Monday, May 18, 2009

Forget filling in room service forms or hanging do not disturbs signs on the door - hotels in the U.S. are communicating with guests using iPods and iPhones, a practice which soon after Australia.

Guests at the Malibu Beach Inn Hotel and the sky, both in California, can food, drinks, wake-up calls, spa treatments, concierge services and transportation, all from a special application on their iPhone or iPod Touch.

If they do not have either of the devices at check-in, guests with a 16 GB iPod Touch, the "Hotel Evolution" application already loaded.

The application also allows guests - after logging in with their room and security policy code - the search for information on shopping, nightlife and restaurants, as well as their messages.

There is an option in order not to disturb you, room cleaning, or additional linens, towels and toiletries.

Evolution of the hotel developer, Runtriz, said the system has also been in several hotels in Las Vegas, Orange County, Miami and New Jersey, but further details are not yet announced.

"We look forward to outside of the States, luxury real estate in Germany, but as of yet in the discussion with all the properties there," said a spokeswoman.

Hotels reportedly pay Runtriz $ US10 per room for the use of the service, but it is unclear whether these costs on to customers.

Apple announced this week it was the third largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world in terms of revenue, with the iPhone outselling BlackBerry phones in the last quarter.

The iPhone sales of $ US4.6 billion for the quarter behind Nokia ($ US12.7 billion) and Samsung ($ US5.9 billion), but Sony Ericsson ($ US4.2 billion), LG ($ US3. 4 billion), Motorola ($ US3.2 billion) and BlackBerry manufacturer RIM ($ US2.1 billion).

In Apple's earnings call chief executive Steve Jobs welcomed the result as a "milestone" for the company.

"RIM is a company that good products, and it's surprising after only 15 months on the market, we have the restaurant in every quarter," he said.

"If this is not stunning, I do not know what is."

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Hotel - When Fidel Castro Slept Here

THE bright glazed whiteness of the Hotel Theresa, built at 125th Street and Seventh Avenue in 1913, symbolized the new high-rise aspirations of 20th-century Harlem. Three decades later and newly integrated, it offered hope to black New Yorkers. In 1960, the press descended on the hotel when Fidel Castro checked in. Now crews are at work keeping its remarkable design intact.

The Theresa was built by Gustavus Sidenberg, who manufactured ladies’ collars and then took a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. It appears that the hotel was his only development project, for which he hired the three-year-old firm of George and Edward Blum. Apparently born well-to-do, both brothers went to the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, the training ground of the architectural elite.

But instead of returning to design country houses and private clubs, they did the unthinkable: They put their high-style training into the service of commercial architecture, where profits were calculated in square feet, even square inches.

In 1912 Mr. Sidenberg approved the Blums’ most ambitious design, a full-blockfront apartment hotel 13 stories high. This was from the architects’ boom year, which included the Dallieu, at 101st Street and West End Avenue; the Adlon, at 54th and Seventh Avenue; and their all-white 780 West End Avenue, at 98th. Like 780 West End, the Blums made the Hotel Theresa all white, with their characteristic sinuous ornament unlike anything ever seen in New York.

The spandrel panels — the rectangles below the windows — consist of diamond shapes made up of crisscross lines, something like the Islamic decoration of the 14th-century Alhambra. But looked at in another light, they could be the zigzag Art Deco of the 1920s. At the third-floor level runs a band of varying ornament, including projecting panels of glazed terra cotta surrounding roughened, sandpaperlike rectangles.

From the 10th floor up, the main facade is covered with diaper-patterned terra cotta, a sort of tapestry of diamond shapes. This section ends in superscaled square-topped pediments, another Blum trademark. The window arches of this upper section are great half-rounds of sinuous, Art Nouveau-type ornament surrounding bulging orbs like mushroom caps.

Nothing in the decorative scheme derives from classical architecture — indeed it could be said to be anticlassical, so thoroughly does it bypass traditional design. George and Edward Blum may have taken advantage of the orthodox training at the École, but they also took instruction from the streets of Paris, Vienna and other European cities where the Secession style had recently flowered.

The Theresa opened in 1913 with 300 rooms, and its modernity and size made it a center for Harlem civic affairs. In 1921, The New York Times held a business lunch celebrating its new Harlem office, at 111 West 125th Street. The Times quoted J. Gardner Smith, the president of the Harlem Chamber of Commerce, as saying that 125th would become the “greatest street in the city.”

Like its facade, the Theresa was all white, both staff and guests. But the African-American population of Harlem was expanding, and in 1937, The New York Amsterdam News reported a complaint by two black men that they had been refused rooms, which the hotel denied. But then in 1940 the Theresa opened for all races, with a black staff and management.

At some point it came to be known as the “Waldorf of Harlem,” a center for African-American events. In 1941, 10,000 fans gathered in front to see Joe Louis, fresh from a boxing victory at the Polo Grounds. After a fire in 1945, The Times noted that guests evacuated from the hotel included administrators from Fisk University, Tuskegee Institute and Wilberforce University.

For some whites the Theresa had an anti-establishment cachet; for example, the Communist Party of the United States held its convention there in 1959. Mr. Castro was a guest the next year, when he came to address the United Nations. He and his retinue stayed at the Hotel Shelburne, at 37th and Lexington Avenue, for one night. But the Cubans complained that the hotel, suspicious of the revolutionary purse, demanded $2,000 in advance. The hotel management disputed this claim.

The Cubans moved up to the Theresa, where Mr. Castro felt a responsive chord with the black community. Malcolm X; Jawaharlal Nehru, the prime minister of India; and Nikita S. Khrushchev, the premier of the Soviet Union, all visited him there, and the Theresa has an enduring place in cold war history.

In 1966 the architect Vito Tricarico proposed an entirely new, modern skin for the hotel, but it was instead simply converted to an office building.

Now, the firm Rand Engineering & Architecture has begun a $2 million program of repairs. There is some spalling on the high gables, window lintels have failed, and the fragile-looking 12th-floor balcony has to be replaced, but the building is in surprisingly good condition.

A designated landmark, the Theresa should emerge from the work looking as good as it does now, or better.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

$2.3 billion hotel casino a real winner

LAS VEGAS : Two much of a good thing can be marvelous. Especially when that twosome includes the Encore hotel/casino resort.Encore is millionaire casino mogul Steve Wynn's new baby on the block, a $2.3 billion, 50-story, 2,000-room resort/casino -- a glistening brown and gold mirror-image of the Wynn Las Vegas, its sister property next door. Wynn has done what no other casino owner in town has been able to: Open a new property during one of the biggest recessions in recent history.

Las vegas deals: Our guide to stretching your dollars Blog: Travel with Lori Rackl More in Travel. But step into Encore and you'd never know any of that is in play outside its gilded tower. From the stunning marble from Greece to the opulent Murano glass chandeliers and a near forest of live plants and flowers, Encore's slogan should be, "Forget your troubles, come on get happy."

Encore is an explosion of elegant reds, creams, golds, deep ebony and mahogany -- and natural light. Floor-to-ceiling windows abut two sides of the casino (one side is an entire glass wall) and most of the restaurants. Daylight in a casino? You bet. In fact, natural light plays a major design element throughout the property.

Encore plays out like a boutique hotel, with a relatively small but nicely compartmentalized casino, restaurants that are easy to find, a registration desk located just off the elevator banks, and a ground-level esplanade that seamlessly leads into Wynn Las Vegas. The intimate pool oozes French Riviera.

Credit Roger Thomas, executive vice president of Wynn Design and Development, with conceiving the look and feel of the place -- and for incorporating whimsical butterflies into everything from paintings to sculpture, mosaics and wallpaper.

"Butterflies are not only beautiful, but they are powerful. And in many cultures, butterflies are also very good luck," Thomas said.

"I also wanted [to create] spaces that were romantic, dramatic -- spaces that evoked mystery, a bit of humor, cinematic touches if you will."

Cinematic is one way to describe the drama of the casino, with its bold, red Rubino glass and 24-carat gold-infused chandeliers hanging above the gaming areas.

The rooms

The 700-foot standard suites play out in a timeless color scheme of polished ebony and white sycamore cabinetry with buttery, cream wool carpeting underfoot. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide views of the Strip and the lavish downtown gardens. A large pass-through with a 42-inch flat-screen TV (it spins around as needed) separates the sleeping nook from the sitting area with its combo couch/settee. One small gaffe was the lack of sizable counter space around the double-bowl vanity of the spacious bathroom.


Encore has five "destination restaurants," each helmed by award-winning chefs who are in the kitchen every night (a prerequisite for all of Wynn's culinary roster). The tony eateries are extremely high-end. A dinner for two can easily reach $300.

Consider: Botero, contemporary takes on everything from steaks to seafood; Switch, with its French-inspired seafood and steaks and ever-changing decor; Sinatra, an Italian steakhouse named for the singer; Society, a gorgeous upscale cafe, and Wazuzu, a showcase for Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Thai and Singapore cuisine, not to mention a lighted, 27-foot-long Swarovski crystal dragon.

The 61,000-square-foot Encore Spa and Salon is perhaps the most gorgeous, lavish and splendidly appointed on the Strip. In the elegant pre-treatment rooms, guests can relax with a soothing cup of tea or step into a sauna or tranquility pool.

The grand hallway to the 51 treatment rooms is almost otherworldly. Massive golden lanterns light your path while a giant golden Buddha oversees your journey.

Shopping and more

The shopping promenade is small, in keeping with the intimate nature of the property. Names include Channel, Rolex, Hermes and Rock & Republic. Encore boasts seven bar/lounges, two of my favorite being the impressively stocked Switch Bar and the very sexy Eastside Lounge. Drinks are on the pricey side at both, so keep an eye on your tab to avoid sticker shock at the end of your revelry. For nightlife, there's XS, an immensely upscale nightclub that rivals anything you'll find in Vegas or New York.

"Excite the most sophisticated traveler and you excite everyone," Thomas said during our tour of Encore. "That has been Steve Wynn's philosophy when it comes to all that you see and experience in any of his properties."