‘Amazing Hotels, Life Beyond the Lobby’ – Screen Time

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.

Amman Jordan

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!

My Queens Suite at The Dorchester, London, I shouldn’t have ever left!
The Roosevelt Presidential Suite – where I stayed last year at The Beaumont, London. The fav of one of our clients, he texts when he arrives: Thank you! I know exactly where he is staying!

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.

“Volez, Voguez, Voyagez” or, “Sail, Fly, Travel”. Manhattan

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.

Men of Egypt could have been in Fauda!

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!

Brando Island – amazing property

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.

Giraffe Manor, a client favorite Karen, Kenya

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.

The Brando Hotel – paradise!

The Art of Travel – Louis Vuitton Exhibit NY

“Volez, Voguez, Voyagez” – Louis Vuitton New York

“Volez, Voguez, Voyagez” – Louis Vuitton
New York Exhibit Oct 27, 2017 through January 7, 2018.

If you happen to be traveling to New York, be sure to reserve your complimentary ducats to this exceptional exhibit. Even if you aren’t a personal fan of the LV Brand, you will be impressed by the story communicated in an amazing archival array of photos, timeworn receipts and personal notes about the House of Vuitton’s clients. Told in ten chapters, the exhibit initially unfolds with a set designed to replicate a subway platform as you begin your Travel Journey. The vast exhibit includes 1700 items filling 16 rooms with trunks, bags, clothing and specialized cases.

The exhibition was beautifully thought out to engage visitors of all ages, which has certainly contributed to the high attendance numbers. Toward the end of the exhibit, there are wall mounted Louis Vuitton logo squares which can be used for selfies. In one section of the automotive journey, the room has a broken line painted down the ‘highway’ floor dead ending at a panoramic vista at the end of the roadway. Completely engaging younger visitors, posing and photographing each other as they ‘walked the roadway’. The experience is masterfully directed as one would direct a film, opera or theatre experience.

“Volez, Voguez, Voyagez “– Louis Vuitton New York

One can reserve a guide or download a special App to start the exhibition by digitally tagging the walls.
- Take photos with filters inspired by each room of Louis Vuitton exhibition.
- Bring Louis Vuitton’s portrait to life with augmented reality.
- Follow an expedition in the middle of the desert with augmented reality.
- Customize a travel trunk with iconic hotel labels.
- Leave a message in graffiti in the digital guest book. Clever and engaging exhibit.

Besides enjoying the visual flair of the story, I was impressed by the creative and inventive business acumen of the founder Louis Vuitton and the subsequent history of the House of Vuitton. Louis Vuitton began his work career as a box maker at age 16, in 1837, he arrived in Paris by foot and started apprenticing for Monsieur Maréchal. At the time, horse-drawn carriages, boats and trains were the main modes of transportation, and baggage was handled roughly. Travelers called upon craftsmen to pack and protect their individual objects, making boxes for the storage and shipment of fine goods was a prestigious enterprise.
Louis Vuitton quickly became a valued craftsman at the Parisian atelier of Monsieur Maréchal. These were the roots of his highly specialized trade; the beginnings of his career in an artisanal industry that called upon skills to custom design boxes and, later, trunks according to clients’ wishes. Louis Vuitton stayed for 17 years before opening his own workshop at 4 Rue Neuve-des-Capucines near the Place Vendome.

His fortunes changed for the better in 1853 when he was appointed as the personal trunk-maker to Empress Eugénie de Montijo, wife of Napoleon III. He was assigned the responsibility of aesthetically packaging her clothes for transportation between the Tuileres Palace, the Château de Saint-Cloud and various seaside resorts. She charged him with “packing the most beautiful clothes in an exquisite way.” De Montijo provided Vuitton with a gateway to other elite and royal clients who provided him with work for the rest of his career.
He excelled in this position and the royal family was very happy with his services. This position also enabled him to attract elite and royal clientele to this day.

In 1858, Vuitton introduced his revolutionary stackable rectangular shaped trunks to a market that only had rounded trunk tops. This demand spurred his expansion into a larger workshop outside of Paris. The canvas sheathing on these trunks made them lighter and more waterproof than leather and the array of drawers and compartments could carry weeks’ worth of fancy ensembles. These trunks have been a centerpiece brand for over a century. It was Georges Vuitton who added the signature LV monogram to the canvas to foil counterfeiters. Louis Vuitton died in 1892, his son Georges inherited the firm. Gaston-Louis Vuitton, his grandson continued the hallmark traditions.

A compelling story unfolds as the House of Vuitton charts and seizes the ever-evolving transportation modes. Following the invention of cars, the House ‘partners’ with automotive makers to design trunks and cases specifically designed to fit the contours of interior and exterior spaces in automobiles.

“Volez, Voguez, Voyagez” – Louis Vuitton New York

In 1924,  André Citroën organized his second African expedition dubbed Croisière noire (Black journey) all the way through Africa from Colomb-Béchar, Algeria to Cape Town, South-Africa. A convoy of 8 half-tracks and 24 men started their journey on 28th of October in 1924 and arrived in Cape Town on 26th of June in 1925, making them the first people to drive across the whole continent of Africa. Citroën commissioned House of Vuitton to build special trunks for the expedition, video and photos reveal an arduous journey, vehicles packed with Louis Vuitton trunks and cases in a particular color and trademarked in natural leather with the durable latches and hard metal corner details protecting the interior goods.

“Volez, Voguez, Voyagez” – Louis Vuitton New York

Innovative flat pack goods were created for yachting; a combination of leather and canvas. Boxes and trunks have been commissioned and built for just about every industry. Besides clothing, custom camera cases, the Roland-Garros’ legendary final tennis trophies are outfitted in special boxes. Traveling libraries, enclosed in a trunk that would insure 6 months of reading material with a typewriter. Required for the bookworm Louis Vuitton for a three to six-month transatlantic voyage. Music cases including a DJ box for vinyl records, a precious leather case for violinist and conductor Pierre Sechiari’s Stradivarius to protect the valuable instrument and bow. The invention of travel by car added to the empire of cases: footrest briefcases, elaborate picnic cases containing custom silver picnic necessities. Early cars were built without roofs, thus a fashionable traveler clutched a flat Morocco leather bag in her arms – most likely holding, a stole and gloves, and possibly a lap robe. It was the prelude to the handbag.

“Volez, Voguez, Voyagez” – Louis Vuitton New York

“Voguez, Volez, Voyagez” exhibition, drew nearly 200,000 visitors at the Grand Palais in Paris, New York is expected to host 400,00 – to 500,000 visitors. In the 19th Century, the largest client base was American and the firm had designated the former American Stock Exchange building as the home for the local visit, waiting until it was available. Peer into the glass cases to understand the branding; the distinct stickers used for the insides of the trunks, the leather-bound notebooks inscribed with client name, a description of the bag or trunk, with the personal key number noted in the event one loses their key. Personal ephemera combined with early examples of travel trunks and cases bring this story to life. From ancient days to current, the trends and collaborations with Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, Frank Gehry and many more are included. Sit on the soft sofas within the ‘train room’ recreating The Orient Express rail car set filled with fashion and hat boxes, with vineyards and other scenery whisking by on video monitors masking as windows. The props include a 70-foot mast and sail that brushes the ceiling of the high-ceilinged stock exchange; a bi-plane bursting through a wall bearing a bounty of travel bags on its wings.

The Art of Travel is an Epic Expedition of 163 years of history, chronicling the story of a young 14 year old boy who left his village by foot and began an apprenticeship in a Parisian box shop. Travel Through Time at this well crafted experiential exhibit.

“Volez, Voguez, Voyagez” – Louis Vuitton New York

“Volez, Voguez, Voyagez”– Louis Vuitton New York

The Art of Travel – highly recommend. “Volez, Voguez, Voyagez” – Louis Vuitton New York

Literally translated as “Fly! Sail! Travel!” the phrase was used in a vintage Louis Vuitton poster- and in a 2014 advertising campaign – encouraging clients to explore, wander and discover the world.

Tickets: https://tinyurl.com/y8xfegzw