When I was young my parents used to take my sister and I to The Imperial in Torquay, which, during the Victorian seaside resort’s heyday, was one of Devon’s most glamorous hotels, perched on a cliff-top on the outskirts of the town since 1866.
Despite being so young, to this day I recall the chandeliers, marble floors, cornicing and formal gardens with a sense of romance. Whilst I wonder how The Imperial looks now, in my mind it will always be grand, imposing and timeless. I used to love the time we spent at The Imperial, even though we usually all stayed in the same bedroom and apart from breakfasts we rarely dined in the hotel.
I’m often asked my favourite places to stay around the world, or what prompts the inclusion of a property in our Rest Your Head section. In the fast moving 21st century hospitality industry, with new hotels opening every week, it’s hard to pinpoint why a hotel is “hot” or worthy of mention in The Cultured Traveller, apart from ticking the usual boxes of course.
Now I think about it, a hotel’s longevity and whether it will stand the test of time is a sure factor. As a child The Imperial obviously had a profound effect on me because I still remember it today. Back then it made me imagine how I’d like to travel and live as an adult, if I had the means, of course.
Today there are hotels I adore because they trigger a visceral response and always make me long to return. They range from a homely four-room hotel on the South coast of Sri Lanka, to a slick boutique property in the upscale downtown heart of Beirut. Both I like immensely for completely different reasons but are equally memorable. For those who live for our next trips (I include myself in this group), and dream of places before we’ve ever been there, we try to showcase in TCT hotels that may – like The Imperial did for me – create lasting memories rather than passing fancies.
There are at least four Rest Your Head hotels I’m rather keen to experience, Dawn Gibson’s diary of her visit to the seaport city of Rotterdam makes me want to rush to the Netherlands and investigate for myself, and Ashlee Starratt’s dreamy account of her time in UAE’s Empty Quarter sounds like the perfect place to lose myself. I hope that the properties and destinations featured in this issue will spark initial excitement, and some, like my visit to charismatic Cartagena, will mark the beginning of a new romance.