Working at the E&O reminds me of why I joined the industry in the first place. It’s a luxury hotel with glamour, romance and intrigue, but most of all it has what many other hotels are unable to offer and that is the fact that this year it is going to be 124 years old. The walls of this hotel are steeped in history and many repeat visitors have private tales to share about their loved ones and their personal and fond memories.
I had only been here for a few months when one day, as I was walking through the lobby on the way back to my office, I saw a young lady standing under the grand dome holding a small shiny vase. She looked a little perturbed, so I slowly made my way in her direction to ask her if she needed any assistance. She introduced herself as Caroline and informed me that her father used to serve with the armed forces here many, many years ago and he used to always come to the E&O to eat and to go ballroom dancing. She went on to inform me that the E&O was one of his most favourite places in the whole world. She held on to the vase tightly and went on to say that her beloved father had recently passed away and he had requested that his ashes be spread in the grounds of the hotel. As she requested permission I realized that her father’s ashes were in the vase she was holding so tightly, I was taken aback by the request she was making and could not help but to be awe inspired by the way Caroline was holding herself together during such an emotional moment.
I told her that it would be an honour for us if she spread her father’s ashes in our garden and off she went to spread them amongst the flowers and plants close to the wall. After she had finished I watched her slowly walk through the front door on the way out, wiping away a few tears whilst holding on to the empty vase and I could not help but tear up with the thought of what was going through her mind.
About three weeks later, I saw her sitting on the wall having a glass of wine talking to herself, so I went over to enquire if she was alright. Caroline informed me that she would come over here at least twice a month to have a glass of wine, sit in the very same spot where she had spread the ashes and talk to her father. I left her alone so she could enjoy her very private moment with her dad and she did this every couple of weeks for over two years until it was time for her and her family to move onto their next posting.
Two years ago as I was arriving at the hotel and shaking the hands of my staff, there was an elderly chap standing under the same copper dome, leaning rather gingerly on a walking stick. After wishing the chap a very good morning, he introduced himself as Mr. Johnson and told me that he was having a visit down memory lane as he also served here over 5o years ago as a young soldier and was loving the historical moment he was having after just arriving on a 14 hour flight.
He informed that he had many, many wonderful memories of his evenings and dances at the hotel and as his bottom lip started to tremble whilst re-living his history, he managed to compose himself and went on to explain that there used to be an old lift somewhere that he used to sneak up to see his old girlfriend in. When I informed him that the same original lift was still here and most importantly still in working order, he was extremely surprised to say the very least. When I asked him if he would like to go for a ride, his legs wobbled a little, making it apparent that the walking stick had enabled him to stay on his feet.
We entered the lift for a short 3 floor ride to the top and back down again to the bottom. The entire ride took no more that 2-3 minutes, but was sufficient time to have this wonderful gentleman in tears. He started off out of the lift and across the lobby before turning around to face me for a second and as he turned around he told me that he would now go to his grave a happy man and this was a day he would surely never forget. I stood there speechless after hearing what he had just said to me and instantly tried to grapple with the importance a ride in a lift could have possibly meant to him.
There is something I know for certain and that is that after I leave the E&O Hotel, I will never be able to work in another hotel like this for as long as I live. Hotels are either 124 years old or their not, it’s that simple and that special, you can’t buy heritage. This is why I hold on to the position as the General Manager here as long as I can and pray that the owners will keep me here until I am unable to carry on due to old age.
Oh and before I forget, did I tell you that Caroline called me last week, she informed me that the whole family is coming here to visit us this festive period for a couple of weeks. She told me that she wants to sit on the wall, have a glass of wine and wish her father a Merry Christmas.