Monday, September 7, 2009

Thoughts on Luxury

RHYS; I've just finished the first draft of my latest Royal Spyness book called Royal Blood, and the whole premise of these books is a heroine trying to survive with no money among those who are used to palaces and yachts on the Med.

There is a sale at Bloomingdales this weekend and it dawned on me that I don't need anything. Isn't this one of the big ironies of life? Now I have money to buy clothes, I really don't need any more. Now that I have money to get a good perm, straight hair is in. Now I could go out to expensive restaurants whenever I like, I have to watch what I eat

And this got me thinking about luxury and dreams, fulfilled and unfulfilled. When I was young one of my fantasies was to stay at a Five Star hotel and having room service. This dream was fulfilled early on as my husband worked for an airline and we stayed at places like the Taj in India where our every whim was catered to. Recently I've been on book tours and stayed at plenty of first class hotels, and had to order room service as I don't get back from an event until nine-thirty or ten. And I'm usually so tired that I don't appreciate the decor in the room (unless it's very weird, like one tres modern room last year that was all white curtains to knee height and everything black below that.

So what is luxury to me now? Time. Today I noticed that some of the maples were turning red and I realized that summer was over and I didn't spend a single day sitting on a beach or in the shade with a good book and a cool drink. It's my own fault, of course. I could choose not to write two books a year and spend the summer just hanging out. But it's hard to say no when things are going well. And it do enjoy the writing, and the touring. And I have to confess that I know myself. If I had nothing to do all summer, I'd find something. I don't veg out easily.

Time is one luxury I still crave. I can think of some luxurious travel I haven't yet accomplished--a good safari, a cruise around the Eastern Mediterranean and up the Nile. But apart from that I'm really quite content. I don't crave Prada or diamonds. I enjoy eating at a top restaurant occasionally, if the food is something I couldn't cook myself. But if I had to choose my perfect day, it would be a picnic in a beautiful spot with good cheeses, crusty bread, chilled wine--and maybe a few oysters or a cold lobster--it is supposed to be luxury after all. And I've discovered that what is important to me is the people I'm sharing my time with. I'm happy surrounded by friends and family.

So, dear JRR sisters--what is your definition of luxury and how has it changed?

HALLIE: Like you Rhys, I find myself at this point in my life extremely contented. Knock wood, and I do all the time: good health, happy kids, and husband who laughs at my jokes are basically what I want in this life, and I have them.

Having said that, the one luxury I yearn for is flying first class. But every time I go to book a flight, an upgrade seems like a ridiculously expensive indulgence, even when we’re using frequent flyer miles. But I recently flew to Australia scrunched into Coach for 18+ hours and 3 Valium barely blunted the jealous rage I felt toward those folks in first class getting treated to filet mignon and champagne as they lounged in their fully reclining seats. And to add insult to injury, what's playing on our ceiling mounted TVs? The Food Channel. PLUS, and this really burned me, those entitled folks up in first class kept coming back to use the bathroom in coach.

I reminded myself, once upon a time just getting to travel to a place as far away and fabulous as Australia would have been my dream of luxury. Australia IS fabulous. Good thing it's not closer or it would overrun with Americans.

RHYS: Oh Hallie, I agree one hundred percent. Traveling first class--now that's a luxury I do crave. I'm heading to Australia and about to face the dreaded flight in coach. Just one teeny weeny real bestseller--that's all we need!

JAN: It's not that I'm immune to a nice dinner, a lovely hotel or first class airefare (I agree with Hallie, especially on a long fight, and especially when you have long legs), but for the most part, luxury is wasted on me. My husband took me to the St. Regis Hotel in New York, and basically, it made me uncomfortable. I really don't need a butler showing me where the bathroom is or how to work the TV. (A remote? oh, how unlikely.)I prefer a smaller, more modest hotel with character, and I even prefer to carry my own bags.

I'm with Rhys, to me luxury is time with the people you love. And of course, really good seats at a Red Sox game.

RO: Yup. Time is the greatest luxury for me right now. Every once in a while I have a found day and I find myself looking over my shoulder - as if my conscience will be there telling "you really should be doing this.." And space. I don't really want a bigger house, but I'd love more of a buffer between me and the outside world. Not seeing another house from my window is a big thing to me.Lest you think that I have achieved some higher state where only intangibles like time and space mean anything to me.. I flew business class to Dubai last month and coach back and let me tell you, business is way better. Other luxuries..? Good champagne, professional blowdrys, personal trainer, my ridiculously expensive dermatologist..that's all I'm prepared to reveal right now.

ROBERTA: I guess we're all down home kind of girls--or else not willing to admit otherwise:). A number of years ago, we did stay at the Ritz in Palm Springs because it was a business trip and we could write it off. The experience irritated my hub to death as they nickled and dimed us even though the room itself cost a fortune. Why not roll it all in to the already whopping fee instead of charging an extra twenty bucks for valet parking, a cup of coffee in the am, etc? We ended up parking a half mile away and hiking to the hotel rather than paying the extra--just for the principle.

But I'm like the rest of you--first class on a long flight means a lot. Last summer we flew to Istanbul and used miles (a lot of them!) to upgrade to business. Feather pillow, reclining seats, tasty meals--it made the overnight flight and arrival a lot less painful. We flew coach on the way home and it was truly like rats crammed into a cage. The stewardess had to come and mediate a fight right in front of us over the angle of incline in someone's seat.
HANK: Luxury? For me? Right now, it would be being able to relax. Somehow I'm having a difficult time with that. I always think--there's MORE I should be doing. Writing, planning, promoting, organizing, mailing, blogging. Working on my stories at the station. Not to mention laundry and cooking and fall clothes and--I even had to force myself to go out and pick the dahlias, a project I usually adore.
Last night at 11 PM, I was stuffing envelopes. And I thought--well, this is pretty hilarious!
But, like Hallie, my husband laughs at my jokes. And we allow ourselves great wine and food. And my big luxury--nice closets. And expensive shower gel. Yes, I admit it.

RHYS: What a serene and saintly bunch we are. Nobody wanted face lifts, botox or visits to a spa--although now that I write about it I think a week at a desert spa retreat doesn't sound so bad.So, dear friends--any sinful luxuries or cravings?


  1. I want time away -- with my canine partner, off-duty -- in some little B&B at the edge of a state park and in walking distance of a small town that has a couple of cafes where we could eat at a sidewalk table, and a little coffee shop showing old movies on the side of the building at night.
    And I want to pack little beyond the armload of books on my to-read list.

    Mostly I want to amble through the woods with The Golden, finding what we want because we're curious and the weather is lovely. And I want to sit down when it suits us both, and lie back in the turf and look up at the sky. I want to feel her head on my knees and hear her huff a happy sigh: You and I and this is Ours.


    I'd also like a bottle of Dom Perignon to drink afterward. }:>

  2. Susannah,
    Dom Perignon afterward??? How about during the amble???

    Sounds good to me.

    And Ro, I'm amending my definition of luxury to include good seats at the US OPEN, too.

  3. Oh yes, good seats at all the tennis majors (and a first class flight to watch them)

  4. Yeah, time, at least 6 weeks vacation a year. And a little more money. Enough to treat my lovely adult sons to vacations more frequently. To travel with my beau. To see my mother in California more than once or twice a year. To get to Nepal and Tahiti and Rome and Beijing and other places I haven't visited yet (even in coach!). Icing on the cake would be to be able to drink very fine red wine for dinner daily instead of the acceptable but mundane Charles Shaw or Concha Y Toro. And with all that, to be able to retire while I am still a conscious being!

  5. I'm putting next year's tour on hiatus during Wimbledon. Not sure I'll have good seats but it'll be my treat after 2 months of La Quintas.

    Re: Roberta's experience with the Ritz..I had a similar experience at The Ahwahnee in Yosemite. That's supposed to be the glam place to stay, but I'd really rather stay at the downmarket Curry Cabins or White Wolf. Champagne in the woods after a long hike is my idea of deluxe.

  6. Ah, closets. Now that would be a luxury.

    I've dabbled my toes in a few nice hotels, and enjoyed a clutch of three-star restaurants, but time is the real killer these days. If I had my way, I'd have money in my pocket, a car, and the time to ramble around Europe (although Australia is wonderful), stopping where I felt like it, exploring out-of-the-way ruins and museums, eating at any place that smelled good. With a laptop, of course.

  7. I'm with you on the nickle and diming in expensive hotels.... When we go to visit family, we stay in an 80's no-frills place that offers free internet. When we stayed in a very nice hotel in downtown Chicago a year ago, we were shocked to see that they charged an obscene rate for the same service. As far as luxury--for me, it means time as well--the finances to fix whatever breaks, and a double oven!