THROW AWAY THE KEY
A band of frequent travellers reveal their favourite hideaway hotels
Mehmet Ali Aga Hotel, Datca, Turkey TWO remarkable things happened to the 19th-century konak (or mansion) in the village of Resadiye on Turkey’s sleepy Datca Peninsula: it was not only saved from the all but statutory wrecking ball but was subsequently opened in 2004 as an exceptional small hotel, the Mehmet Ali Aga.
It’s not just the walled gardens and the lawns scattered with hammocks and shaded reading kiosks that make stays such a joy in this late-Ottoman country house. Legion period features — including the original hammam (steam bath), the roofed veranda fronting the first-floor rooms, the ornately carved wooden ceilings and the wonderful frescoes — have been painstakingly restored. The delightful owner-managers, the Pir family, call the konak a ‘‘ museum hotel’’, though there’s nothing precious about the place. The rooms are great, but no perch is more romantic than the veranda, especially at night, when owls call across the rose-scented grounds.
The hotel’s Elaki Restaurant is excellent, too, especially for regional specialties such as samphire salad and savoury-sweet pudding dumplings of local cheese and crushed carob pods. This is just the base for exploring the wild and lovely uplands of this littlevisited region. www.kocaev.com. Jeremy Seal Cotswolds House Hotel IN an area of England crammed with picturesque hotels, this little gem is a standout, tucked away just off the Chipping Campden High Street within the confines of a handsome Regency townhouse (and various ancillary buildings). Interiors are style-savvy (more hip than chintz) and the service attentive. Bespoke king beds are dressed with Frette linen, then your choice of pillows and blankets or duvet. Tubs are built for two; there’s a telly near the bath and in-room library of books and magazines. You can even have the mini bar stocked to your liking. The 30 guestrooms come in all shapes and sizes, from garden suites to luxurious digs in the recently opened (and adjoining) Montrose House.
Owners Christa and Ian Taylor are keen to ensure guests make this a home away from home. Thus the modern British cuisine, both comforting and inventive. (I’d never have thought to lace my porridge with whisky but now can’t imagine it any other way.) The main dining room opens on to a contemporary and very lovely garden, the work of local designer Paul Williams. Be sure to book ahead. This hotel may lie a little off the most trodden Cotswold trail but it boasts a loyal London following, likely to grow following its nomination as a 2007 Michelin Rising Star. www.cotswoldhouse.com. Christine McCabe Klaus K Hotel, Helsinki THERE’S not much to announce the hotel’s presence on a busy boulevard in central Helsinki. (I make a note to hit the stylish shops nearby.) Although described as ‘‘ romantic era’’, the building isn’t one of Helsinki’s famous examples of Jugendstijl, and I don’t instantly associate the humming, street-level trattoria Toscanini with the hotel.
Inside, though, Klaus K is 100 per cent Finnish, its design inspired by the mythological epic Kalevala, where earth, sea and sky were created from a broken egg. Glistening crystal lights drip like icicles from the ceilings. The liberal use of white interiors, counterpointed by silver birch wood (the national tree), conjures up snowy landscapes, while pale grey carpet woven with quotes from Kalevala evokes ripples on water. Though mimimalist chic, this hotel has quirky touches. Guestroom categories are Passion, Mystical, Desire and Envy: ‘‘ to reflect mood and emotion’’, says the blurb. While cool, you won’t get the cold shoulder, especially from the smiling English-speaking staff. Recently listed as one of the world’s top design hotels by Conde Nast Traveler magazine, it won’t be secret for long. www.klauskhotel.com. Maggy Oehlbeck Regents Court, Sydney ACTORS, artists and winemakers know about it, but to any casual observer the Regents Court is just another Potts Point art deco apart- ment block in Sydney’s inner east. Tucked away in Springfield Avenue, a quiet cul de sac midway between busy Macleay and Victoria streets, you have to hunt out this little jewel.
Once inside the wrought-iron gates, I can understand why actors from Belvoir Street’s Company B hole up here for weeks at a time and artists donate their paintings to adorn the walls. The owners, the MacMahon family, bought this 1926 former gentlemen’s residence in 1990 and converted it into a boutique hotel with 30 studio apartments. Family-style hospitality is evident in the lovely sitting room, where guests congregate over a glass of wine or an espresso and homemade biscotti. The warmth extends through the rich burgundy and chocolate colour schemes and Australian mahogany panelling.
But perhaps best of all is the magnificent rooftop garden, with views of the city, Kings Cross skyline and glimpses of the Sydney Opera House through luxuriant shrubbery. Green fingered MacMahon grandmothers and aunts have tendered and watered the flowering pots and the little olive grove, creating an inner-city oasis. www.regentscourt.com.au. Caroline Gladstone High Road House, London THE 14 rooms in High Road House, in west London’s Chiswick, are cocoons of calm and comfort. Pure white walls and jute floors are striped with splashes of colour: a moss-green blanket or a sunflower-yellow chair. In place of cupboards are coat pegs, a few of them already hung with what you may need: deliciously soft bathrobes, hot water bottle for an even cosier night. Unlikely you’ll use it, though, as beds are swamped in thick, down-filled duvets. The bathrooms have giant showers and are stuffed with fabulous products from High Road’s sister spa in Somerset.
Room service is, not surprisingly, excellent, as the rooms are attached to the downstairs brasserie and private members’ club (to which hotel guests have full access). So you can choose to feast on a perfect steak sandwich while watching movies in bed or in the buzz of the hotel’s playroom, which is kitted out with a pool table, table football and a very louche mattressed area for horizontal cocktail drinking. www.highroadhouse.co.uk. A.Z.B. Knight Telegraph Cove Resort, Vancouver Island IT is almost too Jack London to be real: a scoop of slightly ramshackle timber houses in lumberjack shirt colours teetering from the edge of a rocky cove. Cradled in the bullseye of the cove is a marina packed with boats where fishermen holler at one another over the noise of their engines. Soaring pines erupt from the hills that rise high and fast from the water’s edge.
Located on the eastern side of Vancouver Island, 350km north of Nanaimo, where the ferry from Vancouver docks, the village of Telegraph Cove was built in the 1920s for workers at the cannery and sawmill that operated here.
When the cannery closed, the houses, the bunkhouse, the floating hospital and the mess hall were given a light makeover and born again as self-contained accommodation.
It is aimed at families with a taste for the bracing, Canadian version of the great outdoors, and all the essentials are in place: Mrs P’s General Store, a pub, bear watching, sea kayak and fishing trips, and finger-licking salmon barbecues in the evenings. The resort also serves as a base for the Stubbs Island Whale Watching tours. This part of Johnson Strait, which separates Vancouver Island from the mainland, is one of the best places to see orcas, and the sight of a mammoth black body trailing a plume of spray and parting the water with its dorsal fin is one you won’t forget in a hurry. www.telegraphcoveresort.com. Michael Gebicki Komaneka Resort Hotel, Ubud, Bali FROM the moment we arrive at the Komaneka in the heart of bustling Ubud, we begin to relax (and this has been a constant of our seven stays here). Sixty smiling staff members service just 20 rooms, a ratio that ensures we are always recognised, often greeted by name. The airy creamy-white rooms with polished limestone floors feature traditional wooden furniture. Their terraces are the perfect place to rest, take afternoon tea or pre-dinner drinks.
But, most important, the rooms are set in a tranquil garden with paddyfield views bordered by a stream best observed from the end of the pool while watching squirrels play in the trees. It is a haven in the midst of this royal town, yet perfectly placed to explore Ubud’s temples, market, arts and crafts shops and restaurants.
At night it is conveniently easy to venture out to a dance or musical performance in the town or surrounding suburbs.
In the garden, the restaurant pavilion is just large enough to accommodate the hotel guests. The tropical breakfast helps start our day, while afternoon tea features Balinese favourites, and at night the Indonesian specialties are an extra treat. Of course, there is a spa for pampering and a gallery where guests are encouraged to learn about Balinese culture. We have been, and will continue to be, very happy here. www.komaneka.com. John McPhee and Jim Sait Eresin Crown Hotel, Istanbul SURROUNDED by a nimbus of minarets and domes, Eresin Crown Hotel is tucked amid streets that still murmur truth and porkies about those old sultans of swing, the Ottomans. The lobby is a mini-museum of mosaics and columns from the serial Hellenic, Roman and Byzantine ruins on which the hotel is built. From the rooftop restaurant you can look out towards the Blue Mosque, the Bosporus and the Sea of Marmara.
In all, Eresin Crown Hotel boasts a hefty set of attributes distinguishing it from most other inns. At the less excessive end of the five-star spectrum, it’s neatly located in the middle of Sultanahmet, the most historic area of Istanbul. The 60 rooms and suites have parquet flooring, double-glazed windows and jacuzzi bathtubs, plus the usual line-up of airconditioning, safe, international television and so on.
Quiet, tasteful and friendly as it all is, you’re not in Istanbul for the jacuzzis. Three steps out the Eresin’s front door and you find yourself walking, as neighbourhood novelist, 2006 Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk puts it, ‘‘ through the infinite and winding streets of Istanbul, living the present as if it were the past’’. www.eresincrown.com.tr. John Borthwick Fort Tiracol Heritage Hotel, Goa IT lies at the farthest reaches of Goa, so far from the beaches of pink and packaged tourists that it could be in a different state. It almost is. Overlooking the mouth of River Arondem, Fort Tiracol is a former Portuguese outpost in what is otherwise Maharastra.
The journey is half the fun. As you go north, tourism begins to fall away, reappearing only in places such as Morjim and Asvem and Mandrem as a laid-back affair with a scattering of beach huts, a few up-market villas buried in coconut groves. I cross the river on a ferry just large enough for a battered truck, a convoy of school children, and me and my scooter.
On the other side the 16th-century fort presides over a tiny parish of cashew trees and orange blossoms. It has found new life as a boutique hotel. There are only seven rooms, with simple white and ochre walls, elegant wooden furniture, drench showers and a panorama, from the tall windows, of the river mouth, the sea and the Goan coast curving southward. It is the finest view in India. www.heritagehotelsofindia.com. Stanley Stewart
Lastminute.com.au has a low-rate product called Secret Hotels. Only catch is that you don’t know which hotel you’ll be staying at until the booking is made. For example, accommodation at a secret hotel in Sydney described as ‘‘ room with harbour bridge view’’ starts at $250 a night, a 53 per cent saving off the published tariff. More: www.lastminute.com.au.
Style-savvy: Cotswolds House Hotel in Chipping Campden offers porridge laced with whisky, which may explain its enthusiastic following
Sultans and spas: Three steps beyond the door of the Eresin lies old Istanbul
Roof with a view: Sydney’s Regents Court Hotel