The InterContinental Hotel & Resorts group, founded by Pan American World Airways, has a stellar international reputation. No matter what city you are visiting, a reservation at an InterContinental hotel is a safe bet. IHG, the world's largest hotel group by number of rooms, has a respected and well known portfolio of properties. The company, courtesy of their website, touts “more than 4,400 hotels and more than 640,000 guest rooms in 100 countries and territories around the world including InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Hotel Indigo, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn Hotels and Resorts, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites and also manages the world's largest hotel loyalty program, Priority Club Rewards with 56 million members worldwide.IHG has almost 1,300 hotels in its development pipeline, which is expected to create 160,000 jobs worldwide over the next few years” Well, after my recent stay in two of their InterContinental properties, I give an enthusiastic thumbs up and say, “Keep 'em coming.”
A symbol of sophistication and elegance, each hotel carries local flavor and design. The hotels have hosted celebrities, international dignitaries and business professionals as well as international travelers. Currently, they have 168 InterContinental hotels in more than 60 countries. Recently, I had the opportunity to visit two distinctive properties.
London InterContinental Park
Lane A view of Hyde Park or Buckingham Palace. The London skyline beyond. Busy London cabs and red double decker buses passing by. London's InterContinental Park Lane is in the heart of London, between Knightsbridge and Mayfair, and following a complete $120 million renovation in 2006, have nearly 400 thoughtfully designed and comfy rooms.
“Our guest rooms have a residential feel. We designed them to feel like London,” said Esther Williamson, director of communications for the hotel. London Park Lane recently completed 60 designer suites, including four themed suites, with fantastic amenities. The hotel is convenient to central London and the staff is friendly and professional. My room had two expansive windows to take in the view of Hyde Park. Gorgeous linens and an incredibly comfortable bed were delightful. I enjoyed the room's fresh fruit, turn down service, daily newspaper and quiet, despite the busy traffic below. Rooms include the 'little touches' such as English mugs for coffee and tea. Rain showers are a specialty of the lovely bathrooms.
I got a quick tour of one of the four signature suites – the Cinema Suite. In addition to a spacious living room and elegant bedroom, a private screening room showcases the latest in technology in a plush setting. Six, large reclining leather chairs face a wall-to-wall window where the London skyline beckons. A screen lowers and guests may watch their own films, television or choose from a library of hundreds of movies. Other suites are the London Suite, which faces Buckingham Palace and the Wellington Arch, the Wellington Suite, and the Royal Suite. Each can connect to adjoining rooms and boast the finest of fabrics, technology and space.
Guests who book rooms at the suite level have access to Club InterContinental. This lounge is located on the seventh floor where the view is incredible. Guests enjoy a wide variety of choice for breakfast – including a serve-yourself buffet or a cooked-to-order full English breakfast. At lunchtime and throughout the day, a delectable offerings of four or five types of sandwiches were available, along with nuts, chips, cookies and beverages. Afternoon tea brought on even more delicacies. Weary travelers can sink into couches or sit window-side for complimentary cocktails and hot hors d'ouevres from 7 to 10 p.m. each night. The hotel offers room rates that include the Club Level or guests may pay a fee for access. Considering the high cost of food and drinks in the city, this is well worth it. An attentive staff and a concierge always on duty can help with any question, arrangement or engage in friendly conversation.
In 2010, Conde Nast Traveller UK warded the hotel its “Best Hotel in the UK for Food” and I had the opportunity to see why.
The hotel's premier restaurant, Theo Randall, is named for its executive chef. Randall leads an excellent team where the menu features specialty dishes such as Scottish scallops and fresh Devon crab . Theo Randall, just four years old, was named the best Italian restaurant of the Year in London 18 months ago. The chef, author of the best selling cookbook, “PASTA!,” is also the star of several British cooking programs. I enjoyed his signature dish, Cappelletti di vitello, which translates loosely to little Pope hats with veal. Randall told me his chefs pend eight hours a day making pasta and it takes another eight hours to dry it. All the fish served in the restaurant is from England. Most of the vegetables and fowl come in daily from the Milan market. Theo Randall offers a tasting menu nightly for 60 pounds.
The Cookbook Cafe has a Sunday brunch that is simply wonderful. Chefs stand ready to prepare hot waffles, pancakes, omelettes or any type of dish a diner might request. The dining room is bright and lively; most guests can watch the passersby on the street outside. Worth every penny and calorie.
The Spa InterContinental takes a unique approach to pampering, with elements such as lighting, music and aromas customized to match your personal preferences. Treatments use the British brand Elemis and are featured in the chic urban setting. The hotel has designed some unique experiences for its guests, including the Spa Boudoir, the first hotel room that can be converted to a beauty retreat, the VIP Suite with couple’s treatment beds, private lounge and bath and a a Dry Flotation Therapy Room.
The hotel also offers a health club, a beauty salon, a florist, a business center and a kids program. The Park Lane is a busy center of activity, close to the city's attractions, A majority of guests are business travelers but families would find its conveniences and luxuries attractive.
InterContinental Hotel Kiev
Kiev is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, on the Dnieper River. The River flows through the center of the city and provides a lovely and scenic 'division' between the old and new portions of the city. The InterContinental is situated in the heart of ancient Kiev and next to three main Ukrainian orthodox churches—St. Sophia, St. Michael and St. Andrew. A relatively new hotel, architects took care to build it to match its historical surroundings. A gorgeous, expansive lobby is filled with marble and accented with dazzling crystal chandeliers. Business travelers will find the location to be close to business centers, government agencies and embassies. Leisure travelers will appreciate the location within walking distance of many of Kiev's famous sites including the Opera House, Khreschatyk (Kiev Main Street) and the Museum of Eastern and Western Art. There are loads of nearby shops and restaurants and just a few blocks away is the must-see Andrew's Descent, a winding street of stone bricks that wends around the Zamkova Hora hill. The street, sometimes referred to as the "Montmartre of Kiev," is a major tourist attraction of the city. It is here you will find the Castle of Richard the Lionheart, Saint Andrew's Church, and loads of outdoor stands filled with every sort of handmade treasure including Ukrainian crafts and paintings, Russian nesting dolls and fur hats. I bought a hand carved, exquisite wooden Santa Claus nearly 30 inches tall for $100.
Rooms at the hotel are beautiful and offer every touch of comfort. The view from my room included St. Michael's Cathedral. All the staff, impressively, speaks English and does their best to make travelers feel welcome. They love Americans. Dining at the hotel is good. I enjoyed their club level private dining each day. A beautiful array of food is present all day long, with made to order breakfast available. The artistry of the food rivals any foodie magazine or cookbook photography. Guests may also order from a private menu for lunch and dinner. Wines, cocktails and beer are always available. Olivera is the main restaurant, led by a team of international chefs. The menu had local favorites (yes, we ordered Chicken Kiev), seafood and Mediterranean fare. Comme il faut is a French restaurant in a beautiful garden-like setting. Wide double doors open onto a small private patio. The lobby lounge and bar serves every sort of beverage imaginable. Coffee and pastries are served in the mornings followed by high tea in the afternoon. Live music is often available. The lobby is filled with art and cushy furniture arranged in many groupings and is a comfortable place to unwind.
The hotel has a spa, I-SPA, where traditional therapies are offered. Therapists strive to please the guests and the hotel thoughtfully built a special elevator just for spa guests that goes to every floor. You really can wear your terry cloth robe from your room to the spa and back.
Perhaps the most popular spot in the hotel is the rooftop bar, called B-hush. Modern, with a disco feel, drinks and dancing keep the place jumping most nights. There is a wraparound outdoor balcony where stars and city lights may be admired.
After visiting some of the top attractions in Kiev, such as the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra-Caves Monastery, built by Kiev monks in 1051, the Maidan Nezalezhnosti, or Independence Square, the famous Saint Sophia Cathedral, a memorable example of Byzantine and Ukrainian Baroque architecture that took 900 years to build, the Chernobyl Museum, a fascinating collection dedicated to the history of one of the world's worst nuclear disasters, or St. Michael's Cathedral, the awesome, golden-domed monastery, the InterContinental Hotel will be a welcome place to sleep, dine and rejuvenate.
Visit www.intercontinental.com for details on special packages and services.