There is something REALLY special about a personal welcome. The gal can quite understand some over-rushed and over-stressed road warriors wanting it impersonal – check in and open your bedroom door with your smartphone. But, really, in a true luxury hotel having a true welcome makes all the difference. And to arrive at one of the most elegantly tasteful hotels in the USA, the Hotel Bel-Air Los Angeles, and find its boss, Denise Flanders, waiting outside at 8.30 pm was beyond the call of duty.
I am here, for a quick overnight, for a special task – of which more anon. The welcome, meanwhile, goes on and on. An eager young Hollywood could-be is with his boss, and he oh so kindly asks what I need. As all always-travelling ladies experience from time to time, there is a minor emergency. I have broken a nail. No problem. Mr Could-Be Hollywood appears in a few minutes with a brand new pair of clippers that he must have rushed off to buy. He will also make sure that my copy of the Financial Times is waiting before I leave tomorrow at seven (well, ALMOST 12 hours in this lovely hotel, but my life, anyway, is quality rather than quantity).
I am escorted to my room via a garden with exquisite flowers and swans on the river. Elegance and taste are the best descriptions for designer Alexandra Champalimaud‘s interiors, here. She has always come up with such memorable designs, say the bar at Claridge’s in London, and the inner Two-E lounge at The Pierre, New York. Look at the simplicity of suite 395 at the Hotel Bel-Air Los Angeles. The champagne colours and sleek lines whisper crèpe de chîne and, in the ghastly old days of still-smoking, six-inch ivory cigarette holders and strings of pearls below the navel.
Even the shower is gorgeous – and how many luxury hotels’ showers are worth writing home about, and photographing? It is such a simple idea. Put in a mosaic of shapes that echo the stalk of the pristine orchid elsewhere in the room, and add Anne Sémonin toiletries, big size of course, and I wish I did have a crèpe de chîne robe. Even better, however, is the blue and white striped hotel nightshirt, in softest cotton. Put this on and I am all ready for ‘the task in hand’…