#BoHoLover: Meet Marianna of Weltenbummler Mag @laWeltenbummler

We have asked travel blogger Marianna Hillmer of Weltenbummler Mag, 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!

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel - Meet Marianna of Weltenbummlermag #boholover

 

 

How do you choose a hotel when you travel?

I always try to find a charming place. It does not have to be a hotel, a Bed & Breakfast or nice apartment can be fine too. I love places where people pay attention to details, to give the place a unique and local character. In terms of finding those places I google, read a lot blogs, magazines and ask friends.

 

 

If you had to choose 3, which were the most special hotels you have ever stayed at?
The Singita Lebombo Lodge in the Kruger National Park, South Africa.
The Amar Vilas Oberoi in Agra, India.
The Royal Mansour in Marrakesh, Morocco. But please do not ask me in which order ;)

 

Singita Lebombo Lodge, Kruger, South Africa. Marianna Hillmer from Weltenbummlermag

The Singita Lebombo Lodge, South Africa. Photo by hotel.

 

 

What made them so special?

They are perfect, because I could live there. It may sound exaggerating, but it is true. All three of them are small hotels, so they give you automatically a familiar and cosy atmosphere. They payed attention to every detail and the service was outstanding. For example: everybody knew my favorite drink after the first evening, and offered it for free. They respected that I hate air conditioning and did not turn it on over and over again after cleaning the room and even the driver to the airport knew it.

 

 

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

  1. A nice smell! I love Jasmine.
  2. A local touch through the design and interior, without being overwhelming but also reflecting my personal style.
  3. A warm welcome to give the guest the feeling having arrived at home. With a special treatment, like offering a homemade lemonade/drink or a piece of cake, complementary of course.

 

 

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

  1. An extra outdoor shower
  2. An extra outdoor bed
  3. Local food

 

The Royal Mansour in Marrakesh, Morocco. Marianna Hillmer from Weltenbummlermag

The Royal Mansour in Marrakesh, Morocco.

 

 

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

  1. Bad or even average level food.
  2. Cockroaches.
  3. Uncomfortable beds including blankets and pillows. This is really a very common problem in lots of hotels, even so-called luxury ones.

 

The Amar Vilas Oberoi in Agra, India. Marianna Hillmer from Weltenbummlermag

The Amar Vilas Oberoi in Agra, India. Photo by hotel.

 

 

How do you feel about the Amberlair concept?

I think it is really great, that everybody can be part of the project and watch a new hotel being build from the scratch. Never heard of something similar before. Amazing idea!

 

 

Where are you off to next?

On my way to France right now for a roadtrip through the Provence.

 

 

About Weltenbummler Mag

Marianna Hillmer from Weltenbummler Mag.

Marianna Hillmer from Weltenbummler Mag.

 

 

Marianna Hillmer is a 30-something Berlin-based globetrotter born in Hamburg with Greek roots. She loves to travel and to blog about her extended trips on Weltenbummler Mag. You can check out her adventures on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

 

#BoHoLover: Meet Juliet Kinsman @julietkinsman

We have asked the one and only, travel writer extraordinaire, and possibly the person after which the word #BohoLover was invented Juliet Kinsman, editor of Mr & Mrs Smith, 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!

 

Juliet Kinsman at one of her favourite boutique hotels: Fogo Island Inn.

Juliet Kinsman at one of her favourite boutique hotels: Fogo Island Inn.

 

How do you choose a hotel?

I’ll be honest, I’m a sucker first for how a hotel looks: outside and in. Obviously I’m privileged to hear about lots of fabulously stylish hotels through Mr & Mrs Smith — if they’ve made our cut to get into the Smith Hotels collection that means they’re likely to be exactly my cup of tea: stylish and boutiquey. Or perhaps I’ve seen a hotel in a magazine — but that can deceive thanks to a flattering brochure-style shot. One chic image doesn’t truly reflect the feel of a hotel. I tend to be informed by friends who work in travel and whose taste I know is like mine.

Daisy Bird, Carla Burt, Andria Mitsakos and Lysbeth Fox all run their own PR companies, and they are people whose opinions I really rely on: in the same way some people look to style bloggers. I also really trust the New York Times when it comes to travel recommendations, and of course Condé Nast Traveller (I am biased as my food-lovers guide to the Isle of Wight is in the current July issue). I always forget to look at TripAdvisor — until when I’m a hotel and I feel let down in some way and I check to see if others had a similar disappointment and usually someone’s shared my sentiments.

 

 

Name three most special hotels you have ever stayed at…

Brody House, Budapest is very special for me. I first fell in love with this cool independent city stay on a press trip last spring 2014 — then fast forward a year to when we had our wedding at its arts club, Brody Studios. Lots of friends wondered why we’d chosen this Hungarian rendezvous… and I got great pleasure from introducing so many to this beautiful city and its delicious food and drink, and in particular this characterful bohemian boutique hotel and its members club. I absolutely love the decor — upcycled in their own colourful, imaginative way, with lots of original art from local creatives. Bravo, Brody. They have a fabulous palace-style hotel opening soon: Kinscem.

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel - Meet Mr and Mrs Smith Editor Juliet Kinsman at the Brody House in Budapest #boholover

Brody House in Budapest. Photo by hotel.

 

Jade Mountain, St Lucia is a Caribbean property with a unique knack of bringing the outside in: my suite had a swimming pool half in the room and half uncovered; one suite still has a red gommier tree growing through the floor and up through the roof. At the top of a hill above his original hotel Anse Chastanet, the architect owner dispensed with as many walls, windows and doors as possible — the suites are all open air! Walkways lend a sci-fi feel while coloured Aztec-y glass sculptures enhance its other-worldliness. Each of the 29 15ft-high-ceiling suites at Jade Mountain is truly individual, and this a get-away-from-it-all paradise a world removed from could-be-anywhere homogenous chain hotels. Even the five lowest-category pool-less rooms are high on charm, sporting the signature raised-up ensuites and convivially proportioned Jacuzzi tubs that are blessed too with that grandstand Piton-facing look-out.

 

Fogo Island Inn, Newfoundland was the perfect destination for our 4-day minimoon adventure. Originally it piqued my interest architecturally when I saw the bold plans for this remote island off the eastern coast of Canada (where I was born)… Then I met Zita Cobb, its inspiring founder. The sixth of seven children born to an illiterate cod-fishing family (and the only girl), Zita left this at 16 to study business in Ottawa; the Newfoundlander then retired aged 42 as one of Canada’s richest women – and she created this community-based business. The rest of the world should take note of this incredible social enterprise. No detail has been overlooked and its comfortable luxury like nothing else I’ve experienced. Designed by architect Todd Saunders (from across the water in Gander Bay) every practice is eco friendly and ethical right down to the light features made from fishing net ropes by locals. Boat-builders were re-trained as furniture makers and a guild of quilters stitched the bespoke bedspreads found in every room and the in-house chef is committed to foraged, caught or grown food that’s as locally sourced and seasonal as possible. Every meal was so delicious: from the salt cod an buttermilk scones at breakfast to the lobster platter at dinner and parsnip ice-cream dessert! I urge everyone who works in the travel industry to watch Zita’s D3 talk.

 

Amberlair crowdsourced boutique hotel - Fogo Island Inn.

Fogo Island Inn. Photo by hotel.

 

 

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

  1. Ridiculously comfortable beds with quality linens. An excellent boutique hotel can actually be very simple and still excellent by investing in this particular luxury.
  2. Maxi minibars which reference local produce: Wythe in Williamsburg has seasonal treats such as gourmet cheeses and exotic sodas from meta-deli Marlow & Sons which hails from the same owner.
  3. Its own stylish travel magazine like the one I just edited for LUX* Hotels & Resorts designed by & Smith
  4. Klaus Haapaniemi crockery
  5. A book or culture night like Damian Barr’s Literary Salon at the Tom Dixon-designed Mondrian’s Rumpus Room on South Bank. (I loved hosting a book event with Bookomi for the Reading Agency charity at the Zetter Townhouse.)

 

 

Things you’ve loved in hotels you stayed in before…

  • Vinyl you could play in the sitting room at La Bandita Townhouse in Pienza, Tuscany.
  • The girls’ night in package at The Berkeley in Belgravia! Perfect night with a pal: enjoyed the best room-service dinner ever, then watched the Diana Vreeland documentary The Eye Has to Travel, ate Hattie Sweets and Propercorn, enjoyed a Benefit goodie bag filled with best-seller make-up, put in hair rollers, went for a roof-top swim in the Bamford spa in the morning. Dream staycation!
  • A beautiful library like the one at Fellah Hotel, Morocco.
  • The art at At the Chapel in Bruton; I also ended up at the sister restaurant Roth Bar & Grill up the road which treated me to a whirl around the Hauser & Wirth gallery it’s in.

 

Amberlair crowdsourced boutique hotel - La Bandita Townhouse in Italy.

La Bandita Townhouse in Italy. Photo by hotel.

 

 

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

  1. Being woken up at an ungodly hour by an alarm clock set from a previous guest. (Dear housekeeping — please double check those little digital tickers by the bed. This has happened a few times.)
  2. A giant crow suddenly flying out of the fireplace into the breakfast room after getting stuck in the chimney. A most Hitchcockian start to the day.
  3. Having a fire alarm go off in the middle of the night when I was staying in a room at the top of a high-rise hotel I had an early morning TV appearance. Pass the Touche Eclat.

 

 

How do you feel about the Amberlair concept?

My first reaction to anything crowd-sourced that I am slightly suspicious of any creative project that is created by committee as I think some of the strongest hotels have a true visionary at the top — however I also think if you take the intel and wisdom from discerning travellers all over the world you could indeed create the perfect boutique hotel. Having read this article by Kristin and Marcus, it chimes with my sentiments exactly:
“A true boutique hotel is also one-of-a-kind and independently owned.”

 

 

Where are you off to next?

I am heading to the Lower East Side in New York to write a guide to this, the oldest neighbourhood in NYC. I’ll be happy to be able to celebrate the Ludlow there — one of my favourite new hotels from Sean MacPherson.

 

Amberlair crowdsourced boutique hotel - Juliet Kinsman

 

Luxury travel expert and founding editor at Mr & Mrs Smith, and a journalist for two decades, Juliet Kinsman’s travel tips appear in Condé Nast Traveller to The Independent. She’s co-presented a travel show for the Discovery Channel, and she’s been a speaker in many a travel panel and a judge for awards from architecture to boutique hotels.

There’s nothing Juliet loves more than inspiring people to squeeze the most of time in a new destination, from the hyperlocal to the glamorous, and she couldn’t be happier about the invention of Twitter and Instagram as she loves evangelising about the inspiring places she sees along the way. 

 

#BoHoLover: Meet Ana of Mrs. O Around the World @mrsoaroundworld

We have asked luxury travel blogger Ana Silva O’Reilly of Mrs. O Around the World, 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!

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel Ana Silva Oreilly Mrsoaroundworld. Luxury Travel Blogger Ana Silva O'Reilly of Mrs. O Around the World. Photo Credit: Flytographer.

 

 

How do you choose a hotel when you travel?

It depends on the state of mind I am in – and the destination. I may have heard about it (or read about it), and will of course, investigate further. But more and more, I ask my readers via social media – they travel the same way that I do, so if I am able to suggest places, so are they. It has been the best outcome of this blogging adventure – finding people with a similar taste, who have helped me go to places I would have never have found before.

Location is very important to me, as is design – I am a great believer in what my mother has taught me from a young age ‘If you leave home, it has to be better. And home is pretty nice’. But the killer factor is service – one person (or a group of people) have the power to make any stay truly unique.

 

 

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

This is a difficult question as I am known to be a repeater – i.e. I love going back to hotels which bring back incredible memories. I am a huge fan of Finca Cortesin, in the South of Spain, Rancho Valencia, outside San Diego in California and I absolutely adored Rosewood Cordevalle, an hour’s drive from San Francisco.

 

Finca Cortesin, in the South of Spain is one of Mrs. O Around the World's favourite hotels.

Finca Cortesin, in the South of Spain is one of Mrs. O Around the World’s favourite hotels.

 

 

What made them so special?

The three hotels could not be more different – in terms of location, number of rooms, management. But they were extremely comfortable, the staff made me feel truly special and I slept very well in either 3 of them. Needless to say, they all had good gin & tonics.

 

 A 1 bedroom suite with a difference at the Rosewood Cordevalle

A 1 bedroom suite with a difference at the Rosewood Cordevalle

 

 

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

There would be no bills to sign throughout the stay (until the very end) – it is something small, but with technology nowadays, there can be a way to make this happen. Before room service breakfast, someone would call my room to let me know they are on their way, so I can wake up/get appropriately dressed. And finally, the best hair products money can buy (in my of course incredible showers) – I would still say that 50% of luxury hotels provide very poor hair products, despite the fancy brand names.

 

 

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

A bottle of champagne on arrival never gets old! But I like useful concierge services – why not get in touch a week before my arrival so you can actually help me with restaurant reservations and trickier things to organise on the actual arrival day? This has only happened a handful of times to me, which is a shame. And I spend over 100 nights a year away from home. Also, recently in India, the Oberoi in Jaipur had signs everywhere asking guests not to tip individual members of staff, but to ensure their names were known to the management team. Guess what? I went out of my way to get their names. I thought it was a nice change from handing out money every 15 minutes (and the stress of it) – at the end of our stay, we left a collective tip for the team.

 

Rancho Valencia, outside San Diego also made an impression on Mrs. O Around the World.

Rancho Valencia, outside San Diego also made an impression on Mrs. O Around the World.

 

 

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

Loud air conditioning systems – Finca Cortesin is the only hotel I have ever stayed at where you cannot hear the air con, which means you don’t have to be hot at night (I usually have to make that choice). One thing that drives me mad are hotel keys not working – and still happens too often. But what I hate the most is when you are somewhere and you can tell that those who work there don’t really care and would rather be doing something else. A huge challenge for hotels – but one that makes a huge difference. It is very interesting to think back about previous hotel stays… and remember faces and people.

 

A tented villa at the Oberoi Rajvillas in Jaipur, India.

A tented villa at the Oberoi Rajvillas in Jaipur, India.

 

 

How do you feel about the Amberlair concept?

I loved the audacity of the founders and I am here from the beginning until the end – I really want to be involved in deciding the first Amberlair location (it could really be anywhere in the world), and follow the decision making and design process. It is once in a lifetime experience – and I love the idea. I have lots to say, as you can possibly imagine. I am also looking forward to taking part in the crowdfunding part, as I really want to be one of the first guests staying at the hotel. I have backed other crowdfunding projects and being part of the journey of something great is VERY exciting.

 

 

Where are you off to next?

I am off to Halkidiki in Greece’s mainland (a first for me!), and then I am going back to Finca Cortesin. It is my third time in 3 years and just the way I like it. On my summer list is a first visit to the West Coast of Ireland, and a return to the Algarve and California. Creature of habit, what can I say?

 

 

About Mrs. O Around the World

Ana Silva O'Reilly enjoying a moment in Paris, France. Photo Credit: Flytographer.

Ana Silva O’Reilly enjoying a moment in Paris, France. Photo Credit: Flytographer.

 

Ana Silva O’Reilly is a 30-something globetrotter who finds her peace and quiet on a long-haul business class flight to somewhere warm.

An avid traveller, Ana is also a good daughter, religiously following her mother’s motto: ‘If you leave home, it has to be better’, or ‘I love camping, in 5 star hotels’.

A city girl at heart, she moved to the quiet English countryside for love, and lives her travel dreams through her award-winning alter-ego and travel blog Mrs. O Around the World.

You can also follow her trips on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

7 facts what a boutique hotel is NOT

There is no easy way to define boutique hotels. There are a number of qualities that these charming hotels of the world share, but they offer an experience that’s better understood in-person rather than by a definition. But, we can try to explain that “you’ll know it when you see it” feeling and where it comes from by first exploring what a boutique hotel is NOT.

 

If you’re staying somewhere that’s…

  1. Cookie cutter accommodations,
  2. Part of a chain,
  3. Dull, with inside-the-box design,
  4. Filled with too many rooms,
  5. Impersonal,
  6. All inclusive, or
  7. Pretty much just flat and soulless

 

…then you are not staying at a boutique hotel. Keep looking, though! These hip hideaways can be found almost anywhere in the world that visitors would want to go (we can personally attest to that…). In our travels, we came across more secret retreats and small luxury hotels than we can count, and while we do still believe boutique hotels are better defined through seeing than explaining, we’ve compiled a few traits they all share:

 

Amberlair Crowdsourced Crowdfunded Boutique Hotel Dar Seven Marrakech

Photo by Dar Seven in Marrakech

 

Getting this out of the way: yes, a boutique hotel is tiny, with no more than 50 rooms and no less than ten (otherwise, it would be an inn or b&b). Their size gives these great small hotels a distinct air of intimacy and personal touch that large hotels just can’t offer.

A true boutique hotel is also one-of-a-kind and independently owned. These indie hotels are distinct from cookie cutter accommodations. They have a style and personality that is truly unique and enhance their guests’ experience of the destination. Boutique hotels tend to be hip, with trend-setting clientele and forward-looking design elements. Because the décor is unique to the independent owners, it is not designed to appeal to the masses but instead a specific crowd of adventurous travelers with a taste for authenticity.

These hip hideaways are dedicated to hyper-attentive service. Because they include personal touches that large hotel chains can’t match, the best boutique hotels in the world pride themselves on their top-of-the-line, personalized service. Providing an easy and at-home atmosphere for guests is essential to the charming hotel experience. They offer great, distinct options when it comes to food and beverage. With restaurants and bars that often draw in locals, you typically won’t lack for cutting edge meals and drinks when you stay at one of these independent hotels.

A boutique hotel is not mainstream, all-inclusive or bland. It’s authentic, stylish and exclusive, unique in design and architecture, trendy, intimate, cosy and inspiring. It provides a personalized service with a real focus on the customer. And most importantly, it offers a memorable experience in itself.

So there you have it! Our attempt at answering the question, “What is a boutique hotel?” But boutique hotel lovers will attest: you have to experience it in person to really understand what it all means. Tell us about some of your favorites and why you love them in the comments below.