Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Good times, bad times: Bristols brought to book

“It has left off raining down in Lincolnshire at last, and Chesney Wold has taken heart. Mrs Rouncewell is full of hospitable cares, for Sir Leicester and my Lady are coming home from Paris. The fashionable intelligence has found it out and communicates the glad tidings to benighted England… Through the same cold sunshine and the same sharp wind, my Lady and Sir Leicester, in their travelling chariot (my Lady's woman and Sir Leicester's man affectionate in the rumble), start for home. With a considerable amount of jingling and whip-cracking, and many plunging demonstrations on the part of two bare-backed horses and two centaurs with glazed hats, jack-boots, and flowing manes and tails, they rattle out of the yard of the Hôtel Bristol in the Place Vendôme and canter between the sun-and-shadow-chequered colonnade of the Rue de Rivoli and the garden of the ill-fated palace of a headless king and queen, off by the Place of Concord, and the Elysian Fields, and the Gate of the Star, out of Paris.”

From Bleak House by Charles Dickens, written in instalments in 1852–3. Dickens had stayed at the old Bristol Hôtel and visited it while writing the book. To read the story of Bristol hotels in Paris, see Suha Arafat and the Hope Diamond, chapter 19 in High Times at the Hotel Bristol.

“By the time we reached the Bristol Hotel in Fahd Al Salem Street [Kuwait City], I had not heard a word of our sales situation in the area, and I was feeling impatient. My irritation increased as soon as I had registered in the hotel. It was the foulest hotel I was ever to visit in my years in the Gulf. It had originally been picked from a list of names.
It would have been a change from the multi-national American-inspired hostelries where I usually stayed, and anywhere in Europe the name Hotel Bristol was almost invariably an assurance of five-star quality, since they derived their name from the patronage of the well-travelled 4th Marquess who bore the title of the great English port. It transpired that this hotel Bristol was a parody of its reputation – a misnomer designed to entrap the unwary traveller – an angler’s deceit in casting his fatal fly – a travesty of all that was true.”

From Death in Riyadh: Dark Secrets in Hidden Arabia, by Geoff Carter
(Arena Books 2001)

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