02 Jun Welcome to the jungle – animals in hospitality
Hospitality isn’t where you’d usually expect to find animals (unless you count the city bars on a Thursday night), but some of the most ballin’ creatures on earth can be found in venues all over the world. From palaces worth more than your flat, to cat marriage proposals, these animals are seriously living the dream.
Giraffe Manor, Nairobi
If you’re a giraffe, this spacious 150 acre hotel and grasslands savanna is awesome for two reasons; firstly, you can go wherever you damn well like- literally. The giraffes have total free reign of both the surrounding land and the hotel, which means that you could be sharing your morning toast with a very tall friend. The giraffes regularly stick their heads through the hotel windows and doors to check out the new guests, and if you’re not watching your fruit salad, then that’s on you. You can also opt for an afternoon tea package, where you’ll be served a full English high tea on the veranda whilst your necky friends come and say hello. Pure bliss? The 5*reviews would suggest so.
The second reason that life is pretty sweet for a giraffe in Giraffe manor, is that these beautiful creatures were almost extinct until two philanthropists, Betty Leslie-Melville and her husband Jock, bought the dilapidated hunting lodge (originally owned by one of the Scottish ‘Mackintosh Toffee’ heirs) and turned it into a small guesthouse and sanctuary. Upon purchasing the land, they learnt that it was home to the endangered Rothschild Giraffes, who would soon be wiped out completely as they were essentially getting in the way of land sales (the Kenyan government at the time planned on buying the land the giraffes lived on, splitting it up to sell and then killing off the giraffes). Betty and Jock stepped in, rehomed several of the giraffes, and has been a safe haven for all the subsequent generations of G’s born ever since. Sadly Betty (otherwise known as ‘the giraffe lady’) and Jock are no longer with us, but you can still book a trip to visit the Rothschild giraffe family- just watch your cornflakes.
The Peabody Hotel, Memphis
Like any story worth telling, this begins with two people drinking too much whiskey and having a stupid idea that turned out to be brilliant. Legend has it, that in the 1930’s General manager of the hotel Frank Schutt and friend Chip Barwick had come back from an unsuccessful duck hunting trip with some live decoys that they hadn’t used (yes, you could have live duck decoys back in the day. No, we don’t know why either. Another story for another time). Anyway, they got to drinking and talking, and decided to pop their webb-footed friends in the hotel fountain. The ducks were happy, the guests were delighted, and a tradition was born. However, there is more to this story than some cute chickies paddling around a pool.
It turns out that these ducks were to live the good life; shortly after they were installed and for reasons anyone can only guess at (my guess: too much whiskey again), the hotel owners decided to build the ducks a ‘duck palace’, on the hotel rooftop and made of marble and glass. If that’s not ‘gangtsa’ enough, the price tag certainly is; this little ducky crib cost an eye-watering $200,000 and comes complete with its own grassy front yard and a separate fountain for them to use there too.
The ducks are now a must-see tradition, and the Peabody Duck Master (real job), herds them into the hotel lift, marches them on a red carpet with eager tourists looking on, and into their daily swim in the lobby fountain at 11am every morning. They then get marched back to their Duck pad at 5pm every afternoon. Their lives are, quite literally, Ducking amazing.
Pub Dogs, UK
In the UK, we all know the tradition of the pub dog; they’re friendly, they rule the roost and they demand snuggles and leftovers. Although many of us have our favourites, perhaps one of the most famous pub dogs has to be the ever-loveable Max in The Windmill Pub, Clapham.
Not much is known about the elusive Max’s past, but it doesn’t take much to find the absolute outpouring of affection and love from his fans across social media; in fact, he’s so influential that he’s even featured in a book written about pub dogs. Max, a Bernese Mountain Dog, has a reputation for being super friendly, great with children, and provides an excellent welcome for other four-legged friends, both in the pub itself and the rooms upstairs. Sometimes mistaken for a pony due to his large size, Max is always on hand to help you out with any bits of roast dinner you forgot to eat, or offer a sympathetic paw when you just need a pint and someone to talk to.
Manor Hill House, Worcestershire
Horsing around isn’t something you’d usually welcome at a wedding venue, but at the Manor Hill House in Worcestershire it’s their USP. Originally a family home, the house was undergoing extensive renovation in 2011, when owners Michael and Emma realised that this was a unique opportunity to jump in with both feet and transform their home into a wedding venue. They set about making their dreams come true, and before long what was the dining room, sitting room and drawing room became a bar, reception space and ceremony room. Michael and Emma are very hands on to this day, and in addition to a strong human team, a large part of their success comes down to horse, Jack.
Originally on Michael’s farm, Jack was re-stabled on the Manor Hill site, where he quickly became a favourite amongst wedding guests. Jack is, it has to be said, is an absolute pro at the photobomb, pulling weird and wonderful faces in many a happy couple’s wedding snaps. He also takes quite a shine to bouquets, so don’t stand too close if you’ve got one in your hand- you might end up throwing a bunch of stalks later on.
Algonquin Hotel, New York
The immortal words, ‘Everybody wants to be a cat’ have never been truer when it comes to the legendary cats of the Algonquin Hotel, New York. A long-standing favourite with artists, performers and the literati, legend has it that in the late 1920’s a stray cat wandered into the hotel; at the time, famous actor John Barrymore was performing in Hamlet on Broadway, and so the name Hamlet stuck. In line with tradition, ever since that first kitty, every male has been named ‘Hamlet’, whilst the girls have been christened ‘Matilda’; tradition has also dictated that every cat must be a rescue, and so every feline’s story has been very much a tale (or ‘tail’- oh, stop it) of‘rags to riches’.
The Algonquin is now on their 8th Hamlet, a gorgeous ginger tom who was rescued from a feral colony in New Island. Hamlet now enjoys a full schedule of daily brushes, birthday party appearances, fashion show invites and napping, all carefully arranged by ‘Cat officer’ (yes, you heard that right) and personal assistant to the GM of 14 years, Alice Dealmedia. When asked whether Hamlet ever receives gifts, Alice answered: “We have four oil paintings of the cat. One of his portraits is hanging at the front desk. He gets bow ties and regular ties. Bowls with his name on it. Mats with his name on it. He actually got a Minnesota Twins baseball cap.”
Although Hamlet is not permitted in bedrooms or the dining room, he enjoys a luxurious cat-treehouse in reception, which overlooks a window on to the busy New York street. Never mind nine lives; we’d happily take this cat’s one.