Yearbook: A Look Back at Luxury

Humble Administrator's Garden, Suzhou
Humble Administrator's Garden, Suzhou // Photo by frentusha/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
A Weekend in Paris: We all know how even the most ordinary things seem amazing in Paris. We walked down Avenue George V to the Seine, looked up and there was the Eiffel Tower. Pure magic, even on a cloudy day.
A Weekend in Paris: We all know how even the most ordinary things seem amazing in Paris. We walked down Avenue George V to the Seine, looked up and there was the Eiffel Tower. Pure magic, even on a cloudy day.

Luxury hotels are a plenty in this business, but here are the highlights of what we experienced in 2014.

The glamour of old Hollywood was palpable at Hotel Bel-Air in southern California as we strolled through the charming outdoor areas of this Dorchester Group property. It’s easy to imagine celebrities chilling out by the circular pool or hiding away in a snazzy bungalow with its own private patio and garden, even though the Bel-Air has gone through an extensive re-do. But modern touches such as iPads for ordering room service and a fleet of Mercedes S-350 Blue TECS to take guests anywhere within a three-mile radius make this newly renovated hotel a fine contemporary experience. Note: Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant is not just another outlet of the famous chef; he lives nearby and often drops by for a meal, so you know it’s got to be good.

A short hop away was the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, which turned out to be a fun complement to Hotel Bel-Air. Bungalows and swimming pools took on a different form here as we wandered over gorgeous lawns (croquet, anyone?) lined by sprawling shade trees and stunning flower gardens. Snag yourself an outdoor table at Bella Vista to watch the sunset; we hear Oprah’s been seen cozying up here as she lives nearby in a very fancy house, natch. Mariposa Suites are really one-bedroom homes; rooms in this category provide access to the swanky Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club across the street overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

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One free morning in a Jade Suite at the Club Med Cancun Yucatan convinced us that if we had to choose one place on earth to get a quick dose of vitamin D, it would be here. Jade Suites provide access to a private infinity pool and a bar, all overlooking the ocean. We snuggled up in the sunlight for a few hours and read a very non-literary best-selling novel and felt we had found a bit of nirvana in Mexico. Can luxury get any simpler or more exacting than this? Not in our book.

When we’re next in Berlin, we’re booking a room at Hotel am Steinplatz, which we toured just before ITB in March. A member of the Autograph Collection, this hotel rivaled The Adlon during Berlin’s heydays as a haven for writers and actors who hung out at its bar. Historic touches have all been restored but it’s crisp and clean now, and set in a cool, artsy neighborhood well worth exploring.

Saving the best for last: Being in Paris can never be wrong but staying at the Four Seasons Hotel George V is one of the most right things we’ve ever done. Really, anyone who needs to get their heads straight as to what actual, real-life luxury is all about should shore up here for a long weekend to see how an excellent hotel is really run. It was stunning to see how a hotel could have such large personality in a city so filled with vitality at every turn. If you can bear to leave your room, Avenue George V is just outside. Turn left and you’re steps away from the Champs-Élysées, turn right, amble along for a few blocks, et voilà, the Seine and the Eiffel Tower are suddenly before you.

Reality Check: We’re actually a bit nervous that the amazing service at the George V may have spoiled us for anything else but we’re willing to give our luxury barometer another spin around the block as we venture into 2015.

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