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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.