The huge benefit of staying in the 'Pavillon' wing of the Winter Palace is that residents have full access to the public rooms, gardens, terraces and other shared facilities of one of the world's grand old hotels for a fraction of the price.
The complex is quite compact, with the Old Winter Palace fronting onto the main Corniche with the Nile beyond. Sweeping, red-carpeted staircases to the first-floor entrance level give access to an ornate main lobby, which is currently the check in point for all residents. There's no queuing at a desk; new arrivals are invited to take a seat amid antique furnishings and to enjoy a glass of karkade whilst a receptionist completes registration formalities on a clipboard.
The rear terrace of the OWP overlooks a spectacular garden which is lovingly tended and which has numerous shady seating areas by fountains or in groves of trees. It's then just a short walk to through the garden to the Pavillon block.
The garden area incorporates an open air bar and shisha corner, both of which were open every night during our stay, but deserted, and a pool side restaurant which was popular for lunches and snacks, but which was not open in the evening. The pool itself wasn't heated during our stay, apparently because of low visitor numbers. As a consequence very few people went for a swim, and the sunken swim-up bar was closed.
The whole pool area is badly in need of some mid-level maintainance to sort out broken paving, dilapidated sunbeds and tatty awnings which were not in keeping with the overall excellent standards which the Winter Palace and its Pavillon generally maintain.
The 5-storey Pavillon block itself is a simple and functional seventies/eighties style design with no real public spaces - not that they're needed with the splendour of the OWP's lounges, bar and restaurants so close at hand. Brown, beige and brass are the predominant themes.
All Pavillon rooms have large balconies (suites have two) and the views from the higher floors are spectacular; our room overlooked the gardens with a side view of the Theban hills, which are illuminated at night. The room itself was spacious, with an enormous bathroom. Decor was simple, the bed spacious and comfortable, the air conditioning quiet and efficient and the lighting attractive.
I would again urge management to keep up standards with running repairs and routine replacements. The drawers in our room were a bit wonky and tended to stick whilst the carpet, although clean, had clearly endured a hard life. The bath had recently been re-sealed with an enthusiastic and liberal application of grout.
Breakfast is the only meal taken separately from OWP guests, being served in a ground floor room of the Pavillon. The selection offered is entirely adequate, if uninspired. Coffee is excellent, eggs are cooked to order any way you want and the staff are attentive; but the selection of hot and cold options never varied over the nine days we were in residence. With only a few residents we were able to choose a terrace table every day, and to relax watching the Hod Hod birds forage for their breakfast; the indoor breakfast room would have been a more gloomy option.
Staff were unfailingly friendly, helpful and courteous.
Our first night being a family birthday we were treated to the 'happy birthday ritual' with a delicious cake (a full-size version of one of the tasty titbits served with the OWP's renowned 'Afternoon Tea') and a posse of singing waiters. We were also presented with fresh flowers and fruit in the room during our stay.
A covered arcade to one side of the OWP allows quick access in and out to the main Corniche and nearby Luxor Temple without going 'up and down' through the main reception area. Another great alternative is to slip out of the staff gate at the back of the complex as a quick escape into 'real Luxor' away from the touts and caleche drivers.
The Winter Palace Pavillon offers all the advantages of a town central location, but with superb gardens and terraces for when the madding crowd gets too much to bear. Highly recommended, especially once the economy picks up and Sofitel catch up on some of the running repairs that may have been neglected over the past few years.