A thoughtfully designed hotel room should bring both comfort and joy according to Tim Magee. The delight is in the details, the little things, and these hotels have thought of everything.
What has happened to the Do Not Disturb signs? I don’t mean the eye-rolling hardy-har door hangers of dad jokes nor the not-sexy, creepy innuendo messaging. Every other week, the room I’m in has no DND sign. No sign means that every sound is intrusive and could be a sheepish knock from scarified housekeeping. It’s not just the Do Not Disturb signs, there are other disturbing signs. Take one part pandemic, add two parts staffing issues with a double shot of inflation and the instinctive stuff we reach for in any hotel room has been going through a messy change, beginning with amenities, those welcome treats to greet that should say you’re special. I’ve had some doozies over the years. The winner, an upgrade to the bridal suite in St Lucia despite being on my tod. It wasn’t the first time I tidied away a fabric representation of a bird murder – red rose petals splattered around a swan towel. This time, nestled between the swans, there was a single condom on a saucer with chocolate drops and a card saying “Have a safe and wonderful Wedding Night”. Surely the first real test of the marriage – a gift designed to ask so many questions with no right answers.
Villa Feltrinelli, Lake Garda.
In some of the world’s best stays, it’s not the marble that you remember but the little things, and even super-spendy hotels can feel generous. VILLA FELTRINELLI on Lake Garda isn’t cheap but it’s better value than a lot of grandes dames in Paris or London, especially if you have no qualms about taking everything that’s on offer. Dry cleaning wrapped in lavender paper. Unlimited champagne and delights from the minibar. Huggable-size Acqua di Parma smellies. Car valeting.
Fauchon L’hôtel, Paris.
In FAUCHON L’HÔTEL in Paris, despite not liking macarons of any calibre, I still milled through their bespoke trunk of treats of bubbles and swish nibbles like it was the last days of Louis XVI. Two very different hotels where the more you eat and drink, the more you save. And it doesn’t have to be flash comp minibars either.
The first time in glorious CLARIDGE’S, I was giddy just having my shoes taken away and polished.
Batty Langley’s, London.
My beloved BATTY LANGLEY’S in Smithfield in London has excellent room service mash and burgundy in bed for the price of a cinema visit. I stopped casing hotel rooms for extra touches some time ago. The first thing is survival. Aside from being in my fifties, what is going to get in the way of my sleep? Water. Lights. Fresh air and temperature. Sound. Water. The first water should be on the house. The next bottle of water should be easy to access, either via steady-handed silver tray service or even a vending machine.
In some of the world’s best stays, it’s not the marble that you remember, but the little things…
Hotel Villa Copenhagen.
You get to drink from the bathroom taps in HOTEL VILLA COPENHAGEN and it’s like playing God. Once the water’s sorted, then add the fixings of a martini – a cocktail station like THE STANDARD, or Brooklyn’s WYTHE and others, with a mise-en-place of gin, vodka, vermouth, a lemon, decent olives and a fast-track to ice should replace trouser presses worldwide. Pre-mixed negronis or Manhattans will do but perched at the end of a bed you don’t have to make, with a just-made martini in hand, should never go out of fashion.
Lights. Where are they and can you turn them all off? There should be a flickable switch beside your bed that turns off the world. For the evil mini green or red blinking eyes of Sauron that wait until bedtime to open, staring right at me and keeping me awake, I carry masking tape. One roll to rule them all.
Air and temperature. Cooled or fresh air – windows that open or air conditioning that works. The time has come to dump the hospital-chic Covid theatre – QR codes, hand cleansers and plague signage. I will happily get vaccinated once a month but a hermetically sealed bedroom with no ventilation is riskier Covid-wise than licking surfaces. Also, breathing is handy. Being woken by the sleep monster sitting on my chest after the AC auto-clicks off at 4am is zero craic, nor is having the breakfast room with the stat set to Assisted Living or waking up in a lather by a last-century radiator with no access to the controls.
Sound. Scan for sound demons, depending on the vintage and locale of the building – how high up can you get, can you hear a noisy lift or loo flushing, if there is a party next door before you go to sleep, it’s only going to get louder later. For decent amenities, please cancel the anaemic strawberries in January with “Welcome” scrawled in chocolate concreted to the plate. Bake, or support neighbourhood bakeries by supplying proper shortbread or salty fudge.
Kimpton Gray, Chicago.
The key is going local like the KIMPTON GRAY HOTEL in Chicago, maybe the best business hotel anywhere, which has emergency gear – ties and pocket squares – from the city’s Tie Bar. Ireland is falling down with the perfect produce to fill an in-room picnic basket. A hotel’s dream that involves no cooking – just an ice bucket, somewicker and a bit of drama, like Red Carnation’s MILESTONE HOTEL’s Midnight Hamper. THE HOTEL ATLANTIC in Aarhus has room slippers knitted by the staff. Finding staff here is hard enough never mind crafty staff but maybe there’s a knitting neighbour nearby? The dreamiest in-room treat though is having your pet with you. It doesn’t suit all hotels but is normal in the US or London or Paris and a way of bringing more business in. My advice until everything settles down is to bring your own upgrades. Pack silicone ear plugs – foam are rubbish. The Manta eye-mask is your own pocket blackout blinds. Wrap it around a Larq self-cleaning water bottle. And start packing your own Do Not Disturb Sign. There is one you can buy that says Disturb Me And I’ll Kill You. Something worth hanging around your neck occasionally on a plane or train, in the pub, at work or even around the house. @manandasuitcase