Start 2012 with a bang after a bunk-up in one of London’s original boutique hotels, the Sanderson. A shimmy from Oxford Street, she’s got all that you need for a glamorous intro or outro to the year. And well, it is the sales: this hotel’s neighbourhood is the beating heart of retail.
London – you’re looking mighty fine. The Christmas lights are still up and a-dazzling, everyone’s groomed and jolly from yuletide celebrations, and we haven’t even yet sung Auld Lang Syne. In the run-up to the Olympics, things can only get better, as cheeky Nineties’ band D:Ream put it so well. (It was certainly the case for keyboard player, Dr Brian Cox: but let’s not get sidetracked by popstars-turned-physicists.) And before we get in a froth about all that’s happening in East London in preparation for the August games, let’s talk West End Twixmassing…*
Rude as it would be not to roadtest a stay in this sexy boutique hotel first given its sparkle by the original designer digs duo Ian Schrager and Philippe Starck, here is our blueprint for a one-night stay here. After trawling shops from Regent Street to Covent Garden, refuel with a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in the see-and-be-seen bar and covered courtyard. If it’s evening, hit the residents-only celebrity-beloved Purple Bar for canapés and cocktails before supper in Suka. There, feast on zingy Malaysian by sharing some small plates. Finally, after a round of billiards amid stained-glass gorgeousness, you should sleep like a baby. For a final round of relaxation, sneak in a spa treatment in celestial Agua in the morning. Who knew sales-shopping could be so calming?
Andalucian tiling, Moorish archways, salvaged castle doors – it’s near impossible to believe that Finca Cortesin in the Costa del Sol, was recently built from scratch. Opened in 2009, this modern classic has quickly become a favourite with the discerning luxury traveller – especially for a Mr & Mrs Smith romantic getaway.
Picture the scene: Mr Smith fancies a golfing holiday. Mrs Smith is thinking sunshine and spa treatments. Both have a weakness for exciting wining and dining. What would we prescribe? A long weekend in Finca Cortesin’s flower-filled 70-acre enclave of southern Spain. Trust us, we know from experience.
We flew into Marbella on the Costa del Sol, and Finca Cortesin near Estepona was under an hour’s drive from the glamorous tourist hotspot. The 67-room property had a timeless charm from the moment we glided into its cobbled courtyard and stepped through the pristine whitewashed entrance. After a warm Spanish welcome in the breezy reception area, we had a snoop around the couple of traditional-yet-elegant sitting areas, and strayed out onto a terracotta-tiled terrace that looks out across the pretty plumbago- and bougainvillea-dotted gardens and the rolling green golf course, with the blue sea on the horizon.
For him? Golfers will be wowed by the manicured 18-hole world-class golf course designed by Cabell Robinson; the club not only has a Jack Nicklaus Academy but it is now where the Volvo World Match Play Championship are held annually. This is a luxurious land where golf buggies even come stocked with chilled drinks and snacks. Either hit the post-card perfect greens together, or meet back at the chic Clubhouse.
For her? A sleek unisexy spa with Turkish baths, a Finnish sauna and every fitness-centre thrill, Finca Cortesin even has the country’s only ‘snow cave’. Duck in for the –12º icy therapy and you’ll feel transported to the Artic while your circulation gets a livening up – especially when alternated with some steam-room action and a few laps in the heated hydrotherapy pool. True sybarites will want to sign up for treatments such as a Caviar Facial or a hot-stone therapy massage.
Unique in the Smith collection, Bay of Fires Lodge & Walk in north-east Tasmania combines a stay at a boutique eco-retreat with an inspiring two-day guided trek along one of Australia‘s iconic coastlines. Turquoise seas, snow-white beaches and wildlife-filled bush make the Bay of Fires the perfect place to recharge…
1 Day One kicks off in Mt William National Park, with a flat, nine-kilometre coastal trek and jaw-dropping ocean views.
With summer hotting up down under, it’s outdoor movie season – so we’ve focused on the top 10 best outdoor cinemas in Australia, with hip rooftop screenings, beachside film festivals and open-air park soirees up for grabs. Pack a picnic, take a plus one or even a pooch, and enjoy a romantic evening under the stars. And, after the credits roll, you can stroll off into the sunset for a happy ending at one of our recommended boutique hotels…
For Manhattan-style views of Melbourne, you can’t beat the uber-cool Rooftop Cinema, perched loftily atop club- and bar-packed Curtin House on Swanston Street in the CBD. Recover from the heart-pumping climb upstairs with a cocktail at the open-air bar, before settling into a deckchair for the movie. This urban eyrie always attracts an up-for-it crowd, and serves tasty snacks to fuel the faithful. Highlights this season include cult Brit flicks Submarine and Trainspotting as well as US scarefest Jaws.
Get a room! Roll into bed at Apartment 401 in Melbourne, a short walk away.
For movies under the stars, make a date with Moonlight Cinema, which screens cult and classic flicks in alfresco locations across Australia, including Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Port Douglas until 25 March. You can even bring canine companions along to the 15 January Aussie feel-good flick Red Dog in Melbourne. New York-style street food, bars, gourmet picnics and bean bags can be yours, depending on the venue.
Get a room! For crashing out after, try the Lyall Hotel and Spa in Melbourne; Establishment Hotel in Sydney; NB City holiday house in Adelaide; Spicers Balfour Hotel in Brisbane or a stylish holiday house in Port Douglas.