Monday, January 13, 2014

How do you chose your hotel?

David Brooks of the NY Times wrote a great blog post recently about hotels.  How we used to want hotels that reflected the character of the locale - the grandeur of Vienna, the stiff upper lip and class distinctions of London...

The order and precision of Berlin.  The opulence and attitude of Paris...
The decadence of Venice.  
Then for a while we wanted uniformity - Hyatt was Hyatt no matter where.  Ditto Sheraton, Marriott...The comfort of the familiar (remember Up In The Air? With George Clooney?)  And now we want something different.  Something special, or at least something that makes us feel we have the boutique-ing of chain hotels.  More accurately, the chain-ing of boutique hotels. 

His post is called The Edamame Economy (you can tell he's a waaaaaay better headline writer than I am - but he does work for the NY Times).   And it made me think. 

He says boutique hotels "hold up a flattering mirror" and "offer edginess, art, emotion and a dollop of pretension."  Maybe more than a dollop.  Gotta love those people who are into the pretension thing.

I am derided by a family member for my hotel choices.  Actually by more than one, and for different reasons.  Not hip enough, not green enough, too old, too elite.  Too expensive.  Not expensive enough.  And the worst - Not Cool Enough.  

Bearing in mind that at my age I'd probably reduce the cool factor of the edgiest hotel just by staying there, I have never chosen a hotel for its coolness factor.  I'm not choosing a hotel for bragging rights either.  I want other things.  Like a great location and a view, maybe historic architecture.  A decent reading light next to the bed, fabulous silky sheets and down pillows, a dab of opulence - I'll take opulence over cool any day of the week.  We used to joke we wouldn't want to stay in a hotel that wasn't as nice as our house. Then we built a house - our house - and developed a passion for traveling in the third world.  So that's over.  But still...

At Christmas we stayed at an Ian Schrager hotel in SF.  Totally cool. But you needed a seeing eye dog to find the front desk, and a treasure map to find a cocktail.  GPS was not up to the task.  And the chairs - or lack of.  You would slide into a blob of plastic masquerading as a chair and find yourself at an angle that made working on the computer impossible, and standing up problematic. 

There was of course the large metal octopus seat, or the huge lucite chair - much photographed, never sat in.  But comfort?  Not in evidence. Apparently comfort is not cool.  

The noise level in the public spaces guarantees that the young hipsters will soon be as hard of hearing as people my age.  Except I didn't see any young hipsters.  Mostly I saw harried hurried middle-aged people trying to be cool (and if you're 41 you're smack dab in middle age, based on the current life expectancy of 81 for women.  If you're a guy you're old.  76 for you - middle age was 38).  

Our room was a collision of opulence and orange plastic.  Not a happy collision.  But interesting, and at least we could read in bed.

David Brooks also made the point that if the major chains are doing boutique - Hyatt has Andare,  Starwood has W, and Marriott has Edition - it's no longer cool.  Critics, are you listening?

So where do we stay next?  

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