Before a recent tourism surge elevated Croatia to the top rungs of European beach destinations, hotels along the Dalmatian coast had lingering whiffs of socialism in their dusty design and no-frills vibes. Now, two boutique waterfront properties showcase wow-worthy swimming pools: the chic Brown Beach House Croatia in a repurposed tobacco warehouse in the ancient town of Trogir and the stunning Hotel Lemongarden in a sleepy fishing village on Brac island.
Rooms from 300 euros (high season), about $370
When the hotel’s Austrian owners visited Sutivan 15 years ago, they swooned over this tranquil fishing village on Brac island. Ilic Dvor, a Renaissance mansion from 1505, was the first building they bought and renovated. Over the years, they restored two nearby buildings that also had long histories, the seafront-facing Vesna and the tucked-away Definis with its stone terraces and passageways. What steals the show is the swimming pool lined with tall palm trees and fragrant gardens with roses, bougainvillea and hibiscus. The 23 suites and 12 rooms, many with private terraces overlooking the garden or the sea, showcase wood furniture by island craftsmen and floors made of renowned Brac marble. Designer finishes like Murano chandeliers and silk fabrics and carpets by Missoni and Paul Smith, together with bold flashes of color inspired by local herbs, give the décor a decidedly Mediterranean mood.
The hotel is on the car-free waterfront of Sutivan on the northwest coast of Brac, a short ferry ride from Split.
I booked a maisonette but got upgraded to a duplex suite, with a coral and sea theme reflected in the color of the carpets and furniture. The marble-floored living room had two windows facing the Adriatic Sea, draped in beige and blue curtains; two windows faced the back wall of the hotel. A seating area had striped blue-white armchairs and a sofa beneath a sea-themed painting. A flat-screen television sat on top of a beige cabinet; the mirror above the desk area created a sense of space. The seafront-facing bedroom had an armchair, a king-size bed with a blue and white headboard and a huge walk-in closet stocked with beach towels and bags. Upstairs was a cozy attic bedroom with its own walk-in closet and a bathroom.
Both bathrooms were clad in solid wood and marble. The downstairs one had a roomy shower with a Naturals hair and body wash dispenser, a bidet and, surprisingly, a urinal. The beige marble countertops had generous space. The terry cloth towels and all-cotton robes were notably soft. Flooded with light, the upstairs bathroom had a tub, a shower and a two-sink counter.
In the living room, a tall blue cabinet had a minibar stocked with snacks and drinks. Wi-Fi was free but spotty. The reception was staffed until 10 p.m.; when I called at 10:30 to alert them to the hallway lights erratically going on and off, the call got routed to someone in Austria. The hotel’s private pine-shaded beach was a 10-minute bike or golf cart ride away (both complimentary); it had parasols, lounge chairs, showers and a small bar.
The rates included breakfast and dinner, served at the seafront restaurant with interiors featuring citrus-inspired fabrics, stones and Bisazza mosaics, and a few tables on the edge of the sea. Breakfast was all made to order; freshly baked croissants hold you over until food arrives. The four-course dinner showcased Mediterranean classics with a contemporary twist (I chose an almond-crusted John Dory). Vegetables come from the hotel’s organic farm on a plateau above Sutivan, herbs are harvested from the garden, and the seafood picked from the fishermen’s morning catch. The lounge bar had a colorful interior with sea-themed paintings, and served a great white wine spritzer with lemons and herbs from the hotel’s garden.
An island standout etched into the fabric of a Dalmatian fishing village, this ancient compound blends heritage with luxury but with a slight bend toward kitsch.
Hotel Lemongarden, Perića Kala 1, Sutivan, Croatia. lemongardenhotel.com.
Rooms from 250 euros (high season), about $308
Riding the wave of small boutique hotel openings that has swept Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, Brown Hotels opened Brown Beach House Croatia in 2016, the Tel Aviv-based group’s first venture outside Israel. Chic and playful, it features 42 rooms and suites on three floors of a former tobacco warehouse inside a white-stone building with green shutters. Though the beach across the road is a pretty fab affair (with a full bar, sun chairs and a D.J. setup) — and there’s a spa for unwinding — what steals the show is the gorgeous black-and-white-tiled swimming pool. With bespoke furniture and potted palms, pines and olive trees, the airy ground-floor library gives off a decidedly Mediterranean vibe, which extends to the rooms showcasing interior design by the Amsterdam-based Saar Zafrir, who created a swank and retro aesthetic.
The hotel sits alongside a seafront road a 15-minute walk or a quick bike ride away from the ancient harbor of Trogir town, a Unesco World Heritage Site (bikes are complimentary). The Split airport is just three miles away.
My top-floor room, a twin double with a seaside view, was sleek and clean-lined, though the trio of windows seemed slightly too small and ceilings too low. I had hoped for expansive Adriatic vistas, but the room looked over the narrow channel onto the mainland. As I walked onto the gleaming Indonesian mahogany floors, it was the bed that took center stage, its crisp Egyptian cotton sheets draped casually by blue and white wool pillows and throws. Below a flat-screen TV was a walnut wood and faux marble cabinet. In one corner of the room, a large potted plant, though giving the room a fresh feel, obstructed access to the blinds. The windowsill showcased a pile of coffee table books, and the opposite wall was a random collection of mounted art— classic drawings of boats, a photograph of Havana and an old map of Asia.
Inside the long narrow bathroom clad in marble tiles, the black lacquered wood cabinet beneath the elongated sink had two slim drawers and a dearth of counter space. While the water pressure was decent, the tub’s glass partition didn’t do a good job of keeping water in when showering. There was a selection of amenities from the Italian company Etro.
On the cabinet below the TV, there was an espresso maker with Illy capsules and a kettle for Eilles tea. The minibar had an assortment of drinks and snacks. Wi-Fi was free and reliable, with two networks to choose from and no password required.
A generous breakfast (included) was served in a long narrow dining room facing the pool, and on poolside tables. The buffet spread was modest but the staff, wearing sporty white outfits, brought a small feast to my table: a bread basket, a tray with cold cuts, cheese and tomato in olive oil, and another with butter, soft cheese and Nutella. À la carte options included egg shakshuka and spinach and feta pastry. The all-day restaurant, Cartina, serves lunch and dinner at outdoor tables. My dinner began with warm focaccia straight out of the bread oven; the sea bass fillet with roasted vegetables came smothered in too much olive oil. Room service, available until9 p.m., included items like spicy salami focaccia and watermelon with feta cheese.
Harking back to glamorous 1950s Italian resorts, Brown Beach House Croatia delivers contemporary Mediterranean chic with a touch of nostalgia.
Brown Beach House Croatia, Put Gradine 66, Trogir. brownhotels.com/croatia
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