My favourite hotel

Years ago I heard a quip which I have never forgotten, “Two ways to travel, First Class and with kids!” The injunction has stayed with me. I believe it began at the George V in Paris just off Avenue des Champs-Élysées when I was about 14 years old. It was late summer. We had voyaged to Le Havre, France from Montréal, Québec on the S.S. Arkadia a Greek line. Apart from an Irish Roman Catholic priest my family comprised the only other First Class passengers.  My mother (a Roman Catholic whose parents refused to attend her wedding because she married a Protestant) and the priest spent the early evenings together over cocktails. I amused myself into the late evenings by frequenting the First Class lounge overlooking the bow of the ship where I was assured to find an ample choice of sweets and other delicacies.

For as much as I recall thereafter my inclination has always been to well reputed hotels. In New York City for example it began at the Pierre, followed by the Waldorf-Astoria, the Carlyle and the Plaza. Each of them inspired their own peculiar memory.  The Plaza was its Rolls Royce which ferried us to the Broadway theatre where we conflicted with Angela Lansbury (“Blithe Spirit“) descending at the Green Door from her chauffeur driven BMW (the passing tourists mistakenly thought it was we who were the spectacle). The Carlyle was its Upper East Side family reunion with Steve Tyrell and orchestra in the cabaret. As remote as Key West, Florida we preserved ourselves at Casa Marina; and, in Rome we dined on a rooftop restaurant overlooking the endless spires of the city in the setting orange sun.

Closer to home my preference has always been the railway hotels; the Banff Springs, Château Lake Louise, the Royal York, the Château Laurier, le Reine Élizabeth, the Nova Scotian and Algonquin Resort St. Andrew’s by-the-sea (where after dinner one evening I gave a tolerable impromptu performance on the grand piano in the garden patio).

Le Fairmont Le Reine Élizabeth ou Reine Elizabeth (anciennement Hôtel Queen Elizabeth ou HQE) était initialement un hôtel situé au cœur d’Ottawa avant d’être relocalisé dans l’arrondissement de Ville-Marie à Montréal. Il a été construit par le Canadien National, puis acheté par le Canadien Pacifique, pour finalement passer sous la bannière des Hôtels Fairmont. Il a été inauguré en 1958.

We abandoned the unqualified attraction to first class hotels many years ago following a journey through Richmond, Virginia (we stayed at the Jefferson) just because it was so patently inconvenient to venture far off the interstate highway for the sake of a casual overnight prance and no other profitable stimulation.  In the interim at the Jefferson we had nonetheless enjoyed an exceedingly agreeable seafood dinner and some astonishingly flavourful pretzels; but ultimately the unfettered ambition to get to our winter destination overwhelmed and triumphed.

Since for the past decade we have transitioned our interloper’s hotel exigencies to sojourner’s winter residences, the dominant feature of persuasion has altered from the traditional and historic features such as we found among the famous hotels to an unfolding assessment of the estate agency involved. This underlying insinuation was evident in our rental of a mountaintop home in Sardinia from an agency in Montréal. Connecting the dots with comfort and assurance between two such distant venues is normally only something accomplished by trial and error. We lucked out on that occasion; but there have been others which were not so fortunate. Thankfully though we’ve never had to endure a complete crash. We at least now know where not to go. Or, more precisely, through whom not to go.

All the while throughout this drama of travel and adventure we have been aging.  I say that not to be preposterous; rather to identify a very real component of life. And that is, simply put, things change. The seemingly imperceptible modification is nonetheless one of very real consequence. Aside from imposing unanticipated limits, aging tends to decipher and distill preferences with unsurpassable speed and definition. Basically the avenues narrow; and rapidly. This however is a good thing. The devotion becomes inextricably aligned with precision and satisfaction only.  There is no longer room for comparison or alternative.  There just isn’t time for mistake.

Over the past year in particular I have garnered a changed view of the world. It had nothing whatever to do with intelligence.  The insight is strictly a physical reaction to the world; and that is the confession of my inarguable immobility. For the past many months I have succeeded to overcome the limitation by arguing – quite cleverly I might say – that at my age I haven’t room for complaint. The leap then is this: Take what you can get! Nor do I think for a moment that this is either unfair or irrational.  Barring a Lourdes type of miracle, the improved counsel would be to adjust. Our first major test flight is coming this January when we undertake a Caribbean cruise.  Already I have ordered from a Swedish company I discovered on-line a captain’s hat to complement my maritime exposure. I see this as a useful credential for lolling about the swimming pool or in the lounge chairs overlooking the sea (perhaps engrossed in a riveting Hemmingway novel). Either instance involves limited mobility.  I have thus bravely addressed the accommodation without the illusion of hindrance. And don’t get me started on the assuaging matters sartorial!