Ah, hotels! This week's Sunday Scribblings topic has reminded me of many adventures while traveling.
Where to begin? Should I tell you about the time I arrived in London from the volatile Middle East, only to have my sleep disrupted by a bomb scare in the hotel? Or the heartfelt marriage proposal in a charmant Paris hotel?
Or maybe you'd be interested in the haunted 9th-century inn in Devon, England? Or the lovely hotel in Exeter, England which was brimming with 18th-century antiques and a world class restaurant? My husband and I returned a year later, only to find the new owner had thrown out the room-size 18th-century gilt French mirror that had graced the dining room - literally put it out with the trash. She had also discarded most of the hotel's remarkable antiques, replacing them with framed modern prints and cheap furniture totally out of character with the building's architecture.
Or perhaps you'd like to hear about the month my daughter and I spent at the Regency Palace Hotel in Amman, Jordan, refugees from the winter cold and an uncooperative landlord, who refused to turn the heat on for more than an hour a day? Or the hotel in pre-war Baghdad, its lobby filled with reporters, government minders and spies?
As a journalist and a traveler, I've visited many places in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East and stayed in numerous hotels, from ultra-luxurious to basic. At various times in my life, hotels have served as a refuge and escape; as a celebration and a delight. When I worked as a television reporter, hotel rooms were sometimes places to conduct political interviews, the hot camera lights focused so closely, I could feel sweat trickle down my back and my nose begin to shine.
I have dozens and dozens of hotel stories. Instead of telling those stories, today I'm going to recommend some unique hotel experiences in France. I promise you won't be disappointed:
1. Grand Hotel de la Reine, Nancy, Alsace-Lorraine. Located on the Stanislas Square in this beautiful city famed for Art Nouveau architecture, this former palace once hosted Marie Antoinette. Breathtaking surroundings for reasonable prices, depending upon the season. We had a huge suite, comfortably furnished with antiques and a Murano crystal chandelier for the equivalent of about $100 per night. UNESCO designated the hotel a World Heritage site.
2. Le Hameau de Barboron, Savigny-les-Beaune, Bourgogne. This beautiful stone farmhouse is in the countryside near Beaune, wonderful museums, restaurants and Burgundy wine country! Friendly owners and stunning rooms. On the winding road to reach the Barboron, deer may leap across your path. And the manicured grounds around the hotel are big enough to land a helicopter!
3. Ferme de la Ranconniere, Crepon, Normandie. Family-owned for several generations, this renovated farmhouse and stables features two locations, one about 900 metres down the road from the other. The stone buildings are elegant; the rooms filled with carefully-chosen antiques; the restaurant food and wine list superb and the family management very helpful.
4. Chateau de Sully, Bayeux, Normandie. When we were there, the restaurant's chef had been voted one of the Outstanding Young Chefs of Europe. The former chateau recently has been bought by an insurance company. Even with the change of management, it's hard to imagine staying here could be anything other than pleasurable. The rooms are stylishly furnished, with every modern convenience. And the restaurant's food and wine list are inspired!