Hotels everywhere are embracing what the Japanese have done for decades—crunching rooms down to smaller-than-200-square-foot pods. Nine years ago, Midtown Manhattan’s Pod Hotel ushered in the era of the “microhotel” with the mainstream U.S. debut of minimalist rooms: Luggage was stored under the beds, bathrooms were tub-less. In 2015, Marriott launched Moxy in Milan with tiny but gorgeous guest rooms in dark wood and cream leather. Two Roads, which owns Destination, Joie de Vivre, and Thompson hotels, will open the “lifestyle microhotel brand” Tommie in Hollywood in 2018. Smaller rooms are cheaper, of course, and faster to build.
The developers of a 249-key Pod Hotel slated for Williamsburg, Brooklyn, say they’ve saved six months by using modular construction without compromising design. At two new AvroKo-designed Arlo properties in New York, rooms average just 150 square feet, and they actually look good with flip-up desks, open closets, and huge windows that make the most of the tight quarters. Not that you’ll feel cramped: The Arlo Hudson Square has two bars, a Southern restaurant from Daniel Boulud protege Harold Moore, and coffee by Joe, a local favorite. And when you’re in N.Y.C., how much time do you spend in your room anyway?
Two new wide-body planes, the Airbus A350 XWB and the Boeing 787, have bigger windows that let in more natural light, bathrooms that don’t feel claustrophobic, and mood lighting that can limit jet lag (no, seriously). They even pump those babies with better cabin air that’s more humid and less dehydrating. But the biggest improvement may be what they’ve taken away. “The number one feedback we get is about the lack of noise,” says Juha Jarvinen, chief commercial officer of Finnair, which currently has seven A350S, each of which seats 297 passengers. Long-haul carriers like Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Qatar Airways, and Singapore Airlines have ordered a combined 255 A350S, recognizing that, if they can make the in-flight experience more comfortable, passengers will go just about anywhere. “Routes that were considered long-haul in the past?
They’re not that long anymore,” says Marisa Lucas-Ugena, head of A3 50 XWB marketing at Airbus. “We’re going to see the emerging markets—particularly in the Southern Hemisphere—connected. Oakland to Santiago, Johannesburg to Sydney. The A350 was built with that in mind.” It’s also made with weight-saving composites and is equipped with fuel-sipping engines that make ultra-long-hauls economically viable for carriers. Singapore, for example, ended its reportedly unprofitable nonstop between New York and Singapore in 2013, but the route will return in 2018, thanks to the A350, shaving at least four hours off the current one-stop travel time. United has ordered 35 of the planes, which it plans to use for long flights to Asia; Delta will get its first of 25 A350S next year, with destinations to be determined. Airbus forecasts global demand for new wide-bodies will top 8,000 over the next 20 years, meaning thousands more A350S and 787s in the air—and far fewer complaints upon touchdown.
Lauded New Zealand designer Karen Walker made her runway debut in 1998, and since then she’s seen her designs worn by celebrities the world over. Her clothes are known for an exquisite use of pattern and plays on proportion that embody a modern sense of confident femininity. Walker’s inspirations vary, but travel makes a big impact “I appreciate the downtime that comes with travel and the vacant hours on long-haul flights for the way they allow the imagination to wander,” she says. In Walker’s own words, here are five ways she finds inspiration, plus how she deals with distraction.
Flowers and Steel – Our latest Resort collection, Mujer, is inspired by female revolutionaries of the Spanish Civil War. We found photos of women in floral dresses with military overlays like guns, jackets, and military boots. It was this idea of these really strong capable women being thrust from one life to another, and having those two aesthetics collide
Starmen in Suburbia – Our Spring 2016 collection was inspired by life in the Soviet Union’s secret training base, Zvezdny Gorodok, colloquially known as Star City. We came across photos from the early ‘80s of astronauts in astronaut gear in very chintzy Russian sitting room settings, with carpets nailed to the walls. It was this incredible dichotomy of the high-tech and this suburban aesthetic. It was a little bit grandma-ish, very lacy, floral, and quite puffy.
Text Messages – Our Fall 2014 collection was a celebration of the Suffragettes their whole point was getting their message out there in any way possible. Women would wear long white gowns, pinafores, aprons, and overdresses —it was Victorian times—and print on them in big black letters, from the shoulders down to the ground. “Votes For Women.” That idea of using everything as a placard was so rich.
Superwrapping – In Japan there is no compromise on the time taken to give respect. It can take many forms, and one of those is by presenting an item in a well-contemplated way. Furoshiki is a cloth that turns into a little bag if it’s folded in a certain way. Often they’ll have indigo-dyed cottons or a disperse-dyed print with a cream polka dot, which is so simple and delightful. I’m a big fan of navy and cream, it’s kind of my go to color palette. You could be at the grocery store buying two oranges, and the same amount of care goes into the wrapping.
Parklight – My favorite pan of London’s Royal Parks is Regent’s Park. Maybe that’s because of the time of day when I last visited. It was dusk, it was warm, and the spring flowers were out. The light was sort of dusty: Soft side light is a real luxury for me because I live in New Zealand, and we have a very strong light—everything is sharp.
When you’re in places where the light is softer, I find that intriguing and quite calming. You’ve got sunlight, but the edge has been taken off somehow. When you design a park it’s such a selfless act, because it’s going to take 100 years before it looks good. It’s such a luxury to have that sense that someone 200 years ago took the time to care about how the light would cut through an Italian garden on a spring evening so that when I walked through that gate, it looked beautiful centuries later.
For those of us who have been spoiled by the unparalleled reliability of ski terrain in the American Rockies, schlepping to the French Alps might seem like a gratuitous expenditure of time and money. But what you can’t do in, say, Montana is tack a few days in Paris onto your ski vacation, which is why we always suggest the moneyed ski resort of Courchevel, a collection of five interconnected villages in Les Trois Vallees, the world’s largest ski resort. This is hardly one of those charming Savoyard wooden towns but rather the kind of place where you’ll see sable on sable, and it has the highest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants anywhere in Europe outside of Paris. The key is to start and end this trip with a night or two in Paris.
It’s the low season, and the dollar is strong against the euro, which means you’ll score better-than-usual rates at the George V or the recently reopened Ritz, not to mention prime dinner reservations at Septime and L’Arpege. From there, getting to Courchevel is fairly straightforward—and better yet, there’s no plane involved. Trains depart from Paris’s Gare de Lyon about seven times daily during ski season (December through April) for Moutiers, about a 30-minute drive from Courchevel. The train ride is just over four hours (have your hotel arrange for a driver to pick you up at the station). Four full days is probably all your quads can handle here, as Les Trois Vallees gets an average of 150 inches of snowfall annually and has nearly 400 miles of ski runs. So even during the first two weeks of January, when the resort is at its busiest, you’ll never wait for a chair.
Cheval Blanc – Hands down, one of the most exclusive properties in town. The service here, with a staff-to-guest ratio of nearly four-to-one, is unrivaled.
Les Airelles – A glamorous Tyrolean-inspired Gasthaus, it wins for property with the best food. There’s Pierre Gagnaire’s two-Michelin-star restaurant and the over-the-top lunch and dessert buffets at La Table du Jardin Alpin, where the caviar, foie gras, and char-cuterie seem to stretch as far as the pistes themselves.
Aman Le Melezin – This is the only Aman property in France, and it nails the brand’s signature spare-but-plush vibe. The resort’s Le Melezin Suite is the room to book.
Barriere Les Neiges – The just-opened hotel was designed with a super-elegant coziness in mind. Fur, cash-mere, and velvet pop up in all 42 rooms. The hotel also has the town’s largest spa, with an enormous heated lap pool and the latest in Alpine antiaging treatments.
You’d be hard-pressed to find another hotel experience that so firmly ensconces you in a fantasy version of life in Amsterdam than Canal Huis 58—a super-stylish four-bedroom canal house from Eleven Experience that sits at the intersection of two of the city’s most beautiful and historic waterways. They had us at the first of four floors with a perfect mix of warm wood, Carrara marble, and the gray, aubergine, and white color scheme of the dining room and kitchen— an old-new easy elegance that seems to be the province of the Netherlands. But it was the second-floor living room overlooking the canals, with a fully stocked restaurant-size bar and clubby-chic decor, that makes you want to sell your home and start over.
That the refrigerator and cupboards were bursting with fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, charcuterie, and just about every building block for a delicious (and photogenic) hors d’oeuvre platter—or an entire meal cooked by you or one of their chefs—was the real clincher. You do imagine after a couple of days, between breezy boat trips with a driver at your disposal, bike rides over bridges, and other bespoke itineraries coordinated seamlessly over a preprogrammed (Bat)phone, that your life is this good.
A vacation at an estate in the English countryside can swing too authentic: more shabby than chic, hosted by aristos more house-poor than house-proud. But a desire to indulge in some landed-gentry fantasy—with all its bucolic charm and fireside scotch, butler service and frowning ancestral portraits—persists. The rare arrival on the vacation-rental market of three smartly redone aristocratic houses is all the encouragement we need to start planning a group getaway for the coming holidays or Spring Break.
The Quick Jump from London – After a ten-month reno, Oliver Wallop, Viscount Lymington, and his wife, Flora, a former Firmdale Hotels designer, opened the stonewalled Georgian Farleigh Wallop tit’s been in the fam since the fifteenth century) in Hampshire, just 45 minutes from Heathrow.
Modern updates—wallpaper designed by The World of Interiors founder Min Hogg, as well as hotel-quality mattresses on four-poster canopy beds and en suite bathrooms with freestanding soaking tubs— mix with pieces from when Byron, and later Shackleton, were guests, like a 100-pound candelabra by famed eighteenth-century goldsmith Paul Storr. The butler and staff of five can help you with the horses (there’s 4,000 acres to ride) and a partridge hunt before afternoon G&Ts on the patio by the 40-foot heated pool. $7,250 per night— meaIs, full staff, and some activities included.
The Long Weekend Steal – The 12-bedroom Goodnestone Park, an eighteenth-century Palladian estate in Kent, two hours east of London, took three years to gut-reno. Now, hand-painted de Gournay wall coverings, Colefax and Fowler wallpaper, and overstuffed sofas mix with nineteenth-century oil paintings and Jane Austen early editions (she was a frequent guest after her brother married into the family). There are 24 bikes on hand, an easy way to explore the 2,000-acre grounds and to grab a pint at the FitzWalter Arms, the village pub two miles away. $5,313 for three nights—meals, staff, and activities extra.
The Hosted Holiday – Part of the fun of renting the dozen bedrooms at Somerleyton Hall, three hours northeast of London, is that Baron Hugh Crossley and his young family remain in residence. With their own wing of the sprawling Jacobean house, they’re hardly underfoot. They can show you how to master the yew maze, or Crossley will take you shooting or set you up with Welsh Cob and Arab horses or boats and paddleboards on the property’s two-mile-long lake. The house has serious provenance: The stonework is by the artist who did the sculptures on Parliament, the Crystal Palace’s architect did the conservatory, and a quirky Victorian-era reno left the house with a clock tower originally designed for Big Ben. $6,139 per night—breakfast, staff, and some activities included.
Then step inside the multi-dimensional journey that is Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum. With complimentary audio guides in 10 languages, learn about the history of the sport, see the Championship trophies, and the amazing new Virtual Reality experience. You may also take the behind the scenes tour of the grounds and explore the home of tennis, including Centre Court, for a truly inspirational visit.
“Books are delightful society,” said Victorian prime minister William Ewart Gladstone. “If you go into a room and find it full of books – even without taking them from the shelves they seem to speak to you, to bid you welcome.”
His words capture how it feels to arrive at Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden, north Wales, where the warmest of welcomes awaits visitors. There is a special, almost monastic, feeling to the place, with the hush of an Oxbridge quad, with not quite the oppressive weight of expectation one feels in the colleges of those cities.
Which is not to say Gladstone, a founding figure of the Liberal Party, was not a heavyweight. “Every working-class house in Britain had a memento of him,” says Charlie Gladstone, his great-great-grandson. “He was a prime minister you could be genuinely proud of. Things were different then – the world didn’t have votes for women and slavery still existed – but, in terms of his fight for the common person, he was a proper champion.” Library assistant Gary Butler explains: “When talking about Gladstone, it’s fair to make comparisons like Nelson Mandela or Gandhi. He was a member of parliament for 62 years, he served as prime minister four times and is known for introducing secret ballots for voting, as well as education for all and was a supporter of Irish Home Rule, although that didn’t quite get through during his time.” Gladstone was also a classical scholar and a voracious reader, devouring around 22,000 books in his lifetime which amounts to around 300 books a year (almost one a day). Peter Francis, warden of Gladstone’s Library, explains: “The heart of the library is Gladstone’s own collection. Many of his books contain his annotations, some of which are extremely detailed.”
These jottings share glimpses into the inner workings of the great man. (A particularly appealing example is a small cross in the margin of a biography of his arch-rival Disraeli with the words: “untrue, untrue, untrue”.)
“Towards the end of his life Gladstone was thinking about what to do with his books,” says Butler, or, as his daughter Mary Drew put it, “Often pondering how to bring together readers who had no books and books who had no readers.” His answer was to create a library in Hawarden, the village where he lived: “A country home for the purposes of study and research, for the pursuit of divine learning, a centre of religious life.”
Hawarden (pronounced “Harden”), which developed as a mining village, is, at first glance, an unassuming, picturesque spot, but its location near the cities of Manchester and Liverpool made Gladstone think there might be plenty of “readers who had no books” nearby who might benefit from its location.
Today, Charlie Gladstone and his wife, Caroline, have similarly focused their considerable energy on projects that encourage creativity, learning and sharing ideas, including two festivals in Hawarden, the Good Life Experience and Gladfest. Their various ventures have turned the pretty village into a popular tourist and foodie destination that has been voted twice by readers of The Times one of the best places to live in the UK.
Vaulting over obstacles, running up walls, balancing on ledges, bounding from building to building—you don’t have to be a superhero to experience the adrenaline rush that comes with defying gravity. In fact, all you have to do is sign up for a parkour class (cape optional; tights recommended). Chances are, there’s one near you: Parkour gyms have spread across the country to meet increasing demand for rough-and-tumble obstacle-course classes, no doubt spurred by the popularity of such televised competitions as American Ninja Warrior, races like Tough Mudder, and, of course, parkour YouTube videos.
(If you haven’t seen “The World’s Best Parkour and Freerunning” clip, which has 90 motion views and counting, prepare to be amazed.)
Not only do these gyms offer a safe and legal space to try out the sport, but you II get something tangible out of them—namely, a hard body. At Brooklyn Zoo, a custom-built 10,000-square-foot parkour gym in New York’s honest borough, you’ll find beginner and intermediate classes as well as lessons called ‘Ninja Warrior Tranning’ and “Tumbling & Trampoline,” even an entire session on handstands.
If you’re more interested in staying true to parkour’s no-frills en plain air origins, seek out classes that convene at a park or urban space. SF Parkour, a group of practitioners in Northern California, hosts monthly and beginner “jams” in public spaces throughout the Bay Area. (Live elsewhere? Go to American Parkour.com to find gyms and parkour meet ups.) Aside from sculpted muscles and bragging rights, it’s just plain fun-play as exercise. Where else are you going to be able to sprint, swing, and leap like a kid again?