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HOTEL AN AMUSEMENT ENTERPRISE
CHAINS OF GREAT TOURIST HOTELS
WOMAN'S INFLUENCE ON EUROPEAN HOTELS
EXCLUSIVENESS OF THE FOREIGN HOTEL
GERMANS THE BEST HOTELIERS
MUSIC A DRAWING CARD
HOTELS AS PEACEMAKERS
CATERING FOR ALL NATIONS
BATHS AND "LIFTS"
CHARM OF ALL THINGS FRENCH
FRENCH HOTEL PROPRIETOR
INDIVIDUALITY THE KEYNOTE IN FRANCE ENGLISH HOTELS
"GRAND AND PALACE" HOTELS
ROYALTY AS AN ADVERTISEMENT
PARIS A CITY OF SMALL HOTELS
MODERN HOTELS OF PARIS
USEFUL TERMINUS HOTELS
A HOTEL OF THE SAHARA
HOTELS OF BISKRA
EGYPT AND ITS MODERN HOTELS
WOMAN AND THE EUROPEAN HOTEL
THE great modern hotels of Europe differ fundamentally from the same thing in America in being primarily great amusement enterprises. Their commercialism is subordinated always to entertainment of a pleasure-making kind, and their edifices have been designed especially for the demands of society en tour, as well with regard to luxury as a divertisement.
There are chains of these big tourist hotels, such as the Bertolini establishments, the Ritz's, the Carlton's, the Gordon's and the like, as well as combinations that do not openly proclaim their allied identity under one name.
The object of founding hotels in series is that they may be planted around so as to catch the same clientele in the different stages of its journeyings. The policy of their owners is to pass a client along from one affiliated establishment to another, and by this well-thought-out scheme the traveller can do a large part of Europe, and some of Africa, under the same hotel management, if ingenious and planful, and if the enterprise, in its various branches, was successful in the first instance in making the right impression. This is a combination that works to the advantage of both the hotel and the guest.
The season for most of the big hotels is limited; it would be impossible for such to run continuously at the high pressure of comfort and service demanded for one short season of but two or three months, as is often the case. The resourceful European hotelier, beside whom his American confrere is in the Kindergarten class when it comes to the science of tourisme, simply transfers his staff from his summer hotel in the Alps to his palm-shaded winter house on the Mediterranean, and baits it with the same attractions, when, sooner or later, the same school of patrons comes nibbling along. This pleases nearly everybody, for the reason that a large majority want their amusement purveyed to them with a minimum of effort.
The cosmopolitan type of hotel simplifies the language difficulty also. It is in a position to stand between its patrons of many lands and the friction which might arise by their coming in contact with a strange tongue in a "foreign" hotel. So intimate has become the function of the great hotel that to visit one or another is like going from one big house-party to another. Friends arrange to meet at the same hotel whilst travelling, and congenial parties link up with one another as they go from some "Grand" hotel to some "Palace" hotel, whether at the Golden Horn, Gibraltar, Cairo or Copenhagen.
The woman tourist is largely responsible for the present status of the great hotel of Europe, if not, in many cases, for its actual being. To a large extent many have been designed for woman's convenience and pleasure. Their salons and corridors are practically the show-rooms for the creations of the dressmakers and milliners of London, Paris and New York. Members of the élite society of the four quarters of the world are but mannikins who exhibit and advertise the wares of those who have fashioned their charms. All the resources of one's wardrobe are taxed to meet the dress parade of the great European resort hotel. This is not absolutely necessary, but the custom is growing every year more complicated, and larger supplies of luggage are needed than ever before if one would make the tour of the Grand Hotel in commensurate style.
The English demand comfort, but the American goes farther and demands luxury, and to the American woman may be given much of the credit for the luxe that the modern European hotel proprietor is showering upon his guests.
The foreign hotel is designed first of all for attractiveness and for comfort, in spite of the fact that it is lacking in many of the mechanical conveniences of America, though these are replaced by a highly trained and efficient staff of servants which is always on hand to render personal service with an outwardly polite respect. This is a very soothing state of affairs after an experience in a Broadway restaurant with a bootblack from the basement who has been elevated to the position of a waiter on the first floor.
The entrance hall is always a lounging place, called appropriately in England, "the Lounge." Then there is the highly ornamental salon, perhaps two, and a reading-room – the salon de lecture of the Continent – where the world's leading newspapers and pictorial magazines are to be found. The more ambitious hotels of this class will have an attractive courtyard, often masquerading as a palm garden, a pleasing and useful adjunct to any town or country hotel.
The foreign hotel invariably insists upon a certain air of exclusiveness. In this lies its charm. The public is not allowed the free use of the European hotel, wearing out its furniture and using up its stationery, as in liberal America. One cannot get by the watchful porter at the door without a definite object which potentially tends to benefit the hotel. Things are figured on too close a margin on the other side to permit of the free and public use of hotel privileges.
It is in this class of hotel that the individual proprietor has given way to a syndicate with a Directeur as a go-between. What is gained in comfort has been lost in those elements of a personal character which old travellers loved. The average hotel of to-day is on too big a scale to be influenced by personality; the stockholders in the syndicate want only dividends, and all that the average guest wants is to be able to travel with the smallest amount of expended energy and friction, caring nothing at all as to whether it is a German, an Italian or a Swiss who may be caterer. The disadvantage of such a hotel régime is that one's impressions of a country often come through foreign out-of-focus lenses, rather than from a national viewpoint.
The German, or the German-Swiss, is perhaps the best all round hotelier of to-day. It is he who has put the modern European hotel on the business footing that it has acquired in the last decade. Take those famous modern houses of Berlin as concrete examples and deny this if you can. This sphere of influence stretches from the farthest Bohemian spa to the Pyramids. The best managed, cleanest, most nearly perfect type of machine-made hotel of Europe to-day is under German influence, even though its name be writ in Italian, French or English, or in a combination of all three. Wherever modern methods of hotel sanitation and comfort are to be found the trail of the German will be found close by.
Many hotels in Italy are run under German aegis, perhaps even backed by German capital, and while the Swiss "Hotel Director" is a type peculiar to himself, he, too, is chiefly German in his methods and in his attitude towards the traveller, and though he does things more parsimoniously than the German, who knows that liberality is the best divertisement a hotel can have, he scrupulously keeps to his schedule and handles expeditiously the Baedecker brigade that uses the Alps as a bridge across Europe.
The Germans have gone the English one better; besides putting out one's shoes in front of the bedroom door at night, there is also a hanger for one's clothes, so that they may be ready at hand for brushing by the valet who creeps about in the still hours, The corridors of some modern German hotels look like cloakrooms or storage vaults. Less trusting hotels have lockers beside the door for the same purpose. The idea is not a bad one, though garments have been known to get mixed up at the hands of a sleepy valet de chambre, resulting in the breaking up of a harmonious party and much scandalised whispering over afternoon teacups.
The Germans, too, are responsible for the universal introduction of music as a feature of hotel and restaurant life. Nothing cements a crowd of people so much as music, nor contributes so much of that atmosphere of gaiety so carefully cultivated by the great hotel. Tyrolean singers carol in the electrically lighted hotel gardens of French resorts like Vichy and Aix-les-Bains; theatrically attired Neapolitan boatmen warble "Santa Lucia" to amuse the guests of an immense hotel on a snow-crowned Alpine summit, and singers of all nations chant in all keys to the well-fed, after-dinner crowd over coffee cups at Trouville in summer, and at Monte Carlo in winter.
The European resort hotel has every device for nailing the crowd to the spot and making it too contented to move on. It must be confessed that the ingenuity of the hotelier is taxed to the utmost to hold the restless American already blasé, if only by his financial ability to get what is wanted, at the time it is wanted and in the desired proportions.
One does not have to go outside of a hotel of this class for anything. There may be a vaudeville performance in the salon, a palmist may have the concession to read for you, at a high price, a cheerful future in a cosy corner of the "Lounge," and there are convenient booths scattered about the corridors, where souvenirs of any country are put in easy reach of this great floating hotel population, of course at enhanced prices.
The great foreign hotel is perhaps making for the world's peace quite as much as the Congress of the Hague. By its means nations are brought into social contact and, more or less, are becoming tolerant of each other's peculiarities, at least more conversant with them. The "Grand" and "Palace" hotels, carrying out their policy of being all things to all men – more especially to all women – are aiding the cause far more than one might at first admit.
The holiday season is used to advantage by the progressive Continental hotel with a foreign clientele. A German Christmas tree is set up in the drawing-room, and frequently costly gifts are distributed to a crowd of grown-ups as pleased as children. English plum pudding has become an international Christmas dish and is impartially put on the menus for English and Americans alike. The American cocktail, in its mild European form, is eagerly sought after at the so-called American bars which are usually found in most big hotels. Altogether one is quite sure of not being allowed to forget his nationality.
The English afternoon tea custom has become standardised, and everybody looks forward to the dainty service of tea, along correct lines, in the "Lounge," or the "Halls" where the ladies may smoke if they choose, for woman's cigarette has got beyond the stage of intimate boudoir use in Europe. Under such surroundings guests fall into cliques readily enough, and what with going off on excursions together, sooner or later make plans to move en masse to the latest palatial establishment lying on their paths which may have been recommended to them by others gone before.
The social game has largely superseded the traveller's one-time single devotion to relics of the past. What is demanded now by the clients of the "Grand" hotel is all that is modern and modish. The growing American clientele is making its influence felt. It has insisted on elevators and bathrooms, with modern fitments, and while the English were the pioneers in improving sanitary conditions on the Continent, they were content to carry around their bathtubs with them. This is not possible with a party of six or a dozen Americans who arrive at a big hotel by automobile, hence the demand of each for a private bath overtaxes the capacity of most hotels, or did, up to within a very few years. The hotelier finally woke up, and now great hotels, every room with its bath, are going up on all the well worn trails trod by Americans "doing Europe."
The hotel elevator in Europe is appropriately called a "lift," for very often its only function is to take you up, leaving you to find your way down the stairs. Any other procedure would seem a waste of mechanical energy, which costs money to produce, in the eyes of the frugal foreigner. The usual "lift" is about as large as a bird cage, and moves with a slowness that gives the passengers an opportunity to get acquainted before the third floor is reached. One variety of the "lift" is manœuvred from below, and, to the embarrassment of the lone woman traveller she may often find herself sent off at a snail's pace as the only occupant of a "lift," bound on a journey to the top. Again she may be shut up in a box-like cage with an unknown man and scarce enough extra space about them to allow of unrestricted breathing.
Hotel keepers of all nationalities, by the frequent custom of giving a French name to their hotel, pay a compliment to the charm that all that is French exercises on the imagination, and, by the almost universal adoption of a French cuisine and menu, tacitly acknowledge the superiority of that nation in the art of good cooking. The word "hotel" has been incorporated into every language; in Italy it is as well known as the native albergo; in Spain as the fonda or in Germany as the gasthaus.
Curiously enough the Frenchman himself has been the slowest of all in catering for the outside tourist. It is in France, too, that the hotel proprietor himself is most in evidence about the establishment; he has not been so eager to turn himself into a stock company, being a creature of traditions, of much personal pride, and content with smaller profits.
Even such touristised hotels as are found in the great French resorts, such as Trouville, Evian-les-Bains, Aix-les-Bains and Vichy, the hotels are purely French in all their functions. With the exception of a few parasitical excresences which have been forced upon him, the genuine French hotelier never meets innovations even halfway. He is independent to a marked degree, but while he will not take so much trouble as will the German-Swiss personage of his class to appease the whims of his guests, neither is he so commercial, not to say rapacious. He sees to it first of all that his cuisine and wines are of the traditional best, and gives himself little concern as to whether the installation of his salle-de-bains is of the latest pattern or not.
"Oh, I send these exigent foreigners to the big house over the way – every room with a bath," said the proprietor of a hotel on the French Riviera, having exclusively a high-class French clientele, with a shrug of the shoulders. "Four bathrooms are enough for my people." He used to think that these folk from across the seas were mad until they developed this water craze.
The English, who have been, until recently, prejudiced against the mixed hotel amusement idea, have now taken up with it heartily. This is proven by the number of luxuriously appointed hotels, on a much more magnificent scale than ever before, which are opening up all over the British isles, the direct result of tourists arriving by automobile, whereas before they arrived scarcely at all.
Evidences of the workings of a big English hotel are kept out of sight as much as possible. What there is of an office is unobtrusively tucked away in a corner of the entrance hall, which might be that of a private house. A log fire burns in the big open fireplace (an almost daily necessity the year round in some parts of Britain), and tea tables are set about here and there that at five o'clock every one may forgather for tea and a social chat before dressing for dinner. At some of these establishments private mounts are kept in the stables, and women guests may go for a morning's canter over the downs or along the sea-front, as if they were sheltered in some friend's country house, wearing that curious combination, a riding habit and a straw sailor hat. Dinner is always a function, with décolleté full-dress, after which coffee is drunk in the "Lounge," while the band plays discreetly, hid behind imitation palms or rubber plants, and the inevitable card parties begin to form themselves.
This habit of seeking pleasure at hotels, due, it is claimed, to the influx of American ideas, has done much to break down English exclusiveness. Hotel acquaintances are now as much sought as they were once shunned. It is avowedly for social life that large numbers of English people put in their holidays and week-ends at the hotel that purveys the most amusement for the price charged, though often they use the disguise of curative baths or waters in the neighbourhood to account for their prolonged absence from town.
There are, in Scotland, "shooting," "fishing," "golfing" and "hydropathic" hotels, which are distinctly Scotch. At the latter one may indulge the bathing habit to heart's content, hot or cold, douche or spray, warranted to cure any ailment. "Hydros," once so popular, are fashionable no longer, though their prices are high and they welcome any kind of traveller, whether excessive bathing is to be a part of their daily life or not.
Temperance hotels are another purely British institution, and are what their name implies, places where nothing more exciting than ginger-pop and bottled lemonade is served to drink. They are, for this reason, supposed to be peculiarly suited to the demands of a feminine clientele.
That there is something in a name may be deduced from the general custom of making use of the prefix "Grand" or "Palace" before the name of many a great hotel; sometimes as a sort of super-emphasis, both words are made use of, and there are supposedly intelligent people who will refuse to go to a hotel that is not so labelled.
The word "Grand" has been so overworked that it has really lost its significance. The simplest hostelry can get the local sign-painter to put "Grand" before its after name, but even extreme local egotism naturally shrinks from the responsibility implied by putting the word "Palace" over its front door, where the courtyard shelters more country carts than automobiles.
It may be safely counted upon that the "Palace" hotel, of whatever combination of words may be the rest of its name, tries to live up to its pretensions. Often, in Italy, it is a genuine palace that has been converted to the uses of a guest house, to the financial profit of the present owner, and a tickling of the sentiments of the tourist. There is no doubt but that the sentiment that is supposed to exist in sunny Italy is largely supplied by the imagination of the visitor.
To show the length to which a hotel will go in cadging for business, one Italian hotel advertises that the use of garlic is absolutely banished from its kitchen. The refined olfactory nerves of the cultured foreigner are not likely to be offended beneath that roof.
The modern hotel on the Continent makes use of royalty wherever possible as an advertisement and drawing-card. The credit of this is due to the Italians. In a conspicuous place, near the entrance of many an Italian hotel, may be seen a card which states that His or Her Gracious Majesty has honoured the hotel at one time or another by occupying one of its suites of rooms or breaking fast therein. The enthusiastic American girl at once demands that the royalties be trotted out for inspection, and is chagrined to find out that it was long years ago that they passed that way. By paying a hundred per cent above the usual charges one may have the privilege of occupying the same rooms, and usually they do not want for takers. The acknowledgment of such a distinction by an Italian hotel is as much of an influential trademark as are the royal arms over the shop front of a London tradesman.
Paris is a city of small hotels. The hotels of Paris have a fascination for the visitor which in a way is inexplicable. They are chic; there is no doubt about that – some of them, with a certain Parisian atmosphere – but actually, until very recent years, they have been most backward in that modernity which an indulgent generation demands.
With the coming of the Elysée Palace Hotel and the Regina a few years since, and the making over of the Grand, the Continental and the Meurice, a certain revolution in Paris hotels took place, until now, even with the staid old Athenée, and the still more staid and exclusive Bristol (the abode of royalty, which only within the last half-dozen years has installed the modern bathroom with "hot and cold laid on," as its habitual and favoured clientèle expresses it), these only are to be reckoned as in the very front rank.
Prices at these Paris caravansaries are anything one likes to pay; the more so this if one demands that which she has been used to in New York, Boston, Philadelphia or Chicago. This, as goes without saying, means a room with a bath. For this one pays the transatlantic tariff and something more. There is nothing cheap about the Paris hotel.
Recently has come along a new crop of hotels like the Astoria and the Crillon, new, some of them, as to their structure, whilst others are new only in their appointments. They are no better nor no worse than others of their kind elsewhere, and prices about the same. The hotel with modern comforts in Paris can hardly be expected to supply a room and bath at less than fifteen to twenty francs a day, and it may be fifty or more. You can beat it on Broadway.
Something in the Paris hotel line, with a real reason for being, has sprung up recently in the quarters just off the rush and bustle of the boulevards. There is the Louvois, on the Square Louvois opposite the Bibliothéque Nationale, in a little backwater of tranquility, but scarce a stone's throw from the Avenue de l'Opéra. The latest is the Hôtel Lutetia, on the Rive Gauche, near the Bon Marché, to which the same applies. Modern, unpretentious, exceedingly convenient and in every way first class, if not fashionable, Paris hotels of this nature are bound to be more numerous. Their prices, of course, are somewhat less than would be charged for an apartment as comfortable and convenient in one of the great palatial hotels with mondain reputations.
Another class of hotels which in Paris, and indeed in London and in some other European cities, serve the lone travelling woman in a manner which she will greatly appreciate, are the Terminus Hotels, as those affiliated with the great railway companies are known. The best examples in Paris are the Terminus Hotel at the Gare Saint Lazare, and that of the Gare d'Orléans – the Terminus Quai d'Orsay. At Marseilles, too, and at Lyons, the P. L. M. railway furnishes accommodation of a similar nature for the traveller, and in many respects it serves better than any other.
Leaving Europe and crossing to Africa, one still finds French influence paramount. In the French department of Algeria, and the virtually French protected Tunisia, that French trilogy – good hotels, good cafes and good roads – go together. Down even into the Saharan desert one finds hotels as truly French as if they were in the midst of one of the old French provinces instead of on the edge of an African oasis.
The Hôtel des Ziban at Biskra is such an example. There is a big syndicate-owned hotel at Biskra, along with a few others – the Royal Palace, something or other – but nothing that compares in local colour with the Ziban. Here one comes into contact with curious contrasts of West and East. One sips French drinks under an Eastern colonnade or in the palm-tree-shaded courtyard, in as cosmopolitan a company as one may find out of Cairo or Constantinople.
Three generations of an old French family preside over the destinies of the Ziban. Gathered there among the company on one occasion was an Arab Caid and his family, making their way south for the winter to their tribal town hundreds of kilometres farther on in the burning sands. They took up their journey again one morning at three o'clock, and with a retinue of forty men and as many camels stole off as stealthily and romantically as if they had not come down from the coast, where they had spent the summer, by the same puffy little train which brought ourselves from the sea to the Sahara.
There was also a Belgian automobile party which was motoring "Farthest South" at a considerable cost in rubber tires; there was a French army officer and his bride on their honeymoon; a Russian artist painting the coloured squalor of old Biskra; a party of French blue-jackets on their curious mission of digging wells for a desert army post; one of the "White Fathers" of that order of Monks which has carried the Cross into the Sahara – this particularly worldly one was not averse to relaxing with the rest when the heat drove every one to iced drinks, ice being more readily obtainable in the Sahara than in many an Alpine mountain town of Dauphiny or Savoy. Among the flower beds of the courtyard gamboled two brown-eyed gazelles, and no end of Arab servants slipped about like ghosts in white robes and heelless slippers, while an army of native guides squatted at the street entrance, biding the sight-seeing caprices of the guests, most of whom were fully charged with the sentiment of' "Beni-Moro" on arriving.
One ate genuine French food, tinged with a spicing of Arab pepper and herbs, in a dining-room so darkened, to keep out the hundred degrees of heat, that you had to feel your way. Mosquitoes buzzed cheerily all night, and the guests went shopping, before retiring, in Biskra's Bazaar, searching for something that would temporarily act as mosquito netting.
"Mon Dieu, c'est impossible," said the French grandmother, knitting away on a stocking, as she had been doing since her girlhood in the mountains of Auvergne, and slapping an occasional buzzer. "But then the mosquitoes never go above the ground floor; you will be all right once in bed."
In Africa, as in New Jersey, there is this same mental obliqueness as to mosquitoes.
There are fireplaces in all Biskra hotels; even the grandmother admitted that they might be needed in winter. And she said further, "You Americans and the English will have them when you come down in February and March."
For eight francs or so a day one can live at the Hôtel des Ziban, while twenty-five would be the bottom limit at a Royal or a "Palace," where the guest follows the same routine of teas and card parties (interspersed with such exotic amusements as can be had from visiting the dance halls of the Ouled Nails) as at Davos in Switzerland or Pau in the Pyrenees.
One gets another view of exotic life from the orchestra seats on the terrace of Shepheard's Hotel overlooking the only original streets of Cairo. Shepheard's holds its own among world-famous hostelries, in spite of the more gorgeous and more modern big European-like hotels that have sprung into social prominence in the neighbourhood since Cairo became an international rendezvous for travellers between the West and East a half century or more ago. As a diversified amusement nothing quite takes the place of the "Terrace" at Shepheard's in the height of season, say about February, when the chairs before the little wicker tea tables under the gay Oriental hangings are all taken, and a crowd, clothed in all colours, and of all degrees of celebrity and brilliance, is gathered to hear the band play, gossip and watch the multi-coloured population of this most cosmopolitan of Oriental cities drift ceaselessly past.
One can play tennis and golf now almost the length of the lower Nile, and one can live at the Mena House Hotel, in the very shadow of the Sphinx for six dollars or so a day all found. It is easy to have sympathy for the Nationalists, the young Egyptian party, of this unhappy land, whose slogan is "Egypt for the Egyptians."
For those who want to go to the fountainhead of antiquity with a maximum amount of luxury there is nothing better than the hotels of Egypt. They will send one out sight-seeing in an automobile with a gorgeous silk-clad dragoman beside the chauffeur, and though one can't get far out into the desert sand, the ten miles to the Pyramids and another ten back is an enjoyable and novel excursion.
One class of European hotel advertises itself as an "international tourist resort of the first rank," while another puts out printed matter to the effect that: "it proposes to keep its entertainment in all departments on a level with the enjoyment to be derived from the majestic scenery around about." Each of these methods gives a clear-cut idea of modern European hotel management. The big syndicated hotels of Europe are practically trusts, and again is the American hotel behind; witness the first of these combinations which has recently broken in on this side of the water, run by one of the most successful of the European international companies.
Perhaps in time all the "Palace" and "Grand" hotels of Europe will form themselves into a trust, formulate one policy and pool their earnings. This would simplify matters, and the average clients would be more easily pleased, for in that case there would be a greater assurance that the desired continuity of that which they found so to their liking would be unbroken. The death knell of the small hotel, so far as the world-famous cosmopolitan European resorts are concerned, has been rung.
For those, however, who like the other phase of hotel life, in many a backwater off the restless stream of wandering fashion, there still can be found the hotel whose proprietor wears the white cap of the chef, and where, too, the little café with its sawdust-strewn floor isn't a bad change sometimes from the "Lounge" of the "Grand" hotel.