WHERE TO STAY: THE LUXURY, STYLE & DESIGN STATEMENT; INTRODUCING ‘LE GRAY’
There’s only one hotel that’s luxurious yet uber-trendy, design-centric and effortlessly glamorous. It’s the most stylish hotel in which to be seen: staying, eating and socialising. ‘Le Gray’ is a relative newcomer and instantly made a splash in the pool of Beirut luxury hotels. (Many a review on TripAdvisor confirm.) It was a welcome injection of cool sexy sophistication in a city bursting at the seams with the same qualities. And the uniquely impressive interior design is a must-see in itself. Centred around a glass atrium with winding oak staircase in full view, also through the glass lifts, this Campbell-Gray offering is utter fabulous chic.
It’s not the type of hotel I would usually pick. I’m a sucker for grand classic luxury. My natural choice would have been the ‘Phoenicia’ – for the older more discerning traveller who loves classic grandeur with a touch of vintage. And driving past it, I certainly feel a pang of ‘homeliness’. But when in Beirut… I simply can’t overlook a hotel that’s such a diva. Le Gray is the ultimate show-off. She’s unique and makes such a scene, people just want to be around her or with her! For a one-off hotel that’s set apart from the usual luxury chains, Le Gray is quite unlike any other.
Le Gray is positioned at the start of the extremely glamorous Solidere district; London’s Knightsbridge Sloane Street equivalent. It celebrates all the contrasts and contradictions of Beirut; mountains and sea, modern in style with classic luxurious facilities, rooftop pool and basement spa, architectural trend-setting whilst retaining luxury of space.
It’s so ridiculously cool that the entire hotel is itself a fashion & design statement. It was created to be the architectural design gem of the city. And it succeeds flawlessly. The Fashionista-clad hotel is filled with beautiful people; preened guests and even immaculate staff. I imagine it’s the in-vogue hotel for celebrity/fashion weddings and parties.
The minute I step out of the car, to black Range Rovers and white Cayennes, and am welcomed into the lobby by smart porters in top hats, I feel the need to jump out of my trekking mode, having hiked Petra and camped in Jordan’s Wadi Musa desert immediately before, and throw on my heels, glam dresses and have my hair done.
Gordon’s Cafe, on the Ground floor, is the place to be seen having brunch on a Saturday morning as is the open-air terrace restaurant ‘Indigo On The Roof’ for Sunday lunch. I also had to try the panoramic glass-covered stylish ‘Bar Three Sixty’ for it’s legendary Lychee Martinis and ‘Cherry On the Rooftop’ by the incredibly sumptuous rooftop infinity pool for after-hours partying with a DJ and international cocktails with the jetsetter crowd late into the night.
My first night is spent on a candlelit roof terrace at Indigo on the Roof eating fresh Dover Sole and Chocolate Fondant. The international menu is classic and boasts cuisine you’d enjoy at a good restaurant anywhere in the world. Start with a pre-meal cocktail or chilled glass of Champagne (purely to ward off the jet lag!)
The infinity pool is an architectural marvel.
It, very sexily, flaunts bodies underwater through panoramic glass, using it to hilariously demonstrate the law of refraction.
Soaring above Beirut, stepping onto the edge of the suspended steps, overhanging the infinity pool, is unnerving as the glass sides and infinity edge add a playful sense of danger, much like the city itself. Once in, swimming to the edge, floating above the busy shopping district is a distinctly tranquil feel; the perfect way to unwind after long days shopping and sightseeing and even longer nights in the city of indulgence.
The corner suite at Le Gray is designed sumptuously. The devil is in the detail. No corner has been left unturned. Floor-to-ceiling bay windows cover dual aspect from designer boutique haven La Solidere, Rue Weygand itself, to Place des Martyrs roundabout all with a backdrop of the Mediterranean Sea and Mount Lebanon.
Inside, a sumptuous living room, bathroom, bedroom and hallway total a size larger than my London pad.
Every element is designer, from the Plasma’s to the music docks, Nespresso machine, rugs, books and even electrical sockets! With a fully integrated closet in beautiful deep oak panel and a stunning designer bathroom, in my head I’d moved right in.
Little touches such as the integrated LCD fitted into the bathtub with surround sound, His & Hers sinks and separate walk-in shower suite all complete with REN bathroom products, had me longing to call this home.
PureGray Health Club & Spa is an idyllic oasis in the heart of the city. When you’re all shopped out, you’ve eaten too much delectable Lebanese mezze, drank too much full-bodied Lebanese wine and smoked your lungs out on the traditional Arabic waterpipe ‘Hookah’, all that’s left is to check yourself in. With a fairly bespoke menu, I guide them as to what I want, and let them arrange an afternoon of R&R (well-deserved I’d say!). Afer the unhealthiness of extremely late nights (did I mention nowhere parties harder than Beirut), early mornings sightseeing around the country, food, wine and Sheesha over-indulgences, my skin isn’t at it’s best. After a short consultation explaining the situation to my therapist, Bahiya, she creates a soothing blend for my facial. Within hours, my skin actually does feel soothed and rehydrated.
FASHION IN THE FASHION CAPITAL
If you want to fit right in, do not forget to pack your glamorous outfits! I can’t stress this enough! Think ‘straight-off-the-catwalk’ style and you won’t go far wrong. Think floaty dreamy fabrics in tailor-fit. And that’s a style tip not only for Le Gray hotel, nor only for Beirut, but for Lebanon in general, both day and night.
THE most crucial accessory here is shoes. They must be high heels. If you’ve nothing else, make sure your heels are your one big statement. The emphasis is on big because if they’re not 6 inch (preferably Louboutins,) you may feel slightly lost in this city. I arrive here from trekking Petra in Jordan and travelling around a lot. So I have my usual mid-high heels for evenings out. That’s a mistake. I don’t actually see anyone in mid-highs. Although no-one will notice, that’s the problem in itself. If you want to make any sort of style statement here like the rest of the glamorous Fashionistas, bring just one pair of skyscrapers. I kick myself for leaving my sky-high towering heels, that never even get used in England, at home. This is THE place to wear them out. The sexier, showier and more glamorous the heels, the better.
Beirut is quirky, alternative and eclectic too. Gemmayze is London’s Shoreditch equivalent, explains the hotel concierge. As an extremely social city, where the central focus is on mingling, it’s perfectly normal to see very mixed groups of people hanging out. Don’t be surprised to see a woman who’s covered up chatting with a woman in more Western clothing. The one recurring theme is the high heels. Otherwise, there’s no distinction. Everyone is friends and the Lebanese really respect each other’s wishes and beliefs. My female guide tells me women have the same rights as men and fully exert them, as they wish. In that sense, she adds, Lebanon is very different to many other Middle Eastern countries.
So, back to the wardrobe, you don’t need to pack anything overly conservative if it’s not what you’d normally wear. Do take trousers, long tops and a scarf for your hair, as a mark of respect, for trips to religious places and sanctuaries, of which there are many to see around the country, but there is no need to do that for the entire trip if it makes you feel uncomfortable. Beirut itself is an ultra-modern city and I don’t once see anyone singled out for dressing up; rather, that’s the norm.
As mentioned in my last post, Introduction to Beirut, the boys and girls playing in this city go hard and live it up in a fabulous way. They look stunning and they’ve got the confidence, taste and intelligence to match. I’ve never before visited a city where the majority of the population look like models straight off the catwalks; both females and males. Throw yourself in. As soon as I do, I find myself burning the candle at both ends and actually wishing I could live here for a few months to do the social circuit. As a world-traveller, THAT is the feeling I look for in any destination yet feel so rarely; somewhere I want to return. Beirut truly has something special. But it’s not just a party city. With thousands of years of history; complex, rich and varied, from Pheonician, Roman and Ottoman eras, the city is a heady concoction of influences…NEXT POST – EXPLORING BEIRUT & LEBANON IS A WALK THROUGH THE PAGES OF HISTORY.
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