Sunday, October 16, 2011

Waldorf Towers

We interrupt this South America coverage to review my night at the Waldorf Towers in New York on September 29, 2011. This is the residential part of the legendary Waldorf Astoria and is perfect for extended stays or when you want more space than the typical NY room (which can be as small as a “New York minute” is fast). Click here for my photos

My Luxury Suite at the Waldorf Towers
My  Luxury Suite was huge and had a Park Avenue view. The décor was traditional but with modern amenities: iPod docking station, flat-screen TV, etc.   A grand foyer complete with chandelier led to the living room, which had ample space for entertaining with a sofa and plush chair. There was also a desk and the dining area had a table for two.  Then a corridor led to the Bedroom, but closer inspection revealed a wet bar, full size fridge, and cabinets stocked with glassware, etc.

The bedroom had a very comfortable King bed and an antique armoire along with the second TV. Beyond that was the Dressing room with vanity, valet and huge wall closet. The original safe was in the room and it was a thing of beauty.

The bathroom was large with marble floors, a big tub, separate shower and pretty porcelain vanity. I couldn’t help wishing it had the old-fashioned claw-foot soaking tub, and the modern showerhead the size of a dinner plate, which shows you just how spoiled rotten I have become.

I enjoyed the complimentary continental breakfast in the Astoria Lounge. There was a nice spread with good coffee and lots of copies of the Wall Street Journal available.  Everyone was super nice and I was sorry my stay was so brief. After a cocktail at the Peacock Alley Bar, I was on the road once again. 

FROSCH clients receive $100 Food and Beverage credit (per room per stay, excluding mini-bar, taxes and gratuities) and based on availability at the time of check-in: Upgrade, early check-in and late check-out. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hotel das Cataratas, Iguaçu National Park, Brazil

Hotel das Cataratas, Iguaçu Falls, Brazil

The penultimate stay on our whirlwind tour of South America was at Hotel das Cataratas, an Orient Express hotel within Iguaçu National Park on the Brazilian side of Iguaçu Falls. Once again, we arrived late after a really long day of travel. It was too dark to see the falls upon arrival, but the elegant lobby and comfy leather sofas were immediately calming. Click here for my photos.

Our Deluxe rooms were special. The décor was warm and bright with dark woods and tropical accents.  I especially admired the exquisite Orient Express closet. The bathroom featured traditional Azulejos painted tiles that were ever so pretty. After a quick change, we met our hosts on the veranda for Caipirinhas. (pronounced 'KIE-PUR-REEN-YAH'). These Brazilian cocktails are made with Cachaca (sugar-cane rum), limes and sugar and taste refreshingly delicious. Click here for the recipe (but beware of the second caipirinha).

Feeling much better after a couple drinks, we headed into dinner at the Ipe grill for a "gaucho-style barbecue" buffet. An epic variety of meats and sausages were slowly grilled on a spit, a real carnivores delight. The smells were so enticing that I had to discard my vegetarian tendencies and eat like a local, but there were lots of fish and salads for my less flexible companions. 

This restaurant was near the pool, and each trip back to the buffet revealed an incredible night sky floating above a gorgeous pool. As stuffed as we were (and as tired), we couldn’t resist a swim. The Hotel das Cataratas is surrounded by forest and the river, and our stay coincided with a New Moon, so the sky was pitch black with more constellations gleaming than I’ve ever seen before.  Floating in the tranquil water while gazing at all those stars was a magical experience.  They say it’s just as wonderful during a Full Moon when the hotel offers guided walking tours to the falls where you can see a Lunar Rainbow!

The next morning, we hit the trails at 8am and had the glorious falls all to ourselves. The trails were empty except for other privileged guests of the hotel enjoying exclusive access to the park before it officially opens. Iguaçu National Park opens daily at 9:00 am, and it takes the first bus twenty minutes to arrive from the Visitor’s Center to our hotel where it drops visitors off at the trail’s head.

Here’s how UNESCO describes this World Heritage site:
“The Iguaçu Falls span the border between Argentina and Brazil. Some 80 m high and 3 km wide, the falls are made up of many cascades and rapids that generate vast sprays of water and produce one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world.”

The trails through lush foliage are very smooth with frequent viewing platforms. Each view is more amazing than the last and there are rainbows in almost every photo.  As you get closer to the waters edge, the trail becomes an elevated walkway extended over the river between two levels of cascading falls. Feel the spray against your face, hear the roar of water gushing over the cataract and breathe in those negative ions (some say they’re the reason we love waterfalls). 

After breakfast (buffet breakfast is complimentary), we headed further into the park for our private Macuco Safari experience.  They bill this as a three-part adventure (trolley, hike and boat) and the rainforest is nice (we saw lots of monkeys) but the boat to the falls was the MOST FUN EVER and not to be missed. I confess, I’ve experienced the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls at least a dozen times, but this was so much more exhilarating because the boat actually goes under the Falls.  Here is a before photo from our zodiac (I’m afraid the after photo is not for public viewing but take my professional advice and wear waterproof mascara, and don’t bother with the rain gear because you’ll get soaked anyway).

Back to the hotel for a traditional Brazilian lunch of feijoada, a stew of beans, rice and pork parts and garnished with farofa- delicious. We had a little time to digest in loungers by the pool and take a few final photos to help remember our wonderful stay before we headed to the airport. Unfortunately, there was no time to visit the Cataratas Spa or tennis courts. I urge you to stay here three nights so you can also explore the Bird Park and the Argentinian side of the Falls and still have some time to enjoy the resort. It’s a perfect combination with a city stay in Rio or Buenos Aires.

FROSCH clients will receive these exclusive Amenities:
  • One Way Private Sedan Transfer for up to two Guests, from Hotel to Airport (Brazilian side)
  • Complimentary welcome amenity
  • Upgrade based on availability at check-in

Monday, October 3, 2011

Four Seasons Buenos Aires

Welcome to the Four Seasons Buenos Aires
The final stay of our whirlwind trip to South America was at the Four Seasons Buenos Aires. We arrived late after a long day of travel and had very little time to freshen up for dinner at 10pm.  We went to our Junior Suites to discover a delicious chocolate welcome amenity, which was a needed pick-me-up.

Sadly, there were no coffee makers in the room and I didn’t have time for room service.  It was a large room (646 square feet) with the bedroom separated from the living area by a large TV armoire thing. The room décor was attractive in a subdued hotel way, but there were evocative tango paintings on the walls. The furniture was comfortable and looked expensive. Thoughtful touches, like the electric converter in the desk drawer, were appreciated.  The walk-in closet was very well designed.

After I surveyed the room and took some photos, I needed to quickly get ready. At that point of our journey, the dark circles under my eyes had become like ancient leather valises and I despaired my repair efforts would be in vain. Then I heard my name being called softly. I looked around the spacious bathroom to observe the huge Jacuzzi tub beckoning me, scented bath salts at the ready.  If only I had more than fifteen minutes to spare, I knew the hydro-massage would restore me. It wasn’t easy to resist, but our hosts were waiting.
Tempting Jacuzzi tub
Executive Chef Juan Gaffuri created a special Tasting Menu for our private dinner, and it was an exceptional meal. After dinner, we went to a milonga for an authentic Tango experience. It was fun to watch the locals tango and give it a try.
I returned to the hotel at 2am and finally discovered how amazing a Four Seasons bed can feel.  Intellectually, I knew their beds were the best in the industry; but sleeping is believing. Perfection! Only a poet could describe how sublime the linens were. But at 6am, I awoke to hear my name again.  As if the Jacuzzi knew my 7am wake-up call would only permit a quick shower, it tried to entice me once more. The bed would not release me: who knows when I’ll have another opportunity to experience the fabulous Four Seasons bed? It was a pleasant struggle but the bed won the hour. If only all life dilemmas were as wonderful…

It just looks like an ordinary bed

After a quick bite and cafe con leche from the buffet breakfast at Le Mistral, and our private walking tour of the city guided by Abercrombie & Kent, we returned for a tour of the hotel. We inspected a Deluxe room (definitely upgrade to the Junior Suite for the extra space, double vanity and Jacuzzi tub).  We explored the Preferred Lounge called The Library, the full-service Spa and Fitness center and the Presidential Suite in La Mansion, where Madonna stayed while filming Evita.  There they arranged a private tango performance and served champagne- amazing!  From there, we went to Sunday Brunch for another superb meal created by Juan Gaffuri. The musicians played a Tango version of “Autumn Leaves” as I wandered through the garden admiring the heated outdoor pool

As a Preferred Partner of the Four Seasons Buenos Aires, FROSCH clients will receive these exclusive amenities:

  • Daily full American breakfast for two people per bedroom, served through In-Room Dining or in the hotel restaurant (including buffets)
  • Lunch for two once during stay (up to USD85, excluding gratuity and alcohol)
  • Upgrade of one category, based on availability at time of check-in (excluding signature suites and villas)
  • Welcome note at check-in acknowledging you and your travel agency and the amenities that are being extended
  • Complimentary high-speed Internet access for all suite bookings
  • Early check in subject to availability at time of arrival

Click here to see my Slideshow.