Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid Magnificent!

I was unprepared to love this hotel so much! I arrived early evening in November after nineteen days of wandering in Morocco. The neighborhood sets the stage for the opulence, the area is quite glammy. The drive up the Paseo del Prado is stunning, festooned with immense stone monuments, beautiful flower beds, the massive tree lined del Prado was just on the edge of winter, the brilliant rosy leaves were still intact and many of the gardens were still blooming. Madrid is truly a very elegant city and I had never visited. My first thought was this is so like Paris.

Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid

Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid faces the Paseo del Prado, the tree-lined boulevard punctuated by fountains that links the city’s major museums. The hotel is in the elegant Jerónimos neighborhood, where many members of the Spanish aristocracy had sumptuous homes in the handsome late 19th-century buildings. The opening of the hotel in 1910 had a big influence on the architecture of the area, with Parisian features such as sensual curves softening the more austere traditional style. You may recognize the streets from Pedro Almodóvar’s film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Mujeres al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios).

Situated within the historic ‘Golden Triangle of Art’, an area defined by the most important museums in the city – the property’s location within a prestigious residential area close to Madrid’s financial and commercial district and to El Retiro Park, adds to its appeal in one of Europe’s greatest capitals. Renowned Parisian designers Gilles & Boissier, have created a sophisticated residential design for the 100 rooms and 53 suites, including several one-of-a-kind specialty suites, featuring unique design elements inspired by the hotel’s historic connections to the city, Spanish culture, and art.

The view of the Prado Museum from my suite at Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid

A Grand Palace that dates to the 2nd of October 1910, which witnessed the grand opening of The Ritz Madrid. The opening ceremony of what was meant to be one of the Europe’s finest hotels was performed by guests of honor, King Alfonso XIII and his Queen Victoria Eugenia, granddaughter of the English Monarch Queen Victoria. The young King had been instrumental in this exciting new adventure, the creation of the first genuine luxury hotel in Spain. Travelling widely throughout Europe and experiencing the standards of excellence of numerous new Palace Hotels, he was determined to modernize his own country and make Madrid a city equal to other European capitals, with a truly luxurious hotel that could accommodate visiting guests and dignitaries.

Not only did the Ritz Development Company use the architect of the famous Hotel Ritz in Paris, but they also invited César Ritz, “hotelier par excellence” and father of the Ritz Paris, to be involved in the creation of this new hotel which was to carry his name. César Ritz was not only an outstanding hotelier but a showman, a brilliant director and producer who set the stage for the star performance of his illustrious clientele.

Palm Court, Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid

What distinguished César Ritz’s hotels from other Palace hotels at the time, was the noble proportions of the architecture, the beauty and exquisite taste of the interior, the unfailing personal attention to detail and that often-elusive commodity, great style. Elements that have all been revived today. More than 100 years later, the unequalled style of hotel management and design which César Ritz originally brought to the city, has been restored and perfected for a new generation to experience at Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid.

An art collection inspired by the historic city collections. Every work of art at Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid has been specifically chosen to draw on the city’s artistic legacy. In its attention to minute, beautiful details, the collection of close-ups from the Museo del Prado hopes to draw the guest in, to relish in the painterly aspects of the original paintings and to inspire guests to visit the museum with a different perspective. It is the idea of reinvention and finding the new in the old that guided the selection of artwork for Mandarin Oriental Ritz Madrid. Like the building itself, the hotel’s artwork honor’s the past with new interpretations. The collection acknowledges the rich history of the hotel and the art from Madrid’s world-class museums  Fans, decorative and the iconic Mandarin logo play a dynamic part of the décor and provide a suggestion of place, Madrid. An antique pearl and lace fan resides in an ornate case in the lobby, the back wall of the reception area hosts a resplendent sculpture representing the movement of a flamenco dancers’ fan. The brilliant imagery says so much about the attention to detail of the Mandarin.

The entrance is impressive, pass by the formally dressed doormen into a grand five-star old world experience; the massive lobby retains the original magnificent staircase which sits below an ornate celling sculpture of hundreds of quivering gold and silver leaves, a reflection of the nearby Retiro Park; the leaves gracefully flutter over the lobby as if they have just been picked off the ground. I was told the artist, Haberdashery, sprinkled the leaves on the ground and designed the installation as if the collection had just fallen to the ground. Daylight from the overhead crystal canopy roof add exceptional drama to the reflections.

High tea was being served at chic tables, underneath a beautiful crystal canopy ceiling, the Palm Court offers an elegant setting for refined all-day dining and Afternoon Tea. The furnishings are opulent, classic tapestry style embroidered fabrics in botanical prints set the stage. A grand piano provides delightful background music to the beyond beautiful guests, if these were locals, I would suggest that the grand dame Señora’s of Madrid must congregate here as everyone was stylishly dressed and coiffed, it looked like a scene from a majestic movie set!  

At the beating heart of the hotel, under the crystal canopy ceiling of the Palm Court lies the intimate Champagne Bar. A cozy venue with only 8 seats, guests can pair a glass of champagne from an impressive array of renowned houses with caviar, oysters, white truffle or Iberian Ham among other delicacies.  El Jardin del Ritz was in full swing, lovely fountains adding to the ambiance. Serving signature amuse bouche tapas menu alongside a host of creative cocktails, mocktails and wine, the Ritz Garden is open all year weather permitting and is a divine location to catch up with friends in Madrid’s balmy weather.

Champagne Bar
Champagne Bar, Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid

This property has much to do with royalty, it only seemed fitting I would be treated like a queen, all my wishes were granted. My stunning Prado Suite faced the del Prado Museum, with a view filtered by the brilliant orange and yellow leaves of a late fall. A separate living room provided a cozy space to work and enjoy the view. Bathroom is massive, two loos, and a soaking tub designed to share, truly exquisite!  Butler floor assures all needs will be met in a very timely fashion, when the bell rings around cocktail time, do answer, as trays of elegant canapes reflecting the feasting heritage of Spain and wine, or bubbly are grandly delivered.

Pictura Bar
Pictura hotel bar, Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid

After my site inspection, I popped into the gorgeous hotel bar, Pictura, totally swoon worthy! Opulent and sophisticated the focal point is the bar counter, backed by a museum-inspired mural of different Spanish artisans, the oversize photos appear to be renditions of Museum Old Masters, however the subjects dressed in period clothing are local luminaries. Poets, politicians, artists and painters in classic costume, a collage of photographic portraits by local artist Paula Anta.  The bar seemed to host locals and guests, who wouldn’t want to curl into a corner booth and sip bubbly with this stunning backdrop, I could have stayed for hours.   

Pictura at Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid

After an afternoon exploring the street scenes of Madrid, I moseyed to the elegant serene indoor plunge. Walls of white marble frame the long lap pool, offset by a gold canopy frame space filled with several elegant loungers. The humid hushed environment stimulates naps, it’s a quiet relaxing location, perfect for a quiet read or snooze pre-evening entertainment! An urban sanctuary in the heart of the city the facilities include a dedicated treatment room, fitness center, and spa which offers an array of bespoke holistic therapies, designed by The Beauty Concept.

Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid Plunge

Dining with a Capital D! Designed, developed and overseen by Chef Quique Dacosta, who has five Michelin stars to his name in his native region of Valencia and is now bringing his Mediterranean magic to Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid where his signature restaurant looks out onto the garden. Each of the five bars and restaurants enjoys its own unique character, offering delicious cuisine and inventive cocktails served in exquisite surroundings. Dacosta is one of the biggest names in Spanish food, he oversaw the gastronomy of the hotel’s five restaurants and bars.  The hard-to-get reservation is at Deesa, which has two tasting menus’, the signature fine dining restaurant located in the stunning Alfonso XIII room.

Turret Suite Bedroom
My super soaking tub! Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid

I have no doubt in my mind that our clients and all fortunate guests staying at the Mandarin Oriental will experience the same regal treatment. Highly Recommend, if you are seeking old world glamour, elegance, divine dining, and exceptional location as well.

What’s not to love? Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid won me over.

San Sebastian, Bilbao & Paris, Mom & Son Adventure

Friday September 22 Paris and onward to Bilbao and San Sebastian, Spain

Hemingway Bar, Ritz Paris

Mom & Son – Paris and Spain Adventure! Once our kids leave the nest, it often seems the days of summer trips with them has concluded. Thus, I was thrilled to curate a Journey for an art enthusiast mom and her writer son – he, who has inherited her passion for art and history. His international travel has refined a sense of gourmet gastronomy. Perfect trip for these two: planning a few marvelous days in Paris and onward to Bilbao and San Sebastian. You might imagine the writer son requested a luxurious stay at The Ritz, which will include a visit to the  Hemingway Bar.

“When I dream of afterlife in heaven, the action always takes place in the Paris Ritz,” Hemingway was to say.

Paris Private And Exclusive

Versailles Private Visit Grand Apartments

Versailles: Away from the crowds, we invite you on an exclusive private tour that goes behind the walls of the Grand Apartments to explore the private lives of both Louis XV and Louis XVI.  In their personal quarters, you will visit the dining room where there was never a shortage of decadent meals and indulgences for the kings to enjoy, such as at-the-time delicacies like fresh lemons and oranges. 

Following in the actual footsteps of a king, you will then venture through the corner room with the cylinder desk of Louis XV, which is regarded as one of the most outstanding pieces of furniture in the world, the library of Louis XVI, as well as many other treasures and fascinating details that can be lauded as a masterpiece in interior design.

Day Two  Giverny/Roche Guyon/Auvers 

Practically walk through a Monet painting at his home and gardens in Giverny. Located just
50 miles outside of Paris, the tranquility that can be found in his serene paintings. In the late 19th century, the Impressionist painter was aboard a train when he discovered the village of Giverny and was immediately captured by its charm. Shortly after, he purchased a home and cultivated the gardens that would soon be the landscapes to some of his most famous pieces. Today it remains a museum honoring the life of this great talent, and although there are no actual canvases on-site, during the spring and summer months when the garden is in full bloom, you get to experience the real-life canvas, looking through the eyes of Monet. 

Giverny. Photo Credit Susan Hyatt

Giverny. Photo Credit Susan Hyatt

Musee Des Impressionnismes Giverny  The museum is dedicated to the Impressionist movement in the broad sense of the term, in France and abroad. It also intends to explore its infancy and aesthetic consequences it has trained since the Second World War and into contemporary art.

Day Three van Gogh  La Maison van Gogh -Auvers Sur Oise

The Ravoux Inn is situated in the heart of Auvers-sur-Oise, a village 30 kilometers to the north of Paris, and was the last home Vincent van Gogh. During the 37 years of his short
life van Gogh had no fewer than 37 other abodes in the Netherlands, Belgium, England and France.

The site is a listed French historic monuments and the only place lived in by van Gogh still surviving in its original state. The attic rooms of Ravoux Inn are still redolent of the spirit of
the painter. Room 5 was his; it is where suddenly we are aware that Van Gogh’s illustrious destiny is tempered by intimacy and humility. The House of Van Gogh is what is known in French as a lieu de mémoire, a place of historic association, yet it is still a living place. Just as much as in 1890, the restaurant welcomes guests from all over the world, recreating the convivial ambience of artists’ cafés of bygone days. Vincent van Gogh spent a mere seventy days in Auvers-sur-Oise. Yet he was astonishingly prolific in this short time: the picturesque location and its inhabitants and surrounding countryside inspired him to paint more than seventy pictures.

Maria Christina Hotel San Sebastian

Bilbao. Photo credit Susan Hyatt.

Henry Moore. Photo credit Susan Hyatt

Bilbao – Visit the Guggenheim Museum, the city center, Old Quarter, Norman Foster subway and the new architecture by the riverbed.

Day Two – Exclusive Visit Mutriku and a Secret Art Gallery. The Basque way of life invites guests to understand local life in Mutriku. A charming fishing town where you will get the feel of  the typical life of a Basque sea related life. Walk through cobbled streets and hear stories of their whale hunters, sea captains, counts, princess in towers and even pirates, you will end up sitting in the oldest fish auction machine bidding for the days catch!

Mutriku and a Secret Art Gallery. Photo Credit Susan Hyatt

Visit to a Secret gallery and tour with the owner. Several exhibitions of modern art are exhibited in this exclusive gallery. Bilbao is a surprise for many when they first arrive. No one expects such art and architecture apart from the Guggenheim. An art gallery which will also knock you off your feet, we hope! This gallery was an amazing surprise and loved by the clients who texted photos of the superb collection. We were thrilled to receive photo texts from these two almost every day, sharing their meals, art installations and vistas.  

Photo credit Susan Hyatt.

Photo credit Susan Hyatt.

Enjoy a stroll through the cobblestone streets and then transfer to famed Three Michelin Star Restaurant Azurmendi for a leisurely lunch. This text arrived with food photos and a note: Tell Gwen we are taking three hours for this feast! 

San Sebastian. Photo Credit Susan Hyatt

Any trip to Spain should always include a stop in San Sebastian – they happened to be visiting during the San Sebastian International Film Festival, a time when the city shines bright with glamour and pride and especially this year, as the festival was celebrating its 65th anniversary with the same exuberance and enthusiasm felt at their debut on September 21st 1953. During all these years the list of personalities and celebrities attending the festival and staying at the five star Hotel Maria Cristina is extensive.

The drive to San Sebastian from Bilbao should include a hike through the etherial Oma Forest. Walk the forest and admire Ibarrola’s piece of natural art.

Onward to the famed hotel Maria Christina. Since the hotel opened in 1912 the 136-room Hotel Maria Cristina has been intimately linked to the history and cultural life of San Sebastian. In the late 19th century the seaside town on the southern point of the Bay of Biscay became a favorite destination for royalty and aristocrats who came to enjoy the sunshine and newly recognized therapeutic properties of sea bathing. A traditional afternoon stroll along the boardwalk offered an opportunity to see and be seen while the many cafés and open-air terraces were filled with high society.

San Sebastian has passed from being a sleepy fishing village into a thriving cosmopolitan town offering luxurious, modern facilities to meet the demands of its discerning guests.

Serendipitously this urban blossoming occurred at the height of the Belle Époque era, and today the majority of buildings flanking the famed La Concha beach, including the city hall, Victoria Eugenia Theater and the Hotel Maria Cristina, are constructed in this style. The majestic design of the hotel by architect Charles Mewes, the man responsible for the Ritz in Madrid and Paris, combined with the property’s enviable river setting and sea views, resulted in it immediately becoming the favored accommodation for international high society.

In July 1912 the hotel’s namesake, Spain’s regent Maria Cristina, was the first person to cross the threshold. We can certainly add to the illustrious list with the names of our dear clients!

San Sebastian Dining Mirador de Ulía Restaurant

Our pick of the regions’ museums, small beach communities and more importantly, long lunches! As all foodies are aware, one of the Basque Country’s main specialties is the culinary culture, as San Sebastian possess the highest concentration of Michelin Stars in the world – we’ve reserved a grand adventure of Michelin star restaurants every day, interspersed with a few Pintox’ stops to balance the rich food. San Sebastian however is a marvelous walking town to balance the fine dining activities!

A quick look at the touring opportunities in San Sebastian, before we head back to Bilbao for – yes, more fine dining and art.

First of all, we recommend visiting the old town “la parte vieja”, which is a 5 minute walk from the Hotel, here you discover historical monuments including the church of Santa Maria or La Plaza de la Constitución. Plan the walk after your Michelin Star lunch!

We cannot forget the Pintxo Experience, a fun and delicious local traditional not to be missed in the Old Town. ‘Barhopping’ for tapas and sips, meeting locals and tasting tiny bites of local specialties. Jamón ibérico, is heavenly delicious, don’t be temped to toss a leg into your suitcase at the airport, Custom’s agents will confiscate for their dining pleasure!

There are also a lot of walking itineraries, such as visiting the Monte Urgull, walking along the Paseo De La Concha or even taking the old funicular that will take you to the top of Monte Igueldo, which offers spectacular views over the bay of San Sebastian.

Museums in San Sebastian, an interesting variety; there is the San Telmo Museum and the new international cultural center called the Tanakalera in San Sebastian, the Balenciaga Museum in Getaria which is a 25 minute drive from the hotel or the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao which is a 1 hr. drive from the hotel.

San Sebastian. Photo credit Susan Hyatt.

Visiting neighboring coastal towns is another worthy activity to include, we would suggest the following towns: Hondarribia, Zarautz, Getaria and Zumaia which are all within a 35-minute drive from the hotel.

San Sebastian is also very close to the French Basque Country. Here Biarritz, Saint Jean de Luz, Hendaye and Bayonne are a great choice for leisurely walks and chic shopping.

Bilbao. Photo credit Susan Hyatt.

Also, an interesting area to add to your itinerary if you indulge in vino is La Rioja (1hr 45min drive), where you can taste some of the most famous and exquisite wines in the world. Recommend a variety of experiences at the Marques de Riscal Estate with its wine cellars, vineyards, hotel & spa, it is one of the oldest and most quality oriented in this area. During the same trip, it could be very interesting visiting Dinastía Vivanco Wine Museum and make a tour of its winery located in the village of Briones.

Are your Spanish cooking skills in need of a brush up? We can organize classes in the Mimo San Sebastian Cooking School, , a beautiful facility located right in the hotel.  Designed specifically for cooking enthusiasts, the facility offers a range of hands on classes, wine tastings and pintxo experiences.

Return to Paris for one last day to stay at Le Reserve, one of our favorite petite hotels. Mid-way between Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré and Avenue Montaigne, a stone’s throw from the Champs-Elysées, where the heart of Paris beats. Nestled in a peaceful location, slightly set back from the world’s most beautiful avenue, La Réserve Paris – Hotel and Spa overlooks the Grand Palais, the Eiffel Tower, the Pantheon and the Concorde obelisk. Just in front, a majestic curtain of trees preserves the intimacy of this place, like an echo of the Elysée gardens nearby.

Michel Reybier’s highly distinctive urban mansion has all the elegance of a 19th century private apartment, where ultra-personalized services can be enjoyed in complete simplicity and discretion.

Tempt your kids with an Escape!