Something To Declare: For top travel tips, nothing beats a charming concierge

 

Often underused, occasionally outrageously overused – a concierge can be the secret to a special escape.

Competent and unflappable, they’re on hand to impart intel and exploit their bulging contacts book, from the prosaic (map-marking, metro-finding) to the eccentric (pet-monkey loan, parachuting proposal). Urban myths abound of outlandish demands, but the reality is, these suited-and-booted troubleshooters can make magic happen.

More than just ticket-sourcers or maître-d’-whisperers, they’re often experts. Cultured cribs such as Le Royal Monceau in Paris have art concierges, while shopaholics get the ultimate retail chaperoning at The Upper House in Hong Kong, which is in cahoots with Net-a-Porter. Some have Porsche keys to hand over (hola, Rancho Valencia in California); while The James Royal Palm in Miami even has a “sun concierge” to fine-tune tanning.

The capital of I-want-I-get is of course New York City. Here Melissa Ettere, head concierge at The Standard High Line, explains how much is expected of her.

“A great concierge needs to know everything,” she says. She plays psychoanalyst, reading guests quickly and booking them into the places that will best suit them. “It can be as simple as spotting a current-season ‘it’ bag and understanding this person wants to go to the next ‘it’ place. When you get a client who belongs at that night’s private party at Le Baron, you need to be able to make it happen as fast and as easily as sending a text.”

While we’ve come to expect click-our-fingers results at five-star hotels, who doesn’t like a little VIP treatment in smaller establishments too? JK Place in Florence is adept at getting red carpets rolling – they’ll slip you gold-dust private-tour Uffizi tickets quicker than you can Google “Michelangelo”.

The trend for hyperlocal is all the rage among discerning tourists, which makes embedded knowledge is all the more important. Take, for example, Manchester’s mineral water tunnel. No, I hadn’t heard of it either. But the Great John Street Hotel has and will have you signed up on a tour to take you deep down to the Thirlmere aqueduct. 

A lack of that sort of insider nous is especially noticeable. I’ll never forget asking the nice Latvian concierge at a hotel in Jersey where we could go for a lunch on the coast en route to catching our plane. He suggested a burger at a bowling alley by the airport. Yowzers.

Hotels are also gearing up to service our demands on Twitter. A so-called “Twitter hotel” in Mallorca invites guests to make their requests in 140 characters or less. It’s just a shame it looks so naff (sorry, Sol Wave House); I’d rather be armed with a pre-loaded tablet as is done at reinvented Dormy House in the Cotswolds.

Still, nothing beats a good old-fashioned charmer in the lobby, the kind who has your interests at heart, whether that’s sneaking you into a backstage party or recommending a cheap dumpling place. So next time you check in, for the most memorable and authentic experiences, head straight for the front desk.

Juliet Kinsman is the editor-in-chief of Mr & Mrs Smith hotel guides (mrandmrssmith.com)

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit director Peter Jackson with his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
film
News
people
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
i100
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'