Travel

Thursday 31 July 2014

10 Best: Autumn breaks

Mr & Mrs Smith

Published 13/10/2012|05:00

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Algarve
Borgo Della Marmotto Umbria
Berns Hotel Stockholm

Boutique gurus Mr & Mrs Smith reveal their favourite escapes for the season.

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Memmo Baleeira

Algarve

At the edge of a rugged national park, Memmo Baleeira sits on the wild and windswept Algarve coast. Sturdy surfers battle with the waves to the west, and in the south lie secluded coves. Bedrooms are bright and airy, mostly white with a splash of marine blue or chocolate brown.

Let the breeze in through the full-length glass doors or enjoy it out on the private deck; be sure to request a room with a view.

Water babies will be happy to hear there's a surf centre, an indoor heated pool and a Turkish bath in the Memmo Spa.

Autumn is time to get the binoculars out for birdwatching in the Costa Vincentina National Park.

Top tip: The hotel strikes deals with local restaurants and vendors, to offer Memmo guests a discount on typical dishes, regional rosé or nearby boat trips.

Details: Doubles from €100, including breakfast.

The Standard

Miami

A hip urban oasis that is as soothing as it is sexy, The Standard lacks the bling of some of its Floridian neighbours. Away from Collins Avenue and Ocean Drive, this Miami Beach beauty is also quite challenging to find — that’s part of its charm.

A stylish stay with an island vibe, the 105-room hotel makes a point of not being part of the South Beach ‘scene’. Andre Balazs’ palace of minimalism hasn’t just pared down its fixtures, streamlined its technology and vanished away clutter, it has a tranquil, unfussy spa that has all the frills, without any flashiness.

Insider tip: The spa has a classic cedar sauna, steam room and a hammam we love. Sign up for the DIY scrub: you’re given marine sea salt or a tropical sugar to slather on. Only $12 for 30 minutes, the body polish will boost your circulation and leave your skin feeling silky smooth. If you’re brave, you’ll have an icy dip in the Arctic plunge pool after.

Details: Doubles from $303.97 (€233).

Berns Hotel

Stockholm

The northern lights are set to dazzling at the end of 2012, reason enough to book a whirl at this glamorous hotel and entertainment palace, which began life in 1863 as a restaurant.

Rooms are cosy but not tiny, and the entire hotel is laced with chic: the wood panelling feels both modern and warm, and public spaces are jazzed up with fresh Italian and Scandinavian design pieces.

Autumn is the ideal season to sip schnapps on the terrace, explore the many bars and sneak back to your room in the small hours. Stockholm Film Festival fills the city's screens November 7-18.

Top tip: Berns 2.35:1, the hotel's night-club, features music from resident and visiting DJs.

Details: Doubles from SEK 1,650 (€195).

Dorset Square

London

Kit Kemp's characteristic flair riffs on a cricket theme at this elegant new townhouse hotel in Marylebone.

The themed art is entertaining even for those who don't know their howzats from their googlies -- we especially like Martha Freud's pretty porcelain display of tea lights in the Potting Shed restaurant.

Little sister to West Enders the Soho and Haymarket, Dorset Square's 38 bedrooms are designed in a witty, ever-so-English style.

Don't miss the Frieze Art Fair that takes place just down the road in Regents Park in October (11-14 this year).

Top tip: Afternoon tea in the Potting Shed is a must: book in for the spread of dainty sandwiches, decadent cakes and scones, high-quality teas and chilled Pommery NV Champagne; £32.50 (€40.28) a person.

Details: Doubles from £244 (€302).

Borgo Della Marmotto

Umbria

This 20-room guesthouse with views of the Spoleto valley slips you seamlessly into Italian rural life. Rooms are set in the 17th-century hamlet's former stables, granaries and mills and styled with wood, stone, linen and cotton -- even the paint is made from lime and natural pigments.

On a glorious bucolic perch overlooking the golden landscape, it's what's outside that really counts.

Nearby is the buzzing city of Perugia, and the awe-inspiring frescoes of Assisi. Back at the farm, there's truffle hunting in the forest from November to March.

Top tip: The hamlet is still a busy producer of olive oil, and guests can tour the groves and sample the oil varieties. You can adopt one of their olive trees for €100 a year and you'll be sent a bottle of the house 'green gold' in spring and in autumn.

Details: Doubles from €120, including breakfast.

Coqui Coqui Coba

Yucatan

At some hotels, you get bed and breakfast. At this Mexican jewel, you get pre-Columbian pyramids, a ruined city, lagoon views, and a jungle to explore.

Rooms are simple and white, paying tribute to the sun-bleached Mayan ruins. That objet d'art catching your eye was probably picked up by the owners on their travels; try being a supermodel with a perfume business and an interest in interior design and you'll notch up some air miles, too.

Breakfast comes with steaming potent coffee and a spread of fruit, yogurt and pastries. Fret not, the chef isn't a one-meal pony; you can lunch and dine here in the hotel's low-key dining room -- a relief, possibly, since the village of Coba isn't the most bustling, restaurant-packed proposition.

Top tip: A little pouch stuffed with potions from the Coqui Coqui perfumery is left in rooms as a welcome gesture. The fragrant unguents will get you in the mood for the hotel's handsome spa, where clay, aloe and coconut oil feature in treatments.

Details: Doubles from $205 (€159), including breakfast.

The House Hotel Bosphorus

Istanbul

Overlooking Bosphorus Bridge and Ortakoy mosque, the House Hotel has both Asia and Europe on its doorstep and design credentials flowing through its veins. And when better to explore this living museum of culture when it's lighter on tourists?

Ortakoy may once have been a sleepy fishing village, but it's now high on Istanbul's hot list, home to the city's coolest clubs and this hip hotel.

The historic building was once home to the Balyan clan, an architectural design dynasty in Ottoman days. Today, the interiors are a la mode thanks to designers du jour Autoban, who've left their mark in the form of stand-out chandeliers, slick leather chairs and glitzy lifts.

Top tip: Skies at this time of year are still clear and temperatures mild, ideal for a boat ride. Commission a captain right outside the hotel for a personal cruise of the Bosphorus; Captain Yalcin's on 0090 533 465 1016, but he doesn't speak English, so enlist the hotel's help.

Details: Doubles from $199 (€154).

Dar Darma

Marrakech

This lovingly restored riad is the holiday home of an Italian designer. It's theatrically decorated with a quirky array of vintage and modern pieces, and faded Oriental carpets, metallic paint, leopard-skin rugs and 18th-century period details assure it is exciting to the eye.

The dazzling African sunshine pierces the dark rooms, while the hamman is a blessing for those who want to relax.

Up on top, sun-bleached cushions on the roof terrace beg you to recline and enjoy the views across Marrakech to the Atlas Mountains beyond.

If those autumnal rays are too warm, dip your toes in the tadelakt plunge pool.

Top tip: Maria the housekeeper is also a talented cook, creating Moroccan and French dishes from tagines to tarte tatin.

Gnaoua musicians will join you in the dining room at suppertime.

Details: Doubles from €177, including breakfast.

Kapsaliana Village Hotel

Crete

Not many hotels come with their own 18th-century olive press and medieval monuments. But then Kapsaliana Village Hotel isn't a run-of-the-mill retreat (though there is a mill, owned by the Arkadi Monastery).

With gardens looking out over the olive groves and snatches of sea in the distance, living areas are scattered with terracotta urns, lanterns and candles.

Even the bedrooms, set in 16 stone buildings, are steeped in history, each one named after a character from Greek mythology, with vaulted ceilings, rustic stone walls and uneven outdoor staircases.

Originally, the focus of the village was the olive-oil press, but these days, the boutique bedrooms, relaxed restaurant and outdoor pool take centre-stage.

Top tip: Make sure you check out their little museum, stocked with artefacts.

Details: Doubles from €130, including breakfast.

Casona de Quintana

Cantabria

Hidden in the mountains south of Bilbao, this eight-room hotel feels more like a friend's home.

The people behind the restoration of this 18th-century country house, Nuria and Jose, are famed for their attention to detail -- every ornament and cushion is placed with precision.

Rooms are dressed uniquely and each is named after a tree, whether it's the regal El Muerdago, the rustic El Nogal or the romantic El Castano.

There are only 29 houses in this entire village, so you're sure of peace and quiet. And if city life does beckon, take your pick from Bilbao, Santander or San Sebastian, all a little over an hour's drive away.

Top tip: You can steal a little of the owners' chic French style: pick up beautiful pieces for your home, white blouses and candles, as well as preserves, in the hotel shop.

Details: Doubles from €89, including breakfast.

Visit mrandmrssmith.com or call 1800 812 925 to book any of the above.

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