THROW AWAY THE KEY

A band of fre­quent trav­ellers re­veal their favourite hideaway ho­tels

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel -

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

Check­list

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

Pic­ture: Caro­line Gladstone

Roof with a view: Syd­ney’s Re­gents Court Ho­tel

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