Historic Housing

The 13th-century St. Thomas Monastery is one of seven historical monuments in Prague that comprise the Augustine, a new hotel near the city’s commercial district. Clustered around courtyards and gardens, the seven restored buildings now house 101 luxury hotel rooms, a restaurant, and two bars. The monastery, which retains areas for several still-practicing monks on its grounds, houses the hotel’s 90-seat restaurant within its glassed-in courtyard. Also, every guest room affords views of the picturesque monastery chapel and its gardens. 

The property, which includes two hotel suites, retains several historic features unearthed during construction, including wooden ceilings, wine vaults, and stone arches, while stalactites from the 17th century are showcased in the grotto bar. The three-floor Tower Suite boasts panoramic views of the surrounding rooftops and spires from its top-floor bedroom. Suites start at about 5 a night. (www.roccofortecollection.com)

Alexandra Foster

Eating and Staying in Bilbao

Cooking is a way of life in Bilbao, so much so that the city contains several gastronomical societies (formed mostly of men and numbering anywhere from 20 to 100 members). These societies often take over an empty building, add an industrial kitchen, some tables and chairs, and meet a couple of times a week to cook, socialize, and eat.

Made-to-Order Spa Experience

While some spas customize treatments based on the guest’s preferences for scents or their skin type, the Eau Spa at the Ritz Carlton, Palm Beach has taken the process a step further. The spa offers a Scrub and Polish Bar, inviting guests to consult with a resident mixologist to create a personalized blend of herbs, oils, and sea salts, which can be administered during one’s treatment or packaged for later use. Spa director Amal Elbahnasawy describes the experience as a “customized body cocktail,” meant to represent the spa’s philosophy of “a completely carefree and open environment, not necessarily a sacred place where you have to whisper.”  

To that end, the 42,000-square-foot spa features 19 spa villas: private casitas surrounded by outdoor gardens meant for quiet reflection. Three couples’ spa villas provide an intimate experience that includes oversize tubs, garden enclaves, and outdoor rainfall showers. Treatments include the Platinum and Diamond Facial, which incorporates a diamond-infused elixir, and the Bamboo Massage, which features warm bamboo shoots soaked in essential oils to work out muscle tension. Treatments start at 0 for a Swedish massage and go up to ,500 for the Diamond package for two, which includes a champagne lunch in a private garden, a body wrap, massage, manicure, and pedicure. (www.eauspa.com)

Alexandra Foster