The Faena – Miami

My previous posts on the Faena Empire and the sophisticated theatre, C’est Rouge! and one of their star performers Irina Kazakova, didn’t include a review of the hotel or the spa.

Travel Mantra: a hotel for each and every client – this is not your ordinary Miami hotel, I would recommend to very specific clients. Imagine if you collaborate with Baz Luhrmann and his wife Catherine Martin as creative consultants; Catherine, an Academy Award winning designer. Imagine grand theatre, imagine a contemporary art filled property, jazzy soundtracks, a Cathedral arrival foyer studded with shimmering gold-leaf columns and surrounded by dramatic neo-romantic floor to ceiling frescoes painted by Spanish artist Juan Gatti…and that is just the entrance. Happily, there are small velvet covered settees to catch your fall as you strain and bend to take in the amazing Cathedral entrance. The walls echo a story, of course, as Alan Faena is The Most Contemporary Storyteller – Gatti’s story revolves around a Journey of love, science and nature.

At every corner, hallway, restaurant and outdoor terrace, be prepared to be wowed, dazzled and inspired by spectacular artistic design. From the Cathedral foyer gaze out to the shimmering blue sea, your view is interrupted by a 10,000 year old woolly mammoth skeleton dipped in 24karat gold – a Damien Hirst sculpture entitled “Gone But Not Forgotten,” encased in a larger-than-life temperature controlled glass box. Faena Hotel is not designed for the timid traveler!

The over-the-top Living Room Lounge is furnished in opulent and silky claret and tiger patterned prints with a breathtaking gold chandelier. Dinner upstairs at Pao is managed by James Beard Award-winning chef Paul Qui. The Pan-Asian cuisine is served at glammy candlelit tables directly below another spectacular painted bronze and gold leaf Damien Hirst unicorn sculpture, Golden Myth. Inspired dining, inspired interiors.

Los Fuegos Francis Mallmann Death by Steak!

Glamorous dining at Los Fuegos Faena Hotel

The Faena is an inspirational foodie centric destination. My favorite Argentine chef, Francis Mallmann hosts his first U.S. restaurant here, Los Fuegos. Mallman is the legendary asado grill master who made his fame in Latin America. My son & I made mecca visits in Buenos Aires and Mendoza to his temples of asado – he texted me while I was dining: send me photos! My enormous rib eye with chimichurri was easily the most scrumptious cut of meat I’ve ever tasted, sandwiched by the Mallmann famous square cut potatoes, it was a bit much, but a couple of glasses of fine Malbec kept me alive!

The 169 rooms and suites (plus 13 penthouse residences) continue the visual delights; the aesthetic flair is echoed in each and every detail. Colorful, bright and bold artistic visuals – permeated by ruby red accents, most rooms contain small terraces. I would opt for the rarely viewed Penthouses, which are cavernous and could easily host a raft of friends.

Lounge at the glamorous Art-Deco pool topped by colorful red & white striped umbrellas, or pad out to the beach and be spoiled by the hotel beach guardians who provide sun cream and fruit infused chilled water.

Did I mention the spa? Separate post coming – oh my! How could this hotel hotel get any more decadent? Think Shaman spiritual spa advisor!

The Faena Hotel, Miami

Outrageous opulence with no apologies at the Faena – it’s fun and festive and flamboyant!


El Encanto, Enchanted Santa Barbara Sojourn

I vacillate on the ideal escape, sometimes one needs a brief getaway to a familiar hotel property for blissful solitude; but then again if you offered me several weeks in the bush or long delicious days driving through the Spanish countryside, weighing the options, I’m not certain which proposal I would choose.

Santa Barbara, California; El EncantoSanta Barbara is a seductive beach enclave worthy of a revisit. Quaint charm, mesmerizing Spanish Colonial architecture, Mediterranean climate and a deep reminder of my ancient Spanish family who settled the area with Father Serra. Local street names, surnames which appear in my genealogy, are reminders of my recent visit to Majorca, Spain, the birthplace of Father Junipero Serra. Hmmm – perhaps I can apply for dual citizenship in Spain?

I digress. Always looking at a 90 minute perimeter from my base visit, an LA client week, I added time in Santa Barbara to explore the newly remodeled Belmond El Encanto Hotel. Santa Barbara’s only Forbes Five Star Resort sits high above the city, a few blocks walk from the Mission Gardens, and offers distant views of the sparkling Pacific Ocean.

ELE-EXT-GDN-04An iconic property built in the 1920’s, the restoration maintained the finest of the aged architecture and lush gorgeous gardens and infused the interiors with modern touches. Seamless modification uniting the old and the new; Bungalow suite interiors in muted pale tones are truly soothing sanctuaries. Expansive views from your balcony terrace of the luxurious gardens are the perfect backdrop in each room. Reserve a suite with a fireplace for a chilly wintery night, and relish the deep soaking tubs in all the oversize bathrooms.

Informal check in desk introduces you to a stunning curated art collection, informal and unpredictable art assemblages which range from California artist Charles Arnoldi, Damien Hirst and Brad Miller among others. Damien Hirst’s painting of gem like diamond dusted vibrant butterfly wings introduces you to a theme to be seen elsewhere on the property and an homage to the migratory Monarchs. Employing his favorite metaphor for beauty and flight, artist Paul Villinski echos the homage with Sueno, brilliant hand cut metal indigo butterflies dripping down a staircase wall to the spa.

I loved the dining veranda, I happened to be staying on an especially warm evening and the hilltop vistas of twinkling city lights and the brilliant moon shadow paving the dark ocean made a late night supper exceptionally delightful. Do order the abalone if offered, light and lemony surrounded by crispy mushrooms and shallots. Breakfast Huevos Rancheros can be prepared with scrambled eggs if the runny yellow yoke provokes cruel breakfast memories, uniquely prepared on a toasted corn tortilla anchored by savory black beans.

Whatever you desire, Madame!

Whatever you desire, Madame!

(No runny yokes for me, a sibling tortured me with a favorite breakfast, runny yokes sunny side up). Madame, whatever you desire, is music to my ears, love an agreeable and accommodating kitchen.

Elegant wine room for private parties, guests can view the scene through the tinted glass, voyeurs cannot peek in; super spa, quiet and peaceful, yet all barely steps from the bustling Santa Barbara boutiques and small local museum. NB: Rarely exhibited Beatrice Wood drawings, will be on display at Santa Barbara Museum until end of August.

If you aren’t inclined to dine on the terrace or have plans down the hill, do sip a cocktail at the sweeping community table on the terrace – a rather unique touch. Capturing the divine views and offered as a drop in setting: sip, nibble and dash or return for a moonlit dessert.

The gift shop offers many unique jewelry lines and art objects designed by local designers, I appreciate a property which supports the community. Montecito is a few miles away and we have a long list of suggested boutiques catering to the locals: unique clothing, vintage jewelry, sculptors and artists.

Desiring Enchantment? Make your way to the hills of Belmond El Encanto; I will be back for another visit! We now have more than once choice in Santa Barbara.

As always, our clients are VIP Guests.

Library Belmond El Encanto Hotel