Wouldn’t it be great if a super-stylish crack team of travel experts scoured the globe and tracked down the best boutique hotels for you to choose from for your honeymoon? The best that is, according to the really important stuff, for this most romantic holiday of your life. How about the hotel with the most extravagant view from the pool or the most indulgent spa, the sexiest bedroom, the most intimate bar or those places that simply go above and beyond anyone’s expectations?
Well that’s what’s happening right now in the gorgeous, totally dreamy world of Mr & Mrs Smith. Believe me, they are your secret honeymoon weapon.
For those who haven’t yet heard me extol the many virtues of this extraordinary boutique hotel finding and booking site, let me fill you in here.
Mr & Mrs Smith Awards 2016
Ok, so they’re not technically looking for honeymoon destinations in this current global search but, Mr & Mrs Smith are running their annual awards to identify and reward the boutique hotels in their outrageously impressive portfolio – that create THE most special stays. They are singling out those utterly unique, personality-packed places that raise the bar in terms of design, food, service and all- round wow factor.
So that’s great news for us as we get to take a peek at those choice contenders – the best boutique hotels in the world in the most desirable destinations. This has to be the hottest shortlist in travel right now!
And the award goes to…
The awards are being judged on 12 different categories. Namely: Pool with a View, World’s Sexiest Bedroom, Best Dressed Hotel, Best Date-Night Bar, Best Gourmet Getaway, Most Spoiling Spa, Local Hotel Hero, Best Family Hotel, Above and Beyond, Coolest Creative Hub, Hottest Hotel Soundtrack, Best Smith Hotel 2016.
And reassuringly the top ten hotels in each category have been selected by none other that the King and Queen of Mr & Mrs Smith themselves — company founders James and Tamara Lohan, along with the amazing founding editor Juliet Kinsman. They know, live and breathe their stuff. So any hotel worthy enough to make their short list is good enough for me.
As you can see by the colourful categories of awards — this is a cool company that understands the changing boutique-hotel scene around the world.
There is a new order in what people are looking for and it’s moved on considerably from “how far to the beach?” and “is breakfast included?’. Mr & Mrs Smith recognise those unique aspects for the hotel experience that have particular resonance to today’s traveller. Be that acting as a hub for the neighbourhood creative scene; having the perfect date night bar; being a destination foodie spot or of course setting the stage for an out of this world, memory-making honeymoon.
Do Judge me
The chosen hotels will be put to a panel of three specialist judges in each category.
And the judging panel? It’s basically across the board cool — a network of travel experts from the fashion, music, food industries, including chef and author Tom Aitken, writer and broadcaster Lauren Laverne, singer Jessie Ware, legendary restaurateur Jeremy King, cocktail maestro Tony Conigliaro … take a look here at the impressive line up.
Above and Beyond
For Smashing The Glass, I really wanted to feature a list of the best of the best — essentially the Above and Beyond category. These are Smith stays that are made even more special by seamless service and generosity of spirit — where going the extra mile is the starting point. Is there nothing this hotel won’t do?
They boast dedicated, flexible and helpful staff who totally rock at enhancing your stay, or maybe the hotel goes above and beyond in terms of products or services — full-size bathroom products, free laundry, transfers by speedboat?
Sometimes, it’s one individual who makes the biggest impact. The sommelier who helps you discover a new favourite wine; the concierge with an unbeatable book of contacts; the chef who keeps the kitchen open a little longer because your flight was delayed.
The Above and Beyond category is by far my favourite, and that’s what you really want for a honeymoon. Natural hosts who instinctively know how to spoil you, anticipate your every need and upgrade your trip beyond measure. Oh yes and it so happens that all the hotels are in sublime and wildly different locations.
A trad twenties hunting lodge on the banks of Waikato, New Zealand to the thoroughly modern English countryside manor with just a sprinkling of rock star style to a remote ecolodge on the rainforest clad coast of Nicaragua. Where would you even start to choose between them?
Above and Beyond Judges
While I don’t envy the judges making the call between the final ten, they are undoubtedly the best people for the job. All three, are held in great respect across their industries and pretty much know exactly what they’re talking about.
They include Jeremy King: co-creator of some of London’s best-loved restaurants, such as The Ivy, The Wolseley, Delaunay, and The Beaumont; Anita Kapoor: the witty presenter known for offbeat travel documentaries; and Louise Olsen & Stephen Ormandy: the creative masterminds behind Dinosaur Designs, a handcrafted jewellery line with stores in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, New York and London.
But ultimately, you’ll be your own judge. You know what’s important to you and your husband-to-be and which hotel and destination really gets your hearts racing.
Where would you choose if you were to go above and beyond anywhere you’ve ever been before? Somewhere so mind-blowingly accomplished that you’ll be regaling stories of THAT trip for years.
It’s one of the most exciting group of hotels I’ve ever come across, but please don’t just take my word for it, we have a Smith representative to talk us through that awe-inspiring shortlist below.
Above and Beyond — The Top 10
Sleek and chic, the perfect Beijing treat
Lie back for a moment in the luscious poolside courtyard and you’ll be hard pressed to remember that you’re in one of the most frenetic cities on Earth. Forget the fanfare of the metropolis and enjoy the sophistication of what feels more like a Far-East film set than a boutique hotel.
It’s the Rosewood Beijing‘s exclusive Manor Club which gives this hotel the elusive extra mile accolade, where a refined lounging space will keep guest’s minds and stomachs happy and content. Breakfast, afternoon tea and evening cocktails are all included with this swanky club, where you can swoon at Zheng Lu’s calligraphic art pieces, Jiang Shanchun’s pristine portraits and Irish artist Denis Brown’s Chinese poetry-inspired pieces. Privileges include in-room foot baths, a private club room and a 24 hour fragrance butler. Who could say no… if only to find out what that is. Needless to say, whatever your specific requests, whims or wishes, Rosewood will go the extra mile as the rule, rather than the exception.
Smith Extra: BlackSmiths get a tea journey at the House of Dynasties, SilverSmiths a Peking duck cookery lesson with the hotel’s chef, and GoldSmiths a private tai chi session by the outdoor terrace or indoor pool.
Rates: Double rooms from £218.81 (CNY1,900), excluding tax at 6 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional service charge of 10% per room per night on check-out and an additional government tax of 6% per room per night on check-out. Rates usually include breakfast of your choice (Continental, full-English, American or Chinese) and free entry to Sense spa.
Saint James Paris, Paris, France
Look up flamboyance in the dictionary, and you’ll find a picture of the Saint James Paris. This boutique beauty has a history of aiming for the stars; reincarnated as a hotel, it was once an intellectual boot-camp for aspiring French intellectuals, and interestingly the site of the first hot-air balloon airfield.
Now it stands as Paris’ most colourful country estate-inspired hotel, but it hasn’t lowered its aspirations. Room 204, our particular favourite, maintains its cultural lineage with a whimsical ‘library’ and a tweed armchair with elbow patches in addition to a mock parquet carpet. This well-heeled inner-city escape keeps all the bases you never knew existed covered, with attention to detail to meet even the most demanding of Parisians’ needs and desires.
A 24-hour Clefs d’Or concierge service is on hand to provide you with whatever service you require in this whimsical inner-city escape, and for that extra little gem, you’ll want to keep that gym routine well-oiled in the beautiful gym with chandeliers and a parquet floor. You’re unlikely to find that anywhere else.
Smith Extra: A cocktail in the library bar or on the terrace in the gardens.
Rates: Double rooms from £301.69 (â‚¬352), excluding tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of â‚¬2.48 per person per night on check-out. Breakfast is extra: â‚¬29 for Continental; â‚¬36 for the buffet.
Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island, Australia
As runner up in the Above and Beyond category in last year’s Smith Hotel Awards, Southern Ocean Lodge is ends-of-the-earth, cliff-hugging hideaway is the stuff of fantasies. With no one else to spoil your fun for miles around in the solitude and serenity of this luxe escape, feel free to while away your days taking advantage of your bespoke itinerary.
Whether it’s wallaby-spotting by bike, art-touring or searching for freshwater crayfish, this exquisite designer haven has your island wish-list covered. In the hotel itself you’ll find something to entertain yourself, be it the Roman floor tiled lobby with bar and restaurant, the walk-in wine cellar, sunken lounge area with chic French fireplace hanging from the ceiling or seeing what takes your fancy in the shop which sells local produce, arts and crafts. Yet it’s really the staff here that make the vibe of this hotel so unfussy and laid-back; there are no ‘sirs’ or ‘ma’ams’, only first name terms, and this contributes to making the Southern Ocean Lodge the restful stay you’ve always dreamed of.
Smith Extra: A private wine-cellar dining experience for two.
Rates: Double rooms from £1151.38 (AU$2,000), excluding tax at 10 per cent. Rates include all meals, open bar with premium wine and spirits, in-suite bar, selected Kangaroo Island experiences and island airport transfers. Rates don’t include a 2.5 per cent credit-card surcharge that’ll be charged by the hotel onsite.
MONA Pavilions, Hobart, Australia
Since you can’t pitch up a tent inside the National Gallery, there’s no place better than the MONA Pavilions to combine your love of art with your love of luxe. Part of MONA (the Museum of Old and New Art), perks come with special access to Australia’s largest private museum, offering access to works of the likes of the British Damien Hirst, Aussie Sidney Nolan and American Jenny Holzer.
Aside from modern art, there are also rare global antiquities worth a cool AU$100 million on display in this designer den. For a more personal viewing, you can stream the collection in the privacy of your own room via your TV. If there’s anything else that comes to mind, just ask the world-class concierge service, who are there to arrange pretty much anything you’d like to do, see, eat or drink in this serene riverside temple. Standouts on the to-do list are sampling the sauce at the winery and visiting one of the alternative festivals held nearby. Never have sexy and stylish come together so blissfully.
Smith Extra: A private Cellar Door tasting and a bottle of Muse series wine, priority access to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), a Moorilla Winery Tour and Moo Brew beer tasting.
Rates: Double rooms from £261.68 (AU$455), excluding tax at 10 per cent. Rates include cooked breakfast in the Source restaurant or continental breakfast in-room, a seasonal local platter on arrival and a bottle of Muse Series wine.
Awasi, Patagonia, Chile
Service is the cornerstone of everything Awasi stands for. With 12 luxury cabins isolated on the edge of Chile’s Torres del Paine national park, solitude and serenity demand a world class service. Once you’ve been met at the airport and chauffeur-driven to your secluded cabin, complete with fireplace, sheepskin rugs and wood-burning stove, a private guide will take care of your adventurous needs in equal measure to your quest for comfort.
If you’re after something a little out-there to tell your friends about, your guide can also show you the not-in-the-guidebook side of Chile’s mountains, Lake Sarmiento and the lowlands. Once you’ve tired yourself out with your very own private tour of the stunning natural setting atop which Awasi sits itself, you’ll be able to return to your beautifully-designed lodge and take in the breathtaking vistas of the expansive wilderness from the exquisite comfort of your bed through the enormous windows which surround you.
Smith Extra: Early check-in and late check-out (dependent on availability), and a treat from the chef (like a cooking or cocktail class).
Rates: Double rooms from £1450.75 ($1,888). Rates include all meals, transfers and excursions.
Estancia la Bamba de Areco, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina
Horse-lovers and equine explorers are in heaven at the country-luxe Estancia la Bamba de Areco. As the headquarters of an international polo team, you’d expect to get in a little horseriding of your own, but here in the comfort of the countryside, you have free reign over the horses, so feel free to saddle up at a time to suit you.
The sprawling ranch grounds are the perfect place to get cantering around this South American fantasy playground. Mixed with a relaxing, tree-lined pool, an elaborate barbeque luncheon and a team of eager attendees dressed like gauchos ready to cater to your every need, you’ve got the perfect South American cocktail (which they will happily bring you, of course). If you want to learn a little more about the heritage of this fascinating wonderland, take a tour to nearby San Antonio de Areco, where you can explore the cultural trappings of the Ricardo Gà¼iraldes Gaucho Museum.
Smith Extra: A bottle of champagne in your room; GoldSmith members also get a guided tour of San Antonio de Areco.
Rates: Double rooms from £501.70 ($653), excluding tax at 21 per cent. Rates usually include all meals and all soft drinks, beer and wine.
Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco, Tuscany, Italy
If you’d like to learn a little something on your travels, we know a place. Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco, an 800 year old Italian estate is the first choice destination for those who are searching for stellar service, mixed in with centuries of knowledge.
For budding chefs, the hotel’s La Canonica Cooking School will show you the tricks of the trade (you can have groceries delivered to your door if you want to take your skills back to your villa), or perhaps you’d rather leave it to your in-villa personal chef. Whichever way you choose to indulge your tummy, do it in the knowledge that the kitchen gardens are in the capable hands of the same man that looks after the Vatican.
For night-owls, astronomy classes are offered for the stargazer in you, and for sun-seekers, feel free to either lie by the pool or take a guided tour of the winery. Catiglion del Bosco is the fifth largest producer of Brunello di Montalcino (a divine red), so they know a great glass of wine when they see one.
Smith Extra: A wine-tasting tour for two.
Rates: Double rooms from £643.14 (â‚¬750), excluding tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of â‚¬3.50 per person per night on check-out. Rates generally exclude breakfast (an American or Tuscan spread for â‚¬15).
Huka Lodge, Lake Taupo, New Zealand
As winner of the Above and Beyond category last year in the Smith Hotel Awards, Huka Lodge couldn’t avoid being on our list (our wish list that is). This heritage hotel has come a long way from its 1920s roots as a simple fishing lodge. Nestled away on the banks of the roaring Waikato River, you’ll find yourself surrounded by lush, green grounds near the cascading Huka Falls.
Don’t worry though, for those of you eager to go angling, it’s still a top fishing destination in addition to a ski-lover’s home away from home with the North Island’s premier volcanic slopes only a short hop away. Hospitality is second to none here, where personal attention from a friendly and able team of staff goes without saying, and contributes to creating a sense of intimacy without obtrusion which remains unmatched by other retreats. If you’re lucky enough to bag the Alan Pye cottage, an artsy hideaway, take advantage of your infinity pool and stone pavilion. Oh, did we mention there’s also a private chef and butler?
Smith Extra: Lunch for two including a bottle of NZ house wine, either within the Lodge or as a picnic.
Rates: Double rooms from £888.04 (NZD1,590), excluding tax at 15 per cent. Rates include breakfast, apà©ritifs, dinner and local airport transfers.
Whatever you need, Foxhill Manor staff will make it happen. When it comes to requests, anything goes (anything legal, that is), so let your inner diva shine. With just eight bedrooms, you’re guaranteed all the attention you crave, be it calling up at 4am for a midnight snack (or, ahem, three course meal), organising wellies for a lunchtime picnic stroll, or a little quiet time at the nearby Dormy House spa. If it’s privacy you’re after, it’s privacy you’ll get as you stroll in the hotel’s 400 acres, sip champagne whilst taking in the surrounding rolling valley views, or nestle down with a bowl of complimentary popcorn whilst catching up on your favourite blockbuster in the home cinema room, decked out with kitsch comic book wallpaper. You’ll feel practically at home with a team of on-demand staff to cater to your every need, a kitchen at your beck and call, and perhaps more like a resident of Beverly Hills with the rock-star personal treatment you’ll receive at Foxhill.
Smith Extra: A hot-water bottle handmade in the Cotswolds to take home for each guest.
Rates: Double rooms from £245.83, excluding tax at 20 per cent. Rates include use of the Dormy House spa (and transport there and back), a full breakfast spread of breads and pastries, as well as à la carte options, drinks — alcoholic and soft — and snacks from the trolley and the pantry. Oh, and cake.
Morgan’s Rock Hacienda and Ecolodge, San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua
Tropical tranquility, the perfect setting for eco-friendly indulgence
With 4,000 acres of pristine rainforest and eco-friendly farmland at Morgan’s Rock Hacienda and Ecolodge, you might be forgiven for thinking that ecolodge translates to lower quality service, but you’d be oh-so-wrong. The outdoorsy staff at this natural playground will help you make the very best of all that the wilderness has to offer. Go surfing, take a monkey-spotting or nesting turtle tour, go hunting for shrimp or hop on a horse for a wander. Fancy going further afield? Head to San Juan del Oriente for fabulous ceramics, or to the Mombacho crater for an exhilarating hike. For something a little more soul-searching, salute the sun in the open-air yoga studio, purchase local artisanal handicrafts or gather up eggs from the farm cows. Get ready to wake up to an expansive vista of the wondrous wildlife between the Pacific and Lake Nicaragua, if the gently lapping waves or blissful tropical birdsong don’t rouse you first.
Smith Extra: One free on-site experience for two: breakfast on the farm or horseback riding on the beach.
Rates: Double rooms from £203.63 ($265), excluding tax at 22 per cent. Rates include à la carte breakfast, non-motorised watersports (surfing, kayaking, boogie-boarding and paddle-boarding) and mountain-bike hire.
So who would be your Above and Beyond winner? Can you picture your honeymoon there? Or perhaps you and husband-to-be could sneak in a pre-wedding escape? After all this is the best of the best, so it would be a shame not to try one or two out!
To book, call the Smith24 team toll-free on 800 905 326, or visit Mr & Mrs Smith
Mr & Mrs Smith gets you the best rates, guaranteed, as well as a little something extra on arrival at every hotel.