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Top 10 Boutique Hotels 2006

History repeats itself. Before there were hotels à la the Hilton and the mega properties of Las Vegas, there were pubs, inns and relais. Nowadays, you may enjoy a luxurious B&B, but for the ultimate in travel for those who live large but like things intimate, there is no better place to stay than at a boutique hotel. Typically, the room count is under 200, and there are plenty of enticing suites. The point of such places is to serve a few select guests at a high level of service and deliver the feeling of a home away from home. Comfort is the utmost priority. Around the world are fabulous opportunities to stay in chateaux, lodges and intimate luxury hotels... at the following you'll find experiences second to none.

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UNITED STATES

New York City, New York
Hôtel Plaza Athé
née
www.plaza-athenee.com

Some hotels feel as if they were created to set a standard, and as far as urban boutique hotels are concerned, Hôtel Plaza Athénée is a benchmark. It has not compromised its classic, classy character to the hip hotel scene, and the loyalty of its guests is matched by the loyalty of the long-standing staff, starting with the GM and moving on down the ranks. As for its attributes, the list is long: discretion, classic French contemporary furnishings, Clef d'Or concierges, gorgeous suites with glass-enclosed solarium terraces and a dark, exotic bar that feels lost in time.

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AUSTRALIA

Barossa Valley

Peppers The Louise
www.thelouise.com.au

With just fifteen suites, this Barossa valley retreat offers a luxury experience that’s been missing in this region of Australia’s burgeoning wine country. Recently bought and renovated by a foodie couple from San Francisco, the property sits atop a hill surrounded by hundreds of acres of vineyards. Guest privacy is taken seriously here, which is a great attribute of any first-class boutique property. Suites have gated courtyards and inspire the feeling of being hidden away in a posh home decorated with artwork from South Australian artisans. The Louise is also home to a carefully developed wine cellar and Appellation, one of the premier dining destinations in Barossa.

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BALI

Ubud

COMO Shambhala Estate at Begawan Giri

www.begawan-giri.com

Among the travel elite, it isn't always easy to agree on the characteristics that make up a true sanctuary, as everyone's needs for relaxation are different. But you'll be hard pressed to find the traveler who can't unwind—and ultimately find spiritual renewal—at Bali's COMO Shambhala Estate at Begawan Giri. Forget about the island's reputation for crowded beaches and the chaos of Kuta Town. The estate's sublime residences are tucked into lush jungle in Ubud, on grounds fed by three holy springs. And the COMO Shambhala spa facilities are the closest you're likely to come to heaven on earth. This is the paradisiacal Bali of years gone by.

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CANADA

Lake Louise

Post Hotel
www.posthotel.com

Ski lodges rarely fail to meet the boutique hotel criteria of intimacy and hospitality. But few are those that possess the make-or-break boutique staple: sophisticated luxury. For the après ski crowd, the Post Hotel elevates the quaint, European mountain hideaway to a new level, with a wine cellar offering over 25,000 bottles, a cigar lounge featuring hand-rolled Cubans and log cabin-style bedrooms just minutes from the slopes. Lovers of the authentic shouldn't despair, though—there are still the requisite antlers hanging on the wall.

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COSTA RICA

Guanacaste

Hotel Punta Islita
www.hotelpuntaislita.com

A boutique hotel experience must be organic. Any place can offer the feeling of intimacy and elitism, but in a boutique property, a guest must feel in harmony with the setting, the style, the hosts. Imagine, then, what happens when this synchronicity extends beyond the hotel walls. At the remote Hotel Punta Islita, guest comfort is as important as community relations and ecological preservation. When you stay here, you become essential to the country you are visiting. And you discover—as you laze in a hammock or savor a sunset massage—the joys of social responsibility.

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ENGLAND

London
One Aldwych

www.onealdwych.co.uk

What exactly does the term "hip hotel" mean? Quirky? Snobby? Stark to the point of frigidity? Unfortunately, in many cases, it's all of these things. For the few that get it right, One Aldwych is at the top of the list. Housed in a plush Edwardian building in the middle of Convent Garden, it signifies warm, stylish and sophisticated in every way, from décor to service. It also means that even though a hotel is small (there are just 105 rooms here) it doesn't have to skimp. You'll find a private screening room, lap pool and over 400 works of art.

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FRANCE

Reims
Château
Les Crayéres
www.lescrayeres.com

If we were asked to proclaim the quintessential boutique experience, we would have to name the château as the official winner. Châteaux are the original boutiques, and let's be honest…could there be anything more intimate and indulgent than escaping to what is essentially your own private manor house? At Château Les Crayères, there are just twenty lavish, light-filled bedrooms, which heighten the feeling of ownership. A celebrated restaurant and residency in a park-like setting in Reims—the Champagne capital—are just two more reasons to raise a glass of bubbly and celebrate.


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IRELAND

County Limerick
Adare Manor
Hotel & Golf Resort
www.adaremanor.com

When asked to consider boutique hotels, we would hardly leap to include an 19th-century gothic manor house (with 75 fireplaces and 365 leaded glass windows) set on 840 acres. Yet it is the sprawling nature of Adare Manor that gives it a feeling of intimacy. There are only 63 rooms, which means you feel as if you have the place to yourself. In this truly private setting, you can kindle romance, explore your thoughts (and the formal French gardens), pamper yourself at the spa, explore the rolling countryside on horseback or play a round of championship golf. This brings us to bust a second stereotype: Scotland doesn't have a monopoly on classic links.

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MEXICO

Colima

Hacienda de San Antonio
www.haciendadesanantonio.com

The boutique hotel experience doesn't get any better than this: 25 impeccably decorated suites in a sprawling hacienda originally built in the 1870s. You immediately feel like you’ve entered a glorious picture book of Spanish colonial splendor. European and Latin aesthetics merge with the best result: an out-of-the-way getaway (with its own private airstrip) where you can take long hikes, ride horses, watch birds or just loll by the pool. On property is a farm, a cheese cave, a chef’s garden and even grass-fed beef and lamb making most meals from farm to table. Originally owned and renovated by British billionaire Sir James Goldsmith, also responsible for Cuixmala in Careyes, Mexico, the property is now operated by his children.

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SOUTH AFRICA

Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Londolozi Private Game Reserve

www.londolozi.com

Like a Russian nesting doll, Londolozi Private Game Reserve reveals treasures within treasures within treasures. It is located inside the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, and hidden in its jungles are four camps—if you can call a cluster of suites or chalets adorned with teak decks, inlaid mosaic floors and private plunge pools a camp. There are no more than twelve accommodations per camp, and everything required for a satisfying safari is provided for—game drives, moonlit bush dinners and guided star-gazing. Bottom line: from the furnishings to the views, this place is drop-dead gorgeous.


(Updated: 11/03/10 CT)


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