Before beginning my look back on 2018, I’d like to wish you the very best for the New Year! I hope that your 2019 will be filled with many happy memories and, of course, exciting travels around the globe! As 2018 has just come to a close, it’s time for another review of my top picks.
2018 was a year full of discoveries and new sensations! We traveled to a number of countries, visiting some of my favorite haunts as well as several unfamiliar destinations. So I’d like to take the opportunity to look back on my best hotel experiences, with a little “award” in each category. Here goes!
Best VIP Greeting
When you’re staying in one of the very best suites at a luxury hotel, a thoughtful welcome gift in your room is a crucial service,and only a few (all too rare!) 5-star establishments set themselves apart in this way.
La Réserve offers clients a highly refined greeting: a bottle of champagne, a tropical fruit salad, and a smattering of sweets including candy, mararons, and pastries! We loved this original welcome spread!
We arrived at one of the establishment’s best suites to find an enormous welcome platter waiting for us! The fruit basket was incredible as was the abundance of sweet treats, not to mention the champagne!
First-rate service is a must in luxury hospitality, though the quality may differ from place to place. I spent plenty of time this year in five-star hotels where the service was good, but I can count on one hand the number of times it was exceptional!
From our check-in in a private parlor, with the personnel seemingly awaiting our arrival (even though there are 124 rooms and suites in the establishment), to the escort to our room, the service here was impeccable. Same comment for the service at the bar and restaurant—a perfect score from start to finish!
A super-personalized check-in in a comfortable parlor with a view overlooking the sea; impeccable service at the Michelin-starred restaurant; a gorgeous breakfast buffet the following morning—at La Réserve, the entire staff is attentive to the smallest detail. We felt pampered by the highly-qualified personnel, who exceeded our expectations while maintaining a relaxed atmosphere!
Best Personalized Services
Luxury service also means being treated like a special guest, not just one of many! This is hard to achieve in larger establishments—for this kind of service, it’s better to go to smaller hotels!
As soon as you arrive, you feel right at home while still benefiting from the very best standards! The Foxhill Manor has its own luxury hospitality concept. Here, there are no pre-established rules; the theme is “whatever you want, whenever you want.” You can dine wherever you’d like, choosing your own table, and you can have breakfast at whatever time works for you—a fantastic personalized service!
The bathroom in my Celestial suite was just about as luxurious as can be in an urban hotel: a jacuzzi bathtub sitting atop a stained-glass platform (offering the room a historic charm) as well as a shower that doubles as a steam room—all made with beautiful marble!
It’s difficult to choose among the views we enjoyed this year: a magnificent panorama of a city skyline can be just as beautiful as a view of the sea! And that’s what we can see with my top picks for this year!
In Paris, there’s nothing better than a view of the city’s most emblematic monument! At the Shangri-La, I could admire the Eiffel Tower from every angle while remaining in my room, with a glass of champagne in hand!
Eze, a little village perched atop a rocky cliff along the French Riviera, offers an idyllic view of the coast. There’s nothing like a room at the Château Eza for enjoying this breathtaking environment, accompanied by a superb private breakfast first thing in the morning!
Best Afternoon Tea
For those who’ve been following me for a few years, you know by now that I have a real sweet tooth. So the afternoon tea is kind of my guilty pleasure!
I have to admit that I was very excited to try the 100% vegan Afternoon Tea by pastry chef Michaël Bartocetti. I hadn’t been very impressed with vegan sweets up to that point, but this tea time absolutely convinced me otherwise! It’s an ambitious project, as the chef has to contend with numerous technical constraints while still producing delicious desserts. But his bet pays off, with a variety of sweet and salty treats that are to die for!
Here, the famous Pierre Hermé delights patrons with his Afternoon Tea, featuring his most flavorful creations. Throughout the afternoon, guests can take a seat in the beautiful Lobby Lounge library to indulge in the chef’s best-selling treats, such as the famous Ispahan, as well as seasonal desserts. A true delight in an ambiance that’s as pleasant as can be!
Best Urban Spa
It’s a sizeable challenge for urban hotels to offer a spa with decent dimensions. I of course found my top picks for this category in Paris!
This spa is the ultimate luxury cocoon. Its star feature is the pool, with the floor covered in 17,600 golden scales! A huge fireplace and a series of chaises longues are the finishing touches in this incredibly luxurious space!
The pool at this spa is magnificent and a very respectable size for an urban wellness center. Surrounded by columns, this 15-meter pool decorated with Italian mosaics will tempt you to indulge in a swim. The spa is bathed in a beautiful, natural light—a huge advantage!
Last year, I was swept off my feet by the Villa Loiseau des Sens spa, but this year I found what I was looking for in Austria!
No fewer than 3000 m², and with a view of the nearby mountains as a bonus! The amenities on offer at this spa are simply exceptional: more than 20 types of baths, a series of saunas, super cozy relaxation rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, and the famous Spa Chalet reserved for adults for guaranteed peace and quiet!
Best Outdoor Pool
What makes for the perfect outdoor pool? A picturesque environment and warm temperatures for those who (like me) get cold easily!
✭ La Bastide de Gordes
The pool here is just gorgeous! You can admire the beautiful stone façade of the hotel while splashing around in this 25-meter heated pool. It’s a joy both to look at it and swim in it!
✭ Coquillade Village
This pool blew me away! For one thing, its size is truly impressive! What’s more, it’s well-equipped with fabulous amenities—a fantastic outdoor pool.
It’s hard to choose among the many fabulous hotel bars I visited this year, but a few of them set themselves apart!
The bar Les Ambassadeurs is a marvel, and I spent a wonderful evening there sipping on one of the best drinks I had this year! I loved its exclusive style, featuring subdued lighting and live music along with delicious cocktails and foie gras canapés. A fantastic ambiance, worthy of a luxury hotel!
I was a huge fan of the look at the Saint James bar! This hotel bar is located inside a former library, bringing it a unique style that won’t fail to impress. The tone is set by large portraits hanging on the walls, dark wood paneling, and more than 12,000 old books!
✭ La Bastide de Gordes
The restaurant La Citadelle serves traditional Provençal cuisine, featuring a gorgeous dining room with a pleasant atmosphere as well as an outdoor terrace for the summer months. I was delighted with the French classics on offer, such as the foie gras appetizer, as well as the beautiful setting and impeccable service!
Best Gourmet Restaurant
Having dined at more than thirty Michelin-starred restaurants this past year, I was spoiled for choice in choosing a personal favorite. It was, however, too difficult to select just one, so I decided to name my top three picks.
Whatley Manor’s Michelin-starred restaurant, the Dining Room, was a fantastic culinary discovery! We were absolutely delighted with young chef Niall Keating’s cuisine. With its multicultural influences (French, Japanese, and Korean), his modern cuisine offers an array of original flavors.
At the restaurant La Voile, awarded one Michelin star, we were blown away by chef Eric Canino’s creations. He offers an innovative menu, combining healthy eating with a love of good food. We tried his “Côté Jardin” set menu, with a series of surprising recipes that emphasized vegetables. Balanced, gourmet dining that stole my heart!
✭ Villa La Coste
At the restaurant Louison, famous chef Gerald Passedat dazzles customers with his Michelin-starred cuisine. In his superbly decorated and resolutely modern restaurant, this triple-starred chef (at his Marseille establishment) offers rustic fare as well as seafood. My trip in Provence ended on a high note with this wonderful find!
Best Western-Style Breakfast
Le Meurice sets the bar high right away with an absolutely enchanting dining hall for breakfast! And when on top of that you taste the croissants (without a doubt the best I’ve ever had!) and other delicious dishes, you’ll know you’ve found the perfect breakfast!
In the privacy of my own suite, I enjoyed one of the best breakfasts of the year. The presentation was fantastic and the quality of the dishes on offer was absolutely perfect!
Best Asian-Style Breakfast
Look at this splendid breakfast. It was both faultlessly elegant and delicious. I enjoyed it in the privacy of my room for a magical morning!
Best Artistic Presentation
When contemporary art meets luxury hospitality, it often yields a surprising result!
✭ Villa La Coste
The Villa La Coste displays an abundance of contemporary art skillfully combined with beautiful architecture. Everywhere I looked during my 24-hour stay at this luxury hotel, there was another work of art! Whether it’s on the château’s estate or inside of the establishment, these pieces are exceptional. Not to mention Louise Bourgeois’s superb spider sculpture and the buildings designed by Tadao Andeo (one of my personal favorites)!
When you spend several nights in a hotel, it’s better to have a few activities on site to explore, especially when you’re out in the countryside!
Lucknam Park’s star feature is its 200 hectares of land, and the best way to see them is on horseback! An equestrian center on the hotel’s estate gives both amateur and expert riders the chance to explore the area with one of its 35 horses. An avid equestrian myself, I was thrilled to take a ride through the fields!
The luxury of this high-class resort is the opportunity to choose from a multitude of activities; you could spend a week here and never get bored. A gorgeous infinity pool surrounded by deckchairs for lounging about, two 18-hole golf courses, a tennis court, and a luxurious 3200 m² spa are yours to explore.
To escape the urban hustle and bustle, there’s nothing like a getaway to an authentic setting, combining luxury infrastructures with a beauty of days gone by—an authenticity that few establishments can boast!
✭ Crillon Le Brave
This establishment is a veritable icon of authentic luxury, as evidenced by the rooms and suites located in village houses, blending in perfectly with their surroundings. I felt like I was staying in my own village home!
The rooms and suites at Château Eza have a soul of their own. They’re perfectly integrated into their rocky surroundings and scattered throughout a few village streets. An authentic feeling enhanced by an exceptional view!