To be surrounded by glamour makes the gal, or any aesthete on the road, feel good. Greta Garbo greets you as you enter The Pavilion, the new block that goes with the 18th century James Wyatt original that, together with 350 acres of golf and parkland, make up Stoke Park, half an hour’s drive from London’s Heathrow Airport. This is a club, and also a luxury hotel that is not surprisingly a big hit with golfers, plus tennis players and foodies and spa-goers.
I checked on Garbo’s elegant hands, in the image on the wall. How often did she get her nails done? I padded along to the spa, in The Pavilion, for a foot recovery session. A bubbly lady with turquoise nails had me sit on a high stool with my feet in a bubbling water bath. She pushed and she pulled and she scraped and goodness knows what else and my feet did feel better. I love the colour all around.
I love the colour, too, on my favourite dish in The Pavilion’s casual restaurant, which also doubles as the spa restaurant and the eating place for all the fitness addicts. I have had this dish before, I will have it again, a three-colour salad, caprese with avocado. Oh so healthy, right? Add fries, but with no salt, and oh so GOOD, right? I think Paul, who was looking after me – he was dressed, in uniform, as if going to Buckingham Palace – I think he wanted me to have a risotto afterwards, as last time.
This is the most amazing place, an idyllic setting that has been used for shooting bits of such movies as Goldfinger, and Never Say Never Again. This is Bond territory, through and through (not long ago I came to a Bond evening, hope they have one again). It is obviously THE territory for local families who are club members, coming for golf and all the other sports. You navigate the mile-long twisting drive, through the golf course, and there ahead of you is this wedding cake of a house, the palace of Jameses, the Wyatt who designed it, the Bond who was filmed here. Now it is the place that belongs to the King family, Roger and Gilly and their three sons.
One of them, at least, has a sense of fun. Let us go back to The Pavilion block and that initial image of Garbo on the wall of the arrival room. Other wall art around the three-floor block includes Marilyn, lying just so. Goodness only knows if Ms Garbo or Ms Monroe ever came here, but who cares, it is the impression that counts. Someone has put art on the walls that makes people smile, and since this is a hotel that also does lots of conferences and other meetings during the week, it must make participants smile, too.
By upper floor elevators there are two foot-high words, LOVE and SEXY. I have a LOVE at home, but mine is only four inches high, a shiny stainless miniature of the famous Robert Indiana sculpture that he did originally as a Christmas card for the Museum of Modern Art in 1964 . Luxury travel tip. Although you do not want a hotel to be like your home, if you come across something, even one thing, that reminds you of home, you warm to a luxury hotel even more. (One tip, Stoke Park hosts the annual Boodles tennis challenge – this year’s dates are June 18-22, 2013.)