On my very first visit to the wonderful Villa d’Este, the late, great Mrs Jean Salvadore (who dealt with the hotel’s public relations for many years and whose picture, with your correspondent, I am proud to include in this article) taught me a profound lesson. An insect had flown through an open window into my room, and I had strained my back in trying to deal with it. “But you should not have done it yourself!” she exclaimed. “This is the Villa d’Este! You only have to ask and it will be done!” The Villa d’Este is like this. During my most recent sojourn, I thought my apartment might benefit from two more table lamps. They arrived in the blink of an eye. At breakfast, I mentioned to a waiter that there was no sign on the buffet of my favourite bread and butter pudding. “It will be here for you tomorrow morning, Sir.” And it was. I thought it might be pleasant to have some boiled peas – to which I am addicted – in my suite at lunch time. I returned to find a silver tureen full of them, standing in the centre of my room on a white damask tablecloth. Nothing is too much trouble at the Villa d’Este. As Jean never tired of reminding me, the Villa d’Este is unique.
If you look carefully at the photograph of your correspondent with the famous Manager of the Hotel Splendido in Portofino, Mr Ermes de Megni, you will observe that there is a tiny badge on the lapel of his jacket. I asked Mr de Megni what it meant. He explained to me that it signified that the Hotel Splendido had been awarded – by the prestigious organization, Leading Hotels of the World – the title of ‘Best Hotel in the World 2012’. No wonder my host was smiling! Of course, I was not surprised. For I have long admired this most exquisite of Europe’s luxury hotels for the truly impressive level of its hospitality. If you like everything to be of the very best, including the friendliness of the welcome and the courtesy and efficiency of the staff, this is the place for you. And there is another important reason to pay a visit.
There is one little town I love above all others on the French Riviera. It is St Tropez. I did not know it when it was an undisturbed fishing village. Perhaps I would have been captivated by its innocent prettiness. I only came after it had become a magnet for film stars and the beautiful rich. Sadly, I fall into neither category. Still, it was immensely pleasurable to glide about its narrow streets in my beautiful 1963 Rolls-Royce, adding, as I hoped – and in my own modest manner – to the general gaiety and elegance of the place. Then the Royce ‘declined to proceed’ on one of my journeys to the South, and I decided that her age required her to stay in Blighty. And now, in any case, I notice that the amount of traffic would upset her. But back to St Tropez I go – for the sunshine, for the beauty and for the wonderful places like the Restaurant L’Olivier.
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