Tag Archives: Rooms with A View

Eastern & Oriental – a Malaysian Legacy

2016c The Eastern & Oriental

Eastern & Oriental Hotel
10 Lebuh Farquhar,
10200 Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +6016 419 8238
http://www.eohotels.com
luxury@eohotels.com

 

Crossing Penang Bridge, we arrive after a long drive in George Town, Penang Island on the west coast of the Malaysian Peninsula. In 1786, during its occupation by the British East India Company, it was named Prince of Wales Island, and subsequently George Town after the reigning King George III. In 2008, George Town was formally included in UNESCO, recognized for its unique architectural and cultural heritage. Situated on the longest stretch of waterfront on the island, the Eastern & Oriental Hotel has been welcoming guests for over 130 years. When the Suez Canal opened in 1869 and steamship travel began to flourish, travelers looked to the East to satisfy their lust for the exotic. Answering the demands of these new adventurers, the Armenian Sarkies brothers established first the Eastern Hotel in 1884, and then the Oriental in 1885. When combined, the two hotels became the largest and most sought-after accommodations on the island. Throughout the decades, the brothers continued to enlarge and improve their hotel and their services, maintaining the E&O’s elevated place in the history of the city.

Arriving at the Eastern & Oriental is like stepping into a bygone era in terms of elegance and into a dream in terms of its jewel-like setting, positioned as it is along the seafront. We arrive just in time to savor a complimentary aperitif in the elegant yet relaxed atmosphere of Planter’s Lounge. The décor is reminiscent of its British Colonial past and the savoury snacks are a blend of Eastern and Continental cuisines. The Lounge is in the Victory Annexe, the new extension built in 2013 on the site of its 1923 namesake – named after the British Victory in World War I. This new 15-story addition houses 122 suites, all facing the sea, each decorated in grand style. On the same floor is the rooftop swimming pool where the waters lead the eye directly to the waters of Andaman Sea, an infinity of blue. Sea and sky for as far as the eye can see. It would be hard to choose between this pool and the pool that graces the lush gardens between the hotel and the sea, offering a veritable oasis.

For a stroll through history, one needs only to meander through these gardens or the historic corridor to the 1885 Heritage Wing, where Moorish minarets and a lofty domed lobby speak of times past. Each of the 100 graceful suites are unique in design and include all the updated comforts of a first-class hotel, while still retaining their original colonial charm – including butler service!  Dining options abound from the 1885 Restaurant offering classical cuisine in a rich colonial setting, to casual far served on the terrace. We enjoy dinner at Sarkies, where an abundant local and international cuisine is offered buffet-style.

From the cool comfort of our room on this scorching afternoon, we have a panoramic view of the sea. Later from our balcony we watch the setting sun as it gilds the water with a dusting of Malaysian gold. Simply dazzling. Tomorrow we will explore the many treasures of this island town, but tonight we will do nothing but enjoy our surroundings.

 

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 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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ITALY – the Beauty and the Feast

Italy - The Beauty and the Feast

To my friends and readers who love Italy as I do, I announce with great pleasure the publication of my newest book “ITALY – The Beauty and the Feast” along with a free shipping offer from Blurb.

“Has Italy captured your heart and your imagination? In this travel journal, Ginda Simpson captures the essence of the country, not through the usual highlights of a whirlwind tour of the peninsula, but through leisurely travels to the cities and countryside, often off the beaten path and during the quieter seasons. Festivals that ignite the imagination, banquets of tables laden with Italy’s abundant harvest, shepherds and farmers toiling their land, opera divas that sing in a way that almost breaks one heart – these are the experiences that inspired the title: Italy – the Beauty and the Feast. Ginda invites you to travel along with her. For your own planning purposes, she includes contact information for the various hotels, restaurants, and festivals mentioned in her stories. This is the sequel to her first collection of travel stories to be found in the book entitled: Italian Wanderlust.”

 

To order you copy today and get free shipping, click here:

http://www.blurb.com/b/6482161-italy-the-beauty-and-the-feast

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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A View from a Palazzo – Mantua

2014c View from Palazzo Arrivabene B&BPalazzo Arrivabene B&B
Via Fratelli Bandiera, 20
46100 Mantova
0376-328-685
http://www.palazzoarrivabene.net
info@palazzoarrivabene.net


How often, as travelers, do we wonder what the inside of an old palazzo looks like, perhaps even fantasizing about a visit in one of its elegant salons.   Do frescoes adorn the ceilings and antique carpets cover polished floors? Are the rooms filled with ornate furnishings, fine paintings, and marble sculptures?   What stories of the past would these rooms whisper to us?

At the 15th century Palazzo Arrivabene, guests are invited to satisfy these meanderings of curiosity. Immediately upon entering one sees that this palazzo has been cherished for centuries by owners who understand and protect the architectural and artistic treasure that it is. An ornate wrought-iron railing and marble staircase spirals up two floors to an elegant reception room where frescoes do indeed adorn the ceiling. In two expansive interconnecting living rooms with marble fireplaces, sofas are arranged for comfort and leisure, offering a quiet setting in which to enjoy the company of cherished collections of books, paintings and decorative items.

Rooms are fitted out with all modern conveniences, simply decorated with an emphasis on quiet comfort. Breakfast is served in a small dining room where a beautiful table has been set by the owner, who treats her guests to fresh breads and sweets that she has lovingly made herself – cheesecakes and crème brule, and Sbrisolona, a Mantuan specialty. These are offered with fresh fruit and yogurt, steaming coffee, tea, and chilled fruit juices. It is a wonderful way to start one’s visit to Mantua, a city of many treasures, all within walking distance. At the end of the day, one need not fantasize any longer about the beautiful palazzo – a stay at Palazzo Arrivabene allows you to make it your own home even if only for a day.

Read more about other lovely hotels and restaurants in Italy,  Rooms with a View and Italian Wanderlust, by clicking on their covers:

Rooms cover      italian wanderlust 2

More about my other books.

********************************************************************************
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 View from Hotel Bernini Palace – Florence

The view from Hotel Bernini Palace - Florence original watercolor - copyright Ginda Simpson

The view from Hotel Bernini Palace – Florence                                             original watercolor – copyright Ginda Simpson

Hotel Bernini Palace
(Piazza della Signoria)
50122 Florence
39-055-288-621
http://www.duetorrihotels.com
info.hotelbernini@duetorrihotels.com

Hotel Bernini Palace occupies a 15th century classic Florentine palazzo, which originally belonged to the Pera family, presumed ancestors of the Peruzzi family, powerful Florentine financiers.  According to old records, in the mid-19th century, it was already a hotel, named Albergo dello Scudo, for the stables it provided below for both horses and carriages. For five years, between 1865 and 1870, the building became the Hotel Columbia Parlamento, hosting Senators and Members of the House when Florence was capital of the young Kingdom of Italy.

Over the years, the name of the hotel has changed several times, and the building, of course, has been restored, undergoing renovations still today, ushering in all the comforts and conveniences that one would expect from a renowned hotel, while preserving the architectural elements that make it so unique.  Throughout the hotel, lobbies, corridors and rooms are graced with period antique furnishings.  Its best feature, without a doubt, is its proximity to ALL of the key sites of this Renaissance city.  Located behind the Signoria, the hotel is within walking distance of the Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi Galleries, the Duomo and Baptistry, Santa Croce and a few steps farther bring you to the Accademia and San Lorenzo markets.

Our room on the fifth floor offers the ultimate in the pleasure of travel.  Small and intimate, elegantly furnished in antiques, the room is restful.  Its shutters, when opened, offer an unobstructed view of the Dome of the Cathedral, the spire of the Badia Fiorentina, and the tower of the Bargello – a view to be savored in shifting lights throughout the day and early evening, when it eventually is cloaked in a blue velvet mantle, illuminated by street lights.  Night and day, the clamor of San Firenze Square reminds us that this city is very much alive with the activities that fuel this 21st century, a hubbub that is blessedly erased with sound-proof windows, leaving our romantic hearts to imagine the city of Dante, Michelangelo and Brunelleschi.

An ample breakfast buffet is served in a lovely dining room with frescoed ceilings and parquet wood flooring, known as the Sala del Parlamento, so named for the paintings uncovered during the hall’s restoration – portraits of the protagonists of Italy’s Risorgimento, the movement that led to the unification of Italy.   Tables are beautifully set, inviting one to linger over a cappuccino before beginning the business of business or of sightseeing.  For guests, who wish to dine at home, La Chiostrina offers light lunches or more substantial dining in an enclosed courtyard setting, minimally decorated, a restraint that is welcomed after feasting one eyes on the abundant visual treasures of the city.  A good Chianti Classico paired well with our lunch of ravioli alla zucca and pappardelle con straccetti di vitello e pecorino.  Duck breast with a caramelized orange sauce was an excellent choice for our main entrée, leaving just enough room for a shared ice cream made with vin santo.  Oh the pleasures of table in Florence!  And what a pleasure it is to dine “in” and simply take the elevator upstairs, close the curtains and take a siesta.  A dream within a dream!

Read more about other lovely hotels and restaurants in Italy,  Rooms with a View and Italian Wanderlust, by clicking on their covers:

Rooms cover      italian wanderlust 2

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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Villa Maria – a heavenly perch on the Amalfi Coast

2006c Villa MariaVilla Maria
Via S. Chiara, 2
84010 Ravello (SA)
39-089-857-255
http://www.villamaria.it
villamaria@villamaria.it

The Amalfi Coastal road offers unforgettable views of the sea, and reaching Ravello’s mountain perch is well worth the drive upwards.  What other way is there to reach Paradise?  A stay at Villa Maria is indeed heavenly.  Villa Maria is situated in the historical part of Ravello, an easy walk from the main square.  Vincenzo Palumbo, the villa’s owner, represents the third generation of his family to work in the hotel business.  He purchased this liberty-style villa over thirty-five years ago and devotedly restored it to accommodate guests in its 27 rooms, successfully renovating bedrooms and living rooms that have maintained the feel of a private home. 

From the moment we arrived at Villa Maria’s gate, we were welcomed and made to feel at home by the friendly personnel.  The rooms are beautifully decorated, the views stunning, and the food excellent.   In fact, much of what is used in their kitchen is grown nearby in a graceful, terraced garden where the produce is selected and picked each day for the chefs.   This, coupled with the culinary skills of their chefs, has earned their restaurant the Gambero Rosso award in recognition of its cuisine. Villa Maria is listed among the top 365 restaurants in all of Italy.  

My husband and I spent two quiet, winter days here when flowers and town activities were still dormant, and yet everything seemed to whisper the promise of the warm, flowery days ahead.  Sitting on our balcony, with a view of the sea, I found myself dreaming of what the spring and summer in Ravello must be like.

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

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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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Alberobello – for a truly “Trulli” holiday

Trulli Holiday

original watercolor painting
                      copyright Ginda Simpson

Trulli Holiday
Alberobello – Puglia
http://www.trulliholiday.com

Alberobello, which mean beautiful tree, gets its name from Sylva Arboris Belli for the vast oak forest that once covered this area of the Itria Valley.  The local limestone rock provided the building material for these peculiar dwellings that look more African than European. Although constructed from the 15th century onwards, their design and building techniques are believed to have prehistoric roots.  The original community was created for settlers who were given the land by the local lord Count Giangirolamo Acquaviva in order to drain it and grow crops.  It seems that he ignored the customary rule that prevented the feudal vassals from building new towns without royal permission. So in order to avoid taxation, the peasants’ homes were designed in such a way that they could be easily dismantled in the event of a visit by the tax collectors from Naples.  This explains the dry-wall (mortarless) construction.

A typical trullo is built of irregular limestone blocks on a circular or rectangular base with a cone-shaped roof.   On top of the cupola are curious sculptures known as pinnacles; they are usually whitewashed and stand out against the gray of the stone roof.  There are often symbolic markings painted in white on the gray stone roofs.  These are of unclear origin, but very possibly include prehistoric symbols. The walls are achieved by placing the limestone blocks one on top of the other without the use of mortar. They seldom have windows and are whitewashed, inside and out.  The gray stones that make up the conical roof are laid in a balancing method that does not require mortar.  The interiors are quite small and because the walls curve inward, special furnishings have to be made to fit within the niches of the room.  The living space in a trullo remains fairly warm in the winter months and comfortably cool in the summer months.

For a “truly” delightful holiday in Alberobello, in the Puglia region of Italy, I highly recommend Trulli Holiday.  Donato, the energetic, creative founder of this unique holiday service personally sees that his guests get a real taste of this fairytale town by arranging stays in these ancient limestone dwellings with their peculiar conical roofs.  Each one is now outfitted with all modern comforts.

Trulli Holiday has over a dozen houses in the historic center of Alberobello where guests can stay for just one night, or rent by the week. We stayed in a trullo that dated back to the 15th century.  Tiny, full of charm and tastefully furnished, it had a small kitchenette and dining area. Because Donato was involved in the restoration of several trulli at the time of our visit, he took us around to see the work in progress – a rare inside view of trulli construction and something one is not likely to see on an ordinary tour.  Accommodations are available for singles, couples, families and/or large groups.

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 other books.

********************************************************************************
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.