There is a character in Billy Wilder’s movie Avanti!, Carlo Carlucci (played by Clive Revill), the manager of the hotel where the main action takes place. Carlucci is my favourite character in the film, although Jack Lemmon stars too, who portrays the perfect hotel manager, the man who sees, hears and knows everything: his customers’ secretes, love stories, intrigues. But every bit of information is safe with him, because he does everything with the hotel’s guests’ best interest in mind.
After reading Francisca Mattéoli’s Escape Hotel Stories: Retreat and Refuge in Nature, I couldn’t resist ordering another one of her books: World Tour: Vintage Hotel Labels from the Collection of Gaston-Louis Vuitton. A tribute to travel, the book is an original work, presenting nine hundred hotel labels from the collection of Gaston-Louis Vuitton, the grandson of Louis, the founder of the house of Louis Vuitton. It’s these labels that Francisca uses to take us on a world tour to legendary hotels and destinations around the globe. In her captivating writing style, she tells us 21 travel stories centered around these hotels: we get to learn about the people who lived in those places and their personal experiences. It’s like you’re enveloped in the scenes of a movie, like in Avanti!. Hotels and hotel staff become part of their guests’ lives, even their friends: this is the role they should play for the travellers. It’s this personal feel that I love about the book.
It’s interesting to read a brief history of hotel labels and their important role in the world of travel in the first half of the 20th century. For example, did you know that they served a more discrete function too, enabling hotel stuff to pass coded messages and information about the owner of the luggage – especially regarding his or her propensity to leave tips? I like these insight tips.
The black and white photos of legendary hotels, of towns and exotic places, and the copies of vintage postcards attached to the book’s pages complete the image of the world of travel, as it once was. You yourself are a globetrotter adventurer who takes a trip back in time to the Golden Age of Travel and crosses paths with the great travel writers, painters, artists, authors, society people, fashionable ladies and aristocrats at the luxury hotels worldwide.
photos: by me, from the book World Tour: Vintage Hotel Labels from the Collection of Gaston-Louis Vuitton, published by Abrams. You can learn more about Francisca Mattéoli and her work on her official website, and you can read my interview with her here. Also, here are my thoughts on her book, Escape Hotel Stories: Retreat and Refuge in Nature.