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Archive for the ‘Hotels’ Category

 

In the hills just outside Florence, Italy you’ll find Torre di Bellosguardo, a historic and atmospheric villa featuring stunning views of the city below. Bellosguardo means “beautiful view,” and looking out over the rooftops of Florence it’s hard to disagree. Located about a 10-minute taxi ride from the city center, Torre di Bellosguardo offers great proximity to Florence and all its treasures while allowing guests to stay in a natural and peaceful setting.

 

Torre di Bellosguardo’s tower dates to the fourteenth century, but little remains of the original structure. The property has been carefully updated and maintained over the years. It is surrounded by gardens, trees and patios, enabling guests to enjoy a countryside environment. Staff pick fruit from the trees and vegetables from their garden to serve to guests and encourage visitors to meet the pony and donkeys kept on the property. Inside the hotel, visitors are likely to immediately look upward, admiring the original frescoes that cover the ceiling of the grand reception area. They were painted in the sixteenth century and imbue the hotel with grandeur and old world elegance.

 

The hotel has just sixteen rooms, each decorated in an antique Florentine style but also boasting modern amenities, including flat screen televisions. It’s hard to imagine staying inside to watch television at Torre di Bellosguardo, given the other options. More likely, you’ll find yourself luxuriating on one of the villa’s patios with a glass of wine, gazing out over the city of Florence and wondering how you got so lucky. You might take a dip in the sparkling pool, or be so carried away by the romance that you’ll ask Torre di Bellosguardo to host your wedding or vow renewal. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Well, here’s something new and different. Stockholm’s newest hostel is located on board a jumbo jet. That’s right, this Boeing 747 has been converted into a 25-room hostel, complete with modern, minimalist furnishings and a 24-hour cafe.

 

Jumbo Hostel is the brainchild of hotelier Oscar Dios. He explains the hostel’s beginnings on its website: “I was getting ready to expand my hostel business in 2006 when I heard about an old wreck of an aircraft for sale at Arlanda [airport]. Since I had for a long time wanted to establish my business at Arlanda I didn’t hesitate for a second when this opportunity struck.” The plane was gutted, cleaned and transformed into a hostel. It now resides at the entrance to the airport, giving guests up-close-and-personal views of arriving flights.

 

Okay, cool factor aside, if you are not a 22-year old backpacker you are probably not going to get excited about a hostel. It conjures up images of storage lockers, unshaven hippies on their way to Amsterdam, shared bathrooms and the smell of pot wafting through the halls. It’s enough to make an adult break out in hives. Jumbo Hostel certainly is a hostel, featuring three bunkbeds in each dorm-style room and shared bathroom facilities. However, there are also private rooms available and a suite located in the plane’s former cockpit. If you choose not to stay at the hostel, you can just pay a visit to their cafe, which offers coffee, snacks and a view of the Arlanda runway.

 

The prices at Jumbo Hostel are not your standard hostel bargains.  A night in the super cool cockpit suite will set you back 3,300SEK (or $380 US Dollars).  A private room costs about $155.  However, a dorm bed in one of the shared rooms is a true bargain at about $40.  Unless you can afford Virgin Upper Class, Jumbo Hostel may be the only way you can say you slept comfortably on a plane.  When in Stockholm, look no further.

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Every now and then you stumble across a hotel that completely exceeds your expectations. This was the case when I stayed at Chateau Des Ormeaux, a charming hotel tucked into a peaceful meadow outside Amboise, France. The property is gorgeous. Chateau Des Ormeaux is surrounded by trees and hiking trails and offers views across a private valley. The building itself has been painstakingly restored by its owners and furnished with beautiful period antiques. The appeal of Chateau Des Ormeaux goes beyond mere beauty, however. The owners of this fine hotel offer personal service that takes this property to the next level.

 

When you arrive, one of the owners will personally greet you, give you a tour of the hotel and show you to your room. Each of the six rooms in the main building is spacious and comfortable, features a spotless en suite bathroom and views out large windows. Guests are encouraged to make reservations for the bi-weekly dinner hosted by the owners. I arrived on a Saturday, having made my dinner reservations in advance. Prior to the dinner, the owners gathered all the guests in the salon on the main floor and passed trays of champagne and cheese. They mingled amongst us, providing introductions (“Bill is also from California. Have you met him yet?”) and showing us photo albums detailing the hotel’s renovations. By the time we were seated at the dinner table, we all felt like we knew each other and were happily swapping travel stories. The meal itself? Heavenly. The Chateau serves up simple but refined foods accompanied by local wines. Ours was absolutely one of the best dinners I ate in France. The complimentary breakfast was similarly wonderful, the high point being the jams that the owners make themselves.

 

Chateau Des Ormeaux is convenient to many of the Loire Valley’s most impressive tourist destinations, including the chateaux at Chambord, Chenonceau and Cheverny. Amboise itself has much to offer, including Clos Luce, where DaVinci spent the last years of his life, Chateau Amboise and a variety of restaurants and shops. The hotel provides a convenient base for sightseeing, wine tasting and outdoor adventures. While it is no longer an unknown gem, having been singled out by numerous guides and websites for special honors, Chateau Des Ormeaux is one of the most gracious and memorable hotels I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing.

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