Michael Fazio’s newly published book about his job as concierge of a luxury hotel has opened up a hornet’s nest of similar bizarre stories. Apparently, we hotel guests make some very strange requests at times.
According to his book Concierge Confidential, Fazio tells of the practical problems of preparing a bathtub of chocolate as one of his most creative moments. The lady in question was delighted with the romantic gesture, but apparently only dipped her fingers in. However, it took a hotel engineer to drain the tub!
Concierge Karron Cook at the W Los Angeles-Westwood lists the most common request is for Lakers match tickets, and for those prepared to spend four figure sums that’s no problem, she says. She has also arranged romantic wedding proposals such as seating a couple at the outdoor restaurant as a skywriter wrote, “Will you marry me, Lisa?” in the sky. (BTW, she said yes to her boyfriend, not the pilot!)
In Vegas, head concierge of the MGM Grand, Jeanne Mills, was asked to create a “Pretty Woman” experience for a girlfriend who was whisked on a shopping spree to the Forum shops before being ferried out to Red Rock Canyon for a champagne picnic and proposal.
With an attitude of “the difficult is done at once, the impossible takes a little longer”, the Director of Romance was asked to make the private plunge pool colder for a guest at a luxury hotel in Mexico’s Cabo San Lucas. She trucked in ice and put huge chunks in the pool until it cooled to the desired temperature.
Frank Laino, head concierge at The Stafford in London has gone beyond the call of duty for guests requesting prime show seats or a table at a fully booked restaurant. He even organized a tailor to make tweed suites for visiting greyhounds and arranged for a guest to see the Vermeer paintings in Buckingham Palace. For his trouble, he has been voted Top Concierge by Luxury Travel Advisor magazine.
If you needed an excuse to take a vacation, here’s a good one: it could help you to live longer.
Forget all that stuff about it being stressful having the family around you 24/7, Australian research has concluded that travelling makes people happier and improves their health, even long after the holiday is over.
Dr Sebastian Filep, an expert in travel and wellbeing at Victoria University, found that motivations for travel, experiences at the destination and the post-holiday reflection all contributed to the pleasure of a vacation abroad.
“I see an opportunity for a greater connection between tourism and health, where holidays become a more important factor in leading a healthy lifestyle,” said Dr Filep. “We know from studies in the US that experiencing positive emotions reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, and that optimists live longer than pessimists. So happiness is good for overall physical and mental health, and holidays are a good vehicle for experiencing happiness.”
Dr Filep’s study, conducted as part of a doctoral thesis, forms the basis of a chapter in a forthcoming book, Tourists, Tourism and the Good Life. by Andy Moreton
A former work colleague of mine, having taken voluntary redundancy, decided to begin his new, hard-earned leisure time by driving to Mongolia – as you do.
After cajoling a slightly less enthusiastic journalist mate to join him, the two set off in a van on their charity expedition, and the adventure is chronicled in the highly entertaining Mission Mongolia (Summersdale Publishers, West Sussex).
In the narrative, David (Treanor, the author), and Geoff, both fifty-something, are at times Butch and Sundance, at others Laurel and Hardy, but mostly The Odd Couple. In a hotel in Ukraine, Treanor (think Walter Matthau) cheerily washes his rancid socks in what turns out to be the last bowlful of hot water. Enter Geoff (Lemmon) from a cold shower eyeing the socks gently steaming on the window ledge.
It’s a tale of terrible roads and border cops looking for backhanders, but also of spectacular scenery in places most of us will never get near. Treanor neatly weaves in history, geography and ecology without letting the pace drop, and there are some amusing threads: the search for drinkable beer (mostly successful), Geoff’s quest for breakfast muesli (mostly hopeless) and the competing musical tastes of the two explorers: Steely Dan v Punk.
When you read of their experiences at some of the flophouses en route (particularly one memorable hovel at Ölgii in Mongolia), I guarantee you’ll pull that fluffy complimentary bathrobe a bit closer to your body, pour yourself another G & T from the mini-bar and toast the fact that you opted for a luxury hotel.
by Andy Moreton
There’s a new – and rather more serious - take on that genre of books ‘1,000 films/albums you must see/hear before you die.’
The leading travel guide company, Frommer’s, is publishing ‘500 places to see before they disappear (sub-title: a celebration of the world’s fragile wonders) http://www.frommers.com/bookstore/047018986X.html
The blurb for the book, which will be published in October, says: ‘Here are unique landscapes, fragile ecosystems, rare bird habitats, places to see the last big game in the wild … 500 thoughtfully-chosen treasures that will inspire and enlighten travellers of all ages.’
The 500 also includes cityscapes in peril so, alongside the Amazon rain forest and the African Savannah is Little Green Street in Kentish Town, North London. This narrow, 18th Century cobbled mews – one of the last remaining Georgian terraces in London – has been under threat from development.
Campaigners claim that construction work on a planned estate nearby would result in the historic street being destroyed by heavy lorries and cranes using it to access the building site. The local council has turned down the plan, but the developers are to appeal.
Resident Nick Goodall said: “It’s good to be talked about, but I would rather it was on the list of 500 wonderful places that have been retained for posterity.”
by Andy Moreton