Top Ten Hotel Openings of 2009
Hotels shutting their glass and filigree doors or going into some form of financial distress could have made more of this year's new than new openings; still, the quantity and quality of newly available suites to call your own felt just as stellar as in better years past. Sure, we didn't get the J line of hotels (yet), but we did get the Bardessono -- and 82 geothermal wells and hand-loomed Coyuchi linens are probably as good as anything Jay Z had to offer. Whittled to just ten, with the help of our friends over at TabletHotels.com, in no particular order here are Luxist's top openings of 2009...
1. Blythswood Square - Glasgow, Scotland
Glasgow has a reputation as Scotland's second city, but the hamlet that brought us Craig Ferguson, Simple Minds, and Charles Rennie Mackintosh is not short on first rate accommodation. The 100-room, Harris-Tweed bedecked Blythswood Square goes beyond its Rally Bar, ballroom, salon, rooftop-hot-tub equipped penthouse, and Hogmanay Dinner with a 10,000-square-foot spa. On that spa menu you'll find a Rasul mud chamber and a seaweed bath with kelp from the Hebrides. Or for the ultimate in relaxation, you can bob atop the waters of the chandelier-lit dark vitality pool and ponder the intricacies of haggis-and-neeps, soothed by the strains of local songsters Franz Ferdinand. There's also a 'cold drench bucket shower' if that's your idea of a spa treatment. It probably goes better with bagpipes.
2. Bardessono - Yountville California, USA
It is said that half the world's population lives or works in buildings made of earth. Now you can, too if you stay in the Bardessono, a thorough redefinition of the phrase 'indigenous hut.' Officially LEED certified and described as "green, gracious, and refined," the Bardessono hotel and spa took eleven years to build -- raising from the ground almost as slowly as the salvaged Monterey Cypress used for its siding. Within and around the rammed-earth walls of the 62-room resort, set on six acres, are 82 geothermal wells, 940 solar panels, a water treatment system, and underwater sprinklers. Yet elemental need not mean Luddite: flatscreens, hand-loomed Coyuchi linens, LEDs, allergen-free rooms, and motion detectors to control the room's electronics are all in place. You can show your own love for treading softly and neighborhood involvement by availing yourself of the Bardessono's Orbea bicycles and sampling any number of locally crafted artisinal treats.
3. UXUA Casa Hotel - Bahia, Brazil
A Tablet Hotels recommendation, the UXUA (oo-SHOO-ah) Casa's nine handmade, Bahian-style villas once housed fishermen in the hilltop village of Trancoso. Then Diesel creative director Wilbert Das turned an eye to them, and tiny hilltop resort is one of the few places in the world where 'designer' and 'natural' live together in rustic harmony. The restaurant, library, gym and spa take turns for your affection with an aventurine quartz swimming pool, tropical garden, ocean mangroves, and beachfront annex carved out with fishing boats. For added local experience, you can skip the full service option and cater to your own needs -- it is a fishing village, and there is all that crystalline, skin-diving-approved water after all...
4. La Reserve Ramatuelle - St. Tropez, France
La Reserve Ramatuelle has 16 suites with private terraces or gardens, and only seven 'regular' rooms -- just the type of riches-to-rags ratio one expects in St. Tropez. Set fifteen minutes outside the famous resort town, its glass-enclosed lobby-library, surrounding olive groves and vineyards, proximity to Club 55 and Les Caves du Roy, and heartstopping views of Cap Camarat and Cap Taillat aren't meant as the main draw for global gentry. That honor would go to the 11,000-square-foot spa, with its 13 treatment rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, Creme de la Mer skincare line, and medical specialists that will create 6-day spa plans for you focusing on stress, fitness, slimming and beauty. And if none of this proves enough for you, La Reserve Ramatuelle can put any of its twelve €27,000-per-night villas at your disposal.
5. PuLi - Shanghai, China
Shanghai is China's version of ultramodern urban madness, and the PuLi Hotel is the city's version of ultramodern urban calm. Set in the bump-and-grind JingAn district behind gray slate walls and bamboo trees, the PuLi's 209 rooms on 26 floors provide an escape from the leading edge of capitalism without leaving behind a round-the-clock concierge and room service attendant, rainforest shower, Nespresso machines, bathtubs with city views, and Anantara spa. You even get a portable phone that you can use anywhere in the city, and its restaurant's modular menu allows you to design your own meal from a list of ingredients. If your brand of relaxation is more subdued -- and liquid -- then the PuLi's 32-meter-long and aptly named Long Bar will provide when the Bukowski mood strikes.
6. Crosby Street Hotel - New York, New York, USA
In some cities, vacant parking lots sprout gardens. In other cities, vacant parking lots sprout gardens that are attached to whimsically designed, 11-story hotels boutique hotels with impeccable lineages. New York City is the site of such a one, the Crosby Street Hotel in Soho, which has replaced barren bitumen with 86 rooms boasting high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, LEED certification, and, get this, its own bespoke fragrance and Miller Harris bath products. In NYC fashion, work your way in on the ground floor and do hard reveling time in the block-long Crosby Bar, the 99-seat screening with Poltrona Frau leather chairs, private garden, and drawing room. After you've worked your way to the top -- when you know you can make it anywhere -- you'll make your way to the headline suites with their 360-degree views of the skyline. You know -- your skyline.
7. Black Rock Oceanfront Resort - Ucluelet, British Columbia, Canada
Seen from the air, the perched-on-a-headland Black Rock Oceanfront Resort looks like the kind of lair wherein hides a highly-mannered-yet-merciless Bond villian. He would have to be the kind of villain, though, that enjoys rock, water, glass, steel, and wood architecture, old-growth rainforests, the Wild Pacific Trail, and wildlife cruises. In his room -- any one of 71 lodge units or 62 beach suites -- he'd find spa-inspired bathrooms, cutting edge kitchens, and even a washer and dryer for cleansing the effects of cliff-side car chases. The Drift Spa is where he would replenish himself with Sea Flora and marine mineral treatments before cutting out to the oceanview hot pools. Dinner with henchmen would be held at the private table in the resort's wine cellar set above the surge channel. And since Bond villains aren't known for going second-class, if it looks good enough for Blofeld it will probably do quite well for your considerably kinder intentions.
8. Hotel St. Cecilia - Austin, Texas
Texas' third largest city is and self proclaimed 'live music capital of the world' is regarded as a diverse and engaging oasis within the state. In less than a year the Hotel St. Cecilia has come to be regarded as a diverse and engaging oasis within the city itself. Given the Tablet Hotels thumbs up, there are five suites, six poolside bungalows, and three studios, each with its own turntable on which you can play vinyl platters borrowed from the front desk. Enjoying the lush resonance of music the way it was intended (we love our iPods, but...) in one of those thrillingly colored suites will be even easier on your room's Hästens mattress -- you know, the ones that cost freakish money. As if that weren't cool enough, there's a neon sign by the pool that flashes "Soul," and the guesthouse-like abode will soon have a Citroen DS as its official car. We don't have words to describe how ready we are to check this place out...
9. Suites Avenue - Barcelona, Spain
Suites Avenue is is more of a luxury apartment hotel, but in that it gives us even more in a city that already makes us feel like it gives us everything. Set in Barcelona's heart, on the Passeig de Gràcia, with a facade designed by Toyo Ito and views overlooking Gaudi's La Pedrera building, you can live like a native whether you're there for work or play. The 30 suites suites have elegant, contemporary style, and the powers that be can attend to catering, tours of the city and surrounds -- by air, land, or sea -- personal assistants and personal shoppers, nannies, and a chauffeur and limousine. If you want to take care of your own diversions, the rooftop sun terrace should entertain you for as long as you can stand the Catalonian sun.
10. The Cullen - Melbourne, Australia
As a tribute to artistic heritage and a profit-driven union of exhibition and accomodation, the 5-star Cullen is a notable opening in Melbourne's Prahran district. The first of six Art Series Hotels, the 115-room retreat is drenched in Australian artist Adam Cullen's work and overseen by its own curator. Rooms are decorated with prints and art books, many of which are for sale, the lobby spaces contain two of his artwork cows, and even the hotel's bikes and smart fortwo's are done in the Cullen manner. About the only place to take a break from the vernissage is the rooftop cocktail bar and its skyline views of Melbourne. If you just can't live without art, serviced apartment are available for longer stays, and you'll find it can be healthy art at that: ex-profession Australian Rules Football players provide personal training for guests in The Cullen's gymnasium. Culture and commerce have rarely looked so good together.
Four Honorable Mentions
1. Dream Cochin - Kerala, India
If you're looking for a way into India that doesn't require you to leave behind everything you know while discovering everything you don't, the Dream Cochin could be your portal. Set beside the coast of the Arabian sea, the first Indian outpost in the Dream chain of hotels begun in NYC is s one of the few places where you can insert a Kerala Ayurvedic massage between leaving your 5-star room and exploring the wild magic of the subcontinent.
2. Estancia Vik Jose Ignacio - Jose Ignacio, Uruguay
Do the math with these figures: colonial-style mansion, 4,000 acres, swimming pool illuminated with fiber-optic stars mirroring the Southern constellations, private outdoor rainforest-head showers, afternoon barbecues, and a windmill. And the best thing of all: it's in Uruguay. Tablet is oh-so-right with its nod to the Estancia Vik.
3. Kadashevskaya - Moscow, Russia
Because you like to find somewhere new when you go to Moscow, so certain people who keep track of certain people can't keep track of you, the Kadashevskaya is a 15-minute walk from Red Square on the Moscow River. The 35 guest rooms tend to the smallish side at the lower end, but the six deluxe rooms and three suites will suit your inner oligarch, and locally-sourced caviar and vodka always has a way of making a way of one think, "da."
4. The Iron Horse Hotel - Milwaukee, Wisconsin
This Tablet Hotels joint, rated 19.5 out of 20, is partially summed by the descriptive "upscale Midwestern Harley-riding demographic." We can't put it any better than that, so if you need to know more then saddle up and head to the Iron Horse...