Inside VIP rooms
Hitchcock’s suite, Hemingway’s writing retreat—five hotels with rooms named after famous people
The Alfred Hitchcock Suite, Badrutt’s Palace, St Moritz, Switzerland
Hitchcock first visited the Swiss Alpine ski resort town of St Moritz in 1924 to film The Prude’s Fall. Enchanted, he returned for his honeymoon in 1926 and stayed at the Badrutt’s Palace hotel. From then on, the couple spent every Christmas vacation at the palace, which eventually inspired the setting for The Man Who Knew Too Much.
The portly British film-maker kept away from the slopes, famously declaring that he was “a devotee of winter sports from a distance”, but walked around town and dined daily with owners Hansjürg and Anikó Badrutt, regaling them with bon mots and scary stories when not hobnobbing with other guests like Marlene Dietrich and Gregory Peck. His fifth-floor suite—No.501—is available today for the delight of fans. Expect plush upholstery, a charming vintage room heater and not a single crow in sight.
The Rudyard Kipling Suite, Raffles Hotel, Singapore
The grand dame of the East, the Raffles Hotel has played host to Pablo Neruda, Joseph Conrad and Somerset Maugham. But Rudyard Kipling, the 23-year-old, Anglo-Indian star journalist, was droll in his assessment of the colonial hotel. “Providence conducted me to a place called Raffles Hotel, where the food is excellent and the rooms are bad. Let the traveller take note. Feed at Raffles and sleep at the Hotel de l’Europe,” he had quipped, a quote that was cleverly condensed to “Feed at Raffles” by the management. Nevertheless, an original autograph from the author graces an eponymous suite, where he is said to have penned part of The Jungle Book.
Room No.511, Hotel Ambos Mundos, Havana, Cuba
Journalist, gourmand, alcoholic, cat-lover and Nobel Prize-winning author, Ernest Hemingway was the original globetrotting adventurer. Having discovered Cuba on a layover from Spain, he returned to spend seven years (1932-39), camping out in the charming art nouveau Ambos Mundos, where he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls. Literary fans can’t book the memorabilia-filled room—with its adjustable table (the author couldn’t write in one position for long because of a leg wound from World War I), an antelope horn from Africa and a Remington typewriter—but there’s always El Floridita a few blocks away. When he wasn’t out fishing—armed with machine guns to scare off sharks—Hemingway lunched regularly at this restaurant. There’s a seafood platter in his name and a “no sugar double rum” daiquiri called Papa Doble.
The Salvador Dali Residence, Le Meurice, Paris, France
Flanked by the Louvre and Place de la Concorde, Le Meurice has played home to Pablo Picasso, Mata Hari, Coco Chanel, Anna Wintour and Beyoncé, but its most eccentric guest remains the Spanish surrealist painter. Dali lived at the hotel for at least one month each year from the 1960s to the 1980s, infusing the property with his unique brand of irreverence. The fun begins at the lobby itself where guests can unleash their artistic talent by scribbling on the miroir givré—a refrigerated, non-reflecting “mirror”.
The Dali Apartment is fitted with Versailles parquet floors, silk rugs and crystal chandeliers but they’ve left enough space for guests to run amok. Don’t take pointers from Dali though; he’s said to have demanded that a herd of sheep be brought to the suite so he could shoot them (with blank bullets) and asked the staff to capture flies for him at the rate of “5 bucks per fly”!
Room No.217, The Stanley Hotel, Colorado, US
In September 1974, Stephen King and his wife Tabitha spent a night in room No.217 at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, just before it was to shut shop for winter (even before the master of horror set foot here, the property already had a history of unfortunate “accidents”). It appears that while dining in the Billiard Room, the author glanced at a mirror and caught a glimpse of something. As soon as he turned away, he had the idea for The Shining. At night, he dreamt his three-year-old son was being chased through the hotel corridors by a fire hose, and had the plot set out by dawn.
Guests will immediately recognize The Stanley as the fictional snowed-in hotel, The Overlook, with its sprawling front porches, Georgian architecture and stately ballroom. You can sign up for a 90-minute ghost tour of the property, but do think twice before asking for an upgrade to Room 217.