Each year, we enjoy looking back on certain hotel amenities that we especially enjoyed over the course of the previous 12 months of travels. Sometimes, a single element — a spa, a beach, a particular service — can elevate a hotel from excellent to unforgettable.
Beneath the whitewashed walls of Torralbenc, a restored 19th-century Menorcan farmhouse, an 80-foot saltwater infinity pool provides the property’s focal point. Sand-colored loungers are widely spaced under large white umbrellas on a limestone terrace that overlooks neatly trimmed lawns. Over an ancient stone wall at the southern edge of the pool area, a landscape of vineyards and olive trees extends to a magnificent sweep of the Mediterranean. Often, the briny tang of the sea wafts inland on the breeze. Since there is full waiter service by the pool (summoned at the touch of a button), many guests spend entire days there, rousing themselves for a shrimp-and-avocado salad or perhaps some octopus ceviche. Otherwise, the only sounds that break the silence are the rattle of ice cubes and the occasional splash of someone’s dive.
San Sebastián, Spain
Akelarre, an exceptionally stylish contemporary resort atop Monte Igueldo outside San Sebastián, is oriented toward the vast expanse of the Cantabrian Sea. Each of the 22 rooms offers a view of the water, but there was no better place to take it all in than through the huge picture window above our bath’s deep soaking tub. The weather in this part of northern Spain can be unpredictable, but watching it unfold over the sea can be dramatic. When we were there last September, heaving cumulus clouds would roil in the distance on some days, while on others the clear sky and calm water would merge seamlessly. (Aside from its sensational view, the bath provided double terrazzo sinks, a shower with tremendous water pressure and Per Purr Spanish toiletries and bath salts.) During this difficult year, I have frequently longed for an encore of this blissfully relaxing experience.
Salina, Aeolian Islands, Italy
The therapeutic benefits of the volcanic mud and hot springs of the Aeolian Islands were known to the Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans. And local kaolin clay and pumice have long been used for beauty treatments, along with botanicals such as wild mint and citrus fruits. Employing this ancestral knowledge, the Hotel Signum on Salina created its own line of organic spa and bath amenities. The spa products are based on locally harvested bitter oranges, lemons, prickly pear cactus fruit, capers and Malvasia grapes. The orange body-and-face scrub, face mask, facial serum and body lotion are recommended for their relaxing properties and ability to rebalance the skin, while the caper-based products are good for toning and detoxifying. We liked two of the in-room toiletries — almond shampoo and lemon-mint bath gel — so much that we purchased supplies to bring home.
Prague, Czech Republic
Alchymist Prague Castle Suites comprises only eight rooms, but it has an impressive array of public spaces. Aside from ornate lounges, these include a fitness room with a sauna and hot tub, a couple’s massage room and a private Jacuzzi room that can be reserved for an hour, free of charge. Our butler arranged for us to relax there before dinner one night. We found an atmospheric vaulted space with stone-tile checkerboard floors, a hand-painted ceiling and a crystal chandelier. Beneath it was a frothy Jacuzzi for two, along with candles and flutes of sparkling wine. A gilt-framed painting hung above an antique dressing table of inlaid wood, also aglow with candles. After a busy day of pounding the pavement in Prague, a spell in the Jacuzzi was extremely restorative. This indulgence reinforced the impression that the Alchymist Prague Castle Suites was our own luxurious and well-staffed mansion.