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?

The Norfolk Airport Hilton

The Norfolk "Airport" Hilton is not actually at the airport, it's close to the airport. There is no Hilton in Norfolk that is closer to the airport in Norfolk, so I guess it merits its name. The halls are nothing to write home about, but that doesn't mean I can't write about them here. See?

The hotel is popular, based on my completely unscientific "how many USA Todays are there by the doors in the morning" method.

The NAH has a number of, shall we say, interesting features. 1) Two atria (atriums?).
The first is over the lobby.

The second illuminates this Max & Erma's table behind the elevator shaft.

2) A welcoming curtain on your floor, instead of some indication of where your room might be.

The curtain is always closed. Good thing, too, as it hides a spotlight module and some other junk.

One other thing. They must take brass polishing very seriously, as they've managed to scrub off the plating on the elevator door.