A former tax lawyer, Guido van den Elshout is owner of the luxurious Haagsche Suites (click here for last year’s special feature on A Luxury Travel Blog) in The Hague. He is also a contributor to two travel blogs.
What is it that you do exactly?
I’m a 58 years young sort of Jack of all Trades:
1) I started my working life as an international tax lawyer and practiced as such for over 25 years and traveled extensively; in 1996 my Dad asked me to take the rudder of the family company here in the Hague and consequently I moved after living more than 25 years elsewhere to The Hague where I was born and raised. I moved into a town house that is located back to back with the company’s office: hurray, no more commuting! The company is engaged in renting out residential property, mainly apartments, the majority of which the company has built itself in a time span of over 110 years. I am the proud 4th generation of the company. The tenant record is a person who lived in one of our apartments for over 75 years! Under my reign the company renovated many properties. While working for the company i phased out and finally terminated my tax practice.
2) In 2000, we were able to buy a townhouse next to our home and extensively renovated it into something new, something between a luxurious B&B and the suite floor of a luxurious hotel, or a hotel without cheap rooms. We called it Haagsche Suites (ie. Suites of The Hague). My wife, a friend of hers and I have operated Haagsche Suites next to the family business since the fall of 2002.
3) A friend of mine had set up a website dedicated to listing and independently reviewing B&Bs and the smaller independent hotels in the Netherlands and Belgium. Upon his request I participate in the Dutch language blog forming part of the site. After suggesting to him to enhance the international reach of his site we decided in good harmony that I would start up an English language blog of my own. That became Happy Hotelier.
Summarizing: I am the doorman, bellman, concierge, front desk agent, technology engineer, limo driver, valet parking attendant, city guide, Sargent at Arms and photographer at wedding ceremonies, cleaning boy, gardener, pond- and central heating technician, personal assistant, butler, waiter, web administrator of our websites, cook, designer, developer and owner of a small and very luxurious hotel, and I blog from time to time about what interests me or what is useful.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Seeing our guests (including your good self) frequently being genuinely and pleasantly surprised when we surpass their expectations.
What would you say are the 3 best places you’ve ever stayed?
A difficult question to answer. I am inclined to shameless self promotion, but I’ll give you some of my best experiences.
Recently we stayed in the Radisson SAS Style Hotel, Vienna. Apart from some glitches, the service is excellent, the location is excellent for a Viennese shopping tour in the very center of Vienna and directly opposite one of the best old fashioned coffee houses of Vienna (Central). This is really a stylish and very well appointed hotel that has avoided the usual pitfalls of the average design or boutique hotel: its rooms are spacey, it has a very good feel despite the design, it has some very clever design details, it has free WiFi, and above all: location, location and… location.
In summer we usually stay at the Babenberger Hof in MĂ¶dling outside of Vienna, Austria. MĂ¶dling was the seat of the Babenbergers long before the Habsburgers took the reigns of Austria. It is a small old town about 20 km south west from Vienna. It is in the wine area. In the relatively warm summers the temperature is always a bit lower than the temperature in Vienna itself. The rooms in the Babenberger Hof are middle of the road, but they come at affordable rates. The service in this family owned hotel is excellent and, last but not least, its kitchen is excellent.
The Bentley experience: when we arrive somewhere and a nice Bentley (no, alas not ours) is parked in front of the place. It happened when we stayed in Ockenden Manor last summer (nice food!), at Residenz Heinz Winkler and at our usual German stopover Hotel Sonne in Offenburg. Then it is highly likely we will feel at home.
What’s been your most memorable dining experience to date?
In December we stayed at German’s top chef Heinz Winkler’s hotel/restaurant Residenz Heinz Winkler. He has a wine bible of over 950 wines. Never seen so many wines listed in a restaurant wine list before. Apart from an really really excellent diner, the sommelier did an excellent job by waltzing the wine of choice fully around in all the glasses. It enhanced the experience of tasting tremendously and I had never seen a sommelier do this before.
Have you rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous, either through your work or your travels?
Yes I do and did, but I would not like to brag about them and believe they also would not like me to brag about them.
What currently ranks highest on your travel wishlist?
A visit to Copenhagen; a visit to South Africa around Cape Town; I will visit Istanbul also later this year; a wine buying spree in the Bordeaux area… and many more.
Thanks, Guido. And yes, your place most certainly did exceed expectations!