The Four Seasons Hotel Sydney has all the luxuries one would expect from the brand. The premises are open and modern, with clean lines. And the well-trained staff, particularly the concierges, offer cheerful greetings and lots of assistance. If you want to stay in, you can always head to the coffee shop for a snack or to the Mode Kitchen and Bar for a gourmet meal. Although I didn’t try it myself, Grain Bar looked fun.
Décor: Luxury modern
Location: The Rocks
Room Size: Comfortably large, but not huge
Best amenity: the offer of showers in the spa upon arrival
Advantages: Excellent location, steps from the Circular Quay
Disadvantages: The ground floor event space can spill out into the lobby
Tip: Rates vary with season and length of stay. Be on the lookout for deals.
During a recent trip to Australia, I narrowed down where to eat in Sydney. I’ve done all the research and the taste-testing for World Oyster readers so that you won’t be disappointed. (Hey, someone had to do it!) All you need to do is read, book, and go.
When trying to plan the best things to do in Sydney, I found that I had to re-vamp my expectations of visiting an international city. Yes, Sydney has culture and, yes, Sydney has history; however, unlike European cities, you won’t find yourself steeped in the past. Instead, you end up embracing the now.
Most surprising: how the climate allows for outdoor activities, year round.
When I visited the Netherlands earlier this year, I wanted to carefully plan where to eat in Amsterdam. Sometimes I chose by location. Other times, I wanted to satisfy my inner foodie. Not familiar with Dutch cuisine, I had no idea what to expect. On my visit I discovered that while Dutch cuisine, even at a Michelin-starred restaurant, embraces different ingredients and styles than I’m used to, the food can be delicious.
You can’t go wrong with any of the below. From Michelin-starred restaurant to casual bar, each offers quintessentially Dutch ingredients prepared in a style unique to the establishment.
The delightfully quirky Hotel Estheréa in Amsterdam earns a spot as one of my favorite hotels of the year. The lobby’s eclectic décor entices hotel guests to look and linger. Each day, the staff puts out a tier of Dutch cookies and chocolates that guests can accompany with complimentary espresso, cappuccino, or tea. Plus, the location can’t be beat. Our trip to Amsterdam was made that much more special by this hotel.
Décor: Eclectic Dutch
Location: on the Singel Canal
Room Size: Small, but large enough for two to move around
Most surprising: the riot of disparate objects in the public spaces creates an elegant, relaxing ambience.
During our last trip to Florence (Firenze), the staff at our hotel recommended that we try Rosso Crudo for dinner. The location suited us, being only a block from our hotel, the Domux Home Ricasoli, on a day when we hadn’t slept much the night before. We wanted something nearby but delicious as our culinary entry into the city.
Specialty: steak and pasta
Dress: Business casual
Price: antipasti 5-19 Euros; primi platti (pasta) 8-12 Euros; Steaks 17-24 Euros or, for premium cuts, 5-8 Euros per 100 grams.
What to order: steak, pappardelle cinghiale, proscuitto e melone
Our three days in Amsterdam, the Netherlands became a whirlwind tour, mostly because, in truth, we had only two-and-a-half days. Plus, we cheated a bit by taking a tour outside of the city. No matter. Our jam-packed itinerary gave us plenty to do and see. I’m amazed by how much we managed to fit into a short period of time.
Best museum: the Rijksmuseum
Best restaurant for foodies: Rijks
Most surprising: the speed and danger of the cyclists whirring down the streets
We never would have stayed in the Domux Home Ricasoli in Florence if my husband’s colleague hadn’t found it first. I argued that I wanted a full-service hotel, with a front desk and housekeeping, not an apartment. My husband wanted to stay in the Domux Home Ricasoli because of the reviews. Eventually I relented after reading what he had. Even so, the reviews didn’t prepare us for the luxury within. We had a real wow moment when we stepped inside. Despite my fears, our trip to Florence had begun in style.
Location: a block from the Galleria dell’Academia and down the street from the Duomo.
Most surprising: the luxurious dual bathroom with the tiled, jetted tub and rain shower head.
Room size: huge, with a living room, kitchenette with island, enormous bathroom, and king-size bed.
Disadvantage: Housekeeping every other day. Front desk is manned only during business hours.
Security: You are given a security code to be used on the front door keypad to gain entry.
The Kimpton Hotel Palomar Philadelphia has historically been one of my favorite hotels in downtown Center City. This time, however, we experienced a few glitches that took it down a notch in my estimation. Not that I wouldn’t return, because I would. It just won’t be my obvious first choice when I stay in the Rittenhouse Square area. Still, this luxury hotel in the heart of the city offers a comfortable haven from the bustle of the city.