Orient-Express celebrates the Year of Astronomy in lavish luxury hotels

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Celebrations and exhibitions are planned throughout what has been officially designated the International Year of Astronomy.  Orient-Express Hotels has created a number of stellar experiences and heavenly offers in celebration of the constellations, including exclusive use of the pool at the Villa San Michele for a midnight swim beneath the stars.

Florence will honour the great physicist Galileo with an exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi until August 30, 2009. The program will highlight the history of Galileo’s use of the telescope and his fascinating discoveries.  The famed Villa San Michele, which occupies an unrivalled position with views across Florence, has created a ‘Closer to the Stars’ package, giving their guests a unique insight into the wonderful world of the night sky.  Guests will have the opportunity to swim under the stars and dine in the hotel’s romantic Loggia Restaurant while bathed in starlight.

Orient Express‘ two night ‘Closer to the Stars’ package includes daily breakfast, a candlelit dinner, tickets to the Galileo Galilei exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi, and exclusive access to the swimming pool for a midnight swim with a bottle of champagne.

Galileo is also celebrated at The Observatory Hotel in Sydney, where the luxury hotel’s restaurant is named after the astronomer in honour of its position next to the Sydney Observatory.  The Observatory offers a ‘Wish upon a Star’ package, which combines one luxurious overnight stay with an eight course tasting dinner, followed by a visit to the Sydney Observatory, where stargazers and romantics can name their very own star.

Stars may be chosen from a favourite constellation or by special date, such as a birthday or anniversary, or to remember a loved one.  Once the star is named, it is registered in the Sydney Observatory ‘Name a Star’ Catalogue.   Astronomers have observed the night sky for over 150 years from this historic sandstone building, the oldest observatory in Australia and the inspiration for Orient-Express when naming the hotel.

Madeira is one of the ten best places in the world to observe the night sky and Reid’s Palace has just introduced a Moonlight Dinner experience for 2009.  The luxury hotel has a 10 acre sub-tropical garden full of fragrant and secluded venues for a romantic dinner.  Guests choose the location of their dinner in advance and, after champagne and canapés on the terrace of their room, are escorted by butler to the table, which will be beautifully laid with candles whilst a guitarist plays discreetly in the background.

They will dine from a three course menu of dishes such as Lobster salad with a 20 year Madeira sauce, Roasted fillet of Turbot with Scampi or Roasted rack of Lamb with artichoke hearts, black truffles and duck fois gras.  Dessert is a spectacular flambé. Back in their room, guests will discover a bottle of decanted Madeira wine and chocolates laid out for them to enjoy the rest of the evening.

The solar system and Southern hemisphere night sky are also celebrated at the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town, where ‘Stardust’ and ‘Shoot to the Moon’ cocktails are drunk each night in Planet bar.  The centre-piece of Planet is a huge orrery – a clockwork mobile demonstrating the relative positions and motions of bodies in the solar system. The ceiling of Planet also features an impressive fibre-optic light system representing the Milky Way and stars of the Southern Hemisphere. Planet opens out onto one of the Mount Nelson’s magnificent garden terraces, allowing guests to take full advantage of the beautiful African night sky. Stars of a different kind are often spotted at Planet, which has recently played host to Kate Moss, Robbie Williams, Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Craig.

For more information, please visit Orient-Express Hotels. Photos courtesy of Orient-Express Hotels, Trains & Cruises.


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