Sunday, October 10, 2010
London's Savoy Hotel reopens - divine darling!
Glittering with new crystal chandeliers, gold leaf and polished marble floors, London's Savoy hotel reopened on Sunday after a three-year, multi-million-pound refit to restore its former splendour.
London's first luxury hotel, which hosted luminairies from Marlene Dietrich to Claude Monet, has been renovated from top to bottom in a mammoth project costing 220 million pounds (250 million euros, 350 million dollars).
British actor Stephen Fry was the first guest to check in, arriving in a Rolls Royce to be met by hotel managers in the famed art deco lobby.
"It feels the same but it's really different," sales director Simon Gilkes told AFP, adding: "It wasn't about changing the Savoy but restoring the Savoy. We wanted to keep the heritage and elevate it."
New chandeliers in Murano crystal light up the public rooms, and in the lobby the old tattered carpets have been replaced with gleaming marble.
A new bar has been installed in the old Beaufort Room where George Gershwin played to guests during WWII, selling champagne, cocktails and cabaret in art deco surroundings adorned with gold leaf worth more than 38,000 pounds.
In an example of the painstaking work carried out by more than 100 craftsmen, one woman took almost six months to renovate the hand-lacquered wood and gold paint in the insides of the lifts.
In addition to 38 new rooms built with views of the River Thames, there is a new Royal Suite covering 325sq.m, complete with a ventilated shoe closet and costing a recession-busting 10,000 pounds a night.
The Savoy was built in 1889 to cater for the nearby Savoy Theatre and over the next century was home to Hollywood and acting royalty, including Sarah Bernhardt, Laurence Olivier, Charlie Chaplin and Frank Sinatra.
But it also became the favourite haunt of prime ministers and the royal family, and it was here that Queen Elizabeth II, then a young princess, was first seen in public with her future husband, Philip.
Aside from hosting glittering parties and A-list guests, the Savoy also prides itself for being at the forefront of modern technology -- it was the first hotel in London to use electric lights, elevators and 24-hour service.
But despite all the building work, the hotel retains its lived-in feel and remains quintessentially English, with straight-backed valets ready to cater to your every whim and a classic 'high tea' still served each afternoon.
Situated just a short walk from the theatres of London's West End, the Savoy is to London what the Ritz is to Paris -- and indeed Cesar Ritz, who founded the eponymous hotel chain, was the Savoy's first manager.
These days, it is owned by Canadian group Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, which took over five years ago.