Saturday, September 18, 2010

Kingsbrae Arms, A Jewel of New Brunswick, Canada

Kingsbrae Arms
Since we are fast approaching the fall foliage season here in the northeast, I am reminded of a trip I designed for clients last October that I would enjoy taking myself.  The goal was to introduce them to the glories of the Maritime Provinces of Canada, i.e. Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.  There are many different ways you could arrange this trip.  For instance, you could feasibly fly into Bangor, Maine and take the famous ferry, The Cat, to Nova Scotia or you could also fly into Halifax, Nova Scotia as well.  This particular journey began from the other direction with my clients flying to Quebec City, Quebec.  And so the journey begins................

Understanding immediately that my clients had very discerning taste, there was really only one choice for a hotel for them in Quebec City, Auberge Saint-Antoine.  (Stay tuned for blog entry forthcoming)  Personally, I almost never recommend properties that I haven't seen before myself or have booked successfully many times with positive feedback.  I have been booking Auberge Saint-Antoine for more than a decade.  It is a Relais & Chateaux property and is located in the Old Port of Quebec City.  After staying three nights at Auberge Saint-Antoine, my clients then flew from Quebec to Saint John, New Brunswick changing planes in Montreal.  When arriving in Saint John, they picked up their rental car and drove to their next destination in St. Andrews, the fabulous Kingsbrae Arms, another Relais & Chateaux property.
Kingsbrae Arms Botanical Garden
Kingsbrae Arms is a very unique 5-star property for so many reasons.  It is not only rated among the best properties in the Maritime Provinces, but it has been recommended by Andrew Harper since 1997 and has won their "Hideaway of the Year Award" twice.  The Inn, a country house built in 1897, rests high on a hill on 27 acres adorned with their famous botanical garden.  They offer several types of accommodations depending on your needs, whether it be a romantic getaway for two, a private family gathering or an entire family reunion.
Kingsbrae Arms Parlor
If you want the absolute most breathtaking views from the highest point facing the sea, then you will want to book one of "The Pinnacles".  These rooms and suites are on the top floors of the Inn.  Another option would be one of their "English Country Spa Suites".  These are 700 sq. ft. suites with 10-foot ceilings, a private parlour and separate king bedded bedroom separated by double doors from the parlour.  If you are on a business trip and can only spend one night, you may choose what they coin as their "Rooms to Go".  They are their Standard queen and king bedded rooms on the garden level with easy access.  Kingsbrae Arms also offers accommodations for larger families and/or couples traveling together.  Their "South Wing" is a two-bedroom option which combines a Jr.King Suite with a Superior King Room which can enjoy a lovely balcony overlooking the sea.  This would be perfect for families traveling with teens or for two couples traveling together.  Also offered is the "Guest Wing" which is a self-contained double suite combining two Premium One-Bedroom Suites at the top of an elegant staircase.  A third option for a family with up to 6 members would be the "Family Wing".  This is on two floors with private access to a private garden.  It also enjoys a 40-foot balcony.  Lastly, for families of up to ten members, "The Carriage House" would be ideal.  Kingsbrae points out that this was really designed with multi-generational families with children and pets in mind.  YES, Kingsbrae Arms DOES allow pets!!!!  The "Carriage House" has stone floors and an acre of fully enclosed gardens. 
Pinnacle Suite

Deluxe King Room

Luxury Suite
Regardless of room type, each is fully air conditioned, equipped with fine linens and comforters as well as waffle-weave sauna robes and free high speed internet access.  An added bonus that Kingsbrae Arms offers is the luxury of arranging any number of en-suite massages ranging from shiatsu, jin shin doe, reflexology, hot lava rock and essential oil therapy to name a few. 

As with most Relais & Chateaux properties, Kingsbrae Arms boasts a most talented Chef, Scott Johnson.  He has been recognized by Esquire Magazine as one of the top five chefs in America.  What would a great meal be without a fabulous bottle of wine?  The Inn also enjoys an extensive wine cellar and will gladly offer their assistance in helping you choose the perfect bottle.
Kingsbrae Arms Restaurant
All Photos Courtesy of Kingsbrae Arms
If you would like to explore the area while staying at Kingsbrae Arms, I have one very strong suggestion.  It is a treat to visit the summer home of Franklin D. Roosevelt on Campobello Island.  It is approximately 80 miles from St. Andrews or about an hour and a half drive.  His 34-room home has been well preserved and is the focal point of the Roosevelt-Campobello International Park.  Guides are available on site to answer any questions you may have.  In the Edmund S. Muskie Visitor Center, you can enjoy displays and a short video about FDR from the time he and his family started visiting Campobello through his presidency and the establishment of the Park.

After three enchanting nights at the Kingsbrae Arms, my clients then drove to Prince Edward Island for a night and then took the ferry from Wood Islands to Pictou on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.  There they enjoyed a couple nights at the Keltic Lodge (More on that later).  After touring Cape Breton Island, my clients drove to Halifax, Nova Scotia where they spent their last night on Canadian soil before flying home.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The White Barn Inn, Kennebunkport, Maine

It is with great pride that I introduce you to this exceptional property in my home state of Maine, the White Barn Inn.  Imagine receiving European-style service at a Four Diamond property that operates a Five Diamond restaurant housed in two restored barns dating back to 1820.  If you can imagine that, then you can imagine yourself being a guest at the White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport, Maine.  This outstanding property is a member of the prestigious hotel collection, Relais & Chateaux.

The White Barn Inn
I had the pleasure of booking the White Barn Inn a few years ago for clients that wanted to visit the northeast during the fall foliage season.  They initially flew into Portland, Maine and rented a car and drove to the White Barn Inn where they stayed for a few glorious nights.  This property offers 29 guest rooms and suites all equipped with complimentary high speed wireless internet access.  Included on the meticulously landscaped grounds is a natural stone heated swimming pool.  During the summer months, lunch and snacks are served by the pool.

In addition to the 29-room Inn, the White Barn also offers their Waterfront Cottages which are on the Kennebunk River in a private gated compound within a short walking distance from the Inn.  Each cottage is freestanding with its own private entrance and waterfront patio.  The cottages are aptly named Tern Cottage, Gull Cottage, Loon Cottage and Friendship Cottage.  Guests may choose either to have a breakfast basket delivered to their door in the morning or to enjoy a full breakfast at the Inn.  Unlike many hotels and inns, I am happy to point out that the White Barn Inn pays incredible attention to details.  Every guest room is stocked with fresh flowers and fruit, plush terry cloth robes, DVD players and flat screen plasma televisions.  One of my favorite details is the toiletry products by Molton Brown.  Included in their turndown service in the evening are small portable book lights.  Room service is also offered at dinner as well as breakfast. 

Junior Suite
Dining at the White Barn Inn Restaurant is most definitely a highlight!!!  It is one of only 18 Grand Chef Relais & Chateaux restaurants in North America and offers a four-course prix fixe menu.  Executive Chef, Jonathan Cartwright, showcases New England cuisine using the seafood native to the coast of Maine as well as native game and poultry.  As you can imagine, the Restaurant's wine list is quite impressive.  An added bonus is the Wine Room which can accommodate private gatherings for up to 15 people for either a special event, wine tasting or dinner.  The Wine Room is home to over 7,000 bottles of wine.  Since dining at the White Barn Inn Restaurant is so popular, they do require reservations and jackets are required and ties are optional for the gentlemen.  The Restaurant is open throughout the summer with dinner being served seven nights a week.

The White Barn Inn Restaurant
As well as offering only the finest dining and tranquil setting to truly relax, the White Barn Inn also offers a top-of-the-line Spa.  Their Spa Treatment Suites have en-suite bathrooms with rain showers and a soaker tub.  You may choose from the extensive spa services menu to pamper yourself with a body wrap, beauty treatment, manicure or one of the many types of massages they offer.  Among those are the Swedish massage, Prenatal massage, Kennebunk River Stone massage, Deep Tissue massage or Aromatherapy massage to name a few.
If you are in a mood to wander the town and surrounding areas of Kennebunkport, you will easily be entertained.  One of my absolute favorite things to do is visit the antiques shops.  You will also be able to visit various art galleries and boutiques in the area or venture further out and walk on one of Maine's many sandy beaches.  It is only a short 30-mile drive from Kennebunkpor to Portland where you can visit the Old Port with its one-of-a-kind shops or dine in one of their many restaurants.  I highly recommend the Portland Art Museum.

If you really want a treat, though, the White Barn Inn has one more very special treat to offer.........If you would like to get out on the water, you can do so in style on their very own luxury jet boat, the "True Blue".  This is not just any boat.  The Hinckley Company has been designing and producing sail boats and picnic boats since 1928.  They built the "True Blue" expressly for the White Barn Inn.  She is a Talaria 44 and is offered for private charter for up to six people.  Captain Daryen Granata pilots the "True Blue" along with his First Mate.  A charter cruise can be arranged through the Concierge at the White Barn Inn.  There is no minimum number of passengers required.

True Blue Yacht Charters
This is a very special property that I would urge you to consider on your next trip to Maine.  You will not be disappointed, nor were my clients. 

All Photos are Courtesy of the White Barn Inn

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Four Seasons Jackson Hole

Four Seasons Jackson Hole
Four Seasons is certainly a name to be trusted when searching for an outstanding, luxury hotel.  We all know that the brand is exceptional and surpasses most properties in level of service.  Personally, I have had the pleasure of staying at, visiting and touring many Four Seasons properties in the United States and also in Europe.  However, this particular Four Seasons is special in many ways.  Let me explain why.

Location, location, location.  Sound familiar?  As you may have read in some of my previous entries, Jackson Hole and the surrounding areas are some of the most beautiful in this country.  The backdrop for this Four Seasons is one of the most popular ski areas in the U.S. offering superior powder skiing, snowboarding and cross-country skiing.  The hotel is located at the base of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and offers ski-in/ski-out access.  The accommodations include 106 guest rooms, 18 suites and 32 private residences.
Main Lobby
Do not be fooled, however, by the wintertime lure of this resort.  Jackson Hole is most definitely a year-round playground and offers its visitors great diversity regardless of the time of year.  Should you stay at this property during the summer months, you will enjoy endless trails to hike, mountain biking, rock climbing and paragliding just to name a few.  You may opt to go river rafting on the Snake, or rise before dawn and venture onto a hot air balloon that will take you over the Tetons and surrounding valley.  One of my favorite sights while driving to my office there during the summer was the two or three hot air balloons that were, by that time of day, descending into the valley. 

An obvious treat during the summer months is visiting Grand Teton National Park as well as Yellowstone National Park. 
North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park
Photo by Jim Peaco, October 1992
You may also choose to partake in some of the most incredible fishing in the country.  At the Four Seasons, you are literally just minutes from the Snake River and the best fly fishing for cut-throat trout in the country.
Fishing on the Snake
 It is my belief that a hotel differentiates itself from the others if you can be just as comfortable while at the hotel as you are away from the hotel.  This is one of those properties that has every imaginable amenity and service available to you as their guest.  For instance, you have many dining options while staying at this Four Seasons.  You may choose from the Westbank Grill which offers both indoor and outdoor seating for.  One of my favorite places to eat is at The Peak which is open during the winter months.  To this day, I can taste their tortilla soup!
Westbank Grill
You may also choose to enjoy the heated patio or the Lounge's wood-burning fireplace.  The Lobby Lounge offers a cozy bar and restaurant where you can enjoy the incredible views of Rendezvous Mountain.
Pool Restaurant
Another added plus to staying at the Four Seasons Jackson Hole is taking advantage of the Hotel's full-service outdoor adventure concierge service.  In the winter months, their in-house ski shop offers the best equipment and the knowledge of their Ski Concierge.  They can arrange lift tickets, ski lessons and have an extensive ski rental and repair shop.  Additionally, this Four Seasons boasts an 11,685 square foot spa facility which offers a wide array of treatments and massages as well as 16 treatment rooms.  They also have a full-service health and fitness facility.

Summer or winter, this Four Seasons has it all and provides the highest quality of service in one of the most beautiful venues in this country.
Staff at the Four Seasons

All Photos Unless Otherwise Specified
Courtesy of the Four Seasons Jackson Hole

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sailing on the "Silver Cloud"

The "Silver Cloud" departing from London
Clients returned last week from a cruise on the "Silver Cloud" which began in London and disembarked in Reykjavik, Iceland.  The "Silver Cloud" is the inaugural ship in Silversea's fleet and was launched in 1994.  Silversea is one of the best and most luxurious cruise lines in the world.  I have booked these particular clients on Silversea many, many times.  In fact, they are members of Silversea's Venetian Society and have sailed over 140 nights with them on 14 different cruises.
Aerial View of the "Silver Cloud"
The "Silver Cloud" accommodates 296 guests.  This particular cruise embarked in London at the Tower Bridge and sailed to Scotland, the Shetland Islands, the Faroe Islands and on to Iceland over a ten-day span.  My clients booked a Veranda Suite which provides all of the "creature comforts" you can imagine.  Another plus when sailing with Silversea is the size of their ships in their fleet.  They are smaller than your usual cruise ship and are, therefore, able to navigate various harbors that other largers ships cannot.  There are many additional factors that make cruising with Silversea so enjoyable.  Most of the Ocean View Suites have a private veranda.  Complimentary wines, champagne, soft drinks and bottled water are served throughout the ship.  Also, each Suite contains a beverage cabinet that is stocked with your preferred selection of complimentary beverages.  Another plus to sailing with them is that there is no assigned dining time or assigned table.  They offer entirely open seating as well as complimentary in-suite dining if you prefer.

I cannot tout Silversea without mentioning a heartwarming humanitarian aspect of this company.  The Italian family that created Silversea has also established The Maruzza Lefebvre D'Ovidio Foundation.   This is a charitable foundation that is supported by Silversea and provides palliative care services to terminally ill patients and their families.  HATS OFF to Silversea!!!!
Veranda Suite Aboard the "Silver Cloud"
All Photos Courtesy of Silversea Cruises

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Jackson Hole Reflections

Teton Village
As I have mentioned in previous entries, my family and I lived in Jackson Hole for ten years before returning home to the coast of Maine.  Earlier this month, I was in Jackson for a dear friend's wedding and realized how I have taken one of the most beautiful venues in this country for granted.  As in any resort town, there is always the"tourist" way to do things and then there is the "locals" way to do things.  Before I continue in the future introducing more hotels, restaurants, shops, etc. in Jackson Hole, I think it would be helpful to add some "local" flavor and the general "lay of the land".

Since I spend most of my time planning both business and leisure trips for clients, I am frequently annoyed that I cannot quickly get a "feel" for an area that I have never visited before.  For obvious reasons, this happens more often with places outside the U.S.  Friends of my sister recently won a trip to Jackson Hole and were asking my advice on hotels, restaurants and various activities in the immediate area.  It forced me to actually give conscious thought to how, when and where I would direct them.  What also happened in the process was it took me back almost twelve years when we first visited Jackson before moving there.

I have to take a moment to point out the obvious.  Anyone would have to be lacking soul to not be stirred by the landscape alone.  Even after living there for ten years, I recently found myself photographing the Tetons once again.  Regardless of the time of day, the weather conditions or the location in which I happen to be, I am awed by their beauty.  The highest of the three peaks is commonly known as "The Grand" and towers over the valley with its snow-capped crown at an elevation of 13,770 feet.  Jackson Hole is at 6200 feet above sea level.  Soon after moving from the coast of Maine to the Rocky Mountain West, so many people would ask me if the mountains offered me what the ocean did.  Good question, but very hard to answer.  It is a different type of serenity they offer. 
The Teton Mountain Range
My very initial piece of advice if you are flying into Jackson Hole is to make sure you have a window seat on the aircraft.  You will not be sorry.  To this day, whenever I fly in to Jackson, I am like a child seeing all of the presents under the Christmas Tree that Santa somehow managed to get by me.  Whether you approach from the West, the East or the South, you will experience the Tetons from my favorite vantage point-from the air.  The Jackson Hole Airport is actually situated within Grand Teton National Park, which borders Yellowstone National Park.  When you deplane, the mountains rise above you and you quickly realize you are in for a treat.
The Mighty "Grand Teton"
The Airport is approximately 48 miles from the South entrance to Yellowstone National Park.  Delta, American Airlines and United are the main carriers that service Jackson.  It is a 9-mile drive to the center of the town of Jackson.  The Town Square is very recognizable by the famous antler arches which adorn each corner.  Even driving from the Airport to town is a treat.  On your left, you will soon pass the Elk Refuge and you will see Jackson's own ski area, Snow King, present itself in front of you.  The Elk Refuge is home to as many as 5,000 elk during the winter months and is a sight to behold.  If you visit Jackson Hole in the winter, you must take the time to take a sleigh ride on the refuge.

When you pass the National Elk Refuge on your left, you will soon see on your right the National Museum of Wildlife art perched on a hill.  It is a dramatic 51,000 square foot building constructed of red Arizona sandstone which opened in September of 1994.  The Museum contains 14 galleries, an interactive gallery for children, two classrooms, a conference room, a 200-seat auditorium as well as the Rising Sage Cafe.  I highly recommend this Cafe for lunch.  Of note, the Museum is also home to the largest public collection of work by Carl Rungius.  This should be a definite stop on your list of places to visit in Jackson.
National Museum of Wildlife Art
Photo Courtesy of National Museum of Wildlife Art
All Rights Reserved
To be sure, there are several fabulous restaurants, hotels, shops and galleries in Jackson. To obtain a complete listing, please visit the website for the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce.  Once you reach the Town Square, you will notice that the main street which runs through Jackson is called Broadway.  If you travel South on Broadway, you will approach a right-hand turn which directs you to Route 22.  This will take you from the town of Jackson to what is commonly known as the "West Bank".  This refers to the West bank of the Snake River which you will cross over.  Once you cross the Snake, you will be in the town of Wilson.  There is only one traffic light in Wilson and if you turn right at the light, this road will take you to the main ski area of note which is located in Teton Village, or "The Village".

Teton Village
Teton Village has expanded a great deal over the past decade and is still growing.  The Village is home to the only Four Seasons Hotel in Wyoming among many other very nice hotels.  (Stay tuned for my upcoming entry highlighting the Four Seasons)  Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is now home to the long-awaited new tram that made its maiden voyage on 20 December 2008. 

New Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Tram
Construction began on the new Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Tram in April of 2007 and was completed in December of 2008.  The Tram holds up to 100 passengers and reaches the elevation of 10,450 feet.  It takes approximately 9 minutes to reach the top.  Definitely worth the trip!

If you are lucky, while visiting the Jackson Hole area, you will cross paths with one of the many wild moose that roam the valley.  Year after year, every spring, a cow moose and her calf would show up outside our office to munch on our bushes.  That scene never gets old.  I arrived in Jackson this spring on Easter Sunday and worked in the office the next day.  Below are a couple photos I took on that day.
Moose Outside our Office, April 5, 2010

A Face Only a Mother Could Love

Needing a Rest
Please stay tuned for future entries on the Jackson Hole area.  It is one of my favorite places in the world.  I truly enjoy sharing it with others.  When you do return to the Airport to depart, be sure to look to the sky on your right once you pass the Elk Refuge.  You will see "Sleeping Indian".  I took this photograph at 6am on August 4th on my way to catch my flight home.  Thank you, Dave, once again for your airport shuttle service! 
"Sleeping Indian"