In a booming material world that's increasingly characterized by claims of "exclusive" and "luxury," genuine sumptuous panache is becoming a hard thing to nail down. Hotels, restaurants, resorts and spas go to great lengths to convince us that they have the ultimate, that they hold that top spot on the rung.
In truth, it is all about the right mix of amenities, personalized service and character.
In Tel Aviv, the truth can be found at Hilton's new White City Suite. It is the pinnacle.
At $3,000 not including VAT, it is also the most expensive hotel suite in the country.
After a few months running in, Hilton Tel Aviv has now officially opened its premier suite. The suite is located on practically a quarter of the top floor and commands a wrap-around wooden deck, which is by far the best and most unique view of the city.
Room 1720 is part of Hilton's Executive Floor. Guests skip the lobby and check in directly on the 17th floor, where a complimentary light dinner and cocktails are offered.
I arrived as a guest of Hilton just at sunset. Walking down the hallway, I passed the Zubin Mehta
and Yitzhak Perlman
suites and my heart pounded with anticipation. I was rewarded with awesome skies to the north, east and south. The large, 140-square-meter suite was tastefully decorated in chic, sleek mode. Cherry wood floors and straight-line furniture evoked an elegant yet not ostentatious contemporary mood. The aim is to put the emphasis on the view.
The foyer was large with a well-stocked bar, and all the liquor was included in the price of the suite. There was a handsome desk with photocopier and modem points for easy laptop connectivity, and the massive espresso coffee machine was certain to supply the needs for any business meeting.
The salon was large and inviting with fresh pink roses there and in every room. A huge plasma screen TV adorned a wall, accompanied by a DVD and stereo system. From the collection of discs, I chose Tom Jones, since his swank seemed more appropriate than the menagerie of Eretz Israel
Not only were the walls all glass, but the railings were, too. This created a sense of floating above the city, with the wooden deck appearing to drop off to nothingness.
The room is entirely electronically controlled. But not to worry - Noa, one of the dedicated staff members, made sure to demonstrate how to shut the blinds, shades and curtains with ease.
The bedroom was equally spacious and also surrounded by glass. At the press of a button, a large TV swings down from the ceiling before the bed. Hilton chose this little feature in order to preserve the view when not watching television.
The suite actually has three TVs, since Hilton placed another one over the bathtub in the bathroom, where there are also his and hers back-to-back sinks, a power shower with seven nozzles and a private sauna. Needless to say, the suite is stocked with creams and toiletries from the Ahava Dead Sea
Despite the pouring rain, I had the large outdoor Jacuzzi filled and together with my companion sipped cocktails in its bubbling waters, enjoying the blazing lights of the city and secretly praying lightning didn't strike us.
IT WASN'T until the morning that we could appreciate the meaning of the suite's name. Wrapped in warm bathrobes, we returned to the frosty deck to sip hot espresso. The entire city lay below us, framed to the north and south by the azure Mediterranean Sea. Tel Aviv, the Bauhaus architectural capital of the world, is indeed a "white city," due to the more than 4,000 Bauhaus buildings erected here during the 1930s and 1940s.
These were sun washed structures, three to four floors high, many with trademark curved balconies. The concentration of Bauhaus designs was so great in Tel Aviv that UNESCO declared the city as a World Cultural Heritage site. Only 56 cities in the world have such status and only two are modern cities (Tel Aviv and Brasilia).
"This is Hilton Tel Aviv's contribution to UNESCO's nomination," said Motti Verses, head of hotel public relations. "The White City is very important for us and we wanted to honor it."
The suite was decorated by Belgian Rita Hoben. While Hilton declined to give the total cost of the suite, Verses said it was part of the overall NIS 70 million renovations the Hilton has undergone for its 40th anniversary.
Verses said there has been great demand for the suite and explained its two main types of guests. The first come from the international business field, whose corporation heads seek the facilities and the comfort.
The second genre booking the suite is usually businessmen from Russia
, he said.
"We still haven't had any celebrities stay here because it is not yet known. They have usually stayed in the Suite of the Stars," on the sea side of the hotel, Verses said.
Once in a while, everything about the subject a journalist is reporting takes on a new meaning. Ironically, the opening of the Tel Aviv Hilton's new White City Suite was one such event. Curious about the history of the suite's location, I found out that this section of the roof - long before the wooden deck and gorgeous yet pricey suite - was once the platform used by international TV crews to film the Iraqi Scud missile
attacks on the city, both in the 1991 Gulf War
and again in 2003. Media would pay high fees for a small section of the roof for their cameras.
Perhaps transforming it into a luxury suite sends a positive message that better times are on the way.