Road Tested || Best Luxury Hotels - 2015 Edition
...Which, be it known, are my favorite places to stay. Hear that, Internet haters? Think it's shameful that I love to crash with my homies? Sucks that your friends aren't as hospitable as mine.
Sorry--what was I saying?
Last February, I began reviewing fine hotels, restaurants, bars and spas for a London-based travel magazine. I know, it's weird to me, too. And yes, it's exactly everything you might imagine. When I say I'm with Our Man on the Ground, not only do doors open, but red carpets are rolled out and cheese plates and wine bottles are delivered with expeditious courtesy.
All flossing aside, I've put up my feet at some truly swanky digs this year. In case this is your market, here are the ones I recommend to your attention:
The Arizona Biltmore (Phoenix, Az.)
I had a number of glorious hotel visits in Phoenix, but this was just a dream come true. As a long-time devotee of Art Deco and a fiend for historical gossip, the Biltmore offered thrills of both the aesthetic and the titillating variety. The lovely Sarah put me up in the Ocatilla wing, a private hotel-within-a-hotel concept that entitles guests to a private pool, patio and lounge space, as well as a gratis happy hour. She even hooked me up with lifetime access to the hotel's historic speakeasy.
When you think "tropical island luxury hotel," this is what comes to mind. I'm talking milky white colonnades arching over echoing tiled floors, gauzy curtains drifting like mist in the ocean breeze, hummingbirds visiting your lanai to hover over your fresh, macadamia- and orchid-studded pineapple. Also, I made friends with the lovely Megan while visiting here.
The concierge picked a handful of Surinam cherries from a neighboring bush for me to sample as he showed me to my room. The head housekeeper took a picture of me as I practiced my headstand on the outdoor yoga platform. The massage therapist greeted me with the announcement that fairies had just visited the treatment room. And, on the advice of the owner's friend (with whom I shared a dinner of macadamia-crusted mahi mahi and nori salad), I laid in a hammock in the whispering pine forest at 2am...in order, of course, to listen to the pines whisper. Incidentally, this is the only circle that Oprah, Gwyneth Paltrow and I all belong to.
This place is like a little Deco jewel box. They gave me a gigantic corner room overlooking 14th Street, stocked me up with wine and cheese and chocolate, and while I was soaking in my room's porcelain tub, I could hear a guy on the rooftop opposite playing "Someday My Prince Will Come" on the saxophone. The staff was not only roundly courteous, but they also suggested a visit to what has become my favorite cocktail bar in all the land. (Well, to be fair, Chris and Alli suggested it first, but the Hotel Teatro staff confirmed it.)
Also worthy of note: while visiting, I spoke with the hotel's F&B director who invited me to visit the soon-to-open adjoining restaurant next time I was in town. And I did, and enjoyed one of my favorite meals of the year there.
If you can't score an invitation to my friend Jami's upstairs loft, don't worry...you're guaranteed just as posh a visit at the Hotel Sorella. Seriously, I would so love to go back to this chic little auberge for a stay longer than just one night. The decor is like a style collaboration between Lady Gaga and Audrey Hepburn. The included breakfast is continentally sublime--cold smoked salmon, charcuterie, and made-to-order cappuccinos, my dear. It was a glorious place to crash after a twelve-hour day of driving across Interstate 70, though alas! I couldn't muster the energy to visit the Sorella's rooftop pool scene, which I hear (and heard) to be rife with the city's bright young things. But the next morning, I found myself wishing I had more emails to send, more deadlines to meet...anything to spend a little longer over coffee in the pool's adjoining Bar Rosso.
Part of me wonders if I'm just obsessed with this place because it was like a way station on the Appalachian Trail. It was smack in the middle of Laurel's and my dedicated haul from Birmingham back to Phoenix. We'd driven eight hours that day, we were sweaty and disgusting, and what was waiting for us but a black-bottom pool, a vintage fridge full of beers, a tray of chips and salsa, and a free Texas-sized breakfast the next morning. Also a spaniel named Jack and a couple of mason jar cocktails. This is signature American lux--all the comforts served in generous but low-key fashion after a long day's grind.
Just a little way off the main plaza, staying at La Posada is like living within a walled garden, offering double the peace and quiet that Santa Fe already affords. The resort occupies what used to be the estate of wealthy German settlers, who were also art patrons--the adobe bungalows they built to house visiting artists now serve as lodging for guests, outfitted with wood-burning fireplaces and private patios, arranged along a rough stone-tiled path surrounded by climbing roses and sage bushes. I spent the cushiest three nights of 2014 in one of these cottages last September with a bottle of Gruet, Hatch chile-infused cheese, bizcochitos and daily access to the lavender-scented steam room. Sorry...I'm gloating. But wouldn't you?
This family-owned joint is the finest in town, according to my gentleman (who planned people's Jackson Hole vacations for the past eight years). Honestly, I could happily camp out in the second floor library, where they keep a fire lit, fresh cookies piled, and cider steeping around the clock...and on the deck just outside, there's a hot tub. But there's also one in the room. So.
As I write this, I'm finalizing plans to visit more swank hotels in Asheville, Louisville, Nashville, New Orleans, and various cities in Texas. Here's to another year of free shit and bedjumping across this great country.
To read these reviews and all the others I wrote during 2014, visit Our Man on the Ground. Got a swell place to recommend? Email me or throw it up in the comments.