Viva Espana! Madrid’s Magical Hotel Villa Magna

HOOD: Central Madrid, Spain
VIBE: Sophisticated
PROPERTY SIZE: 150 rooms
ROOM STYLE: Contemporary
WE LOVE: The location – right in the heart of Madrid

WORDS BY: Ian Pryer – visited Nov 2015

In the course of ones travels, there are occasional confluences resulting in an outstanding and memorable experience.

A recent and first trip to Madrid combined with a stay at Villa Magna was magical.

Hotel Villa Magna, a former palace although totally remodeled, is located on Paseo de la Castellana. This extraordinary tree-lined boulevard (it cannot be called a street) is one of the major thoroughfares of Madrid but because of its width, traffic never presents a problem. As one draws up to Hotel Villa Magna, one cannot fail to notice the efficiency and sophistication with which the whole arrival process is handled. An air of calm pervades as luggage quietly disappears and one is escorted to the reception desk for a noticeably smooth check-in.

The décor of the lobby, soft muted tones, interesting sculptures, comfortable furniture foretell of what one might expect from a stay at Hotel Villa Magna. Directly off the lobby is their very pleasant bar (they believe that the best gin and tonics in Madrid are served here) and lounge area. Although both are accessible to non-guests, neither is ever overcrowded.

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Lobby bar

Adjacent to the bar is a casual indoor/outdoor eating area offering a range of snacks and tapas appropriate to the time of day.

Patio Magnum
Indoor/outdoor dining

On the other side of the lobby is Restaurant Villa Magna which serves as a breakfast room in the morning and then becomes one of Madrid’s leading restaurants at lunch and dinner.

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Restaurant Villa Magna

The rooms are as comfortable as the lobby would suggest, fitted with every convenience one would expect from a hotel of this standard (daily newspaper, safe, tea and coffee making facility etc.). Even the television set, when not in use, looks like a mirror.

Prestige 02
Grand Prestige Room

Adjacent to reception is the Concierge for whom nothing appears to be too much trouble. Their restaurant recommendations were all superb. My wife and I weren’t necessarily looking for gourmet experiences but rather establishments where we could rub shoulders with locals. Lateral at 89 Paseo de la Castellana was “buzzing” at 9 p.m. Platea, just around the corner from the hotel is truly a Centro de Ocio Gastronomica, a very upmarket food court with live music and a wonderful atmosphere. We were directed by the Concierge to an area about 300m from the hotel where we were told we would find any number of tapas bars. We ate and drank most reasonably at Makkila but am sure that any would have been equally wonderful.

An absolute Madrid must – El Rastro Market on a Sunday morning: a taxi ride (fares are most reasonable and cabs readily available) from the hotel should not to be missed. If shopping is important, Madrid’s biggest department store, El Corte Ingles, is directly behind the hotel and connected to it. The main entrance of El Corte is on Calle Serrano, Madrid’s most elegant shopping street with every conceivable “brand”. The major art galleries are within walking distance or a short taxi ride away. Like most cities, Madrid has a “hop-on, hop-off” bus and there is a stop less than 200 m. from the hotel.

Book a private, custom tour of Madrid here

In this most elegant and exciting city, Hotel Villa Magna is truly wonderful.

As a Goldman/Travelcall client, the following amenities are included:

  • Buffet breakfast in Restaurant Villa Magna each day
  • Tapas and wine once during the stay
  • Room upgrade, subject to availability
  • Complimentary internet access
  • Villa Magna sweets box
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
  • Round trip airport transfers for Executive Suite Bookings & above

Our 2015 Virtuoso Travel Week Top 15 Hotels

Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas showcases the world’s best hotels and hots spots from the Virtuoso collection. From the 300+ properties presented to us at Travel Week 2015, we’ve shortlisted 15 that, for reasons of design, destination or all-round desirability, captured our imagination and left us longing to lodge in.

This luxurious list includes six perfect properties in Europe, two in the Middle East, four in Central and North America and three in Asia.

Amenities listed for each hotel are available when booked through us.


EUROPE: Greece, France, Spain, Italy and Hungary

Canaves Oia Suites
Santorini, Greece

River Pool Suite at Canaves Oia
River Pool Suite at Canaves Oia Suites

Oia-M-G!!  This is what we think of when someone says Santorini. 24 sparkling white cliff-side suites (plus one amazing villa), all with exterior plunge pools. Apparently the marriage proposal to “yes” ratio is exceptional (no wonder). For stays of 4+ nights, Virtuoso amenity is one private catamaran sunset tour for two any day during the stay. And that’s where you pop the question!

AMENITIES

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily Buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests
  • Welcome Amenity – bottle of local Santorinian wine & fresh fruit
  • Euro 80 Food & Beverage credit per room, per stay
  • For stays of 4 or more nights
    • In lieu of the 80 euro Food & Beverage credit, guest may opt for one catamaran sunset tour for two any day during the stay
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Prince de Galles, a Luxury Collection Hotel
Paris, France

Mosiacs at Prince de Galles Paris
Mosiacs at Prince de Galles Paris

“Fantastique” location – on Georges V between Four Seasons and Champs-Élysées. Reopened in 2013 after a two-year renovation, it retains its classic design but with a contemporary edge; bathroom buffs will adore the shower  in the l’Appartement Parisien duplex suite – brass tapware with glittering gold and white mosaic tiles (pictured).  Michelin-star restaurant La Scene by Chef Stéphanie Le Quellec.

AMENITIES

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily full breakfast, for up to two in room guests
  • $100 USD Equivalent Food & Beverage credit
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Hotel Belles Rives
Antibes, France

Hotel Belles Rives, French Riviera
Hotel Belles Rives, French Riviera

The place to be seen in the gorgeous town of Juan Les Pins on the French Riviera. Classic design, spacious rooms, glamorous crowd. At their private beach (where, for those not staying at the hotel, a chair costs around 50 Euros for the day!) is an amazing water-sports club, where kids can learn how to waterski, and a very chic beach restaurant and bar.

AMENITIES

  • Upgrade at time of arrival, subject to availability
  • Complimentary buffet breakfast for two daily for duration of the stay
  • $100 USD Voucher on the Beach Restaurant from April to September; $100 USD Voucher at the Restaurant Bar Fitzgerald from October to March
  • Early check-in/Late check-out, subject to availability

Puente Romano Beach Resort & Spa Marbella
Marbella, Spain

Puente Romano Marbella Pool
Puente Romano Marbella Pool

White-washed beach resort on Marbella’s “Golden Mile”. Amazing facilities, including a Six Senses Spa, 9 restaurants (one of which has a Michelin Star) and 10 tennis courts with serious on-court cred: Novak Djokovic trains there when he stays over Christmas every year!

AMENITIES

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily Buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests
  • $100 USD Equivalent Resort or Hotel credit
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Il Borro Estate
Tuscany, Italy

Il Borro Estate Tuscany (Member of Relais & Châteaux)
Il Borro Estate Tuscany (Member of Relais & Châteaux)

Just when you thought the Italian countryside couldn’t get any more charming, enter Salvatore Feraggamo’s grandson, of the same name. The handsome Tuscan estate, at which the famed shoe designer’s equally handsome grandson will greet you, comprises exclusive villas, farmhouses, vineyards, olive groves, shops and a church. While the Virtuoso amenity isn’t a pair of SF shoes, spending time at the Ferragamo family’s stunningly restored village will not disappoint.

AMENITIES

  • Daily full breakfast, for up to two in room guests
  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • $100 USD Equivalent Spa Services credit
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace
Budapest, Hungary

Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace - Budapest, Hungary
Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace – Budapest, Hungary

In a restored landmark building (featuring original details) at the foot of the historic Chain Bridge. Close to business district, cultural sites and boutiques. Four Seasons guests have access to nearby Brody House, a private members-only club (think Soho House). Enjoy the studio exhibitions, sensational bar and dining as you rub shoulders with every celebrity currently in town (this is where they all hang!).

AMENITIES

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Continental breakfast daily, for up to two in room guests
  • $100 USD Equivalent Food & Beverage credit

MIDDLE EAST: Israel and UAE

Mamilla Hotel
Jerusalem, Israel

Mamilla Hotel Jerusalem
The Lobby at Mamilla Hotel Jerusalem

Designed by Moshe Safdi, arguably one of the world’s most significant modern-day architects, and designer of Yad Vashem Children’s Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, in conjunction with equally renowned Piero Lissoni. Exceptional design on an extraordinary scale; from the huge black staircase in the middle of the hotel entrance, to the volumes of stone used throughout.

AMENITIES

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability (excluding Suites)
  • Daily full breakfast, for up to two in room guests, served in the Ballroom
  • $100 USD lunch or dinner credit for up to two people per room, at Mamilla Cafe
  • Bottled mineral water and sundried fruits in room upon arrival
  • 10% reduction on treatments at the Akasha Well-being center, hotel, restaurants and bars
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Al Maha
Dubai, UAE

Bedouin Suite at Al Maha Resort Dubai
Bedouin Suite at Al Maha Resort Dubai

For those who want to break up their layover in Dubai with a difference, opt for this desert oasis just one hour’s drive from Dubai International Airport. Every one of Al Maha’s canvas-roofed suites has its own private swimming pool. Virtuoso amenity for stays of 2+ nights is private airport transfers. Europe can wait a couple of days…

AMENITIES

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily full breakfast, for up to two in room guests
  • For 1 night stay: $45 USD Spa & $45 USD Food & Beverage credit per room
  • For stays of 2 nights or more: Private Round trip airport transfer
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

NORTH/CENTRAL AMERICA: California, New York and Mexico

Post Ranch Inn
Big Sur, California, US

Post Ranch Inn Bug Sur
Post Ranch Inn Bug Sur

Big Sur splendour. Every room features stunning ocean and mountain views, a fireplace, spa tub and deck. There are three heated infinity pools and a seriously amazing restaurant (Sierra Mar) for when you do feel like venturing out of your private cliff side sanctuary. Or you could always get room service!

AMENITIES

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily Buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests
  • $100 USD Equivalent Resort or Hotel credit
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

The Ranch at Live Oak
Malibu, US

The Ranch at Live Oak Malibu
The Ranch at Live Oak Malibu

A week long health and wellness retreat designed to help you reach your detox or weight loss goals with nutritional and fitness programs. A “luxury” bootcamp with serious PR cred – we’ve read so many articles in Harpers Bazaar, Conde Nast, Vogue Living etc – and impressive results to back it up. If a ‘detox retreat’ is your thing, this is pretty much as good as it gets.

AMENITIES

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily full breakfast, for up to two in room guests
  • Choice of one complimentary spa treatment
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Trump International Hotel And Tower New York
New York, US

Trump International Hotel New York
Trump International Hotel New York

A great option for clients wanting to stay ON Central Park. Where Midtown meets the Upper West side, meaning some of the best access to Broadway, museums, shopping (Bergdorfs is a 15-min walk to the opposite lower corner of Central Park), Times Square (8 blocks) and more… not to mention spectacular views. 90% of rooms have full kitchens, so perfect for anyone spending a bit more time in the city. Jean Georges dining throughout (including to your room!) and a beautiful rooftop restaurant and bar designed by Philippe Stark.

AMENITIES

  • Upgrade at time of arrival, subject to availability
  • Complimentary continental breakfast for two daily for duration of the stay
  • Guests choice of $100 USD equivalent Spa Services credit or $100 USD equivalent Food & Beverage credit
  • Early check-in/Late check-out, subject to availability

Las Alamandas Resort
Costalegre, Mexico

Las Alamandas Resort
Las Alamandas Resort

A gorgeous beachside estate with just 17 private villas, all designed and furnished in their own colour. This is a beautiful retreat for couples/families who want to relax and not move. Great food, very private villas and also some lovely communal spaces around the expansive grounds. A good add on for anyone spending time in Puerto Vallarta – it’s a 2.5 hours drive.

AMENITIES

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Continental breakfast daily, for up to two in room guests
  • $100 USD Equivalent Resort or Hotel credit
  • Welcome Margaritas upon arrival
  • Tropical Fresh Fruit Platter Daily and Lemonades
  • Welcome bottle of wine
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

ASIA: Thailand and Cambodia

Banyan Tree Phuket
Phuket, Thailand

Banyan Tree Phuket Pool Villa Bath
Banyan Tree Phuket Pool Villa Bath

Following renovations, back in operation as of 1st November with refurbished Banyan Pool Villas (all with private pool and outdoor bath), two new restaurants by Spanish chef Alfonso De La Dahesa.

AMENITIES

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily full breakfast, for up to two in room guests served in restaurant or Double Pool Villa
  • A complimentary lunch or dinner for up to two people per room
    • Set lunch at Banyan or Set dinner at Watercourt or Saffron
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Belmond La Résidence d’Angkor
Siem Reap, Cambodia

Belmond La Résidence d’Angkor Siem Reap, Cambodia
Pool at Belmond La Résidence d’Angkor Siem Reap, Cambodia

The perfect mix of local love and Belmond bliss at this tropical oasis in the heart of Siem Reap. Clients will love the two great restaurants and a bar headed up by Mexican Chef Saul and tranquil Kong Kea spa… a stay here spoils all the senses.

AMENITIES

  • Daily full breakfast, for up to two in room guests
  • A complimentary 50-minute massage
    • for up to two people, per room, once during stay
  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort
Chiang Saen, Thailand

Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort
Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort

Five new family suites: this property is brilliant for kids, who will love impromptu visits from elephants at mealtimes and the chance to visit the camp. Rates include airport transfers, all meals, house wine and beer, minibar, plus your choice of daily activity (spa treatment, tour of elephant camp, cooking class etc).

AMENITIES

  • Upgrade at time of booking, subject to availability from 3 Country Deluxe Room to 3 Country Suite
    • (During peak holiday period Dec. 16 – Jan. 6, Upgrade at time of arrival, subject to availability applies)
  • Daily Buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests and up to four guests in Family Suite
  • $100 USD Equivalent Resort or Hotel credit
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Truly Remarkable Turkey – Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet

HOOD:  Istanbul, Turkey. A few steps from Istanbul’s most important landmarks in Sultanahmet
VIBE: Neoclassical cool
PROPERTY SIZE: 65 guest rooms and suites
ROOM STYLE:  Modern, spacious with lovely Turkish touches
WE LOVE:  The fact that this property was once a prison (over 100 years ago)
INSIDER TIP: Sunset cocktails on the roof terrace listening to the call to prayer. A quintessential and unforgettable Turkish experience.

WORDS BY: Chris Cheyne, General Manager, Goldman Travel Corporation

Nestled between the tourist hot spots of the Aya Sofya, the Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace, the Four Seasons Istanbul at Sultanahmet is a perfect location to base yourself in Istanbul – particularly for first time visitors as all the major historical monuments are within easy walking distance.

This part of the city conjures images of the Constantinople of old, with spice traders and merchants rubbing shoulders with explorers; a very different experience then you will have on the Taksim Square side of the city, with its modern eateries and stylish boutiques.

Take a walk along Divanyolu Cadessi to reach the Grand Bazaar – only about 15 minutes, past shops, restaurants, and Mosques.

Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet
Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet

The hotel forms a square, with half the rooms looking in on a lovely garden and restaurant. We stayed in a Deluxe King category room, comparable to most junior suites, such was its size.  Sporting views looking down to the garden, glimpses of the minarets of Aya Sofya, an oversize bathroom with deep soaking tub, luxurious amenities, and a small entry foyer, this was both elegant, and comfortable.

For the fitness inclined, the hotel offers a very well appointed gym in the lower ground floor; large change rooms are stocked with toiletries and big fluffy towels.  There is also a large, clean sauna, and rain shower with body jets to rinse off and cool down in.  For those guests wishing a full Turkish spa experience, you can enjoy the facilities at the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus (a short drive or tram ride across town), or visit the local Hammams (the AyaSofya Hurrem Sultan Hammam is just up the road), where you can be massaged in a mountain of soap bubbles, and scrubbed to your shiny-skinned best!

Overall our stay was very good.  For its location, comfort, and service, I would certainly recommend the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet – particularly if you want to immerse yourselves in the history of the old city, but enjoy a little bit of pampering and luxury while you do it.

AMENITIES: (book with us for)

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily full breakfast, for up to two in room guests
  • Fresh Fruits
  • USD100 Food & Beverage credit

A luxurious escape at The Resort at Pedregal

HOOD: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
VIBE: Mexicana resort with Style
PROPERTY SIZE: 24 mountainside and pristine oceanfront acres
ROOM STYLE: Stylish, functional and spacious
WE LOVE: The plunge pool on your private terrace, the fabulous spa and the Watermelon Mojitos!
INSIDER TIP: Don’t fill up at lunch, complimentary guacamole, pico de gallo and homemade chips are delivered to your room with Coronitas each afternoon

WORDS BY: Anthony Goldman

A week prior to check-in, Ricardo, our personal concierge contacted us via email, offering to book our restaurants, touring and anything else we desired. Ricardo became our personal assistant and our itinerary was send to us before we left home. Nice.

You enter The Resort at Pedregal through a tunnel. It reminds me of a pre-ride experience at a theme-park – an escape from what is outside – and a re-birth as you see the light at the end of the tunnel. Our welcome chilled Margaritas set the tone for a great stay at one of the best resorts we have visited.

The hotel is ‘carved’ into the mountain, facing the Pacific Ocean. Different lounging/pool areas and accommodation towers give the impression that there are only a handful of people at the Resort. I’m told the hotel is at 70% occupancy during our low-season stay. You feel secluded from the hustle of Cabo.

The room was spacious with all the amenities, including a full bottle of Tequila. The bathrooms are very large with a wonderful bath and a shower-space big enough for 5 people (a Fiesta!). The terrace with plunge pool adds to your sense space. Complimentary wifi and a daily delivery of Guacamole, Salsa and 2 Coronitas (mini-me Corona beer) are wonderful touches.

We ate dinner at el Farralon (meaning  “a rock that comes out of the ocean”), tucked into the cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Sipping our Champagne from the newly opened Champagne Bar, we listen to the cracking of waves onto the rocks below. This is a great steak and seafood restaurant, and by Los Cabos standards, not too expensive. 

Our ceviche and soup as starters were tasty, followed by perfect grilled fish. It would be remiss of me not to mention the chocolate doughnuts with a raspberry dipping sauce for dessert.

My wife disappeared for a couple of hours to the Luna y Mar Spa, only to return to announce she “had been to heaven and back”. We have visited numerous spas in Asia. This Spa is wonderful, so I was told. Her massage hit the mark and the surroundings were calm and stimulating. A subsequently inspected the Spa – the Mexicana atmosphere is truly special.

The service here is very good. The staff know what they are doing and clearly have had time to undertake extra training whilst closed last year due to Hurricane Odile. The resort looks brand-new, despite open for six years.

Our visit to Los Cabos was short & sweet. The hotel staff happy that the tourists have returned and ready to support their number one economic lifeline, tourism. Be prepared to spend 99% of your time within the resorts. There are limited incentives to leave your resort – but I suppose, why would you want to leave?

AMENITIES: (book with us for)

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • For guests in the hotel, complimentary full breakfast daily in Don Manuel’s, two per bedroom (including all suites)
  • $100 USD Equivalent Spa Services credit, to be utilized during stay (not combinable, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Uber-Mexican Style at the One&Only Palmilla

HOOD: Palmilla, Los Cabos, Mexico
VIBE: Serene with a twist of energy and fun
PROPERTY SIZE: 173 guestrooms
ROOM STYLE: Elegant with Mexican accents
WE LOVE: the service standards, the Mexican flavours including the coconut margaritas!
WORDS BY: Anthony Goldman

From the moment we drove into the porte-cochère, we know we were in for a special experience. Our welcome playful popsicles set the tone for this luxurious Mexican sojourn in this exclusive hideaway. 

Our room was spacious and had all the amenities one would expect at one of the world’s top resort locations. Very tasteful with Mexican old-style accents and handicrafts scattered throughout. One feels an interior decorator had the time of their life when commissioning the rooms. All guest rooms here have views towards the sea, offering wonderful views of the Pacific Ocean or the Sea of Cortez from a private balcony.

Our personal butler welcomed us to the resort, complete with tequila, fresh fruit and evening canapés delivered to the room.  He was always there to assist with reservations, tour arrangements and anything else that tickles your fancy.

The food here was excellent. We ate at Agua by Larbi which features the renowned Mexican cuisine of the award-winning Executive Chef Larbi Dahrouch. A blend of Mexican and Moroccan flavours provide a party for your taste buds.

The signature guacamole and hummus washed down with a chilled coconut margarita is a must!

The refresh after Hurricane Odile in 2014 destroyed parts of the hotel and allowed One&Only Palmilla to welcome guests back to a resort with a number of new elements, including the new steakhouse, SEARED created in collaboration with Jean-Georges Vongerichten, completely refurbished guest rooms and suites, and new outdoor lounging areas with panoramic ocean views.

The service was outstanding, complete with pool butlers, refreshing our iced water and facial spray. If you’re looking for a special experience, only 2.5 hours flight from LAX, consider One&Only Palmilla. Your little Mexico experience as close to home as you can get.

AMENITIES: (book with us for)

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Continental breakfast daily, for up to two in room guests
  • 30 minute Virtuoso Exclusive Spa Experiences per booking (One per person)
  • A set of Aromatherapy Candles (His & Hers)
  • Early check-in/late check-out – subject to availability

Wonderful Whitsundays!

The beautiful Whitsunday Islands in Queensland have always been a favourite of mine and I have been lucky enough to visit many times over the years. I was very fortunate to visit the magnificent qualia on Hamilton Island and the One&Only Hayman Island a couple of weeks ago for a few days and I am still in awe of the experience. Continue reading

Toscana,Venezia, Firenze e Roma – ti amo!

It’s been a few weeks since my last post. Wow, what a ride it’s been. I am sitting here at a desk probably made in the 1950’s in my room at the iconic Hotel Gellert in Budapest (Hungary) where we have been based for the past few days. So once again, I will go back a bit and will explain what we have been up to during this wonderful adventure. I’ll try and keep it brief so will mention a few highlights and post a few interesting pics as well! Continue reading