Let’s talk about city hotels for a moment, shall we? Particularly, let’s talk about the view you get from your room, which, in the very same hotel, can be one that make you want to catch your breath—or a view that makes you hope to never draw another breath again.
Which reminds me of my favorite bad view story. It was at budget hotel in Hong Kong, and the windows were sealed shut and frosted over. Upon investigation, it turned out the room overlooked a graveyard. Very bad feng shui!* Much better at the Grand Hyatt where I stayed later on that trip:
My favorite good view story at the moment is the one I enjoyed at the InterContinental Paris Le Grand a few years ago. It’s right across the street from the Opera Garnier, and in fact was commissioned because of the Opera, as part of Napoleon III’s wholesale revision of Paris as a city, under the direction of Baron Haussmann. The hotel opened on May 5th, 1862—actually thirteen years before the Opera’s grand opening— and it was the largest hotel in world at the time.
The hotel has gone through several décor changes, not the least of which occurred when it served as military hospital during World War I, and when it was occupied by the Nazis and then by American troops during and after World War II, respectively. Throughout it all, the Garnier Opera dominated the view, designed to be a monument to the glories of French art, luxury and pleasure, its elaborate exterior loaded with sculptures, medallions, rose granite, gold and ivory. I imagine that the Opera provoked many different reactions from viewers at the Le Grand building over the years, as history worked its many changes around the building.
When I gazed out at it, taking in the Opera, and the cars and the crowds, it inspired an unusual reaction in me: it made me want to get a hair cut. I’ve just written about it at The Smart Set. Views can do more than just affect one’s breathing, it seems.
Alison J. Stein
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