Luckily, you don't have to rough it as you wander the globe
John Connolly identifies the rare hotels that are fit for royalty – and available to you
SOME hotels and caravan parks have actually improved over the past few thousand years. For instance when the goddess Artemis left home on the island of Delos and was travelling around Greece protecting young virgins and relieving disease in women she often stayed at Loutraki for a spa, mudbath, peddy and manny. Three thousand years or so on you can enjoy the same delights as Artemis for $40 (www.loutrakispa.gr). The seaside city is 80km from Athens, a thousand miles (1600km) from care, and 257km from Delos.
There’s no doubt that Darius the Great was the world’s greatest freeway builder. If they had given the Pacific Highway, Australia’s national highway, to Dazza, it would have been finished in 12 months rather than the 84 years it has been under construction so far. You could hop on your horse and ride the 2699km of his royal road from Susa to Sardis in seven days or about the same time it now takes from Melbourne airport to the city on any Monday at 8.30am.
Along the way Darius built caravanserai or caravan parks where you could pull in for the night. Later on there were caravan parks about every 50km along the Silk Road (the Route 66 of its time). Young Marco Polo took the Silk Road from Venice to see his family’s friend, the Kublai Khan, in Beijing. Unfortunately Marco decided to cruise back. It took two years and most of the crew and passengers died. Anyway next time you’re in Iran I would pop up to Zein-o-Din to stay in the recently renovated 400-year-old Caravanserai. A double room including breakfast is around $250 and the optional dinner and look at the stars from the roof is $20. You have to book through the Iran Hotels official website (http://booking.ir/default/zein-o-din-caravanserai.html).
Probably the western world’s best-known hotel story also comes from the Middle East. Imagine there’s just the three of you. You, your pregnant partner and your donkey. You’ve trod the 100km of dusty gravel road from Nazareth to Bethlehem, you arrive late at night and wouldn’t you know it every hotel in town has the no-vacancy sign burning. (Only oil then no solar Accommodation that is fit for royalty at the Ritz, Paris, and, below,
the Carlyle, New York or electricity.) So you end up in a stable and suddenly the wife says: “I think he’s on the way.” (No ultrasound then but she had a tip off from the big person in the sky that it would be a male). Quickly you put straw and swaddling in the feed trough, shoo away the domestic animals and along comes your partner’s son, three wise men, assorted angels and before you can say, “he doesn’t look much like his father” the place is a tourist attraction. You can relive this moment for $150 a night with free Wi Fi and rooftop pool sports bar, at the Manger Square Hotel (www.mangersquarehotel.com). The Manger Square is in the heart of Bethlehem just a stone’s throw away from the Nativity Church. Inside the church is a grotto marking the spot where JC himself was born.
While not so adventurous, the three greatest hotels in the world are an easy flight away and not one has a sports bar on the roof. At a time when it’s all about faux history and glamour (Ritz Carltons) and Sex in the City attractiveness (W Hotels), the Hotel Ritz, the Hotel Carlyle and the Mandarin Oriental are real hotels in a sea of sleaze.
Cesar Ritz, the Swiss peasant who was fired as a dishwasher for breaking too much crockery opened the hotel on 15 Place Vendome 127 years ago to offer all the refinements that a prince could wish for in his own home. After a three-year facelift The Hotel Ritz (www.ritzparis.com/en), home to Hemingway, Proust, Sophia Loren, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Coco Chanel, Cole Porter and Lady Diana reopens later this year. A nice suite was around $20,000 a night when the hotel closed.
Just before the start of the Silk Road is what used to be the Mandarin Hotel, now the Mandarin Oriental (www. mandarinoriental.com) on the waterfront of the Fragrant Harbour. Local property developers intent on joining Hong Kong to Kowloon, have seen the hotel move more to the centre of town. A suite with a harbour view at the perfect Asian Western is negotiable down from $1500. The Mandarin Grill remains one of the world’s most wonderful restaurant spaces.
The Carlyle Hotel (http://www.rosewoodhotels.com/en/ the-carlyle-new-york) has dominated the social life of the upper east side of New York for more than 80 years. It’s where President John F Kennedy and actress-turned-chanteuse Marilyn Monroe spent a romantic night after she sang him a very public happy birthday. You can sing a very good friend anything you like for $1200 a night in a superior suite.