Nobody, apparently, was more surprised than the villagers of Villabuena de Alava in Spain's Rioja winemaking region when an extraordinary building started taking shape right next door to their 17th-century church.
But oddly, the small but eclectic Hotel Viura, named for one of the important white wine grapes of the region, now blends into the landscape, despite its ultra-modern concrete cubist architecture.
Set in 520 acres of lush, secluded estate beside the rugged Fife coastline, the Fairmont St Andrews - just three miles from this week's British Open - captivates you from the moment your cab noses on to its long driveway.
The exterior resembles an elegant French chateau, but as soon as you step inside, the tartan carpets, paintings and the warm hospitality remind you that you are in Scotland. The bright, airy glass-roofed atrium adds an American flavour, as befits a hotel bought by the up-scale North American chain Fairmont 10 years ago.
Other than the giveaway in its name and the occasional low-flying aeroplane, guests at the sumptuous Luton Hoo could be forgiven for being unaware of its proximity to Luton airport.
The peace, calm and luxury make the hotel feel like a rural idyll, yet it is just 30 minutes up the M1 from North London. A winding, gravel drive flanked by towering trees, brings you to the magnificent palladian Mansion House built by Robert Adam in 1767, its 1,000 acres of parkland containing gardens landscaped by Capability Brown.
V The trouble with newish country house hotels is that, polished and swagged within an inch of their lives, they spoil us for the real thing. Like Ston Easton Park, a really grand old pile relatively recently converted to a hotel. Being seriously old, it has a fascinating history — but age brings its problems. So I had to get over the fact Ston Easton has a shabby, discoloured façade compared to the splendid mansions of golden Bath stone a few miles away, and that my vast bedroom smelled faintly musty.
No-one does old-style glamour like the Italians, and it's particularly true in Naples, the very essence of old-style, baroque, schmaltzy Italy. So it's no surprise to find a wealth of recession-defying silk, marble and silver at the Grand Hotel Vesuvio overlooking Vesuvius, Sorrento and other heart-stopping delights of Naples Bay.
With its own quay at the V&A Waterfront, Table Mountain as its backdrop and Robben Island across the water, the Cape Grace occupies one of the most magnificent locations in Cape Town and is just a short stroll from the smartest shops and restaurants.
A near faultless five-star hotel, with all the amenities to match - including huge rooms, flat-screen TV and free wi-fi - it is the friendly, professional staff who make the Cape Grace so special, seeming genuinely to care that your stay in the hotel and the city is perfect.
In a constantly-changing world, London's Mandarin Oriental reassures by appearing to be totally constant. This is, of course, an illusion - even the name of this august old lady of Knightsbridge has changed, and the restaurants and bars have been in constant flux in response to fashion. No more than you'd expect from a hotel with Madonna's seal of approval.
If anyone could bring a touch of class to an area whose reputation has been damaged by overbuilding and too many package tourists, it's Fairmont. The company which now owns the Savoy, and is overseeing a restoration to its art deco glory days, has shown, in its Mayakoba resort on Mexico's Caribbean coast, that it can also do eco resorts.
You don't expect an airport hotel to be glamorous, but that's the first word that comes to mind arriving at the Sofitel Gatwick. Blame it on the soaring atrium and impressive water feature which greet guests emerging from the tunnel which links this hotel (it looks like such an anonymous box from the outside), with the North Terminal.