New in Manila After losing the 38-year-old Mandarin Oriental in 2014 and the 46-year-old InterContinental at the end of last year, Manila is welcoming what could be a new landmark international hotel this month. Unlike its predecessors, the Conrad Manila was not designed by the country’s “national artist”, Leandro Locsin, but is striking nonetheless, resembling the art-deco, cruise-ship style of the 1930s, albeit with a modern accent. Located in Pasay City’s Bay City development, next to the enormous SM Mall of Asia, the hotel is the first Conrad to open in the Philippines. Its 347 rooms and suites (23 types in all) are fitted with movement sensors and other bits of unnecessary and often-confounding “intuitive technology”, and the usual five-star selection of restaurants and bars is offered. For a closer look, and opening rates, visit www.conradhotels.com/manila.
Four for the road There seems to be an abundance of television programmes about Italy in which the presenters drive themselves around the country, talking about history and the arts (Brian Sewell’s Grand Tour of Italy; Amazon), food (Two Greedy Italians with chefs Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo; BBC), or both (Andrew Graham-Dixon and Giorgio Locatelli’s Italy Unpacked; BBC). And then, of course, there’s Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s comedy The Trip to Italy. For inspired viewers wanting to embark on a similar jaunt, Lonely Planet has just published four new titles in its Road Trips series of guides. Grand Tour of Italy, Amalfi Coast, Tuscany and Italian Lakes each offer four recommended driving routes, ranging in duration from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. Driving information is less substantial than might be expected – the Italy Driving Guide chapter in each book runs to less than six pages – and while there is a handful of detour sidebars, some more off-the- beaten-track, back-road suggestions would have been welcome. There’s a perfunctory playlist of six predictable driving tracks and the foldout maps are too small to be of much use. A list of car-hire companies sticks mainly to the usual international brands, with no mention of any of Italy’s many classic-car rental firms, such as www.spiderlifestyle.com (top), www.sprintage.it or www.zephyrus-classic-car-rental.com, which supply everything from old Fiat 500s to Ferraris. There is some useful content, however, and you can preview and buy the books direct from the publisher at www.lonelyplanet.com in either paperback or eBook editions, or download individual chapters. Just be sure to also pick up the Michelin Green Guide to Italy and regionally relevant maps by Touring Club Italiano, both of which can be found at Amazon.co.uk.
Capitol return Washington’s Watergate Hotel, which will forever be synonymous with the greatest American political scandal of the 20th century, has just reopened for business. First opened in 1967, the struggling hotel closed in 2007, and new owners began restoration in 2014. Rather than gloss over any potentially embarrassing history, the new property is embracing its past, with room keycards saying “No Need to Break In”, “Stolen from the Watergate Hotel” pens, and retro-style staff uniforms designed by Mad Men costume designer Janie Bryant. The hotel has 336 guest rooms, including six Diplomat Suites and two Presidential Suites, with decor reflecting what the owners describe as the hotel’s “deep-rooted retro feel”, with custom-made 1960s-style furniture throughout. A protected building, its original exterior remains unchanged. For a virtual visit, go to www.thewatergatehotel.com.
Deal of the week Swire Travel’s two-night Ho Chi Minh City package starts from only HK$1,920 per person (twin share) if you don’t mind staying away from the main tourist area, at the Ibis Saigon South. A better deal, though, is to be had at Le Meridien, near the city centre and on the river, where package prices start from HK$2,350. The Caravelle is another good option, priced from HK$2,560, while just around the corner, the Park Hyatt is the splurge option, from HK$4,590. These prices will be available until the end of October but with a HK$510 flight surcharge from July 8 to August 24, and HK$250 from August 25 onwards. Flights with Cathay Pacific and daily breakfast are included. For more hotel choices and reservations, go to www.swiretravel.com.