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The Standard New York

The Standard, New York in our Extreme Bathrooms slideshow.

Last week, Slate reported on a hotel trend I’ve experienced first hand: “The Fall of the Bathroom Wall.” Opting for open-plan bedroom/bathroom suites, luxury hotels like NYC’s Standard hotels and Paris’ Hotel Particulier Montmartre are knocking down bathroom walls and replacing them with glass, modesty shades -– or sometimes nothing at all.

What these rooms lack in privacy they more then make up for in natural light, space and certainly, sex appeal. But as Slate points out, they also bring “logistical awkwardness when sharing a room with people who were never meant to see you naked.”

I found this out for myself while on a girls’ spa weekend in Florida. Our suite at The W was upgraded thanks to my best friend’s enviable Starwood preferred guest status. However, when we realized the better view and bigger floor plan also came with an all-glass “peek-a-boo” shower, we politely asked to move back to a standard double. We knew we’d be seeing a lot of each other that weekend -– but not that much.

While glass showers and exposed soaking tubs may come as a sexy surprise on a couple’s weekend, they aren’t for every guest. Tell us in the comments: Do you think open-plan hotel bathrooms are a fad or here to stay?

Mike and Donna Holder were living comfortable, easy lives in scenic Kennesaw, GA, when they decided to take a very big chance. After noticing an ad in the newspaper, the couple bought 1,200 forgotten and overgrown acres in rural Banning Mills, GA, at the site of a former textile and paper mill village.

Over the next several years the couple and their kids cleared brush, made repairs, and eventually built a country inn and adventure center with an expansive eco tour zipline course. Then, on Thanksgiving night 2006, much of it burned to the ground. While they were tempted to just leave it all behind them after such a devastating loss, the Holders decided instead to rebuild. Today they oversee Historic Banning Mills, which boasts the world’s tallest climbing wall (140 feet) and, at 41,000 linear feet, the world’s longest continuous zipline course, where visitors can reach speeds of up to 60 mph as they cruise through dense hardwood forest and over the beautiful Snake River Gorge.

In fact, your feet rarely have to touch the ground at Banning Mills, with more than 50 sky bridges — including one that’s 600-feet-long. And you can really tap into your inner Tarzan with the new tree house lodging. Opening this month, these 2-person suites — accessible by rope bridge — are made of heart pine logs, and feature a king bed, jetted tub, bathroom, mini fridge and back deck with panoramic forest views.

When you’re ready to return to earth, there’s a new 7-mile network of mountain biking/hiking trails that wind along old town roads and across bridges. And Georgia Trail Outfitters offers 7-mike kayak trips down the roaring Class IV Chattahoochee River, as well as the more serene Flint and Cartecay Rivers. Banning Mills also offers a swimming pool (in season), putt-putt golf course, and tennis/basketball courts. In-between adventures, indulge in a relaxing massage at the day spa, and refuel at the main lodge, which serves a big country breakfast and a variety of lunch and dinner items, including picnic-style baskets and romantic candlelit dinners on the terrace that overlooks the Snake Creek Gorge.

- Sam Boykin

Photography by Grand Hotel du Palais Royal

Seldom does reality exceed our expectations and when it does — well, that’s Paris. More »

Photo of Milestone Hotel in London by Oyster.com

Photo of Milestone Hotel in London by Oyster.com

Twice a year, designers, models, photographers, bloggers, DJs, and so on, crisscross the globe in search of the next big thing. The most anticipated shows being in the 4 fashion capitals of the world: New York, London, Milan and Paris. Here at Travel Channel, we’re always searching for the best places to stay — may we present the most stylish hotels in each city.

New York: September 5 – 12, 2013
The Ace Hotel is known as every other tech startup’s “office” in NYC, but during Fashion Week its unconventional vintage- and industrial-inspired design draws hipsters and fashionistas alike.

London: September 13 – 17, 2013
The Mileston Hotel is a picturesque, boutique hotel in Kensington has been voted one of the best in London. It boasts a 24-hour butler service and elegantly designed rooms that range from period to contemporary decor. For the fashion set, may we suggest lounging in a black-and-white space featuring Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe.

Milan: September 18 – 23, 2013
For inspiration off the runway, look no further than Maison Moschino Milan, a 65-room hotel inspired a 1840s Neoclassical railway station inspired by the famed Italian designer. Our writer noted, “Just like the brand’s whimsical, haute-couture designs, the hotel is all about fairy tales and fanciful fantasy.” Expect puffy, cloud-like light fixtures, lit-up gowns and an overall Alice and Wonderland effect.

Paris: September 24 – October 2, 2013
Located on the prestigious Avenue Montaigne is the famous Hotel Plaza Athenee, brimming with Parisian style and Art Deco décor. Stylish guests will appreciate majestic views of the Eiffel Tower (from the Eiffel Suites) and close proximity to the Dior Institute as well as high-end shopping.

Check out the rest of our stylish hotel picks for every budget.

Inspired by Maison Moschino Milan? See more designer-inspired hotels.

Photography by Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi

Welcome to Shangri-La. The Dhara Dhevi on the northern edge of the Thai city of Chiang Mai is no mere hote. More »

Photography by The Raleigh Hotel

A Miami landmark, The Raleigh first opened its doors in1940; it still exudes that old Miami charm. More »

Photography by Mosaic Palais Aziza and Spa

Ahh, can you hear the bubbling fountains? Can you smell the sweet jasmine? More »

Photography by Norbert Eisele-Hein / Outdoor-Archiv / Aurora Photos

Wanderlusters seeking paradise will be plenty pleased by this luxury resort in the Maldives. More »

Photo: Robin Bennefield

First Lady and style icon Jacqueline Kennedy found refuge horseback riding in Middleburg, VA, 50 years ago, and in the very place where she once rode, a stylish new retreat has arisen. This weekend, Salamander Resort & Spa opened its doors as the only new luxury destination and spa to open in the US in 2013.

Just an hour from the White House, beyond Beltway gridlock, and where northern Virginia’s Route 50 undulates past old Civil War markers and new wineries, Salamander Resort aims to make its mark as an escape for politics-weary Washingtonians and a destination for discerning luxury travelers.

Salamander is well on its way, with a bucolic location at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, grand country estate design, top-notch gastronomy and state-of-the art spa facilities. The 168-room resort is all the brainchild of Washington-area entrepreneur, Sheila C. Johnson, who co-founded Black Entertainment Television and executive produced the movie The Butler.

As it turns out, it’s nice to be inside Sheila Johnson’s brain, which appears to be filled with pastoral greens, creams and pale blues as displayed in the “Living Room,” an airy, elegant lounge space overlooking a 100,000-square-foot lush, sloping lawn.  Johnson’s personal style and even her personal items have made it into every aspect of the resort, from bronze statues of a proud equestrian and her own children in the Living Room, which happens to be modeled after her own living room to her nature photography lining seasonally-themed hallways and guestroom walls. Nearly 20 percent of the art throughout the resort is from her personal collection, including a 14-foot tapestry once owned by Napoleon.

Photo: Robin Bennefield
Bronze statue from Sheila Johnson’s personal collection.

Photo: Robin Bennefield
The Salamander stables.

Her passion for horses and equine pursuits are equally apparent at Salamander with a full-service equestrian center and horse trails, suites named for her daughter’s favorite horses, right down to stirrup-embroidered bed linens. These little details are almost as striking as the property itself.

Here are a few other things that struck this traveler during Salamander’s opening weekend:

 The Library

It sounds cliché but this really is the perfect place to curl up with a good book, and there are plenty for you to borrow — from aspirational biographies to gripping mysteries. The dark, supple leather chairs feel like a warm hug. I almost wished for cold weather to see this room with its fireplace blazing. There are also dark library-appropriate games like chess and backgammon.

Photo: Robin Bennefield

Harriman’s Virginia Piedmont Grill

When I ordered the BBQ’d Shrimp and Grits for brunch, the waiter smiled and said “good choice.” I always pay attention to server comments and selections, so I got my taste buds ready. They weren’t disappointed when the savory and mildly sweet shrimp, atop a creamy bed of grits, reached my mouth. Johnson has gotten Todd Gray, one of the best chefs in the DC area to lead the culinary charge at Salamander, and I’d say that was a good choice. The 3-course brunch with all-you-can-drink bacon-decorated Bloody Mary’s and mimosas with fresh-squeezed orange juice is a palate pleaser.

Photo: Robin Bennefield

 

Photo: Robin Bennefield

Salamander Spa

If there is a crown jewel at the Salamander Resort & Spa, it is the spa, which turns out to be Johnson’s favorite space at the resort, according to the its director of public relations, Matt Owen. A world-class destination spa has been at the center of Johnson’s vision for Salamander since 2002 and she delivered, with just one feature, actually 2: the heated stone Tepidarium chairs that cradle and deliver warmth along every inch of the spine. My sister and I made a circuit between the chairs, the gurgling vitality pool and an aromatic steam room with a eucalyptus steam that won’t quit. We ended with a citrus drench wrap made from honey, orange juice and Shea butter, feeling completely rejuvenated.

Photo: Robin Bennefield

Photo: Robin Bennefield

 

The Salamander Resort & Spa joins Johnson’s other highly-rated luxury properties, Innisbrook, Reunion and Hammock Beach resorts in Florida, and aims for the same 5-star ratings. But even with all the high-end pampering and luxe appointments, Salamander feels surprisingly homey and inclusive. It’s kid-friendly, with a collection of books and DVDs for kids in the library, and pet-friendly with water bowls strategically placed around the property for the traveling pooch.

The fall may bring even more amenities, like ziplines and a tree-top canopy tour of the 200 wooded acres on the property, along with what I’d come back for: treetop spa treatment rooms.

Photography by Marbella Club Hotel, Golf Resort and Spa

Perched on southern Spain’s sun-drenched Costa del Sol, Marbella has long been a vacation destination for the wealthy and glamorous. More »

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