Wednesday, March 14, 2012
DEBORAH CROMBIE: It's mid-week confession time on Jungle Red, and mine is that I am a travel tramp. (You realize, of course, that I'm using the most polite terminology so that we don't turn up in the wrong search engines.)
This last year I was 500 flight miles short of keeping my Priority status on American Airlines, which I'd had for years. No longer do I rate priority check-in, security clearance, priority boarding, or upgrades, AND I have to pay to check a darned bag! I didn't realize how spoiled I was until I no longer got special treatment. I'd like to say I've shrugged and sanguinely come to terms with this, but NO. Such is not the case.
And then there are hotels. (Can you guess I've been on book tour, folks?) I'm married to a guy who would happily sleep in a Motel 6, but would prefer a sleeping bag and a tent. He watches self-sufficiency videos, where men (and a few hardy women) make fires with flints and sleep in snow caves in the Austrian Alps. I like watching them, too. Do I want to actually do this? I do not.
I like 4 Star. I like nice clean white linens and puffy down comforters. Boutique bath products and complimentary candles. Soaking tubs. Spa robes. And most of all--room service. Having someone bring me nice food on a tray, which I can eat while I read a good book or gaze at a nice view, is close to my idea of heaven. (And then they take it all away again and you don't have to do the dishes. What an amazing concept!)
I am unapologetic about this. In my ideal life, I would always fly business class and stay in the best boutique hotels. Maybe I would agree to camping if it was one of those luxury safari trips in Kenya... Maybe.
In the meantime, however, I'll be cleaning out kitty litter boxes and figuring out what on earth to fix for dinner.
What about you, REDS? Would you choose the high life, or would you rather rough it? (My husband might be up for a camping buddy...)
ROSEMARY HARRIS: At the risk of winding up on the wrong search engines, my husband and I swing both ways. I can be very happy thank you very much at The Hassler looking down at the Spanish Steps and wondering where to have my evening bottle of Prosecco and I can be just as happy at Curry Village wondering if they're serving the gooey mac and cheese that night.
When I'm traveling on a book tour I'll stay anywhere that has free wi-fi and a free breakfast - even if I don't eat it, I like to know it's there!
BTW, the luxury camping I've done in Kenya and Tanzania with white table cloths, champagne brunches and Pimm's delivered to your tent was pretty nice but as we know, I've also stayed in a hut, so I'm flexible.
DEBS: Ro, you are too funny! But I do want the white tablecloths and the Pimm's delivered to my tent!
JAN BROGAN: My husband went to great lengths so we could stay in the St. Regis in New York. It annoyed me. Although I got to run on a treadmill next to Morton Downey Jr., the number of hotel employees fussing over every last thing made me wildly uncomfortable. The whole concept of the room valet - I think that's what he was called - coming in to instruct us how to use the TV remote and wanting to pour our coffee - reminded me of that scene in Coming to America with Eddie Murphy as king sitting in the bathroom calling for his "wipers."
I go for local character over opulence any day. But clean linens, yes. And when I fly, although I don't need first class, I pay extra for leg room.
RHYS BOWEN: I used to be an avid camper but these old bones do prefer the luxury bed these days (but what is one supposed to do with ALL THOSE PILLOWS?) I certainly don't like to be fussed over by a hovering attendant. But having had my share of boutique hotels on book tour recently, I opt for a normal Marriott-type room. No strange art work on the walls glaring down at me as I try to sleep. No Afghan tribesman in the shower (yes, there was a life size photo of such in the shower area in one hotel. I thought I should be wearing a burka) And I don't need a dining table for 12 or a book case full of eccentric books when I'm only there to sleep. My observation is: the more time you are going to spend in the room, the smaller the room you wind up with.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Two little words. Room Service. Absolutely. And nice little soaps.
But you never know. Recently in Dallas, I was at a very very chic hotel where my room looked like a library, and the decor was gorgeous--but there were NO LIGHTS! NO LIGHTS! I called the desk and said--almost in tears because it was midnight and I was exhausted--can you send someone up here with a LAMP?
And this says it all--I just bought this little purse that has a woman on the front saying: "I love not camping."
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: For book tours and business travel, I agree with Rhys; give me a sold Hyatt or Marriott. All I want is a comfortable, clean room where I can order my Caesar chicken salad from room service and get out fast for the flight in the morning. I don't want to have to deal with "high-concept" or "cutting edge" rooms (those phrases always seem to translate into "barely larger than the bed.")
Some of the best fun trips we've been on have combined the high/low concept. (Notice I don't say "top and bottom," which, combined with Deb's "tramp" and Ro's "swing both ways" would plunge this blog entry into the internet's Meatpacking District.) Ross and I have done the luxury safari thing in Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe (before things started to fall apart there) and it was fabulous. Fishing on the Zambezi while drinking cold beers, then eating a five-star dinner at night. Another time, we took the whole family to Michigan via Canada, alternating camping (at those beautifully well-run Canadian campgrounds) with staying at B&Bs. We finished up with a long weekend at the Grand Hotel, which I commend to you all as THE most perfect hotel experience of my life.
I can rough it during the day so long as I can take a shower and have a comfortable bed (or at least an air mattress) at night.
LUCY BURDETTE: I think I'm all over the map on this question, Deb. I grew up camping, and traveling across country with 3 siblings and one or two German shepherds crammed into a station wagon. Hmmmm, good memories, but I think I'm over that. The trouble with camping is you can hear everything. If someone stays up late and drinks too much beer and fights with their spouse, it's as if they were in the tent with you. On the other hand, I'm quite squeamish about the possibility of bedbugs...which wouldn't be a problem in my own tent or camper. And because we sometimes travel with Tonka the wonder dog, we are limited to dog-friendly motels. Which are sometimes icky...let's just say I spend more time than a normal person would perusing the reviews on Tripadvisor.
And ps, we've stayed in a few Ritz's and Four Seasons and gotten annoyed by the way they charge you for everything. Separately. If you're going to charge me an arm and a leg for the night, couldn't you just fold the parking in?
DEBS: Okay, I have to admit I've never stayed in a really, really expensive hotel, and I probably wouldn't like it. Probably. I suspect it would be like Upstairs on Downton Abbey, never having any privacy. I can put on my own nightie, thank you very much.
And, um, Hank, that snazzy hotel in Dallas with no lamps? They did a story on the local news recently about people in the convention center complaining that they could see into the guests' bathrooms from the convention center windows... maybe it's a good thing there were no lamps...
Rhys, was the place with the Afghan tribesmen on the wall by any chance the ZaZa in Houston? I've never stayed there but have heard about it. Um, I might pass on that, although my two favorite boutique hotels are definitely on the funky side, both restored motor courts--the Belmont in Dallas from the 1940s, and the Valley Ho in Scottsdale from the 1950s. So for me it's more about atmosphere than big bucks. (And please, no rooms that reek of industrial cleaning chemicals...)
But I'm still day-dreaming about the deluxe safari, or a tropical bungalow, and I still want to be rich and famous enough to fly business class on the Dallas-London route. Actually sleeping on the night flight does wonders for one's attitude, and one's jet lag.
How about you, readers? Roughing it, or red carpet? (I know what Hemingway would choose.)
(P.S. Lil Gluckstern is the lucky winner of Hush Now, Don't You Cry, so Lil, can you email me your mailing address at: deb at deborahcrombie dot com, and I'll pass it along to Miss Rhys.)