Where to stay: our spring/summer edit

Places

Where to stay: our spring/summer edit

Forest lodges, Mexican ziggurats, Gallic love nests, Willie Nelson's house – check out where we'll be checking in over the sunshine months

Team Smith

BY Team Smith3 May 2022

Sometimes it’s like the universe is trying to drop less than subtle hints that, yes, you do need a holiday. In the next few months you can take your pick of excuses from the Queen’s platinum jubilee, Memorial Day, 4 July, Father’s Day, Midsummer’s Day. Plus, it’s probably someone’s birthday. Weddings are back. Festivals too, right? And that was a particularly unrelenting winter, so…

‘Tis the season, basically, and to try and aid those ‘But where on earth should I go?’ queries, we’ve narrowed down a world-spanning selection of recently launched and coming-very-soon hotels that are currently getting us a little giddy with excitement.

SOUTH OF FRANCE

There are two kinds of sweet summer child in the south of France: the mischievous bronzed gamine, or the floaty carefree field-frolicker. We may be oversimplifying, but with a new crop of stays as seasonally serotonin-boosting as a field of sunflowers, you can live out both fantasies and more. In St Tropez is hideout-with-a-past Hôtel La Ponche, where And God Made Woman was partially filmed, turning it into hotbed of legendary French talent (Brigitte Bardot, Roger Vadim, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Françoise Sagan…) – sometimes literally, as trysts were furtively carried out behind closed doors.

Come to the Luberon, an outrageously pretty pastoral stretch dotted with beauty-queen villages, for lavender-scented reveries at sister stays Le Moulin and Le Galinier, both styled as if your beloved French grandmother was gunning for a spread in Elle Decoration. And, further north, the Loire Valley might be known for its kingly châteaux, but swap majesty for magic (art-splatterred treehouses, mysterious sculpture walks, a spot of tree dancing) at Loire Valley Lodges.

THE HAMPTONS

The perpetual Ralph Lauren lookbook is synonymous with the sunshine months when the scent of lobster rolls and the sound of popping corks fill the Atlantic-misted air. To ensure a suitable address – white of fence, luscious of lawn, sprawling of grounds – bypass East Hampton and head east along South Fork to the hamlet of Amagansett, where shingled homestead the Roundtree serves up casual comforts: s’mores around the fire, buggy rides to the beach, afternoon teas, peaceful pared-back rooms. Nearby, the well-dressed Reform Club leans more towards stately with its eye-catching art collection and generous scattering of fireplaces inside, and topiary encircled gardens outside.

AUSTIN

There’s a playful 1970s lake house vibe to Hotel Magdalena – a ravishingly retro stay on a 14-acre stretch in South Congress, formerly owned by Willie Nelson, and neighbours with sister hotel Saint Cecilia. Across the river from Downtown with easy access to Austin’s green spaces, Carpenter Hotel puts the focus on Texan sunshine and days filled with fresh air – ably assisted by its verdant setting in an old pecan grove and light-filled, pared-back interiors: a fabulous pool, neighbourhood restaurant and coffee bar grant you all you need on your doorstep.

PARIS

Quelle surprise, Paris is turning out stylish stays. But aesthetic ennui hasn’t set in yet as designers let their chic flag fly, new parts of the city gain prominence, and old hands work anew. A bold indicator of the 10th arrondissement’s slow-build coolness is Hôtel Les Deux Gares, set handily between the Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est. Brit designer Luke Edward Hall has taken brief leave of his stylistic senses to mix red-and white checkerboard with psychedelic florals; leopard print and black-and-white chevrons; trompe-l’œil tortoiseshell and candy stripes, to great effect.

And the lesser-loved 15th gains a glamorous hangout in Hôtel Wallace, where rooms feel like retro sleeper carriages, an Eiffel Tower-view rooftop recalls the Seventies Italian Riviera; and the bar thrums thrillingly. More classic, by the Palais Royal, is high-gloss Nolinski, all sleek marbles, mirrors and Haussmanian elegance, while Hotel Pulitzer – a brand built on good looks – is bringing more sparkle to the City of Lights with a tree-threaded terrace and sculptural neutrals. Philippe Starck is also back on home turf to rouse the masses with Mob House, a hideaway with its own radio station, alfresco cinema, pop-up markets and creative happenings (zero-waste beauty workshops, gardening, fortune telling, bee-keeping…).

THE BALEARICS

Musically, ‘Balearica’ is the catch-all term given to esoteric, mid-tempo, poolside-perfect records favoured by terrace selectors around the world. But in its spiritual home the nothing-too-obvious approach extends beyond the decks. Take Palma Riad, a richly textured hideaway in Mallorca’s capital which wears its jewel-toned Moroccan influences proudly. It stands in stark contrast to, say, El Vicenc de la Mar which rises airily and artfully where the mountains meet the shores of the island’s north-west. Curios both, but all the better for it. So too, albeit with some A-list accoutrements, is Zannier’s sweeping Finca Bellavista private estate in the relative wilds of south-west Menorca – just the place for a pool party of your own.

TURKEY

If you don’t currently associate hot-air balloons with Cappadocia, Turkey’s formerly troglodyte-inhabited lunar landscape, you’re in for a treat: Phileas Fogg’s most-endorsed (but never actually used) mode of transport is the only way to get around here, since this Silk Road stop-off is best seen from above. Caves, dovecotes, connicles and fairy chimneys can all be explored, or you can admire the Pigeon Valley straight from the terrace of Argos in Cappadocia, where, yes, there are cave suites. For a slightly more orthodox holiday backdrop (plain old sand and sea), we’ve found two brilliant new beachfront boutique hotels: Yazz Collective, near the port city of Fethiye and only accessible by boat, and Mett Bodrum, a spa-enhanced stay close to the marina and steps from the sand.

ITALY

This summer we’re swapping the pasta peninsula’s great dames for the antique albergos and petite pensioni of roads less travelled. Make like Maurizio and Patrizia Gucci in South Tyrol’s Goldene Rose, a former Carthusian monastery turned chalet-style spa hotel where the silent treatment is far less menacing than Gaga’s espresso-swigging side-eye would have you believe. The pine-studded hamlet has whole trails dedicated to their own monastic brand of on-mute mindfulness, as well as multiple saunas, an ice grotto and two outdoor baths. Likewise, in the shangri-la of Sardinia’s Emerald coast, the pin-drop poolside of Seven Pines, Sardinia is surrounded by 15 hectares of private gardens, intimate beaches and dining with views that warrant an ‘-issimo’ or two.

Moving on to the boot’s green heartlands, there’s a restored 16th-century palazzo, which the olive enthusiasts of Rastrello have manifested into a majestically Umbrian affair with pruned Renaissance gardens, Titian-worthy interiors and Perugino-esque prospects over Lake Trasimeno. Across the provincial borderland Oasy Hotel gives cottagecore a Tuscan spin with 16 sun-dappled lodges in the leafy Dynamo Oasis nature reserve. Though if you’re still hankering after a bit of bustle, a night or two in Rome never hurt – Fendi’s fashion-forward Rhinoceros is a concrete and chrome antidote to round-off your rural romp.

LONDON

Whoever suggested not to spend your summers in a city had clearly never experienced London in beer garden mode. It’s the capital at its very best and the Princess Royal might just take the crown for where best to savour it. It’s situated on the leafy backstreets of Notting Hill – where things are more enjoyably buzzy than unbearably busy – and sports only four regally appointed rooms so you’ll quickly feel like you have dominion over its (currently) blossom framed terrace, awning-sheltered street seating, light-filled conservatory dining room and handsomely honed bar space. There might be a jubilee happening, but this is the royalty that we’ll be raising a glass to this season.

BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

For obvious reasons Richard Branson was always going to show an interest in the British Virgin Islands, but beyond his much publicised settlement on nearby Necker, the entrepreneur has been all abuzz on Moskito Island, too, assembling what can only be described as a feat of nature: three standalone estates of next-level luxury which take their design cues from four fairly failsafe sources, namely, light, shadow, wind and water. If you’re after something a little closer to the action (though you should take that word with a pinch of margarita salt in these parts), Long Bay Beach Resort on main island Tortola shares the same white sands and curaçao waters and won’t bite the bank balance quite like Moskito Island.

THE COTSWOLDS

A weekend in the Cotswolds is always a good reset at any time of year but, unprompted, Wild Thyme & Honey has kindly given us cause for another one. As the name suggests, things here are bound to get a little fragrant, as well as untamed and hyper-local. This old coaching inn, just east of Cirencester, helpfully has its own pub across the courtyard, which has been pouring pints for locals since the 16th century and is now the proud owner of a robata grill, ready to intercept the incoming produce from neighbouring farms to keep guests extremely well fed.

ANTWERP

If you’re seeking serenity this summer, may we recommend cloistering yourself away in Botanic Sanctuary Antwerp. Since the 13th century, as Belgium’s design-forward, gastronomically talented city moves dynamically forward around it, this former monastery has been a source of spiritual healing. The beautifully landscaped gardens feel like a world of their own, with many medicinal (and often edible) plantings, the restored apothecary still dabbles in holistic potions, and the spa is a one-stop cure all, whether you need a knot worked out, skin smoothing or your electromagnetic waves measured. But, the modern sanctuary seeker has more complex needs than the average mediaeval monk, which are met in four restaurants, each with Michelin pedigree; a diamond- and fossil-filled gallery and boutiques selling sparkly things; a rare-whisky tasting club; and work-and-play activities to spur childlike glee (soap-box derbies, music-video making, graffiti classes). A God-tier getaway – no vows of silence, chastity or poverty required.

UPSTATE NEW YORK

Upstate and upscale, two new additions are here in time to give New Yorkers – or anyone – an escape from the city this summer. First up, Kenoza Hall, a turn-of-the-century weekend retreat in the Catskills restored to glory and sporting contemporary country interiors, private hot tubs and a spa as soothing as its trail-ribboned bucolic setting overlooking Kenoza Lake. Follow the Hudson upstate and you’ll find Hutton Brickyards. This woodland retreat of luxury cabins (with yoga and archery lessons on the menu) just outside clapboard-cute Kingston is, as the clues suggest, on the site of a former brickyard where weathered kiln sheds and a rusted dockside crane still stand as majestic totems of industry among the verdant nature.

INDONESIA

Dedicate summer to personal growth and some self indulgence at Cap Karoso, where you can learn the full spectrum of indigenous Indonesian craftsmanship. Set on a relatively unexplored coast of honeymooner isle Sumba, this rural retreat will teach you centuries-old techniques and introduce you to the future of Indonesia’s art scene through its artist in residence programme, village outreach efforts, wide-ranging classes and activities, and strong links to the local Marapu culture – the hotel owners had the project blessed by the local rato (shaman) in an elaborate ceremony before they started construction. It’ll be a trip quite unlike any other, but the experience is raw and refined, with beach club socialising, elegant modern villas with private pools, pop-up dining with Michelin-rated chefs, and spa healing that goes deep too.

THE AZORES

Something’s been bubbling in São Miguel (not the volcano, thankfully), and we’re giving a particularly warm welcome to two Azorean additions this season. The Azor Hotel in storied Ponta Delgada is an Atlantic-facing base from which to explore the bijou ilha verde and its pristine peaks, sapphire waters and forest-wrapped valleys. Further inland, Furnas Boutique Hotel is perched on the rim of the island’s active-yet-sleepy caldera, complete with hot springs that are said to have youth-giving properties, should you need any further convincing to take a spa break.

KYOTO

Japan’s graceful historic city’s seasons are a colour wheel; spring, when sakura spins the city in cotton-candy pink, might be the crowd-pleaser, but don’t overlook the fresh vibrant greens of summer: gentle winds singing through the bamboo forest, delicate imperial gardens coming into bloom, and temples and shrines enshrouded in forest. Make the leaping off point for this lushness the Shinmonzen, a rule-breaking ryokan in pretty-as-a-woodblock-print Gion. Designed with the same dark-wood timbers and kawara roof tiles of neighbouring buildings, it’s a labour of love from the owner of art-packed Provençal stay Villa la Coste (and has pieces by the likes of Damien Hirst and Louise Bourgeois itself). Designed by legendary Japanese architect Tadao Ando and with chef Jean Georges Vongerichten helming a caviar-heavy menu, it harmoniously balances local custom and just-so minimalism with Euro-flavoured decadence, which, after a spectacular blossoming, will only grow in popularity.

CORSICA

You’re not alone if, post-pandemic and thinking sustainably, you’ve been scanning the map for destinations both less visited and closer to home, and for Northern Europeans, often-overlooked Corsica is a prime candidate. A no-nonsense blend of French and Italian (though don’t say that to the staunchly independent locals), this birthplace of Napoleon is also home to a revamped B&B five years in the making. And, like the diminutive emperor, A Casa Reale makes up for its small stature (just four rooms here) with an exquisite jumble of Baroque, modern and mid-century pieces, a central location in the charming port town of Bastia, and a world-beating breakfast that’ll have you marching on your stomach like La Grande Armée.

MEXICO

Aesthetes take note; we’ve been hunting Mexico’s grandest designs like our next mezcal depended on it. First up, Terrestre, a sculptural, solar-powered sanctum whose angular stone structures have more zig-a-zig-ah than a Spice Girls reunion tour. Perched between Pacific shores and wild Oaxacan jungle, Alberto Kalach’s light-on-the-land resort channels pre-hispanic rituals of purification and sun worship through its seven-chambered hexagonal spa and elevated Mirador.

Inland, off-duty Amatte Wellnest Community is a wabi-sabi inspired retreat where imperfections are celebrated; textured walls and untreated wood affirm what we already took to be true, namely that it’s entirely reasonable to finish a spa circuit with three margaritas at the rooftop bar – whoops. Speaking of rooftops, it doesn’t get much better than Círculo Mexicano’s expansive summit, where a plunge pool, fire-pit, culinary pop-up and lounge bar oversee Mexico City’s historic centre. Rooms are seriously minimal (like, Shaker-style sparseness), though it’s not all so austere; the hotel was the childhood home of Mexican photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo, and you’ll still spot his evocative monochromes warming the walls.

AUSTRALIA

Finally, after a lengthy Covid-enforced hiatus, the return to Oz is on. And if we’re all a bit out of long-haul practice, we’ll need somewhere suitably calming to hole-up and soothe the jet lag. Thankfully Loea Boutique Hotel, on the Sunshine Coast, obliges with aesthetic aplomb. It’s a refitted motel and the retro touchpoints (vintage milk van turned food truck, throwback fringed cotton parasols) sit well with the more contemporary Insta-bait additions (rattan, lots of it). The pool’s a magnesium one, too, so should help further relax travel-weary muscles.

Down in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Osborn House has ‘Cotswold chic’ pinned winningly to its moodboard by former Soho House design director, Linda Boronkay. There’s a national park – Morton – on the doorstep, a growing local wine scene, and plenty of charming towns to amble around if you feel like leaving. If you don’t, there’s two restaurants – George’s and Dinah’s – to keep you well fed, a charming wood-panelled bar, and more than enough nooks, corners, lawn terraces and lounges to curl up with a good book in.

CALIFORNIA

As the home of Hollywood, California is well versed in playing innumerable different characters, as this little hotel heads-up attests to. Our scene opens in Healdsburg, the heart of wine country, where everyone is getting all a-fizz for the Madrona: a beautifully branded redux of an historic hilltop mansion which splices laidback Cali cool with plenty of European elan. Jump cut to the sleek avenues of Palo Alto, and if you’re in need of a place to host power lunches and a place to stay, why not combine them at Nobu Palo Alto? (Pro-tip: the top-floor ryokan rooms are suitably stress-busting and the views over Silicon Valley might just spark that next big idea). Slow fade, then, to the shores of Lake Tahoe, where Station House Inn looms into view and some gentle adventure is on the cards: swimming, pool lounging, a bit of cornhole in the yard, maybe a hike or two, even some skiing come winter. The stylish basecamp for all your great outdoors needs, and a fitting place to call ‘cut’ for a bit.

Added a few places to your list? Now raise a toast to the world’s best date night bars

Compiled by Hannah Dace, Martin Dickie, Stephanie Gavan, Caroline Lewis, Richard MacKichan, Kate Pettifer, and Kate Weir