Our favorite hotels
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As writers who travel a lot, we've had the benefit of staying at some amazing hotels all around the world. Did you ever wonder what are our favorites? Well, we did, too. Here's our staff's personal top picks.
The Charles Hotel, Boston
The way I judge a hotel stay is by the service. You can just do so much with a room or a restaurant. It's the people who make it special. The Charles Hotel in Harvard Square is tops in my book, by a long way. I stayed there one time. Each time thereafter I was greeted by name by everyone in the place. They had fresh fruit and mineral water in my room, something they do for all repeat visitors. I stayed there about a dozen times over two years and they truly work to make you feel like a member of the family. Great restaurants, the best jazz club in Boston and a series of courtesy vans that will take you anywhere you want to go in the area, at no charge. A truly great experience.
Sixty, Beverly Hills, California
Most of my hotel knowledge comes from my father and I's annual baseball trip (this year: Texas!), and if we're being honest, a significant number of the hotels we've stayed at were, um, sketchy. Really sketchy. Like "can we shine a blue light on this bed; oh dear God, why did we do that?" sketchy.
But when we went to Los Angeles, we out-kicked our usual hotel coverage and stayed at Sixty in Beverly Hills. It's far from the swankiest hotel in the area I'm sure, but it had a fabulous bar and lounge (I'm pretty sure I saw actress Jacinda Barrett there, but I can prove nothing), an impressive pool area and, of course, really nice rooms. Plus, it was close to all of our important L.A. hotspots – stadiums, movie studios, downtown, Nate 'n' Al's for our daily breakfast and Larry King sightings and In-and-Out Burger – without being trapped in the middle of the chaos and traffic of the city.
A close second comes to the lodge I stayed at in Crans-Montana, Switzerland. It provided incredible views of the gorgeous Swiss Alps (pro tip: don't wake up early to see the sun rise over the mountains. It's not worth it), but unfortunately, I can't remember the name. I'll never forgive you for this, memory.
The American Club, Kohler
I've traveled a little bit internationally and have stayed in some really nice "name" places in Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Phoenix and Las Vegas, but the best place I've stayed is just up 43 at The American Club Resort in Kohler. It was cozy, and I loved the dark wood and unique, non-big box decor. Of course, you could walk in and spend an afternoon in the amazing shower alone!
Hotel Monteleone, New Orleans
The lavish, historic Hotel Monteleone, located in the French Quarter for 125 years, is vintage in style and modern in amenities. The rooms feature incredible views – depending on where you are in the hotel – of the Mississippi River or iconic Royal Street. However, the gem of the opulent hotel is The Carousel Bar, located on the ground floor. The bar features an ornate French-style carousel from the 1940s that continuously rotates. It seats 25 people and takes about 15 minutes to do a full rotation. Carousel Bar lore insists that the bartenders increase the speed as the night wears on, but unfortunately, this was not experienced first hand. The bartenders do, however, serve up mighty fine cocktails including sazeracs, mint juleps and something delicious and mysterious called the Saintly Breeze.
Hotel Gianni Franzi, Vernazza, Italy
I was tempted to choose The Peninsula in Chicago, which is, by far, the most luxurious and satisfying hotel experience I've ever had. The staff is fabulous, the amenities unbeatable and the rooms fit for royalty. And the spa...
But in the end, I decided to go with a room with a less urban view. Located just down the slopes from where my grandfather was raised, Vernazza is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. It's a fishing village perched on a rock on the Mediterranean Sea, with access to the water, too. Thanks to Rick Steves, it's become quite familiar to Americans.
Gianni Franzi's family runs a restaurant and a hotel, which really comprises rooms in a couple different buildings and I've stayed in two or three. Each had a different but incredible view. One looked out over the old castle onto the deep blue of the sea; another back up toward the terraced vineyards that scale the hill from which Vernazza emerges. Yet another offered a view down to the piazza and the harbor where restaurants serve the world's finest pesto and fresh anchovies (not anything like the salted and tinned ones) caught in the dark of the night before. The rooms are simple, bright and clean and to my knowledge, there is no room service or other amenities of that type, but who cares? When I wake up, I open the blinds and I get a glimpse of what heaven surely looks like.
Montelucia, Scottsdale, Arizona
I've stayed at a few amazing hotels over the years. The historic Willard in Washington D.C., the serene Canoe Bay in Chetek, and in St. John, the gorgeous Caneel Bay. But the nicest hotel, to date, has been the Montelucia in Scottsdale. The rooms, themselves, are very nice – particularly the bathrooms. But what I loved about this place is the secluded Mediterranean-style resort campus, and most importantly, the phenomenal view. Quite simply, I felt like I was inside a desert postcard the moment I entered the Montelucia, and I never wanted to leave (you can read a longer description from my 2009 stay here). The spa was out-of-this-world, too.
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