Category Archives: Hotels

A Toast to the Views

2016c-view-from-palazzo-magnani-feroniPalazzo Magnani Feroni
Borgo San Frediano, 5
50124 Firenze (FI), Italy

+39 055 2399544
info@florencepalace.it
www.florencepalace.it

As we rest in our richly frescoed room of the Palazzo Magnani Feroni, I study its long history. Oh, the stories these walls could tell us of this elegant residence, a story which began in the 15th century when it was constructed by the Serragli Family. A century later, the palace was divided into two parts which were later reconnected in 1770 when purchased by the extremely wealthy Marquis Ubaldo Feroni. The Feroni renovations included the widening and refurbishment of the courtyard and of the principal stairwell. The ground floor and first-floor apartments underwent extensive redecoration. The spacious areas of the interior of the ground floor were designed to be used as stables, carriageway and storage area for the coaches. In 1821, the Feroni heirs sold the property to the Magnani, a prestigious family who owned important silk looms and paper mills.

Palazzo Magnani Feroni has remained in the same family for over two centuries and in recent years the decision was made to transform their private residence into a luxury residence where today’s guests could experience an aristocratic slice of life in a Renaissance palace. To maintain the palace’s original style, great care was taken to preserve its architectural features while incorporating 21st century comforts. The family’s heritage is evident in the furnishings, tapestries, and portraits on display. The twelve suites are on the three floors of the palace. The staff can arrange a private dinner in your room or on the terrace, a service we took advantage of on our first night, when we enjoyed a simple feast in the privacy of our suite. The sumptuous salon with its magnificent chandelier centered over a banquet table serves as the breakfast room, where offerings are fit for a prince.

But the treasures do not end here. They are simply magnified from the palace’s rooftop terrace where the panoramic views of Florence could easily make you sing for joy in a voice that only you can hear. Hold your wine glass up to a sunset view and drink in the golden light of this Tuscan city.

Read more about my books featuring other lovely hotels and restaurants:

three-italy-book-covers_modificato-1

Italian Wanderlust

ITALY – the Beauty and the Feast

and Rooms with a View.

More about my other books.

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All content on artfulroomswithaview.wordpress.com/, both images and writing, is copyrighted material © Ginda Simpson unless otherwise indicated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this content without express and written permission from Ginda Simpson is prohibited.

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LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

2016c-hotel-pierre-webHotel Pierre
Via De’Lamberti 5
50123 – Firenze

Tel.+39 055 216218
www.hotel-pierre-florence.com
pierre@remarhotels.com

Tucked away on a quiet street off the main pedestrian thoroughfare of Florence is a stately palazzo converted into a hotel several decades ago. By keeping our approach to the sidewalk, we almost missed the simple yet elegant architecture and decor of its facade which welcomes guests to its warm hospitality. But the real selling point is Location, Location, Location. Within a five-minute walk of Hotel Pierre are the key sights of Florence – the Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi, the Palazzo Vecchio, the Duomo, the Porcellino Market, making it easy to come back and forth to the comfort of your room and rest between visits.

The breakfast room is bright, its main colors of melon and dove gray seem to compliment and reflect the buildings that are visible outside its windows. One is the beautifully etched building across the street embellished in an architectural decoration technique known as sgraffiti, in which the design is scratched into the colored surface, exposing the white plaster beneath. The colors of this particular structure are a mauve-brown and white, a visually pleasing effect.

But what isn’t visually pleasing about this city? And the pleasure is in the wandering with no purpose but to enjoy its treasures. At some point, though, it is necessary for the visitor to rest from his travels, thoughts of art and cuisine stilled and bone-weary, drop into a dreamless sleep. Hotel Pierre provides each room with quiet comfort, whether for a quick siesta or a full night of restorative sleep.

And in the early morning, it is tempting to slip away from your hotel to share the deserted streets and squares with the pigeons. Hotel Pierre offers you its immediate neighborhood, beckoning you to savor its delights at leisure. Then simply wander back to your room and ready yourself for their generous breakfast buffet. You will be glad you did.

Read more about my books featuring other lovely hotels and restaurants:

three-italy-book-covers_modificato-1

Italian Wanderlust

ITALY – the Beauty and the Feast

and Rooms with a View.

More about my other books.

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All content on artfulroomswithaview.wordpress.com/, both images and writing, is copyrighted material © Ginda Simpson unless otherwise indicated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this content without express and written permission from Ginda Simpson is prohibited.

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Hotel Continental Saigon – a place of memories

hc 3

Hotel Continental Saigon
132 – 134 Dong Khoi St., Dist 1,
Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam.
(84.8) 38 299 201
http://www.continentalsaigon.com
continentalhotel@vnn.vn

Built in 1880 and named after the Hotel Continental in Paris, the Hotel Continental Saigon is considered one of the city’s architectural monuments, designed in the French style of the era, with thick walls, a tile roof, and spacious public areas for the French elite of the day to gather and relax after a long cruise to the new continent. The thick walls and high ceilings served to relieve the heat of the tropics by making use of the natural elements of wind and light. The exterior of this three-story building is painted the palest of butter yellow with white trim, lending an air of stately elegance, placing it in good company and perfect harmony with the nearby Opera House built in 1898. Refurbishments have been made over the years, but the essential architectural elements have been preserved. In the central courtyard, a large garden was planted with frangipani trees that still blossom today. Here one discovers a true refuge for the soul and a perfect place to have an afternoon tea and late evening aperitif.

During both the Indochina War and the Vietnam War, Hotel Continental became the meeting point for news correspondents, politicians, and businessmen. During the Vietnam War, Time and Newsweek Magazines each used the second floor of the hotel as their Saigon news bureaux. Hotel Continental has always attracted writers, artists, and the social elite as a place to stay or simply meet for cocktails. The hotel plays a prominent part in Graham Greene’s novel, The Quiet American, and was used in the two film adaptations.

The rich history of this hotel and its unfailing beauty keep me company as I sit with my husband in this romantic garden all these years after this hotel was first conceived and built. Indeed, as we sip our coffees flavored with sweetened condensed milk, the staff is busily preparing for a wedding reception that will take place this evening. What a magical setting it will be for the 200 or so guests who will attend. We, however, feel fortunate enough to have this quiet moment to daydream before we head out on foot, to admire several of Ho Chi Minh’s renowned sights of the same period – Notre Dame Cathedral built in 1880 and the City Post Office built in 1891 and still in use today.

As we sat down to an enormously inviting breakfast buffet the following morning, we were amazed that the staff had not left a trace of last night’s wedding reception. The only thing that lingers is the memory of how beautiful the setting was as viewed from our bedroom above the courtyard.

hc 1OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhc 2

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All content on artfulroomswithaview.wordpress.com/, both images and writing, is copyrighted material © Ginda Simpson unless otherwise indicated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this content without express and written permission from Ginda Simpson is prohibited.

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The Governor’s Colonial Dinner in Hue, Vietnam

cd 1

 

La Residence – Hue
5 Le Loi Street,
Hue City,Vietnam
+84 (0)5 43 83 74 75
http://www.la-residence-hue.com/
resa@la-residence-hue.com

 

 

food bWe arrived earlier today in the ancient imperial city of Hue, Vietnam. Dark clouds hover above the facade of La Residence, but the hotel is in a festive mood, with the Christmas holidays just around the corner.  We have planned a special evening – to dine outdoors enjoying what the hotel refers to as “the Governor’s Colonial Dinner.” We go down early to spend some time in the garden, sipping an aperitif. Even at dusk, I can see that the grounds are lush with flowering shrubs and frangipani trees, illuminated with lantern-like fixtures. The song of the cicadas lures us to wandering along the lighted pathways. Fortunately, the skies hold back and we are treated to the experience of dining outdoors in this romantic setting, made even more magical by countless flickering candles placed around the terrace and on our table.

It is a decadent meal of many courses, the portions just the right size and presented like works of art. How masterful is our chef, Dong Hai, who creates such delicacies as Orange Marinated Prawns and Green Papaya Salad with Ginger Dressing. His gallery of dishes, an exquisite fusion of Asian and French cuisine, has us tasting local fish on a Confit of fresh vegetables and a Fine Herbs Salad & Citrus Sabayon. And oh, the “Young Rice Ice Cream with Vietnamese Sweet Rice Wine” is enough to make us sigh with pleasure. Something we do often during this meal.

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Chef Dong Hai

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All content on artfulroomswithaview.wordpress.com/, both images and writing, is copyrighted material © Ginda Simpson unless otherwise indicated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this content without express and written permission from Ginda Simpson is prohibited.

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Spices Garden – a restaurant and cuisine that dazzles…

sg 7SPICES GARDEN
Hotel Metropole Hanoi Legend
15 Ngo Quyen Street
Hoan Kiem District
10000 – Hanoi
VIETNAM
http://www.sofitel-legend.com/hanoi/en/our-legend/

 

 

 

 

food 3The Spices Garden is one of the restaurants at the Legendary Hotel Metropole in Hanoi.  I can hardly believe it, but here we are experiencing a stay at this fabled hotel with all it has to offer.

Seated at our table, we have a view of the garden and courtyard with their twinkling lights, which seem to cascade everywhere like fairy dust. So too the candlelit interior of the restaurant just sparkles with elegant table settings.

For the first-time visitors to the city that we are, Spices Garden offers us the opportunity to sample some of the finest examples of the culinary traditions of Hanoi as well as the specialties of both the North and South of the country. We hardly know where to begin, so our waiter comes to the rescue and guides us through our multi-course dinner, suggesting that we start with the crab, asparagus and mushroom soup. Cac Mon Cuon offers us a tasty selection of Spring Rolls.

For our main course, we select two different entrees – Cha Ca, Red River fish with rice noodles, shallots, peanuts and herbs and Black Angus beef with lemongrass and garlic. It is easy to see how wonderfully and healthfully balanced the cuisine of Vietnam is, with textures and tastes perfectly paired. We linger, sated with the flavors of Vietnam on this our first night, leaving us eager to explore more. No doubt the chef tonight has presented us with a meal that would satisfy the most discerning native of Hanoi.

sg 9h28

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All content on artfulroomswithaview.wordpress.com/, both images and writing, is copyrighted material © Ginda Simpson unless otherwise indicated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this content without express and written permission from Ginda Simpson is prohibited.

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Frances’ Lodge – A Tuscan Treasure

2006c View from the garden - Frances Lodge 2

Frances’ Lodge Relais
Str. Di Valdipugna, 2
53100 Siena
0577-281-061
booking@franceslodge.it
http://www.franceslodge.it

We meander today throughout the countryside of Tuscany, a rich farmland of olive groves, wheat fields and sunny vineyards. The leaves of timeless olive trees glint silver in the shimmering light, their gnarled trunks casting deep purple shadows on the sun-baked earth. Row after row of verdant vines bursting with the sweet promise of wine, march across the gentle hills. This region of Italy is known for its excellent wines. It is a landscape of dreams, laden with blessings, exquisite, nourishing. We are headed towards a Tuscan farmhouse, now a Bed & Breakfast, on the outskirts of Siena.

Every house has a history, every family a story. And so it is with this old farmhouse. There are many good reasons to stay with Franco and Franca (hence the name, Frances’ Lodge). Our accommodations in the portion of the building that once housed the rabbits and pigeons are quite comfortable. As a matter of fact, all the rooms once provided shelter for farm animals. Now converted into living space for guests, the décor of each of the rooms is tasteful, whimsical, inviting – delightful reflections of Franca’s artistic talents. Indeed, our hostess says, “Nothing bothers me more than to see something unappealing to the eye. Why should anything be unattractive when it could be beautiful?”

“So tell me, Franca, your story and the story of the house,” I ask. “That story begins with the villa, then,” she commences. “It has been in Franco’s family for three hundred years. Built in 1729 as a casa padronale, it was used as a summer residence for the Pippi family. The family would relocate from the city of Siena to their country estate during the growing season, a move that enabled them to oversee the various harvests, beginning with the early summer crops of fruit and wheat, followed by the autumn grape harvest and lastly the picking of the olives. They would arrive with a retinue of seven servants,” Franca lets out a sign of envy and longing. “It was a time for the family to enjoy the wholesome freshness of the country air. Going to one’s summer villa was known as “villeggiatura,” a term still used today when referring to a summer holiday.”

Locals often referred to Villa Pippo as “La Cappella,” a name derived from a small shrine or chapel that once existed on the property. It is difficult to date the adjacent farm building because structures of lesser importance were seldom dated. However, records from around 1820 show that an L-shaped structure existed as a casa colonica for the contadino family who worked the land. Besides functioning as a home for the peasant farmer, it housed the granaio, the granaries in the upper story and animal stalls below (cows, mules, chickens, rabbits and pigeons). To house the lemon trees during the winter months, the lovely limonaia with its huge arched windows was added in 1853. This section filled in the L-shape creating the rectangular building we see today.

Farm activities ceased after the war and the villa and farm buildings were all but abandoned except for the casa colonica where the farmer remained to look after the land, until his death in 1984. His wife, Pierina stayed on in the house she had come to as a bride in 1945. She remained another twenty years and not a day went by that she didn’t wrap her black shawl around her shoulders and walk to the cemetery of S. Regina to visit and place fresh flowers on her husband’s grave.

Franco and his Florentine wife decided to move to the family estate after twenty years of working in Florence and living in rented apartments. It was time to search for a home with a little plot of earth but the only affordable properties involved traveling quite a distance from Florence. So why not return to the land that belonged to his family? His parents live in the villa, but the farmhouse, abandoned for decades and in disrepair fired up their hearts and their imaginations. So they set to the task of restoration. Today it is their cherished home and a lovely B&B.

2005c Frances' LodgeI watch Franco who, with a warm smile and friendly handshake, wins over his guests the minute they arrive, immediately making them feel at home. He graciously sees to their comfort, while generously sharing his knowledge of and love for his native city. “And,” he invites each of us, “enjoy a last swim on this unseasonably warm afternooon.” Where else can one dip into a swimming pool and gaze at a panoramic view of Siena spread out before them like a master’s painting; its colors ever-changing with that special Tuscan light? Before leaving for the city, Mike and I stroll in the garden outside the limonaia. The glossy leaves of a magnolia tree glint in the sun and a rose, the color of coral, catches my eye. Beyond the garden walls, where wisteria and jasmine climb with abandon, another spectacular view greets me. I close my eyes to see more clearly and it’s easy to imagine the Pippi family here in villeggiatura. How did they ever manage to pack up their trunks at the end of the season and move back to the city? How do Franco and Franca get any of their guests to leave?

Read more about my books featuring this and other lovely restaurants and hotels, Rooms with a View and Italian Wanderlust, by clicking on their covers:

Rooms cover      italian wanderlust 2

More about my books.

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All content on artfulroomswithaview.wordpress.com/, both images and writing, is copyrighted material © Ginda Simpson unless otherwise indicated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this content without express and written permission from Ginda Simpson is prohibited.

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Living the Dream – at the Old Cataract, Aswan

The Old CataractSofitel Legend Old Cataract
Abtal El Tahrir Street
Aswan, Egypt
+2-097-231-6000
http://www.sofitel.com/gb/hotel-1666-sofitel-legend-old-cataract-aswan/index.shtml

A chilled glass of karkade, a beautiful ruby-red hibiscus tea, is offered as a welcome treat the moment we arrive at the legendary Old Cataract. I cross the terrace, entranced. How often have I sat on this terrace in the past, brief visits, dreaming that someday I would have the privilege of staying here as a guest? A friend once suggested that dreams should be marked on our calendars – appointments with our destinies. I liked that idea and here I am. I am thrilled to discover that we have been given a large suite, with a stunning view of the Nile from our balcony.    Within our gaze, on the western bank, are reminders of Aswan’s multi-layered past – we overlook Elephantine Island, home of the ancient Nilometer and witness to the cult of Khnum, god of the cataract and inundation. Remains of ancient temples stand solid, silent testimonials to Egypt’s glorious past.   In the distance, we have evidence of the Islamic in the domed mausoleum of Agha Khan III, leader of the Ismaili sect of Islam and there too are reminders of Coptic Christianity in the fortress-like ruins of the Monastery of St. Simeon founded in the 7th century. My eye travels a little further north and finds the colorful mud-bricks homes of a Nubian village.    History, religion, culture – it is all here.    I take it in ever so slowly, but what really captivates me is the overall view – the distant mauve-colored desert backed by an infinite blue sky, the rocky islands, the great river iridescent in the bright sunshine, and most of all the triangular white sails of the feluccas drifting lazily with the winds, the only movement that breaks the stillness of the morning. It is a banquet for the senses.

I feel like a child that has been taken by the hand to the pastry shop, given permission to choose as many sweets as I want. Do I choose to walk in the shaded gardens amid the date palms, mimosas, broad-leaved banana trees and oleanders or sunbathe by the pool that overlooks the Nile, with a frosty lemon drink in hand, and watch the languid passage of the sailing vessels?   Built in grand Victorian style in 1899, the Old Cataract is indeed legendary, its existence forever linked to the British occupation of Egypt. We dine our first evening at its 1902 Restaurant.  Back in its day, there was an orchestra discreetly seated in a gallery hidden from the view of its 200 elegantly-attired guests who came to dine and to dance.  The opening ceremony of the restaurant was held in 1902, hence its name, and was attended by men and women of prominence, including the sovereign of Egypt, the Duke of Connaught, Lord and Lady Cromer, Sir Winston Churchill as well as many other dignitaries.  The restaurant has recently undergone an extensive renovation, restoring every detail of its original design – a Moorish hall with red and white traditional interior arches supporting its 75-foot dome.   It is softly lit and simply magical.   There is no orchestra, but the piped-in classical music succeeds in transporting us back in time, to a more graceful, less stressful era.

I try not to miss even a single detail of its interior – the mashrabeyya, the colorful stained glass, the pierced brass Oriental lanterns, floating like stars above our heads. The arrival of an amusebouche brings my attention back to the table. The chef has prepared a little something to tease our taste buds before embarking on a culinary journey at his most capable hands – a delectable goat cheese salad, lobster bisque, baked sea bass, and duck with Marsala.   The cuisine is French, artfully plated, and excellent by any standard. We have left no room for their selection of cheeses or rich desserts, but cannot say no to the chef’s offer of a fresh strawberry granita served in a tiny stemmed goblet.

There is such pleasure in the details, none of which seem overlooked here at the Old Cataract. Breakfast on the terrace is the perfect way to begin one’s holiday.   We are welcomed with a chilled glass of guava juice to sip as we drink in the most beautiful vista on earth!   We enjoy an assortment of breads and pastries, fruit and cheese, eggs and coffee. We are in no hurry to be tourists. We have been blessed with the opportunity to see the sights many times in the past – Philae Temple, Elephantine Island, the Aswan Dam, the unfinished obelisk….. This time, we are simply going to savor the Old Cataract as our destination and Aswan as if it were our neighborhood. We are simply going to live the dream…

In the words of Khalil Gibran:

“The most beautiful thing in life is that our souls remain hovering over the places where we once enjoyed ourselves.”

This story appears in my book, “Afternoon of Honey” which you can preview and order by clicking on the link.

Afternoon of Honey  cover Afternoon of Honey

 

 

 

More about my other books.

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All content on artfulroomswithaview.wordpress.com/, both images and writing, is copyrighted material © Ginda Simpson unless otherwise indicated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this content without express and written permission from Ginda Simpson is prohibited.

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