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Like Staying In A Museum (In A Good Way): Inside the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos

Go To The Hotel's Web 
  Site Where: 240 Morada Lane [map], Taos, NM, United States, 87571
January 31, 2012 at 1:48 PM | by | ()

If you’re going to northern New Mexico and you have any kind of artistic or cultural sensibilities, you need to stay at the Mabel Dodge Luhan house. As the name would suggest, it’s the former home of Mabel Dodge Luhan – who was not only a writer, but a facilitator and gatherer of art in Taos. This is where pretty much anyone literary or artistic who’s traveled to New Mexico has stayed. DH Lawrence spent loads of time here, and even painted the windows of one of the bathrooms with bright murals (today, some rooms still have access to that bathroom). Georgia O’Keefe, Ansel Adams, Dennis Hopper, Carl Jung – the list of illustrious guests is long and varied. For more details, see the website.

Because it’s more of a museum rather than a swish hotel, we were expecting the worst when it came to rooms. When we had to be towed out of a snowbank, having skidded on ice on the approach, we were even more timorous. But we soldiered on. Here’s what we found.

Check in
We were prepared for a chilly check in by the numerous reviews on TripAdvisor – and thus it was. A man and a woman were talking in the reception room, and ignored us as we walked in. After a short time of ignoring us, they looked at us. “Is this where we check in?” we squeaked. They looked at each other, then the man glared, paused, and said, “You know what? You just need to give us a couple minutes.” The woman said, “Yes, can you wait outside?” We stalked out and sat by the fire.

Over the next five minutes, earwigging on their conversation it became obvious that the man – although he was sitting alongside the woman, and ordering us around – was a guest with a problem. Instead of just switching rooms as she was advising, he wanted to talk it through over and over and over. Guess that’s how they do things in Texas.

Once he was gone, the woman invited us back in to reception, apologized for making us wait, and, sensing that we were still angry, complimented us on our scarf. She told us that she was available for any kind of problem until 9pm when she went home and the place was unstaffed. She made a huge effort to be friendly, but after she’d let the Texan be rude to us, we weren’t really feeling it.

Room reaction
We were staying at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House for its history, rather than its amenities, and from the photos on the website, we weren’t expecting much – especially as the Solarium, our preferred room, was taken. We settled for the Ansel Adams room, mainly because it had a kiva fireplace and some pedigree – Dennis Hopper had written part of Easy Rider there, and Ansel Adams, obviously, had stayed as well.

So we got a very nice surprise. It was clean, the bed (a king, and there was also a single) was comfy, the place was warm and the shower pressure was good. Ok, it wasn’t the kind of room we’d rave about, or remember forever (you come here for the history and the experience, not a sexy room). The toiletries were basic B&B level, and there was a surfeit of floral – curtains, comforters and even the shower curtain – but it wasn’t irritating, seeing as the whole ambience was about staying at a kind old lady’s house.

It’s in a separate wing from the main building, past the woodshed, which meant that the WiFi didn’t stretch there (see below). On the plus side, though, it gave an awesome amount of privacy. It felt like our own private home, rather than a hotel; in the main house, you’re very much aware that this is a B&B.

Amenity madness
As above, not great toiletries (soap, shampoo and shower gel) but we didn’t expect anything fancy from a place like this. The best amenity by far was the kiva fireplace. They provided firelighters and matches, and we bought wood. Sadly we were too inept to get it burning for anything more than a minute or two.

Internet connect
WiFi is free and quick, but it didn’t stretch past the woodshed to our room. But with two lounges and a breakfast room in the main house, it was no sacrifice to curl up by the fireplace to work.

What we liked
The free WiFi, the breakfast (so incredible we’ll devote an entire post to it down the line) and the history – there’s a really special feel about the place.

What we didn’t like
Our arrival – ruined both by the Texan’s initial rudeness, and the woman not daring to smooth over the situation until he’d gone. First impressions are crucial, especially when, according to TripAdvisor, your staff have the tendency to be rude.

Bottom line
Remember how we said this wasn’t the kind of room we’d remember forever? Maybe not, but it’s the kind of stay we’ll remember forever. And treasure. And it only cost $135 (about $160 including tax), B&B. Can’t argue with that.

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