Hotel review: Ottawa Marriott Hotel

Okay, this isn’t really a review – I lured you to this post on false pretences. From what I can recall the Marriott was absolutely fine and Marriott-y (beige, clean, sensible, beige, unchallenging – which is exactly what I wanted for my overnight in Ottawa – I’ve had more than enough challenging hotel stays of late, beige, beige…) We didn’t see anything but the lobby (free cucumber water!) and the room and I’ve forgotten everything about the room other than that the window gave onto a vista of other windows in other towers in downtown Ottawa. But despite this entire lack of detail, I am posting here because I found this… THIS!THIS!!!… posted under the hotel door in the morning before we checked out!

We were very nearly late for checkout because we were rolling about guffawing so much at this missive.

Insult slip OttawaI guess it’s the opposite of a compliment slip (which I’ve always felt should say something like “that hat really matches your eyes” or “you look really good in magenta”) – an insult slip, perhaps?

I am delighted the youth that stays in monotone contemporary four-star downtown hotels today use their vacation time so productively instead of meekly trotting off to the various family-friendly amenities that the Ottawa Marriott so kindly provides. I’m only surprised that my many siblings and I didn’t think of doing this on the occasional hotel bookings of our youth when we stayed in places where wee hotel notepads were pretty much the only amenities those establishments provided.

Although, hmmm, who says one needs to be a youth to carry out such activities… Perhaps, despite my advancing years, there are still ways to add a few splashes of colour to those beige hotel stays… for the other guests, at least…

Hotel review: Hooters Casino Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada

No, Priceline, no, no, no! After all these years and all the places we’ve been together, how could you do this to me?

Sometimes doing a super last minute, anonymous bid for a hotel room on Priceline works out amazingly well. Sometimes it does not.

Have you ever been to bosom-ogling emporium Hooters? For the, um, wings? Well… it turns out that as well as Hooters’ 500 or so eating, drinking and bosom-ogling establishments, there’s also a hotel. A casino hotel. In Las Vegas. Where now, courtesy of the game of roulette that is Priceline, I am now booked to stay.

“The cure for the common casino,” trumpets the cleavage and owl-adorned website! This sounds accurate, as looking at online reviews for my night’s accommodation makes it sounds as if I will be cured of ever wanting to go to any sort of gaming venue again. One of the more enthusiastic manages, “Rooms cheap, clean-ish.” Another scrapes up the scant lure of “Wings 24/7,” although this is somewhat tempered by the fact that the next one down warns of “gooey wings.” But it could be worse: a review for a nearby hotel is titled, “A dose of the itchy-scratchies.”

“Pool great for kids,” says the last report I read before accepting my destination. Really? You brought your kids to Hooters? My childhood vacations tended not to feature scantily clad women and interchangeable references to owls/boobs, although I did once get flashed by a Brown Owl or Tawny Owl or Shouldn’t-Be-Allowed-Near-Young-Kids Owl when I was on a camping trip with the Brownies, so Hooters should bring back all sorts of childhood memories…

Still, the prospect of Hooters Hotel is initially somewhat amusing, for all other humans I know, at least, but it becomes far less funny after I have to tell the airport check-in lady, the US border officials and the Vegas Airport Express bus driver the name of my accommodations for the night. “People think I chose this,” I realise with dismay, as I fill in my hotel name on the customs card for the US, and as I cringe off the packed shuttle bus after the driver has bellowed, “Lady going to Hoooooters Hotel.”

Hooters’ check-in is reached by pushing through swarms of drunken 30-something-year-old guys in plaid shirts, burly scowling security men and scowling faded ladies taking drinks orders around banks of games machines and then trekking gingerly across a carpet reminiscent of a swampy stretch of damp peaty bog you might have the misfortune to sink into in the Scottish Highlands. Except what you’ll find underfoot here is a bewildering hue of orange with more crushed ice, tramped peanuts and pools of wilted despair than you’ll find in most areas of the Highlands. Walking across it will have you pining for those troughs of disinfectant you once had to walk through to reach public swimming pools. Do you still need to walk through these troughs? Apparently I do not swim often enough.

Hooters Vegas door knockersThe beds and rooms are surprisingly fresh and clean, although it looks suspiciously like a previous guest may actually have gnawed the wooden frame around the bathroom mirror.

“Hooters makes you happy,” says a neon sign outside. I chat to various guys in the elevator during my stay, and they do seem reasonably jovial. A poster in the elevator features two Hooters girls, which seems to be as close as the guys staying here actually get to females (other than those who have recently sworn off using Priceline ever again.) In the poster, one girl is cramming donuts in her face while the other is practising her best “guess what I’ve got in my vagina” face..

Fleeing to go out to meet my sensibly otherwise-located friends, Beck’s 1994 song, “Loser” is playing as I squelch across the carpet. Apt.

Who would this hotel suit?

*People who enjoy the underfoot sensation of walking across swampy peatland without having to leave a casino.

* People who do not demand a refund when their “Ocean View Room” turns out to be 270 miles from the nearest ocean with views out over a car park full of angry crows.

* People who enjoy the fact that the hotel has continued the oceanic/aquatic theme by thoughtfully allowing what looks like years of grime to accumulate on the window, making it feel like you’re overnighting inside a much neglected aquarium, and managing to almost completely obscure all views of the Vegas Strip skyline beyond.

The Summary:


* It’s an easy, safe walk from here to places that you might actually want to be. Places where your feet don’t sink despondently into the carpet with each step.

* Google Maps appears keen to point out Hooters’ proximity to the “Tropicana North Branch Detention Basin.” It’s probably a nicer place to hang out than Hooters.

* Owls.


* I don’t really need to fill this in.

Hotel review: Inn on Ferry Street, Detroit, USA


Detroit’s Inn on Ferry Street is a welcoming delight of an overnight address. Or, rather, six addresses. It’s practically an entire street! Comprised of a constellation of six separate century-old homes on a slow, leafy street off main thoroughfare Woodward, you’re sure to be able to find one that suits your colour scheme—and if you’d prefer a whole house and think nothing of nabbing three to nine rooms for the night, you’ve still got plenty of choice. Rooms range from cosy attic perches, placed perfectly for spying on comings and goings, to roomy suites nestled in carriage houses, set back off the street.

We were in a main house room, above check-in and the breakfast room, which saved us from having to brave brisk winds each morning (pleasing!), dashing to and from the extremely generous breakfast spread. Our room was pink. The colour was pretty much what I imagine the innards of a whale must look like. I imagine that sort of thing way more than you’d think. Blame my Bible-heavy Catholic upbringing. Anyway, definitely more “whale innards” than “salmon.” Well, unless you’re someone in the habit of seriously overcooking your fruits de mer or have recently netted a salmon crimson with fury at the prospect of being eaten. Let’s call it “New England Berry Puree” instead. It was a much more appealing room than I have made it sound. Sorry for mentioning whale innards.

I particularly enjoyed that the bathroom soap was a green tea and willow concoction that declared itself the “finest bathing soap.” This description immediately made me want to don a demure Victorian bathing costume and trot off in search of the nearest bathing pavilion. Detroit being a wee bit short on such swimming institutions, I made do with a swift shower and an amble over to the Detroit Institute of Art, conveniently situated about 100 feet from the Inn’s back door.

Spotted at breakfast: a member of seminal Goth band Bauhaus! Wearing shades! Eating granola! Spotted at check-in and at various inconvenient times by the breakfast waffle station: a glowering minivan-load of Ontario lesbians! Including at least two carrying what appeared to be feathered crow costumes! The views from our chamber’s bay window were of the adjacent mansion and the DIA’s and the Inn’s car parks, which allowed excellent spying opportunities as we attempted to work out why a sextet of frowny Canadian ladies were carting crow costumes about with such grave expressions. Were they in town for an ornithology convention, early Halloween hijinks or some feathered flight of fancy? To make a statement about cross-border migratory policies affecting rooks and ravens? Who knows? Alas, our fellow guests were far too frowny to be interrogated about their avian accoutrements.

More perturbing than coinciding with angry ornithologists or Goth demigods on our repeated jaunts down to make the most of the constant supply of coffee and cake in the breakfast room (Cake! 24 hours a day!) was the fact that Google’s first suggested auto-complete for the inn was “Inn on Ferry Street haunted”. I debated whether to tell A or not, but when I did, she was just hugely relieved that I hadn’t told her we were sharing sleeping quarters with any nasty creepy crawlies. While it’s distinctly possible that we simply have the supernatural sensibilities of a brick and so were not in tune with any ethereal inhabitants of the inn, we didn’t encounter anything remotely spooky or suspicious, other than the fact that at least three other breakfast guests leapt to their feet any time we even thought about approaching the waffle maker.

Summary? Go! You’ll like this place. An easy place to overnight and make the most of a first visit to Detroit.

Who would this hotel suit?


*The Inn would also win points with my parents, who would have been pleased by the classical music playing gently in the common areas of the inn and by the proximity to the DIA.

*People who travel with their own life-size crow costumes.

*Goth legends.

*Grown-ups, in general, whether solo, couples or friends.

The Summary:


*Kaleidoscopic array of clientele. You’ll fit in, no matter how weird you are.

*Plethora of pleasing 1930s/Arts and Crafts-era features, from beds and fireplaces to artworks.

*Tasty local Great Lakes coffee and an array of cake served 24 hours a day. Cake!

*Breakfasts served till 11:30 on weekends—bonus points!— and 10 on weekdays. Tasty scrambled eggs or frittata, plus many berries and many representatives from the muskmelon spectrum.

*Instead of an overpriced in-room minibar that taunts you with treats that will capsize your monthly budget if you dare to even peel off the lid, the Inn has a few demure baskets of cookies and so on ($1 for McClure’s Spicy Pickle Chips! Spicy! Pickly!) downstairs, and a wee selection of wines and beers for less than you’d pay in a corner store.

*Location! Although locals look a bit concerned at the sight of people using their legs to propel themselves, stay at the Inn and you can saunter to the DIA, The Wright Museum of African-American History, Michigan Science Center and Detroit Historical Society. Or you can get dropped anywhere within five miles by the hotel shuttle. The Motown Museum, hip Corktown and the tasty Eastern Market district are within ten minutes drive. Free parking!

*The hotel’s brochure describes it as “aptly accommodating,” which I agree with wholeheartedly. Very apt.

*Every one of the staff I encountered was a fine and entertaining human. If Detroit’s artistic and cultural offerings (and slew of adjacent dive bars) hadn’t been so enticing, I’d have happily stayed in and hung out with the Inn’s desk folks.


*The Victorians or whoever built this place in 1886 were maybe better sleepers than us. Voices and coughs carry from the lobby and along corridors.

Hotel review: Hostal Las Acacias, Malaga, Spain

June 2014

Las A is a charming, blue, two-storey house on a short block that ambles happily from the busy street (Avenida Juan Sebastian Elcano) to Las Acacias beach, a sand strip that offers a refreshing, sardine-scented change from the Brit and German-spattered beaches of neighbouring costas. Amazingly, this beach has Actual Spanish People on it doing Spanish Things! Activities observed on this visit included; men with fine moustaches grilling and eating sardines, extended family groups having leisurely after-work picnics, and little old ladies, clad head to toe in black, putting on an extra layer or seven whenever the temperature threatened to dip below 25 degrees. All this instead of spending years working on forbidding frowning techniques and planning high security fortifications in order to defend prime palapas like my countrypeople and our Teutonic cousins often do…

Meanwhile back at the hostal, things are quiet and pleasingly quirky. Some hotel rooms are cozy. Some divide cozy by broom closet and then shear off a few inches. I only saw one room at Las A and it veered towards the latter. However, it did demonstrate impressive optimism and perseverance on the parts of the owners. Most humans would have contemplated trying to manhandle two beds into a room of that size, spent two seconds chortling at such folly and trundled one Ever-rest off to other quarters. Not so, those determined Las Acacias characters! Nope. This is a one-bed room squished to contain twice that number of sleep-centric furnishings. As a result, unless you have excessively thin legs and/or are a member of the stick insect family, you have a 73% chance of bruising both shins every time you stumble to bed in the dark. The distance between bed ends and wall is approximately the width of the average human knee.

If you enjoy a place that celebrates every strata of decor since it was built, Hostal Las A is a splendid choice! You can while away hours tracing the history of this hostal and its every guest on the walls, surfaces and ceiling. A white gouge through the glowing green paint here that was perhaps a hasty guest, dashing to catch a few more mouthfuls of sardines before a late flight. A mosquito squish there that performs as an effective warning sign against leaving the stately floor-to-ceiling glass doors open overnight. A minor constellation of duct tape detailing on the blackout shades that were perhaps the result of a ripping good swordfish duel. There is also a perplexing profusion of curtain rods. Including on walls with no windows.

In contrast to the enthusiastically duct-taped blackout shades, over-bed illumination comes courtesy of inquisition lights bright enough for those who wish to study detailed aviation manuals by night, those who spend evenings doing micro-surgery on small woodland mammals or those wishing to work on perfecting signals to encourage incoming intergalactic tourism.

On this instance, I voted against use of the blackout shades (and against swordfish fighting/squirrel surgery) and left the shades open to admire the gracious floor-to-ceiling French doors, the greenery beyond and the occasional red and green splash of a passing parrot. This also allowed excellent eavesdropping opportunities from the hostal’s leafy garden restaurant below. People quietly singing “Feliz cumpleanos” over vinos! Most pleasing.


Who would this hotel suit?

* Those seeking somewhere serene compared to atmospheric accommodations of El Centro Historico (see Echegaray Suites) and looking for a down-to-earth budget choice. A fine night’s sleep for all here!

* Those who vote for character and quirkiness over the fussiness of fine hotels. My mum would have enjoyed Las Acacias for its gentle pace, welcoming hosts, multi-course leisurely breakfasts and for the leafy views, particularly on days with a plethora of parrot pass-bys.

* Those partial to neighbourhood stays rather than those who must be in the midst of top tourist sites.

* Some rooms best suited to worryingly thin people or members of the gazelle species able to vault over the beds rather than suffer shin attacks on every pass.

The Summary:


*Ninety seconds walk to the beach, most useful when you realise you’ve forgotten to bring your money/ beach read/ favourite sardine condiments.

*Miles of hopping beachside bars and restaurants along seafront leading back to Malaga Centro or east to former fishing village El Palo.

*Guest rooms with soaring high ceilings! Charming tiled balcony with views of abundant foliage! Elegant floor-to-ceiling French doors!

*Room stayed in painted an emphatic shade of leafy green. Other rooms of similar upbeat hues. Not partial to such splashes of colour? See Cons.

*In a nice, quiet area, twenty minutes from the delights and overnight noise of downtown Malaga. Frequent buses. Most of the time the buses are quiet and easy to navigate, while, of course, any times you need to be on them with unwieldy suitcases, they will be crammed to their diesel-powered gills, but the Malaguenos are a delightful people and will chat, help control Samsonites with eager wheels, dispense advice as to where to get off/ sit/ eat grilled sardines. I like Malaguenos.

*Charming, multi-course breakfast featuring delights such as freshly squeezed orange juice, pots of yoghurt, bowls of plums, plates of jamon y queso, fresh warm bread, bowls of coffee, served outside in the leafy garden restaurant.

*Leafy garden restaurant! Eavesdropping opportunities from rooms above!

*Genial, unobtrusive host couple that happily stores suitcases when you want one last wander down to the beach after checkout.

*Parrot sightings!



*Room stayed in painted an emphatic shade of leafy green. Other rooms of similar upbeat hues. Partial to such splashes of colour? See Pros.

*Twenty minutes from the delights of downtown Malaga. On a bus that sometimes has many other humans on board. See also Pros.

*More paint/ primer/duct tape archaeology than is strictly necessary. Decor definitely a little ramshackle, but nothing that actually affected the comfort of the place overall.

*A rather haphazard approach to previous guest towel removal.

*Tricky to shower without breaking a rib or performing unexpected self-Heimlich manoeuvres on mixer tap in the world’s most minute shower.

Hotel review: Annebrook House Hotel, Mullingar, Ireland

August 2014

I’ve stayed in hotels with many very different decorative statements and themes over the years. The Golden Age of Hollywood (Prohibition era cocktails! Dim lighting! Sepia tones!) Fashion (Menacing arrays of creepy, randomly placed, store mannequins, without even Andrew McCarthy around to make these sorts of props acceptable.) Llamas (fear not, this review is coming!)

But I’ve never before stayed in a hotel with a bee theme. I’m not saying that bees aren’t stars or that they shouldn’t be celebrated for their all-round awesomeness; After all, without them, there wouldn’t be honey, flowers or a significant proportion of income reaped by epi-pen manufacturers. No, bees rock and honey is delicious, but you generally wouldn’t smather some on an art board and pin it on your wall… or line up haphazard bits of hive and stick them, jenga-like, in your front room, now, would you? Well, the fine folks behind the Annebrook House Hotel have done exactly this. My favourite bee-work was the series of honey splats that looked like someone had bought three really gooey cinnamon swirl buns, squished them down briefly but enthusiastically on a sheet of paper, and then stuck it in a frame. Yum.

But, really, other than a misplaced desire to give bees the artistic acclaim they have been long denied, the AHH is quite delightful. The hues of honey, wood and caramel are soothing, the rooms are roomy and bright, the bar is crammed with exuberant Irish people and the restaurant is in an atmospheric cellar. Staff include a super helpful front desk lady called Martha who hummed happily as she checked train timetables and a slew of excellent restaurant servers who remained cheerful, polite and unbothered despite my dad’s repeated efforts to insult them at every meal.

Who would this hotel suit?

*Anyone wanting to explore the wonders of County Westmeath. Presumably there are some.

*Couples, families, solo travellers, larger groups.

*People not planning to sleep before 2am on Friday or Saturday nights/people who enjoy covers of The Cure, various Irish bands of the 80s and 90s until the bar closes.

* Beekeepers.

*Retired bees.

*People not allergic to bees.

The Summary:


*It seems that most people who stay in Mullingar of a weekend are rather intoxicated for the duration. A few wee stings, courtesy of the bee hives up on the third floor smoking balcony, could be a helpful way of waking guests up when they pop out for some fresh air the morning after. Also, yay, bee preservation!

*Sarcastic Estonian restaurant manager, well able to out-insult persistently cheeky 74-year-old guests.

*Atmospheric restaurant in the House’s old cellar with best food in town and a generous breakfast buffet for all guests. Great, dark alcove/nook for romantic dinners or for those wanting to avoid sunlight at breakfast time.

*Views of rooftops, the old church, river and park, chefs having a sneaky smoke out by the bins.

*Perfect location on the main street of Mullingar, opposite a coffeeshop and the fascinating Dealz bargain store – if you need some religious statuary or toilet cleaner for your stay, you are in luck.


*Bee art.



Hotel review: Echegaray Suites, Malaga, Spain

June 2014

Are you going to Malaga? Do you like windows? Yes? Well, the Echegaray Suites may be the place for you! It offers a whopping 28 panes of glass in the living room alone! Floor-to-ceiling ones arrayed in a charming bay arrangement on the corner of a historic, pleasingly Spanish street corner! Plus more shutters than you’d find in a particularly sleepy Andalucian village at siesta time. AND the windows have delightful decorative wrought iron railings thoughtfully positioned over the lower bits of window so that you, your cat** or an inadvertently dropped bagel don’t cascade onto the streets below.

And then there are the views! Looking through these 28 panes allows views of quaint marbled streets, bustling restaurants, Malaguenos doing Malagueno things below. And, depending on shutter situations on the other side of the streets, you also sometimes get views into the little old Spanish lady opposite’s apartment, complete with ancient chandeliers and dark, aged, oil paintings of religious scenes. Sounds perfect? Well, it is… unless you are a person even partially partial to sleep.

The variety of noise that will prevent you getting even four consecutive minutes of sleep during the night really is truly amazing. The Spanish may be the most impressively creative noisemakers in the galaxy. And such energy! They think nothing of a rousing chorus of an Enrique Iglesias classic to celebrate it turning quarter past five or an impromptu 6 am drum recital. There’s the general restaurant chatter from the three restaurants opposite, the one below and the two on the side street. There’s the booming gong that echoes through the streets, letting waiters know that it’s time to thunk a plate of overpriced tapas down in front of a baying table of drunken stag lads. There are the whoops and bellows of “Ole” when they do. There are the sporadic whistling competitions, the saxophone versions of The Pink Panther Theme, the flamenco guitar duels, the surprisingly frequent and belligerent piccolo solos. The squeals, the shouts, the singing. My, how the Spanish like to sing! And such a varied repertoire! There’s the nightclub below, which is obviously the most hilarious place to stagger out of in Western Europe. My, how they cackle! And apparently it is necessary to empty all glass recycling bins in the historic centre every 37 minutes all night with a thunderous crash.

And those lovely marbled streets? The Malaguenos love them so much that they despatch armies of tiny marble mopping trucks to clean and polish them on the hour every hour, their tiny wheels squeaking like swarms of terrified piglets throughout the night until 7 am… when the church bells start and the swifts start shrieking their ear-piercing delight at the beginning of a new day.

BUT, despite having detailed these diverse diversions from sleep, it’s such a supremely Spanish cacophony that I was actually happy to stay here for the first night. By the fourth, I was ready to murder myself.

Who would this apartment suit?

*This would be a good apartment for my dad who has excellent eyesight, so would enjoy peering into the darkness of the wee lady opposite’s apartment, trying to identify religious scenes in her paintings. And his abysmal hearing would edit out the worst of the piccolo performances.

*It would also suit someone only wanting to stay on a Sunday night, when restaurants are either closed early or, joy, don’t open at all.

*It would also suit someone with the ability to harness a 747’s worth of white noise and batten it closely to their ears.

The Summary:


*Awesome, unbeatable location in the historic centre.

*A truly stunning apartment with soaring high ceilings and gorgeous light streaming in.

*Photos of shoes, plus other perks such as washing machine, TV, microwave, kettle, toaster.

*Pets can come too! (**and are unlikely to cascade out of the windows…)

*This place is so vast that I got different phone network options at one end of the apartment and the other.

*Walking home up atmospheric Calle Echegaray is a splendid experience.

*The ancient original door adds to the awesomeness.

*The soundproofing WITHIN is great… so, um, you won’t be bothered by someone blasting white noise in a desperate attempt to snatch fragments of sleep in the next room.

*Great aerial views of the tops of people’s heads and bird life.

*Excellent opportunities to drop inexplicable things onto plates of people eating below, such as plastic octopii and paper planes featuring poetry about goats.


*A tad noisy.