MT Business Travel: Room service - Where Nick Starr stays ...

FOR BUSINESS: About once a year, I'm in New York for theatre business - most recently, for the National Theatre production of Jumpers. I like the Wyndham, on West 58th Street. It's a healthy 10 blocks' walk from the theatre district and staggering distance from the sublimely kitsch Tavern on the Green, where first-night parties are often held. Yet the Wyndham is an ascetic choice. It boasts few of the facilities the executive traveller might expect: no gym, bar or restaurant, no business centre, not even room service. The decor is what one might politely call retro: faded gilt, red carpets, orange curtains. The bathrooms are basic, with a complete absence of complimentary toiletries. But the accommodation is spacious and easy-going. Most rooms are expansive suites, the floor plans designed as if Manhattan real estate prices were not a consideration.

by Nick Starr, executive director of the National Theatre

The ambience is so simpatico that people move in and stay. Edna O'Brien took up residence while writing her book on James Joyce; actors and directors stay for the duration of their Broadway shows. I've tried New York designer hotels, but it's the undesigned charm of the Wyndham that lures me back.

FOR PLEASURE: Just south of Madrid, the town of Aranjuez is a leafy oasis created by the Bourbon kings on the model of Versailles. Opposite the royal palace, the Principe de la Paz is a hotel of sophistication and style, created from an 18th-century palace built by one of Carlos IV's courtiers. The hotel is the result of palpable but subtle design - one of those buildings where everything has been considered and chosen with the utmost care. The marble and dark wood entrance hall conceals nooks for reading and lounging. The hotel's centre is an open piazza. The rooms are beautifully appointed, with airy vaulted ceilings. Everything works well: the array of lighting controls, the luxurious bath and shower. A step into the outside world brings you quickly to the gardens of the royal palace, and beyond into a grid of streets packed with shops and restaurants.

Aranjuez is a convenient stop on the way out of or into Madrid, and the Principe de la Paz puts you in the mood for its subtle and regal charms.

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