Timeless destinations

Time marches on but doesn’t dim the appeal of great hotels and destinations.

“For things to remain the same, everything must change,” the Italian writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa wrote in his great novel “The Leopard.” That’s certainly the sense you get at the famous Fontainebleau Miami Beach, originally opened in 1954, with 6 acres of formal gardens designed to replicate Versailles. Following a $1 billion makeover a decade ago, the Fontainebleau is still up to date and boasts 1,500 rooms in 20 different categories. Its 12 restaurants include two from Michael Mina and a branch of the ritzy modern Chinese restaurant Hakkasan, while its BleauFish ocean-to-table program has fish, lobster and Florida stone crabs delivered to a Water World — a collection of basement tanks beneath the kitchens, where they are kept fresh until the moment of cooking. 

And yet the hotel still has an unmistakable 1950s/’60s vibe — Maurice Lapidus himself (the architect most associated with the “creation” of Miami Beach) almost stalking the corridors, the friendliest of ghosts, or James Bond playing cards with the villain Auric Goldfinger in the famous scene shot around the Fontainebleau’s then-only swimming pool.

Situated on 60 gorgeous Napa Valley acres, a half hour drive from San Francisco, Poetry Inn by contrast has only five bedrooms, but also exudes a sense of timelessness. Its rock ’n’ roll vibe and exceptional modern art and sculpture collection — reflecting owner Cliff Lede’s passions — are at once a throwback but also in the here and now. With the inn’s on-site winery, its sumptuous three-course gourmet breakfasts and spa treatments in which the Cliff Lede Vineyards’ Cabernet Sauvignon is incorporated into the luxurious spa treatments, this very cool hotel is up-to-the-minute. 

Time has not dimmed the appeal of Vienna’s celebrated Hotel Sacher (founded in 1876), but rather added to its luster. Famed for its Sachertorte chocolate cake, the hotel kitchen retains a dedicated “egg-cracker,” who cracks 7,000 eggs a day for the production of this world-renowned confection. Two hours away by high-speed train, the Sacher’s sister hotel, also Hotel Sacher but in Salzburg, effortlessly mixes old world charm with contemporary comfort. 

In the country of watches, where time is of the essence, there is always something new and fashionable happening in Switzerland. But technology and transportation doesn’t stand still either. The newly inaugurated Glacier Express railroad now connects the world-famous ski resort of St. Moritz in the Engandine with tony Zermatt, lying below the Matterhorn, and there can be no more thrilling way to see the most stunning parts of the Swiss Alps in all their snowy glory. It’s an irony, perhaps, that Switzerland, the highest, most mountainous country in Europe, is often “overlooked,” in favor of higher-profile neighbors, France and Italy. 

But with lakes and mountains galore, superb food, outstanding wines, handsome cities and charming small towns — not to mention the finest skiing in Europe — Switzerland has it all. Many jokes have been cracked at the expense of this time-conscious nation, but in the cultural and political chaos that characterizes present-day Europe, it is the industrious, peaceable and fiscally sound Swiss who — to misquote Liberace — are crying all the way to their very many banks. 

If it’s lakes and mountains you’re after but without the snow, there is an almost palpable timelessness to the loughs and drumlins that Ireland has in abundance. The Emerald Isle is not short of castles and grand houses, either, many of them now converted into luxury hotels. The recently-restored Adare Manor boasts 104 rooms, with a clubhouse and cinema and the only La Mer spa in Ireland. Just 30 minutes from Shannon Airport, served by Delta, United and Aer Lingus out of New York, Adare is eminently doable for a three-day long weekend.

Worldwide, new hotels are opening apace. Marriott, the world’s largest hotel company, opens a hotel somewhere in the world every 14 hours. However, only seven of its 31 brands qualify as luxury. At the top end, the pick of the recent crop would have to include a new St. Regis hotel in Toronto and another in Hong Kong. In West Hollywood and Times Square, meanwhile, new Edition hotels combine the best big-city hotel characteristics with a slightly edgy undertone, and new Marriott-run Ritz-Carlton properties in South Beach, Scottsdale and Muscat (Oman) are none too shabby, either.

If the jet set has called time on Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta, both conjuring up images of bygone glamour, the crown has undoubtedly passed to Los Cabos in Mexico. Restrained, high-end development has meant this smart, dual-destination (the towns of San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas) has acquired world-class hotels and restaurants, while cleverly managing to retain some real Mexican charm. As for the choice of hotels, it is staggering, with Four Seasons, Aman, hip Soho House, the very swish Viceroy and a new Ritz-Carlton all competing — or about to compete — for your business.

Just as there is a time for hedonism, there is a time, too, for quiet and reflective travel. Introspection is about to shift up a gear in Goa, India, in an 18th-century mansion and private residence. MansionHaus, where elements of European and Indian culture will be fused, is the reimagination of a luxurious private experience, for guests who are united in their passion to “create, exchange and impact the world around them.” Guests can also join visiting artists and hear talks by international and local inspirational speakers, with content that will range from neuroscience to politics, economics to philanthropy and technology to wellness. Sound terrifying? Then relax, because MansionHaus is not only a cerebral journey. Guests can also join in with visiting chefs at the in-house cooking school or request an in-room spa expert to tailor their treatments. 

In the world of 21st-century travel, there is time for everything, and everything in its own good time.

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