#BoHoLover: Meet Paula of Contented Traveller @gordyandpaula

Bohemian chic travel blogger Paula of Contented Traveller tells us about hotels, travel, and her thoughts on Amberlair of course. Just like us, she’s a #BohoLover, a Boutique Hotel lover.

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel - Meet #boholover Paula of Contented Traveller in Paris

Paula at Hotel Westminster in Paris.

 

 

How do you choose a hotel when you travel?

We look for a hotel that is a little different, that has an angle that is unique, or has done something amazing that warrants our attention. We will look for trending boutique hotels that have just launched, re-launched, have history and character. Generally we find out information by some strategic searching, and often serendipity just kicks in.

 

 

If you had to choose 3, which were the most special (boutique) hotels you have ever stayed at?

I would have to say Hotel Westminster Paris for its sheer Parisian charm. Hotel Tugu Bali, Canggu for its living museum eccentricity, and Jamala Wildlife Lodge in Canberra, Australia. Not only did we have a giraffe in the room, but also every part of the hotel is designed with authentic pieces from Africa.

 

 

What made them so special?

The Hotel Westminster Paris, a Warwick Hotel oozes old world Parisian charm. It is located in the amazing Rue de la Paix The service is understated yet on task and they have the amazing The Golden Key Hotel Concierge – Les Clefs d’Or, Nicolas Fresneau. Who can literally get you anything.

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel Westminster In Paris #BoHoLover: Meet Paula of Contented Traveller @gordyandpaula

Hotel Westminster in Paris. Photo by hotel.

 

Hotel Tugu Bali was created by an accidental hotelier. His avid collecting meant he had nowhere to store his unique history of Bali and Indonesia, so he created the hotel and the Hotel Tugu Lombok as living museums with cultural and heritage significance.

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel Tugu Bali - #BoHoLover: Meet Paula of Contented Traveller @gordyandpaula

Hotel Tugu in Bali.

 

Jamala Wildlife Lodge in Canberra, Australia is just such a unique concept. The proceeds of the luxury lodge goes into caring for the animals and to an extensive conservation and breeding program that is undertaken.

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel -Jamala Wildlife Lodge Canberra Australia #BoHoLover: Meet Paula of Contented Traveller @gordyandpaula

Jamala Wildlife Lodge in Canberra, Australia.

 

 

If you had your own boutique hotel, what 3 things would you make sure existed?

  • Style, and character that is indicative of where I am staying and not just any other hotel room in any part of the world. Without looking like a postcard, I want to wake up and feel like I am in this country or city.
  • Free, lightening fast Internet; sad but this is our reality.
  • Coffee; excellent barista quality coffee. Employ an Australian barista and solve all of the problems.

 

 

Name 3 things you loved in hotels you stayed in before…

  1. They are representative of where they are and look the part.
  2. Pleasant and efficient service, which we do mostly see now.
  3. Where they go that little bit further and make you feel as if you are the only guest that exists.

 

 

Name 3 things you wouldn’t want to experience in a hotel ever again.

  1. Scratchy bathrobes – pet peeve
  2. Cheap toilet paper, come on you are a high end hotel, don’t save money on crap paper
  3. Bad coffee

 

 

How do you feel about the Amberlair concept?

This is exciting. From all of the knowledge and experiences of people who know, will come, the ultimate boutique hotel. This is a considered idea to what the guests want and need in a hotel. It gives us a sense of having been a part of something special and unique.

 

 

Where are you off to next?

We are going to the US and Canada for 2 months, where we are working with numerous boutique hotels and inns. This will be a very busy trip, but there is a lot of fun as we kick it off as guests of the 49ers in San Francisco and we will ski in Vermont at the end of the trip.

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel - Meet #boholover Paula and Gordon of Contented Traveller

Paula with her husband Gordon.

 

 

Paula and her husband are Destination and Experience Marketers. They write at their award winning travel site, Contented Traveller, a site for fit, free and financial travelers who really don’t like to compromise. They share with their reader’s different ways to travel and different things to see and to do.

They are boho chic travellers who will eat at a Michelin star restaurant one day and the next day be sitting with local people eating street food in Bangkok. They have a home base on the beach in Australia, which is why they know excellent coffee. They are great believers in serendipity when they travel.

Follow Contented Traveller, Paula and Gordon, on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to see what they are up to next.

 

#BoHoLover: Meet Carol Lovell of Stow London @Caroljlovell

We asked Carol Lovell, Founder and Creative Director of Stow, to share her thoughts on hotels and Amberlair. Carol is a #BohoLover, a Boutique Hotel Lover – just like us!

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel #BoHoLover: Meet Carol Lovell of Stow London @Caroljlovell

 

 

How do you choose a hotel when you travel?

I trust accommodation recommended by Trailfinders and I also do my own research, looking at reviews on TripAdvisor and preferred travel and lifestyle bloggers whom I follow online whose tastes I believe to be akin to mine. Ana Silva O’Reilly of Mrs. O Around the World and Sasha Wilkens of Liberty London Girl are the best in the business for all sorts of hotel, travel, and packing advice.

 

 

If you had to choose 3, which were the most special hotels you have ever stayed at? What made them so special?

Isle of Eriska Hotel in Argyle Scotland with exceptional food, hospitality and location. It’s family owned and run by the second generation family members, who have incredible attention to detail.

Gliffaes in Wales has warm hospitality, superb walking, excellent fishing and is an extremely good value for the money for a family reunion or stay. It’s family owned and run by third generation.

Cathedral Peak Hotel, Drakensberg, South Africa, for its dramatic location and family-friendly approach.

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel -Castle Like #BoHoLover: Meet Carol of Stow London @Caroljlovell

Eriska Hotel. Photo via 1000lonelyplaces.com

 

 

If you had your own boutique hotel, what 3 things would you make sure existed?

A relaxed atmosphere and friendly welcome on arrival sets the tone. At some stage in the stay, I would take the opportunity to talk to everyone who stays at the hotel. At Eriska and Gliffaes, this is done in a very unobtrusive and professional but warm way. I believe it guarantees return customers and generates a dialogue for open feedback.

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel Carol Lovell Sitting Room

Gliffaes Hotel in Wales. Photo by hotel.

 

A number of open fires (if in Northern Europe), not just one that everyone is trying to huddle around, two or three different rooms. People like to feel cosy in a hotel in winter.

 

 

Name 3 things you loved in hotels you stayed in before…

I am pleased by a foyers full of wellies to use, open fires, big deep baths, and spectacular views for gin o’clock. I also like a waitress who knows her wine!

 

 

Name 3 things you wouldn’t want to experience in a hotel ever again.

Mosaic in corridors and lifts (Las Vegas, The Venetian – DREADFUL!). Fire alarms that won’t turn off in the middle of the night (Manchester Airport Hotel – before a busy day of meetings). Poor wifi provision or wifi that has to be paid for as an extra when on business is desperately frustrating and can get me quite hysterical!

 

 

How do you feel about the Amberlair concept?

Amberlair is a brilliant concept and one that I will be getting involved in. I do think it faces a number of challenges (that’s what makes it exciting!), but with good planning, communication and subsequent execution, it will be unique in generating an immediate and loyal fan base who have an interest in the venture succeeding at all stages. Once the first hotel is up and running, the original backers will become highly involved customers (the best mouth piece for any business) who will spread the word via their own networks.

 

 

Where are you off to next?

I am going to Southern Spain on a road trip with my family. Stow’s manufacturing partner is based in Ubrique, the home of luxury leather goods, and so I am tying in a visit to the factory which will be in full production mode for our Christmas stock. Apart from the stunning town of Ubrique we are going to explore Rhonda, Granada and the surrounding national parks.

On 19th September my husband is competing in the World Triathlon Championships in Chicago for GB (in an older age group!) and I am going to cheer him on. I’m really looking forward to Chicago for the first time.

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel #BoHoLover: Meet Carol Lovell of Stow London @Caroljlovell

Carol selecting colours at leather suppliers

 

 

Carol Lovell, Founder and Creative Director of Stow launched the luxury travel brand via the crowd funding site Kickstarter in June 2013. She had globetrotted frequently for work (she has a background in executive travel recruitment and jewellery retail) and had struggled to find stylish yet practical luxury travel accessories to take with her or to send as gifts for friends on special occasions.

Stow’s designs come in contemporary colours and their shapes and quality echo a heritage look and feel, which are made to stow valuables and tech gadgets for today’s modern traveller – creating practical modern wander-luxe and attracting fans worldwide. The full collection is available in Harrods.

Follow Carol Lovell on Twitter, on Instagram and her brand on Twitter @stowlondon, on Instagram @stowlondon and on Facebook @StowLondon.

#BoHoLover: Meet Michelle Chaplow of @HotelEssence Photography

Michelle Chaplow, of Hotel Essence Photography, shared her thoughts with us about hotels and Amberlair. She’s a #BohoLover, a Boutique Hotel lover,  just like us!

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel - Meet #boholover Michelle Chaplow of Hotel Essence Photography

 

 

How do you choose a hotel when you travel?

I am a hotel photographer, so of course, I would choose a hotel on the imagery – if the photography can “take me there”, in other words make it irresistibly attractive and appealing, then I’m prepared to go.

I do also have favourite hotels around the world, where I love to check in because of fond memories, friendships and exceptional experiences

 

 

If you had to choose 3, which were the most special hotels you have ever stayed at?

Only three? That´s a tough one – here are three that spring to mind.: Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, Thailand; Hurricane Hotel, Tarifa, Spain; and The Oberoi Amarvilas Agra, India.

 

 

What made them so special?

Mandarin Oriental Bangkok is my favourite hotel in the world. I have always thought that if I ever became sick, The Mandarin Oriental would have the cure. Architecturally its higgledy-piggledy, with a mix of styles, but the rooms are so cosy, the butler service impeccable – I have to pack scores of cases every year, and when the butler unpacks mine for me, that´s pure luxury. They greet you by name, the food is superb, the spa is divine, they have a well-earned historic legacy, and they don´t pretend to be anything they aren’t.

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel Michelle Chaplow Mandarin Oriental Bangkok

Mandarin Oriental Bangkok Photo by Michelle Chaplow.

 

Hurricane Hotel Tarifa, this Andalucian hotel is at the other end of the five-star scale. The owners and staff have become friends over the years – this is a shabby chic, no frills, surfers’ paradise, frontline to the Atlantic, beautiful swimming pool. Their gardens are mature, the ambience upbeat, the staff have grown up with the hotel and their alfresco summer dining is second to none. It doesn’t matter how much has time has passed since my last visit, when I check in, it always feels like coming home.

 

The Oberoi Amarvilas Agra I was on a photo shoot when I visited this hotel – it is just magical. For years I had dreamed of visiting the Taj Mahal, and to have a room overlooking it was beyond words. I never once closed the curtains – how on earth could you block out that view? I remember going to brush my teeth late one night, then heading to bed and momentarily forgetting where I was. Then I looked out of the window and I just stopped in my tracks – there was the Taj Mahal, that mythical, mystical monument built for love. Unforgettable.

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel - Oberoi Amarvilas - Meet #boholover Michelle Chaplow

The Oberoi Amarvilas. Photo by Michelle Chaplow.

 

 

If you had your own boutique hotel, what 3 things would you make sure existed?

  1. A view – nature, landscapes, and even cityscapes are in continual flux. You can never tire of a good view, anything from the ocean, to a modern city skyline or pure wilderness; a room with a view is a feast for the eyes and my camera.
  2. A huge freestanding bathtub, where you can soak and dream.
  3. Beautifully designed coathangers with the crest of the hotel, I would like 30 of them in each wardrobe.

 

 

Name 3 things you loved in hotels you stayed in before…

  1. The name thing makes a huge difference – a personalised welcome note on arrival and the staff who can address you by name.
  2. An abundance of fresh flowers, beautifully displayed from the exotic to the local, the more the better.
  3. A good-sized swimming pool, where you can have a really good swim.

 

 

Name 3 things you wouldn’t want to experience in a hotel ever again.

  1. Sloppy staff who are totally uninterested in their job – I won´t be naming and shaming, but all travellers have seem this trait somewhere along the line.
  2. Those daft thread needle coat hangers (where the hook part stays on the rail, and you take the hanger part out).
  3. Hotels with bad photography, there is no excuse.

 

 

How do you feel about the Amberlair concept?

I think it’s a fantastic concept. The more input you have from fellow travellers and hotel-lovers, the better. From my perspective, the importance of photography – not only to document the hotel, but to capture the essence of the establishment – is paramount. Everyone can see the hotel from their own perspective – it’s like one huge brainstorming project and with the passion of all those fellow travellers, the hotel has a head-start from the outset. Money can buy the property, but the management and day-to-day running that has to be really carefully thought out. I wish the Amberlair project every success.

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel - Meet #boholover Michelle Chaplow Four Seasons Los Angeles

 

 

Where are you off to next?

My next stop will be a very interesting one, I adore hotels with history and Dromoland Castle in County Clare, Ireland dates back to the 5th century.

 

 

Michelle Chaplow is a luxury hotel photographer who has spent the last two decades photographing a huge variety of travel destinations, and some of the world’s finest luxury and historic hotels. In 2010 she founded Hotel Essence Photography, whose mission is to capture the spirit, the very essence of a property.

Born and educated in Britain, she attended Manchester University, and relocated to Spain in 1992.  Hotel Essence Photography has been commissioned and published by highly prestigious hotel groups such as Mandarin Oriental, Paradores de España, Kempinski, Oberoi, and numerous independently-owned hotels. 

As a keynote speaker, Michelle Chaplow has delivered speeches on the Importance of Photography for Luxury and Historic Hotels at a number of events, including TEDx and the annual conferences of both Historic Hotels of America, and Preferred Hotel Group.

Michelle Chaplow prefers to work with natural lighting for her photography. She has perfected several innovative cutting-edge photography and lighting techniques for capturing signature hotel shots. Michelle loves the finer things in life, including traveling on assignment to exotic locations and artisan chocolates.

Visit her site and follow her blog or on Twitter at @michellechaplow and @hotelessence, Instagram, Facebook.

 

#BoHoLover: Meet Natalie DiScala of Oh! Travelissima @nataliediscala

Boutique hotel lover and travel blogger Natalie DiScala of Oh! Travelissima, tells us about hotels, travel, and her thoughts on Amberlair. Just like us, she’s a #BohoLover, a Boutique Hotel lover.

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel - Meet #boholover Natalie DiScala at Bellagio at Lake Como in Italy - Oh! Travelissima

Natalie diScala at Lake Como in Italy.

 

 

How do you choose a hotel when you travel?

Like most people, price and location are both important considerations when I’m choosing a hotel to stay in. But that doesn’t necessarily mean looking for the most budget-friendly hotel, though. To me, price has more to do with value. If a place is exceptional in certain aspects, it may be worth paying more for your stay there. Likewise, location is important and it may make sense to pay a bit more to be more ideally situated. But apart from these practical considerations, design is the next most important thing I look for in a hotel. With both a personal and professional passion for design, I’m always drawn to hotels that place an emphasis on gorgeous interiors and other memorable design details.

 

 

If you had to choose 3, which were the most special hotels you have ever stayed at?

Hotels that really nail the guest experience are ones you never forget! Three of the most special hotels I’ve ever stayed at are:

Cavallo Point, nestled at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito, California. Every single thing about this hotel resonated with me and felt like home from the moment I got on property. It’s a historic hotel situated at Fort Baker, a former US Army post and the rooms are a delicious blend of original design elements and new, modern ones, too. It’s not surprising that this hotel has a focus on wellness – healing the mind, body and spirit. Something about it just feels good for the soul.

Ham Yard Hotel, which I discovered through the booking service Mr. and Mrs. Smith, in London’s Soho, is walking distance to Mayfair and Knightsbridge so it’s definitely well-situated in the city. But beyond that, the design is what makes this property really special. Designed by Kit Kemp in modern British style, each of the hotel’s 91 bedrooms are individually designed and they’re breathtakingly beautiful. Ham Yard Hotel treats guests to the unexpected at every turn (there’s a 1950s-inspired bowling alley!) and it’s one of the most delightful places I’ve ever seen.

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel - Ham Yard Terrace Suite - #BoHoLover: Meet Natalie DiScala of Oh! Travelissima @nataliediscala

Ham Yard Hotel in London – Terrace Suite. Photo by hotel.

 

Mahali Mzuri, which means ‘beautiful place’ in Swahili, is Richard Branson’s safari camp, located in Kenya’s Masai Mara. The luxury tents feature all the creature comforts a person could want while camping out in the bush. But the location puts you in the heart of some of the most beautiful scenery you’ll ever see. The elevated location of the hotel means that guests have sweeping, panoramic views of the plains below where the animals roam free. Having lunch and watching a family of elephants meandering down below was a life experience I’ll not soon forget!

 

 

If you had your own boutique hotel, what 3 things would you make sure existed?

Sometimes it’s the simplest details that please guests the most – at least, that’s often been the case for me! What would I ensure my boutique hotel had? Here goes:

  1. A luxurious bathroom: I adore a deep soaking tub and heated bathroom floors!
  2. A seamless technology experience: That means free WiFi, in-room chargers and outlets on both sides of the bed. These days, everyone’s traveling with so many gadgets that need charging and we’re not all sitting at the desk all day. Easy access to outlets for everything from hair dryers to phone chargers is important to me.
  3. Luxe design details: This is what I remember when I stay at a hotel. Stunning wall coverings and luxe silk drapery – ooh la la!

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel - Mahali Mzuri - Richard Branson's Kenyan Safari Camp #BoHoLover: Meet Natalie DiScala of Oh! Travelissima @nataliediscala

Mahali Mzuri – Kenyan Safari Camp. Photo by hotel.

 

 

Name 3 things you loved in hotels you stayed in before…

When I’m traveling for long periods, I start to miss the things I take for granted at home – like being able to make the perfect cup of tea whenever I want. I appreciate free tea and coffee delivered to your room. Many hotels have tea and coffee machines in the room but no milk, so I can’t make that perfect cup. Being able to order my English Breakfast tea with skim milk and not have to pay a ridiculous room service charge is huge to me. I’m currently at the St. Regis Bali and they offer this service – I absolutely love it!

St. Regis hotels also offer a packing and unpacking service for guests – how amazing is that? They’ll unpack your bags in your room for you, hang everything up and then pack your suitcase again before you leave. That saves a lot of time for doing other things if you don’t have to worry about your bags!

Last but certainly not least – (I’ll always come back to a design element!) – the books at the Rosewood Hotel in London. The hotel’s design is modern yet classic and the rooms are really stunning. But what really won me over: The PG Wodehouse books found lying about the hotel – on the coffee table in the lobby and on side tables in the hallway leading to my room. As an avid reader, a certified bibliophile and a longtime adorer of PG Wodehouse, this detail just delighted me to no end.

 

 

Name 3 things you wouldn’t want to experience in a hotel ever again.

Slippery stairs: My hotel in Cambodia had open-air stairwells and after the rain, the steps were slick and very slippery. I wiped out – seriously wiped out – smacked my head on the cement steps and bounced down the rest to the landing. I was so dazed and in a great deal of pain – and unfortunately, the hotel staff didn’t really do much to help. That was over a year ago and I still have a dent where I hit the stair the hardest; looks like it’s permanent. I strongly recommended that they put some sort of safety tread tape on the stairs and I hope they’ve done that.

Food poisoning: I’ve had food poisoning while traveling before and it is no fun and definitely ruins a trip. While traveling in Jerusalem, I missed some of the most incredible experiences because I was so sick (trust me: puking into a garbage bin at the top of Masada is just ridiculous.) I wasn’t able to swim in the Dead Sea and my husband and I had to cancel our trip to Nazareth.

Bugs: I admit – I’m a huge wuss in the bug department but when they’re in my hotel room, I’m even wussier. I know that in many tropical destinations, they just can’t be avoided but on a recent trip to Chiang Rai, I was in my hotel room when I looked down and saw a huge, black bug with a hard shell just hanging out on my leg. Not. Cool.

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel Natalie DiScala of Oh! Travelissima

 

 

How do you feel about the Amberlair concept?

I absolutely love the Amberlair concept. As you can probably already tell, I have a distinct sense of what I like and what I don’t like at hotels and welcome the opportunity to have a voice in the creation of this first crowdsourced hotel. What an innovative idea! And in today’s increasingly social world, this just seems like the right next step towards providing the ultimate guest experience.

 

 

What is your dream location for our first Amberlair?

South Africa! This beautiful destination has long been on my list of must-visit places. Would love to see an Amberlair hotel open there.

 

 

Where are you off to next?

I’m currently at the St. Regis hotel in Bali but tomorrow afternoon, it’s time to pack my bags (actually, the butler will do that while I’m at the spa!) and head to Taipei. I’ve never been to Taiwan before and it will be the 56th country that my husband Johnny Jet and I have been to together as a couple!

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel Natalie DiScala of Oh! Travelissima with Jonny Jet

Natalie DiScala with Jonny Jet

 

 

Natalie DiScala is a Toronto-based travel writer and digital editor for Canada’s leading decorating magazine, Style at Home, managing the editorial content and strategy for the online brand. She is a contributor to Canadian Living, ElleCanada.com, Toronto Magazine and the Toronto Star and is the editor of the travel and style blog, Oh! Travelissima.

Natalie also has a public relations background, having worked for three years in the consumer marketing practice at international PR firm Fleishman-Hillard. She graduated from Ryerson Polytechnic University’s journalism program with a major in print journalism.

So whether you are an Instagrammer, a Twitter  fan, a Facebook  friend or a Pinterest lover, she’ll happy to share her tips.

 

Why #boholovers should choose South Africa in the Amberlair election

Vote Rainbow Nation!

We invited three travel writers to argue in favour of their favourite country from our shortlist of potential Amberlair locations. In this, the third in the series, Chris Leadbeater (The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, National Geographic Traveller and 2012 British Consumer Travel Writer of the Year) makes the case for the southern hemisphere option.

Not so long ago, you would not have encountered words like ‘chic’ and ‘hip’ in the same sentence as ‘South Africa’. There were more unhappy adjectives to be used in relation to the country at the foot of the world’s most fascinating continent. You know the ones. They shaped news reports every night for most of the Eighties, and a fair chunk of the Nineties.

Kruger National Park, South Africa

Kruger National Park

How times change. It’s amazing what a nation can do when it has a real government. In the 21 years since it adopted proper democracy, South Africa has taken steady steps away from the abyss. The World Cups probably helped too – the rugby one in 1995 (they won); the football one in 2010 (they were rubbish, but everyone cheered and blew vuvuzelas, so it looked good on the TV) – hoisting South Africa onto the global stage as a modern state.

This is not to say that South Africa is suddenly free of all problems. It certainly isn’t. But it is now a place where ‘chic’ does not seem like a stupid irrelevancy. In fact, it fits nicely.

Camps Bay and the Twelve Apostles in Cape Town, South Africa

Camps Bay and the Twelve Apostles in Cape Town

Just look at Cape Town. Seriously. Look at it. It’s beautiful – framed spectacularly by Table Mountain (the most striking urban peak anywhere on the planet. Sit down Rio, and put your Sugarloaf away). Here is a city that oozes sophistication. Wander the lanes of its centre and you find stylish bars where you can happily spend a whole evening. And all your money. The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, with its glut of shops, is the city at play. The Old Biscuit Mill, a former factory complex in Woodstock, has been reinvented as a hive of coffee shops and restaurants, where a funky food market holds court at weekends.

Mansion in Franschhoek, South Africa

Mansion in Franschhoek

Cape Town is as impressive on its edges. Camps Bay, on its west flank, peers out at the Atlantic in glorious fashion. If I were founding a boutique hotel, I would put it here – although I might also consider the Cape Peninsula, where picturesque seaside towns like Kalk Bay and Fish Hoek gaze onto False Bay. Then again, the countryside which swells out to the east of the city is also a wonder – a realm of vineyards; leafy dots on the map like Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, where some of the world’s finest wines are produced.

Vineyard in Stellenbosch in South Africa

Vineyard in Stellenbosch

Of course, there’s more to South Africa than Cape Town. Johannesburg is a resurgent city of increasingly trendy contours – the university district of Braamfontein, where Wits Art Museum throws out bright slabs of culture; Milpark with its new eateries; street food and food trucks in the centre at the Maboneng Precinct and along Fox Street. Port Elizabeth, meanwhile, could easily be in Australia, due to the warmth of its weather and the quality of the surfing on Hobie Beach. It can even boast a few sharks, to give it that Aussie vibe.

Sentinal peak of the Drakensberg mountains, South Africa

Sentinal peak of the Drakensberg mountains

But the best thing about South Africa is that visiting it is a journey. Sure, Italy and Spain are lovely, but they have been established destinations ever since the Romans built one and conquered the other. In 2015, going to Milan or Madrid is like popping out for milk. South Africa, by contrast – well, whether you live in Europe, the USA or Hong Kong, you have to cross the best part of two hemispheres to reach it. And when you land, you usually find the sun shining a little more seductively than it was in wherever it is you’ve left. Adventure, air miles and nice cocktails: South Africa is the complete travel package.

Chris Leadbeater can be found on Twitter @LeadbeaterChris

Lavender field in Franschhoek, South Africa

Lavender field in Franschhoek

Why #boholovers should choose Spain in the Amberlair election

Vote España!

We invited three travel writers to argue in favour of their favourite country from our shortlist of potential Amberlair locations. In this, the second in the series, Fiona Flores Watson (The Guardian, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, andalucia.com) makes the case for her adopted home, Spain.

Dunes of Maspalomas, in Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain

Dunes of Maspalomas in Gran Canaria.

When you think of Spain, what springs to mind? Golden beaches, flamenco dancers, fighting bulls? Many people’s view is unfortunately limited to popular, cliched images, but I’d like to think Amberlair’s community of #boholovers appreciates that Spain is so much more than this: a country of huge variety, from its landscape to its people – the party-loving Andalucians in the south; industrious Basques and entrepreneurial Catalans in the north, not to mention the Canary and Balearic islanders – but what they all have in common in their love of eating, drinking and enjoying life. Geographically, it’s all-terrain: did you know that Seville has Europe’s only desert, Tabernas in Almeria, used as a location for countless movie shoots? Or that you can ski and go to the beach on the same day in Granada?

The Alhambra of Granada in Spain with Sierra Nevada snowy mountains as background.

The Alhambra of Granada in Spain.

Forget all those images of packed beaches on the Costa del Sol – Spain has a whopping 5,000km of coastline, so there’s plenty of room for families, kitesurfers, paddle-boarders, nudists and everyone else. Many are served by chiringuitos, wooden restaurants serving that morning’s catch – have you ever eaten freshly-caught sardines grilled over hot coals, in a beachfront restaurant, with the sand between your toes? Or tender blue-fin tuna, caught in a sustainable netting system used for 2,000 years? Moving inland, how about some sweet, nutty jamon iberico, from free-range pigs who chomp on acorns snuffled from under trees in rolling countryside? These ingredients are unbeatable, and that’s before they arrive in the kitchens of Spain’s innovative and creative chefs – Ferran Adrià, Joan Roca, Martín Berasategui and others – who have revolutionised 21st century cooking.

beautiful landscape beach ocean in Asturias, Spain

Beach in Asturias.

And to wash it down, Spain produces more wine than any other country in the world, but it’s not just about Rioja. Sherry is enjoying a new resurgence, as a cocktail ingredient in hip bars – a trend originating in the US, while home-grown gins are also big. Albariño (white, peachy) and garnacha (red, blackberry) are two grape varieties winning over new fans. Exploring a vineyard followed by a tasting and lunch at the bodega is a great way to spend an educational-yet-indulgent day out.

Vineyards in La Geria, Lanzarote, canary islands, Spain

Vineyards in Lanzarote.

And what of the cities? Spain’s metropolises such as Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia offer nightlife second to none. Enjoy a drink on a roof terrace bar for most of the year – the wonderful climate allows you to be outdoors nearly 365 days in southern cities like Malaga and Seville. Life is lived en la calle (in the street) – even in small towns, locals stroll through parks and along avenues until the small hours, with children in tow. If culture’s your thing, you will find art galleries and museums with Golden Age painters or the latest contemporary installations. Some of the most famous and iconoclastic figures in 20th-century art were Spanish, and you can visit their homes adorned with works: Gaudi in Barcelona, Picasso in Malaga, and Dali in Figueres.

Casa Battlo in Barcelona (house of bones) by Gaudi.

Casa Battlo in Barcelona (house of bones) by Gaudi.

But for me, as a foreigner living in Spain, the main reasons I love the country – and why Amberlair should definitely have its first hotel here – are three: the food, the weather, and the people. Italy and South Africa are both fabulous countries to visit, but they just don’t have Spain’s infectious zest for good living. Where else can you eat your fill of superb, inventive tapas and plenty of glasses of excellent wine for just 15 euros, with such warm, friendly people? And the sunshine is free. Ole!

Fiona Flores Watson blogs about her hometown, Seville, and her travels at scribblerinseville.com and can be found on Twitter @Seville_Writer.

Plaza de Espana, Seville, Seville Province, Andalucia, Spain.

Plaza de Espana in Seville.

#BoHoLover: Meet Carrie Mitchell @carrieamitchell

Carrie Mitchell of Carrie A. Mitchell shares her thoughts with us about hotels and Amberlair. And just like us, she’s a #BohoLover, a Boutique Hotel Lover!

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel - Meet #boholover Carrie Mitchell of Stylegrrove

 

 

How do you choose a hotel when you travel?

It’s a mix of word-of-mouth from travel-savvy friends, flagged magazine articles, as well as my own research online on places like TripAdvisor. There are a few influencers I share travel styles with, so if I know it is an authentic recommendation, I will certainly look into it.

 

 

If you had to choose 3, which were the most special hotels you have ever stayed at?

So many choices! I suppose for both luxury and sentimental reasons: Como Shambhala in Bali, George V in Paris, and Adare Manor in Ireland. But I could discuss this subject, and my other favorites, all day long….I love a great hotel, and there are many out there I have experienced, and are yet to be discovered.

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel - Meet #boholover Carrie Mitchell in Ireland

Carrie at Adare Manor, Ireland.

 

 

What made them so special?

Aside from the luxurious yet comfortable rooms, attention to (personalized) detail, genuine-kind- knowledgeable concierge & staff…I think it’s a feeling as soon as you step foot into these places. I think they each offer a truly unique experience and personality that you can only get in those locations. In each circumstance, it was everything I wanted them to be and more. They went above and beyond, it felt effortless and I was immediately at ease.

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel #boholover Carrie Mitchell - Como Shambhala Estate Bali

Como Shambhala Estate in Bali. Photo by hotel.

 

 

If you had your own boutique hotel, what 3 things would you make sure existed?

Friendly & knowledgeable staff ; modern yet comfortable design (fantastic bedding, chairs you actually want to sit in, good light, strong wifi); and a great breakfast option that doesn’t break the bank (everyone needs to start off their day right!). Closely behind would be workout options beyond a gym (yoga class, running club, partnership with local studio classes).

 

 

Name 3 things you loved in hotels you stayed in before…

It all starts with the people…dedicated staff, heavenly beds, personalized welcome notes, and/or amenities. It’s so important to feel acknowledged and comfortable upon arrival.

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel -George V Paris #BoHoLover: Meet Carrie @carrieamitchell of Stylegroove

George V Hotel in Paris. Photo by hotel.

 

 

Name 3 things you wouldn’t want to experience in a hotel ever again.

Pretentious or indifferent service (nothing makes you feel less appreciated as a person, let alone a customer), dirty rooms (it’s happened more than once) and bad beds (isn’t this kind of key to the stay experience?). Having pride in ones work place should eradicate these problems, you are opening the doors to another version of home (in theory).

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel - Meet #boholover Carrie Mitchell in London at the Four Seasons Hotel at Canary Wharf

Carrie Mitchell at the Four Seasons Hotel in London at Canary Wharf.

 

 

How do you feel about the Amberlair concept?

I think it’s interesting, I really like the idea of a collaborative effort to create an original travel experience built of best practices. There is something really exciting about that, it captures the essence of travel: discovering something new, together.

 

 

Where are you off to next?

This fall includes New Orleans, London, Barcelona and Vancouver!

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel - Carrie Mitchell #BoHoLover: Meet Carrie @carrieamitchell of Stylegroove

 

 

A Canadian-American New Yorker, Carrie Mitchell is the founder of Sonder Communications, a creative marketing communications company specializing in travel & lifestyle brands. She also continues to contribute as a writer for a number of publications on topics of travel and style, and runs a blog.

A serial wanderluster, she has lived in New York, Toronto, Vancouver, Paris and Los Angeles – the latter of which she was the former public relations director for the legendary Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills.
You can follow Carrie Mitchell on Instagram or on Twitter, and her company Carrie A. Mitchell #thestylishtraveller.

 

Why #boholovers chose Italy in the Amberlair election

Vote Italia!

We invited three travel writers to argue in favour of their favourite country from our shortlist of potential Amberlair locations. First up, Chris Madigan (The Telegraph, Toronto Globe & Mail, Condé Nast Traveller) makes the case for Italy.

The arcades of Bologna.

The arcades of Bologna.

For me, the allure of Italy is found in a place such as Pistoia. Where? Pistoia. It’s not the best known city in Italy. It’s not even one of the best known in Tuscany. It would be easy to drive past it on the road from Lucca to Florence. But, finding myself there one day, I spent some hours wowed by the campanile in the Piazza Duomo, dazzled by a vibrant flower market and fascinated by the medical museum in a 13th-century hospital. In the evening, I had the best bistecca alla Fiorentina (T-bone) I’ve ever tasted in a very unshowy restaurant in a narrow street as marbled as the meat.

That is the point: Italy has so much to offer in even its humbler parts. It has its fashionable city districts – Milan’s Quadrilatero d’Oro is the design match of anything Paris, London or New York has to offer – but you find effortless style too in the white shirts and coppola flat caps of a farmworker in a Sicilian village square.

The Roman Forum in Rome.

The Roman Forum in Rome.

Everywhere you turn in Rome, you see wonders of the classical world, such as the Colosseum, the largest amphitheatre ever built. Some destinations offer equally intense history – Petra, Giza, Angkor Wat – but they are dedicated theme parks… people are not flying past the Sphinx on a Vespa to go to work. It’s the same with art: Florence’s Uffizi has one of the world’s best collections. But you can equally gaze over famed Renaissance sculpture, including Michelangelo’s David, from a café next to the Loggia dei Lanzi. In Rome, you can sit on the edge of Bernini’s Fontana di Triton in Piazza Navona eating an ice cream from Grom.

Matera, the third oldest city in the world.

Matera, the third oldest city in the world.

History is woven into the everyday life of every town. In Matera, Basilicata, the 9,000-year old cave dwellings called sassi are not museum pieces. They are used as shops, restaurants and, most significantly, family homes. History and life are not separated. In Puglia, a Baroque masterpiece of a city such as Lecce is rivalled by the charm of trulli, the dry-stone dwellings dotted around the countryside between Ostuni and Alberobello.

Trulli in Puglia

Trulli in Puglia

Appropriately for Italy, food sums it up best. I’m sure the blogs arguing for Spain and South Africa will try to persuade you by talking about, respectively, game-changing chefs and an exciting street-food scene. But Italy is where you find reliable excellence at every level. I’ve eaten inventive Michelin-starred cucina molecolare. But, when I went to a Sampdoria football match, the cheap café next to the ground was serving freshly made gnocchi with fragrant homemade pesto.

Macelleria, Greve in Chianti.

Macelleria, Greve in Chianti.

When I was young, my grandparents had a house in the hills behind Finale Ligure, on the Italian Riviera. They weren’t Italian; they just fell in love with the place. As did I. If there was one thing I’d enjoy more than running among the olive trees, or picking the grapes at harvest, it was the restaurants. One was up in the mountains and served a Sunday lunch that went on for hours, with at least five courses of antipasti (they had a playground to stop us children getting bored between servings).

Village in Leguria.

Village in Leguria.

I couldn’t tell you the name, or where it was. But it doesn’t matter. Italy is not the place to go if you need to tick off “destination restaurants” you follow on Instagram. Head out of any Italian town into the campania and look for signs to a restaurant – you’ll find your version of that unpretentious place serving incredibly good, but simple, food. It won’t say “child-friendly” on its website, because it is simply welcoming to all.

Unpretentious high quality and genuine hospitality is why we should vote for Italy as the location of the first Amberlair hotel.

Chris Madigan can be found on Twitter @BarkingAtTheTV.

#BoHoLover: Meet Nadine Jolie Courtney @nadinecourtney

Freelance beauty and travel writer Nadine Jolie Courtney shares her thoughts on travel, hotels and her view on Amberlair. She’s a #Boholover – a Boutique Hotel Lover – just like us.

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel - Meet #boholover beauty and travel writer Nadine Jolie Courtney.

How do you choose a hotel when you travel?

I research as much as time will permit before taking a trip—not always easy with a crawling baby!—checking out all the recommendations from big sites like Conde Nast Traveller, Nat Geo, and Travel + Leisure, as well as perusing smaller blogs that seem like-minded. I’ll check out Tripadvisor, too, but I’ve been burned by their reviews in the past, so I have to take them with a grain of salt. At the risk of sounding rude, one person’s five-star ‘this was the best hotel ever!’ might mean something else to you.

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel - Meet beauty and travel writer Nadine Jolie Courtney at Kauri Cliffs in New Zealand #boholover

Kauri Cliffs in New Zealand. Photo by hotel.

If you had to choose 3, what were the most special hotels you have ever stayed at?

I’m a hotel junkie, so it’s hard to pick favorites…and yet, there’s one that immediately springs to mind. Kauri Cliffs in New Zealand was so next-level, so special, so once-in-a-lifetime that I have a framed series of photos of it in my bathroom. The food is phenomenal (which isn’t rare in New Zealand, to be fair), the spa features indigenous ingredients and is remotely located in a Totara forest, and the staff is the best I’ve ever encountered. Oh, and the views: insane.

Number two would be Raffles Istanbul, which has personal butlers for each guest. When my husband and I arrived, our butler had arranged for framed pictures of our daughter to be waiting for us, because they figured I’d be missing her. I literally burst into happy tears when I walked in the room and saw her adorable photos!

And last, but certainly not least, is Qualia in Australia, where my husband Erik and I honeymooned. It’s consistently named one of the top few hotels in the world, and for good reason. Even the smallest rooms have huge balconies on the water and are basically more luxurious than any other hotel you’ve ever stayed at.

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel - Meet beauty and travel writer Nadine Jolie Courtney with her husband Erik in Australia - Sydney Opera #boholover

Nadine Jolie Courtney with her husband Erik in Sydney.

If I had my own hotel, what 3 things would I make sure existed?

Only three? This is hard! Okay:

  1. A fully-renovated marble bathroom with both walk-in shower AND bathtub large enough for two people is a must. A hotel without a deep claw-foot tub is a waste.
  2. 1 pm late check-out, without having to ask and without an extra fee.
  3. A pillow menu with a variety of materials and thickness on offer, with at least 3 pillows per person already in the room, so you don’t have to call housekeeping after midnight when you get back to the room after an amazing night on the town and realize there are only pillows you don’t like, and not even enough of them. #highmaintenancesleeper #huggingpillow #pillowfortheknees #pillowtosleepon

Bonus answer, because I just asked my husband what he wished for. The ability to choose your own specific room the way you can choose your own seat on a flight. He likes knowing in advance which floor he’s going to be on, whether it will be a harbor view, etc, etc. We recently stayed at The Museum Hotel in Cappadocia, Turkey, and because every room is a suite with distinct characteristics, you’re able to choose your individual suite in advance.

Museum Cave Hotel in Cappadocia, Turkey.

Museum Cave Hotel in Cappadocia, Turkey. Photo by hotel.

Three things I loved in hotels I stayed in before:

  1. Your own butler. This is huge: somebody to unpack your bags, bring you afternoon cocktails, make spa appointments, and draw your bath? Worth its weight in gold. Raffles was the gold standard—where our butler came all the way to our dinner table to make sure we had our breakfast ordered in time for the next day—but I’ve also experienced this at The Goring and The Savoy hotels in London, Royal Malewane in South Africa, Qualia in Australia, and Kauri Cliffs in New Zealand.
  2. High-tech rooms that include the ability to check out via iPad, an iPhone for every guest with wi-fi and local restaurant/bar options, electronic blackout curtains, and electronic “please make up my room” or “please do not disturb” buttons. Aria and The Cosmopolitan in Vegas are masters of this.
  3. A buzzy late-night bar open into the wee hours. Even though it’s usually ill-advised, I like having the option of grabbing an after-hours drink within the hotel and keeping the evening going. We recently experienced this at The Virgin Hotel in Chicago, and it was awesome.

Three things I wouldn’t want to experience in a hotel again:

  1. Wi-fi charges. In this day and age, it feels tacky and like you’re nickel-and-diming your customers who are clearly already paying for it.
  2. Parking charges (same as above). In countries like New Zealand, Ireland, England, France, etc, to say nothing of other cities in the US, my husband and I have rented cars to go further afield. Parking charges at an already-expensive hotel are simply irritating. I’d rather you build the fee into the bill and let me at least pretend it’s free./li>
  3. Clueless concierge who recommend tourist traps and things you can find with a simple Google search. The concierge should go above and beyond, and ideally have insider info.

How do you feel about the Amberlair concept?

I LOVE the Amberlair concept! It’s deceptively simple, but giving the power back to hotel guests and allowing them to have the best boutique hotel experience possible is worth every cent.

Where are you off to next?

My husband and I are taking our 9-month-old daughter on her first international trip a week from today, to Copenhagen and Stockholm! We scored a last-minute reservation at Noma in Copenhagen, so we cobbled the trip together and added Stockholm as a 4-day layover. Erik’s grandmother was born in Sweden, so we’re incredibly excited to visit his ancestral homeland, plus obviously to dine at Noma, see Tivoli Gardens, go archipelago island hopping in Stockholm, and hopefully live to tell the tale of an 11-hour flight with baby!

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel - Meet beauty and travel writer Nadine Jolie Courtney #boholover

Nadine Jolie Courtney is a freelance beauty and travel writer. A former magazine editor for Lucky, Ladies’ Home Journal, FHM, and Jane, Nadine currently freelances for Robb Report, Town & Country, Yahoo, Fox News, The Hollywood Reporter, Angeleno, and GQ, and she specializes in international SPAs, luxury hotels, high-tech skincare trends, and city guides.

Nadine is the author of two books published by HarperCollins: Confessions of a Beauty Addict (2009) and Beauty Confidential (2007). Her third book Wisteria, a YA novel, will be published by HarperCollins in 2017.

She and her husband Erik starred on season 2 of Bravo’s hit show Newlyweds: The First Year. The New York Post dubbed her “the poster child for the blogger generation” for her blog, Nadine Jolie Courtney, widely considered to be the first beauty blog, and she regularly posts photos of her chubby baby Aurelia on Instagram. You’ll also find her on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

#BoHoLover: Meet JaMeka of Got The Travel Bug Too @jamekaramnath

Boutique hotel lover and travel blogger JaMeka of Got The Travel Bug Too, tells us about hotels, travel, and her thoughts on Amberlair. Just like us, she’s a #BohoLover, a Boutique Hotel lover.

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel - Meet #boholover JaMeka of Got The Travel Bug Too

 

 

How do you choose a hotel when you travel?

The first thing I do when choosing a hotel is narrow down the neighborhood we want our hotel to be in. If we are visiting a place where we will not have our car, it must be nearby a bus stop or metro station so we can use public transportation or at least be within walking distance of all the sites. Once we’ve figured that out, I read loads of blogger posts and guest reviews on websites like TripAdvisor and Oyster.

 

 

If you had to choose 3, which were the most special hotels you have ever stayed at?

So far we’ve only stayed in three boutique hotels, the King Charles Boutique Residence in Praha, Hotel Zero 1 in Montreal and the Hotel de L’Avre in Paris, but planning on staying at many more on our future trips because we’re hooked on them!

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel - Meet #boholover JaMeka of Got The Travel Bug Too in Florence

JaMeka in Florence, Italy.

 

 

What made them so special?

All of these hotels had very cool art and décor displayed throughout the hotel. The food was amazing, the locations were perfect, friendly staff, free WiFi (very important) and breakfast was included! The rooms were comfortable and furnishing was very chic at both hotels. Believe it or not, for boutique hotels we didn’t have to pay a very high price per night. They were both in my opinion 5 star service and amenities but at an affordable price and that is what we look for in hotels now. So to those who are hesitant about booking at a boutique hotel, there truly are some out there that are very inexpensive!

 

 

If you had your own boutique hotel, what 3 things would you make sure existed?

Definitely free WiFi, a restaurant and complimentary transportation to and from the airport.

 

 

Name 3 things you loved in hotels you stayed in before…

  1. I loved the helpful staff, especially when we need help mapping out what sites we want to see that day. They are locals so they have the inside scoop on where to eat and what to see outside of tourist attractions.
  2. Breakfast included at the hotel restaurant (really helped us get out the door quick to go sightseeing and it’s a money saver).
  3. Free WiFi to keep in touch with friends and family while we are away (we love our WiFi in case you couldn’t tell).

 

 

Name 3 things you wouldn’t want to experience in a hotel ever again.

We’ve had good luck so far and haven’t encountered any issues. The only thing I can think of is false advertising. We stayed in a hotel once in Florida where the photos looked a whole lot better than how it looked in person. That’s why guest reviewer photos are a necessity!

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel - Meet #boholover Jameka of Got The Travel Bug Too

 

 

How do you feel about the Amberlair concept?

I think it’s a very creative idea and I cannot wait to see where it will be located and what it will look like once it’s built!

 

 

Where are you off to next?

We don’t have anything set in stone at the moment. Just working and enjoying home life until our next adventure comes along.

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel - Meet #boholover JaMeka of Got The Travel Bug Too in Williamsburg

 

 

A working mom, wife, travel, style and culture enthusiast; JaMeka Ramnath loves to explore and learn about different cultures and places around the globe.

You can also read about her experiences on her blog Got The Travel Bug Too and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Meet JaMeka on TwitterFacebook and on Instagram.