Hotels Rock it Too
It’s not always about the ships

by Vanessa Lee

The Leopard Bar at the Chesterfield Hotel, Palm Beach

The Amalfi Coast's Palazzo Sasso at Ravello

Devon's Lewtrenchard Manor

Enjoying the July sunshine and a Pimms at the South Lodge Hotel near Horsham, West Sussex

Even though everyone knows I am a very focused cruise person, I clearly love travelling overall and particularly enjoy gorgeous, sexy, boutique hotels. Equally I am very keen on driving vacations, exploring and discovering what is around the next corner. Some of my best vacations have been those spent in Italy or France, driving country roads, stopping for farmhouse lunches or picnics in fields full of daisies with bread, cheese and wine close at hand. And of course being a native Englishwoman, there is nothing I love more than the peace of returning to my roots and wending my way through the bucolic countryside of the South Downs, the West Country or the Cotswolds.

I also have a great time when driving around Florida hopping from coast to coast and simply soaking up the sun and the gorgeous beach front villas in places like Naples, Palm Beach, Sanibel and Captiva Islands. The north east of the States is also another area I love and a while back I stayed in a gorgeous Vermont inn named the Reluctant Panther complete with a four poster bed and an in-room fireplace. Does it get much better?

I also spent 5 magical days in the Napa and Sonoma wine regions a few years back and tootled around with my loved one in a convertible chasing down wonderful wineries, great artisanal food all the while listening to 70’s rock on a local station. Great fun.

And some of those trips have afforded me the opportunity to stay in some fabulous hotels – ones I will always recall fondly and to which I would gladly return. So for a change this week – no cruise stories here but a few words on hotels I have very much enjoyed and which I would heartily recommend.

One of my most recent stays was in Palm Beach at the small, gorgeous Chesterfield Hotel which is a short walk from the fab shopping and restaurants on Worth Avenue. It is almost as if this hotel has been plucked out of London and popped down amidst sunshine and palm trees. I loved it and here’s why;  firstly it’s part of the award-winning Red Carnation Hotels group led by the fabulous and indomitable Beatrice Tollman and her team. Each of the 53 rooms and suites is different and uniquely decorated. The over-the-top and legendary Leopard Lounge and Bar/Restaurant pictured here, is a great spot for drinks and dining while listening to piano music. I was able to relax at the courtyard pool and drink in as much R and R as I needed, all the while being spoiled by the charming and attentive staff. I will return to this sexy boutique hotel for sure.

One of the finest hotels I have ever stayed at was the Palazzo Sasso in Ravello on the Amalfi Coast, one of Italy’s most stunning spots. I adore it here – everything about the Amalfi and the hotel sings romance. We were fortunate enough to be upgraded to the Belvedere Suite which was  beyond magnificent. A soaking tub in the room, marble floors, massive double doors opening to the expansive terrace replete with dining table and chaises for sunning. And the position of the hotel itself on a cliff which literally tumbles down to the bluest of blue waters below ensures delight. Life is better in this area – everything pops more, the food, the colours, the tastes and life itself. And Ravello is a little off the beaten path so you can escape the craziness of tourist season as you drive up into the hills, every kilometer taking you closer to your own personal heaven.

And in England, a country manor hotel that I have enjoyed a few times is Lewtrenchard Manor situated in the heart of Devon not far from famous Dartmoor and its equally famous ponies and pubs! Family owned and operated, this is a little bit of old-fashioned English life with black Labradors, wellington boots and an honour bar just part of the experience. The rooms don’t have keys, someone “knocks you up” in the morning with a tray of tea or coffee and there’s a tin of “biccies”  by the bed. Guests mingle and enjoy each other’s company, it’s all very civilized but also offers so many marvelous quaint English eccentric moments. All of this in beautiful surroundings, with lovely décor, paintings, grand staircases, lots of sofas (often with a cat on one) and chintz everywhere – as well as fabulous food. Just my cup of tea and Lewtrenchard is a part of the Pride of Britain Hotel group – a collection of wonderful, small and interesting country and city hotels in Britain.

Other hotels I love and try to return to – Europa and Regina in Venice (a Starwood Hotel) with its marvellous terrace on the Grand Canal and THE spot  for cocktails especially a Bellini. South Lodge Hotel near Horsham, West Sussex (my old stomping ground), The Fairmont Mission Inn in Sonoma, the Pelican Grande in northern Fort Lauderdale (on the beach too!) and anywhere I have ever stayed in Tuscany – especially La Cisterna in San Gimignano with its fantastic views of rolling hills and cypress trees with that special golden light permeating everything you see in this glorious part of the world.  

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