The word extra has shifted from the dictionary definition you learnt at school, through the lexicon of super-cool types, to settle on a new meaning. Extra is hard to define, but if we had to we’d go for: ‘wildly OTT’. Being described as ‘extra’ is layered with meaning; extra can be fabulous, confident, colourful, but extra can also be brash, loud and smacking of bad taste. If there was a picture to sum extra up, it’d be Miss Piggy in a tiara and opera gloves.
So, in our new travel feature ‘Extra Extra!’ (in which you can indeed read all about it), we’re travelling the world looking for the most out-there hotel; ones that really push the boundaries of design, style and taste. Up first, it’s Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve.
Port Lympne epitomises extra. Not content with being just a hotel, it’s also packing sweeping grounds including a maze (yep), an Egyptian-themed cocktail bar (uh-huh), oh and a casual 600-acre animal reserve and safari.
Nestled in Kent, about an hour and a half drive from London, Port Lympne Mansion was built for Sir Philip Sassoon (cousin of Siegfried the poet) during World War I. The house was abandoned after World War II and bought by zoo owner, gambling club host, and celebrity schmoozer John Aspinall. He filled the park up with animals who are bred to replenish wild populations. He also set about decorating the house in his…distinctive style.
One of the original maximalists, Aspinall commissioned Arthur Spencer Roberts to cover the dining room in frescoes of animals getting their own back on poachers. It doesn’t make for a relaxing dinner, but games of ‘I spy’ have never been so challenging.
The ‘tent room’ (us neither) was hand painted by Sassoon’s bestie Rex Whistler and is probably the best Whistler mural in existence. Not bad for a glorified waiting area for the loos.
Unsurprisingly, the animal theme is strong throughout Port Lympne. ‘Scuse us while we google ‘mustard velvet curtains for window seats’.
Does the Moroccan courtyard match the rest of the house? No. Do we care when it’s a blush pink sun-trap coated in flowers? Obviously not.