One of the coolest things about my job: Working on splendid galas where historic hotels are transformed into an ephemeral fantasy land where some of the city’s most beautiful, stylish and/or prominent personalities turn up in their finest.
This was exactly what happened earlier this week when I was at Hotel Imperial in Vienna, Austria for the official unveiling of the hotel’s new and restored public spaces.
The 140-year-old hotel is the oldest luxury hotel on the Ringstrasse (Ring Road). Here is where royalty, heads of state, celebrities and musicians would stay when visiting the Austrian capital. Guests from the past and today include the likes of Elizabeth the Second, John F. Kennedy, Frank Sinatra, Charlie Chaplin, Richard Wagner, as well as Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
I find it fascinating to listen to anecdotes about celebrity guests who have stayed at or visited legendary establishments like Hotel Imperial. I wonder who might have looked at him/herself in the mirror in my room years ago…
Just as interesting is to learn about how such iconic hotels and the people who have worked in them have inspired books and movies. Grand Budapest Hotel is one such example – did you know that Ralph Finnes’ Monsieur Gustave was inspired by Hotel Imperial long-serving and newly retired Chief Concierge, Michael Moser?
I loved spending time in the hotel’s Café Imperial Wien, which is one of the most famous coffee houses in Vienna. My favourite part is sitting by the window at one of the narrow tables designed by Oswald Haerdtl in the 1930s – perfect for an intimate tête-à-tête over a slice of Imperial Torte cake and coffee or for a quiet moment alone reading the newspaper.
ANyhow, back to the grand celebration…
Unlike at previous galas where I had to do my own hair and makeup – both of which I’m hopelessly inept at – I had some professional help this time round. What a difference it made!
After she had put on the eye makeup, she commented that “this is the lightest of smokey eyes”. I thought I looked like I had not slept for days. Then again, I’m not used to seeing myself with much make-up.
Once the finishing touches were done and my hair was piled up with some 50 hairpins, I felt like I had been transformed into a princess. Almost, just missing the tiara and bling-bling!
Here’s a close up. If only I have at least half of the stylist’s capability when it comes to taming my thick head of hair!
The hotel’s public spaces were spectacular when we headed downstairs for the celebration. Here are a few that I took. For more pictures of this magical evening, check them out here.
I didn’t take many photos as I was busy juggling a glass of champagne, my handbag as well as a notepad and pen in my hands. You see, I had been mildly ill last week and ended up losing my voice shortly after I had arrived in Vienna! 😦
The last time I had lost my voice was more than 20 years ago when I was in the choir and overstrained my vocal cords. On the bright side, everyone around me and at the hotel was very accommodating and kind to me. They were also patient to see what I had to ‘say’ as I scribbled sheet after sheet of comments and questions.
It was a little frustrating as I love a good party and chatting with interesting people. There’s only so much that I could write in a reasonable time!
Now that I’m back in Brussels, I’m following the doctor’s orders to rest up at home, keep warm and take the prescribed medication. Hope I’ll be singing like a lark soon!