Razzle's Travels


Hilton Portland – My default hotel
July 21, 2008, 12:55 am
Filed under: Hotel, OR, Portland
When I need to stay in downtown Portland on the cheap I go to Priceline and bid on a 3 star hotel. I have yet to get anywhere but the Hilton. Usually hovering somewhere around $110 a night, this weekend I hit the jackpot and got it for $64 (going rate was $149 at the hotel).
In the five times I’ve stayed here, this was the first time they accomodated my request for a room with a king bed. So those are the pics you see.
Room sizes completely vary, this king room was the smallest room I’ve been in, I’ve also had corner doubles that were enormous and a couple other doubles that were average size and a very small double. So if you get a room that is small and you are staying with someone, you might want to try asking if they have another room available.
The beds aren’t super comfy like some of the other Hiltons I’ve stayed at, but also not uncomfortable by any means. I chalk it up to the older status of the hotel.
It is an older hotel, decor wise, but very centrally located and I can walk anywhere downtown or in the Pearl relatively quickly. There is a Max station located a couple blocks down in Pioneer Square and the Streetcar runs a few blocks over on 10th. Shopping galore is also a couple blocks away, Nordstrom, a huge Banana Republic and also the mall.
It is also generally a very busy hotel! This is the one time I’ve checked in and not come across large groups of people and parties in the lobby.
There is a fitness center, which they charge $10 a day to use, and internet is also at a charge, like all other Hiltons. Parking is $25 a day, but there is a lot across 6th Street that charges $15 for overnight parking if you just need a place to stash the car while you sleep.
Another odd thing I came across charge-wise, I left my rings in the bathroom and realized it when it was too late to turn around and go back. I called and security confirmed they were in the bathroom. They offered to mail it back to me, but would need a credit card to charge it to. Otherwise they will hold on to them for 60 days. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t just mail them to me in an envelope and not charge me, but it just seemed part of the small fees for everything nature of the chain.
I’ve eaten at the 921 Bistro a few times, and it is reasonably priced and the food is fairly good. Great if you get in late at night and just want a quick bite to eat before bed. But if you have time and want really good food you are just a walk from tons of restaurants. For breakfast it’s good if you want a quick bite before a meeting, but if you have time you need to go to Mother’s instead.
Overall, it’s a good bargain if you are in town and need a centrally located place to stay.


Cocoon Urban Day Spa – Manis and Pedis
July 21, 2008, 12:05 am
Filed under: CA, Northern CA, San Francisco, Spa

So when my best girlfriend suggested we go after work one day to treat our little toes, I tried to find somewhere that was a midway point for both of us. Enter Cocoon Urban Day Spa in the SoMa part of town. Location is a few uphill blocks away from most of the financial district, but if you are lazy like me you take a cab.

It’s a bit hard to find from the street, as the building didn’t have an easily noticable sign, and shares a space with a restaurant. The space is on the second floor, and is also part yoga studio.

The manicure/pedicure room is huge! and has windows on two sides, so full of light. While you can occassionally hear the traffic from the street below, for the most part you forget that you are right downtown.
They had brownies and strawberries for us to snack on, and for the ladies that came in after 5 pm they offered champagne. It might have been because we were using a coupon? Coupons on thier website are pretty good, they are limited by time of day but that just gives you an excuse to cut out of work early!

Service was great, they were running late, but the ladies that worked on us were all very nice and sociable and did a great job. Even when I smashed my nails upon paying. We got the ultimate mani/pedi combo, which for some reason I thought included paraffin, but instead just had warm booties and mittens. Still very relaxing and a good way to spend an afternoon.

They have one person doing your nails while the other does your toes, so it’s efficient and you don’t have to sit around and wait too much. And so you know it’s sanitary they also use metal bowls for the pedicure water and not the sometimes unclean plastic tubs most places do. However, they do still have massage chairs. It would be a great place to go with a group of girlfriends for an afternoon of treatments.

I haven’t gone back to try any of thier other treatments, but it seemed they only had a couple treatment rooms. And the space that seemed to be the yoga studio seemed a bit small. Maybe they have small classes.

I will definitely return for another treatment soon! Oh and you cannot tip on your credit card, so make sure to take cash for tips (otherwise you have to pay the atm fee downstairs).

Location: 330 first street, second floor
san francisco, ca 94105
415.777.0100



Burgers and Shakes Oh My! – Taylors Automatic Refresher
May 4, 2008, 1:57 am
Filed under: CA, Food, napa, Northern CA

So I had reservations at Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc one night, we were headed up to Napa to shop for the day and it seemed like a delightful idea to stop and get some fancy food time in. But, as I pulled up the menu for that evening, nothing appealed to me. And so reservation cancelled and a new mission is upon us. We had passed a new outpost of Taylor’s Automatic Refresher along the way, and since I love me some tasty burgers and thick shakes that was where dinner would be!
The line here was considerably shorter than I’ve ever seen at the Ferry Building outpost, I suspect it is because this is a very new location in what seems to be a new part of downtown Napa.
But let’s get on to the food shall we? I got a cheeseburger and fries. Classic. I think the key to thier burgers, is really the bun. Look at that thing, it’s just perfect.

The tasty continues with thier yummy good quality meat, cheese, and of course special sauce thing.

My companion got a patty melt, and the sweet potato fries. But she mixed it up a bit and asked them to leave off the chili powder and instead give it the garlic coating. She is BRILLIANT! They were possibly the best sweet potato fries I’ve ever had.

She did love her patty melt as well, and it even caused a man to pause at our table and ask what she was eating. He apparently had never seen one before.

I do love that thier condiments come in little pastic containers with lids. They were sturdy containers and for some reason just struck me as really adorable. Thier plastic drink cups are made from recyclable materials and they have recycling bins next to the trash as well. Yeay for being green!



A little bit of Rock n Roll – Jupiter Hotel – Portland
May 4, 2008, 1:23 am
Filed under: Hotel, OR, Portland

The Jupiter is what I’m going to refer to as Rock n’ Roll hotel. It is home to the Doug Fir Lounge, a small venue with live indie bands, food, and obviously a bar. Located nearby is also Union Jack’s a strip bar. So, on a Saturday night, you can only imagine that it is crowded, loud, and full of partiers. We arrived late (1 am) and the hotel parking was full, so park on a residential side street and pray for no ticket in the morning. I didn’t really see any signs clearly marking the hotel, so it’s a good thing my companion had stayed there before!

There’s lots of outdoor seating, and I swear I saw a firepit, but I may have been a bit tipsy. I suspect this used to be a Travelodge or a Howard Johnson’s type hotel, that was just updated to be kinda cool kinda funky. We ended up in one of the Lobu rooms.

This means a queen platform bed with a light comforter and blanket, no artwork, a small table with two chairs and a tv. The bed however, is comfortable and the towels soft.

Very minimalistic, and very small. There is chalk in the room, and until the morning I didn’t realize it was for the room door that is painted with chalkboard paint. Cool!

The bathroom also follows the minimalist approach, fun vinyl shower curtain, small sink. Very basic.


The only, and biggest complaint I have about the Jupiter is the super thin walls. We had been placed between two rooms that were for one group of friends. So there was lots of going back and forth between the two rooms, standing in front of our room and having conversations about who was drunker than who, and who could kick a cops ass. Other conversations revolved around which strip club was better (Mary’s is apparently more “accomodating”). I couldn’t decide if it was a bunch of frat boys, or a bachelor party.

So if you want a romantic night away, I wouldn’t recommend staying here for a relaxing quiet night. I would however recommend it for a girls or boys night out partying late. Or if you want to have really loud sex and want people to hear.

The lobby has apples and coffee in the morning, and the Doug Fir apparently serves a decent breakfast starting early in the morning for those of you who don’t plan on going to bed.



Salt House – San Francisco
April 5, 2008, 7:09 pm
Filed under: CA, Food, San Francisco

The Salt House opened a while back, but I finally had a chance to grab lunch there this week. I am a huge fan of Town Hall, the partner’s other restaurant a couple blocks away and have eaten many a satisfied meal there.
I arrived very late for lunch, so my friends had already eaten bunches of oysters, and 3 dishes of thier pickled vegetables. Apparently those were quite good! We did get another dish for the table, but the two of them inhaled it before I got a chance.
Since I was late I had my friends order for me. They ordered the chicken. Which as the waitress informed them is a salad, even though it is on the entree portion of the menu, and doesn’t use the word salad in the name or description.
When the waitress brought it to the table I could see why. It was possibly half a roast chicken and not greasy at all, with perfectly crisp skin. It laid across a mixture of baby spinach, radishes, and the thickest, meatiest, chunks of bacon I’ve ever seen. Sprinkled with finely chopped egg and tossed with a dressing that I couldn’t identify but wasn’t heavy or oily. There were some crimini mushrooms in there as well, that didn’t distract me enough to realize I was eating them.
I rarely order salads, but this is one I would certainly get again.
One of my friends is a vegan, and there was nothing on the menu for her. However, the kitchen threw a dish together for her with vegetables and some salsa verde. It was colorful and smelled amazing! She said it tasted as good as it smelled.
Our other friend got a rueben turkey sandwich on rye, with some red relish and a side of very yummy chips. He didn’t share the sandwich with me, so that speaks as to how tasty it must have been.
Despite being full, we had to have dessert. I got a molten chocolate cake with chip whip and mint-chip ice cream. I was slightly disappointed with the amount of ice-cream on the plate. Literally a teaspoon size. Which Mr. Turkey Sandwich picked up with one spoon and swallowed in one bite! I guess it was good……
There was a drizzle of mint oil on the plate and while the melty, yet not warm chocolate cake didn’t have any mint flavoring, swiping it along the mint oil gave it a very very minty flavor. The chip whip was a clever mix of homemade cream with teeny tiny chocolate chips thrown in.
The other dessert at the table was mango pudding with forbidden rice and cream. I had a couple bites of this, and it was so rich and mangoey! I love when I can taste the freshness of the fruit in dishes. It reminded me of mango sticky rice but ten times better.

My favorite little thing to love about the restaurant are the glass milk bottles they leave at the table with water. They have a very cute pirate type of design on the bottle that made me want to put it in my purse and take it home. However, if you want ice water here you must ask for it, the water they bring to the table is room temperature.

I have to admit I like the ambience of Salt House better than Town Hall. My one complaint about Town Hall is the acoustics. No matter where you sit, it reverberates with all the conversations going on in the restaurant. Salt House has the same high ceiling space, but it wasn’t loud. Decorated to fit with the loft style of the SOMA location and with an open kitchen, it was very airy and yet welcoming at the same time.

Location: 545 Mission Street, between 1st and 2nd across from Golden Gate Law School.



Tutweiler Hotel – A Hilton in Birmingham
February 10, 2008, 1:59 am
Filed under: Alabama, Birmingham, Food, Hotel

When I was told I was heading to Birmingham, I was none to excited. I’d never really had a desire to go to the South in the summer months, I remembered lots of humidity from my childhood in Georgia.

It was suggested I stay at the Tutweiler, and so I booked my room with the hesitation that it was a Hampton Inn.
Oh was I ever wrong.

I got in late after some major airline snafus at about 1 am. The lobby of the hotel is absolutely gorgeous. It was not your run of the mill Hampton Inn.
The front desk greeted me without seeming tired or annoyed that they were at work so late. They suggested a few places that would still deliver dinner at that late hour.

This was the cornerstone of my stay here. Just how friendly and accomodating every staff member I came across was. This is southern hospitality at it’s finest.

The room was a bit on the small side, but extremely clean, renovated, and comfortable. Incidentaly a suite was only $20 more and as I found out the following day would have been well worth it. Everyone else in my party had chosen to upgrade and they raved about the suites.

One thing that was odd about my room was the height of everything. It was as if my room was designed for a tall person. Now, I’m 5’2, so I am a bit on the shorter side, but I felt like I needed a step stool for the bed.

A bed wich was very comfortable I might add.

There was also a plasma tv in the room, quite sleek and a dvd player and cable.

So I crawled into the high bed, turned on the tv and went to sleep.

My shower also was created for the tall people. The showerhead was so high I couldn’t reach it by standing on my tiptoes. And as there was no bathtub I couldn’t stand on the edges to adjust the showerhead either.

Otherwise, there was nice marble flooring, a granite vanity and good towels.

In the morning there is a free breakfast upstairs. Along with the typical croissants, muffins, cereals and fruit there were also hot dishes everyday. The sausage, biscuits and gravy stick solidly in my mind.

Oh and there’s always warm cookies to be had atop the piano in the lounge.

Lunch was at the hotel restaurant Icon. This is not southern dining. It’s very California sleek and healthy. The salad portions were good and quite yummy.

All in all, I wouldn’t hesitate to stay here again. A fabulous hotel, with a wonderful staff.



Hilton Pearl River – NY
February 8, 2008, 12:44 am
Filed under: Hotel, New York

The Pearl River Hilton seems to be in a part of NY/NJ that really has no other hotels around. So thier rates can be as high as they want them to be.

We stayed here for 2 nights for a family wedding, and had a block of about 20 rooms. The regular rate for the Thurs/Friday we were staying was $189/night. Our wedding rate was a bit lower.

When you enter the hotel, you are immediately impressed by the lobby. I suspect in any season other than the winter the grounds would be green and lush and impressive as well. The website makes it seem like an extremely fancy and nice hotel.

Now, when a room costs close to $200/night, outside of Manhattan and in an area that doesn’t seem to really have much of a draw I expect it to be a fairly nice room.

This was at best a 3* room. The bathroom was small, and the tiles on the floor cracked, the shower was designed in a way that the entire bathroom floor was soaked by the time you got done with your shower. The rooms on the 2nd floor smelled musty, our rooms on the 4th floor fared better in that aspect.

The rooms were large, but the furniture and bedding nothing special. However, the beds were VERY comfy. I do like that about Hiltons.
Internet was $5/day, which is cheap as other Hiltons I’ve stayed at charged $9.95 or more.

We had breakfast at La Maisonette, the one restaurant the hotel has, other meals we drove into Nyack to eat. Breakfast has 2 buffet options. The cold buffet, which seems to be a glorified continental breakfast for $9, the hot buffet which included eggs and bacon goodness that was $13.

Overall, if in the area again I would have to see if there is another hotel, because for the room rate it wasn’t worth it.