I have a confession to make. I have a list. This list is very personal, very private and contains few names. On my list are royal Indians, flashy New Yorkers, small but perfectly formed Venetians, and now a new name has been added.
I have a secret list of my favorite 5-star hotels around the world. I have known and loved them all. Each offers a different form of luxury, a different world to enter and escape to. The Four Seasons Park Lane now takes pride of place as my hotel of choice in London, not a position easily won.
My cab driver knows exactly where the Four Seasons is of course, but I must admit even though I know many of the other hotels on Park Lane, I would have struggled to find the Four Seasons as it is so tucked away. Possibly the reason I had yet to visit. My car door is opened by a tall, dark and handsome man with a huge and genuine smile. Yes, I think to myself, I am looking hot, just before I catch one of my heels in the hem of my dress and stumble out of the cab in a way that, frankly, could not be less elegant. Oh well, I tell myself. Oh well.
The tall, dark and handsome man catches me effortlessly, still smiling, and takes my case. I follow my rescuer into the hotel lobby and into another world. My embarrassment at failing the main test of female glamour and sophistication, getting out of a car, is soon forgotten. The lobby, like the rest of the hotel, is stunning and I am welcomed with further genuine and easy smiles. I feel for a short moment as if this really is my home in London, and I bask in this feeling for the length of my stay.
Recently re-opened after a £125m renovation, the Four Seasons is the epitome of glamour. Recalling the golden age of travel, and my very favorite era, the 1930s, the hotel is sexy. Very sexy. Pierre-Yves Rochon, the interior designer responsible for the decoration of 5-star hotels from Monte Carlo to Bahrain, has combined deep red leather with black lacquer; mirrored glass tables sit under and reflect jaw-dropping chandeliers of Swarovski crystal. This is glamour and luxury but it is a very grown up, very sophisticated glamour and luxury. There is nothing fluffy or gaudy about this hotel.
As I peek out of the window of my room overlooking Green Park, I think to myself what a perfect place this would be to stay with a lover. It is practically made for romance. Dark wood, art deco mirrored doors, crisp white sheets and an enormous bed filled with feather pillows. The rooms are fantastically high tech, and yet so carefully and intelligently designed you don’t realise this until you need to. I spend five minutes searching for the light switch to turn my bedside lamp off – running my hands around the base, under the shade, down the cord, unable to find the switch. And then I stop, look down and find a single button perfectly placed next to the bed. I push it. The light goes off. Of course. I am grateful I am alone and that no one saw this display of idiocy.
Bathrooms have electronic mirrors, the cutting edge of bathroom technology. I remember how excited I was when nine years ago I stayed in the Hilton Park Lane and discovered that the audio from the television in the lounge was somehow, magically, audible while in the shower. What was this witchcraft? The electronic mirrors in the Four Seasons take witchcraft to a whole new level. One can watch television in the mirror. I have no idea how it works, but it is amazing.
Bathrooms are carefully lit – crucial when applying make-up, and every single essential as well as a collection of luxuries are provided. Even the water has been treated to soften it and take away the hard limescale of London – something that I appreciate more than I ought really to admit. But I have long hair and expensive shampoo. Soft water means less shampoo and softer hair. This is a total win.
I spend a ridiculous amount of time in front of the mirror, mainly due to being able to watch Jeremy Kyle while applying mascara, and I realise I am running late to meet Jonesy. Everyone is always late to meet Jonesy, I muse, while playing with the natural-light magnifying mirror, so really to turn up on time would not only be against tradition but also a disappointment. We are on a mission to find me an oligarch, and according to Jonesy, if there’s anywhere in London where this is a distinct possibility, it’s the Amaranto Bar. I strap myself into my least sensible shoes and begin the descent to the bar. I am only ten minutes late.
The hotel corridors may be my favorite space. Huge black and white photographs of old Hollywood film stars grace the walls, the chrome frames glinting from the careful lighting. Walking to the elevator feels like walking the red carpet minus the anxiety of being photographed at a poor angle. I love it. I waste another five minutes slowly walking this red carpet (actually it’s a rich gold colour) pretending to be Rita Hayworth.
We meet in the lobby and Jonesy and I stroll gracefully across the dark marble to the Amaranto Bar. Well, I stroll gracefully; Jonesy slopes in nonchalantly as if he owns the place. The lighting is dim, so dim in fact that it takes my eyes a moment to adjust. Racks of wine and rare champagne line the walls, protected by glass, and I sink into a deep red velvet chair.
“Huh? I don’t have a cushion. I want a cushion,” says Jonesy, ever keen to ensure he is not missing out on anything, he whines like a spoilt child. I pass my cushion to Jonesy who suddenly feigns appropriate embarrassment and refuses to accept it. “No, no, honestly, you take it. It’s fine.” I toss the prized velvet square onto his lap and reach over to the neighboring table to steal another, realising that the tables are so well spaced apart that I can’t actually reach. Magically a waitress arrives to bring us menus and passes me the cushion, as well as, I am almost certain, a look of pity.
I order a martini and Jonesy orders the girliest drink on the menu, as usual. The waiter passes him the martini and me the Girl’s Drink. We swap them once he has left, Jonesy ever keen to save face. Fortunately for him, the lighting in the bar is carefully arranged so as to afford those sitting at the tables a view of each other and the menu, but is dim enough to prevent anyone else in the bar seeing much. The drinks are swapped efficiently and Jonesy relaxes.
There are no oligarchs to be seen, and I mention this. Oh yah. They’re probably all at the Big Easy, he says. “The surf and turf place on the Kings Road?” I ask incredulously. Yah. Apparently they’re all there. Oh. I sigh; well I suppose we ought to go there then.
The next morning, trundling my little suitcase along the red carpet corridor, I think about how perfect the stay has been. I wouldn’t change a single thing. Well, perhaps just one thing, I would have the bar stocked with more oligarchs. And next time I will get out of the taxi – or indeed, limousine – in a graceful manner that Rita Hayworth would be proud of.