We have asked Gina Power, the name behind Gina Power Food & Travel with a Dash of Art & Consciousness, to share her thoughts with us about her love for hotels, and Amberlair, of course. And before you ask, a #BohoLover is a Boutique Hotel lover… just like us!
How do you choose a hotel when you travel?
I research continuously… online, offline, chatting to friends, people I meet on airplanes, anybody who I feel has a je ne sais quoi. And then I keep my top tips in a little black Smythson’s Travel Notes book. I look for hotels that are unique and authentic to their location. Life is too short for every moment not to be unique.
If you had to choose 3, which were the most special (boutique) hotels you have ever stayed at and what made them so special?
L’Assiette Champenoise in Reims, France is for all those who love good food, wine & modern design, and just 40 minutes from Paris by TGV. I stopped over at this family-run hotel on the edge of the city earlier this month while doing a photo shoot in Champagne. The hotel, a Relais et Château, clocked up its 3rd Michelin star in 2014 under Arnaud Lallement, the son of the founder. As well as food that makes you feel you’re in heaven, 1,000s of wines are on offer, including all the best Champagnes. The interiors are fresh and modern, and offer a study in colour. A cheerful personal greeting from Arnaud, and his passion for seeing the story behind each of his dishes, made me definitely want to go back!
Villa Sparina in Gavi, Italy is among the rolling hills of Gavi, in Piedmont. This family-run hotel, with its own wine-production, is in a beautifully renovated 18th century farmhouse. The hotel’s La Gallina restaurant offers sublime regional food and views across the vineyards. I’ve been staying here for years and love it. The staff are friendly but respectful. The décor, both the interior and the landscaping, is testament to Italian style and design; Italians know how to do country chic. I love walking through the vineyards, or running, if the mood takes me, before breakfast, or going for a swim in the outdoor pool. An excellent stopover between Genoa and Milan, and for shopping at Europe’s biggest luxury designer outlet, nearby Serravalle Designer Outlet.
Kahanda Kanda Boutique Hotel in Galle, Sri Lanka. Whether I’m in a city or the countryside, I like a feeling of space, whether visual or physical. Kahanda Kanda is very popular with honeymooners, but I never noticed that when I was there over the Christmas holidays. For me, it was the ideal place to get away from it all, with ten individual suites, 3 of which have their own swimming pool. Owned by British interior designer George Cooper, the hotel is set in the middle of a tea estate, with beautiful views over the surrounding rolling hills and Koggala Lake, and 30 minutes from the historic Galle Fort. A great cocktail list for chilling on the banquettes of the ‘Living Pavilion’, and a fusion cuisine – all fruit, vegetables and herbs are grown on the estate – in the ‘Dining Pavilion’, where I could sit for hours surrounded by the tropical landscape.
If you had your own boutique hotel, what 3 things would you make sure existed?
- A rising star of a sommelier who believed in biodynamic wines
- A restaurant using produce grown locally by people with a passion for nature & the soil
- A design that worked from every angle of view
Name 3 things you loved in hotels you stayed in before…
- The best sheets that money can buy. My preference is for Frette. And a pillow that is not too big.
- Sleeping with the windows open & drifting off to the sound of the sea or the wind in the trees, such as at Pousada Estrela d’Agua on the beach at Trancoso, Brazil.
- A spa that offers an emotional and spiritual experience, rather than just a beauty treatment, whether the massage that I experienced at the simple Albergo Il Monastero in Ischia, Italy, or at the luxurious Aman Spa at Claridge’s in London.
Name 3 things you wouldn’t want to experience in a hotel ever again.
- Bad sound-proofing between the rooms, such as when I stayed at the Château de Courcelles, a Relais et Châteaux, in Picardy, France. A door led through to the next-door room and I could her everything! (They did change my room when I complained.)
- When I’m in France, and I’m asked whether I want a Chardonnay to go with my meal. Can we not keep to terroir, & the stories behind the label? It adds a sense of mystery & anticipation, and this is what a good sommelier is for.
- Wanting an early night at Les Sources de Caudalie, in the vineyards of Bordeaux, to be woken up to the people next door having a bit of a party on their neighbouring terrace. Why not go to the bar? Apart from that, I loved the hotel.
How do you feel about the Amberlair concept?
A very exciting concept that immediately makes me feel that I want to get involved. Staying in the right hotel is as important as eating at the right restaurant. It’s not even about price. It’s about feeling charmed; a mystical and magical experience. Every time I stay in a hotel which isn’t quite right, I want to tweak it, and Amberlair gives everyone who is passionate about boutique hotels a chance to get involved, to have their say.
Where are you off to next?
After six destinations in two months, I am taking a rest. Then, Shanghai in the spring and Arles for the Rencontres d’Arles Photography Festival in July and to see how the works are going at the Frank Gehry-designed building part of the Luma Foundation. Must buy the Arles Louis Vuitton City Guide. The new hotel L’Arlatan, designed by Jorge Pardo, looks amazing! And, of course, there are the trips that life throws up!
Gina Power is the name behind Gina Power Food & Travel with a Dash of Art & Consciousness, the travel blog focussing on luxury food, wine and terroir experiences. Gina, or Georgina, as she calls herself when trying to appear more serious, started as a journalist, working for the likes of Conde Nast Traveler and The Times, and then moving on to the world of fashion PR. She spent 5 years as a correspondent in Barcelona, a very special city for her as this was where her son was born. She also spent a year in Izmir, Turkey, and has travelled to more than 45 countries around world.
Gina Power – Food & Travel was born out of Gina’s passion for food and wine, with all its different expressions… social, cultural, spiritual and artistic. She also loves taking photographs, and specialises in vineyards and vignerons.
As well as being a blogger, Gina works alongside companies to help with their strategic communications and brand content.