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Dolder Grand & James Bond

“You’re not getting any younger” My mother tells me. You see, she is concerned that I will not be able to find a suitable mate and die sad and alone with a thousand cats.  So she was relieved to hear that I did get asked out. She proceeded to tell me to let them decide what to do and just agree to it. Smile, laugh at their jokes, all the time.  Fast forward to the date itself and I am half way up a mountain, hanging onto the rope while rock climbing.  Laughing and smiling was not on my mind. I felt just like James Bond.  A bad version of James Bond scared out of his wits.  So once I reached the top, and changed my underwear, I really did feel like a secret spy and wanted to stay somewhere that is very Bond and very fabulous.

Heather at classictravel.com suggested Dolder Grand in Zurich. She showed me the invitation which had the real Sales Managers in a ‘Mr and Mrs Smith” style poster. Very Bond-esque! I was sold.  Dolder Grand sits on top of a mountain with stunning views of the alps with the city below. And grand is too small a word for this place. There is a small train that will whisk you to the center of town.  I chose to drive the convertible down the  winding roads, clear skies and an undercover assignment I had made up in my head.  I was having an amazing holiday.

The famed Dolder Grand was closed for 3 years and has had a major revamp and facelift. Millions have been spent on it and it shows everywhere..  The facade of the historic Main Building was restored and two wings were added to create a towering palace.. The results are 173 luxurious rooms and suites, a spa covering 4o,000 square feet and beyond fabulous dining.

The rooms are so gorgeous that even Bond would be speechless.  Stunning views, modern and stylish, some even have a balcony and whirl pool tubs. The most superior digs come with their own sauna.  
You can relax in the library, or in the outdoor jacuzzi overlooking the Alps and the lake.   Make sure you try the stone beds as they are, surprisingly,  a great way to de stress. Naturally,  nothing tops a massage from one of their skilled pros.   The hotel also has a gym furnished with high tech equipment, quality headphones and bottled water.  If you want to explore the outdoors the Dolder Grand provides the latest state of the art mountain bikes.  No more rock climbing, thank you very much.

Finish your day  at my favorite place, the bar.  To be sure the Martini’s are always shaken and not stirred at the Dolder.  Tuesday through  Saturday there is live music..  Next have dinner at the restaurant where the local Swiss cuisine (one of my favorites) is sublime.  Speaking of food, the Sunday brunch is a must do and has been praised in many reviews.

The staff and management obviously love their jobs.  Service is quick and Swiss efficient.  All done with a smile and a keen sense of style making it all seem effortless.  James Bond would be so happy here that he’d think more than twice before returning to London.  In case you wanted to know, we didn’t get too our second date. Luxurious hotel spy, yes. Side of cliff spy, no.

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Aria Las Vegas

Sadness was all I felt. Waiting up all night for those infomercials to come on, hoping that they would  finally invent something to help me gain muscle without going to the gym. Sadly no. It was inevitable, I will have to join one of those horrible places filled with people much fitter than I in spandex.

I am convinced they do the hard yards behind closed doors and just go to the gym to show off their bodies. “All natural” they say. Mmmhmm. Everyone is magically much more fit and they’re not even sweating.  Never the less, I sign up and go in. I jump on to a treadmill and begin to run. Apparently I was competing with the person next to me as he seemed to speed up as I began. The reason for my sudden burst of fitness is because I was going to Vegas and would definitely be competing there.  Hot weather means pools and massages and fun at night.

And I gotta look hot.

Heather at classictravel.com recommended that I book the Aria Las Vegas where the Virtuoso rate includes a breakfast credit, a food and beverage credit, complimentary spa access  and a guaraneeted 4PM check out.   Located on the famous strip of Vegas, between the Bellagio and Monte Carlo  and connected to the Shops at City Center, some of the newest and most fabulous stores in town.  All rooms are very modern and sleek with buttons to control everything located on an easy to use tablet, and the most important master “goodnight” button to turn everything off when you stagger in after winning the jackpot and need a rest instantly. Floor to ceiling windows offer outstanding views.

In the food department, the Aria has nine fine dining restaurants and seven casual restaurants including the delicious Jean Philippe Patisserie, and a coffee shop for the morning hangovers. Plus there is also the Buffet where food is prepared at various live-action cooking stations. This is Vegas we’re talking, where more is more and less doesn’t exist.  
A Spa and salon are also offered at the Aria which features 62 treatment rooms that offer a full complement of treatments and therapeutic benefits as well as places to get your hair and nails done so you look your best as you paint the town red. Or hot pink with glitter as I did.
But I was more interested in the gym, as I like to pump iron, and I am happy to say it is massive and has all the latest equipment, so no need to drop my routine or motivation. So sweat in the gym and then sweat outside in the heat during the day followed by sweating at the casino tables. Lots of sweating to be done in Vegas. 
So the best way to cool down is in the pool and luckily Aria has three distinctive pools to choose from. Be aware that the Liquid Pool Lounge provides an adults-only outdoor playground which is secluded so if you wanna get sexy and show off the body, go to that pool.

But what is Vegas hotel without a casino? Aria offers 150,000 square feet of gaming . The layout and design have something for everyone, from  the hard hitting gamblers to the those who just want to play the slots.  Naturally for high-end players, exclusive salons offer high-limit slots and table games in private environments.
But a hidden tip, not too mention a bonus, for you is that there is CVS and Walgreens in front of the hotel if you want to stock up on anything last minute, like aspirin as I needed after my first night.
After an hour I was done at the gym.  Just walking around Vegas, no one will be looking at my skinny body anyway. I just keep praying that infomercial will come on.


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Ciragan Palace, fit for a Sultan

There are certain things in life I cannot stand. Missing happy hour, other people’s kids crying on public transport, talking in the movies and watching a happy person in my yoga class. How can I possibly relax when I’m staring at a person who is smiling from ear to ear and clearly has a new holiday tan not to mention pushing that vibe onto me that one can only give off after a holiday. I stretch, and breath and try to ignore. But it’s impossible. I have to know where she has been. I can’t possibly do the Crane without knowing. She just looks amazing. It’s infectious. She’s happy and I’m not. It’s not fair. She’s not even sweating she’s that happy, and here I am standing in so much liquid it looks like I was caught in a storm.  We get told to lay on our backs and I take the chance to whisper to her. She tells me to shoosh but also drops the name of the destination: Istanbul.  I must know more.

After class she speaks to me and says there is but one place to stay.  The Ciragan Palace.  It’s one of the rare palace hotels that was actually occupied by a Sultan back in the day.   Istanbul is full of history and wonder.  The amazing markets and mosques  all add to the mystery and charm that has made it such a “must go” destination. 
 Ciragan Palace is the only hotel that combines luxury and ambiance to create a unique  sense of place.  On arrival you can be chauffeured from the airport to the hotel by a car or on a private boat.  I would go with the private boat.  Naturally.  Up the Bosphorus and when you dock at the Ciragan you’re in Europe looking at Asia.  How cool is that!

She continues to tell me that the Ciragan Palace has the best pool in all of Istanbul and we all know how important that is.  You can just lie there looking at so many boats passing as they travel from the Marmara Sea to the Black Sea.  All the while you’re in their gorgeous gardens, and if you get bored with that you’re  steps from the Ciragan’s amazing spa and hammam.  Then, my dear,  she told  me about how wonderful the food was and especially the sumptuous breakfast she enjoyed after partying half the night at the nearby clubs, which are also on the Bosphorus.

Istanbul and the Ciragan Palace really should be on any luxury traveler’s list of places to visit. And then you too can come back all tanned and happy in my yoga class.  Just so you know, after two weeks she still had the Istanbul/Ciragan Palace  happiness glow.  I’m so going there!

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Luxury hotel in Johannesburg

So there I was watching a Broadway show. No no,  not any Broadway show. A Broadway show based on a Disney movie which in turn was based on real life animals and something about a life with a circle in it. Im not so sure. I was so confused by the artistic costumes and the whole African music vibe thing that was going on, that I felt inspired.

Yes to see a grown man dressed as a giraffe is quite a sight,  not to mention while you can pretty much see animals every day on the subway, there is nothing like the real thing. So at the interval, while eating my ice cream and throwing back my wine like it was water, I wondered what it would be like to see Africa in person.  Quick call to my travel agent and I was on a flight to Johannesburg next AM. My travel agent said he would arrange the Safari while I was in Johannesburg shopping for my Safari outfits. Luckily, her company is a Virtuoso member and they can do miracles.   My leopard print scarf needed something smart under it. I can just see my new Facebook picture, me dressed in fab safari outfit standing by a lion like I’m David Attenborough or something.

She booked me into the Saxon, the only truly luxury hotel in Johanesburg,  and the Virtuoso rate included a transfer. That was a good thing as I was reading up on South Africa while have cocktails on the flight over (16 hours worth of cocktails) and just a little bit in need of some Z’s.  I arrived, walked in and saw the grand stair cases on either side and chandelier in the middle of the foyer. Stunning. It has an Eastern feel mixed with the African roots, and all rooms are fitted with African art and carvings and gorgeous views. Well, maybe I won’t go to the bush! This is where Nelson Mandela chose to stay while writing his autobiography. Anything good for the Mandela is good enough for me.

They offer spa treatments, a steam room, plunge pools and a whirlpool. You can have drinks by the pool or you can have high tea with scones, the choices, and personalized staff are there to help.  I got so caught up relaxing in the spa, with the steam and the music and the gongs going on I really couldn’t see myself getting into a jeep and go searching for wild life that may or may not be a relative of some outfits I have hanging in my wardrobe at home.

I ended my day at Saxon restaurant with a delicious meal of both local and international cuisine, and a brand new buffet area and cocktail bar, cause I can never say no to a nice cocktail.  Naturally, I did toast the Broadway show that inspired me to fly to South Africa.  I couldn’t help but wonder, will Mary Poppins make me want to become a nanny and like children? Probably not. Not unless the family has a cocktail bar.

Stay tuned for my Safari.  You won’t believe it!

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