Where To Write Your Masterpiece
Naulakha in Vermont, US, was Mr Rudyard Kipling’s home from 1893 to 1896 – and is where he wrote The Jungle Book. Photograph by Ms Kelly Fletcher
For Mr Charles Dickens, it was a small vase of fresh flowers; for Mr F Scott Fitzgerald, gin. For Mr Victor Hugo, an icy bath followed by two raw eggs. When it comes to writers, the path to greatness – or at least the cracking of that troublesome opening paragraph – is paved with thousands of tiny rituals. And, more often than not, that path also leads to the welcoming sanctuary of hotels. Here, fuelled by rest, relaxation and room service, novelists find the perfect environment in which their masterpieces can take shape, where the narrative flows during the day and, more often than not, the cocktails flow in the evening.
If you believe you’ve still got that novel in you, take note: many of the best books start with the right booking. Which is where MR PORTER comes in. We’ve scoured the globe to find those rare properties that have inspired the world’s finest writers, so all you have to do is check in, brandish your quill, and wait for the muse to descend.
Mr Ian Fleming’s former home is now a luxury boutique hotel, one of the finest in the Caribbean. All 14 James Bond books were completed here during Mr Fleming’s regular two-month winter breaks, a not-exactly-onerous habit he maintained for 18 years. The author praised the “peace and silence and cuteness” to be found here on Jamaica’s Gold Coast, qualities that are still apparent today. GoldenEye is now owned by Island Records mogul Mr Chris Blackwell, who has added a cluster of well-appointed cottages to the property. For his part, Mr Fleming swore by writing at his beloved red bullet-wood desk, which is exactly as he left it, beneath a window overlooking the ocean. “Would the books have been born if I had not been living in the gorgeous vacuum of a Jamaican holiday?” he mused later in life. “Probably not.”
Written here: all 14 Bond books: 12 novels and two collections of short stories.
Book this room: The Fleming Villa
Hôtel Belles-Rives, France
American great Mr F Scott Fitzgerald swore by gin while writing, because it “worked fast and was hard to detect”. He discovered a rich vein of creative form on the French Riviera in 1926, where he stayed at the legendary Villa St-Louis in Juan-les-Pins, and penned Tender Is The Night, his last great work. Three years later, the grand property was transformed into the Côte d’Azur’s first water-edge hotel, the 43-room Hôtel Belles-Rives. A member of the excellent Small Luxury Hotels Of The World group, the modern-day property is famed for its extensive library, which is full of Mr Fitzgerald memorabilia and beautiful art-deco furniture. The perfect place, in fact, to kick back with a gin and tonic (though not, perhaps, to Fitzgeraldian excess) after a hard day’s writing.
Pera Palace Hotel, Turkey
The world’s most famous crime writer didn’t even own a desk, and would write anywhere, including bedside tables and “marble-topped washstands”. But Ms Agatha Christie penned arguably her most famous work – Murder On The Orient Express – in the lap of luxury at Istanbul’s outstanding Pera Palace Hotel. Rather fittingly, the hotel was built in 1892 to house passengers from the eponymous train, and the room Ms Christie herself holed up in, No.411, has subsequently been named after her. Fans of the author’s work should also investigate the hotel’s excellent Agatha Restaurant, where the menu draws inspiration from the stops on the Orient Express, before enjoying a nightcap in the illustrious Orient Bar, where the prestigious list of former patrons includes Mr Alfred Hitchcock and Ms Greta Garbo.
Written here: Murder On The Orient Express.
Book this room: 411, The Agatha Christie Room.
Photographs by Ms Kelly Fletcher
This pretty Shingle-style house was Mr Rudyard Kipling’s home from 1893 to 1896, and the place where he penned The Jungle Book. Set in rolling New England countryside, it’s now owned by the American Landmark Trust and can be rented out year-round by holidaymakers. Mr Kipling came up with Mowgli and company in front of the fireplace in the study, where you can still avail yourself of his desk. For any more active members of your group (the house sleeps eight), Naulakha is home to Vermont’s first tennis court, and there are some spectacular hiking and biking trails in the immediate vicinity, as well as swimming and boating on the nearby Connecticut River. After a long day, enjoy a soak in Mr Kipling’s beloved tub, where the Nobel laureate “luxuriously parboiled myself in a hot bath knowing I was beholden to no man”.
Written here: The Jungle Book, Captains Courageous, Just So Stories.
Book this room: Naulakha is rented as a whole.
Reid's Palace Hotel, Madeira
Set in subtropical gardens overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Reid’s Palace has, for more than a century, been one of the most glamorous places to stretch out in the sun and relax. Nobel Prize for Literature winner Mr George Bernard Shaw came here in December 1924 for a “sunshine cure” and later said he wrote more on the island than he’d ever done before. The Irish playwright particularly enjoyed bathing in the sea between work sessions, and having tango lessons with the hotel’s instructor. Today, the property’s renowned gardens boast a world-class spa tucked among the trees, and, if you want to follow in Mr Shaw’s syncopated footsteps, an official dinner and dance every Tuesday.
Written here: Mr Shaw’s magnum opus, a political treatise entitled "The Intelligent Woman’s Guide To Socialism And Capitalism".
Book this room: The George Bernard Shaw Suite.
Hôtel d’Alsace on Paris’ arty Left Bank was Mr Oscar Wilde’s final home before his death in 1900. Rumour has it that his final words, uttered here, were: “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or other of us has got to go.” Fortunately, the decor has enjoyed a subsequent uptick, and the establishment has been renamed, in just-the-facts style, L’Hotel. Today it boasts a Michelin-starred restaurant and sleek underground swimming pool, while guests can choose to book into the poet’s former room, now decorated with letters, photographs and framed demands for payment of his hotel bill. With just 20 rooms, it’s the smallest five-star hotel in Paris, and therefore one of the most exclusive, with past guests ranging from Mr Marlon Brando to Mr Salvador Dalí.
Written here: multiple hotel bills addressed to Mr Wilde, which famously went unpaid.
Book this room: The Oscar Wilde Suite (formerly Room 16).