Home Away From Home

By Louise Ure

(Sorry if you’ve tuned in to hear from Ken Bruen this Tuesday. We’re doing some rescheduling, and I’ve jumped in again.)

There have been a lot of hotel rooms in my recent past. A lot of minibars and scratchy TV images and windows that don’t open. But I had a chance to enjoy an especially fine hotel while at the Edgars this weekend, and I don’t mean the Grand Hyatt where all the festivities were held.

The Hyatt was fine, don’t get me wrong. They did about as good a job as a giant, faceless hotel chain can do. But there’s something wrong with the image when there’s a line of automatic check-in kiosks at the front desk but not one living hotel employee behind them.

No, my fine hotel experience was the luncheon at the Carlyle Hotel on 76th Street with my agent, Philip Spitzer.

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It’s always a joy to spend time with Philip anyway, but this one was special. You see, his son is a waiter in the Carlyle’s famous dining room, and he kept bringing over courses of things he thought we’d particularly enjoy.

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The ice tea gave way to an especially warming Pinot Noir. Our simple pasta lunch was augmented by a “Mille Crepe” dessert. (You’ve heard of Mille Feuille? The dessert with a thousand, thin puff pastry layers? Try it with a thousand paper-thin layers of crepe and surrounded by an intensely reduced raspberry sauce.)

It took us a full three hours to get past the stories, the news, the health updates, and the jokes and onto business. It was grand, made all the better by the surroundings.

The Carlyle fits almost squarely into the kind of hotels I prefer: older than 75 years and fewer than 75 rooms. (I have to cheat a little bit with the Carlyle as it has 187 rooms, but with its reputation as John F. Kennedy’s love nest and having Woody Allen drop by every Monday night to play in the bar, I’m willing to cut it some slack.)

I don’t always have the luxury of sticking to that 75/75 rule, sometimes for financial reasons and sometimes for scheduling, but here are a few more of my favorites:

Tucson

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Lodge on the Desert, Tucson, Arizona

Begun as a private residence in 1936, The Lodge on the Desert has expanded to 60+ adobe bungalows set among eight acres of gorgeous desert landscaping in the heart of mid-town. I have written more of my best lines at dawn on my private patio there than any other place I’ve ever worked.

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Pavillon de la Reine, Paris, France

Opened in the 17th century, this place surely meets my “more than 75 years old” guideline. It also has the sweetest, most buttery croissants from room service — better than any other place in Paris. You’ll fall in love all over again.

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The Sorrento, Seattle, Washington

At the top of the Madison hill, the 100-year old Sorrento offers gorgeous views of downtown Seattle. If you can tear your eyes away from the tea room or the Hunt Club on the first floor, that is. And they take dogs. Nuff said.

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Ventana Inn, Big Sur, California

Okay, I’m cheating. Ventana Inn is only thirty-four years old. But it has only sixty guest rooms, so maybe it sort of averages out. Set on 243 acres on the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean, Ventana Inn is the place to make you forget your real life no matter how crazy it is. And you even get your own personal hammock on your porch.

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Amandari, Bali, Indonesia

Okay, more cheating. This Ubud sanctuary was only built in the 1980’s, but when it’s this perfect, it still makes the list. Private bungalows with sliding walls that open to create instant ramadas. Private gravity-edge pools. Private outdoor sunken tubs where two Balinese beauties strew your bath with rose petals, wash you, dry you, and then massage you. This is your brain in Paradise.

Okay, ‘Rati. I need more suggestions. Do you know of any 75/75 hotels? I’m in a traveling mood.

PS: Here’s my favorite photo from the Edgar weekend, with thanks to Elaine Flinn for sharing it. I can attest that Ken’s arms are as warm as his words.

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LU

27 thoughts on “Home Away From Home

  1. Lisa

    Louise,If you’re ever in Portland, OR, check out the Benson — I’m pretty sure it exceeds the 75 room rule, but it’s a grand old Art Deco building from the 1920s, and walking distance from Powell’s. They take dogs too.

    And when I was there for my cousin’s wedding, the 24 Hour Church of Elvis was open for business just around the corner…The wedding wasn’t there, alas.

    Reply
  2. JT Ellison

    I desperately want to go to the hotel in Big Sur. THANK YOU for posting these — what a lovely, wonderful resource.

    I am a hotel junkie. I figure if I’m going to travel, I should be comfortable. My all time favorite is Tenuta la Cascinetta in Pinarolo, Italy. It’s an old monastery (late 16th century) converted to a intimate hotel, 12 rooms, 2 suites and it’s lovely. The food is fresh, made there, they give you grappa and cappuccino — oh, I want to go NOW!

    http://www.tenutalacascinetta.it/

    Reply
  3. Louise Ure

    Now I just need to find a reason to go to Pinarolo, Italy. That place sounds gorgeous, JT.

    It was great to see you in NYC, JT, however briefly!

    Reply
  4. Karen Olson

    OMG, I want to go to Pinarolo now, too! Looks fabulous!

    I did a lot of family travel when I was a travel editor, and usually would stay at larger places. My ultimate favorite place was the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay. Stunning scenery, stunning property, amazing food, and the best spa.

    Reply
  5. Louise Ure

    That Ritz-Carlton at Half Moon Bay is a fairly new one, isn’t it, Karen? I remember being quite snarky when a whale washed up on their beach right after they opened. It was months before they could get the decaying carcass moved.

    Reply
  6. billie

    Wow, Louise, I really needed some armchair travel this morning and you took good care of satisfying that! Gorgeous places.

    I have to say, though, my favorite photo is the last one – what a wonderful shot of two great Murderati writers!

    Here’s to getaways for all of us, soon!

    Reply
  7. Louise Ure

    Hi Billie,

    A little quiet time with Ken in NYC was as refreshing as any of these getaways. I was so pleased that Elaine was there with her trusty camera.

    Reply
  8. Louise Ure

    Patty, I was counting on you! Come on. Fess up. I know you’ve got a dozen of these little gems tucked away.

    And JT, hot pink gladiator sandals? The mind boggles.

    Reply
  9. Elaine Flinn

    Great article, Louise! I’m a hotel slut too – and loved your take on the Grand Hyatt – and the Caryle. I had lunch with Larry Gandle at Jean Georges at Trump’s Hotel and talk about a sterile hotel? Tiny lobby and no personality at all. Lisa beat me to it – The Benson in Portland is my favorite as well. The food is top notch – AND – they still have ‘smoking room’s. 🙂

    Ventana is definitely a ‘one-of-a-kind’ hotel. In my former backyard, we stopped there often for lunch.

    But oh! My very favorite is The Moana in Honolulu. Built in 1904 (if memory serves)and reeked in history. Breakfast on the lanai is a must! A live harpist – the gorgeous banyan tree – the sound of the surf. I’m packing right now. I wish. 🙂

    It was great to spend time with you at the Edgar’s – happy as hell to have that great shot of you with Ken – and I’m going to take your advice about the ballet shoes. My feet are still three times too big. But hell – I’ll take swollen feet anytime if I’ve had a terrific time. And I did.

    Reply
  10. Louise Ure

    The Moanna in Honolulu sounds divine, Elaine.

    And have you noticed how much easier it is to find a dog-friendly room … hell, probably even a heroin-friendly room … than a smoking room these days?

    Put your feet up and relax, my dear.

    Reply
  11. Rae

    My very favorite hotel in the whole world is on the Left Bank. It’s called the Relais St. Jacques, and it’s mere steps away from the Luxembourg Gardens and the Blvd St. Michel and the Sorbonne, and, and, and….

    The hotel has 20 – 30 rooms, and is a bit off the beaten path, on a more residential sort of a street.

    The people are lovely, the rooms are comfy, the coffee’s good….I can’t imagine staying anywhere else.

    Reply
  12. Louise Ure

    Rae, I knew you’d have a Paris fave! Oddly enough, I think I stayed there once before … maybe back in the 80’s. I adored it. And I think it’s going to be time for another Paris trip soon. For the last decade I’ve chosen to take my vacation travel in Asia or Australia. Time to head to Europe again.

    Reply
  13. Elaine Flinn

    And speaking of that great shot of you with Ken – it was one of those moments of great mutual affection and admiration that begs to be kept and framed. I feel so lucky to have been there to capture it…

    Reply
  14. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Drooling over these hotels. Trust LU to find so many combinations of art and luxury.

    I have to say the Arizona Biltmore rocked my world. And then I had my other favorite experience right after – sleeping on a houseboat on Lake Powell. There are no words for how gorgeous and sensual that is…

    Reply
  15. Dave Arnold

    The Blue Gum Motel in Willows gets my vote. Cleans sheets, hot water, cable TV that works sometimes and thirty-seven bucks a night. That, and Prateema cooks a mean sag paneer. What’s not to like?

    Reply

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