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Hotels Great, Grand & Famous

‌facts, tales, secrets and scandals

Hotels Great, Grand & Famous

… facts, tales, secrets  and scandals


Great, Grand & Famous Hotels is part of the Great, Grand & Famous book series, an imprint of Arbon Publishing Pty Ltd. 45 Hume Street, Crows Nest NSW 2065, Australia PO Box 623, Crows Nest NSW 1585, Australia Telephone: +61 2 9437 0438 Facsimile: +61 2 9437 0288 Email: or visit

Basia Bonkowski has worked as a television presenter and journalist and been a features writer on several magazines. Having written the book Jesse’s World in 2005, she recently completed her Master of Letters at Sydney University. Josephine Brouard regularly contributes to various Australian publications including Reader’s Digest and Notebook. She recently wrote the critically acclaimed Monsoon Rains and Icicle Drops.

Fritz Gubler Publisher Chryl Perry Project Manager Dannielle Viera Book Design Stan Lamond Cover Design Stan Lamond Photo Research Marilyn Karet, Dannielle Viera Proofreader Marie-Louise Taylor Managing Director

Di Buckley is a freelance writer and editor and has wide experience in media, politics and corporate communications. Di has had many articles published in newspapers, books and magazines and has lived and worked in London, New York, The Hague, Hong Kong and Singapore.

This publication and arrangement © Arbon Publishing Pty Ltd, 2012 Text © Arbon Publishing Pty Ltd, 2012 Photography credits appear on pages 318–19 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or any information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher. All images in this book have been reproduced with the knowledge of and prior consent of the copyright holder concerned, and no responsibility is accepted by authors, publisher or printer for any infringement of copyright or otherwise, arising from the contents of this publication. Every effort has been made to ensure that credits accurately comply with information supplied. National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry Author: Gubler, Fritz. Title: Great, grand & famous hotels : facts, tales, secrets and scandals / Fritz Gubler. Edition: 3rd ed. ISBN: 978-0-9804667-9-9 Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-9872820-0-2 Paperback Series: Great, grand & famous Notes: Includes bibliographical references. Subjects: Hotels--History. Dewey Number: 728.509 Printed by Toppan Leefung Printing Limited (China)

Jane-Anne Lee has been a journalist for more than 25 years, working on a variety of newspapers and magazines in Australia and abroad.

Captions for Preliminary Pages Page 1: Step through the front door of any of the world’s great, grand and famous hotels and you will immediately be drawn into a world of elegance and sophistication. Page 2: The new Beaufort Bar, installed as part of the Savoy’s recent three-year renovation project, is one of the most eye-catching additions to this classy London hotel. Pages 4–5: Considered by many to be the world’s most luxurious hotel, the Burj Al Arab’s iconic structure dominates the Dubai coastline. Pages 6–7: Nestled in the heart of Canada’s Banff National Park, Chateau Lake Louise offers visitors a wealth of thrilling outdoor recreation activities. Page 8: The light and airy atrium within Geneva’s historic Beau-Rivage is an oasis of opulence and tranquillity in this bustling metropolis.

Laurel McGowan has been an author, performer and director in theatre and television. She has worked as a television writer and presenter and had a column in the Australian publication, The Review. Laurel continues to act, write and edit. Hellen Morgan-Harris is a freelance journalist, copywriter, editor and researcher. Susan Myers is a travel writer, historian and lawyer who is currently researching and writing a book. Dannielle Viera has been involved in the publishing industry for over 16 years, first as a copywriter, then as an editor, project manager, proofreader and writer. She has worked on more than 40 books, and has written text on a variety of subjects. Jane Walker has a background in the production of documentaries and commercials, as well as advertising, promotions and publicity.









Introduction 9 The First Word 10

European Romance Chapter 1

France: Timeless Luxury 14 César Ritz 18 Le Meurice 20 InterContinental Le Grand 22 The Ritz Paris 24 French Dominance 30 Hôtel Plaza Athénée 32 The French Riviera 34 Cannes Cachet 36 Hôtel Le Negresco 38

Chapter 2

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 8

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Resort Hotels: A Time of Leisure 170

Expanding Cities: Wealth and Status 184 Out of the Fire 186 The Palace 188 The St Francis 190 The Fairmont 192 The Willard Hotel 194

The United Kingdom: From Nobility to Celebrity 114 The Langham 118 The Savoy 120 Claridge’s 124 Gordon Ramsay 127 The Ritz London 128 The Dorchester 130 Brown’s Hotel 132 Edward VII 135 Les Clefs d’Or 136 Ireland and Scotland 138

New York: Power and Prominence 142

Exotic Discoveries Chapter 13

Chapter 11

Hollywood and Las Vegas: Glamour and Greed 196 The Flamingo 198 The Rat Pack 200 The Entrepreneurs 202 The Father of Hollywood 204 The Beverly Hills Hotel 206 The Beverly Wilshire 208 The Roosevelt 210 Hotel Bel-Air 211 Chateau Marmont 212

Chapter 12

Canada: The Great Railway Chateaux 214 William Cornelius Van Horne 216 Banff Springs Hotel 218 Chateau Lake Louise 220 The Empress Hotel 222 Château Frontenac 224


North Africa and the Middle East: Castles in the Sand 228 The Mena House 234 La Mamounia 236 The Burj Al Arab 240

Chapter 14

Africa: Adventure and Mystique 242 Birth of the Safari 244 Mount Kenya Safari Club 246 Treetops Hotel 248 The Mount Nelson Hotel 250 Palace of the Lost City 252 Victoria Falls Hotel 254

Chapter 15

India: History and Fantasy 256 The Taj Mahal Palace 258 The Imperial 260 Lake Palace Hotel 262 Umaid Bhawan Palace 264 Rambagh Palace 266 Tata and Oberoi 268

The Breakers 174 Grand Hotel Mackinac 177 Hotel del Coronado 178 The Greenbrier 180 Pearls of Waikiki 182

Southern Europe: Regal Pleasures 102 By Royal Request 104 The Alfonso XIII 106 Reid’s Hotel 107 Hotel Grande Bretagne 108 The Pera Palas 110 Luxury and Service 112


The Hotel Chelsea 144 The Waldorf=Astoria 146 For a New Century 149 The Algonquin 150 The St Regis 152 The Plaza 154 Party of the Century 156 The New Waldorf=Astoria 158 The Sherry-Netherland 162 The Pierre 164 Conrad Hilton 166 Ian Schrager 168

Middle and Eastern Europe: Imperial Splendour 92 Bayerischer Hof 94 Hotel Imperial 96 Hotel Sacher 97 The Grand Hotel Europe 98 Grandhotel Pupp 100 The Adlon 101

Switzerland: Tradition and Precision 58 From Grand Tour to Mass Tourism 60 Baur au Lac 62 The Victoria-Jungfrau 64 The Dolder Grand 65 Badrutt’s Palace Hotel 66 The Legacy of Swiss Hospitality 70 Lake Geneva 72 Hotel des Bergues 74 Hôtel des Trois Couronnes 75 Hotel de la Paix 76 Beau-Rivage 77 Hotel d’Angleterre 78 Le Richemond 79 Montreux 80

Northern Europe: Elegance and Grace 82 Belgium and the Netherlands 84 Hotel d’Angleterre 85 Grand Hôtel Stockholm 86 Hotel Kämp Helsinki 87 Grand Hotel Oslo 88 Icehotel 90

Italy: A Renaissance Revival 40 The Danieli and the Gritti Palace 44 The Bauer-Grünwald 47 The Ciprianis 48 On the Lido 50 Villa d’Este 52 The Hotel Hassler 54 Grand Hotel Rome 56

Chapter 3

Ambition and Opportunity


Chapter 16

South-East Asia: Colonial Indulgence 270 The Sarkies Brothers 272 Raffles Hotel 274 On the Indian Ocean 277 The Oriental 278 The Metropole 282

Chapter 17

China and Japan: Centuries of Tradition 284 The Beijing Hotel 286 Tianjin 290 Shanghai 292 The Peace Hotel 294 Hong Kong 297 The Peninsula 298 Japan and the ‘New Manners’ 302 Tokyo Love Hotels 303 The Imperial 304 Hotel Okura 306

Icons of the Hotel Industry 308 Index of Hotels 310 Glossary 312 Bibliography 314 Photo Credits 318

Introduction The world of Great, Grand & Famous Hotels is also the world of concierges – and these amazing hotels are certainly a part of my world, too. In introducing this fascinating book, it is my great pleasure to invite the discerning traveller on an imaginary trip around the world to visit some of my favourite hotels and those of my concierge colleagues. Of course, my hope is that this imaginary trip will be followed by real visits to these iconic hotels. These great, grand and famous hotels are part of the history of travel and the development of many communities, cities and countries, and they are much more than places to simply stay the night. In addition to a comfortable bed, they offer their guests unique experiences, including relaxed and restful holidays and dazzling places to celebrate our most special occasions. Providing a standard of service guaranteed to enhance each and every visit to these hotels requires dedicated, passionate and skilled professionals. The concierges of Les Clefs d’Or, recognisable by the crossed keys on their lapels and with nearly 4,000 members in 43 countries, are at the forefront to ensure the exceptional service one expects in these hotels. A few remarkable stories have been circulated of unusual requests made by colourful and eccentric guests, and never forgetting our motto of ‘Service through Friendship, Service through Excellence,’ our members will always try to meet these requests, however extraordinary they might be. Often they get backup from their colleagues, not only in their own city but also from around the world, enabling them to satisfy even the most difficult requests. With its beautiful images, historical accounts and behind-the-scenes stories, the social and human interactions in the world of Great, Grand & Famous Hotels come alive in this book. So, with this exquisite book we are able to share our passion not only for luxury hotels, but also for the dedication of the people who make hotel experiences so memorable. We, the concierges of Les Clefs d’Or, look forward to welcoming you to our hotels – and, until then, we wish you … Bon Voyage!

Virginia Casale President UICH, Les Clefs d’Or



G r e at, G r a n d & Fa m o u s H o t e l s

The First Word Great, Grand and Famous Hotels are not merely places to find a bed for the night – they are places where historic weddings are held, prime ministers are created, Nobel Prize winners are announced and political opponents are assassinated, both verbally and physically. Hotels have been the backdrops for great affairs of state. They have witnessed peace accords and hosted international political gatherings that have helped shape the destinies of countries and empires; they have served as seats of government, courts of law and scenes of corporate collapse. During times of war they have been used as homeless shelters, hospitals, quarantine stations, radio stations and even government headquarters. Hotels often provide a refuge for lovers and for those seeking to escape from their humdrum lives into the world of an honoured guest. As a stage for human interactions hotels can provide an almost operatic setting, where powerful acts of love, deadly deceptions and family dramas full of pride, spite and rivalry are played out. Historically, that stage has reflected the values and cultural rules of society at the time. It was also often a reflection of the lifestyle, wealth and mood of the aristocracy.

Th e Fi r s t Wor d

I co ni c P e ople

The great hotels have often been the visions of strong, passionate, eccentric and colourful individuals: owners, architects, managers, politicians and industry leaders. Often they built their hotels not simply to make money but to show their wealth, influence and power. In this book we chronicle the lives of many of these personalities – such as César Ritz – who influenced, shaped and developed the hotel industry. Their personal stories are often as interesting as the history of the hotels themselves. Meet Henry Flagler, who developed Florida as a tourist destination and created the famous Breakers resort hotel; the Astor cousins, who begrudgingly created the renowned Waldorf=Astoria by combining their two properties; the Sarkies brothers, who began arguably the first great hotel group in Asia with the construction of the Raffles Hotel in Singapore; and Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who catapulted hotel design and standards into the future with his Burj Al Arab, the first hotel to claim seven-star status. It is the guests, many famous, some infamous, who bring our hotels to life. Some anecdotes in this book are sad, some are funny, and most have a quirky twist. Coco Chanel lived at the Ritz Paris for more than 30 years, and entertained many lovers there; Oscar Wilde died in Paris’s Hôtel d’Alsace, destitute but not alone; and Crown Prince Alexander II of Yugoslavia was born in 1945 at Claridge’s in London. In 1954, Marilyn Monroe married baseball player Joe DiMaggio and they spent their honeymoon at Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel. After his retirement, Winston Churchill could often be found at La Mamounia in Marrakech, painting the magnificent Atlas Mountains. H i s to rica l Ev en t s

Many hotels were burned down, destroyed by large earthquakes, bombed in wars or bankrupted by stockmarket crashes. This book relates the stories of not only the survivors, but also a few casualties. The remarkable tale of the Palmer House is one of survival – the original hotel burnt down in the Chicago Fire of 1871 just 13 days after opening. Then there’s the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. Just a few hours before the opening ceremony on 1 September, 1923, the Great Kanto Earthquake struck Tokyo. The hotel survived, but much of Tokyo was destroyed. Writing about hotels, one cannot exclude the political and social background in which the hotels were created and managed. The history and development of cities, regions and countries provided the reasons for why these hotels were built; they are part of the

story of each hotel. Therefore, we have included the historical background of each featured hotel, with much more detail than one would expect from a hotel book. We found that local and regional trends and innovations shaped both the design and the operation of hotels established at different times during the last 200 years. For example, only after women were accepted in ‘public’ places did hotels, restaurants and coffee houses become clean, friendly and colourful – quite different from the smoky dungeons of the ‘Gentlemen’s Clubs’. It is fair to say that the social liberation of woman had a large and positive effect on the hotel industry at the time. Female fashion and lifestyle trends were often first displayed in public at hotels, and such trends then influenced the way people lived.


César Ritz, photographed c. 1898. That year he opened the renowned Ritz Paris, and since then his name has become synonymous with some of the grandest and most famous hotels in the world.

U p dat i n g t h e Bo ok

This is the third edition of the book, and we have taken the opportunity to refresh the design, update the information, include new images, incorporate feedback we received from our readers and add a few hotels that are more than deserving of a mention. Many hotels have been renovated, and this book details the latest changes. These renovations do not comprise just a new lick of paint – the hotels are often closed, sometimes for a number of years, and when they reopen they exude an incredible new beauty. Hidden in false ceilings, installed in the attics or buried deep in the cellars is the unattractive modern equipment that is necessary for the safety and comfort of today’s demanding guests. Some of the more spectacular renovations include those at the Savoy in London, the Bel-Air in Los Angeles, the Peace in Shanghai and the Pera Palas in Istanbul. As an unnamed journalist once wrote: ‘I had tears in my eyes when I saw that history was being driven away by the truck load, and I had tears in my eyes when I saw the hotel in its even more beautiful splendour than probably ever before.’ This book is not designed to be a critical assessment, nor does it award stars and hats. Great, Grand & Famous Hotels is intended to give the traveller a better understanding of, and closer insight into, the hotels they admire and love. It is also a reference book for the passionate hotel professional and provides knowledge for young hoteliers, helping them to understand the history and development of their industry. Hopefully it will entice more people to seek out the great, grand and famous hotels of the world, and to view these establishments as offering an extraordinary experience, not just a place to spend the night. Fritz Gubler

The Ladies Entrance to the Palmer House in Chicago, photographed in 1903. This special door allowed unescorted women to enter the hotel in a dignified way, without attracting unwanted male attention.

Opposite page

The luxurious

lobby and restaurant of Hong Kong’s renowned Peninsula Hotel, where the world meets for afternoon tea.



France: Timeless Luxury

Le Meurice ‘Hôtel des Rois’ In 1898, the Meurice family passed ownership of the hotel over to a group led by Arthur Millon. His affiliations with the Grand Hôtel and its celebrated Café de la Paix made Millon probably the most influential hospitality professional of the time.


Yannick Alléno, head chef of Le Meurice. Opposite page

The decor

of the main restaurant was inspired by the Salon de la Paix at the Château de Versailles. The modern-day appearance of Le Meurice owes much to a substantial renovation and expansion that occurred early in the twentieth century.


e Meurice became known as the ‘Hôtel des Rois’, with the hotel’s clientele increasingly dominated by the aristocratic elite from around the world: Alfonso XIII, the deposed King of Spain; the King of Montenegro; the Prince des Galles; King George VI; the Sultan of Zanzibar; the Maharaja of Jaipur; and the Grand Duchess of Russia. Even the Duke and Duchess of Windsor later took advantage of the hotel’s unique merger of luxury and privacy. Artists also loved this hotel: Pablo Picasso married Olga Koklova at Le Meurice; and, for three decades, Salvador Dali would book what had been the suite of King Alfonso XIII for at least one month a year. Germany’s General Dietrich von Cholitz fell in love with both Paris and the hotel, and he selected Le Meurice for his World War II headquarters. After signing the German surrender in a lounge on the first floor, General von Cholitz was expected to destroy the bulk of the city’s great monuments before departing. Many had already been set up with explosives, but fortunately the General simply could not bring himself to obey the order. Over the past 175 years, some fine architectural attributes of Le Meurice naturally lost their sheen and

others (such as a superb carved-glass skylight) were covered over. However, a two-year restoration of Le Meurice, completed in 2000, stunned even the blasé Parisians, and further renovations in 2007 included the creation of the new Restaurant le Dali, which features an enormous canvas by Ara Starck hanging from the ceiling. The hotel is managed as part of the Dorchester Collection, along with other five-star hotels such as the Beverly Hills Hotel. It is very popular, particularly with international travellers who appreciate the modern facilities and perfect city location. Ya nnick Alléno

In 2007, the head chef of Le Meurice, Yannick Alléno, was awarded a third Michelin star at just 38 years of age. Previously, he had been awarded the title of espoir, a new Michelin designation for chefs on their way to a glittering third star. Now, with a third star, he has received an honour that has been described as ‘the crowning glory of a palace head chef ’s career’. Alléno took the reins of Le Meurice’s restaurant in 2003 and heads a team of 74 staff. His ambitious mission to reinvent gastronomic cuisine has led the restaurant to the summit of its reputation.


I ta ly : A R e n a i s s a n c e R e v i va l

Villa d’Este A Different Class With travel more common than ever, the wealthy took great care to differentiate themselves from those of lesser means. First-class travel was introduced, and more ‘suitable’ accommodation for the elite was required. Many establishments were extensions or conversions of existing buildings, often villas or palaces on historic sites. Tolomeo Gallio. Designed by architect Pellegrino Tibaldi, it was considered one of the finest examples of both architecture and landscaping. From 1815 to 1821 the Villa was owned by Caroline, Princess of Wales. Caroline was the estranged queen to George IV, and it was said that the King had only married her for her dowry. She held lavish parties and led a life of utter extravagance. The last owner was Russian Tsarina Maria Feodorovna. A second villa, the Queen’s Pavilion, was inaugurated in 1860 and at the time was said to be a trompe l’oeil masterpiece. The Queen’s Pavilion annexe was built by the villa’s (then) owner, Napoleon’s former aide-de-camp, Baron Ciani. Constructed partially over the water at the boat tie-up, it was named after Caroline and its walls decorated to mimic a Moorish–Venetian palazzo. The splendid Villa d’Este occupies an enviable position on the shores of Lake Como.

Opposite page

The landscaped gardens of the Villa d’Este were created during the residence of Caroline, Princess of Wales, in the early nineteenth century. The gardens have been the location for episodes of the long-running television soap, The Bold and the Beautiful.


The elegant drawing

room of the Villa d’Este.



n 1873, two villas were combined into one property named Villa d’Este. One of the most exclusive hotels in the world, this beautiful Renaissance villa is set amid 10 hectares (25 acres) of meticulously landscaped lake-side gardens. Camellias, oleanders, rhododendrons, hydrangeas, roses and jasmine bushes mingle with centuries-old trees. Topiary hedges, bushes of bamboo and azaleas add to the spectacle. The two most outstanding landmarks are the 500-year-old plane tree and the sixteenth-century mosaic with its Nympheum. Over the years the Villa d’Este has welcomed, among other illustrious personages, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Gustave Flaubert, Franz Liszt, Mark Twain, Joseph Heller, José Carreras and Madonna, together with European royalty and a bevy of international film stars. A lesser claim to fame in its long history is that at the end of World War II, Villa d’Este briefly became an emergency clinic for fleeing Nazis wanting hasty cosmetic surgery before disappearing to South America. The Villa d’Este has probably the best view across Lake Como of any residence in the area. The Villa started life in 1568 as a private residence for Cardinal

Par for the Course

Well-known golf course designer Peter Gannon was commissioned to develop an 18-hole parkland range for the Villa. The course winds its way through chestnut, ash and pine trees and is considered one of the most challenging and difficult par 69s in Europe. It is a much sought-after golf course, and many famous golfers have landed at the Villa d’Este’s private helipad to take up the challenge.


S w i t z e r l a n d : Tra d i t i on a n d P re c i s i on

An early photograph shows immaculately dressed hotel school students and teachers. Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne founder Jacques Tschumi is shown in the centre, seated at the table. In 1903, the hotel school moved from the Hotel d’Angleterre to its own premises on Lausanne’s Avenue de Cour. At this time, the school was taking in around 30 new students each year.

Students at the hotel school learn both the theoretical knowledge and the practical skills involved in working within the modern hospitality industry.

The Legacy of Swiss Hospitality Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne During the mid- to late nineteenth century, Switzerland experienced an unprecedented boom in tourism. More than 50 grand hotels were built during this time, and these establishments required skilled employees and well-trained managers. Swiss hoteliers were the first to realise that hospitality was a profession, and that excellence could only be achieved with the help of well-educated staff.


cole Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) was founded in 1893 by Jacques Tschumi, of the Beau-Rivage Palace in Ouchy, who was an influential member of the Swiss Hotel Association. The world’s first hotel school, it had 27 students in the first year and classes were held at the Hotel d’Angleterre on the shores of Lake Geneva. In 1903, it moved to a purpose-built campus located on the Avenue de Cour in Lausanne. This was made possible because of the strong support of the Swiss Hotel Association and the success of the school’s initial hospitality students. With a ‘modern’ campus, the school not only took on a leading role in the training and education of hoteliers, but also fostered an active link with the hotel industry.


The school created an outstanding academic program that balanced the practicalities of skills training with the knowledge of the science and art of hospitality management. This approach has been refined and developed over time; today it remains the cornerstone of EHL’s educational philosophy. Students from other countries soon discovered the unique Swiss training institution, and in 1924 – for the first time – there were more foreigners than locals among the 62 students.

My Legends at EHL by the alumni assisted the school to reopen in 1943, when it took on just 16 students. The postwar euphoria saw a resurgence in the tourism industry, and graduates of EHL were well equipped to manage the rapid expansion of the hotel industry. By 1951, the school had grown to 500 students from over 30 countries and was regarded as the world’s pre-eminent hotel school, a reputation it still enjoys today. Recently, an independent survey has confirmed that EHL is still rated as the number one hospitality school not only in Switzerland but also worldwide. The enormous success of the graduates in the second half of the twentieth century increased the popularity of EHL, and there was an ever-growing demand for places at the school. In 1975, EHL moved to its present, purpose-built campus at Chaletà-Gobet, which is located just north of Lausanne. The modern infrastructures continue to provide students with the best possible teaching and learning conditions. As Swiss educational reformer Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746–1827) would have said, EHL is an institution where students learn ‘with their heads, their hands and their hearts’.

Alumni S aving the Scho ol

Unfortunately, World War II had a devastating effect on the tourism industry not only in Switzerland but also worldwide, and EHL was forced to close in 1941. An ‘SOS Survival’ fundraising drive supported

T wen t y- First-Cen t u ry In st i t u t ion

The course programs are continually adapted, expanded and revitalised not only to satisfy the ever-changing needs

As a proud graduate and an AEHL member, I

respected for his generosity and his encouragement

appreciate the school’s good reputation, which

to students to do their best. Following his death

opened many doors for me during my professional

in 2008, the Peter Barakat Fund was launched.

career. And I do appreciate the effort of the

The purpose of the fund is to pass on his values

school to uphold that reputation because, after

of solidarity and humanity. Now his spirit will

all, it is also the reputation of my Diploma!

continue to be felt at EHL forever.

But I am even more grateful for the positive

To be the face of the school for more than 40

learning experience during my study at the school,

years deserves a medal! I met Sam Salvisberg

which encouraged my personal development in

when he was my Front Office teacher at the

the realms of self-discipline and fair leadership.

school, not much older than his students. He

This positive learning experience was and still is

was a popular and approachable young teacher,

underpinned by the close and caring relationship

available to us at any time. All the students who

that many of the iconic EHL teachers and staff

passed through the school since then have

have with their students. This bond not only

somehow connected with him, and he has a

Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne’s modern campus is

lasts for the duration of the course, but also

very active association with former students:

located at Chalet-à-Gobet, and it offers hospitality

is upheld for the entire duration of one’s

he knows many of the 25,000 alumni, but I

students from all over the world an unparalleled

professional career.

would dare to say that all of them know him!

state-of-the-art learning environment.

During my time at the school I was fortunate to learn from the famous Mr Tour, and all of us

Fritz Gubler (EHL Student 1970–73)

who had this opportunity will treasure his little

of the hotel industry, but also to fulfil the requirements of new academic recognitions. EHL awards a Bachelor of Science for its International Hospitality Management Programme and a postgraduate degree along the lines of an MBA. Many famous and iconic hoteliers are proud graduates of EHL, including Kurt Wachtveitl of the Oriental in Bangkok, Felix Bieger of the Peninsula in Hong Kong and Hans Wiedemann of Badrutt’s Palace Hotel in St Moritz. A strong alumni network with more than 25,000 members provides an active link between the school and the industry worldwide. Many cities have a Stamm (Stamm is a typical Swiss

book, Aide de Memoire. What a man: professional to the core, disciplined like a Swiss Army General and with a heart like a mother. Mr Barakat was a father figure for most of

Sam Salvisberg, the Deputy to the General Director

the students at EHL. He cared for all of us, and

and the school’s

we will always be grateful to him as he made


our life away from home bearable. He was

member of staff.

word best translated as tree trunk or core), an alumni club that meets regularly to foster friendship and assistance. As the hotel industry moves into the twenty-first century with grander hotels, larger aeroplanes and more extravagant cruise ships, EHL will rise to the challenge

of producing the next generation of capable hoteliers. The school now has more than 1,800 students, and a recent extension and upgrade of its infrastructures will ensure that the school’s facilities are commensurate with the developments of the modern hotel and tourism industry.


European Romance


Hotel Kämp Helsinki The Symposium Many celebrated artists have claimed inspiration from the company of other artists. In Finland’s capital at the close of the nineteenth century, the intelligentsia gathered under the red, umber and yellow roof of the elegant Hotel Kämp Helsinki.

One regular visitor at this time – who regularly failed to hit the dance floor – was actress Greta Garbo. Garbo, staff noted, often looked like a frightened gazelle and spent more time in solitude on the hotel’s summer verandah than anywhere else. When ordering room service, the privacy-hungry actress was also renowned for hiding while her meals were delivered. Reliably Discree t

Si beli u s a n d t h e K ä mp

In the thirties, discretion at the Grand was ‘a matter of honour’, and none was more discreet than floor manager Max Stern. He recalls an incident when a guest, an English mariner, turned off the hotel’s heating before going to bed and, despite freezing temperatures outside, flung open his bedroom window. During the night the radiator pipes burst and water streamed around the sleeping Englishman, who awoke with a terrific yell, believing his ‘ship’ had run aground. Stern subsequently reassured the guest that he was in fact safe on terra firma. For Stern, this was just another out-of-the-ordinary experience in an extraordinary hotel. Every year around 100,000 people stay at the Grand Hôtel Stockholm, including the Nobel Prize laureates and their families. The hotel’s owners are constantly renovating and refurbishing parts of the hotel to ensure that it offers visitors the latest in modern facilities without detracting from the historic atmosphere.

Music, Swedish punch, Benedictine liqueur and cigars all helped to fuel the Symposium’s all-night conversations, and none was more intimately involved than Sibelius, who would return home to his longsuffering wife and children full of praise for the insights and revelations he shared in the company of his celebrated friends. In 1903, before departing Helsinki to live in the country, Sibelius retired to the Kämp one evening in the company of friends. There, under the influence of quinine taken to fight a bout of influenza, he composed the first notes of a mournful waltz and returned home later that night to finish writing his melancholy masterpiece, Valse Triste. In December later that year, the waltz enjoyed its debut

Grand Hôtel Stockholm Swinging with the Smart Set Ever since its opening on Blasieholmen in the summer of 1874, the French Renaissance-style Grand Hôtel Stockholm has boasted a luminous guest list, including nobility, political leaders, film stars and the entrepreneurial elite.


Princess Ingrid of Sweden dancing with Prince Carl during a gala at the Grand Hôtel Stockholm in 1935. Top

Situated on the busy

waterfront, the Grand has a front-row view of Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town.


ut it was in the 1930s that the hotel staff and guests had the most fun. Jazz had come of age, and foreign guests expected their nightlife to swing. As a result, the Grand Hôtel Stockholm played an important role in promoting big bands and dance evenings, with the social set descending in furs and clouds of perfume to see and be seen. ‘We have acquired a taste for entertainment,’ a 1934 society magazine reported at the time, describing ‘fair maidens in trains and diadems and manly men in tails with brilliantined hair.’ ‘An altogether super-smart, well-dressed and decidedly unmixed crowd,’ it continued, ‘but it is true that the Swedes have a natural advantage when it comes to looking distinguished and elegant. And say what you will of the young gentlemen of Stockholm, but they certainly can dance!’ For many years the world-famous Jack Harris orchestra was almost a house band at the Grand and one of the reasons people took to the crowded dance floor every Wednesday night. Later, in 1937, the hotel employed a seven-man British orchestra to great protest from local musicians. The bandleader responded by suggesting that musicians, too, ‘might benefit from a few foreign impulses from time to time’. The Brits subsequently stayed until the spring of 1939, when Swedish dance music began to make its first real breakthrough.


arl Wilhelm Kämp, a well-known restaurateur in Helsinki, decided in the 1880s to design and build that city’s first luxury hotel. Kämp’s intention was to finance the hotel himself, but in the end he received state loans and the help of a local businessman, who bought the site. Helsinki’s newspapers kept up a running commentary on the splendid furnishings and fittings being procured for the newest attraction in town. Built in French Renaissance style, the Kämp opened its doors in 1887. It quickly became a cultural and political focal point and a regular meeting place for a new, liberal front called the Young Finns, committed to the evolution of national culture. Kämp regulars included talented painter Axel Gallen and his closest friends at the time, conductor and composer Robert Kajanus and Finland’s greatest composer, Jean Sibelius. This small but significant cultural group, including sculptors, journalists, architects and musicians, called their conversation meetings the ‘Symposium’ and enjoyed their most intense period of activity from autumn 1892 until 1895.

at the Finnish National Theatre to great public acclaim, and Sibelius’s reputation was sealed. Having fallen in and out of fashion many times since his death in 1957, today Jean Sibelius is one of the most popular symphonists of the twentieth century. Hotel Kämp has been linked to the development of Finland as a country for the last 120-plus years, with numerous political debates and deals occurring within the hotel’s walls that have cemented the identity of the Finnish nation. Having undergone extensive renovations and a modern addition, the hotel reopened in 1999 as part of Starwood Hotels and Resorts.

Jean Sibelius (1865–1957), Finnish composer, pictured in his early twenties.

Archival material and old photographs were used as references during recent renovations to ensure that Hotel Kämp Helsinki remained true to its glorious past.



Middle and Eastern Europe: Imperial Splendour

Inside the honeymoon suite

Splendour in St Petersburg

buildings all along the present hotel side of the street into the fine façade we enjoy today, and P Jacquot built the matching opposite side of the street where the St Petersburg Philharmonic Society is today. The bond between the cultural life of St Petersburg and the Grand Hotel Europe has remained cosy ever since.

Most European hotels evolved from inns or spas in towns

All So c i e t y Wa s Th ere

A St Petersburg landmark,

In 1875, the Grand Hotel Europe opened with all the modern splendours of the other major hotels in Europe, Asia and America. There were lifts and laundries, room service and restaurants, elegant suites and sweeping staircases. Tchaikovsky dined there within two years of it opening and liked it well enough to return for his honeymoon. His wife Antonina, however, he was not so keen on. ‘She is loathsome to me in every sense of this word,’ he said of her, and the marriage broke up within months. No holder of grudges, Tchaikovsky met Johann Strauss at the Grand Hotel Europe nine years later. Ivan Turgenev held court in his suite at the Grand Hotel Europe, where he was inundated with flowers and people queued for hours to be received. Rasputin was a regular while he was in favour with Tsar Nicholas’s wife, Alexandra. But the mad monk’s heavy drinking added to the displeasure Russians felt at the goings-on of the rich while ordinary soldiers died at the front during World War I. Changing the name of the city to the more patriotic Petrograd was not enough. In 1917, the Tsar was forced to abdicate, and Lenin seized control in the name of the Bolsheviks.

the Grand Hotel Europe is

The Grand Hotel Europe and villages that date back to medieval or even Roman times. Not so the Grand Hotel Europe. Peter the Great, the first Tsar of Russia, just decided to build a whole city on the border of his easternmost territory, newly clawed back from the Swedes.


e then declared it the capital and ordered the whole court to move there. The grandson who succeeded him moved it back to Moscow, but his successor, Anna Ivanovna, moved it back again, and one of her additions was the first school of Russian dance in 1738. Thus it was that nearly 40 years later, an Italian ballerina in the city gave birth to a boy, Carlo Rossi, who became the architect that gave St Petersburg its most memorable buildings and the distinctive town planning that still strikes visitors to the city today. Between 1819 and 1825, Rossi built the Mikhailovsky Palace – now the Russian Museum – and so that it could be seen to advantage, Rossi suggested an elegant boulevard (Mikhailovskaya Street) be built from the main street to the Palace. He unified the look of the

The Caviar Bar In 2007, the Discovery Channel filmed

arts and indulgence. It was the city of the

at the Grand Hotel Europe for the show

Tsars and excess was celebrated, with

Bizarre Foods, showcasing the delights

caviar an integral part of this decadence.

of the newly renovated Caviar Bar, which

The traditional Russian method for tasting

include a refrigerator containing a 50-kg

Beluga Caviar was using ivory spoons –

(110-lb) supply of black caviar, and a

no metal was to touch the caviar! Today

chocolate factory.

horn, and not ivory, is the poor substitute.

The Caviar Bar is a remnant of earlier

However, for those in the know, caviar is

times, when St Petersburg was a city of

best eaten directly from a person’s skin. Hands and wrists would seem logical, but many delighted in using other parts of the body, cooled down with chilled vodka! With this in mind, the Caviar Bar within the Grand Hotel Europe’s dining room had very heavy curtains installed to create a chambre séparée for the privacy of the guests. During the hotel’s recent renovation, it was said that the architect planned to remove these curtains, but relented due to high customer demand!


European Romance


of the Grand Hotel Europe.

located next to Arts Square, close to many great architectural treasures.

H o s tag e to P o li t ics

Under Communism, the building served many functions including a hotel managed by Intourist between the wars. HG Wells, George Bernard Shaw and John Dos Passos wrote their observations of the Soviet state after being guests there. Vladimir Mayakovsky and Maxim Gorky stayed at the Grand Hotel Europe, and a 21-year-old Dmitri Shostakovich played for Sergei Prokofiev there. The hotel survived the siege of Leningrad (as the city had become in 1924) for 900 days, although it was gutted for any wood that could be burnt as fuel while still serving as a hospital. Pre-1989, it functioned as a hotel once more, where hard currency bought a pale imitation of world-class service. But when Swedish contractors were awarded the job of complete restoration, they used no Russian labourers and employed no-one who had ever worked in Soviet hospitality. They anchored a 276-room training ship in the Leningrad docks and instructed the new staff in the latest Western best practice. The result was a triumph, with genuine antiques abounding. One guest dubbed it the only museum that offers accommodation. The ultimate seal of approval comes from the Romanov descendants, who hold their family reunions here. The hotel is now part of the Orient-Express Hotels Ltd group.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter appeared at the January 2011 ceremony that officially named Russia as the 2018 FIFA World Cup host country, at the Grand Hotel Europe.


European Romance

Reid’s Hotel Getting Away From It All The desire to ‘get away from it all’ somewhere warm – perhaps occasionally exposed to the bracing sea air – could not have been better fulfilled from 1891 onwards than at Reid’s Hotel at Funchal on the island of Madeira.


The Alfonso XIII

The hotel’s rich decor pays homage to Spain’s complex past, with baroque, Castilian and Moorish elements entwined.

A Moorish Oasis Seville’s Alfonso XIII Hotel is an oasis in a dry southern area of Spain. The Moors knew this area well, and while Europeans in the Dark Ages lived in primitive shelters, the Moors built beautiful structures that have never dated.


The Alfonso XIII is located close to Seville’s famous Santa Cruz area and the Guadalquivir River.


ringing their knowledge of even hotter and drier climes, and their love of sensual pleasure, the Moors created high-arched, cool-tiled, shady spaces with small, unglazed windows and refreshing fountains. The Alfonso XIII still offers these same delights. It is a three-storey, creamcoloured palace with a square tower and tall, arched windows that open onto wrought-iron balconies; the building is surrounded by gardens with towering palms. The reception desk features a ceiling delicately frescoed with angels. The hotel stands at the Puerta de Jerez, now a plaza, but once the gate to the old walled city of Seville. In 1929, the original hotel was built opposite that entry for the Ibero-American Exhibition. There was remodelling in 1992 for the Universal Exhibition. Its style is not slavishly Moorish; there are elements of Gothic, Renaissance, baroque and Art Deco. When

the hotel was built, there were no elevators. The top floors were for the servants of visiting dignitaries, and it still amuses the staff that Americans ask for the penthouse suite; foreign visitors are always surprised to learn that the best room is on the ground floor. This hotel named for a king once had a matching hotel named for a queen. The Reina Christina Hotel was built by Anibal González – as was the still standing Exhibition space, the Plaza de España – while his brother-in-law, Jose Espiau y Muñoz, built the Alfonso XIII. In an ongoing effort to make sure the kingly hotel doesn’t go the way of its queenly equivalent, the Alfonso XIII maintains a ceramics workshop so that wall tiles and mosaic pieces can be reproduced as needed. The hotel is part of the Luxury Collection of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, and was closed from May 2011 to March 2012 to undergo major renovations to the hotel’s rooms and services.

eassured by the British-sounding name (although the hotel was in fact built by a Scot, and his sons – when bankrupted – sold it to an English-born wine merchant), recovering tuberculosis sufferers and displaced royalty alike chose Reid’s. The style of the hotel was indeed English, but the surroundings were exotic and exciting. Madeira – part of a volcanic archipelago in the Atlantic – boasts a subtropical climate that has always proved attractive to travellers. The rocky promontory on which the hotel was built had no beaches at the bottom and no soil at the top, so a saltwater bathing pool was cut into the rock at the base. The gardens – which the hotel is rightly famous for – are all built on imported soil. Today these gardens are filled with a range of unusual species such as dragon trees, nightflowering cacti and jade vines. Originally you could only arrive at Reid’s by boat. There was a flying-boat service before they built an airstrip on a nearby island, but it was only from 1964 that you could fly direct to Madeira. Once on the island, still more transport problems confounded or delighted you. A hammock carried by two trained bearers took you up the cliff to Reid’s, and all travel over the port’s cobbled streets was on sleds with wooden runners drawn by bullocks. Reid’s has entertained a wealth of celebrities since it opened: Empress Elisabeth (‘Sissi’) of Austria wintered at Reid’s to grieve over the suicide of her son Rudolf; George Bernard Shaw took tango lessons at the hotel; and Winston Churchill licked his wounds there postwar when ungrateful voters chose Clement Attlee’s Labour government over his. The most famous person to seek refuge at Reid’s was General Fulgencio Batista, ousted as Cuba’s ruler by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara’s popular revolt. Known since 1925 as Reid’s Palace Hotel and last renovated in 2006, it is now operated as part of OrientExpress Hotels Ltd.

Thar She Blows John Huston and Gregory Peck stayed at Reid’s while filming some whale-hunting scenes in Madeira for the film Moby Dick (1956). At that time, whalers still hunted their quarry by rowing up to them in open boats and plunging their harpoons in by hand. During their time at Reid’s, Huston and Peck went on several whaling expeditions. Huston, who loved to hunt, later claimed that in

Gregory Peck reads a newspaper review

one expedition alone 20 whales

of Moby Dick while his wife, Veronique,

had been killed.

and John Huston look on.

Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Reid’s prides itself on pampering every visitor – there is even a spa on-site.



Th e U n i t e d K i n g d om : Fr om N ob i l i t y t o C e l e b r i t y

Claridge’s Resort of Kings Built in 1812, Claridge’s was originally known as Mivart Hotel and was run by a former servant of George IV before being passed on to an equally well-connected butler named Claridge. It is said that William Claridge chose the depth of his bow depending on the importance of his visitor, and that his head would almost touch his knees in the company of royalty.


Claridge’s was

voted the ‘Best UK Hotel for Rooms’ in the Condé Nast Traveller Gold List 2010.


urchased by Richard D’Oyly Carte in 1893, the old hotel was demolished and Claridge’s rebuilt according to the plans of renowned architect CW Stephens. It reopened in November 1898. Known as an annexe of Buckingham Palace and the Resort of Kings, the hotel has always been a royal retreat, favoured by the peerage, frequented by the royal families of Great Britain and Europe, and a particular favourite of the late Queen Mother. Th e Royal Connect ion

Princess Diana, arriving at Claridge’s in 1989, is greeted by the concierge.

1 24

Empress Eugénie of France made Claridge’s her winter quarters in 1860, and the hotel’s royal seal of approval was granted after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited her there. The royal connection is further fortified by the long-held practice of visiting dignitaries staying at Buckingham Palace between Monday and Wednesday, then moving into a suite at Claridge’s on Thursday and holding a banquet to return the hospitality.

Designed with the elegant splendour of Victorian and Edwardian England in mind, the corridors were built unusually wide to permit ladies to sweep past each other without their crinoline gowns rustling. In later years this allowed Bing Crosby to practise his golf, putting up and down the carpeted corridors to his heart’s content. Dignified, refined and supremely stylish, Claridge’s came into its own after World War I, flourishing due to demand from aristocrats and peers who had foregone town houses but still required a place to stay during the ‘season’. Claridge’s was extremely popular for debutante balls, and the Opening of the Season parties that occurred in May each year. Basil Ionides redesigned the hotel in the 1920s, and when the building emerged from a cocoon of scaffolding it revealed its new Art Deco splendour. Oswald Milne made further enhancements in the 1930s, adding an extension to the hotel that featured a series of attractive guestrooms and reception rooms. During World War II, Claridge’s became a refuge for royal families in exile: King Haakon of Norway, King George II of Greece and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands all stayed at the hotel, the staff allegedly taking to calling everybody ‘your royal highness’ for fear of making a mistake. King Peter II of Yugoslavia spent much of the war at the hotel, and in Suite 212 his son HRH Crown Prince Alexander II of Yugoslavia was born in 1945. Winston Churchill and the King declared the suite to be Yugoslavian territory, and earth from the besieged country was placed beneath the bed so that the heir to the throne would be born on Yugoslavian soil. General Dwight Eisenhower first made Claridge’s his wartime headquarters, but soon decamped to the Dorchester claiming that his sitting room looked like ‘a goddarned fancy funeral parlour’ and that his bedroom was ‘whorehouse pink’. The Dorchester, it seems, was ‘somewhat noisier and somewhat shinier, somewhat more American’ than Claridge’s.

Opposite page

A Claridge’s suite decked out in Art Deco style.


N e w Yo r k : P o w e r a n d P r o m i n e n c e

The Waldorf =Astoria New York’s Unofficial Palace The Waldorf=Astoria was the result of a unification of two separate hotels, the Waldorf (1893) and the Astoria (1897). When the first Waldorf=Astoria was pulled down and replaced on that site by the Empire State Building, an entirely new Waldorf=Astoria was built uptown. It seems New York would always be synonymous with a Waldorf=Astoria.


illiam Waldorf Astor was involved in the initial stages of the creation of the Waldorf Hotel, together with his financial adviser, Abner Bartlett. Their first task was to find the right person to run the hotel. Their selection was George C Boldt, known to Astor as the proprietor of the impeccably managed Hotel Bellevue in Philadelphia. Boldt accepted the position of Proprietor and General Manager, while Astor maintained ownership of both the land and the building. The architect was Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, one of New York’s most respected specialists in large buildings. He initially attracted serious attention with his Dakota Apartments (1880–84) on Central Park West (where John Lennon was living when he was shot). His other New York hotels include the Astoria (1897), the Manhattan Hotel (1897), Hotel Martinique (1897–1911) and the Plaza, his Beaux-Arts masterpiece that opened to great fanfare in 1907. The final key appointment was Oscar Tschirky as maître d’hôtel. Oscar had made a name for himself at Delmonico’s restaurant, but he became even more famous for his unique brand of customer service at the Waldorf. Indeed, the reputations of both the hotel and Oscar himself became inextricably entwined. In the summer of 1891, New Yorkers began to see the great steel framework of the Waldorf structure rise above the skyline. With the project under way, William Waldorf Astor left New York with his family to relocate permanently to London. O p en i n g Ni g h t

The Waldorf officially opened on 14 March, 1893. With George C Boldt, his wife Louise and Oscar Tschirky standing together at the door to greet each guest, the Waldorf ’s renowned ‘house style’ was born: there would always be a personal touch and scrupulous attention to individual needs. The evening was conceived as a charity fundraiser, and Mrs Alva Vanderbilt proved herself to be a formidable new arrival on New York’s social scene by donating the music – the New York Symphony Orchestra. Its sweet harmonies did not go unnoticed. Nor did Mrs Vanderbilt’s sharp eye miss the 18-carat gold-plated bathroom fixtures in the private suites: ‘You don’t have to clean them, you know,’ she tartly declared. More Th a n J u s t a Place to Stay

The dramatic effects of the Waldorf ’s presence in the city ricocheted through the entire top end of the hospitality industry. Many of those loyal to other establishments were tempted to try the new Waldorf, and a new mix of people from all walks of New York life was drawn together to create the Waldorf ’s diverse clientele. In fact, the hotel set about changing the way New Yorkers themselves lived. Extending beyond the

traditional offerings of bed and board, large and lavish public rooms were created on the lower floors for the specific use of locals. For the first time, New York’s most important women had, courtesy of the Palm Garden Dining Room, their own place to meet. With facilities such as a grand ballroom and private dining rooms for hire, some saw an opportunity to knock Caroline Astor off her perch as grand dame of New York’s society. It is said that Marion ‘Mamie’ Fish, wife of Stuyvesant Fish, set about her campaign with particular relish! Meanwhile, ‘Oscar of the Waldorf ’, as he came to be known, presided over the hotel with a gracious air of sophisticated insouciance. By the end of 1896, just before the Astoria opened, the Waldorf had become the smartest hotel in America. Social life at the Waldorf=Astoria hit a peak in 1897 when the Bradley-Martin Ball – fancy dress with the theme of Louis XV at Versailles – spilt over from the Waldorf into sections of the yet to be officially opened Astoria. There was some criticism of the lavishness of this occasion. Mrs Bradley-Martin announced that the reason she had given the ball was to provide work for dressmakers, florists and caterers. If there were any further complaints, she threatened to relocate to London. Not long after, she did.

The tropical Palm Garden Dining Room at the Waldorf=Astoria, photographed in 1902. Opposite page


Astoria Hotel (1896) by Hughson Hawley.

Construction workers on the Waldorf=Astoria site.

C re at i n g t he Astoria

Cousins William Waldorf Astor and John Jacob Astor IV (who was instructed to build the Astoria next to the Waldorf by his mother, Caroline Astor) didn’t like each other, but Bartlett and Boldt convinced them that they both had much to gain by joining forces. This strategy brought architect Hardenbergh back to erect the Astoria. At 17 storeys, the Astoria stood 65 m (213 ft) tall. The combined hotels offered a total of 1,000 rooms and 750 bathrooms, a 91-m (299-ft) marble ground-floor corridor, a ballroom ceiling 15 m (49 ft) high, and the Palm Garden Dining Room beneath a glazed dome and moulded plasterwork ceiling. Together, the Waldorf= Astoria offered 40 public rooms for the use of locals.

14 7


N e w Yo r k : P o w e r a n d P r o m i n e n c e

The Algonquin

Carat Juice Dorothy Parker once said: ‘I love a martini, but two at the most. Three, I’m under the table; four,

Breaking New Ground

I’m under the host.’ In 2004, the

The Algonquin (1902), on West 44th between Fifth and Sixth avenues, is one

Algonquin’s general manager, Anthony Melchiorri, decided

of the few great New York hotels in the Beaux-Arts style to have survived

to offer a new item on the bar

with both looks and reputation reasonably intact. Designed by Goldwin

menu: the Martini on the Rock.

Starrett, the Algonquin was particularly popular with well-to-do bachelors and actresses, a traditionally fertile social combination.

This classic mix of Belvedere vodka and Martini & Rossi vermouth includes a diamond – and an approximate price tag


hat there were wealthy male clients is not surprising, given the proximity of three of the city’s most famous restaurants – Sherry’s, Delmonico’s and the Colony – and five prestigious men’s clubs. The Algonquin’s theatrical clientele grew after the 1905 opening of the Hippodrome, home to the leggy lasses of the Ziegfeld Follies. An U nusual Cas e

Dorothy Parker reviews a draft copy of a manuscript at her home in 1948.

The newly renovated Algonquin Lobby still exudes Edwardian charm.

Frank Case, the legendary Algonquin manager (from 1907) and owner (from 1927), loved the company of artistic types. He promoted the position of the hotel as being at the centre of New York’s literary and theatrical life, which attracted personalities like Booth Tarkington; Douglas Fairbanks, Sr; John Barrymore; and HL Mencken, who called the Algonquin ‘the most comfortable hotel in America’. William Faulkner drafted his Nobel Prize for Literature acceptance speech at the Algonquin in 1950. British actor Basil Hallam would go jogging after returning from each night’s performance: ‘He never knew he was the only man on Manhattan Island running up Fifth Avenue in his underwear at night.’ The Algonquin also broke ground in making welcome the new phenomenon of ‘independent’ women, among them the early feminist writers Gertrude Stein and

of US$10,000!

her girlfriend Alice B Toklas, as well as Simone de Beauvoir, Eudora Welty and Helen Hayes, a Ziegfeld girl who went on to be one of the most acclaimed American actresses of her era. Upon Case’s death in 1946, Ben Bodne acquired the hotel and proceeded with a careful and loving refurbishment, paying great attention to the preservation of the Edwardian style that guests cherished. A new multi-million dollar historical restoration, including hand-selected antique furniture, saw the Algonquin born yet again in 1998. It was last renovated in 2004, and is now part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection.

Joe Imperato is just one of the Algonquin customers to have risen to the challenge, proposing to Melissa Beck in December 2004 with a 1.85-carat square diamond worth US$13,000. ‘She always wanted it to be a big event,’ he explained. The after-work crowd at the hotel’s Blue Bar burst into applause as Beck graciously fished out the very special ‘rock’ in her martini with a toothpick.

Doroth y Parker

The Colony restaurant’s popularity gained prominence after being ‘discovered’ by Mrs WK Vanderbilt. Yet a small group of not-yet-famous individuals also met here. Apparently, these worthies made such nuisances of themselves by asking for meals at unheard-of hours – breakfast at 11pm and dinner at 2am – that Gene Cavallero, the Colony’s owner, eventually froze them out, whereupon they moved their activities to the Algonquin. At the height of its fame, the group included magazine heavyweights Harold Ross and Robert Benchley; columnists Franklin Pierce Adams and Heywood Broun; critic Alexander Woollcott; as well as playwrights George S Kaufman, Marc Connelly, Edna Ferber and Robert Sherwood. Some of the group, including Dorothy Parker, initially met at Vanity Fair. The group’s almost daily lunches in the Algonquin’s Oak Room – characterised by sparring dialogue and droll asides – spanned a decade. The lunch legacy included the creation of many a memorable epigram as well as a brand new magazine, the New Yorker, which was founded by Harold Ross and conceived in part to capture this new form of scalpel-sharp repartee. Though society columns referred to the group as the Algonquin Round Table, they called themselves the Vicious Circle. ‘By force of character,’ observed drama critic Brooks Atkinson, ‘they changed the nature of

American comedy and established the tastes of a new period in the arts and theatre.’ One unlikely member of the group was Harpo Marx. Famous as the Marx Brother who never spoke on screen, he was apparently a voluble contributor to Round Table discussions. Gu es t s at t he Algo n q u i n

The Algonquin’s Oak Room launched the careers of Diana Krall, Andrea Marcovicci, Michael Feinstein, Jane Monheit, Peter Cincotti, Jamie Cullum and Harry Connick, Jr. Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick

Loewe wrote My Fair Lady in Lerner’s suite, while Harold Ross secured funding for the New Yorker magazine from a fellow poker player in the hotel’s ‘Thanatopsis Pleasures and Inside Straight Club’. Algonquin honeymooners include Douglas Fairbanks and Orson Welles, while Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was among the famous female visitors to the hotel. The Algonquin has also been a favourite with overseas celebrities, such as Noël Coward, Laurence Olivier, Jeremy Irons, Graham Greene, Tom Stoppard, Charles Laughton, Diana Rigg and Anthony Hopkins.

The Midtown location of the Algonquin has been a drawcard for New York’s artistic and cultural elite for over a century.



N e w Yo r k : P o w e r a n d P r o m i n e n c e

The St Regis A Distinguished Clientele An original Beaux-Arts landmark, the St Regis Hotel was financed by John Jacob Astor IV and built in 1904. It was designed with an Art Nouveau feel by Samuel Beck Parkman Trowbridge and Goodhue Livingston for an Upper East Side site on Fifth Avenue and 55th Street.

Opposite page

In 2011,

the St Regis Hotel was awarded the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Award for the eighteenth year in a row.

Colonel Serge Obolensky pictured in 1964 at the St Regis Roof Restaurant, which he created.


oing against the trend that bigger was better, John Jacob Astor IV insisted on relatively small public rooms: ‘a subtle indication that the management did not want the crowds that milled in Peacock Alley at the Waldorf=Astoria or in the vast lobby of the Astor in Times Square’. The atmosphere of grandeur within the St Regis was created with subtle touches: fresh flowers that were replaced daily, an attentive but unobtrusive butler service, social events with select guest lists, and more. Astor wanted to create a hotel where gentlemen and their families could feel at home. He introduced ‘modern’ conveniences such as telephones in every room, a fire-alarm system, central heating and an air-cooling system. Mail chutes were installed on each floor, a newsworthy innovation at that time. One of the hotel’s other novel features was a special design

Polish-born cosmetics tycoon Helena Rubinstein arranging flowers in her suite at the St Regis in 1945.

‘for the disposition of dust and refuse’ – one of the first central vacuum systems. All maids had to do was plug their vacuum cleaner’s hose into sockets situated throughout the hotel. Throughout its history, the St Regis Hotel has attracted the most glamorous, creative and intriguing personalities of each era. Some of the most famous guests have included Marlene Dietrich, Salvador Dali and his wife Gala, and actress Gertrude Lawrence, who insisted that all her press appointments take place at the hotel. Colonel Serge Obolensky, a Russian prince who had been a page at the Tsar’s court, was associated with the St Regis for a number of years, and married Ava Alice Muriel Astor (the daughter of John Jacob Astor IV) in 1924. In the 1930s, as manager of the St Regis, he refurbished the hotel. St Regis Rebo rn

Today, the St Regis is considered one of New York’s finest hotels, and it remains one of the best preserved in the Beaux-Arts style. The hotel, now operated by Starwood, is the centrepiece of Starwood’s prestigious St Regis brand. To celebrate the hotel’s centenary in 2004, renowned designers Stephen Sills and James Huniford were hired to renovate the hotel’s interiors. In 2008, internationally acclaimed chef Alain Ducasse opened the Adour restaurant at the hotel, named for a river near his birthplace; this restaurant has since been awarded three Michelin stars.



N e w Yo r k : P o w e r a n d P r o m i n e n c e

Ambition and Opportunity

Party of the Century Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball There’s never been a party in New York quite like it. It is said that people left town because they weren’t invited. Truman Capote’s masked Black and White Ball was held at the Plaza Hotel on 28 November, 1966. Ostensibly in honour of Washington Post proprietor Katharine Graham, it was also a device intended to allow Capote to bask in the immense success of his controversial book, In Cold Blood. The guest list, which included Candice Bergen, Lauren Bacall, Andy Warhol, Mr and Mrs Norman Mailer, Mia Farrow and Frank Sinatra, was so salubrious that the event has come to be known as the ‘Party of the Century’.


Truman Capote dances with an unidentified woman. To the left, publisher Katharine Graham dances with an unidentified man. To the right, actress Lauren Bacall dances with choreographer Jerome Robbins.

Truman Capote arrives with Katharine Graham, the guest of honour.

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy arrives wearing a feathered mask.

Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt arrives Artist Andy Warhol arrives unmasked.


with a cat on his arm, who happens to be his wife.





Ambition and Opportunity


Resort Hotels A Time of Leisure The Gilded Age in America heralded the birth of ‘conspicuous consumption’. Social mobility was for the first time achieved through wealth rather than birth.


a resort in Miami, Florida,

the new breed of wealthy individuals wielded their power

during the 1950s.

and built their dreams. It was a moneyed society driven to


create fabulous and sumptuous spaces wherein the elite


Art Deco hotels on Collins Avenue in Miami, Florida.

his newfound wealth also brought with it an unprecedented increase in leisure time. It was the pursuit of filling this leisure time that precipitated the creation of some of the greatest holiday resorts in America. The grand resorts born of the Gilded Age are emulated both in style and in design to the present day.

A travel poster

designed to entice visitors

could compare, and boast of, their material achievements.


Soaking up the sun at

This was no more evident than in New York City, where

to Florida by train.

The Age of the Railway

At the end of the American Civil War there was no shortage of wealthy and sophisticated businessmen spawned by the industrial age who were ready to develop and exploit the untapped resources of their vast country. This began with the building of an expansive network of railway lines that would span

the country. The new railway systems would not only transport resources but also workers and travellers who were hungry for unspoiled horizons. The railways were largely privately owned, financed by the new breed of America’s wealthy entrepreneurs, and built by a proliferation of migrant workers and cheap labour. Interestingly, this was probably where the expression ‘other side of the tracks’ first came into being. The wealthy classes would establish the transport systems and build themselves houses and lavish resorts on prime real estate on one side of the railway tracks, while their workers were accommodated in cheap housing on the other side of the tracks. Americans were experiencing a new mobility. This was a direct outcome of increased leisure time, improved rail transportation, and the newly constructed spate of urban and resort hotels. The upwardly mobile now travelled to amuse themselves, in the process visiting fairs, expositions and resorts. The beautiful railway resorts built in places like Florida and San Diego and the mountain regions in the 1800s were a reflection of the desires and dreams of an era. The truly wealthy could now afford to head to warmer climes for the winter season and the cooler mountains for the summer, hitching their private railway cars to a steam train and indulging their newfound leisure time in resorts that often looked as if they came from a fairytale. Here they could bask in the warmth of the climate or a log fire, and in each other’s glow, secure in the knowledge that they were truly privileged individuals. The journey of American resort hotels over the years has very much paralleled American tastes and history. Born of the great individual entrepreneurs of the 1800s, they became part of the great American

Dream, until the Great Depression and World War II. With the desire for all things new in the fifties, and the emergence of motels and hotel chains, many resorts fell by the wayside. By the sixties and seventies, when Americans once again sought identity through history and place, resorts crept back in favour. Now, with the desire for leisure and luxury, resorts are back in vogue. T h e M a ki n g o f Florida

The existence, design and style of many famous Florida resorts owe much to the singular vision of a man named Henry Flagler – often referred to as the Father of Miami. A wealthy businessman who established the Standard Oil Company with John D Rockefeller, he decided to devote the second part of


Ambition and Opportunity

Grand Hotel Mackinac The Hotel of First Ladies One of the ‘grandest’ American hotels (called what else but the Grand!) famously features a series of rooms named for American First Ladies and decorated by Carleton Varney according to their style and personality.


An ornate ballroom inside the Breakers Hotel. Right

Wounded US

servicemen recuperating at the Breakers in 1944.

The Palm Beach Inn opened in January 1896, and within a short time it had exceeded everyone’s expectations in the popularity stakes. Patrons were now requesting rooms ‘over the breakers’, and by the turn of the century Flagler had decided to make sure the hotel had all the amenities and appearances of a luxury hotel. The Inn was remodelled and enlarged in 1900 and christened ‘The Breakers’. The Breakers Reb uilt – T wice

At the end of the 1902–3 season, fire mysteriously destroyed the hotel. Within 18 months the same architects and builders that had recently worked on the remodelling of the building had reconstructed it, rendering it with a hint of the French Renaissance. Ironically, the second Breakers also suffered a fiery end, in 1925. Florida was undergoing a land boom at


the time, and the President of the Florida East Coast Hotel Company decided to rebuild the hotel quickly after the fire, not wanting to lose customers to the rapidly rising Mediterranean-style skyscraper hotels mushrooming all over the Miami beachfront. New Yorkers Leonard Schultze and S Fullerton Weaver were commissioned to build what to this day remains the Breakers – a masterpiece in grand hotel design. The style of the hotel heavily referenced Italian Renaissance architecture blended with Spanish influences. Italian artisans were flown in to paint the ceiling of the 150-m (492-ft) main lobby. Everything was under one roof with no need for annexe rooms, common in most resort hotels of the time. Schultze and Weaver even designed the linen, china and silverware for the hotel, and in preparation built a mock-up of one of the 425 guestrooms in a New York loft. The new hotel was built in record time, and reopened on 29 December, 1926. The Breakers has undergone several renovations since 1926 and endured a number of devastating hurricanes. Even though Henry Flagler wasn’t alive to see his grand hotel’s final reincarnation, it still stands proudly as a testament to the legacy of his imagination and vision, setting a benchmark for many resorts the world over. The Breakers is without rival in the rich and glamorous atmosphere of Palm Beach, and in fact is a destination in its own right. The wealthy still flock to the Breakers for ‘the season’, and it remains a majestic symbol of the town’s opulence.

he Grand Hotel on sleepy Mackinac Island, Michigan, is one of the 12 remaining great wooden hotel structures born of the Gilded Age. Like the ‘Del’ in San Diego, ‘the Grand’ was built in the Queen Anne style (in just 90 days!), but boasts a front porch larger than any other. It is truly a ‘summer hotel’, closing for the winter when the surrounding lake often freezes over. The hotel was, in fact, built during winter so that 457,200 m (1.5 million ft) of Michigan white pine could be pulled over the icy Straits of Mackinac by horses. Mackinac Island is only accessible by boat or seaplane. As appealing as this largely car-free island was to travellers, the Grand did suffer like so many other hotels from the postwar blues. The then owner was W Stewart Woodfill, who had begun at the Grand as a lowly desk clerk in 1919 and by 1933 had worked his way up to ownership. Woodfill was apparently quite the eccentric, often wearing sneakers with his smoking jacket. His sense of design followed suit, and after World War II he had the hotel refurbished in a style more in keeping with the new wave of chain hotels and motels than one befitting the title of ‘the Grand’.

D o rot h y Dra p er

In the 1970s, Woodfill’s nephew Dan Musser, who was well on his way to usurping ownership of the hotel from his unconventional uncle, suggested that they hire acclaimed designer Dorothy Draper to give the tired old Grand a much-needed makeover. He phoned the Draper Company asking for Dorothy, only to discover that the grand lady of modern baroque was now lending her hand to the refurbishment of heaven. Her protégé, Carleton Varney, stepped in, and – using the Grand’s signature symbol of geraniums – began a ‘Draperesque’ overhaul. The idea of ‘themed’ suites could be perceived as a slightly tacky and somewhat down-market notion, but with unique skill and flair Varney managed to pull it off in a tasteful style that enhances the Grand. The Grand is a hotel that has always proudly reflected America’s patriotism, and it has a long tradition of honouring many of the hallmarks of American history. Gimmicky it may be, but it seems to suit the sleepy island of Mackinac and the old wooden Grand – yet another great American resort hotel to be declared a national landmark.

Senator Vandenberg (left), Senator Kelley (centre) and Governor Thomas E Dewey sitting on the porch of the Grand Hotel during the Republican National Convention in 1942.

At 201 m (660 ft) in length, the Grand Hotel’s front porch is the longest hotel porch in the world.




Ambition and Opportunity


Expanding Cities Wealth and Status The unfurling of the Great American Frontier in the 1800s inevitably led to the establishment of several key cities. As the dust settled on territorial battles and the race to create wealth and power escalated, frontier towns mushroomed on the plains. They emerged from the swampy shores of great lakes and coastlines, built in haste out of flimsy bits of wood and tin.


This undated drawing shows the burning of

mall inns, boarding houses and hotels soon appeared in these towns as increasing numbers of itinerants clamoured for their piece of land. Fortunes were made and lost overnight. Those lucky enough to secure their pot of gold began to build grand houses and hotels. Each new house and hotel always had to be bigger and better than the last – and so the great cities of America grew. Misfortune often holds within it the seeds of success and inspiration. This is no more evident than in the stories of how San Francisco, Chicago and even the nation’s capital, Washington, DC, came into being.

Washington, DC by the British in 1814.

Wash ington, D C: The H ub of a Nat ion

The White House is

Washington, DC stands alone. Rather than a city established through frontier pioneers seeking their

seen in the background.

fortunes, it was especially chosen by George Washington in 1790 as neutral ground where the President and Congress could converge. George Washington engaged Pierre Charles L’Enfant to map out a design for the future city, which included Pennsylvania Avenue. The plan was for the President and Congress to be separated by a magnificent mile that would eventually be filled by grand homes and foreign embassies. Historically, the location of Washington, DC was at the crossroads of a new and unsettled nation. Warring colonies were still sorting out their rightful place in an evolving empire. Washington, DC also suffered a tumultuous fate in 1814 when the British burned it down during the War of 1812 (which actually lasted from 1812 to 1815). The city was rebuilt to become the hub of a nation catering to a constant flow of visitors. San Fran cisco: den of D re a m ers and G amblers

The story of San Francisco is one of an ‘instant’ city that was built on gold and dreams. In 1846, it was little more than an old fort, a pier and the ramshackle beginnings of a town. On 7 July, during the MexicanAmerican War, an American flag was raised and 400 inhabitants became Americans overnight. Shortly afterwards, gold was found nearby and San Francisco became a boomtown. By 1850, the population had swelled to 25,000 – most of them men. Hastily built ‘hotels’ were fashioned from canvas to accommodate them. A wild town grew up that was peopled by gypsies, miners, sailors, Chinese immigrants, gamblers and prostitutes hanging around the infamous Barbary Coast. Newly rich miners poured profits into banks, a Stock Exchange and an Opera House. Grand hotels began to appear, in which the millionaires of the new ‘Nob Hill’ could socialise. Until the Suez Canal opened in 1869, San Francisco was a port of call for European


tourists, the ‘golden’ gateway to Asia and the Pacific. Grand dukes could rub shoulders with the likes of Wyatt Earp in the chill and fog of this city of harbour, hills and golden sunsets. Those hills shook like never before on the morning of 18 April, 1906. The financial and newspaper centre of western America was virtually destroyed by the Great Quake and resulting massive fire. The worst natural disaster in American history thus far had destroyed old San Francisco. C h icag o : C ro s s roa d s C i t y

Like San Francisco, the city of Chicago grew quickly and then suffered a catastrophe – in this case, fire. The name ‘Chicago’ comes from the Native American word for ‘onions’ or ‘skunk’. The town was established on a smelly swamp that proved quite hazardous for sanitation. In 1855, after a tragic cholera epidemic, the entire city had to be raised. Buildings were jacked up and fill brought in. Two years later Chicago boasted the honour of being the largest city in the Northwest and the home of the soon-to-be-elected Abraham Lincoln. The Illinois and Michigan canal that opened in 1848 allowed shipping to move south from the Great Lakes, through Chicago and down the Mississippi. The location of the city meant that it was also at the crossroads for the many new railways traversing the country. By 1850 the first genuine hotel, the St Francis, had joined numerous inns and taverns catering to visitors and immigrants alike. However, the city was also full of tenement housing and flimsy wooden cottages – ideal fire fuel. When fire broke out in the city after

an unusually dry spell, the resulting blaze burned for two whole days. In the end, the Chicago Fire of 1871 reduced the city to ashes. Amazingly, by 1875 the city was rebuilt and went on to host the 1893 World Expo, attracting 27 million visitors. It was at this Expo that the first American hamburger was served, Wrigley invented Juicy Fruit gum, and the Beaux-Arts style became fashionable. Chicago was now on the world radar as a dynamic and colourful destination. The evolution of the luxury hotel in Chicago was rapid, and by the twentieth century, with the massive growth of retail and commerce, the city took its place as the convention capital of America. Three of the major hotel trade journals were published in Chicago, so it became the centre of the American hotel industry.

The ruins of San Francisco after the terrible earthquake and fire in 1906.

Iron workers building the Palmer House in Chicago enjoy a surprise visit from radio announcer Jack Nelson in 1926.




Ambition and Opportunity


Hollywood and Las Vegas Glamour and Greed Hollywood and Las Vegas are destinations whose beginnings rest on geographical luck – people were originally attracted to Hollywood because of its fertile soil, and to Las Vegas because of its abundant supply of water. From tiny frontier towns they grew into destinations that promised fame, fortune and fun, while often delivering only heartbreak and ruin. For decades, they have attracted entertainment-hungry hordes with high expectations. Visitors to Vegas expect glitz, gambling and spectacle on an ever-increasing scale, while visitors to Hollywood still expect it to live up to the old MGM motto: ‘more stars than there are in the sky’.


he iconic hotels of Las Vegas and Hollywood seem familiar to us from their presence in many movies and television shows, but there are many secrets and surprises in their varied histories. Las Vegas, despite its reputation for neon and sleaze, continues to reinvent itself – as a place of themepark fun for the whole family, and as a sophisticated destination for lovers (and lovers of luxury hotels). Beyond the tabloid spectacle of hotel frontages clogged with paparazzi and starlets behaving badly, Hollywood is home to hotels that offer both luxury and privacy. New trends have merged with old traditions in Hollywood – courtesy of innovative hoteliers, architects and designers – while in Las Vegas, ambitious entrepreneurs challenge each other to reinvent the world of resort and casino hotels, ensuring that the cycle of demolition, followed by ever-more spectacular construction, continues. Opened in 1927, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre located

The Inven ti on of Las Vegas

on Hollywood Boulevard

Las Vegas began as a desert oasis lush enough to be named ‘the Meadows’ by Spanish traders. Travellers found it a welcome watering hole, while settlers tried their hands at mining and farming. It was proclaimed a city in 1905, the same year that the railway opened up the town to a new population of maintenance workers and merchants. The railway pulled out in 1930, but the city soon filled up again, this time with construction workers from the federally funded Hoover Dam project. Gambling, legalised in Nevada in 1931, was the recipient of some of those federal funds. Meanwhile, newly liberalised divorce laws gave rise to the first Las Vegas resorts – dude ranches where people stayed for six weeks to establish Nevada residency and obtain a ‘quickie’ divorce. After the completion of Hoover Dam in 1936, the area continued to benefit from federal dollars, this

is most famous for the handprints and footprints left by a select few actors and actresses in its Forecourt of the Stars. Right

The lights of Las

Vegas are a dazzling beacon in the middle of the Nevada desert.


time courtesy of military bases, firing ranges and the Nevada nuclear test site. However, the end of World War II brought a new challenge for the region – reinventing Las Vegas for peacetime. Entrepreneurs began to see potential in the proximity of Las Vegas to the booming city of Los Angeles, and the success of one early hotel – the El Rancho Vegas – pointed the way to future prosperity.

T h e First La s Ve g a s Res o rt H otel

The El Rancho Vegas (built in 1941) was constructed just outside the city limits on Highway 91, the main highway between Las Vegas and Los Angeles that would eventually become the Las Vegas Strip. The El Rancho was the vision of Tommy Hull. Legend has it that while waiting for a mechanic on the side of the highway, Hull began counting the cars that passed, marvelled at their number, and thought the spot would be a good place to build a hotel. And build he did, pioneering the concept of gaming, lodging, dining, entertainment and retail facilities all in the one complex – an Old West-themed casino surrounded by motel bungalows and green lawns. The writer William Saroyan tells of taking up residence in one of the El Rancho’s bungalows in 1949 to wait out his divorce. Flush with a publisher’s advance, he spent the six weeks drinking, gambling and cursing his faithless wife. Having gambled away half of the advance, he vowed to win back his losses, quit drinking and gambling, get his divorce and go on his way. In the end, he summed up the experience by saying: ‘Every hour I spent in Las Vegas was part of a killing nightmare. It is a wonder all I lost was $50,000.’ It is unlikely that Saroyan mourned the resort’s destruction by fire in 1960. One person who did shed tears, though, was actress Betty Grable, who wept as

she watched it burn. Starring in the hotel’s theatre at the time, she lost more than US$10,000 worth of costumes. The resort’s most recognisable feature, its 15-m (50-ft) neon-lit windmill, provided onlookers with a spectacle as it flamed and fell. While lawmen pried open the vault with a crowbar and handed out scorched boxes of paper money to employees, almost US$500,000 worth of coins was reduced to molten metal by the intense fire.

The El Rancho Vegas as it looked in 1958, just two years before it was destroyed by fire. Top

Actor and singer Rudy

Vallee and his wife relaxing poolside at the El Rancho Vegas resort in 1950.


Ambition and Opportunity

The members of the Rat Pack photographed in 1960. From left to right: Frank Sinatra; Dean Martin; Sammy Davis, Jr; Peter Lawford; and Joey Bishop.

The Rat Pack Stars of the Strip

King Cole, Peggy Lee and the ubiquitous Rat Pack, they might also end up mixing with the celebrities in the lounge after the late show. In keeping with this Rat Pack connection, the Sands was one of the locations featured in the original Ocean’s 11 (1960), and the Rat Pack spent a month at the hotel filming during the day and performing at night. The Sands continued to provide a range of entertainment for just over 40 years, until it closed in 1996. Even standing empty it was used as a location for the Vegas scenes in the film Con Air (1997), including one in which a plane crashes into the front of the casino. The final Sands extravaganza was its own demolition. The destruction of Las Vegas casinos has become an entertainment in itself, and video of the implosion of the Sands can be seen on any number of Internet sites, alongside that of the Aladdin, the Dunes, the Landmark, the Hacienda and El Rancho, all of which have made way for a new generation of hotels. The Venetian now stands where the Sands once was.


On the Strip The Venetian (1) has canals with gondolas steered

The MGM Grand (4) is the king of the desert –

Caesars Palace, built to evoke the glory of

by gondoliers in authentic striped jumpers, straw

with its 5,034 rooms, it is a giant of a hotel. It is

the Roman Empire, features over 3,300 rooms in

hats and red ribbons. Not so authentic is the food

guarded by a 14-m (46-ft) bronze lion (the largest

five towers: Augustus, Centurion, Roman, Palace

served along the canals.

bronze structure in the western hemisphere). It

and Forum. There are two shopping malls – the

is famous for hosting big-name boxing matches.

Forum and the Appian Way – with the very best

New York–New York (2) is exporting Manhattan right into the Nevada desert. Here the food is more

Paris has its own Eiffel Tower in front of the

in designer apparel from world-renowned names

authentic: the typical Greenwich Village deli will

hotel to ensure it is noticed among all the other

such as Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace and Gucci.

serve the perfect pastrami on rye and the gigantic

extraverted, extravagant hotels. Inside, one can

Wynn Las Vegas (6) is one of the newest hotels

Brooklyn Bridge replica in the background creates

wander along the boulevards lined with restaurants

and casinos on the Strip, opening in 2005 on the

a near-realistic atmosphere.

and cafés. As in Paris, they serve a good verre

site of the Desert Inn. Unlike other Las Vegas hotels,

rouge with charcuterie on a fresh baguette. Only

it does not feature an eye-catching attraction like

the chaotic Parisian traffic is noticeably absent.

a fountain or statue on the Strip to draw attention

The Luxor (3) is a huge 30-storey pyramid-like structure, noticeable and recognisable from far away. At night a beam of laser light shines from

Bellagio (5) was inspired by the romantic Italian

to itself – the mysterious exterior entices visitors

its apex so brightly that it is visible from space,

resort of the same name, and is renowned for the

to see what’s inside the complex, and they soon

they say! With 4,408 rooms, it is among the ten

Fountains of Bellagio, an aquatic and light show

discover an amazing 1.2-hectare (3-acre) man-

biggest hotels in the world.

choreographed to a variety of musical styles.

made lake and a delightful waterfall.







While the gaming tables were Las Vegas’s main drawcard, hotel operators looked for entertainers whose name on a marquee would bring people to their casinos. Entertainers such as Dean Martin, who performed at the Flamingo with Jerry Lewis, but who really began to draw a crowd after one memorable night in 1959 when Frank Sinatra joined him on stage at the Sands.


he act grew to include Sammy Davis, Jr, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop, with all five performing a loose set of songs, gags and ad libs. Known as the Rat Pack, the group perfected a kind of self-generated hype by showing up at each other’s performances unannounced, creating a buzz and ensuring repeat visits by the audience. Their appearances were often sold out, and people flocked to Las Vegas to be part of the Rat Pack phenomenon. Hotel marquees advertising the individual performers teased the punters with promises such as ‘Dean Martin – Maybe Frank – Maybe Sammy’. Later, the smooth lounge acts gave way to performers such as Tom Jones and Elvis Presley who brought their own brand of fan hysteria to Las Vegas.


In 1981, magicians Siegfried & Roy opened a show at the Frontier that ran for over seven years, with some three million people catching at least one of their 3,500 performances. Their most recent Las Vegas run (at the Mirage) came to a dramatic end when Roy Horn was attacked by one of his white tigers in 2003 and critically injured. Contemporary performers such as Celine Dion and Prince continue to take up residencies and enthral audiences. The Sands

Opened in 1952, the Sands hotel was both an oasis of ‘cool’ and the entertainment hot spot of 1960s Las Vegas. Not only could patrons watch the biggest supper-club stars of the day, such as Louis Armstrong, Nat

A giant photo of Siegfried & Roy overlooked the Las Vegas Strip until their show closed in 2003 after Roy was injured by a tiger during a performance.



H o l l y w o o d a n d L a s Ve g a s : G l a m o u r a n d G r e e d

Chateau Marmont A Castle Hideaway Another Hollywood hotel that began life at the very end of Hollywood’s silent era is the Chateau Marmont. Built by attorney Fred Horowitz, construction began in 1927 and the building opened in 1929 as an apartment block. However, after the stock-market crash of 1929 when its high rents became unaffordable to most, the building became a hotel. reading of Rebel Without a Cause. It was at the hotel that Roman Polanski spent his last days in the United States, eluding the snooping of nosy reporters.

The Chateau Marmont is a fabulous folly of magnificent proportions. Opposite page

An arched

Dis cre tion and Scandal

stone façade shelters the Chateau Marmont patio.


André Balazs, owner of the Mercer hotel in New York City and the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, photographed in 2004.


he castle-like structure was modelled after the Château d’Amboise in France’s Loire Valley. Built to be earthquake proof, the hotel has survived all of Los Angeles’s earthquakes without any major structural damage. In the 1940s, the hotel bought nine cottages that had been built next to the hotel in the thirties. There are also four bungalows, two of which were designed by the influential modernist architect Craig Ellwood. The Chateau Marmont is a hideaway hotel that has traditionally kept a low profile. Greta Garbo signed in as Harriet Brown and succeeded in her desire to be left alone. Columbia Pictures boss Harry Cohn told two of his wildest young stars, William Holden and Glenn Ford: ‘If you must get in trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont’, and rented the small penthouse for their parties. Howard Hughes settled into the largest penthouse and spied on starlets gathered around the pool. An unknown Warren Beatty took an eight-dollar room and was locked out for not paying. Judy Garland played the piano in the lobby, and James Dean climbed in a window of director Nicholas Ray’s bungalow during the first

Despite (or perhaps because of ) its discreet reputation, a surprising number of scandals have occurred at the Chateau Marmont, particularly in the rock ’n’ roll era. One of the most public was the death of John Belushi at the hotel in 1982 after overdosing on a ‘speedball’ of heroin and cocaine. Jim Morrison was another who drew attention to himself (and the hotel) by swinging from the roof above his room to enter through his room window, injuring his back in the process. Risqué fashion photographer Helmut Newton was another who died at the property after slamming his car into a wall. The classic rock-star hotel, the Chateau Marmont has played host to many of rock’s rowdiest bands such as Led Zeppelin, who were famous for riding motorcycles through the lobby. It has also been a haven for movie stars. Elizabeth Taylor commandeered the penthouse for her friend, Montgomery Clift, to recuperate in after his near-fatal car accident during the filming of Raintree County (1957). Robert De Niro likes to stay for long periods in one of the bungalows rather than in one of the 63 suites available, reportedly so that he can sleep with the doors open. Unfortunately, he’s been burgled twice. Notorious young star Lindsay Lohan set up home there while her own home was being renovated, until eventually her hellraising proved too much for the hotel’s management and she was asked to leave. Today, the Chateau Marmont is owned and managed by celebrity hotelier André Balazs. Meanwhile, after some lean years, downtown Hollywood has undergone a revival, with restorations to beloved old hotels and the building of new establishments. Located on the corner of Hollywood and Vine, one of the newest hotels is Starwood’s W Hollywood, which opened in 2008. More than 100 years after HJ Whitley built the Hollywood Hotel, entrepreneurs are still dreaming of the perfect Hollywood hotel.


Canada: The Great Railway Chateaux

Ambition and Opportunity

Banff Springs Hotel Castle in the Wilderness While New York architect Bruce Price was working on the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Montreal railway terminus in 1886, he began to receive drawings scribbled on the backs of envelopes from William Cornelius Van Horne. The drawings were Van Horne’s ideas for a flagship CPR hotel rising from the majestic Rockies above the junction of two rivers.


Visitors relax around the Banff Springs Hotel swimming pool in 1938.

2 18

t would be the first of the Chateau-style hotels to be developed by Price. This hotel would not only be a symbol of the new Canada, but also a means for the CPR to recoup its losses. Like other CPR projects, the Banff Springs Hotel, named after a Scottish county, was built at breakneck speed. Van Horne arrived at the location in 1887 as the hotel was nearing completion. He was horrified to discover that it had been built back-to-front. The kitchen staff would be privy to the best view, while guests would have to be satisfied with a back view to the mountain slopes! Van Horne sketched a dining rotunda and directed it to be placed in front of the kitchen as soon as possible. With its stone exterior topped by steep-hipped roofs, turrets and cedar shingles, the five-storey building was both stately and harmonious with the

surrounding landscape. The Banff Springs Hotel opened in June 1888, taking in over 1,500 guests during its first season. Heavy advertising offering rooms for CAN$3.50 per night preceded the opening. The restorative qualities of the hot sulphur springs proved a huge drawcard, confirming Van Horne’s

initial belief that they would be a lucrative investment. Occasionally the pumping system broke down, and staff had to fill the pools with hot water in which bags of sulphur had been tipped. The affluent clientele who now poured in from all over the world never noticed. Ex pa n s i o n a n d Ren ovat i o n

As demand for accommodation increased over the years, so did the size of the hotel. Architect Walter Painter oversaw the redesign and rebuilding of the Banff Springs Hotel in the early 1900s, creating an opulent new tower with interiors by CPR designer Kate Reed. The hotel was further extended in the twenties, catering for the extravagance of the Flapper era when guests would sometimes stay for two or three months. In 1930, the CPR even built a landing strip when jazz musician Benny Goodman said that he could only come by plane! Like so many great hotels after World War II, the Banff Springs suffered from a change in the public’s leisure habits but still managed to soldier on. In 1969,

when it opened for the winter season for the first time, it became a year-round resort hotel and was marketed as such in places like Japan. The Canadian Government declared the hotel a National Historic Site in 1992, and the building underwent a CAN$75 million renovation in 1999. Today the hotel is known as the Fairmont Banff Springs, and it is regarded as one of Canada’s finest establishments. Hollywood star Ginger Rogers takes time to pose for the cameras while on vacation at the Banff Springs Hotel in 1937.

Now known as the Fairmont Banff Springs, the hotel was built to look like a Scottish baronial castle.



Canada: The Great Railway Chateaux

Château Frontenac Matters of State The French and the British are traditional rivals, and they fought several hard and bloody battles on Canadian soil. Château Frontenac, rising majestically above the entrance to Québec City, is a testament to the fact that two great cultures came together to produce a lasting monument to a shared history.

Opposite page

Château Frontenac is located on a bluff overlooking the St Lawrence River in Québec City.


amuel de Champlain, who founded the city of Québec, chose this exceptional location to build the first fort of Québec in 1620. The British destroyed it, and the French Governor, Comte de Frontenac, rebuilt it in 1692. There it stood proudly until 1834, when it finally perished in a fire. A group of prominent ‘Québecians’ and businessmen, spearheaded by Canadian Pacific Railway’s William Cornelius Van Horne, planned to build an opulent hotel on the site of the old fort, one that would become the visual symbol of Québec City. An U nforge ttable Edifice

New York architect Bruce Price rejected their ideas for a contemporary hotel and instead created an edifice in the style of a French Renaissance chateau. In Price’s own words: ‘the motif is … the early French chateau adapted to modern requirements, a style certainly in keeping with the old French city … The turrets and towers lend to the whole structure the appearance of a medieval castle perched upon a precipice … Those that poured into the Chateau from Montreal, Toronto,

Pu t t i n g t h e Wa r o n I c e In April 1943, Admiral Lord Louis

ice that was part of plans for a potential

Mountbatten dropped a chunk of special

Allied invasion through Northern Europe.

Lake Louise ice called ‘Pykrete’ in British

‘Project Habbakuk’ involved the creation

Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s bathtub

of floating ice platforms for equipment

at Château Frontenac, during the historic

transport. What Maclean’s magazine termed

A Crucial Conference

Québec Conference. This was much to

‘the weirdest secret weapon of the war’

the chagrin of Churchill, who was in the

was seriously considered by Churchill and

bath at the time!

the Joint Chiefs

In 1943, Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King elected to host a special conference with Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill at Château Frontenac. Known as the Québec Conference, it had the potential for altering the course of World War II. All the hotel’s guests, both permanent and non-permanent, had to be evacuated, and all future bookings cancelled. The hotel manager, Mr Neale, was given six days to empty the hotel of guests and two days to set it up as a military headquarters. Winston Churchill made a radio address from the Conference, in which he said: ‘Certainly no more

Due to gas rationing and patriotism,

of Staff, but

Chateau Lake Louise was closed to the

abandoned in

public during World War II, but scientists

favour of other,

from the Universities of Alberta, Manitoba

faster techniques.

and Saskatchewan used the lake and

2 24

Ottawa and the United States were transported to another place, another time. In a building reminiscent of the Continent’s castles, they could imagine themselves surrounded by the opulence of court life.’ Right from the start, Château Frontenac was an extraordinary success. Although the hotel did not attract Europeans initially, its American and Canadian clientele enabled it to make impressive profits as early as 1898. The demand was so great that several additions and major refurbishments were planned and executed. In 1919, rooms at Château Frontenac were in such great demand that Canadian Pacific asked the Maxwell brothers to double the hotel’s capacity. Given the lack of land and the importance of retaining the boardwalk, the architects proposed the construction of a 17-storey central tower. The tower idea was an architectural masterstroke that unified all the wings and dominated the Québec City skyline. It symbolised the crowning achievement that gave Château Frontenac its famous international stature. The imposing silhouette of the Château was to become the hallmark of the city. From that point on, it became, arguably, the most photographed hotel in the world. Disaster struck on 16 January, 1926, when fire broke out in the Riverview Wing. Fortunately, no-one was injured. Canadian Pacific’s directors decided to have the damaged wing rebuilt, something that was achieved in only 127 working days from the date of the fire.

some surrounding facilities to develop

Winston Churchill,

the ‘Pykrete’, a difficult-to-break and

photographed in

slow-to-melt mixture of wood pulp and

Canada in 1929.

fitting and splendid setting could have been chosen for a meeting of those that guide the war policy of the two great western democracies at this cardinal moment in the Second World War than we have here in the Plains of Abraham, in the Château Frontenac and the ramparts of the Citadel of Quebec …’ Two thousand meals were served each day over the course of the Conference, and in true British style afternoon tea was served at precisely 4pm. The last time Churchill had been in Canada was during Prohibition. Since he loved a tipple, Château Frontenac no doubt came to the party. So much so that Churchill and Roosevelt decided to return for a second conference the following year. Keep i n g U p to Date

In 1973, Canadian Pacific announced its plan to renovate Château Frontenac. The general manager, Peter Price, revealed that the program would include the remodelling of all guestrooms, new convention facilities, three new bars and three more restaurants. The ambitious refurbishment was designed to bring the hotel up to date. (Certain critics had said that the hotel was ‘stuffy’.) Although this two-year, CAN$10 million renovation program was designed to give the Château a more contemporary look, the hotel’s exterior was fortunately not altered in any significant way: the picturesque building remained true to the vision of Price, Van Horne and the Maxwells.

After the extensive overhaul in 1973, the hotel underwent various renovations from time to time. On 2 March, 1989, the management of Canadian Pacific Hotels and Resorts announced a CAN$65 million renovation program to honour Château Frontenac’s past and prepare it for the future. The restoration and building program took six years, from 1987 to 1993. The most spectacular part of the project was the construction of a new wing. The hotel (branded the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac) now has 618 guestrooms and suites as well as 23 function rooms.

The large picture windows of Le Champlain Restaurant frame a marvellous view of Québec City.


Exotic Discoveries The first travellers to North Africa, the Middle East, Africa, India and Asia were inspired by the lure of tropical climates, unusual landscapes and animals, ancient wonders and the promise of sensual experiences beyond the straight-laced colonial norm. Today’s tourists still journey East towards the rainforest, the savannah or the desert in search of intense experiences filled with unforgettable sights, smells and sounds. Along the way, a stay in one of the grand old colonial hotels helps connect them with a long-gone era of exotic adventure.

During a trip to India in 1962, Jacqueline Kennedy visited the famous seventeenthcentury mausoleum known as the Taj Mahal.



North Africa and the Middle East: Castles in the Sand

The Burj Al Arab Arabian Opulence The eye-catching Burj Al Arab luxury hotel in Dubai is both a triumph of the imagination and an engineering marvel. It is futuristic and fantastic, yet sophisticated and exclusive. Blending the best of East and West, it is still essentially reflective of Dubai’s Arab heritage.


he dynamic Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is credited with putting Dubai on the map. He is acknowledged as one of the major driving forces behind the current economic success that is Dubai. Not surprisingly, he wanted a permanent symbol of that progress that would show the world that Dubai had truly come of age. The brief to architect Tom Wright of WS Atkins was to build a state-of-the-art, super-luxurious, revolutionary structure that would ultimately become one of the world’s great architectural icons. The Burj Al Arab has certainly met that challenge. I ncompara b le Design

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince and Ruler of Dubai, whose bold vision is helping define the future of hotels worldwide. Above right

The sail-like

structure of the Burj Al Arab was built on an artificial island linked to Jumeirah Beach by a narrow bridge.


The Sahn Eddar

Lobby Lounge is located at the base of the Burj Al Arab’s atrium, the world’s tallest atrium.

24 0

In engineering terms it is nothing short of miraculous. Located on an artificial island in the Persian Gulf, 400 m (1,300 ft) from the shore, the Burj Al Arab is linked to the mainland by a slender causeway. The Burj can be seen for kilometres: at 321 m (1,053 ft) in height, it is the world’s tallest stand-alone hotel structure. The billowing sail design of the building is modern and sleek, while acknowledging the maritime nature of Dubai and its seafaring history. Designed by Khuan Chew of KCA International, the interiors are colourful but chic, and of palatial proportions. A rich palette of colours has been used to echo the elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. In short, it is a psychedelic wonderland. With 1,950 m2 (21,000 sq ft) of 22-carat gilding throughout the building, all that glitters in the Burj is, indeed, gold. The Burj Al Arab has been billed as a ‘seven-star’ hotel (although ratings over five stars are generally not recognised as official), and its physical isolation adds to the aura. It shouts ‘exclusive’ and is off limits to sightseers – unlike most other hotels, where people can drop in for a drink and a look around. The public can only gaze from the shore at this new wonder of the modern world where discretion and privacy are the order of the day. The Burj Al Arab has 202 splendid suites (each one arranged over two floors) and floor to ceiling glass windows that offer breathtaking views of the Persian Gulf.

Exotic Discoveries

There is no hotel anywhere else in the world that compares to the Burj Al Arab. It is unlikely that the hotel will ever be replicated, because it has been uniquely conceived for the specific site that it occupies and the design of the interiors reflects the distinct culture of that part of the world. Operated by the Jumeirah Group, the Burj Al Arab is the epitome of innovation in architecture, interior design and engineering genius. However, it will be the passion of the people who run the hotel and the stories of their guests that will make the Burj Al Arab one of the world’s great, grand and famous hotels.

Ne w Du ba i H o t els

The latest initiative of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, is the Bawadi hospitality and tourism project. It will consist of 31 new hotels, among them the biggest hotel in the world, the Asia-Asia, which will have 6,500 rooms. The project also aims to meet the increasing demands of tourism, with the number of people visiting Dubai projected to rise from the current 6 million tourists a year to 15 million by 2015. The cost of the development is estimated at a staggering 100 billion UAE Dihrams (US$27.7 billion).



Africa: Adventure and Mystique

Exotic Discoveries

Treetops Hotel The Treehouse that Grew ‘For the first time in the history of the world, a young girl climbed into a tree one day a Princess, and after having what she described as her most thrilling experience, she climbed down from the tree the next day a Queen.’ So said legendary hunter Jim Corbett in the visitors’ logbook at the famous Treetops Hotel in Kenya in February 1952. The venture began as a two-room treehouse. An additional facility for the nearby Outspan Hotel, which the Walkers also built and owned, Treetops was open on Wednesday nights as a place where guests could stay overnight to observe some of the best game in Africa in total safety. But due to increased demand, the Walkers soon expanded the treehouse to four rooms. Hostess w i th the Mostes t

A Tree Hostess was soon required to look after guests. According to Walker’s newspaper advertisement, the unusual qualifications for the job were: ‘1. To be able to use a catapult on the baboon which sometimes snatch cakes off the tea table. 2. To be unafraid of big game. 3. To know all about forest animals. 4. To have the qualifications and charm of an air hostess.’ Surprisingly, the hotel received a large number of replies from all over the world. ‘One application came from a dazzling beauty who sent her photograph, and whose sole qualification seemed to consist of charm, for the only fitness she could quote for the job was 38-22-34,’ Walker said. The Royal Arrival

Guests at the Treetops Hotel in 1952 sit in comfortable chairs, with their binoculars and movie cameras, watching the wildlife below as the animals approach the nearby waterhole.



e was, of course, referring to Princess Elizabeth, now Queen Elizabeth II, who was the first British monarch since the Act of Union in 1801 to be away from her country at the time of her succession. She was also the first in modern times to have no idea of the exact time of her accession, as her father, George VI, had passed away in his sleep. This incident certainly put Treetops on the map. Treetops was originally built high in a 300-year-old fig tree near a natural pool in 1932 by Major Eric Sherbrooke Walker for his wife, Lady Bettie Walker, who loved the romantic idea of a treehouse in the wilderness. Construction was often difficult, with labourers being chased away by wild animals.

On the day that Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip arrived, there were plenty of dramas just getting the royal couple to the hotel. After inviting the couple to Treetops, the Walkers had two concerns: whether or not there would be enough game for them to observe, and whether or not it would be safe for the royal couple to reach the hotel on foot. It was arranged that Lady Walker would hang a white flag on the roof of Treetops if there were any dangerous game lurking near the lodge. And there were: a herd of 47 elephants, some with calves. ‘As we got nearer to the tree, the squealing and trumpeting grew louder and on approaching the clearing, where the big mgumu tree towered above the others, there was a white pillow-case fluttering in the breeze,’ Walker said. The royal couple were given a choice to go on or turn back. They opted to continue.

‘When within 50 yards [46 m] of the tree we had a full view of the clearing and saw the whole herd milling about. Quite apart from the elephants’ restlessness, a herd which had mothers with their young is always a risk. One big cow in particular was facing us, standing right underneath Treetops, flapping her ears. ‘Fortunately, there was a crosswind and she did not scent us. With rifles pointed at her, and watching her intently, we went forward step by step. Princess Elizabeth did not falter. She walked straight towards the elephant and smiled a greeting at my wife who was awaiting her halfway down the ladder. Then unhurriedly she handed my wife her handbag and camera, and climbed the steep ladder.’ Th rill s a n d Sp ill s

Treetops has had its share of other dramas, too. The original Treetops Hotel was burned down in 1954 by the Mau Mau freedom fighters, protesting against British dominance and discrimination in Kenya. On hearing of the tragedy, Walker went to the site and immediately selected a new area for the hotel to be rebuilt in ‘a clump of flowering Cape chestnuts’. Treetops II, which was built in 1957, was much larger, supported by 39 cedar poles set in over 1 m (31⁄3 ft) of concrete. It overlooked the same waterhole and salt-lick. Aggressive game chased the builders into the trees so regularly that everyone was relieved when

the first platform was in place. During the construction, an African worker trod on a loose board, crashing 10 m (33 ft) to the ground. Barely alive, he was rushed to hospital. The next day, he returned to work, beaming. These days, Treetops is operated by Aberdare Safari Hotels Ltd, and there are 48 rooms and two suites for guests. It remains an overnight destination only, where visitors are driven from the Outspan Hotel for the night to observe wildlife from the top deck, viewing windows and ground-level hides.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip are shown around the Treetops Hotel in 1983, during their royal tour of Kenya. Originally built in 1932, the latest version of the hotel – located in Aberdare National Park – dates to 1957.



Africa: Adventure and Mystique

Victoria Falls Hotel

Far right

An aerial view of

the Victoria Falls shows the sheer power of the average 1,088 m3 (38,430 cubic feet) of water that flows over the

Thanks to Dr Livingstone

falls every second.

The Victoria Falls Hotel, one of the oldest hotels in Zimbabwe, is said to owe its

Welsh-born American

existence to the daring feats of Dr David Livingstone. The Scottish missionary and

explorer and journalist

explorer had been seeking a route from west to east Africa when he was taken to

Sir Henry Morton Stanley

the majestic Victoria Falls, known locally as Mosi-oa-Tunya (‘Smoke that Thunders’), by the Makalolo tribespeople in 1855.

with his boy Kalulu in 1871, posing in the clothes he wore when he met Dr David Livingstone in central Africa.

‘Now, Columbus started out to discover America. Well, he didn’t need to do anything at all but sit in the cabin of his ship and hold his grip and sail straight on, and America would discover itself. Here it was, barring his passage the whole length and breadth of the South American continent, and he couldn’t get by it. He’d got to discover it. ‘But Stanley started out to find Doctor Livingstone, who was scattered abroad, as you may say, over the length and breadth of a vast slab of Africa as big as the United States. It was a blind kind of search. He was the most scattered of men.’ Stanley died in London on 10 May, 1904. One month later, the Victoria Falls Hotel opened to house the engineering experts who were hired to build a bridge over the Second Gorge of the falls; the bridge opened the next year. This was a key component of the Cape Town to Cairo rail line, which was never completed. Th e Ho t el Li v es On

The Edwardian style of the five-star Victoria Falls Hotel evokes Zimbabwe’s colonial era.

Opposite page, far right

A delightful English-style high tea is served every afternoon in the Stanley’s Terrace restaurant.



oon, word of his exciting discovery traversed borders, countries and continents. European traders came, and a settlement known as Old Drift was established. Foreign visitors travelled by foot, ox wagon or horseback from the Transvaal in South Africa to view the famous curtain of water renamed by Livingstone in honour of the British monarch, Queen Victoria. After 1855, Livingstone had an eventful 16 years, surviving a tussle with a lion that affected the use of one arm. He continued to explore the harsh African landscape, but eventually lost touch with the outside world. When no-one had heard word of him for four years, concern was raised for his welfare. The New York Herald decided to send freelance journalist Henry Morton Stanley to seek him out. In 1871, after travelling 1,126 km (700 miles) in 236 days, Stanley finally located the explorer at Ujiji on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, and approached him

with the famous question: ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume?’ The pair soon became friends. But try as Stanley might, he could not persuade Livingstone to return to England. A Dist ing uished D uo

Livingstone died in 1873, aged 60. One of the most celebrated adventurers of his time, he had traversed about 50,000 km (31,000 miles) of jungle and plains, sought to impart European knowledge to the many tribespeople he encountered and become a legendary figure in the centre and south of the continent. Stanley, too, was also acclaimed as an explorer. He led expeditions along the Nile and Congo rivers from 1874 to 1877, paving the way for colonial rule. During the 1880s, he helped create King Leopold’s Congo Free State and British possessions on the upper Nile. On Stanley’s writing tour of the United States in 1886, author Mark Twain, when introducing him to the crowd, compared him with Christopher Columbus:

Since its opening, this 161-room hotel has undergone many transformations, most recently in 1990 when it was returned to its original Edwardian splendour. Today, amid Zimbabwe’s economic and social turmoil, the Victoria Falls Hotel is attempting to maintain the standards expected of a five-star establishment. Set in the Victoria Falls National Park, this elegant hotel boasts a private path that leads to the falls and the surrounding tropical landscape. Stanley’s Terrace, with an unobstructed view of the Victoria Falls Bridge, has been a popular meeting spot for adventurers and aristocrats for over a century, and it now offers guests a traditional afternoon tea. The hotel’s staff members are proud to provide worldclass service for their guests, whether they are Hollywood stars indulging in the sophistication of the Royal Suite, or families on the hunt for a real African experience. The hotel’s concierge can organise a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River, where hippos and crocodiles play, or a tour of the national park with a professional ranger, who can point out the well-camouflaged animals.


I n d i a : H i s t o r y a n d Fa n ta s y

Exotic Discoveries

The Taj Mahal Palace A City Palace in Mumbai Whether they are trading in diamonds, hobnobbing with Bollywood stars, travelling for spiritual reasons or simply sightseeing, most visitors enter India through Mumbai. Established by Portuguese traders, Bombay (as it was then called) became the headquarters for the powerful British East India Company, and more than 300 years later it is still the economic capital of India.


he Gateway of India at Nariman Point was built at the height of the British Empire, a triumphal Western arch dominating an Eastern port. On the edge of the Arabian Sea, a milling press of people compete for space in the shadow of the heavy arch to enjoy the refreshing breeze from the water, to sell postcards and snacks, or to beg for their evening meal. Across the street from the Gateway is the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, opened in 1903 to house the travellers of India in luxury. Mumbai is India’s most glamorous city, and after a century of service to heads of state, film stars, rock stars and business tycoons, the Taj remains the city’s grandest hotel. Purpose- b uilt Luxury

Unlike so many great Indian hotels, the Taj Mahal Palace was specifically built as a hotel by business magnate, philanthropist and nationalist Jamsetji Tata. Innovative in construction, design and services, ideas for the hotel were culled by Jamsetji Tata from all over the world. Ten spun iron pillars were ordered after he saw one at the Paris Exhibition in 1900, and they still support the Taj’s ballroom. No expense was spared in creating the most modern hotel in India, which originally featured 30 suites and 350 rooms. When it opened, the Taj had the first electric light in the city, passenger lifts, a power plant and an ice machine. There was a chemist shop, a post office, a resident doctor, a steam laundry and a Turkish bath. Thirty years later, the first airconditioned restaurant and ballroom in Bombay opened at the Taj, as well as the city’s first licensed bar. In 1973, the Taj Mahal Tower was built next door, on the site of the former Green’s Hotel. The contemporary high-rise building expanded the number of guestrooms and reception rooms, and its modern design highlights the charm of the original hotel.

The elaborate staircase of the Taj Mahal Palace.

2 58

A Mi xt u re o f St y les

The elaborate and imposing façade of the original Taj Mahal Palace hotel still dominates Mumbai harbour. From one angle Moorish, from another convincingly Florentine, it is undoubtedly Indian when viewed as a whole. The hotel was designed by Indian architects Sitaram Khanderao Vaidya and DN Mirza, and completed by English engineer WA Chambers. The foundations were laid in 1898, sunk to 12 m (40 ft). Two arms of guestrooms, each finished with a turret capped by an onion dome, reach out from a central Florentine dome. Indo-Saracenic in style, it incorporates Hindu and Islamic features in an essentially Gothic-revival building. Six storeys high, it is constructed in red and white brick and stone. Under the central dome, a grand staircase rises past all the floors, edged with elaborate ironwork banisters, and supported by stepped stone stringers. The ebb and flow of elegant guests and purposeful staff makes it the heart of the hotel. John Major stayed at the Taj when he was British Prime Minister. One morning as he waited for the lift with a team of security personnel, he sighted the fabulous staircase. Exclaiming ‘What a staircase!’, he started down the stairs, with his entire entourage in pursuit. Other celebrities to stay at the Taj include Cindy Crawford and Jacques Chirac, who were guests at the same time, whereupon the staff went to great lengths to ensure that neither would be given more attention or prominence than the other. When it was built, the hotel entrance was located on the opposite side of the hotel to the harbour, and the Taj stood with her back to the Gateway of India and the water. The modern entrance to the hotel is on the harbour side, and a swimming pool has replaced the old entrance. Cycles of extensive renovation and renewal have ensured that the Taj Group flagship establishment has remained at the

vanguard of luxury hotels. Recent major renovations were completed in 1987 and again in 2003. The hotel closed in November 2008 following a series of terrorist attacks that destroyed much of the interior and badly damaged parts of the exterior, including the roof. After a US$40 million restoration, the Taj Mahal Palace officially reopened in August 2010. Just a few months later, US President Barack Obama visited the Taj. During a speech made on the hotel’s terrace, he said: ‘The Taj has been the symbol of the strength and the resilience of the Indian people.’

The Rajput Suite is steeped in Rajasthani opulence. In the study, there is a striking contrast between the working table and the pleasurable swing. The maharajas were fond of the Taj Mahal Palace, as it was a palatial home away from home for them.



I n d i a : H i s t o r y a n d Fa n ta s y

Lake Palace Hotel Udaipur’s Jewel Shimmering as if it is a mirage – an intriguing trick of the eye – the white


wo small islands were created when Lake Pichola was constructed in the fourteenth century. One of the islands was occupied in 1626 by Muslim exile Sultan Khurram, who was escaping the intrigue surrounding the accession to the Mogul throne. He survived the intrigue to win the throne as Shah Jahan, and later built the Taj Mahal.

marble Lake Palace Hotel seems to float on its own reflection in the

A Vi s i o n i n Wh i te Ma rble

still blue waters of Lake Pichola, framed by the distant Aravalli Range.

Maharana Jagat Singh II, who was the ruler of the House of Mewar as well as the leader of a number of Rajput clans, finished building a series of white marble pavilions set within beautiful gardens on a nearby island, Jag Niwas, in 1746. The gardens were opened with great ceremony, and were then used by the Indian royal family for short visits, entertainment and elaborate picnics. Over the centuries the marble pavilions on the island were expanded, and the gardens enhanced with lily ponds and courtyards. Marble balconies and walls were decorated with paintings and reliefs of historical triumphs, and coloured glass inlays. The rooms were furnished with elaborate local furniture. Udaipur did not manage its affairs or its alliances as carefully as some of its neighbouring states, and did not share their prosperity. By the mid-nineteenth century the island’s marble buildings were in decline, and although additions were made to the complex, a century later it was mouldering and mostly deserted. Maharana Bhagwat Singh became head of the ruling family in 1955, and realised that as Udaipur had no industry, he needed to create business for the region. He bravely converted Jag Niwas Palace into a luxury hotel, hoping to attract tourists to his remote city. The palace is still owned by the Maharana’s second son, Arvind Singh Mewar. The Lake Palace Hotel opened in 1963, and despite its relative isolation it made Udaipur the popular tourist destination it is today. The Taj Group took over management of the hotel in 1971. Now the Taj Lake Palace, it was extensively restored in 2000.

It appears ethereal and unattainable, distant and beautiful.

C u p o la s a n d Co lo n na d es

Remote, mysterious and enchanting, the white marble and mosaic structure of the Lake Palace Hotel is built along the shoreline of a 1.6-hectare (4-acre) island. Occasional cupolas and colonnades break its low bulk, and tantalising hints of hidden green gardens creep to the water’s edge. A wing of modern guestrooms was added when the palace was converted to a hotel, and during later renovations many of the once-open areas were enclosed. The reality of the old palace certainly lived up to its mysterious aura. A design consultant for the initial renovation commented that the original palace was riddled with peepholes, secret passages and hidden

rooms, including one room that could only be entered from a trap door located in the ceiling. Although some of the renovations have been widely criticised as compromising the integrity of the original structure, its development has ensured the survival of the Lake Palace, and it remains as alluring to modern visitors as it was to the rulers of the House of Mewar who relaxed there 250 years ago. One particularly interesting selling point is the claim that the Royal Butlers – descendants of the original palace retainers – look after all contemporary comforts and ensure that all guests are treated like royalty. The reflected romantic beauty of the Lake Palace floating in the still, shallow waters of Lake Pichola has attracted rock stars and royalty, as well as film-makers and photographers seeking out the place that, of all the Indian palaces, epitomises the fantasy of living as the maharajas once did.

The decadent reputation of the Lake Palace Hotel drew the makers of the James Bond film Octopussy (1983), who used the hotel as a prime location in the movie. Top

The Chandra Prakash

Suite boasts decorative gilt mouldings and marvellously sculpted marble. Maharana Bhopal Singh held court in this suite in the 1930s. Opposite page

The hotel

features many terraces that make the most of the stunning lake setting.



South-East Asia: Colonial Indulgence

Raff les Hotel Singapore’s Grand Old Lady British colonial administrator Sir Stamford Raffles identified Singapore as a perfect trading port in 1819. A sleepy fishing village with few inhabitants, it nonetheless had a deep natural harbour and Raffles understood its potential to support the East India Company’s lucrative operations in China. The Bar & Billiard Room at Raffles, a raised structure, is famous for the ‘tiger incident’, during which a tiger that had escaped from a show was chased under the room and killed in 1902.

Many notable authors have visited Raffles Hotel, and the legendary establishment was immortalised in the writings of Rudyard Kipling and W Somerset Maugham.

Opposite page

The Raffles

lobby is an open and airy central space within the historic hotel.

2 74


urthermore, a British stronghold in Singapore could also protect the company against the ambitions in the region of the Dutch in nearby Malacca. ‘What Malta is to the West,’ Raffles once wrote, ‘may Singapore become in the East.’ The British bought the entire island, and all islands within a 16-km (10-mile) radius. Singapore soon attracted fortune-seekers from all over the world, as it became a major British trading post and port. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 significantly shortened the travelling time from Europe, and tourists began arriving in droves. Hotels began to cater to the needs of these intrepid adventurers. The Place to b e Seen

Raffles Hotel is arguably the most well-known hotel in all of Asia. Starting life as a leased ten-room beach bungalow, it was the visionary Sarkies brothers who

recognised its potential as a hotel site. In 1887, they opened the hotel and cleverly named it after Sir Stamford Raffles. The advertisements of the time promised ‘great care and attention to the comfort of boarders and visitors’. It was the first hotel in Singapore to have electric lights and fans (subsequent to the famous ‘punkah wallahs’), a French chef and ‘cuisine of the highest order served at separate tables’. More importantly, it had position, position, position: uninterrupted views of the sea and proximity to the commercial centre of town. Raffles quickly became the only place for visitors to Singapore. One had to be seen at Raffles, either in the Palm Court, the Bar & Billiard Room, the Long Bar, on the verandah sipping the signature Singapore Sling, or taking afternoon tea in the Tiffin Room. Rudyard Kipling’s famous endorsement to ‘Feed at Raffles’ was apparently penned after a particularly stunning meal in the Tiffin Room. However, Kipling also advised visitors to ‘stay elsewhere’. The 1920s and 1930s were probably the most glamorous of the hotel’s history, with all the debonair and darling citizens of the world swanning in and out of the lobby. The Raffles ballroom was also the only stylish place in town for elegant soirees, and it was described as ‘the largest ballroom in the East’. This iconic hotel has had to reinvent itself a number of times over the years and has more than once languished while funds were sought to keep it afloat. Raffles’s sophisticated history has also been accompanied by legal disputes, bankruptcies, the Great Depression and a slump in the lucrative Malayan rubber industry.


C h i na a n d Ja pa n : C e n t u r i e s of Tra d i t i on

The Peninsula The Heart of Kowloon Known affectionately as the Pen, the Peninsula opened in Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon) in 1928 in one of the prime catchment areas for international visitors. Passengers arriving in Hong Kong by ocean liner disembarked onto the quays of Kowloon, and it was also the last stop for European travellers on the Trans-Siberian and Chinese railways.


side from a brief hiccup in its history in 1941 when Japanese forces occupied the hotel and renamed it the Matsumoto Hotel, the Pen has been a constant part of daily life in Hong Kong. Today, this beloved icon is a favourite with business travellers, families and honeymooners, as it allows visitors to immerse themselves in the glamour of a bygone era before they head out to explore the wonders of Hong Kong via the nearby Star Ferry and MTR (Mass Transit Railway).

Harbour to the south, and the city and mountain ranges of Kowloon to the north. Philippe Starck refurbished the new Felix rooftop restaurant, and Orlando Diaz-Azcuy designed the swimming pool and spa on the roof of the new tower. A unique helipad completes the addition.

The Kad o orie Family

Sir Michael Kadoorie at the Peninsula in 2006, on the day the hotel took delivery of 14 new RollsRoyce Phantoms. At that

The Kadoories have been involved in businesses in the Far East since the nineteenth century. Like the Sassoons, they were originally Iraqi Jews from Baghdad who moved to India. Elly Kadoorie, founder of the Peninsula, had a burning desire to create ‘the finest hotel east of Suez’. He first arrived in Shanghai from Bombay (Mumbai) in 1880 (ironically as an employee of the Sassoons), but his business acumen was such that he soon acquired companies in both Shanghai and Hong Kong. Unfortunately, the Kadoories lost some of their Shanghai businesses when the city was liberated in 1949, but they swiftly moved their focus to Hong Kong and built up the diversified conglomerates CLP Holdings and Hong Kong & Shanghai Holdings, owners of the Peninsula. The Pen has remained in the family’s ownership since opening, and Sir Michael Kadoorie is the current Non-Executive Chairman of the Peninsula Hotels group.

ever single order of this

A H istory of Go od Manag emen t

luxury motor vehicle.

The first General Manager of the Peninsula was Leo Gaddi, who was instrumental in restoring the hotel to its former glory after the end of World War II. The French restaurant Gaddi’s, which was opened in 1953, is named in his honour. A new 30-storey tower block addition in 1994 transformed the building. The hotel now has an uninterrupted view of Hong Kong Island and Victoria

Locals and visitors

alike enjoy the experience of taking afternoon tea in the neoclassical lobby of the Peninsula Hotel.


Kong landmark, the Peninsula is the city’s only historical five-star hotel. Left

The stately Peninsula

Suite offers lucky guests unparalleled panoramas

time it was the largest-


Long considered a Hong

of Victoria Harbour.