Chapter Twenty – 1989
Moving Home from the West End to the West Coast
The Edward Carter Awards of Distinction
(Equivalent to 163 pages in hard copy)
James Myhre (JWM),
Roger King, Victoria Thorburn,
Sir Colin Marshall,
Princess Primrose Croy, Mrs. Clarice Ng, Kurt Wachtveitl,
Tokuya Nagai, Eric Perney, Richard Mound, John Kay, Horst,
Peter Brown, Brian Epstein, Tommy Nutter,
Andrew Lloyd Weber, Van Cliburn,
David Carter, Lee Kostel, Atef Mankarios, Chef Dean Fearing,
Leah Huth, Ruth Lawler, Christie Myhre, Gene Reese,
Tony Hail, Jeremiah Tower,
Pat Steger, Bryan Hemming, Jeannette Etheredge,
David Waggoner, Andrew Batey, Catherin Satourian, Stephan Lambert, Charles Posey,
Mr. & Mrs. Dennen, Jeff and Joan Stanford, Frank Watson,
Barbara Farrell, Tarran McDaid, Michael Riordan,
Ralph and Carolyn Cotton, Kevin Cronin, Edward Hopper,
Richard Shepherd, Ann and Gene Swett, Paul Davis, Charles Gruwell,
Wolfgang Puck, Robin Williams, Samantha Eggar, Liz Dalling,
Alan Somers, Elizabeth Perkins, Amy Madigan, Ed Harris,
Diane Connors, Tim Castle, Annette Leighton,
Andrew and Sharon Clarke,
Insley Wardally, Robert Carrier, Bedford Pace, Oscar Wilde,
André and Doreen Jaeger, Michael Taylor, Audré Nethercott,
Dolly Fritz, Newton Cope, Manouchehr Mobedshahi,
Billy Gaylord, Liz Thorburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Stan Bromley,
Mohammed Ali, Isadore Sharp,
Momo Ohno, Shigeyo Mackawa, Sammy Cahn, Robert De Niro,
Jack Nicholson, Giorgio Armani, John Tower,
Gery and Paula Conover, Michael Brisson, John Dare,
Garry Roberts, Mr. Sutton, Ninfa, James Williams, Mary Bowe,
Myrtle and Ivan Allen, Rachel Allen, Jerry and Mary O’Mahoney,
Werner and Kei Pilz, Francis Brennan,
The O’Callaghan, Mr. & Mrs. Bourke, Harry and June Hodgson,
Dermot and Kay McEvilly, John and Lindy O’Hara,
Frank Kennan, Moe Sherman, Aunt Marnie, Sue Hunter,
Tom Clancy, Captain and Mrs. Woodall, John Waldron, Terence Stamp,
John Duffy, George Lane, Annabelle Barran,
Patrick O’Connell, Reinhardt Lynch,
Joe Alioto, Anthony Browne, Chef William Douglas McNeill,
Marlon Brando, Dorothy Levy, Christian Bouvier,
Adrian Zecha, Monty Brown, Mort Kalb,
Margaret Leonard Carter (MLC),
Robyn Roux, Michel Roux, Albert Roux, Alain Roux,
Rene Lecler, Frank Sinatra, and Laurence Rockefeller
Moments from Chapter Twenty
The Princess and the Flying Mouse
Uncle Ted joins Andrew Lloyd Weber and Van Cliburn
British Airways launches Edward Carter’s Anthology Editions
Froggy and Mousie are Kidnapped!
Sally and Christie Graduate!
Launching The Edward Carter Awards of Distinction Tour
James Moves to Hollywood - Ted Follows
Escapades in California, Ireland, Onboard the QEII,
Tahiti, Huahine, Bora Bora, and Bedarra Island
Two Tropical Christmases
Update from Chapter Nineteen…
It is the beginning of 1989. James and I are living in our new home on Eland Road, south of the river, in London.
James is attending the London International Film School and running the editorial office of Letters from Abroad©, my monthly, subscription-only, 12-page, travel newsletter.
I am a consultant to Roger King for his hotel, Alexander House, and to his various companies in advertising, hospitality, and travel.
When I aligned myself with his organization, Roger insisted on acquiring Letters from Abroad©. It seemed that he wanted as much of me as he could get. Granted, he is paying me some $250,000 a year and only asks me to meet with him once a month, but he is such a vulgarian, it is all I can do to stomach his presence.
I have just completed a 55,000-mile-trip in 55 days to write the British Airways First Class Hotel Selection. As soon as this journal and the special anthologies of Letters from Abroad© that I am editing are published, they will be seat-pocketed on all flights and placed in the BA First Class lounges around the world.
With BA’s and Roger’s support, I am now planning a series of events to present the Edward Carter Awards of Distinction to the people and places I chose in 1988 (see Chapter Eighteen – Annual Awards). While these events will bring attention to the recipients, their real purpose is to promote the journal and create new subscribers.
Since 1987, I have financed all the expenses of travel and production of Letters from Abroad© from the proceeds I got from the sale of The Point. I am looking forward to the day when subscriptions ($100 per year) will more than cover the costs. As each issue encloses a subscription application, British Airways distributions can make a very meaningful contribution to this goal. However, Roger King’s involvement is murky. In his blustery manner, the financial details of his acquisition of Letters from Abroad© have not been clarified.
So, Chapter Twenty begins…
The year starts on a sweet note…
Change is on the wind… James is having a meeting with the London International Film School and I sense the blush is off the rose. His note reveals several things…
First, he would never let me buy him anything. No matter how many times we walked by Cartier’s, he would never accept anything better than a $19 Swatch watch! Thus, borrowing as much as £10, necessitated him leaving a note - sweet. The sketch of the island is even sweeter… except maybe for the shark. My mother used to say, “’I love you’ sounds like ‘isle of view’,” and the family uses the expression on birthday cards and the like. As for the “Teda,” James and Mom have been the only people to call me that. Mom started it when I was a child and it stuck.
I can’t remember if he called that afternoon, but I learned about the meeting a few months later.
Other news… Victoria, our brilliant administrative assistant, is moving to Edinburgh and so we all have a tremendous amount of work to finish editing the special British Airways Anthology Editions of Letters from Abroad© and prepare for the Edward Carter Awards of Distinction trip around the United States.
I fax Sir Colin Marshall, the Chief Executive of British Airways, to apprise him of all the plans and get a nice letter of appreciation in return…
Luckily, Princess (yes, really) Primrose Croy who lives across the street, is a retired (pre-computers) executive secretary and wants to keep busy. I hired her the third week of February. It was hilarious watching her trying to understand how to use the mouse – she kept raising it up in the air instead of rolling it, but she quickly caught on.
During Victoria’s last days, we got lots of grateful letters from establishments that I had chosen for my BA Selection – a sampling…
James and I go to Eric Perney in Paris to order some luggage and come home via Boyer, my favorite hotel/restaurant in the world, in Reims.
Another view of our lovely dining room on Eland Road.
Eric, a private sellier (generally a saddle-maker; e.g. Hermès), constructed the trunk to the measurements of my dinner jacket inside, and the boot of my Ferrari 400i outside – a trunk for a trunk! The attaché case is custom built, brass-studded, and fitted with special pockets for my pens, Cartier watch, and notepads. He also made the folding garment bag out of glove leather. The beige material coming out of the trunk is a Carter Boat Blanket – beige cashmere backed with green Rolls-Royce headliner material and edged in leather piping. The binoculars zoom, the book is from my grandfather’s library, and the walking stick with the Boston Terrier head was my grandmother’s. I wonder whatever happened to the divine safari hat.
In the midst of all this fun, I get a note from Richard Mound of BA enclosing a letter from the BA Station Chief in Seychelles objecting to my observations of the islands. My response…
A couple of days later, John Kay arrives from Los Angeles. I missed the fun we had had renovating houses and drifting the Mini-Moke in front of “Buck House” in the ‘70s.
It seemed like reunion-week as Horst, the great photographer, and Peter Brown, ex-lover of both Brian Epstein of Beatles fame, and Tommy Nutter of Savile Row, came to town. We gave them all a great dinner party.
Peter Brown now runs a powerful PR company in New York and we made a date to meet to discuss his representing me. His other clients included the English composer and impresario of musical theatre, Andrew Lloyd Weber, and, American pianist, Van Cliburn.
The BA Anthology Editions were published in May and I sent them to Speedbird House for distribution. The interesting thing about this whole project is that British Airways has no interest in editorial matters. What I write is my business. Of course, they are responsible for their own editorial contributions and wrote this for the introduction to the Anthology Editions of Letters from Abroad©:
“Much of today’s travel has become tedious and trepidatious, forcing both the businessman and vacationer to abandon what used to be the fun of adventure and exploration. To help eliminate the tedium and tension, and make worldwide travel fun again, we are proud to introduce Dr. Edward Carter and his letters from abroad.
“As the creator of The Point, one of the most extraordinary small hotels in the world, former International Delegate of Relais et Châteaux, and author of his famous travel monthly, Dr. Carter is respected internationally as an arbiter of style and taste. His readers, like you, are sophisticated international travelers who appreciate his forthright assessments and advice because, independently paying his own way, he ‘tells it as it is.’
“As your roving ‘rich uncle,’ Dr. Carter travels the world introducing you to extraordinary people and fascinating things to do. He not only scrutinizes hotels, resorts, and restaurants, but also explores rare shops, private collections, and secret hideaways. He assesses the newcomers, re-evaluates the old stand-bys, and recommends both intrepid and indulgent itineraries.
“We know you will appreciate having this opportunity to get to know Dr. Carter. Enjoy it in style.”
On May 15th the award certificates were framed, and I FedExed them to each recipient for its Award Ceremony.
May 24th, James and I board the BA flight to Manhattan and the first annual (remember the “first annual” Okinawa Grand Prix?) Edward Carter Awards of Distinction events starts with my handing out the British Airways First Class Hotel Selection to the first-class passengers onboard.
Edward Carter presenting his BA Hotel Selection to the passengers
We spend two nights at The Stanhope, here’s James working on the press releases…
The stories of our trip continue in Letters from Abroad©…
At The Mansion on Turtle Creek – Uncle Ted, General Manager Atef Mankarios,
Marketing Director Shelley, and Chef Dean Fearing
I made a short detour to Houston while James went to see his parents in San Antonio…
From Jeremiah Tower upon the announcement of his Award of Distinction…
Highlights of the Stars Award Ceremony:
Uncle Ted and Jeremiah Tower
Following the San Francisco visit, this came out…
As the scan is a little hard to read, here is the above text…
San Francisco Chronicle – September 26, 1989
Ted Carter is Such a Snob
Critic loves the Clift, but blasts the Huntington
By Michael Robertson
Chronicle Staff Writer
Ted Carter is a snob, but his is a healthy snobbery, a useful snobbery, an example to East Bloc nations of the role of snobbery in a thriving market economy.
Carter travels the world easing his bones and slaking his appetites at the arrogant hotels and grand eateries that specialize in the salubrious sifting of lucre from the cash swollen.
Such commandos of consumption fall into two distinct groups.
There are those who will enjoy something if it is extravagantly expensive, no matter how mean and vile it is in actual experience.
And there are those whose taste has not drowned in the depths of their pocketbooks, who have transcended the bourgeois notion of getting something for nothing to the ripe appreciation of getting something for something.
It is upon the latter group Carter bestows his wisdom. Every month, for $96 a tear in a publication called Edward Carter’s Travels, he tells it like it glitz.
“It’s my job to separate adjectives from actualities,” Carter says. “You can’t rely on the glossy brochures or the magazine writers on freebie trips.
“Executives work terribly hard. We deserve our holidays. We want to know where we’ll meet our crowd, people with whom we share common interests, where our wives will be comfortable, …where the people sitting at the next table will not ruin our holiday.”
Carter, 49, spent 17 years as a London-based businessman. In 1979, he abandoned the corporate life to open a hyper-exclusive hotel in his country home on Upper Saranac Lake in his native New York.
At the time, he says, it was the priciest hotel in the United States - $650 a night per couple, full payment a month in advance.
In 1986, he left the hotel business and established his newsletter as a way of financing a life of aggressive indolence. Thursday, he’ll award what he calls the “Edward Carter Order of Distinction” to the Four Seasons Clift Hotel in recognition of its high quality.
“Frankly, (the service) is amazing. It’s what you might expect in Asia. It’s amazing in a country where people have trouble memorizing ‘Hello, I’m David. I’m your waiter.’ – which I wish they hadn’t.”
He does not confine himself to puffery, however. In the same breath in which he praises the Clift, he blasts Nob Hill’s venerable Huntington Hotel. He was so disappointed in a recent visit to the Huntington, he packed and moved, he says.
Because he travels incognito, first they saw the back of his head and then the back of his heels.
Then came the paragraph in last month’s newsletter: “The housekeeping is sloppy, the décor is tired out, room service doesn’t answer, the laundry doesn’t work on weekends, and the bedclothes look like J. C. Penny.”
The Sherman House on Green Street also incurred his disdain.
“I thought it would be the major magic place of all time. It’s a disaster. Management is not on the ball. One of the most important things is ‘the welcome.’ When I arrive, I want to be gushed over. I to-and-froed in my car in front of that place for five minutes, and still had to carry my bags inside.”
He put his shoes outside the door to get an overnight shine.
“I didn’t get them back until 10:30. It took the Stanhope in New York three hours to scrape off whatever the Sherman had put on. It was the pretension. If you say you’re going to do it, you have to be able to do it.”
His Local Favorites
Carter’s hot new Northern California hideaway is the Timberhill Ranch in Cazadero, Sonoma County. Favorite restaurants include Auberge du Soleil; Benkay, the Japanese restaurant at the Nikko Hotel; Jeremiah Tower’s Stars; and the Tosca Café in North Beach.
He and Tosca owner, Jeannette Etherege, stopped by Wolfgang Puck’s Postrio for a drink.
“The décor was, well – ‘extraordinary’,” Carter says, explaining that, yes, he intended the quotation marks.
“But the important thing is service. Jeannette asked for cigarettes. She was told to go outside and use the machine. We decided to go somewhere else and find our fun.”
He’s also promoting his $25 overnight travel-fax service ($10 for subscribers.) to provide up-to-the-minute judgments for that fraction of travelers able to distinguish between the “costly” and the merely “expensive” – “I’m not out to bitch places, but I have to develop a clientele that trusts me.”
His latest offbeat overseas discovery is the Japanese restaurant, Shiro, in Ahakista in rural Ireland. Opened by a German textile engineer and his Japanese wife in a converted priest’s house, it can handle only 10 people at a time.
“It’s one of the most extraordinary restaurants in the world,” Carter says. “Of course, the only place you can sleep is at the bed and breakfast across the street.”
June 14 - No awards to give but, as we were already in California, we couldn’t resist the siren call of Los Angeles. Being “in the Industry,” James was in his element.
We stay with John Kay who takes us to the Rose Tattoo, a thumping, gay joint with a raucous drag show. Over the next days, we did the tourist tour of Universal Studios, went to the beach at a neighbor of Robin Williams, and dined at the Bel-Air.
Our last evening, John gives us a big dinner party attended by lots of stars and Industry folk: Samantha Eggar, Liz Dalling, a couple of Baldwin brothers, star-manager Alan Somers, Elizabeth Perkins, Amy Madigan and Ed Harris, Disney’s Diane Connors, and old friend Andrew Batey. I didn’t recognize most of them but James huddled with them till the wee hours.
The next day, James says, “I’m thinking about going to work here in Hollywood.”
[Wham! I felt that awful cratering feeling wash over me. The same feeling that hit me at The Point when he said, “I’m thinking about going to Parsons School of Design.” After leaving me at The Point, was he going to do it again?! The whole reconciling of our relationship, his coming to join me in London, his stint at LIFS, our buying a house of which the renovation wasn’t even finished, and the great fun of working together on my journalistic adventures… what did it all mean? Was I an idiot or just besotted with the boy? And if I go along with it, am I setting myself up for yet another fall? Disasters do come in threes…]
He elaborated, “LIFS offers a technical film degree but I want to be in the production, development, and screenwriting side. Also, I am on a school visa, and there is no way that I could get work in England given that the film business there is essentially a cottage industry.
“Pinewood Studios is mostly a service studio for US productions and, except for the MGM-funded Bond series, is only doing smaller films financed by the British Lottery. It is not unlike San Francisco or even New York, where the community considers itself close-knit but is really keeping the doors shut because there is so little money to go around.
“It would be silly of me to get a work visa and try to find work there. As Tony Hail used to say, it would be like being a model in Chicago - you must go where the industry is.
“Los Angeles, for all its flaws, has more of an open-door policy. It seems the ideal choice. Besides, John Kay is already here and has invited us to stay with him. Look at last night’s party – he can be of great help as I am sure Liz will be too.”
We had met Liz Dalling on one of our earlier visits. She was a shaker and mover in the Industry and liked James enormously.
And, of course, there I was, grinning and bearing… “Makes perfect sense. What’s the point of going to school if you’re not going to use it, and, of course, I’ll join you here.”
It was a good decision - he was looking a lot further ahead than I was, as usual.
Our trip continues…
On the 22nd, I called Tim Castle of Cunard. I had an idea about talking my way across the Atlantic. He bought it and I was set for five days on the Queen Elizabeth II!
We flew to Minneapolis, lunched with my pretty niece, Annette, and visited with Mom.
The next day, we fly to Toronto and lunch with Andrew and Sharon Clarke. They are one of our favorite couples who regularly came to The Point. Andrew is a heritage architect and restorer and Sharon is a good cook. They had introduced us to Pronto, a great restaurant in Toronto and, the day after tomorrow, I would be giving it one of my awards.
A few years ago, to raise money for tuition at Parsons School of Design, James had sold the antique launch, I had restored and given to him for his birthday, through a boatyard in the Muskoka Lakes region north of Toronto. Turns out the Clarkes have a summer house there and we drove up for a couple of days.
Memories include: visiting the boat works, big mosquitos, back-bacon sandwiches, grilled swordfish, and a fabulous dinner of lamb and Lynch-Bages!
Then, on June 26, the Pronto award…
While we had received a lovely letter from Mama in Grenada, we didn’t have the budget to include it in the trip…
We returned to Manhattan; there were only two more certificates to award.
On the 27th, keeping the date I had made at my dinner in London, I meet with Peter Brown and retain Brown and Powers as my PR agent at $7000 a month (!). Peter is to write a special bio about “Today’s Scarlet Pimpernel,” introduce me to Dan Strone of William Morris for book and TV deals and create a Q&A binder for weekly radio interviews across the United States.
Wikipedia: Peter Brown is an American-based English businessman. After Brian Epstein recruited Brown to run the Epstein's music store in Liverpool, he became part of the Beatles' management team. He remained Epstein's and the Beatles' personal assistant until the band's dissolution. He helped found and served as board member of Apple Corps and assumed Epstein's duties after the manager's death. He went on to establish many companies and resides in New York City.
When the Epsteins opened a second store at 12–14 Whitechapel in Liverpool and put Brian Epstein in charge of the entire operation, Epstein often walked across the road to the Lewis's department store (which also had a music section), where Brown was employed. He watched Brown's sales technique and was impressed enough to lure Brown to work for NEMS with the offer of a higher salary and a commission on sales. Brown became a confidant of the Epstein family and ran the music store for Epstein before becoming part of the Beatles' management team. Brown was Epstein's and the Beatles' personal assistant during the 1960s. He was one of few to have direct contact with each Beatle, travelling worldwide with the band members and knowing their daily whereabouts.
Brown served as a board member of Apple Corps, the Beatles' company, which he helped establish. After Epstein's death, Brown assumed many of the day-to-day management duties Epstein had performed. Brown was with the Beatles at Rishikesh in 1968.
Brown was witness to the wedding of Paul and Linda McCartney and best man at the wedding of John Lennon and Yoko Ono during 1969. Lennon mentioned Brown in a line from "The Ballad of John and Yoko" ("Peter Brown called to say 'You can make it OK, you can get married in Gibraltar near Spain'"), one of the last Beatles singles.
After the Beatles disbanded in 1970, Brown became President and chief executive officer of the Robert Stigwood Organisation. In 1977, Brown formed the Entertainment Development Company. He founded Brown & Powers, a global public relations firm in 1983, which became BLJ Worldwide. He is Chairman Emeritus of Literacy Partners, a member of the US Steering Committee for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, a member of the board for British American Business, a member of the selection committee of the Lee Strasberg Artistic Achievement Award, and a board member of the American Associates of the National Theatre of Great Britain. Brown co-wrote with author Steven Gaines The Love You Make: An Insider's Story of The Beatles, a biography of the Beatles published in 1983.
Here are the Questions and Answers Peter put together for interviews:
Newport and the livin' is easy, houses are jumpin' and the summer is high.
Sally Packard took a big old multi-gabled house with a wrap-around veranda for a month or more and gave one continuous houseparty for weeks. On July 2nd, James and I trained up from Manhattan to take her away for a few days between guests.
Newport was jammed. Ocean Drive, where all the big cottages are, was bumper-to-bumper and those that weren't in cars were messing around in boats - gunwale to gunwale; you could almost walk across the harbor without getting wet.
We meandered the town with a list of fourteen recommended inns but didn't see one we would have stayed in. Now that's ridiculous but true. It appears that the owners feel that as Newport is such a seasonal town, the market just doesn't warrant the kind of capital expenditure necessary to cater to discerning travelers. I think they're wrong. Parts of Newport are really charming and, off-season, it would be a lovely place to spend a long weekend at a comfortable, attractive inn. I mean all those folks in the big houses knew it long ago and without the high-summer crowds, the place hasn't changed all that much.
Of all that we saw, and we visited most, the John Bannister House is the most inviting, retaining much of its original character with nine guest rooms all with private bath. Another $100,000 would make it very special.
One of the best craft shops I've yet to find is The Spectrum of American Artists and Craftsmen at 210 Bellevue right next to Stanford White's venerable Casino.
There is a wonderful collection of extraordinary lamps from Gemma Studios in the Connecticut River Valley and beautiful jewelry anywhere as well.
We had a great few days - I remember lots of grilled swordfish on the beach.
On the sixth, leaving James behind, Sally and I go to Nantucket for two nights at the delightful Wawinet Inn, then to the charming Charlotte Inn on Martha’s Vineyard, and finally back to Newport to the Weekapaug Inn where Sally had spent many summers as a child - all good stuff for future issues…
We sailed to Nantucket on a ferry laden with cars. I don't know why non-residents can bring cars; the little cobblestone streets were jammed.
Nantucket Town is filled with art galleries, craft and gift shops; for Sally, a dream come true. Nantucket lightship baskets and scrimshaw, the two most famous crafts which reflect the island's maritime history, are two of the most significant, and costly, status symbols made in America. Scrimshaw — the art of carving on whalebone or ivory was, originally, the hobby of whalers and while there are many such objects available, their prices are soaring as the acquisition of new bones and ivory is now outlawed. The original lightship baskets were made in the last decades of the 19th century by crews of the South Shoal Lightship during their months at sea. Today, each basket made is signed and dated by the artist who wove it. There are several designs, but most serve as ladies' purses and are usually topped by scrimshaw; Sally and I saw many whose prices ranged from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. Luckily, her grandmother left her a few, one so large it holds stacks of magazines next to her fireplace at home.
Of above average interest: The Spectrum of American Artists and Craftsmen at 26 Main Street; Four Winds Craft Guild on Straight Wharf has perhaps the largest collection of lightship baskets and collector scrimshaw; and Mitchell's Book Corner at 54 Main Street where, in the back, you will find a large collection of books on Nantucket including several editions of Moby Dick which were inspired by Captain Pollard of the Essex who lived at 46 Centre Street (now a souvenir and gift shop, of course.) I also suggest you devote an hour to the Whaling Museum. It is beautifully laid out with imaginative and informative displays, lots of whaling tools, even a full skeleton, but I couldn't help but feel rather disgusted: our planet seems to be better suited for them than for us and the thought of killing them is abhorrent to me.
We stayed the first night at The Wauwinet, the highly touted re-incarnation of the 19th-century, landmark inn. Perched between the Atlantic and Nantucket Harbor, the location is great, the hotel is not. The interior's been overly designed by a New York firm who has filled the rooms with machine-carved knick-knacks and covered what should be wainscoting in the hallways with black and white marbleized (their word) paper!
Obviously, the original structure had few bathrooms so, instead of putting in proper sized new ones in between the guest rooms, the architect stuck in after-thought ones within the rooms themselves. Then, adding insult to injury, he installed plastic bathtubs whose fittings are already corroding. He also forgot about closets: there aren't any, and don't let the Madison Avenue talk convince you that the reproduction armoires (with too few hangers) are suitable replacements — they may be "suitable," but they are not "dressable."
Downstairs, I overheard several people complaining that their air conditioner didn't work and that they couldn't open their windows; me too. Also, the pricing structure is mad: my room overlooking the Harbor with a king bed, one chair and not enough room to change my mind, was $100 more than Sally's corner room on the same floor with a view over the harbor and towards the ocean!
Pluses: Nice linen, a proper turn-down service, a toaster oven that's brought with your continental breakfast, attractively stenciled floors and painted furniture and the General Manager, Russ Cleveland, is sympathetic and professional and his staff willing.
Dinner in Toppers, the yuppie restaurant, was good but I must admit that Sally and I were in conniptions over the adjectived menu. I suppose it's normal American menu-speak but to our sensibilities it was funny. I understand smoked, grilled, charred, steamed, roasted, baked, and sautéed, but panéed? Of course, putting in the accents would help and I'm still waiting for an explanation of Tuscan Toast, Hand-cut pasta (with scissors, maybe? — it wasn't) and Euro-cucumber.
The whole place is over-blown and over-priced. Not to worry, I'm not going back… there.
On the other hand, across the island, is the enchanting village of Siasconset. The shingled houses are all naturally-weathered grey and covered with roses; one adorable cluster of them is an inn called The Summer House. Eight teeny, rose-trellised cottages on the grounds, seven larger ones for families nearby; across the road is a perfect pool with the beach and ocean just steps away. Delicious food, smiling staff, quiet, low-key guests. You'll hear all about it in an upcoming issue but, for now, put it down as a "must" — it's a treasure.
With readers now on every continent, it's hardly important to remember that what is home to some is abroad to others so when I start out by saying that Martha's Vineyard is a 21-mile-long by 7-mile wide island about seven miles off the Cape Cod coast of Massachusetts, please understand that it's conceivable that somewhere in France, Massachusetts sounds very like "met les chausettes". But I'm not talking about putting on socks; more like pulling them up.
In 1970, Gery Conover who'd been summering on the island for five years and had had an art gallery for two after that, bought The Charlotte Inn, really pulled his socks up and with his wife, Paula, has developed one of the most beautifully designed inns in the world.
Sally and I had ferried over from Hyannis, leaving the car there. It took just under two hours and cost $9.50 each. We landed at Vineyard Haven Harbour. (I lost a bet as there was no one anywhere to help carry luggage; I'd think an ambitious lad with a Vermont Cart could make a fortune.) A van from the Martha's Vineyard Taxi Co. soon appeared, we drove the 20 minutes to Edgartown, dropped off our luggage and asked Gatia (as in Geisha) to give us a quick tour of the island.
On the way to Gay Head, the westernmost town on the island, we passed the site of Jackie O's new house. Lot's of folk like that live here. Gay Head Cliffs are spectacular and are capped by the Gay Head Light, one of the first revolving lighthouses in the country. There's lots of wide open country: spreads of moors, dunes, beach, salt ponds, marshes, and in the middle, the state forest of scrubby pine. There are no traffic lights and next to no crime: people leave their cars unlocked with the keys in the ignition.
Away from the bustle of Vineyard Haven, elegant Edgartown is a stroller's paradise. White clapboard Federalist and Greek Revival houses, topped with Widows' Walks range along the leafy streets of this once whaling capital. Not one building is out of character, not one shop an eyesore. Sally and I were admiring one particularly beautiful house and garden - it was minutes before we realized we were looking at the newest, restored acquisition of the Conovers, The Garden House. The whole town could be the Charlotte Inn; at the rate he's going, maybe it will be.
When Gery bought the place, several of the original buildings had been sold off 'til there was only one; he's simply been returning them to the fold. Now the Inn consists of five white clapboard houses housing 27 rooms.
Sally and I were in the Carriage House; our rooms were the most authentically comfortable I've ever experienced in an American inn. Less sumptuous, say, than those of the Inn at Little Washington, but, filled with such wonderfully quirky personal treasures, they were more sincere, less theatrical. While it is obvious that an amazing amount of effort has gone into their design and furnishing, the result is that almost unachievable effect of looking as though no effort had been expended at all.
An envelope for tipping the maid.
The fire extinguisher concealed by a leather bucket next to the fireplace.
Good antiques: dresser, marble-topped bedside tables, four-poster queen, several lamps, and the corner cabinet.
Genuine oil paintings.
Properly laid fire with brass trimmed screen and good andirons.
Comfy wing chair and chintz loveseat, tastefully coordinated with a good Laura Ashley wallpaper.
Fresh flowers, books, magazines, and newspapers.
In the bathroom:
New, but unwrapped, soap.
A non-slip shower mat that covered the whole tub.
A white shower curtain (so you can see where you dropped the soap).
Antique, silver-backed, engraved comb, brush and mirror on both the dressing table in the bathroom and on the dresser in the bedroom.
Four white bath towels… a worry; see below.
Outside our rooms was an enchanting bricked garden; a similar path meanders throughout the entire property. A wicker table and two wicker chairs were shielded behind tall yews. I went to the front desk to ask for some ice: a leather-covered bucket had already been filled in anticipation. That's the other thing about the inn: thoughtful service. A lad walked by as Sally and I settle in the garden for a drink before dinner. Moments later he was back with the fitted cushions that had already been taken in for the night. We hadn't said a thing!
What the Conovers do, they do very well; they don't attempt what isn't their forté so L'Etoile, the dining room, is leased to and run by Michael Brisson. At a Prix Fixe of $47, Sally enjoyed a soup of braised leeks followed by grilled swordfish with roasted peppers and sweet and sour black beans. I had a delicious salad of confit duck with foie gras and a grilled veal chop with pesto cream sauce. Bresson's forté is sauces and desserts. The rhubarb tart was terrif' and the white chocolate and Grand Marnier-covered strawberry genoise was awesome.
Observations: We both felt that our welcome wasn't great. The gals behind the cramped front desk were distracted and seemed more concerned with making a date over the phone for a dance that evening, than checking us in.
The entry hall is narrow and cluttered. Checkout is 11:00 A.M. and the only place to store your luggage is under the stairs in the front hall. Retrieving them later, on your knees, blocking up the works, is hard work and not very dignified.
There is no sitting room in which guests can relax in the main house. Every room is taken up by a commercial enterprise. While the art gallery, Gery's original and abiding interest, is a nice touch, in a town already awash with them, the gift shop was just too much. The fact that Gery puts prices in excess of $15,000 on the works of young, nationally-unknown watercolorists of questionable ability was a bit of a shock for us both. Sally's gallery at the Adirondack Store in Lake Placid sold oils of internationally-famous artists for a tenth of that… of course one must remember that was three years ago (!). In general, we felt there was just too much commercial pressure in the main building to relax.
While breakfast offers a large choice, Sally likes her coffee in bed; not an option here.
I remarked how attentive the staff must be as no one had come to do the turn-down while we were having our drinks in the garden. Wrong. I was stunned upon returning after dinner to find that no one had come to change the towels, dump the baskets, and turn down the bed. The next morning, talking to Gery and Paula, they said they had applied to Relais et Châteaux for membership. Raising an eyebrow, I referred to the lack of turn-down - a Relais requirement. Surprised, they said they certainly had enough staff to do it (true) but that they had tried it one year and had so many complaints from guests being disturbed, they had stopped it (hard to believe).
Hey kids, sort out the above and, in my book, the Relais et Châteaux would be proud to have you. Your rooms are stunning, your staff well above average, your gardens and outside sitting areas are outstanding, L'Etoile is just right, and the whole place is full of wonderful treasures and unique surprises. We'll be back… when the season is slightly less-high.
We return to Newport and drive to Watch Hill… watch out, it ain't what it used to be. The shops are as dilapidated as the crowd; in spite of which, a teeny, and I mean teeny, flat over a florist's was on the market for $300,000+!
Sally used to visit her grandmother who stayed the season at the Weekapaug Inn a few miles away; we went for lunch.
The Weekapaug Inn has been owned and managed by the Buffum family for four generations. While it came into being in 1899, this year they are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary since the inn was rebuilt in 1939 following its destruction in the 1938 hurricane. Jim Buffum, who remembered Sally when she was a little girl, explained their philosophy. "In keeping with our ninety-year tradition, the Inn is strictly non-commercial, offering the comforts and atmosphere of a respectable home with the conveniences of a hotel."
The emphasis is on "respectable." This is a blue-stocking'd crowd - low-key, long-term repeaters. It reminds me of the Lake Placid Club where I spent many a school vacation. The same "working-their-way-through-college" kids in the dining-room, the same comfortable-shoe'd housekeepers who've seen thirty seasons, the same septuagenarians bowling on the lawn (some lawn; looks more like a scale model of the Green Mountains!), and the same teenagers trying to comprehend the traditions, accept the standards, and assimilate the principles that would carry them on through life until they returned to Weekapaug with their own families.
The community of Weekapaug is tony and very private. The Inn sits on its own peninsula looking out over its salt-water bay, which is protected by a 1.5 mile-long, private barrier beach, to the ocean beyond with nary a house to spoil the view. And this is only two hours from Manhattan by train! There are 62 very simple rooms, all with old-fashioned bathrooms and no TV or telephone.
The common rooms are equally conservative, immaculately clean, and comfortable: plenty space to get away from the kids who have their own games room, and a pine-paneled bar where you mix your own drinks from your private locker (no liquor sold in the Inn). There's a designated fridge off the dining-room for wine, and a standing ice bucket will be brought to your table.
Facilities include tennis, lawn bowling, shuffleboard, sailing, windsurfing, rowing, fishing, swimming, and a private, limited-membership, an 18-hole golf course is available to guests just four miles away.
The dress code at breakfast and lunch is "somewhat informal" (doncha love it).
Thursday nights, there's a cookout but I still don't think you'd get away with jeans, and the rest of the week's dinners and Sunday lunch are definitely jacketed, and I'd recommend a tie.
How's the food? Wholesome, unimaginative and conservative - what else?
Sally bumped into one of her grandmother's friends, part of what the staff called "The Gold Coast Crowd." She was as astonished as Sally - she, because Sally recognized her; Sally, because she was still alive!
On the tenth, James and I pull ourselves away and return to The Stanhope.
The next day, I meet with Tim Castle of Cunard to pick up my ticket for the QEII and that afternoon, in front of a large press corps in The Stanhope, I present an Edward Carter Award of Distinction to John Dare of La Tulip, an outstanding New York City restaurant, and one to The Stanhope itself.
The next evening, John and Sally Dare take us to Bouley, perhaps the best restaurant in Manhattan at that time.
On the 20th, James goes to check out the Incentra Village House in Greenwich Village for Letters from Abroad© and I fly back home to London to put the house on the market, sell the cars, and prepare myself for a new life in Hollywood… insane!
On July 18, I have lunch with Roy Kirkdorffer to bring him up to speed on my ever-fluid life.
July 27th, I get a fax from Roger King which, while it congratulates me on the Awards trip, sets out a new chain of command under which I would need to report to one of his sons – unacceptable to me.
I had not yet told him about my personally retaining Brown & Powers and decide that I will go back to going it alone. He can keep his $250,000 a year and the title “Letters from Abroad©” – come to think of it, he behaves more like a broad than anything else – a vulgar one at that.
I decide to tell him after my birthday on August 16th and be gone from London before the end of the month.
The next day, I call up the garage from which I bought Geraldine Ferrari and tell them that as I was returning to the United States and as she did not meet the emission requirements of the USA, I could not take her with me and needed to sell her.
Almost immediately, I received a fax from Garry Roberts, European Auto Sales, Inc. Costa Mesa, CA who offered me $75,000 (about what I had paid for it). And there, on the second page, was the image of a cashiers check in the amount of $75,000 made out to me. I responded by accepting the offer and telling him to bring the check with him when he comes to pick up the car.
P.S. - James had never been impressed by Geraldine but he did say he liked the look of a Maserati Quattroporte that was parked in front of The Wharf one day.
George Lane helps with the sale of Cleo, James’ robins-egg-blue, Volkswagen Beetle.
I call Carlisle & Company and put the house on the market. They produce an attractive flier seeking £250,000 (more than I paid for The Point in 1978)…
Aug 3 - James calls from LA – “Saw Liz last evening. Alan Somers, who runs a management company with which she has several clients, offered me a job as an unpaid intern! Isn’t that great!”
“Great indeed!” I answer and tell him about selling Cleo and Geraldine. Garry had picked it up that morning and given me the check.
Aug 8th - The dealer who had sold me Miss Piggy, the gorgeous Rolls-Royce Phantom, came to the house and bought the car back. I got £40,000 – a loss of £20,000. Too bad.
Aug 15th – Saw Mr. Sutton, 149 Harley St.; he checked potassium level… OK. My nephew John vanVliet called “Happy Birthday.” I even got a card from Ninfa, the Filipino housekeeper who worked for us last year and helped produce that year’s wonderful, tented, birthday party dinner of Filipino Chicken adobo…
I’ll never forget Ninfa; once a week she would take all the pictures down and dust behind them. Some housekeeper! Someone once said, “Can’t be a good butler unless you’ve had one.” Same goes for a housekeeper.
Aug 16th alone at Eland Road. God, I was lonely. James had so generously produced the most fantastic birthday parties for me for years and now here I was, alone in the garden, toasting the jets on final for Heathrow. I went to Mimmo’s for dinner… first time I’d ever been to my favorite restaurant alone.
Aug 23 – Universal Packing Specialists came to pack and take our office furniture to storage. I would leave the rest for later – it’s easier to sell a house that’s furnished.
Aug 26 – I made chili for James Williams and we “cried in our beers” about my leaving. The next morning, I sent a resignation fax to Roger King and, Mac in one hand, carry-on in the other, flew to Dublin.
Here are the highlights of my sojourn…
I spent the first night at the Shelbourne in Dublin...
and, then headed south on the N11 to…
My 22-page, monthly journal, Edward Carter’s Travels©, takes up the story of this trip as follows:
From Marlfield House, in Gorey to Ballymaloe House in Shangarry…
This place is so wonderful, and famous, I start with this from Ballymaloe’s website:
“Myrtle and Ivan Allen bought Ballymaloe in 1948 from the Simpson family. The Simpsons were known in the area for their parties and Myrtle and Ivan had, in fact, met at Ballycotton Lifeboat fundraising dinner at Ballymaloe a few years previously. Ivan had wide farming interests, growing tomatoes and cucumbers in glasshouses and mushrooms in dark wooden sheds at nearby Kinoith as well as managing the orchards there.
“However, Ivan longed for a mixed farm and when Ballymaloe came up for sale he decided to buy it. Myrtle and Ivan spent the next sixteen years farming and bringing up their children. The farm was a success producing milk, butter, cream, eggs, home raised pork and veal as well as fruit and vegetables. Myrtle became highly knowledgeable about cooking their produce and began writing a cookery column in the Irish Farmers Journal.
“In 1964 Myrtle, encouraged by Ivan decided to open Ballymaloe as a restaurant. The children were growing up and she could see a different future ahead of her:
“"On a winter's day I sat by the fire alone and wondered what I would do in this big house when they were all grown up - Then I thought about a restaurant.”
“Her aim was to emulate the best Irish Country House cookery. Myrtle and Ivan then placed an advert in the Cork Examiner: Dine in a Historic Country House. Open Tuesday to Saturday. Booking essential. Phone Cloyne 16.
“So, Myrtle scrubbed down the kitchen table and with the help of two local women she began. They cooked on an Aga at first and she was helped front of house by Ivan and their daughter Wendy. Their shepherd Joe Cronin ran the bar.
“The food was good, and the restaurant flourished. They cooked using their own produce- unpasteurized milk and cream, veal, pork, homemade sausages and black puddings, herbs, fruit, and vegetables. Ivan went to Ballycotton every day for the fresh catch. Local beef and lamb came from Mr. Cuddigan, the butcher in Cloyne. Myrtle also encouraged local farmers’ wives to bring in their surplus produce, and blackberries, elderflowers, and watercress were brought in by children for pocket money.
“Although times have changed at Ballymaloe, the essential spirit of the place is rooted in these improvised beginnings and in the relationship of the farm to the table which underlies the elegance of Irish Country House cooking.
“Many of Myrtle and Ivan Allen's children and grandchildren live and work near Ballymaloe. Although Ivan passed away in 1998, Myrtle continues to live at Ballymaloe surrounded by her family. She has 22 grandchildren many of whom have gone on to develop their own enterprises, all inspired by her vision and philosophy. Myrtle now also has 33 Great-grandchildren.”
Rachel Allen, who must have been about two when I was there – and I remember her well, running around the lawn and through the dining room - is now on BBC TV and I watch her almost every night cooking wonderful things.
The entrance to the Dining Room
From Ballymaloe House in Shangarry to a surprise in Ahakista.
Sadly, now it is a dream…
Wikipedia: Shiro was a restaurant in Ahakista, County Cork, Ireland. It was a fine dining restaurant that was awarded one Michelin star each year in the period 1996-2001.
The Michelin Guide awarded the restaurant the "Red M", indicating 'good food at a reasonable price', in the period 1988-1995. The Egon Ronay Guide awarded the restaurant one star in the period 1988-1989.
The kitchen style was Japanese and Sushi.
The restaurant had only a short menu, no staff (the owners were also head chef and waiter), one seating a night and was located in a typical Irish Cottage.
Head chef of Shiro was the late Kei Pilz.
From Ahakista to the Park Hotel Kenmare…
From the website:
“One of the world’s most renowned hotels” – New York Times
“Dating back to 1897, heritage and luxury are combined at the Park Hotel Kenmare to create a gracious home...”
“This Victorian landmark, dating from 1897, with its splendid views over the glistening waters of Kenmare Bay, the ever-changing light of the Cork and Kerry Mountains, the adjoining 18-hole golf course, garden walks and the Heritage Town of Kenmare is home to one of Ireland’s finest hotels. Tradition, in every sense, is important to us, as is the fun of today, the devilment of a younger guest, the delight of a couple holding hands and the delivery of true service. It is a rare place where the decadence of the past is married with the modernism of today.”
“Readers of both Condé Nast Traveller and Travel & Leisure magazine have voted the Park Hotel Kenmare as the Best Hotel in Ireland.”
From Kenmare to Mallow and Kanturk…
From Kanturk to Cashel Bay and the Cashel House Hotel…
From Cashel Bay to Riverstown and Coopershill…
From Riverstown to Mountrath and Roundwood House…
From Roundwood’s website…
Roundwood House, Ireland
“I think this house has a marvelous doll’s house–like quality, in that it’s not a ‘great house’ but it’s very well-designed and very cleverly laid-out, and it’s got all its original fittings which is quite something”.
Hon. Desmond Guinness
Co-founder and former President, the Irish Georgian Society and a buddy of mine.
“…This is the old school of Irish hospitality – understated, loquacious, arranged by people who have the time to talk to you and to take care of you. The result of their patient, gracious care is that everyone feels special when staying here.” McKenna’s Guide: Top 100 Places to Stay in Ireland
“Set at the foot of the Slieve Bloom Mountains, just over an hour from Dublin, Roundwood is a beautiful and historically significant 18th-century Irish country house. Warm reception rooms filled with antique furniture, bedrooms lined with paintings and overflowing bookshelves, crackling fires, good food, lovely gardens and extensive outbuildings, all give rise to a unique Irish experience.”
My room – The Garden Room
The Green Room
The Yellow Room
My host – Frank Kennan
And the next day, September 7th, I flew to Boston via Aer Lingus 117 to meet with my tax accountant, Moe Sherman.
I met Moe when I was considering bringing the Carter Containers concept to the United States in the 70s. He enquired of my tax status and I said I had been abroad for years and hadn’t filed with the IRS since being in the U.S. Army. “After he came to,” he took me under his wing, filed for the previous seven years, and got me a refund!
So, the morning of the 8th, I meet with Moe and, that afternoon, fly to Baltimore to visit Sally.
On the 11th, I take the Amtrac to Manhattan, check into The Stanhope, meet with Peter Brown at Brown & Powers on Lower Park Avenue, and have a “welcome back” dinner with Audré at a restaurant in which a couple of “Godfathers” were playing bocce!
After a couple of “play days” in Manhattan, I flew to Los Angeles and bunked in with James at his Oakwood Serviced Flat. We spent a few days looking at apartments and visited an Acura dealer who laughed at my pronunciation of this new car. (I still don’t know how its supposed to be pronounced – I guess I was confusing it with a Japanese playmate in Okinawa whose name was Akira.)
On the 19th, we saw a very attractive, mini-compound on Sweetzer Avenue in West Hollywood. It was owned and managed by a cute, Jewish mensch who was a little too eager to get to know us. That’s West Hollywood for you. In the compound was a second-floor, two-bedroom apartment up a sheltered outdoor staircase. It had a fire-placed bedroom, a Pullman kitchen, a guest room, and a large living room with a terrace that extended over the garden apartment below.
The garden apartment had a fire-placed living room opening onto a small outdoor sitting area, a Pullman kitchen, bedroom, and bath. It also had a two-car garage.
The next day, we went back to take measurements, signed the lease for both apartments on the 21st, and went furniture shopping; our furniture in London would come over after we sold the house (God willing) on Eland Road.
We were going to live upstairs; the downstairs would be an office and guest room for my mother.
The front door to Sweetzer’s second floor
In the meantime, Peter Brown had been busy… and effective. He had set up a series of radio interviews so, on September 26th, I flew to San Francisco and checked into The Clift. The chambermaid not only knew my name but recognized Froggy who was sitting on my bedside table!
27 Sept: Telephone interviews: KKSF-FM Radio; “California Magazine;” KNEW-AM Radio, Oakland; dinner at Stars.
28 Sept: Clift lunch reception; TV interview on KRON-TV; Key Magazine interview at the hotel; dinner at Blue Light Café with Jeanette, then Boz Skaggs.
29 Sept: Live radio interview on KNER-AM; taped an interview on KALW-FM.
The format for most of the shows was the same: a few minutes about me and The Point, and my criteria for recommending places. The bottom line was that it was better for me to spend my nickel than you to waste yours. Then listeners would telephone in to ask me questions about an hotel or destination.
For example, “What about Boyer in Reims?”
Leaning toward the microphone, I said, “The last time I was there, going up to take my evening shower before dinner, I found Madame Boyer, herself, replacing the drawer paper in my dresser in room 16. How many places, other than your own home use drawer and shelf paper? Suddenly, we were startled by the sound of jet-like engines out the window. We rushed to look just as a balloon took off toward the nearest vineyard. Ah yes, champagne tonight! That’s Boyer, now called Domaine Les Crayères.” and so forth…
You’ll remember that Mother lived in a canal-fronting condo at The Ambassador Club in Naples, Florida in the winter, and in a Mississippi-facing condo in Minneapolis in the summer, relieved by an annual summer visit with James and me, and an annual winter visit with my sister, Dade and her husband, Wim. It is my task to driver her and her car north in the spring and south in the autumn. (“Throw Mother from the train…” No, I don’t mind it at all.) So, today, Sept 30, I fly to Minneapolis/St. Paul to drive MLC (Margaret Leonard Carter) to Naples.
Also, today, JWM (James Wayne Myhre) starts with Alan Somers Management as an unpaid intern. As much as I was able to glean over the years James was in this business, managing minor stars is mainly a babysitting job. Of course, James would always go the extra mile to meet their every flight, coddle their butterflies before a meeting, and provide a shoulder to cry on when things didn’t go as expected or hoped for. It meant reading scripts, lots of scripts, and selling their clients to studios and directors who were starting films. Managers get a commission of 15% of the clients’ remuneration.
In Hollywood, the script is the core commodity, and everyone seems to be writing one. However, the percentage that gets “picked-up” – sold - is very small. It’s the proverbial pot of gold at the end of a very high rainbow.
On October 4, MLC and I arrive in Naples. Our first night was in Bloomington, Illinois; second in Chattanooga, Tennessee; third in Kissimmee, Florida; then home - 27 hrs, 1810 miles. We celebrated her birthday in Naples on the seventh just as JWM moved into 1276 N. Sweetzer Ave, West Hollywood.
The next day, Oct 8, I fly from Naples to Manhattan and check into The Pierre; tomorrow, I’m sailing on the QEII!
I am shown to one of the most beautiful suites I've ever seen - 3904. The mirror-walled, marble-floored foyer, with a Louis XVI console table, leads right to a Chippendale-furnished living room which looks west and north, through double-glazed windows, over Central Park. There are two sofas in front of the fireplace, appropriate occasional tables, and a Chinese-style desk and matching chair against the nearest wall, all of which are upholstered in a muted rose and gold Fortuny fabric which also makes up the lined and interlined draperies. On the dining table are a chilled bottle of Champagne and long-stemmed strawberries.
The bedroom is papered in a beige, flocked wallpaper; the mirrored wall opposite the bed conceals two walk-in closets and the TV. The bath is as minuscule as the other rooms are large, but it is paneled in an unusually attractive marble and matched by a large Sherle Wagner shell basin. Every amenity you’d expect is present, including linen hand towels. A necessity in my home (they’re perfect for cleaning eyeglasses), linen towels are a benchmark item in determining the degree of luxe in hotels I enjoy.
The service in the hotel matched the professionalism of the interior design.
Do you know how I travel incognito? I use my "additional credit card." It is an Amex Platinum card in the name of Sir Percy Blakeney - the 'Scarlet Pimpernel!'
As Peter Brown quickly realized, if anyone ever twigs my nom de guerre, it will make a cute story for the press...
Wikipedia: The Scarlet Pimpernel is the first novel in a series of historical fiction by Baroness Orczy, published in 1905. It was written after her stage play of the same title enjoyed a long run in London, having opened in Nottingham in 1903.
The novel is set during the Reign of Terror following the start of the French Revolution.
The title is the nom de guerre of its hero and protagonist - Sir Percy Blakeney, a chivalrous Englishman who rescues aristocrats before they are sent to the guillotine.
Sir Percy leads a double life: apparently nothing more than a wealthy fop, but in reality, a formidable swordsman and a quick-thinking escape artist.
The band of gentlemen who assist him are the only ones who know of his secret identity. He is known by his symbol, a simple flower, the scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis).
Tonight, I’m with “Peter Brown & Co.” starting at his apartment at The Langham, 135 Central Park West – one of Manhattan’s most chic addresses. The twelve of us were all “celebrated celebrities” – at least that’s what Peter wanted us to believe. Of course, it was true for Andrew Lloyd Webber and Van Cliburn. I ducked out early to prepare my sea-legs.
The only other time I’d been on an ocean liner was in February 1963:
From Chapter Three:
February sixth, Mother and Aunt Marnie confettied me off on the QE1 – Cunard’s RMS Queen Elizabeth bound for Southampton, England by way of Cherbourg, France.
Me, MLC and Auntie Mame.
This veritable Queen of the seas was larger than the later QE2 and was the epitome of luxury. I was traveling Cabin Class – better than Third and considerably more practical than First.
I met a very attractive girl who was going to Foxcroft, the super-chic, girls’ preparatory school in Middleburg, Virginia. Each evening, Sara and I would slip up the stairs to First Class and dance the evening away in the Ballroom. People were enamored with her good looks and my good rhythms; they voted us “King” and “Queen” of the voyage and we certainly felt regal.
February on the North Atlantic can be brutal, and this turned out to be one of the roughest crossings ever recorded. The perimeter boards had to be erected on the dining room tables and our steward, Geoffrey, urged us to stay in our cabins… we danced! Careening from one side of the dance floor to the other, and cheered on by Geoffrey, we swooped and swirled our way toward France… We landed at Cherbourg on the eleventh…
October 9th, I taxied to the West Side and arrived at the dock at 1:00 PM. It was a beautiful ship.
I was a guest lecturer and would be speaking on the 10th and the 12th. I hadn’t really planned anything, but I had slides made of Sue Hunter’s drawings and brought some 300 copies of the BA Guide. I checked in with the Hotel Manager and got my picture taken…
and signed up to eat at a table for one in Queen’s Grill – the preferred dining room.
“You want to be alone?! We’ll see what we can do – hmm, Queen’s Grill.”
We sailed at 4:00 PM with horns sounding and confetti streaming. Turned out my assigned table was in Princess Grill; hmm, indeed.
My troop consisted of midwestern lawyers and their wives – Marilyn and Pete Watson, Betty and Dusty Rhodes, Betty and Jim Downing, and Marv Sokolov - a jolly group, we laughed a lot.
We closed out the evening singing “The Lady in Red” at the piano bar in The Yacht Club.
The next day…
I had a tour of the bridge with Tom Clancy of Time Magazine culminating with a visit with Captain and Mrs. Woodall in their cabin. I skipped lunch and, at 2:30, gave my talk - “Man with the Eye.” There were 140 in the audience, and I gave out 113 handouts (13 asked specially for them).
After my well-received talk, I was wandering the decks and saw a portly figure making his way toward me. Twenty yards out, he stopped and peered. I did too. He was a steward in a too-tight, white jacket. No, wait, not just any steward but MY steward from 1963 – Geoffrey Coughtrey, how wonderful!
He waved and leaped, “The King, the King!”
We hugged and reminisced about that rough crossing in February ‘63. He was now the Chief Steward for 8100 Deck – posh duplexes! And you know what posh means – port out starboard home – the preferred, shady-side, cabin location on voyages from England to India and back during the Raj.
The next morning, I was taken on a Provisions Tour through the cavernous holds. The amount of food and booze and cars and trucks is staggering to behold. Then John Waldron, the Cruise Director, found me and escorted me to lunch with… Terence Stamp who was onboard promoting a new television series. Turned out we had lots of London friends in common and we got along like a house on fire. Dinner featured a delicious, beef wellington. I went to bed early and fell asleep watching “The Sting.”
Down to the buffet breakfast at 9:55 – I was lucky to get anything!
2:45 - My talk – 100+ audience. 57 handouts. Talked to 4:05 (the public movie was delayed).
7:15 - Cocktails with John Duffy, the Hotel Manager.
7:30 - A party in Cabin 1065 – my table mates – BYOB
Friday 13th – Breakfast in bed watching “A Chorus Line.” A quiet day onboard.
October 14 – We landed in Southampton at 12:30; were off at 3:00 and at home on Eland Road at 4:30. I prepared a frozen Lean Cuisine and watched TV. After 10 PM, the only thing on British TV is “World Snooker!” I was soon fast asleep even without the missing vibe of the engines.
Here is how the voyage appeared in Letters from Abroad© a few weeks later…
Oct 16th – I lunched with George Lane; Annabelle Barran, an estate agent, came by to inspect the house; and I met with Lord Litchfield’s The Best about writing more contributions. Here are some I’ve already contributed:
On the nineteenth of October, I return to Los Angeles and James. On the 22nd, we breakfast with Liz Dalling and have dinner with Andrew Batey, an architect friend of Tony Hail. Andrew is an elegant, erudite gent, about 45 years old. The three of us became fast friends.
I mentioned that James wasn’t impressed by the Ferrari but thought the Maserati Quattroporte he saw outside The Wharf was cool. Well, the next day, I saw a classified ad for one in the West Hollywood paper and, without telling James, asked the owner to bring it by for a test ride.
It is an elegant four-door (quattro) sedan in gleaming black with saddle leather interior. He asked $24,000; I said $22,500 and shut up - (from Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich” – state your case and shut up – whoever speaks first, loses.) I won and got it for $22,500. It was only three years old and, when new, sold for $250,000! It was now out of production and the market was sketchy, to say the least. I registered it in Vermont where I had a vanity plate – E.G.L.C. It fit in the garage next to James’ new Toyota. We named it Bella Bella!
James went to the office every day and I spent that week painting the flat and looking for furniture.
I resurrected my newsletter as Edward Carter’s TRAVELS – The connoisseur’s private letters from abroad of the world’s underrated treasures and overrated pleasures©.
Honestly, the title “Letters from Abroad” had begun to cloy – I used to joke that maybe some people didn’t know whether “Abroad” was one word or two!
I set up the downstairs garden flat as the Edward Carter’s TRAVELS office and fixed up the bedroom to be mother’s room when she visited.
The first issue of TRAVELS was September 1989 and consisted of stories of our recent trips to Newport, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard; a guide to my favorite restaurants across the United States; a review of Manhattan’s neighborhood inns; and our visit to the Clarkes in the Muskokas…
The format was slightly wider than Letters from Abroad© and the pages were perforated so readers could set up files for itineraries. Readers later commented that they wouldn’t tear out the pages and ruin the aesthetics of the booklet, so I eliminated the perforations.
We continued decorating the flat: nurseries delivered trees, wall-to-wall–ceiling-to-floor mirrors were installed on either side of the fireplace; rustic furniture and a Weber grill came for the living room deck…
On November 20, the container with the rest of our furniture and valuables arrived from London. Soon, the place looked terrific!
The middle of November, Tony and Chuck come down from San Francisco and bring Andrew Batey to Sweetzer. It was his first visit to our home, and he brought a dog!
Turned out there was method in his madness – without asking, he let the dog off the leash and he scampered into our bedroom and then around the terrace. Andrew chased him about the house and mayhem ensued.
A few days later, James discovered one his best suits was missing. We called Tony to discuss our new friend, Andrew. Tony apologetically explained that Andrew had “light fingers” – he was a kleptomaniac. Tony and Chuck had discovered this problem when Andrew visited them in San Francisco and “borrowed’ an ancient Greek hand from the living room mantlepiece. They also discovered that Andrew was incapable of discussing his “problem.”
We weren’t happy with any of them… Tony and Chuck for not warning us, and Andrew for upsetting our household with his trained, “distracting” canine.
We maneuvered Tony to set up a lunch at Andrew’s beach house and the next weekend we trooped out… determined to get the suit back. As Andrew served drinks on the terrace, I made an excuse to return to our car and… detoured through the house. I do have an eagle eye and immediately spotted a large Halliburton aluminum suitcase sitting in the hall, latches open. I sprang it open, grabbed the Versace and carried on to the car in one smooth movement, stashing the suit in the trunk.
Back on the terrace, I winked at Tony and Chuck, picked up my Bloody Mary and my story where I’d left off. Lunch went off without a hitch, but on our way out the door, I noticed that the suitcase had been latched shut!
It was time to complete the “1988 Edward Carter Awards of Distinction Magical Mystery Tour” by honoring Stan Bromley’s The Four Seasons Washington, D.C. and Patrick O’Connell’s and Reinhardt Lynch’s The Inn at Little Washington.
Following recommendations from guests at The Point, Sally and I had “discovered” The Inn at Little Washington for Relais et Châteaux. The rest is history.
Wikipedia: Patrick O’Connell is the chef and proprietor of The Inn at Little Washington, a country inn and restaurant in the town of Washington in Virginia's Rappahannock County.
O’Connell was not classically trained as a chef. His training began at fifteen when he worked after school at a neighborhood restaurant in his native Washington D.C. Along with his now former business and romantic partner, Reinhardt Lynch, he began a catering business in 1972 in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains.
In 1978, O'Connell and Lynch opened The Inn at Little Washington in an abandoned gas station. Opening first for friends and acquaintances on January 28, 1978, then officially to the public on February 1, 1978, The Inn at Little Washington was met with immediate success and notoriety despite antagonism from many locals.
Three weeks after opening, a food critic for the Washington Star, a Washington D.C. newspaper, John Rosson, visited the Inn for dinner after the insistence of one of his loyal readers. Familiar with Rappahannock County, Rosson accepted the challenge to visit the new restaurant in the sleepy town of Washington, VA, located 67 miles west of the younger but more recognizable Washington D.C. Upon visiting for the first time, he was amazed by what he experienced.
To be certain that it was more than just a "fluke" or a "series of fortunate events," Rosson returned the next week. Upon doing so, equally astonished by the depth and breadth of his experience, he thought it best to introduce himself, despite regarding his anonymity as a food writer as a well-guarded secret. The critic had met his match at least in terms of his ability to uncover any weak underside of a fledgling new entity, especially one centered in the midst of a sparsely populated village of fewer than 300 residents. By introducing himself to the new chef and proprietor, he gave a not-so-subtle warning that was more prophetic than conciliatory: "I am going to write a story about you that is going to change your life. You are going to need to hire someone full time just to answer your phone!"
en.wikipedia.org Text under CC-BY-SA license
Now let me tell you about Stan.
Some of the best hotel managers in the world belong to a very special club – Stan Bromley’s Green Cap Club. Every manager that has survived working with and being trained by Stan, has been rewarded with a green baseball cap.
The next time you experience extraordinary service in an hotel whether in Bali, Barcelona, or Boston, give the manager a wink and ask him to put on his green cap – chances are, he’s got one. Here's the background for my award...
Dateline: San Francisco, 1987
You've heard of Eloise at the Plaza; can you believe Sammy at The Clift?
I was in San Francisco to evaluate the ‘top’ hotels and checked into The Four Seasons Clift. I normally avoid hotels that are part of a big international group, but I love dining at The Four Seasons in London and I'd recently read a fascinating profile on Isadore Sharp, Chairman and President of Four Seasons Hotels.
The Clift used to be filled with rich geriatrics — I once knew a room service waiter here who got adopted by one and ended up inheriting a million and a half! Today the crowd is younger, chic-er, maybe even richer, and the hotel is more vibrant than ever.
Everyone says Stan Bromley, the general manager, is the secret; he says it's karma.
Talk about karma, Stan grew up in Lake Placid. His parents owned Lake Placid Manor, one of only two hotels on the lake, and he was sent off to Lausanne to learn the hotel business. Take it from me, he knows the hotel business better than most, but he knows the people business even better than that.
Being a fellow Adirondacker, he invited me to lunch. He showed a copy of my Letters from Abroad© to his other guest who, as we shook hands, burst into song: "It's very nice to go traveling, but it's so much nicer to go home." It was the author of the song, one of America's best-known songwriters, Sammy Cahn himself.
He said, "My whole life's an anecdote. I've received some pretty terrific awards in my day but the one that tops them all was when I came down to check out of here a while back. I stepped out of the elevator to find that all the staff, and I mean all from bellboy to the chef, had assembled and were applauding me. What could I say?... I said, if I thought you were going to be so happy to see me leave, I'd have left weeks ago!"
[The same thing happened to me at the Four Seasons, Bangkok in 1999!]
Karma — I asked for a Virgin Mary, more than one publication has said I make the best Bloody Mary mix in the world — well this one's a close second; I rank Scotland’s Gleneagles as number three. At that moment, former mayor Joe Alioto's daughter (see what I mean about the goings-on at The Clift) came up to thank Stan for his help. Seems that Mohammed Ali took it upon himself to take a stroll at 5:30 one morning. When his assistant woke to find he was off on his own (he's not a well man these days), he panicked. Stan asked one of his staff, whose husband was on the police force, to help. An all-points-bulletin went out across the town and in minutes, Mohammed was found and was soon back home at The Clift, safe and sound.
Quoting one of his most famous songs, Sammy sang of The Clift "I like it, how about you?" I like it too, a lot.
I don't know how they do it, but everyone knows me by name. Oh, I know about the telephone computers that flash your name on the screen when you call room service, but how did everyone know me downstairs? Mr. Sharp may have been surprised that Stan knows all his employees' names, I'm not. It has a little to do with growing up in the North Woods and a bit to do with Lausanne, but the real answer lies in someone loving what they do and inspiring everyone else to feel the same.
The Clift is just two blocks from Union Square right next to the famous theatres of Geary Street. The Redwood Room Bar has a terrific piano player as well as Joe, my favorite Bloody Mary maker. The French Room Restaurant is tall and elegant and its clientele as dazzling as its great French chandeliers. The menu is both classic and innovative and the dishes beautifully prepared, attractively presented, and delicious.
The rooms are up-to-date, conservatively dignified and very comfortable and, while I rarely pay much attention to other people's ratings, The Clift is the only hotel in San Francisco to earn both the Mobile Five Star and the AAA Five Diamond awards for service and overall excellence.
The service really is outstanding. My à la carte breakfast arrived within 12 minutes; the bellmen, each one more polite than the one before, were at my door to collect my faxes within two minutes of my ringing; even my toiletries were carefully arranged next to the sink. The quality of personal attention is among the highest I've experienced anywhere in the world and considering that such congenial service is to be found in a 320-plus-room, city hotel, in America, is downright amazing.
In my opinion, besides being a nice guy, Stan is the hotel industry's benchmark General Manager.
Dateline: Washington, D.C. 1989
On average, I'm in a hotel every other day of the year. And big or small, destination resort or airport stopover, it's amazing just how much difference individual people make…
As the recipient of Letters from Abroad's 1988's Country House Hotel of the Year was The Inn at Little Washington (little more than an hour from the Capital), I had decided to hold my Award Luncheon in downtown D.C., but I wasn't sure where.
As one of my favorites was the Four Seasons Clift in San Francisco, I visited the Washington version in August. Located at the edge of Georgetown, it is a comfortable, attractive, modern hotel, but, frankly, nothing to write home about. Its rooms were not as romantic as the fire-placed ones at the Hay-Adams nor did it really have the caché of the Jefferson, both of which I was considering for the luncheon.
Still undecided, I returned in November. Brunch at the Hay-Adams revealed very slow service and Rose Narva was no longer at the helm of the Jefferson. But much more interesting, an entirely new feeling had come over The Four Seasons, Washington, D.C.
Remember how I described The Clift? The truly caring staff who knew your name within minutes, the smiles in the corridors, the extra touches in the rooms; well I was damned if the same atmosphere hadn't taken over the Four Seasons Washington since my previous visit. All of a sudden, the staff were really motivated, the cuisine clicked, and every detail fell into line logically not just logistically, but I couldn't put my finger on just what had caused the change.
I chatted with the concierge to see what I could discover about the change in tenor. The tenor wasn't the answer… it was the whole blooming chorus — Stan Bromley, the man who single-handedly turned The Clift from a dowagers' domain into America's favorite hotel, had been promoted to area vice president and was the new general manager here in Washington! Just the presence of this caring man had once again turned a competent but commonplace hotel into something special.
It was obvious that we had to have the luncheon here, and I could use the occasion to call attention to the Four Seasons and Stan.
I asked Anthony Browne, an old friend from London, to organize a cocktail to introduce Stan to some of Washington's social shakers and movers. Anthony had been in Washington less than ten years and already was the Capital's premier interior designer — his clients ruled the town regardless of who was in the White House.
So, December first, James and I flew to Baltimore – Peter had set up more radio interviews and our days were filled with playing with Sally and her friends, and me at the mic with WMAL, WJFK, The Potomac News, WAVA, WPFW, and WWRC.
On the sixth, The Four Seasons catered a fabulous reception and lunch at which, with British Airways in full regalia, Patrick and Reinhardt accepted my Country House Hotel Award with gracious modesty — theirs really is the finest of its type in the land, and Stan accepted my Award of Distinction for The Four Seasons. As a fellow Adirondacker, I should have given him the "Award of the Loon" — a loon seems to glide so gracefully across the wind-whipped lake, but underneath, of course, its feet are going like hell. (I did award Stan my Hotelier of the Year in 1990.)
The luncheon was sublime. Chef William Douglas McNeill of the Four Seasons produced the best hotel meal I've ever had. The hors-d'oeuvres were crab cakes with tomato remoulade, brochettes of smoked duck and black mission fig with a tangy plum sauce and corn blini with king salmon caviar.
Accompanied by a 1985 Domaine Weinbach, Riesling Reserve Personnel, we started with salmon and foie gras with chervil in a citrus and balsamic vinaigrette. That was followed by a loin of lamb in a ginger crust and a mushroom essence with roasted pepper and asparagus and white truffle risotto fritters with which we were served a 1985 Chalone Pinot Noir.
Dessert, accompanied by a 1984 Cremant Schramsberg, was extraordinary. I have often said that an expertly made crème bruleé is almost impossible to find outside of home. Well, Chef McNeill is truly gifted, that day he served 1200 (there were other lunches being served simultaneously in the Four Seasons banquet halls) Trios of Tropical Crème Bruleé: passion fruit, mango, and mandarin each perfectly crusted and each garnished by its fresh fruit napped by its own coulis!
That evening, Anthony Brown staged a grand cocktail party and British Airways, Stan and his staff, Patrick and Reinhardt, and all the press attended. The day was a great success.
On the eighth, James and I returned to L.A.
I wasn’t feeling perfect and called up my Harley Street doctor, Mr. Sutton, (who happens to be the Queen’s cardiologist – seems the top doctors in the U.K. are called “Mr.” and not Dr.) to get his recommendation for a doctor in L.A. I went to see Dr. Mandell, the best heart man on the West Coast, who put me on two Vasotec tablets a day – my blood pressure was a bit high.
On the fifteenth, James and I left for Bora Bora via Huahine!
Huahine, French Polynesia
My eyes were straining for a light…
At the turn of the sixties, I used to marvel how an aging DC-6 could find a dot like Wake in the middle of the Pacific after a fourteen-hour struggle from San Francisco and almost as many more after refueling in Honolulu.
Now here it was, the turn of the nineties and, according to the computer-driven chart on the movie screen that had held us spellbound for the last hour, everything was automatic, and our Air New Zealand jumbo was only minutes away to landfall at Faaa. How faaa was it?... I finally spied the first sign of life - the Point Venus lighthouse on Tahiti - exactly 8 hours and 20 minutes since our take off from LAX.
It may be the nineties for many, but for the Pacific Rim, it’s a whole new century, or at least that’s what we’re supposed to believe. I love the term “Pacific Rim,” I’m not too sure what it is really supposed to mean but everyone’s talking about it - just last night, Bora Bora was the catchphrase in two commercials!
I’d Christmased at the (old) Halekulani on Waikiki in ‘63, spent two years in the Army on Okinawa, and hopped to Hong Kong and Tokyo a few times, but I’d never seen Moorea and didn’t know the difference between a wahini and Huahine (wah-HEE-nee). So, with all the talk of points west - meaning east - including LA’s new title as America’s “pivot point” in the new Pacific Period, I knew I had to start making my own wake to the South Seas before it needed one.
You’d better hurry too; nearly every flight to Hawaii, for example, is booked weeks in advance; most hotels all along the rim from New Zealand to Japan, and on the islands through the middle, have either been bought by aggressive new interests or are adding rooms to meet the deluge; and, in the process, nothing will ever be the same again.
For this first visit, James and I decided against staying on Tahiti; we were going to take a quick peek at Huahine and rest on Bora Bora. I didn’t have enough time for much more than that. I mean when you consider that French Polynesia stretches the equivalent of Oslo to Rome and Paris to Bucharest, you begin to get some idea. There’s a lot of area to cover and many islands to see. In fact, while there are five major archipelagoes in French Polynesia, the Society islands are what most people think about when the South Seas are mentioned. The best known of the Societies are Tahiti, Moorea, Huahine, and Bora Bora; the others are Meheitia, Tetiaroa – “once owned by Marlon Brando*”, Maiao, Raiatea, Taha’a, and Maupiti.
* Actually it is not possible to own an island in its totality in France because the littoral (beaches, lagoon) is the inalienable property of the state and therefore remain in the public domain. You can only own the inside of an island, and you can't forbid people to access the littoral. Also, Brando didn't 'buy' Tetiaroa, but contracted a 99-year lease with French Polynesia.
… seconds later we landed on Tahiti at Papeete’s Faaa airport at 4:25 am.
As the monster engines reversed thrust, I was suddenly terribly embarrassed for the noise: can you imagine coming to this paradise twenty years ago and building one’s dream house on the hillside I could just make out off the wing-tip? It’s bad enough to be on the approach of Heathrow in my little house in Battersea, here in Papeete, it would be a tragedy.
We sat in the airport’s open courtyard, under a banyan tree, and ordered a breakfast of croissants and French café au lait - we were in French territory after all. As the sun began to burn off the mist, we could see that the roads were thronged with modern trucks and tour buses. But just as I was beginning to feel sorry for myself for having missed Gauguin’s era, bird shit hit me on my right thumb - a sign of great good luck - everything was sure to be just fine!
As we walked to our Air Tahiti, twin-engined, 40-passenger Fokker, Moorea was sitting like a big green frog just a few miles away. To me, this is the quintessential South Seas island: a steep-soaring, rain-forested, cloud-topped, romantic dream. It’s surrounded by patches of empty beach, lapped by translucent, turquoise waters held in by the irregular reef which traces the original volcano’s perimeter. Beyond, the bottom falls away leaving nothing but indigo blue. Like the first star at night, such a sight is an instant talisman: we wished for quiet nights, tropical showers, and delicious food. At that very instant, a double rainbow came out of nowhere and framed the island in good luck!
It took 40 minutes to reach Huahine. Looking about as picturesque as the others, Huahine turned out to be the most beautiful of the Polynesian Islands we visited - its atmosphere and people are much less spoiled.
Our fellow passengers were met by a huge native of a man wearing nothing but a sarong, a palm headdress, and a smile; he put leis around everyone’s neck and smiled them to a small bus-like van. As the plane took off, we were alone at last - more than a full day’s flying from London; about twelve hours from LA. Well… almost alone.
Someone was bustling behind the counter of a teeny snack bar at which was perched a little boy. Except for his red and orange swimsuit, he was native brown from top to bottom. The only other color to be seen was the white of his teeth and toes, which came nowhere near to reaching the floor. He was talking Huahine’s version of Tahitian to the middle-aged gal behind the counter; she sure didn’t look native to me, but you’d never know it listening to her. Seeing me, she shouted in Brooklynese and waved. It turned out that it wasn’t really Brooklynese, but I didn’t recognize that particular twang of Californian. In any event, she’s a trip.
Dorothy Levy arrived in the islands on the very first PanAm flight and stayed. She’s named her snack bar Vakalele II - the Polynesians called the first airplane they ever saw, vakalele: flying canoe. But there is much, much more: Dorothy’s great-grandfather, a native, sold the largest black pearl ever found in these islands to Queen Victoria, which, with several more, were used to make up Prince Albert’s crown. Like the rainbow, it all seems just a little exaggeré but, also like the rainbow, it’s true - there’s a Jack London short story to prove it.
At that moment a small car pulled up and Dorothy brokered us a lift to see a bit of the island. Christian Bouvier, the French manager of the newest hotel in the islands, was picking up some fresh food from the plane and said he’d be happy to show us around. Poor guy, he’s forced to live in a cute bungalow on the outskirts of Maeva Village (the only one) overlooking Lake Fauna Nui and endure this life of clear air, fresh food, and smiling people.
As we entered Maeva, there was something going on in a large open-sided auditorium and I asked Christian to stop. There were several white-haired gentlemen seated on a dais wearing full western dress and neck-ties! The audience was dressed in short-sleeved, white shirts and ties, the ladies in longish dresses, and all the young girls in what looked like blue, uniform dresses. Christian guessed it was Town Meeting but at that moment the entire congregation burst into hymn; we were bowled over with the harmony of both the music and the village. As we passed on through town, everyone we passed smiled and seemed to wave “heiva nice time.”
We quickly ran out of paved road and lurched on for another 10 minutes to the Society Island’s newest hotel: the Sofitel Heiva Huahine.
This is the latest from the French Sofitel organization which also has hotels on Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora. I haven’t seen the others, but the Heiva’s layout and decor demonstrate an appropriate and gracious sensitivity to the quickly-disappearing naivete of these islands.
The hotel sits under hundreds of coconut trees between a shining, white-sand beach and a lagoon, over which have been built 6 bungalows on stilts.
It was in 1961 that this concept was introduced, first in Moorea, by the “Bali Hai Boys” - three expatriates from Los Angeles who gave up city lives to become vanilla plantation farmers. The plantation didn’t work at first, so they refurbished an old hotel to include a few bungalows built over the water. They put a window in the floor of each and a light to attract the fish. Their success is legendary and now every hotel worth its salt is moving into the water on stilts.
The Heiva also has 28 thatch-roofed bungalows on the coconut-tree-covered beach, four of which are suites, and there are 24 other units ranged around the attractive grounds. The stilted bungalows are suites themselves and have been built with a careful eye to detail. The cabinetry is of a very high order and the bathrooms are up to the minute in layout and fixtures. There is the required window in the floor and a private stairway leads directly into the water. While they are just a cat-walk from the main dining room, their balconied porches face the distant hillsides for privacy but, even so, they are rather close to one another. I’d probably opt for a suite on the beach where the breezes blow free-er, and I could wander off on my own without attracting attention.
As we pulled up, the palm-crowned giant from the airport smiled hello and Christian led us into the main lodge. The soaring woven ceilings from which hang glorious, shell-encrusted chandeliers, the tapa covered walls, and the highly-polished floors make every Trader Vic’s look camp. (I suppose they are anyway.) The imposing but smiling Maître d’ led us past the luscious, breakfast buffet to a table looking out toward the lagoon and the hills beyond. Each native-clad waitress was cuter than the previous and our orders for coffee and pancakes were taken in a flash. We helped ourselves to fresh fruit and juices - breakfast was even more delicious than it looked.
Wandering the grounds, we noted the Fare Pote where expositions of native crafts are held during the day and festivals at night. Christian also holds a cocktail party once a week to help break the ice for newcomers and organizes cultural evenings around the pool which are hosted by experts in archeology (many artifacts have been found right here on the site of the hotel) and in the ancient legends of the island.
There are boats to sail, snorkels to borrow, bicycles, surfboards, fishing gear, and even a boutique stocked with straw hats, sarongs, and black pearls.
Heiva may be brand new but its welcome is timeless and the whole place is comfy-cozy and completely undemanding.
(Even though Christian may not agree with me, I hope they never pave the road).
As we were checking in for our flight to Bora Bora, rhapsodizing our feelings of Huahine to Dorothy, a small plane taxied up. Its propeller drowned out our words. Tearing in anger and frustration, she said. “How prophetic; these are the Japanese investors we’ve been dreading for days. What’s going to happen to our island?”
I hate to think… they’re in a lagoon without a paddle…
This is what did happen…
(CNN) — Luxury hotels and resorts conjure images of sunny skies, designer furnishings, lavish restaurants and the well-to-do milling about in grand fashion. But all that can change in rapid time, leaving decay and squalor in its place.
War, weather, financial foul-ups and man-made catastrophes have all contributed to many of these former pleasure palaces being left to ruin.
Here are 10 of the most celebrated abandoned hotels:
2. Sofitel Heiva, Huahine, French Polynesia
Ideally located on a secluded spit of land on the French Polynesian island of Huahine, the over-water bungalows here still appear alluring and the botanic garden-like grounds are still meticulously maintained.
Closer inspection reveals a totally derelict property, battered by the elements and stripped of all fittings, with gaping holes in the bungalow roofs and many of them in danger of collapse.
It's been a decade since the last guest checked out and the former Sofitel stands as a somber monument to the dramatic downturn in this onetime holiday paradise.
James and I headed toward Bora Bora.
Hotel Bora Bora – a “last” resort.
It's a 20-minute flight to Bora Bora from Huahine. Michener says Bora Bora is the most beautiful island in the world. He should know, but by the time we arrived, one of our rainbow wishes had already come true - it was raining. Why did we wish for tropical showers (we did say showers)? No pressure to do or see anything for a moment; a chance to unwind and read, that's why.
You know, they don't use Bora Bora as a catchphrase on TV these days for nothing. To my mind, there are few other syllables that faster conjure up romantic visions of palm trees and emerald water. Of course, some of us are a little slow. The Hotel Bora Bora is celebrating its twenty-fifth year as one of the best known, internationally acclaimed resorts in the world. But I'm also taking it for granted that I'm not going to be the last to go there.
Adrian Zecha certainly hopes not - he recently bought it. In fact, his acquisition was the real reason I chose to go now. Adrian created Amanpuri and his Amandari in Bali has only just opened. I had planned to go to Amandari first and return to the western world via Bora Bora. But schedules and availability didn't allow it, so I'm saving Amandari for a little later. (I usually give new places a chance to settle in for a year or so anyway.) So, this trip to Hotel Bora Bora was to be the "before" of what will be a sort of "before and after"; Adrian Zecha, that is. While I've never met him, his properties are designed with a greater sensitivity to dignified, low key luxury, in a local mode, than almost any others in the world, and are extraordinarily well-run as well.
Bora Bora consists of several Motus - small separate islets which ring the lagoon, out of which rises the famous block-shaped Mount Otemanu. You land on Moto Mute which is just large enough to accommodate the airstrip and an immaculate, bat-wing roofed, airport building. Just through the arrivals area, are docked the hotel boats (if you've made specific arrangements) and the ferries which take everyone else to the village of Viatape, a twenty-minute run. I spied a shiny, mahogany Venetian taxi, obviously made in Murano, and ran over. Nope, happily, as it turned out, ours was a utilitarian outboard cruiser - as we rounded to the windward side of the lagoon, there was a decided chop which it handled with aplomb.
The giant boatman stowed our luggage as Tina, our escort from the hotel, put leis around our necks. I don't know why I never used the lei technique at The Point. Think of your first few trepidacious moments at a new hotel… now imagine your every anxious glance quelled by the luscious scent of gardenias or pine boughs. Simple isn't it? They also do it as you're leaving. Now that's revealing - I guess it's to ease the inevitable, but always forgotten, shock of all those extras like the laundry, the telephone calls, and those late night "one mores" at the bar.
We roared across the pale water; I asked the boatman how deep it was… then laughed. You see, every evening as we barged across Upper Saranac Lake for cocktails at The Point, someone would inevitably ask, "How deep is the Lake?"
I suppose its irritation was ingrained in me from the first time it happened: I swore I had heard someone on our only phone, a pay one in the closet we used as the bar, arrange "a contract" on what sounded like someone in New Jersey who owed him. Then, just an hour or so later, when we were on the barge, he nudged his equally Grandfatherish-looking buddy, turned to me, revealing what I was sure was an odd lump under his left armpit, and squinting one eye, said, "Tell us, how deep is the lake?"
Ever since, when asked a pointless, but for some reason seemingly necessary, question, James and I look at each other and say simultaneously, "How deep is the lake." The Bora Bora boatman's expression was the same - how many times had he hear it in twenty-five years? So, don't ask - it's six feet.
From the water, you can't see the cars on the shore road, and the teeny settlements fade into the hillside. What remains is the mystical island primeval. Then we rounded a headland and there was The Trump Princess, tugging ruthlessly, of course, at her anchor - prime evil personified. I'd seen his 727 at Faaa. That was ok; the crude commerciality of Papeete could absorb it, but the ex-Khashoggi yacht (you do understand that Trump bought it second-hand), moored in this beautiful lagoon, was an intrusion that could hardly be ignored.
Happily, Monty Brown, Hotel Bora Bora's obviously-understanding manager, put us on the side of the point where the view was of the island of Taha’a.
Our thatched bungalow was a far cry from the rustic hut I had envisioned. We had the Moto Suite which is as far away, bar one other, as one can get from the main building. It had a small sitting room with an "L" shaped banquette and fridge, a bedroom with a queen and a single, a dressing room with a basin, and a bathroom with twin basins and a walk-in shower.
There were pretty curtains, wooden jalousies, and sliding doors from both bedroom and sitting room out to a raised deck with steps leading onto the long, sweeping, and gently-sloping, beach (the best on the island). The furnishings reminded me of the old Lake Placid Club - low key wicker and, somehow, a rather suburban feel. I would have preferred the whole place to have been more rustic. (The concrete sidewalks facilitate the housekeeping trolleys, I guess.)
There are 83 bungalows - fares - on the property. Too many: some of the garden units don't have much of an outlook and some of the others are too close together. I'm told that one of Mr. Zecha's projects is to reduce the total by 20, an admirable plan. He is also upgrading many of the remaining. I saw one unit that has received the treatment; it was glorious. Travel writers will call it "World Class." The bedroom is air-conditioned, the bathroom is enormously luxurious, and the sitting room could be in Bronxville… why not stay in Bronxville? I want the south seas! I'd prefer a south seas treat instead of a treatment; if this is what today's traveler demands, we're all in trouble.
There are 15 over-the-water units, built on stilts to the accepted norm. These do not have a separate sitting room but those that look out toward Mount Otemanu (9 of the 15) have the view that dreams are made of. Don't change a thing, Adrian.
The main building houses the reception, boutique, bar, and two-level dining room which soars to the top of the thatch. Shell chandeliers and wonderful hand-thonged beams create just the right atmosphere; unfortunately, the food is unreliable.
The Tartare de Tazard "Rea Tahiti", a tartare of wahoo, "enhanced with smoked salmon and rea Tahiti ginger" is, with a squeeze of lemon, at once scintillatingly breathtaking of flavor and sensuously smooth of texture. On the other hand, the Salade "Amanpuri" is a spurious slur on that delicious Phuket resort which stands for everything genius that Zecha represents. I found its sautéed Tahitian shrimp, no matter the bell peppers, onions, garlic, coriander, and chili, to be tasteless and limp. Now that's going some!
Of course, Conventional Wisdom will always opt for what's local and fresh. But the Maître’s suggestion of grilled something or other wasn't very good either - three of the four specimens were over-cooked. Sadly, I found the New York steak to be the most reliable.
Now don't go blaming the Maître 'd. Next to Monty Brown, he's the best thing going at the hotel. Always charming and accommodating, he even gives absorbing lectures on local flora, fauna, and lore.
Wrinkles: Even though we used the bug bomb and shut the screens carefully, we totaled 21 mosquito bites the first night – James suffered the most. Happily, they sell gunk at their little store near the tennis courts. We covered ourselves with it for the remaining nights and were OK.
The public road runs right behind the units on the long, quiet beach and it took some getting used to when one's reverie is interrupted by a loud motorcycle going by; not to mention the garbage truck that loaded up one morning at 4 am.
We wanted to go out on the big catamaran, but one day the weather didn't cooperate (very powerful rainbows, those); the next, there weren't enough takers.
We didn't take kindly to the bar being turned into a shell hawkers' market when all we wanted was a quiet breakfast, and it would have been more fun if the dining room eves were trimmed so those on the upper level can look out - might as well be in Trader Vic's basement otherwise.
Pluses: We did admire the long-suffering staff who smilingly put up with a couple of grumps from the wrong side of Rodeo Drive. Many of the staff have been here a long time and their friendliness is responsible for much of the repeat business enjoyed by the hotel.
We loved taking the scooters out around the island; it's only 17 miles around, some of it unpaved.
The bar and restaurant are attractive, the staff is helpful and professional but
I suppose it's inevitable that after 25 years, Hotel Bora Bora is sitting on its laurels a bit. In other words, I found Bora Bora boring. That's your cue, Adrian, curtain up, light the lights; we'll be back to experience the "after".
PS: I stole more than my share of the wonderful coconut soap and every day I'm transported back to our fare on the beach - that says sumpin'.
(Hotel Bora Bora is no more, but there are many others from which to choose. As I keep saying, if you’ve loved someplace, don’t return… even if you can.)
In 1987, I got a note from Mort Kalb, a member of Edward Carter's Travels from the very beginning, who used to come to The Point (remember his years as a top TV anchorman?), suggesting I visit Bedarra, “a super place near the Great Barrier Reef very much like an oceanside ‘Point.’”
Then last year at Victoria’s reception, I was talking to Robyn Roux’s mother about trying to get to Lizard Island. She said, “It’s great, but you’ve got to go to Bedarra.”
(Robyn is Mrs. Michel Roux – the three-Michelin-star chef at The Waterside Inn in Bray, outside London. The Inn is currently run by their son, Alain. Michel’s brother, Albert, also 3-starred, was executive chef to The Point after I sold it. Robyn used to write reviews for Edward Carter’s Travels.)
So, being “in the neighborhood,” James and I fly to Brisbane, Australia, spend the night in a high-rise hotel, then fly to Cairns – the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, taxi to Townsville, take a small ferry boat to Dunk Island, and then not much more than a rowboat with a small outboard on to Bedarra Island. There are two resorts on Bedarra: Bedarra Hideaway, a purple and gilt, tarted-up lodge made famous by a visit of the Duchess of York, and a low-key, 8-villa cluster – Bedarra Island Resort where we landed on its deserted beach.
A Christmas Day phone call with Mom from Bedarra Island Resort, Australia…
It was quite a trek getting here but we finally made it… Excuse me, there’s the phone.
“Funny, I was just starting to write about it. I’d love to tell you we hated Bedarra.
“Well, first of all, it’s a long, long way away.
“Secondly, it takes even longer to get there than the miles would indicate.
“Thirdly, it’s more costly than most and when you add in the airfare, it’s really a lot.
“Fourthly, there’s no TV, no registration desk, no bartenders, no lifeguards, no sauna, no disco, no boutique, no lectures, no events, no kiddie night, no manager’s cocktail party, no mystery evening, and never more than fifteen other couples.
“What? OK, so there’s a couple of beaches, but they’re empty! So’s the Har-Tru tennis court!
“Well, there are a few catamarans, surf boards, snorkels and outboards, but they don’t even have a desk where you can sign them out!
“Well it’s a little strange. There’re five different kinds of champagne, six different Australian whites and lots of Perrier and diet cokes in a big fridge in the bar and a bottle of anything else you can think of but there’s hardly ever a bartender. All they have are five books on making drinks… you’re supposed to help yourself!
“The food? OK, I guess.
“Yes, we had a barbeque on one of the beaches one day. They even dragged out all the umbrellas, tables and chairs so we wouldn’t get sandy!
“What? Lobster and clams and sea trout and sea bass and steaks and lamb chops and sausages and melons and strawberries and ice cream and… well, anyone could have done that. I mean we did it almost as well at The Point.
“What do you mean, 'I'm not fooling you'?
"Yes, it was great! The dinners were too.
"In the dining room with open sides. It looks right over the fresh water pool and the gorgeous planting to the sea.
“Frankly, delicious. Much more elaborate and complex than you’d ever believe for an isolated island.
“Very casual, bathing suits during the day, sport shirts at night.
“You bet it is hot, it’s summer here now, but there are two air conditioners in our bungalow.
“Two floors, all sort of octagonal and hidden from view at the edge of the rain forest. Sort of felt like the Adirondacks.
“Sure, we have a shower and a huge sunken tub, two loos too.
“Towels? twice a day, and they brought back the laundry the same day.
“Well, I tried but you were always busy.
“No, no; direct dial on a cute little desk in the rattan-filled living room; between our bathroom and the fridge.
“When we arrived, it was full of fresh fruit and champagne.
“About twenty of them; good looking Australian boys and girls. They all take turns raking the beaches, cleaning the bungalows, waiting on table and sweeping the walks.
“Cloudless skies every day.
“There are only four other couples, one from Washington, one from Sydney, one from Brooklyn Heights…
“Well, I guess it’s had a renaissance. And one from Geneva.
“A very nice couple manage it. Well, they’re there but they're not there. They join everyone for drinks.
“No, Ma. It’s just like The Point. When you can help yourself, you really don’t take much. It's all included anyway.
“I suppose they would have if we’d asked them, but they ate by themselves. But you know what, they gave us each a Christmas present this morning.
“No, we never got there.
“We can always see Sydney, Ma. You see, we cancelled that part of the trip to stay a few days more at Bedarra.
“I was just kidding, Ma. I said "I'd love to tell you we hated Bedarra" so the word wouldn’t get out, but the truth of the matter is that it’s one of the few really great places in all the world. We absolutely loved it!
“That’s what I said, Ma. It’s damn near as close to perfect as they come… but if you tell a soul, I’ll never tell you about another place.
“We’re off to Hawaii this afternoon. We’ll have two Christmas Days this year!
“Because we go back across the International Date Line.
“OK, bye Ma. I love you too."
December 25 to Kona Village, the Big Island, Hawaii.
When I was booking our room at Kona Village, I didn't mind that we were going to have to be moved during our visit, but what had really disappointed me was that they had no room for the last night of our scheduled visit to Hawaii and we would have to find a room elsewhere. Now, after four days there, I couldn't have been happier!
Earlier in the week, on our first day's drive to get away from "camp," we drove north along the wild Kohala Coast on Queen Ka'ahumanu Highway.
It's an awesome sight. On either side of the road, there are miles and miles of unbroken waves of raw, rough, black lava fields; looking like nothing more than discarded macadam. Then, over a rise, bright green lawn swathes the sides of an ocean-bound avenue fringed with palms and bougainvillea. Staggering in its unreality, the landscape swards off in evergreening tones to become one more shimmering golf course after another. It's a truly remarkable bit of engineering - heaven for the hedonistic but rather disturbing to me.
You see, while it's naturally lushly green on the other side of the island, the cliffs are dangerous, and it rains a lot (green; get it?). On this side, there's no rain to spoil the golf but neither is there any soil, water or beach. The solution's simple; too simple: just move the assets from the other side and leave the liabilities behind. It's easily done, I guess. Just lay $1000 bills edge to edge, sprinkle daily with gold dust, and add lots of water (one hears it's running out, but nobody seems to care). Then the trick is to build a more fantastic hotel than they did last year and add a few condos on the edge of the cliff (most of the beaches are man-made here). But before it all clicks, one more ingredient is needed… price your basic one-bedroom at a cool $1m and, sure as lemmings, it'll be bumper to bumper from Scarsdale to JFK, Rodeo to LAX - another impossible dream come true!
Ever read the first chapter of Michener's Hawaii? If you're heading for any of the Kohala Coast resorts, don't.
It all started with the ex-Rockefeller Mauna Kea Resort, presently the furthest from the airport. Named after the highest mountain in the islands, twenty-five-year-old Mauna Kea still towers above all the rest. Now owned by Westin, it is the premier resort on the coast if only for its natural beach, unquestionably the best on the island. Laurence Rockefeller's collection of Asian and Pacific art still graces the breeze-ways and the land and beach-scaping brilliantly enhance family visits without disturbing those who came here for private relaxation. The service is competent, the cuisine reliable and the Robert Trent Jones, Sr. golf course is said to be the most stimulating on the Big Island.
Further south, nearer to the airport is the Waikoloa Beach Resort area, home of the Sheraton Royal Waikoloa Hotel and the new Hyatt Regency Waikoloa Hotel. Of the two, the Royal Waikoloa has a much more pleasant atmosphere, but the rooms are teeny. We checked in, were unescorted upstairs, and as I inserted the key, the couple next door burst out of their room saying, "Anything would be better than staying in this closet!" One look, and we followed them out. I already had a reservation at the Mauna Lani but couldn't wait to see what was what at the Hyatt, after all, they have over 1240 rooms!
You must have seen the ads; are they all the same place? You betcha. There's an electric, rubber-wheeled metro that runs above ground to take you nowhere fast; there's an elevated aqueduct with slowly-plying fantasy launches to take you to your room, and there're eight restaurants and myriad staff just to take you. This is the Hyatt Regency Waikoloa and it takes their concept of atrium and waterfall and porte-cochere and dolphin pool and fake lagoon and anything else you can imagine, about as far as it can go.
I stood in line at the reception desk for 10 minutes to find out if they had a room. "Yes, we have several."
After my experience at the Royal Waikaloa, I asked, "Could I please see them, so I can make my choice?"
"You'll have to use the courtesy phone, over there."
I talked with a charming woman in housekeeping who gave me the numbers of the rooms I could see, and on her instructions, went over to the Courtesy Desk to be escorted.
Upon hearing my request, the woman there set her jaw, squinted her eyes and said, "There is no way you can look at a room. Here is the plan, pick which category you want and check in."
I tried to explain the international tradition, carefully taught to me by Auntie Mame, of having to see a room, its location, its outlook, its degree of comfort before deciding. After all, "I'd come all the way from London".
"You really want to give me a hard time", she said picking up the phone; "just who was it in housekeeping that told you that you could see a room?"
Damn good thing I hadn't just gotten off the plane; she was treating me as though I had just gotten off the boat. There was no way we wanted to stay there. If they'd only give these positions to the Hawaiians - they're one of the most naturally courteous people on earth. Oh well, if you've got people coming from Stress, I suppose there's got to be someone who speaks their language. We decided to have lunch instead.
The little outdoor cafe was jammed, people were jostling for tables and waving for service. Bijan, avec entourage, elbowed his way to the table next to ours and settled in. The little service that was, was diverted. It's amazing what a grown man's jumping can do. That was enough for me. Waikoloa?! They should call it: Why go lowa? Can't get much lower than this.
So, besides the Mauna Kea, is there anywhere worth staying? Yes, the Mauna Lani Bay. Of them all, this place seems to better understand its intruder status and consequently has more respect for historical Hawaii than the others. It's easily understood.
The ancient home of Mauna Lani is known as Kalahuipua'a. Its history is evidenced by several archaeological sites, ancient Hawaiian footpaths, prehistoric lava formations and, really fascinating to me, its royal fishponds. Here King Kamehameha the Great maintained a fishing village and his royal fishponds from which live fish were canoed to him at court.
In time these lands were sold to the founder of the famous Parker Ranch, still one of the world's largest, whose heirs sold them to Francis Brown in 1932. Brown, a descendant of Hawaiian noble birth, served as Territorial Senator after which he made Kalahuipua'a his home to restore and maintain the fishponds as a living monument to Hawaii's history and an important facet of ancient life. Mauna Lani and its encircling sports and real estate developments were carefully sited to protect these cherished and ancient wonders.
A delightful pamphlet, "View into the Past", is placed in each guest room and its sepia photographs and walking map tell the story of the historical treasures to be found at Mauna Lani just a few steps outside one's door.
We had arrived after lunch - usual check-in in these resorts is after 3 pm - were shown our room, even though it was the only one left, and happily registered. I'd known for weeks that the best we could get was a "Garden View" (hotel-speak for the worst outlook) but lo and behold, our view was not only of the garden but also the pool and the ocean beyond. We were on the ground floor and thus could walk off our terrace and meander the fishponds whenever. For $200 a day less than at Kona Village, we had a large, charming, island-theme room with TV and phone, and a glorious modern bathroom with endless fluffy towels, terrycloth robes, and travertine marble that wouldn't quit. The artwork was tastefully selected, the fabrics cool and tropical and the rich woods warm and comforting.
The lobby is a little bit "over the top" with its cascading waterfalls and atrium roof but then there'll never be another low-key, Halekulani-type place in these islands again, will there?
We wandered the immaculate grounds, peeked at the informal restaurant Canoehouse - very attractive and were knocked over by the new beachside suites. These are five separate houses each of which has two bedrooms, a large living room, dining area, kitchen, bar, and private swimming pool. At $2500 a day, with a chef to cook whatever you want, a butler to unpack and pack, a masseur at your beck and call, and anything else you can think of, this is the way to enjoy the spirit of the place.
The romantic in me insisted we have cocktails in the lobby to watch the native dancing. Now stop… it was delightful. A man on a bass, another with a guitar and a third with a ukulele (they originated in Portugal, you know) accompanied an elegantly long-dressed, beautiful woman in her thirties who mesmerized me with her hand-described love songs of the islands.
(In the old days on Waikiki, when they used to wear little else than grass skirts, another fraudulent "custom", my father used to say, "You watch the hands, I'll watch what I want to watch.")
It was all very lovely until two sleeveless-anoraked, pedal-pusher-clad, Reebok-clodded, dames pushing sobbing brats in strollers arrived and decided to "dance" along. As they did wheelies, egged on by their clapping mates, the Hawaiian's barely blinked; but we left with not very muffled comments about people from Stress.
Every time this kind of thing happens, and it happens all too frequently, I keep wanting the hotels to enlarge on the airline practice of separating "Smoking, No Smoking". What about "Boorish, not Boorish" or… never mind. We ate in the formal dining room, Le Soleil. The food was unmemorable, the crowd wasn't. Even if you swop their Reeboks for Ferragamos, the strains of Stress seem to take over. I guess you're just going to have to take one of those suite houses on the beach.
But even if you don't, breakfast is served on The Bay Terrace 'til 11:00; now that's reasonable for a holiday retreat.
We liked the Mauna Lani. Its rooms are very nice, the grounds are both beautiful and fascinating, and the golf course is fabulous…
Also, the pocket beach next to the Beach Club (which, while open to the public, is designed for the adjacent condo owners) is a gem, and the staff is long-suffering.
And that's the point, why should they have to suffer at all. I hadn't been in Hawaii for twenty-five years and having endured the changes wrought by having to cater to today's insensitive and boorish tourists, sure don't feel like returning… not to this coast anyway.
And that's the real point. I'd been lured by the same ads and brochures that are trying to tantalize you. Aren't you glad Uncle Ted went on ahead? After all, I am your point man.
Finally, we headed home to Los Angeles. It had been quite a year and we were both ready to start a new chapter.
All hand-drawn illustrations throughout this book and site by Sue Hunter
End of Chapter Twenty
Please fill in the boxes below so you will be notified automatically. Thanks!
This chapter contains many images and therefore, takes quite a while to load.
Please, the wait is worth it.