Conde Nast Traveler the other day issued its hot list of the top new hotels in the world. The new Four Seasons in Yorkville and the new Shangri-La on University Avenue both made the grade, as did the Ritz Carlton in Montreal and La Ferme in Baie-St. Paul, the new hotel built at the Le Massif ski hill by Daniel Gauthier of Cirque du Soleil fame.
The magazine described the look of the Four Seasons (see photo below right) as "uber-polished and somewhat austere, with huge, dark wood columns and 1,700 commissioned pieces of art." They said the "taupe and beige colour scheme and stone floors lend a somewhat chilly atmosphere to public spaces" but that "rooms are softer, with flowered fabric headboards and sweet little framed prints of Canadian wildlife."
They also said the new Four Seasons is a "clear departure from the old-fashioned, out-of-date original," that the sleek Daniel Boulud restaurant is "a magnet for Toronto's upwardly mobile" and that the 30,000 square foot spa is the largest urban spa in the Four Seasons chain.
I gotta admit I find the lobby area a bit cramped and not overly welcoming, but I'm a big fan of old-fashioned hotels with welcoming chairs and don't really like the artsy, austere look.
I personally much prefer the lobby space at the Shangri-La, with its Asian touches and sofas and open spaces. It seems like the Conde Nast folks agree. They call the look "urban zen" and commented on the subtle Asian elements, such as the Japanese watercolours and orchids that dot the property. They said the hotel "feels illuminated and airy thanks to a soaring lobby space with plenty of blonde wood and travertine stone (and the occasional pop of magenta from a silk pillow or rug).
"Guest rooms are painted in soft cream, and the floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the Toronto skyline create a cheery atmosphere, even on overcast winter days. Enormous bathrooms are swathed in veined marble and include the now almost ubiquitous TV in the mirror."
Although it may attract biz types, the magazine noted the Shangri-La "has all the necessities for a city vacation, including indoor cabanas surrounding a whirlpool, a gorgeous hammam spa and the excellent lobby-level restaurant, Bosk."
Heady praise, indeed.
In addition to citing both hotels, Conde Nast also named their respective spas as blissful hot spots for 2013.
Heading to Quebec? Conde Nast called La Ferme's look "eclectic and whimsical," with rooms that vary wildly in style. They seemed to like the French comfort food at the restaurant, Les Labours, but cited the lack of a good spa. They had lots of great things to say about the Ritz Carlton in Montreal, citing it's "turn-of-the-century grandeur" and the "Gilded Age fantasy" of the Palm Court, combined with modern, sleek rooms. They said the pool and gym feel cramped, but overall gave the place a very solid review.
WORLD'S BEST AIRPORTS
The folks at Skytrax, who do regular airline reviews, have issued a new list of the top airports on the planet. Vancouver's YVR was, understandably, named the best airport in North America, finishing eighth overall. YVR was the only North American airport in the top ten.
It marks the fourth straight year Vancouver was named tops in North America, based on a survey of 395 airports that looked at everything from comfort to efficiency to signage and amenities. The Vancouver airport has a bright, lively feel to it, with great shops and a large fish tank and even a liquor store on the way out. It beats the living daylights out of Toronto Pearson. which came 46th to finish second in Canada. Also in the top 100 from a Canadian angle were Halifax/Stanfield at 58 and Montreal/Trudeau, which came 83rd.
I said Vancouver was the only North American airport in the top ten. Actually, it was the only North American airport in the top 29. The next best facility in North America after YVR was Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky at number 30. Other American facilities in the top 50 were Denver (36), San Francisco (40) and Atlanta/Hartsfield (48).
Changi Airport in Singapore came first overall in the world, a common occurrence for the renowned facility with shops and spas and all kinds of attractions. Next was South Korea’s Incheon International Airport, followed by Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, Hong Kong International and Beijing Capital International Airport.
WESTJET TEAMS WITH ICELAND AIR
WestJet continues to sign deals with world airlines to make things easier for Canadians heading out of the country. It was announced today that WestJet and Icelandair "have launched a new interline agreement opening up the skies for passengers connecting between the Americas and more than 20 Icelandair destinations throughout Europe."
"Passengers can now book a single combined e-ticket for WestJet and Icelandair flights which includes the conveniences of single check-in for all flights and baggage sent through to the final destination. When connecting in the Americas, Icelandair customers will enjoy WestJet’s fleet of Boeing 737 Next-Generation aircraft serving more than 80 cities in North America, Central America and the Caribbean."
"Icelandair and WestJet share many of the same philosophies including offering our passengers a refreshing travel experience” said Helgi Mar Bjorgvinsson, Icelandair's Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales. "Our complementary customer service and connections through Toronto and Halifax make this a natural partnership. We also look forward to further opening the skies of Canada for both inbound and outbound passengers."
Earlier this year Icelandair expanded its seasonal service from Toronto to a year-round operation with plans to increase capacity next summer. Icelandair will also resume seasonal service from Halifax with two flights a week starting June 1, 2013.
“We’re excited to welcome Icelandair as WestJet’s thirty-second partner airline,” said Todd Peterson, WestJet’s Director, Alliances. “Icelandair and WestJet share a reputation for quality service and great value. The new relationship between our airlines will enhance options for travel between North America and Europe.”
AIR TRANSAT IMPROVEMENTS
Missed this last week when I was away, but the Star's Vanessa Lu reported the other day that Air Transat is rolling out Italian leather slimline seats on its newly revamped Airbus 330 planes, which are often used on transatlantic routes.
Joseph Adamo, Transat's vice-president of marketing (see photo), said while the pitch - the distance from any point on one seat to the exact same point on the seat in front of or behind it - doesn't change, it will feel roomier.
"We can't say it's more space, but it's a better experience," Adamo said as Transat held a media event in Toronto to show off a mockup of its revamped cabin. "The seat is thinner with new generation foam."
The airline also is replacing its outdated entertainment system with individual seatback touch screens that feature movies, books and games like Sudoku.
It's adding LED lighting inside the cabin that switches colours, depending on the situation, including orange for when a plane is arriving in Europe to mimic a sunrise, and supposedly reduce jet lag.
JAUNT.CA DEAL OF THE DAY
Jaunt.ca, a division of Torstar, has a deal on tap for the sunny Dominican Republic for $836, including $387 in taxes.
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- Barcelo is located directly on the beach at Playa Dorada, five minutes from downtown
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