People who don’t live in Los Angeles have a fantasy of what life in LA must look like. Towering palms. Bougainvillaea. Birds of paradise. And a fabulous bungalow tucked right in the thick of it, where every hour is golden hour. The Hotel Bel-Air, in the heart of the residential neighbourhood of the same name, is this fantasy come to life. One of the first sights to spot across the threshold is a swan lake. A lake with actual swans frolicking in it. The 12-acre gardens are part of the magic and made for meandering, with streams, footbridges, guava, pineapple, lemon and orange trees, as well as coastal redwoods that are most certainly not common in these parts. Out-of-towners and peace-and-quiet-seeking locals come here for privacy and to shelter from real life. Most never leave the grounds. In 2011 Alexandra Champalimaud did a full revamp of the lobby and spa, and designed the sizeable rooms to be lived in – they are cosy, with fireplaces, high ceilings and towels as thick as blankets. The bar is effortlessly cool, with photographs by Norman Seeff covering the walls, and the Wolfgang Puck restaurant, reimagined by David Rockwell a handful of years ago, is completely al fresco. You could venture out and explore LA, or you could order a crisp white and kick back beside the always-set-to-28˚C pool and forget there’s a world beyond the swan lake. This is where you want to stay in LA to feel like a high roller even if you’re not one. By Lauren DeCarlo
The ancient lava fields and low-lying scrub of the surrounding area make it feel more like Namibia than Hawaii. But as soon as driver pulls off Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway onto a private lane and the landscape shifts from Martian to tropical – lush with palms, canary-yellow hibiscus and musk ferns – and you inhale the plumeria-infused cold towel, bowing to receive the simple kukui nut lei, you know exactly where you are. Creating this distinct sense of place without employing gimmicky tropes (all too easy to do in a place like Hawaii where a little puka shell goes a long way) is what makes Hualalai stand out on an island of upscale hotels. The Hawaii-ana is restrained – hand-woven palm mats, tropical wallpaper in neutral tones – and the buildings are modelled on classic architecture that really pushes the indoor-outdoor living. The soaring lobby opens onto teak lanais overlooking the secluded stretch of coastline, miles from touristy Kona to the south and the resort village of Waikoloa to the north. Authenticity shines through, too, in the way this place interacts with its environment; for example, rather than clearing the hardened lava from various eruptions, Four Seasons used traditional hand-stacking techniques to build walls, stocked the King Pond with injured rescue fish from the ocean, and implemented a commercial fishing ban to allow the depleted waters in front of the property to recover. And the staff emit the characteristically chill aloha spirit while being super-attentive to the overworked tech couple from Silicon Valley and the stylish family of five escaping an endless New York winter. By Rebecca Misner
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Hôtel 71 is located in a building with plenty of history: it was formerly the first head office of the National Bank of Canada in Québec City. The outside has a great example of 19th-century Neoclassical architecture, while the inside is decorated in an elegant urban style. An espresso lounge serves coffee throughout the day. The hotel is ideally located for cruises, as it is close to the terminals. It is also close to the funicular. For delightful Italian cuisine, eat at the attached restaurant, Il Matto.
DH Lawrence penned a love letter about it, Mussolini held court during the war, Churchill was moved to get out his watercolours and his memory lives on in the ancient resident cat of the same name that slinks around picking up titbits of the Michelin-starred food. This peachy-pink palazzo on the still waters of Lake Garda has been stealing hearts since the 1890s, and at the turn of the millennium, it was opened as a hotel, the loveliest in all of Italy. But what makes it so special are all the non-hotel bits: the exquisite antiques everywhere, the silver photo frames filled with black-and-white family shots, the engraved tumblers of fresh roses, the deep bath tubs, and the circus-striped umbrellas by the charcoal-grey slick of swimming pool. Helicopters land on the pristinely manicured croquet lawn and return guests arrive to a fanfare of hugs and kisses, pats on backs. They come here to feast like kings at night on plates of tortellini carbonara, spend the day lolling fatly by the pool watching the ducks and the windsurfers pootle past, and sleep outrageously well under frescoed ceilings in beds made up with crisp, scallop-edged Frette linen. Steep mountains provide a dramatic backdrop for the garden, and early mornings are particularly magic, the silvery pale ethereal light drifting across the lake. The feel of the place is old-school, spick and span, timeless, a bit matronly – and for anyone who likes a bit of Great Gatsby-style cosseting, it’s a dreamy retreat. By Issy von Simson