This spring I stayed at Nashville’s Hutton Hotel—a sleek boutique that brought a new level of sophistication to Tennessee’s music city when it opened two years ago.
The Hutton’s owner/managers, Amerimar, have now turned their hand to the historic St. Ermin’s Hotel in London’s Westminister, reopening it after a 30 million pound makeover, just in time to offer over 300 luxe rooms to lucky London Olympics fans. It’s not just a makeover but a totally new property—plush, posh and centrally located for the official marathon (which takes place a few blocks from its front door).
But what I like the best about the new St. Ermin’s is the the whiff of danger and romance around the hotel’s mysterious past. Legendary gay spies of the “Cambridge Five,” Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt passed secrets to their Soviet counterparts here in the 1950’s in the St. Ermin’s plush rooms and hushed gentleman’s bars.
Rumor also has it that a warren of secret tunnels run under the hotel all the way to the Houses of Parliament—a route that Blunt and Burgess were supposed to have known about and used on late night rendezvous. James Bond and Ian Fleming fans will delight in the fact that MI6 was also supposed to have used the hotel as a safe house for informers. They also trained elite war-time death squads here during World War Two.
And if the cool factor couldn’t be any higher, key scenes in Sid and Nancy were filmed on the hotel’s roof.
The revamped St. Ermin’s joins Istanbul’s also recently renovated Pera Palace as one of Europe’s most legendary luxury spy hotels.
Pack your trenchcoats and poisoned lipsticks.
GRETCHEN KELLY writes about hotels, destinations and unique travel experience for the New York Post, Luxury Travel Advisor, Frommers.com, Executive Travel, Interior Design, The Travel Channel.com and many other publications and websites. She has been to over 80 countries in the past ten years. Her areas of expertise include travel and culture, art, design and film-related travel. She has been interviewed as a travel expert on the Fox Network, BBC TV and BBC radio, among others. You can reach her at Twitter @gretchenkelly or on her website, www.gretchenkelly.com.