of golf buggies wends along the curving roads between villas.

Even the garden villas are hard to leave. Garden category here doesn’t mean absence of something better, it means colourful tropical garden and pristine private plunge pool with romantic double sunbed. It means a huge sofa on the patio where you can gaze at a small lake and a hill covered with banana palms. It means a table for dining outside, and an outdoor warming oven. Inside you are enfolded in warm but earthy colour, and all the usual comforts. Dressing room is ample. The inside shower faces the back garden and outdoor shower.

On my first morning I dashed out happily to look at the new day rising over the pool. A wind smashed the door closed behind me. I had no choice but to walk barefoot to the main building through a shower of summer rain, where the first person I found was the usher at breakfast. She was amused in a mild sweet way. Fortunately I was in my Four Seasons dressing gown and a new key was found for me quickly.

So now I returned to breakfast. Even though it was raining, it was a spiritual experience thanks to the tones of Vivaldi, the warm service, open windows and a perfect choice of things to eat.  Happiness included fresh pastries from a separate glass room, tropical fruit, café latte, and a table in a nook that jutted out into an ornamental pool. The warm rain drummed on the pool, fish could be seen swimming past, yellow coconuts ripened on an islet. And then of course the sun came.

There are four restaurants altogether, one at the golf course, the French restaurant (where I ate breakfast), a 2nd Asian restaurant poolside and beachside, and Aquapazza, Italian restaurant over the canal, reached by bridge. Ate at the pool & beach restaurant in the balmy evening with Melinda from the sales department. All perfect. Then alone at Aquapazza, a stylish place with bar looking over the channel.

The spa is also on the island, with treatment rooms overwater with views of mangroves. The waiting area is a platform with water views. Several bridges cross the water including a mini Bridge of Sighs, with upmarket shops. The golf course designed by Ernie Els, Four Seasons Golf Club at Anahita, is an 18-hole, par-72 championship course with large fairways.

So who will love Four Seasons at Anahita?

Definitely a resort of interest to golfers and families, AND those wanting delicious privacy, tropical charm and Four Seasons Mauritian-style food and service.

HOW TO GET TO FOUR SEASONS MAURITIUS AT ANAHITA

40 minutes by car, 15 minutes by helicopter.


GOT-IT-ALL THE RESIDENCE

March 3, 2011 in MAURITIUS | Comments (2)

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Beach forever and turquoise lagoon

Distinctive and elegant, built along a dazzling white beach and turquoise lagoon, The Residence lingers long in the memory. Most of all for the purity of colour and the friendliness of the people who work there.

The design and architecture hark back to plantation houses from 100 years ago, but with plenty of contemporary liberty. In the Residence, what might once have been dark and ponderous in the old sugar plantation days is instead rather light and white. White walls, white drapes round the bed in the Colonial Oceanfront suite, white sofas.

Small attractive items of furniture and art. As for contemporary – note the laptop in the image of Mary Joyce (click thru’ image gallery above).

Note: not all rooms have drapes. Most are without including the attractive ocean front room (GALLERY).

Rooms are built in crescents along the beach, all with sea view at the hoop of the crescent, garden view along the sides, and ocean front at the ends with lovely views the radiant lagoon. There are 163 rooms and suites in all.

The resort has three restaurants. Exception to the white and bright story is the main restaurant which has darker timbers in its plantation nostalgia. Up the beach is the elegant Plantation Restaurant, and there is another beach restaurant.

First calling with the MK fam group on 3 Feb, short of time, we rushed though the rooms. But I returned on my own private fam on 7 February and was shown round again by Mary Joyce at more leisurely pace.

I also had a fabulous lunch with the very special Ivan, who was about to leave for a new job.

The menu:

Lunch in honour of Mrs Gillian 

Amuse Bouche

Heart of palm salad with lemongrass

Flavoured shrimp skewer

Panfried ruby snapper fish fillet

Crunchy vegetables & saffron sauce

Banana milkshake with cocoa sherbet

It didn’t just taste good, it looked too good to eat. Like an art work. So I had to photograph it to make it last.

Should add a codicil. The Residence is remembered not only for the friendly people, long white beach, and dazzling pure colours, but for the food…

HOW TO GET TO THE RESIDENCE

1 hour by car from Mauritius International Airport, 15 minutes by helicopter


SERENE CHIC – LE PRINCE MAURICE

March 2, 2011 in MAURITIUS | Comments (2)

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Mauritian style around the pool

Treasured Mauritian chic.

On a peninsula jutting into a big lagoon, Constance Le Prince Maurice is surrounded by white sand beaches lined with palms. Its heart is an attractive lobby with view over serene pool and pale turquoise lagoon, surrounded by the quaint and shaggy roofs of restaurants and bars. Quality, style and romance are the keywords at Le Prince Maurice, with carefully chosen furnishings, antiques and objet d’art.

This intimate resort is remarkably peaceful. No buzz, no loud music. No sense of crowds. My only argument would be the starlings and sparrows that make such a lot of noise at breakfast time.

The beaches sweep in curves and round points. Very well attended with sunbeds, fresh towels and water – and romantically lined with palms. The lagoon is shallow but further out there is a floating platform from which swimming is easier. After the heavy rains the water was less blue than usual the towel attendant explained. But further out on the other side near the reef there was a channel of brilliant turquoise. In the balmy air of evening it was a very quiet and romantic place.

The resort is actually quite small – only  89 suites of which most are spacious  junior suites (70 sqm) each graced with patio featuring a sofa, table and chairs. Some of the junior suites have a fantastic position, facing the fish reserve or on poles in the lagoon –  and 4 of them are on a private beach.I had the good fortune to have one of those. Other junior suites are set back from the beach a little with nice sea views (see snap of suites hiding behind palms, taken from the beach), but a few appeared not to have such advantages. The beachfront and sea-view junior  suites can only be requested.

Our suite opened onto the grass that lead down to a private beach with our own sunbeds. Image taken in the early morning.

The 12 senior suites or villas are extensive (130 sqm) and have prime beachfront positions and pools (9 of them) or are over water (3, without pools). We saw the Princely suite, comprising  senior suite, and junior suite. This is definitely a place you might place your Royalty. Not that it is so grand – it is just stylish and comfortable. And it has a lobby like a miniature Mauritian resort opening in typical way out to the (private) infinity pool. The beach is only fairly private, with some bushes to divide it somewhat from the continuing public beach. But it is lovely white sand with pale turquoise lagoon, just as it should be in Mauritius.

I visited Le Prince Maurice twice. Once on the MK fam for inspections on 3 Feb. Then again on my own fam for two nights 7-9 February.

Dining was splendid. First night I dined at the main restaurant with front row seats viewing beach and lagoon, very content with magical life.  The next dinner was even more special.

Walking out of the main building onto a path, past suites on stilts over the lagoon, we came to a board walk lit here and there with lanterns. The board walk crosses an island, continues over mangroves and water,  turns the corner through the dark and …. Suddenly there you are at the floating restaurant. A small number of pontoons float there, magically lit…

Here you dine well, with a sense of being far away on an adventure.

Lunch was at Constance Belle Mare Plage on the brilliant white beach and deep turquoise lagoon – only 15-20 minutes by hourly shuttle via the golf course.

On the bus I met a Frenchman who has been to Mauritius 6 times. He is delighted with Prince Maurice. He stays there and takes a shuttle to Belle Mare Plage to play on one of its two golf courses. You can also dine at one of the 7 restaurants at Belle Mare Plage using the shuttle option.

Both resorts have spas of course. And watersports….

HOW TO GET TO LE PRINCE MAURICE

1 hour by car from Mauritius International Airport or 15 minutes by helicopter

Constance Le Prince Maurice

http://binah.nu/orbit/


TOP OF THE LINE – ROYAL PALM

March 1, 2011 in MAURITIUS | Comments (0)

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Pretty beach and perfect turquoise water. Prestige and paradise.

But first the arrival took the breath away. You swing off the road from Grand Bay and there it is. A perfect avenue of palms, leading up to the entrance. Standing there were royal guards in turbans.

Yes, you are royally received. Though a compact property with rooms in a long three storey block facing the beach, Royal Palm feels spacious and serene. As a returning guest said, “it oozes luxury”. Yet, he did not find it snobbish. Even the dress code was not too restrictive he felt.

The lagoon is a glistening pastel turquoise, and the beach is soft pale golden sand, lined with palms and sunbeds. It is beautiful but not very long, with an area devoted to the best in watersports. On the beach were some guards (as the sheltered lagoon has a lot of boat traffic, they need to keep the beach free of waterborne intruders and paparazzi).

Preventing paparazzi was my own thought, because of the celebrities that stay here, politicians and captains of industry. Along with lots of ordinary people who can afford Royal Palm’s special style and impeccable service. Entranced guests come back again and again for their holidays.

Dining is strictly a la carte even on halfboard. In addition to the main restaurant with wide verandah and views, there is the exquisite Natureaty…

 

We saw two rooms – a senior suite and appropriately a royal suite. Most delicious about the royal suite was the pool with its infinity edge, open pavilion and view over the beach (above). The royal suite has two bedrooms and a large lounge. One of the bedrooms has its own hammam!

The senior suite also has a very generous lounge space – so much so that the sofa set seems far away in the corner. Items like a “creatively old” desk and sideboard were interesting and stylish. The bedroom breathes luxury with its lighting, perfect linen and contrast of white and mahogany. Guest toilet in addition to the separate toilet en suite. For families, another suite can become connecting, by closing an outer door to the porch. Neat way to take away the spooky feeling of a connecting door to strangers,

 

Bedroom senior suite

 

Spacious lounge in senior suite

The spa is impressive, built in 2007, with 18 light white treatment rooms, and a lush courtyard with pools. One couple’s treatment room has a hammam attached, and another has a sauna. Nails makeup and hair are all taken care of. There are three fitness rooms with different kinds of machines, all very up to date.

Pools at the spa

Watersports

The greeting at Royal Palm puts you in royally good mood.

HOW TO GET TO ROYAL PALM

1 hour by car from Mauritius International Airport, 20 min by helicopter