“Hello, Ms. McKee,” said the doorman as I walked into the Norfolk. “Welcome back.” I’d checked into the Nairobi hotel the day before, but within less than 24 hours the staff knew me on sight. That’s the level of service one would expect at a five-star property managed by managed by Fairmont Hotels & Resorts (but I’m still amazed that in a 170-room hotel, I was recognized on the second time I walked into the lobby).
A landmark in Kenya’s capital since 1904, the Fairmont Norfolk Nairobi Hotel, Harry Thuku Road, Nairobi, Kenya, includes a heated outdoor swimming pool, health club, sauna, tropical landscaped grounds and several restaurants ranging from casual to chic
It was the the first of the “safari” hotels for visiting Europeans in the early 1900s. In the dusty colonial city of Nairobi, it promised baths with hot water, shaded verandahs and elegant cuisine both before and after an excursion into the bush. These days guests from around the world enjoy those now-standard amenities plus WiFi and a backup hotel generator to ensure 24-hour electricity in this still-Third World country. (Insider tip: American travelers are grateful for the face cloths in the bathroom.)
Even if you don’t stay at the Norfolk, consider a lunch on the Lord Delamare Terrace (at right): drinks and light meals are served continuously from morning until midnight.
The Norfolk is a favorite stop for a few post-safari days of rest and recuperation in a “country house” hotel. As a business hotel, it’s a bit of a problematic choice. Although it’s located a short distance from the city center, walking outside the grounds is definitely not recommended so it’s taxis everywhere.
I had spent an afternoon at the nearby National Museum of Kenya on my second day there. Since it looked to be a walk of less than a half-mile, I asked the guard for directions back to the hotel. In horror, he made me stand next to his post while he phoned a taxi to take me back to the Norfolk, all the while excitedly cautioning me about the dangers of walking alone in this part of Nairobi.
My best memory of the Norfolk has to be the enclosed courtyard (out the doorway at left). I admit that bougainvilleas are my favorite tropical flower, and the gardens have them in all colors (from the usual shocking pink to the delicate tangerine and ethereal white).
At right are some of the blossoms (although, technically, the colored petals are actually bracts around the tiny white flowers):
(Photos courtesy of the Fairmont Norfolk Nairobi and by Susan McKee, who stayed at the hotel while on assignment for another publication)