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Francis Bown, Bown's Best

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See below for the latest May 2015 Reviews

The Metropole Hotel, Venice, Italy | Bown's Best


If you like your hotels to have character, you are in for a treat in Venice. In a world in which too many hotels seem to strive for the same ghastly blandness, The Metropole stands out as a beacon of hope. The owner and General Manager, the charming and vivacious Gloria Beggiato (pictured, with your correspondent), runs her establishment as the very best sort of luxury hotel. You will know what I mean as soon as your bespoke brogues take you inside. Immediately, you are surrounded by the gorgeous confection of crimson velvet, shimmering gold and sparkling crystal which is The Metropole’s lobby. These dark and welcoming colours are entrancing. But there is more. There is the hotel’s astonishing collection of artefacts. They are displayed in the illuminated cabinets which are around the entrance hall and in the upstairs corridors and landings. Fans, visiting-card cases, candlesticks, evening bags, corkscrews, crucifixes, hairbrushes… there must be hundreds – no, thousands – of them. The Metropole, then, is no ordinary place.

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Hotel D'Angleterre, Geneva, Switzerland | Bown's Best


Geneva is famous for the manufacture of watches and jewellery. It is appropriate, therefore, that the hotel which many regard as the best in the city is rather like a beautiful jewel box. With just 45 rooms, the Hôtel d’Angleterre is small for a luxury city hotel, but the smallness adds to its charms. Built in 1872 by a Swiss architect, Anthony Krafft, it fits discreetly into the range of similar buildings on the quai du Mont-Blanc. Indeed, discretion is one its prized characteristics. It is certainly offered to those many important guests who climb the steps from the street to immerse themselves in salons decorated with silk brocades, fine marble and gleaming ormolu. The founder of the Scouts, Lord Baden Powell, used to stay here, as did Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmuller (although probably not with Cheetah) and the man who brought the Soviet Union into the modern world, Michaïl Gorbachov.

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Ristorante Ai Gondolieri, Venice, Italy | Bown's Best


Politicians, thespians and film directors have at least one thing in common: they like good restaurants. So when you come across a dining room which has numbered among its guests not only President François Mitterand but also Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg, you have every reason to suppose that you have found a place for a good meal. And if you are in Venice, standing before the Ristorante Ai Gondolieri, I can assure you that your supposition is correct. Located between those celebrated sources of aesthetic and spiritual nourishment, the Galleria Accademia and the Church of Santa Maria della Salute, and just behind that temple of Modernism, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, this modest former tavern happily caters for those seeking sustenance of the physical sort.

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Francis Bown 2003
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