Story and photos by Sharon King Hoge
Shangri-la Hotel Sydney
176 Cumberland Street,
The Rocks Sydney NSW 2000
For passionate sightseers, Sydney's Shangri-la hotel offers a perplexing dilemma. On the positive side are spectacular views -- from the very window of your room you gaze down on the city's two iconic sights, the Harbour Bridge and Opera House; just outside the lobby is the historic renovated neighborhood of The Rocks; and steps beyond is the city's colorful Circular Quay. But to go exploring you have to venture out -- and that means forcing yourself to leave your immensely comfortable room.
It's hard to find a flaw in the hotel's renovation completed just at the end of last year. Walls and carpets splashed with cherry blossom motifs are done up in tasteful shades of brown and blue on lower floors and satisfying shades of beige and gray for the Horizon Club levels. The chairs are plush and the consoles and cabinets are done up in honey grained wood. Besides spacious drawers and a roomy desk, rooms are outfitted with an additional separate ledge for storage. Light switches are well placed and clearly labeled, wi-fi is free in the rooms which have iHome docks, Bluetooth media hubs, and satellite TV. Bed linens are silky and a towel with a set of slippers is placed on the carpet beside the bed at turn down.
Not a detail is overlooked. A sprig of fresh orchids festoons the tub in a bathroom stocked with a scale and lighted magnifying mirror, a clothes line that stretches across the tub for drying, and amenity packets including a toothbrush and razor. The compartmented mini-bar drawers sort out the glasses, openers, cups and coffee machine beverage packets. In the desk, a tray holds scissors, tape, paper clips, a highlighter, a stapler. Supplied in the bed stand are a flashlight and a copy of "Lost Horizons," which recounts the Shangri-La story of serenity and paradise which inspired the hotel's name, a quote from the book is placed on the pillow you've selected from the pillow menu. Over 90 percent of the hotel's 565 rooms offer water vistas.
Room service is available 24-7. On the second floor, Cafe Mix serves three diverse meals a day with an extensive breakfast buffet offering a horseshoe of choices-- bespoke omelettes, layered yogurt parfaits, eight choices of juice. Six days a week dinner is offered in the top floor Altitude with more tableside views and a private dining room that extends out toward the Opera House. Locally and seasonally sourced menus are matched with wines. Even commercial guide books recommend that visitors should ascend to the 36th floor to take in the views from cocktail Bar Blu which opens daily at 5 pm.
Snacks are served all day in the lobby lounge and adjacent outdoor terrace, popular especially for the noted Afternoon Tea when patrons come to sample the latest marvelous creations of celebrated pastry chef Anna Polyviou whose concoctions are earning her icon status. Sunday afternoon's Chocolate High Tea is a special favorite.
Guests staying in the 90 rooms of the Horizon Club have access to the spectacular lounge with its four-story high window overlooking the harbour. The Club offers complimentary breakfast, tea, and cocktails with other benefits including complimentary newspapers, juices, shoeshine, concierge services, easy check in and out, and one pressing of a suit or dress.
After (or instead of) venturing out Shangri-La's signature Chi spa on the second floor offers 17 treatments, some designed with chemical-free Australian Sodashhi skin care products which are exclusive to the spa. Chakra Healing Massages, Body Balance Salt Glow and other procedures are carried out in "spa within a spa" candle-lit suites, some fitted out with side-by-side beds for couples treatments. Three of the suites with infinity pools overlook the harbour. The Fitness Center is open 24 hours a day for those using its fully equipped gym, a Jacuzzi beside the indoor pool, and saunas in the dressing rooms.
It's no wonder that guests are almost grateful when it rains. Outside the window, mist rises over the harbour in a picturesque view providing the perfect excuse to just stay in and enjoy Shangri-La.
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