• Old School Traveller

5 Star Hotels - A Users Guide.

As I've mentioned before, the best hotel isn't always the right hotel for you. Often the swankiest beast in town is full of guests who have no idea how privileged or fortunate they are to be staying there. This doesn't always provide the best atmosphere for those seeking the perfect trip. No morning hellos, or late night discussions in the bar, as the elite seem to be far more interested in privacy, wingeing or being too far up themselves to be bothered by us mere mortals. Every city has it's celebrity hotel - The Hassler perched above The Spanish Steps in Rome, The Ritz in the incredible Place Vendome in Paris or the Savoy on London's Strand are all fairly typical examples but there are many others, and if you do find yourself staying there, often you'll find the rooms are small and the Extra's hefty. I'd much rather sleep in the next bunk down, or several bunks down if the place is right for me. It doesn't mean that these Hotels don't have a purpose. Far from it - I highly recommend researching them all before you travel to see what can be gained by using their selling points to your best advantage without having to stump up the excessive room rate. For example, The Ritz has one of the finest restaurants in the world in L'Espladon but I can't afford to have dinner there. It might set you back a $1000. Even lunch there will be many hundreds as well. Breakfast, however, is a snip and well worth the expense. For a fraction of the price you can sit in one of the most beautiful restaurants in the world, receive impeccable service and enjoy amazing food. It is well worth seeking out breakfast bookings in the world's finest and just another reason why you shouldn't always get an inclusive breakfast at your own lodgings. You will need to book in advance though.

Martini's at Dukes, off Piccadilly, London

Making use of the wonderful bars found in these establishments is also a great idea. For not much more of an outlay, you can enjoy the finest drinks, with often the best views, without the queues and with homemade courtesy snacks thrown in for good measure. It is a highly advisable pursuit, whether it's for the views over Trafalgar Square from the rooftop bar at the Trafalgar Hotel in London, or for the incredible Martini's at Dukes near Green Park. Ian Fleming researched the drinks for James Bond within those walls and it's a must stop for anyone who likes a stiff drink in comfortable and historic surrounds - The olives are like watermelons too. The levels of difference these places create, makes any trip so much more memorable than they might otherwise be and are well worth the extra cash. You'll be paying and arm and a leg for a warm gin and tonic in a dirty glass anyway, the way things are going, so you might as well go for it.

Afternoon Tea at The Connaught Hotel in Mayfair, London

Afternoon Tea is also well worth looking into. Again, you might view this as an expensive option but if you enjoy this typically British, and highly fashionable, repast towards late afternoon, it often solves the problem of dinner. Late breakfast, afternoon tea, snack supper is the way I go about it on such days. A snack supper would be all you'd need anyway, after ploughing through the varied assortment of sandwiches, cakes and pastries you'll be served. It's pretty much a refillable cup as well. You can always ask for more, and again, the level of culinary skill is very high indeed. London's top hotels are all vying for your custom and it's become a highly prestigious and aggressive market. there are High Tea charts and awards out there and they all want to be on top. and you will be treated like royalty, which is always a bonus. At the time of writing this, I particularly favoured The Connaught as it was slightly more relaxed than some of the others, the tea and food was amongst the finest i've experienced and the location and view from your table is very lovely indeed. Claridge's also gets a mention as the food was a delight. No view though and it is favoured by celebrities and those in the know, and I'm really not a fan of celebrity so it loses marks accordingly.... delicious and very good though. Again, booking is essential and you are usually given between one and a half hours to 2 hours to complete your sitting. You can find out more about Afternoon Tea's in London in a related blog on OST.

So, you don't need to stay in the best to reap their rewards. Part of you hefty room rate is going towards these services which you might not always use, so i suggest staying somewhere more affordable and friendly, and using the money you save to spend elsewhere. Pick and mix the best of them, I say.

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