Grand Duchy Cultural Position #12: Hotels

grandlogo150c2120bcGrand Duchy is the latest venture from Charles Thompson (a.k.a Frank Black, a.k.a. Black Francis). It’s a duo with his wife Violet Clark that explores relatively off-road terrain for Thompson: high-gloss new wave and vampish synth pop. Grand Duchy’s playful and slightly Euro-affected debut album, Petits Four, is out April 14 on Cooking Vinyl. Thompson and Clark are guest editing this week. Read our Q&A with them.

beverlyhillshotelTo us, there is nothing more relaxing than passing the time in a hotel room or, better yet, a suite. The band the Church once called such a space a “hotel womb,” and that is how Grand Duchy feels about it. One’s home may be one’s castle (in the case of your Duke and Duchess, it is actually a castle, dearests), but a home can so quickly turn into the primary source of stress and overwhelm in one’s hectic life. Bills. Stacks. Clutter. Chores: duty. Obligation. Shoulds. Phones. Phone ringing: Do I answer? Leave a message. Messages on the machine, blinking blinking blinking blink. Dirty laundry: Wash it. Clean laundry: Put it away before it wrinkles! Make the food. Clean up the kitchen. Oops. The fruit got all rotten. Throw it away. The toilet is clogged. The roof needs to be replaced. Sweep. Scrub. Routine maintenance. Maintain maintain maintain! Would the house’s future owners 10 years from now like this color of carpet, or did I just lose that future sale?

Bloody hell. Life is art, and art is not about servitude to things or the meta-container of those things. To remind yourselves of this, dear readers, I advise spending one weekend per month, minimum, in a hotel. In a hotel, the only obligations are to leisure, ease and self-care. One is a phone call away from food, from cleanliness, from a fresh bottle of cold champagne. Down the elevator, emerge, everyone smiling, happy to see you. The car awaits. The world is your oyster. Upon return, the room is fresh as a daisy. Covers turned down; mint on pillow. This environment suits the Duke and Duchess. We would happily change our last names to Gabor. Here is a list of five of our favorite hotels:

5. The Avalon, Beverly Hills
Organized around an interior courtyard with requisite amoeba-shaped pool, this retro-tastic hotel is like waking up in a Rat Pack movie. The first hotel to be decorated by the now living legend Kelly Wearstler, there’s not a design “i” that isn’t dotted. We love brunching in a cabana by the pool. Have the spa breakfast and a cappuccino.

4. Hotel Tomo, San Francisco
If you are stimulated and amused by Japanese pop culture, like we are, you will relish the time spent at this hiply remodeled Best Western in the heart of Japantown, San Franfabulous. The wackiness of the murals and vivid colors is grounded by the smart, basic furniture concept.

3. Hotel Montalembert, Paris
Built in 1923, this hotel is a handsome classic, with all the right updates and technological sophistication we all demand these days. The rooms are tailored and luxurious, yet have a serene, atelier-type feeling, allowing you to make-believe that you are either a savvy art dealer or a renegade boheme, depending on your mood and what you’re drinking.

2. The Lloyd Hotel, Amsterdam
The Lloyd is a magical place, a grand old building (impossibly tall ceilings, graceful proportions, crazy-big Dutch windows) that’s been many things throughout its long life (factory, prison) but none more capable of eliciting delight as its current incarnation as a hotel. One feels like Alice in Wonderland, peering into doors to see what bizarre and/or lovely environment awaits on the other side. Would you like the room with the hammock? Or the one with an eight-foot-long bed? How about the fold-away bathroom or the creaky, dim, stunning attic suite with views for miles through little windows? Every room is different, and the rooms range in luxury from one to five stars. Children are welcome and doted upon, their every need anticipated. Designed in collaboration by members of avant-garde design collective Droog (whom Violet adores) and other cutting-edge artsy architect types, the spaces are organized around a three-part plan: practicality, surprise and wit. Antiques of old wood hobnob with eclectic newer pieces and clean lines. The breakfast is a vast mix-and-match buffet of every conceivable delight to get you going for the day: breads, cheeses, muesli, jams, coffee, teas, five kinds of milk, fruit, brownies, peanut butter and a delightful substance hovering somewhere between cream cheese and whipped cream and flecked with poppy seeds. Wowza!

1. The Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills
Oh, Pink Palace of Luxurious Delights! We love you for the sheer graciousness of your voluptuous carriage, the powdery Max Factor hue of your flesh, the vastness and leafiness of your grounds, the star-spotting, the way your beds and sofas and chairs all suck us in to the most relaxing repose imaginable. The charming little diner with the amazing chocolate shakes and french fries, a hit with all ages. The staff at our beck and call, and the room service that sucks not one whit (a miracle)! In fact, it’s rather divine to order in (plates of pineapple slices and bowls of sorbet) and dine on the patio of our private bungalow as the sun is setting. Then, upon rising, we amble down to the main pool area, past the private tennis lessons, and slip into a poolside booth to begin the morning with a fruit smoothie, to be followed by a dive into the pale blue water. We never hurry to rise back to the surface—that’s Mozart they’re piping into the pool.

This concludes “Grand Duchy Week” here at Thanks to Charles and Violet for writing about some really cool stuff. Be sure to check out Grand Duchy’s debut album, Petits Four.

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