Category Archives: Boutique

Alpes et Caetera – the magic in the Valais

The Alpes et caetera opened shortly before Christmas in 2012, only 8 months after starting the construction and bringing home a newborn baby boy. It was a dear friend who actually recommended this 
little jewel to me and I am so very grateful for the tip. 



The Alpes et caetera in short:
She – Solveig, an interior designer with experience in communications and events.
He – Nicolas Reymondin, an architect who worked in events.
And then, their two little boys adding to the young men, who also call Nicolas their father.

Together they decided to combine forces and managed to create something, which can only be described as UNIQUE.
Located at the end of a small pathway in the mountain village of Vercorin on a private estate, the Alpes et caetera cabins are allotted around the main chalet, a renovated sheep barn. 
The large terrace overlooking the valley and presenting a magnificent view of the surrounding Alps is a perfect place to enjoy a glass of local wine after a day of hiking. The view from the outdoor Jacuzzi is quite spectacular as well, while a small sauna cabin (can be booked and is for private use only) is perfect to stretch sore muscles or just enjoy. Massages can also be booked via Solveig with local therapists.

High quality in every detail!

That is what best describes Nicolas & Solveig’s little paradise. 
Starting from the composition of the rooms, the pathways between the Mazots (chalets), 
the table settings for dinner and breakfast, the food bits served on slate platters, 
the fireplace in the main house, the music in the background, basically everything Solveig and Nicolas put together – is “magique”.
This place is perfect for a get-away from the noise, no matter if in your home , at work or simply in your head.
Some very original things complement your stay at the Alpes et Caetera. The key to your Mazot is an iPhone, including apps for newspapers, radio and TV, as well as a flashlight for evening walks. The sky above Vercorin during a clear night is just breath-taking, so I was very happy that cold, white street lamps didn’t ruin that. Families who bring along their
children but would like to enjoy a peaceful dinner for two at the main house, can do so by using the provided babyphone included in the room iPhone.
Also a nice idea, Solveig and Nicolas put their own music compilations on the Mazot iPhones including 
Apéro et caetera, Blues et caetera, Classique et caetera, Jazz and Lounge et caetera. Each Mazot has a little music box which can be connected via bluetooth to the iPhone.

The mazots all have their own story and are called:

  • Le CH – the CH (dedicated to the Helvetic Confédératon (CH) with all its characteristics, objects and products)
.
  • Le e La – him and her – inspired by the Vaudoise writer Ella Maillart and dedicated to the Vaudoise literature.
  • Le BD – the comic (dedicated to the Swiss comic artist Cosey (Bernard Cosendai)
  • Le bis – the bis (bisses = historic irrigation channels of the Valais, delivering priceless water from mountain streams)
  • Le rouge et le verre – the red and the glass (as Solveig and Nicolas put it: The Valais and its wines are inseparable. This chalet is dedicated to the local produce, born from the earth, stone and hard work, and drenched in Valais sun)
  • Le pic – the peak  (Dedicated to the surrounding mountains and those who climb them)
  • Le roi – the king (The cows of the surrounding mountain areas, the Hérens are a very special race. They are known for their combative temperament and each year during a fight the winning cow is crowned queen.
this Mazot is therefore dedicated to this special cow race from the Val d’Hérens and it’s queens)
  • L’Etablis – The workshop (This Mazot has long been part of the estate and it is known that the former owner had turned it into his workshop while many of his tools still have their place there)

I can fully recommend all of them, the workshop though is quite special and sui generis in its set-up. 
The original Mazot is from the 1500 and the additional “younger” one from the 1900. With a lot of hard work and care 
the younger chalet ha been dismantled and build back into place close to the original Mazot. Quite an impressive job! The most impressive idea is however to attach the two Mazots via a bridge. The bridge out of wood, closed with glass and decorated with elegant curtains connects the old Mazot (the bedroom) to the new one (the bathroom).

The Alpes et caetera is not only a wonderful place to decelerate, but also perfect if you are looking for some quality and creative time, e.g. working on a new strategy with your team, celebrating your round birthdays etc.

For more info and wonderful support for any event you would like to have organized in Vercorin, Solveig is your person!

http://www.alpesetc.ch/en/

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Speicher7 – The reinvention of an industrial silo as a ‘nouvelle vague’ vintage hotel

It is strange to come back as a guest to the city I spent over 5 years at during my studies. A familiar air surrounds the “city of the squares” as Mannheim is commonly called in German (Quadratestadt). Among the familiar buildings, restaurants, cafés, and the university in the castle are areas still new and exciting, parts unknown and curious.

The opportunity to test the look and feel of the Speicher7 Hotel was provided by the invitation to the wedding of two dear friends. Based on where the navi system brought me it was hard to believe that I could find a place so interesting and beautiful. The waterfront area of the river Rhine in this part of Mannheim was no place to spend time during my university years. This has definitely changed today. The area still does not feel like a warm neighborhood, but it is a revitalized part of Mannheim with a fashionably industrial and posh feel.

The boutique hotel, designed and rebuilt by Schmucker and Partners on behalf of Jürgen Tekath and Thorsten Kraft, won the European Hotel Design Award for the category “Conversion of an Existing Non Hotel Building to Hotel Use” in 2013. The building, formerly a grain silo from the 1950s, had been unused for around 30 years before Jürgen Tekath took an interest in it. Tekath, already known well in Germany and Mannheim for his former projects Blumenladen Tekath, Café Flo, Mode Makassar and Café Lido had apparently been looking fore quite some time for a special location with his architect friend Thorsten Kraft to start a new project.

When speaking to the friendly receptionist Muhamed and hotel manager Annette (everyone is on first name basis here), I was told that Jürgen, an India and Yoga fan had travelled the world with his friend Thorsten to get ideas and inspiration for their hotel project.

When entering the hotel it is almost like entering a world unto itself. The lobby as well as restaurant and bar is in one large room surrounded by warm colors, ventilators on the ceilings, and leather sofas with lots of cushions. The walls are decorated with a large hodge-podge of items from all over the world. It has a rustic, industrial feel to it, but with the smoothness of a dreamy, oriental touch. You can spend days sitting in the lounge area and you will discover something new every minute. Even though it is full of things to see, it doesn’t feel overwhelming.

Each of the 20 rooms is individually designed and fitted with single elements that feel like they must have caught the eyes of the two designers on their world journeys. In our double room the desk was an old wooden workbench complete with the original vise grips and old wooden boxes for nightstands that gave the room warmth and a unique charm. The window was humongous, overlooking the street but no noise could be heard through the triple-glazed windows. The only downside was that you needed to put down the shades to prevent yourself from giving a free peepshow.

The bathroom is well equipped with bathrobes and slippers were provided by reception upon request. Rooms with cute names like “small storage” and “river room” are sized at 25m² to 37m² while the Nouvelle Vague and “harbor rooms” go up to 45m². Some bathrooms even have their own view over the Rhein. Apparently there are also rooms with the shapes maintained from the original building including a 12m high bathroom and a 6m high guestroom with a window of same height. The cooling and heating is provided by the photovoltaic-system on the southern façade and makes the hotel even more likable and environmentally friendly.

All rooms are furbished with COCO-MAT beds, which we already have come to like from the hotel we stayed at in Chania, Crete. The amenities include AESOP products and what I specifically liked was the fact that there is no unnecessary snick snack in the bathrooms.

The walls in the Speicher7 have remained in their original raw concrete state, but do not make you feel uncomfortably cool. Candles, flowers, Buddha pictures, and recycled items are thoughtfully placed in a mix that fully succeeds at making you feel relaxed and in the present moment. I guess it is the touch of yoga lover Jürgen. He couldn’t stop himself from including a yoga room and sauna for more deceleration and relaxation during the stay.

Breakfast is served in the big room (near reception) with an outdoor terrace overlooking the Rhein. The buffet offers standard choices, topped with a lovely arrangement. The lady serving breakfast, Gerlinde was so welcoming it was truly touching. She made it feel like she was a grande dame hosting you in her own home. It’s worth coming here for her treatment only.

http://www.speicher7.com/en/

 

Fatma Hanoum Boutique Hotel – Eastern fairy tale in Crete

The driving style of the Kriti (locals) is just one of the many surprises that await you when arriving in Crete. You will see plenty of European tourists, mostly from France or Russia, and many big hotels along the marvelous beaches. But one thing that will be special even among all of the other surprises on the island, is a little boutique hotel called Fatma Hanoum Boutique Hotel in Chania.

If you are planning to stay in Chania then the Fatma hotel is an absolute must as you really will not find anything like it in the world.
The Fatma Hanoum Boutique Hotel in the Jewish Distric Palia Poli of Chania takes you on a journey into the past.

Owners Giorgos and Marianna have managed to create a real thousand and one night fairytale with the help of local architect Dany Droianos that combines Ottoman and Venetian architecture with eastern elements including a great choice of lightning, oriental carpets, soft fabrics and high tech facilities. The concept, from the hotel’s name to the name of each of the rooms makes you feel as if you are being taken by the hand of Fatma herself into an enchanting and unique world.

The hotel, opened 3 years ago, has undergone a massive renovation. Evidence of this can be seen in the elegant entrance area, the breakfast room and the each of the 6 rooms.

Wood, stone, and glass are harmoniously combined with modern furniture and high quality products such as the i-compatible stereo, espresso machine, and the beds of Coco-Mat (natural sleep products) complete with Tempurpedic pillows. They have also included small details like essential supplies deviantly hidden in the drawers.

We stayed in the Yildiz room for the first few nights, which I personally chose because of my favorite color: green. Isolated on the second floor with it’s an own roof terrace, Yildiz is just as beautiful in reality as displayed on the hotel’s website. But then, the same could be said for all of the rooms.

Our last night (which we added after our initial booking) we stayed in the Yasmin Suite. This suite has a maisonette type room with the bed up on a mezzanine level. Like the other rooms, the wood and glass is nicely blended into the interior as well as the lighting. The only thing missing was a dedicated balcony extending out over Skoufon street. Even without the balcony, you still can admire the view through the windows and the shared roof terrace just outside the door is plenty large.

My personal favorite and the room I would book next time is the Güzel. This wide open room welcomes you in green with a small balcony overlooking the indoor patio and a walk through closet that leads to the large bathroom decorated in both green and blue with a beautiful period bathtub shielded by a glass wall.

Breakfast is served in a sunlit atrium with a beautifully placed pebble stone floor and two cozy oriental niches in the background. The buffet is set-up with a love for detail, offering local products like dakos, cheese pie, and yogurt – a certified original Greek Breakfast.

Of special note is the hostess Marianna. She really made us feel welcome and fulfilled all of our wishes. This includes everything from the morning coffee to suggestions for excellent restaurants in Chania, the surrounding mountains, or even locations as far as the most northeastern part of Crete. Her sunny and charming manner from the first moment you step into the Fatma Hotel, to the last minute, when leaving is exceptional.

Tips:

  • Book a massage with Rita
  • Eat at the  tavern Glossitses

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Manos Small World – a wonderful small world in Santorini

It may seem very difficult to decide on where to book your hotel on Santorini, especially if you are looking for one that combines it all – perfect location, breathtaking views, quality accommodations, and the spirit or heart of the island.

After we landed on Santorini and collected our luggage, we were taken by taxi (arranged in advance by the hotel) to Manos Small World, where we were surprised to be greeted by name.  My first reaction was “Ahem, do I know you?” Imagine my embarrassment when I realized that the person who had walked up to greet us was the owner of the hotel, Thanasis. Like a modern day Hercules, he schlepped our two heavy pieces of luggage down the steps to the hotel.  Hard to imagine that he has been greeting his guests and carrying their luggage this way for over 20 years since he opened the hotel in July, 1990 at the age of 24. Today, almost 50 years of age and the father of two grown up children, he is still full of positive vibes for his small world and guests.

If you were disappointed by the drive from the airport towards Fira and the other villages, you will be very happily surprised or relieved when you arrive at the Manos Small World. This is the Santorini you have seen in pictures or heard of from descriptions of the island. It is complete with white washed cave houses decorated with blue window shades and almost blinding bright bougainvillea flowers.

Manos Small World reflects the personality of Thanasis himself – calm, warmhearted, attentive and full of positive emotions for his guests or friends, as he likes to call them. I had the privilege and honor to take a look the pictures and memos he has collected since the first day he opened his small world for business. It was very touching to read the messages left by guests who came for single visits or returned time and again. The memories include the pictures he has received from all over the world thanking Thanasis for his hospitality and the wonderful stay at his charming place.

Today, Manos Small World offers 11 rooms on three different floors, all facing the Caldera, with views of Firostefani and Fira, as well as Imerovigli and in the far north- west Oìa. The rooms are all plenty large, with a small kitchenette, a sitting area complete with a small welcome bottle of white wine, and a relaxing sofa area. The bathrooms are close to the sleeping area, equipped with hair drier, and basic amenities. Breakfast is served at your dedicated table, in front of the room, from 8am until 11am or even later. The breakfast is simple but of high quality, much better than any buffet breakfast at large hotel chains, prepared from traditional Greek dishes with care and lots of love.

Book your vacation on Santorini directly with Thanasis on www.manos-santorini.com

Thanasis is happy to help with any recommendations for lunch or dinner in any town on the island, information about which beach is good to visit (depending on the wind direction) and organization of sailing trips, rental of car or bikes or anything else you can possible imagine. If you ever think of getting married on Santorini, I am sure that Thanasis will make your dreams come true in his little world.

Tips:

  • 3-5 days on Santorini is enough time to explore the whole island, best by scooter or four-wheel bike.
  • Oìa is famous for the sunset, but beware that the whole island will be squeezing into the tight passages around the areas with a view.  Either you get there early in plenty of time to get a nice drink on one of the many terraces or prepare yourself for a mad rush that feels like “this is the last sunset we will ever get to see” situation.
  • Driving on the island is ok, although you shouldn’t trust too much on the driving rules. As long as you are safe and watch out for the other crazy drivers, you’ll be fine.
  • Santorini compared to other islands may not really offer the best Greek food.  Prices are quite high and quality is average as we found out on the three nights. Fresh fish of the day is always a good choice just beware as many of the seafood options may be frozen.
  • Ask Thanasis for restaurant recommendations to make sure you do not step into the bad tourist food trap and mistakenly take that for traditional Greek food.
  • Recommendations: Mama Thira, Remvi, Aktaion.
  • Room 8 is on the top floor at the end so you have your silence and people are not walking by your door or table. But as guests seemed to be a little like Thanos himself, calm and respectful, any other room is perfectly fine.
  • Rooms 8 – 11 are all on the top floor with the added benefit of no noise from moving chairs in the rooms above.

 

A magical journey through time – Cour du Corbeau Strasbourg

The Germanic name for Strasbourg, “the city of the roads”, captures the essence of a city that is worth the relatively short drive to get there.  Geographically closer to Zurich and Milano than to Paris, Strasbourg offers an diverse selection of monuments and sights within its complex maze of streets making it perfect for a weekend get away. Even though it hosts the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights and the European Parliament it is metropolitan, without being in the least bit overwhelming. The chosen hotel, Cour du Corbeau fits perfectly into the Carrefour de l’Europe (crossroads of Europe).

Located only a short walking distance from the heart of the city (near to the cathedral and Place Kléber) the Cour de Corbeau invites you to feel the magic of past times. The hotel belongs to the MGallery Hotel Group (memorable hotels by Accor – whose ambassador is Kristin Scott Thomas).

Led by our navigation system, we arrived at the hotel only to find the entrance to the street blocked by an electronically controlled pole.  Luckily, a nice man asked us where we were going, directed me to drive up to the barrier, buzzed the hotel (explaining the situation in French) and magically the pole disappeared allowing us access to the hotel entrance.  Thierry, a valet came out right away and opened my door, making me feel like I was a celebrity.  After asking where we planned to park, he offered to manage the car for us directly, took the keys, and drove off to I don’t know where leaving me with a trusting feeling that everything was in order.  The first impression of the Cour du Corbeau was magnificent. The décor was serene combining old with new, luxurious with Neo-Baroque. The welcome at the reception desk by Gregoire was very pleasant and included a surprise that we were upgraded to a junior suite. He informed us about breakfast and that the hotel didn’t have it’s own restaurant, but was happy to provide a 24 hour room service, delivered by a nearby restaurant. We asked for a recommendation for dinner in the town (a place where locals would dine) and were rewarded with an excellent choice, the Restaurant L’éveil des sens.

The hotel was renovated in 2009 after spending a number of years as a vacant building.  The “before and after” pictures in the hotel were marvelous and really highlighted the accomplishments of what the builders were able to manage.  The hotel features 57 rooms, including 19 suites. The rooms are simple, with wooden floors and a post and beam construction that exposed much of the original structure – a wonderful blend of old and new. The bathrooms contain natural stone floors and romantically styled sinks in the form of a shell.  The lighting in the room played up the violet hues and taupe colored fabrics giving everything a warm feeling while still being chic and simple, not the usual overwhelming feeling of many historical places. In short, the suite was beautiful and contained the additional surprise of a complimentary bottle of white wine (from the region Alsace) as well as a somewhat hidden door (or at least not very obvious) that led to a long, wooden porch running along the inner courtyard of the building.  Simply charming!

The staff was discrete and very attentive, and the turn down service even left a rose on our bed, as it was women’s day.  There was also a hand-written weather prediction for the following day and breakfast info placed by the night stand.  The towels in the bathroom were even replaced with fresh ones, something I really appreciate, but wouldn’t have expected at a four star hotel.

I read another review that stated the breakfast is “not to be missed” and judging by the little tables in the gallery I am sure would make an exquisite start to any day. We chose to walk across the canal into town to have fresh pain au chocolat from the local Boulangerie, which was definitely worth every minute of the wait. Before leaving the area we stopped at “Les mains dans la farine” the Boulangerie in 16, rue du 22-Novembre to load up on supplies.  The selection was excellent and we ended up with bread and pastries for a whole week.

Check out at 12:00h is very generous at the Cour du Corbeau, which allowed even more time for a stroll through the town before leaving.  The receptionist Carol was so lovely, and Anne Gerber, the manager of the hotel was also very attentive and didn’t mind helping guests with information, check in and out.

With bags in hand we called for our car which was retrieved by Sebastién, who placed a bottle of water in the center console along with a note on how to exit the area through the one way streets and around the Pl. de Austerliz and wishing us a pleasant journey home. This last little surprise was perfect and really impressed me.  Many times it is the small things that make an experience special and this was a perfect example.  All in all it was just a lovely stay at the hotel.

Dreaming in Antigua

Nestled into a cliff overlooking the turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean, this rustic but charming Antigua resort features 26 individual wooden Caribbean style cottages, each offering a private balcony with spectacular views and showers opening to the sea.  You will definitely find peace, an opportunity to decelerate and a place for your soul to relax.  What you won’t find is a boutique environment (by European standards), but rather a charismatically rustic, simple hotel, with very friendly staff, moderate and sometimes outstanding food, and a wonderful beach with powder white sand.

cocos_beach_viewWe landed in St. John’s, happy for the warm weather and the sunshine. Our pre-booked chauffeur, John, awaited us at the airport with a name card and pleasant smile. The ride to the hotel took approx. 25 minutes and I appreciated John’s calm driving style, especially after seeing the driving style of other locals.


The staff welcomed us in a very friendly manner giving us a positive first impression of the resort. Check in took longer than expected (approximately 40 minutes) and concluded with the delivery of a letter containing information on restaurant hours, and an offer for a complimentary massage of 30 minutes. Hasani, a young employee walked us up to our cottage via a steep concrete ramp that was not really adapted to people with walking issues.  The entrance to our cottage was down a set of really steep stairs made of both stone and wood with several landings.

All cottages are build in a traditional Caribbean chattel style with natural dark wooden floors and private balconies as well as outdoors showers.

The view from the room overlooking the ocean is spectacular.

The ocean looks like a postcard and faces west towards the setting sun.  The room itself however, does not make the same first impression. The outdoor shower is as advertised with a sea view, very open, but still very private.

Due to problems with our air conditioning, the manager gave us the option to relocate to another room.  This is a cottage we can definitely recommend (room no. 5).  Although smaller than the Premium Plus we left, our new room left us with a completely different experience.  Entering the room, our first impression was that the room was tidy, cozy, and had a romantic feel (this was in large part due to the “towel swans” on the bed and in the bathroom, which also contained a small arrangement of Bougainvillea flowers.  The porch wraps around the room in an “L” shape and is only half covered, the other portion open to the sky leaving you with a panoramic ocean view that covers two sides of the room.  There is a small plunge pool, two deck chairs, and two loungers that provide a nice alternative and more privacy than the beach.  The cottage is rated a premium, although in my opinion it easily could pass for a premium plus.

cocos_beach_view

If you do not mind sleeping during a green tree frog concert (in a room like ours that had problems with the air-conditioning), but with the gentle sound of the ocean, you’ll enjoy the experience. The sunset and sunrise are spectacular and waking up to a view of turquoise water and endless sea is truly special.

Dinner is served on a covered deck with an ocean view on two sides.  Consistent with our experience at the reception, the staff is very friendly and attentive, quickly responding to almost all requests.  The menu is simple with three choices for the main dish (fish, meat, and pasta) as well as a series of appetizers.   Complimentary drinks include water, mixed drinks, beer, and house wine. The house red is a Merlot or Cabernet and it not of the Bodegas Forjas del Salnes and a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Three champagnes round out the menu including a Bollinger Special Cuvee, Prosecco Brut Sartori and a Nicolas Feuillate Special Cuvee. The food is good, and uses local fish with small to moderate sized portions. The desert choice is good, with at least three items to choose from.

The beach is beautiful, the water clean, and there are enough loungers available for the guests, although not all of them have their own umbrella.

It is important to set your expectations correctly before you arrive in order to fully enjoy your stay at the Cocos Hotel.  If you are looking for a romantic and rustic get-away, are willing to adapt to the Carib easy going ways and do not need permanent pampering – this is the place you want to be at. You will definitely have the chance to step out of your everyday life and relax as much as you are able.  You will find yourself welcomed by friendly staff including the security.  You can choose to accept things as they are or voice any complaints to the hotel’s staff that will do their best to set things right.