Food & Wine Lifestyle Luxury Hotels Travel

Welcome to Berlin, centre of luxury – and other types of – travel

Mary Gostelow and former luxury hotel concierge, Raffaele Sorrentino, Mr Berlin

Raffaele Sorrentino - Mr Berlin - says welcome to this beautiful German city

Welcome to Berlin, gal.  And who better to provide the first few words when arriving in the German capital than Raffaele Sorrentino?  Fascinating guy. One-time head concierge at the Adlon Kempinski, now man of many hats.

He has a private club, looking after the 24/7 needs of a hundred, maximum, High Net Worth Individuals HNWIs.  Want a financial advisor at 10pm a Sunday night? Raffaele can do it.  Want to rent a fabulous apartment?  He can help.

He manages top residential buldings, providing doormen, cleaners and even food.  He co-owns two restaurants and a catering company that will do parties at home through to gatherings for 1,500, possibly in the headquarters of Audi, another of Raffaele’s partners.

Packing light for a four night trip - three jackets, on left, and two shifts, on right

Packing for a four night trip - three jackets, on left, and two shifts, on right

Berlin this week is the capital not only of Germany but the world of travel. This is the annual ITB, a bun-fight of an exhibition that is so large, in 26 football field-sized halls, that buses shuttle round from one hall to another.

The hotel world congregates in hall nine.  What to pack? For a four-night stay in Berlin a gal needs her Nike running shoes, to walk the ITB halls.  For the preceding conference, she needs a couple of jackets, and two evening outfits.

Ergo, simple. Fake fur, pink H&M blouson top and black-and-white all purpose when it comes to jackets. Plain and striped shift to go over black leggings (which double as pre-dawn outdoor-run leg warmers as the gym will not be open in time for pre-run exercise). Everything goes, with ease, into the reliable Rimowa wheelie.

Monica, from Poland, mans the club lounge early morning at the Heathrow Hilton

Monica mans the club lounge at the Heathrow Hilton

Berlin Day One had been an early start.  Getting up at 0430 is never fun.  Fortunately London Heathrow Hilton really understands the needs of the 24-hour traveller. My favourite rooms there are even numbers, on the top floor (fifth floor).

Most stylish way to get ready for a British Airways ‘breakfast flight’ is to stay on the spot, so to speak.  Buy club lounge entrance and you might have Monica-from-Poland on duty.  She is oh so ladylike, so personal.

Club-room buyers get a big lounge with a big fire and a library and free drinks and snacks that include excellent sushi and hommus. International food. Japan and the Middle East.

Fish and chips, with mushy peas and tartare sauce, in the Heathrow Hilton club lounge early morning

Fish and chips, with mushy peas and tartare sauce, in the club lounge

And you can order, at affordable prices, good English must-haves, fish and chips with mushy peas. Club members also get a fabulous buffet breakfast but sadly, this visit, I had to leave too early for that – or for the gym, which opens 0545.

I was on the first (0530) half-hourly shuttle, 15 minutes to Terminal Five. And then, on the flight, full of bleary-eyed hoteliers not exactly eager to, but needing to, get to Berlin for the annual most-necessary European industry conference.

Thank goodness the Adlon, always my home during ITB, has sent a car.  The BMW has sat-nav GPs on the seatbacks, just in case the driver needs navigating help from passengers.  Every driver in Berlin has his own way of getting around, says this driver.  He skirts around the sensational rail station and quite near the Reichstag, with Norman Foster’s glass dome on top.

I seem to be having a back massage along the way. The seat back moves itself forwards and backwards but I dare not press any of the available buttons in case I eject myself, Jack In The Box style, through the sunroof.

Outside the Adlon Kempinski, the winter sunshine brought out rickshaws and protesters

Outside the Adlon Kempinski, the winter sunshine brought out rickshaws and protesters

Arrival at the Adlon, a Leading luxury hotel, is preceded by the start of a protest, against Chancellor Merkel’s proposed cutback on nuclear power.  In today’s late winter sun, a rickshaw cyclist lazes peacefully. I go up four red-carpeted steps to the circular door leading into the lobby.

It is a riot of colour, with three deep amber upside-down-coolie-hat glass lampshades overhead, and a dayglo orange Sixt booth to the left.  Two Ladies in Red, Kempinski’s welcome hostesses I last spied in the lovely Ciragan Palace Kempinski in Istanbul, are there to greet.

That talented New York producer Bruce Tallon had the idea for ladies in red.  Dress’em up, to be easily seen, and they feel good, act good and do good – especially as, when here at the Adlon, they are standing near a gigantic wicker cabooche, painted white, holding welcome Champagne.

Thoughtfully, at the Adlon Kempinski hotel Berlin tops are already taken off Molton Brown toiletries

Thoughtfully, tops are already taken off Molton Brown toiletries

Room 518 feels like home.  Last year this time it did not have an Illy coffee maker – so easy to work, unlike most other espresso makers.  In 2010, this time of year, I swear it did not have an LED television screen.

2012 additions include daily-changing fresh fruit, welcome ‘smelly things’ for a female guest and, nice touch for this guest, the tops of the Molton Brown toiletries are already removed, to save valuable time.

House salad, with cheese, at Il Punto restaurant, Berlin

House salad, with cheese, at Il Punto

First, before going into the luxury hotel existence in Berlin, that meet-up with Raffaele. He picks me up in a little white Fiat emblazoned with his company details.

He manouevres it like a tango partner as he finds a micro space in which to park near Il Punto (one of his two restaurants).  Start with Il Punto salad, not sure when the next proper meal will come.