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Francis Bown, Bown's Best

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See below for the latest October 2016 Reviews

Imperial Hotel Tramontano, Sorrento, Italy | Bown's Best


Whenever I think of the Grand Hotel Imperial Tramontano, I smile. I do so because the memories which come back to me – of beautiful views, gracious surroundings, good food and courteous service – put me in such a happy frame of mind. This large and expansive property has welcomed guests for over two hundred years. Indeed, parts of its building date back to the 16th Century. These include the Stella Maris Chapel, which is covered with colourful frescoes (restored, I fear, by a painter more to be admired for his enthusiasm than for his skill). The Tramontano’s location – close to the Old Town and to the Cathedral, and atop Sorrento’s famous cliffs – is a privileged one, affording a superb panorama of the Gulf of Naples. Whenever I approach the entrance portico through the hotel’s shady gardens, I feel the most pleasing anticipation.

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The Swan at Lavenham, Lavenham, Suffolk, United Kingdom | Bown's Best


Hotels do not have to be pretty, but it helps. You certainly will not find a prettier inn than the Swan at Lavenham. Its confection of half-timbered buildings, most of them from the 15th century, nestles in the middle of what many regard as England’s most beautiful mediaeval village. A short walk up a gentle slope in one direction is the magnificent church of St Peter and St Paul. A modest stroll in the other direction will take you to the charming village square. Everywhere you look, it is as if the architectural nastiness of post-War brutalism has been banished by the Good Fairy. Lavenham is a hymn to harmony, contentment and visual delight. It is appropriate, then, that the Swan is the hotel of many a dream: relaxing, well-run and luxurious. And, mirabile dictu, it is not too expensive.

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Brudenell Hotel, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, United Kingdom | Bown's Best


The Brudenell Hotel is for those who love the sea. Indeed, it is difficult, unless you are in your bathing costume, to get much closer to our watery friend – for there it is: right outside. Between the hotel building and Aldeburgh’s shingle beach there is but a quiet, narrow road. The seagulls call, the waves roll and the guests of the Brudenell gaze out at the vast expanse of the North Sea stretching to the horizon. I did exactly that from my first floor room, and found the experience remarkably restful. Of course, this Suffolk town is famous not only for its seaside location and unspoilt atmosphere, but also for a person: Benjamin Britten. Let me confess at once that I am not a devotee of his music, which my ear finds a half-step too far along the path to dissonance. But I can certainly understand why the Great Man liked Aldeburgh and the Suffolk Coast, for both attract powerfully with a strange, melancholy sweetness.

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Francis Bown 2003
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