Thursday, January 15, 2009

Waterfront Hotel, Oakland

The Waterfront Hotel is located at (in?) Oakland, California's Jack London Square, which may cause you to immediately think of White Fang or The Call Of The Wild, but which is actually an urban-mall-ish attempt to make the Oakland waterfront a hip 'n' trendy place to hang and shop.

Being on the waterfront, the "recently renovated" Waterfront Hotel throws down a heavy nautical theme, beginning with the front facade.

The "Ahoy, Matey" motif continues with your key card holder:

Carries into the wallpaper behind your bed,

Right through one of the lamps in the room.

All that effort, however, is interrupted by the decidedly non-nautical hallways. They're pretty much generic looking wallpaper and dark green carpeting.

The room was nice and fresh, so the "newly renovated" claim appears to hold water. The wireless internet is free, everyone was super nice, and there's a pool which, this being January and all, I didn't use. One of my cranky-by-nature co-workers was disappointed by the gym, but he's cranky about lots of things, so take that with a grain of salt water. (Hah! see how I managed to get in a nautical joke there?)

Here's another plus. The Waterfront Hotel is two blocks away from Yoshi's Jazz Club, one of America's premier jazz venues. In fact, I was lucky enough to run into one of the world's greatest jazz guitarists, John Abercrombie, who was staying at the hotel.

(I stole that image from John's website, but since it's an ad for him, I assume he won't get mad and send his lawyers after me.)

So, if you're a jazz fan, you might run into one of your heroes here. (I did). If you're a fan of mini-bars, you're out of luck, as I couldn't find one anywhere in my room. There was coffee, though, so I was happy.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Golden Hallway Winner for 2008

I'm not quite as excited about my Golden Hallway Award winner this year. (Last year's winner, the Hotel Gault in Montreal really knocked my socks off). This year, I had a little more trouble deciding on the champ. I wanted to give it to the Claremont for consistently not recognizing me as a repeat customer. (After all, I've been staying there pretty regularly for 4 years). I thought I'd give the Ashton Inn an award for its unspeakably filthy stair carpeting, but thought that might take the luster off this prestigious award.

Ultimately, I give this year's award to the

in Washington, DC. It's a very nice hotel, with the added bonus of leopard-print loungewear available for purchase, and free internet. So three cheers for the Monaco.

Blancaneaux Lodge

This is yet another hotel with no hallways, so technically, it really doesn't qualify for inclusion in this blog, but too bad.

The Blancaneaux Lodge (owned & operated by Francis Ford Coppola) is located near San Ignacio, Belize. (About a 3 hour drive from Belize City). In its favor: A gorgeous setting.

It has beautiful villa/cabanas deposited picturesquely around the grounds.

They have real, honest, thatched roofs.

There's a hot tub. (And an unheated pool)

In short, Blancaneaux Lodge would seem to be a perfect place to relax.

I was all set to give it the 2008 Golden Hallway award.

The people who work at Blancaneaux Lodge are uniformly pleasant, helpful, friendly, outgoing, and eager to please. As you can plainly see, it's beautiful.

And yet: (Everyone was so nice, I feel bad having to relay this information)

There are a couple of problems. It is very isolated. (Which is good, if that's what you're looking for). But that means everything you eat comes from the Blancaneaux kitchens, which were, to be honest, disappointing. It is claimed that Mrs. Coppola oversees every detail about the Lodge, so the fact that her "lemon chicken" has no lemon in it must be somewhat of a surprise to her.

And then there were the cimex lectularius. I know it's a tropical environment and all, but geez, Mr. Coppola, I didn't expect to end my vacation splattered with bed bug bites. (I had 18 on my right arm alone).

So, no Golden Hallway award for Blancaneaux. Though it is the first hotel I've ever stayed in with bedbugs, so it's got that award going for it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Marriott Hotel at George Bush Intercontinental Airport

The family had a lovely vacation plan that was thrown into temporary disarray due to our inability to connect to the flight we needed to be on to get to our destination. Net result, we had to spend an unplanned night in Houston. More precisely, at the Houston Airport.

The Marriott at IAH (George Bush Intercontinental Airport) was clearly designed during that phase of American life when space-age design ruled. It is a hub, spoke, and ring design. The hub houses the elevators and a rotating top floor restaurant. The spokes are the walkways to the rings, which house the rooms. The design inspiration is pretty obvious to me:

Unfortunately, two of the four spokes on our floor were blocked for maintenance, and so we were required to navigate 270 degrees of the ring to get to our room. It was actually kind of dizzying.

The hotel tried to make the trek more manageable by breaking up the circle with a pattern woven into the carpet that looked (as my wife put it) like throw rugs.

Eating choices at the hotel were slim. By the time we checked in, the only open restaurant was a way way overpriced rotating fancy place on the top floor, giving you a full and unobstructed view of the airport. No choices for restaurants at the airport, either. IAH has plenty of places to nosh, but only after you've passed through TAS security, which we couldn't do, because we didn't get boarding passes for the flight the next day. We ultimately spent $30 on cab fare to go to a Chilis.

One other thing. To get to our floor, we had to insert our key card. No matter how fast you stuck the card in the slot you heard a female voice repeatedly say:

"Please insert your key card to access levels one, two or three".

My son delighted in forcing the voice to say that phrase over and over and over again.

The Marriott at IAH skimps big time on the coffee, too. Basically one cup of regular, one cup of decaf. The end. There is a train stop in the basement that'll take you to the terminal of your choice. I think everyone who chooses the hotel is either stranded or works for an airline.