I just got back from an exhilarating Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas. Virtuoso is the world’s leading luxury travel network: the best hotels, cruise lines, tour companies and other travel companies undergo a strict vetting policy before they are allowed to join, ensuring the highest level of quality across the Virtuoso brand. It’s just as exclusive on the travel advisor side; we have to pass the rigorous standards to be a part of Virtuoso, and through that we’re able to offer our clients unique perks and extras that aren’t available to the general public. Virtuoso is considered the “best of the best” in the travel industry, and I’m honored to be a part of it!
Travel Week is an international who’s-who where we all gather to talk travel, share news about destinations and hotels, and make friendships that we tap into when we plan travel for our clients. It’s also where they announce their annual Best of the Best awards, voted on by the Virtuoso community. I was excited to see a few of my favorites take home the big prize! You can see the full list of winners here but these are my personal favorites for romantic travel.
Hotel of the Year: Ashford Castle, Cong Ireland
I adore this hotel, set in a circa-1228 castle in rural Country Mayo. It reopened this summer after a months-long renovation that redid all of the guest rooms and added a new spa and pool. Their wedding program is fantastic — you can rent the entire castle for a buyout of up to 164 guests staying on property, or do a smaller event (up to 40 guests) on a non-exclusive basis. Of course, with a last name “Moynihan”, I’ll admit I’m biased towards Ireland as a fabulous destination wedding location. If you’re thinking of a romantic Ireland fete, let’s talk!
Sustainable Tourism Leadership: The Brando, French Polynesia
I’ve long been a fan of owner Richard Bailey, a pioneer in eco-technology that powers his gorgeous hotels with no lack in service or elegance. We had lunch the day of the awards and I was riveted by his tales of Marlon Brando and the struggles they encountered building this luxury private island resort without the use of any fossil fuels. The result speaks for itself: a private paradise that allows guests to disconnect and unwind in one of the most beautiful places on earth, secure in the knowledge that their dollars help to sustain the environment, not damage it. That’s a honeymoon win-win in my book!
Best Restaurant: Epicure in Le Bristol, Paris
I’ve sent multiple couples to this elegant Paris restaurant, run by chef Eric Frechon. It has three Michelin stars, so the dining is beyond. The menu is seasonal and constantly changing, but take our advice: If it has truffles, order it! It’s also totally romantic, set at the five-star Le Bristol Hotel just down from the Champs-Elysees. This is formal French dining: Jackets are required for men and yes, it will cost you, but it’s so worth it for an unforgettable dining experience — especially on a honeymoon or anniversary trip!