Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Golden Hallway Award

The coveted Golden Hallway Award has not been given out yet, because I'm going to be staying in one more hotel before the end of the year. The current leaders in the clubhouse are: Old Skool: The Grand Hotel Tremezzo, and Moderne: The Hotel Monaco, Washington, DC. The Ashton Inn and Suites in Pensacola is not a contender.

The Claremont, Berkeley, California

The Claremont continues to astonish. As steady readers of the blog know, I've stayed at the Claremont many times. Yet they continue to confuse me with someone who's never stayed there before. Ah well.

I don't think I've ever shown off one of the most peculiar hallways in hoteldom, the 4th floor of the Claremont. Here it is. One side for basketball players, the other for their small children.


Next, a room with a view. (Well, half of one, anyway. Part of my window was blocked by a dormer.)

The hotel did have a nice Christmas display - a giant gingerbread house. In typical California style, there was a little sign that warned guests that the house had been treated with chemicals to preserve it. (In case you were thinking of gnawing on a chunk.)

Here's the strangest thing. My room had an ethernet cable. (A good thing) It also had a three-prong outlet I could use for my computer power adapter. (Also a good thing) However, they weren't in the same room. Hence, the only way I could simultaneously power my computer and go online was to lie on the floor. See?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Ashton Inn and Suites, Pensacola, Florida

The last hotel I stayed in (see below - the Hotel Monaco in DC) is the current front runner for Golden Hallway 2008. Ashton Inn and Suites is (are?) the leading candidate for the Lead Hallway of 08

When I checked in, I asked the (actually very nice woman) at the front desk if the hotel had wireless. "No," she replied, "but there's internet in the room." That was true, to a certain extent. There was an ethernet jack, but no cable. No cables at the front desk, either. (I asked). So if you do plan on staying at Ashton Inn and Suites, bring your own cable.

Connectivity issues aside, I would advise against selecting Ashton Inn and Suites. (This is really awkward. I keep wanting to write The Ashton Inn, but the official name is Ashton Inn and Suites, so I'm screwed.)

Ashton Inn and Suites has unbelievably filthy carpets. Maybe it's a form of industrial sabotage by the cleaning staff. It's like they decided the grim green walls weren't depressing enough, and felt compelled to underscore the general squalor of the place.

One of my colleagues refused to walk around in his room in his bare feet. The bedspread was made of some 'miracle' fabric that looked oily, and the "pillows" looked like pannini versions of the ones you normally expect in a hotel.

Here are some photos of the stains.

The 'clean, parts of the carpet on the stairs in the photo above are the stair risers. The filthy parts are the treads. Blech. The tile floor on the ground floor was 'nicer'.

To give you an idea of the Kwality of the place, the key cards are sponsored by Domino's.

The "kitchenette" area of my room had some utensils and kitchenware, but there was also a prominent sign alerting guests that while they had been cleaned in a dishwasher, they did not pass state or local sanitizing standards. Yum!

I also liked the in-room coffee. It's a brand I've never heard of. (Perhaps one of those regional specialty things foodies are always salivating over.) Plus, it's got the best slogan ever. I present: Leroy Hill Coffee. "It'll Get Cha (sic) Goin!"

One other thing. Ashton Inns are now available for weekly rentals. Just in case you've been very, very bad.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hotel Monaco, Washington, DC

The short version of the post is this: The Hotel Monaco, DC, is in the lead for this year's prestigious Golden Hallway Award.

This is a very groovy hotel. The hallways are nearly hallucination-generating in their stripey efflorescence. (The photo doesn't do the effect justice, I'm afraid to say).

Adding to the optical glory, along the way to your room, you'll pass some ersatz Ellsworth Kelly paintings. (Though if I remember correctly, he tended to favor brighter colors).

My room suffered from a few, uh, irregularities. Once again, I find that rational hotel floor numbering is disappearing art. I was on floor one, which isn't really the ground floor. It's below street level. How did I know? My room's windows were usable as viewing devices only by NBA starting centers.

(That last photo is taken at standing height, with the camera pointed straight up toward the ceiling). The light, such as it is, which through yonder windows break, is at sidewalk level.

The Monaco DC is a Kimpton hotel (like the 72 Park Avenue I stayed in last year) and as such, offers the guest the opportunity to purchase lounge wear to maximize the pleasure of his or her sojourn.

I wasn't interested in the top, and the bottoms were size XXL. The thought of me sashaying around my room, alone, in a giant pair of artificial-fiber leopard-print boxers makes even me feel a little woozy, so I put them both back into the closet, along with the giraffe-print bathrobe, which I think was woven of lead, as it weighed 80 or 90 pounds.

The Monaco has a couple of peculiarities, none of which detracted from my stay.

One, there is no room 114. (Maybe it's like platform 12 3/4 in the Harry Potter books). I couldn't take a picture of it, for what I hope to be obvious reasons.

Across the hall from the missing room is pecularity number two, a non-enterable or leaveable door. See?

Ah well, minor points. The hotel has a great location (across the street from the National Portrait Gallery), convivial hosts, nice toiletries, and a dang good restaurant with at least one very charming waitress. (The one who waited on my colleague and me.)

Best of all, for professional pickers-of-nits like me, the hotel actually has (hold your breath here) FREE internet access in your room, and free wireless in the lobby.

Go. Stay.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Courtyard Los Angeles Century City/Beverly Hills

For a hotel cheek by jowl with Botox usage world headquarters, the CLACC/BH is very unpretentious. It's laid out a bit oddly, although that could be my misperception because I arrived at 2:30 am my time, after having flown in from Washington, DC following a meeting earlier that day.

The people at the front desk couldn't have been nicer. They practically threw themselves at my feet in shame when they had to tell me that instead of a king-sized bed, I would have to settle for doubles. As I'm far from king-sized, and traveling alone, I didn't really care.

After staggering down a couple (?) three (?) four (?) hallways I found a couple of complimentary cookies and a pint of milk on ice awaiting me in my room. Awwww. isn't that nice? My room had a pair of faux windows. Here's one. It was over my bed.

I thought the light-proof curtains might just be decorative - but they opened onto a communal patio. Not the quietest, as it is right on top of Olympic avenue. On the plus side, the noise proof sliding door was, indeed, noise proof.

After a sum total of seven hours, I left my room,

Turned left,

Turned left again,

Turned right,

Passed some art work that reminded me I was in California,

Walked down a flight of stairs by a wall of windows,

and left for a meeting. Frankly, I was so discombobulated by travel that this whole stay could've been an hallucination.

Very romantic and luxe and jet-setty, no?

Please note. Free internet. Had to plug in an ethernet cord, but so what.

Hilton Alexandria Mark Center

I think I wandered, unknowingly, into Bizarro World when I got to the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center.

For starters, it's not in Alexandria, per se. It's in the Mark Center. The Mark Center is a development with office buildings and this hotel distributed around a park like area. It's quite nice, as long as you don't feel like walking somewhere. There are no sidewalks, nor are there any nearby retail establishments.

The entrance and the place you park are separated by the hotel itself. You have to drive all the way around and enter in the back.

Check in was interminable. There were two people working the front desk, but in addition to checking you in - which required that the check-in person manually enter your driver's license number (?) into their computer - they had to answer the phones, too. It took a long time.

I was assigned an "accessible" room on the 6th floor. (That's what the checking in people called it).

I have now officially given up trying to figure out hotel floor numbering systems. (See National Conference Center, below). The sixth floor, where my room was located, is actually only one flight above the lobby.

The hallway makes you feel very presidential - which makes sense, given the proximity of the hotel to the Whi...well, nothing really.

I don't know why they messed up the nice little table arrangement by the elevators with a cheap chair, but so be it.

The room itself was directly across from the elevators. Which would've been fine, except for the 10 or 20 thousand teen-aged girls who checked in around 10:30 and decided to use the elevator area as a communal "Oh my god ... did you see Emily with Biff" gossip central, since they couldn't possibly fit into each others' rooms.

Back to my room. For "Accessible", read: for people in wheelchairs. You know this because the shower area and the bathroom area are unseparated by a lip, step, or moat.

That's fine with me. What wasn't, though, was the mold everywhere.

On the wall

On the floor

On the wall again

Under the fold-down seat.

The hotel restaurant is quite good. Make that very good. I had dinner there, as well as breakfast the next morning, where I found these hieroglyphics on the back of my menu.

Oddest of all was the shirt a Japanese fellow was wearing. I should mention that the hotel is heavily populated by tourists and the military. While most of his shirt was standard Engrish it featured a very unfortunate turn of phrase, namely, over his left breast was written: "All Japanese 7 December".

Hmm. I think the guy wearing it had no idea that he was advertising Pearl Harbor Day in a completely inappropriate manner. I hope he wasn't one of those ultra-nationalist Japanese types who wanted to poke his finger in our barbarian American eyes.

And, of course, the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center charges for internet.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The National Conference Center at Lansdowne.

This is one weird hotel. For starters, you enter on what you think is the ground floor (it being on the same level as the parking lot and driveway) but soon discover is called the third floor by the owner/operator of this place.

Once you check in, you're handed a gaily colored map and, with various verbal and written directions, are pointed in the vicinity of your room. Map in hand, you discover that the conference center is a linked series of buildings.

Linked, I should point out, by underground hallways. In the vernacular: tunnels. Long tunnels.

After I passed these hallways (tunnels), and skirted the dining area (about which more later), I had to go down a more regular hallway,

Past this attractive seating area,

Past a bench with a hole inexplicably drilled in it,

Down another short hallway, and you've reached the door to my room. (And the penultimate hallway)

For before I could throw myself, exhausted, onto my bed, I had to go down yet another hall and make a left turn.

The air conditioning was broken in my room, but was fixed by a couple of cheerful maintenance guys within three or four hours.

The National Conference Center is like a beached cruise ship. Once you're aboard, you're aboard. All meals are included - all you can eat buffet-style food.

The overall design is very strange. One of my co-trapees said that the National Conference Center felt like minimum-security, white collar Federal Penitentiary. (Not that he'd been in one) Another said his room reminded him of a Navy berth, only without the rocking motion.

It was all so peculiar that I was only half-surprised to find out that no one claimed ownership of the place. Usually, a hotel is owned, proudly, by some other brand name. Not the National Conference Center. It was mysterious enough to lead me to believe the NCC was a US Government property. After all, they did have the audacity to claim National status.

But no. Once I got back to the office, I Googled(r) the place, only to find it's owned by Aramark - which explains the cafeteria style eating, I guess. But not the tunnels. Sorry, underground hallways.

By the way, if you do stay there, do not, under any circumstances, forget something in your room. Getting from anywhere else (like the front desk, or one of the meeting rooms) back to your room and back to your destination will take most of the morning. Or afternoon.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Springhill Suites Memphis East/Galleria

Springhill Suites Memphis East/Galleria sets you up with a near-impossible-to-meet set of expectations. I quote from the official web copy: "Turn your next trip into an inspired and rewarding experience. Spacious suites to work, sleep or play. Irresistible beds with fresh, crisp, white linens. Stylish décor. Free in-room high speed internet access." Wow. That's a big promise for a bed/living area, isn't it?

The hallway gives little indication of the pleasures which are, no doubt, just ahead.

I'll give the Springhill Suites Memphis East/Galleria this much: It's clean and roomy. And the internet is free. I do have an issue with their definition of "stylish décor". To me, the room looked more as if the person in charge of outfitting the rooms opened a furniture catalog and started picking things out at random, to wit:

The lamps. No matter which style of lamp you like, you're sure to find one in your room.

Or the mirrors. Round with silver frame or Square with faux window frame? Just spin around in your desk chair, and face your favorite.

Upholstery? Who cares if nothing matches? Variety is the spice of life, isn't it?

If only that devil-may-care interior design philosophy carried over to the toiletries. To wash my hair, I had my choice of conditioner or conditioner.

One other thing. I think the interior designer ran out of steam when it came time to furnish the bathroom. Instead of placing the toilet paper near the toilet, they chose to put it just out of reach across the room from your seated position.

In case you were wondering, there was room next to the toilet. But that wouldn't make for a rewarding or inspiring experience, now would it?