The moment right before I open my hotel door is laden with anticipation. Will it be a dump? Smell of disinfectant? Will the décor knock me out with charm and wit? Will music play softly and high thread count sheets beckon?
It's a fleeting feeling, a delicious feeling -- of expectant unknowing -- and then, suddenly, I know everything.
There are women who collect shoes and men who amass baseball caps. I'm obsessed with hotels, which is a good thing because, as a travel writer, visiting them is my business.
Last month, Historic Hotels of America threw a cocktail party "Show and Tell" at one of their own properties, the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. A significant trend in the lodging industry is the push to "go green, go local," incorporating the foods and cultures of resident communities into the guest-experience. The buzz at the Waldorf these days is more than metaphorical; just take the elevator to the 20th floor roof deck to hear the droning voices of 20,000 stinging insects. Yes boys and girls, this New York hotel is now keeping bees! For chefs, there's nothing like foraging for honey atop your own roof.
There are 230 HHA properties all over the country, and I've heard of most of them, stayed in many, and have written about dozens for publication. Independently, they couldn't be more different from each other (as expected, each has a unique heritage, a back-story, and in some cases a former life that had nothing to do with lodging; like the Cork Factory in Lancaster, PA that was, of course, a cork factory), but as a group, the standard of service and comfort is high.
While crossing the country on US Route 6, I vowed to stay away from cookie cutter and chain hotels, so my digging and research led me to plenty of B&B's, mom and pop motels and naturally, Historic Hotels of America. I stayed at and can vouch for three;
2. Settler's Inn/ Hawley, PA. Situated a few miles from the shores of Lake Wallenpaupack, this 21-room Craftsman Style hotel/restaurant with pillowtop beds and Jacuzzi bathrooms makes for a perfect cocoon for the evening. It's quite a treat to discover that one of the top restaurants in town is just down the hall. Begin your meal with a glass of merlot and the signature just-baked "Birdseed Bread" before sampling Applewood local trout - smoked right on site, and the Maple-Glazed Lamb Ribbletts; both exceptional. Breakfast is equally delish; ricotta crepes topped with strawberry compote or any of the dozen items on the gourmet breakfast menu are included in the room rate. (Alternately, you can stay in the Settler's Inn sister property - Ledges Hotel - a few blocks away. Formerly a glass-cutting factory wedged inside a cascading gorge, the interior of Ledges was conceived by the architectural team that designed most of the world's iconic Apple Stores: Bohlin, Cywinski, Jackson. Half of the rooms and two-story suites overlook a multiple-ledged waterfall - ergo the name - and the setting is striking enough to impel you to stay longer than one night.)
3. Queen Mary Hotel/ Long Beach, CA; Launched in 1937, this legendary cruise ship set a new standard for luxury at sea. Now, it belongs to the stable of Historic Hotels of America because, permanently docked in Long Beach, it's, um, both historic and a posh hotel. For as little as $129 a night, you can pretend that you're setting sail in the morning. Wood floors burnished to a nautical shine, porthole windows and nicely appointed but shipboard small rooms (and tinier bathrooms), staying here at the end of your US Route 6 road trip might just get you primed for another mode of travel.
In coming posts, I'll let you know about other singular places to stay along US Route 6. Or, you can read my recommendations in the complete travel guide, Stay On Route 6, available through Amazon in print and Kindle.