I love hotels. Especially historic and/or unique hotels. Sometimes I’ll plan a trip just so I can stay at a property I’ve dreamt about, and I’ve been lucky enough to stay in some pretty special places. There’s a quote attributed to Aristotle Onassis that sums it up for me. “Wherever you go, try to stay at the most famous hotel, even if you can only afford the smallest room.” That’s me!
Here’s a list of my favorite hotels — so far — and why:
1. The Delano, Miami
This property – a Morgans Hotel – in South Beach, is all modern and slightly surreal. The decor is by Phillipe Stark, meaning that there are Eames chairs, gold-dipped tree stumps, artwork by Dali and Gaudi, white slip-covered furniture, outdoor beds, giant chess pieces and much, much more. I stayed in the smallest, cheapest room (meaning it was incredibly small but not cheap!) There was barely room to move around – but it was stylish. Every surface was bright white or mirrored. Made me feel like a rock star. Of course when I hit the streets of Miami later in search of dinner, I was reminded that I am not a rock star. Normally I think I’m fairly attractive, but in Miami I start to feel like a wallflower. So many beautiful people! I did splurge on a special bath at the rooftop spa. Sounds silly, but it was a great experience. I bathed in a white claw foot tub, filled with rose petals and salts. The “walls” were flowing white curtains. A big stainless steel pitcher of ice water had been prepared for me and placed next to the tub on a small table. I was given a fluffy white robe to wear back to the room afterwards…really dreamy.
2. The Peninsula, Hong Kong
This, of course, is a true classic – built in Hong Kong in 1928. There is nothing like walking into the lobby of The Peninsula to make you feel like you’ve truly arrived. The Colonial era pillars, gilded ceilings and rows of palm trees are a perfect welcome to Asia. The service is perfection. And of course, getting picked up at the airport in their signature green Rolls Royce might seem pretentious somewhere else, but here it feels like you’ve finally come home. Tea in the lobby is a must-do if you stay here (or even if you’re staying somewhere else). Unfortunately, by the time I got to stay here, the era of bellboys walking through the lobby with a guest’s name on a tall placard, alerting travelers of a message or phone call, had passed. But you can still feel the same ‘grand manners’ of long ago, throughout this hotel.
3. Villa San Michele, Florence
A former monastery in the hills above Florence, the building that houses this hotel dates from the 15th century — and the facade is attributed to Michelangelo. Everything in and around the place is perfect “Italiano”. Lush, rolling hills, cyprus trees, roses, a classic loggia. A sort of spiritual calm envelopes you as you enter the front doors…as if you’ve entered one of Italy’s famous cathedrals or museums. The food – and of course the wine – is amazing. There is a lovely outdoor pool, too. On the day that I was checking out, a vintage car show was about to begin. It was lovely walking along the stone walkways that meandered down to the main road as vintage autos circled up to the top of the hill, one after another. By the way, this is an Orient Express property – I don’t think more needs to be said…
4. The Metropole, Hanoi
This hotel is now called the Hotel Sofitel Legend Metropole and it has been given what appears to be an amazing makeover. When I stayed there, the legendary grand dame needed a nip and tuck, or at the very least a fresh coat of lipstick. The rooms were plain then, and hadn’t been updated in quite some time – but it didn’t diminish the experience. I loved being in this historic hotel. The property is located in the French Quarter, near the Opera House. Cyclos (rickshaw) drivers line up outside to whisk you away on an adventure. The breakfasts were beautiful and decadent. Bowls of fresh lychees and dragon fruits were left in our room, along with fresh orchids. Even then, the service was stellar. I completely forgot about the shag carpet and the lumpy bed. However, I’d love to go again now that she’s been so beautifully updated. I’ll have to see if I can find a deal – I’m willing to wait for one!