From popcorn to Pop Art, these places to stay are full of surprises for Mordechai Beck
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Melody: the height of cool, on the roof. Inset: work, rest, play kit in every room
For many of us the word "boutique" conjures up a picture of Carnaby Street, '60s music and weird clothing. In recent years, however, the description has been appropriated by the hotel industry. According to Leslie Adler, the managing director of the Atlas chain, the first such hotel appeared in New York in the 1980s. And today it has become one of the trendiest items in tourism.
The three defining features of this new type of hotel are size - generally fewer than 100 rooms and often much smaller; the lack of a dining room (though many offer breakfast) and a "concept".
Israel's first boutique hotels were established by the Atlas chain. Of the 10 hotels managed by Atlas, seven are boutique, most of them in Tel Aviv.
"The main idea of the hotel," explains Adler "is to offer a more personal service than can a large hotel. Our managers probably know each guest personally, and, since many are returning clients, they will know their particular needs.
"In Tel Aviv in 2002, we opened Cinema Hotel, in a former cinema, which is also one of the finest Bauhaus buildings in the city. As its name suggests, the design, graphics and theme of the hotel are geared to film. The hotel contains a museum of film, as well as a continuous loop showing old movies in the lobby, where a box of popcorn is offered to every guest."
Art Plus Hotel, opened in 2009 is, in contrast, built around contemporary Israeli artists who created works especially for the building (which is itself a work of art). The artists provided the décor for each of the five floors, while a library offers a wide variety of art books and journals.
The mostly recently completed hotel, Melody, emphasises the connection between work and play. Since many Atlas guests stay at the hotels while doing business, Melody offers a variety of games scattered throughout the building, to help them relax. As with other members of the chain, the Melody offers free wireless internet access, a DVD library and multi-channel cable TV. A sunroof, opened throughout the season, overlooks the sea. A room here costs between $160 and $210 (around £100 to £130) a night for a couple. For more details check out www.atlas.co.il
Art Plus Hotel
If Atlas began its boutique chain as an established company, Avi and Anat Ifrach took up the challenge on their own. Avi, previously the organiser of Eilat's annual jazz festival, likes the action of the big city, so when an opportunity arose to take over a large building in the centre of Tel Aviv and transform it into a boutique hotel, he grabbed it.
Opened in August of this year, the Diaghilev offers a gateway to the city's cultural and business life. Unlike Atlas, which has hotels facing the sea, the Diaghilev thrives on its downtown location.
"We're close to all the cultural events that take place on nearby Rothschild Boulevard," says Iftach, "as well as a wide range of coffee houses and other eateries. There's no need to replicate what is already on your doorstop. People come to taste the city, not the inside of the hotel."
Nevertheless the Diaghilev - named after the Russian choreographer and cultural impresario - does offer some special features within its walls. The rooms are larger than usual for such hotels - a minimum 44 sq m - which means that they are amply large to sit in and relax. Segways are available to tour the locale, and though a bistro breakfast is offered, vouchers are available for use in nearby coffee shops.
"Our idea is to make the city accessible," says the owner.
A night here costs between $150 and $250 (around £95 to £150) a couple, depending on which type of art-filled room is taken. Artists are given a special deal, since the owners wish to attract a clientèle who will be available to their fellow guests in an informal setting. A sizeable space is available for intimate artistic performances.
A unique feature of the bedrooms is the uniformly black bedlinen. Ifrach points to research demonstrating that such dark material induces a deeper and richer sleep. After absorbing such a cultural and social bonanza, you're probably going to need it.