Posts tagged ‘george clooney’

Machu Picchu without the crowds: when only the rare and one-off will do

When you’re George Clooney or Donald Trump you don’t stay at the Holiday Inn. You stay at hotels that provide exclusive fringe benefits, that tell a story or that offer unusual perks.

Inkaterra’s La Casona in Cusco offers all three. Here’s why choosy clients choose Inkaterra La Casona.

1. It’s Machu Picchu without the crowds. Who doesn’t want to mark this 15th century Inca citadel off their bucket list? But it’s your vacation, for goodness sakes, and the last thing you want to do is spend it with 5000 strangers, the average daily attendance at Machu Picchu.

At least not for long. So book a stay at this exquisite 16th century manor house in Cusco and let the concierge worry about the details of your day trip to Machu Picchu. Your only job should be drinking Pisco Sours and enjoying the colonial antiques, roaring fireplaces and giant marble bathrooms with deep Roman tubs.

2. Every detail of this boutique hotel begs to be Instagrammed. From its original textile murals and elaborate hand-carved cedar doors to the open-air restaurant’s handmade pottery, everything about La Casona screams, “Take my picture.” You’ll want to capture it all—the quinoa pancakes, the coca tea, the original Peruvian rugs, the Quechua shamans who show up for special ceremonies.

3. The George Washington (of Latin America) slept here. Simon Bolivar, the famous general who finally freed South America from Spanish tentacles, once lived in this two-story mansion that’s now an 11-suite Relais Chateaux hotel. And that’s just the beginning of its historic pedigree. Bolivar is one of several Spanish conquistadores who lived in this home built in the mid-1500’s on the top of the ruins of an Incan palace. No wonder the Peruvian government named it a national historic monument.

4. The owner pals around with Mick Jagger. Jose Koechlin, the enigmatic founder of Inkaterra, who plows profits from his five boutique hotels into conservation and scientific research in the Amazon and Peruvian Andes, was able to help the famous front man for the Rolling Stones finally “get some satisfaction.” Other notables in Koechlin’s rolladeck are German movie director Werner Herzog and famous Harvard biologist, E.O. Wilson.

5. Location, location, location. It doesn’t get much prettier than Cusco’s cobblestone streets and wide-open plazas. La Casona is next door to the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art on Plaza de La Nazarenas and just a romantic stroll away from the bohemian neighborhood of San Blas and Plaza de Armas with its cathedral and churches bedecked in gold and silver.

Fidel Castro, Madonna and the Superbowl, Montreal-style

If you’re one of the 114 million (a new record) that caught Madonna’s Super Bowl half-time show, it may interest you to know that the all those Vogue covers, flashing lights, booming loudspeakers and interactive stage effects were designed by a Montreal multimedia studio named Moment Factory.

Since 2001, this hip studio and its team of 12 designers has created installations for more than 300 events from Latin America to the Middle East. Madonna found them through her association with fellow Montreal company, Cirque du Soleil.

Whenever she’s in Montreal, either to talk flash or just enjoy a little Canadian je ne sais quoi, Madonna stays at the Hotel Le-St James, a 60-room boutique hotel in Old Montreal. A former 19th century bank, this five star hotel was chosen by PBS as the most romantic hotel in North America. With exquisite marble, inlaid wood floors, Ming urns, Victorian paintings and hundreds of valuable antiques from owner Lucien Remillard’s eclectic art collection, this swanky hotel exudes European refinement. Oh, and Madonna’s not the only celeb that likes the 3500-square-foot penthouse, the private hidden table at XO Restaurant and the discreet spa located in the old bank vault. Arnold Schwarznegger and the Rolling Stones are just a couple names you might recognize.

Here are a couple other great Montreal spots for star gazing:

Built in 1967 for Expo 67, Montreal’s World Fair, the Chateau Champlain offers by far the most stunning view in Montreal. From the arched windows of its 611 rooms, guests get a panoramic view of most everything worth looking at in this gorgeous city.

Fidel Castro most certainly uttered a few “que lindos” and “muy magnificos” when he stayed here the first week of October 2000 while attending the state funeral of his good friend, Pierre Trudeau who was, if you believe a former associate of mobster Meyer Lansky, nearly the target of a mafia hit for associating with the Cuban dictator. Enforcer Mike Craft told the Toronto Star that in the summer of 1974 he was ordered to off the former prime minister for trading with Cuba despite an American boycott. Although the hit was called off before “mission accomplished,” Craft reported that the mobsters were hoping to get back at Castro for closing down their Cuban gambling operations in 1959.

But by 2000 when the cigar-smoking dictator made the trip to Montreal for the funeral in Notre-Dame Basilica, all was forgiven. In fact, the tour buses that stop out front of the hotel are not carrying concealed weapons. They’re simply listening to their guides explain the hotel’s nickname: the cheese grater, so named for those arched windows that provide the breathtaking view of Place du Canada. George Clooney and Rihanna have also looked out those windows.

It’s undergoing a major overhaul at the moment, but you can expect significant tongue-wagging this spring when Montreal’s Ritz-Carlton reopens. This historic landmark was the site for the first of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton’s many weddings. On March 15, 1964, just a year after meeting on the set of Cleopatra, the famous couple checked into this iconic Montreal hotel for Nuptials Number one. The bride wore yellow chiffon and an $180,000 diamond and emerald necklace while a Unitarian minister did the honors. Located smack dab on Montreal’s Golden Square Mile, this hotel, that has also hosted Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, is within walking distance of many of this historic city’s high end boutiques, galleries and museums.

Another historic event that would have been covered by People magazine had People magazine existed back then was John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s famous “Bed-In for Peace” at Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth. When the celebrity couple checked into the hotel at midnight May 26, 1969, they’d already made headlines with a honeymoon Bed-in at Amsterdam’s Hilton two months earlier. But it was at the Montreal Bed-In, also attended by Tommy Smothers, Timothy Leary, Petula Clark and a group of Canadian Radha Krishnas, where the song “Give Peace a Chance” was composed and recorded, eventually reaching No. 14 on the Billboard chart.

Today, it’s a one-bedroom suite with framed gold records, pictures and other memorabilia.

Costa Rica coffee farmers welcome George Clooney

Psst, wanna see a George Clooney movie that’s not in theaters and probably never will be? It’s a short documentary about a surprise trip he made to Costa Rica last year in support of sustainable, fair trade coffee production.

In fact, that’s the main reason I’m a Clooney fan. Sure, he’s handsome, but I like his politics. He’s an activist who uses his pretty face to make a difference. This website, of course, simply borrows his name because it’s a perfect play on the George Washington Slept Here theme. So while other sites are offering half-baked stories about his holiday trip to Cabo with galpal Stacy Keibler, we’re showing a movie of his time in Costa Rica doing what he does best: changing the world.

On this quick trip, he toured coffee plantations with Ecolaboration, a group working to insure fair prices for local coffee farmers.

Click here to see the movie.

While in Costa Rica, Clooney also did a little R and R at Asclepios Wellness and Healing Retreat.

Asclepios, if you’re not up on your Greek gods, was considered the god of medicine. Unlike the 12 gods of Olympus, Asclepios earned his deity the hard way. He practiced medicine on the Thessalian plains and was so good at it, he was given the god nod. In fact, the reason the snake is the symbol of medicine is because Asclepios turned himself into one when he was summoned by the Romans during a devastating plague.

But enough Greek history. The spa just outside of San Jose near the Poas Volcano is named for this deity because it’s a place of healing. The owner, a lawyer turned naturopath, opened this amazing refuge of healing after studying energy medicine and other healing modalities. It was her way of using her unique set of skills and knowledge to do what Clooney likes to do: improve quality of life.

Asclepio is small (only 12 rooms, each unique and gorgeously decorated), but it has a fitness center, a yoga and meditation pavilion, a Turkish bath, a tempered ionized pool and a team of bright, energetic holistic practitioners. And the best part? There’s little to do but rest and relax. The staff, of course, can set up all the typical Costa Rican activities–ziplining, volcano viewing, jungle tours—but why leave paradise.