Style | Swellboy

Swellboy on… hotel preferences

Pools are essential – but other hotel USPs hold even greater allure

Swellboy on… hotel preferences

February 24 2012
Nick Foulkes

I have, much without meaning to, become a business traveller. Wherever there is a watchmaker’s workshop to be visited, a cigar factory to be inspected or a tailoring atelier to be given the once over, I will be there with my transparent Dunhill washbag, lightweight Vaio and regulation-sized cabin luggage.

Anyway, like the seasoned business traveller I did not realise I had become, I have identified my tastes when it comes to hotels, and at the moment I do prefer it if there is some sort of swimming pool involved in my accommodation. The Kempinski in Geneva has a lovely pool, as does La Réserve; The Dolder Grand in Zurich has a particularly enviable example; and the Bristol in Paris does its inner city best with a small but useful pool decorated in a nautical theme, complete with belle-époque-style seafaring murals juxtaposed, not unpleasingly, against windows that give interesting views of the Parisian roofscape.

But there are occasions when I am magnanimous enough to overlook the absence of a pool. For instance, the Plaza Athénée’s suite with a vast picture window that frames the Eiffel Tower more than compensates, while Les Trois Rois in Basel has recently opened a charming cigar lounge.

You know how much I chafe against the injustice of not being allowed to enjoy a cigar in an enclosed space that is not my car, my home or the tasting and testing room of Davidoff on St James’s Street. Outdoor smoking areas are all very well, but in the recent Siberian cold snap their charm does begin to wane, so I was overjoyed to come across this apparently totally legal and utterly delightful addition to the hotel’s facilities.

It is a library-like room with comfortable chairs in which it is possible to sit and watch the Rhine flow swiftly by, or flick through some manly literature on automotive and maritime design, while enjoying a cigar. The whole experience has been carefully thought out, the bar is just beyond the internal glass wall of the lounge/library, and the humidor room is a joy, with a fully interactive, touchscreen virtual humidor that allows you to zoom in on any Havana or Dominican you choose and find out more about it. It’s a wonderful device, although one suspects it will not see too much use, as by simply opening the door and reaching out one can pick up one’s cigar in real time and in… well… reality.

Of course, this has thrown my business travel hotel selection criteria into utter entropy, as I now want to stay in hotels that have both pools and cigar salons. And given that, like so many business travellers, I find myself pushed for time, ideally I would like the two features combined so that I can swim while smoking a cigar.