We love hotels...
Shiny new hotels where we can be one of the first to lay our heads. But there's a special allure to a classic, old world hotel dripping with style and glamour. Those are the truly special ones, the ones we call the grande dames.
The term "grande dame hotel" sounds romantic and captivating, but exactly what does it mean? By definition, any dictionary will tell you a grande dame is usually an elderly woman of dignified or aristocratic bearing. If you’re a Downton Abbey fan, you know the Dowager Countess. She was unquestionably, a grande dame. And since mankind has always referred to her greatest creations like ships and buildings in the feminine, the term is most appropriate in referencing these magnificent old hotels.
A grande dame hotel is iconic and no matter her age, the most important and most famous hotel in town. Her lobby is a hub for socializing and socialites. A bustling space with the sounds of big band playing in the background, muffled only by the clang of martini glasses and chatter. It’s a place of seeing and being seen, and where hands discretely rise to obscure the lips as the juiciest of stories are whispered.
Speaking of juicy stories, all these dames have volumes of tales to tell. They’re often the setting of infamous love affairs, movies or novels and their guest lists are a who’s who of the famous, both historic and new. Milestones upon milestones have been celebrated within their walls from weddings, to anniversaries to birthdays and even successful windfalls of insider trading deals. The goings on are as complex and interesting as their architecture and the saying “they don’t build them like they used to”, fits to a T.
If all this glamour and intrigue appeals to you, where can you experience a grande dame for yourself? Fortunately, we are blessed with several of these beauties throughout the world and many here in America. A few of our favorites…
The Breakers - Palm Beach, FL
The Breakers’ reputation precedes it. This gilded resort, first built in 1896, resembles a Renaissance palace, and she’s seen more than her fair share of American royalty over the years. Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, William Randolph Hearst, and a handful of Astors, Rockefellers, and Vanderbilts have all walked the halls at this posh palace. No other hotel in Palm Beach can come close to matching the luxury found at this legendary resort.
The Plaza – New York City
This New York beauty personifies luxury and has carved out a prominent place in 20th-century culture. Truman Capote threw his famous Black and White Ball here. In the movie North by Northwest, Cary Grant was apprehended by spies in the hotel’s famous Oak Bar; and F. Scott Fitzgerald staged part of The Great Gatsby here. When The Plaza first opened its permanent residences for purchase, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Vanderbilt were the first to call her home.
The Langham, London
The Langham opened in 1865 and is considered Europe's first grand hotel. It is the birthplace of High Tea which was originally served by a lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria. The hotel reopened in 2009 after a $400 million dollar refurbishment. Celebrities who have been drawn to The Langham over the years include Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill and Diana, Princess of Wales.
Whether you lay your head upon their pillows or simply visit for a drink in their famous lobby lounges, these ladies are worth a visit. Then you can say you’ve been a part of a legend and added a bit of your story to theirs. A toast to the grande dames; May they live on.
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