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Sleeping with the Famous: Historic Hotels

In London, a sightseeing must is Westminster Abbey,

where you visit the tombs of the royal, rich and famous. Sightseeing in Paris includes the resting place of its rich and famous – Pere Lachaise Cemetery (and the Basilica of St. Denis for tombs of its royals). In Rome the remarkably preserved Pantheon is at the top of everyone’s sightseeing list. Then it’s on to Vatican City to visit St. Peter’s tomb and tombs of popes buried underneath the church. When you travel why just visit sites where the great sleep permanently? To get the most out of your trip stay where the great slept while living – Historic Hotels.

 If you travel for culture – see where culture and history were actually made. In fact, many times you can actually stay in the room where famous books were written and music was composed. 

 

When I went to Rome as a child, I was thrilled to see Verdi’s Aida at the Baths of Caracalla. As an adult, I was even more thrilled to stay in Verdi’s Room at the Hotel Quirinale to see where Verdi took a bath. The Quirinale is a wonderful hotel for many reasons and, to me, the best reason is Verdi stayed there for the Rome premiers of his operas. An added bonus for Verdi and me is that the Hotel Quirinale directly connects to the Rome Opera House, which I especially appreciate so I can get some sleep after pulling an almost all-nighter – sitting through a Wagner opera.

 

Another favorite composer is the great Russian Piotr Tchaikovsky. Since last year, it’s been difficult to visit Tchaikovsky sites in St. Petersburg, Russia. However, if you select an Historic Hotel, you can even stay in the room where Tchaikovsky composed most of his Fourth Symphony – the Italian Symphony – very apropos in the Italian city of Venice in the Hotel Londra, where I’m lucky enough to have stayed in the same room. 

 

No matter what you’re interested in, music, art or literature, there’s an Historic Hotel for you. If you’re literally a fan of literature – stay in a hotel where your favorite author stayed – and even stay in their room.

 

Sometimes, an Historic Hotel even promotes staying in their author’s historic hotel room. Take a look at one of my favorite hotel’s websites in one of my favorite cities, Istanbul, promoting just that. Yes, you can actually stay in the room in the magnificent Pera Palace Hotel where Agatha Christie wrote “Murder on the Orient Express.” Agatha Christie Room – Room 411 – Pera Palace Hotel.

 

There is usually no reason NOT to stay in an Historic Hotel – since there’s usually no difference in price between an Historic Hotel and a new hotel. In addition, Historic Hotels are usually centrally located. That’s because often what was a suburb a century ago today is the city center. 

 

Celebrity Spotting

Besides staying in hotel rooms where your favorite celebrities stayed, if you’re lucky you can run into celebrities who are actually breathing. Years ago, I was checking out of London’s Park Lane Hotel behind Jane Seymour. Going back even further in time, when I was a child, I was staying with my parents at the Hotel Meurice when I had a very surreal experience. I saw a very strange-looking man – with a very unusual mustache staring back at me. My Mom said he was the great Surrealist artist Salvador Dali – who happened to live at the Meurice. 

 

Berlin’s Adlon Hotel (overlooking the Brandenburg Gate) is where history was made and is still being made. In 2009 when I was leading a museum tour of Berlin, I went down to the hotel restaurant which was strangely surrounded by police. They were there because sitting at another table, reading the International Herald Tribune, was former President George H.W. Bush. Chances are when you stay at an Historic Hotel – you’re also staying at a hotel where history is still being made! Here’s a tourist tip: Even if you’re staying with friends or in another non-historic hotel and you’re a history aficionado, dine in the dining room of an Historic Hotel.

 

If you want to spend your night where George Washington really slept go to Smithfield, Virginia and stay at the Smithfield Inn which Is probably the only surviving hotel where George slept. Since we’re already on the subject of “Washington,” let’s start with people sleeping in Historic Hotels in Washington, DC. The Intercontinental Willard Hotel, is tied into the history of America starting with Abraham Lincoln who was a Willard guest. Because presidents and other top American leaders stayed at the Willard, it soon became the haunt of the original “Influencers” – people with agendas who hung around the Willard’s lobby to make contact with the rich and powerful – which is where the term “lobbyist” originated.

 

Among the famous who have stayed at the Willard are such diverse historical figures as P.T. Barnum whose most famous saying was, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” If you also love literature – Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman stayed at the Willard as did Charles Dickens, indicative of the Willard’s early international reputation.

 

The Palace Hotel in San Francisco was once plagued by bad luck caused by nature. In the morning of April 18, 1906, one of the hotel’s most famous guests, opera star Enrico Caruso, was awakened by an earthshattering experience – the San Francisco Earthquake. Like all major US Historic Hotels, the Palace Hotel is associated with presidents. Woodrow Wilson gave a speech there in 1919 promoting ratification of the Treaty of Versailles. However, the Palace is known for a more famous event from a less famous president, Warren G. Harding, who died in his bed at the hotel on August 2, 1923. 

 

While King Arthur is famous for “Nights of the Roundtable” – New York City’s most famous Round Table was in the Hotel Algonquin (its restaurant). Famous literary guests gathered there, such as Noel Coward, George S. Kaufman, Edna Ferber. What’s most noted is not what the guests of the Roundtable said about the food, but what the guests said about each other. Great wits such as Dorothy Parker, could in fact even get a little vicious which is where the term “vicious circle” comes from. I wonder why one member of the Algonquin Round Table even bothered to join since he’s known for saying nothing at all, Harpo Marx. 

 

To read about many more Historic Hotels, visit: www.jaxfaxmagazine.com/been-there-havent-done-that

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