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FrontRunners: Personal Forte

Those who feared that the restoration of London’s Brown’s Hotel (www.brownshotel.com) would be a desecration of sacred ground can rest easy. The $35 million makeover, overseen by owner Sir Rocco Forte and his director of design, Olga Polizzi, retains the refined English charm that has captivated guests since the hotel’s opening in 1837. Diners in the Grill, where the original oak-paneled walls have been fully restored, will have no trouble believing that this is the same hotel from which Alexander Graham Bell made his first telephone call on English soil in 1876, or the one in which Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936) wrote several of his works. The Kipling Suite, which features a living room crowned with an enormous marble fireplace, is priced at about $4,700 per night. Another Rocco Forte establishment, Rome’s Hotel de Russie (www.hotelderussie.it), now maintains its own butterfly reserve. The World Wildlife Fund saw the hotel’s Secret Garden, located behind the building, as an ideal place for lepidoptera. Bushy plants such as the strawberry tree, Italian buckthorn, bramble, sloe, and hawthorn have been planted to nurture the butterflies without marring the garden’s 18th-century landscaping. And small greenhouses have been installed to protect violet, nettle, wild fennel, cabbage, and cauliflower—each an excellent food for caterpillars.

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