Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Room with a view (or not)

Don't ask me how or why, but the other night my date and I got on the topic of the best, worst and shall we say we say, most "interesting" hotel rooms we've ever stayed in. (Well, actually we've never had a worst, just interesting, unless you count the rummy little hotel we stayed in at Arlington, Oregon, on the hottest day of the summer some 10 years ago or so. Please don't make me go there.) Suffice to say, most have been international digs although New York City certainly has treated us to an adventure or two.

We've been traveling internationally (if you don't count trips to Canada) since 2002 when we made our first trip to Europe. Yes, we started late, but since then we've never looked back. And from the get-go, let me just say up front, we have been Budget Travelers with a capital B and T.

Having a couple kids in college will do that to you.

As BTs, we're pretty existential about hotel rooms. Location is all important -- we're talking transportation, restaurants, neighborhood-y feel -- but other than that, as long as there aren't creepy-crawly things in the bed, it doesn't smell of -- just fill in the blank and we'd probably agree -- and the staff (and anyone else in the vicinity) aren't ax murderers, we're pretty happy campers.

Here are some random musings on hotels -- starting with some of the best.

Casitas Eclipse, Manuel San Antonio, Costa Rica

Courtesy of Google Images: I'm pretty sure this was the actual room where we stayed. Really.
The. most. beautiful. place. ever. The design theme is tropical spartan and there are no jetted tubs or turn-down service. But where else can you go to sleep to the hum of a thousand insects and tree frogs and wake up to the strange, chilling call of howler monkeys?

Our room was smaller, but they still did the neat twisty thing with the bath towels.
The personnel warm and genuine (well, mostly), best pinto gallo ever, three swimming pools and a 10-minute bus ride (10 cents!) to Manuel San Antonio National Park. The casitas can be rented as  villas (upstairs and downstairs with a small kitchen) or hotel rooms. We're thinking a family Christmas some year, yes?

Finally, can you say 24/7 iguanas, monkeys (howler and squirrel, capuchin in the park), sloths, songbirds and poisonous frogs everywhere? Sa-weet!

This a view of Canale Canareggio. . . from the rooftop terrace of our hotel room. Uh huh, our rooftop terrace. Long story short: We showed up at Tre Archi (one of the most amazingly easy hotels to find in Venice, btw, because it's Pepto Bismol PINK! and right in front of a vaporetto stop) only to find our booked room was having some bathroom issues.

They led us to a tiny room with two twin beds. But when we saw the terrace, it didn't take us long to conclude we could live with the 1960s Sit-Com Sleeping arrangements for three nights. Just call us Lucy and Ricky. 
Other bennies: The wonderful San Leonardo market was a five-minute walk from the hotel -- complete   
 with fantastic little restaurants and gelato shops. A girl has got to have her gelato, you know.

I came down with a head cold toward the end of our stay in Venice that went from annoying to raging during the 3 1/2-hour train ride to Florence. Let me just say, I wasn't prepared for the noise and busy-ness of Florence after the relative calm of Venice where the only motorized vehicles you heard were vaporettos chugging through its dark canals.

The walk to Albergo Firenze was a cacaphonous mess. I felt like crap. I was missing Venice. Until then we walked through this little cool little Renaissance arch and it all went away. Hello, Albergo Firenze.
We checked into what was possibly the largest hotel room in Europe. Well, at least for Budget Travelers. Design theme: Italian Spartan, but beautiful, cool tile floors, a window that look out over a private courtyard, dead silent. A well-deserved nap was restorative.

And then we discovered the Duomo was literally right outside our front door. Along with a most excellent coffee shop. All for about 90 Euros a night (2008 Euros, that is).

And finally.

Murray Hill East, Mid-town Manhattan

One bedroom apartment with kitchen. Approximately 39th and Lexington. About 4 blocks from Grand Central station. Great bagel place at the corner. Equally swell restaurants within two blocks. Deli that serves up a kick-ass matzoh ball soup. Well under $200 a night (well, in March. . . we BTs tend to travel off-season).

Get. out.
The living room actually looked JUST LIKE THIS!

Next stop - a couple of our more interesting hotel stays. But that's another post.

How about you? What are your most excellent hotels?


  1. Are you kidding me? I want to know what kind of budget you're on. Our budget rooms would look like the toilets in one of these here fine establishments. Until recently, I didn't even realise I had to pay more than AUD100 for a room without bed bugs and stains on the wall.

    Our favourite hotels would have to be some of the Rajasthan palaces, the hotel in Cairo where that Agatha Christie book was set and one old convent in Spain. They were all tatty but fabulous and interesting nevertheless. There have definitely been more bad than good. And we always ask for twin beds :D

  2. Obviously, "budget" is a relative term. Our worst budget "find" was on our first trip together---to Spain in 1981. Dona Pepas guest house in Seville, Spain had slimy sheets. (Shudder). But, on the same trip, for $10.50 per night, we had a perfectly respectable room with a private bathroom in a hotel in Nerja on the Costa del Sol. Now we travel when my husband has a work trip to somewhere nice. During the work part of the trip, when someone else is picking up the tab, we stay in conference/business level hotels which are pretty nice although kind of soul-less. On the nights when we're paying for the hotel, we find B&B's or 3 star hotels. Our best find was a well located guesthouse in Guanajuato, Mexico, el Zopilote Mojado (The Drenched Buzzard??) Despite the name, the room was spotless and quiet, we had free internet and a private bathroom for $85 per night. Breakfast wasn't included, but could be purchased for $5.00.