I dislike the word luxury, although, in my business, I sometimes catch myself using it. But Jodi and I agree, the word is so overused that it’s lost a lot of what it originally meant, and these days, when someone describes their product as luxury it typically means “mass produced, bad customer service, and not really that luxe at all.”
Recently, I took my son to London to see a football match – Chelsea vs. Crystal Palace. My son loves Chelsea, and a few other teams. Cut him some slack; he’s eight and doesn’t fully comprehend the single-minded, undiluted loyalty these football clubs demand of their fans. I’m sure he will settle on just one team sooner or later. I, on the other hand, could care less about the game – although I will say that for 90 minutes (or however long the matches are) it’s a goddamned stone-cold fox fest; those guys running around in their shorts are easy on the eyes.
While we were in London, we stayed at the legendary Claridge’s, a “luxury hotel” if ever there was one but actually, it’s not. It’s not at all luxury – it is simply a great hotel. Yes, it has all the fancy amenities that the term implies, but the hotel is so good at what it does that it doesn’t need to advertise itself as luxury. Claridge’s is not luxury – it’s old fashioned. There are chairs and couches that have seen better days tucked off down the long wide hallways. The lighting is florescent, but it’s made soft and palatable by the most unusual hanging light fixtures I’ve ever seen. Sometimes the elevator was out, and Gus and I had to take the stairs. But the beds are comfortable, the tubs nice and deep, and the windows are big and bright, looking out onto Davies Street. I think the glue that really holds the place together, though, is the staff. The staff was the best I have ever encountered anywhere. Everyone who worked there treated us like we were old friends. They were helpful, informative, friendly and, most important to a Mom alone overseas with her soccer-mad son, they were calm.
I suppose most hotels these days are owned by groups, and for all I know Claridge’s is, too, but it has not lost that thing that many of the great hotels have. It has not lost its connection with the human race, and it takes pride in doing something well. I find that, in this world of giant corporations, I’m seeking more and more human connections. That is luxury to me.
HEDGEHOUSE LONDON PICKS:
The River Cafe
FIE (Foundation for International Education)
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