Winston Churchill’s Guide to the World

Before there was Yelp, there was PM Churchill, hotel reviewer

May 4, 2017 9:00 am

War correspondent, prime minister, Nobel laureate, watercolor painter: Winston Churchill was an actual renaissance man, a refined and dedicated lover of many things — not least his wife Clementine and grain alcohol. Also: hotels. The man was a connoisseur of hotels, for painting (mostly watercolors), writing (chiefly his memoirs) and drinking (see: grain alcohol).

Here, five of his favorites. 

La Mamounia, Marrakech
It is the most lovely spot in the whole world,” Churchill told Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943. “This is a wonderful place, and the hotel one of the best I have ever used.” Churchill painted the Atlas Mountains from the hotel’s balconies, writing to his wife, Clementine, with the full review: “This is a wonderful place, and the hotel one of the best I have ever used. I have an excellent bedroom and bathroom, with a large balcony twelve feet deep, looking out on a truly remarkable panorama over the tops of orange trees and olives, and the houses and ramparts of the native Marrakech, and like a great wall to the westward the snowclad range of the Atlas mountains — some of them are nearly fourteen thousand feet high. The light at dawn and sunset upon the snows, even at sixty miles distance, is as good as any snowscape I have ever seen.” 

Jamaica Inn, Ocho Rios, Jamaica
It’s not named for him, but Churchill stayed in the hotel’s White Suite, overlooking a private cove; he reportedly said that the Caribbean waters were the best in the world to paint. Churchill was just one of the hotel’s many 20th century-celebrity guests — Marilyn Monroe, Errol Flynn and Noel Coward also counted it as a favorite.

Brown’s, London
“I don’t stay in a hotel — I stay in Brown’s,” Churchill reportedly said of this traditional Mayfair hotel. He indisputably enjoyed the heavy-on-the-gin martinis available at the hotel’s Donovan bar — a drink later renamed for him, and still served without much, if any, vermouth. 

Mount Nelson, Cape Town
Churchill stayed here (BTW, our favorite hotel in South Africa) while covering the Boer War as a correspondent for the English press. As it was early in his career, Churchill hadn’t yet graduated to the presidential/prime minister suites — but he did have kind words for the hotel: “a most excellent and well-appointed establishment.”

Reid’s Palace, Madeira, Portugal
Apparently escaping to the tropics to pen one’s memoirs isn’t just a post-presidency plan: Churchill headed south, too — to Reid’s Palace in Maderia. He was painting here as well as writing, setting off to the island’s beaches to set up his easel. Also of note: “According to local legend, Churchill explored Madeira in a Rolls-Royce, converting its boot into a travelling bar.” The man knew how to travel. 


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