By Sascha Zuger
Just like brains and beauty, these fabulous escapes present the full package, with fascinating learning experiences set against a backdrop of breathtaking scenic sights.Le Meurice – France If you love Paris in the springtime, you’re going to really fall for uber-luxe Le Meurice. The historic 1835 hotel is its own work of art, though those wishing to expand their knowledge can experience both the Place de la Concorde and the Louvre a short stroll away (Salvador Dali was a regular hotel visitor). Little ones can learn the art of sailing with custom-made toy wooden boats in the adjacent Tuileries Garden, or be whisked away on a treasure hunt while their parents relax in Spa Valmont’s mosaic hammams. Though lite bites can be had on the sunny spa terrace, serious French gastronomy is hardly ignored; famed chef Alain Ducasse oversees the hotel eateries, including the Restaurant Le Dali with its impressive ceiling mural. DorchesterCollection.com/en/paris/Le-Meurice
Aqua Mekong – Southeast Asia What better way to explore the treasures of Cambodia and Vietnam than by traveling down the Mekong on a floating five-star hotel? From proud pagoda temples to mysterious Buddhist monasteries, the rich culture offers endless options by land, though those exploring by water gain rare access to the flooded emerald forests and bamboo stilt villages. Floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows in each of the 20 suites allow guests to watch this exotic world pass by from the comfort of their California King. Of course, don’t be surprised if a frosty tropical drink in the plunge pool or the talents of the Michelin-starred chef tempt you to the observation deck! AquaExpeditions.com/luxury-cruise-ships/aqua-mekong/
Dromoland Castle – Ireland
Step back in time at one of the most famous baronial castles in Ireland, with all of the expected modern luxuries of a five-star hotel. Try your (gloved) hand at falconry, taking your own personal hawk on a stroll through the woodlands to hunt, or explore the estate by horseback with a chef-prepared picnic basket. Enjoy a lavish afternoon tea in the drawing room or on the outdoor terrace overlooking tranquil Dromoland Lough, or knock back an Irish ale or peat-y whiskey in the Lord’s octagonal former study-turned-bar in the round tower. Whether learning the art of golf, clay shooting, archery, fly-fishing or taking a simple trip to the spa, this County Clare castle will leave you feeling like royalty. Dromoland.ie
Promo for the 4th location to be used for the website (below): Read more about another “Brains & Beauty” destination that’s close to one of the Wonders of the World, now on BellaNYC.com.
Hotel Monasterio – Cusco, Peru
High in the Andean mountains of Peru, the gateway to the famed wonder Machu Picchu, sits a 16th century monastery-turned-five-star Orient-Express hotel. Choose from special oxygenated suites to avoid any altitude concerns (or sip the coca tea, a local remedy, offered at check-in), the vibrant city lies just outside the doorway, while inside is a sanctuary of peace and serenity befitting the historic building’s past life. Cuzco’s best tenor and soprano serenade guests at El Tupay, the award-winning fine dining eatery.
Peruvian cuisine is some of the world’s finest and those expanding their knowledge can don a special Hotel Monasterio apron (which you can keep to commemorate the day) and enjoy a short lecture and chef demonstration, providing insight into the history of local dishes. Art lovers might opt for a tour of the hotel’s extensive art collection and incredible Chapel, offered by an expert in religious art and Peruvian history. Cultural classes exploring Peruvian farming and Andean weaving, as well as adventure treks and of course the luxury Machu Picchu Orient Express railway trip (one of the world’s most gasp-worthy), can also be arranged. MonasterioHotel.com