With the start of a new year, maybe it’s time for reflection and to make new promises?
At the commencement of 2018, I made a resolution to take things a little easier and to travel a little less. No chance of either in my line of work. In fact, looking at my used flights I have actually travelled more than ever. So 2019 starts with good intentions, but just looking at my provisional schedule, I can’t see it getting any slower, other than it seems to be me longer to get from the check in to the departure gate!
I compiled this list on the veranda of my daughter’s home in Barbados just before the year-end. Located in the extreme north of the island. All I could see was sugar cane fields and the Mount Gay Rum distillery, small farms, villages. Some music drifted from the rum shop down in the gully, but not a hotel in sight. It was all rather tranquil old-time Caribbean, yet the glamour of the west coast was just 20 minutes’ drive away. Wonderful. If you are visiting the island take time to explore the north coast. More cows than people, windmills, green hills and Atlantic waves crashing onto the rocks.
So to a review of the year 2018. Many repeat visits of course, but just as importantly, some good new discoveries. Despite my vintage pensionable age, I still have a real passion for travel. I enjoy discovering a new area or hotel well ahead of the crowd. I am pleased when I see some places have hardly changed since I first visited way back. I am of course a little saddened when others have become unrecognisable, showing all the signs of over-popularity.
I think I stayed at 100 hotels and visited at least 450 more last year. Due to my experience, and of course age, I can usually assess if Chic Locations are going to be partnering the hotel within 10 seconds of arriving in the lobby. And I find most hoteliers appreciate my candid upfront appraisal “Nice, sure there is a market for you, just not with Chic“ much more than prolonged but fruitless exchanges.
So to my ten favourite hotels for the year. I have listed in month visited.
Top Ten Hotels of 2018 by David Kevan from Chic Locations
1. Leonardo Mitte – Berlin, Germany. March.
Located in the old eastern section of the city, the streets are full of history. It is located adjacent to River Spree which formed part of the border between east & west. Friedrichstrasse Station and shopping street are just a few minutes walk away. The hotel is a good value first class, rather than deluxe, but I just enjoy the style and location. Berlin is not featured by Chic but it is one of my favourite cities in Europe, German efficient mixed with a real bohemian vibe.
2. La Torretta, Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy. March.
This area has been on my wish-list for ages. Wonderful. Typically Italian simple rural pleasures and incredible scenery. A real sense of adventure. I flew to Genoa before travelling down by train. Hotel perched at the very top of Manarola, so you have to be built like a mountain goat to cope with the hills. Expensive yes, but totally enjoyed the entire experience. As the area suggests, its a series of 5 villages, each with their own personality, linked by a coastal railway.
3. Borgo Egnazia, Puglia, Italy. April.
A repeat visit for me and it has got even better. I just love the simple elegance of the place. The region is so different from the more Anglo –Italian influenced areas found in the north. Here it is totally authentic. Incredible food and wine, and wonderfully olive grove rural. Take time to visit Lecce, one of the real undiscovered gems of the Med. I love Italy with a passion and nowhere more than this incredible region.
4. Fusion Resort, Phou Quoc, Vietnam. April.
Another first for me, although I have visited Vietnam on numerous occasions. 10 years ago the dominant industries here were fish sauce and black peppers. Now it is tourism, which has arrived with a bang! So many new hotels and the island is already showing signs of excess in places. But there are still pockets of tranquillity, such as the location of The Fusion. Great beach, huge pool, spacious and extremely private suites. Very good on-site facilities, including a rather nice spa.
5. Sofitel Metropole, Hanoi, Vietnam. May.
I have visited many times but never stayed. Without doubt one of the truly great heritage hotels in the region. Incredible attention to detail, wonderful history. Check out the list of previous guests. Such a good location between the Opera House and the lake. Stayed at both the historic and the more contemporary sides and still cannot make up my mind which I preferred. Both so good.
6. Rosewood Luang Prabang, Laos. May.
Another place and country I had visited several times, but first time to experience Rosewood (it had opened just a few weeks earlier). Instant jaw-dropping WOW! So very stylish. Totally unique and in places deliberately quirky. A real sense of destination. You are surrounded by the sights and sounds of rural Laos, complete with mini waterfalls and fast flowing river, but staying in supreme comfort.
7. Paradee, Koh Samed, Thailand. June.
I am not allowed professionally to have favourite places, but if I were, Paradee would be right up there. I just totally love the place. Stayed here numerous times and each year just can’t wait to go back. I enjoy the simple easy going style, the superb soft sand beach and turquoise clear waters. Easy to access, just over two hours drive south of Bangkok Airport and then 20-minute speedboat ride direct to the resort jetty. A real tropical gem that so far has resisted the demands of mass tourism.
8. Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi, Malaysia. September.
I first visited the island some 25 years ago, and frankly so little has changed. It is still sleepy, traditional and rural, with just a few truly good hotels. The Ritz Carlton opened a year ago, so first time for me to see. Really liked so much about it. The backdrop of the tropical forest, the cove beach, the high-quality accommodation, and the restaurant options with the Thai Sunset bar particularly good for both cuisine and views. A very welcome addition to the luxury scene in Malaysia.
9. Alila, Seminyak, Bali. November.
Another island I have visited so many times. We are looking at 60 plus visits! I like the Seminyak area as it has a real buzz to it, with so many top quality restaurant options. First time for me to stay at Alila. OK, they spoilt me and allocated a room right on the beach. These would be my choice for any repeat visit. Liked so much about it: the overall style, the spacious rooms, the ever-smiling and gracious staff and the location.
10. Six Senses Duxton, Singapore. November.
Yet another place I know well. There was a time in the 80s when it was literally a second home, and I used to know the Duxton when it was a rather below average property. Six Senses opened it this year and after a mega Anouska Hempel influenced total enhancement. It is now a really interesting and rather funky black and gold themed hotel. So individual. This is a world away from the ubiquitous and rather dated appeal of Orchard Road. And Singapore has nicely reinvented itself. So much zest and passion (not words normally used to describe the place). Rather impressed.
There you have it, my top ten hotels of 2018.
I could have expanded the list to make it twenty but just seemed to be indulgent. Or I could have written about the ten or more that fell way short of expectations, but hey, this is a new year. Let’s start off on the right foot with positive goodwill. The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed no travel in August – actually spent most of the month in Toronto with family, again a destination not featured by Chic but one of my favourite places.