hotel review

Theme 43: New Orleans. Royal Sonesta Hotel Review

Royal Sonesta New Orleans hotel review by NYC based influencer Ulia Ali. Louisiana Travel

One of the places that has been on my bucket list long before I moved to the USA was a charming, mysterious city of New Orleans. For some reason I kept putting away a trip to probably one of the most cinematic cities in the world, waiting for some serendipitous moment to arise. This October, unexpectedly, I was invited for a journey to the city of my fantasy-novels-inspired dreams, exactly on the city’s 300th anniversary.

After confirming my flight, I, in a dream-like haze, was saving all the information about haunted mansions, quaint bookstores, houses of famous writers and all the Instagram-worthy locations in Nola. But then I realized I have no idea where we should lodge!

I undoubtedly dreamed to stay in a famous, and, by the way, ridiculously gorgeous French Quarter, but I wanted to steer clear of any loud hotels, filled with people who came to only party on a fun Bourbon street. Some AirBnb properties looked lovely, but when I saw some photos and read about Royal Sonesta New Orleans, I was intrigued.

For me New Orleans is an enclave of a dark and beautiful history, rich with layers of French and Spanish Creole culture and architecture; a magical place where time doesn’t exist and you loose yourself in a time travel fantasy, while listening to the best jazz music you ever heard.

The hotel Royal Sonesta was a perfect choice for such a nostalgic soul like me, and it let me immerse myself into that classy, elegant, yet seductive and mysterious New Orleans dream I imagined for many years.

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Royal Sonesta Grand Lobby Reception area. New Orleans visit review
Royal Sonesta street entrance
Royal Sonesta Review in New Orleans.

The grand lobby of the Royal Sonesta hotel looks like a movie set: a big old style wooden hotel reception with keys and neat envelops, hotel porters in sleek royal blue uniforms, vintage and antique items beautifully placed here and there, exquisite chandeliers and candelabras, water fountains, huge flower bouquets lushly blooming and filling the room with their sweet aroma and a soft jazz music playing on the background teasing the guests with the promise of one-of-the-kind stay.

The moment we stepped into the Royal Sonesta, I knew this is my kind of place as it reminded me of small chateaux in France, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” film and some lavish vampire pre-ball (of course! We are in NOLA after all!) setting at the same time.

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Room Sonesta
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There are almost 500 newly renovated beautifully decorated guest rooms and luxury suites, and the room we had was so cozy and charming that we loved going back to it and taking breaks between venturing out for long walks with a stop for delicious beignets and coffee at the world famous Cafe du Monde, and getting back out to the most wildly intoxicating and mysterious night air of New Orleans. Conveniently, the hotel Royal Sonesta is located right in the heart of the French Quarter!

The service at the hotel, by the way, was absolutely impeccable and I was able to learn about famous Southern hospitality firsthand. Once, for example, I asked for a steamer, and it was delivered pretty quickly, so I was able to steam my dresses for the city strolls. 

The breakfast and even lunch were included with the Sonesta Travel Pass (it is a loyalty program I recommend you to join as it has a lot of great perks! Learn more here), and even though I am usually pretty picky with hotel breakfasts, I was really happy with the variety and also some of the unique breakfast options Royal Sonesta offered their guests. I got to try grits for the first time in my life, and loved substituting my usual oatmeal with it. Another really sweet, in every sense, detail is that there was a full candy bar with Halloween chocolates, caramels, cookies and gummy worms, along with fruits and tea/coffee available from early morning to late night at the breakfast lounge. I might or might not sneaked some chocolates every night before going to bed to watch “Poldark” (not the most New Orleans inspired show, but I love period dramas, and I finished watching the most New Orleans’ show ever, “The Originals”, months ago!).

New Orleans trip. Royal Sonesta Hotel pool.
Charming hotel in New Orleans

The hotel by the way, despite being located in the heart of the French Quarter, felt like a luxury quiet oasis from a bygone era.


The sounds of a bursting with life, Bourbon street, somehow do not travel through the walls of Royal Sonesta. The lush courtyard with a fountain and quaint little tables are welcoming to have a calm little moment with a book or your own thoughts. The pool area of Royal Sonesta is also absolutely beautiful and a great place to relax and enjoy the sunny weather of Louisiana’s most exciting city!

Royal Sonesta NOLA

There are so many great little things and charming little details about Royal Sonesta, but I think it is important to note that the hotel is also home to some of the best dining and entertainment venues, making it even more unique! The Jazz Playhouse is arguably the best jazz club in the city, offering incredible live jazz music every evening right in the lobby level of Royal Sonesta. 

Jazz Club New Orleans
Desire Oyster Bar at Royal Sonesta New Orleans


Desire Oyster Bar is another dining venue inside the hotel and it was so good that we went there twice for fresh chargrilled oysters, amazing creole food, like jambalaya and gumbo, and a wide variety of fresh seafood.

There is also a Restaurant and a bar R’evolution, Le Booze and PJ’s Coffee Café inside the Royal Sonesta Hotel, which we haven’t had a chance to experience. I heard from other guests that R’evolution serves some of the most interesting Cajun and Creole dishes and original cocktails, so I am looking forward to visit it next time in New Orleans (and I hope to be back for many many times in the years to come!).

This New Orleans trip was special for many reasons, and the Crescent City absolutely stole my heart like no city has ever done before (except maybe London back in 1999 when I visited it for the first time and made a wish to move there one day, which happened years after, but that is another story). I believe that accommodation is so incredibly important and should reflect the mood and aesthetic of your dream trip, and Royal Sonesta with its impeccable service, gorgeous classy 1930s-style-luxury-hotel decor and many charming spots, like a jazz filled ballroom, a courtyard with a pleasant babbling fountain and a decadent dining areas deserves all the stars I can give to it!


Theme 42: Pennsylvania. A weekend in Gettysburg

Review on oldest inn in America - The Historic Fairfield Inn in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

There has been an exciting change my life! I am now a proud owner of a beautiful white fluffy samoyed named Enzo (full name is Enzo Sir Lancelot of Pine, because let’s face it, I would never be satisfied with just one name!). We chose to get our samoyed from the breeder White Magic Samoyeds, and going to Pennsylvania to pick up our puppy was a main reason of my road trip adventure.

Red door Fairfield Inn in Gettysburg
My samoyed puppy

I have never been in Pennsylvania before, but there were quite a few places I was dying to explore. One of them was Fallingwater House designed by world famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The house named “best all-time work of American architecture” was a little bit far from our final PA destination, so we opted to focus on exploring the city of Gettysburg and the nearby areas. 

Pennsylvania antique store
Pennsylvania

If you follow me on Instagram or regularly read my blog, you might know that I am a big history buff, and as Gettysburg town played a significant role during the American Civil War, it has a great deal of historical monuments, wartime relics and is soaked with hair-raising ghost tales. Gettysburg also has this wonderful small-town charm, beautiful old Victorian style houses and one of the oldest inns in the whole America - The Historic Fairfileld Inn.

The Fairfield Inn that was built in 1757 was originally the Mansion House of Squire Miller, an original founder of town. The Inn is irresistibly charming and preserves all the flavors and details of the Revolutionary and Civil War eras. The Inn offers a few beautiful elegant and cozy rooms, but unfortunately, the Fairfield Inn was bully booked for the weekend we visited. I do recommend you to stay at the Inn (and I will certainly go back to do so!) as it is a unique and very romantic experience, and so much more intriguing than some little basic hotel room at a generic giant hotel chain.

Even though, Ben and I couldn’t stay at the Inn, we still wanted to explore it. Luckily the Inn has excellent dining options. We were lucky, and on the day of our visit there was a limited period dinner theatre experience, and I was obviously excited about it! 

Dinner Theatre with Professor Kerrigan

The Inn was even more wonderful and detail-rich than I imagined, and as we arrived early, we had some great conversation with the host of the dinner theatre, Professor Kerrigan, who performs Civil War era magic, tells dramatic ghost stories, and is frankly, hilarious and fascinating at the same time!

The show was lovely, and truly gave us a little feeling of being immersed in another time. Food was beyond excellent! Don’t expect expensive fancy gourmet dishes as the Inn offers authentic, filling, delicious meals, that give you a taste of home. It is the kind of food your grandmother lovingly prepares specially for you when you visit, or what you imagine people eating on Christmas or big weddings in the 19th century. I had one of the most tasty soups I EVER had - a traditional Ham & Bean soup from the original recipe that was used to feed the Confederate Army in 1863! Then we tried Ribs and famous Chicken & Biscuits, that is prepared using the old recipe  passed through generations of innkeepers for centuries. But the absolute highlight of the my period dining experience was a freshly baked berry pie that I am craving every day since.

Dinner theatre with Professor Kerrigan
Fairfield Inn dining options

It was such a pleasant and warm visit, and now I really want to go back during Christmas time as they put out a beautiful Christmas tree and all the fireplaces are inviting you to warm yourself next to the crackling fire. How wonderful does it sound?

Discovering and sharing precious and under-the-radar places in America really gives me pleasure, and I can’t wait to explore more charming towns, rich with history and hospitality of their habitants. 

 

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Fairfield Inn building
Fairfield Inn Decor 1757

Theme 8: California Diary. Loews Hollywood Hotel Review

"There's something in the air in Hollywood"
Blogger Ulia Ali review on Los Angeles Hollywood hotel

As every self-respecting blogger who is trying hard to fit in, every April I attend Coachella festival with Ben, who from a highly ranked financial consultant transforms into my full time photographer during our trips. The festival is actually our favorite excuse to stay in Los Angeles and explore the city more (aka looking for the most instagrammable places). One of the hotels we stayed at during our annual 'Californication', was Loews Hollywood Hotel.

Located in the heart of Hollywood - literally just next to the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Dolby Theater that is best known as Oscars location since 2002, Loews Hollywood Hotel is a dreamy and tasteful choice of accommodation for every traveler that wants to be close to the La La Land world.

The Hills! The Hollywood sign! The Theaters! Do I even need to say more?!

Loews Hollywood Blogger Review

Waking up to the world famous Hollywood sign is definitely a very cliche thing that HAS TO BE on your bucket list, and Loews Hollywood can make that dream come true! Apart from having the A-list view, the hotel room we had was beautiful, spacious and comfortable, and had a bunch of informative magazines and books that helped to plan our city walks.

As Ben and I used to live in hotels full time, we have an eye for details and pay a very close attention to how a hotel's staff treats their guests. We were very impressed by how clean and equipped was the room, and how INCREDIBLY friendly and respectful every member of the Loews Hollywood family was. It is mind blowing how many luxury hotels nowadays have problems with their staff. W Hotel in Dubai was a great hotel, but had the worst valet service ever; St. Regis Kauai staff couldn't remember our names after two weeks of us staying there and were not attentive at all. We not only had zero issues with Loews Hollywood Hotel, but we actually had one of the best valet experiences in the last few years. It might seem like a small detail, but small things do really matter!

Loews Hollywood pool review and rating

There are a lot of great amenities at the hotel, including a well-equipped gym, but me and my friend Vivien, who joined Ben and I on this trip, fell in love with the pool and hanged out there more than we initially planned. The view at the pool area make me geek out to this day as it a little bit reminds me of Ancient Assyrian wall reliefs. And any historical reference and a unique photo spot ranks high in my book.

I honestly think it is one of the most Instagrammable and just photogenic in general, pools in Los Angeles!

Loews Hollywood 4 star hotel review

If you are hungry, Loews Hollywood offers a great variety of dining options, including a lovely American restaurant Preston's and a fun, filled with beautiful people, H2 Kitchen & Bar. It is not a secret that the breakfast buffet is one of my favorite parts of the staying at hotels (oh c'mon, we all can appreciate a variety of pastries and 10 types of cheeses on a plate to choose from!), and Loews Hollywood has an excellent one. I am getting hungry now by just thinking of that freshly made omelette and a bowl of fruits, soaked in honey :)

Loews Hollywood

Another thing to mention and that is, I am sure, important for many of you, is the pricing point. For the service, location and the comfort you can't beat Loews Hollywood prices (less than $300 a night). The hotel is modern, chic and upbeat, but is family friendly and offers a calm retreat to the adventurers in the middle of the Hollywood's delicious madness!

Ulia Ali - review of Los Angeles hotels

Yandy swimsuits review

Swimsuit from: Yandy


Theme 39. Arabian Adventure. Four Seasons Dubai, Sea Fu review

Ulia Ali - travel and fashion blogger, fiction writer. Review on Four Seasons Dubai at Jumeirah. Sea Fu restaurant.

Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach - Jet Set Oasis

Dubai has made a name for itself catering to the luxury-minded jet set crowd over the years, so it was only a matter of time before the Toronto-based Four Seasons Hotels group installed their beach-side desert offering: Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach (FS for short because #carpaltunnel).

For those of you who have not had the privilege of gracing the threshold of a Four Seasons, let me be the first to tell you that you are in for a treat should the opportunity arise to visit one of their 109 (and counting) properties worldwide.

Gorgeous Four Seasons
Four Seasons Dubai beach

Like many of their locations, the FS exudes opulence from the moment you approach the grounds. A sweeping paver stone driveway lined with trees lifts you up and away from the bustle of Jumeirah St. Through gaps in the greenery as your drive deeper, you will begin to notice the neutrally colored, Arabian influenced lines of the main building. Terraced construction incorporating terra-cotta and neutral tones is the perfect complement to the landscape, causing one to forget that a city of steel and glass is only 15 minutes away. If you look closely at the buildings, you may notice nods to the Arabian culture in the form of Horseshoe Arches and large, ornate doors standing between you and marble lined lobby of the FS.

Four Seasons Dubai Review

As one would expect from a Four Seasons, the lobby is the crown jewel. Every Four Seasons seeks to make the entry way to each of their hotels a statement. Dubai is no exception. With an attention to detail second to none, the FS unabashedly flaunts the line between palace and hotel. Gold trim, deep brown hues, neutral tones, complex light fixtures comprised of baubles and more flowers than Versailles in spring, the FS transports you.

Now, our engagement on this particular adventure was at one of the FS’s dining venues known as Sea Fu. The FS mantra is about experiencing sensory environments. So, if you can accept that the lobby overwhelms, Sea Fu relaxes, much to the same degree.

Sea Fu Dubai, UAE
Free People dress in Dubai
Sea Fu menu, Dubai

Set in a quasi-outdoor, beachside setting, Sea Fu serves an Asian-inspired menu amongst pillars of wood and beneath umbrellas and billowing fabric. I highly recommend sitting outside as the breeze in winter or early spring is still pleasant. However, should the sun be too harsh, the interior of Sea-Fu is a perfect alternative and a welcome respite from the sun. There is something about an ocean breeze and eating lunch on a terrace that is just…pleasing.

The staff at Sea Fu was, for lack of a better term, phenomenal. From the moment we approached the host stand to announce our arrival, we were treated with near-perfect deference (I say near-perfect because I have a penchant for restaurants that maintain a dress code that includes white gloves for their staff, but that is a story for another time). The truly standout quality however, ignoring the smiles, friendliness and attention of the staff was something that I believe every restaurant should take to heart and do: responsive and thoughtful guidance on the menu.

Best sushi in Dubai
Sea Fu Dubai, Four Seasons review by travel blogger Ulia Ali Pillmore
Four Season's Sea Fu review by Ulia Ali Pillmore.
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This may sound like a simple task, but the vast majority of restaurants do not ensure that their staff knows the menu.

When I patronize a restaurant I like to ask the waiter or waitress to pick items from the menu that they believe will constitute a meal representative of the quality and diversity of the restaurant. Few get this right. More often than not, the selections are representative, but not of what is good, but what is popular, or what they think I will like based on their judgement. For those of you who know me personally, you will know that I drink and I know things. But you will also know that I eat. I love good food.

Sea Fu understood this. Our waitress selected dishes that complemented one another, were varied enough in their execution to not leave us bored and diverse in flavor to the point that we had to throw in the proverbial towel for lack of capacity. It was beautifully executed and showcased what I love best in a restaurant: mastery of a variety of techniques. 

In the words of Paul Prudhomme: “You don't need a silver fork to eat good food.”. Fine by me, the FS (and Dubai) happens to prefer gold anyway.

Until next time,

- BAP

Free People dress in Dubai
Desert in Dubai. Sea Fu at Four Seasons review.
Lotus Flower Sea Fu
Sea Fu review
Impressive deserts of the world
Dubai food - Sea Fu Four Seasons review

P.S. For the curious among you, here is what we had for lunch:

Small Plates: Edamame, Spicy Chicken

Sushi: Yuzu Tempura Roll

Raw Bar: Hokkaido Scallops

Main: Seared Black Cod

Dessert: Mochi Selection, Lotus Flower

Four Seasons Dubai

SHOP MY LOOk:

My Dress - Free People (it comes in 4 colors and it is my favorite dress EVER!)

Bag - Louis Vuitton (It was a Christmas gift from my hubby)

Jewelry - Sequin Jewelry (My favorite Jewelry company! Everything is so gorgeous)


Week 30: Utah. Stein Eriksen Lodge Review

Stein Eriksen Lodge hot tub. Review by blogger Ulia Ali Pillmore.

First of all, I cannot believe that I have been leading Pastiche.today for one year already! I have been amazed by the amount of support and love I have received, and still cannot believe with how many of my favourite brands I have been privileged enough to work with. Thank you very much!

To celebrate my blog's one year anniversary, Ben and I decided to fly to Utah for a little, snowy adventure. We were lucky to stay at the, I dare say, legendary Stein Eriksen Lodge. The hotel is a luxurious, 5-Star, 5-Diamond, chic, Norwegian-style property with ski-in, ski-out access to Deer Valley Resort

Deer Valley Resort is not only one of the top skiing destinations in America, but in the world. Hence it was chosen as a site for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. By the way, the hotel was founded by Norwegian, Olympic-Gold medalist, skier Stein Eriksen, and there is a huge display of his trophies and awards in a beautiful, hand-painted case in the Main Lodge. 

Stein Eriksen awards and medals

The hotel has a beautiful chalet-chic decor - cozy, warm and gorgeous. Each room in the lodge has a unique Nordic design, but all of them have dark-wood furnishings, amazingly comfortable beds, stunning views and spacious bathrooms with Molton Brown amenities. 

My husband and I were staying in a luxury suite with a full kitchen, dining area, two enormous fireplaces, huge bath and walk-in shower, and our own private deck with a hot tub overlooking the snowy mountains! I can honestly say that it was an incredible experience to relax in a hot tub with steaming water, after a long day of skiing, breathing that fresh mountain air, taking in the breathtaking, picturesque mountain view, while being super warm and cozy.

Cozy warm winter morning by Ulia Ali.
Stein Eriksen Lodge Review.

Stein Eriksen Lodge is a top hotel, therefore if you don't think you will be able to stay there just yet, at least make a reservation at one of their celebrated restaurants: Glitretind or the Troll Hallen Lounge. The food is original and delicious, and their selection of hot cocktails (I am a sucker for any good variations of mulled wine or Irish coffee) is PHENOMENAL, and I don't use that word lightly :)

Stein Eriken restaurant

There is also a huge, heated outdoor(!!!) pool, which is so cool! The experience of swimming in warm water while white, fluffy snowflakes land on your head is quite surreal, and should be added to your bucket list.

Heated pool in snowy mountains

And of course, the hotel has a beautiful spa, with many individual massage rooms that bare the names of Scandinavian Gods.

 

By the way, Stein Eriksen Lodge is a year-round mountain resort, and it is worthy of a visit in summer as much as during the ski season.

Deer Valley skiing resort
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Stein Eriken Lodge review
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Hot tub in Stein Eriksen Lodge
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Park City is a charming city and has deserved a name of one of the most beautiful and prestigious places in the United States, so I definitely recommend you to explore it! While you are waiting for my upcoming Utah posts, here you can find my Park City summer adventures and a visitor's guide I prepared for you. Enjoy and let me know if you visit Park City!