This story originally appeared on the Gents Cafe Newsletter. You can subscribe here.
Staying at the Four Seasons anywhere is (for all but the wealthiest) a privileged treat and while the brand is consistent across the world, certain properties – whether due to architecture, management, or the local neighborhood – are better than others. And it’s hard to imagine many surpassing the elegance and beauty of the Four Seasons St. Petersburg where a stay harkens the great Amor Towel’s novel A Gentleman in Moscow in which a life of “house arrest” actually seems enviable within a glamourous and opulent hotel.
Like many great structures (see: Chinese imperial palaces, The Art Institute of Chicago and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence), two imposing and proud marble lion statues stand guard at the hotel’s entrance, making guests at once feel safe and powerful, as if the lions are your own staff at attention. Crossing the black-and-white tiled threshold into the grand lobby, you almost feel like the clarinet trill in Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue should begin, auguring with juxtaposed sophistication and playfulness the adventure and discovery that lies ahead.
In the hotel’s spacious rooms with crown molding, wainscotting, plush bedding, and gilded gold finishes, it’s easy to feel as if you’ve arrived in your “personal quarters” with everything you may need at the reach of your phone (including, as this author proved, a 24 oz ribeye and a California Cab at 2am if you so require). Even the hotel’s “standard” room has a full walk-in closet to hang your tuxedos and three-piece suits and a bathroom whose size rivals the average hotel room in New York City.
As in Towles’ novel, the sumptuous settings are only a fraction of what’s to be enjoyed at the hotel. The most enthralling discovery occurs upon exploring the property and its multitude of diverse accommodations including a sushi bar, an Italian restaurant, a beautiful tea-room with lofted ceilings and – my personal favorite – Xander Bar, where bow-tied bartenders create exceptional cocktails in a wood-paneled room decorated with oriental rugs, richly framed impressionist art and, the pièce de résistance, a two-sided, wood-burning fireplace that brings the perfect amount of rustic pomp and circumstance to the posh settings.
And if – spurred by a desire for fresh air, serendipity, or simply the opportunity to see the stunning property from the outside – you venture past the hotel’s doorway, it’s almost a given that there will be a horse-drawn carriage waiting (and, in the winter months, poetically, snow falling) to whisk you away to the city’s many great attractions or even just around the corner for the plebian yet delicious borscht soup. But, in any case, your excursion will be prompt as, of course, you still have a night-cap to enjoy fireside at Xander before retiring.
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