If we're being honest, we love a good dose of juicy gossip almost as much as we love luxury travel. That’s why we're fascinated when we discover posh hotels — currently in operation — that serve up a slice of scandalous history right alongside room service and turndown service. It adds a certain je ne sais quoito a stay... wouldn't you say?
So, with former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer back in the news for creating yet another prostitution scandal at a luxury hotel (it was New York's tony Plaza Hotel this time), here's where we want to check in for a plush bed with a side of drama:
1. Watergate, Washington
Let's start the list with the hotel everyone knows is synonymous with scandal: the Watergate Hotel. In the middle of the night in June 1972, five men, working on behalf of President Richard Nixon's re-election campaign, broke into the hotel. The thieves were trying to steal classified documents from Democratic National Committee’s office within the hotel complex and bug their telephones. Although Nixon won that year’s Presidential race, his days were numbered when information about his involvement in the break-in came to light, leading to his resignation in August 1974. If you’ve ever wanted to stay at the site of government-rocking history, now’s the time: The hotel has just undergone a $125million renovation — complete with some exciting new dining concepts — and will reopen this spring.
2. The Mayflower Hotel, Washington
Perhaps unsurprisingly, politicians feature prominently in the salacious details of this list. Almost exactly eight years before his antics led police to the door of his plush Plaza Hotel suite, New York governor Eliot Spitzer booked a romantic Valentine’s evening in room 871 at the Mayflower Renaissance with a young lady, helpfully facilitated by an exclusive escort agency. Little did Spitzer (who, lest we forget, ran on a campaign promising ethics in politics and who had harshly prosecuted prostitution cases during his career) know, his irregular financial activities had instigated a wiretap. The inevitable then followed: Spitzer held a remorseful press conference with his wife at his side, later resigned, then launched a media career. Oddly, the grand Mayflower Hotel, which is now part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, also played a part in the Clinton scandal of the mid-90s, with the president being photographed hugging a certain Monica Lewinsky at the hotel. Lewinsky later returned to the property to testify — from the presidential suite no less.
3. Cliveden House, England
Cliveden House is an elegant Italianate English country mansion set on gardens and woodlands above the banks of the Thames. The mansion, which is now run as a five-star hotel and part of the Relais and Chateau collection, has been home to many an aristocrat and was the setting of one of Britain’s biggest political scandals, the notorious Profumo Affair. The ill-fated first meeting between John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War, and Christine Keeler, a 19-year-old aspiring model who was possibly also involved with a Soviet naval attaché, took place at the outdoor pool at Cliveden in 1961. Their affair was brief but calamitous, leading to Profumo’s resignation, the suicide of his friend, and the collapse of the Conservative government. Nowadays the hotel unabashedly advertises itself as a "romantic and secluded getaway."
4. Hotel Caribe, Cartagena, Colombia
Many remember the scandal a few years ago when 13 secret service agents, on a presidential trip to Colombia’s Caribbean city of Cartagena, were revealed to have hired the services of local sex workers, bringing them back to the five-star Hotel Caribe. The scandal, however, was not that the agents were looking for a good time — rather that one thought he could get away with not paying for services rendered. Prostitution is legal in Cartagena, which means one of the women was not afraid to have a cop intervene on her behalf when an agent refused to pay up, which ultimately led to the night’s shenanigans being revealed to the world. Scandal aside, the hotel boasts lovely Spanish-style architecture, lush gardens, and a dreamy outdoor pool.
5. MGM Grand, Las Vegas
It’s testament to a commitment to the “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” philosophy that so-called Sin City has had relatively few hotel scandals of note. Tiger Woods, however, found himself the center of media attention in 2010 when he was revealed to have spent some quality time with Jamie Jungers — one of several female companions during the golfer’s heyday who was not his wife — at The Mansion at MGM Grand. The exclusive and opulent mansion is described, perhaps aptly, as “an enclave of privacy and pleasure where the sensual riches of Tuscany reach their fullest expression.”
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