Check into any luxury hotel these days and you see, it seems, larger and larger wheelie suitcases. These play havoc with a property’s interiors. Consumers rush from elevator to bedroom regardless of wall panels, ledges and skirting boards. The gal remembers management at Hôtel de Paris in Monte-Carlo, which must have miles of ‘wedding cake frill’ white moulding along its lower corridors, complaining about the maintenance required as a result of wheelie-bag misbehaviour. Frankly, the more seasoned the traveller the smaller the suitcase. In Milan a few months ago, the sight of a bevy of Rimowa beauties is a reminder of what a great company Rimowa is. The cases are made of copper-aluminium alloy duralumin, as invented by Alfred Wilm in 1906, with ABUS combination locks, YKK zips and 14-digit serial numbers.
Based in Cologne, Rimowa is owned by third-generation boss, Dieter Morszeck. The company appears to be able to mend any mishap – to suitcase rather than its handler, that is. When I was at Excelsior Hotel Ernst in Cologne’s centre, the hotel concierge offered a Rimowa medical check. Two hours after I handed over my beloved Porsche Design case, made by Rimowa, it was returned, with a new extending handle and good as new. Ah ha, but this time I had a different problem. I never use escalators unless I can help it. I hunp my things up and down stairs at airports (great exercise). So here I am, me and Porsche Rimowa going down the long flight of stairs at Delhi airport and click, the pair of metal teeth at one end of the end handle give way. My new friends in Bangalore wanted to help but nothing worked, and of course every hotel person tried to hold the case by the end…
Once again Rimowa itself came to the rescue. Head for Alba luggage next to London’s Baker Street, Rimowa’s head office said. I emailed Bob at Alba who said the operation would take five minutes and 30 seconds. I booked the suitcase in. I flew into Heathrow, had an excellent breakfast in the British Airways’ Arrivals lounge and took the Heathrow Express to Paddington, and walked along to Baker Street. Alba was just opening. A young man looked at the case, took it away, presumably to the operating theatre upstairs, and brought it back good as new, with a stronger, new-style end handle. It did take eight minutes but who cares? First class customer service, from both Alba and Rimowa.
After that, and a consultation at the Apple Store, it was time for a meeting at The Connaught. First requirement was the ladies’ washroom. Quite apart from the fact that it was manned, if that is the word, by a chic young lady who looked like a Miss World, but much more natural and friendly, I loved the display of lilies there, and the array of perfumes, all good brands and all ready for anyone to use. I have talked before about the importance of public washrooms in hotels but I suppose GMs usually do not check out, or think about, the ladies’ facilities. Here, however, the GM is female, the absolutely lovely French-Swiss Nathalie Sailer-Hayez, who somehow manages not only this iconic hotel but a husband who is a concierge in Paris and two young kids. Talk about multi-skilling.
We have lunch, during which she orders tea. It comes in a shiny pot with a fabric handle to prevent delicate hands being burned. More evidence of style. We look out over Carlos Place and its 20 metre-long decorative pool, an oval shape about a foot off the ground. Designed by Tadao Andao and called Silence, every 30 minutes steam somehow erupts from around the mature tree coming out of the pool’s centre. I hear that The Connaught, which traces its history back to 1815, when it was called The Coburg, still attracts mostly Americans, followed by Brits. This is the hotel for celebrities who do NOT want to be seen – there are other superb hotels in town wher big names can make a splash.
This is a truly luxurious area of London’s Mayfair. At right angles to the south of Carlos place is Mount Street, home of Christian Louboutin and Marc Jacobs, and Purdey for guns, and Scott’s seafood restaurant. Look out across the Tadao Andao and you have Roland Mouret – Nathalie Sailer-Hayez is a big fan of his. She is, by the way, planning big things for the forthcoming fifth birthday of the hotel’s signature Apartment, designed by the late David Collins. What a lovely place this suite is, with its blue and whites, and its catflap so that butlers can pass food in without seeing what is going on inside… but then what a lovely place this whole luxury hotel is. After I have finished every morsel of my Dover sole I, and the botoxed Rimowa, go on our way, past some of the local shops.