Great Layover: Vancouver International Airport

Ugh. Layovers. We’ve all had to while away the hours at airports, but regular travelers know that every so often, a layover can be more respite than penance. Such is the case with Vancouver International Airport, a modern marvel with art and architecture to die for.

In addition to high-tech design that includes soaring ceilings, lots of skylights, and sculpture from the region’s indigenous tribes, there’s a leafy, indoor aquarium/park area ideal for destressing, and loads of boutiques and food outlets that are a notch above the standard airport fare.

What makes YVR (the airport code) equally distinctive, however, is the Fairmont Vancouver Airport hotel. Sure, other hotels have airports, but have you ever stayed in them? What you usually get is a musty, generic, not terribly hygenic, overpriced room, and a complete lack of serenity or style. The Fairmont, by contrast, is an oasis not only for guests, but travelers just passing through on layover. Read on for the best ways to spend your layover at YVR (for once, you can hope it’s a long one).

Courtesy of YVR

Some people like to get their layover exercise by strolling the airport shops, and YVR doesn’t disappoint. Be sure to pick up some pure maple syrup, maple cream cookies (delish) and smoked salmon in Duty Free or at one of the specialty shops. But if you’re looking for a serious work-out, consider dropping $15 to use the Fairmont’s health club, pool, and jacuzzi.

Afterward, soothe sore or travel-fatigued muscles at the luxe Absolute Spa. In addition to massage, there are the usual pampering facials, body treatments, and mani-pedi’s. Or perhaps you’d prefer to unwind over a drink (Canadian whiskey, anyone?). Hit up the swanky Jetside Bar or GlobeYVR restaurant, which has floor-to-ceiling, sound-proof views of the runway. Jets literally take off from just yards away. And yes, there is great airport food: think creative, seasonal PNW fare, with some ingredients (notably, honey, herbs, and greens) sourced from the Fairmont’s own hives and gardens (most of the chain urban farms on their rooftops; this being an airport, a separate farm is located nearby).

Courtesy of Fairmont Vancouver Hotel
Should your layover require an overnight, business meeting, or other function, the Fairmont YVR is definitely the place to be. It’s also convenient to downtown, because the clean, speedy Canada Line public transit system connects to the airport. Be sure to take advantage of the transit by visiting the outstanding public market on Granville Island (which will require a short cab ride or walk from the rail system, FYI), or hopping off in buzzing Yaletown, home to Vancouver’s trendiest shopping and dining. Outdoorsy types will want to connect to a bus that will take them to sprawling Stanley Park, with its miles of hiking trails.

The 300+ rooms at the Fairmont YVR all overlook the runways, either for arrivals or departures (again, soundproof glass makes for stunning, yet quiet, visuals). Some rooms are equipped with telescopes; one floor is reserved for hypoallergenic bedding and skin products. Other rooms are pet-friendly. The natural light is plentiful, the bedding plush, the bathrooms cushy (suites come with hand-hewn jade from a British Columbian quarry). With accommodations like this, layovers are…fun.

Vancouver itself is a progressive, outdoorsy city that takes full advantage of its stunning location nestled in the Coast & Mountains region. But even if you never make it past the airport, it’s sure to leave you with a positive impression that leaves you longing to return.

Daily Pampering: $15,000 Penthouse Suite at the Fairmont San Francisco

In 1926, the penthouse at the Fairmont San Francisco leased for $1,000 a month. Today, the 6,000 square foot of luxury space goes for $15,000 a night.

The Fairmont San Francisco began revitalizing the iconic penthouse (currently valued at $20 million) in August 2009 and a year later, the grand dame of San Francisco suites reopened to guests.

Spanning the entire eighth floor of the historic Main Building of The Fairmont San Francisco, the penthouse offers three large bedrooms, a living room with grand piano, a formal dining room seating 60 people, a kitchen, a two-story circular library crowned by a rotunda where a celestial map is rendered in gold leaf against a sapphire sky, a billiard room covered in Persian tile from floor to vaulted ceiling, and an expansive terrace with views of San Francisco. A secret passageway concealed behind bookshelves on the library’s second floor lends a sense of intrigue to the fabled suite (and used to lead to the rooftop of the hotel for the ultimate in star and skyline gazing).

The penthouse has welcomed everyone from royalty to rock stars, including President John F. Kennedy, Prince Charles of Wales, Mikhail Gorbachev, King Hussein of Jordan, Mick Jagger, Elton John, and Tony Bennett. And why not? For the $15,000 fee a night, guests get a private butler, private chef, private masseuse, private personal trainer, private house keeping and access to an extensive wine cellar featuring some of the world’s best vintages.


Daily Pampering: Shanghai’s Peace Hotel opens with $1,000 room rates

Shanghai‘s Peace Hotel finally reopened last week after three years of restoration, and according to some the wait was absolutely worth it.

The iconic hotel, which has accommodated high-end guests and celebrities for years, spent HK$500 million (approximately $64 million USD) to restore the building. The result: 270 refurbished rooms, including the so-called Nine Nations Suites; six restaurants and lounges, including the Jazz Bar frequented by former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

The Peace Hotel, also known as the Fairmont Peace Hotel, is welcoming guests at starting rates of 2,300 yuan (approximately $340 USD) and go as high 7,000 yuan (approximately $1,000 USD) or more for a night. The cost of staying in one of the most preserved peace-keeping hotels in the world? Priceless.

[via Bloomberg]

London’s The Savoy to reopen Oct. 10, 2010

Almost three years later, London’s famed hotel The Savoy will reopen in the heart of the West End theater district. The landmark hotel opened in 1889 and was shut down in 2007 to undergo a major £100 million (almost $150 million) restoration that includes a complete rebuilding of the property, including all public areas and the guest rooms. Now comes word the iconic hotel will reopen on Oct. 10, 2010.

Here’s what we know:

  • All of the hotel’s 268 rooms and suites have been redecorated and redesigned with a combination of Art Deco and Edwardian. Of the guest rooms, 58 will have river views.
  • All rooms offer an extensive array of modern amenities
  • The Reading Room will be an intimate, comfortable area for guests
  • The new glass dome floods the Thames Foyer with natural light
  • The iconic American Bar will once again be serving some of the best cocktails in London
  • The Front Hall entry is being restored, including the famous “Idyll of a Golden Age” frieze (the architecture that surrounds the doorways and windows).

In addition to the renovations, the new Savoy will be void of check in/check out hassles — the hotel is eliminating paper bills for guests to sign and moving to a completely electronic system. The hotel will be staffed with personal assistants including butlers for rooms, transportation services and more for all guests. There will be a fitness center, pool and spa. Three different restaurants, two bars and a tea shop will grace the hotel, as well as private event space for up to 440 people. And of course, as part of the Fairmont family, The Savoy will be part of the group’s eco-program and green initiatives.

Check out more of The Savoy’s renovation project here.

Fairmont Zimbali Resort opens in South Africa

There’s a new Fairmont in South Africa. The 154-room Fairmont Zimbali Resort has just opened, not far from the Fairmont Zimbali lodge, a 76-room property along the beach. The resort is tucked away in a 700-hectare forest reserve and is only 15 minutes from the new King Shaka International Airport.

Around the resort, there’s plenty to do, from game-viewing expeditions and safaris to micro-light flying and surfing in the Indian Ocean. There are five outdoor swimming pools on the property, including freshwater and saltwater pools overlooking the ocean. And, duffers can look forward to an 18-hole golf course (under construction) designed by Gary Player. Soccer fans, of course, will appreciate the fact that the Fairmont Zimbali Resort is only a short drive from Durban, one of nine 2010 FIFA World Cup host cities.

The Zimbali is one of seven new Fairmont properties to open this year.