Search This Blog

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Experience the Le Gray, Beirut

CampbellGray Hotels is a mad scientist when it comes to hypothesizing potential hotel destinations and while their latest seems the craziest of them all, it isn’t.
The Le Gray Beirut was referred by a colleague on my trek through Lebanon in 2011 replete with all of the hyperbole you might expect from a seasoned travel writer that was amply “wowed.” My colleague (we’ll call him “Marcel” for lack of a better pseudonym) threw out an insane series of reasons why you tack on a week to your Istanbul trip and include the Le Gray on your itinerary. Regular readers of my work will know that Beirut doesn’t live up to the Hezbollah wrapped terrorist destination that the racist media keeps throwing in our faces. In fact, for one of the purest blends of archaeology and nightlife, I highly recommend a serious trip to the Paris of the Middle East.*

As Marcel ranted on about how the architecture of Australian Kevin Dash guarantees all of the rooms are drenched in the lush Mediterranean sun and Mary Fox Linton’s interior design wraps you in a soothing feel of Camelot – the Kennedy’s, not King Arthur’s (whew much nicer!) – I couldn’t help but imagine collapsing there after a day trip to the South to see how the UN Peace Keepers are bungling it all up at the Israeli border.

Yet I digress.

Much to my pleasure, his rant about the floor-to-ceiling, glass-topped atrium led me to the arms of this hotel and I must say that his hyperbole failed to fully capture the contemporary elegance of the hotel.


This past trip was a VIP experience to say the least. Not only was part of the brain trust bringing writers from all over the United States to write about the country, but I was also part of a charitable delegation set to install hearing aids to over a thousand people. So, when I arrived to Beirut’s Hariri International Airport with six colleagues, and was whisked out a side door past customs and security to a special reception, I said “Nothing can top this!”

Funky and sexy - a treat for the senses
Well, I have to say that the arrival experience at the Le Gray came pretty close. Located in the heart of the Solidere, the trendiest section of upscale shopping and architecture in Beirut, the Le Gray greets you like few others. As you walk past the sidewalk Gordon’s Café and through tight security, the well-appointed front office staff welcomes you with a sit-down reception that includes a cool compress, fruit nectar beverage and a visual tour of the hotel as you select your room. Check-in is efficient and drama free, while the funky artistry delights the eyes on your quick ride up the silky glass elevators.


My room was more like a suite that wrapped around a corner of the hotel with multiple balconies and an excellent view of the magnificent new Rafic Hariri Mosque near the Hariri Memorial (yes, more than a few things are named for the late Lebanese Prime Minister). Luxury abounds with rainfall showers and separate toilets (with granite tiles), daily fruit baskets, REN bathroom products, full Espresso machines and beds that invite dreams of loveliness. I could live here (and plan to ask the management to grant this humble wish).


Their brochures wax poetic about and the aforementioned Indigo on the Roof, Cherry on the Rooftop, Gordon’s Café:

The Cigar Lounge is open from 11a to 1a
“Food is fresh, in season and full of the passion that makes our cuisine more than just high quality gastronomy…”

I dined at the Indigo, partied at the Cherry and took pictures at Gordon’s and the pretty words from the collaterals don’t do them justice because they are actually better.

What caught my attention is the Cigar Lounge. There’s nothing better than being able to smoke a Cohiba or a Torpedo with a fine connoisseur Cognac at eleven a.m. I spent the better part of an afternoon overlooking the city while pumping out campaign copy for entertainment client (coming to your televisions shortly). The time was a gift to be treasured and it is difficult to imagine that I could find a more serene setting anywhere outside of a yacht in Bodrum.

Dessert at the Indigo
Summing It Up

Unquestionably one of the best hotels in the entire Middle East in the class of Giza’s Mena House, Syria’s Art House and the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Bosphorus. Trust me, you want to stay in one of these four properties worthy of its impeccable pedigree that any celebrity, dignitary, super model or aristocrat would be proud to reside at for a few nights.

More Delights for the Eyes
The amazing infinity pool overlooks the city.
The atrium as you exit the glass elevators.
The lobby is sleek and contemporary.
The rooms: picture perfect with luxury appointments.