Authentic Italian Experiences Rome Cavalieri, A Waldorf Astoria Resort

By Shereen Shabnam

 

Set in the Eternal City on the grounds of a 15 acre park, Rome, the spectacular Rome Cavalieri, A Waldorf Astoria Resort offers guests a home overlooking the best parts of the Vatican City. I spent a few days exploring the majestic hotel and its spa recently and left rested and relaxed for my next adventure.

Being a lover of art, I have been sponsoring the art perspective event every two months held in a five star hotel in Dubai over the year and hence, very familiar with the trend of merging the art world with the hospitality world but seeing the seeing the scale of art at Rome Cavalieri left me mesmerised. The hotel is home to over 1,200 beautiful artworks from well-known artists like Andy Warhol, Giovanni Battista and period pieces of artefacts, tapestries and furniture.

 Recently, the hotel introduced a series of complimentary luxury experiences for guests who book to stay a number of days in one of the hotel’s suites this year. They can take part in a series of inimitable local activities focusing on art, culture and cuisine, with each experience offered to vary depending on the suite chosen and time of year.

Whether it’s learning to make authentic Italian sandals with an authentic, family-run Italian shoemaker, private tours of the Vatican Gardens, the Pope’s summer Residence or the gardens of Castel Gandolfo or culinary journeys in the city, Rome Cavalieri’s Suite Experiences promise a memorable stay.

Food lovers will enjoy a private culinary tour and two-way transfer to Mercato Trionfale in the Prati neighbourhood, a market frequented by locals. The tour features six venues with over 20 different food and wine tastings. Here, guests can sample local culinary delights including truffles and 30 year aged balsamic vinegar, artisanal gelateria from Fatamorgana, homemade pasta with D.O.C.G. Vermentino wine at an award-winning restaurant, caviar and foie gras topped pizzas at Pizzarium, Rome’s number one pizzeria. It also includes a visit to Paciotti, the number one gourmet food shop in Rome, offering over 200 types of cheeses and 100 types of meats.

 Guests staying in the top suites can enjoy the private use of a professional photographer to accompany them on their day around the Eternal City. Guests will receive a professional photoshoot in both Rome and the hotel, with a Mercedes at their disposal throughout the day. To cherish those memories, guests will receive an elegantly presented box with a USB drive and photo print outs, which will be directly delivered to them after their stay.

My favourite experience naturally would be staying in the Vista and Corner Suites and enjoy a luxury picnic in the hotel’s verdant parkland, accompanied with a butler as well as a private yoga session in the park and an 80-minute massage.

The spa experience in Rome Cavalieri was an amazing escape to a tranquil oasis with Roman baths, fitness centre and reputed products to indulge in. I opted for massage and once I saw the La Prairie products, I wished I had booked a facial too but had to catch my flight back to Dubai.

Overall, the Rome Cavalieri was a surreal experience. The building was designed by one of the most important architects of the period, Ugo Luccichenti, assisted by E. Pifferi and A. Ressa, with contribution from two superstar architects of the ‘60’s, Franco Albini and Pierluigi Nervi.

Ever since its opening in 1963, the hotel is known for the highest level of comfort attracting famous personalities and fifty years on, the Rome Cavalieri continues to move with the times, exceeding the expectations of the most demanding international travelers and living up to its name as an icon in the world of luxury hospitality. I certainly felt extremely special throughout my stay and would love to return with family one day to relive the experience and of course to make their spa my second home for at least a week.

 

 

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Spectacular Landscapes Summer in Crans-Montana

By Shereen Shabnam

The Swiss Alps have so much more to offer than just winter sports and snowy mountains. The destination has visitors all year round and is just as popular in the summer, when walking outside is easier with views of breathtaking nature and for outdoor sports.

This summer we headed out to Crans-Montana in the district of Sierre in the canton of Valais, Switzerland. It is a ski resort that was created through the fusion of the two centers of Crans and Montana and is now a sought after destination for celebrities.

Other than hosting spectacular World Ski Championships, guests also come from far to Crans-Montana to enjoy the pop rock festival, bicycle racing and the Omega European Masters golf tournament.

Crans-Montana offers an impressive view of mountain peaks from the Matterhorn to Mont Blanc and offers visitors luxury holiday retreats with expansive natural landscapes and panoramic views of the Valais Alps.

We were able to enjoy shopping in the quaint village shops, get high end luxury brands, walked near aromatic mountain forests, and along a lake, learnt first hand how to make cheese with a local farmer and tried our hand at golf with a talented golf trainer.

For panoramic views, visitors can take the gondolas from Crans-Montana to the top and enjoy places like the Plaine Morte Glacier, experience mountain rides such as the “Petit Bonvin”,the “Cry d’Err” or “Les Violettes,or just hike at their own pace.

Crans-Montana is perfect for family holidays as local parks and summer camps offer numerous activities likesledge runs, tobogganing, swings, drawing competitions, golf clinics at the “highest golf course in the world”, a fun Forest Adventure Park, lake walks, water sports, hike excursions, music festivals and amusement parks.

We visited the Beach Club, which had beach volleyball, banana boating on the lake and cable wakeboarding. We had coffee on the deckchairs watching the locals swim, enjoying meals with families and relax with board games.

Art enthusiasts can visit various museums and art galleries in Crans-Montana which has galleries dedicated to art fans and collectors having access to the works of internationally renowned artists as well as new talent.

Food in Crans-Montana was a delight. With mouth-watering sushi at our hotel’s Japanese restaurant,MiZUKI by Kakinuma’, raclette and fondue during the evenings.

Highlight was the gastronomic meal in the mountains at Chetzeron Hotel which was memorable at 2112 m. The menu included an “Alpine refined” flavoured cuisine from traditional Valais-based specialities to contemporary inspirations. Wehad great seafood at La Plage and even had Lebanese food for dinner, similar to what we would find in Dubai.

We stayed at the Guarda Golf Hotel & Residences located in the heart of the picturesque Crans-Montana. It was an intimate and elegant home for us with personalised service and it is clearly one of the finest luxury hotels in Switzerland being a member of Swiss Deluxe Hotels as well as of The Leading Hotels of the World. Our room had spectacular panoramic views of the Swiss Alps.

To get to Crans-Montana, we flew SWISS from Dubai, which was a comfortable and enjoyable arriving in Zurich in time to start our travel adventure in different parts of Switzerland using the Swiss Pass that allowed us to see many parts of beautiful Switzerland.

 

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Pearl of the Adriatic – Dubrovnik, Croatia

By Shereen Shabnam

Dubrovnik in Croatia is a city for all seasons and one of the world’s most prominent tourist destinations. Surrounded by unique medieval ramparts, Dubrovnik attracts visitors for its rich history, mild climate, traditional hospitality and its many festivals, open-air events and architectural treasures.

I explored Dubrovnik, a UNESCO registered protected world heritage site during the evening and in the day taking in the charm of bustling streets, art and different cultural events.

Walking along the promenade during the day meant coming across various art and artefacts on sale as well as live music performances. The open air performances add character to the different areas of the old town classical and jazz music and brings rhythm and charm into an already dazzling atmosphere.

While wandering through the markets, we toured the filming location of the ‘Game of Thrones’ television series and enjoyed some retail therapy of the related merchandise for fans back in the UAE.

The best part of Dubrovnik was exploring the old city, which had interesting markets, art galleries and city walls with fortresses offering beautiful views of the city, the open sea and the Island of Lokrum.

For panoramic views of Dubrovnik, visitors can take the cable car and set out on a scenic adventure that includes breathtaking views of the old town and enjoy the sunset. Make time to head to the Island of Lokrum and Elaphiti Islands or visit the Trsteno Arboretum, which is a protected monument of nature.

Dubrovnik is a great destination for adventure sports or active tourists who enjoy horse riding, hiking, cycling or sailing. A jeep safari or a canoe tour is also an interesting way to explore the area.

Dubrovnik was a gastronomic delight with an abundance of fresh and delectable food, often seasoned with olive oil. Try the naturally grown vegetables like courgettes, cabbage, aubergines tomatoes as well as seafood prepared in a simple way.

I had a full day exploring the old town and came across a Salvador Dali exhibition, which was an unexpected delight. Visitors who enjoy experience centres will enjoy The Cultural History Museum, the Maritime Museum, the Archeological Museum exhibition at Fortress Revelin, the Dubrovnik Natural Science Museum and the Dubrovnik State Archives.

The natural scenery in the area and panoramic views of the coast on the way to the old town in Dubrovnik were definitely some of the most memorable moments in Croatia.  I am already planning my next venture into the land of fortresses and medieval architecture.

Turkish Airlines recently added Dubrovnik, Croatia to its expanding network with three weekly flights for visitors intending to explore this beautiful city.

 

Exploring Taiwan – The Land of Breathtaking Beauty

By Shereen Shabnam

With rich cultural diversity and traditions as varied as it’s beautiful natural landscape alongside tall towers and a thriving business environment, Taiwan is full of surprises for visitors.

My visit began with a tour of the Taipei 101, architecturallycreated guided with Feng Shui principles as a symbol of the evolution of technology and Asian tradition with traditional design elements, works of art and modern treatments. It comes with Indoor Observation decks plus a premium multi-level shopping mall adjoining the tower with hundreds of stores, restaurants and clubs.

The journey continued with visits to Chiayi, Alishan, Sun Moon Lake and beyond wandering through cultural attractions, lakes, hillside stations, tropical forests and sampling a wide variety of cuisine including ample choice of halal delicacies.

Taiwan offers the gamut of different cuisines and I enjoyed the Chinese, Indian, Moroccan, Japanese dishes alongside the traditional local specialties like Tainan milkfish and desert dumplings in restaurants and night markets in between sight seeing and shopping.

A visit to Taiwanese temples is a must for people watching as they gather to worship, enjoy local festivities nearby and to peruse the local art house often found in each city.

Highlight of the visit was the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated each year on the 15th day of the first lunar month to mark the grand finale of the Chinese New Year celebrations.

This first full moon day of the New Year symbolizes the coming of the spring. People usually celebrate this festival by enjoying family dinner together, eating Yuanxiao (glutinous rice dumpling), carrying paper lanterns, and solving the riddles on the lanterns.

At the Taiwan Lantern Festival in Chiayi, I found the grand celebration with music, dance, light shows, 4D visual effects and the grand lanterns all around me magical. My Taiwanese friends said they sometimes write their wishes on the sky lanterns because it is believed as the lantern fly into the sky; it is a way to pass on your wishes to gods above.

A visit to the Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum was a delightin Chiayi County. The museum is set on 70 hectares of land next to a large scenic lake with gardens. It has an unmatched collection of e artifacts and priceless treasures from distant places.

Another attractionlocated in Qigu District, Tainan is the Qigu Salt Mountain set close to Qigu Lagoon, the largest inland lake in Taiwan, which is rich in ecological resources and the habitat for winter migratory birds-black-faced spoonbills. There are a number of recreational activities like go-karting, antique machines exhibition and the Doo-doo trains making it an interesting Tainan tourist spot for visitors of all ages.

Other enjoyable excursions included exploring the Sicao Mangrove Preserve and the Taijiang National Parkwith ecological and cultural landscape alongside culture and history. The Alishan National Scenic Area was also memorable.

Another breath taking experience was of course Taiwan’s largest Lake, the Sun Moon Lakelocated in the mountains of Nantou. I took a late afternoon boat tour and thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it. The area around the lake is home to tribes and scenic views. Leaving Taiwan was not easy especially from the Sun Moon Lake.

From the UAE, getting to Taiwan was fairly easy on Emirates Airlines, which flies to direct to Taipei daily. The city is a great starting point to get to the other popular tourist spots.

Natural Sanctuary – Bled in Slovenia

By Shereen Shabnam

One of my most memorable travel destinations recently was to Slovenia with Turkish Airlines. The first stop was at a lake town called Bled,a popular tourist destination in Slovenia known for its emerald green lake, a wonderful restaurant on top of a mountain with picturesque views and a medieval castle.

On arrival, we had an enchanting boat ride across the lake, which is the highlight of a visit to Bled. It is best to take some time to take in the ambience, watch the swans and ducks on the lakes and enjoy the lush green mountains in the distance.

A hike up a hill followed the boat ride as we climbed a stone staircase with 99 steps to have lunch with panoramic views and a visit to take pictures of the waterfront, the church of assumption andthe castle of Bled.

The Bled Castle is the oldest castle in Slovenia. There is also a museum at the top with the history of the castle, some interesting fossils and archaeological findings and a tempting gift shop selling food and the arts and crafts of Bled.

Being a food lover, I stopped to taste the famous Kremsnita cake, which was as delectable as the locals claimed and better than any cream cake I have ever sampled during my travels.

Adventure tourists will enjoy the famous hiking trails that start from Bled. They are called Pokljika, Mount Stol and Triglav. For those on the look out for picturesque views, The Vintgar Gorge has a scenic route that is serene with a lovely waterfall.

Some sites I wanted to visit but missed out on is the Postojna Cave Predjama Castle and the Lipica Stud Farm that produces horses for the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Visitors from the Middle East who love equestrian sports can enjoy tours, rides and lessons that cover dressage and how to control horses.

Lake Bled is an ideal destination for a perfect summers day. Dress casual and comfortable to make the most of the visit as the activities involve rowing, hiking, exploring and enjoy the photography opportunities.

Rose Park Hotel – Al Barsha

By Shereen Shabnam

Inspired from past success in hospitality and the enviable reputation for delivering excellence in guest service over the last 10 years, the award-winning Rose International Hotels Management recently introduced us to the Rose Park Hotel in Al Barsha.

Over a sumptuous lunch, Thameem Razick, Director of Sales & Marketing at Rose Hotels & Hotel Apartments tells us that the 4 Star hotel is the newest addition to the growing portfolio managed by Rose International Hotels Management.

Located close to Mall of the Emirates and only a metro ride away from Dubai’s tourist attractions and business centers such as the Dubai World Trade & Exhibition Centre, the hotel is the ideal base from which to explore the surrounding areas. Rose Park Hotel – Al Barsha gives guests a 360 degree access of Dubai. The cozy new hotel is easily accessible to the Ski Dubai, the largest Ski zone at Mall of the Emirates, one of the iconic shopping malls in Dubai, the Jumeirah Beach and to Dubai Internet City and Dubai Media City.

Thameem hopes that locals, hotel guests and visiting tourists will enjoy the hotel’s exceptional hospitality services and feel at home during their stay in the city. The hotel’s target market includes travelers and tourists from GCC, Asia, Europe and CIS and fast growing markets such as Eastern Europe, Far East and Latin America who visit UAE for business or pleasure.

Combining fully equipped business space with luxurious rooms and premium facilities, the hotel meets the needs of those travelling for work as well as leisure. The 4 Star hotel comprises of 168 contemporary bedrooms with a choice of deluxe rooms, including 24 suites, all equipped with high speed internet and 49”inch LED TVs. Dining options include the ‘Bombay Urban Cafe’ restaurant with its lavish, fine dining ambiance. There is also a business lounge for busy executives.

A well-appointed meeting room with a capacity up to 20 – 25 guests ensures all business meetings can be handled with ease. Guests can benefit from complimentary access to the hotel’s health and leisure facilities, take a dip in the swimming pool on the deck while sipping fresh juices amidst Dubai’s panoramic skyline view. Accessible 7 days a week, guests can keep fit with gym equipment, weights, sauna and steam room.

Centrally located in Al Barsha, across the street and a minute away from Sharaf DG Metro station, and adjacent to Sheikh Zayed Road, guests can have a warm and relaxing haven to stay in. With its calming ambiance mixed with intriguing design elements, guests are in for a one-of-a-kind atmosphere.

Rose International Hotels Management continues to strengthen its portfolio with a focus on acquiring and managing properties. Since 2006, the group has been in the forefront of the development of luxurious commercial properties across key locations in UAE & Oman. The group has about six more hotel properties in the pipeline with around 687 keys, which will be delivered before Dubai Expo 2020. These are being developed in Science Park, Al Barsha, Sheikh Zayed Road, Jaddaf, Bur Dubai and in Oman – Ruwi.

Classic Elegance – Luxury at every turn at Villa Magna, Madrid

By Shereen Shabnam

On the way to my Spanish home recently, a stop in Madrid led me and my family to discover the luxury Villa Magna in Madrid where the ambience celebrates the old and new in a space that only be described as classically elegant.

In the last century, where this modern building stands today on the Paseo de la Castellana, was the Palace of Anglada which was demolished in the 1960`s. The hotel on the same site shows the same sophistication and after an extensive renovation, the luxury hotel has become a home to regular visitors who love the Bauhaus concepts and Chinese screens that combine to create a welcoming and luxurious atmosphere.

From the moment we were picked at the airport by a private chauffeur to the moment we left, the experience we had was more than amazing. The Concierge led us to the most interesting exhibitions and fashionable boutiques in Madrid but the highlight of the excursions was our teenage daughter experiencing the VIP shopper experience at El Corte Ingles…a must for all GCC visitors.

The hotel lobby is warm and welcoming with a large window offering a marvelous view to the Magnum Patio. To add a sophisticated touch the walls were adorned with Bauhaus and Vienna Secession designs. Different styles also combine among the furnishings: Louis XVI rosewood consoles, exotic screens and rugs with their geometric shapes give warmth to the marble floors.

The Restaurante Villa Magna has beautiful natural light, complimented by the choice of light colours and a large framed mirror that reflects the space as a painting. The beauty of the carpentry work and the relaxing upholstery combine to make a perfect ambience relaxing. 

The Lounge, off the Lobby of the Villa Magna, is the ideal setting to meet friends, discuss business or enjoy a relaxing meal at any time of the day. We spent our lunchtime mainly there with a selection of snacks, light lunch dishes whilst enjoying views onto the Lounge Terrace and Paseo de la Castellana beyond.

The room we stayed in was spacious, comfortable and washed with soft lighting, bright colours and warm fabrics. It was tastefully done and every detail was taken care of…from attending to my love for chocolates to the availability of prayer mats in the cupboard.

 Our day excursions meant revisiting our favourite Madrid attractions starting from the “Art Triangle” the Prado Museum, the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum, the Mercado and the Reina Sofia Museum to walking through Plaza Mayor and retail streets dotted with local and international brands.

The Villa Magna´s Fitness Club is equipped with the latest Technogym equipment and a team of fitness experts to provide a personalized fitness programme. The Wellness Club is a quiet area to be pampered with luxurious body treatments and skincare in a retreat of tranquility and naturally I opted for a massage on arrival.

Withthe city’s main shopping streets and attractions at the doorstep, the Villa Magna offers the most exclusive and ideal place to stay while visiting Madrid.