Freelance Journalist, Editor, Copywriter and Author – Dubai

Four Seasons Hotel Beirut – As Friendly As A Big Fat (Luxury) Hug!

As you may or may not know, I recently found myself in Beirut for an event that I’ve been waiting for for my entire adult life; the Red Hot Chili Peppers live in concert. Oh yes! Now, if you’re going to see such a legendary act, you need an equally legendary hotel to stay in. Only one place, in my opinion, matches this description in Beirut, and that is the Four Seasons, so that’s exactly where I stayed.

Having left the house to catch my flight feeling rather hungover, I didn’t have time to complete my usual ‘I totally fit in here’ ritual, which consists of donning my most expensive looking outfit, having a mani/pedi, and wearing my humungous Dior shades like a boss. Instead, I rocked up looking rather dishevelled in my creased harem trousers, Dh80 vest top, and wearing no makeup. Here I was, backpacker Angie, stood in a lobby full of suited Americans and stiff-looking Stepford wives. I kept waiting for someone to give me directions to the nearest hostel.

Despite the fact that I resembled a washed up carrot, the staff welcomed me with a huge smile and not a hint of snobbery. Perhaps they were laughing at me instead. Or perhaps this is what they’ve come to expect from journalists on press trips.

Hotel lowdown

The hotel, which is housed in a soaring modern glass-and-steel tower, is located next to the Corniche and a small marina, and is within walking distance of downtown Beirut. It is also easily accessible from Beirut Rafic-Hariri International Airport; I was in the lobby within twenty minutes of leaving arrivals.

Check-in

Check-in was faultless, and I was quickly shown to my room by the über-friendly bellboy (is that what they still call them?). Check-in starts at 3pm, but I arrived early without a problem and my request for late check-out was also approved. The hotel didn’t look too busy, though, so that may be the reason why.

The room

The most impressive part of the room was undoubtedly the breathtaking view of the Mediterranean.

Each of the hotel’s 230 rooms and suites has a private terrace; if you have a penchant for a room with a view, I recommend you go all out and make sure you book a sea-facing one. You won’t regret it. I could have sat out there for hours, typing away, had I not been busy drinking cocktails.

My ‘premium sea-view’ room, which was located on the 20th floor, was spacious and homely. The beds are of the ‘mould around your body’ kind, which I always have difficulty removing myself from in the morning. As the music nut that I am, I loved the iPod dock, which meant I could blast pre-concert RHCP songs until my heart was content. The room also offers a LCD TV, DVD player, fully-stocked mini bar (always lethal) and a desk for all you business-type people out there.

The bathroom 

Huge bathtub? Check. L’Occitane toiletries? Check. Hairdryer? Check. Rain shower? Er, no check.

The bathroom was massive, and the only disappointment was the lack of a rain shower. I’ve come to expect these little slices of luxuries when I’m away, so I always notice when something like this is missing. However, there was a separate ‘standard’ shower (cue here the obvious first world problems joke). The bathrobes were suitably fluffy, thick and as soft as a, erm, baby’s bottom? (I’ve been told they’re soft).

Pool and poolbar

I have a habit of rating an establishment on the basis of the strength and quality of their cocktails. Call me a lush. Call me an alcoholic.

You’re probably right.

Anyway, once on our sun loungers, my friend and I ordered mojitos, because, let’s face it, it’s the quintessential poolside cocktail. I did my usual: “Make it strong, please. Very strong,” skit with the waiter, which usually gets me either a wink and a smile or a rolling of the eyes, in response. Thankfully, we got a wink and smile. And the cocktails were damn good. On this basis, the hotel could do no wrong for me from this point forward.

The pool, which is located on the rooftop, is one of the highlights of the hotel. When you first go up there you will be awestruck by the stunning views of Beirut that surround you, the best if which are to be enjoyed while in the hot tub – having a drink in hand is imperative.

Like so.

The pool staff are extremely friendly and remember what you had to drink the previous day – again, very important, as they encourage you to have a hair of the dog instead of juice. They also provide you with free water, bring round shots of the, sadly, non-alcoholic variety, and spritz you (should you wish) with Evian. The only fault is that the pool is slightly on the small side and isn’t very deep, either. But with no screaming kids in sight, this lack of space really isn’t too much of a problem.

Oh and did I mention the cocktails are damn good?

Amenities

The hotel has a number of restaurants and bars, including The Grill Room, which serves seafood, steaks, and some rather interesting sandwiches. This is also where breakfast is served. Brekkie here consists of a small buffet selection of pastries, muffins, breads, cereal and fruit, and an á la carte menu that offers a variety of hot options, such as my beloved Eggs Benedict (which was cooked to perfection, may I add here).

The rooftop pool turns into the ‘The Roof’ bar at night, where you can expect to hear (bad) cover songs that I think are meant to be trendy or something (WHY would I want to hear the cover version of a classic such as Son Of A Preacher Man? I digress…). Luckily the drinks make up for the bad music – we were downing tasty ‘Royal Sunrises,’ which consist of Champagne and some juices that don’t really matter.

There’s also the Boulevard lobby lounge, which serves the usual coffee, tea and pastries, and The Bar, which is located in a little corner nook of the 2nd floor, and has a large selection of whiskeys and cigars. A great hangout for rich dirty old businessmen – and my friend and I.

Spa 

I hate spa treatments. No, honestly, I do. I’d rather be at the pool catching some rays and having another mojito than be prodded and massaged by some stranger. However, when you’re asked to try something in order to write about it, it’s kind of rude to say no.

So I agreed to try out the Samadara Ultimate Age-Defying Facial (and no, I wasn’t offended). The marketing literature states that by using a sequence of anti-ageing techniques rooted in Ayurvedic healing traditions, the facial is designed to reawaken the skin’s natural healing energies to increase firmness and elasticity.

I don’t know what any of it means, but let’s just say that it ended up being the most relaxing experience of my entire life. And this really isn’t an exaggeration. I have no idea what the facialist was doing most of the time, as my eyes were closed, but it involved a lot of face massaging, different lotions and potions, a very firm mask, and some lovely smelling oils.  I dozed off a few times and left feeling as if I’d been meditating for a whole day.

And this was just the start of it; the next morning I looked like I had a new face. My skin was the clearest it has ever been, and the few faint lines I’ve started to develop on my forehead had disappeared.

Now if only money were no object to me, I’d be getting this done all the time. Oh, I guess I’d have to live in Beirut, too.

The treatment costs $369 for 105 minutes. Worth.every.dollar (that I did not pay).

Verdict

While everything about this hotel, such as the stunning rooftop pool, massive rooms, and central location, make a great impression, it is the staff who truly cause it to stand out. Every single encounter I had with someone, from managers through to housekeeping, was pleasurable, and they really cannot do enough to help you. It was like receiving a big hug each time I spoke to a staff member – a luxurious hug at that. I left feeling like I had made a bunch of new friends, and you usually only get that from smaller, boutique-type hotels.

The only complaint I have is that it took a large amount of time for things like an adaptor and iron to be brought to the room by housekeeping; food was also slow to arrive.

However, I would still highly recommend the Four Seasons Hotel Beirut if you ever find yourself in town. I for one will be back in the future to see my new-found friends. And to have another one of their great mojitos.

Four Seasons Hotel Beirut, 1418 Professor Wafic Sinno Avenue, 2020 4107 Minet El Hosn, Beirut, Lebanon, tel. 961 (1) 761000


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