Conrad Hilton's 4th Hotel
Don and I avoid chain hotels, but not this one! The Hotel Andaluz was Conrad Hilton's 4th hotel, when it opened in 1939. The 10-story, 160-room hotel was considered the first high rise hotel in New Mexico.
I was excited when we approached this hotel, last May. I knew this could be the nicest stay on our road trip. We'd driven from Silver City that morning, with a stop for lunch in San Antonio, NM. Oddly enough, tiny San Antonio is where Conrad Hilton was born. We'd eaten lunch at a bar that his father had owned. Now we would stay in a hotel where C. Hilton had honeymooned with Zsa Zsa Gabor in 1942.
Our Albuquerque hotel had some similarities to the hotel where we'd stayed the night before, in Silver City. The Murray Hotel (built a year earlier) was sort of a mini version, with its lower building connected to the tower of guest rooms. I'm still learning to appreciate the history of this boring, high rise look. At least the plain, earth-tone stucco on the Andaluz tower, had some decorative brick.
Both of the Andaluz entrances had original murals from the 1930's. The arches and wood beams and glowing light fixtures added some fun drama.
While Don parked, I tried to figure out how to check in. I walked past the colorful, hoop dance mural and found a small room, with a woman at a desk. I half-wondered if I would be interviewed before I got my key.
"Nice!" I replied, as if I knew that Mr. Goodman was the current owner, who bought the hotel in 2008 and brought it back to its glory days.
My ignorance made me want to know more history. I asked about a brochure, or info sheet... but was reminded that the Andaluz is a green hotel... evidently the most sustainable historic hotel in the U.S. So no paper write ups for me.
Not far from the Reception Room, there was a cozy library with some actual books and a few historic photos. I could have done some old fashioned research, but I was excited about exploring.
After checking in, I quickly began my exploring mission. I knew the empty lobby would be less quiet, after 5. A huge conference was being held on the second level and it was also a Friday...
The arched openings along the wall, were the most exciting lobby feature. Years ago, small shops were set up in some of them.
There were 6 curtained casbahs, each begging for a cozy gathering of characters! Each had its own festive decor. One held a framed mosaic of glass tile, with trickling water. Another held carved doors and candles. There was one at the end, that had closed curtains and a sign that tempted me to peek...
Obsessed with the Fountain
Besides those exotic casbahs, my other favorite feature was the fountain.
I kept snapping photos, but none captured the wonderful bird statue in the center. One photo shows the Spanish tile on the side. The other angle shows an orange fish, swimming round and round.
And of course I had to go up to the mezzanine and take a photo, looking down on the fountain. I was tempted to toss a coin. I didn't.
I found a beautiful stairway off the side hall. The rounded railing was so smooth and slick it invited me to take a ride... or a bite. I felt like Gretel, in the witch's candy house. The frosted, marshmallow structure, looked as delicious as the licorice hand rail!
I found the ornate elevators behind another edible-looking, artistic structure! My camera skills just weren't able to capture the colorful mix of Spanish antique furniture and modern see-through art! It really was lovely.
The area near the elevators looked like a museum, where we should not touch. Heading into the classic elevator, I felt like a kid sneaking through a door, when the guards weren't looking. But the elevator was clearly functional and for our use. Inside the ornate doors, there was a colorful tapestry, behind glass.
Our room was on the 7th floor and I kept fingers crossed for a good view.
We booked the most reasonable room we could get. It wasn't huge, but it was nicely updated.
Gazing Out the Window
Before I peeked through the blinds, I noticed the couple, in the framed photo next to the window. They seemed to gaze out, along with me. She looked downward, like she was a little disappointed with the view. He seemed to be looking out, insisting the view was fine. "Come on now. There's a mountain, way out there."
I was obviously in a playful mood, when I took in all the details of this beautiful hotel. The artwork above the bed, fit my mood! It took me a moment to realize the art was created with pencils. I wonder how many people have slept here and not noticed?
I loved the tricky archway. Was that a Spanish detail? The tiny reading lamps were handy.
There's probably a name for the "shoe protector" thing at the foot of the bed. Whatever the name, it was an unusual one, with weighted bars at both ends.
Large TV & Small Bath
The room was narrow, but the wall TV was nice and large. The bathroom was small, with a retro sink that held no bath products. I'm starting to get used to green hotels that use refillable containers. But this is the first hotel that has given us complimentary, reusable water bottles. Nice touch.
By 6, Don and I were ready to check out Ibiza, the rooftop lounge.
The roof-top lounge was actually on the roof of the lower building, not the tower. But the open air options were wonderful. We could sit out by the wall and watch the people below, or lounge inside, with a breeze coming in open doors.
The hotel's restaurant, Mas Tapas y Vino, looked out of a movie set. If we'd dined, I would have asked for a table next to the rabbit... who looked like he had some boxing skills! The food reviews were excellent, but the prices were high. We headed off to explore the area.
We made good use of the hotel's location and did a little exploring on Central Avenue. The colorful street was once Route 66, so there was much to see.
At one point, we wandered a little out of the comfort zone, searching for a Speakeasy we'd heard about. After a couple wrong turns, the secret bar was found. We ended the evening with some great JC's NYPD pizza, right next door to the hotel.
In the morning we grabbed some complimentary coffee in the lobby bar. It was hard to decide where to enjoy our morning brew. Don settled into a chair, near some beautiful beaded artwork.
I headed into the casbah that had been curtained off the night before. Evidently the exotic plants in this special space, are on a very specific schedule with their greenhouse lamps! I felt honored to spend a few moments enjoying the colorful wall-garden!
I will remember this beautifully restored hotel because of all the wonderful surprises. We needed much more than a night to discover them all! This little pair of donkeys was one of the many tiny surprises I found. They were part of one of the hall murals.
I feel like we just scratched the surface of what this hotel is all about. I feel the same way about the city of Albuquerque. Both the city and hotel made me curious. I hope to come back and learn a little more!
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!