Eco-Urban Sanctuaries

by tina

Montage, Beverly Hills

This just may be the most peaceful property in Los Angeles. If you’re looking for a low-key luxury experience, this is where you’ll find it—and more. We’ve been big fans of Montage since its flagship property first opened in Laguna Beach. Who wouldn’t be? This is a brand that doesn’t miss a detail. In April of last year, the Beverly Hills property became the first hotel in Southern California to receive LEED Gold certification and the very first mixed-use residential and hotel project to be LEED Gold certified as a single development. One of the things we love most about the property is its un-trendiness, thanks in large part to its style—part Spanish Revival, part glamour estates of the 1920s and ‘30s. It manages to be classically elegant and thankfully unstuffy, and it offers a variety of wonderful experiences from accommodations to dining to spa. We stayed in one of the very spacious and lovely Garden Suites and dined at Parq where the chef sources the best seasonal ingredients, artisanal products, and wines. We couldn’t pass up the Beer-Braised Onion Risotto or the simple but delicious House-Made Cavatelli with black trumpet mushrooms, pickled green garlic, and white wine and lemon. The Roasted Local Halibut was cooked to perfection. The spa did not disappoint either. We loved the way the sun from a skylight hit the two-story mosaic tiled wall just so. Lead therapist Cherie Rodriguez, helped us create a personalized 120-minute Signature Montage Surrender program after sitting with us and learning about our lifestyle habits. This involved chamomile, rosehips, seaweed, a body scrub, a wrap, lots of sweating, an alternating hot and cold Vichy shower, and a serious steep in a hydrotherapy tub. It worked wonders. www.montagebeverlyhills.comMary Bemis

CityCenter, Las Vegas

Comprised of dramatic restaurants, elegant boutiques, and three vastly different types of accommodations—the city’s first Mandarin Oriental hotel, boutique-style Vdara Hotel & Spa, and its energetic nucleus, Aria Resort & Casino—CityCenter has a distinct modern architectural vision, fusing the disparate creative inspirations of a smattering of the world’s top architects and designers. A common theme running throughout this urban community is a dedication to celebrating sustainability, as evidenced by its LEED Gold certification, a first for Las Vegas. There are a number of reasons the accolades are obvious: using sustainably harvested FSC-wood products; launching the world’s first fleet of stretch limos powered by clean burning compressed natural gas; introducing slot machines that simultaneously cool off guests; and adding striking water fixtures throughout the property that spew out water conser-vation-inspired pressurized showers. Yet for guests, CityCenter’s green ties are more visibly appealing. Take the massive, well-lit Aria spa, for example, where after a Detoxifying Body Ritual (a lemongrass exfoliation followed by a mask of sake yeast, shea butter, wasabi extract, and red pepper) you can invigorate your skin in the ambient Shiso salt room, or lay back and relax on one of the sleek heated Ganbanyoku stone beds. Inside tranquil Vdara, a two-story spa, salon, and fitness center awaits with a Champagne bar to boot. Here, familiar brands derived from natural ingredients, like Red Flower and Naturopathica, are integrated into treatments such as the healing Italian Blood Orange Flowers Hold Life Ritual, featuring a rejuvenating organic sea salt exfoliation, and the fragrant Espresso Mud Body Scrub. Meanwhile, over at the Mandarin Oriental, a morning could begin with a powerful sunrise yoga session overlooking the city’s casino-dotted skyline before a long, pampered session at the spa, where treatments reference authentic Eastern medicine remedies, like the pampering that goes on at the intimate Chinese Foot Spa. Where to eat in this contemporary maze? Seasonal veggies and sustainable seafood are always on the menu at Sage, the brainchild of Chicago chef Shawn McClain. And celeb chef Michael Mina makes his mark on Las Vegas yet again with American Fish, an ode to the quality fish teeming in our country’s waterways. —Alia Akkam

River’s Edge Hotel & Spa, Portland

We stopped by this LEED Silver certified property this past July to check out the spa that is under new management. The riverfront hotel, located in the South Waterfront District, sits along a scenic four-mile walking trail that lines the west bank of the Willamette River, and is about two miles downstream from downtown Portland. The hotel itself, funky-elegant and somewhat dated in design, is now missing the award-winning quality of its opening (it won the Mobil Travel Guide 2005 “America’s Best Hotel and Resort Spa Award”). With that said, we enjoyed the layout and quiet of the Deluxe Riverside Suite in all its eclectic glory. The two-level Spa and Fitness Club, on the other hand, shines. We weren’t surprised to learn that it has a strong and loyal local membership, as the fitness center is large (13,000-square-feet) and well-equipped and the spa therapies are topnotch. We entrusted our spa experience to the very capable Carrie Burns, spa manager, and were not disappointed. Our experience began with a 15-minute soothing footbath followed by a 60-minute Lavender Aromatherapy massage that helped ease our weary muscles. But it was the Botanical Brightening Healthy Skin facial that was the real standout. The magic touch of esthetician Araceli, combined with the plant-based, restorative June Jacobs’ products, worked wonders on our skin and left us glowing. (Rivers Edge Hotel & Spa is the only one in Oregon to carry the June Jacobs Spa Collection, and in each hotel room you’ll find the June Jacobs Amenity Collection.) The spa, dedicated to offering natural therapies and products, also features Equavie Organic facials, another line we love. —M.B.

The Peninsula, Chicago

We happened to be in Chicago last April, and spent Earth Day at this iconic hotel that has been quietly and diligently working away on upping its green efforts. The property has joined Mayor Daley’s hotel environmental program, as well as applied for Chicago’s Green Seal environmental program. A Green Team of employees has implemented numerous initiatives, including waste management, reuse, and recycling projects (we like the fact that the hotel donates unfinished bathroom amenities to a community service organization), serious energy efficiency and conservation practices (guestroom lights are interfaced with property management systems so that the building automation system automatically shuts off lights in vacant, unoccupied rooms), and responsible management of freshwater resources (the hotel meters and monitors water use and has installed a water filtration system). Other details we admire: the in-room coffee and tea is Fair Trade, Shade Green, or organic, and organic menus for children and adults are offered in The Lobby restaurant and in room service. During our stay we attended a Pen Academy Program, “Nature’s Pharmacy,” that was led by a knowled-geable esthetician who spoke of the health benefits of aromatherapy. Later, we sampled the spa’s new Mankind massage that focused only on the neck, shoulders, back, and feet. The spa uses ESPA products, a line of natural and deliciously aromatic products (we love the pure essential bath oils and the Soothing Eye lotion). We also visited the Green City Market, open April through October, where we sampled fresh local organic fare; explored the city’s green shopping scene with super-shopper Bonnie Kaplan who showed us places we’d otherwise never have found (more on that in a future issue); and fell in love with the new Modern Wing of The Art Institute of Chicago. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano, the wing recently received LEED Silver certification. —M.B.

Eventi Kimpton, New York City

Opened in late spring, the Kimpton hotel group’s latest NYC outpost is a newly built high-rise located in a bustling area near the Chelsea wholesale flower district. In addition to 292 rooms—each stylishly appointed with Frette linens, Etro bath amenities, organic mini-bar items, and a richly toned décor—the property features a screening room, indoor-outdoor upscale Asian food court, and a lush wrap-around terrace lounge open to all guests. In the cozy three-room spa, clients settle into bamboo robes and sheets before skilled therapists perform treatments using Kerstin Florian’s natural and organic products; signatures include the Jet Lag Recovery combo done with a Turkish body scrub and organic lavender massage oils and body sprays. In keeping with Kimpton’s brand-wide EarthCare policies, Eventi features recycled paper goods, water-efficient bath fixtures, energy-saving lighting, in-room recycling bins, environmentally responsible bath and cleaning products, organic wines and teas, and much more. We also love their commitment to wellness (guests can request complimentary in-room yoga, meditation, and Pilates programs and accessories) and women travelers, who receive targeted amenities and services through the Women In Touch program. —Sandra Ramani
Photo: David Phelps

Four Seasons, Philadelphia

We have fond memories of visiting this elegant property that’s situated on one of the prettiest tree-lined boulevards in the city. The spa is tiny and intimate and offers topnotch treatments using the Naturopathica skin-care line. We tried the 80-minute Philadelphia Freedom Hot Towel Infusion and loved the application of steamy towels that had been steeped in herbs. Since 2005, the Five Diamond Award-winning hotel has had a Green Team in place that has consistently improved and introduced eco-friendly initiatives. These include: reducing overall energy consumption by more than 20 percent; sending used cooking oil to a local farmer to convert into bio-fuel; reducing water consumption by more than five million gallons; and reducing its carbon footprint by nearly 3,000 tons per year. Last year, saw the addition of a rooftop garden where fresh herbs and vegetables happily grow. —M.B.

Mandarin Oriental, Boston

Located in historic Back Bay, this hand-some property boasts many creative green initiatives. It’s a fine example of a hotel that has placed a lot of environmentally conscious thought into its planning and construction—most notably maximizing energy consumption, using sustainable construction practices, and making a special effort to connect to the surrounding community. We love the fact that it’s pedestrian-friendly, as it’s within walking distance of a variety of restaurants, shops, and public transportation. Its contemporary design, while urban, is warm and welcoming, making it a great place to meet friends for tea or a glass of wine. Because it was built on a fragile ecosystem of tidelands that were filled in the 1800s, maintaining groundwater levels is of utmost importance. Thanks to critical planning before construction of the hotel, the balance was protected. A few other details of note: huge expanses of windows flood public and private spaces with natural light, lessening the need for interior lighting; 12 of the 50 condos that are also on property have roof gardens designed to sustain trees up to six feet, while high-reflective paving systems on the roof help manage storm water and retain heat in the winter and cool in the summer. And one can’t forget the spa. This brand is known for its beautifully designed spa spaces and its signature Time Rituals (personalized journeys with a two-hour minimum). The 16,000-square-foot spa and fitness center, located on the fourth floor, is a blissful, Asian-inspired escape that also happens to be the only Forbes Five-Star awarded spa in the state. Treat yourself and a loved one to the serene Mandarin Suite, sip a cup of soothing tea, and embrace the calm. —M.B.
Photo: Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group

Augustine, Prague

Set in what were once the living quarters of the Augustinian St. Thomas monastery (and still adjacent to the order’s peaceful 13th-century church and cloisters), this boutique Rocco Forte property opened in the heart of Prague in 2009. Nods to the former residents can be spied everywhere, from the simple, warm décor of the rooms to the hearty St. Thomas beer—brewed from the monks’ secret recipe—served in the on-site pub. This locally made beer makes an appearance in the spa, as well: The St. Thomas Beer Signature Body Forming Treatment starts with a footbath and short reflexology session to improve circulation, followed by a body scrub with Himalayan salt and finely ground organic hops. Next comes an application of the house brew beer, which is high in B vitamins, beneficial flavanoids, essential minerals, and anti-oxidants; a full-body massage tops it off. The rest of the spa menu is green-minded, too, with Anika organic facials, energy-balancing Ayurvedic Ila treatments, and body peels done with virgin coconut and neroli. —S.R.

Hotel Fouquet’s Barriere, Paris

Located just off the Champs-Elysee, Paris’s self-proclaimed “most ecologically responsible five-star hotel” backs up that claim with its Dignified Luxury campaign, which strives for luxury with limited environmental impact. Guests can savor organic ingredients at the gourmet Le Diane restaurant, tool around town on an electric E-Solex bike, or enjoy the Fair Trade flowers that decorate the space. Along with accommodations in a room or suite, the new VIP (Very Important Planet) package includes a healthy daily breakfast for two (think fresh fruit and veggie juices, multi-grain breads, and egg whites), an organic lunch at the on-site Joy Gallery, a bottle of eco-friendly Pop Earth Champagne, and carbon off-setting of your stay through the Action Carbone program. Guests will also enjoy a 50-minute oil treatment at the underground U Spa using the natural Mon Soin du Visage line of preservative-free products, which combine traditional Japanese medicine, French cosmetic expertise, and organically farmed materials (including wasabi, yuzu, and rice.) —S.R.

On our List to Visit…

Hyatt at Olive 8 Hotel in Seattle is the city’s first LEED certified hotel (having garnered Silver certification) and the first for Hyatt Hotels. Notable details include Seattle’s largest (8, 355 feet!) living rooftop and a “fritted” glass exterior with blue glass fin elements that give it movement and an appearance that changes constantly. Twenty percent of the building’s materials are made of recycled content, while 95 percent of construction waste was diverted from landfills. Its green practices are numerous and include conscious cleaning (100 percent toxin-free dry-cleaning services is a detail we appreciate), green meeting capabilities, and a terrific reuse and recycle program. Elaia, the spa that’s located on the second floor, offers everything from holistic massages to cutting-edge facials and uses some heavy-hitting organic spa lines, as well as locally sourced and handmade Market Fresh body wraps, scrubs, and masks that are produced daily.

Set in the heart of Miami Beach, The Palms Hotel & Spa is one of only 14 Miami Beach hotels to receive an honorable designation from Florida’s Green Lodging Program for its commitment to protect the state’s natural resources. An aggressive recycling program is just one of its many green efforts. Essensia restaurant, noted for its natural gourmet dining and spa cuisine, offers organically farmed produce and ingredients, as well as an exclusive wine list that is 100 percent sustainable, organic, or biodynamic. The 5,000-square-foot Aveda destination spa, located on the hotel’s lower lobby, offers Ayurvedic-inspired personalized treatments and rituals.

Fairmont Pittsburgh, opened in March of this year, reflects the company’s Green Partnership program—a pioneering program launched back in 1990. There’s no doubt that Fairmont is committed to sustainability, and this new hotel, expected to be the first LEED certified hotel in the city, has a long and honorable list of green initiatives that focus on improvements in waste management, sustainability, and energy and water conservation (it estimates annual lighting energy savings of about 50,000 kilowatts and annual water savings of about 930,000 gallons). In a unique twist, more than 26,000 objects dating from 1840 to 1872 were recovered in 2007 by archeologists during the excavation of the property the hotel sits on. They’re now on display at the hotel and reflect the culture, history, and economy of Pittsburgh in the mid 1800s. The Fairmont has named suites and boardrooms after these bygone businesses that included a German boarding house, a steam cabinet maker’s shop, a seed store, and a toy store. —M.B.

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