With the strike of a match, the wood-burning fireplace in our suite leapt to life. A knock on the door delivered decadent hot chocolate to accompany the crackling fire. This was the perfect way to end a day of country pleasures at Blantyre, a turn-of-the-century summer home turned Relais & Châteaux hotel in the Berkshires.
My first day in our nation's capital began the same way as many of our political leaders: a knock at the door. Instead of paperwork, appointments, and phone calls, I opened the door to an elegant trolley delivering breakfast.
Tucked away in an oasis on the Upper East Side, I was far from the vast, impersonal hotels that sometimes pass for luxury in New York City.
The fairytale forest of the Powerscourt Estate was lit by a bright twinkling of stars. Our twilight arrival to the 1,000-acre estate was a romantic beginning to an active weekend for two.
A serenity that can't be found in the city was revealed as the French Alps came into view on a crisp December day. The boughs of evergreen trees were heavy with snow and began to form a canopy over the road. I was approaching one of the world's most prestigious ski resorts, Megève, for a winter getaway with a twist. Not only has the quality of the landscape earned the destination such a reputation, but this winter resort has mastered the French art of living.
Pink lampshades cast a romantic glow over the ancient buildings lining the Grand Canal. Light danced on the water as the Vaporetto glided towards one of the most unique luxury hotels in Venice. Docking at Ca D'Oro, I gazed across the canal at the quiet Rialto fish market, which in a few hours would be bustling with life. Hotel Ca'Sagredo is located at the heart of the city, and was the ideal place to begin my exploration of one of Italy's most mysterious cities.
Had I stepped into a photo shoot or my hotel? The lobby of the Gramercy Park Hotel, with its romantic lighting, stunning original art and staff with model looks left me waiting for the flash.
When I read, 'there is the first time we go abroad, and the first time we go to Provence' (Cyril Connolly, 1938) I was skeptical of finding a magic so drastically different from other destinations in Europe.
The train had rocked me to sleep after leaving Paris. A short three hours and few stops later, the whistle of the conductor announced we were pulling into Bordeaux. I almost expected the train station to be surrounded by chateaux, vineyards in long straight rows and winemakers carefully tending their vines.
Notre Dame looked even better in the sunshine. With only a few small clouds for contrast, the 13th century church stood firm and tall, while visitors gazed from its flat top over expansive Paris.
Far from the bustle of the city, it isn't traffic I hear when first waking, but the steady rushing of the River Sheen outside my window.