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Hotel Dreaming

I just got my copy of "Best of the Best," the Virtuoso network's guide to the world's finest hotels, and for a travel junkie, it's like sitting down before a roaring fire with a fine novel. In this case, the roaring fire could be at any one of hundreds of great hotels around the world that the book profiles. With one's feet strategically positioned on one's favorite brocade ottoman, with one's brandy snifter close at hand, we dive in.

Virtuoso is a network of travel agents around the country who sell high-end tours, cruises and hotel rooms to discriminating people who would never dream of bunking down at the Shilo Inn by the airport. They also publish a fine travel magazine called Virtuoso Life for which, (insert shameless plug here), I write. I am, in fact, off to Mexico next week for them to cover a cruise in the Sea of Cortes.

For me the Best of the Best hotel guide, which has 370 colorful pages with thousands of great hotels listed around the world, is like a little scrapbook of travel. I delight in looking up the properties I've stayed in during my travels, and pine for the hundreds that I'd someday like to visit. On page 167, for example, is the Lodge at Koele on the Hawaiian island of Lanai, a beautiful, understated lodge high up in the hills of the island and away from the beach. I went there before it was opened and have been back several times, sinking ever deeper into the buttery, leather armchairs in the lobby. One time I even showed up there via helicopter from Maui with my wife and baby son; we landed on the lawn near the croquet pitch. On page 241 is the Meurice, my favorite Paris hotel, and on page 53 is the Park Hyatt Tokyo, which occupies the upper floors of a huge skyscraper and is utterly tranquil and relaxing.

Well, I could go on, but you get the point. You need to start visiting these hotels now, and come up with your own Best of the Best list. For a copy of the book, visit a Virtuoso travel agent, and tell them the Guru sent you.