Traveling Through Arizona
On Mother's Day last month, Don and I arrived at the Hotel Congress on the last third of our month-long road trip. We were curious to find out about this 95 year hotel as well as the city itself.
Right off the bat we were impressed with how easy was to get around. But what would this hotel be like? I have never stayed in a hotel that calls itself an urban, historic, rock' n' roll hotel.
Just inside the door, we were greeted with a great mixture of old and new.
To our right was the retro "Hive Salon" with old barber chairs and hairdryers. Above the shiny tile floors, the walls were covered with colorful, southwestern artwork added in the 1980's.
I loved the wooden phone booths (with working phones) near the front desk!
When we checked in we were given real keys instead of little cards, which means I can find my key! And when we left the hotel a couple times, we had the fun (inconvenience to some) of having our keys held in their own little wooden slot behind the desk. I love old hotels.
Heading up Stairs
There were no elevators in this 3-story hotel, but we were getting used to lugging our bags up stairs, since most of our hotels so far did not have them.
There was an interesting feel to the crowd, which can be pretty eclectic since the hotel's Club Congress is recognized as one of the top ten nightclubs in the country. I think the Mother's Day Holiday definitely tamed the crowds during our stay.
Quite the Table
I've never seen a coffee table quite like this one! My sister and I actually took our Ouija Board to a "haunted hotel" once.
We didn't conjure up any spirits, but if only I'd thought to bring along a pointer for this table, we could have had a little fun with Hotel Congress ghosts.
No Dillinger Ghosts Here
The ghost of John Dillinger wasn't floating around here. He was captured in the hotel in 1934, but he was eventually killed in Chicago after escaping from jail in Indiana.
I'm sure there are other ghosts, though. We have become aware that old hotels like to flaunt their ghost stories. I no longer pay much attention.
Pennies in the Cafe
Up the Stairs
The second story was dimly lit, but brightened with more colorful painting and fun archways. There was a small sitting are for guests not far from our room.
I actually loved out little room. The website had "warned" that some city slickers might feel slighted that the 40 guestrooms have no TVs.
But hey, they had an old radio! It also reminded guests that earplugs were available and no refunds would be given for noise. We weren't too worried. We reserved one of the quieter rooms and it was a Sunday. But we were fully prepared for noise since the train tracks were nearby and the Club downstairs had nightly entertainment.
Room with a View
Back in our room's little alcove near the desk, we had a window with a heavy wood frame and frosted glass. I managed to open the clumsy thing and let in some of the wonderful weather that must have been delivered for Mother's Day.
What a surprise to suddenly see a courtyard with a desert scene painted on the brick wall. I could even catch a glimpse of the iconic Hotel Congress sign. What a great little Urban Oasis right out our window...or around down the hall if we used the door.
I was very excited about the 1930's vintage phone on the dresser. I made a call to the front desk so I could use the thing.
The iron bed frame, vintage bedspread and darkened flowered carpet could have been a bit too much for some. But it was all clean and that's all I ask! Plus rooms start at $89. That's pretty good for a hotel that has history and entertainment!
The bathroom wasn't the grandest, with just a shower.
But again, it was clean and I loved the black and white tile. The basin was original, but a new spout and handle was installed on the right, with a clever soap dish where the hot water had been.
This just shows a small corner of the festive old bar and the large stage and dance area. If we'd come another month we could have participated in the Whiskey Weekend or The Underwear Party! I'm sure I would have had bigger stories to tell.
The Tap Room
We were headed out for dinner soon, so we didn't have time to take in the Congress festivities. However we just had to check out the original hotel bar since 1919, The Tap room.
This tiny bar with a few booths was cozy and festive, but it was definitely a local's hangout. That usually appeals to us, but these people didn't look too welcoming of tourists. I even spotted a guy with a holster and gun. Different laws in Arizona. However when we heard about "Tiger" we knew we would have to come back!
Tiger's Tap Room
The only way to meet Tiger was to come back after we checked out at 11 the next morning. Tiger has been running the bar since 1959 and he's too weary for the night crowd. He works and early shift. Tiger was a hoot with stories from long ago to his current life.
While I sipped my orange juice, we swapped stories about our years both growing up in Iowa. He then pulled out photos of when the staff gave him surprise 80th birthday party and had "Tiger" added to the "Tap Room" neon sign. He pointed out the western artwork hanging near the ceiling and told us about the artist who contributed those in the '30's and '40's in exchange for drinks.
The man seated next to us, kindly took our photo behind the bar. Then the kind photographer mentioned, in an almost hushed, proper way, that a stranger had offered to buy him a drink the other day.
He was feeling as though he should pay it forward and buy us a drink. It was before noon and I hardly wanted a drink, but we took him up on the offer and split a Bloody Mary. By the time we headed out we were feeling pretty pleased about our surprise people encounter. It was the perfect way to end our stay.
To me the hotel was warm and inviting all by itself. I loved the intentional preservation of the past and the modern touches with art and style. Initially I didn't feel very welcome by the people. The desk staff was young and a tiny bit aloof. I felt like I needed a few piercings or tattoos and a few less wrinkles to fit in better.
But I'm used to feeling like that in Austin. (Tucson felt like a baby Austin to me) But after spending an hour with Tiger and even our nice fellow at the bar, I felt different. It's always fun to have someone to say good-by to when you leave!
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!