European hotel chain opens U.S. office
By Megan K. Scott
By Megan K. Scott
WHAT IS IT: The hotel association Relais & Chateaux may not be a familiar name to the average American, but the organization is hoping to change that with the opening of Maison des Relais & Chateaux in New York this month. The maison is a warm and inviting place, part home, part hotel lobby, a boutique in the heart of Manhattan with a small sitting area, Rolls Royce kitchen, and reservation agents for booking Relais & Chateaux hotels and restaurants around the world.
WHO ARE THEY: Relais & Chateaux (relais means lodge or resting place; chateaux means castle) was created in 1954 when eight hoteliers decided to form the association to attract attention to their properties between Paris and Nice. The exclusive collection has since grown to include 478 hotels and gourmet restaurants in 55 countries. There are 45 U.S. properties.
Europe has a long tradition of small country-inn hotels, says Jaume Tapies, international president of the association. The average property is 23 rooms. When the organization started, North America was known for mega-hotels. But he says the number of "small luxury inns" in the region and the numbers of North Americans going overseas for vacations who are seeking "unique experiences" warrants a New York boutique.
WHAT TO DO: Tapies says he wanted the maisons to be more than reservation offices, which explains the mini-theater, where people can watch a DVD of the history of the association, and in the future, take a video tour of one of the properties. A Library of the Five Senses includes tall shelves lined with guides to the properties and chefs' cookbooks. The kitchen features an $80,000 Electrolux island consisting of a stainless steel grill, champagne sink, induction wok and induction cooktop where food is prepared for tastings and other events.
GETTING THERE: Maison des Relais & Chateux, 10 E. 53rd St., near Fifth Avenue; www.relaischateaux.com or 877-334-6464. Open Mondays-Fridays, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m.5 p.m. The association has 45 U.S. properties, including Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tenn., Lake Placid Lodge in Lake Placid, N.Y., White Barn Inn in Kennebunk Beach, Maine, The Little Nell in Aspen, Colo., and L'Auberge Carmel in Carmel, Calif.