We have asked luxury travel aficionado, Rosie Leach to share her thoughts with us about hotels and Amberlair. Just like us, she’s a #BohoLover (Boutique Hotel lover)!
How do you choose a hotel when you travel?
There are several important factors I take into consideration when selecting a hotel. In no particular order, location is key, be it beach front, city centre, etc. I tend to gravitate towards favourite hotel brands, as you generally know what to expect and the familiarity is comforting. Hotel rating is also important to me, as I am sure it is to many seasoned travellers. Recommendations and first hand experience from friends and a knowledgeable travel professional are also very important. Whilst I do not place too much emphasis on price, it is a consideration and it is important that your stay represents value for money.
If you had to choose 3, which were the most special hotels you have ever stayed at?
This is an incredibly hard question to answer, as there are so many great hotels in the world that are special to me and represent a home away from home. After much deliberation, here are my three in no particular order: The W in Maldives, the Belmond Cipriani in Venice and the Sandy Lane in Barbados
However, I do feel that I need to mention Belmond Villa San Michele in Florence as a very close contender. Having just spent my birthday weekend at this wonderful hotel it would be wrong of me not to sneak it in!
What made them so special?
The W Maldives is where Mr. L and I had our honeymoon, so for that reason alone it was special. More specifically, from the moment you arrive by sea plane and are welcomed by the resident DJ playing some upbeat tunes and a cocktail on the jetty, you immediately relax and melt into your surroundings. It goes without saying, that the environment is stunning but our lagoon oasis room far exceeded our expectations from its size, to the personal cocktail bar, deck, plunge pool and direct access to the glorious water below.
A nice touch was the option to have a private BBQ on your own deck where staff discreetly serve you the dishes and drinks of your choice. As a surprise, I had also booked exclusive use for a day of the W’s yacht, ‘Escape’. We had a memorable day sailing around some smaller islands and dining in style. In the event of rain, a mixology course could be arranged at short notice and great fun! Another quirky aspect of the hotel was the ‘tuck boxes’ dotted about the island full to the brim of ice cream and soft drinks.
If you fancy a dance, the W features an underground club, ‘Fifteen below’, which boasts one of the largest, if not the largest collection of vodkas I have ever seen. As someone who is partial to the odd vodka and tonic, this was a real treat! The spa at The W is a sight to behold. Each treatment room looks out onto the ocean and includes its own deck and outdoor living area and shower, true bliss!
We have stayed a number of times at The Cipriani, not least combined with a trip on The Simplon Orient Express. Venice is, for many people, a magical place and it is no different for us. From the first moment we arrived by boat we fell in love with the hotel and the staff. Belmond hotels around the world are exceptional and it is a brand that I always seek out when visiting a location or, in fact, choose a location based on which of their hotels I would like to try next!! I am lucky to have stayed at a number around the world but would like to complete the set one day.
One of the things I love is that the concierges in particular seem to dedicate their lives to the properties and they are always a familiar, friendly face when you return. The hotel and the service at The Cipriani are great and I always love returning to the hotel’s large swimming pool for an Aperol Spritz after the hustle and bustle of Venice. The hotel always recognise their repeat guests with a room upgrade where available and a bottle of fizz and delicious desert creations in your room. It is an oasis of calm. Cips, one of the restaurants, as well as great food, boasts a stunning view across The Grand Canal to St Marks Square. Definitely worth booking and an extremely romantic setting.
We were fortunate to be staying at The Cipriani during last year’s Venice Film festival, which was very exciting. At every turn we ran into a movie star or producer, which combined with the surroundings of The Cipriani transported you back to the glamorous era of Hollywood!
Whilst I occasionally feel that I should try an alternative hotel in Barbados at least once, I never actually find the courage to do so – and why would I want to? Sandy Lane is a wonderful hotel, a home from home for us. We try to escape there for a long weekend or week at least two to three times a year and every time is as pleasurable as the last.
Whilst you enjoy your first cocktail of the trip on at the beach your luggage is unpacked for you, and as a complimentary service, any pressing is done. The rooms and bathrooms are generous in size and well-equipped, although you can also pre-order your favourite snacks and beverages. The breakfast is extensive and includes a juice bar, which is great after one of the complimentary workout sessions each morning for hotel guests.
The staff cannot do enough to make your stay memorable and tend to your every need, welcoming you back each time with enthusiasm, truly making it a home from home. Sunday brunch is something of a tradition for us now and due to the extensive menu, normally extends to the whole afternoon! The spa at Sandy Lane has an exceptional reputation which I can only concur with. The spa features a vast array of treatments using Aromatherapy Associates products, which I adore. Some of the treatment rooms have private outdoor plunge pools and sun terraces.
If you had your own boutique hotel, what 3 things would you make sure existed?
My needs are relatively simple. One of my staple needs and something that can often sway my choice of hotel is an in-room Nespresso machine. In my opinion no machine comes close and it is a real pleasure to relax in your room or on the balcony/terrace with an espresso at any time of the day! A juice bar would also be a welcome addition to any hotel should I feel the need to detox. Finally, a good Sunday brunch with local live music would make any stay special.
Name 3 things you loved in hotels you stayed in before.
A complimentary packing and unpacking service, is a godsend, especially if you spend your life travelling. You can partake in a cocktail or grab some last minute sunshine whilst the packing or unpacking is done for you. Mr. L says he wishes the contents of my drawers were always this neat and tidy!!
Another hotel service I loved was in Cusco, Peru where guests are allocated a private butler who arrives at sundown to mix you the cocktail of your choice, I definitely recommend the Pisco Sours! Another service that I have experienced at several hotels is complimentary coffee, tea or other beverage brought to your room every morning with a newspaper of your choice at a pre-agreed time. A great way to start your day and delivered when you need it, no need to order and wait!
Name 3 things you wouldn’t want to experience in a hotel ever again.
One of the things that I cannot stand is lazy, apathetic staff that fail to provide exceptional service and go the extra mile for their guests. Sadly I have experienced this in several luxury properties and it really does have a negative impact on your stay. Another pet hate of mine is when the GM and or senior management of a hotel are hardly visible during your stay or introduce themselves as if it is the first time they have met you, even though you have stayed at the property a number of times before.
Another issue of mine which I am sure will resonate with the majority of seasoned travellers is painfully slow wifi which requires you to relog on each time. It is surprising in this day and age and surely with the widespread use of social media to ensure a robust and easily accessible wifi network can only be a positive move for hotels. Last but not least, I will never fail to see the point of having an empty mini bar in your room!! These are all of course first world problems but when travelling one has certain expectations, which I feel should be met.
How do you feel about the Amberlair concept?
Amberlair is an interesting, unique and exciting concept which I am honoured to have been invited to be a part of. I am looking forward to finding out where the first location will be! I can see how it would work in principle and I like the fact that it has multiple stakeholders who all have an input into the hotel from the location, to the décor, to how it is run.
Where are you off to next?
I am off to Barcelona for the weekend. This is my first leisure visit to the city so I am looking forward to it.
I am also excited to be sampling the delights of the W hotel. From Barcelona I am flying back to Marbella and looking forward to visiting Finca Cortesin on Mrs O’s recommendations, it looks great and I cannot wait to try it. Following a short visit to the UK, I am off to Malta, a place that I have enjoyed and loved from the first time I visited some four years ago.