Chrissy's Collection: Sofitel Metropole, Hanoi, Vietnam
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What is Chrissy’s Collection?With her lengthy travel background, Chrissy has years of experience assessing accommodation with quality and customer satisfaction firmly in mind. She was also a hands-on Director of an upmarket Kensington apartment-hotel for five years
As our own Silver Travel Advisor we are delighted that Chrissy brings her experience and eye for stylish detail when she reviews Boutique and Country house hotels. Chrissy’s Collection are her personal recommendations of hotels with something extra that makes them stand out from the rest: discreet and exceptional levels of personal service; stylish, contemporary and comfortable interiors where relaxation is key; smaller, quirky or character properties; luxury hotels with super spa facilities, exquisite dining or amazing locations. In short, very special places.
We drove by taxi to Hanoi from Halong Bay, where our ship was docked. On an Azamara Club Cruise of South East Asia, we wanted to take the opportunity to visit Hanoi for an overnight stay whilst in the area. The choice of hotel was easy. The best hotel in town: the historic Sofitel Metropole.
The journey took approximately 3½ hours and after a pretty slow, scary, drive on a busy, pot-holed, road we made it to the outskirts of the city. I thought the driving conditions were pretty mad on the way to Hanoi, but this paled into insignificance once we reached the city proper.
Mopeds, scooters, darting everywhere at speed, swarming like locusts. Then, from nowhere an elderly lady cycles slowly, with purpose, and totally oblivious to the traffic, diagonally across the four-lane road in the opposite direction. My heart is in my mouth and that’s where it stayed for most of our time in the city.
Just as we approached the Hotel Metropole our driver successfully swerved and narrowly missed a scooter that appeared from nowhere. Needless to say we arrived at the hotel slightly shaken and a little stressed. Walking into the historic hotel lobby was akin to finding an oasis in the Sahara. Calm, stylish, elegant, beautiful.
The hotel Concierge advised when crossing the street: don’t run; don’t stop; keep walking with purpose right through the traffic. Oh, and by the way, be careful! Crossing the road was an experience and definitely not for the faint hearted. But we loved the buzz of the city.
Located in the Old quarter of the city, within walking distance of the charming area known as “36 streets” the tranquility of the hotel is completely at odds with the bustling world outside. And I suspect it always has been. The Metropole has been a landmark in the heart of Hanoi since 1901. Its important role in the history of the city, particularly during the war, when it became home to several embassies as well as wartime luminaries such as Joan Baez and Jane Fonda, amongst others, is legendary.
In fact, the hotel have recently discovered and opened a war relic, their very own air raid shelter. Preserved in its original state as a tribute to the hotel’s wartime employees who ushered guests into the relative safety of the underground chamber from the mid-1960s until 1972, the 40 square meter shelter is now open for daily tours. This was an interesting, but definitely unexpected, feature!
Inspired by classic French architecture, the historic hotel underwent an extensive renovation programme a few years ago and blends colonial and Vietnamese local style beautifully. Not surprisingly, this architectural gem in the centre of the city, has been a magnet over the years for many famous people. Photographs of the great and the good adorn the walls on the ground floor lobby. Three legendary suites are named after Graham Greene, Somerset Maughan and Charlie Chaplin. More recent luminaries include Brad and Angelina, Mick Jagger, Michael Cain, most of Europe’s royalty and politicians from around the world. And us.
Our Grand Luxury room in the historic Metropole wing was beautifully furnished in classic colonial style: dark hardwood floor, high ceiling with large fan, fabulously comfortable bed, separate small room with sofa and desk, sumptuous traditional bathroom with separate large walk-in shower. Perfect.
A winner of many accolades and consistently voted one of the top hotels in South East Asia, the Metropole has several award-winning restaurants and bars. We had an excellent lunch in Le Club, adjacent to the courtyard gardens and swimming pool. A few hours later an irresistible chocolate buffet was served: the hotel’s very own Afternoon Tea, where you could help yourself to as many naughty, delicious, chocolates, cakes and other treats as you wanted. And I did.
After exploring the fascinating 36 streets (though I’m not sure if we managed all of them) and colourful night markets, we returned to the hotel just before midnight. Le Terrace restaurant, inspired by French sidewalk cafes, was the perfect place for a last stop before bed. A balmy night, a cold beer, and a great place to observe Hanoi, at last, winding down.
Our stay was all too short. But the city and, in particular, the Hotel Metropole, will live long in the memory. Definitely another visit beckons in the not-too-distant future.
Sofitel Metropole Hanoi
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