Ceiling fans, verandas, tea in the afternoon and G&T's allways. The world's best colonial era hotels...
Green Hotel, Mysore, India
This lovely hotel was built in the 1920s as the Chittaranjan Palace on the outskirts of the city for the maharaja of Mysore's three daughters. It later became a film studio and is now it's a ravishingly cute small hotel, with 31 quirkily decorated rooms and all profits going to local charities.
The lawns and plantins at the Green Hotel. Photo Green Hotel
It's the perfect place to relax and play a board game - perhaps by the croquet lawn, sitting under a ceiling fan on the ivy-clad veranda, or in a nook by stained-glass windows. The little restaurant in the garden does superb south Indian specialities too, from about £2. They key to a really successful stay here is to make sure and book yourself into the original building for its pukka patina. See Green Hotel
Pasanggrahan Royal Guest House: Phillipsburg, St Martin
The small Caribbean island of St Martin is one of the world's nicest anomalies: a happy holiday island shared by two countries. Half is French and half is Dutch, and each has a slice of the excellent beaches and superb restaurants, though the Dutch side sees more than its fair share of development.
The modest entrance to the oldest hotel on the island, the Pasanggrahan Royal Guest House. Photo My Bathroom Wall
Yet tucked away under some shady trees off the main street in the Dutch part's little capital of Phillipsburg, is the delightful Pasanggrahan Royal Guest House. It was built in 1905 as the residence of the Dutch governor, and has used the 'Royal' moniker since Queen Beatrix stayed here on her Caribbean tour. 'Pasanggrahan' means 'guest house' in Indonesian.
The cute antique-filled lounge area. Photo My Bathroom Wall
The main street of Phillipsburg is Front Street; a narrow road busy with cruise passengers. There are some pretty plasterboard houses, but mainly it's duty free shops and bars. It's easy to miss the Passanggharan as it's set back from the road and veiled by trees.
Climb the wooden steps, cross the veranda, and the lounge room cum lobby is a cool space open to the street on one side and the beach on the other. There's no cliché row of clocks telling the time in Tokyo or Washington here. But as the tropical torpor is infectious, who cares? The cosy room has wishbone-backed chairs, antique dressers, and a delightfully incongruous painting of Queen Beatrix, in all her formal finery.
The shaded beach-facing side of the hotel. Photo My Bathroom Wall
On the beach side, wooden tables spill onto the sand under a veranda, shaded by almond trees. This is where breakfast is served, as well as excellent seafood specials in the evenings.
Janet opens the tiny bar at 6pm, and from then 'til late is on hand for a hearty chuckle. It's smaller than a one-car garage, with bright red and white cushioned stools, but it opens onto the sea facing veranda and the hotel's shaded beech restaurant. Now that's my kind of mini bar. It's named after the once devoted regular, Sydney Greenstreet - the portly actor who played Senior Ferrari in Casablanca and the Maltese Falcon's 'The Fat Man', who came here to cavort with his coterie in the 1940's.
The cosy old bijou bar. Photo My Bathroom Wall
Most rooms are in a side wing, renovated after the hurricane Luis hit the island in 1995. They are large, with four-poster beds, air con, and a good-sized balcony overlooking the beach. Hibiscus flowers grow across the trellis. Most atmospheric by far though, is the Queen's suit above the main house, with wooden floors, and antique furniture.
The suite and veranda used by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. Photo My Bathroom Wall
Foreign Correspondants' Club, Phmon Penh, Cambodia
The art deco-style residence of the former French governor has been reinvented as a boutique hotel-cum-hip nightspot. The mansion's makeover includes 31 cutting-edge rooms - the beige and cream calm that you'd expect - plus bold contemporary art, a spa and a beautiful black-tiled swimming pool perfect for dusting off after a day at Angkor's temples.
The best colonial bar in town always has a good craic. Photo Foreign Correspondant's Club
Whether you stay here or not, you have to drop by in the evening, when the large pond is lit by candles and the ceiling fans are at full tilt. You can grab a steak, play on the black billiard table, watch the sky darken over a cocktail, or salute the many skittering geckos with a cold bottle of Angkor beer. See the FCC Phmon Penh
The Windsor, Cairo
When the chaos and cacophony of Cairo get too much, it's time to head back to the Windsor Hotel for a nightcap in it's famous 'Barrel Bar', where the chairs are crafted from old beer barrels and the walls hang with sepia prints and peeling paintings of Old Cairo.
If you approach the Windsor by walking along the busy Sharia Alfi Bey street, you might be disappointed. The ground floor is now a mess of falafel shops and travel agents, and its five stories of dark brickwork above them don't give much away either. But arrive from via the wonderful little Arab Street that runs parallel to it, with men smoking shesha pipes and playing round-the-clock backgammon, and the entrance is surrounded by potted plants and is very inviting.
The Windsor Hotel's entrance and famous Barrel Bar. Photo Windsor Hotel
The building originally housed a Turkish bath for Royal Cairenes, which was requisitioned as an officers club by the British. After that it was remodelled as an annex hotel to the legendary Shepherds Hotel, which was gutted by rioters in the 1952 anti colonial uprising.
The smoke-faded décor of the lobby is perked up by randomly placed Spider Plants, a peg and hole telephone exchange, and an antique cage lift. Curious dot the corridors, like a sewing machine and drinks cabinet, as well as some once-stylish airline posters from the 1960's. The rooms are large, with a hotchpotch of antique furniture, etchings depicting far-flung scenes of empire, like the Delhi Durbar of 1911, and heavily worn, though clean bathrooms.
The gloriously fusty Barrel Bar. Photo Windsor Hotel
The only thing you can't be sure of is whether the brutishly beautiful cage lift will ever stop flush with a floor, and just how long it'll take before the hot water feeds through antique plumbing. Everything else, from the perfect boiled egg at breakfast, to the super friendly staff, is a given. Michael Palin stayed here and featured the Windsor's eccentricities on his 'Around the World in 80 days'. See Windsor Hotel
Emerson & Green, Zanzibar
Wandering care free down the narrow alleyways of the Zanzibari capital, Stone Town, is the highlight of any stay on the island. It may be just a few miles off the coast of Africa, but thanks to a long history as an Arab trading post, the town's atmosphere is pure Arabian Nights. You'll be delightfully lost in its maze of streets before you can say Ali Baba.
The rooftop chilling area and restaurant are hard to leave. Photo Emerson on Hurumzi
Any local will help you back to the the Emerson on Hurumzi (formerly the Emerson & Green) though, which paradoxically stands out from the surrounding plain-walled buildings, once you are close enough that is. This impressive peach-coloured mansion was formerly known as Hurumzi House, and was once the residence of Tharia Thopan, a kingpin in the Swahili Empire. It's still the second tallest building in town, runner up only to the Sultan's grand ceremonial palace, fitted with the island's first electric light bulbs and known as the House of Wonders. In the 1880's Hurumzi House was used by the British colonisers as a place to pay off Arab traders to sell their slaves, and since 1991, it's been the much-loved project of Messrs Emerson & Green.
Lattice-worked wood screens line the small reception, which leads off to the Kidude Café, with its chessboard floor tiles and Arab lanterns. There are impossibly narrow and steep stairs leading up to the 10 romantically decked out rooms, all with four poster beds and stone baths. Each has it's own quirk, so choosing the one you'd prefer can be difficult. Do you fancy the Keep Suite's private rooftop turret, the North Room's large bath that's part open to the night's sky, or the Pavilion Suite's intimate veranda?
Whichever room you take, breakfast up in the Tower Top restaurant is a special treat, with floor seating on cushions and rugs, and great views out over the red rooftops onto the ocean. It's the most popular sundowner spot in town, so be sure to book for evening meals. See Emeron on Hurumzi
Old Cataract, Egypt
On the banks of the Nile, south of Aswan, where big, grey boulders emerge from the water and give Elephantine Island its name, is the Old Cataract Hotel. Built in 1899, it immediately became a post cruise haven for all well-heeled travellers to Egypt. Agatha Christie was a guest on numerous occasions, writing her Death on the Nile whodunit here and setting several key scenes in and around the hotel.
Then - as now - the summer temperatures soared into the 100s, and Aswan remains famous for its energy-sapping bustle, but inside the jealously guarded Cataract you can find an oasis of shade and sophistication. It was slobbing by the pool here that I first tried an ice cold glass of Karkadeh - the rosehip infusion popular in Egypt and throughout the Middle East.
Night time at the pool in front of the Sofital Old Cataract. Photo Sofitel
The Moorish dining hall is fantastically atmospheric, and the sunset views over the Nile are unbeatable, either while smoking a shesha or sipping a cocktail. The hotel reopened after a controversial renovation in 2011 and has lost its historic patina. The terraces are undoubtedly stunning, but the decor and design - though impressive - as about as far from the faded charm of the hotel's earlier incarnation as you could imagine. See Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Aswan
One more thing...spare a thought for the wonderful Baron Hotel, Aleppo, Syria
When I visited a little before the current conflict, there was no better spot - after climbing the ramparts of Aleppo's magnificent citadel and strolling through its covered souk - for a recuperative G&T than the bar of the Baron Hotel.
An ancient BOAC poster gracing the staircase of the Baron Hotel, Aleppo. Photo Flickr/Claudio Borgognoni
The Baron was built in 1911 by the current owner's grandfather, partly for Orient-Express passengers, who at that time would have been pushing on to Baghdad by train.
The old settees sag from the seats of Charles Lindbergh, Yuri Gagarin, Charles de Gaulle, Theodore Roosevelt and many more. Gamal Abdel Nasser gave a speech here in 1958, and King Faisal even proclaimed Syrian independence from a balcony. And I know it sounds like a bit like the old faithful 'oldest pub in England' boast - as I've drank in at last three of them, but it almost goes without saying that the most ubiquitous of literary guests, Agatha Christie, started penning Murder on the Orient Express here too.
But it's Lawrence of Arabia, with his casual attitude towards settling a tab, who gets pole position in the roll call of fame: his unpaid drinks bill was framed above the bar.
The historic bar of the Baron Hotel, where TE Lawrence last left witout paying. Photo Flickr/Claudio Borgognoni
The hotel had clanky plumbing and creaky corridors, but was an absolute treat. Of course it's no longer open, and it seems to have been lightly damage on the roof from incoming shellfire, but it does at least appear to be still standing.
Shuttered windows and antique fittings come as standard in the rooms of the Baron, Aleppo. Photo Flickr/Pietro Ferreira
There are no placques or fancy suites named after them, but the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk stayed in Room 201, King Faisal I of Iraq and Syria stayed in Room 215, Agatha Christie was in 2013, and the room that I stayed in when I was last there, 202, was used by Lawrence.