Laura Crafton

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Le Meurice: The Hotel of Kings

Le Meurice is often referred to as “the Hotel of Kings” and has accommodated countless monarchs, sultans, politicians, artists, film stars, and musicians over the years. Some of my favorites on the list include: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rockefeller, Rudyard Kipling, Elizabeth Taylor, Harrison Ford, Beyonce, and famed artist, Salvador Dali, who actually lived at the hotel for quite a long period of time. And of course I have to mention for all of my rap lovers out there that Jay- Z and Kanye West recorded their hit album Watch The Throne while staying at this hotel. Does the line “Le Meurice for like six days” ring a bell? It should if you listened to the album!

I am so excited and a little overwhelmed as I write this post because there is just so much that I want to share with you about Le Meurice. That being said, Im sure that I will probably leave out a few things so please do not hesitate to ask me if there is anything specific that you want to know about this incredible hotel.

First I will start off by saying that one of the best parts about this hotel is its location. Located in the heart of the city, Le Meurice overlooks the beautiful Tuileries Garden and is a short walk to the Lourve and most of the other main attractions in the city. When we arrived at the hotel we were thrilled to find that everything we wanted to see could be done so without taking public transportation (although we did have some very memorable subway moments on our trip).  As we checked in at the front desk I couldn’t help but notice that every single staff member we spoke to was genuinely concerned that we had absolutely everything that we needed to make our stay perfect. I think I probably heard the phrase “anything you need, just let us know and we will make it happen,” probably about 20 times. Next I met with Cecile, my main contact at Le Muerice, and had a wonderful tour of the property. Cecile is the one that takes care of getting my clients extra amenities (upgrades, free breakfast, 85 Euro resort credit, early/late check in/out, etc.) and makes sure that they get VIP treatment while they are there!

IMG_4013 In another post I will show you photos of my room at Le Meurice but for now here are a few that I took while touring the hotel with Cecile.

The whole hotel has a feeling of authentic Parisian luxury with  modern twist. In 2007 it was beautifully renovated by Phillipe Starck. Below is a photo of Restauant Le Dali, where guests can enjoy excellent food under a 1560 square foot canvas that was painted by Philippe’s daughter, Ara. The chairs pictured here, along with other items in the room,  were designed by Salvador Dali himself.

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Often compared to a British club, Bar 228 has a cozy yet masculine feel with leather furniture and original paintings on the walls.

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The Valmont Spa is the perfect way to relax after a day full of seeing the sights!

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There are great room options whether you are looking for a romantic getaway for two or a multigenerational family trip (lots of connecting rooms). All of the rooms are very elegant and spacious with large marble bathrooms and gorgeous details.

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Let me know if you would like some more info on Le Meurice and the awesome amenities I can get you there!

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Travel Week Day 4: Hotels Dinner with The Dolder Grand

After about 7 hours of drooling over gorgeous five star hotels and getting to know their representatives I decided I needed to relax and unwind a little bit. Mostly because my back was so stiff from sitting all day, but also my brain was a little fried from taking in so much information. So, I headed out to the Bellagio pool on the hunt for a hot tub. One fun little fact about me is that I can withstand extreme amounts of heat compared to a normal person, so, even though it was 105 degrees outside I ended up sitting in the hot tub for at least thirty minutes. Of course I was the only person in there so I had a chance to reflect on the overload of information that I had just received during the meetings. In future posts I will write specifically about some of my favorite properties and suppliers that I met that day.

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Now, on to the more exciting part of my day! That night I got invited to attend the Virtuoso Hotels & Resorts Dinner with Anna and Matthias from The Dolder Grand. The Dolder Grand is located hilltop in Zurich and has accommodated everyone from Albert Einstein to the Rolling Stones. Oprah recently tweeted, “I had a GREAT time in Zurich. Best spa ever @doldergrand. Would love to experience again.” If its good enough for Oprah then its good enough for me!…and probably anyone else on the face of the planet. I am extremely excited because in just three weeks I will be staying there for a night before I head back home from my birthday trip to France/Switzerland. I have heard nothing but great things about this hotel and Anna and Matthias are two of the nicest people I’ve ever met so needless to say I think it will be a great time.

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At dinner I was excited to find the one of my favorite luxury travel gurus, Tiffany Dowd (aka LuxeTiffany),  was great friends with Anna and Matthias and also sitting at our table for dinner. I’m even more thrilled to be staying at the Dolder Grand now that I know that it’s one of her personal favorite hotels!

601464_10151814875006745_552650619_n The dinner was “Great Gatsby” themed and opened up with a show of dancing flappers. I’ve had that song “a little party never killed nobody” stuck in my head literally 24/7 ever since this night and I’m totally okay with that.

photo-4 After dinner and dessert we got another special treat…the group Mo5aic (mosaic – five members) came to entertain us. If you haven’t heard of them they are an A cappella group with a pop/R&B twist and they won MTV’s Top Pop Group contest and were Semi Finalists on Americas Got Talent. Click here to watch their performance of Bohemian Rhapsody. You won’t believe that there isn’t any background music or interments being used…

Here is one last picture from the night of some of my favorite Smartflyer buddies: Ginny, Pace, and Courtney.

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Keep checking back to hear about how my visit to The Dolder Grand goes!

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Travel Week Day 3: Islands and STK Dinner

After a successful morning of meetings I went to lunch with Janine and Anthony Cifelli of Janine Cifelli Representation and the rest of the Smartflyer Atl team. 070-684
 The exclusive members of their collection were “personally hand-selected for their attention to detail, service, and unparalleled experience.” At lunch I had the pleasure of sitting next to David Stepetic, the general manager of a private island property in Fiji called Laucala Island.  Set on a lush 3,000 acres and previously owned by Malcolm Forbes, Laucala island offers 25 villas (with 1,2, and 3 bedroom options). The island has a golf course, equestrian center, and 14 boats available for guests to use to explore the 18 mile long coral reef around the island.  If you are interested in booking Laucala I can get you an upgrade upon arrival (subject to availability), a daily full breakfast for two, one 90 minutes “spa journey” per person, and one private golf lesson with a professional per person.

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Also at the luncheon, I was lucky enough to sit across form Sue Bosdet from Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, located a short seaplane transfer away from Vancouver near the village of Tofino on Vancouver Island. The resort is very popular with families and gets many returning guests each year.  If you love the outdoors this is the perfect place for you – kayaking, hiking, whale watching, fishing, horseback riding, climbing, and mountain biking are just a few of the activities that Clayoquot offers. Let me know if you’re interested and I will get you an upgrade (subject to availability) daily breakfast, and a 60 minutes massage in the Healing Grounds Spa on the property.

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That night the whole Smartflyer team went to dinner with our friends from Park Hyatt at STK in the Cosmopolitan. While the rest of the crew ate their steaks I dined on bucket loads of gourmet mac n cheese, creamed spinach, truffle fries, fancy salads, risotto, and check out what we got for dessert!! One of the many perks of being a vegetarian is that everyone else fills up on their main course and leaves you with a tray of 9 ice creams cones all to yourself.

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Dinner was really fun and I especially enjoyed talking to our Park Hyatt representatives from Nice, France and Buenos Aires, Argentina. On a side note I really want to find out who the DJ was that night because he had us all grooving in our seats and wishing we could stand up and create a dance floor in the middle of the restaurant.

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Oh, and check out my awesome roommates Ginny and Laing. They are the life of the party!
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Travel Week Day 2: Lunch with Karen Bull

I was invited to attend a special lunch with Karen Bull on Monday. Karen is an incredible individual, full of life and enthusiasm for her company, Island Luxe. She has been representing a collection of gorgeous properties along the Atlantic and Caribbean for the past 20 years. I have already fallen in love with so many of Karen’s unique properties, so, let me tell you about a few that I am dying to see!070-336

At lunch a had the pleasure of sitting next to a man named Rufus Gobat, who was representing a property called Cap Maison.  I have always longed to visit the stunning windward island of St. Lucia and now I have a great reason. The hotel is set on top of a private bluff with breathtaking views of the Caribbean Sea. I would definitely recommend an Oceanview Villa Suite with a pool and rooftop terrace.

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Another great hotel that is part of IslandLuxe is Anse Chastanet, also located in St. Lucia. It is perfect for a secluded, romantic getaway or honeymoon and I was pleased to hear that they offer plenty of vegetarian food options.

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Another tablemate of mine at the luncheon was Sonia Tejero, representing Eden Rock in St. Barts. Let me tell you – it doesn’t get much more luxurious than this. A long-time favorite destination of celebrities, Eden Rock St. Bart’s is an excellent place to get away and be treated like royalty.642-832

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Curtain Bluff is located on the southern tip of Antigua and includes 72 rooms and suites and a great all-inclusive plan.

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Check out the rest of the Island Luxe properties and contact me to get more information and start planning your luxurious island getaway!

 

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Travel Week Day 2: African Safari’s

The first official day of Travel Week was a whirlwind. My roommates and I got up super early and went downstairs to eat breakfast. My first day of meetings focused mostly on African travel. I learned about luxurious safari lodges and the best itineraries for both first timers and seasoned Africa travelers.  Safaris are getting really popular with both couples and families, especially multigenerational families looking for a little adventure.  Here are a few of my favorite African Travel products.

Mateya Safari Lodge – has five luxurious thatched suites with air conditioning, and is well known for its delicious meals including only the finest home-grown ingredients. Your open-air suite is the perfect place to star gaze as you sit by the fireplace.

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Wilderness Safari’s – a luxury ecotourism on site company operating camps in Kenya, Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe to name a few.  They have done great things for the local communities and protections of African wildlife (like this cute elephant below) and will be there with you on your journey to make sure that everything runs smoothly.

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Mala Mala Game Reserve – The perfect place for game viewing and the location of many wildlife documentaries produced by National Geographic.  There is a 99% chance that guests will spot a leopard while staying here.

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Singita – Family owned and located on the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, Singita means “place of miracles”…. and it definitely lives up to its name if your idea of a miracle is excellent African game viewing, luxurious accommodations, and wonderful hospitality and service.

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Molari Safari Lodge – A private and relaxing lodge with an exceptional culinary and spa experience, and of course, an abundance of wildlife!

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Micato Safari’s – A safari tour company that pays for the education of a child for every safari taken.

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Interested in taking a safari? Contact me and lets get to planning :)

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Travel Week Day 1: Magic!

A few weeks ago I attended the Millenials in Travel launch event in Atlanta. During the event the subject of Travel Week came up and when someone asked me what day I was flying out of Vegas I responded with, “well, I want to stay an extra night so that I can go see Criss Angel…” Little did I know that Criss Angel is no longer cool and I had apparently just made the nerdiest statement of my life. Fast forward about a month and I’m stepping into a cab to take me to the Bellagio from the Las Vegas airport. As I’m chatting with my cab driver and picking his brain about everything cool to do in Vegas I find out that he used to work behind the scenes on Criss Angels show. I couldn’t help myself and I immediately started nagging him to let me in on the magicians secrets. Of course he responded with, “ Ma’am, that is confidential information that I’m not aloud to discuss.” He didn’t know who he was messing with and after a few more times of swearing myself to secrecy my powers of persuasion won him over and he began spilling all of the explanations behind my favorite magic tricks. Like I said, I’m sworn to secrecy so I’m not going to tell you the details but I will say that like all magic tricks, his are illusions and are mostly pulled off by the ability to distract you from what is really happening. After that cab ride I no longer needed to go see Criss Angel but little did I know that a night of magic was in store for me.

I checked in quickly at the Bellagio and sprinted off to the opening ceremony, which I was already a bit late for due to my flight. When I got there I met up with the other Smartflyer Atl girls and listened to a bunch of speakers, including Matthew Upchurch (founder of Virtuoso) and got really pumped up about the industry. As the last guest speaker is about to take the stage a video starts to play about a man that Forbes describes as the most successful magician in history – none other than David Copperfield! How ironic right? Its almost like there is a greater power drawing me away from my fascination with Criss Angel…Anyways, David Copperfield did a great magic trick where he somehow fit his whole body into a tiny box. No idea how he did it, I will have to ask my next cab driver. The coolest thing about him wasn’t even his magic trick though. David is actually a huge fan of Virtuoso and turns to its travel advisors to book his own private island in the Bahamas, Musha Cay. You can book the island for $37,000 a night for up to 12 people and for up to 24 people at $52,000. The group of 11 islands as a whole is called Copperfield Bay and other islands are named appropriately named by the magician: Forbidden Island, Enchanted Island, Secret Cay, and Imagine Island.  The resort includes five villas and a large building that serves as the restaurant/clubhouse. David Copperfield has visited many Virtuoso affiliated properties and it was so interesting to hear how he took what he loved from each of them, even the smallest little details, and created his own paradise that he can share with people and give them an experience they will never forget.

 

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Next we headed off to the opening night party. If there’s one thing I’ve learned this week it’s that Virtuoso throws great parties. Tribal dancers and singers greeted us as we were ushered into the party. The room was decorated as four different themed locations from around the world. My favorite part may have been the dancers hanging from the ceiling. I’m sure they had a great time observing us all from above.

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Special note to Criss Angel: If you’re reading this, which you probably are, I still think you rock and I still cant figure out how you pulled that girl on the bench in half and let her torso run off without her legs…

 

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What is Travel Week?

I can’t believe I survived my first ever Travel Week experience. It was exhausting but probably one of the most exciting and interesting weeks of my life.C4090-450
For those that don’t know – Travel Week is the equivalent of Fashion Week for people in the luxury travel industry. The conference takes place at the Bellagio in Las Vegas and the best agents and suppliers come from all around the world to attend. Each day we have 4-minute appointments back to back until four pm. At those meetings we get to know about all of the top and up and coming luxury hotels, spas, tour operators, on-sites, and airlines. Not only do we get a feel for the travel products, but we also form relationships with representatives from each company or hotel. One of the biggest things that I got out of Travel Week as a whole was how important relationships are in this business. One of the greatest perks of using me as your travel agent is the fact that I can personally contact a friend at the property that you are visiting and make sure that you are given the best accommodation, experience and treatment. Anyone can book a five star hotel on their own but you need a travel advisor to arrive and be greeted by the general manager, whisked away to your upgraded room, and discover all of the extra resort credits, complimentary meals, and extra activities that I can get you at no extra cost. I am really lucky to have met such amazing people and made incredible connections and I cannot wait for my clients to benefit from them.

In future blog posts I will go into more detail about the wonderful people that I met, our day-to-day activities, and give you an inside look at some of my favorite hotels and locations that I learned about during the week.

In the meantime check out these videos to find out more about Virtuoso Travel Week!
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Travel Week 2013

Travel Week on CBS News 

 

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Grand Cayman: The Ritz-Carlton and The Caribbean Club

During my stay in the Cayman Islands I stayed at the Caribbean Club, a condominium hotel boasting thirty seven beautiful three bedroom villas. Their Pavilion and Tower Villas can sleep up to six guests — perfect for families or friends traveling together. If you are looking for a place to make your home for the week then this is the place for you. We loved having a kitchen where we could bring back fresh food from the local farmers market and make dinner just in time to eat and watch the sun go down from our balcony. Speaking of the balcony, we probably spent way too much time out there. But how could you blame us considering the panoramic views of seven mile beach?

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During my trip I was also able to swing by the Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman. My agency, Smartflyer, is a proud member of the Ritz Carlton Stars Program which allows me to get you VIP treatment and tons of extra benefits at Ritz-Carlton properties around the world. I toured the property and learned all about the various room categories, hotel features, and amenities. The hotel has five restaurants including Blue by celebrity chef Eric Ripert which features locally fished seafood. There are two outdoor pools and an oceanfront jacuzzi as well as an excellent gym, tennis center, and nine hole golf course. This place is wonderful for families, especially those with children. They have a wonderful Children’s Program, Ambassadors of the Environment by Jean-Michel Cousteau, that provides kids with exciting eco-adventures. Anyone looking for a quick getaway from Atlanta should definitely contact me about visiting the Ritz Grand Cayman.

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Grand Cayman: Stingray City, Starfish Beach, and a Birthday Party

 

First, I have great news! That last crazy semester at college was my LAST one. Yep, I graduated!!! I’ll post my address below in case you want to send me a card… joking! A nice comment below would be cool though.300-209
Anyways, my graduation present was a trip with my friend Claire and our mothers to Grand Cayman. We had a blast and I had the chance to visit two great properties. Read about them here.

We kicked off the week with a guided jet ski tour to some hot spots around the island. We each got to have our own jet ski that went up to around 65 mph. So fast! It was pretty choppy on the way out to Stingray City (I have to admit, we were sore for days after). Once we got there we jumped into the shallow crystal clear water and instantly got swarmed by at least 20 gigantic stingrays. It was seriously one of the coolest experiences being able to interact with and feed the rays. We even got to kiss them for seven years good luck!

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After cuddling all of the stingrays that we could in an hour, we headed over to do some snorkeling at a nearby reef. The Cayman Islands are famous for their incredible reefs and although Claire and I are both certified divers we can still appreciate some good old fashioned snorkeling every once in a while. Our next stop after the reef was Starfish Beach, which is exactly what is sounds like. We got to hold the starfish and after a few minutes they suctioned onto our hands and we could barely get them off. Check out the pictures below. This place was a screen saver.

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Holding starfish on a tropical beach can get pretty exhausting. So next we headed over to Kaibo for some lunch on the beach. We started talking to our guide, Ryan about island life and his passion for racing jet ski’s and eventually figured out it was his 22nd birthday. I’m one of those annoying people that tells everyone it’s my birthday even if they don’t care/ don’t even know me, so I was shocked that he would let this tour go on so long without bringing it up. We asked him what his plans were and it sounded like he didn’t really have any so of course we immediately invited him over to our condo to celebrate. He accepted the offer and joined us that night as we ate dessert, watched a movie, and shared lots of laughter. Hopefully he will always remember that birthday he spent with random tourists in their condo…

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Have you ever been to Stingray City, Starfish Beach, or Grand Cayman? Let me know!

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