Elegant Shelter: Hotel Memories

English: Banff Springs Hotel Deutsch: Das Fair...The Banff Springs Hotel, Alberta, Canada.
Image via Wikipedia

Loved this recent piece in The New York Times travel section of hotel memories. Here’s a snippet:

“… In hotels, secular miracles are routinely made to occur. The quotidian extravagances (costly, it’s true) built into life at a decent hotel are not likely part of most people’s daily existence. We dutifully make our beds and wash our dishes and clean our own tubs.

In hotels, however, we are only temporary citizens. And while I tip religiously and make efforts to leave my room in a decent state of order, I know that the smudge on the wall, the faulty plumbing, the nuisance of ownership belong to someone else. I bring my own baggage but leave the usual problems behind. At a hotel, the messy remnants of dinner can be guiltlessly pushed into a corridor.”

The essay is long and lively, with specific reminiscences of a life often spent in rooms far away from home.

It made me think of the many hotels I’ve visited. Here are some of my own favorites:

The Admiral’s Inn, English Bay, Antigua. How to forget the night, when I was perhaps seven or eight, I awoke to an odd flickering outside our second-floor windows? Fire! I woke up my mother to discover a sofa on the veranda below was alight. I returned to the hotel 20+ years later, still an elegant respite. Built in 1788, it offers historic intimate elegance, my favorite combination in a hotel.

– The Ritz, Paris. I wish! The closest I’ve gotten to staying there, and it was extraordinarily lovely, was their dark, cozy bar where Jose and I ate mini hamburgers and drank costly cocktails and watched very wealthy, languid young guests taking it all for granted. A black, round cocktail napkin, the name in gold, is framed in our kitchen as a happy souvenir of a fun evening.

— The Four Seasons, Toronto. This was the very first of what would become a legendary world-spanning chain of hotels, then founder Issy Sharp’s radical, bold move to taking a motel on a seedy Toronto street and transforming it into an urban oasis. I had my 10th. birthday party at the pool there. Heaven!

The Taos Inn, Taos, NM. This funky place is in one of my favorite towns. Founded in 1936, the hotel has small rooms with lots of character around a lovely central courtyard.

The Banff Springs Hotel, Banff, Alberta. I spent one of the happiest weeks ever here, in March 2011, alone. This gorgeous property, built in 1888 and nestled in the Rockies, blends history, warmth, style and elegance. I can’t wait to go back.

The Sylvia, Vancouver. It celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2012. Named for the daughter of the man who developed the Sylvia, the hotel, for a while, was used as residential housing — and my paternal grandmother lived there for a while. Right on the beach, with simple, bright rooms, it’s an affordable place to settle in with views of mountains and the ocean. I’ve stayed twice and loved it both times.

I’ve stayed at The Algonquin, built in 1902 on West 44th St. in New York City, a few times; another of a great hotel’s charms is its consistency. The Algonquin (shriek) is about to undergo a four-month renovation…and what on earth will its new corporate owners do to it? It’s already been renovated within the past decade and there are traditionalists like me and many others who choose a hotel because we like it the way it is. Mess with our memories and expectations at your peril!

Do you have a favorite hotel (and story?)

6 thoughts on “Elegant Shelter: Hotel Memories

  1. I love the Vinoy in St. Pete, FL. I try to visit every year either by myself or with my husband. We spent our pre-honeymoon there and it was wonderful. The history of old Florida combined with beautiful views, food and drink. There is something for everyone. The Vinoy always refreshes my spirit.

  2. A few years ago my wife and I stayed in a fabulous B&B in Brugges, set up in a 300 year old house. The owners had set the guest rooms out with all sorts of wonderful little touches, and the whole lot overlooked the town’s principal bell tower (the one Brendan Gleeson’s character fell out of in “In Brugges”). A wonderful experience in a magical town.

    We went from the sublime to the ridiculous the next night, ending up in a curious place in Ghent which we’d booked, sight unseen, because it was advertised as the hotel Napoleon used a couple of centuries back. When we got there, that part was being renovated (maybe it needed it…) and we stayed in a modern building which appeared to have been built atop a swamp. There was no air conditioning, no mosquito net over the window, and the mosquitos appeared to be in Death Swarm mode. When morning came the carnage was palpable, and we got back to my sister’s house in the Netherlands looking like we’d just come down with the pox. Hilarious, looking back, but the joke was kind of lost at the time…

    Matthew Wright

  3. Jane

    I am not as well travelled as you, but I share your opinion of the Banff Springs Fairmont. I have some lovely pic’s of snow-clad views. The staff is beyond reproach. No cookie cutter hotel this, each room has its own personality, as do the myriad bars and pubs. I remember a particular Wednesday night in March when my husband and I struck up an impromptu conversation in a pub with a very interesting writer/journalist…

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