TIME CAPSULE

Written by Jacqui Walker

In a world which seems increasingly to value the hip and new, heritage hotels the world over can safely hold their own.

Heritage hotels are those which are usually more than 50 years old, and have faithfully maintained their original historic architecture and ambience. Most major cities can boast at least one.

In Singapore, for instance, there is the Raffles Hotel which started out in 1887 with just 10 rooms. Today, it is one of the country’s classiest and most famous landmarks.

In Beijing, there is the recently-relaunched Raffles Beijing Hotel. Built in the early 1900s, it is a beloved part of Beijing history because of it’s location at the crossroads of the famous Chang An Avenue and Wangfujing district, minutes from the Forbidden City.

New Orleans has the Wyndham Bourbon Orleans which opened in 1817. Between then and now, this property has gone full circle – from hotel to district Court to convent to girl’s academy and back to hotel. Among it’s charms, it boasts occupants who can be ( reportedly) heard but not seen.

Yet other heritage hotels wear their age like a badge of honour and eschew anything that hints of disrespect for history. The Fairlawn Hotel is one such place. A study in genteel civility amidst the bustle and hubbub of Kolkata, India, the Fairlawn’ s appeal lies in eclectic, idiosyncratic interiors, old-world charm and, above all, it’s vivacious 85- year old proprietor, Violet Smith.

Immaculately dressed and coiffed, Violet spends much of her day holding court and often dining with guests. She has retained the homely atmosphere her Armenian parents created when they established the hotel in 1936. “We didn’t want this to be like any other hotel in the world, we wanted it to be unique”.

Indeed you’ll be hard put to find many places today where tea and cakes are served on silver trays at 4.30pm sharp; where a gong announces dinner and guests are attended to by white-gloved waiters wearing gold turbans and cummerbunds; and where guests laundry is hand-washed daily.

Violet lives by the concept of receiving tourists as guests and sending them away as friends.