Grand hotels, still

Despite the pandemic, old hotels have been renovating and new hotels have been opening space.

When will we be traveling again? I don’t mean a hermetically sealed sortie along I-95 in the SUV just for a change of scene or a nervous visit to an elderly relative upstate, swaddled and swathed in protective clothing, inscrutable behind state-sanctioned masks. No, I mean real travel — with all the bells and whistles, abandoned and extravagant, wide-brimmed straw hats flopping, yards of designer linen billowing, Louis Vuitton cases at the ready — to far-flung summer capitals, old castles, Asian temples, ruined forts, chic country retreats, rugged shorelines and microdot islands, preferably accessible only by private felucca or dhow, or perhaps a sleek and gleaming Riva yacht.

Because while we’ve been hunkered down, the hotel world has not stood still. Yes, it’s been a terrible time for many in the industry, no question, and our hearts go out to those who have suffered loss of any kind. But because nothing ever stands still in hospitality — not even in a pandemic — new hotels have been opening apace, golden oldies have reinvented themselves, and yet still others are due to launch later this year. Here are a few that have caught my eye:


The Langham, Boston will reopen in the spring after a lavish renovation intended to restore this heritage hotel to its rightful role as a new American classic in Boston. With design from London-based Richmond International, public spaces will feature shades of green and gold (think Harrods, think class), with guest rooms in chirpy New England-
inspired blues and grays. And there’ll be several design nods, too, to the building’s banking history, as this was the former Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

Gold is also a theme at another Financial District hotel, the new, extremely swish Four Seasons San Francisco at Embarcadero. Granted, it’s a bit of a mouthful to say (the name distinguishes it from San Francisco’s original Four Seasons, on Market Street), but don’t hold that against it. Occupying the top 11 floors of the 48-story 345 California Center, this new beauty offers panoramic views of the West’s handsomest city from every room, spa-bathrooms the size of tennis courts and exceptionally extravagant design touches, such as gold thread woven through the hotel’s exquisite wall hangings, referencing the city’s gold rush history. 

And Four Seasons has another new jewel in its none-too-shabby collection, the fabulous new Four Seasons New Orleans. Opening midyear, this will perhaps surprisingly be a first property for the prestigious group in the city of jazz, pizzazz and Sazerac. That the food here — in this food-mad city — from the celebrated Louisiana chefs Alon Shaya and Donald Link, will be superb is perhaps a given. But less obvious, and giving this striking newbie a real edge, will be the fifth- floor rooftop swimming pool and Harley Pasternak-designed fitness center — open 24 hours to work off those delicious but figure-sabotaging beignets.

Over in Las Vegas, meanwhile, where “small” and “intimate” are not necessarily hotel adjectives that spring to mind, the new Crockfords, an offshoot of London’s famed (and it must be said, super-posh) Mayfair gaming club of the same name, will launch this summer in what is, so it is being whispered, owning company Hilton’s biggest ever hotel deal. A veritable oasis on the Strip, with its 236 guest rooms and villas nestling in lush, tropical gardens, Crockfords is betting that impeccable taste can win out over the brash and the kitsch. Only high rollers need apply.

The Bahamas

“It’s better in the Bahamas,” ran the famous old advertising campaign for these dreamy islands, and nowhere can be much better than the tony Abaco Club, the private sporting club and residential community that sits on 500 of its own acres on Great Abaco Island and boats its own private 2.5 mile-long beach. Not bad for starters. But enhancements over the last year have increased the assets even more, with a renovation of the day dock, extensive expansion of the fitness center, a revamp of the all-day waterfront restaurant and the introduction of a food truck specializing in fun, fast Bahamian fare. Plus, lest you forget or don’t know, the Abaco Club is home to the No. 1 golf course in The Bahamas.


They’ve been busy across the Pond, too, sprucing up for normalcy’s return. Not that there’s anything normal about Borgo Santandrea, a divine new small hotel in Amalfi. Just 45 rooms, magnificently situated 200 feet above sea level, bathed in that unmistakeable, soft Amalfitana light, Santandrea seduces you with spiffy furniture and gorgeous handmade tiles, Murano glass and natural linens. And the absolute icing on an already delicious cake is its own small, private beach. (I use the word “divine” advisedly, by the way, because this place feels very close to what I hope heaven may be like.) 

Some 40 miles to the north, beyond Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius, Naples is my tip for Italy’s most exciting city, post-pandemic. And when that time comes, there will be nowhere more exciting to stay than Atelier Inès, a boutique art hotel opening this spring, inspired by the art philosophy of international artist and sculptor Annibale Oste. Located in the city’s cool Vergini district, right in the center of the old town, Inès will feature six bespoke suites, a showroom, a jewelry boutique and a common living area, dedicated to art and gastronomic experiences. If my hunch is right, this joint is going to be pretty popular, so plug it into your contacts and book early.

Now, you may have your sights set on France this summer, in which case give a thought to the utterly enchanting blue and white St. Tropez gem, the Cheval Blanc. Officially opened in 2019, this gorgeous little residence — the only hotel situated directly on St. Trop’s sought-after Bouillabaisse Beach — had barely enjoyed its first season before Covid struck. But now it’s gearing up for the 2021 summer season, and if you fancy a few days and nights of espadrille-chic and sublime (three Michelin-starred) cooking on a terrace facing the sparkling Med, then this is the place for you.

On the other hand, you may not be a beach person at all. Give a thought then to newly opened North Lodge, a standalone, restored Georgian cottage adjoining Dorchester Collection’s ritzy Coworth Park, a wonderful mansion hotel full of contemporary twists a stone’s throw from the famous Ascot Racecourse. For those who may still be Covid-concerned, this three-bedroom property offers exclusive-use accommodation and comes with its own rose garden, al-fresco dining area, state-of-the-art kitchen and access to Coworth’s 240 acres of Berkshire parkland, award-winning spa and equestrian center.


Another Langham beckons, this time in Jakarta. Indonesia’s capital city is often seen as no more than a gateway to Bali, but it’s a thoroughly fascinating city in its own right — with its size, go-go vibe and Anglo-Dutch pedigree similar to New York — so do schedule a couple of days here if you’re Bali-bound. Design is key at this sumptuous new property, which will open in April, with acres of white paneling, glorious mirror and metalwork and a 59th floor private Langham Club lounge, with stunning views over the city. Add to this no fewer than five exceptional restaurants — including T’ang Court (a sibling of the three Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant at The Langham, Hong Kong,) and wild horses should not be able to drag you away. I once crossed a continent for lunch — no kidding — so why wouldn’t you cross an ocean for five amazing eateries, and all under one rather glamorous roof, no less?

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