News & Reviews News Summary of 2020

I’m not sure what historians will say when they discuss 2020, as it seemed completely uneventful.  My New Years resolution was to not watch the news anymore, so hopefully I’ve not missed anything in the last 12 months.

We always planned on traveling less this year due to avoiding Zika, so I suppose you could say that I prophesied this.  Normally I would have split this into two posts and followed up with a best/worst of list, but there’s only so much I can repeat myself before I’m repeating myself. This post should be more of a memorandum for where we didn’t go.

As unconventional as the year was, it still managed to start in January.

The Langley

In what now feels like three lifetimes ago, I had to double check all my notes as I couldn’t remember whether I hated it or just disliked it.  That’s what happens to my brain when the maximum effort each day is deciding which PJs to wear, and I only have one pair. After extensively skimming my review I feel I land somewhere in the middle.  Don’t bother.

Four Seasons Hampshire

If ever there was a hotel that symbolises how inclusive the world is, it’s Four Seasons Hampshire.  Everyone is welcome: your dog, your children and even myself – an annual climber on many hotels Guest Shit List.  Until now, I have never been to a hotel where not having children was the abnormal.  I would not be surprised if I’m automatically on a sex register list, just by coming here without any offspring.  Yet children are the future, as the esteemed philosopher M. Jackson once said, so that should not be an issue – but I did feel so out of place that I had to reproduce and make a child just to fit in.

Everything here was average or good, which is actually a step-up from most English countryside properties.  We stayed here just a week after The Langley, so my quest for the perfect English countryside property continued in vain.

We will return with our daughter in a few years, but I wouldn’t recommend it for couples as there’s rarely a moment of peace.

You will have to excuse the lack of photos, for my performance is deeply impacted by the weather.  Some get Seasonal Affective Disorder, I get Can’t Be Arsed to Photograph When it’s as Miserable as a Brexit Parade.

Beaverbrook

When a hotel is this popular, you expect great things.  Steve Jobs had his reality distortion field, Beaverbrook seems to have the same, as evidenced by a gentleman being fine to wait 15 minutes for someone at reception to show up.  “This place must be great, I’ve heard it a thousand times before”.  There are some very good parts of Beaverbrook, but they are mixed in with the ordinary.  Their restaurants, including their highly regarded Japanese, were a let down and their spa looked like they ran out of money, but the rooms, service and selection of activities is impressive.  The room was a lot nicer than I thought it’d be, although calling it a cottage is a tall ask when you have to duck to walk around all 30 something square meters of it.  Its 30 minutes between Heathrow and Gatrick, so perfect for a layover – remember those?

I just wish the spa facilities matched the treatments that Lucie received.  She said they were amongst the best, anywhere.  I don’t get how they could create something this low-end, when the rest of the hotel is so elegant.

Fregate

Nothing had changed since my last stay in 2016, other than 1) Shit load of mosquitos now run the island and 2) Hope.  Hope that they will make substantial changes this year (2021), with a planned shutdown and complete refurb that sounds more like a rebuild.  Whilst we were on the island a team of architects were putting their vision into reality.  I should really follow up to see if it’s happening, but I’ve been really busy on the Porsche Taycan configurator.

Fregate is still a spectacularly beautiful island, with one of the best villa pools I’ve ever used, but the refurb is definitely overdue.  If they do what was described, their pricing will likely increase and it will be completely justified.  I will gladly volunteer to return to a reimagined Fregate, one of the most beautiful islands in the world, in 2023.

Six Senses Zil Pasyon

Ok, let me try and be positive.  The spa facilities are amazing.  The Residences are the best accommodation in the Seychelles.  And that’s all I’ve got.  The food was so limited that if we went home after being quarantined here I’d have lost so much weight customs would assume someone was trafficking me; there’s almost no activities and everything screams about being average.

I get it, it’s not Fregate prices, in fact it can be 4-5x cheaper, so most of my criticisms are not their fault as they are not playing to the market I’m interested in.  I knew almost immediately it wasn’t for me – the lack of exclusivity of it; the feeling of “I’ve been here a thousand times before”.  If you can only afford to stay here in a normal room then I’d just suggest you go to any number of better properties in the Maldives instead – I don’t know why you would want to come to an island that doesn’t have a proper beach and the best rooms are those furthest away from the water.

North Island

Third, and probably my last, stay.  The only shocker was that it was not Marriott who transformed the island for the worse, but themselves.  It is still amongst the most beautiful resorts in the world and is certainly one of the most exclusive, but its best days are behind it.

Four Seasons Prague

Our first post-lockdown trip came in August, which gave a clear picture of the economic damage caused to the hospitality industry this year.  The occupancy was 15%, so I finally knew what it was like for Jack Torrance in The Shining.  Already 30% of the staff had been made redundant and I fear what that number will be now.

Excluding how empty it was, there was little to differentiate it from before.  Which is to say the staff did a superb job, under what must have been an extremely difficult situation.  The new Italian pop-up restaurant became our base for a few days, meaning we never got a chance to visit their Japanese pop-up.

La Reserve Zurich

The tiny rooms are contrasted by the enormous talent in the kitchens.  I cannot recall having such excellent food in a hotel for a long time. The rooms are meant to give you the feeling of being on a boat, but I didn’t realise they meant a home-made life raft.  What I’m getting at is that they’re very, very small.  Whilst not as elegant as their Paris property, it’s a big step up from Geneva.

The lack of any spa and a gym so small they didn’t even point it out to us, means that The Dolder Grand would still be our choice for Zurich, but if you want to be in the city and you’re a businessman with no suitcase or luggage of any kind, this might be for you. The good thing with such a small room that you cannot leave anything behind – even a stick of gum would have prevented the door closing.  Basically, book a suite and you’ll be happy in an elegant hotel which makes up for the lack of facilities with good service and superb food.

Park Hotel Vitznau

I seemed to have mortally wounded the GM by suggesting they needed to work on the service, but I think we all walked away as friends.  We upgraded to stay in their version of the penthouse, ate in their 2 Michelin star restaurant focus and got driven in their Maybach to Lucerne.  It was all jolly good.  Whilst I will repeat that the service did irritate me, especially as no other hotels during this trip experienced them, it was our belated anniversary stay and I did my best to become less of a stubborn bastard and still enjoy myself.

7132

Spectacular setting and stupendously good food.  Average for everything else.

South Lodge

Just don’t.  Don’t even.  No, really, stop reading this sentence, you’re killing your braincells.

Limewood

Covid was doing its best to put so many restrictions in place that it turned a spa from a relaxing haven into a regimented process as tranquil as queuing to get your benefits.  Limewood is a wonderful property, with excellent dining available in Angela Harnett’s restaurant.  We stayed in a Forest Hideaway Suite, a duplex apartment with lounge downstairs and bedroom up.  Whilst I don’t have a degree in physics, I believe hot air rises, so deciding not to put AC in may have seemed a good idea a few years ago, but now we’re approaching the end of days and England actually has Summers.  For what it is, it’s on the expensive side, but when the only alternative is to stay indoors, what’cha gonna do?

Amanzoe

Brilliant.  My favourite resort in Europe?  I reckon so.

Grantley Hall

Imagine this: you book a hotel for two nights, you get sick on the first night, leave early and get the hotel to investigate food poisoning…. yet you’d still return.  Grantley Hall is the finest English countryside property going, with no expense sparred – except in the hiring of chefs.

The Connaught

Unsurprisingly, we stay stayed several times, each as pleasant as always. The only disappointment as we never got to experience their new Grill restaurant as it never reopened post-lockdown.  The addition of their new patisserie just further enhances them as the best culinary hotel in London, if not the country. Now just to refurb some of those rooms, ol’ boys.

The Bulgari London

Speaking of rooms that you wish someone would take a lick of paint to.  We stayed here for the first time in 4 years; previously as boyfriend and girlfriend, now as husband and wife and soon to be parents. The spa is still my favourite in London, but other than Zuma, Harrods and Hyde Park being nearby, I’m just not a fan of the area.  Still within my top 5 hotels in London though.

Conclusion

You might think a summary of 2020 would be just a picture of a turd, but oh no, we did something.

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 2nd Jan '21

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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