El Paso, Texas
This was our first night, of a 4-week road trip from Texas to California. Don and I were exhausted by the time we finally walked into the lobby. It wasn't the nine hour drive through west Texas, but the detour down Alameda Avenue, as well as the time we spent circling the complex trying to figure the entrance.
El Paso is a curious city and I wish we'd had more time to explore. Our introduction to the city was made a little confusing by our drive through miles of the city, that made us think we'd accidentally driven across the border into Juarez.
The grand hotel itself is sandwiched in between cultures. The convention center with a few upscale shops and cafes was on the side of the new entrance. And across the street from the original lobby entrance, you could see vendors and pawn shops along the sidewalks.
But this is why we came! We have stayed before at historic hotels designed by Trost and Trost. This hotel opened on Thanksgiving in 1912 and was the grandest of them all. The detail on the exterior is lovely and so different than hotels we've visited in smaller Texas towns.
This was originally the hotel lobby. This Tiffany dome is 15 feet in diameter and now sits over a round bar. We were told by a customer that Pancho Villa once shot a bullet through the Tiffany...but I'm not sure that's true.
The whole impressive area was stuffed with rich detail. Cherrystone and black serpentine marble, mahogany and golden scagliola and stained glass windows. It made me wonder why they needed TVs at the bar.
There was plenty to stare at without TVs flickering in the center of the bar. Besides, people stare at their cell phones instead of bar TVs, anyway.
We knew from internet reviews that the hotel has struggled a bit at times. And we weren't going for one of the top dollar rooms. We asked the woman at the desk for a good view and she gave us this spacious corner room for no extra charge. The furniture was not historic and a little dated, but it was clean and comfortable.
I loved the pink tile! Like I said, the rooms haven't been upgraded recently, but I'm fine with that. The fact that our hot water wouldn't turn off, was only a temporary problem. And there was good lighting in the bathroom. I really get tired of dark bathrooms in hotels!
One of our windows looked out over the Franklin Mountains of Mexico. We could read the words written on the mountainside.
Our other window looked down on the roof top pool and another impressive historic hotel. Evidently, The Plaza Hotel is being renovated... which could be a problem. This huge hotel was pretty empty on a Monday night. I'd hate to see them having to compete.
Our view wasn't quite as good as the view from the rooftop ballroom. Evidently this had been a good spot for watching the progress of the Mexican Revolution. Folks gathered to watch Pancho Villa cross the Rio Grande...or so I'm told!
We would have loved to have dined in this impressive formal dining room, but it was closed on Monday. That was a disappointment. One should take note of that if you want to dine in this wonderful room with original stained glass windows. The chandaliers are replicas of the originals which used candles. They were lit and lowered at night and lifted during the day.
Dinner at the Dome Bar
We wore our western shirts in honor of El Paso and ordered dinner at the bar. (There was another informal café) A notable night usually includes some people encounters and this seemed to be the only place to find anyone in the quiet hotel.
On a Monday night you will mostly meet people traveling on business. And the most curious traveler we chatted with told us he had been living in hotels for 15 years. He was a bit of a talker and we felt a little trapped at first. But he did tell us about a wonder Café Central bar/restaurant across the plaza. That was worth knowing about! We ventured there to enjoy a very different and more sophisticated atmosphere and chatted with a number of El Paso locals with great tips for future visits.
What Was Notable?
The Tiffany Dome will always be what I associate with this hotel. But I'll also recall a sort of sad feeling, that this grand hotel was a little out of place or maybe under appreciated. I'll also remember the odd feeling of being in a hotel so close to the border. Our cell phones were alerting us about international fees. The staff and many guests were speaking Spanish and it was hard to communicate with a few. But some of the locals at Café Central chuckled about how El Paso was the safest city in the US, because the children of the drug cartel send their kids to school here. "They make sure it stays safe for them!" Hmm? Had to wonder about that.
Do I hope to return? Sure, I'm curious to experience it on a weekend and to learn more about El Paso. I hope this hotel can survive!
Update: The hotel reopened in 2020 with its original name, after a complete renovation. The Hotel Paso Del Norte is now part of Marriott's Autograph Collection.
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!