WHEN THE HURRICANE barreled toward New York last summer and my neighborhood was forced to evacuate, I calmly packed a few dresses, my better jewelry, and my laptop, tugged on a cloche to shade my eyes in case I cried, and took a cab to the Carlyle. When I was in London this spring, and in the doldrums, I pulled up a seat at the bar in the Ritz. What is it about hotels, and specifically, the very, very good ones, that makes life so nice?
The allure certainly has much to do with the lighting. I now have most of the bulbs in my apartment on 25 watts. It’s at least as dark as Bemelman’s, and guests often hint at a permanently seductive air that makes it feel nearly too dim to do almost everything. If I ever own my own place, I’d like to do an homage to the famous murals in the bar, too.
The service, of course, is a huge part of the cost, and the indulgence. When I missed a flight to Omaha, the last one of the day, flying in from Frankfurt last fall, I sobbed in the airport and then I took a cab to the Peninsula, where I was checked in, upgraded, and given essential toiletries in a flash. The next morning, sitting in my rumpled clothes, my luggage long lost for the moment, I wondered how I would go straight to a panel discussion on the romance of travel, and then gamely sewed the orchid from my exquisitely composed breakfast tray onto my tweed jacket and sauntered out the door.
Earlier that week, I had checked into the Adlon Kempinski in Berlin and promptly slept for a day, woke up to ring room service, and went back to bed. I didn’t leave the hotel much at all in the four days that I was in the city, aided by the fact that it is squarely located at Brandenburg Gate. Sightseeing, check.
While I only had money for the upper reach of luxury hotels for a year, I started it off right, at Claridge’s in London, drinking champagne as I splashed around in the bath. Now I can’t imagine it, or it doesn’t seem sensible, or I simply can’t afford it these days. I was also terribly lonely then, and desperately afraid to admit that I had become such a grotesque workaholic that it had actually deformed my life. Sometimes the bedside buttons for maid, valet and waiter are all you have. Now I have less, and more.