I have a love-hate relationship with hotels. I'm dependent on them 200 nights a year, and it's hard to describe the life--it's so episodic, but I love it. When I stay at a hotel, my expectations are very high. Part of that is my desire for honesty--I never want the staff to tell me one thing and do another!
Service to Swoon For The Hotel Splendido in Portofino has the best service I've ever experienced. The level of intimacy with the guests is phenomenal. And there's accountability, which is so important to a well-run place. The concierge there is Fausto Allegri--concierge splendido! He's a superstar, in addition to being drop-dead handsome.
Charm and Poetry The Lanesborough, in London, knocked my socks off--it's one of the world's great hotels. The staff is very loving yet also completely impervious to the guests. The maids simply knock, announce themselves, and come into the room. Which I love--otherwise you have to spend all that time getting up to open the door. There's a bartender named Salvatore Calabrese who's an expert on vintage Cognacs. While I was drinking an 1811 Cognac, he recited a Byron poem.
Natural Beauty At Le Sirenuse, on Italy's Amalfi Coast, the sitting room in my suite was decorated in saturated shades of lemon yellow and lime green, with bougainvillea climbing the walls and floors covered in ceramic tiles. The hotel is carved into the rocks. It's run by an old aristocratic family--we've become great friends.
Most Sublime The Hassler, in Rome, has the best hotel food anywhere. Bruschetta is a simple thing, but a miracle when it's done to perfection. The penthouse suite is cream and olive green, a little bit seventies. The view takes in all of Rome. I could see the Villa Medici reflected in my suite's fireplace mirror: it was shrouded in mist, and as the mist burned off, the Vatican came into view.
Ultimate in America The Mansion on Turtle Creek is the only perfect hotel in North America. If you request breakfast at 8:15, they open the door just as the second hand sweeps 12. The food is great--chef Dean Fearing is from Ashland, Kentucky, my old hometown.
Devilish Dessert The Four Seasons New York has a devil's food cake on the room service menu. I was apoplectic with joy. I've also ordered their chocolate mousse cake. It's almost impossible to impress a Southerner with this dish, but I thought it was fabulous.
Most Chic Hôtel Duc de St.-Simon, in the Seventh Arrondissement in Paris, is a small hotel in a converted 1830's town house. Staying there is like being among the family you wish you had. The service is great, the food terrific--pastas and soufflés. The bar is in a vaulted wine cave. It's utterly sophisticated.
Strongest Impression I'll never forget the Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten in Hamburg. It's lovely, gracious, and service-oriented. The public spaces are so correct and charming, with itty-bitty couches, minuscule spiral staircases, a sake bar, a patisserie. There's the right contrast of crisp and old, the right fusion: white linens, velvet sofas, needlepoint upholstery. It's like a pale old Botticelli. I just ran around the whole place with joy.
Ashley the Outlaw Once, at a B&B in Cannes, I broke into the family kitchen to find something to eat because everything was closed. I mistook cat food for cereal.