A week or so ago, I spent the most I ever have for a hotel room. I did it at the Betsy. At $800 a night. I have travelled far and wide. A castle on the Rhine, a 13th century convent in Montepulciano, a seaside Amalfi flat, the 4 Seasons Maui, The Ritz, The Peninsula…You know…I don’t think I have ever been in a place where a standard room was so dear. Was it worth it?
Well…Betsy’s rooms are small. And the shower was the smallest of any hotel I’ve ever stayed at. Her valet parking is hard and slow to get to. And she is not perfectly maintained (see pic). Brass sneaks through chrome in places and my bathroom door no longer fits in its’ frame. But those who have been to Florida’s circa 1920’s buildings know that they are never perfectly maintained (think Vinoy). Parts are hard to get and the plaster-work is beyond almost all contractors. Those who know how to fit and fix things correctly for buildings like our Betsy are as rare as she is…So you have to live with these things if you’re going to spend time living in art. Betsy is, after all, an old, particular, vain American lady. Who? Think Katherine Hepburn at 60 years old.
However…This is why some, including myself, love her.
Her bar and her lounge are the best situated I’ve ever been in. Take the few stairs down from your room (not the elevator), throw open the curtains at their base and present yourself into the large, open, slightly Nighthawks-esque bar area. It makes you want to dress for the occasion (If I only had my zoot suit and my Jag XK130…). And you’ll have no desire to go anywhere else once you’re part of the scene…
I love that Betsy is, because of her age, civilized and quiet and warm and gracefully rich. I love that her family…uh…staff is happy. And I love that they are close to, but not quite, Downton Abbey competent. I love that loud, vulgar South Beach is just outside, but not in. I love that you can’t hear a thing while in your dark, cool, perfectly appointed little room. I love that I can swim alone in Betsy’s deep pool - and that it’s warm and that the lounges are perfectly sculpted and I can smell bacon wrapped scallops cooking while I do my laps…”Oh man…I need to order some when I’m done”...I love that Betsy is small enough that I get to know who the guests are that staying with me (“bye - see you next time - have a good flight back…Sigh”). I love that her colors are neutral and yet she and her family suggest rich, genuine essentials. Latte, croissant, afternoon shade and the gulf stream breeze on a calm, cooling street side patio…
You have been granted a privilege to be in a place like this. So take the good with the bad. Yes, things could be a little better maintained. Yes, the rooms could be larger. However, every old lady could use a nip and a tuck. I'm sure she is aware of it and I am sure she will plan in that regard. However…not now. She is not rushed. And if she is needy, she’ll hide it well…So will you go looking for flaws? In the end, doing so would only reveal your own poor judgment…This Grand Dame, like all, is gentle, she has poise, in her pocket she hides sweets and she is correctly perfumed. She’s intelligent. She has beauty. She hides her flaws well. If you can respect that, she’ll open up to you. And respect you too. If you can further let her charms carry you away, Katherine will flirt with you…elevating you in the process. And will it have been worth it? What was that I was worried about? 800 what? Pass the champagne and bring around the XK. Whatever it was, that flirting, that elevation, that confirmation - so heady at times - was worth far more.