Tuesday, April 04, 2006

SWNID Urban Hotel Recommendations

Having just returned from a delightful trip to Chicago for the Higher Learning Commission's Annual Meeting, we feel inspired to share our wisdom as a seasoned, happy and thrifty traveler by offering the first edition of SWNID Travel Tips. Today we detail some of our favorite urban hotels.

Traveling to any great city can be a delightful experience if the traveler takes the time to get away from the most touristy locales and rub elbows with the natives. Nothing makes that easier than staying in obscure, inexpensive hotels. That also makes it possible for those who have taken a vow of poverty, like SWNID, to actually travel.

Of course, some hotels are inexpensive because they're miserable. But some are loads of fun, and comfy for sleeping, too. We detail a few in our experience.

Moving east to west, we begin with our very, very favorite, London's Foreign Mission Club. Founded over a century ago as a hostel for missionaries transitioning through London, the club offers bed and breakfast accommodations to anyone, with discounts for ministers and deeper discounts for missionaries. The accommodations are utterly clean and totally comfortable, the breakfast is tasty, the company at breakfast is a global gathering reminiscent of Isaiah 25, and the neighborhood--one stop beyond King's Cross--is verdant and quiet while still on the threshold of central London. Note that most rooms offer utterly hygienic "shared facilities" (common bath down the hall, a feature common to all but one of these listings), only the slightest of inconveniences.

New York hotels are famous for charging high rates for tiny, shabby rooms. But what would you say to a single room for $75, tastefully decorated, comfortably equipped, and impeccably clean, about a block from Union Square? That's Hotel 17, our favorite Gotham abode. No breakfast here, and the bath is down the hall again, but when you step in from the hallway to bathe or otherwise, you'll wonder if the fixtures weren't just installed and cleaned and have never been used. We haven't stayed there, but just a few blocks uptown is Hotel 31, which we understand is a similarly comfy property for similarly little dough.

Chicago, our favorite American big city, boasts more hotel bargains than many cities its size, at least to those willing to search. Our new fave is the Days Inn Lincoln Park. The hotel is immaculate, tasteful, and remarkably roomy for an urban locale, and the staff is efficient and pleasant. The neighborhood is delightfully funky, with lots of pedestrian traffic going in and out of inexpensive restaurants, coffee houses, convenience stores, and neighborhood bars. Those who think that they must stay in the Loop or Magnificent Mile will relish the chance to be among real Chicagoans, and access to the city center is easy by CTA busses or trains (order a transit pass online before your trip or pick one up at one of several shops in the neighborhood). We do, however, recommend requesting a room away from the bus stop on Clark street; otherwise, ear plugs will be in order. But all in all, this is my kind of hotel in my kind of town.

San Francisco looks set to overtake NY for expensive hotel rooms, but Mr. and Mrs. SWNID this summer enjoyed a delightful and relatively inexpensive stay at the quaint and homey Golden Gate Hotel. Offering rooms at about two-thirds the price of others in the Union Square area, the hotel is the epitome of shabby chic, with Victorian wallpaper and antique photographs in hallways and rooms. Guests eat the best croissants outside of France each morning, sharing tables with strangers for stimulating conversation, and occasionally being visited by the hotel dog or cat. En suite facilities are available, but why not save the money you'd spend on bathrooms and enjoy even more of SF's outstanding cuisine? And don't forget to pre-order your passes for the San Francisco Muni system, the only way to get around and see the sites.


Justin said...

Titus just went on a trip for our school and happened to be in West VA at the same time the NASCAR race was there. really, that could be 'enough said.' the hotel was no prize but beyond that he met some friendly customers that upon meeting him felt comfortable enought to tell him some 'black jokes.' - you should ask him about it, its quite amusing.

JB in CA said...

When I go on an out-of-town trip, I try to stay at the local KOA. It's a bit rustic, but the cabins are nice.