March 29, 2014
Could a summer holiday in Europe be your bright light at the end of this interminable winter tunnel? Right now is the time to map out your much-needed summer vacation. Not only is it practical to get cracking, but boy, is it fun. Planning a drool-worthy European summer getaway is travel porn at its best, so if a trip across the pond is already in the cards for you, can we entice you into adding an adventurous side trip? Spending time time touring any of Europe's great cities is a luxury anyone would be grateful for. But let's face it: while museum hopping, indulgent shopping, and late dinners out are travel activities we all cherish, there's nothing like jumping in a car or on a train to add a sexy dash of adventure to your trip. Stylish boutique travel experts Mr & Mrs Smith have helpfully curated these 3 stellar options for a European vacation-within-a-vacation. All are beautiful destination hotels close enough to Florence, Barcelona and London for easy access, but just far enough off the beaten path to give you a feel for how the other half lives. Il Salviatino – near Florence, Italy Set in a beautifully secluded hillside setting, just a 10-minute drive from the city of Florence, is the sophisticated hotel Il Salviatino. This ravishingly renovated 15th century villa features 45-rooms and a museum-worthy cache of 19th century frescoes, antique bath tubs and valuable art. Here it’s all about the exquisite details: the 12 acres of breathtaking, landscaped parkland; dedicated “ambassadors” to look after each guests needs during their stay; and the garden-set Spa Il Salviatino, specializing in aromatherapeutic relaxation and anti-ageing treatments – and operated by a Florentine perfumier and cosmetologist, no less. There is even a free shuttle service to Florence. Booking with Smith also gets you a complimentary half-hour tasting session of wine or olive oil. Rooms start at $387. Castell d’Empordà – outside Barcelona, Spain A Catalan ruin restored into a romantic retreat, Castell d’Empordà hotel is dramatically set between the peaks of the Pyrenees and the cliffs of Costa Brava. This 38-room, medieval stone castle in Spain’s northern countryside was once the home of an explorer who travelled with Christopher Columbus. It is filled with exotic relics from across the globe – hand-made floor tiles from Marrakech, antique Tibetan rugs, Indian silk and Victorian bathtubs. As if this place couldn’t get any more atmospheric, there is also a turquoise-tiled, heated outdoor pool with stunning vistas, a sensual gothic restaurant with contrasting rough stone walls and black silk drapes, and a hotel bar, Cava Del Drac, housed in the old wine cellar. Rooms start at $239. Coworth Park – near London, United Kingdom Situated in the British countryside between the royal towns of Ascot and Windsor, barely 20 minutes from London’s Heathrow Airport, is Coworth Park hotel and spa. As elegant as hotel manors come, this impressive 17th century mansion and polo estate features three excellent restaurants, a spectacular eco-friendly spa, 240 acres of bucolic land made to wander, tennis courts, and even an on-site polo academy and equestrian centre. The crowning glory is the Dower House: channel “Downton Abbey” in your own three-bedroom, grade II-listed Georgian residence with its own kitchen, living rooms and private swan-filled garden. Just don’t forget your walking shoes and rain boots! Rooms from $440. Visit Mr & Mrs Smith to book any of the hotels listed.