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.

The World’s 10 Swankest Airport Lounges

There are some airport lounges out there so welcoming, so comfortable, and so packed with amenities that you may need to enlist their excellent customer assistance in rebooking your flight for a longer stay. An excellent resource for choosing and reviewing a lounge is the wiki-style LoungeGuide.net. Culled from their pages, these 10 luxurious lounges will help you enjoy the journey as much as the destination.

Emirates Lounge, Emirates Air, JFK, New York The Middle Eastern carrier’s secluded retreat is much lauded for a reason: Spacious leather chairs, Italian marble accents, and delicious food make their long-haul flights bearable, if not pleasurable. The business center and 42-inch plasma screen TVs keep you up to date to the last minute, and first- or business-class passengers will arrive in style, picked up in New York City by an Emirates car.

The Wing, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong – Cathay’s complex is the original luxury lounge, setting the modern standard since it opened in 1998. The Long Bar and the Noodle Bar will feed your body, while the Library and the Cabanas will soothe your soul. For first-class passengers, the Pier offers even more personal space, with spa-like granite shower suites and the private Daybreak Rooms, where waiter service and wake-up calls will allow you to nap, eat, work, and watch TV until it’s time for takeoff.

Upper Class Clubhouse, Virgin Atlantic, London Heathrow – Each one of Virgin Atlantic’s Clubhouses is a little different, but the British carrier outdid themselves on their home turf, with a cocktail bar, several restaurant options, multiple lounge concepts (including “poolside,” with a running-water accent wall), and an office and library that perfectly replicate the benefits of a traditional English club with a modern edge.

BA Terraces Lounge, British Airways, Seattle – Exclusively for first-class passengers and frequent fliers, the Terraces Lounge provides a comprehensive experience, from drinks and snacks at the World Wine Bar to a complimentary massage at the Elemis spa to a freshly made cappuccino. The work and entertainment area is fully equipped, but we suggest evening flyers take advantage of the Club World Sleeper Service, where you’ll have your preflight supper in the lounge restaurant so you can sleep right away once you board.

Iberia VIP Rooms, Iberia Air, Madrid – Madrid’s airport is one of the fastest-growing for business travel, as it’s a convenient stopover for many connecting flights, so having a comfortable airport lounge is crucial. The Iberia VIP Rooms have stunning view of departing planes rising over the mountains — the perfect compliment to a glass of Rioja from the private wine bar.

SilverKris Lounge, Singapore Airlines, Singapore Changi – Singapore Airlines may have been getting a lot of press for their Airbus A380 suites, but it should come as no surprise that their lounge is similarly luxurious. Beautifully appointed in fine woods and marble, the recently renovated space offers business class passengers and above meeting rooms, spacious bathrooms, well-equipped business facilities, and a bar and restaurant.

CPH Apartment, Copenhagen – One of the pleasures of travel is enjoying a sense of place, and that’s what the CPH Apartment in Copenhagen is all about. Designed to feel like a luxury Copenhagen apartment, it’s a space design buffs will die over, with furniture including shelving from Muuto, dining tables from Hay, a Beck lounge table, the award-winning sofa In Duplo from Erik Jørgensen, and the well-known Wingchair designed by H. J. Wegner.

L’Espace Premiere Lounge, Air France, Charles de Gaulle, Paris – The red carpet in the lounge’s may simply be intended to echo the first-class cabin’s décor, but it’s an excellent metaphor for what’s inside. Check in privately in the lounge, sink into a roomy leather armchair, enjoy a massage, or of course, sample a wide selection of wines, champagnes, and French cuisine of which the airline is justifiably proud. The red carpet treatment continues at departure: an agent will escort you to your gate, and a Mercedes will take you across the tarmac to your plane.

British Airways Concorde Room, British Airways, Heathrow, London – The Concorde may be no more, but this lounge brings back the aura of jet-set glamour in a big way. The full-service restaurant, private cabana rooms with beds and en suite bathrooms, the Elemis travel spa, and the concierge desk may recall the luxury hotel you’re departing from more than the airport lounges you’re used to.

Qantas First Lounge, Qantas, Sydney – The ultra-contemporary design of this lounge by acclaimed Australian designer Marc Newson is a spacious 2,000 square meters, and includes design accents like a vertical garden with over 8,400 plants, leather furniture by Italy’s Poltrona Frau, and Tai Ping wool carpets from Hong Kong. Individual marble-lined shower suites; and state-of-the-art business facilities get you ready to work, while the Payot Paris day spa and restaurant by Australian celebrity chef Neil Perry get you in the mood to play.

Sydney Gets Naked, Hugs

The tourist shot with the pointed shells of the Sydney Opera House in the background is an easy cliche. Thankfully, artist Spencer Tunick, who’s known for his large scale nude installations, rectified that yesterday. He assembled some 5,200 Aussies to get naked in front of the opera house for his camera.

Participants arrived as early as 4 a.m. yesterday to be part of the installation, which was dubbed “The Base.” At one point, Tunick asked participants to turn to their neighbors for a hug to demonstrate that Australians aren’t afraid to hug naked strangers, and also that they don’t care about the sexual orientation of those naked strangers. Tunick said “Gay men and women lay naked next to their straight neighbours and this delivered a very strong message to the world that Australians embrace a free and equal society.” Sort of gives new mean to “hugging it out.”

Win a Trip to Sydney on Facebook

Sydney tourism is flexing their Facebook muscles and offering a free trip to visit Australia if you become a fan of them on Facebook. Through October 31st, all you have to do to get a chance at winning a free trip is become a “fan” of Sydney on Facebook, and then make a comment on their wall about your favorite Sydney “Life Points” experience. This whole “Life Points” experience references the Facebook app that comes along with the fan page that details all kinds of experiences you can have while visiting Australia. Note, you will have to get this app to choose a “Life Points” experience. Some of the “Life Points” include climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, sailing around Sydney, dancing around Sydney, and having a seaplane adventure in Sydney.

Two winners, chosen by judges, will win two round-trip tickets on V Australia, seven nights accommodations at Sydney Harbour YHA, and be able to experience five “Life Points” experiences while in Sydney. The judging of the entries are based on the following criteria: Originality and Creativity (30%); Communication of “Describe your favourite Sydney Life Experience” (theme) (30%); and Overall Appeal (40%). Also, remember you’ll be disqualified if you write more than 30 words about your favorite “Life Points” experience. NSW Minister for Tourism Jodi McKay says, “We are thrilled to offer an innovative way for young travelers and adventure fans to win a trip to Sydney,” Ms. McKay said. “Our city, set against a breathtaking natural environment, is a wonderful place to live, work and holiday.” Seems like a pretty easy way to win a trip to Australia. Start here.

Travel News Roundup

WTF, Wisconsin: A Wisconsin tourism board shows its age with a marketing gaffe that made the internet rounds this week. The Sydney airport launches facial recognition technology that checks passengers through passport control. Finally, vacations are stressful: a comic graphs out the different levels of travel angst in a vacation.

First up, Wisconsin: The tourism board is tired of being made fun of for their acronym WTF, standing for Wisconsin Tourism Federation. Which, if they had meant it, could have turned out to be a rather interesting campaign. However, this week, the blogs twittered and giggled enough about the mistake that Wisconsin since changed their tune to a much less controversial, TFW, the Tourism Federation of Wisconsin. “We didn’t want it to detract from our mission,” said Julia Hertel, a spokeswoman for the newly renamed TFW.

Second, Australia: Over in Sydney, computers are taking over! Passengers with the modern e-passport arriving in Sydney can now swipe their passports and then proceed directly to the facial recognition camera to be verified. Once verified, they are on their way, without talking to anyone! There are of course, immigration officers on standby if there is any funny business. It’s unlikely that SmartGate will let in the incorrect person … But you still have to have an immigration officer in a rare case when the calculations are not accurate or something has happened to the person’s face. Currently the system is only available to Australian and New Zealand e-passport holders.

Finally, a comic look at the stress involved in taking a vacation:

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A Day at the Office with Ksubi

George Gorrow, co-founder of Aussie brand Ksubi, is the latest creative to get a home visit from The Selby. Photographer Todd Selby hit the brand’s office and showroom in Sydney recently and got a tour of Gorrow’s stellar sunglasses collection, a pair of particularly covetable spin-art-esque jeans, a Margiela-like creation made of leis, and a somewhat disturbing photo of a hacked-off hand giving a peace sign in a suit.

As for Selby’s standard questionnaire: subjects include what Gorrow saw at burning man (“a flying cup cake,” for one), and everything he’s learned at Ksubi in five words: “shit fucking happens.”