Pro Cycling Legend George Hincapie To Open Boutique Hotel In South Carolina

George Hincapie's new Hotel Domestique in South CarolinaFormer professional cyclist George Hincapie, who rode in the Tour de France an impressive 17 times, has announced plans to enter the hotel business along with his brother Rich. Their small boutique hotel, which is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of South Carolina, promises to mix old world charm with contemporary sophistication.

The aptly named Hotel Domestique is set to open in August and will feature 13 rooms each with their own individual style and flair. The hotel will showcase French and Mediterranean influences and the comfortable rooms will include designer furnishings, flat-screen TV’s and their own fireplaces. The intention is to provide travelers with a sophisticated and unique place to stay that is also warm and inviting.

Domestique is located near Traveler’s Rest – just 20 miles north of Greenville, SC – and is situated atop a lovely hillside that provides spectacular views of the surrounding region. The hotel includes a fantastic patio that overlooks the 29-acre grounds and vineyard, with the beautiful Blue Ride Mountains offering a dramatic backdrop.

True to his cycling roots, Hincapie hopes to make the Hotel Domestique a popular place to stay with active travelers. The winding country roads that surround the place make for fantastic cycling and running, and a fleet of road and mountain bikes will be available for guests. The hotel will also keep a bike mechanic on staff to adjust bikes to the proper fit and assist riders with all their cycling needs. Additionally, a new 25-meter swimming pool will provide a refreshing dip following an energetic ride or allow the traveling-triathlete to maintain his or her training in style.

For further information and to get a glimpse of this fantastic new hotel, visit
hoteldomestique.com.

[Photo Credits: Hotel Domestique]

George Hincapie's Hotel Domestique

The Beach Snob’s Guide To Cancun

So you’re not the Cancun type. That’s no reason to pass up a cheap flight to its airport, a gateway to lots of anti-Cancun destinations. The area has more than 80 miles of white-sand Caribbean beaches, and only a few of those are confined to the cheesy place you’ve been avoiding.

I’m a certified beach snob, and Cancun-area sands are some of the best for the money and the time it takes to fly there from most parts of the United States. The scenery and beach quality rival Turks & Caicos, the most postcard Caribbean beach I’ve ever seen.

The trick is to look beyond Cancun’s strip to the broader area called the Mayan Riviera, and your options expand to include laid-back islands, secluded luxury resorts and yoga retreats that feel like they’re located at the end of the earth. Some destinations are 30 minutes from the airport, some two hours. You can be on the beach with a thatched-roof balcony and your own hammock for around $100 per night – and no Senor Frog’s for miles and miles.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the Cancun type. The spas in the hotel zone are underrated, for one. But I like quieter places away from the crowds, and more placid waters than Cancun’s. If you do, too, it’s time to reconsider Cancun airfares. Snap up a deal and trust that you’ll find a place your speed; shoulder season in late April and May (and again in September, October and November) is a great time to go because you avoid high-season hotel rates and the scorching summer weather. Here are a few destinations you might not have heard of:

The Island Vibe: Isla Mujeres
A slice of real Mexico, this small island is the closest Cancun alternative to the airport. Located six miles off the coast of Cancun and reached by ferry (pictured at top), it’s anchored by a lively town that sits right on Playa Norte, a postcard soft-sand beach. The extended shallow water appeals to families with young kids. The most popular mode of transportation is a golf cart, and for such a compact place, there’s an remarkable number of restaurants and places to stay. I like Ixchel Beach Resort for a new condo (via VRBO.com), Playa la Media Luna for a tropical beachfront bargain and Casa el Pio for a cute, cheap, in-town option.

The Luxe Life: Playa Mujeres
Quietly, this upscale area has cropped up just north of Cancun, in the opposite direction of the Mayan Riviera development and therefore totally under the radar. It’s a secluded, almost untouched stretch of coastline (pictured below) with nothing else around, the kind of place where you won’t leave the hotel unless it’s on a boat to go fishing or snorkeling. The resorts are extremely posh and expensive – think marble showers the size of a car wash and in-room Jacuzzis with indoor and outdoor access, like those at Excellence Playa Mujeres.

The Soulful Escape: Tulum
This is the only place where I’ve ever picked up hitchhikers. Bumping along a dirt road lined with small, economical beach hotels south of the well-known Tulum ruins, we passed dozens of budget travelers walking to and from the highway, where they catch a bus to Cancun. We gave a lift to an older German couple with wheeled suitcases. Every year, they said, they fly to the area without hotel reservations and call around once they land.

Tulum is located at the far southern reaches of the Mayan Riviera, a good 90 minutes from Cancun and not far from the Belize border. The beaches here are some of the most pristine on the Yucatan. Traditionally an off-the-grid backpacker’s haven, it’s now attracting vacationers who like the good life but aren’t high maintenance. The New York Times called it the fashion in-crowd’s new Miami last year. There are dozens of small hotels in this area alone, including yoga retreats and chic eco-friendly casitas. Casa de los Olas gets high marks.


[Photo credits: from top, Megan Fernandez; 917Press, Scarlatti2004 and Mr. Theklan via Flickr]

Indianapolis Refines The Art Hotel

“Restroom?” the guest asked near The Alexander hotel’s registration desk, a pair of antique bureaus encased in glass.

“Follow the birds,” the employee answered, referring to a flock made of sculpted vinyl records fluttering along a lobby wall.

“Follow the birds” and “just past the graffiti” might become common directions at Indianapolis’s new boutique hotel, located three blocks from Lucas Oil Stadium, the site of last year’s surprise-hit Super Bowl. Visitors are arriving not only to check in, but also to check out a remarkable collection of contemporary-art installations, from the aforementioned graffiti by Banksy rival Nick Walker to an entire bar designed by Jorge Pardo, a MacArthur “genius” award winner.

The street-level vestibule and second-floor registration area serve as a de facto museum gallery, complete with flat white placards on the walls. The first work guests see is Brooklyn-based Alyson Shotz’s vertical wave of acrylic strips that reflect a shifting rainbow spectrum. Next, pendant lights that look like jewel-toned jellyfish dangle above a long staircase to the registration level – those are Pardo’s, and they lead to a swarm of the same fixtures in the lobby bar.

%Gallery-178921%Three more large-scale works anchor the lobby, each referencing local culture. In what might be viewed as a clever way to get you to stay an extra night, several pieces make you stop and study their intricate details. You’ll want to “read” a lacy metal curtain of laser-cut words that represent Brooklyn artist Mark Fox’s impressions of Indy, and continually step close to and back away from “Madam C.J. Walker II,” a portrait composed entirely of 3,840 black plastic combs; up close, the technique astounds (artist Sonya Clark of Richmond, Virginia, broke teeth from some of the combs and layered them to create shading), and from a distance, the image of the namesake woman comes into focus (Walker created a cosmetics empire in Indianapolis in the early 20th century and became the country’s first female African American self-made millionaire).

The Indianapolis Museum of Art, which claims one of the 10 largest encyclopedic collections in the country, curated the hotel’s installations, as well as photos and murals for every floor and guestroom. The museum’s involvement sets The Alexander apart from other art and design hotels, most of which fill one of two niches: an owner’s personal art collection not related to the site, or surreal experimental architecture.

The Alexander, operated by New Jersey­–based Dolce Hotels and Resorts and named for the architect who platted Indianapolis in 1820, opened January 21 as a mid-size property targeted largely to business travelers. It boasts 157 guestrooms (each has dark-wood floors and a seek-and-find mural behind the coffee station), 52 extended-stay suites, an innovative local restaurant, and Pardo’s artisanal-cocktail lounge. Located a block from the Indiana Pacers arena, it’s also catering to visiting NBA teams with California king beds in many rooms. The tactic worked: The Brooklyn Nets were among the first guests, though the hotel evidently made them a little too comfortable because they arrived at an ungodly late hour and still managed to beat the Pacers later that day.

With some weekend rates well under $200 and a prime location near the city’s new $60 million Cultural Trail recreation path that ribbons past every downtown attraction, The Alexander is poised to draw plenty of leisure travelers, as well. Those captivated by the artwork will want to venture four miles north and check out the museum’s other public-art showpiece, 100 Acres, an art and nature park with al fresco contemporary installations, opened in 2010.

[Photo credit: Enrique Fernandez]

Cambodia’s Hôtel de la Paix tree made of 3,200 white feathers




Implementing a massive symbol of both peace and sustainability takes time. Ten days, in fact. Cambodia‘s Hôtel de la Paix (The Hotel of Peace), a luxury boutique hotel dedicated to community sustainability in Siem Reap, Cambodia, is currently displaying an eco-conscious Christmas tree composed of 3,200 white feathers hung on individual wires from the ceiling in the hotel’s lobby. More than 3 million people have seen this creation on Facebook and the hotel has recently launched a video explaining the engineering behind this technical feat.

Since 2008, the hotel has created unique holiday trees to bring joy to the community. At each year’s unveiling, the hotel makes a donation to its community partner of choice, this year, the
The Green Gecko Project.

Of course, if you could use a little luxe in your life, the hotel earned Gold List status as Conde Nast Traveller UK’s 2011 Best Hotel for Ambiance and Design.

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New mobile app helps you find the hippest hotels in town – StayHIP

Mobiata (the company behind the excellent TripDeck, HotelPal and FlightTrack Pro) just unleashed their newest creation – StayHIP. This app is the first mobile hotel application designed specifically for booking boutique hotels.

Like HotelPal, StayHIP allows you to search and book rooms without leaving the app or having to phone in your reservation. To start a search, you pick dates, number of guests, location and what kind of hotel you are looking for. The location can be entered manually, or selected based upon your current position.

Since boutique hotels specialize in themes, you can then pick from things like artsy, beach, chic, romantic and intimate.

Hotel results are displayed with a good variety of photos (and videos), a comprehensive description, and a list of available amenities. In the next step, you are presented with all the available room types, as well as their price.

Once you have selected a room, you simply enter your personal information and payment method and the reservation is finalized. Once booked, you can even share your reservation with friends on Facebook and Twitter.

StayHIP is available for the iPod Touch, iPhone and Android devices. To get StayHIP on your Apple device, click this link (iTunes link). Android users can scan the barcode on the right, or search for StayHIP in the Android Market.

StayHIP was developed by Mobiata along with TRAVELCLICK and is free of charge.

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