Luxury Hotels

Shanghai’s tall-tall luxury hotel

From the maze, in front of the hotel

Park Hyatt Shanghai rises above competitors, in more ways than one. This is a luxury hotel that soars up nearly to the top of the 492-metre Shanghai World Financial Centre, an incredible sculpture of a building by architects KPF (it has a cut-out at the very top, which makes it seem like the world’s biggest bottle opener). Down at ground level, it is like an art gallery. A one-off painted car, shown above, advertises an art show. In front of the luxury hotel’s ultra-discreet entrance there is a maze of bamboo that the gal walked through to immerse herself before going inside. The hotel’s designer, Tony Chi, has made this a holy of holies: enter through ceiling-high, 15-feet at least, automatic glass doors, via several 90-degree turns, to the elevators.

Hotel coffee stall

By the elevators waits a frieze of all-white sculptures, hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil, waits.Fortunately the GM, Etienne Dalancon, is a highly creative businessman who has put in a bit of human activity down at this entrance. There is now a coffee stall, your brew in paper cups, just what today’s time-deprived achievers want (goodness knows what Tony Chi would think of this but he is a designer for whom aesthetics are sometimes more important than practicality). But M. Delancon listens to his customers, and he listens to his 526 team members; his door is always open, an essential component in a city where staff turnover is sometimes over 50% a year – his is a mere 17.5%. Looking after this 174-room hotel is no easy task. Tall ceilings and dark areas are a Chi favourite, it seems.

GM and chef inspect breakfast

Bedroom windows stretch across the entire wall and thus, most of the daylight hours, give in masses of light. Views are sensational, far down to Pudong, and across the river back to the Bund. I was back in suite 8304, which I should know by now but even so at first I bump into things, and wonder what pulls out to form a door, and so on, but I leave the suite, to head up to the 85th floor wellness area, where the raised infinity pool deliberately splashes down, over the sides, when anyone swims. Overhead, here, ten orange lanterns, hanging from the – normal height – ceiling give a burst of colour. There is colour too at dinner, when we start with the antipasti buffet delicately set out in the library. Main courses are brought, à la carte, and I exclaim at the beauty of a Claude Dozorme steak knife that Monsieur D found in Paris.

Looking out into clouds

Amazingly he is there the following morning, up at the 93rd floor breakfast, inspecting minutiae with the equally-charming chef, from Berlin (the baguette, it appears, did not meet his approval). He claims he had to get up at 5.15 this morning to farewell the hotel’s owner, taking an early flight back to Tokyo, but I am impressed all the same. While I am enjoying my yoghurt – the best on the entire trip (the worst tasted like condensed milk but I will not say where that was) – it begins to rain. By the time I am back home in 8304 this luxury hotel is completely enveloped in cloud, and for the rest of my short stay I feel I am wrapped in cotton wool, and very special.

AND NOW, SEE THE VIDEO OF SUITE 8304 – BEFORE THE CLOUDS ENVELOPPED THE BUILDING

Read more
Luxury Hotels

Fairmont Peace is a luxury hotel with oodles of history

George Wee dines outside

Among the hundreds of thousands of tourists, who probably included about a hundred non-Chinese, on The Bund that afternoon was a bride in a red dress, rushing frantically through the crowds followed by a female dresser holding the train off the ground. Somewhat incongruously, the dresser wore a face mask as if she had a cold, or was afraid of catching one. Half an hour later the gal saw the bride, now perfectly composed – see above – as she and her dearly beloved kissed for their official cameraman outside the main door of the Fairmont Peace Hotel, a favourite photo spot in Shanghai. Red, explained the hotel boss, George Wee, later, is the lucky colour, for posperity.

One ceiling, Indian Suite

Official wedding photos may be taken up to six months before the actual ceremony, during which the bride might change outfits four times in all: canny brides rent their robes, or go to Suzhou, known for lots of choice at good prices. If a bridal couple is clever, good money can be made out of a wedding. Guests hand over red paper envelopes containing cash, which can more than cover costs, and unlike in Japan, where the happy couple traditionally then gives back a gift worth roughly half what the guest had given; in China the couple keeps the lot. I was told by one hotel that its best wedding package includes not only a bedroom for the wedding night itself but one for the first anniversary, by which time perhaps baby comes too.

View down, early, pre-crowds

For dinner, George Wee had booked the best table in town, or at least actually looking over The Bund. The Cathay Room, on the ninth floor of this historic hotel, has a cantilevered terrace just big enough for a table and two chairs, so there we sat, looking down at all the activity on The Bund, and across the river at Pudong. All evening brightly-illuminated dinner-cruise boats ply up and down the river. What would Sir Victor Sassoon, the banker who built this structure in 1926, think if he came back today? Then, no illumination on boats (no ‘dinner-cruising’) and Pudong was still paddy fields. In 1929 this was turned into the Cathay Hotel, its name changed after the first international peace congress here in 1952.

Old Jazz Band singer

After dinner we went downstairs to this luxury hotel’s unique Old Jazz Band, playing here since shortly after the hotel first opened. Tonight, I was entranced, as Justin Trudeau had been a few weeks before, by the Shanghai singer, her tones simultaneously soulful and passionate – see the video below. The main band, oldest player mid-90s, goes off duty at 9.30, presumably so they can totter into bed with Horlick’s or hot milk. A younger band, average age mid-70s, then takes over, until well after midnight, but we did not stay to hear them. And then it was time for my own bed, this time in suite 520, the Indian Suite, the very antithesis of minimalism, with even the ceiling a testimony to how much and how many colours can be combined without straying into over-kill. The windows, all with stained glass around their edges, opened, to give even better views of The Bund outside, and, in the morning, there were the kite flyers. SEE TWO VIDEOS BELOW,  THE OLD JAZZ BAND – AND INDIAN SUITE, 520

Read more
Luxury Hotels

Simply Sunday, high praise for a luxury hotel’s thoughtful wellness

View from the outside gym, 0630, Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, Four Seasons

For the last six weeks the gal has been looking for an all-purpose baseball cap that does publicise a hotel, a ship, a golf course or Taylor Swift – the last cap lasted nearly ten years, and all it had on the front was a Canadian flag and the words ‘Rocky Mountains’.  It fell apart, not from baseball but because it is used twice a day for workouts.

Luxury hotels do sometimes have great headgear – see the superb selection above, in the reception foyer of Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, Four Seasons. They certainly think of everything, other than baseball caps, here. What I really liked about its wellness is having two gyms, a Technogym with Kinesis inside, and, out in the gorgeous gardens, an outside gym (only four Technogym pieces, no Kinesis, but it is so marvellous to be working out in fresh air and looking down to the Mediterranean Sea).  Another Four Seasons, Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, also has an outside gym, as does Taj Campton Place in San Francisco.  See, I remember these facilities, whereas anything inside, particular those without windows, are, regardless how much has been invested on the equipment, quickly forgotten.

Please will developers and operators take note.  Working out, outside, is far more fun, and better for you, which makes happier customers who could well become more loyal…

 

Read more