This historic lodge is the ‘Raffles of Fiji’

Following a leisurely 2½-hour drive alongside the luxurious shoreline from Sigatoka to Suva, we arrived at GPH within the late afternoon, after a pit-stop on the Blue Turtle Gin cellar door, run by Australian-owned Distillery Co. Fiji. A sometimes torrential late-afternoon Suva thunderstorm supplied a powerful gentle present by means of nature’s welcome celebration.

As I dashed from the automotive into the ethereal lobby, I used to be rendered speechless. In an period when a lot of the world’s iconic lodges have blasted out the final of the ghosts via a number of refurbishments, the GPH is a uncommon fowl. Time has not fairly stopped altogether right here, nevertheless it has positively stood very nonetheless.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip on the balcony outdoors the Queen Elizabeth Suite at GPH in December 1953. Right now, the balcony stays was it was then, together with the elevated platform on which the royal couple stood.  

“It’s really a fairytale lodge full of historical past and tales,” says Tourism Fiji chief govt Brent Hill. “You lookup on the balcony dealing with Albert Park and you’ll so simply image a really younger Queen Elizabeth standing there waving throughout her first Commonwealth Tour as a result of so little has modified.”

Such is the ‘time-capsule vibe’ of this lodge, it triggers wild fancies. After checking into the Queen Elizabeth Suite (which opens onto the balcony the place she stood on a December night time in 1953 earlier than a state ball on the lodge), I swear I spy a glittering sequin within the far nook of the room. Maybe it was dropped from the “crinoline robe of lacy pale blue” the Queen wore that night time, as The Fiji Instances described it.

When the GPH opened, visitors swooned over the prolonged wrap-around balconies. 

In 1912, the paper trumpeted that the Union Steam Ship Firm of New Zealand was spending a staggering £25,000 “on the development of an impressive constructing in Suva”. Two years later, the lodge threw open its doorways, with a “grand entrance” foyer designed to double as a ballroom when required, surrounded by 35 visitor rooms.

From its salt- and fresh-water baths (the {hardware} imported from Twyfords within the UK, no much less) to the 4½-metre-wide wraparound balcony on each flooring of the two-storey lodge, GPH wowed visitors from the beginning. There was additionally a drawing room for women to take pleasure in after dinner, a billiards room for males, and a rooftop terrace for all to catch the night breeze off the harbour.

It’s not onerous to make a grand entrance on the GPH. The foyer used to double as a ballroom. 

It wasn’t all bouquets, nonetheless. The lodge acquired loads of brickbats too. Throughout a keep in 1916, English author Somerset Maugham famous that the “servants are Hindus, silent and vaguely hostile … the meals may be very dangerous however the rooms are nice, recent and funky”.

Maugham went on to tear into the expats who arrived in Fiji with grand beliefs, solely to finish up spending their days consuming within the GPH’s bar, “bored, lonely and disillusioned”.

Then there have been the various disgruntled, damp visitors. The roof leaked in a number of spots from 1914 till the Sixties, when the issue was lastly resolved. A separate wing with 45 rooms was added within the ’60s.

Over time, as the various heritage images lining the lodge’s partitions attest, celebrities, royalty, scoundrels and wealthy listers have flocked to the GPH, staying for an evening or two or weeks on finish. English playwright Noël Coward as soon as stayed for 2 weeks.

Harry and Meghan stayed within the Grand Pacific Lodge’s Royal Suite in 2018. 

Australian opera singer Nellie Melba visited in 1915, the identical 12 months as former prime minister Alfred Deakin, who stopped over on his strategy to the US.

The GPH made international headlines in 1928 when Sir Charles Kingsford Smith landed his aircraft the Southern Cross on Albert Park, straight reverse the lodge, having flown in from California on the primary trans-Pacific flight. A ball was promptly held to mark the event earlier than he took off once more, certain for Brisbane, then Sydney.

Australian photojournalist Thomas John McMahon (who spent years documenting the South Pacific) conveyed what all of the fuss over the lodge was about in an article printed in 1921 in The Sydney Mail.

“One factor Suva can boast of is the possession of probably the most palatial lodge within the Southern Hemisphere … On steamer days – that’s, when steamers are in from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and America – the ‘GPH’, as this snug lodge is termed, is slightly world in itself … Vacationers from all nations, and talking all languages, assemble within the nice public corridor, and there are dancing and feasting, music and chatter.”

Breakfast is served on the balcony outdoors the Queen Elizabeth Suite. 

The movie His Majesty O’Keefe (starring Burt Lancaster and Joan Rice) was shot on the GPH, hitting silver screens in 1954, solely months after the Queen’s 1953 go to.Her majesty stayed once more in 1973, 1977 and 1982.

Throughout their 2018 royal go to, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (higher generally known as Harry and Meghan) stayed in a single day within the Royal Suite.

What’s spectacular to any diehard nostalgic who prefers a room key and a two-speed fan to touchpads and automatic blinds is the actual fact a lot historical past stays intact right here: the balcony is nearly because it was in 1953. Sure, air con was put in many years in the past, there’s a pleasant day spa, a 25-metre pool, and the lodge has a totally modernised wing off to 1 aspect – however the unique lodge block and its rooms nonetheless really feel a great distance from the twenty first century.

The heritage is a legacy Lachlan Walker intends to protect when IHG begins a smooth refurbishment of the property, resulting from be accomplished within the second half of subsequent 12 months.

An aerial shot exhibiting the lodge, in addition to Albert Park the place rugby video games are sometimes performed. 

“It is a particular place, there’s little question, and we had been nicely conscious of that attraction when InterContinental took over the administration,” he says. “The final refurbishment was in 2016, so there’s a bit to do, however will probably be very delicate. It will likely be extra about … introducing core parts of the InterContinental model. Nothing shall be executed that may detract from the heritage.”

IHG assumed administration of the lodge in July 2020, and will probably be rebranded because the InterContinental Grand Pacific Lodge Suva subsequent 12 months.

Again in Suva, Brent Hill has loads of ideas for anybody fascinated about staying on the GPH. “I can fortunately advocate the proper weekend in Suva: Have breakfast on the lodge, then head out to the Pure Fiji Saturday market, the place they promote a lot of their merchandise at discounted charges (it’s a carefully guarded Suva secret) after which go to the meals and handicraft markets on the town.”

After a day nap to snooze off the warmth, he suggests catching a rugby sport. “Afterwards, the group often heads first for the bar on the Vacation Inn, adopted by Opium, GPH or Tanoa Plaza. They’re all nice spots for a drink and in Opium’s case, a dance as nicely.”

Dinner ought to be loved on the Vietnamese establishment An Pho in Backyard Metropolis; the extremely rated Kanu by Lance Seeto or fine-dining eatery Eden Bistro & Bar. And for Sunday morning, he recommends espresso and a giant breakfast on the Republic of Cappuccino, Mana Espresso, The Farmers Daughter or Moments café.

As for Life & Leisure’s advice for a weekend on the GPH? Pack your tiara.

The author was a visitor of InterContinental Lodge Group and the Grand Pacific Lodge.

Grand Pacific Lodge Tel (+679) 322 2000 / 9226016 or e mail
Charges from $FJ495 ($321) an evening for a room overlooking Albert Park to $FJ1639 for the Queen Elizabeth Suite and $FJ2129 for the Royal Suite. All suites have entry to the Victoria Membership Lounge.


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