Nothing confirms Denver’s current boom as much as the spate of openings of new hotels and renovations of older ones. The Crowne Plaza Denver is the latest. The hotel is right near the convention center, the State Capitol, the 16th Street Mall and other attractions. Its site on an especially uninspiring block of 14th Street (mostly parking garages and parking lots), but otherwise it is being spiffified with a new restaurant and redone guest rooms.
The other evening, the hotel threw a party to celebrate the big changes — something like $27 million worth. Public spaces feature little work station pods so those who are always glued to their laptops don’t have to stay in their (nicely redone) rooms to be productive. The restaurant/bar areas is now called Lockwood Kitchen. The food laid out in the ballroom foretold a terrific new savory menu (memorable tacos and lamb chops) and the desserts set up in the bar? Beautiful and scrumptious.
I understand this renovation is a model for other Crowne Plaza properties. The hotels are part of the InterContinental Hotels Group. The Denver hotel is at 1450 Glenarm Place; 303-573-1450.
If you are one who is planning to visit Cuba “before it changes,” you’d better hurry. Even with diplomatic normalization, American companies are not permitted to build in Cuba yet, so the Swiss hotel firm, Kempinski, will be the first with a five-star property in the island nation’s capital. The will reportedly be Cuba’s first true five-star hotel, described as “one of the country’s first significant steps into the modern Western world. ”
The hotel will be housed within the historic Manzana de Gómez building, a grandiose five-story structure dating to 1890. It was Cuba’s first European-style shopping and business center with more than 500 stores, business offices, law firms and notaries. It is located at the heart of Habana Vieja (Old Havana), that portion of Cuba’s capital city that was founded in 1519 and is now a a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Flanked by Bacardi rum’s art deco bell tower and the National Museum of Fine Arts, Manzana de Gómez is part of the city’s lifeblood. It overlooks the Capitol, the Great Theater of Havana and El Floridita, the infamous fish restaurant and cocktail bar that Ernest Hemingway frequented.
Hotel guests can easily walk to Old Havana’s main interconnecting artery Calle Obispo (which is packed with art galleries, shops and music bars). The monumental Castillo del Morro lighthouse, which has guarded the entrance to Havana Bay since 1589, is a 10-minute drive.
The press release about the hotel raves that “inside the restored neoclassical building, Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski Manzana La Habana will offer 246 rooms and suites. Ranging in size from about 430 to 1,615 square feet, each offers a crisp contemporary white color palette with vaulted ceilings, large French windows, and fun pops of bright colors that feel inherently Cuban. Amenities include an approximately 10,765-square-foot Swiss Resense spa, three restaurants, a lobby bar, a rooftop terrace with a swimming pool, and free internet in every room—which is huge considering Cuba is one of the least digitally connected countries in the world. Naturally, there is also an in-house cigar lounge.”
The hotel appears to be targeting a late 2017 opening.
Iceland’s lovely little capital extends warm welcome in winter.
This was the third visit to Iceland since the fall of 2014 for my husband and me. In the dark depth of winter, we were sticking around Reykjavik and hoping to see the Northern Lights between landing early on Tuesday morning and departure late Friday afternoon. At this time of year, it gets light after 10 a.m. and twilight hits around 5 p.m. — enough time to do things. If you want to see our Northern Lights images, scroll to the end of this post.
Tuesday, January 23
On this cold, gray January morning, my husband and I landed at Keflavik Airport in the dark and wet.
Fortunately, our room at the Icelandair Hotel Natura was ready, so we checked in immediately and went to the SATT Restaurant where the abundant breakfast buffet was set up. Then, on this uninspiring day, we took a nap in our simple and unphotogenic room. The bathroom was so small that the bath towel could have served as a wall-to-wall carpet. But the beds were comfortable and WiFi was included — as was a pass for the city’s extensive bus system. Good thing, because the Natura is near nothing except the domestic airport.
We would have gotten our money’s worth if we had paid for the pass, because we took a long roundtrip ride the first evening. When we started getting hungry, we hopped on the No. 5 bus, which stopped right by our hotel. We had to change to the No. 14 at the Hjellmur station, which is under renovation. The station is on a triangular island, so when we asked on which side the bus stopped, we were directed to the wrong one, and the driver was one of the few Icelanders we’ve met who spoke no English.
After two lengthy “Reykjavik By Night” rides, we reached our goal, Reykjavik Fish Restaurant, a warm, cozy harborside restaurant that did not disappoint.
Wednesday, January 24
Rested up and ready to roll, we took a morning bus to town. It was to be a cold, breezy museum day that started out clear but then clouded over.
On a previous trip to Iceland, we had visited the Icelandic Saga Centre in Hvolsvöllur. I knew very little about the Norse sagas but was intrigued by this extensive museum that focuses on Njál´s Saga and the Viking era.
Posh lodge to become drug rehab center, if lawsuits don’t stop it.
I first visited the Lodge at Cordillera when it was a construction zone — a small condo building of just a few units was the first to be completed– just 28 rooms and later 56. Somewhere along the line, the fitness center became a fantastic spa, and the property changed its name to the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera.
The restaurant initially was a fancy French eatery called Restaurant Picasso (and yes, there was a Picasso on the wall) that later became a modern American restaurant called Mirador. I don’t know what happened to the Picasso. And a golf course, of course.
The surrounding development included more and more multi-million-dollar homes on something like 3,000 acres — all perched high on a plateau incongruously over a trailer park. Look up “Kobe Bryant” if you want to recall Cordillera’s brush with infamy.
Now, comes the next chapter (and probably some work for lawyers). Robert Behringer is a Texan whose Behringer Harvard investment firm is under contract to sell the lodge and some surrounding acreage that was once supposed to be a village center to the Baltimore-based Concerted Care Group that wants to convert it into a pricey drug addiction treatment facility. How pricy? Reports are that the cost would be up to $65,000 a month.
Cordillera residents don’t like it. Not one bit, claiming that the plan has already cost property owners $100 million in real estate value. They filed a lawsuit which alleges that Behringer sought modification of Cordillera’s Planned Unit Development Guide. It included 34 potential uses of the lodge and surrounding land, including office space, athletic facilities, an amphitheater and medical offices. Drug rehab was not on the list. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, the website does not say in so many words that the doors close for good on February 28. It can only be inferred by the fact that every date from March 1 on is blocked out in red on the reservations calendar.
Boulder’s historic landmark hotel to upgrade main floor space.
The Hotel Boulderado, which opened its doors on New Year’s Day 1909, continues to reinvent itself, piecemeal. The restaurant was the Teddy Roosevelt Restaurant or Rough Rider Room (or similar) when I moved to Boulder in ’88. It was later Q’s at the Boulderado, and is now Spruce Farm Food Fish. The down-market Catacombs has been turned into a speakeasy-inspired cocktail lounge called License #1. The Corner Bar has been refreshed.
Now, the hotel at the corner of 13th and Spruce is about to embark on its most dramatic change, a makeover of the lobby. Beginning right after the enormous Christmas tree comes down on January 2, the four-month renovation will begin. The hotel initially said that the restaurants and rooms will still be operating, but it appears that Spruce Farm and Fish is, in fact, closed while the work is going on.
If I understand the plans correctly, the beautiful front desk will become a lobby bar and the gift shop will become a coffee bar operated by Boxcar Coffee Roasters. I’m not sure where the registration desk will go — or perhaps it will be replaced by several sets of tables and chairs. The beautiful staircase to the mezzanine, the stunning glass ceiling and the water fountain boasting of the Arapahoe Glacier as its source will presumably all remain.
Boutique hotel with cool Asian eatery opening in Cherry Creek area.
When it opens on Monday the Sage Hospitality’s Halcyon Hotel in Cherry Creek North will be the high-toned neighborhood’s first new hotel in a decade. The Denver Post’s report, “Halcyon hotel welcomes its first guestsin Cherry Creek North ,” lists a bunch features — some high-tech, others high-touch, and still others pure nostalgia. No pix yet, because I haven’t been there, and there as yet are no images on the hotel’s website, but I’m intrigued enough to post it now. Amenities include:
E-bikes and Vespa scooters for guest use included in the room rate.
Instead of a front desk, there’s a “kitchen counter” with complimentary beverages, Intelligentsia coffee and snacks served all day long.
With no front desk, hotel hosts equipped with some sort of satchels and iPads check guests in quickly.
“Gear garage” from which guests can borrow bicycles, long boards, GoPros, day packs, binoculars, fly-fishing gear– “even a vintage Leica M3 camera and a roll of film that the hotel will get processed and sent to your home.”
Then of course there’s food, for which Cherry Creek North has a long reputation. The hotel is offering a short-run Cherry Creek North Food & Wine Package, currently priced only through August 14.
Two restaurants are on the docket, a steakhouse and a rooftop eatery to come but opening right away is an outpost of Portland, Oregon-based Departure Restaurant + Lounge. The inspiration, the food and the décor derive from Asia. Gregory Gourdet, a with-it “Top Chef” contender, designed a menu that not only includes various Asian cuisines but also reportedly accommodates guests with gluten-free, vegan and paleo dining preferences.
Even as I write this, “Lady Luck,” the 324-foot sludge tanker from New York City formerly known as “The Newtown Creek,” is being sunk to become one of the biggest components of South Florida’s artificial reef system and an easily accessible major dive site. Now redone with an underwater casino theme and known as “Lady Luck,” promoters are billing it as “the world’s only underwater faux diving casino, complete with interactive art exhibits.”
In anticipation of the sinking 1½ miles off Pompano Beach’s shore, the ship was, of course, cleaned of oil, sludge remnants and other substances harmful to the marine environment. A live auction earlier this month featured such unique memorabilia as the engine order telegraph, passageway lights, portholes and ship’s horn.
I imagine that locals, visitors and area officials are gathering on shore and on surrounding boats to watch the sinking of “Lady Luck” in 120 feet of water to become the centerpiece of Shipwreck Park, a unique underwater arts park. It will be the 17th wreck there. The Fort Lauderdale Marriott Pompano Beach Resort & Spa (whose name is almost as long as the ship) promoted itself as a great place from which to watch. A lifetime ago, I attended the sinking of the first, a much smaller vessel once a floating restaurant called “The Ancient Mariner” off the Fort Lauderdale shore.
Diving that new, unadorned wreck was a trip, and now, with interactive features and underwater sculptures, has got to be that much more interesting. Fish are quick to investigate a newly sunken ship, and it doesn’t take long for algae and soft coral to cover the vessel.
Sometimes when hikers backpack, we pitch our tent but decide to “sleep out” as long as temperatures are comfortable and it doesn’t start to rain. Well-heeled travelers have discovered the joy of “glamping,” luxury tent camping derived from Africa’s posh safari camps. But here’s a new one. My friend Ursula Beamish-Mader of Switzerland Tourism posted a link to a Travel & Leisure item called “This Swiss Hotel Room Has No Walls, But That’s A Good Thing.”
The concept is that a beautifully made-up bed, presumably with fine linens and hopefully a down comforter, is placed against one wall in a mountain hollow for “sleeping out” in comfort. It’s a project of Null Stern Hotels (meaning “No Star”), which briefly operated a luxury hotel in a nuclear bunker that is now a museum.
I admire the imagination behind this outdoor accommodation (which did get noticed by T&L), but paying $250 a night is a bit much, IMO, even though coffee and a breakfast salami sandwich are reportedly delivered in the morning. Did I mention that the “facilities” are in a public restroom 10 minutes away?
In London, the landmark Hotel Savoy underwent a three year, $354 million refit including new crystal chandeliers, gold leaf and polished marble floors, while the city’s exclusive Hotel Connaught has been renewed to the tune of £70 million, including a new wing with an Aman Spa. In Paris. the splendid public rooms of the Four Seasons George V remain unchanged, while the 245 guest rooms have been brought into the 21st century.
Meanwhile, in New York, where greed rules, the legendary Waldorf-Astoria is slated to be closed next spring and many/most of its 1,413 rooms turned into pricy condominiums. In a real twist of irony, the owner is Anbang Insurance, located in the Communist-in-name-only People’s Republic of China. Cost to purchase the hotel: $1.9 billion. The plan to condo-ize it is an ultimately capitalist move. New York’s legendary Plaza Hotel underwent such a conversion — good for investors and condo owners but said for the city.
Even though the mother ship will close, the Waldorf’s prestigious name presumably will live on dozen resort hotels from Florida to Hawaii, two in China, two in Puerto Rico, five in Europe, three in the Middle East and one in Panama. Also the Waldorf Towers, a luxury residential tower, in New York is slated to remain open. For now, at least.
ElkFest in Jackson, Wyoming is one of several spring events.
Estes Park, Colorado’s ElkFest is in the fall during the rut when the the bulls issue their plaintive mating calls, the aspens turn golden and snow often begins to dust the high peaks. Jackson, in Wyoming’s wonderful northwestern corner, also has an ElkFest, but it is in spring when the wildflowers bloom and hibernating wildlife show up. ElkFest takes place May 21 – 22, followed the next weekend by Old West Days, May 26 – 30
Wagonloads of antlers along the streets of Jackson attract buyers from all over the world for ElkFest’s annual Boy Scout Antler Auction on May 21. Now in its 49th year, the auction typically features more than 10,000 pounds of the naturally shed elk antlers gathered by local Boy Scouts. That rustic antler chandelier probably was made with antlers gathered by the local Scouts. The majority of auction proceeds go back to the National Elk Refuge on the outskirts of town, which devotes approximately 25,000 acres to the preservation of winter range for elk and bison herds.