Last Call

Luck­ily, you don't have to rough it as you wan­der the globe

The Australian - The Deal - - News - John Con­nolly Con­tact: jc@jcp.com.au

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.

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