U.S. hotels show off new features

Ever since a friend of mine scorched the top of her back after stepping into a hotel shower spraying scalding water, I always check the water twice before indulging. Happily for people like me, South Florida's newly opened Regent Bal Harbour bowed in early March with a helpful new bathroom asset that takes the guesswork out of the shower equation.

Dubbed the Toe Tester, this feature has a faucet groove that assists by letting you stick your toe in to see if the temperature is right before turning on the faucet full force.

Another aspect of getting clean that's great about the new Miami-area hotel's spiffy showers: They allow floor-to-ceiling views of the Atlantic while you scrub yourself.

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Meanwhile, the big buzz in the Gateway City is the just-opened Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis, an architectural masterpiece providing up-close views of the Arch.

A 19-story affair that literally shines (the new property emits a beacon of light that is visible for miles), this Midwestern sanctuary for visiting business travelers literally frames the city's most famous landmark.

The creation of Marnell Architecture (of Las Vegas's Mirage and Bellagio fame), this fashion-forward Four Seasons property is part of the $507 million Lumiere Place, downtown St. Louis' most talked-about multi-use complex. Hotel public space starts on the sixth floor, giving guests the perfect perch above surrounding buildings for some great views of the memorable monument that always leaves a lasting impression after a visit to St. Louis. The city's new Four Seasons Hotel should definitely follow suit and do the same.

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Also of note at another outstanding Four Seasons outpost is a new perk at its inveterate Las Vegas property specifically geared to restoring energy to exhausted conventioneers.

Because sitting in one place for too long can not only make you crabby but cramped as well, the hotel's spa staff has come up with what it calls Yoga Breaks. These short rejuvenation sessions, lasting from 15 minutes to half an hour, put Zen on the agenda with modified yoga poses, breathing exercises, meditation, stretching and, at the end, a chance to snack healthy on fruit skewers and fruit smoothies.

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At the Old Edwards Inn & Spa in Highlands, N.C., executive chef William Heubel consults closely with nearby Taylor's Farms of Rabun Gap, Ga., before its plantings. That way he can plan a seasonal menu at on-property Madison's Restaurant that is not only to his liking but also one that is as fresh as fresh can be.

One specialty always on the carte at the Old Edwards: Stone-ground grits from Barkers Creek Mill, a mere 14 miles away.

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