The reason I mention chain hotels are because some are really nice, depending on the location, some more than others. My best examples are of Marriott in La Jolla and Los Angeles, California (specifically in Marina Del Ray), and the Holiday Inn in (Georgetown) Washington, D.C. Even in Newport, Rhode Island, the Courtyard Marriott is a keeper.
I want to talk about my hotel in Marina Del Ray first. This is because it is one of my five all-time great hotels. When I visited California in 2007 I first went to San Diego and stayed in La Jolla. After a few days my travel companions and I drove to Los Angeles. Being what prices are in Hollywood we stayed at the Marriott in Marina Del Ray. I have to say it always brings me a happy thought thinking of getting ready there and returning each night and not just because I had a great time.
At this hotel I was BLOWN AWAY by the glamour. It was regal and the services were that of a four or five star hotel. The colors used in the lobby, the lounge like feel, even the cucumber water and coffee provided twenty-four hours a day made me transition to another place. On top of that the valet service was incredible. I have to say I enjoyed calling down and having my car pulled up to the front of the hotel when we walked out. The pool looked gorgeous although I never made it there. They even had a bar/club inside that was constantly hopping. You would never have known you were in a Marriott or a medium priced hotel. My favorite aspects were definitely the view from our room and the location. We had a balcony and we got to see the sunset over Venice Beach, something I will remember forever. Last but not least that location is ideal. We were in walking distance of the beach and only a couple of miles away from Santa Monica and its infamous pier. The drive to L.A. took about an hour (if you manage to make it out of insane traffic), but well worth it because we only wanted to spend a day or so sightseeing. The rest of the time it was like living in a luxury high rise with full concierge service.
In the days prior to that I had another great time in San Diego at a Marriott owned hotel but this experience was totally different. This time my cousin and I stayed in a room that was actually like a mini apartment, like a studio you would find in New York City. We had a living room, full kitchen including dishes and silverware, plus of course the bed and bathroom. The kitchen was by far the best part. We could bring home left overs and put them in the full size refrigerator we had. In the morning when the cleaning crew would come in they even did the dishes in the sink! How awesome is that? It was also great to have a living room to lounge in, relax, and read in between activities. Now when I stay in rooms with only the bed and a chair in them I feel like I am back in my dorm room.
These are not your mother’s hotel chains. Most have been updated recently and I had noticed that in particular when I was in Washington, D.C. in 2010. I was staying in exclusive Georgetown, a neighborhood known for amazing restaurants, shopping, and the political powers that reside there. I was staying there at the Holiday Inn because I got a great deal. When I arrived I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was brand new and everything was more fabulously thought out than I could imagine. I noticed after that trip that all Holiday Inns were being renovated and upgraded to provide a universal comfort level no matter where you travel. The best part was that it came at a price you could actual afford. You just got to love a company that is thinking of the traveler first.
When I checked into my room I was blown away by the guest services and helpful staff. The room had two double beds (I was with my yet another cousin) and everything was as organized as it was spacious. The thing we got the most kick out of was the pillows. They were labeled “Firm” and “Soft”. This tickled me. They were great pillows and tagging them was just over the top for me. It felt like a special touch we were getting and that made a lasting impression for me. Since then I have stayed at several Holiday Inns in other cities and have never had a bad experience. Growing up I can honestly say that I never envisioned wanting to stay at a Holiday Inn but now I think the name triggers a positive response from me and hopefully from you.
Newport, Rhode Island is a vacation must for me. If I cannot get there every year then every other year is the longest I can hold out for. I have to get there sometime even if I have to go there in the off season, the fall, and/or for my birthday (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2013/02/for-my-birthday-getaway-that-brought-me_13.html) in the winter. This is the area of Rhode Island known for their “summer cottages”, mansions once owned by families with the last names of Vanderbilt and the like. In 2014 this is still a high priced area and can be very expensive to stay in. It is a great town right on the water and has some of the best food I have ever tasted. There is nothing not to love about this area, even in the winter when many attractions are closed for the season.
When I decided to stay there I knew I needed a location very close to the tourist attractions but also within range of my wallet. When I did a search of the area I found the place I would ultimately end up staying at time and time again. It was a Courtyard Marriott but in conjunction with our theme it too had been recently modernized. The lobby, breakfast area, and rooms were all brightly colored. The accommodations were more than comfortable and while my pillows weren’t labeled I still managed to dive right into the middle of the bed where I lay unable to move out of for several hours. I was just too damn comfortable. God I love that feeling.
These were among my best chain hotel experiences that are in the moderate range, but when I think of pure beauty, originality, and a place to live like the true Queen I am there are four hotels that come immediately to mind. They are all similar in price, stature, and have a desired location but within them live very different treasures.
The first two hotels I have stayed at were in Philadelphia, coincidentally, and they are across the street from each other in the Rittenhouse Square section within the city of brotherly love. They are Hotels Sofitel and Palomar. I stayed at the former in 2010 and then latter in 2011. At the time I didn’t notice the other during my visits.
The Hotel Sofitel is amazing, a five star place that you notice as soon as you enter the door. From the name you can gather that it is French themed and that encourages my love of Paris so win-win. The service was impeccable from the moment I checked in. They have great security- you need your room key to use the elevator. The entire place was gorgeous and my room was over the top. I could have fit a small football team in there never mind the bathroom I wanted to move into! That was bigger than most apartments. Everything was done with such care that I was sorry I didn’t get to spend more time there. I was too busy roaming their fare city.
On my next trip to Philly I was when I landed at the Palomar. This was a good fit from the start also. Inside you find a deluxe lay out with friendly staff and statutes of Benjamin Franklin all around. You know I did a photo shoot there. But the best part has to be the elevators. Each one was designed completed different. One interior made the walls appear to be wood with a fireplace. One had a garden theme. Even the bathroom, outside of the rooms was decked out with fancy mosaic titles. I had to get my camera out of my bag!
My room made me breathless. I loved the tiger and leopard bathrobes they provided. Again the room and bathroom was spacious. I wished this was my apartment to live in forever. I would die a happy girl. Unfortunately I too was only here for one night and because of my schedule didn’t get to spend the day lying around. But boy was it nice to come back to. Sadder still is pulling away after checking out.
As for the last two hotels I am thinking of they are Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter of New Orleans and the Fairmont in the San Francisco neighborhood of Nob Hill.
NOLA (New Orleans, LA) is my home away from home. I have been there a few times and each time it is harder and harder for me to leave. One of the reasons I love NOLA so much is that I always stay at the Hotel Monteleone and always feel like I belong as soon as I check-in. It has a great location, one block from Bourbon Street, which is perfect enough to walk to everything and has the distinction of being a classy and quiet place to rest your head.
I found this hotel by luck as I was traveling for work when I first visited and make sure when I go back for recreation this is where I stay. The rooms are comfy and elegant. The price is always within reason. But my favorite reason is the history. It has seen the likes of Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams and some say it is even haunted. I will tell you that on my first visit my lights went on and off at night all by themselves. I choose to believe that it was a friendly ghost like Casper shutting them off for me so I didn’t have to get up.
Lastly I love their Carousel Bar. It has just gotten a brand new face lift and I am sure it is even better than when I last saw it. Anyone I know who is traveling to NOLA always gets the recommendation from me to stay here and even if they are not to go to this bar. It is so cute and so much fun. You sit at the actual bar and that spins around, slowly, as you sip your cocktail. It is so creative and I have never ever seen anything like it.
What can I say about the Fairmont? It was my first time in San Francisco and getting to stay at the top of Nob Hill in this gorgeous historic hotel was more than I could hope for. It is hands down one of the best experiences in my life. The lobby is so decked out that they request everyone entering be dressed appropriately. The room service menu went on for days and days. I was in my glory eating breakfast in my room. The rooms themselves were exquisite. The location was primed for a nightcap at the Hotel InterContinental's Top of the Mark Bar and a cable car ride down the hill, which I did gracefully as I screamed in terror and held an iced coffee. The hit the 1980s show “Hotel” staring Barbra Streisand’s husband, James Brolin, was filmed on location. There is nothing else in the world you could need that you don’t find in a stay here. I am desperate to stay in a Fairmont hotel again sometime soon.
Finally I would like to speak about my most recent hotel stay at Hilton Savannah De Soto. This experience has to be in its own category. This was and is the place to stay in Savannah, Georgia. The location cannot be beat. It is right in the center of the city and has such close proximity to anywhere you will want to go. You can walk everywhere that is if it’s not a hundred degrees which was not exactly my experience but more about that trip in another blog series. The hotel charged more than I thought it should but everywhere I read online remarked at its grandeur and that it was as infamous as to be in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” and even hosted a performance by Elvis in his heyday. The rooms looked fantastic and I immediately started picturing myself there as soon as we booked. All this being said I have to say I was incredibly disappointed. For starters I had to have my chair removed because the leather was all torn and no one could sit on it. Then the AC did not work how I thought it should despite being checked on numerous times. Overall the rooms looked old and in need of a renovation. It was such a disappointment. The website was so far off from reality. I have never had that happen to such a degree before. But it was decent enough and the lobby was nice. However I would have preferred more space in my room and staff that seemed less like I was bothering them.
Up next is:
For Hotels: You’re Home Away From Home
Part III-International Travel