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See what we mean about retro?
When it comes to road trips, old school is always best. Which is why, when we tok a ride up Highway 1 last weekend, we decided to make an overnight pitstop at Pismo Beach near San Luis Obispo, having been told by the New York Times that it's a “throwback to endless summers gone by”. And we plumped for The Pismo Beach Hotel seeing as it was, at the time of booking, top of the TripAdvisor list and sounded pretty retro with its 1937 building bang in the middle of town. The photos on the website didn't look too appealing, but hey, we thought, it's only for a night and they sounded nice on the phone.
How’s this for a check in amenity: along with two bottles of free water, a big bag of popcorn ready to be brewed in your in room microwave?
Also at this hotel, where we stayed last week, we had free WiFi, free breakfast and 24 hour access to tea, coffee, cookies and fruit. Amazing.
Sadly, it was nothing sexier than a Holiday Inn. Even more sadly, it wasn’t located anywhere we’ll likely be paying a return visit – Barstow, California (yes, we broke down driving to Vegas on a Sunday night and had to wait till the next day to get a new tire). There are two Holiday Inn Express(es) in the town but Hotwire selected the one by the outlet center - on the edge of the desert, if you will - for just $53.
The room could have done with a little airing, but we didn’t really care, since it was full of loving little touches such as the tissues folded into a little bow in the bathroom, that popcorn and the 24 hour access to the food, drink and heated pool outside. Also, the staff were phenomenally nice, even going so far as to ask us at check in whether we had a floor or view preference for our room.
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Gaige House in Sonoma. Hot air balloon not shown
We’re always California dreamin, so as URLs go, www.roadtrippincalifornia.com is up there with the most attractive ones. The website is a new thing for Joie de Vivre hotels, who are offering special road trip-minded packages at all its hotels.
It’s a nice idea, but there’s some serious sifting through to work out whether it’s a deal or not – and it all depends on the package, which is different for all the hotels.
So, for example, stay at Gaige House in Sonoma and the Up and Away package ($619, whereas rooms start at $259) includes a hot air balloon ride, a post-flight, um, flight of a champagne brunch and 15 percent off at the spa. Is that worth $350? Seeing as, trawling the net, balloon rides seem to start at $200pp, yes, it probably is.
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Do not attempt these stairs after a few drinks: the Hotel Monaco Baltimore
Greetings from soggy London! After six weeks, 20 states and 7000 miles, our US road trip has finally come to an end and we are back in the city of grey. Hopefully we’ll be back to test your speed limits soon; until then, we’ll be wowing London with our awesome t-shirt collection (one for every state) and shouting “USA, USA” at every opportunity. How glad to have us back they must be.
Have we mentioned before how much we like Hotwire? Well today we’re saying again because we got a smoking deal with them the night before last.
We were passing through Georgia and instead of staying in another B&B with too-thin walls or a motel where strange men phoned our room in the middle of the night, we thought we’d get some sleep in a proper hotel in Atlanta. And seeing as W has no less than four hotels in town, we thought we’d try one out.
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We’re always suckers for hotel tat – whether it’s nicking a pen and notebook from the room, buying branded crockery or saving up for one of those Kimpton animal print bathrobes.
So imagine our excitement when we popped in to see the posh Alluvian hotel in Greenwood, Mississippi and found that, as well as the beds in the rooms (which we couldn’t hunker down on, what with not being hotel guests), there’s a bedroom for visitors to try out in the hotel shop across the road.
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After we loved our stay in the Tallahatchie Flats last week, a friendly Mississippi local told us we should see the Shack Up Inn about five miles outside of Clarksdale (home to Morgan Freeman’s blues club, Ground Zero and restaurant, Madidi).
So we popped along and, sure enough, we thought it was great. The Shack Up is set on what remains of the Hopson Plantation (part of the official Blues Trail). It’s bigger than the Tallahatchie Flats – there are 10 shacks, one house, and 10 “bin” rooms in the old cotton gin. Shacks cost from $60 a night, and the bin rooms from $65.
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Nostalgia is a wonderful thing. Not only can it make you think fondly of the bad times (Wham! reunion, anyone?), it can also make spending the night in a little shotgun house off a cornfield in the Mississippi Delta sound like a good idea. So when we found out about the Tallahatchie Flats - a collection of six original plantation cottages, transported to a field outside Greenwood, Mississippi - we had to go straight there.
We asked for the cheapest cottage – which costs $65 – but the manager/all-round man about the flats, Les, upgraded us to the bigger Red House, worth $85, because he’d already turned the air con on in that one. Nice! So we ended up with a choice of four beds (a king in the master bedroom, two singles in the second bedroom, and a sofa-bed in the living room) and a living room, dining room and kitchen as well – plus two porches to sit on and chew tobacco.
It was big, but don’t expect luxury – it’s as you’d expect a shotgun house to be, with plain wooden floors and walls, old pictures of JFK and Martin Luther King on the walls, and a seriously teeny bathroom. But the bed was comfy and we slept like logs – the only noise out here is from the frogs outside (don’t underestimate them, though, they’re loud little buggers).
Admit it – there’s nothing quite like sharing a hotel with a celeb. And while a live celeb may have moved on by the time you get there, there’s always a chance that, if your star is dead, there may be something of them still hanging around. A good thing in some cases (dead rockstars, we’re thinking of you). Billy the Kid? Debatable. But we ended up staying in a room where he stayed for two weeks when we stopped over in Lincoln, New Mexico, at the Ellis Store & Co.
This place has won countless awards for Inns and B&Bs and it epitomizes charming. The room (we got the Billy the Kid room for $109) was just what we expected from an American B&B: a nice big room, a nice old couple as owners, nice olde worlde decor and appalling soundproofing. The room was very atmospheric – with Pony Express-themed stuff around the place, though not on overload – and the bathroom was huge. The bed was comfy, the bathroom was spotless – though the shower was a bit weak – and we even ignored the review on TripAdvisor that said the place was haunted.
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Bored of cutesey B&Bs and faceless motels? We feel your pain. Want to sleep where Elvis once did? Us too. That’s how we ended up making an unscheduled stop in Abilene, Texas last week. Not because we wanted to visit Abilene, but because of a place to stay that sounded pretty special: the Sparhawk Art Gallery B&B.
In its previous incarnation as the 1930s Sunset Lodge Motel, it was Abilene’s premiere motel and the place of choice for the likes of Elvis, Al Jolson, and the magnificent Marlene Dietrich, all of whom stopped by when they were touring Texas. A few years ago, all but the front annex of the motel was demolished. That was set to go as well, but a local artist, Donovan Sparhawk (we hope that’s his real name), fell in love with it, bought it, and opened up an art gallery inside, along with three rooms to rent. So now, although it’s on the main road into Abilene, it feels like you’re staying in a nice secluded cottage surrounded by lots of trees.
There are only three rooms here and they’re all pretty simple but tastefully done. We took the cheap one on the end—it had a tiled floor, lots of rugs and throws and funky blue furniture and a tiled table and mirrors in the corner of the room—definitely a step up from other motels. The bathroom had the original green tiles and bathtub left over from the motel days, so although the tub was a little stained from the decades, we were very excited to think we could be sharing Elvis’ bath (they don’t know which room he stayed in, but we decided it was definitely ours).
Remember last week we told you about those baths in New Mexico that fill with water straight from the hot spring bubbling beneath Truth or Consequences? And how we said they were possibly the best baths ever? We captured them in their full videotastic glory. Here's the one in the Jetsons themed room—yours for $125 a night. Given that it could fit a few of you in there, you could just split the cost.
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You know the hippies we were talking about yesterday? This is where they congregate. The staff have long grey ponytails and wear tie dye. They leave you little envelopes for tips for the cleaners with peace signs on them. And they want bathing in their springs (they’ve harnessed them with five hot tubs) to be a communal experience.