born in a trunk

Maybe it’s the dandy in me but I could easily spend all my money – and then some – shopping my way across London. (Is there another city in the world that takes its waistcoats and collar stays half as seriously? I think not.) Luckily the concierge at The Langham didn’t put me on to Trunk Clothiers, a recently-opened menswear store in Marylebone, until I was halfway out the door for Heathrow. Swedish-born Mats Klingberg is behind the impeccably curated boutique at 8 Chiltern Street where only a few of the handmade modern classics are well-known labels, with highlights including Japanese label Tabio and Porter, Boglioli jackets and suits, Edwin jeans and very appealing flat caps from Wigéns. They say good things come to those who wait. Good thing I’ve got a plane to catch.

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loving the langham

I’ve spent so much time waxing rhapsodic about the dizzying heights of the Ritz that I forgot to mention I have since moved on to Langham Place, Mongkok. No slight intended, because this hotel is amazing. Rising 42 stories above the heaving heart of Kowloon it boasts the authentic sights, sounds and shops of old Hong Kong right on its doorstep. (As you’ve been reading about – I hope – for the past week.) And yes, it’s all sleek and modern and smells nice and wears its cheeky monkey on its sleeve, but what sets it apart from inferior chains – hello, W Hotels - is the substance beneath all the style: first and foremost is the X-Team, a handful of the friendliest, best-connected concierges I’ve ever put to the test. Then there’s Chuan Spa, as warm and welcoming as an opium den – from which the decor seems to take some inspiration. Treatments are guided by principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine – Wu Xing, or the Five Elements; Yin and Yang; and Jing Luo, the Meridian System – and it doesn’t get more authentically indulgent as this. The hotel also has one of the most impressive collections of contemporary Chinese art in the world, let alone Asia, including pieces from Wang Guangyi, Yue Minjun, and Jiang Shuo. Comprised of more than 1,500 pieces – some provocative, if not downright controversial –  you can explore highlights of the multi-million dollar collection via an interactive iPad tour narrated by the hotel’s curator. As for food, I don’t think I can sing any more praises for Ming Court than I already have. I’m going to miss it here. (Not to mention Hong Kong.) If the Ritz felt more like a mistress, over the top flashy with legs for days, Langham Place is the wife you’d like to have: smart and sexy, with just the right amount of wrong to keep you coming back for more.

 

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a step above the car clamp club

Why would anyone opt for a plain old room when the Ritz-Carlton offers an amazing Club Level option? You get a dedicated concierge, plus a private 24-hour lounge stocked with an ample bar, multiple food offerings throughout the day, and oodles of homemade treats. And all gratis, of course. To wit, todays east-meets-west breakfast of champions: an egg white omelette, shrimp dumpling, steamed pork bun, vermicelli, toast, watermelon juice, and a chocolate donut.

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to sleep, perchance to dream

One of the more common – and frustratingly difficult to keep – New Year’s resolutions is the resolve to finally get a good night’s sleep.  That’s not a problem for me at home, but while on the road or in unfamiliar surroundings I, like many travelers, often find it a challenge to avoid a fitful night. To that end I thought it would be illuminating to sit down for a little Q & A with a professional.  As Sleep Concierge of The Benjamin Hotel in New York City, Anya Orlanska’s mission is to make sure everyone gets a good night’s sleep while visiting the city that never sleeps. From helping guests choose a pillow from the hotel’s 12-pillow menu to delivering sleep amenities like a white noise machine, extra blankets or lavender essential oil from the spa, Anya is the linchpin in The Benjamin’s sleep guarantee, which promises that everyone who stays at the hotel walks away well rested or gets their money back.  If anyone has a vested in making sure you get some shuteye, it’s Anya.

Here are a few excerpts from our conversation, as well as five easy at-home tips.  Plus, now you know: The Benjamin’s got the only bed for your sleep-deprived head the next time you’re in the Big Apple.

What should a traveler expect from a hotel when it’s time to sleep?

  • A hotel should always provide travelers with a quiet sleeping environment that includes a supportive bed and a selection of pillows.  If there is outside noise or other disturbances, guests should be able to request a move to a quieter room in the hotel. Also guests should also be able to adjust the temperature if it is too hot or too cold for them to sleep comfortably.

What is your most basic advice for sleep starved travelers?

  • We always advise that guests use their beds only for sleeping and avoid reading, working or eating in bed as those actions will make it more difficult to relax in preparation for a good night’s sleep. Also, digestion interferes with proper sleep, so you should avoid large meals before retiring.

Tell us what goes into making a hotel room right for sleep.

  • At The Benjamin, we have gone to extensive lengths to ensure that our guest rooms and suites provide the ideal sleeping environment. During the renovation, the hotel installed sound-proof windows that are constructed of double paned glass filled with argon gas.  The Benjamin Beds were specially designed with Serta mattresses that offer convoluted foam cushioning and layers of fiber quilted to the mattress for a luxurious feel.  Of course, guests are more comfortable when sleeping if they have soft sheets against their skin, so we also wrap our beds in 400-thread count Anichini linens for the ultimate comfort.  We provide guests with a 12-choice pillow menu so they can choose the pillow that will best suit their needs.  To help guests fall asleep and sleep through the night, we have installed blackout shades and provide white noise machines.  We provide a comprehensive Sleep Menu in every room so guests can help us customize their guest room with a variety of additional amenities and services, such as aromatherapy linen sprays and sleep-inducing bedtime snack options.  For our guests who require an extra firm mattress, we will even place a wooden board under their mattress to perfect their sleeping environment.

How do you see pillows as being important to the sleep experience?

  • Pillows are an essential aspect of getting a good night’s sleep, but only if the pillow is compatible to the sleeper’s physiology.  Everyone sleeps in a position to maximize personal comfort, but if the pillow doesn’t suit that type of posture or does not support the weight of the body, it will lead to neck or back pain, insomnia or a headache upon waking.  At The Benjamin, we recognize the importance of sleeping on the perfect pillow so we offer 12 types to cover a variety of the most common sleep ailments and to please personal preferences.

What about temperature?

  • People will benefit most when sleeping in a cool environment. Upon check-in, we suggest that guests test the temperature before retiring to ensure that they will not have to awake in the middle of the night to make any adjustments.

What kinds of relaxation aids do you suggest and offer to guests to help fall asleep?

  • We offer guests several amenities to help them relax, including bedtime snacks, aromatherapy products and treatments at our Wellness Spa.  Our suggested bedtime room service menu offers several types of decaffeinated tea, as well as cookies and warm milk that provides the sleep-inducing amino acid L-tryptophan, and other snacks.  Guests can also prepare their bodies for sleep by taking advantage of our Lavender Turndown service, featuring calming aromatherapy sprays over the bed and pillows, or by scheduling a relaxing in-room Sleep-Wellness massage through our Wellness Spa.  Our white noise machines and Lullaby Sound CD Libraries are also very popular because they help soothe guests to sleep.
  • We also offer special relaxation aids for jet-lagged travelers.  If guests are experiencing a sore neck after a long flight, we recommend that they rest on our Gelly Neck Roll pillow for 15-20 minutes because the pillow contains a special insert that can be filled with warm water to relieve any muscle tension.  Further, as part of our Executive Nap kit, we offer jet-lagged guests a special menu of dedicated services that includes afternoon turn-down, wake-up call, a “Napping Kit” that features The Benjamin’s signature sleep mask, lavender oil that can be added to a warm bath for extra relaxation, a Gan Bei Elixir, and a special door hanger to alert staff not to disturb a “Nap in Progress.”

If I have a sleep problem, what questions should I ask a hotel before reserving a room?

  • Ask if they can provide a room away from the street and elevator banks and on a high floor for a peaceful, quiet environment.  If you experience neck and back pain when traveling, ask what types of pillows the hotel provides to ensure that you can avoid extra stress in those areas.  It’s best to know in advance if the pillow option you need isn’t available because it may be best to bring your own.

Could you offer a few at-home tips?

  1. Place foam or down padding over your mattress to create a softer, more relaxing sleep environment.
  2. Before retiring fill a small spray bottle with lavender oil and water and spray sheets lightly.  Lavender oil has relaxing properties.
  3. Avoid drinking coffee, soda or other beverages with caffeine after lunchtime, as it can interfere with sleep.
  4. Create a cool dark environment.  Purchase dark shades for the windows and keep the room temperature comfortable, not too cold or too warm.
  5. Drink chamomile tea in the evening; it has relaxing properties. Warm milk is another good bedtime drink – it’s full of sleep-inducing amino L-tryptophan.
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