Archive for the ‘lodging’ Category

San Francisco shortie

April 19, 2010

A quick report on my whirlwind (flew out Monday, returned Wednesday) trip to San Francisco last week (my first time back in this great city in more than a decade). The advantage of such a short trip is flying with only a small carry-on bag and a briefcase; the disadvantages are no time to explore and complete exhaustion afterward (in my case, coupled with a hacking cough likely picked up somewhere en route).

While it’s easy to get from the airport to the city center by train and trolley, I opted for SuperShuttle, as I didn’t want to mess with either schlepping up a hill or getting on a trolley with a small suitcase. Price is reasonable for a shared van service. The trade-off is waiting for the van to arrive and fill, and then stopping at perhaps a half-dozen other hotels before yours; it’s not a good option for the impatient or anyone on a tight schedule. Tip: Book online to get a 5% discount and not have to hassle with driver payment.

My conference was at The Fairmont San Francisco. This is the original hotel in the chain, named for John Fair and built atop Nob Hill, the mount or mont (Fair-mont, get it?). It’s a gorgeous property, and architectural and design gem (think marble, gilding, flourishes), the kind of place I could hang out for hours in the lobby, watching people, sipping tea, reading, just soaking it all in. Rooms on the upper floors have expansive views. From mine (see above shot), I could see the bay over the rooftops, yet also hear the clang, clang of the trolleys way below. The hotel sits at the intersection of the two lines. Tip: At any Fairmont property, join the free President’s Club. Perks include free Internet access, free local calls, daily newspaper, and often free access to a fitness facility.

I have one complaint about this Fairmont (one echoed by plenty of other conference attendees, many very familiar with Fairmont properties): the lack of coffee and tea-making facilities in the room. Especially tea, since Fairmont has its own line of excellent teas. Yes, it’s available in the lobby around 4:30 a.m. (This I know from my return shuttle), but that’s only in the morning, and one has to dress to go downstairs and get it. Very strange for a Fairmont; only one I’ve visited that does this.

In my few hours of free time on Monday afternoon, I wandered down to Chinatown until I ran out of touristy-looking white folks, popped into a mostly takeout dim sum dive populated by elderly Chinese men, pointed at things in the case, and took it all to a park. Fabulous! but I have no idea what I ate, and perhaps it’s better that way.

Booked my return shuttle through the Fairmont’s concierge, who assured me that the hotel was the final stop on this route, that it would be direct to airport. Since I was cutting it a bit close timewise, that was important. He was wrong. Shuttle made three more stops before heading to the airport, and I just made my flight. Next time, I’ll taxi—just not worth the worry and aggravation for a 6 a.m. flight.

Harraseeket Inn offers Thomas Moser guest room

March 18, 2010

When renowned furniture maker Thomas Moser approached Chip Gray, innkeeper at Freeport’s Harraseeket Inn about having his designers decorate a room using his sleek, contemporary-yet-traditional furnishings, Gray figured it was a win-win situation. He took the team through the inn and let them choose the room. “They chose one we’d just finished redecorating; it looked great, and they ripped everything out.”

While the rest of the inn is decorated in an updated and bright New England country style, the Thomas Moser room is sleek, modern, and earthy. Truth is—and Gray agrees—not everyone loves it, but for those who are in the market for Moser pieces or who prefer a contemporary vibe, this room is ideal.

Every aspect of this suite-sized, corner room has been specially designed, from the entry, to the bathroom (with soaking tub and heated towel rack), to the over-sized room itself, with a fireplace and seating area on one end, bed and desk on the other.

Every piece of furniture—the queen-sized pencil-post bed and nightstands, Aria writing desk and chair, adult and child-sized Windsor-style chairs, dresser, armoire, Vita love seat and lounge chair, coffee table—and every accent piece is for sale. Guests can inquire at the Moser gallery across the street about the furniture

In the room, a leather-bound book details all the non-Moser pieces, which are equally intriguing:

• figurative oils by Tanya Fletcher

• custom wall painting of the entry, by Field, a Portland-based company founded by Friederike Hamann and Colin Sullivan-Stevens

• fine art photography by Gifford Ewing, of Denver and Sorrento, Maine

• pottery by Tim Cichocki, who fires his work in central Maine

• lamps crafted by Hubbardton Forge and by Visual Comfort & Co.

• pillows, mattress pad, down comforter and cover, and mohair throw from Cuddledown

• a rare wool throw and a rare wool blanket, both hand made by Swans Island Blankets

• rugs by Safavieh

Now add a sandstone fireplace with floating live-edge walnut mantel that fills one end of the room, barnlike sliding doors to the bathroom and closet, shades that filter sun, and drapes that insure privacy.

The whole blends textures and earthen shades, it’s calming yet edgy, sleek yet artsy, contemporary yet traditional. It may be in  New England, but there’s definitely a New York accent. Put me in the like it camp.

Kudus to Maine Huts & Trails

March 15, 2010

This weekend, I hiked into the Flagstaff Lake Hut of the Maine Huts & Trails network for a quick overnight and to present Dave Herring (left), executive director of Maine Huts, with the Society of American Travel Writers Phoenix award. As a writer who specializes in Maine and who strives to get readers off the beaten path—beyond the chain motels and fast-food joints—to experience and discover the real Maine, I was particularly pleased to present this award.

Back in 1969, S.A.T.W. realized that tourism leaves  footprints, some harmful to the environment, others—such as when we love a place too much—destroy the very reasons for travel. The Phoenix Award recognizes conservation, preservation, beautification, and antipollution accomplishments related to travel, and no place is more deserving than Maine Huts & Trails.

When completed, the 8-foot-wide human-powered/multi-use trail through Maine’s woods, lakes, and rivers will stretch 180 miles, from Newry in the Mahoosuc Mountains to Greenvile, on the shores of Moosehead Lake. Full-service, alternative-powered off-the-grid huts, spaced roughly every 10-12 miles or a day’s hike apart, offer comfy beds, hot showers, and delicious all-you-can-eat meals. The trail is open to bikes, skis, snowshoes, and foot, as well as, in some locations, canoes, kayaks, and rafts.

To date, two huts have been completed, one at Poplar Falls, a bit over two miles from the trailhead in Carrabassett Valley, and the second on the shores of Flagstaff Lake, just shy of two miles from the Long Falls Dam Road trailhead, or a good day’s hike or ski from Poplar.

Previously, I’ve hiked into Poplar; the hike into Flagstaff is far easier, opening up the experience to far more folks (one can even go in over the construction road, shortening it to just over one mile); in summer, it’s even a lunch (with option for overnight) stop on a pontoon-boat tour of Flagstff lake. The third hut, sited on Grand Falls of the Dead River, is awaiting final permits and fund raising, but construction is slated to begin this year, perhaps as early as May.

Before the snow melts and the huts close for mud season (later this month), go in for a look-see. Hike, ski, or snowshoe in for lunch, if not an overnight. You’ll be amazed at what’s available:

• bunkrooms sleeping 2-8 outfitted with nice mattresses, pillows, and fleece blankets and heated to 60 degrees;

• dining hall, with woodstove, and a lounge, with leather furniture, games, and a few books;

• drying room for wet gear;

• restroom equipped with showers, composting toilets, and sinks.

You might be in the middle of the Maine woods, but you’re not really roughing it. Even beer and wine are available.

Go ahead, give it a try. Trust me, you might be a bit challenged, but you won’t be disappointed. Below is a just a sampling of what awaits along the trail.

NOTE: Top photo credit and copyright Carey Kish; all others credit and copyright Hilary Nangle.

Bunk rooms are bright, clean, and comfy.

All-you-can-eat family-style dinners might include roast turkey with all the fixings followed by linzer torte.

After dinner, relax by the woodstove.

A crew from the Wilderness House sports stores prepares to hit the trail in the morning.

March weekend getaway: Lodge at Moosehead Lake

March 8, 2010

Whether you’re not quite ready to let go of winter or simply want to get away from it all without giving it all up, the The Lodge at Moosehead Lake is the answer. Steal away to this oasis of elegance, a not-so-rustic lodge set on a hillside overlooking Moosehead Lake, just outside of Greenville  in the northern Maine woods. The Cozy Winter Weekend package, available through March, includes two nights lodging in a lake-view room, including daily two-course breakfast and pub supper; rates begin at $599 per room, exclusive of tax, gratuity, and alcohol.

The lodge combines rustic craft with chic sophistication, a woodsy Maine experience without sacrificing either the securities or amenities of civilization. Expect fancy linens and soft robes, inroom gas fireplaces and whirlpool baths, Wifi and more than 500 movie titles. Now add expansive living rooms, a pub with pool table and English darts, a guest pantry stocked with 24-hour snacks and beverages, and jaw-dropping sunset views from almost every room.

It’s easy to hole up inside for the weekend, but the outdoor world beckons with seasonal adventures, including snowshoeing, dog sledding, and snowmobiling, when the weather cooperates. Even if March Mudness prevails, the inn’s a place to escape it and the rest of the world, if only for the weekend.

Way downeast, way rustic escape

February 24, 2010

When the world, technology, and the buzz of civilization become too much, consider unplugging and rediscovering life’s simple pleasures at this one-bedroom housekeeping cottage on Loring Point, Maine. Situated on Passamaquoddy Bay, a bit north of the Eastport turnoff, it’s a fine place to watch those humongous tides ebb and flow,  sight birds and other wildlife, hike and paddle.

Walt Loring is the sixth-generation owner of this 15-acre chunk of  real estate, with 1,500 feet of shoreline, and he’s put a conservation easement on about 10 acres to preserve it.

Do note the cottage is rustic, as in there’s-no-electricity, and there’s-an-outhouse rustic (a two holer!), but there’s a fully equipped kitchen, with hot and cold running water, and an outdoor hot water shower. Walt’s partner, Susan, has added her artistic touches (and quilts) to make it all quite comfy and homelike. Both are Reiki masters, so they can help heal what ails you. And try, just try, to resist purchasing one of Susan’s quilts.

Courtesy photo.

Restaurant Week Maine lodging deals

February 19, 2010

Restaurant Week Maine is quickly approaching and this year, there are some decent lodging deals offered that complement the set-price dinners. For example, the Inn by the Sea is offering a $99 traditional room or garden suites (add $30 for a spa suite), Sun. through Thurs.; Camden’s Hartstone Inn has traditional rooms beginning at $175 including breakfast and dinner, and the Camden Harbour Inn has rates beginning at $87.50 pp including breakfast and dinner. Some Portland B&B’s are discounting rooms, other properties haven’t detailed the offerings, so you need to ask. In any case, it’s a great way to sample some fab properties at a fraction of the peak season costs.

A peek at the Limerock Inn

January 31, 2010

During Rockland’s Pies on Parade event earlier this month, I stayed at the Limerock Inn, a wonderful B&B (and member of the Historic Inns of Rockland) just a couple of blocks from Main Street. Now I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for this inn, as it was created by friends back in Rockland’s gray days, the era when it was  better known as a rough-and-tumble fishing community, rather than the arts, dining, and shopping destination it is today.

The house is a standout, an 1890’s Queen Anne painted lady, complete with wrap-around porch, listed on the National Historic Register. The woodwork alone is exquisite. Each of the eight rooms has its own distinctive flavor, from the turret room with a lovely wedding canopy bed to the Cottage Room, a private oasis with its own door opening to the backyard gardens. Some have whirlpool tubs and/or a fireplace, and there’s Wifi throughout. Currently no inroom TVs (although flat-screens are in the future), but there’s one concealed with the living room armoire.

The furnishings  are top of the line, reflecting two of the original four owners (two couples) business; they owned a furniture store. They bought quality, but made sure it was in keeping with the period and decor, and the emphasis is on comfort. Let me tell ya, those leather chairs with ottomans in the living room invite relaxation, perhaps with a selection from the library of good reads positioned within grasp.

Frank and PJ, the current owner/innkeepers, are naturals, and Frank is the creative cook who whips up more-than-filling breakfasts. If you’re really fortunate, there might be a serving of his Key Limerock pie available—trust me, he nailed it (and his granola crust seals the deal).The self-serve pantry assures that those who crave a midnight snack will find one.

These guys love Rockland, so they’re a wonderful source of info for first-timers to the region, and the inn provides enough privacy (including individual dining tables) that it’s a good choice for newbies to the B&B experience. One night here, and you’ll be booking again and again.

A good deal in Bethel

January 29, 2010

Bethel is another wonderful winter destination for skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, or just hanging out, and The Bethel Inn Resort put yous smack dab in the middle of town.

Here’s the deal, book a two-night Stay & dine package and get a third night of lodging free. Rates begin at $99  midweek per person, per night/$129 pp, pn, during February vacation break, and include accommodations, a four-course dinner and full country breakfast each day and use of the health club facilities with indoor pool. Kids under 11 are free in the same room or townhouse condominium and can be added to the dining program for $20 per day per child.

Cross-country trails begin at the inn’s back door, Sunday River is on the shuttle route, and Bethel’s winter snow maze, ice skating rink, and snow sculpture slide are all open free, conditions permitting.

I like this inn. It’s not fancy schmancy at all. Just a nice country inn, a bit creaky and worn in places, but comfy and welcoming and so well situated for exploring Bethel’s downtown shops. Splurge on one of the rooms with a fireplace for a bit of extra atmosphere.

Camden in winter? Sure!

January 29, 2010

Read my Boston Globe story about some of the wonderful reasons to visit Camden in Winter.

A good deal to feel good about

January 27, 2010

Love this program!

From April 26 until May 28, book a room at any participating property in the the Maine Innkeepers Association’s Habitat for Humanity program, and with a $35 donation to Habitat, you get 50 percent off the regular room rate. The donation supports nine local Habitat chapters. Since the program began in 2004, the Maine Innkeepers Association has donted more than $30,000 to help build homes in Maine communities.

This is a great opportunity to travel in Maine and snag a room at a nice property for a song. The list likely will expand, but here are the participating properties to date, listed alphabetically by town:

Graycote Inn
Mira Monte Inn

Bass Harbor Cottages and Country Inn

Inn by the Sea

Pilgrim’s Inn

Twilite Motel

Best Western Freeport Inn
Brewster House B&B
Captain Briggs House B&B
Harraseeket Inn
Hilton Garden Inn Downtown
White Cedar Inn

Common Table
Harpswell Inn

Captain Jefferds Inn
Colony Hotel
Nonantum Resort

Inn at Ocean’s Edge

Flying Cloud B&B
Newcastle Inn

Beachmere Inn
Ogunquit Inn

Sebasco Harbor Resort

Village by the Sea Hotel

Habitat for Humanity International, based in Americus, Ga., is an ecumenical Christian ministry dedicated to eliminating poverty housing. Habitat has built more than 300,000 houses around the world, providing more than 1.5 million people in more than 3,000 communities with safe, decent, affordable shelter, they helped build and had bought with the assistance of no-profit, zero-interest mortgages.