About Richard Beck

Richard Beck is President of New York based Classic Travel Service since 1982. He personally manages the travel of a number of high wealth indviduals.

Author Archive | Richard Beck

The Chatwal New York during the Holidays

 

Chatwal BarThe luxury Chatwal Hotel New York in the middle of the theatre district is even better during the holiday season and especially for those that love theatre.  Broadway has never been busier and this is prime time when everyone seems to be attending  and getting ready for the big yearly New Years Eve party around the corner in Times Square. You’ll be especially pleased, when on a cold windy day or night, you only have steps to walk to The Chatwal which looks even more festive in its holiday decorations.  I met up with General Manger, Joel Freyberg, and he gave me a tour of the hotel, not my first but it’s great to go back for a  refresher.

Richard Beck with Joel Freyberg, Mngr. The Chatwal.

Richard Beck with Joel Freyberg, Mngr. The Chatwal.

I especially love the cocktail lounge on the 2nd floor which overlooks the first floor main lobby. The lights over the bar are miniature art deco replicas of the Empire State Building. Cocktail time here is as exciting as some of the shows right out the main entrance. Pre theatre attendees and business folk all together in what you can only describe as a definitive New York moment.  Joel confided in me, with a big smile, that this was his favorite time of the day.

Chatwal RoomThe Chatwal has a history dating back to 1905. Then it was the Lambs Club, America’s first professional theatre club which was named after Charles Lamb, a London drama critic.  Members were Broadway’s royalty and included the famed Barrymore’s, Drew’s relatives. From the outside and even when you first enter it’s hard to imagine how much The Chatwal offers.  There is a full spa, health club and even an indoor swimming pool, not so common in New York. The luxury rooms are all large with marble baths offering separate showers and tubs.  Once you enter any of them, which are soundproofed from the hustle and bustle of New York’s sounds, you’ll feel especially cozy.

The restaurant, appropriately named the Lambs Club always feels festive as the dominant color is red. Lambs Club Restaurant Another reason the restaurant feels so special is the oversized 18th century French working fireplace.  Acclaimed chef Geoffrey Zakarian offers superb seasonal menus including a Sunday Brunch where live jazz is played.  All of this amazing ambiance, great food and wonderful people watching is guaranteed to make a stay at The Chatwal a New York experience that you’ll always remember.

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Rio to Acqualina Resort & Spa

I was flying up from Rio to Acqualina Resort & Spa.  I didn’t want to stay in Miami and I didn’t want to drive up to Palm Beach either.  I love Miami.  Have you ever heard of a Brazilian who didn’t?  When we got rich that’s where we all headed.  That was in the beginning but now we’re moving up the coast.  A friend at home was telling me how much she liked the Acqualina Resort & Spa.  I was getting over a breakup and just needed time by myself at a place that was quiet, sophisticated and offered all the services.  I texted my agent Heather at Classic Travel in New York.  She knew the hotel very well and texted right back “Muito Bom”.  I laughed to myself as I think that’s about the only Portuguese she knows.  She does have the Carioca accent down though.   “They have amazing services and the beach is divine” she continued “and the bartender makes the best Caipirinha north of Rio.  A Caipirinha is to a Carioca what a Martini is to a New Yorker.

Acqualina Pool

Acqualina Pool

Heather continued, “Hey, they have a 4th night free program right now and we can include our Virtuoso amenities and the best part is it’s just 30 minutes from Miami International Airport.”   She booked it for me, although I could have booked it myself on classictravel.com. Either way we both get confirmations so my super-agent Heather is always in the loop.  Classic Travel Service always follows up on bookings made on their site.  I love it. When I got to the hotel they even upgraded me.

Aqualina’s Espa Spa could not be better and especially after a 9 hour flight.  The 20,000 square foot beach view gym was so great to work out in, followed by a massage and then the afternoon at the adult pool. I was in heaven, the chaise lounges were so comfortable; I was oblivious to everything around me except the mesmerizing sound of waves gently lapping on the beach.  All of a sudden out of the corner of my eye I became completely distracted. Coming out of the pool was a woman in a white one-piece bathing suit.  She had the most perfect body, long black hair and incredible green eyes.  I thought for a second that I was back in Rio. In fact, I thought she resembled someone I had seen back home.  I was thinking of how I could approach her but all at once she was gone.  I was a little disappointed but more annoyed at myself for being so easily distracted.  This was supposed to be meditative long weekend trip. Well, I didn’t say I was dead!

I know this sounds a bit nuts but I went back to Acqualina’s fantastic health club.  I wanted to get my mind off of that “woman in white”.  An hour on the elliptical plugged into the right music helped me get into the moment.  It’s always great to work out in new surroundings and Acqualina created the perfect ambiance. I drank about a gallon of water and then worked out with weights another 30 minutes. Then I went to my incredible room with views of that beautiful stretch of white sand beach.  I’m amazed to think that Acqualina is only two and half hours from New York.  New Yorker’s really do have it all!

The next three days were almost perfect.  Every day I worked out for 3 hours, went to the beach and pool, didn’t drink and was in bed by 9 P.M.  If that sounds boring, it’s not my usual life. Then the last night I decided to have a couple of drinks at the bar.  The music wasn’t Brazilian but the Caipirinha was as good as any I’ve had in Rio. Heather was right!  I say almost perfect because as I was leaving to go back to my room when I saw the woman in white getting into a white Mercedes convertible.  She was dressed in a form fitting white dress.  She was even more beautiful then I remembered.  Now I was frustrated and she was gone.

The staff at Acqualina is so professional.   Everyone is friendly and so accommodating. The concierge told me exactly where to go to get some new American jeans that you just can’t get in Rio.  However when, I mentioned the “Woman in White,” no one seemed to know what I was talking about.  Well, anyway, if they did they sure weren’t going to tell me anything.  It’s obvious the staff at Acqualina respects the privacy of their guests so I just dropped it.  I was going back to Rio that night. It was better this way.  The front desk was able to give me a late check out, another great Virtuoso amenity, as my flight was not until the evening.  At 6 P.M. as the luggage was being put into the taxi, the woman in white walked by me and smiled making eye contact. That was is it!!!! That’s all that happened but it was enough.  Now, I realized I was over my breakup and ready to move on.  Sometimes, it takes a couple of experiences to realize life goes on.  The “woman in white” sure made me forget and so did Acqualina.  Now, that’s why I plan on returning to one of the best U.S. beach hotels I’ve ever been to. 

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Taj Falaknuma Palace

Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad, India

Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad, India

Palaces are almost always visually beautiful from the outside and some are more impressive than others (think Buckingham).  If you’ve ever wondered what it’s actually like to stay in a real palace stop now and plan this life time experience.  I recently joined Jodi Leblanc of Taj Hotels and Resorts in visiting Taj Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad, India.  It is easily one of the most magnificent palaces known to king and man alike and, after a 10 year meticulous renovation, is now a hotel like no other you have ever been to.  It’s really difficult to even explain how grand I felt waking up in and spending the day experiencing palace life. “Pinch me” happened repeatedly.  General Manager, Girish Sehgal, is beyond charming, his vast knowledge and enthusiasm is infectious.  We walked through the Palace at sunset hearing stories of polo playing Princes, long lunches preceded by Martini’s and beautiful Princesses in billowing silk.  This was a time when the

Jodi LeBlanc, Richard Beck & Girish Sehgal, General Mngr. Taj Falaknuma Palace

Jodi Leblanc, Richard Beck & Girish Sehgal, General Mngr. Taj Falaknuma Palace

Nizam (name given to the Monarch of the state of Hyderabad) was the richest man in the world and his luxurious lifestyle reflected that in every way.  The experience of staying here is a “must do” for the world traveler.

The Taj Falaknuma Palace sits high up at two thousand feet and commands attention from all directions.  The driver pointed “There’s the Palace” and as we came closer it seemed to rise up in front of me, much like the island of Manhattan does when you approach it from the east.  Dramatic and a bit intimidating!  The name of the Palace, Falaknuma, means mirror of the sky.  When you see it in person it’s easy to understand why it’s called that. It’s laid out in the shape of a scorpion, took 10 years to build and 22 to decorate. The seventh Nizam of Hyderabad, Mahboob Ali Pasha, resided in the palace from 1895 to 1911.  After his death the family would not return but it was used for heads of states including the Duke of Windsor and other monarchs.

In 1995, the Royal Family of Hyderabad leased the palace to the Taj Group of Hotels and Resorts. The Taj renovation is astounding.  The palace treasures; largest collection of Venetian chandeliers, grand marble staircases, priceless marble statues, figurines, objects d’art, stained glass windows, portraits and paintings have been lovingly restored.  The walls and Taj-Falaknuma-Palace-Staircase-classictravel-com-virtuosoceilings are decorated with magnificent frescos. Lush draperies adorn the windows.  One of the dining rooms has the longest dining table in the world and the library is said to be a replica of the library at Windsor Castle.  Feel like a game of billiards?  This is the original and the only other one like it is in Buckingham Palace.

This luxurious hotel has all the modern conveniences you would expect.    You can easily spend days exploring the museum quality public rooms and in between use their world class spa or lounge by their lushly landscaped swimming pool, meander through the vast gardens, stables and manicured croquet lawns.  Even the gift shop is like no other and filled with one of kind Palace memorabilia that you won’t find anywhere else.

There are five room types and one Grand Presidential Suite that has its own swimming pool larger than most family home pools.  Even the beautiful entry level luxury room (pictured here) is spacious by most hotel standards.

Luxury Room at Taj Falaknuma Palace

Luxury Room at Taj Falaknuma Palace

The Taj Falaknuma Palace rooms overlook private courtyards and some offer city views. The historical suites are the original rooms in the palace and have wood floors, exquisite artwork and restored antique furniture. The Royal suites are each unique in their decoration but all have separate sitting and dining rooms.  Fantastic International dining as well as gourmet Indian specialties are served in several beautiful venues and accompanied by local musicians that further embellish the other worldly experience of a by-gone era.

Here is the link to Hyderabad in Wikipedia.  You’ll be astounded at the history and how much there is to do in this Indian city.

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St. Barts is Getting Ready

Nikki Beach, St. Barts

Nikki Beach, St. Barts

St.Barts is getting ready. That’s where the Jet Set will be 6 months from now and for those of you who are now popping bottles at Club 55 in St. Tropez, St. Barts Nikki Beach is awaiting your arrival! Naturally, before that you’ll be doing a little skiing at Aspen or Courchevel.

Sure, there are lots of great places in the Caribbean to get away from the cold just like there are lots of places to ski. However, for certain people St. Bart’s is the only place. You don’t go there to get away from it all. You go to be part of it all. Glamorous St.Barts has more boutique luxury hotels than any other island in the Caribbean.

I won’t tell you my age but when I first sailed into Gustavia on a boat a friend chartered there was one hotel and you could buy land for about $5000.00 an acre. Uhmm! What a thought! Anyway, now there are countless villas to be rented and great hotels to stay at. The one thing I kept thinking about as I moved around the island meeting with hoteliers and real estate people was how competitive it all is. Not the price because, believe me, everything is expensive. It’s about the quality and beauty of the places to stay. Villa owners and hoteliers that are vying for the same piece of the pie were busy renovating and refreshing there already beautiful homes and hotels.

Villas are the way to go if your stay is an extended one. But if a week or two is it then there’s nothing better than a luxury hotel. Here are four where the ambiance and high level of service stand out…

Hotel Isle de France and Eden Roc are unique because they are both on beautiful beaches and offer easy access to the sea.

Hotel Isle de France

Hotel Isle de France

If I had to say which is more luxurious I would have to say, even though it’s a close call, Hotel Isle de France. The new owners, the Oetker Group, better known for the Bristol in Paris and Hotel du Cap Eden Roc in Cap d’Antibes are seeing to that. All the rooms and suites are done in impeccable taste and the new beach one-bedroom villas with private plunge pools are jaw dropping. Just imagine waking up in a 1500 square foot open plan suite and being able to see and then walk on to white sand Flamands beach and into the aqua colored Caribbean. The garden rooms, less expensive then ocean front, are my personal favorites. Maybe, because there surrounded by dense jungle like vegetation. Their beach restaurant is literally on the beach.

Eden Roc on St. Jean Beach

Eden Roc on St. Jean Beach

Eden Roc hotel is on St. Jean Beach which is also where Nikki Beach is; the Caribbean version of Club 55 in St. Tropez. The water is always calm and if being on top of the “action” during the day is important then this may be your preference. The hotel, situated on a peninsula, with the beach on each side, started out years ago as sort of a little funky beach hotel. It’s always been unique and has a sense of place like no other hotel on the island. Now, after many years and many updates it still has great character and beautifully decorated rooms and suites. Eden Roc is practically adjacent to the airport (this is a tiny little strip, not JFK) and you often see someone waving at their arriving or departing friends. Their bar and restaurant, “On the Rocks” is a great place for a sunset drink. It’s above and surrounded by water. Their restaurant, Sand Bar, is on the beach and a less quiet place for lunch if you’re not in the mood to walk down to Nikki Beach.

You may not think of St. Bart’s as a family type of destination but many like to take their kids, and why not? The best hotel for children is Guanahani. There’s a kindergarten for children 2 – 6 and for kids 6 – 12 there are all types of supervised water sports using their exceptional watersports center. One of the watersports they can arrange for you or your kids is kite boarding. The waters around the hotel are

Hotel Guanahani

Hotel Guanahani

perfect for the sport. I was mesmerized watching as I sat in the shade at Guanahani’s terrific beach restaurant where I also heard the best music. The beach restaurant which overlooks the main pool and is on the beach also has an exceptional buffet breakfast. The low rise hotel is spread out with the rooms and suites located in various villa like structures. They’ve been redone in soft tropical shades with hardwood bare floors that complement the
Kite Surfing

Kite Surfing

beautiful grounds that surround Guanahani. The Spa really stands out as it has an outdoor swimming pool where you can sun bath or swim in a more peaceful setting. You may just want to get away from your kids for a bit of private time. The Spa at Guanahani is managed by Clarins and this great escape maybe one of their bestselling points for a family vacation.

My last visit was to a hotel I had not been to in years. My opinion of it has completely changed and while once upon a time ago I thought the hotel was nice I now think it is the most romantic hotel on St. Barts.

Le Toiny

Le Toiny

Le Toiny, an all-suite hotel, sits on top of a hill commanding glorious views of the Caribbean. All the suites are actually individual mini villas that have sliding glass doors that open up onto a deck and your own pool. But the amazing thing and what really helps makes this hotel so romantic is the fact that each suite is totally surrounded by lush vegetation making them totally private. What a place for romance! If you don’t have the right person to go with but love yourself, you could go there alone! The suites are a little old fashion but there comfortable and charming. This is the type of hotel where days will pass slowly in idealistic bliss! Ahh! Then, on the nights you don’t feel up to going out, Le Toiny has an exceptional gourmet restaurant with a wonderful staff that’s warm and personable.

Naturally, you can book any of these hotels on line at classictravel.com and they all offer special Virtuoso amenities. After you book or if they don’t have availability email me at [email protected]

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