The Fine Print

14 Sep

When making accommodation recommendations to clients I like to point out that my opinions on hotels are likely to be influenced by two things: room service and the bathroom.


(bathroom at NH Schiller in Amsterdam)

One of the first things I do when I get into any hotel room is check the bathroom. A clean bathroom is a basic necessity for any stay, but what I’m really looking for is the attention to detail. I’m curious about the bath amenities. Are the soaps and creams cheap or boutique? I prefer when I am given shampoo and conditioner, rather than just a generic two-for-one. I’m looking to see how thick the towels are, and how many I was given. I am a person who refuses to haggle for wash-cloths. I have long hair and I find that I require good water pressure to get all the soap out. I excuse weak pressure in old hotels, especially when there is beautiful vintage tile to make up for it. I also want to know whether or not any thought has gone into the design of the bathroom, which to me, is just as important as the bed I’m renting. Nothing beats a superb view or heated floor tiles. However, I appreciate when a flaw in the design of the space (say a bad view) is  fixed by gesture (like replacing the window with stained glass, as seen in the photo above). A tub is a nice amenity but not a total necessity. I usually get by with just a quick shower. However on some days, a long hot bath is just what your body needs after a day of travel. Recently I’ve been drawn to the separate tub and shower combinations you can find in more modern hotel bathroom designs. Clean lines and lots of glass. I love the incorporation of natural woods and neutral tones. If a bathroom exceeds my needs and expectations I’m likely to remember the hotel, and even more likely to spread the word.

(with extra points given for his and hers robes and slippers)

Room Service

(room service from The Allison Inn and Spa, Oregon Wine Country)

The next thing I go looking for after checking the bathroom is the hotel literature. I’m not a fan of those hotels who have scrapped their literature and now require the guest to rely on a digital remote-controlled guide on the television to answer any questions. I prefer to have something to hold in my hands. I enjoy the process of flipping through pages, not screens. I like knowing the history of a place, looking at the photos, browsing brochures, seeing what the area has to offer. These things make me tick. Naturally, in with the cable TV menu and the custom stationery is the room service menu. Please allow me to clarify: room service is not a requirement for my stay, and it would be a flat-out lie if I told you that every place I stay even offers such a service. On the contrary, I hardly ever order room service for two main reasons: the menu lacks any hint of freshness or vitality, and oftentimes the meal will be spoiled by the seemingly inevitable inaccuracies produced by the game of telephone you’re forced to play when placing the order. Again, like the bath amenities, it’s all in the details. I like the words: heirloom, fleur de sel, and grass-fed. I’m looking for seasonal ingredients, misspellings, and the absence of the phrase “garden salad”—which in too many cases is slang for iceberg lettuce. I appreciate a hotel kitchen that serves past midnight, and I ask that my food be served the temperature it’s supposed to be—cold items cold, hot items hot. Ordering room service can be a gamble but it can also a luxury. My favorite room service meal to order is breakfast. I find nothing more indulgent than having breakfast delivered and digesting the first meal of the day in a fluffy bathrobe over fresh squeezed orange juice and the daily crossword (Mon.-Wed.). On the rare occasion we might order something at night. Sometimes it feels easy to justify freshly baked chocolate chip cookies being delivered to my door, even if they cost $13. When it’s ‘off’ room service can be a big disappointment and one of the most expensive mistakes you can make during a trip. When it’s ‘on’ though, it speaks volumes about a hotel and the engine running behind it.

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