Northbank is the place to be. There’s plenty happening in this funky end of the city once home to Melbourne Fish Markets. Whilst it it’s not the luxury end of town, it is developing an inner city chic and it’s the perfect place to stay if you would like some comfort without a hefty price tag.
Nestled in a quiet cul de sac at the west end of Arashiyama and basking on the banks of the Katsuma river is an oasis for one weary of the matcha ice-cream vendors and sushi shops. It’s called the Suiran.
Kuiadore or eat to ruin in Osaka whose visitor stats are soaring. The city has cool coffee shops, restaurants bars and boutiques along with traditional cultural and zany treasures and the address to flaunt is the St. Regis.
Growing up in the seventies for me meant switching on the TV after homework was finished to see Maxwell Smart, Agent 86, pull up in his red Karmann Ghia. That was during the week. On Saturday nights, I’d swap the Chief for M and be thrilled at the escapades of Roger Moore or Sean Connery. Thus, I’m rather partial to the trappings of the spy – the representation of one at least not the drab life of an ASIO employee. So, when I arrived at a tiny entrance in Gion, with a split green cloth fluttering in the breeze I felt a shiver of anticipation about what might actually lurk behind this understated façade.
One very confused Uber driver later, I arrive at the Lanesborough Hotel London. With a sigh of relief, I walk toward the entrance clutching my scarf tightly around my neck. The doorman sees me coming. And opens the door for me with a smile. There’s a fire burning just inside. I linger for a moment, letting the heat warm me.
I’d walked passed The Lanesborough when I lived in London in my early 20’s but until now, I’d never been inside. From my position next to the fire, I cast my eyes around the lobby. Regal. It’s truly the only word to describe this hotel. I feel as though I’ve stepped through time. I half expect to see characters from a Jane Austen Novel and historical figures of the Regency period to walk around the corner. Realising I’ve lingered by the fire long enough, I approach the check-in desk.
As I walk up the steps of Green Park Station, the iconic The Ritz London hotel comes into view. There are few hotels in the world that have the capability of stopping you in your tracks. The Ritz London is one. People walk around me quickly, some even huff as they go past the woman who has decided that stopping in the middle of a busy London street is a good idea. I arch my head, looking up toward the pavilion roof and the large green copper lions that adorn it.
Finally, my feet start working. I walk between the archways and the exterior of the Ritz Club and Bar, before turning the corner to the hotel entrance. In a momentary lapse of complete cliché, I start humming ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’. The doorman smiles warmly at me as I step through the revolving doors, forgetting the song and the world outside The Ritz London.
“Domo arigato,” I say to the taxi driver who smiles, bows twice and says “Hai. Hai.” I wheel my bag along a pathway by the Ooi river just over the Togetsukyo bridge heaving with crowds of tourists who clot in Kyoto’s Arashiyama district. Some are in rent-a-kimino taking selfies, others are in school uniform giggling and smiling and then there’s the occasional western tourist biting into a Miffy shaped donut.
This side of the bridge is much quieter. My quest is to find the private boat ramp for the Hoshinoya Kyoto. I see the sign just ahead written in English and Japanese and stop and breathe a sigh of relief. ‘No. No. This way,’ says a Japanese man with a camera hung around his neck gesturing downstream. I smile. Perhaps I should have donned a pair of Blahniks and a flowy Camilla for this journey. “You have to be a very special Japanese person to stay at the Hoshinoya,” my taxi driver confided before he dropped me off.
On the banks of the Ayung river, bounded on one side by an ancient nutmeg forest and on the other by the village of Mambal, lies Fivelements Retreat Bali, a luxurious eco-sanctuary that puts the glam into bamboo. This is the perfect place to get healthy and go back to nature in comfort and style.
I have a room at the Langham. It’s on the twenty-second floor. So, it’s going to be a great stay. Twenty-two is my birth date and my special number along with seven which is the number you get when you add up my whole birthdate. And my room is 2217. Zero seven would be better but 2217 is pretty auspicious.