Sometimes the journey is the destination, especially if the view sweeps across cityscape or skyline, atrium or ocean, and is further enhanced by a book worthy of the stay.
The Curtain (www.thecurtain.com), London, England
A sophisticated hotel in London's jaunty, dynamic East End neighborhood might be the last place one would expect to find a LIDO deck – which naturally calls to mind a come-hither pool and slow-sipping cocktails surrounded by ocean blue. But this rooftop enclave perches atop the five-star Curtain in Shoreditch and offers killer city views and plenty of atmosphere.
Just like on a cruise ship, LIDO's nautical decking stretches across a fun gathering space comprising restaurant, bar and Moroccan-inspired pool under a retractable glass ceiling. Gorgeous panoramic views of sky-skimming buildings take the place of the ocean and tables tucked beneath greenery-laden arbors step in for chaises. And the cocktails? Refreshing spritzes and citrusy cocktails splashed with prosecco.
Unique experience: Munch shrimp and grits or chicken and waffles during the Red Rooster Shoreditch's Gospel Brunch. It's celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson's Southern soul food and cross-cultural dishes accompanied by the hotel's house gospel choir, a Harlem vibe amidst East End edginess.
Related reading: "The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper" by Hallie Rubenhold draws readers into the unsavory side of Victorian London and to the neighborhoods of Shoreditch, Spitalfields and Whitechapel to set the record straight about the Ripper's victims and one of the world's great unsolved murder mysteries.
Harbor Court (www.harborcourthotel.com), San Francisco
It may look like a cafe upon entering – and it is – but Harbor Court's lobby is also a welcoming haven for checking in and lounging around, and sipping contentedly during the hotel's complimentary evening wine hour. Located on San Francisco's iconic waterfront in the hustle-bustle hub of the city, it offers spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline by day and, as the setting sun melts into the water, the Bay Bridge by night.
Built nearly a century ago in 1926 as an Army-Navy residence, this Spanish Colonial Revival-style boutique hotel is tech savvy and pet friendly. It offers free use of bikes and access to a newly renovated (adjacent) YMCA while maintaining a demeanor of urban sophistication and rooms that are sybaritic oases.
Unique experience: Want to experiment with making handrolls at one of San Francisco's top sushi restaurants? Then "You Be the Chef" at Ozumo, Harbor Court's sushi restaurant, during this special dinner every Sunday, 5:30 to close, in the Sake Lounge. Each table is provided with sushi rice, nori and a delectable variety or sushi roll ingredients, plus a souvenir chef hat.
Related reading: "McTeague: A Story of San Francisco" by Frank Norris. Go old-school to revisit a classic of the literary canon. In late 19th century San Francisco, a Polk Street dentist woos a woman who wins the lottery, setting in motion a chain of events mired in greed, obsession and violence.
West Baden Springs Resort (www.frenchlick.com/hotels/westbaden), West Baden Springs, IN
Rising from a clearing in Hoosier National Forest, West Baden Springs Hotel is a magnificent architectural treasure showcasing a one-of-a-kind dome atrium spanning 200 feet once known as the Eighth Wonder of the World. It was designed to evoke Baden Baden, Germany's world-famous thermal spa, and has a pedigree reaching back 160 years when it was built as a respite for those wishing to take advantage of the supposed healing powers of the area's mineral springs.
Rooms rise six stories around the circular atrium, with 40 of them offering balconies providing a panoramic view of the dome. The luxury resort, a National Landmark Hotel and member of Preferred Hotels and Resorts, is known not only for its stunning elegance and engineering marvel, but for its glammed-up and individually decorated rooms, fine and casual dining, championship golf and spa services.
Horse-drawn carriage rides, train excursions, live music, beautiful indoor/outdoor swimming pool, a casino at sister property French Lick Springs Resort and History and Twilight Tours add more allure. The resort hosts Bourbon & Bites weekends, Murder Mystery events, wine and mixology classes and more.
Unique experience: Sink into a Signature Sprudel Bath in a private sunken tub to experience the historical healing mineral spring waters unique to the spa. Be forewarned: it smells like sulfur, but it feels absolutely divine.
Related reading: Michael Koryta's supernatural thriller, "So Cold the River," follows a documentary filmmaker who unearths an unexplained evil while staying at – you guessed it – West Baden Springs. The book is now being made into a movie and principle photography was recently completed at the resort.
The Don CeSar (www.doncesar.com), St. Pete Beach, FL
Florida's iconic "Pink Palace," a National Historic Landmark and AAA Four Diamond resort set on the white sands of St. Pete Beach, dates back more than nine decades to the height of the Great Gatsby era. The Don CeSar offers rooms and suites, most of which overlook the sea, that coddle guests in luxury, comfort and every amenity.
Private beach access, two heated pools, six restaurants and lounges, spa, fitness center, kids camp, shops and live music keep guests sunned, spoiled and satisfied. Additionally, the resort offers complimentary rentals of beach loungers and umbrellas, bicycles and non-motorized water sport rentals.
Unique experience: Each night, The Don CeSar celebrates the glory of a St. Pete Beach sunset and the ending of another beautiful day with a "Don at Dusk" event. The fun kicks up a notch on Fridays and Saturdays with a Sunset Shell-Ebration, which includes fresh raw oyster bar and complimentary champagne toast at Rowe Bar, the resort's gulf front bar.
Related reading: "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a must-read for visitors to this opulent playground where the "Jazz Age" author himself once stayed and that has starred in several movies, including 1999's steamy thriller, "Forever Mine."
(Author and travel and lifestyle writer Kathy Witt feels you should never get to the end of your bucket list; there's just too much to see and do in the world. Contact her at KathyWitt24@gmail.com, @KathyWitt.)
(c)2020 Kathy Witt
Visit Kathy Witt at www.kathywitt.com
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