BARCELONA ( TheStreet) -- The Mandarin Oriental hotel chain is in expansion mode, which is good for luxury travelers. The idea of a Mandarin Oriental opening anywhere in the world is always a good thing.In Paris, it will be on Rue Saint-Honore with a 138-room hotel near Le Bristol and Hotel Ritz. In Milan, three 18th century townhouses are being converted for a 104-room property on Via Monte di Pieta. And in the Turks and Caicos, a resort property is planned on 35 acres of beachfront for 197 posh hotel rooms and residences that can be occupied full time or on a fractional-share basis. This past year has brought the opening of Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas atop City Center by MGM and the company's first of two Spanish properties, the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona on Passeig de Gràcia. If you're in Barcelona on business, the location of the hotel couldn't be better. It's just across the street from a Gaudi landmark, walking distance to the city's main finance hubs and close enough to Las Ramblas or the Boqueria Market that you can look forward to tucking into its endless food stalls and counter restaurants between meetings. That said, the location lacks the charm of the Gothic District, or even La Barcelonetta, and the busy shopping street can feel like any city in Europe during rush-hour traffic. It was home to the gilded Circulo Eciestre member's club until the Spanish Civil War, then a federal bank before Spanish-born, Milan-based interior designer Patricia Urquiola created a tour de force that has been praised as one the best-designed new luxury hotels in recent memory. Guests arrive through an atrium and towering foyer lined in multistory cutouts with intricate gold-webbed panels, staffed by two dapper young doormen in Mandarin-collared jackets and Asian caps. A long, narrow lounge doubles as the lobby, lined in low-flung loungers covered in sumptuous, creamy leather that wouldn't look out of place at Penelope Cruz's beach house. Beyond a simple screen is a counter-style reception -- smaller than you might expect, but so is the hotel at only 98 rooms.
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