Until very recently, Singapore was your quintessential Asian city in accommodation terms. Everything had to be big, big, big: every fixture grand, every room opulent. The Raffles though was (and still probably is) the very best of that bunch; in fact, it’s the stuff of legends. Since opening in 1886, the last Singapore tiger was shot underneath the Bar and Billiards room (1902), the first Singapore sling was mixed at the Long Bar (1915), and, like Chateau Marmont in LA, a series of film stars have called it home. All the writers that you might associate with the waning years of the empire – Joseph Conrad, W Somerset Maugham, and Rudyard Kipling – have lived here. English colonels gathered here to sing “There Will Always Be an England” after Singapore surrendered to Japan in 1942. In short, Raffles embodies all that was glamorous about the Far East in colonial times. Nowadays, it’s still a glamorous bolthole. Its near-perfect Victorian imitation décor now looks a touch naff, but, with 2.5 staff per guest, you’ll be pampered like Gardner and Taylor were half a century ago. Its own Indian food is brilliant but so are the vendors outside the hotel – try the curries, noodles and satays safe in the knowledge that no food in Singapore makes you ill. And its rooms are perfect for relaxing in after a 13 hour flight. You can even stay in a Personality Suite, named after Conrad, Kipling, Chaplin, Wayne and others.
1 Beach Road Singapore 189673
Tel: +65 6337 1886
Fax: +65 6339 7650
If Japanese is your cuisine of choice, then try Nogawa at Le Meridien on Orchard Road. Named after legendary chef Yoshio Nogawa – who has delivered a production line of talented Japanese chefs on the island – his eatery serves the freshest, scrummiest sushi, sashimi, tempura and teriyaki in the region. The menu varies with the seasons but the quality is consistently high. His other restaurants in the city – Akane and Nogawa at the Sentosa Golf Club – are also brilliant.
Le Meridien, 100 Orchard Road, Singapore 238840
+65 6733 8855
The Grand Hyatt is within easy reach of the Shanghai Stock Exchange and World Financial Centre, and is the highest hotel in the world. It occupies the 53rd to 87th floors of the Jin Mao Tower and has good desks in its rooms, as well as high-speed internet access and a 24-hour concierge. There is also secretarial support and a translation service available from the communications centre.
If you get some down-time, go to the Huxington Tea House in the Yu Yuan Garden. This is apparently Shanghai’s oldest tea house and they perform a traditional tea ceremony every evening from 8.30pm to 10pm. Be sure to get a table on the top floor looking out over the lake. And for something livelier to do in the evening, The House of Blues and Jazz gets a good range of international acts and is an intimate venue with a music-loving crowd.
Hyde Park, Hampstead Heath, Regent’s Park, Trafalgar Square are all well known options but I would heartily recommend Holland Park and its surroundings. Hugely underrated, this beautiful park in West London has a truly gorgeous flower garden, Marco Pierre White’s yummy Belvedere restaurant, tennis courts and ample space for a summer’s day picnic.
Fancy a swim? Believe it or not, you can swim outside in London. Shoreditch House – owned by Nick Jones, the man who brought us Soho House – is situated in east London and has a heated rooftop pool.
It also has a fabulous set of places to drink inside, an onsite bowling alley and a Cowshed spa. Very possibly the best place to chill out in the capital.
Forget the stuffy Mandarin Oriental and instead request its hip little sister – The Landmark Mandarin Oriental. It’s within walking distance of Central’s important commercial buildings and the hotel concierge will meet you at the airport. It also boasts the largest hotel rooms in Hong Kong and has all the facilities you’d expect; plus it has a superb spa if you get the time to use it!
For good accommodation, there’s a hotel in town called the Villa Kennedy, which is definitely worth checking out if you are in Frankfurt for more than one night. It’s just off the south bank of the Main and is an old villa that’s been converted into a five-star hotel.
It’s quicker to take the S-Bahn rail service from Terminal 1 at Frankfurt airport than to bother with a taxi. It’s cheaper, too. You can get a day pass that includes the airport trip for around €6.85 and the journey is just 11 minutes into town. A taxi, on the other hand, will take you half an hour and cost about €30.
It seems that anyone who’s anyone doing business in Dubai takes a room in the Jumeirah Emirates Towers on the Sheikh Zayed Road. It's a huge building in the middle of the central business district and has a business centre with full secretarial services, as well as workstations in all the rooms and free Wi-Fi. For female guests who want it, there’s even a ladies floor where all the staff are women. The advantage of this is that they put a yoga mat in your room and there’s a nice array of luxury cosmetics. Also, if you’re a woman doing business in Dubai it’s best to pack trouser suits rather than skirts; despite the large amount of foreign business here it's still a conservative place.
At Dubai Airport, it’s a real hike from arrivals to baggage reclaim, so if you can it’s best to take a wheeled case that is small enough to be taken on as hand luggage.
If you need a morning swim to pep you up, then you should book into the Intercontinental, which has one of the largest swimming pools you’ll find in a hotel – it’s junior Olympic size and heated (a leftover from when this used to be an athletics club).
There are plenty of taxis outside the airports and, for those who were brought up watching 'To The Manor Born', you can book a limo to whisk you to your 5-star hotel suite in comfort (as in most US cities, Carey are the best provider). But public transport is probably your best ticket. Chicago is in fact, very unusually for the US, thoroughly served by public networks of buses and trains. The El Al, a rather spiffing elevated train, is the quickest and cheapest mode of transportation between O’Hare, Midway and The Loop.
If you're in the mood for a bit of culture, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) is worth a visit. One of the largest facilities devoted to modern art in the US, the MCA offers exhibitions of (they claim) “the most thought-provoking art created since 1945”. The MCA documents contemporary visual culture through painting, sculpture, photography, video and film, and performance. It’s easy to get to, has a passable restaurant, a fab 300-seat theatre, and a terraced sculpture garden with a great view of Lake Michigan.
220 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611 Tel: 312.280.2660Website: mcachicago.org
You can’t go wrong with a room at the Be Manos – a new boutique hotel next to the Eurostar terminus with a five-star rating. It’s very chic and also has an excellent conference room.
For a quality lunch, pay a visit to the Museum Brasserie, which is in the Museum of Fine Arts overlooking the Palace Royale. It has a menu terroir of Belgian cuisine cooked by the Michelin-starred chef Peter Goossens.
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