Renowned British broadcaster, journalist and former Cabinet Minister Michael Portillo is an avid traveler. One might not share the same political views but one thing is certain, his elegance and passion towards trains and travel are irrefutable. We had the chance to ask him about his experience with hotels and his personal travel choices.
When you go on holidays, what type of hotel do you prefer staying at?
I do like luxury and I am unlikely to enjoy a big hotel as much as one that feels homely. Service and comfort are what matter. I find them in boutique hotels certainly, but this summer I have stayed in a few tiny bed and breakfasts and have enjoyed meeting the people who run them. It seems that very interesting characters turn their hand to offering a room, a bit of luxury and a great breakfast.
What is the best hotel you have stayed at and what made you like it so much?
The hotel where I have stayed most often is La Gazelle d’Or at Taroudant in Morocco. Each room is a villa set in a garden at the foot of the High Atlas mountains, and the sounds of babbling fountains and birdsong are everywhere. The trees and flowers are spectacular. Lunch by the pool is a highlight, although another is breakfast decorated with a rose from the garden brought on a tray to your terrace. The waiters are extraordinarily charming and those that have been there since the 1980s, when I first went, greet each returning guest like family.
How do you choose your hotels when you travel?
I certainly ask friends for recommendations. Otherwise I go online. I am not stingy but I don’t want to pay crazy prices either, unless I know for sure that I am getting something very special. I am always fearful of encountering pretentiousness.
If you had to live in a hotel for many months, would you pick a hotel in the country (calm, quiet, with beautiful scenery and maybe a spa) or a city hotel (close to theatres, restaurants, events and all the buzz that busy cities offer)?
I can put up with the country only for a limited time. I am driven crazy by having no signal on my mobile and after a while I don’t like having to drive or be driven long distances to meals. So I would undoubtedly choose a city hotel right in the centre, hopefully without traffic noise and preferably with a roof terrace and a panorama over the city.
Do you usually look for hotels with a good restaurant or do you prefer to go to restaurants close by to get to know the area better?
If I am in the countryside, it is good to know that the hotel restaurant is good to avoid long journeys, but in a city I would expect to eat out, and indeed the variety of different places each day would be a big part of my enjoyment. I even like to go out for breakfast if I find somewhere that feels more authentically local than an international chain hotel.
Do you like talking to the staff and other guests or do you prefer complete privacy and keeping yourself to yourself?
Especially if I am travelling on my own I am pretty sociable, and get pleasure from meeting other guests and coming to know the staff. In fact I can trace a number of important friendships to people that I met in hotels, for example in Morocco.
Is there a hotel you haven’t been to that you look forward to visiting someday?
I live in London so although I make use of London hotels to eat and drink, I rarely stay in them. A night at the Ritz, or at the Savoy when it re-opens, would be splendid.
Thank you Michael!