22 SEPTEMBER 2007, Page 57

What women want

Sarah Standing says that luxury hotels tick all the right boxes Gentlemen, I'm going to let you in on one of the great mysteries of life. I'm going to tell you what most married women really, really want Forget big rocks and red roses. Forget boxes of violet creams and tomes of sentimental poetry — even offering to empty the dishwasher. What women secretly crave is simple. It's called room service. Room service is the blockbuster of romantic gestures. Hotels tick all the right boxes for women in a way that men find vaguely unfathomable. I think this is possibly because they regard staying at hotels as functional — an expensive part of their travel itinerary. Women think differently.

For many women it's the hotel that holds the real attraction; often more than the destination itself. Women never want to stay with their husbands in a hotel that's described as a 'home away from home'. Ideally we want a hotel to be as far removed from anything resembling our home as it's possible to be. I have detected a new trend in weekend breaks with more and more couples choosing to stay in their home town. They don't bother battling Heathrow to get away for a romantic sojourn any more — they just hop in a cab, check into a luxury hotel and temporarily check out of parental duties for a couple of days. This may seem odd at first but there are many hidden benefits. By staying close to home one is able to take advantage of great theatre, exhibitions, restaurants, spa treatments, shopping and an uninterrupted night's sleep without the innate worry and guilt that comes with leaving young children behind. Parents can rest assured and be secure in the knowledge that if there's an emergency back home they can just ask for their bill and be back on duty within the hour. It's the adult version of a sleep-over.

For me, there's something inexplicably alluring about being shown up to a room that's spick and span and unsullied by domesticity. It's like entering a refuge; a parallel universe of starched sheets and plumped pillows, tiled bathrooms stacked with dry white towels that are not yet on the floor and a fridge full of drink and devoid of leftovers. This is the true seductiveness of a home 'suite' home. It transforms shallow women like myself into iibercompliant Stepford Wives. I become uncharacteristically coquettish and spend a long time in the bath doing things like exfoliating my legs while fantasising over tomorrow's breakfast menu.

I am obviously not talking about grotty hotels. Unlike David and Jean Davidson who loved their Newark Travelodge pit-stop so much they stayed put for 22 years, I am unapologetically snobbish in my choices.

Let's be honest, when it comes to hotels size does matter. I want luxury. I love big hair, big handbags, big pay rises — but nothing gets my pulse up more than an absurdly big, over-thetop hotel suite.

The Langham Hotel's Infinity suite is so insanely large it takes your breath away. Part James Bond lair (not one but two 72-inch flatscreen televisions, Bose sound systems, CCTV cameras and entry controls), part Hollywood film set, part sleek city apartment, it boasts two bedrooms, two bathrooms, two dressing rooms, a kitchen better equipped than my own and an intriguing chromatherapy 'infinity' bath. Prior to checking in you are asked to answer a questionnaire full of pressing, important questions such as, 'What are your favourite flowers? Do you prefer sleeping on linen or pure cotton? What are your favourite toiletries? Dietary requirements? Will you be needing a butler?' It's amazing how quickly one can become a demanding guest I thought the last question was a no-brainer. Given the choice, why would one ever not need a butler?

Our butler was an adorable young South American gentleman who flitted effortlessly from room to room, tweaking my fat peonies and lining up my Jo Malone shampoos and bath oils. He fixed proper afternoon tea, switched the sound system from musak to Cole Porter, unpacked the contents of my squalid little overnight suitcase (note to self: perhaps not chic adjusted the colour on both TV sets for my pernickety husband. It was bliss.

'Would Madame like me to run a bath for you?' he asked.

'That would be lovely,' I replied having already developed an accent Celia Johnson would be proud of.

And what time would you like your driver?' 'Seven o'clock would be perfect,' replied Johnnie.

'I will leave you a menu in case you require any light refreshments when you return.' 'Thank you,' we both sighed contentedly. 'I trust neither of you is a virgin?'

At this point both Johnnie and I started to giggle uncontrollably.

'I am so sorry. I beg your pardon. What I meant to say was 'vegetarian', not 'virgin'.

He needn't have been embarrassed. Like Renee Zellweger's character in Jeny Maguire, our butler had me at 'hello'.

For the ultimate lima), aperience the Infinity package costs f6,169 per night for up to four people.