Treebones Resort in California, USA. Photo by Ryuji Morishita.
Review: Treebones Resort in California, USA
Leave your tent at home. Naomi Jaul finds the great American wilderness, Big Sur, has a surprising accommodation option.
Under the LA stars, the Chamberlain hotel in West Hollywood.
Review: Chamberlain, West Hollywood
After 13 hours in the air, weary traveller Laura Greaves checks in early, eager to soak up the understated glamour of this Hollywood hotel. Arriving in LA The best thing about flying from Sydney to Los Angeles is that you arrive the same day you left.   The worst thing is that the tyranny of timing means flights from Australia land at LAX at the crack of dawn.   With most hotels refusing to check guests in until late afternoon, weary travellers have limited options.   You could book your hotel room from the day before your arrival – sure, you’ll pay for a night’s accommodation you won’t really use, but at least you’ll enjoy transiting straight from the airport to bed.   Alternatively, you can opt to shuffle the L.A streets in a sleep-deprived state, with suitcases in tow, until your room is ready. Appealing, no?   I’m not particularly good company when I’m fatigued – just ask my husband – so I decide to look for a third option: a hotel with an early check-in facility.   An expat Aussie friend working in film in L.A suggests the Chamberlain West Hollywood; she’s been put up there by studios and loves its understated glamour and quiet setting.   The fact that they’ll check us in at 7:00am seals the deal – I don’t even mind paying an extra $75 for the privilege. (Although, as it turns out, L.A’s notoriously horrific traffic conspires against us and we don’t arrive until almost lunchtime. Sigh.) Location The Chamberlain is tucked away in a leafy residential street, in between Santa Monica and Sunset boulevards. While this means no on-site parking (valet is available), the location is attractive and, indeed, whisper-quiet.   Acid-tongued writer Dorothy Parker may have dismissed Los Angeles as "72 suburbs in search of a city", but West Hollywood is surely the pick of those suburbs.   There’s an array of restaurants and bars within easy walking distance of the Chamberlain, and the famous Sunset Strip is just a five-minute stroll away; it’s uphill, but the stunning views and chic cocktail bars at the top are well worth the brief hike. The boutiques of   Melrose Avenue and North Robertson Boulevard are just a little further afield – still walkable, but perhaps not in heels. The lobby and bistro The Chamberlain’s lobby is an Instagrammer’s paradise. From the tessellated tile floors and mirrored walls to the low lighting and 1920s furniture, this is chic ‘Old Hollywood’ writ large. [caption id="attachment_1529" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Chamberlain West Hollywood[/caption] I almost expect to see Grace Kelly checking in next to me.   Off the lobby, Chamberlain’s Bistro is another funky little enclave. It offers imaginative cocktails and a solid menu courtesy of executive chef Emilio Noselotl.   But I can’t help feeling the eatery’s out-of-the-way location does it a disservice; it’s virtually empty every time we visit. The room The Golden Age glamour continues in our Deluxe Suite. Designed by L.A interiors guru David McCauley, our 33 square-metre digs blend a low-key colour palette with rich accents of gold, dark chocolate and bronze.   The king bed is one of the most comfortable I’ve ever had the pleasure of sleeping on; maybe it’s the luxe SFERRA linens. [caption id="attachment_1526" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Twin room, Chamberlain, West Hollywood[/caption] The compact bathroom takes me to another era: Art-Deco-meets-‘80s-excess punch, with chrome fixtures and lots of marble. I would have liked more storage space here – the sink is bijoux to say the least, and there’s nowhere to stash my toiletries.   While the ‘separate living area’ isn’t really separate at all – it’s merely divided from the bedroom by a banister and a step – it is a lovely, cosy space. There’s a vast plasma screen TV and even a fireplace, activated by remote control, of course. Rooftop pool bar The suite also has a small balcony, but the view of neighbouring apartment buildings is uninspiring. And besides, if it’s panoramic vistas you want, the Chamberlain’s rooftop pool bar is the place to be. [caption id="attachment_1527" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Under the LA sun, Chamberlain, West Hollywood[/caption] With its plush sun lounges and private cabanas, an impressive menu and 360-degree views of the City of Angels… it’s easy to while away entire days here enjoying a taste of the Golden Age's old Hollywood lifestyle – like I'm in my very own episode of Entourage. The Details   Chamberlain West Hollywood, 1000 Westmount Drive, West Hollywood, Los Angeles, +1 310 657 7400. The IT verdict   Laura Greaves, who paid her own way, says: “The Chamberlain West Hollywood offers all the amenities and services of a big hotel with the style and character of a boutique establishment. The location is hard to beat and the ‘Old Hollywood’ vibe makes it a perfect base for exploring LaLa Land.” Notes   Laura paid $AU360, including taxes plus an early check-in fee ($AU75) for a Deluxe Suite.
Sonia poses for the mandatory Empire State Building classic shot.
Sonia Kruger rediscovers New York
Sonia Kruger has been to New York dozens of times as a television presenter, but returning as a traveller she discovers a city she didn’t know.
Shady Dell boutique accommodation in Bisbee Arizona.
Review: Shady Dell, Bisbee Arizona
Enamoured with experiencing a bygone era, Jo Stewart heads to the Shady Dell to bed down in a Polynesian-themed bus from the post-war glory days of auto travel.
Auberge Saint-Antoine hotel in Quebec, Canada.
Review: Auberge Saint-Antoine, Quebec
Quebec City is a treasure trove of fabulous hotels. Each one is slightly different but there is only one that is universally acclaimed as unrivalled, the Auberge Saint-Antoine. Reviewed by Quentin Long.
Venetian Palazzo Resort Las Vegas features gondolas around the hotel
Review: Venetian-Palazzo Resort, Las Vegas
What do you get when you cross the city of Venice with the extravagance of Palazzo Versace, then plonk them both in the Nevada desert? Either the best or worst of two worlds colliding. Mark Juddery went to Vegas to find out which. Background Las Vegas’ five-star Venetian-Palazzo Resort promotes itself as the world’s largest resort, and if you discount natural features like beaches – which tend to expand resort properties – that claim appears to be true. [caption id="attachment_464" align="alignnone" width="1000"] The lobby fountain at the Venetian Palazzo Resort[/caption] The Venetian was huge when it opened in 1999, and it now has 4027 suites.   The addition of the adjoining Palazzo in 2008 meant another 3066 suites, many of them with three or more TVs, fully stocked work centres, and all-marble bathrooms with TVs of their own (in case the ones in the living area weren’t enough).   Sure, it is grand opulence – at a remarkably good price – but would staying in one of these suites truly make you happy? Answer: who cares? If I want spiritual fulfilment, I’ll go to Tibet. The room For those looking for meaningless thrills, nobody does glitz quite like Vegas – and while the exterior of this resort is indeed garish, the suites themselves are designed more tastefully than you might expect. [caption id="attachment_461" align="alignnone" width="1000"] There's no shortage of glamorous touches in guest rooms at the Venetian Palazzo Resort[/caption] In my room (like many, though not all, of the others), the generous sleeping area was linked by a few steps to a “downstairs” work/living-room zone big enough for a cocktail party. Facilities In a resort this size, the huge lobby occasionally resembles a particularly well-decorated airport ticket counter, though the cheerful staff now has it down to a fine art, ensuring that – if you’re happy to carry your own bags – you’ll be in your room before you know it. Just go through the casino (see how this works?) to the elevators. [caption id="attachment_465" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Tao Lounge at the Venetian Palazzo Resort[/caption] Other hotel facilities are generally very impressive. The Canyon Ranch SpaClub offers not just spa and fitness centres, but also physiotherapy, nutrition counselling, gait analysis for runners and the Canyon Ranch Café, a glam health bar.   Only the swimming pools are a letdown, as they’re either decorative, which makes them ill-suited for actual swimming, or open for only a few hours a day – which is fine if you plan to sleep in until lunchtime.   Of course, physical exercise is probably not the most common recreational activity in Vegas, so it is churlish to complain.   Vegas doesn’t have beaches, naturally, but it’s still synonymous with entertainment and misspent adulthood – the scene of countless Hollywood movies and TV shows, showing people having enormous fun gathered around a roulette wheel. Casino The resort’s 9755m2 casino includes 1400 gaming machines and 139 table games, so you have plenty of choice in how to fritter away your money.   For all the clichés, Vegas wouldn’t be so popular for holidays if it only had gambling dens. Visiting for a conference, I ensured that I took part in some of the entertainment on offer, but I didn’t do any of those things your mother would warn you against. Things to do Though I was there for three days, I didn’t gamble, see a drag queen (to my knowledge), watch a tribute show, or get quickly married – by Elvis or anyone else – and only once went to a funky nightclub at the Venetian-Palazzo… when I thought the queue was for the Blue Man Group show. Which explained why I had to show my ID.   Along with the casino, the lower floors of the Venetian-Palazzo are an assortment of boutiques, formidable restaurants (including Wolfgang Puck’s CUT, the Grill at Valentino and the celebrity-magnet TAO Asian Bistro), nightclubs and popular shows. This is the Pentagon of resorts.   You could spend a week here without ever going outside. When I talked about going elsewhere, one of the staff seemed surprised: “Why would you go anywhere else?” She was joking, I think, but she had a point.   The two structures, shooting into the skyline, would upstage every other building anywhere else, but this is The Strip in Vegas, where many buildings are outrageously tall and bright. Picture New York’s Times Square, only less subtle. Reproduced Venice Possibly the most interesting part of the Venetian-Palazzo Resort is… well, Venice. [caption id="attachment_15235" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Gondalas at the Venetian Palazzo Resort Las Vegas[/caption] The Grand Canal Shoppes area reproduces Venice’s Grand Canal, with cobbled walkways, “streetside” cafés and restaurants, street performers and gondoliers who sing “O Solo Mio” and ­other standards in wonderful tenor, making you fall in love with whoever is next to you in the gondola.   Above is a bright blue sky, with pretty white clouds. I did a double-take when I saw this, because it was late afternoon.   In Vegas, even the sky is artificial, though this wide ceiling, covering a wide area, is bizarrely convincing in its mimicry of nature. But Vegas deals in fantasy.   In the real Venice, it occasionally rains; the sky of Vegas’ Grand Canal remains clear and bright, though the lights are dimmed in a timely fashion to provide a romantic, early-evening feel.   The Venetian-Palazzo does fake Venice with aplomb, but does it offer a taste of the real ­Vegas?   In a city where Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty miniatures decorate the main street, where Elvis, Sinatra and the Beatles still perform, authenticity might not be the major selling point.   This is as “real” as anything else in Vegasland. The Details Where? The Palazzo is at 3325 Las Vegas Blvd S. The Venetian is at 3355 Las Vegas Blvd S. +1 702 414 4334 Notes Both hotels offer special packages from $172 per night for a luxury suite, which includes extras and a 20% discount on 60-day advance bookings. Breakfast isn’t included, but the specials allow you discounts at many of the on-location restaurants. These are remarkably good prices for what they offer. Of course, their real profit isn’t in the rooms, but in the casinos, so… best of luck! What’s the gossip? “Over-the-top room décor (multiple flat-screen TVs, sunken living rooms, and mini-bars stocked with everything from champagne to La Belge Chocolatier desserts) belies the eco-friendly construction of [the Palazzo]. With a two-storey fountain gushing in its entry, the 3066-room high-rise resort is a memorable new arrival to the hotel scene.” Travel + Leisure The IT verdict: Mark Juddery, who paid his own way, says: “It’s basically a complete manufactured holiday – the Spice Girls of travel destinations – which is, of course, the archetypal Vegas experience.”

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