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Oh Joy: Fairmont Peace Hotel in Shanghai

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I am staying at the Fairmont Peace Hotel in Shanghai and it is possibly quite the most beautiful hotel I have ever seen. As you know, the Sassoons built it on the Bund in 1929 and it was the Cathay Hotel. Stuck in bed here the following year with flu, Noel Coward wrote Private Lives.

The restoration is exquisite. It is classic art deco using the finest marble, gilt, bronze. The rooms are gorgeous—both in decor and facility. The restaurants and bars and lounges are fabulous—and the Chinese government must have spent gazillions on it.

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The only problem is that because it is semi-government owned, some of the original Peace Hotel staff from the earlier decades are still here—and amateur beyond belief. Yet room service arrives in a flash. The biggest anachronism is the Jazz Bar, straight from 1929, where two Kir Royales cost $80 and where the jazz band is composed of eight 75+ year-olds who have been playing the same tunes since 1960. But it is immensely charming and utterly unique. A real must.

World traveler Geoffrey Weill is an occasional contributor to Travel + Leisure.

Photos courtesy of Fairmont Hotels

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