“There’s a small hotel, with a wishing well, I wish that we were there together…”
Since then, I’ve spent many a night in small hotels, but I’m still looking for that wishing well. Wishing well aside, some of those small hotels I’ve experienced have been awesome. Come along with me to visit some of Europe’s best.
Nimb Hotel (Copenhagen,): Denmark Hans Christian Anderson could not have imagined what would await him if he traveled back to his ‘Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen’ in 2009. With deep pockets, he might have been lucky enough to snare one of the 13 rooms in this Moorish-style, palatial accommodation known as the Nimb Hotel. One enters the Nimb across the street from the Central Railway Station. Step out the opposite side, and you’ll find yourself in that Danish fairyland known as Tivoli Gardens. From the comfort of your room, with its open fire and huge bathroom with freestanding tub, you can look out on Tivoli Gardens where some 270 million people have strolled since its founding in 1843. But don’t worry about the noise factor from Tivoli Gardens. Aglow with tiny lights on its white marble façade, the Nimb Hotel has airport-standard triple-glazed windows. The Nimb’s Restaurant Herman might well be Copenhagen’s hottest (and most expensive) eatery.
Hotel Le Saint-Paul (Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France): This charming 16th century hostelry, wedged between other medieval buildings in the heart of the tiny village, has served as a hospital, a church, a clandestine meeting place, and a private home, in its former lives. Located fifteen minutes from the Nice airport, between Cannes and Monaco, the 4-star Le Saint-Paul is perched in the sky of the Cote d’ Azur. It is an enchanting spot at the foot of the ramparts of St. Paul De Vence. (Be advised: Don’t try to drive within the winding, narrow walls of the town. It’s Stressville.) Blessed with an absolutely perfect Indian Summer day in October, we enjoyed a Le Saint-Paul Restaurant lunch on its flower-decked terrace sheltered by the ramparts of Saint-Paul. Chef Ludovic Puzenat proposed a delectable lunch, laced with decidedly Mediterranean flavors. Little wonder that the restaurant has already received its first Michelin Star.
Palazzo Vendramin (Venice, Italy): The restored 15th century Palazzo Vendramin, linked to the Hotel Cipriani through an ancient courtyard and flowered loggia, offers a sense of privacy and luxury that I have never before experienced anywhere in the world. Four minutes by private launch from Piazza San Marco, on the tip of the tranquil Giudecca Island, the Palazzo Vendramin is a synonym for the dolce vita, Venetian style. The Palazzo is a way of life, an island apart, in every sense. It involves all the senses that make a stay unforgettable. I rang for my butler to bring afternoon tea, and pushed a button that opened a tabletop from which a TV slowly rose. Travel doesn’t get much better than that. With a view to be seen nowhere else in the world, the Palazzo Vendramin is the Royal Box in the theater known as Venice. Little wonder that the 16 rooms or suites in the Palazzo are sought after by the world’s rich and famous.
The Merrion Hotel (Dublin, Ireland): Opened in October, 1997, the magnificent Merrion Hotel was created within four lovingly restored 18th Century terrace houses opposite the seat of the Irish Government on Upper Merrion Street. In fall and winter, the air in the gracious Drawing Room is filled with the scent of woodsmoke and flowers. Log fires crackle and sunbeams shine upon Belgian tapestries, French chandeliers, and priceless Irish paintings.
In spring and summer the terrace is alive with ducks swimming to the music of water splashing on the pebbles in the garden pools. The scent of lilac and jasmine in the air drifts through the open windows of Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, the most renowned kitchen in Ireland. For what might well be Dublin’s best Fish and Chips, skip the pubs and head for The Cellar Restaurant in the basement of The Merrion Hotel. After hundreds of years of darkness and silence, the rough stone walls of Lord Mornington’s wine vault have come to life in the hotel’s Cellar Bar. The bar’s arches echo with ripples of warm laughter, and the amiable staff will “pull a proper pint” and teach you the difference between Guinness Stout and Smithwick Ale (also brewed by Guinness).
Not a sign of people — who wants people?
When the steeple bell says,”Good night, sleep well,”
We’ll thank the small hotel together.”
Rodgers and Hart