The 50 Best IN SEARCH OF SOME SERIOUS LUXURY

Some are simply places to stay; others are so special that they justify a trip away all by themselves. So, with the help of a panel who know a thing or two about room service, Kate Mikhail and Charlotte Packer have tracked down the 50 finest hotels around the world
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The Independent Culture
10 best boutique hotels

10 best romantic retreats

10 best for celebrity-spotting

10 best country-house hotels

10 best island hideaways

THE EXPERTS

l Bill Colegrave is the director of Cadogan Books plc, which publishes both Special Honeymoon Hotels, a guide to great hotels of the world, and the Everyman Guides series.

l Vicki Davis is a much-travelled interiors writer, and the partner of designer and restaurateur Terence Conran; they have co-written Terence Conran on Restaurants, which will be published next year.

l Sarah Miller is the editor of Conde Nast Traveller, the magazine for discerning travellers.

l Helen Pipins is the travel editor of Wallpaper* magazine, which specialises in interiors, design and fashion from around the world.

Our thanks to them all.

1

MONTALAMBERT, PARIS

Once rather shabby, the Montalambert is now run by Grace Leo Andrieu, who is also behind The Lancaster. The interior, by Christian Liagre, is praised by Vicki Davis for its "charming combination of modernisation and tradition". Some of the rooms contain old furniture, while others are completely modern. Bathrooms are tiny but well laid out. The attic rooms have beautiful views of Paris and the Eiffel Tower. The hotel itself is in an excellent location for Left Bank galleries and shopping.

Where: 3 Rue de Montalambert, 75007 Paris, France (00 33 1 45 49 68 68). How much: rooms from pounds 190 per night; suites from pounds 430.

BAGAWAN GIRI, BALI

This exceptional hotel in an idyllic location is expected to open any day now, and will, Bill Colegrave predicts, be one of the most talked-about hotels of 1999/2000. "It consists of five little hotels, each with five or six rooms. Each hotel is decorated in a different style, chosen to represent the spirit-life of Bali. They are built to the highest possible specifications, and are surrounded by water."

Where: Bagawan Giri Estate, PO Box 54, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia (00 62 0361 97888). How much: four-bedroom suites from pounds 1,430; individual suites within the residences from pounds 286.

3

CARCOSA SERI NEGARA, KUALA LUMPUR

Perched on a hill overlooking Kuala Lumpur, the Carcosa Seri Negara consists of two mansions set within landscaped gardens, originally built as the Governor's mansion when Malaysia was part of the British Empire. This is where all prime ministers or presidents stay when in Malaysia; indeed, the Queen stayed here on a recent trip. It is, according to Bill Colgrave, "British colonial elegance at its best".

Where: Taman Tasek Pardana, S0480 KL, Malaysia (00 603 282 1888). How much: suites from pounds 198.

4

CHATEAU DE BAGNOLS, BEAUJOLAIS, FRANCE

This is the the renowned Aman group's only country-house hotel, and, with just 20 rooms, retains an exclusive country retreat air. "You enter via a draw bridge and discover an interior of fireplaces and wall paintings, ornate four-poster beds and not a chintzy coverlet in sight," recalls Sarah Miller. Vicki Davis describes it as an "impeccably restored and refurbished ancient chateau." Colgrave regards it as the "classiest" of the country-house hotels.

Where: 69620 Bagnols, France (0800 181 535). How much: doubles from pounds 237; suites from pounds 323.

5

LE TOINY, CARIBBEAN

Architecturally, Le Toiny is influenced by the old plantation houses of Martinique and Guadeloupe, while the interior features rare, native gaiac wood. This is a "swish, top-notch, luxury hotel" according to Sarah Miller, with "spacious and gracious" houses, each with their own private swimming pool. "It is ritzy and expensive; the kind of hotel that models from a Ralph Lauren advert would frequent," she says.

Where: St Barthelemy, French West Indies (00 590 27 88 88). How much: suites from pounds 330.

6

COSTES, PARIS

Once a dull hotel for sales reps, Costes has been reborn as "something quite extraordinary, and really rather funky," according to Vicki Davis. "It is filled with eccentric Victoriana, over-stuffed sofas, brocades and flock wallpaper, and has hugely popular bars and dining rooms. All the beautiful people hang out there, and there is a fabulous courtyard for summer dining. It is also conveniently central for that area of Paris."

Where: 239 Rue Saint-Honore, 7500 Paris, France (00 33 1 42 44 50 00). How much: singles from pounds 188; doubles from pounds 215; suites from pounds 539.

7

AMANDARI, BALI

Described by Vicki Davis as a "sublime Balinese village", the Amandari is perched on an escarpment high above the Ayung river gorge, just five minutes from the Ubud art colony. With its own pavilion, pool and delightful views over rice paddies and greenery, this is Vicki Davis's favourite of all the hotels in the renowned Aman group. Bill Colegrave believes that, for its "gracious elegance and perfect service, Amandari can claim to be the most beautiful hotel in Asia."

Where: Ubud, Bali, Indonesia (00 62 361 975 333). How much: singles & doubles from pounds 312.

8

PARK HYATT, JAPAN

Anyone who is anyone visiting Tokyo stays here: famously discreet and very luxurious, the Park Hyatt is, according to Vicki Davis, the best city hotel in the world. Perched 42 floors up, on top of Shinjuku Tower, it's "discreet, elegant, beautiful and fully functional. There is a fabulous health club with a swimming pool, and the restaurant is seminal Japanese." Helen Pipins agrees. She recommends the view from the grill, and declares the gym "amazing". This is also Issy Miyake's favourite hotel.

Where: 3-7-1-2 Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 163-10 Japan (00 813 5322 1234). How much: doubles from pounds 238; suites from pounds 416.

9

INVERLOCHY CASTLE, UK

Inverlochy is set in stunning Highland landscape on the edge of a loch. "Lots of Hollywood stars stay here when rediscovering their ancestral roots," reveals Sarah Miller. "It is perfect for a long weekend, with plenty of healthy walks around the estate." Bill Colgrave describes it as "a huge baronial castle beneath the shadow of Ben Nevis. This is the place to stay in the Highlands. Queen Victoria loved it."

Where: Torlundy, Fort William (01397 702177). How much: singles pounds 180; doubles pounds 290; suites pounds 390.

10

SA PEDRISSA, MAJORCA

Sa Pedrissa, on the beautiful, unspoilt northern Va Lldemossa Deia coast, dates back to the 16th century, and has recently been renovated in traditional Majorcan style. Described by Sarah Miller as a "fabulous six-roomed finca, with spectacular views over Deia bay", it is still not very well known, so sometimes you end up with the whole place to yourself.

Where: Carretera, Va Lldemossa Deia, 07179 Deia, Majorca, Baleares (00 349 71 63 91 11). How much: singles from pounds 85; doubles from pounds 149; suites pounds 179. THE FITZWILLIAM, DUBLIN

Constructed on the site of an old cinema, The Fitzwilliam, designed by Sir Terence Conran, is the newest hotel in Dublin. "It is in a superb location, on St Stephen's Green, with a calm, modern interior. The architecture is in sympathy with the surrounding buildings, and it has lovely big bedrooms and bathrooms. There's also a wonderful sense of space, which is quite unusual for an hotel in Dublin," says Vicki Davis. Additional attractions include the Peacock Alley restaurant, which is already highly acclaimed.

Where: The Fitzwilliam, St Stephen's Green, Dublin (00 353 1 478 7000). How much: singles from pounds 171; doubles from pounds 190; suites from pounds 292.

12

FOUR SEASONS RESORT HOTEL AT SAYAN, BALI

This is the smallest member of the Four Seasons group, and reputedly one of the best hotels of the moment. "Truly romantic," declares Helen Pipins. "It is built over paddy fields. Guests enter the hotel by crossing a bridge, then descend into the main building. Everything reflects the sound of water, and at night it looks as though a space ship has landed - modern in the nicest way."

Where: Banja, Kutuh, Sayan Ubud, Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia (00 62 361 977 577). How much: doubles from pounds 225; suites from pounds 256.

13

FOUR SEASONS, NEW YORK

According to Vicki Davis, the Four Seasons in New York is "the place for spacious comfort, and the restaurant is marvellous for people-watching." Helen Pipins was impressed with the rooms, and recalls that the bathrooms on the top floor have views over New York. "If you can get it, the penthouse will win you friends for life!" she says.

Where: 57 East 57th Street, New York 10022, USA (001 212 758 5700). How much: singles from pounds 292; doubles from pounds 334; suites from pounds 632.

14

PALAZZO VIVIANI, ITALY

Owned by Italian fashion designer Alberta Ferretti, this four-star castle is actually in a hilltop hamlet, near the Adriatic coast. It comes highly recommended by Sarah Miller, who suggests that guests eat either al fresco on the terrace or in one of the four restaurants. "Its classic setting is enhanced by the fact that there are no cars and the whole village has been renovated."

Where: Via Roma, 3847837, Montegridolfo, Italy (00 390 541 855 350). How much: singles pounds 48; doubles pounds 70; suites from pounds 106.

15

AMANPULO, PHILIPPINES

This hotel is considered one of the great Aman resorts. It is owned by Adrian Zecha, praised by Sarah Miller as a "hotelier par excellence", and combines "minimalism with comfort". "The attention to detail is superb. You look out from your rooms over an incredible sea." Helen Pipins could not be more enthusiastic about Amanpulo: "It is a place to die for."

Where: Pamalican Island, Philippines (0800 181 535). How much: deluxe hillside suites pounds 361; beach-front casita from pounds 452.

16

L'HOTEL, PARIS

"The original boutique hotel," says Bill Colegrave. "L'Hotel had been going strong long before places like Blake's were around. It has around 30 rooms, all of which radiate off a circular stairwell. Some are really tiny but very pretty, and the beds have enormous duvets and piles of cushions." L'Hotel has a rich history, and is well known in Paris, not least because it was here that Oscar Wilde died.

Where: 13 Rue des Beaux Arts, 75006 Paris, France (00 33 1 43 25 27 22). How much: around pounds 65-pounds 237 low season; pounds 97-pounds 323 mid season; pounds 108-388 high season.

17

CIPRIANI, VENICE

One of the 11 great hotels on the celebrated Orient Express route, the Cipriani is described by Bill Colegrave as "the best and most expensive hotel in Venice". His reason for including the Cipriani on the "romantic" list is due to its location on the Giudecca, which offers amazing views of Venice. "The Cipriani is at the heart of the Venetian Lagoon, and surely the view from the balconies - of the Lido, San Giorgio, San Marco - is as beautiful and romantic as any that Europe has to offer; simply magnificent and peaceful."

Where: Giudecca 10, 30133 Venice, Italy (00 39 041 520 77 44). How much: singles from pounds 248; doubles from pounds 362; suites from pounds 768.

18

CHELSEA HOTEL, NEW YORK

The infamous Chelsea remains popular despite being rather rundown. "Although it is hardly a hotel, and somewhat faded nowadays," says Bill Colgrave, "it has that history of interesting people having gone there." Helen Pipins agrees that it's not as it once was, but deserves to be included for its past, and adds: "It's tatty and cool."

Where: 22 West 23rd Street, 10011 New York, USA (001 212 243 3700). How much: singles from pounds 90; doubles from pounds 105; suites from pounds 172.

19

LA FRATERIA DI PADRE ELIGIO, ITALY

This converted monastery is said to be the complete opposite to the grand, and better known, Villa Saint Michaele, just outside Florence. La Frateria, which dates from 1212, "is simplicity itself," according to Sarah Miller, "with a lovely courtyard and delicious, simple food. It is a treat for people who want to avoid phones, faxes, radios and other 20th-century intrusions."

Where: Convento, Srancensco, 53040, Cetona, Italy (00 390 578 238015). How much: doubles pounds 117; suites pounds 154.

20

MNEMBA LODGE, ZANZIBAR

If you're looking for "incredible luxury", this hotel, just off the coast of Zanzibar, is clearly the place to go. The lodge is made up of 10 little palm-matted cottages with mosquito nets, and "makes you really feel like a castaway," says Sarah Miller. "The hotel is the only one on the island, which is unsurprising since it takes only 25 minutes to walk round the whole of Mnemba." Boats are provided to transport guests to their rooms.

Where: Zanzibar (00255 5433110); e-mail: mnemba@conscorp.com. How much: singles pounds 451, doubles around pounds 300 per person, including meals, drinks and water.

21

DAS TRIEST, VIENNA

Das Triest is a "Chinese box," says Vicki Davis: hidden behind the small facade is an enormous, historic courtyard. "This a beautiful, calm, modern hotel. Some of the rooms are in the stable block, some are very quirky and different with odd-shaped windows and sloping ceilings, others are very modern. It is all extremely well done." She also praises the management as "really, really good", and declares the restaurant "excellent".

Where: 12 Wiener Hauptstrasse, 1040 Vienna, Austria (00431 589 180). How much: singles from pounds 113; doubles pounds 144; suites pounds 190-pounds 329.

22

SAN PIETRO, POSITANO

Perched on cliffs above the picturesque little town of Positano, on the Amalfi coast, "San Pietro is so discreet, you'd hardly notice that it's there," according to Bill Colegrave. "The rooms are some of the most beautiful in Europe. You can lie in your marble bath and gaze 300ft down, straight onto the Mediterranean and your own private beach." San Pietro is also renowned for its restaurant.

Where: Via Laurito 2, 84017, Positano, Italy (00 39 089 87 54 55). How much: singles from pounds 230; doubles from pounds 238; suites from pounds 330. LA COLOMBE D'OR, NICE

Once favoured by the jet-set of the 1950s and 1960s, La Colombe d'Or still attracts a regular crowd of stars. "This is a marvellous place, definitely a celebrity draw. It's almost a museum because it's filled with the most beautiful paintings and sculptures," says Bill Colgrave.

Where: Place de General de Gaulle, St Paul de Vence, France (00 33 4 93 32 80 02). How much: singles & doubles from pounds 145, suites pounds 275. NB: closed till 19 Dec.

24

HUKA LODGE, NEW ZEALAND

Although not a country-house hotel in the true sense, this peaceful haven, where the Queen goes to get away from it all, is certainly worthy of inclusion as it is rated highly by all who stay. The lodge, which has just 20 guest suites, is tucked away in the middle of nowhere on seven hectares of land. "The only noise," says Sarah Miller, "is from the Walkato river, which is very good for trout fishing."

Where: Huka Falls Road, PO Box 95, Taupo, New Zealand (0800 964470). How much: singles pounds 268; doubles pounds 399; suites from pounds 399.

25

ELOUNDA BEACH HOTEL & RESORT, CRETE

Sarah Miller says this is the perfect place for a weekend away from it all. "This upmarket, modern resort is somewhere you can just flop on the beach or indulge in a variety of watersports: a charming, child-friendly place." Helen Pipins was struck by the royal suites, which come with private butler, while other suites have their own indoor heated pools. "There's also excellent sports facilities, which almost makes it a retreat" A good exchange rate means the hotel is inexpensive for what it is.

Where: 2053 Elounda, Crete (00 308 414 1434). How much: singles pounds 142; doubles pounds 151 per person; suites from pounds 284 for two people. NB: closed till 23 March.

26

THE ROYALTON, NEW YORK

The Royalton is another faded old hotel enjoying a resurgence of popularity due to a recent revamp. It has become a great place for watching the media moguls at work - lots of power-lunching and schmoozing goes on here. Vicki Davis recommends the hotel for its "quirky, popular bar" (excellent cocktails), which, like the rest of the hotel, was designed by Philippe Starck. The rooms are best described as "futuristic".

Where: 44 West 44th Street, New York 10036, USA (001 212 869 4400). How much: singles pounds 210; doubles pounds 232; suites from pounds 331.

27

CHATEAU DE LA TREYNE, LOT

Each room is carefully decorated by the owners, and contains many personal artefacts, lending the hotel a warm and homely feel. Meals are served by candlelight, and there is often music in the evenings. Bill Colegrave describes the Chateau as "the classic small-chateau hotel, converted by the original owners from a private residence, perched above a long sweep of the River Lot."

Where: 46200 Lacave, Lot, France (00 33 565 276 060).

How much: singles & doubles from pounds 80, suite pounds 200.

28

THE MONDRIAN, HOLLYWOOD

This all-white hotel, designed by Philippe Starck and owned by Ian Schrager, has a giant entrance with towering doors. Its LA location makes it a favourite with business types and trendier elements - "very much the hip and well- connected, with a few film types and not many people over 50," says Helen Pipins. "The breakfast room has a really long table. It's fantastic, very cool, and all the chairs are different, quite quirky."

Where: 8440 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069, USA (001 213 650 8999). How much: doubles from pounds 180; suites from pounds 364.

29

OUSTAU DE BEAUMANIERE, PROVENCE

Oustau de Beaumaniere, a Relais & Chateau hotel in the hilltop village of Les Beaux, Provence, is virtually a village in its own right. "The hotel has several buildings dotted down the Val d'Enfer," explains Vicki Davis. "They've all been sympathetically modernised and refurbished by Michelle Halard. And there is a sumptuously glamorous restaurant."

Where: Oustau de Beaumaniere, Les Beaux, Provence, France (00 33 4 90 54 33 07).

How much: rooms from pounds 140, suites from pounds 222.

30

LA SCALINATELLA, CAPRI

"Slightly Moorish in style, this is the charming little sister of the more famous Quisisana," says Sarah Miller, and lunch at the poolside is not to be missed. "It is a great experience on an island that can often be overwhelmingly crowded. And it's not too far on foot to find good trattorias for dinner."

Where: Tragara, 80073 Capri, Italy (00 39 081 837 5812). How much: doubles pounds 256; suites from pounds 278.

31

THE MERCER, NEW YORK

The Mercer is ultra-trendy, super-cool, and, according to Vicki Davis, "a wonderful haven of calm in manic SoHo. It has beautiful Christian Liagre interiors and a great Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant." Helen Pipins is a fan because "it's new and hot" - so much so that the likes of Leonardo di Caprio and John Rocha stay here.

Where: 147 Mercer Street, SoHo, New York, USA (001 212 965 3800). How much: singles from pounds 195; doubles from pounds 210; suites from pounds 527.

32

MAKANDA BY THE SEA, QUEPOS, COSTA RICA

Situated on the stunning Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Makanda by the Sea offers views of some of the most spectacular sunsets. "This hotel is not at all well known, but the Pacific coast is supremely beautiful, and the jungle comes straight down to the water," says Bill Colegrave. The hotel is actually six houses, all of which are open at the front, with no walls, permitting guests to gaze out across the Pacific. "You share the view with toucans and parakeets. It is the finest place that I found in Costa Rica, and Costa Rica is a class place to go." Where: PO Box 29 Quepos, Costa Rica (00 506 777 0442). How much: rooms from pounds 66; suites from pounds 90.

33

PALACE HOTEL, ST MORITZ

"This has always gone out of its way to attract stars. It actually wants to be known as a `star hotel'," says Bill Colgrave. "St Moritz is a great old capital of winter sports, and there is lots of snobbery and expense in this part of the Alps. But this is a great place, in a fine spot."

Where: St Moritz, Switzerland (00 41 81 837 1000). How much: singles from pounds 268; doubles from pounds 537; suites from pounds 1,115.

34

GAZELLE D'OR, MOROCCO

"There are only around six or eight really beautiful hotels in Morocco, and this is as good as it gets," says Bill Colgrave. "It is English country- house style on the edge of the desert. The bedrooms are beautiful, and there are marvellous mosaics on the floors, and fine Moroccan cooking." Helen Pipins sums it up as being "the hotel from heaven".

Where: Taroudannt, Morocco (00 212 885 2039). How much: cottage for one from pounds 198, for two from pounds 246; suites from pounds 282. LITTLE DIX BAY, CARIBBEAN

This remote, secluded hotel is situated right on the beach, with complementary water taxis to ferry guests to other private beaches nearby. It is a "glitzy Caribbean luxury" hotel, according to Sarah Miller, frequented by movie and fashion moguls. "There's fabulous snorkelling, white sands, and rooms overlooking the beach - a frangipani-scented paradise, which is surprisingly good for children."

Where: The Valley, Virgin Gorda, PO Box 70, British Virgin Islands, Caribbean (001 284 495 5555). How much: pounds 150-pounds 195, depending on season.

36

THE CLARENCE, DUBLIN

The Clarence, owned by Bono, is where any self-respecting rock star stays when in Dublin. "It is rock-starry in an austere way," says Vicki Davis. "The Clarence is best described as `modern austerity meets comfort'. The arts-and-crafts interior, with lots of pale oak, looks almost like a Methodist chapel, but it is very comfortable." On the room front, she recommends the suite on the roof, which is "fabulous, with views of the city". There is also a popular bar and restaurant.

Where: 6-8 Wellington Quay, Dublin 2 (00 353 1 670 9000). How much: doubles from pounds 158, suites from pounds 360.

37

HOTEL IM PALAIS SCHWARZENBERG, VIENNA

The summer palace of the Schwarzenberg Princes since 1716, the Hotel Im Palais is set within 19 landscaped acres filled with rosebeds, fountains and statues. "This Baroque palace still feels like an 18th-century private house," says Vicki Davis. "It has marvellous gardens; very Tales of the Vienna Woods."

Where: 9 Schwarzenbergerplatz, 1030 Vienna, Austria (00 43 1 79 84 5150). How much: singles from pounds 154; doubles from pounds 175; suites from pounds 370.

38

CARLYLE, NEW YORK

"The Carlyle, NYC, could also be in the romantic category." says Vicki Davis. "But it is stiff with old stars of stage and screen, as well as captains of industry and politicos."

Where: 35 East 76th Street, New York, USA (001 212 744 1600). How much: singles & doubles from pounds 390; suites pounds 722.

39

LOWER SLAUGHTER MANOR, UK

This 17th-century listed manor, a popular venue for business conferences, boasts a famous cream-panelled drawing room plus a galleried landing overlooking the garden and 15th-century dovecote. Sarah Miller describes it as "very, very English, with charming, chintzy rooms, four-poster beds, and plenty of beautiful countryside to walk in."

Where: Lower Slaughter, Cheltenham (01451 820456). How much: singles pounds 135; doubles pounds 150; suites pounds 300.

40

BURGH ISLAND, UK

Built at the end of the 1920s, this hotel is open all year round except for January. It is a popular place for a full-on country-house weekends with cocktails and dressing for dinner. When the tide rolls in, Burgh Island is cut off from the mainland, and guests arrive by giant sea tractor. "The whole island, apart from a pub, is the hotel," says Bill Colgrave. "It was built in the Thirties in the Odeon style, and is a real Deco experience."

Where: Bigbury-on-Sea, Kingsbridge, South Devon (01548 810 514). How much: suites from pounds 104 per person.

41

LA PUERTECITA, MEXICO

La Puertecita has only 18 rooms and six suites. The entrance hall is filled with the sound of trickling water from the fountains, and the hotel is known for its remarkable stained-glass windows and period furniture. Helen Pipins recommends La Puertecita for its overall ambience: "I love it as a place to escape to. The beds have hand-woven throws, there is a library, music rooms, and fantastic home cooking - it feels like someone's private house."

Where: Santa Domingo 75, San Miguel de Allende GTO, Mexico (00 52 415 21015). How much: rooms from pounds 66, suites from pounds 87.

42

HOTEL CRILLON, PARIS

Although Paris has many marvellous hotels, our panel was full of praise for the gilt splendour of the Crillon. Vicki Davis recommends taking a suite in "the grenier, for charming luxury", and says of the restaurant, Les Ambassadeurs, that it has "one of the most elegant dining rooms in the world". For Helen Pipins, the Crillon's location is enough: "It's situated on the Place de la Concorde, which speaks for itself." The guest rooms were decorated by French fashion designer Sonia Rykiel.

Where: 10 Place de la Concorde, 75008 Paris (00 33 1 44 71 15 00). How much: singles from pounds 318; doubles from pounds 394; suites from pounds 529.

43

BEL AIR, LA

The Bel Air just oozes Hollywood glamour, and is the regular haunt of Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson and countless other names from the Hollywood A- list. "This place glitters, and has a bar that reeks of money and deals being made," says Helen Pipins. Lush gardens with fountains and pools are perfect for strolling, cocktail in hand, while keeping an eye out for passing stars. Every room is different, and some have tiny, private gardens.

Where: 701 Stone Canyon, Los Angeles, USA (001 310 472 1211). How much: singles pounds 195; doubles pounds 210; suites pounds 390.

44

HOTEL PALACIO DE SETEAIS, PORTUGAL

Based on a former national palace, the Hotel Palcio de Seteais has been the summer home of generations of Portuguese kings. This mansion hotel has 30 rooms and "incredible formal gardens, tapestries, frescos," according to Sarah Miller. It also has tennis and riding facilities, and an outdoor pool, which is unusual in Portugal.

Where: Rue Parque, Sintra, Portugal (00 351 1 923 3200). How much: singles pounds 135; doubles from pounds 140; suites pounds 180.

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45

LAKE PALACE HOTEL, UDAIPUR

This famous hotel appears to float in the middle of Udaipur's Pichola Lake. It was built two centuries ago by the Maharana Jagat Singh II on a tiny rocky island, which is now totally masked by the ornate white hotel. "There is no land visible at all, just the hotel," says Bill Colgrave. "And the building rises Venetian-like straight out of the water." Guests bob across to the hotel in small boats.

Where: Pichola Lake, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India (00 91 294 527 961). How much: singles pounds 115; doubles pounds 126; single suites pounds 141; double suites pounds 148.

46

SEVEN ONE SEVEN, AMSTERDAM

This discreet, canal-side hotel, with its cosy library in which guests can settle down with a drink and a book, has a club-like air and excellent service. With only seven rooms, most of which are suites, it is the ultimate boutique set-up. Helen Pipins says just the thought of it "makes me want to go there immediately". If you book the whole hotel, its owner, Kees van de Valk, will either provide antipasti or cook a relaxed evening meal for the party.

Where: Prinsegracht 1017 GW Amsterdam (00 31 20 427 0717). How much: pounds 176-pounds 305.

47

THE DATAI-LANGKAWI, MALAYSIA

A coastal hideaway in the rain forest on a Malaysian island, the Datai-Langkawi was modelled on an Aman resort, in teak, marble and stone. The central swimming pool is real lounge- lizard paradise, and there are great views over the sea from the restaurant. Guests don't usually stray far from their bedroom bungalows. Better still, it is, as far as Bill Colegrave is concerned, "possibly the best value of any great hotel in the world."

Where: Salan Teluk Datai, 07000 Pulau, Langkawi, Malaysia (0181-563 2100). How much: from pounds 150; suites from pounds 160.

48

DELANO, MIAMI

Although situated within Miami's famous Art Deco district, this hotel is not just a nostalgic throw-back. Designed by Philippe Starck for Ian Schrager, Vicki Davis regards the Delano as "seminal Starck". White, white and yet more white surrounds you, and one of its greatest features is the swimming pool, referred to as the Water Salon. The upstairs bar is a great place for cocktails.

Where: Miami Beach, Florida, USA (00 1305 672 2000).

How much: rooms (all doubles) from pounds 187; suites from pounds 437; bungalows pounds 482.

49

SCHOLTESHOF, BELGIUM

This glorious 18th-century farmhouse is surrounded by a 28-acre garden in which the hotel chef grows his vegetables and herbs. "Visit this hotel for a gastronomic weekend," urges Sarah Miller, "The place is very much geared to the theatre of food."

Where: Kermistraat 130, 3512, Stevoort-Hasselt, Belgium

(00 32 11 250202).

How much: doubles pounds 102; suites from pounds 149.

50

SONEVA FUSHI, MALDIVES

This hotel is a favourite with honeymooners. "It is a complete hideaway in the Indian Ocean," says Sarah Miller, "luxurious but also very Robinson Crusoe." It has thatched roofs and excellent diving and snorkelling possibilities. Helen Pipins says she found it "barefoot luxury. Ties need not apply, and shoes should be left at home. The service," she adds, "is brilliant."

Where: c/o Bunny Holdings, Maldives (01296 660800).

How much: doubles from pounds 150; villas from pounds 229.

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