Hotel History and Culture

Unique amenities and personalized services are becoming increasingly in-demand at luxury hotels. Some might label these services over-the-top — and some of them are — but many of the butlers, sommeliers, and experts of the hotel world are performing real and important services for guests. And we here at Oyster want to hear their stories — especially if they include exciting and heartwarming tales from Ireland’s rich past! Descendants of the Emerald Isle are scattered far and wide around the globe, yet many often find themselves returning home to discover their roots. And giving them a helping hand is Helen Kelly, the Genealogy Butler at The Shelbourne Dublin, A Renaissance Hotel. A professional genealogist, Kelly has been aiding the Irish in their quest for their ancestral history since the 1980s, and has worked with The Shelbourne since 1995 as, quite literally, the only Genealogy Butler in the world.

The Shelbourne's Genealogy Butler, Helen Kelly, "empowers" guests to track down their ancestors.*

The Shelbourne Dublin itself is a historic icon located on St. Stephen’s Green. Built in 1824, the property has witnessed major historical events firsthand (the Irish Constitution was signed here in 1922) and has hosted plenty of famous guests (including Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Princess Grace Kelly, Bill Clinton, and Bono).

Hotel guests, who perhaps get inspired by their storied surroundings, can make an appointment with Kelly to review whatever information they have on their ancestors. She will then be able to offer guidance on how to best track down more information in a city where the mass of historical documents and institutions is daunting. Over a one-hour consultation — which costs 100 Euro — guests will receive a full assessment from Kelly on their ancestral history, as well as an overview of the history, culture, and landscape of Ireland.

To read more about Kelly’s work as Genealogy Butler, check out our interview after the jump.

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Skyfall comes out this Friday and to celebrate we’ve taken a walk down double-oh seven lane (which involved watching all 22 films, of course). And we’ve discovered that — just like us — Bond has a thing for traveling, and particularly,  staying at ultra-luxe hotels. Whether it’s where the character was born or where the infamous “shaken, not stirred” line originated, the debonair crime fighter has left his mark on some of our favorite spots around the globe.

Bond-Approved Hotel #1: GoldenEye Hotel & Resort, Jamaica

Today, the massive Fleming Villa remains intact, featuring its own private pool and even the writer’s original desk over which he slaved year after year.

Today, the massive Fleming Villa remains intact, featuring its own private pool and even the writer’s original desk over which he slaved year after year.

Why 007 loves it: The GoldenEye Hotel is where it all started. Reopened in 2010 after a $50 million renovation, this Jamaican hotspot is the former residence of Ian Fleming, who came up with his famous character on the property’s lush grounds. Every year, the scribe spent several months in his ocean-side villa, writing all 14 of his famous tales of the sleek and sophisticated spy. When Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Chris Blackwell bought the property in the 1980s, he realized the appeal of the historic estate as well as its untouched surroundings and converted it into a resort.

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It’s time to get your spook on. Halloween is just two short weeks away, and for many that means shaking out the costumes, buying some candy and cueing the Monster Mash marathon. But for the brave of heart, Oyster’s here to help you choose your spooky itinerary for Fright Night. No matter where you are across the globe, hauntings and mysteries abound that are sure to scare your socks off. From ghost towns to witches’ hideaways, we’ve found some of the best places to spook and be spooked — and where to rest your head (if you can) at the end of the day. But we’d suggest sleeping with one eye open…

Visit a Ghost Town

The American West is rife with these abandoned metropolises that once served as centers for mining and railroad operations. Walking among the now-desolate edifices that line the streets of these ghost towns is like taking a spooky step back in time, and as the nation’s largest unreconstructed ghost town, Bodie, California is the perfect spot to get your frightening fix. Founded in 1859 on the heels of the gold rush, the town’s 200 original structures once housed thousands of residents – families, robbers, miners, gunslingers, prostitutes – but now they stand eerily empty. Visitors come seeking ghostly encounters — or even just great photos, as the abandoned buildings look hauntingly beautiful at night.

The Hotel: Evergreen Lodge at Yosemite 

When the sun goes down, the monsters come out to play at Yosemite's Evergreen Lodge.

Located east of Yosemite National Park, Bodie is a fun and spooky visit for campers looking to combine history with mystery this Halloween. And the Evergreen Lodge, a 22-acre cabin resort nestled into the Stanislaus National Forest, is a great spot to call home at the end of the day (if you’re not camping on-site).

Other Haunts: Other ghost towns of the American West worth checking out include Jerome, Arizona (which is well-known for its spectral lore — watch out for the beautiful Sammie Dean!) and South Pass City, Wyoming.

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From the cryptic mythology throughout the Mississippi Delta, to the spirits of wartime past down the Atlantic coast, the South has no shortage of spooky adventures. Whether you’re looking for a friendly encounter from the other side, or trying to find a true adrenaline rush by meeting with a tortured (undead) soul, these Southern haunts have plenty of history and unexplained mysteries for thrill-seeking travelers.

The Hotel: Embassy Suites Charleston, Historic Charleston

Be on the look-out for any "half-headed" cadets at this Charleston hotel

The ghostlore: Charleston prides itself on its chilling past, and it’s no wonder that the town where the Civil War started has its share of lingering souls. One of the city’s most haunted sites is the Embassy Suites hotel in the downtown Historic District. Known as the Old Citadel, the building formerly housed the State Arsenal and military college, which is located just a short drive away nowadays. Legend has it that The Lost Cadet, or “Half Head,” roams the hotel’s halls to this day. The spirit is said to be a young solider missing the top half of his head after losing it to a cannonball. But despite his misfortune, he apparently has a joyful demeanor. Read More »

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Halloween looms in the near future (though we must confess, we’ve been planning our costumes for months) and we’re doing just about everything we can to get into the spooky spirit. Carving pumpkins? Check. Watching a scary movie? Check. Visiting a spooky spot? Check. In fact, some of our favorite hotels are not only home to quaint rooms, delicious restaurants, and friendly staff — they also host resident ghosts. Fortunately, most of these shady figures are reportedly nice enough, but it certainly gives us a little chill when checking-in. Especially when we’re visiting the chilly Northeast. Continue reading — if you dare — to learn more about the spooky specters that haunt the Northeast’s hotels.

The Hotel: Jailhouse Inn, Rhode Island

Enter the Jailhouse Inn...if you dare...

Enter the Jailhouse Inn...at your own risk...

The ghostlore: Originally built in 1772, the Jailhouse Inn occupies what used to be the old Newport County Jail. In keeping with the jail theme, the inn features interesting little artifacts and details throughout, such as iron bars over the lobby front desk, framed articles about famous criminals, and signs directing guests to “solitary” and various “cell blocks.” Stories abound of ghosts visiting the Jailhouse, so if you keep your eyes open perhaps you’ll see one too — especially if you stay on the third floor. Guests have felt cool gusts of wind when it’s hot outside and no windows are open, and others have heard whispering voices that can’t be explained — all evidence of paranormal activity.

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Manhattan's Columbus Day Parade dances its way down 5th Avenue. Photo credit: Asterix611/Flickr

We all know the rhyme (or you really should): In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue — and people have been celebrating his discovery of the “New World” ever since. But no one showers the famed Genovese explorer with more praise than his Italian compatriots. From coast to coast, Italians celebrate their rich heritage, vibrant culture, and noteworthy achievements (chief among those being the conviction that the world is not, in fact, flat) on Columbus Day with parades, music, and feasts. And the bastions of Italian culture — America’s Little Italys — are the sites of some of our favorite festivities and traditions. We’ve picked out the best places to march and mangia in these old-world enclaves, as well as our favorite spots to bed up for the night after indulging in plenty of pasta, pastries, and vino. Cent’anni! Read More »

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School may be back in session (groan…), but students don’t have to wait until Spring Break for their next set of adventures.  Though most colleges encourage students to venture out of the classroom for hands-on experience in with their majors, finding the funds isn’t easy on a student loan budget. That’s why we’ve found amazing value destinations for college students in need of a little field training. So close the books and get out on the road instead — it’s time to put those lessons into play!

Your Major: Business
The Place to Visit: Atlanta

Atlanta is an "alpha city" driven by several Fortune 500 companies

With a $304 billion economy and the third largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the U.S., Atlanta is one of the most business-driven cities in the country. Hotlanta is known as an “alpha” city (i.e., an important economic city) thanks to major brands like Coca-Cola, Home Depot, Delta Airlines, and UPS setting up headquarters in the Georgia capital. So for business students trying to get some early networking experience, Atlanta is the best city to start handing out cards.

In the heart of Atlanta’s downtown Business District, this Marriott is an affordable option on a student budget, and boasts an impressive gym and business center – perfect for power-lunch prepping. Read More »

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The super-chic Jen Ford, Fashion News and Features Director at shopping bible Lucky, packed her bags and hopped across the pond to find the most fabulous shops some of London‘s neighborhoods have to offer. (After, of course, she spilled her fave NYC hotels to us.) Ford explored two very different areas: Mayfair, “a borough of fancy boutiques and High Street finds,” as well as the up-and-coming Shoreditch ‘hood near London’s East End. But what would a proper shopping trip to London be without having a proper place to rest your head? Not a lot whole lot. So we teamed up with the editors at luckymag.com to find six chic spots to wind down after a whirlwind day of perusing London’s best stores.

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The Golden Gate Bridge is turning 75. Come celebrate!

The Golden Gate Bridge is turning 75. Visit SF and celebrate!

The Golden Gate Bridge, one of the world’s most recognizable structures and San Francisco’s icon par excellence, is turning 75 years old on May 27th! San Francisco is honoring its oldie with several different celebrations, including fireworks, tours, and photo exhibitions. Tens of thousands of locals and tourists are expected to flock to the city to mark this special occasion, so check out our favorite packages to jump on this weekend before they book up! »

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Entrance of the Hotel of South Beach; Miami, FL

Art Deco is a term that is practically synonymous with South Beach. The style started in 1920s Paris, and was typified by its use of man-made materials (i.e. glass or steel), repetition and symmetry, and ornate motifs – think sunbursts or chevron patterns. While Art Deco style can be found in almost every corner of the globe, South Beach is its unofficial hot bed. Check out our favorite Art Deco spots now!

 

 

 

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