Hanging out in Hotel Lobbies


Not everyone can afford to stay in a five-star hotel. I’ve never been able to afford it, personally – but thanks to unforeseen and unimaginable circumstances i.e. the correct alignment of the stars (not hotel stars in this case), I’ve had the extreme good fortune (long, long ago) to stay in several of Paris’s finest hotels. Because this was much too long ago to give you an accurate picture of such essentials as ‘decor of rooms’, what kind of chocolates are left on the pillow, whether there is wifi, etc. I’d rather just talk about hotel lobbies for a minute.
The great thing about most hotel lobbies (even most of the five star hotels) is that you can hang out there if you walk in and you’re reasonably well-dressed.
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“Hanging out at the Ritz, this time as a registered guest”

The Intercontinental Hotel which is now the Westin at 3 rue Castiglione in Paris – has been one of my favorites in the past. When Chris decides to take visitors on one of his ‘death march’ walks through Paris, I usually fizzle out somewhere around the Tuileries. So, I head for the Intercontinental (now the Westin) where there’s sure to be some English newspapers and I can collapse onto a plush sofa. They also have a great little bar (for much later in the day where the names of drinks are as creative as the ingredients).

How long these havens (not unlike churches)- exuding an aura of peace and surreal separation from the frazzled jumble of traffic, pollution and jostling on the outside – will be available to unregistered visitors – is probably only a matter of time – but for now that pleasant world is there – in Paris and other world capitals.

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If you are wondering what my favorite hotel lobby is in Paris – it would have to be the Hotel Regina at Place des Pyramides. Although we’ve actually stayed at the Ritz (once) and I loved every moment of it (except for the salty soup at the restaurant (that’s another story), the Hotel Regina still has that ‘grand hotel of yesteryear feel’. This is a fragile aura that can be easily destroyed by ‘renovation’ or interior designers trying to update the look of a hotel. It came as no surprise to me that the lobby of the Regina was chosen for a scene in the Bourne Identity (excellent choice). For years, the concierge’s desk has remained in the same spot – it seems. People who love the hotel tradition – understand this sense of timelessness that is so essential to the mystique of a grand hotel – sadly there are very few left that have fought the need to recreate their ‘look’ or to keep up with the times.

Beyond Paris, I caught a whiff of that same timeless serenity at the Windsor in Melbourne (where its very own Princess Natasha resides).

Many years earlier, after wandering the streets of San Francisco, a friend and I stopped in at the St. Francis very late at night. A baby grand piano was tucked away in the corner of the lobby. My friend flicked on his lighter so I could see the keys and I played the only song I knew by heart. No one asked us to leave.