By Caitlin Kelly
I’m not the sort of person who insists on staying in a hotel. I’ve camped, stayed in hostels, even slept in my car one night. We often stay with friends when visiting Ontario or D.C.
But ooooooh, I do love a lovely hotel, and we often plan a vacation around fab hotel(s); when we spent three weeks touring Mexico in May 2005, we went this route, and found nothing but pleasure.
The very best hotels have a quality that welcomes you, makes you feel like it’s home for a little while and leaves you aching to return. For me, it’s almost never a mass-market chain.
I really prefer places with history, quirk, elegance and/or character. And, when the wallet can stretch that far, some serious luxury.
Here’s a short list of some worldwide favorites:
Xara Palace, Mdina, Malta
For those of you old enough to know her name, British actress Julie Christie is one of the best and most enduring, whether as Lara in Dr. Zhivago or the dementia-suffering wife in Away From Her. As I signed the guest register in this elegant hotel, a 17th century former palace, her signature was above mine. Swoon! (She was then filming in Malta with Brad Pitt.)
I spent only a few days in Malta, and chose the Xara Palace for its history and location. It was much more affordable than anything at that level might have been in Paris or London or a major city. The views across the dusty plains were terrific and the narrow alleys leading to the hotel romantic and exotic.
Le Germain, Montreal
Oddly, it is housed in the shell of what was once an office building. Steps off the central shopping street, Sherbrooke, the lobby has a huge, glass fireplace — few sights are as alluring on a frigid February evening! Great location.
The Monte Vista, Flagstaff, Arizona
Tired after a day’s driving in heat and sunlight, I wandered in, simply wanting a drink at their comfortably crowded bar, and immediately loved the historic feel of the place, built in 1926-27. A single room was $81, (summer of 2013), a quick, easy, snap decision.
My room was tiny, with a wrought-iron bed, arched windows and a deep original bathtub.
The bar was a lot of fun, with a local cabbie downing his first Bloody Mary at 6:40 a.m., a perfectly coiffed German woman in her outdoor jacket, and two guys smelling of patchouli. That’s my kind of place.
The Intercontinental, Yorkville, Toronto, Canada
Not cheap! But we’ve stayed here a few times and have never been disappointed. I love the perfect midtown location, across from the Royal Ontario Museum and my alma mater’s handsome campus, University of Toronto. I love the crisp neutrals of the rooms — beige, black, tan, cream and white. I like how small and intimate it is. Best shopping is only a block away, too.
The Reina Victoria, Ronda, Spain
I stayed there in 1980 — and it was renovated in 2012. I still remember the statue of the German poet Rilke in their garden and the spectacular views. I chose to visit Ronda based on the mention of the hotel in the NYT travel section.
Hotel Majestic, Tunis
I have never stayed in so large a room…perhaps 300 square feet — plus a long interior hallway leading to a large bathroom. Room service brought me coffee and rolls every morning, (June 2002) for $28 a night.
Banff Springs Hotel, Banff, Alberta
Go! Just go.
I adored my week here, holed up in a small, pretty room by myself in March 2010. The hotel was built in 1888 to resemble a Scottish castle. It has lobby ambassadors — handsome young men in kilts! — and quiet stone hallways and spiral staircases and stained glass windows and a heated outdoor pool in which you can soak while watching the sun set over the Rockies. What’s not to love?
Hotel Sylvia, Vancouver
This little hotel sits directly opposite English Beach. My paternal grandmother lived there for a while. Ivy-covered, it has terrific views in every direction. Not fancy, but historic, opened in 1912 and named for its creator’s daughter.
The Admiral’s Inn, Antigua
I’ve stayed there twice, once as a very young girl, with my mother and once with a husband. I can’t forget waking up, on my first visit, seeing flames outside our second-floor window, as a patio sofa was burning below us. Built in 1788, it has elegant Georgian proportions in a gorgeous setting.
Las Mariposas, Patzcuaro, Michoacan, Mexico
We loved our casita here, set among 18 acres. Hummingbirds, great good, horseback riding and the town of Patzcuaro nearby.
Manoir Hovey, North Hatley, Quebec
Save up your pennies and go!
We’ve stayed here five times since 2001 — desperate to flee New York a month or so after 9/11 — and have loved every single visit. We have been here in the frigid depths of winter, skittering down the icy driveway from our cabin to the dining room, and in fall when I went canoeing and saw a beaver. The dining room has a huge fireplace and windows overlooking the garden and lake. Once a private home, Hovey Manor is both intimate and upscale without pretension or stuffiness. The food is spectacular, the setting perfect and, if you get bored, Montreal is a 90-minute drive north.
Here are several tree house hotels — from $85 to $1,499 a night.
Jose and I are addicted to room service. What a luxury to eat in your jammies, or in bed or at your leisure. (Just like home!)
Blissed out, at the Intercontinental Yorkville, Toronto.
What are some of the hotels you’ve enjoyed?