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BACK IN THE SADDLE (AND HERMES) AGAIN
By Michael Matthews
May 31, 2007 -- It's been more than a decade since I actually held the reins of an operating hotel and was the guy in the Hermes tie standing on the front steps.

Well, I'm back at it for now. I'm back in the metaphoric saddle and decked out in Hermes again. To be truthful, I did not know--or didn't remember--what I was letting myself in for.

It's hot at home in Tucson at this time of year so, when I got a call to see if I'd be interested in running a resort in Big Sur, California, I jumped at it.

Big Sur is truly beautiful and the resort I'm managing is one of the best in North America. I've just waved goodbye to Bentleys, Aston Martins, innumerable Porsches and one Maybach. All of them were driven by people whose names you read in People magazine. My first weekend is over and I played to a full house. It was, er, memorable.

Way back in 2004 when I started this column, I told you to call the general manager of any hotel you were going to visit or where you were already in residence. Well, my guests here in one of California's version of paradise have taken my ramblings to heart.

How I'd forgotten that the role of a general manager is more than just smiling!

"I'm so sorry that my two [one clothing-optional] pools are at 83 degrees temperature when our Web site says that they are kept at 80 degrees. But, no, I'm not giving you a refund for your 3-night stay. I'm amazed that you actually travel with a thermometer. How sensible."

"Certainly I understand your anguish, but those red marks on your hands are not bed bug bites, but a super dose of poison oak. No, there's no need to call your lawyer. I will have our house doctor come and confirm my diagnosis. No, I'm not going to shake your hand."

"The fois gras is just that. I know you'd prefer it to be organic but, the way it's made, that's just not possible. No, I'm not refunding you."

"How wonderful you got engaged here last night! Please have your wedding with us. I will make sure that it's spectacular. But don't wait another 14 years to make the decision. I might not be around."

"I know it's cloudy today. I hope that the fog will burn off by noon. I know it's disappointing, but there really is very little I can do. Would you like to go hiking or perhaps visit some galleries? No? Certainly, I will have a Scrabble board sent to your room."

"Madam, I understand that you are 8 months pregnant. And I'm truly sorry that we don't have a guarantee against bugs coming into your room if you leave the balcony door open all night. Keep the door closed--even if it's not the California experience you hoped for. And may you be blessed with a healthy, bouncing boy or girl."

"I am so delighted you are with us. Yes, I love Fawlty Towers, too. But just because I'm English doesn't make me Basil. I'm delighted that housekeeping found your parrot. A most unusual traveling companion and guest, if I may say so."

Grovel, grovel. I love it. I'm back in the saddle and I feel 20 years younger already.

Please come and visit me at the Ventana Inn & Spa. Tell me that you read this column and I promise you a stay that you will never forget.

Just be kind to me when you get here.
ABOUT MICHAEL MATTHEWS Michael Matthews has managed and marketed fine hotels around the world for more than 45 years. He spent 14 years in Hong Kong building the legendary Regent International group. He has also worked with St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton and Rosewood hotels. Matthews is currently based in Arizona. He began writing Do Not Disturb in early 2004.

THE FINE PRINT Joe Brancatelli makes this space available to Michael Matthews in the spirit of free speech and to encourage editorial diversity and the wider discussion of important travel issues. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property of Matthews. This column may not be reproduced in any form without the express permission of Michael Matthews.

This column is Copyright 2007 by Michael Matthews. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2007 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.