Category Archives: eco-hotel

Hygge in the Hill Country

Glamping in Texas

By Sarah Ivens

Texas, I know, isn’t a state one usually associates with phrases like ‘less is more’ or ‘it’s the simple things that matter.’ Texas, stereotypically, is all about big hair, big boots, and big horns – well, longhorns. After living in the Lone Star state for six months I was getting used to this mindset – everything was sold to me as bigger and better in Texas and, as for a Brit whose upper lip is always stiff and tongue is permanently wedged in my cheek, I kind of admired the brash, bold, bootilicious OTT-ness of it all. But then the nights drew in, the amplified humidity dialed down to a bearable degree, and I longed for the comfy, cozy, low-key creature comforts of my European heritage. I needed to nestle.

The concept of Hygge is having a moment in my motherland right now. This festive season in the UK alone, ten books are being published on the art of it – how to Hygge, when to Hygge and how to out-Hygge your friends. Overwrought, wrung-out, over-loaded and ready to simplify, Brits in their droves are looking for the Hygge experience at home, on their dining table and in their wardrobes. But what is it, you may wonder?

Matilda gets cozy in the tent

A Scandinavian concept meaning to enjoy the ritual of life’s simple pleasures – family, friends, graciousness and good food. It means to create a warm atmosphere – warm hearts talking in the glow of candlelight, hot chocolate mysteriously appearing from a warm stove and placed in your hands. This coziness of the soul was what I was craving, but in Texas? 6,000 miles from my extended family and old friends in London? How could I possibly get my Hygge on here?

Thankfully, tucked away in Spring Branch, a picturesque village in the Hill Country (70 miles from Austin, 30 miles from San Antonio) I found my soul solution: the Texas Bell, a glamping experience designed by Leslie Shurbet, a reiki healer and holistic health coach who – having always enjoyed hosting and cooking for friends and family – decided to erect a designer tent, 20’ diameter and 12’ tall in the center, in her back garden. Set upon a custom deck capturing long distance views across the glorious landscape, the Bell comes with A/C and a  fireplace (plus a fire pit just outside for serious s’mores action), and a full bathroom with an instant hot water shower and linens. Leslie would deliver hot coffee to the tent at sunrise, before guests could traipse at their leisure uphill past her clucking chickens and roaming deer, for a fine breakfast in her kitchen overlooking a fish pond. Wowzers. Why camp when you can glamp? And what could be more Hygge-y?

“The important thing to me when people walk through the door is that they feel like they have arms around them,” Leslie told me over a slice of her warmed apricot jam-stuffed French toast on my first morning at the Bell (and yes, that is as divine as it sounds). “I want everyone to leave here relaxed and unburdened.”

Are those chickens?

Relaxing is difficult when you’re traveling with a five and three year old as I was. My five year old was so excited by the assortment of games offered in the tent, and collecting still-warm eggs from the hen coop, that he was a pleasure to be with but my threenager was having a rough time of it. I was embarrassed but Leslie was having none of it. She enticed me and Matilda into her ‘healing room’, me for some lavender oils that would help with the headache that was fast developing and Matilda for a concoction called ‘Peace.’ “I call this my ‘Toddler Oil’,” Leslie said, as she lightly rubbed it into Matilda’s palms and showed her how to breathe deeply. The air filled with a sweet and delicious aroma, and my dramatic daughter suddenly became a bit more inviting too. Leslie found her a sparkly gold bottle, poured her some oil, and gave it to her a gift. Matilda was thrilled – “a fairy bottle, a real fairy bottle” – and my headache lifted. We returned to the Bell for a nap as rain lashed down in a rhythmic pitter-patter around the Bell, the glow from the fire warming our toes as we wrapped up under piles of woolen blankets and embroidered throws. We all regrouped for a family supper on the deck, before tucking in for the night at 8pm. Fresh country air does that to you. No television? No Netflix? No problem.

Time does stand still at the Texas Bell. And don’t we all need that occasionally? The two cities that sit either side of her are bustling metropolises, filled to brimming with great dining choices, unique entertainment experiences and shopping malls. But here, just over an hour from the hip hub that is Austin and half an hour from the history mecca that is San Antonio, I found my Hygge. I already can’t wait to get back there – just to lie down and let the wind blow around me, while Leslie’s hospitality holds me tight.

The Texas Bell accommodates up to 4 people. Weekend price $150 per night for the entire tent, included breakfast.



Retreating to Bali: The Floating Leaf Hotel

The Floating Leaf Hotel, Bali
The Floating Leaf Hotel, Bali

This just in from Asia. The proprietors of a new Balinese property recently reached out to us about an interesting little hotel in Bali called The Bali Floating Leaf Hotel. Described as a “peaceful retreat in a lush oasis in which to nourish, recharge and heal your mind, body and spirit, holistically,” they’ve combined ancient Balinese wisdom with modern convenience and luxury to offer a safe place for relaxation, personal enrichment and wellness.  If you’re looking for a true retreat, they’ve got just the sort of amenities you need; an open air yoga center with views of the Indian Ocean and Mount Agung Volcano, Bali arts and culture, photography, surfing, and an onsite Balinese spa.

A Room at the Floating Leaf
A Room at the Floating Leaf

Guests can look forward to an ultimate relaxation pool complete with waterfalls, hidden meditation areas and more. The grounds also feature an organic permaculture garden (hurrah!), as well as a large kitchen where their private chef will prepare delectable healthy meals, juices, and snacks with locally grown organic nutrient-rich food. And to top it off, world-class surf is steps away!

The Yoga Studio!
The Yoga Studio!

Floating Leaf Eco-Resort is rooted in a deep commitment to Bali’s environment; it’s people, and sustainable tourism so their eco-tourism efforts are aimed at conserving precious natural resources and diverting waste from landfills. They also strive to involve the community in deciding exactly which philanthropic efforts will be of most help and interest to them. Other projects include building water purification facilities, playgrounds, greenhouses and subsidizing local farmers so they can grow nutrient rich foods using traditional and organic methods. As they say in Bali, “Bagus!”

Currently offering soft launch opening prices for individuals and retreats, prices are are as low as $150 a night and some retreats for approximately $1000 for a week-long package.

A Thanksgiving Deal at one of Costa Rica’s Finest

The Parador Pool... not too shabby!
The Parador Pool… not too shabby!

Looking for something adventurous to do over Turkey Day? Parador Resort & Spa’s Stress-Free Thanksgiving Trip – Turkey Included, just might be your jam. Located on the central Pacific coast of Costa Rica in Punta Quepos, this is the perfect retreat for guests who are sick of Aunt Betty’s dry stuffing and want to spend the holiday in a luxurious resort with a backdrop full of howler monkeys, birds, and sloths (and no, we’re not talking about your husband). With a privileged location above the Pacific Ocean and surrounded by 12 acres of tropical rainforest, Parador Resort & Spa believes it is duty-bound to maintain, preserve and improve Costa Rica’s abundant natural assets.

A Parador Room
A Parador Room

The resort institutes property-wide recycling, water and energy conservation, composting and biodegradable soaps. Manuel Antonio National Park, a world-famous nature and wildlife preserve, sits just next door, offering adventures by land and sea. Because of its commitment to providing excellent service and high quality standards, Parador Resort & Spa was named “Mexico & Central America’s Leading Hotel 2011”, “Costa Rica’s Leading Hotel 2011” and “Costa Rica’s Leading Resort 2011” by World Travel Awards, the travel industry awards program that has been described by the Wall Street Journal as the “Oscars of the Travel Industry.” World Travel Awards was launched in 1993 to acknowledge and recognize excellence in the world’s travel and tourism industry. This is the sixth consecutive year that the resort has won this important recognition. In 2012, Parador Resort & Spa received Platinum Level “Leader in Sustainable Tourism” Adrian Award from HSMAI and National Geographic Traveler.  The resort was also recognized by TripAdvisor as one of the “Top 25 Luxury Hotels in Central America” in 2012.

Package includes:

·         4 nights stay in Tropical Room category

·         Daily buffet breakfast

·         A complete Thanksgiving dinner including a turkey

·         Two 50-minutes massage one for each

·         Welcome Dinner

·         15% off certificate for Pacifica Spa

·         Complimentary WiFi

Package is priced at $999.00 USD including taxes and service charges.  

Conrad New York’s Grand Opening

Conrad Rooftop Bar
Conrad Rooftop Bar

Did you know that on March 19th, The Conrad New York opened it’s doors? Our friend, Mark Ricci, just informed us that, located in the heart of lower Manhattan’s Battery Park City (102 North End Avenue) and rising 16 stories along the Hudson River waterfront, this almost 500 room all-suite luxury hotel is also the very first New York address from Conrad Hotels & Resorts (global luxury brand of Hilton Worldwide). We have to say, with magnificent views of the Hudson River, this exceptional hotel is adjacent to Hudson River Park, and in close proximity to many of the city’s important and historic landmarks and prominent neighborhoods, including TriBeCa and SoHo. Rooms average over 450 square feet (that’s probably bigger than my apartment!), each outfitted with integrated technology and flat-screen TVs, of course.

The artist roster is also impressive. Sol LeWitt, Pat Steir, Elizabeth Peyton, Sara Sosnowy, Mary Heilmann and many more have lent their talent in mediums ranging from painting, lithography, silkscreen and aquatint to woodcut, intaglio, heliograph, etching and mixed media. All works have been documented in coffee table books through a partnership with the Public Art Fund and are available for perusal in suites and for purchase in the atrium gift shop.

Conrad New York Standard Room
Conrad New York Standard Room

The hotel’s dramatic atrium is anchored by Loopy Doopy Blue and Purple 1999, an abstract work by conceptualist painter Sol LeWitt. It’s a work that The New York Times described as “invigorating eye-candy; the lines and shapes of color twist, dance, and battle playfully for dominance.” This is the most dramatic piece of artwork at the hotel, towering 13 stories high and custom designed for the space. A bit of fun around Loopy Doopy: It was painted by 50 peoples, required more than 100 gallons of paint, and took 3,000 hours to complete. That’s why I call artistic stamina. Surrounding the atrium is Yellow Flag and Mennige (Polygon) by Imi Knoebel, an internationally renowned German artist. It’s vivid burst of red cartwheeling across the wall blends minimalist austerity with high-spirited exuberance  – suggesting a collection of rectangular forms in motion.

The hotel also features a striking rooftop bar (affectionately called “Loopy Doopy” which pays tribute to the Sol LeWitt painting), and stellar views of New York Harbor, Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan, as well as the Ken Smith-designed “green roof.” And, for corporate meeting and convention planners looking for a great corporate retreat that still in Manhattan, there’s 30,000 square feet of adaptable meeting space, including the 6,200 square-foot Gallery Ballroom. Danny Meyer’s Union Square Events will be the exclusive food and beverage partner of the hotel’s onsite conference and event facilities and… what else? Oh yeah… Conrad New York is pursuing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification. Duh.

Conrad New York's Green Roof
Conrad New York's Green Roof

For grub? Conrad New York’s signature restaurant, Atrio, serves contemporary Mediterranean cuisine prepared in an open kitchen with a wood-stone oven. What’s not to like? Atrio has a full bar featuring wines from around the world and Executive Chef Anthony Zamora, who recently came from Four Seasons Hotel New York to inspire with dishes from his Italian and Lebanese roots using farm fresh ingredients. 

Opening rates start from $249.00