We have asked Paola Fiocchi Van den Brande, founder and director at Passepartout Homes, private villa rentals, 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?
Well, it depends on the purpose of the trip. If I am going on a business trip, then I choose a safe, trusted and reputable hotel as close as possible to where I need to be. Safety is very important as I am a woman traveling alone.
If travelling with my family, then the decisional process is much longer and more complicated as the hotel must be able to cater for families and their needs. Some of the criteria the hotel must meet include:
- Family bedroom or interconnecting room ( a non-negotiable request, which more often than not cannot be fulfilled as too many hotels don’t have families in their mind).
- Indoor pool (outdoor fine if traveling to a hot country)
- SPA or Gym
The location is also important. If we are on a city trip, then we want to be as central as possible to be able to reach major sites on foot. Having a restaurant inside the hotel may not be as important as we would probably want to savour local delicacies.
If we are on a relaxing holiday by the beach or in the country, then amenities are more important than location (example sports amenities, a good in-house restaurant, kids club…) as well as a decent Concierge service who can advice on the best activities in the area.
We also avoid as much as possible hotels with more than 70/100 rooms. The smallest the better.
If you had to choose 3, which were the most special (boutique) hotels you have ever stayed at?
Banyan Tree Maldives, a very special place. Luxurious and yet laid back (think evening dress and bare feet for dinner!). I loved that although, it was more than 12 years ago, ecology and respect for the local environment was very much on their agenda.
Four Seasons Hampshire, who needs an introduction to the Four Seasons Hotels unique way of making guests feel special and pampered? How can they always remember your name? And let’s not start with L’Occitane and Bulgari toiletries (sorry guys, I did take home a year’s supply of shower gels…).
Also, my kids agree their Kids Club must be the best in the world.
Parrot Cay Turks & Caicos, who wouldn’t like to sunbathe next to Kate Moss? Kate aside, we would go back to Parrot Cay over and over again. An incredibly healthy menu, a superb spa (never seen anything like this), and the most amazing private beach.
What made them so special?
Boutique hotels where guests are treated like royals, no matter who you are; attentive service; delicious food; great amenities. Located in peaceful and quiet locations for total relaxation.
If you had your own boutique hotel, what 3 things would you make sure existed?
- A healthy, freshly prepared breakfast. Possibly delivered to your room.
- Superior spa (not just pretty facials. I mean proper health spa with nutritionist, acupuncturist, gym, yoga/pilates, meditation,…);
- A tranquil/relaxation area where no one is allowed to talk (loud). We had this at Parrot Cay: a swimming pool in a quiet zone, where you were not allowed to disturb (even my two little girls managed to stay silent and take in the beauty of the nature surrounding us).
Name 3 things you loved in hotels you stayed in before…
- As above, the quiet zone at Parrot Cay and their superior spa/health retreat where you good book reiki, meditation, pilates, acupuncture, nutritional advice and more
- A very good kids club (see any Four Seasons hotel)
- Finding a cup of warm tea ready for you in your room when you check-in (Hong Kong style)
Name 3 things you wouldn’t want to experience in a hotel ever again.
- Not properly cleaned room/bathrooms or sheets. Dirty carpets, hair in bathrooms, toothpaste stain on walls; the filthy list can be quite long.
- Poor insulation: I tend to choose more and more private villas for this reason. I stayed at too many hotels where you can hear absolutely everything happening in other rooms and in corridors and had so many disrupted nights as a consequence.
- Arriving late and having nothing to eat because restaurants are closed or the hotel offers no late room service. When I stay at a private villa, I request pre-stocking of fridge. So it doesn’t matter at what time I check-in, I can always prepare a snack.
How do you feel about the Amberlair concept?
Very innovative. I am very curious to see how it develops. I am sure you are in for a winning formula.
Where are you off to next?
My next trip will be to our holiday villa in Puglia; Italy: I cannot wait and sit at L’Altro Baffo and have tagliolini with ricci di mare. The off visiting some of my clients and their amazing villas in the Dolomites. I ensure that we check the quality of the villas we offer at Passepartout Homes – it is all in the detail, as you can imagine!
Paola Fiocchi Van den Brande is Founder and Director at Passepartout Homes, private villa rentals. Paola conceived the idea of a luxury holiday rental agency when building her holiday villa in Puglia. As the villa remained empty for long stretches of time, Paola approached a few rental agencies but did not feel they would her best interests in mind. She could not find an agency which also felt like a trusted advisor and friend.
Paola started putting together a small portfolio of properties owned by friends also searching for a trusted rental partner. Passepartout Homes started as a private members club by invitation only. The business has expanded to over 150 private villas worldwide and although it is not a private members club only, Passepartout Homes aims at attracting discerning guests to the villas whilst maintaining a close working relationship with its owners.