As we neared, we saw a boutique hotel with thousands of white twinkly lights wrapped around skeletal tree branches decorating the building façade. Deciding to go in, we were warmly welcomed at the front door by the porter, before stepping inside the gorgeous, softly lit reception area. Enormous dark red carnation floral arrangements decorated polished pedestals interspersed with vases of seasonal flowers and red and yellow roses. After touring the amenities, we subsequently found seats in the Conservatory and ordered hot chocolate. It was the best ever and came with delicious chocolate macadamia biscuits (cookies), dredged nuts, shortbread nuggets, and cheese straws. At that moment, we fell in love with The Milestone.
Curious, I started asking questions and learned that the hotel dates back to 1689 and was acquired by South African–born patrician Beatrice (Bea) Tollman in 1998 for her flagship group, Red Carnation Hotels. I also discovered that Bea’s husband routinely wears a red carnation in his lapel, which inspired the name of the hotel collection. Staff members also wear the symbolic flower.
Ambitious, successful, and elegant, Bea has deftly steered her way through the complex mélange that is the hotel business. A lifetime-achievement award recipient in the hospitality industry, she is a hands-on visionary, communicates personally with her staff, and oversees all aspects of each of her 19 far-flung hotels. She has also authored a cookbook, A Life in Food, which contains a collection of recipes gathered on her ’round-the-world travels, as well as her personal family favorites, such as a simple, but tasty, shortbread and a triple-baked cheesecake. The book is sold in her hotels, but it is not always obvious, so, I learned, it is best to ask.