Pandemic Preoccupations. Yes, I’ve enjoyed too much Netflix binging, sharing movie and docuseries faves with friends and colleagues – is Poldark a soap opera, yes! Was Ozarks truly terrifying, yet addictive, yes! My son hung up on me when I inadvertently asked a question that would be revealed in the final episode. Fauda, I adore the lead Israeli actor, Lior Raz, the brooding solider at the heart of the series. He had a nontraditional path to stardom; his role is partly based on his personal service in the Israel Defense Forces. How do I know? He was in my little Cineplex for three hours every night for 2 weeks! I had scarcely returned from Jordan, the predominantly bleached architecture, a skyline punctuated by gleaming domes and minarets and the sandy landscape was identical to my travels, I had learned a few Arabic words, the costumes, the ethereal call to prayer by the local muezzin, the cuisine and background resonated with my Journey. Wanderlust had barely evaporated. During the pandemic, I’ve adhered to a pretty firm rule of no tv before 5 pm, primarily to maintain my personal dignity; pandemic procedures: cocktails after 5 pm, unless in a foreign country, then no rules apply, or garden lunches – Champers is allowed; all screen binging after 5 pm.
Grounded in March after an exquisite 2-week exploration and adventure in Egypt and Jordan followed by several days cocooned at Hotel Bel Air, where I plotted a five-star Hotel Lifestyle – truly, I could live in a hotel for a few weeks every month. Aman Resorts invited me to a travel event, how could I say no? Covid-19 cancelled those reveries. It sounds glamorous, our clients know I stay in every hotel I recommend, but do they know I schlepp a few 60-pound bags with me? Drivers transport me across town and I am warmly welcomed everywhere; my online videos sometimes encourage rivalry between hotels – we can best the elegant Queens Suite in London with the classy Presidential Suite with an immense deck. It’s amusing to arrive and enjoy the furtive smile of the GM and team who surprise me with an OTT (over the top) suite. Champers on ice. Yes, it is a difficult life, and I miss it immensely. Not just the sumptuous suites, but the hotel peeps who have all become my friends, dining with my international partners and catching up on their new exclusive client offerings, wandering to museums, shopping, hearing foreign languages. In between, I perform site inspections at new hotel properties, it’s work, after-all!
Living in hotels may belong to novels, these alluring lifestyles have uniquely disappeared, a lingering getaway once belonged to eras past; to the well-heeled, faintly neurotic characters of one my favorite authors, F. Scott Fitzgerald in Tender Is the Night. Or the legendary Gilded Age’s ladies of leisure who sailed with custom Vuitton trunks to Europe every season. A few years ago, in New York, Louis Vuitton presented an enchanting exhibit “Volez, Voguez, Voyagez” or, “Sail, Fly, Travel” – a captivating look at the brand’s history. Subsequently a book was published on the exhibit: ‘Travelers Tales, Bags Unpacked’. It is a beautiful description of travel in another era. The garments were all there: day and evening dresses, clouds of tulle, muslin, feathers, kimono jackets, velvet jackets – essential attire for a certain lifestyle.
To alleviate my five-star Hotel Lifestyle withdrawal, I’ve discovered a fun British series: ‘Amazing Hotels, Life Beyond the Lobby’. Presented by television host and writer Giles Coren (How to Eat Out) and chef and restaurateur Monica Galetti (Monica’s Kitchen: Exciting Home Cooking for All Occasions), are globetrotters who visit extraordinary hotels across the globe. In addition to giving viewers a glimpse of hotel areas that are rarely, if ever, seen by regular peeps, Monica and Giles spend time with hotel staff to learn about their work, the establishment, its impact and more — and then take on some of the staffing duties. Season 1 episodes find Monica and Giles visiting Mashpi Lodge in Ecuador, Giraffe Manor in Kenya, Royal Mansour Marrakech in Morocco, Fogo Island Inn in Canada, and Icehotel in Sweden; in Season 2 they travel to The Brando in French Polynesia, Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort in Oman, Grand Resort Bad Ragaz in Switzerland, Ashford Castle in Ireland, The Silo in South Africa, and Hacienda Vira Vira in Chile, plus Kulm Hotel in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in the Christmas special.
On arrival, before the suite becomes lived in, take photographs for future blog posts and social media, unpack, respond to emails. Test the bed and scrunch the six pillows, yes, six plush pillows, to form a comfy cocoon, who knew we needed six king size pillows? I belong to The Tribe of the Bed Girl, and work in bed. A king size bed offers bountiful real estate for sleeping, mounds of glossy hotel magazines, work and dining. At home, I sleep in an antique French double bed, purely room for sleep and not much else! Hotel Lifestyle will instill a scrumptious pillow addiction. Of course, the linens are perfectly pressed, and someone watches your whereabouts, if you slip out of the room, all is tidy again on return. One pandemic directive I’ve followed: make my bed every day, to feel slightly civilized. Although my Covid-19 wardrobe has been limited…jammies for winter, sundresses for summer, the gate has been locked since March.
Hotel Lifestyle: commute time for client meetings is eliminated – close laptop, mosey amid the tree lined paths or the row of loungers, if I’m in my pool suite and pad down to Wolfgang Puck. When I stay in Beverly Hills, I offer clients and friends a generous invitation – breakfast, lunch cocktails or dinner – at my hotel: Hotel Bel Air or Beverly Hills Hotel, I don’t move, once I arrive, I’m in. For a bit of variety, I may take the hotel car between the sister hotels for meals…my darling niece lives a mile away, she plops at the pool with me for hours of catch up and sharing travel fantasies, her first Journey to Africa was with me – oh, the tales we can tell – lions at our door, and in her magazine bag, spitting Cobras whose venom can blind you, and yet we survived!
Hotel Lifestyle – Room service – anything you desire will be delivered with a quick call or iPad swipe. My away from home comfort food used to be a hamburger, over the last few years, Club House sandwiches have reigned. Food I never eat at home, who would prepare and serve? Bacon is not a staple of a plant-based diet! I’ve learned to order a CH sandwich before a travel industry event, much easier to sip wine, gather collateral and chat without an intricate balancing act.
I have no intention of replicating the series hosts performing work duties, suite inspection is my specialty! It’s a light fun series with stunning hotels interiors and exteriors. Seeing how local Omani’s have adopted the hospitality business is heartwarming, one grizzled old Omani man is the expert in making rose water for a variety of uses in the hotel. Monica, the chef host, goes to the local animal market to inspect and negotiate the sale of goats for a celebration dinner, who knew you should look at their teeth to understand the age of a goat. You will learn how to pry open a goat’s mouth to calculate its age! If you find hotel towel art droll, several hotels have resident experts, who radiate immense pride in this creative skill.
You can find the series on an Appletv app: Journy.
I find travel the absolute essential antidote to everyday routines. Fresh vistas, foreign languages, interesting foods, curious customs, and people in indigenous dress – seeing places I’ve never seen before. A pleasing adventure of searching new locales for client travel, the pursuit never gets old.
Warning: Wanderlust May Overwhelm you. Be safe, we will wander again.