I grinned because until my late twenties, I’d NEVER picked a hotel!
Although my childhood was very happy, we were dirt poor. Our vacations were spent camping in tents or, if we were feeling especially flush, Motel 6. I loved our little vacationing adventures, but admit I grew up thinking that only rich people stayed in hotels, that they were something reserved for Hollywood elite or posh businessmen. The thought of staying in a fancy hotel with room service was relegated to the glowing rooms of fantasy.
Since then I have been able to stay in “real” hotels, and it still gives me a thrill every time: the weird paintings on the walls, pristine bed linen, fluffy white towels, unlimited air conditioning and wi-fi. It doesn’t bother me if the bathroom is so teensy I can barely turn around (Paris) or if my environs are invaded by friendly lizards (Fiji). I don’t mind being shoe-horned in with my family for a night (Rome) or hauling my luggage up three flights of stairs (Venice). It doesn’t seem to matter what catastrophes arise, it’s always such an adventure and I feel that I’m being spoiled rotten. 🙂
When choosing a hotel I look for cheap, clean, and close to wherever I want to go exploring. Since my job requires access to internet, I also look for free Wi-Fi.
But to be perfectly honest, I’d rather stay almost anywhere than a hotel these days. They do their job well – providing a safe, clean place to sleep and shower – but they’re not overly interesting. And I’m rather fond of interesting.
For short stays I love bed and breakfasts. They’re quirky and unique and you never know what you’re going to get. The owners are usually cheery and helpful, providing invaluable information about local transportation, food, and culture. Bed and breakfasts generally take you off the tourist/hotel strip and into a real neighborhood, allowing you to see how the locals live, shop and eat. I love this.
My friend Betsy took me to my first bed and breakfast on a fabulous Girls Road Trip we took to Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Beaconsfield Inn is located in gorgeous Victoria and had everything I could ever hope for in a lovely place to stay:
- sherry in the library upon arrival
- delicious breakfast in a plant-filled sunroom
- enormous rooms with fluffy feather beds, a fireplace, hot tub, and cute little bottles of champagne to go with your chocolates.
While secluded enough to be peaceful and quiet, it was within walking distance to downtown Victoria and just around the corner from a splendid little theater that was hosting the Victoria Shakespeare Festival. For a girl used to sleeping in a small tent with three rowdy brothers, it was heaven.
It did not fit my usual requirement of cheap, but oh, it was marvelous, definitely worth a splurge for one night.
If I’m staying in a place longer than a few days, I will always look for a house or villa to rent.
My love affair with such accommodation started in Italy when four friends and I stayed at the idyllic Villa Trotta near Perdifumo, Italy. I’ve already waxed long and prolifically about this wonderful place in previous posts, but I couldn’t possibly describe how I choose a place to stay without bringing it up again.
Villa Trotta is a massive stone house in the country, perched right on the edge of a hill that sweeps down through orchards and vineyards to the Adriatic. For just over $1200 a week it was a steal, especially since the cost was divided between five girls. Yes, just over $200 per person for an entire week. We had the whole place to ourselves and spent many hours sunning and reading on the numerous terraces, cooking up splendid meals in the kitchen, and taking day trips to wondrous places like Capri, Naples, and Pompei.
My love for such places continued this fall when I met up with my friends and fellow travel writers Margo, Katy, Kate, and Kathy in Vogogna, Italy. We stayed in a wonderful old home nestled down the narrow cobbled streets of the Old Town. With three-foot-thick stone walls it was a quiet oasis in the midst of town. I loved the clawfoot tub in my bedroom, the wide stone steps that led from one level to another, and the rustic little courtyard out back that provided so much inspiration during our brainstorming sessions. Once again, the price was much, much lower than any nearby hotel, and the ambiance was exquisite.
So, how do I pick a hotel? I rarely do. I choose a villa or a rental house or a bed and breakfast, places with character and charm that don’t break my budget.
How about you, dear ones? What do you look for in a place to stay?