TRAVELER’S REST, S.C., Sept. 26, 2015 – Tucked amid the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, near the border of North and South Carolina, rests an elegant boutique hotel that blends Old World luxury with contemporary European flair.
Hotel Domestique is the inspiration of world-class professional cyclist George Hincapie and his brother Rich. And, just as the hotel slogan says, Domestique is “Far from Everywhere, Close to Anywhere.”
Situated in rural countryside, Domestique is just 10 miles from Traveler’s Rest, S.C., 20 from Greenville and 40 miles from the eclectic charms of Ashville, N.C.
Like everything about the 30-acre property, the sophisticated style of a countryside European farmhouse has earned Hotel Domestique the distinction from Yahoo Travel as one of the “20 Hotels That Are the Destination.”
Subtlety is the key to the hotel’s personality. As one would expect, with an owner who competed in 17 Tours de France, cycling is the primary attraction of the 13-room property, but the Hincapies offer a diversity of amenities.
In fact, the inspiration is derived from George’s travels throughout Europe during his days of professional cycling. “I wanted to create a world class destination which is proud of its service and a product in atmosphere of elegant charm, sophisticated dining and gracious living that combine with an active lifestyle,” he says.
Though Domestique opened in 2012, the same year Hincapie retired from competition, it has already achieved its concept of “old farmhouses and contemporary design.”
Greenville architect Eric Brown had the ability to capture the essence of the concept and bring it to life far beyond the expectations of George and Rich. The result, a small hotel that is either “elegantly rustic” or “rustically elegant.” Whichever you choose, it’s an idea that works.
One of George’s peeves during his travels was the traditionally small European rooms. Realizing that American travelers are accustomed to rooms with room, Domestique accommodations are spacious and well appointed, including the bathrooms.
Upon arrival, the first thing a visitor notices is the hotel’s welcoming atmosphere. It took a year of renovations to establish the “natural farmhouse” appearance before Domestique opened its doors in an ambiance of cultivated hospitality mixed with artistic pizzazz.
Perhaps, more than anything, the subliminal touches of Hotel Domestique provide its international flair.
Guests are treated to a welcome glass of champagne at check-in.
No chocolates on the pillow at Hotel Domestique. Rather, visitors are treated to delightful pastries from the kitchen each night before retiring.
Unoccupied rooms leave doors open so guests can explore the property as if it is their own.
Believing that visitors should be immersed in the experience of Domestique, the Hincapies have eliminated mini-bars in favor of a room on each level of the hotel where complimentary soft drinks, water or wine is available, along with a selection of small snacks.
There is also a small library tucked away off the main salon, and wi-fi is free for guests who “can’t leave home without it.”
In French a “domestique” is a “servant.” When first used in the cycling world it was a derogatory term because it referred to riders who set the pace for the leader on a team. In the Tour de France, Hincapie was regarded as the premier “domestique” for the American team led by Lance Armstrong.
In the world of sport, a cycling “domestique” is the ultimate team player who paves the way for his teammate to win.
Carry that expression over to the world of hospitality. where “Domestique” also means “service,” the goal of any high quality establishment.
The gourmet restaurant, 17, the pride of chef Greg McPhee, makes a crucial connection between chef and farmer. Once again, Hincapie incorporates his cycling experience into the name. Hincapie shares a record of 17 starts in the Tour de France and holds the record of 16 finishes.
McPhee, the former executive sous chef at Charleston’s Husk Restaurant, incorporates regional grains, meats and produce in each of his presentations.
At Hotel Domestique everything blends into an ideal symmetry that is appealing from the moment you arrive. Golf, tennis and hiking are other activities that add to the amenities.
Cycling, however, is the main attraction. Throughout the year, George hosts five four-day cycling camps. He is also responsible for creating the Gran Fondo, which has become an annual event in Greenville, S.C.
Basically, a Gran Fondo is an Americanized term for a bicycle race of various lengths. In Italy Gran Fondo events are held every weekend between February and October. Using the magnificent “color season” of the Blue Ridge Mountains however, Hincapie’s Gran Fondo takes place in late October, when the foliage is at its peak. This year the event, with rides of 80, 50 and 15 miles, takes place on Oct. 24.
Hotel Domestique is the ideal blend of European lifestyle with American “chic,” a year-round hotel that embraces the “cycles” of the seasons.
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About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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