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Thursday, October 1, 2009

In Search of the Perfect Hotel

Where Triple P was when he wrote this...


Agent Triple P spends somewhere between 15% and 30% of his time overseas. This means a lot of hotels and the more he travels the fussier he becomes. It was recently suggested to him by HMS, on a visit to Aquae Sulis, that, perhaps, he should devote more time to international hotels and less time to international swimsuit models. Of course, Triple P would not hold that one should have primacy over the other and indeed, sometimes, the two combine quite splendidly (he remembers, with great pleasure, a Japanese swimsuit shoot by the pool in the Mandarin Oriental in Kula Lumpur).

Over the next month Triple P will be visiting no less than 10 international hotels, of which 3 will be first time stays. Triple P often makes notes about the hotels he is staying in but has rarely written these up; often because he gets distracted during his stay by other things which demand more immediate attention. This does mean that he has a large backlog of accounts to draw on as well. So, over the next few months he intends to assess past and present hotels he has stayed in to see if we can get close to the ideal of The Perfect Hotel.

Triple P is currently writing this in the Inter-Continental in Warsaw. Or, rather, he is dictating it and the lovely B is typing it on account of the fact that she is a girl and there is no ironing for her to do. She has said that she won't type that but then she leaves tomorrow before Triple P does so he can put it back in.

Important factors

A good hotel is far more than simply a place to stay. Triple P can never understand people who allow others to choose their hotels. It is far too important a decision to leave to others. A good hotel is: a refuge (often from frightful foreign ghastliness), a place to impress and entertain women, an office, somewhere to people watch (Triple P never orders room service if he is alone), and a source of good food and wine.

Every assessment, however, subjective, and objective assessments are not Triple P's style at all, can benefit from some criteria and Triple P will attempt to outline his most important now:

1 Location

Location, of course, is relative but a central location (rather than on the outskirts) is important.

The Chateau Frontenac is Quebec City

2 Appearance

Is the hotel architecturally striking? Perhaps it is so striking that it is a landmark in itself or, even, in a few rare cases, a building that is a symbol of the city itself (such as the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City).

3 Lobby and common parts.

Nothing lifts Triple P's spirits more, after a long and tiresome journey, than walking into a grand lobby of a five star hotel. It is an opportunity for the hotel to define themselves immediately in one high impact space. For the other public parts of the hotel attention to detail in these often manifests itself in attention to detail in other key areas.

4 The room

Triple P likes large rooms, high up and with a view. He likes a well stocked minibar, a large TV with cable, high speed internet and a sofa not just armchairs. Ideally there should be some in-room music system for cds or an iPod.

5 The Bathroom
An important space for lazing or entertaining. Baths should be large enough for two and ideally have an adjacent flat space that will safely support a glass or, ideally an ice bucket. Two washbasins are ideal as is a seperate shower. There is nothing more depressing than a bathroom which only has a shower.


The Shangri-La's Blu Bar

6 Bars


One of the most important places in a great hotel and one of the most difficult to get right. Too large and they are either too noisy when full or cavernous when empty. Too small and you can't find a seat (Willard Intercontinental in Washington DC is guilty of the latter). Staff should be friendly but not pally. Attractiveness of the female staff is a (rare) bonus. Few can compete with the Blu Bar in the Island Shangri-La in Singapore on that score with its elegant, willowy waitresses in black evening dress. Above all there needs to be a bar staff who understand classic cocktails and know, for example, what a Sidecar is.

Triple P does not like lobby bars, on the whole, as they tend to be too brightly lit and have too high a ceiling; destroying any atmosphere. If Triple P has arrived from the airport late at night he wants decent bar food as well.

7 Restaurants


Really good hotels have more than one, of course. But a great hotel really should have a signature restaurant that is only open in the evening. HMS believes that a great hotel should have a breakfast only restaurant as well but, on the whole, Triple P only has breakfast in the restaurant occasionally during a stay.


8 Staff and service


Staff should be helpful and, ideally, attractive but experienced. Useless gorgeous staff are largely worthless (Fontainebleu, Miami Beach). Really good service seems effortless but really isn't and so is rare. The very best service we experienced in a hotel was in the Baur-au-Lac in Zurich. Triple P was in the lounge and got out his pen to write a note but found that it had run out of ink. No sooner had he glared at the unfortunate German implement with distaste than a waiter appeared at his elbow (left elbow, of course) proffering a pen. Total time between realising his pen wasn't working and one appearing was about two seconds. Outstanding!

9 Clientele

Triple P does not want to be in a hotel stuffed with children, Japanese coach parties, badly dressed Americans, noisy Australians or IT conference attendees. He wants people who wear a jacket to the bar and are, or are accompanied by, attractive women. In short, Europeans (and some Canadians): but not British people who seem incapable of knowing how to behave abroad. Sometimes celebrities have been know to make appearances at hotels Triple P has being staying at but, on the whole they do not add to the experience given that they tend to attract ghastly fans and the even more ghastly elements of the press. We have come across Tom Cruise, Barrack Obama, Kenneth Brannagh, Britney Spears, David Beckham, the King of Saudi Arabia, the Presidents of Iraq and Austria, Liam Neeson and...The Krankies! None of the foregoing added to our hotel experience much. Cindy Crawford, Carla Bruni, Monica Bellucci and Scarlett Johansson certainly did.

10 Ambience

Impossible to quantify but you know when it is there and when it is lacking.

So, conveniently, we have ten categories on which to assess the hotel enabling us to give each a considered mark out of 100.

We will begin, next time, with our current hotel: the Inter-Continental in Warsaw.

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