Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bon Voyage To Me!

Just about to leave for our European sojourn, so am checking out for approximately 2 weeks! Look forward to sharing our European adventure with all on Savoir Faire.

In the meantime I hope all have a wonderful beginning of summer!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Andaz in London with Savoir Faire

Well as the days are flying past and we will be off to Europe, our first few days of vacation will be spent in London at the Andaz Hotel in London. Andaz is Hyatt’s new brand which means in Hindi “personal style”. What better place for Savoir Faire to spend the first few days of our little sojourn.

Now of course we know that Savoir Faire does shun corporate branded hotels that tend to be cookie cutter representations of each other. One likes a bit of history and character with at least hot water running somewhere in the building (which does pose some problems sometimes).

On the edge of East London next to Liverpool Street station, the Andaz was the former Great Eastern Hotel, one of the original London railway hotels, built by the London and North Eastern railway in 1884-87. (So we have the history right). Designed by Charles Barry the grandson of the other Charles Barry who designed the Houses of Parliament, it is a wonderfully beautiful gothic revivalist red brick Victorian building, which has been beautifully renovated to take one into the future of the 21st century.

Having seen better days before being taken over by Hyatt with rooms rented by the hour, it was a perfect candidate for renovation. Now a listed building the integrity of the building has been respected after refurbishment by Conran & Partners.

The result is a wonderfully modern interior with sleek cool furniture, modern architectural details blending with the old and some hidden gems that came to light during the renovation that had been forgotten for years.

Somehow the lobby does not look like a lobby and I believe that Hyatt have dispensed with the traditional front desk in favour of lounges etc. where guests are seated and served drinks while checking in.

The Great Eastern Hotel originally had 160 bedrooms but only 12 had bathrooms and trains brought salt water from Harwich on the Essex coast for the hotel baths. By 2006, the hotel had 267 bedrooms and obviously all are en suite. To solve the problem of antiquated plumbing and replacing sewage drains for the toilets they use vacuum drainage. When you flush the toilet in the Great Eastern Hotel the waste is sucked upwards, not down, and goes through the roof to leave the building! (God forbid should there be a problem). I like the fact that the bathrooms retain an old world luxurious feeling with these modern updates.

The Aurora was originally the hotel's ballroom and opened in 1895. The architects took color samples of the paintwork and matched it when redecorating. It certainly does look the place to be back in the days gone by!

There is an amazing glass domed ceiling which was protected during the Second World War by wrapping it in mattresses and blankets. Surprisingly it did survive and only one small piece of glass had to be replaced, which they've marked with red glass.

Rooms are decidedly minimalist in decoration, appearing highly functional, can only guess what they were like when they used to rent by the hour!

I am going to reserve judgement until after our stay, however it does look wonderful and just the thing Savoir Faire will need after 7 hours up the back of the plane in economy class!

Friday, June 17, 2011

See You on the Lido Deck!

As we are getting ready to for our summer vacation and Baltic Cruise next week, my thoughts of course swing back to the vintage age of cruising. Previously ocean travel was a means to an end. Primarily used as a means of transport before aviation took over, the industry has changed. Now it is not the destination that counts but the ship itself. This is even reflected in the fact that ships are no longer called Ocean Liners, but Cruise Ships.

Previously, because of weather (especially on the transatlantic run) few Ocean Liners had large outdoor deck spaces or even swimming pools. Pools were allocated to spaces deep in the bowels of a ship, and the lido deck was virtually non-existent!

Think lido deck today and we are cast back to re-runs of “The Love Boat” or the huge multi-pooled and crowded decks of modern cruise ships.

However during the 1930’s and right through to the 1960’s one European line went to great pains in promoting the outdoor spaces and particularly the Lido decks of their liners.

The Italian line which plied the Southern route through the Mediterranean which was much warmer than the Northern route serviced by other companies, had huge outdoor spaces and pools on their liners.

Always glamorous by day or by evening, this was a major selling point of the line. Instead of being cooped up inside on the Northern Atlantic, one could spend the 5 days at sea, sunning and swimming on the lido deck around the pool.

Nights were also spent outside, with couples in their elegant evening wear dancing or engaging in tete a tete’s around the pool.

This tradition on the Italian Line carried right through until the late 1960’s until the jet airliner eclipsed ocean travel completely.

As we embark on our cruise, I will definitely be thinking of those sun filled days and star filled nights spent on the Lido deck of an Italian liner!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Packing Slacks?

Remember when pants or trousers were called slacks? Or perhaps I am showing my age?
One can only wonder why they were called slacks. However we are fortunate enough now that polyester slacks especially in plaid have evolved into something that I do want to wear!

With our summer vacation and cruise on the horizon,( actually we leave next week), the thought of what to pack immediately comes to mind, and a new pair of plaid pants is definitely on the list. I have just bought the below and am wearing them today at work, just to break them in.

I have also bought a few other new items to traipse about the lido deck in, and for the inevitable shore excursions. When shopping I mix it up a lot, and don’t stick to any particular one brand.

I have bought these shorts from H&M in 3 colours, the khaki shown, with a white and a pink pair thrown in for good measure.

Other bottoms will include these Acne green jeans and the most comfortable chino from Uniqlo.

The following sandals purchased from Cole Haan, which were a bargain as they were on sale.
The essential pair of Sperry Topsiders, which will work well with shorts or pants.
A couple of linen shirts in various colours from Uniqlo as they will be cool and go with everything, except I know that they won’t travel well.

Several bowties including my Lanvin from H&M, for evening wear.

Jackets will include this wonderfully easy to wear linen number from Uniqlo along with this cute little windcheater from the H&M Lanvin collection (in Khaki).
The perfect stylish shoulder bag from Marc Jacobs styled like the old Pan Am bags, for when we are out and about exploring northern capitals. Being an airline nut I fell in love with this when they were released a couple of years ago, and have loved it for the last couple of years. This one always travels with me.

Of course there will be some trusty old staples being packed, I just hope that I do not pack too much, or leave something behind!

Savoir Faire on the Top Deck

While we are on the subject of vintage airliners and long before we were all herded onto planes like cattle, there existed a time when travelling First Class, really meant that you were above everyone else.

One of the most unusual features of the Boeing 747 when it was launched in the late 60’s was its unusual “hump” on top of the main fuselage. Known as the upper deck, this hump housed the cockpit and also extra passenger accommodation, adding to its behemoth size.

When the Boeing 747 first came into service in the late 1960’s early 1970’s most airlines reserved the upper deck for the exclusive domain of their First Class passengers. No rows of seats here, but plush lounges and bars where you could relax in comfort whiling away those long flight hours.

Accessed by the all too familiar spiral staircase from the main deck, economy class passengers could only cast an envious eye upwards in the hope that they might be able to catch a glimpse of these sumptuous lounges.

Airlines usually chose to decorate their lounges using themes of their home countries, so before we arrived at our final destination we had a taste of things to come.

Qantas chose to decorate their lounges,with a somewhat colonial theme using Captain Cook as inspiration.

Air India and Iran Air chose local themes with a modern twist and lots of 70’s panache, so you didn’t even feel like you were on a plane.

Aerolineas Argentinas chose quite a masculine vibe, maybe to get us in the mood for some of the machismo we might face in Argentina.

Delta turned the upper deck into the “world’s first flying Penthouse”, which could be sold as a unit to a group travelling together.

Along with the real estate them that was inspiring Delta to call their lounges Penthouses, Braniff chose to give theirs an address.

Pan Am envisaged a restaurant style setting with individual tables that could be booked for a more pleasurable ding experience.
So next time you are sitting in Row 55 up the back of economy class, know that it was not always this way!

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