Best Killer View of 2011: Las Vegas (and Other Awards)

There are a lot of roundups of, oh, everything this time of year, but we always look forward to the awards from the blogger community, and HotelChatter’s list has some fun, quirky nominations that get at the heart of what we love and hate about traveling.

Along with the positive, like this surprisingly expansive view from a Caesar’s Palace one-bedroom Senator’s Suite (is that actual sky?? Not just another hotel? You don’t say!), great new openings like the Public Chicago, and great amenities like a portable Wi-fi hotspot at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, they don’t shy away from the negative—a raw sewage backup in Palm Springs, bad view, bad hype, and more. They’ll be updating through tomorrow, so keep checking back.

City Sights from the Front Seat, Courtesy of Hotel Concierge

There’s a lot to see anytime you land in a new city, and your travel time is always precious. In an effort to accommodate their customers’ need for speed and comfort, luxury hotels are offering more options than ever for getting around.

The Peninsula hotel group has long been ahead of the curve in making courtesy cars fun — they offer chauffered hunter green BMW Mini Cooper S Clubman’s service at their properties in New York, Chicago, Hong Kong, or Tokyo that are custom-designed with a mini-fridge stocked with goodies and cold towels and an iPhone/iPod connection in the front and rear. But it’s the Peninsula Hong Kong that really goes over the top with signature vehicles, which include a helicopter, 14 Rolls-Royce Phantoms, and one 1934 Rolls-Royce Phantom II in Peninsula Green, as well as the aforementioned fleet of Minis.

The posh grounds of the Intercontinental London Park Lane have recently seen some unusual company, as Alvaro Rey, the general manager, has instituted regular rides around the property with members of the hotel staff, during which they share with him their insights into how the hotel is running, and he shares with them facts along the way that transform them all into tour guides, so that guests who choose to use the hotel bicycles have plenty of assistance in enjoying their route.

In true Parisian style, the Four Seasons Georges V has the world’s only Hermès-designed Rolls-Royce Phantom, available to hotel guests through the concierge. The sleek gray exterior is complemented by a rose-gray Hermès leather interior, with the steering wheel and passenger console done in gold calfskin accents. Also in Paris, guests staying in the suites at the Plaza Athenee are provided with keys to either the elegant Aston Martin Rapide or the small, sporty Cygnet.

While the European bike-sharing programs are terrific for European travelers, American travelers without chip-and-pin cards may find their city bicycling somewhat curtailed. That’s why Park Hyatts in Chicago, Washington DC, Buenos Aires, Sydney, Toyko, Beijing, Moscow, Goa, and Milan are all providing bikes for their guests, with more hotels expected to roll out the program soon.

Up in the mountains, sportscars can be more of a liability than an amenity, so the Four Seasons Vail has opted for a fleet of Mercedes SUVs to take you on scenic drives through the valley, on a downtown shopping excursion, or up the mountain to begin and end your day. And if you have multiple destinations on your itinerary, they’re even open to a drive to Aspen or other mountain towns.

One of the world’s most luxurious hotels requires a suitably top-of-the-line vehicle, so it’s no wonder that the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi opted for a chauffeur-driven Maybach, available to guests of the hotel’s most expensive package suites. Other guests will have to content themselves with the Rolls-Royce option also on hand.

The broad avenue outside the Grand Hotel Europe in St. Petersburg, Russia is lined with BMW 7 Series limousines, as well as BMW X1 or X5 if you have heavy shopping to do. They’re available for airport transfers, nights out of the town (which come in handy if you’re out across the river late at night) or tours of the historic city.

Shutters on the Beach is one of Santa Monica’s most popular beachfront hotels, but when you’re ready to come off the beach, out of town guests who may not have a car at their disposal have access to a Jaguar XJ within the city limits. Of course, for a sportier option, the hotel also has adorable Kate Spade bicycles that are free for guests to use anytime.

Guests of the Beach House Maldives, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, have as much exploring to do by sea as by land, so the resort’s bright white DeHavilland Twin Otter seaplane is a welcome amenity for getting to and from the airport and around the island — and it doesn’t hurt that the plane is stocked with iPads full of entertainment, Bose headphones, and more.

As bike programs spread throughout multiple cities in the USA (Minneapolis and Portland may be the veterans, but DC, New York, and more are coming up behind them), hotel bike programs are more desirable than ever. All Fairmont Hotels in the United States have a set of BMW Cruise bikes that come complete with helmets and locks for cruising around town.

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Sydney: New & Renewed Hotels Down Under

The end of this year will see a lot of exciting hotel news from the Land of Oz, starting this month with the opening of The Darling, a new five-star hotel on the grounds of Star City, a massive hotel and entertainment complex on Sydney’s Darling Harbour. The 171 rooms and suites are designed for relaxation, yet are in close proximity to the city center and the more than 20 restaurants and other sources of entertainment on the property.

Over at the Park Hyatt, in Sydney’s historic Rocks District, extensive renovations are expected to be finished by the end of the year, including a full refurbishment of all the exterior space and the rooms, as well as the construction of new suites. A showcase for the work of prominent Australian artists, like painter Tim Johnson and photographer Robert Billington, is being built.

For those who thrive in smaller, friendlier climes, The Observatory is a classically-styled, extremely elegant boutique hotel that lives up to the hype. With a brand-new general manager and a brand-new entry onto the Conde Nast Traveller Gold List (the only Australian hotel in 2011), the 78 rooms and 22 suites are just minutes from the central business district.

Park Hyatt 21% Off Sale

imageThe Park Hyatt is getting into the holiday spirit and offering 21% off all hotel stays. Starting today through December 12, you can book any of their hotels worldwide (sans the DC, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Toronto locations) at a 21% discount. Head over to Park Hyatt and use the code LTP107 to take advantage of stays in places like Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Milan, Shanghai, and Tokyo.

Industry Insiders: Romee de Goriainoff, Undercover Cocktailist

The force behind two of the hottest bars in Paris — the Experimental Cocktail Club and the recently opened Curio Parlor — Romee de Gorianoff abandoned a golden banking career to pursue his true love: the cocktail. His contemporary speakeasies are packed nightly with an almost exclusively word-of-mouth buzz, full of interesting types serious about their liquor.

Point of Origin: A graduate economics student from Dauphine University in Paris and Bocconi University in Milan turned entrepreneur in Paris in the bar business. I was supposed to start a year ago trading in a brokerage firm in London the week before I found out about the location that was to become the Experimental Cocktail Club. Between being a finance guy and an entrepreneur, the choice became very evident for me!

What’s a typical day? Waking up at 9 a.m. After breakfast, my partners [Olivier Bon and Pierre Charles Cross] and I meet around 10 a.m. at our office. We review the entire business situation: check orders, the incoming deliveries, make a little brief on the employee situation, the payroll, etc. We also talk about the reservations for the evening, the special parties we want to promote, the planning. These meetings always cover both clubs, the Experimental Cocktail Club and the Curio Parlor. After lunch, we go on the clubs and check what is missing, what is broken, etc. and fix what must be fixed. In the afternoon, most of the time we meet with spirit brand salespeople, do some tasting, etc. Around 6 p.m., we indulge ourselves a little break before actually working the bars. Afterwards, we work from 7 or 8 p.m. to minimum 2 a.m. during the week, and to 4 a.m. over the weekend. Going to sleep minimum at 3 a.m.. Then waking up again at 9 a.m.

Tell us a little about your team. I have two partners that are also my best friends and roommates: Pierre Charles Cross and Olivier Bon. I also have two bar managers: Carina Soto Velasquez and Emily Baylis. Carina is taking care of the Experimental Cocktail Club, and Emily is in charge of the Curio Parlor. Farock Benzema is the doorman for the ECC and is also doing an amazing though difficult job. Besides, I have a bunch of occasional bartenders doing two or three shifts per week.

Favorite Hangs: I love the newly opened Mama Shelter Hotel just in front of the Fleche d’ Or in the 20th. They’re serving amazing cocktails. I also go to L’échelle de Jacob in the 6th from time to time, Harry’s Bar, the Park Hyatt. For a night out I still enjoy the Baron. As for restaurants, my favorite is l’Ami Jean in the 7th. I also go quite often to Chez Michel, les Valseuses, au Bascou, le 404, le Pré Verre, Itinéraires, l’Unico … so many restaurants in Paris!

What makes your bars different? Both the Experimental Cocktail Club and Curio Parlor are thoroughly based on quality. Quality goes from the wine, cocktails, and spirits you’re being served, the music you’re listening to, to the service that must be cool but always serious for customers. The design is also very important, although different in the two bars. We wanted to create venues in which one could feel comfortable while drinking. The five senses must be awake when one goes out.

I think it’s the main difference with other bars in Paris and the reason we are unique. You can spend a night out at the Curio Parlor or the Experimental Cocktail Club, drink great drinks or high quality spirits in a nice atmosphere, and listen to nice DJ set … at a reasonable price! And they are also different from one another. The Experimental Cocktail Club is more of bar that we wanted reminiscent of the prohibition area. The atmosphere is very low key, and it could be a little be seen as a French-bistro-turned-cocktail bar. However, most people compare it to a typical cocktail bar from New York. We wanted the Curio Parlor to be like a British gentleman’s club in which ladies would be of course admitted! The green, the material, the overall feel is British. It’s more chic (but not snobbier) than the Experimental Cocktail Club, but still keeps a cool atmosphere.

Favorite bars elsewhere in the world? I have many! Three of my favorite bars are based in New York City: PDT (the best), Flatiron Lounge, and the Pegu Club. I also love Milk and Honey and Little Branch in New York City, too. In London, I go to the Lonsdale, Montgomery Place, Shoreditch House, Momo’s, and Purple Bar for a date.