Look for the unexpected when travelling and life becomes much more fun, says the gal. When confronted by a ten-foot metal kimono-shaped sculpture formed of joined disks well, she had to climb in. It greets you, this ‘thing’, at Chynna restaurant on the fifth floor of Hilton Beijing Wangfujing, part of the Macau Center (no not the Macau Center that used to have a Swissôtel in it; this one is in Dongcheng, just east of the Forbidden City).
Another outfit is displayed on the luxury hotel’s fifth floor, namely an example of the gear that Team China will be wearing in the 2012 Olympics. Hilton HHonors is a sponsor of the team, which will certainly stand out in such colourful attire, designed by Li-Ning.
This year, as in 2008 – when Beijing hosted the Olympics – Team China is dressed by China’s largest supplier of household textiles, Hengyuanxiang, chaired by the enthusiastic Liu Ruiqi (for the record, the Azeri team’s uniforms are by Ermanno Scervino, Hong Kong’s by Kent & Curwen, UK’s by Stella McCartney and Team USA is clad by none other than Ralph Lauren).
Making the ordinary extraordinary, I think of Antonio Citterio’s designs for Technogym runners, as at Radisson Royal in Moscow.
I think of my beautiful Dualit toaster back home and, of course, of All Things Apple. Ceo Tim Cook was on BBC World this morning – while I was working out on the Precor elliptical in the 24-hour gym here at Hilton Beijing Wangfujing – hinting that Apple might well come up with a television before year’s end.
Wonder what that will look like? Cannot imagine one embellished with passepartout, as is the craze for young women’s iPhones here in Beijing. There are stunning sculptures by elevators on each of the 16 floors at this hotel. Photograph them, and they look bathed in blue light. Making the ordinary extraordinary.
Every traveller has bits and pieces that are essential travel companions. I have a little copper-coloured bag that came as a freebie, filled with makeup samples, when I bought this or that.
The bag matches much of my evening gear, its handle fits over my wrist so essential when I am cycling, say around Tiananmen Square and I want to hold both telephone and room key. Here it is shown with a bright blue mini-sculpture, making its second appearance on girlahead.
Bought in Sofia, at the airport, it opens up to reveal a European plug, a UK plug and a US plug, any of which will fit with either of its companions to give every imaginable socket other than those of Australia-China and India-South Africa (Y-shaped for the former, and big-three-rounds for the latter).
They are shown here on an excellent little Penta booklet, explaining all the hotel’s restaurants, that sits prominently in the glass-lined armoire that holds my espresso machine and minibar. Again, unusual.
The hotel’s 75-foot indoor pool, beautifully lined with small mother-of-pearl-like tiles, opens at six each morning. Down either side are drape-topped double loungers and lots of comfortable seating, and massage stools for quick work on your back and full massage beds for longer work.
As required worldwide, there are lifebelts, but, original as always here under creative GM Marc de Beer, the lifebelts are loosely attached to the sides of chairs to look like part of the decoration.
A sheep could also be merely decorative but this one, in the hotel’s Vasco all-day restaurant, holds magazines.
There are quirky elements – like the already-mentioned metal kimono – throughout Trisha Wilson’s design for this 255-room hotel. The fifth floor, which houses all the restaurants and the main bar, has lots of Arabesque cut outs, on solid walls and on glass walls that give some privacy to private dining rooms.
We dined in one of the two private-dining Vintage Bank rooms (cannot call them restaurants, one seats up to eight, the other up to four, and in both areas you are more or less surrounded by some of the hotel’s 10,000 wine bottles, plus glass walls, in this case plain).
This was a table-for-two in a glass menagerie, a reminder of when an author, had to be American, wrote a book describing dinners with interesting people, and publicised it by literally dining in the window of Barnes & Noble on New York’s Fifth Avenue, watched by Manhattan’s passers-by.
Fortunately as I sat with Marc de Beer talking about his forthcoming performance in Oklahoma (the show, not the State of the great USA), and the world in general, there were not too many passers-by.
I had expected an ordinary salad. I got an extraordinarily tasty concoction of organic vegetables and salad ingredients from a farmer about two hours’ drive from Beijing.
Breakfast can be in the fabulous light-and-airy top (16th) floor club lounge, with an onsite chef cooking eggs on demand. It can also be taken in the fifth floor Vasco restaurant, where several chefs man several tables.
One is exclusively covered with salad ingredients for you to make your own early-day concoction. Another has an array of different cabbages for that particular chef to produce the noodle soup of your choosing. The attendant bonsai is, one suspects, purely for decoration – but who knows, expect the unexpected…