Hotels

fasano-sao-paolo

FASANO SAO PAULO – SAO PAOLO, BRAZIL

This is a sultry den of masculinity and refined design, with sleek, dark mahogany and miles of soft, toffee-butter leather. An inspired collaboration between Brazilian design heavyweights Isay Weinfeld and Marcio Kogan, this is old-school glamour at its best, encapsulating a bygone era where you half expect to catch Don Corleone sipping the driest of Martinis in a low-lit corner of the hotel’s jazz joint Baretto, where Brazil’s best bossa-nova talents vie to perform.

baretto-fasano-sao-paolo

Baretto room at Fasano Sao Paolo – Sao Paolo, Brazil

fasano-hotel-outsideThe hotel group’s founder Rogerio Fasano works the restaurant, charming the regulars as they celebrate special occasions over Italian classics such as squid-ink spaghetti and lamb chops with lentils.

The 60 rooms, furnished with 1930s design pieces in muted tones, are popular with global big-hitters, who can really relax in the 22nd-floor spa and swimming pool. From here, there are contemplative views over Sao Paulo’s most sophisticated neighbourhood, Jardins, where the streets are leafy, ladies lunch and life feels pretty fabulous.

jk-florence

JK PLACE – FLORENCE, ITALY

Its instantly fashionable younger siblings JK Place Capri (b. 2007) and JK Place Roma (b. 2013) may get more noisy attention, but this stylish, clubbish mothership is still the only Florence hotel many well-groomed global nomads would ever dream of checking into.

It was here that local designer Michele Bonan created his first capolavoro, a blend of Florentine antique elegance and artisanal chic that makes this feel like the townhouse of a cultured collector. The house-party vibe is stoked by a communal breakfast table and complimentary perks that range from fresh fruit and a well-stocked mini-bar to use of a nearby gym and steam-bath spa.

The hotel has one of Florence’s most personable and knowledgeable general managers, Claudio Meli, and the place is always being updated, most recently with the addition of cashmere plaids and throws from cult Tuscan fabric firm Valbisenzio. Plus the JK Lounge & Restaurant has finally found its footing, after a couple of changes of tack, as a stylish meeting place with light, unfussy dishes such as spaghetti with sea urchins and cherry tomatoes, and mini Tuscan beefburgers. It’s also the place to go for Sunday brunch.

jk-lounge-and-restaurant

JK Lounge and Restaurant – Florence, Italy

four-seasons-tornto

FOUR SEASONS HOTEL – TORONTO, CANADA

The Four Seasons brand was born in Toronto but its first-ever hotel was looking a bit tired, especially as so many shiny arrivals were opening in the city. So the company spent $500 million on a new flagship, and from the moment it opened in 2012, soaring high above the Victorian houses of Yorkville, it has felt relaxed, refined, spot-on.

 four-seasons-hotel-check-in-room-toronto

The lobby of The Four Seasons Hotel – Toronto, Canada

The lobby is divided into gallery-like spaces with velvet chairs and wood-panelled walls covered in Canadian Modernist art. The rooms are not only beautiful (the half-moon corner sofas are ingenious) but also have all the five-star toys, such as TVs embedded in bathroom mirrors and i-Pads to order room service or book a treatment in Toronto’s biggest spa.

The menu in Café Boulud is sassy French (lobster salad with coconut shavings; an exquisite grapefruit givre with halva candy floss); in the new Buca Yorkville, the look is distinctly Milanese but the menu is more coastal (the salumi de mari is a favourite).

cafe-boulud-toronto-canada

Café Boulud – Toronto, Canada

soniat-house-new-orleans

SONIAT HOUSE – NEW ORLEANS, U.S.A

New Orleans is a thrilling mix of elegant French architecture, boozy stag nights, voodoo, trailblazing restaurants, steamy jazz bars and always, always a cocktail or three. But the one disappointment has always been the drab hotel scene.

Besides a few tired, conference hotels there’s never been much to tickle a smart traveller’s fancy. So Soniat House, a trio of Creole townhouses at the quiet end of Chartres Street (just a stone’s throw from Brangelina’s house and around the corner from Paul Allen’s gaff) is a real find. Each of the 31 bedrooms is decorated differently with art and antiques collected by avuncular owner Rodney Smith and his wife Frances on regular trips to Paris and London.

bedroom-at-soniat-house

A bedroom at Soniat House – New Orleans, U.S.A

The linen is Frette, breakfast is hot buttermilk biscuits served on a silver tray with homemade strawberry jam, and Claire the resident black cat rests her weary paws on a sofa beside the honesty bar. If, like many A-list actors currently working in NOLA, you want somewhere charming to escape from the buzz of the city, read a book and pour yourself a drink, then step right in and make yourself at home.

barnsley-house

BARNSLEY HOUSE – THE COTSWOLDS, UNITED KINGDOM

This is England at its best. The scent of blousy pink roses, a vegetable garden like a Mr McGregor pastiche (fat cabbages, rows of ruby rhubarb) and formal gardens designed by Rosemary Verey. In short, there’s something about Barnsley that makes you feel connected to a pastoral Britain of yesteryear.

In summer eat supper outside in a hidden nook (the Temple) in winter hunker down by a fire on a cosy sofa, dip into one of the best DVD libraries anywhere, or wallow in a grand, claw-foot bath.

the-temple-barnsley-house

An intimate spot called “The Temple” – Barnsley House

Bedrooms are spot-on – pretty, lots of beams, big bathrooms – and the food is fresh and zingy, with just-baked bread to dip into garlic-infused olive oil, figs drizzled with honey and served with homemade ricotta, lemon sole doused in butter.

barnsley-house-bedroom

A bedroom at Barnsley House – The Cotswolds, Great Britain

You’ll wake up to a glistening dawn and pigeons stirring in the rafters. The spa is also a lovely retreat, with treatments such as rose facials lasting 90 minutes (plus a mini hydro pool and a relaxation room). There’s a fun Sunday cinema club with popcorn and pink leather love seats. No wonder staff walk proud, a spring in their step.

borgo-santo-pietreo-tuscany-italy

BORGO SANTO PIETRO – TUSCANY, ITALY

This place is as cultured as any of its more fusty aristocratic Tuscan rivals, but sexy too, and warm, and just a little bit glamorous.

The location helps: south-west of Siena, it stands not far from the beautiful roofless abbey of San Galgano, in an area of untouristed hilltop villages surrounded by oak woods and walnut groves. It’s the creation of Danish interior designer Jeanette Thottrup and her husband Claus, who fell in love with this remote country house and opened it as a small hotel in 2008. Inside there are silks and velvets by Fortuny and Rubelli, quarryfuls of antique marble, Murano chandeliers, vintage nickel radiators and, in the main entrance hall, weathered flagstones from a 13th-century castle.

 treehouse-bar-borgo-santo-pietro

Treehouse Bar – Borgo Santo Pietro, Tuscany, Italy

What really impresses is the continual fine-tuning: the extensive gardens, from kitchen to formal, have come on apace, the Treehouse Bar offers a sweet alternative to the more elegant main restaurant, and there’s an always-evolving range of things to do, from yoga to truffle hunting, falconry and even Vespa tours. And now the spa, among the best in the region, is moving into new, bigger quarters.

spa-lounge-at-borgo-santo-pietro

Spa lounge at Borgo Santo Pietro – Tuscany, Italy

lakshman-sagar

LAKSHMAN SAGAR – RAJASTHAN, INDIA

This somewhat stark beauty was once a 19th-century hunting lodge belonging to the Thakur of Raipur and it sits in an undulating desert setting of craggy outcrops, thorn trees and scrubland. There are 12 stone-and-adobe thatched guest cottages dotted around, some reached by a path that winds beneath an ancient banyan tree, others near a lake, where antelope and peacocks trip and sip each evening. There’s a swimming pool hollowed out of rock and a spa in a stone water tank.

a-room-at-lakshman-sagar

A room at Lakshman Sagar – Rajasthan, India

A shikar mahal that was the women’s quarters has been converted into a seating area, with plenty of shaded, cushioned nooks to escape the midday sun and a roof terrace for sundowners. Rooms are evidence of a zero-kilometre design philosophy: sari-upholstered benches add zip to the mud tones and chandeliers are created from dangling copper pots and wooden spoons. And as darkness falls, guests feast on cardamom – spiced lamb in the open-air pavilion, the night aglow with candlelight and magic.

san-francisco-main

City at a glance – San Francisco, California

Dig deep into this rollicking city that is consistently shrouded in fog, yet entices with its clement weather, panoramic Pacific Ocean views, iconic structures and soulful cuisine

“San Francisco itself is art, above all literary art. Every block is a short story, every hill a novel. Every home a poem, every dweller within immortal. That is the whole truth” – Academy award winner William Saroyan

Mention San Francisco and all these come to mind: colourful parades, free speech, culinary experimentation, the famed Golden Gate Bridge, and historical cable car rides. Debatable issues were mainstream in this city before it hit the rest of the world, which means that social revolutions have often started here.

historical-castro-theatre-san-francisco

Historical Castro Theatre – San Francisco, California

This cosmopolitan city is teeming with exciting and diverse events throughout the year that you’ll always have something new to see or do in town, which probably explains why it topped the charts of America’s favourite cities. Just in 2015 alone, 24.6 million visitors were reported to have visited the hilly city, with a significant 85-percent of them here for leisure purposes.

san-francisco-parade

The annual San Francisco Pride parade takes place on the last week-end of June

Predominantly, tourists visit for the lively atmosphere, infectious ambience, and mesmerising scenic beauty. Take the Coit Tower for example: perched atop the summit of Telegraph Hill, this 64m flutelike cylinder provides a breathtaking 360-degree view of the city. Art aficionados will likely linger about the ground floor longer while admiring the wall murals painted by some 30 local artists in 1933, with each piece depicting a different aspect of the Great Depression.

If the visit piques your interest, consider taking a trip down to the newly opened Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco.

museum-of-modern-art-san-francisco

Museum of Modern Art – San Francisco

Not only is this home to an impressive contemporary art collection, it also comes with a gift shop fully equipped with quirky gift ideas or unique home décor pieces.

Cutting down on time-consuming transfers to make your trip more enjoyable, Singapore Airlines has recently relaunched its non-stop flight between Singapore and San Francisco, which will operate on a daily basis with effect from 23 October 2016. The 14-odd- hour flight is timed conveniently to leave Singapore in the morning and arrive in San Francisco in the morning as well to help you maximise your daylight hours. Pick up Lonely Planet’s San Francisco city guide for more great tips on how to uncover the best of this colourful city (US$21.99).

phuket-main

The many sides of Phuket offered by Centara Hotels & Resorts

Headed to the quintessential island getaway destination of Phuket? Centara Hotels & Resorts offers a diverse range of accommodations to fulfil your every holiday need, whether your agenda includes romance, adventure, or both

Best for the extended family – CENTARA GRAND WEST SANDS RESORT & VILLAS PHUKET

splash-jungle-centara-grand-west-resort

Splash Jungle water park at Centara West Sands Resort

Generously-sized living and playing areas make the spacious Centara Grand West Sands Resort & Villas Phuket the perfect destination for indulging in some great family fun in the sun. A dedicated children’s water play area, two kids’ clubs, a multitude of swimming pools, and an endless list of leisure activities promise limitless entertainment for the little ones, while older guests who remain young at heart will love the adrenaline-pumping thrills and spills at the Splash Jungle water park. Barely 15-minutes’ drive from Phuket International Airport, and with an extensive range of family-friendly residences and suites, the resort is an ideal destination for adventurous holidays with the extended family and friends.

Best home away from home – CENTARA KARON RESORT PHUKET

centara-karon-resort

Backed by green hills and comprised of four residential zones, Centara Karon Resort Phuket provides an air of quietness and privacy that would make the perfect base for exploring the rest of Phuket and Karon Town. Karon Beach itself has excellent snorkelling spots at its southern end and is wide enough for beachgoers to never feel crowded. Couples and small families will enjoy The Terraces’ residential options, while larger families and groups of friends are spoilt with the spacious The Lagoon studios just steps away from the waterslide and pool. More private accommodations are also available with generous one- and two-bedroom Cabanas with spacious garden terrace and plunge pool.

Best for romance – CENTARA VILLAS PHUKET

room-at-centara-villas-phuket

A room at Centara Villas Phuket

Found in a tropical oasis, where the lush jungle meets the serene sea, Centara Villas Phuket is a romantic hideaway of private Thai-style villas nestled within a haven of green, perched atop a dramatic incline for sweeping views of Karon Beach and the sea. Relax, rejuvenate, and find the inner tranquility that only nature can bring. Candle-lit dinner and drinks at The Cliff Restaurant and a refreshing Thai-style lunch at The Bayview Restaurant & Bar offering dramatic views of the glittering Andaman Sea.

leeds-main

LEEDS – The Guide That You Need If You’re Visiting This Vibrant City

Leeds folk are proud of their city and would balk at the idea that anyone would even consider visiting Manchester or Liverpool instead. George Norris rounds up the best bits .

DRINK

 tapped-brewery-leeds

Tapped Brewery

Leeds’ nightlife is just one of the reasons The Independent named it the Best University City. Despite being the third-biggest city in the country, the centre is small enough to navigate by foot even when you’re half-cut. Beer enthusiasts ought to try Tapped, an American-style brewpub with over 27 draft beers, more than 100 bottles from all around the world and stone-baked pizzas to soak it all up.

Bundobust is another craft beer bar with a rather spicy twist, coupling the beer with vegetarian Indian street food. Since its inception in 2013, the collaboration between Indian restaurant Prashad and The Sparrow Bier Cafe has won the hearts of locals and visitors alike; make sure you try their truly fusion Coriander Pilsner.

Whitelocks, having just celebrated its 301st birthday, is the oldest pub around and is more popular than ever. With cheap beer and excellent pub grub, this little boozer is loved by all, from hip teenagers to hip-less pensioners.

Gone are the days when a cocktail in Leeds meant a Jack Daniel’s and Diet Coke: 51% Bourbon stocks over 100 bourbons and serves old fashioneds in a contemporary setting. Have the next couple of cocktails at The Maven, which is nearby on Call Lane, the main street for a Leeds night out.

51-bourbon

51% Bourbon Pub

The atmospheric bar takes its inspiration from the US era of prohibition, so don’t expect to see a sign telling you where to go…

EAT

the-real-junk-food

The Real Junk Food Project

Locals need no invitation to tell you how great Leeds is. But if you need proof (and we don’t) you only have to look at The Real Junk Food Project. These pay-what-you-want cafés not only feed the hungry but repurpose food otherwise destined for the bin (a cardinal sin in these parts).

All over the world there are now versions of these cafés that are doing great things but it all started in Leeds. Pop into see the original Real Junk Food Cafe at Armley Junction.

For centrally located grub, Friends of Ham is a popular bar that has an excellent charcuterie spread with an equally good selection of beer and wine. For Sunday lunch look no further than The Lamb and Flag, a 19th-century building where bare-brick walls come with your big-portioned roasts.

boss-burger-1

Boss Burgers – Leeds

boss-burgerHyde Park’s Boss Burgers comes out on top in a city with an abundance of burger and BBQ joints — its Smokeback Mountain burger is probably the best pun in a bun in town.

Yorkshire folk can be viciously defensive about what constitutes fish ‘n’ chips. The Fisherman’s Wife, around the back of Kirkgate Market will offer an education in Northern chippy etiquette. They’ll also offer scraps (bits of old batter) with your chips. Take them.

It would be sacrilege to be this close to Bradford and not try a curry. Responsible for the food half of Bundobust, Prashad is a way out of town, 20 minutes on the 254/255 bus route to Drighlington. This family-run neighbourhood restaurant serves north Indian vegetarian cuisine and manages to convince hordes of Yorkshire folk to surpass meat for a meal — no mean feat.

GETTING THERE: Virgin Trains offers direct trains from King’s Cross to Leeds from £14.50 one way. See virgintrainseastcoast.com for more information and to book.

SEE & DO

historical-ruins-of-kirkstall-abbey

The historical ruins of Kirkstall Abbey – Leeds

Walk off the hangover in one of the Leeds’ many parks (Leeds is one of the greenest cities in the country).The historical ruins of Kirkstall Abbey are well worth a visit, and you should also make sure you see Tropical World, which is home to the largest collection of tropical plants in the UK outside Kew Gardens.

Roundhay Park , one of the largest in Europe, is the perfect place for a morning stroll and located just to the north of the city centre. It’s also the setting for the oldest piece of film in existence. Sheffield may have The Full Monty, and Barnsley may have Kes, but Leeds has the Roundhay Garden Scene, a two-second silent film shot in 1888.

hyde-park-picture-house-leeds

Hyde Park Picture House – Leeds

The city has a love of cinema, and the Hyde Park Picture House is one of the oldest in the country and always worth a visit. Leeds’ often overlooked relationship with cinema is celebrated every year at the Leeds International Film (3-17 November).

Leeds has a number of free museums that are a must on any trip, if only to take a break from the pub. Between them, Leads City Museum and the Royal Armouries will bring out the inner kid in just about anybody, while Abbey House Museum is another must-see.