Lap of Luxury – Gstaad

By Shereen Shabnam

After a few days of rest and relaxation in Zermatt, Switzerland, I was keen to introduce my teenager who loves snow and cold weather to Gstaad. After exploring numerous parts of the country using the Swiss Pass on the way to Gstaad, before venturing to Gstaad, we arrived to a quaint railway station where our driver was waiting to take us to Huus Gstaad, which is one of the most welcoming and homely hotels in the area.

Gstaas is a playground for holidaymakers who prefer a touch of exclusivity for their holiday experiences in a unique landscape that is full of tradition, sports, delectable cuisine and culture. A walk around the town is the perfect antidote to cheer oneself up while trying out hand made chocolates and local cheese platters.

To many, Gstaad is known as a major ski resort and a popular destination amongst high society and the international jet set but it is a perfect place for adventure tourism as well.

While my teenager enjoyed river rafting thanks to the wonderful staff of the Huus Gstaad Hotel, my favourite part of the visit was going up the mountains for tobogganing, watching my daughter try different games and inhaling the fresh crisp air that makes the lungs feel good.

The countryside in Gstaad offers a versatile and diverse sports programme with hiking, mountain biking, paragliding and golf. Gstaad is also a wellness destination and guarantees an unsurpassed variety of leisure activities, spas, healthy cuisine, sports centres and indoor swimming pools.

Set amongst soaring mountains and prestigious international boarding schools, Gstaad is a popular holiday destination for royalty and celebrities. Cable cars connect surrounding ski areas such as Wispile and Rinderberg, with hundreds of kilometers of all-level pistes and cross-country trails.

We started our journey at the centre of Gstaad, which is the most popular and fell in love with the shortest “shopping mile” in Switzerland. With luxury hotels, gourmet restaurants, luxury chalets, the car-free resort was a delight as we walked along the picturesque promenade and tried some of the local delicacies.  explored the local galleriesand exclusive shops.

Retail therapy in Gstaad is a delight with designer stores that include Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Chopard, Brunello Cucinelli, Prada, Moncler, Ralph Lauren, and Cartier as well as boutiques that stock labels such as Chloe, Dolce & Gabbana, Tod’s, Burberry, Dior, Oscar de la Renta, and Marc Jacobs.

Food lovers will be happy to note that Gstaad is also a paradise for fine diners, with more than 100 restaurants ranging from cosy raclette restaurants to acclaimed gourmet venues. Our most memorable meal was a five-course meal at Ultima Gstaad.

Leaving Gstaad is not easy as the wonderful views from cosy terraces, the picturesque mountains, fresh alpine air, gourmet cuisine, indoor games near warm fireplaces and outdoor adventures leaves an imprint on the heart and soul.

Each time I visualise a perfect holiday now, my mind wanders to the warmth of the staff and the cosy lobby area of Huus Gstaad and this ultimate hospitality is what makes it a destination that attracts visitors back to the beautiful alpine heaven more than once.

 

 

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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.

 

Haven of Tranquility: Shangri-La Dubai

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My favourite venue for rest and relaxation, Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai has a new look and feel after its extensive renovation across its public areas including the Lobby Lounge and Dunes Café. The renovation programme has revealed a beautiful and modern, yet classical design and marks a new chapter in the evolution of Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai.

With the aim to create a contemporary haven of elegance that blends modern Arabia with Shangri-La’s legendary hospitality in the heart of Dubai, the hotel’s Lobby Lounge has been extended, whilst Dunes Café has been designed as a more private dining space set aside from the lobby by pods which shield the area discreetly from the hustle and bustle. Steel and gold chandeliers are suspended from the lobby ceilings, whilst a welcoming and open guest arrival lounge provides a warm and uplifting first impression for guests.

The best features from the renovation is the stunning ‘wave’ chandelier designed by bespoke chandelier designers, Lasvit, hangs in the entrance of the hotel and the spectacular chandelier that hangs in the two-storey staircase connecting the lobby and dining outlets.

In the lobby itself, plentiful flashes of gold and ruby red detailing reflect the jewels of traditional Arabian souks. In addition, 4,212 hand-cut, blue, tiger’s eye stone tiles have been pieced together to form the entry walls to the six lobby elevators. The stone is also featured on the tables in the Lobby Lounge. Tiger’s Eye is a semi-precious stone believed to hold soothing qualities and has been introduced to bring a further sense of calm to the surroundings.

The hotel’s impressive, atrium-style lobby area has been designed by Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA) the world’s leading hospitality interior design firm. The new layout across the renovated areas of the hotel has been planned in a manner, which enables guests to effortlessly mix work with pleasure. Host a business meeting in the new stylish Lobby Lounge, meet friends for drinks, enjoy Asian High Tea or watch the world go by while having a specialist tea or coffee.

Located on the ground floor, Dunes Café is convenient and perfectly placed for casual dining with friends or business associates. The live open kitchen, featuring numerous culinary styles, is a showcase for the best of international cuisine.

The signature restaurant of Shangri-La Hotels worldwide, Shang Palace, has launched their latest, unbeatable offer at Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai. Every night from Tuesday through Sunday, guests can dine and wine at the award-winning venue and select up to four options from the a la carte menu for a set price of AED 218 per person. To compliment the offer, guests will also receive 50% off of the exquisite wine selection.

Renowned for its Yum Cha, acclaimed Beijing Duck and extensive list of fragrant teas, Shang Palace offers a wide selection of mouth-watering Cantonese and provincial delicacies, complemented by authentic Chinese hospitality. Shang Palace’s unique fusion of a mystical Far Eastern ambiance and the finest cuisine ensures a truly memorable dining experience.

The latest spa offer allows us to escape from our day to day life and find a moment of inner peace by experiencing a new late night treatment in the serenity and calm of CHI, The Spa, which is now open until midnight.

Whether you are a busy traveler, an exhausted businesswomen or a busy mother, this is the way to reclaim some ‘me time’. The spa seamlessly blends the Far East Asian roots of the hotel with Arabian inspiration from local culture for a truly unique experience.

Book a Drift Away body massage, perfect after a long day at work or travelling. The relaxing head-to-toe massage, formulated with a dreamy blend of essential oils is guaranteed to have you drift away. This 60 or 90 minute treatment is complete with a face and scalp massage to smooth frazzled nerves, relaxing the muscles and the mind. With this purchase, guests can also enjoy full access to Health Club and Spa facilities, and receive a complimentary home sleep kit for lasting benefits.

The Shangri-La Dubai remains my favourite place for tranquility and for catching up with friends and family.

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Futuristic Hospitality: Building World Class Hotels

Known for its exemplary service, and unique properties, Habtoor Hospitality, the Middle East’s longest established hospitality group, encompasses the rapidly expanding hotel and entertainments offering. Part of The Al Habtoor Group, the division takes great pride in the fact that whilst its foundations lie in the UAE, Habtoor Hospitality competes on a global scale.

The Group’s growing portfolio includes the flagship Habtoor Grand Beach Resort & Spa, Autograph Collection, two Metropolitan Hotels, with a third, The Metropolitan Sheikh Zayed Road, opening in 2016, the Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah, along with international properties in Beirut, Budapest and the USA.

Al Habtoor Group’s new mega-project, Al Habtoor City, situated in the heart of the city on Sheikh Zayed Road, will play host to some of the division’s most exciting new developments. Under the management of Starwood, 2015 will see the opening of Dubai’s first St. Regis hotel closely followed bythe Westin, Al Habtoor City, as well as the W Hotel brand’s debut in the UAE.

In addition to over 1,600 rooms, including the regions first Bentley Suite, the five star hotel complex will offer a huge array of restaurants and entertainment outlets. The heartbeat of which will be a spectacular, multi-billion dirham, purpose built entertainment theatre with a production from Franco Dragone.

The Al Habtoor Group, Franco Dragone Entertainment and Paris-based designer Jean Rabasse have teamed up to offer the only permanent water-based theatre production between Las Vegas and Macau. The impressive circular theatre auditorium will be 30 meters high and have a capacity of 1,400 unique seats, giving the whole audience a first class view of what promises to be a World class show.

With three additional luxury residential towers featuring 11 exquisite penthouses, this mega development on the banks of the soon to be completed Dubai Water Canal, will be the World’s largest residential and hospitality destination of its kind.

According to Al Habtoor Group Chairman, Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, “Al Habtoor City will incorporate more than 3,000 hotel and residential units on one plot. Our project will prove that Dubai is the only place in the world to invest. Al Habtoor City is truly a breathtaking project. It will help boost the economy, provide thousands of jobs and will set a benchmark for future projects of its kind.”

Al Habtoor City’s location rises on thesite where The Metropolitan Hotel once stood. The new boutique 4-star hotel in a new location on Sheikh Zayed Road will comprise indoor and al fresco cafes, an all-day dining restaurant, the renewed Don Corleone Italian Restaurant and English pub, red Lion. Other facilities will include a ballroom, five meeting rooms, rooftop swimming pool and a gymnasium.

The Group’s Chairman, Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor mentions, “We started out in the hotel business in 1979 with the metropolitan Hotel, so it is fitting as we celebrate our 45th anniversary that we should revive an established brand that is so much part of our heritage. I feel sure that the new Metropolitan will enjoy the same success as the original one and become embedded in the hearts of Dubai’s residents and visitors alike.”

The most recently announced project from the Al Habtoor Groupwillsee its Hospitality arm operating in a truly unique setting. The St. Regis Dubai Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club will be a state-of-the-art polo and equestrian community, located in Dubailand. This one-billion dirham development will include an Andalusian-style luxury St. Regis hotel managed by Starwood. In addition there will be a state-ofthe- art polo academy with four polo fields, show jumping and dressage arenas, and a riding school with 500 stables.

 

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