Travel | Diary of a Somebody

Olga Polizzi

The sleeper train takes the hotel designer to her favourite place

Olga Polizzi

August 06 2011
Olga Polizzi

Day: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

My alarm goes off at 7.45am and I head over for a 9am breakfast meeting at Franco’s, opposite the office on Jermyn Street. I am meeting the writer, Neil Collins, the former City editor of The Daily Telegraph, who is writing a book about my father, Charles Forte.

I have read through the manuscript and discussed some details with Neil. It is always difficult to be objective about one’s father – and mine was exceptional.

I sit down with one of our PR team at 11am to discuss a request for me to be a style ambassador for a new website, specialising in “luxury wardrobe essentials for working women”. I am not exactly sure what this means but I am considering it. As long as I do not have to deviate from my usual working outfit of white shirt and trousers. When possible, I get these from designers I like – Jil Sander, MaxMara, Paule Ka and sometimes from Zara.

We also look at some new samples for slippers for all hotels; we are looking for something a little more unusual and fun. This is a small decision but I can’t make up my mind.

I go and meet my stepdaughter at lunchtime at her new flat – it needs quite a lot of work, including a new hot water and heating system. We discuss some different design ideas and what sofas she should buy – always a very difficult decision as they are expensive and for life.

We spend the whole afternoon working on the Astoria Hotel in St Petersburg. We have put in some prototype rooms merging three bedrooms into two. We are now repeating this through half the hotel. Working in Russia is not easy, though not nearly as hard as it was when we opened the hotel 10 years ago, but all imports carry large taxes and interminable delays at customs. Thank goodness more and more things can now be made and bought in Russia, including wonderful Volga Linen curtains and bedspreads and a lot of the furniture.

I rush home at about 7pm to get organised for the weekend as we are going to my own hotel, Tresanton in St Mawes, Cornwall. We are taking the 11.45 Paddington to Penzance sleeper train.

I opened Tresanton about 11 years ago and that’s where I would like to spend most of my time. It’s another world and a better one. The sleeper train is marvellous and a lot more comfortable than many people might think. It was threatened with closure a few years ago. But its loss would have been serious for Cornwall, which has pretty poor transport links with the rest of England. A passionate campaign to “save the sleeper” was mounted and 8,000 people signed a petition. Eddie George, the former governor of the Bank of England, and a few others of us delivered it to Number 10. Happily the sleeper was saved.

Same-sex strangers can share a two-berth sleeper. I would never dream of doing this, but my husband sometimes does. The last time he did so, he caught a glimpse of a man in striped underpants climbing into the bunk above him before they both started snoring the night away. It was only in the morning that they realised they were friends and were both on the way to speak at the same meeting in Falmouth.

We arrive at St Austell at 7am. It is lovely to see Federica, Tresanton’s manager, waiting outside so that we can catch up on the drive to St Mawes through the beautiful Roseland peninsula. It’s glorious to be back.

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