Story by Carol Stigger email@example.com
108 East Superior Street
(at North Michigan Avenue)
Chicago, IL 60611
+1 312 337 2888
Chicago's Peninsula Hotel redefines luxurious elegance.
“Luxury” is a word seldom paired with “easy,” and “elegance” rarely implies “comfortable.” So when the Peninsula Hotel combined Midwestern hospitality with Far Eastern graciousness 13 years ago, glass ceilings in hospitality shattered all over Chicagoland. From the doorman to the Michelin star chef, staff believes guests’ needs should be anticipated before they are articulated.
My daughter, grandson, and I have a spring break tradition: Chicago! It is an easy commute from my home in the Western suburbs. This year, my daughter wanted to shop, and my grandson wanted to explore museums we have not visited such as the Chicago History Museum. As for me, I wanted to be pampered. I wanted to check into a hotel and leave only to catch the Metra train home. But the thought of a confining hotel room was claustrophobic – and you know standard hotel food: calories without the culinary excitement.
The suite life
The Peninsula Hotel, located right in the heart of the Magnificent Mile, was my daughter’s dream shopping location. I liked the fact that the hotel has a Michelin star chef, three restaurants, and a world-class spa. The indoor swimming pool sent the Peninsula to the top of my grandson’s list. To assure plenty of room, I booked a suite.
We loved the tasteful display of bird feeders and trees at the entrance as spring was stubborn in arriving this year. Chinese Guardian Lions flanking the entrance embody the tradition of keeping all who enter safe. The lions are loyal to the Chicago Bulls, Bears, Cubs, and Blackhawks and often wear team jerseys. The hotel’s two MINI Coopers were parked in front for the stylish, complimentary convenience of guests. They often sport seasonal decorations: bunny ears for Easter; a huge spider on the roof for Halloween. If a MINI is not available, the doorman will call for the BMW house car. “Taxi” is a vehicle of last resort, and I never saw a guest arrive or leave in one. “Bus” is not in the Peninsula lexicon.
Thus, our entrance was with easy smiles rather than a stiff-lipped determination to live up to a legendary hotel. The hotel lobby is five floors up and a stroll down a majestic hall with soft, golden tones and windows displaying select designer goods. I would not have to leave this alternate universe of a hotel to shop. A page runs pesky errands and walks dogs. The concierge asked if he could procure event tickets and arrange transportation.
I was surprised that after entering our suite, I did not have to call housekeeping for child-size slippers and robe. They were already there along with two welcome trays: one with adult snacks and the other with gummy bears, popcorn, and a chocolate chip cookie in a cardboard sports’ car. My grandson was immediately at home and stowed his toiletries in “his” powder room. I learned that when you make your reservation, the representative asks just enough questions to ensure you do not have to ask for the amenities your party will appreciate or may require.
A sprain and a swim
My daughter sprained her ankle one block into her sprint to the stores at Water Tower Place, and she limped back to our suite. Following her through the door was the Peninsula’s white-suited page with a bucket of ice and an ice bag. After we had settled her on the sofa and the page had delivered tea and cookies to ease the pain, my grandson and I went to the pool. It is half Olympic size so he had an ample lap lane to practice for the swim team. I enjoyed the padded lounge chair and the newspaper and water bottle already in place by my chair.
After the ankle drama, I needed more than water, so I ordered a martini that was delivered immediately. The 19th floor pool has floor to ceiling windows for a dramatic view of Chicago, and it is the first indoor pool I have ever visited that did not reek of chemicals. Soon, my daughter joined us to soak her ankle in the Jacuzzi. At least, that was her excuse. No one should miss that Jacuzzi. The water jets must be imported from a country that knows what a body expects in water treatment.
The Peninsula Academy may sound like a prep school, but it is for children and adults who want in-depth learning in luxury. For some, this means a river tour of Chicago’s iconic buildings and historic architectural landmarks on a private, 48-foot yacht. Lunch and beverages are served by a Peninsula butler. Art lovers will appreciate a private tour of a favorite collection at the Art Institute by the curator in charge of the collection.
Young firefighters in training are given the appropriate fireman attire and transported to a Chicago fire station in a MINI Cooper. Once there, firefighters give a tour and information about the firehouse and fire-fighting vehicles and equipment. After a fire safety session, the young firefighters return to the Peninsula and make their own fire safety inspections of the hotel.
The Princess for a Day experience is far and beyond my little girl dreams; the gift I never thought of when my daughter was young. The Princess arrives incognito, and a staff of attendants provides hair, makeup, and nail services followed by a royal fitting of a gown and tiara. Then, a horse-drawn pumpkin-shaped carriage takes the princess on a shopping spree. Upon her majestic return, she receives a red-carpet arrival greeted by her prince who presents her with glass slippers. Her royal subjects (the staff) bow and curtsey.
“Grow down,” I whispered to my daughter. “Just for a day, grow down.”
Good news for world travelers
The Peninsula is a group of small, urban hotels in Asia, New York City, Beverly Hills, and Chicago, all located in the city’s finest shopping district. And here’s the exciting news for Paris-bound travelers. The Peninsula Paris will open August 1, 2014, right by the Arc d’ Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées.
My daughter moved her shopping target from Chicago’s Magnificent Mile to Paris. She may be an accomplished world traveler, but I put my foot down. She is not going to Paris without her mother, and we are not going until the Peninsula Paris opens.
With thanks to the Chicago Peninsula Hotel and its remarkable staff.
© May 2014 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.