HOTELS AT THE HEART - IN PARTNERSHIP WITH FAIRMONT HOTELS

HOTELS AT THE HEART - IN PARTNERSHIP WITH FAIRMONT HOTELS
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Travelling is part of my job and I’m very thankful for it. I’ve stayed at good hotels, great hotels and not so great hotels. When I think about what makes a great hotel, it goes beyond a great design or beautiful room - of course, these aesthetic details are important to me, but it’s the ‘something more’ that really takes a hotel to the next level. That ‘something more’ can mean many things to many people, but for me, that ‘something more’ is how much I’ve enjoyed my whole experience and whether it goes beyond just staying somewhere - god forbid - that’s just “instagrammable”.

Did the staff go above and beyond? Did they feel genuinely friendly? Does the hotel have a deep rooted ethos? Does the hotel care about the impact it makes on its environment?

These are just a few of the questions that, if answered yes, takes a hotel to the next level. I would say I experienced genuine first class service in a hotel for the first time earlier this year, and I know firsthand that it definitely impacted on my overall experience - to a point that it’s the only hotel I’ve ever not found a fault with! Service is important, especially when travelling in the luxury sector - it should be a given! And in today’s climate, caring about the environment and local communities is more important now than ever.

Which leads to me why I’m writing this blog post. This post was commissioned in collaboration with Fairmont Hotels, to tell you about their ‘Hotels at the Heat of their Communities’ campaign. Fairmont Hotels recently conducted their second Luxury Insights Report which revealed that hotels are perceived as pillars in their communities; connecting guests, whether from abroad or locally, to the true character of the destination. As more luxury travellers place a higher value on life experiences shared with friends and family, they choose Fairmont hotels because of the brand’s commitment to authenticity, deep connection to place, and care for local communities and environments.

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As you may know, Fairmont Hotels has two UK properties. The first being Fairmont St Andrews in Scotland and the second being The Savoy - a Fairmont Managed Hotel, in London. As part of my work with Fairmont Hotels, I spent two nights at Fairmont St Andrews in early July and one night at The Savoy just a couple of weeks ago.

Let’s start in St Andrews.

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Fairmont St Andrews is a spectacular coast resort set within 520 acres. Set within the “Home of Golf”, the hotel has no less than two championship golf courses which means it regularly draws in the golfers (even, I’m told, in winter!). But I’m no golfer and in truth, that doesn’t interest me too much! What I liked about the hotel was its little touches and its details. The made in-house chocolate truffles on arrival, the well put together lobby that’s serenely calming whilst being very grand and, I suppose, the indoor pool was quite a highlight too.

Leaving the interior behind, it was the two beehives in the garden, the wildflowers that grew beside it and the greenhouse growing the freshest of herbs and vegetables that made Fairmont St Andrews feel like more than just a hotel.

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Our first activity upon arriving at Fairmont St Andrews was a glamorous one.

We donned the most attractive of suits and in my case, wellies three sizes too large, to go visit the property’s two beehives. The hives welcome over 20,000 honeybees to the resort in a continued effort to promote sustainability. As part of the programme, the hotel also returned a large portion of their manicured lawns to natural, native grasses to foster a new habitat for the bee population. It was fascinating to get up close and personal with the bees and to see how intricately they worked. No-one was more knowledgeable than the hotel’s trained Beekeepers, Head Gardener Johnny Mitchell and General Manager John Keating and it was a delight to hear them talk about the bees so passionately. They hope to produce their first harvest of all-natural honey soon and to add a third hive to the collection - anything to help the bee community flourish!

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Next up, we stripped out of our suits and made our way to the greenhouse. A charming glass home filled with fresh herbs, curious concoctions (a cucumelon, anyone?) and fresh vegetables. A key insight from Fairmont Hotels’ report was how much importance was placed on environmentally sustainable practices and locally sourced ingredients and it’s Fairmont St Andrews’ mission to develop these.

A short stroll from the greenhouse was the vegetable garden - a haven for produce that tastes exactly how it’s meant to. I’ve never tasted a carrot as good as I did in the garden! In fact, it made me sad that this isn’t the standard readily available to everyone and definitely made me consider where I buy my fruit and veg from here in London. For Fairmont St Andrews, the vegetable garden is a start - it hasn’t yet the ability to keep up with the demands of the kitchens and so, the hotel works with sustainable farms and responsible local suppliers close by to deliver on produce for the hotel’s many restaurants.

But one thing it does have in abundance is fresh fish! When it comes to sustainable practices, the less something has to travel to reach a plate, the better and with the bay in front of the hotel, the access to fresh fish and fresh local lobsters couldn’t be more ideal.

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After a long train journey and a day involving not walking too far, there’s nothing better than getting to stretch your legs. And there’s nothing better than a good ol’ walk along the coast! We meandered down the coastal path from the hotel into the main town early on our final day, the Sunday morning. The town is small but charming with a splattering of shops (a particular favourite of ours was the vintage sweet shop) and a few little tourist stops for good measure too. But the best part of St Andrews is the tiny harbour with all the fishing nets and boats tied up ready to go again the following morning. So charming!

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And what better reward to come back to after a long brisk walk?

The hotel’s Sunday Brunch - truly a spectacular feast with dish upon dish of delectable goodness. From fresh seafood to an out of this world dessert platter. We filled our stomachs up good and proper before it was finally time to hop in our taxi back to the station, saying farewell to the lovely staff and doormen who greeted us when we arrived.

Thank you to the whole team at Fairmont St Andrews for a wonderful stay.

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Now we head to London, the home of one of the grandest hotels this city has to offer and one that really needs no introduction.

An iconic landmark in itself, The Savoy is one of London’s finest institutions and was a pioneer in developing the hospitality sector in London, making sure that the bar was set high for others to follow. Even since the late 1800’s, The Savoy was an integral part of the community: it was the first hotel to generate its own electricity supply, with the aid of steam generators, and provided parts of the surrounding area with electricity too. Something unheard of at the time.

This month, The Savoy celebrated 130 years since opening making it one of London’s most historic hotels and it’s the finer details - staff going the extra mile, little touches and first class service that has made The Savoy so much more than a hotel. Guests choose to stay at The Savoy for many reasons. Yes, it’s beautiful and the location is particularly handy for exploring London, but it’s a place that feels like a home away from home (albeit a very fancy one). The hotel’s Head Doorman, Tony Cortegaca, regales tales of people bringing him a picture of their child standing with him at The Savoy years ago and now, years later, the child is there standing in front of him, not so little! He becomes part of their memory and their experience of a place. That same familiarity, just years apart. Not many hotels can say that.

It’s also the impeccable service that sets The Savoy apart. Staff members tend to stay at the hotel for many years, and it’s because of hotel’s like The Savoy and their commitment to luxury service, that such a high standard of service has never gone out of fashion. One of my favourite tales comes from Head Butler Sean Davoren who recalled a recent story of a bride who spilt coffee on her wedding dress the morning of the wedding. He proceeded to spend four hours resolving the issue and claims that “nothing else mattered in the world for those four hours, other than that dress.” That, is dedicated service!

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Back to our short but very sweet stay at The Savoy.

After checking in, we had a short amount of time to rest, heading upstairs to sit by the pool before finding it was time again to get back to the room for a quick change.

Drinks in the American Bar were calling. The menu at the American Bar often changes and the bar is commonly referred to as one of the best in London. For our evening, we got to experience ‘The Savoy Songbook’ featuring 20 cocktails inspired by 20 songs, by musicians who have played in the bar throughout its longstanding history. The team worked closely with the bar’s in-house musicians to delve into The Savoy’s musical history to find the 20 songs that really defined the atmosphere of the American Bar.

If you fancy a gander at the menu, you can do so, here.

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Aperitif time over, it was time to fill our stomachs.

In truth, Simpson’s in The Strand is a restaurant I never knew existed. It’s not within the hotel itself, but a mere stroll around to the right.

The now-restaurant began life as a chess club and coffee house in 1828 so its roots have been laid down for quite some time. If you’ve never been to Simpson’s, I’d really recommend you do. Apparently their Sunday Roast is one of London’s best - and from the looks of it, I wouldn’t be quick to disagree. Served on a traditional silver-domed trolley, it’s the fancy kind of service expected in such a place but without the stuffiness. The room on a Sunday evening was packed out, with a quiet buzzy-ness to it. Some diners dressed up for the occasion, others just casual, but it’s something about the room that makes you want to scrub up a little.

As expected, the food and drink was delicious. In such low level lighting, my camera had no chance so I’m afraid you’ll just have to take my word for it until you visit for yourself. But I do recommend you go, you’ll feel as though you’re stepping back in time a little.

If you want to know more about the restaurant or see the menu, here you go!

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No stay at The Savoy is complete without breakfast in the room, especially enjoyed with the sun pouring in.

After saying good bye to our room we were given a quick tour of the hotel by the hotel’s archivist, who fed us little anecdotes and stories from The Savoy over the years. My favourite was about this room below.

Here was where The Other Club - a dining society - was founded in 1911 by Winston Churchill and F.E.Smith. The members met fortnightly here, in the Pinafore Room, but the aim wasn’t to talk politics but rather, talk about anything but politics! That’s a painting of Churchill at the head of the table, with other past prime ministers photos adorning the rest of the walls.

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With work beckoning me, it was time to say goodbye to The Savoy and leave its comforts behind. There’s something pretty special about a stay at The Savoy - a hotel steeped in rich history - that can’t be found just anywhere. The Savoy is so intricately part of London and its home on the Strand. Make sure you pop in to say hello some time. I’m certain they’ll be pleased to welcome you.

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