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.

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.

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.

Swanky Modern in Motown – MGM Grand Detroit
January 16, 2008, 4:19 am
Filed under: Casino, Detroit, Fine Dining, Hotel, MI

I spent a couple days at the MGM Grand in Detroit recently. The hotel is only a couple months old and apparently the only luxury hotel in town. I took pics and then mistakenly deleted them, so you’ll have to take my word on it.
Holy cow is this place NICE!
The lobby lounge is called the living room, it has some suede armless sofas, and the coolest fireplace that runs through the middle of the length of the stainless steel wall.

The rooms are super cool, and technologically a bit too advanced for me and my friends. 42″ plasma tvs, a phone that shows your name on the screen, it also has some sort of touch screen functionality we couldn’t figure out. The hotel info book in the room also claimed there was a butler button on the phone for room service, but none of us could find the button. The phone had too many buttons. But no room service button.

The walls against the bed are some sort of bamboo textured wallpaper that I couldn’t stop touching for 5 min. The curtains were also a touchable silk crinkly material. A velvet couch which was comfy to lay on, silk throw pillows, and a velvety bench at the foot of the bed rounded out the textural furniture.

The bed, oh the lovely bed I didn’t want to get out of. Featherbeds, down comforters, soft soft cotton sheets. It got mighty hot in there at night, and my only complaint was that we couldn’t get the thermostat to go under 67 degrees. Yes, it was winter and there was a snowstorm outside, but that bed was just too hot.
The thick espresso stained headboard had a light in it that wasn’t controlled by any of the switches in the room. This was weird. And annoying while trying to sleep. It took 2 days to figure out the switch was on the side of the headboard.

More about the lighting, there is one lightswitch that controls all the lights in the room. Not your traditional sliding dimmer switch, this one gives you 5 options for controlling just how much light there is. I liked it. There is also a very cool orange light panel in the wall that separates the bedroom from the bathroom.

The bathroom was huge and marble. With two undermounted sinks, which was very cool. The shower and toilet were both behind frosted doors. This was so sleek that neither of us initially noticed the toilet wasn’t out in the open. The shower had two rainhead showerheads. Which makes for fun 2 person showers. Bathroom amenities were all h20+ brand, smelled soooo good! I forgot to take them home with me though. Lots of fluffy towels, and two very thick and comfy robes. There was a weird mirror within the mirror of the bathroom, which I found out after the fact was apparently a tv. See? Too much fancy technology!

Room service was from Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant. We ordered a italian sausage, eggplant, carmelized onion and mushroom pizza and a couple beers. The pizza wasn’t all that great, the Italian sausage tasted a bit weird and there was cilantro on the pizza, which didn’t blend well with the other flavors. Service was very prompt, although they didn’t bring us any ice water with the dinner, which I’ve never had happen before.

The hotel also has two of Michael Mina’s restaurants, Bourbon Steak and Saltwater. I meant to try at least one of these as he is one of my favorite chefs, but both of us were under the weather most the weekend and room service was just easier.
There is also a Starbucks, which strangely enough closes at 7 pm.

The hotel staff and concierge were all very nice and as helpful as could be.

If you have to go to Detroit and want a truly luxurious stay, I highly recommend the MGM Grand.

Cutest Hotel Ever -Pod Hotel – NYC
January 13, 2008, 8:34 pm
Filed under: Hotel, Midtown, New York

I’ve never been compelled to review a hotel the minute I walked in the door, but the Pod Hotel did it for me.

Now, I tend to like the luxury hotels, and this certainly is not one. But it’s cute, boutiquey, has a great staff, and a total find!
I was looking for a cheap one night stay in NY, and stumbled across this place. It has bunkbeds (also, the cheapest room option) and I thought it would make for a fun stay with L. The room is tiny, as in I think my walk-in closet may be larger than this but, it is incredibly charming!The concept of a shared bath (they do have rooms with private baths, but not the bunk rooms) seemed a bit sketchy and weird, but as I was coming up the hall two bathrooms were being meticulously cleaned by the housekeeping crew. They bathroom may actually be larger than our room, but it’s clean, has one of those rain showerheads, music piped in and is not at all run down. The room has all the towels and toiletries and a sink. Picture an airplane bathroom sink.
They offer free wireless (yeay!), an ipod docking station/stereo, the rooms temperature control works well, and as I am using the air conditioning in January it really is individually controlled.
The lobby is large and very modern trendy, I shall go hang out there shortly.
So far the bed I am sitting on is comfy, with it’s own small tv screen.
This place gets an A+ rating from me.

A modern oasis in Ashland – Morical House
June 18, 2007, 11:32 pm
Filed under: Ashland, Food, Hotel, OR
The Morical House Bed and Breakfast is just like home. If my home were on 2 acres of land, with amazing views from the deck, had a personal chef and neverending cups of tea.

We recently spent 5 nights here and I have never been so relaxed after a vacation. Granted, that may also have something to do with Ashland as a whole and the mellow vibe it gives off.

What I loved most about it, was that it isn’t your typical B&B. The decor is like my own house, elegant and minimalist modern (think Crate & Barrel and Restoration Hardware instead of Laura Ashley), Alicia is readily available but not intrusive and chatty, and breakfast is three courses. There is a good selection of Tazo teas and biscotti around all day, a common room with a fireplace which was perfect for sipping tea and curling up with a book at night.

However, the huge win was really the deck with views of the mountains. We spent many hours laying out, getting some color and catching up on reading and relaxing. It was there I saw my first quail, and discovered a cherry tree behind the pond that was full of very juicy tasty cherries!
The rest of the grounds are lovely with lots of colorful flowers and plants, a flower covered trellis, and a hammock that adds to that on vacation feeling.

Breakfasts were delicious, we were asked about dietary concerns and they were accommodated fairly well, although there were a few breakfasts I was only able to take a few bites of. Breakfasts either consisted of muffins/coffee cake and pancakes with a fruit compote (no syrup) and chicken sausage, or a fruit plate with eggs (either scrambled or fried) and sausage/chorizo. Dessert everyday was a sorbet or mini cream puffs. Now, if there is one thing I would like to incorporate into my daily breakfast routine it is ice cream! There were 2 seatings 8:30 or 9:30 am. The breakfast room is cozy and full of windows, it has two tables for 2 and 2 tables for 4, so I suppose if you wanted to be social and mingle with other guests you could sit at one of the tables for 4. The space isn’t too large and we did often talk with people at the neighboring tables about restaurants and plays.

We stayed in one of the suites Room 9 (picked specifically because this was the one room that appeared to have a television, it also had a dvd player and cable which was a nice surprise). The sheets were soft and a high thread count, because there is nothing better than high thread count sheets, the pillows were 100% down, thus making them squishably soft (and leaving me to wonder where exactly they were purchased, because I would love to buy about 20 for myself), there was a down comforter and a regular thinner cotton comforter on the bed.

The downside to the room was that it was a bit cold and there was no thermostat (this was also the case with the rooms inside the main house as we heard from other guests). The seating area was large, but the leather sofa and chair were not very comfortable to nap or curl up on.

Aesthetically though, the sitting area had no flaws. There was a mini-fridge in the room and teas and coffee which came in handy for storing wine and cheeses for afternoon snacking.

The bathroom had a whirlpool bath big enough for 2 and a stand up shower with no door, all done in grey stone which was beatiful. Soft towels, soap, shampoo and conditioner were changed daily, housekeeping was impeccable.

The rooms in the main house are smaller and primarly just a bed, dresser and bathroom with shower. There is one room with a clawfoot tub that is larger than the others and has a sitting area. They all also have the down comforter and nice sheets.

Room 3

Room 4

Room 5

Location wise it is a mile or so away from downtown and the Shakespeare Festival, so you will need a car to drive back and forth, it’s on a main road that is almost like a highway so walking along it is a bit strange.

I have no doubt I would stay here time and again on trips to Ashland and would recommend it to any of my friends.