And so, the gal is lucky enough to be last-nighting in one of the world’s top luxury hotels, just as it is about to close for the summer. Le Cheval Blanc is last but one hotel as you drive up the Courchevel 1850 road, to the staging post of the Jardin Alpin cable car. The hotel’s highlights are many and varied and, honestly, that horrid word ‘bling’ is never, not even fleetingly, appropriate. The other guests here, last nighting, range from men whom you would love your daughter to bring home, to captains of Singapore industry and ladies who know that understatement is the height of luxury. Perhaps start the day with a swim, towards an end wall that looks like boulders – to one side, through an all-glass window, a team of nine frisky huskies rushes by, pulling a sled with a tall man and a little girl. The pool’s water shimmers with colour from underwater lights that change shade in unison with the front of the pool bar.
Come out of the pool for the sauna, hammam and ice shower, or perhaps the Guerlain Spa, or a spell on a Citterio-designed Technogym jogger. Head back to the elevators and, as you wait, you admire a display of real Berluti shoes, one of each pair. The only son of the owner of Le Cheval Blanc, Antoine Arnault, is also famous for being the other half of Russian model Natalia Vodianova – and for being chairman of LVMH portfolio member Berluti, the 1895-vintage cobbler that he wants to make into an entire all-round brand, as exclusive as Hermès. Actually there are remarkably few points of LVMH intrusion here, though once you know, you can see Antoine Arnault’s father’s influence everywhere, though the tiny-skiers signature pattern on envelopes’ interiors, and on notepad covers are taken from a triptych, now in White restaurant, that used to hang in his office.
I am sure that rubber flipflops do not fit into the LVMH portfolio, but how well they fit into the room supplies here. As well as taupe fabric slippers, with pointed toes, Turkish style, you get brand-new flipflops with an outline of mountains on them. Of course they are taupe – they match the shoe bags, the laundry bags, the bespoke toiletries (that include bath-salt cubes, to complement the loose salts on the tub’s butler’s tray). Of course you have a light-and-steam shower, and a heated towel rail, and free WiFi, what do you expect? This place is quality, and designer Sybille de Margerie – think Mandarin Oriental Paris – is a genius of simplicity paired with uniqueness. End room 306 looks down at two Mongolian yurts, also known as the kids’ club; also down there is a separate villa, which will be doubled in size by the re-opening, December 12th, 2014, when it will have five bedrooms.
Room 306 has an angled ceiling, with big unvarnished pine beams. Its side walls are pale grey-taupe, with six-foot outlines, in white, of pine cones and foliage. Dull red is used for a floor standing lamp, some interior walls, and two felt bags that hold bedside bottles of Evian. Taupe leather is used for the wallet for the room keycard, and for a tray that holds pen and paper, on the top of the big table which forms the desk. Wood drawers, with leather handles, are lined in brown felt. Grey-taupe hangers all have non-slip arms. I put out the Do Not Disturb ‘sign’, a brush of fox tail, and look down the H-shaped corridor. On all three main floors, these are all-wood, unvarnished and simple, with the occasional trio of white-wood working cuckoo clocks, fortunately without the cuckoos.
Simplicity is a word that does actually spring to mind here. Take the food. I have already raved about dinner, when the barely adorned table, set with the now-ubiquitous Peugeot salts and peppers and lilies in a glass, is complemented by bread rolls simply brought in a linen sack. The butter is a round from Normandy, on its own china plinth. I am absolutely thrilled that at this august place there are no extras. No amuses. Nothing ‘with the chef’s compliments’, no pre-dessert, no pressure at all. Will all other top, and not-top chefs, take note. Giving customers multiple extras they have not ordered is not only paving the road to obesity but is essentially arrogant.
Take breakfast, here at this stylish luxury hotel. It is a massive buffet, set in the middle of White restaurant, with soft croon-music that for some reason makes me think of The Carlyle. The mango slices are perfect, as are the berries, the array of yoghurts (the hotel’s own-made tastier than the Danone pots). I look at the whimsical menu, to choose my eggs, and try to decide which croissant is the one I really need. And then Eric Boonstoppel, MD of Le Cheval Blanc portfolio, appears unannounced. He has flown back from St Barth’s specifically to help close up Le Cheval Blanc Courchevel… as I leave, indeed, the Louis Vuitton store, leading off the hotel’s lobby, is nearly completely empty (what has not been sold to LV-hungry customers is now packed up, for storage).