The Raffles Singapore

The Raffles Singapore is in a very small, and special category of fine classic hotels. They belong to the elite group that have created a perfect mix of service thats is surpassed by none along with amenities that rival the newest trendy hot spots, all while maintaining the exquisite charm of the original building.

When you arrived at the hotel you are greeted by a doorman dressed in traditional 1900′s attire. After entering the hotel we were whisked directly to our room which we had the pleasure of staying in the Presidential suite. This Suite was one of the most charming rooms I have had the opportunity to stay in. With 2 bedrooms, a dining room set for 12, full kitchen, living room with a walk around bar fully stocked with everything from Remy Martin Louis XIII to chocolate covered gummy bears.

One thing that the hotel is famous for is The Singapore Sling; It was conceived by Raffles head bartender in the early 1900′s, at the that time it was referred to as “Ladies Punch” because it was unseemly for a women to drink hard liquor.

If you ever have the opportunity to go to Singapore this is the Only place to stay. Don’t forget to check out the Raffles Arcade shopping on the first floor with every major luxury boutique.

 

 

Josh Flagg stays at the NEW New York Palace

I just stayed at the RW york palace and attended the opening evening party. I have lots of pics. Lets run this story. Pictures to follow.

Josh Flagg stays at the NEW New York Palace

I just state at the Palace which has recently undergone a huge. Renovation. I stayed there when it was a Helmsley hotel and I state there when it was a Dorvhestor hotel. It is now independently owned and better than ever! The rooms are all brand new with the greatest of everything. My suite even had a Miele kitchen in it. As its always been the hotel is still divided into the Palace which was once a private residence and the Towers, with the huge rooms and suites. The penthouse triplex suite still is on of the best suites in New York with it’s own elevator and rooftop patio with hot tub.  All the public spaces are fabulous and you must try Troubles Trust, the new bar named in honor of Leona Helmsleys dog Trouble! (You remember… The one with the inheritance). Good luck to the NEW New York Palace!

 

The Great Indian Adventure

Coming in at first place is the Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai. If the English dictionary had one picture to describe the word sophistication, The Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai would be upfront and center. Few hotels, are there in the world, that really hit the nail on the head. The George V in Paris, The St. Regis in New York, the Peninsula Hong Kong all have it down, and now that I have stayed in the Taj Mumbai, I realize why it has stood the test of time. From the moment you step in, you feel that you are in a sophisticated European home. It is not until you leave the front door that you realize where you really are… India.  The restaurants are fabulous, the service is impeccable and the decor is wonderful.Eat at the Arabic restaurant on the top floor of the Tower wing. It has amazing views and unbelievable Middle Eastern food, which is my favorite. Who knew you had to go to India for good Persian cuisine? You must stay in the Palace Heritage wing, the original building, to really experience it the right way. I give this hotel an A plus. Other great hotels in the city include the beautifully restored Oberoi, Mumbai, with great Italian and Indian food, as well as the Four Seasons with its magnificent rooftop bar.

Coming in at second place is the The Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur. The Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur can only be described with one word… Crazy! I wish I had a more eloquent way of putting it, but this hotel is bananas! It is like Hotel du Cap on steroids. Aside from La Mamounia, I don’t think I have ever stayed in a more opulent property. The money spent on building this place is unfathomable and it is in one of the prettiest settings I have ever seen. I give this hotel two thumbs up! This property really is a utopia and will surprise even the biggest hotel snobs. Check out the rooms facing the lake with their private plunge pools.

Tied at number two is the Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur. I have never seen anything like this in my life. Built in the art deco style, this orating twenties art deco palace is as magnificent as the Oberoi Udaivilas, except of a different vintage. Even more so than the Rambagh Palace, this hotel is more impressive than some of the palaces I have seen in Vienna and the Loire Valley. Unmistakably, this is one of the finest pieces of architecture I have ever seen. If you are a fan of Art Deco, trust me, you will go crazy. There is nothing in any city I have ever seen like this. If you were to reproduce this structure today, it would cost three billion dollars. Two thumbs up!!!

At number three is the Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur. There is nothing normal about the Taj Lake Palace. I love hotels that are unique and have something that other hotels can’t offer. This is not just a hotel alongside a lake, but rather it is a floating palace in the middle of a man-made lake. Built as a palace for the Royal Family, the property has functioned as a floating pool for decades. I learned of the hotel originally when i watched the 1983 James Bond movie Octopussy. The Taj Lake Palace was Octopussy’s home. The hotel feels like a luxurious villa out of a seventies or eighties Bond movie, and has that charm of yesteryear. I love everything about this hotel and all that it has to offer. The view out to the water is every bit as magnificent as the Shangri-la Resort in Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman, one of my favorite hotels in the Middle East.

At number four is The Oberoi Vanyavilas, Ranthambhore. By far the best service I have ever had in a hotel was at The Oberoi Vanyavilas, Ranthambhore. The hotel is made up of twenty five luxury tents and the property holds a maximum occupancy of 50 people at one time. Every single person in the hotel knows your name and it feels like there are ten people attending to you always. The general manager of the property, Ratna Malhotra, in my opinion, is what makes this property run so smoothly. She runs the show there and she is more like a major duomo running a house. That property is her baby and you can tell no one could do her job like her.

Tied at number four is The Oberoi Rajvilas, Jaipur. Contrary to the Taj Rambagh Palace, The Oberoi Rajvilas, Jaipur is like a luxurious villa rather than a palace. It is everything the Taj is not. Where the Taj is grand and opulent, The Oberoi Rajvilas, Jaipur is intimate and understated. The service is impeccable and the grounds are amongst the most beautiful I have ever seen. Aside from The Oberoi Vanyavilas, Ranthambhore, this is amongst the best service i have ever had in a hotel. Note: Make sure you opt to take the horse drawn carriage to your room. It really is a great way to start off your trip. Also check out all the peacocks on the property and the two in house elephants that will take you around the grounds!

At number five is one of the most beautiful examples of contemporary architecture I have ever seen. The Aman, New Delhi is striking! The hotel which will be rebranded as the Lodhi in February, has some of the best food I have ever eaten and some of the most unique rooms I have ever seen. My room which was a kind of junior suite had a heated pool on the terrace! I remember sitting on the bed and looking over to Colton and asking him, “Dear, is that a pool on the terrace?” After staring at it a few moments in disbelief we jumped right in.

At number six is the Imperial New Delhi, which is exactly what it sounds like. Its kind of like the London Ritz of New Delhi, very formal and very grand. The restaurants are magnificent, (some of which are rated the best in Asia) and the grounds are beautiful. The building is quite interesting because it is Art Deco. I strongly urge you to try the spa at this hotel, even play a little Raquett Ball on their court. If you like old world European hotels, this is the place to stay. Also check out the vintage cxar parked in the driveway at all times. The hotel was very similar to Rocco Forte’s The Charles Hotel, in Munich which has a deco flare. By the way, off topic, stay at The Charles next time you are in Munich if you want to experience a treat.

At number seven is the Taj Rambagh Palace. The Taj Rambagh Palace is exactly what it sounds like. It is a palace. From the minute you walk in, you feel like the Maharaja. At the front gate, you get into a vintage 1940s four seat American convertible that slowly drives you to the front door. There the hotel throws rose pedals on you and makes you feel at home. The restaurant, especially the vintage train, is fabulous. Have the pizza there. The grounds are magnificent and the indoor and outdoor pools are magnificent. Check out the spa here for a treat.

At number eight is the Taj Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad The Taj Falaknuma Palace is a colonial revival structure painstakingly restored in a beautiful setting. Very similar to that of Raffles in Singapore, this hotel has that feeling of a time that has long passed, but with the conveniences of today. An applause to this hotel for their marvelous restoration of this property. Make sure on your way back up to Delhi from Hyderabad you stop in Shimla. The Oberoi Wildflower Hall in Shimla is a magnificent castle like home set in the middle of the Himalayas. In the summer, the trees are green and you feel like you are in Alpine country. In the winter, it is a snowy wonderland ideal for skiing. I could not help feeling how similar this setting was to the Swiss Alps.

Coming in at nine is The Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra. By far one of the most beautiful pools I have ever been to, The Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra also boasts one of the best views I have ever seen… That of the Taj Mahal. Every room looks out onto the pool, grounds and the magnificent Taj Mahal. Watching the sun rise and set from your room is one of those moments you have to experience in your life. Eat in the Indian restaurant for a wonderful experience.

Coming in at number ten, and rounding-out India’s best-of-the best is The Oberoi Motor Vessel Vrinda, Backwater Cruiser, Kerala. The backwaters of Kerala are amongst the most picturesque settings in the world. To see the backwaters in its finest, you must stay on a boat and what better way to travel than by Oberoi. Similar to their vessel in Egypt, The Oberoi Zahra Luxury Nile Cruiser, but smaller, this eight cabin boat takes you on a two or three day journey through this amazing location.

On a side note, I stopped off in the Middle East on the way back. Check out the swimming pool at the St. Regis Doha, Qatar. I think it might be the biggest pool i have ever seen in my life. I had the pleasure of staying in a bunch of other fabulous hotels in India while I was gone on my 30 day trek, however if you have to pick the top ten, there is no way to deny that the above hotels are the best hotels in that region of the world. Have a safe flight!

 

Josh Flagg’s Killer View of The Taj Mahal

By far, one of the most beautiful pools I have been to was found at The Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra. The hotel also boasts one of the best views I have ever seen… That of the Taj Mahal. Every room looks out onto the pool, grounds and the magnificent Taj Mahal. Watching the sun rise and set from your room is one of those moments you have to experience in your life. Eat in the Indian restaurant for a wonderful experience. Rates at the Oberoi start at 34,000 Indian rupees a night or about $640 USD. If you want to travel like Josh, you better get to selling some luxury real estate in Beverly Hills then!

A Reality TV Star Goes Stargazing in Hawaii

Over the summer vacation, I took a three week trip to Hawaii and yes, in case you are wondering, I do still work.I just happen to do all my traveling at one time, and the rest of the year I am in the office.
And on this trip, I did something very cool which I had done once when I was a little kid, and was surprised to find out I could still do. I went stargazing, the real kind, not the Hollywood kind.
The Hyatt Regency in Maui is a monster of a hotel with many pools, hundreds of rooms and a variety of restaurants. I remembered that when I was a kid, I went onto the roof of the hotel and did some stargazing from their heli-pad.
So this time around, I phoned up the Hyatt Regency and asked them if they still offered this service and to my surprise they do. They said that it has been a program they have offered for 25 years, started by original owner of the hotel who was an amateur astronomer.
The Hyatt now has three incredible telescopes for guests to use. They seriously look like weapons, they are that big! I was extremely impressed when the astronomer showed me Saturn, and it really looks as it does in the pictures, like a giant ball with a ring around it.
If you like looking at stars (and who doesn’t in Hawaii) you must go to the roof of the Hyatt Regency and take one of their Tour of the Stars!

Josh Flagg Relives The Dolphin Quest at The Kahala Hotel

When I was a little boy, I used to stay with my parents at the famous Kahala Hotel in Waikiki. I was really excited when my partner Colton and I went to Hawaii to go back to the hotel and see if it was still as glamorous as it was when I was a child. And the former Mandarin Oriental property is just that!
It kind of reminds me of what Waikiki was in the 1950s (not that I was around to see it) but one can imagine. The mid-century building is totally refreshed and redone yet still has a very cool 1950s vibe.
What the property offers which I have never seen anywhere else is a natural lagoon full of dolphins that you can swim with! This is what I used to do when I was little and I wanted to see if the Dolphin Quest program was still going on. Boy is it ever!
You can get in the lagoon, play with the dolphins, feed them and swim with them. They are as friendly as can be, and it is amazing to think that these creatures actually live at the Kahala!
By the way, if you need something more adult to do while staying there, order up a dirty martini. They make a great one

Josh Flagg Discovers The Montage Beverly Hills Will Even Monogram a Pillow for Your Dog

Colton and I have Godzilla registered as a service dog so we don’t even call ahead of time anymore when we bring her on planes or to hotels. When I checked into the Montage Beverly Hills on Friday night, I was delightfully pleased to find in my room a dog bed (which was equally as comfortable as the bed… I actually tried it out… I know most mentally stable people usually do things like that) and they brought her a dog bowl and a bottle of water.
The cutest part of it though was what I found on the bed. Three monogrammed pillows with a J for Josh a C for Colton and a G for Godzilla! And if you are wondering, the service is impeccable and everything a great hotel should be.
Beverly Hills really only has a few GREAT hotels surprisingly… The Four Seasons Beverly Hills which is best known for it’s service, The Beverly Hills Hotel which is just an iconic staple of the city and a must place to go for the pool, The Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire because of its location and now at the top of the list as well, The Montage for encompassing all of these things. Godzilla gives it two paws up!

Josh Flagg Ranks The Best Hotel Pools in Italy

I just got back from a three and a half week trip to Italy and after staying in 20 different hotels and swimming in 20 different pools, I sat down and compiled a Top 10 List.
I visited all the top locations so I am sure I did not miss any. Below in the following order is my list of the top ten hotel pools in Italy, some of which are among the best in all of Europe

10. Coming in at number ten is Hotel Quisisana in Capri (pictured above). The tiny island of Capri is a 45-minute hydrofoil ride away from the port of Naples (a place which unless there is a gun put to your head, I would recommend you never visit… This wouldn’t be so difficult because during the short time I stayed in Napes, I met two people that were held up at gunpoint and one that was run over by a motorcycle. I digress.)
Capri has been known as a jet set location for years and is evident by the number of designer stores located within a three block radius. In fact they have an Hermes store which is the size of a good walk in closet. At the end of the shopping street is the famous Quisisana hotel. The round pool with it’s mosaic tile work that reads “I heart Quissi” is a staple of the Italian pool scene.
Be very careful in the rooms however, as the floors are all made of porcelain tile and very easy to slip on (which is evident by the fact that my grandmother slipped and broke her right hip, thus putting an end to our lovely trip and causing her to stay in a hospital on the mainland for two weeks.)

9. Le Sirenuse was made famous when it was featured in “Only You” with Marisa Tomei. Prior to that however it has always been known as a place for the rich and famous to be seen. Book way in advance though as it is a very small hotel. My father gave my mother her wedding ring while staying at this hotel in 1982, only three months after knowing each other, so this place must have a special effect on people.

8. If you like looking at big flashy boats and big flashy people, then you will surely like the scene at Cala di Volpe in Porto Cervo, Sardinia which feels like a scene out of a movie. Just think the Italian version of St Tropez. If you really want to have a look at unpretentious people, visit “The Billionaire Club” while you are there.

7. The Grand Hotel Timeo is on the Mafia-infested island of Sicily, but don’t worry you won’t get killed here. The hotel guards will protect you. This Orient-Express property is magnificent and so is its pool. Sicily is a lot less pretentious than neighboring Sardinia and in my opinion, much more beautiful. Try them both though. They are very close to each other so it’s doable.

6. Hotel Splendido in Portofino is a class act. This hotel just oozes sophistication. The pool overlooks the bay of Portofino and is one of the most magnificent sights you will ever see. The hotel’s restaurant is exceptionally good and the service is excellent. I would not expect anything less from an Orient Express hotel.
Make sure to get to the pool early though as their are few seats and a lot of demand. By the way, the hotel has two properties, the Splendido Mare which is in the town of Portofino and the Splendido which is on the hill. I stayed in both because I am just strange like that. My recommendation although they are both lovely is to stay on the hill. You will never forget it.
5. Coming in at number 5 is probably number one on the list of most beautiful hotels, but since we are just going by pools, I would put it at number 5. Set on multiple acres in the center of Florence, The Four Seasons which was a private villa, is truly amazing. The pool is set in the middle of a lush garden and while sitting by or in the pool, you totally forget you are in Florence. Check out the hotel interiors. Pierre Yves Rochon, who did the George V in Paris and the gorgeous luxury suites at the Danieli (where I also stayed this trip and was highly impressed by their renovations), did the Four Seasons Florence.

4. At number 4 is the world famous Villa d’Este. If you have never seen a floating pool than I highly suggest you come here. Set in famous Lake Como, the outdoor pool actually floats on the lake. If you like to sun and you want to be seen, then this is the place for you. Don’t forget to book way in advance though, as this place fills up during the summer in a heart beat. Equally as impressive as the pools are the magnificent gardens. I highly suggest you take one of their boats out for the day with or without a captain (without is more fun) and coast through Lake Como.

3. (It’s no surprise that numbers three two and one are all Orient-Express hotels. ) Coming in at number three is the Villa San Michele in Florence. Located in the town of Fiesole (a five minute drive from Florence) the Villa San Michele is a magnificent property. In fact the hotel’s facade was designed by Michelangelo himself when it was built as a monastery. The grounds are exquisite and the dining room is unreal. The pool however is a sight to see.
Overlooking all of Florence and the hills of Tuscany, it is one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. The pool restaurant which is located right next to the pool will bring whatever you want to your chaise lounge and the service is beyond excellent!
Some people like pools to be cold, but I am like an old Jewish woman from Florida and there is nothing I like more than a pool that is eighty degrees. Although not in the center of Florence, if you are returning to Florence for a second time or you don’t mind the ride into town every time, this is an exquisite European property and I highly recommend it.

2. Number two is a close tie with number one and even now I really have a hard time deciding which I liked better. Number two is one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever stayed in–Hotel Caruso in Ravello, Italy.
Set on the hillside town of Ravello on the Amalfi Coast, this hotel has stunning views, and not just from the rooms. Jump into the infinity pool and float on over to the edge where you will not believe the sight you see. Set up thousands of feet above the sea, you really feel like you are swimming in the clouds. I have never seen anything like it. The restaurant at the pool is wonderful and the scene is so much fun. This truly is an incredible property with an equally incredible pool.

1. The number one pool award goes to The Cipriani Hotel in Venice. Set on a small island across the grand canal from San Marcos Piazza, take a private boat to Cipriani and immediately forget all your worries at home. Aside from the world famous cuisine, the pool and the pool scene at Cipriani Venice is simply put, heaven. Surrounded by dozens of white umbrellas and chaise lounges, the Olympic sized tile pool–yes, Olympic sized–is that much more massive once you get in it.
The pool looks like a giant bathtub as it is not recessed into the ground like most pools but rather pops up out of it. If you like a warm pool on a warm day, you will want to fall asleep in it and it is heated to 87 degrees! Have a snack or a glass of wine at the pool and you will never forget it. This was my grandfather’s favorite pool to swim in and I now I know why.
If you like old world charm, incredible food, gorgeous gardens and wonderfully done rooms, then this is the hotel for you. Go to Venice in the morning, take the five minute boat ride back across the grand canal and just veg at this private oasis.

When in Rome, Do as Josh Flagg Does and Stay at Hotel Eden

I must have stayed in Rome at least a half dozen times over the course of my short-lived life, however i have never really found an extraordinary hotel. The Hassler was nice…fifteen years ago. The St Regis is beautiful…if you don’t mind using a flashlight when going out at night.
But I’ve now found a new favorite–Hotel Eden, a Le Meridien Hotel.
A block from Via Condoti and a block from Via Veneto, it is in the perfect location. The hotel exudes luxury and just the right amount of charm. The views are extraordinary and the staff is extremely nice and not snooty like at most of the other five star hotels in Rome. If I had my own star-rating system, I’d give the hotel five stars but the views, six stars.

Snow Dogs and S’mores: Just a Few of Josh Flagg’s Favorite Hotel Things

Back in March, I had the pleasure of staying at the Montage Deer Valley. It was one of the best ski-in, ski-out hotels I have ever stayed at.
Not only does the hotel have it’s own in-house pooch, Monty (short for Montage) and heated outdoor swimming pool, but they also have a firepit blazing everyday from 4 to 5pm a fire pit where all the rich people get together and make s’mores. It’s the only place I know where people paying $700 a night for a room get together to roast marshmallows!
The hotel also features it’s own bowling alley (see the photo below.) Needless to say, this is a must-stay for a winter getaway.