The Dorchester: TW slept there

Associate editor Linda Humphrey recently stayed at the Dorcester in London. Her report follows:

LONDON -- Elizabeth Taylor was soaking in a huge bathtub at the Dorchester hotel when she took a phone call offering her the role of Cleopatra. General Eisenhower planned the Allied invasion of Normandy from his Dorchester suite, rooms 104 and 105. Princess Elizabeth (now the queen) announced her engagement to Prince Philip at the Dorchester, and the prince held his stag party in the hotel's Park Suite.

Luminaries still flock to this storied address, a tranquil place with English-country furnishings. Still, guests often are smitten with "the idea that Mick Jagger might have been the guest before them," said Ricci Obertelli, director of operations for the hotel's management company, the Audley Group.

Built in 1931, the 244-room hotel lures clients with the promise of privacy, an army of staff members (three per room) and luxurious bathrooms. Builders left air spaces between rooms, ensuring that guests never hear a distant ringing telephone or a vacuum cleaner.

The staff members keep out of sight -- I never saw any in the hallway -- but a call for an iron quickly brought one to my door. A bowl of grapes in my room, set by the window overlooking Hyde Park, was continually replenished.

My room was filled with mirrors in gilded frames. I grew fond of a small gold clock with a handle that I carried to the marble bathroom each night as I was getting ready for dinner.

The Dorchester bathtubs measure six feet long by two feet deep, and the raging showers become steam baths within minutes. (I can compare this to the dripping shower of a typical London house where I once lived. Good showers are not the standard in Britain.) Downstairs in the bar, Liberace's rhinestoned baby-grand piano starts up each night.

The three restaurants do not require jackets or ties; the hotel's clients -- actors Oprah Winfrey, Warren Beatty and Pierce Brosnan recently checked in -- prefer a casual look amidst all the glitter. The Dorchester is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World.

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