Hotel News We Noted: March 8, 2013

the jefferson boardroomWelcome to this week’s edition of “Hotel News We Noted,” where we round up the week’s best, most interesting and just downright odd news of note in the hospitality world. Have a tip? Send us a note or leave a comment below.

The hotel world has been buzzing this winter with new and planned openings, extreme amenities and packages galore. Here’s our take on what you need to know this week:

Shangri-La Goes After Saudi Princess Who Skipped Out on $7.5 Million Hotel Bill
The Shangri-La hotel in Paris is going after the Saudi princess who left in the dead of the night and skipped out on her $7.5 million hotel bill, Business Insider reports. The princess spent six months on the 41st floor of the hotel, and her father, the King, has refused to pay her debts. The king has since confined the princess to a palace in Saudi Arabia after she left a trail of unpaid debts across Europe. Nothing quite says “princess” like palace confinement, hmm?

Hotel Openings: ME London
The first ME by Melia hotel in the UK and the fifth in the brand opened last week in one of the world’s hottest cities for hotel growth – London. ME London is located in the heart of the West End, on the site formerly inhabited by the famous Gaiety Theatre. The 157-room property will feature a rooftop bar, Radio, offering panoramic views of the city, as well as the brand trademark penthouse, SuiteME – a two-level superlative experience offering a fire-pit warmed private terrace, a private lounge, separate dining room, three 3-D televisions, a pillow menu and much more. (Remember the crazy Cancun penthouse from the Real World Cancun?) NYC-based The ONE Group is the hotel’s official F&B provider, with two of its iconic brands opening venues within the property – STK London and Cucina Asellina.

Luxury Hotels Coming Your Way: Four Seasons Madrid, An Aman In Venice and Multi-Billion Dollar Las Vegas
While much of our hotel news is often focused on newly opened or revamped properties, this week seemed to have much to offer in the way of “soon-to-come” luxury hotels. Four Seasons announced their first property in Spain, Four Seasons Madrid, in the next four years, Aman is coming to the Grand Canal with a new ultra-luxury property opening on this summer boasting 24 suite-style rooms, and a Malaysian investment firm has paid $350 million for a multi-billion dollar hotel complex to come in the former Echelon site in Las Vegas, USA Today reported.Tech Tips: Eventi Offers Hi-Tech Amenities For Travelers
Sick of traveling with tons of gadgets? Eventi, a New York City Kimpton property, now has a “Business Bar” where travelers can rent gadgets ranging from iPads and MacBook Pros to Kindles, Nooks and even digital cameras. This free service is geared to help travelers who like to pack light, but who would love to sample some of these gadgets as a trial before buying, particularly the cameras!

Sleep Better: Accor’s Ibis Offers a Sleep App
We’ve certainly written about hotels with great sleep programs before, but this is the first time we’ve seen a hotel brand unveil their own sleep app. ibis Styles and ibis budget are transforming your restful night into a digital work of art. Every morning, it allows iPhone users to see how their night’s sleep has been transformed into an original digital work of art. Once the Sleep Art app has been programed, the iPhone becomes a sensor that captures movements and sounds. This data is converted real-time into a virtual “work of art” as the user sleeps. Every night is different. These virtual works of art are stored in the gallery and users can therefore compare each night’s sleep and share results by email or on Facebook, so that as many people as possible can also find out about this unique digital experience.

The President Dines at The Jefferson in Washington, DC
Much buzz has been heard in the news this week about President Obama’s dining with 12 republican leaders. But we’ve got the inside scoop on where he dined – most outlets only called it a “discreet” Washington hotel. The property was, in fact, The Jefferson, a Preferred Boutique property in downtown Washington. The congressmen and President dined on everything from Blue Crab Risotto to Lobster “Thermidor” to Peanut Butter Crumble. We hear that the president picked up the tab!

[Image Credit: The Jefferson Washington, DC]

Hotel News We Noted: February 22, 2013

Welcome to this week’s edition of “Hotel News We Noted,” where we round up the week’s best, most interesting and just downright odd news of note in the hospitality world. Have a tip? Send us a note or leave a comment below.

The hotel world has been buzzing this winter with new and planned openings, extreme amenities and packages galore. Here’s our take on what you need to know this week:

Quirky Hotels We’d Love To Visit: 134-Year-Old UK Fortress, Spitbank Fort, Now a Luxury Hotel
A mile off the Hampshire coast in the United Kingdom, the 134-year-old Spitbank Fort used to defend the English shores. Now it’s a nine-room luxury hotel featuring three bars, three restaurants, a rooftop champagne bar, wine cellar, library, rooftop hot pool, sauna and sun decks. There’s a private boat or helicopter option for arrival and rent-out options for “ultimate” weekends away. A night starts at $565. Check out the photos – we’re pretty sure this sounds like a place we’d love to visit.
Buzzy Hotel Destination: The Bronx
If the New York Times has it right, the newest destination for a luxury hotel just might be … the Bronx? A philanthropist has revamped a 10-room hotel called The Andrew Freedman, charging between $130 and $250 for a room, The Empire Hotel Group is planning a $10 million renovation of a historic opera house, turning it into a 60-room luxury property, and Marriott will open a Residence Inn in 2014. Is the transformation of this area best known for crime and poverty a good idea? The article has mixed reports. See for yourself here.

Travel Trend: Experiential Hotel Stays
A new article in the Wall Street Journal details how luxury hotels are attracting guests by offering one-of-a-kind experiences like private cooking lessons, celebrity makeup artists and even alligator tracking experiences. Would you pay more to stay somewhere that offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? The article thinks so.

Pampered Pooches: SoHo Grand Creates a Dog Park
There are dog menus and dog walkers and even dog massages, but what about a hotel with an on-site dog park? SoHo Grand is the first hotel in New York City to create a special outdoor area for furry friends, including cherry trees, boxwoods and ornamental kale. The park opens May 1. Will you be bringing Fido with you to the Big Apple? (h/t Luxury Travel Magazine)

Haute Packages: Oscar Ready
Even if you can’t make it to Los Angeles to celebrate the Academy Awards, you can enjoy special offers and packages at some fun hotels around the country. Here are a couple of our favorite packages related to Oscar-nominated films:

  • Beasts of The Southern Wild at The Blake Hotel, New Orleans. It’s a simple promo, but an effective one if you’re traveling with kids: mention code “Beasts” at check in and you’ll receive free VIP passes to the Audubon Institute, which features an amazing zoo, aquarium, insectarium and butterfly garden.
  • Lincoln at W Washington, DC. What better place to celebrate a president than in Washington, D.C.? This overnight package ($399) includes a chauffeured tour for two and visit to historic locations including Ford’s Theater, the Petersen House, the Lincoln Memorial, and President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldiers’ Home.

[Photo by Spitbank Fort]

Discover Scandinavia In Washington DC: Nordic Cool 2013

Aurora Borealis, new Nordic cuisine, ice hotels, hot springs, fjords, moose, meatballs and music? Scandinavia is at the top of the list for a lot of travelers these days. But if you can’t book a ticket to the northern countries this year, Washington, D.C., might be your next best bet.

The city is the host of Nordic Cool 2013, a month-long international festival celebrating the culture of Scandinavia, taking place at the Kennedy Center from February 19 to March 17, 2013.

Featuring theater, dance, music, visual arts, literature, design, cuisine and film, the festival aims to highlight the diverse cultures of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden as well as the territories of Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Áland Islands. That’s a lot of Scandinavia in one month.

There is a wide selection of free events that are open to the public, including exhibits on Nordic design and plenty of musical performances. In fact, a total of more than 750 artists, musicians, dancers and writers, will descend upon the capital for the festival, all in an attempt to answer the question, “What is Nordic?”

There’s no simple answer to that, but at least you know it will be high on the cool factor.

[Photo Credit: Nordic Cool 2013]

Cochon 555 Pork Competition Turns Five, Kicks Off February 17 In Atlanta

baconMuch ado about pork products is made on Gadling, with good reason. Even if you’re sick to death of pork-centric eateries, and lardo this and sausage that, it’s hard to deny the allure of the other white meat (I can’t tell you how many vegetarians and vegans I know who still have a jones for bacon).

For those of you wanting to attend the ultimate porkapalooza, get your tickets for Cochon 555, a traveling, “National Culinary Competition & Tasting Event Dedicated to Heritage Pigs, Family Wineries & Sustainable Farming.”

The 10-city tour kicks off February 17 in Atlanta, and will include stops in New York; Boston; Chicago; Washington, DC; Miami; Vail; Seattle; San Francisco; and Los Angeles, before culminating in the dramatic Grand Cochon at the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen on June 16. Notice that Colorado gets two Cochon visits? The South isn’t the only place that appreciates pork.

Cochon was created by Taste Network’s Brady Lowe to raise awareness about, and encourage the sustainable farming of heritage-breed pigs. At each destination, five celebrated local chefs must prepare a nose-to-tail menu using one, 200-pound, family-raised heritage breed of pig. Twenty judges and 400 guests help decide the winning chef. The 10 finalists will then compete at the Grand Cochon for the ultimate title of “King or Queen of Porc.”

Depending upon venue, attendees can also expect tasty treats like Heritage BBQ; butchery demonstrations; mezcal, bourbon, whiskey and rye tastings; specialty cheese sampling, cocktail competitions; a Perfect Manhattan Bar, raffles, and killer after-parties.

For additional details and tickets, click here. Partial proceeds benefit charities and family farms nationwide.

[Photo credit: Flickr user out of ideas]

Budget Guide 2013: Washington, DC

All eyes have been on Washington, D.C., over the past year, and it’s not just because the historic city happens to be our nation’s capital. From the 57th presidential inauguration to fiscal cliff drama, much of the media attention has focused on the city’s overspending and excess.

What most don’t see is the vibrant mix of neighborhoods and ever-expanding web of restaurants, hotels and cultural attractions that make Washington a budget capital – not just a power broker’s destination. From new extended-stay hotel options to recently unveiled monuments and more than a dozen free museums, Washington, D.C., has more than its fair share of budget-friendly reasons to visit.

While Washington may still, in some ways, live up to its wonky, politically-savvy-yet-fashionably-challenged reputation, the city has spent the past decade and, most notably, its past few years coming into its own, forging a path that quickly puts this East Coast gem on par or ahead of Chicago, Boston or Atlanta for your next vacation destination.


Hotels

Before we venture into specifics, it’s worth noting that for the true budget seekers, staying just outside the city, but inside the Beltway, is often much more affordable than D.C. proper, and still accessible via Metro and just a 10- to 15-minute ride away from downtown. Neighborhoods like Arlington (Virginia) or Bethesda (Maryland) can be much more reasonably priced. But if a Washington, D.C., address is your priority, consider the following.

Avenue Suites: Part of a small group of boutique properties in the Washington area, this new extended-stay property offers the advantages of apartment-like living in the heart of the city’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood. Simple and clean lines give the property a timeless appeal, while photographs of Hollywood elite lend a touch of glam. Walkable to Georgetown shopping and dining, and yet still metro-accessible, this property is an ideal choice for those looking to stay more than a night or two.

An extra perk? Generously sized suites (600-650 square feet) have separate bedrooms and living areas, full kitchens and gratis Wi-Fi. They’ll even stock your fridge if you request it! Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the attached A Bar + Kitchen is one of the city’s more popular new spots for happy hour.
Avenuesuites.com 2500 Pennsylvania Ave.

Kimpton Hotels: If you’re going to attempt a budget-friendly trip, choose a hotel with a wide variety of value-added amenities. From complimentary in-room pet visitors in the form of goldfish to “Wine Down Hour” or a morning cold pizza and Bloody Mary bar, Kimpton’s dozen-plus D.C.-area properties are some of the city’s best budget accommodations. This boutique brand offers more than 50 hotels nationwide, but features a strong concentration in Washington, with many offering weekend rates starting at around $100.

These properties are as well-loved by locals as they are by guests, due in part to their affiliated restaurants that make up some of the city’s most popular tables, including Urbana in Dupont Circle’s Hotel Palomar, Poste in the Hotel Monaco D.C. or Jackson 20 in the Monaco Alexandria. Of course, cheeky in-room add-ons like leopard- and zebra-print robes don’t hurt the brand’s lighthearted but upscale rep either.
Kimptonhotels.com


Eat and Drink

Food Trucks: As in many cities, the food truck boom has hit it big in Washington. Locals spend lunch hour tracking trucks as they stop in popular downtown destinations like Farragut Square and George Washington University and get their fill of lobster rolls from Red Hook Lobster Pound, Cuban sandwiches from celebrity chef Jose Andres’ Pepe truck or enjoy more than 40 types of sauce add-ons to the fusion cuisine at the ever-popular Sauca. Of course, the varieties don’t stop there; trucks offer everything from cupcakes and banh mi to peanut butter and jelly as their specialties.
foodtruckfiesta.com is the easiest way to track where your favorite will stop today.

Union Market: Most D.C. guidebooks advise visitors to take a swing through Capitol Hill’s Eastern Market, a collection of food and flea market-style vendors that gather each weekend to display their wares. We’re not discouraging a visit, but food lovers should now seek out the city’s new market-style experience in the NoMa neighborhood. From oysters to ice cream and artisan olive oil to freshly-baked goods, the market is not only open Wednesday to Sunday, but it also offers an ever-changing array of pop-up artisans.
unionmarketdc.com

Charles Steak & Ice: For years, Washingtonians bemoaned the lack of quality delis downtown. That was until the duo behind Taylor Gourmet began a Philadelphia-style sandwich shop on H Street in late 2007. Offering up hoagies galore, this shop quickly became a cult favorite and now has six area locations with more scheduled for early 2013. But their newest venture, Charles Steak & Ice, riffs on another Philadelphia tradition that D.C. sorely lacks – the cheesesteak. Done up in artsy graffiti and reclaimed metal picnic tables, guests line up all day to order subs “wit wiz” or “wit out.” We’d suggest that you don’t miss the sloppy fries.
Steakandice.com 1320 H St. NE


Budget Activities

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial: The city’s newest monument is the recently-opened tribute to the nation’s most famous civil rights leader, located within walking distance of the presidential monuments.
www.nps.gov/mlkm

D.C. by Foot: Learning the ins and outs of any city is usually left to those visiting with a local. But not anymore – from the city’s “Secrets and Scandals” to the inside story of Lincoln’s assassination, these free (tip-based) tours are great ways to learn the city like a local.
freetoursbyfoot.com/dc/


Get Around

The easiest way to get from point A to B in Washington, D.C., is via the Metro rail system. Use Wmata.com for a simple trip planner, calculating distances via foot, bus or Metro.

Just be sure to stand on the right and walk on the left of Metro escalators – it’s the city’s cardinal rule of transportation.

If the weather permits, visitors can also test Capital Bikeshare. Rent by the day or three-day period, simply dropping your bicycle at locations around the metro area when you’re finished. With nearly 2,000 bicycles at your disposal, you’ll always have wheels when you want them. capitalbikeshare.com

Budget Tip

If you’re visiting the city for just a day, consider buying a daylong pass ($14), which allows for unlimited access to the system. When spending more than a day riding the rails, opt for a credit card-style “SmarTrip” card, which can be refilled again and again as well as used for parking at metro stations.

[Photo credit: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Edens]