Hotels are natural storytellers. The air of a well-visited lobby echoes the conversations of all the thousands that have passed through. If rooms could speak, they would recall the details of innumerable characters. Furthermore, hotels are inherently liminal. Those that enter rarely stay indefinitely. Hotel visitors are going somewhere, seeking something, escaping something, occupying the space between stasis. The people in hotels are at the heights of their respective narratives.
Is it any wonder then that so many authors have flocked to hotels as setting for their scenes and ambiance for their creative process? The following includes the 10 hotels that have aided writers, from Hemingway to Rowling, in their literary missions.
Upon discovering the Ritz Paris in the early 1920’s with the aid of his friend F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway took to immediate loyalty. Quoted as proclaiming “Paris is the Ritz!” in the early days of his career, Hemingway would set aside his meager earnings to afford at least one drink a week at the Ritz bar. Later, and better endowed, he would make the hotel his Parisian home.
In 1944, serving as a journalist embedded in the same division that stormed the beaches of Normandy, Hemmingway entered Paris on August 25 and requested a private division of men for a special mission. His aim? To liberate the Ritz…specifically the bar.
Denied his provisions, Hemmingway managed to commandeer a jeep, a machine gun, and a handful of resistance fighters. Upon entering, Hemingway was greeted by the French manager who informed “the liberator” that the Germans left months ago… and that he could not permit weapons in the bar. At this point, Hemingway returned his gun to the jeep and reentered to ring up a tab of 51 dry martinis.
In honor of these events and Hemmingway’s general devotion to the hotel, the Ritz Paris now has a dedicated “Hemingway Suite” available for booking.
Deep in New Orleans’ French Quarter, the Hotel Monteleone also has an “Ernest Hemmingway Suite” … along with a “Truman Capote Suite”, a “Tennessee Williams Suite” and a “William Faulkner Suite.”
Since 1886, Hotel Monteleone has provided luxury lodging for visitors of the Big Easy. Famous for lubricating the tongues of many an American author, the Monteleone’s Carousel Bar has seen such lyrical declarations as Capote’s assertion that he was born inside the Hotel Monteleone. He wasn’t, but his mother did stay at the Hotel in the late stages of pregnancy, eventually relying on hotel staff to transport her to the hospital during labor.
Loved by Tennessee Williams, the Monteleone also earned a mention in his 1951 Broadway play “The Rose Tattoo.” Though penned at the nearby Pontchartrain Hotel, Williams’ magnum opus “A Streetcar Named Desire” is set in New Orleans, suggesting at least part of its inception and inspiration may be tied to Williams’ patronage of the Monteleone.
If visiting New Orleans, no other hotel will offer the sheer concentration of literary history found in the halls of the Monteleone. Stay at one of the many aforementioned “Author Suites” to understand exactly what earned the hearts of America’s finest writers.
Between 1926 and 1932, Agatha Christie frequented the Pera Palace Hotel, known as “the oldest European Hotel in Turkey.” Having opened its doors in 1892 with the intention of catering to riders on the Orient Express, by the time Christie came to stay, the Pera Palace had earned a sterling reputation for its modern accommodations and neo-classical architecture.
Christie found herself quite comfortable at the Pera Palace and consequently penned her 1934 bestseller “Murder on the Orient Express” while staying in room 411.
Now renamed the Agatha Christie Room, room 411 is available for rent to those who desire a taste of the mystery queen’s history.
On April 6, 1895, Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde was arrested in room 118 of the Cadogan Hotel. A man before his time, Wilde had successfully kept his gay affairs affordably discreet, until he fell in love with Lord Alfred Douglas, son of Marquess of Queensbury, John Sholto Douglas. When the affair came to the attention of the Marquess, he began publicly defaming Wilde as a “sodomite.” In return, Wilde sued on charges of libel, but when the claims of his homosexuality were revealed to be true, Wilde was sentenced to two years in prison for the crime of being a gay man.
How times have changed! Even so, Wilde’s arrest was egregious enough in its own era to inspire the poem “The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel” by Jon Betjeman.
Today, guests at the Cadogan can stay in the infamous Oscar Wilde room…and thankfully without fear of persecution for their activities behind closed doors.
Originally built in 1855, this historic Boston abode was torn down and rebuilt in the 1920’s, though its retention of an on-site annex during its reconstruction has earned it the title of “longest continually operating hotel in the U.S.”
The Omni Parker House claimed literary fame when it served as the venue for the debut performances of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” during Dickens’ five-month stay in 1867-1868. The audience? Notables from the Saturday Club, a group of literati that included Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Ralph Waldo Emerson in its ranks.
The Omni Parker House sometimes finds itself listed as haunted, perhaps understandable given its lengthy history. However, fans of literature are more often drawn to the totemic pieces in possession, such as the mirror used by Dickens for rehearsals.
In the heart of historic Boston, the Omni Parker House is a necessary stop for anyone wishing to immerse themselves in the story of New England.
A Victorian-era landmark in Edinburgh, five-star luxury – and a little bit of magic – await guests of The Balmoral. If you’re lucky enough to visit the gem of Princes Street, be sure to make your way up to the fifth floor. Passing room 552, you’ll notice the corner door has a slight, unassuming bit of decoration. A small owl sits above a golden plaque that reads “The J.K. Rowling Suite.”
Literature fans will immediately recognize the pen name of the author to the legendary and culture-shaping “Harry Potter” series. In 2007, within this suite, Rowling put down the final words of her seventh novel “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, thus concluding an epic saga that influenced a slew of young-adult authors and would-be witches and wizards. Inside, guests will find the same chair and desk at which Rowling sat, as well as a signed marble bust.
Still relatively fresh, it is almost certain that the legacy of this suite will eventually see these items retired to a more preservative state. For those wishing to make a Harry Potter pilgrimage, don’t hesitate to stay at the Balmoral while you still have the chance to sit at the desk that supported the conclusion of Rowling’s generation-defining masterpiece.
Despite being relatively unknown, the Colombian city of Cartagena is the understated incubator of Nobel-Prize Winning magic realist Gabriel García Márquez. A city defined by its mosaic of culture and daily surrealism, legend has it that when García Márquez played tour guide to a visiting Spaniard, the guest denounced García Márquez’s famously dream-like writing as little more than rote notary of Cartagena; more report than imagination.
Though García Márquez only lived in Cartagena briefly, he maintains a home in the San Diego district, directly adjacent the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Hotel. Scintillating with five-star luxury, the Santa Clara houses local hospitality within stately French-colonial architecture.
To experience the city that inspired the colorful prose of “Love in the Time of Cholera,” “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” and more, look no further than a stay in Cartagena at the Santa Clara.
Margaret Landon’s semi-autobiographical 1944 novel “Anna and the King of Siam,” went on to be recreated as a popular Rogers and Hammerstein musical under the name “The King and I.” In her novel, Margaret Landon’s allegedly parallel character, Anna Leonowens arrives in Bangkok and stays at a small hotel; Bangkok’s first for that matter.
This small hotel has since been identified as the Mandarin Oriental, now a luxury hotel and spa that Travel & Leisure Magazine ranked “The Best City Hotel in Asia.” Following Landon’s footsteps, numerous other authors have stayed at The Mandarin Oriental, promoting their line of author suites.
No guarantees that a stay at The Mandarin Oriental will leave you acquainted with the King of Siam, but it will surely serve as a fine habitat for explorations of Bangkok or Thailand as a whole.
On the idyllic shores of Lake Geneva, where Jean-Jacques Rosseau set his “La nouvelle Heloise,” and Lord Byron found inspiration for his epic poem “The Prisoner of Chillon,” stands the luxurious and elite Le Montreux Palace. Barring brief stints as a hospital during World War I and II, Le Montreux Palace has consistently hosted the planet’s most prestigious clientele. In 1928, the Palace helped to organize The Leading Hotels of the World Foundation.
Scores of notable guests have graced the halls of this elegant Swiss architecture, but for the sake of its literary history, one visitor is of a particular rank. After completing the popular and controversial masterpiece “Lolita,” Russian author Vladimir Nabokov took a room in the Cynge wing. This room became his final home upon his passing in 1977, carving a sacred place for Le Montreux Palace in the annals of literature.
A stay at Le Montreux is not without its price, but the breath-taking scenery of Lake Geneva and the palatable sense of culture is well worth the expense.