When I was in Japan on tour in 2010, I felt like I was 30 years into the future. I love technology and they are so advanced with their phones, computers, everything.
– Soulja Boy
When we were searching for where to stay in Osaka Japan, we were not short on options. We were searching for cool and modern Japan as well as Osaka accommodation for families with a bit of style and luxury. There would be plenty of traditional places to stay elsewhere on our 2 week trip in Japan. Thanks to being the second biggest city in Japan, you will have your pick of places to stay in Osaka, including many 5 star hotels from the major hotel brands. We specifically wanted an Osaka hotel near a JR station because we were using our stay in Osaka as a base to explore other places in Japan. Our choice of the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel also made my architecture-obsessed son happy because it is located in the tallest building in Japan. So would we say the Marrott Miyako is a recommended hotels in Osaka including for families? Read on and find out.
First Impressions of the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel
My first impression of the Marriott Miyako Hotel was that it reminded me of the skyscraper hotel in the 2003 Lost in Translation movie with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johanssen. It’s striking, glossy and glamourous. The impeccably groomed receptionists are lined behind glossy long white lacquered tables. The lights of Osaka glimmer in the double-height windows. You definitely feel the sense of being small in a big city.
The reception area of the Osaka Marriott Miyako
The service though added warmth to this glossy white space. Everything was organised and our room keys given to us in a jiffy. A smiling receptionist took us to our room on the 51st floor. My son was delighted – he adores skyscrapers and we had never stayed on a floor this high before. At check-in you get some freebies for staying in the tallest building in Japan, such as a discount coupon to use at the department store in the building and free passes to the observatory in the tower.
The view from our room at the Marriott Miyako Hotel at sunset.
Family Accommodation in an Osaka 5 Star Hotel
We had a double bedded room (with queen beds) which was a good size in terms of Osaka accommodation for families. The fancy toilet was a separate room from the bathroom sink, bathtub and shower area. Good thing because my kids were completely fascinated with the toilet controls and spent inordinate amounts of time in there.
Our fabulous bathroom at the Osaka Marriott Miyako hotel.
I loved the bathroom because it is in a style usually found in high-end Japanese design. The bathtub is in a separate glass enclosure with the walk-in shower. You have all the benefits of a large walk-in shower without the water splashing everywhere.
There is a seating area, a workspace area and the usual amenities of bathrobes, a safe and mini fridge. What was extra and really nice were the Japanese pyjamas. Not only were they super comfortable but it meant that we could save our own pyjamas for later in the trip.
Style at this Osaka 5 Star Hotel
The Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel is glossy and modern. The lobby on the 38th floor is a cavernous open-plan space with double height ceilings and windows. The area is slightly subdivided with a separate gift shop and restaurant area. The middle of the floor though are bar areas. A musician plays in the evenings which is nice if you want to chill out with a drink.
One of the bar areas in the lobby
The rooms are comfortable and cozy in feel though. It’s got a minimal of clutter which I appreciate. We bring our own clutter to hotel rooms!
There were definitely elements of Japanese traditional style at this hotel. For example, I loved this piece of pottery which incorporates the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi (the idea that imperfect is perfect). My daughter wasn’t buying it though. She thought maybe the potter had broken it and was trying to cover it up. Such cynicism.
Wabi Sabi (Imperfectly perfect) pottery at the Osaka Marriott Miyako
Ambience of the Tallest Building in Japan
The ambience of the tallest building in Japan is definitely straight out of Lost in Translation. Giant windows overlook Osaka as it sprawls into the horizon. Fifty floors up, the people and trains below don’t seem quite real. Little toys scampering around.
Tub chairs in the lounge which overlook the Osaka city skyline
By the way, how can this hotel be located in the tallest building in Japan? With a skyscraper geek in our family, he was only happy to educate us.
Well, technically the Tokyo SkyTree is taller but it is deemed the tallest structure in Japan. Most of the Tokyo SkyTree is unoccupied and serves as a broadcasting tower for the Tokyo metropolitan area. It’s as famous a Japanese sightseeing destination as the much smaller Eiffel Tower knock-off, the Tokyo Tower.
That leaves the Abeno Harukas building in which the Marriott Miyako Osaka is housed as the tallest building in Japan. It has 6o floors which are separated by function:
- the 2nd to the 14th floor is the main branch of the Kintetsu Department Store and the largest department store in Japan;
- the 15th to the 37t floor is office space
- the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel occupies the 38th to the 55th floor
- the top floors have an observation deck and restaurants
No matter how slick, of course the Abeno Harukas building had a kawaii mascot because … Japan.
By the way, we used our free tickets to the observatory in the Abeno Harukas building but can truthfully say the view from our room was just as good!
The view from our Osaka Marriott Miyako Osaka at night
The Good Bits of the Marriott Hotel in Tennoji
What were we looking for when we were choosing where to stay in Osaka? A Convenient Osaka accommodation for families in a 5 star hotel with a bit of style.
There are plenty of cozy seating spaces in the open plan lounge area
In terms of convenience, we really wanted an Osaka hotel near a JR station. I love Osaka for its food and fun but we knew we would be using Osaka as a base for a few days to explore other places in the region. This Osaka 5 star hotel is wonderfully located above a major transportation hub. At the end of a long day, we could drag our weary bodies straight upstairs to bed from the train station downstairs.
Amenities on Your Doorstep
Having the Kintetsu department store downstairs meant that we had quite a few options for breakfast and snacks. They have a GREAT food hall which we loved. Did I mention that my children are completely addicted to Japanese candy and sweets?
The giant train station complex meant there was lots of good shopping options, for both food and other supplies we needed..
There is a separate convenience store which is pretty upscale for the people who work in the offices from which we got dinner once. Of course you will need to take multiple elevators to get to it from the Marriott Miyako hotel.
The Marriott Branding
The Osaka Marriott Miyako is part of the Marriott brand and so part of the Starwood Group. You know how much I love the Starwood Group for both great hotels, excellent service and a fabulous rewards program.
We didn’t partake but this hotel does do afternoon tea. I did wonder what New York Breakfast tasted like – caffeine, bagels and lox?
The Great Bits of the Marriott Miyako Hotel in Osaka
What would I consider some of the extra add-ons that go above and beyond in terms of staying in an Osaka 5 star hotel?
Exceptional Service in a Medical Crises
We were very grateful to the Marriott Osaka Miyako Hotel manager for finding us an English-speaking doctor in the middle of the night. One night our son felt ill because his ear hurt. Although he has had ear infections before, they have never occurred while we were away from home.
The concierge desk of the Osaka Marriott Miyako hotel. I really had the impulse to peel that ‘paper’ off the wall every time I saw it.
My husband and I were in a bit of a panic about finding an A&E in country where we didn’t speak the language. My husband’s first reaction was to suggest that my son was just being dramatic and he could just power through the pain. I was not happy with that decision as the whimpering got progressively worse..
The manager at the hotel sorted everything out for us in an hour after our phone call to him. He put my husband and son in a hotel taxi to a hospital together with a note to the hospital explaining the circumstances in Japanese. My son was seen by an English-speaking doctor who prescribed antibiotics for a definite ear infection. My son felt better the next day and I felt immense superiority in being right.
I was looking for a good Osaka hotel near a JR station. The Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel is actually located above the massive JR Tennoji station as well as Osaka Obenabashi station for the private Kintetsu railroad.
This simplified map shows where Tennoji is in relation to the Osaka loop line
(photo credit: JR Rail)
Tennoji JR station is one of the main stations in Osaka and is served by several JR and Osaka subway lines.
- With your JR pass you can go directly from Kansai International Airport to Tennoji JR station in half hour on the Haruka Express or 45 minutes by the Kansai Airport Rapid Service.
- We used the Kintetsu train from Obenabashi directly to Mount Yoshino.
- You can go directly from Obenabashi to Mount Koya, a UNESCO world heritage site and one of Japan’s holiest places.
- You can take the JR Yamatoji line from Tennoji Station directly to Nara in less than an hour depending on what type of train you take.
On the JR Osaka loop line, you can use your JR pass to get around large parts of Osaka without paying extra for the Osaka subway. For example, on the loop line you can get to Osaka station and then change for a train to Himeji.
You really are spoiled for choices for transport links around and out of Osaka.
What Left Us Underwhelmed
In such a tall building, the elevator banks are a bit confusing to negotiate. It took us a while to figure them out, such as the floor we needed to get off to go directly to the JR station. The elevators themselves are speedy but different sets of elevators serve different floors.
We ordered room service once. For a simple meal of Onigiri (Japanese rice rolls) and Miso Soup, it took close to 45 minutes to deliver.Maybe they had issues navigating all those elevators too! It’s the sort of thing you can get in a Japanese convenience store much cheaper and much faster.
On that issue of laundry, the costs are sky high. We thought very briefly about sending some items for cleaning but balked when the cost of laundry for a pair of socks came out to about $10. Instead, we just went out and bought 3 pairs of new socks for $10.
Plenty of champagne to pop as you would expect of an Osaka 5 star hotel.
Our Opinion of the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel
I can definitely say the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel is our recommended hotel in Osaka, and not just because the manager got us out of a tight spot. We loved the location, the convenience and the uber-cool feel of it. Our other hotels in Japan were more traditional in feel which is what you would want in the historic areas of Kyoto and Kanazawa. In the brash neon glam of Osaka, the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel perfectly captures the modern city glamour of Japan.
Check out the great TripAdvisor reviews that the Osaka Marriott Miyako hotel received from other guests.
Compare hotel rates for this hotel on your booking engine of choice:
Sparkling chandeliers inside and sparkling city lights outside
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Most people when they think of a Nile cruise immediately also think of Agatha Christie’s famous work, [easyazon_link identifier=”0062073559″ locale=”US” tag=”jg20-20″]Death on the Nile[/easyazon_link]. I can assure you that while my experience small ship river cruising on the Nile was exciting, it didn’t venture into murder and mayhem. My cruise on board the luxury small cruiser, the Oberoi Philae, was definitely on of the highlights of my time in Egypt.
A Nile Cruise is a luxurious and relaxing way to sightsee in Egypt.
Confession: I’ve never been on a cruise before experiencing small ship river cruising on the Nile. The thought of being on a floating city with thousands of other people eating too much and being entertained by shows just does not appeal. I also get sea sick very easily. Short of having a huge upper cabin with a terrace for fresh air, I would likely spend most of my time just feeling queasy.
Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile
On the other hand, I loved my luxury river cruise on the Oberoi Philae. Let me tell you why.
A Nile River Cruise is the most scenic way to travel between Luxor and Aswan.
For thousands of years, along the Nile River boats have crossed between the banks and people have lived a simple agricultural life (albeit nowadays with access to WiFi, trains, etc.) Egypt, in the last 2500 years, has been invaded 27 times. Through it all, the Nile River and the life it gives has been the one constant in people’s lives.
One of the many boats that criss-cross between the banks of the Nile.
The fertile Nile Valley is perfect for agriculture.
A Nile River cruise is the most efficient use of time.
On the Oberoi Philae, you sail mostly in the evenings and arrive at your sightseeing destination in the morning, rested and refreshed. Even when you are travelling during a portion of the day, you see daily life unfold in front of you. So you are sightseeing without having to lift a finger.
Sunrise over the Nile is a magnificent site.
The monuments are amazing to behold in person.
There is opportunity for luxury and relaxation on board the ship.
My room was enormous thanks to a recent refurbishment of the Oberoi Philae. Originally set up to have 50 cabins, after the renovation there are only 22 cabins and 4 suites on board the Philae. The rooms spacious enough to hide out in all day if you wish to be anti-social. You can check out the interiors of the Oberoi Philae and its sister ship the Oberoi Zahra in this article.
The swimming pool is temperature controlled as well.
The swimming pool on the top deck is a perfect place to relax and soak in the scenery and sun. All the common areas are spacious and provide plenty of opportunities for you to mix with other passengers to the extent you want.
All the tours are arranged for you.
The Oberoi staff arrange for all the sightseeing trips to and from the boat. It’s all seamlessly handled. Our Egyptologist, Tarek, was very knowledgeable and happy to answer questions.
Tarek leading us on a tour of the monuments.
The Oberoi ships have private docking arrangements along the Nile. This ease of access makes this an ideal arrangement for people with mobility issues. On board the Oberoi ships, there is an elevator which can take you to all the levels you need.
It feels the same as staying at one of the Oberoi’s 5 star hotels.
The food and service are just as excellent as you would expect from the Oberoi hotels. The Oberoi Philae had a rooftop dining area near the pool excellent for lunches, an interior dining area for breakfast and dinner and a bar/lounge area for pre and post dinner relaxation.
The outdoor dining area is on the top deck.
In addition to the pool, the Oberoi Philae has its own gym as well as a spa with trained aestheticians. After a day of walking around hot and dusty Ancient Egyptian monuments, I was very glad for the massage I had.
A gym with a view on board the Oberoi small ship cruiser
I thought the food was excellent. The cuisine was a combination of international flavours. We had European dishes, Middle Eastern dishes and (thanks to the Oberoi’s Indian heritage) Indian dishes.
You can choose different lengths of cruising.
I know what you are thinking – couldn’t I just do the day tour on the Nile from Cairo? No, it’s not the same. We passed some of the day trippers and those boats did not look comfortable. With uncomfortable barely-shaded seats with lots of people packed on board like sardines, your experience will be very different from mine.
A day trip small ship cruiser on the Nile. There’s no comparison with an Oberoi Nile cruise.
You can check out the itineraries for the Philae on the Oberoi website. Even the shorter 4 day Nile cruise between Luxor and Aswan that I took covers all of the major sights. For example, we visited the Karnak and Luxor temples, the Valley of the Kings, the temple of Horace at Edfu, the house of Howard Carter and the Philae Temple.
The Oberoi Philae is a large ship for a limited number of people.
The Philae’s sister ship, the Oberoi Zahra has a slightly different itinerary between Luxor and Aswan which accommodates either a 8 days/7 nights tour or a 6 days/5 nights tour.
With all these choices, you should be able to find a Nile cruise that slots easily into your Egypt tour.
Why You Would Love Small Ship River Cruising on the Nile
Know Before You Go
I’m still not a believer in taking one of those large ocean liners. The Egypt cruise though? I would definitely do that again.
I travelled to Egypt as a guest of Cyplon Holidays. Four or six day cruises of the Nile River on the Oberoi Philae include visits to the temples with an Egyptologist and full board. You can also take a longer cruise on the Oberoi Zahra with the exact same amenities. Flights to Luxor and returning from Aswan can be booked via EgyptAir. For more information on Egypt, visit the Egyptian Tourism Authority’s website.
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Living in England, somewhere over the winter period I feel the need to get away for some much-needed sunshine and warmth. We’ve been to several winter sun destinations over the past few years including Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Tenerife and Egypt . My main requirement for a winter sun holiday is that it is hassle-free and have guaranteed sunshine. Of these places, my favourite winter sun destination with the children is Dubai. Here are my five reasons you should take a family holiday to Dubai if you are chasing winter sunshine.
Why you should consider Dubai beach holidays for winter sun
An Easy Destination
First and foremost, the weather is guaranteed sunshine. In addition, there are many flights to Dubai from all over the world. Dubai is served by two Emirati airlines, Emirates and Etihad, who are both on a push to increase their range of flights. Getting around Dubai is easy, too because taxis are plentiful and cheap.
The Dubai marina is full of expensive boats.
Choice of Accommodation
Accommodation in Dubai ranges from the extraordinary 7 star Burj al-Arab to your standard range of hotels on the 1-5 star range. You also have holiday apartments, suites hotels, Airbnb etc. It’s easy to find something that suits all sorts of visitors from celebrities who want their every whim satisfied to people looking for cheap holidays in the sun.
The sail-shaped Burj Al-Arab, the world’s only 7 star hotel, is an architectural marvel.
If you are not a planner, this extensive range of accommodation, means that you can leave booking until late and still have a good range of options. Dubai’s popularity means it is also popular with tour operators. You can get some great deals to Dubai if you look around.
You have a choice of water parks to keep you cool, including Atlantis Aquaventure and Wild Wadi Water Park. We stayed at the Atlantis Hotel and so we were able to nip and out of Aquaventure every day. Staying at the Burj Al-Arab gives you free entry into the Wild Wadi Water Park.
Similar to the Disney concept, Dubai Parks and Resorts has four theme parks and a hotel within it. Legoland, Motionland and Bollywood Park are already opened and the Legoland Water Park is under construction.
Dubai beach holidays wouldn’t be the same without time spent on the beach. Kite Beach and Jumeirah Beach are very user friendly. There are nearby food trucks to keep hunger at bay and you can rent water sports equipment like stand up paddle boards at the beach.
Hanging out on Jumeirah beach.
If you haven’t had your fill of sand, then head out into the desert for camel rides, dune bashing or even camping.
Many Restaurant Options
You can find pretty much any type of food in Dubai thanks to the city’s international population. If you are looking for cheap holiday options, you can eat in the food courts at one of the malls. As you would expect, the malls have an extensive choice of restaurants.
Friday and Saturday mornings are devoted to decadent brunches at the big hotels. These brunch spreads are extensive buffets heaped with food of all types. They make the famous Las Vegas hotel buffets look like a Denny’s spread. The variety also extends to the types of cuisine served – Indian, Sushi, Rotisserie, Seafood – all in one ginormous hotel buffet. The dessert buffet is likewise a diabetic’s delight. My children were big fans of the chocolate fountains where they could dip marshmallows and fruit.
The cheese selection at the Saturday brunch at Grosvenor House Hotel.
You also have lots of big-name chefs from all over the world opening restaurants in Dubai. On one trip, we stayed at the Grosvenor House Hotel which has a great choice of restaurants. The hotel’s restaurants included an outpost of the Buddha Bar, Indego by Michelin-starred British chef, Vineet Batia and Toro Toro by Latin American chef Richard Sandoval. One of the hotel restaurants at The Atlantis is Nobu. Like in Las Vegas, getting into one of these outposts of famous restaurants is much easier than trying to make a reservation at the main restaurant in London or elsewhere.
The terrace at the Siddhartha Lounge by Buddha Bar provides a relaxing hangout for sundowners.
Experiences Like Nothing Else
Dubai is full of superlatives. The amount of money in this little city is staggering. Some examples:
- Where else can you go skiing in the desert? Ski Dubai is an indoor ski park located in the Mall of the Emirates. Its got assorted ski runs, toboggan runs and sledding and even ski gear you can rent.
- The Dubai Mall is the largest mall in the world with so much going on that you may not even find the time to shop. Other than the 1000+ stores, you also have an indoor amusement park (Sega Republic) and the ever-popular kiddie city play area, KidZania. Did I mention there is also the Dubai Aquarium and an ice rink?
- The Dubai Miracle Garden is the world’s largest natural garden. Yes, in the desert, it truly is a miracle to have 45 million flowers blooming where plants should don’t occur in nature.
- The Palm Islands are a Dubai megaproject which just boggles the mind. The best way to see the scale of this man-made colossus is from the air – perhaps with Skydive Dubai.
- Check out the Burj Khalifa which is the tallest tower in the world. Every evening the tower and the surrounding fountains put on a magical light show.
Beach holidays to Dubai involve more than the beach!
Dubai does have its share of criticism, for example, that it is soulless and lacking in culture. The opening of the Dubai Opera House near the Burj Khalifa addressed some of the criticism about missing cultural pursuits. I think if you are looking for these things, there are other places in the world that are better suited to you. On the other hand, if you want an easy sun, fun and beach vacation, a family holiday to Dubai is one of the best options available to you.
If you have been to Dubai, do you have any other reasons you can add to this list?
Practical Info To Know Before You Go
We have stayed at both the Atlantis Resort and Grosvenor House Hotel in Dubai. Although both are 5 star hotels, they are quite different from each other. If you would like to look at other hotels that members of the Just Go Places community have recommended, you will find them on our Favourite Hotels List.
Atlantis Resort versus Grosvenor House Hotel
Atlantis Resort is obviously more family friendly. Grosvenor House does have an arrangement with its sister property Royal Meridien nearby which has pools for the family. There is a regular shuttle bus that runs between the two hotels. I would classify the pool at the Royal Meridien as fine.
The Atlantis Resort has more traditional decor and larger. Situated on the Palm Island, you are a bit stuck out at Atlantis. It does have lots of kids’ facilities and a beach. Grosvenor House is more contemporary in style and is located in Dubai Marina. You can walk around the Marina in the evening and there are restaurants close to hand as well as a wider array of restaurants in the hotel itself.
I would choose Atlantis with younger children because you really don’t want to drag them on a shuttle bus to get to the pool. If you have kids you will know that invariably someone has forgotten something back in the room!
Grosvenor House does have suite facilities so it’s quite easy to make food in your kitchenette. I can truthfully say that we never did. With the ease of taxis and the plethora of restaurants chances are that cooking in the suite is the last thing on your mind.
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Today we have a review from our occasional contributor/expat at large, Dianna, on the Brunch in the Clouds at the St. Regis Hotel in Abu Dhabi that she experienced last month. Read on and see if you agree with her that it’s the best brunch in Abu Dhabi.
My review in a word: Amazing. I’ve done a lot of awesome things in my time living in the Middle East, but Brunch in the Clouds at the St. Regis Abu Dhabi took the brunch concept to a whole another level. After years of hardcore brunching, I can totally say with complete expertise that Brunch in the Clouds is the best brunch in Abu Dhabi.
You could have fed a small army at this brunch.
Where is the Brunch in the Clouds?
Brunch in the Clouds is held in the suspended suite between the two towers that make up the St. Regis Abu Dhabi. The St. Regis Abu Dhabi is located on the Corniche with fabulous views overlooking the gulf. The suite is a duplex on the 48th and 49th floors. It’s the highest suspended suite in the world at 220 metres at sea level. With a total capacity for 50 people, it is held on the last Friday of each month.
The view from the Brunch in the Clouds
Why Is It The Best Brunch in Abu Dhabi?
The luxe experience starts when your very own butler whisks you up your private elevator up to the suite. You get a quick tour so you know where things are.
You can continue to explore the 12,000 s.f. suite during the brunch. Wow! The suite is 3 bedrooms and 4 and 1/2 bathrooms and staff quarters. The pace was so big I realised I never got around to seeing the master bedroom. What I didn’t expect? The cinema, the bar, the spa, the jazz band serenade etc.
The cinema room also doubled as the candy room – multitasking at is best.
You could stop off for a romantic bath mid-brunch if you so wished.
The table is exquisitely set with fresh flowers, crystal, china and silverware. Delicious food and champagne. And, the views over the city and the Gulf are to die for! The whole thing is a delightful extravagance which can only happen in the Middle East.
I didn’t even know where to start with all these desserts to pick from.
During the brunch, you have chef stations serving up food, a cocktail bar, candy in the cinema room, a cheese and desert room, a caviar bar and an oyster room. If you are feeling too content to get up and go to the buffet, there is also waiter service that brings around other (different) main courses to you at your table. It’s the best of both worlds – a buffet where no one is judging how much you take and the lazy person’s beautifully plated dishes.
Please sir… may I have some more?
Obviously you need great food to make Brunch in the Clouds the best brunch in Abu Dhabi. I felt though the fabulous spread was just an additional bonus to all the extras provided. I mean, of course, the food was great.
The stairs up to the master bedroom suite. Can you believe I didn’t even make it up there?
A gin trolley because … why not?
Spa Treatments and Other Extras
In between courses, you can step out for a manicure and a massage in the private spa room. The therapists are from the St. Regis Spa downstairs.
The brunch massages were conducted by the St. Regis spa staff.
This room is where we had our manicures during brunch.
Practical Information For Brunch in the Clouds
Brunch in the Clouds started in April 2016 and has been so popular it already has a 6 month waiting list. I never plan anything that far in advance but I got lucky on the Friday before Christmas. It’s always worth a try if you are in Abu Dhabi.
When the setting is this fabulous, even the best brunch spread takes second place.
Unfortunately, no kids are allowed in the Brunch in the Clouds experience. The prices are pretty reasonable for all that you get – AED 500 (approximately $136) or AED 750 (approximately $200). The brunch lasts a leisurely 5 hours from noon until 5 pm. Where else can you take a nap in the middle of your brunch??
I loved the suite so much that I bought a night in the suite at an auction 😂 Yikes. I have 6 months to use it and might throw a party for my birthday. The suite typically costs $30,000 per night. I paid a lot less and the money goes to charity (UNICEF). I consider that a win/win. Besides, I’ve got to get back to see that master suite! I’ve heard the walk-in closet is amazing.
Brunch in the Clouds is available at the St. Regis Abu Dhabi. Make sure it is the one at the Corniche and not the one at Saadiyat Island because there are 2 St. Regis hotels in Abu Dhabi.
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The view from the parapet of the neat lines of grape-festooned vines under a pale blue sky could easily fool you into thinking you were in Tuscany. If you look closer though, there were tell-tale touches to remind you that you were in the Napa Valley of California. Perhaps I noted that the lines of the vines were just too precise or the cypress trees were too well-clipped. Most tellingly, the castle and the grounds were lacking a certain amount of benign grime and neglect that rural Tuscany has never managed to shed. Although we were visiting Northern California with kids, we had a fabulous wine tour primarily because we chose to tour Castello di Amorosa, a family friendly vineyard in Napa Valley.
My kids had a blast visiting the Castello di Amoroso
The History of the Castello di Amorosa
From your very first glance, you can tell the Castello di Amorosa is a labor of love. Let’s face it, you have to be very rich and very committed to build a medieval Tuscan castle in California. Luckily for us, Dario Sattui, the owner of the Castello di Amorosa, is both.
Dario Sattui is a fourth generation vintner and also the owner V.Sattui Winery. His great-grandfather, Vittorio Sattui was an Italian immigrant who set up the winery in San Francisco in the late 19th century. The Sattui vineyard moved to the Napa Valley in the 1970s.
You could forgive yourself of thinking you were in Tuscany.
When Sattui bought the land on which he would build the Castello di Amorosa, it held a charming Victorian home on 170 acres. He kept the Victorian home as one of his homes and you can see it by the entrance up the hill to the Castello. Although he had originally meant to use the land to replant the vineyards that had once been there, he was also a lover of medieval architecture.
The flag bearing the Sattui crest flies over an artfully distressed tower.
After about 15 years of planning, Sattui had assembled a team of people he was happy could build him his medieval castle in California. He imported Austrian and Italian builders to California so that he could get the authenticity of building materials and workmanship he wanted. The work started first with the underground aspects in 1995. Along the way, Sattui ran through many builders and even more money in order to achieve his dream castle.
Sattui also wanted to show how medieval architecture had evolved from the 11th to the 13th century. So, for example, he built arches and doorways and then bricked them up.
My kids are fans of visiting castles in general. They were also on board with the whole vineyard in California thing because they had seen the 1998 movie The Parent Trap a zillion times. One of the twins that Lindsay Lohan plays, Hallie, lives with her father in a vineyard in the Napa Valley. I think the incongruity of a European castle in California passed my children by.
A Family Friendly Vineyard in Napa
The Castello di Amorosa was opened to the public in 2007. The pain-staking care that went into the work is obvious. Having seen a fair few European castles ourselves, there is nothing plasticky or Disney about this Castle.
The state of California stopped the winery from performing services at the Chapel because it did not have a proper license to do so. party poopers.
The builders used either actual remnants of European castles or built new parts using the techniques used by medieval craftsmen. There were 200 shipping containers sent to California filled with bits and pieces from French and Italian castles dating from the 11-3th centuries.
The 107 room 121,000 s.f. Castello di Amorosa is set on 8 floors (4 floors above and 4 floors below ground). Obviously the below ground floors are wine cellars and tasting rooms. The underground rooms alone run about 80,000 s.f. (or 2 acres).
One of the 5 lookout towers from which to throw burning olive oil when other California wineries attack.
Some of the cool medieval touches of the Castle include a drawbridge, a moat, an interior courtyard, 5 towers, a chapel and a torture chamber. Needless to say, my kids loved the torture chamber and instruments. There were some very cool things on display including an Iron Maiden dating from the Renaissance and an Etruscan helmet from before the Roman Empire.
That child has a wicked gleam in her eye.
The Great Hall took 1.5 years to complete and was created by 2 Italian painters! The tour guide was not precious about how the children behaved which I appreciated. They clearly had more faith in my children’s ability to not wreak havoc than I did.
The Great Hall has a a fireplace which is dated to before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas.
A Photo Tour of Castello di Amorosa
The gates to the Castle open up onto gardens which lead to the moat and drawbridge.
The moat surrounding the Castello is very picturesque.
Ye olde Medieval Tuscan car park.
The inside of the beautifully-decorated Chapel which is the start of the tour.
The internal courtyard of the Castle.
A reconstructed original balcony from which a medieval lord would have addressed the crowds below.
Many antiques, like this ancient wine press, are scattered throughout the winery.
Even the basement wine stores are beautifully frescoed.
A small portion of the acres of wine storage under ground.
Farm animals wandered around the castle walls to the delight of the children.
You wouldn’t expect anything other than signs in Italian would you?
The Wine Tasting at Castello di Amorosa
You can’t go to a vineyard in Napa Valley without taking a winery tour! The Castello di Amorosa appreciates this fact which is what makes it one of the most family friendly wineries in Napa Valley.
Our tour group contained several children. When we went for the wine tasting, the children had their own separate table with snacks and colouring to keep them entertained. My children set upon the breadsticks like the ravenous zombies of Z Nation. On the plus side, there seemed to be a never-ending supply of grape juice and breadsticks.
A Vineyard in the sun
My husband likes to think of himself as a wine connoisseur. He thought the Il Barone Reserve was superb. I know nothing about wine except if I like it. Yes, reader, I liked it. A lot.
My kids thought these bottle pourers were great. The red wine dripping down the dragon’s head looks like blood.
Tips For Visiting Castello di Amorosa
The Castello di Amorosa is located at 4045 Saint Helena Highway, Calistoga California 94515. A very popular destination in Napa Valley, you should book tickets for the tour and the wine tasting well ahead of time.
Children under the age of 20 are permitted on the tours when accompanying an adult over the age of 21. There is a reduced price admission for children five years old and above. Thanks to the medieval nature of the rooms, strollers are not allowed on the premises.
The Castello di Amorosa in Napa Valley is an authentic medieval Tuscan castle.
Practical Info To Know Before You Go
We stayed at the Villaggio Inn and Spa in nearby Yountville. We rented our car from Hertz as per usual. You will need a car to get around in Napa Valley. Napa Valley have an excellent website geared towards making your visit easy to plan and enjoyable. (You would think all tourist bureaus would do the same!!).
[easyazon_link identifier=”1937359964″ locale=”US” tag=”jg20-20″]Castello di Amorosa: A Labor of Love[/easyazon_link] by Dario Sattui, Francis Ford Coppola (foreword)
[easyazon_link identifier=”1609495446″ locale=”US” tag=”jg20-20″]Murder and Mayhem in the Napa Valley[/easyazon_link] by Todd L. Schulman
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[easyazon_link identifier=”0762419644″ locale=”US” tag=”jg20-20″]Matt Kramer’s New California Wine[/easyazon_link] by Matt Kramer
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Disclosure – We did not receive any form of compensation from Castello di Amorosa for our visit or this review. This article does, however, contain affiliate links about which more information may be found on the disclosure page.