Luxury Hotels

Saturday-5. Five great bathtubs

And now, according to schedule, the gal chooses five greats.  Here we have Five Great bathtubs, in alphabetical order.

At Belmond Copacabana Palace, Rio de Janeiro, the views from sixth-floor rooftop suites are sensational. In 601, as soon above, the tub is by the window. There, across avenida Atlantica is Copacabana Beach. From the first hint of daybreak there are people exercising down there, playing volleyball and so on.  And all that working out makes YOU feel better as you fill the bath with local Granado toiletries.

Loews Regency, San Francisco, is still benefiting from the publicity the building got when it opened in 1987 as Mandarin Oriental San Francisco – people raved then about the views from bathtubs, especially from the higher floor of the 158-room hotel (the hotel goes up to the 48th floor of the building).  Last time I stayed in room 4404 and loved having Bushnell binoculars, and Julien Farel toiletries.

Bathrooms at Ritz-Carlton Millenia, Singapore, have big octagonal windows  – and end suites -16 or -26 (overlooking the Singapore Flyer Ferris wheel) have particularly outstanding views. If possible I would always choose floor 32, for its proximity to one of luxury travel’s best executive club lounges, run by the lovely Sheila Benzon. Really regular guests get bathrobes with their initials.

Shangri-La Hotel At The Shard, London, rises to the 52nd floor of the 310 metre-tall building. My last stay was in suite 4802, looking far down to the Thames and, immediately across that river, the historic Tower of London, built by William the Conqueror in 1078 (it looks so tiny down there!).  Luxuriate in your Villeroy & Boch bathtub with masses of L’Occitane bubbles.

At W Hong Kong, it seems everything is oversized. The 393-room hotel rises to 70 floors, and even normal rooms have double-length Jacuzzi tubs. For the ultimate, however, take the 220 sq m Extreme Wow Suite, which comes with black walls, and a bathtub for eight, a lucky number for Chinese. If you want yet more water, head for the hotel’s main pool, outside on a sky-high 76th floor rooftop.

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Luxury Hotels

Manhattan ultra-chic, oh so unforgettable

Welcome, from Amal Fadhel, GM Richard Bussiere, and an Alex Katz, behind

From hard hats to sunhats but NO-one is stupid enough to wear a sun hat in Manhattan (that would be as gauche as wearing dungarees with straw hanging from the corner of your mouth). Noo Yawk is Manhattan-luxury, not the same as Milan, or Paris, or Sydney, but iconic world-class luxury.  As the gal buzzed quickly up Fifth Avenue to do errands it immediately felt like home with energy turned up to full volume.  It had started on arrival at the genuinely friendly and totally memorable Langham hotel, where somehow the doormen and bellmen feel like a welcome party, at all times.

Welcome, in the room

I felt as if I were coming into an art gallery surrounded by friends. Among the art in the lobby of this hotel are several of the hotel’s 25 original artworks by Alex Katz, the 90-year old New York known for developing a fascinating dialogue between realism and abstract, pop art and contemporary (is it true these two are worth a million dollars between them? Check his prices online). Here, the somewhat intimate lobby space seems full, of Katz’ interpretations of the banking types who do actually work around here – plus, of course, the charming people who run this 214-room hotel.  A Tibetan showed me up to the top, 27th, floor, carefully identifying, once we had arrived at 2704, all the rooftops and pinnacles around.

Part of the 360° skyline

This had once been an office building – what a waste, with such views around. It then became a Setai, masterminded by Günther Richter, but that did not last long.  In 2013, the hotel, with interiors by Meyer Davis, was bought by Great Eagle, who put in the art and took over management, via its own Langham brand. GM Richard Bussière is a long-time Langham man whom I first met shortly after Langham converted what had been Le Méridien Boston.  He is always coming up with ideas, making sure I had a welcome that made me feel totally in the pink.  He has the quality products to make his ideas happen. Everything is the best, say Astor chocolates, and elegant L’Objet china, and, a word I normally never use but it works here, plush towels. Would I like any pressing done? It will be back in an hour. It was, of course, on a hanger and plastic-wrapped.

In the morning, a portrait of Mrs Katz says welcome to complimentary lobby coffee

He also has the advantage of a first class restaurant partnership, with Wisconsin-born Michael White, whose Altamarea Group now has nine restaurants, including the Michelin-starred Ai Fiori here.  It is second floor (challenge one, although you can reach here from Fifth Avenue via 30 curved marble steps, up from the lobby), a bar with no windows (challenge two). We arrived at 7.30 p.m. and we only just managed to get a table in the bar – the adjacent restaurant was booked solid. The bar experience was 10/10, from big smile welcome, immediately brought water without having to ask and so on. My glass of Brusco dei Barbi Fattoria Barbi 2015 came as big empty glass, bottle for presentation, small tasting poured, then my purchase amount poured, in front of me, into a glass measure, and elegantly then poured in two stages.  My pan-seared sea scallops with artichoke, olives and zucchini were memorable. And 12 hours later, after a night so good I cannot remember it, and yet another workout in the admirable Technogym, there I was, back again in Ai Fiori, this time for an outstanding cup of Colombian coffee  The partnership between White and Langham is so seamless that I momentarily forgot they are not the same. AND NOW SEE A VIDEO OF SUITE 2704

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Luxury Hotels

More on Rio’s stylish Copa

A wall in Pérgola

Andrea Natal, in charge of the iconic Belmond Copacabana Palace, is always creating (not the same as improvising – everything she does is well thought out).  At the moment she is about to start renovating the 400-seat tiered theatre that is part of the rear of the hotel: her communications supremo, Cassiano Vitorino, took the gal on a hard-hat tour, above. She is also getting into creative mode for the mammoth Gucci store, attached to the front of the hotel and opening on to Avenida Atlantica, that will replace the current H. Stern, which will relocate inside the main building.  She has already finished redoing Pérgula, the all-day restaurant that offers inside and air-conditioned, or outdoor, poolside.

Still remaining is Pérgula’s superb trompe l’oeil shown in the photo on the upper left: it was done by French artist Dominique Jardy in 2017, 20 years after she produced similar stylized local views for other public areas, including behind what is now the chocolate stall in the main lobby.  Pérgula’s overall new-look was tweaked by a Belmond favourite, Muza Lab, no not Inge Moore, who did such a splendid job on Belmond’s Andean Explorer train, but one of her colleagues. Next time I return here I will hope to dine once again at MEE, the Asian restaurant that is overseen by Ken Hom. And I have promised Cassiano Vitorino that I will do a Sugarloaf Mountain climb with him: perhaps if I do make it my photo might be added to the 128-strong rogues’, sorry VIPs’ gallery.  Already there is more to do here than ever before.  The hotel always had Caloi bikes which it rented out for the beach circuit, along the length of Copacabana and back, over four kilometres.  Now the surroundings are not quite literally but quite obviously littered with put-in-rack and also with drop-anywhere bikes.

There are put-in slot and drop-anywhere bikes, and electric scooters

I did not see any drop-anywhere electric scooters, thank goodness.  The news that electric scooter startup Bird has been the fastest company ever to reach US$1 billion valuation is scary.  The scooters are potentially dangerous and they need armies of workers to find them, wherever they have been dropped, and charge them every night. No, on this trip to this vibrant city I was happy merely walking along Avenida Atlantica and seeing the sights, whether human or weirdly artistic.  As always there were opportunists building elaborate sandcastles in the hope of a few bills, especially greenbacks, fluttering their way.

Andrea Natal miraculously appears to say goodbye

It is easier for Americans to come here now since eVisas are so speedy – those flying back to the USA, or even to UK, need to know ahead of time that the American Airlines airside lounge is one of the most gracious anywhere, with super food and a good choice of wines, all served in full-size Chef&Sommelier glasses.  And yes, even though I ate, and drank, superbly at the unforgettable Belmond Copacabana Palace, I, like many, was still a little peckish when we got to the airport, though a mostly-stationary 75-minute traffic snarl.  My lasting memory, however, is of Andrea Natal miraculously appearing by front desk to say farewell.  Now THAT is one of the signs of a true luxury innkeeper.


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