The Old Name
pictures. But I take pride in staying at non-chain hotels. So I ignored the words on the blue awnings and focused the camera on the ornate carving above the main entrance.
Then and Now
The rooftop sign and old cars make it clear which is the vintage postcard. My photo shows that little has changed with the exterior, since the hotel was built in 1927.
An Empty Lobby
Don and I arrived on a Sunday afternoon last January. I guess that's why the place was so empty. This downtown Hampton Inn was catering to business guests, so I guess Sundays in winter are often quiet.
Not Much Business for the Business Hotel
This certainly didn't look like your typical business hotel. The iron work, chandeliers, columns and ceiling design probably lured other kinds of travelers back in the day. There was no restaurant or lounge, but there seemed to be an attempt to bring some travelers together with a bar height, community table near a TV. But the only person enjoying that little area was the desk clerk who was stealing peeks at the football game.
We checked in and lugged our baggage into one of these fine old elevators and headed to the 9th floor. We were tired on the last evening of our 2 week road trip.
A Good Deal
We weren't exactly in New York City, but Montgomery is the capital of Alabama and our location was pretty good. I was surprised we could have a room as nice as this, for about $100.
And through old glass and funny diamond screens we could actually see the river and the old Union Station. This wasn't a bad hotel for a chain.
We cranked on the heat in our chilly room and headed out to see what was nearby. Commerce Street was pretty empty, but there were some great historic buildings to see as we walked towards the river.
After wandering, we were ready to kick back and enjoy the last night of our trip. I headed down the hall with the ice bucket, while Don messed with the sluggish thermostat.
After numerous calls and some help from the valet guy, (since the maintenance man had left) we asked for a new room.
We headed down to the lobby and tore our desk guy away from the football game. He gave us a key to another room. We lugged our bags and our drippy ice bucket to floor 8.
A Lovely Suite
We spent some time in our second room but the heater was clearly not coming on.
We headed to the desk and our clerk walked us up to the room at the top of the stairs on the left. (I left the ice bucket behind) The suite was quite grand with a bar and large lounging area. It was a mighty nice upgrade and I shivered to Don that maybe it would be okay, even if it was cold. But the desk clerk agreed with us. The heat was not working.
Our last room was not a suite, but it was more spacious than the first and we could hear the heater kick on. We stayed and ordered pizza and enjoyed our warmth!
There was only one person joining us for the complimentary breakfast in the morning. My photo looks like a typical breakfast area in any nice chain hotel.
But honestly, the spread of breakfast in the adjoining room was a nice surprise. They had the typical stuff, but everything was fresh and chilled or just from the oven hot, like the little cheesy English muffins I loved. And all were served up in clever little containers and holders and pitchers that seemed above and beyond. Must hand it to them for not slacking off with so few customers.
Okay, I said I didn't like chains, but sometimes they do have more reason to keep their customers happy. Free hotel on our last night! That's a good deal!
A Nice Surprise in Mobile, Alabama!
A Newly Renovated 12-Story
Sleek and Modern
Don and I looked a little underdressed as we checked in at the very modern desk. 40 proper looking Admirals peered down from their framed wall portraits. I'm not sure they approved. But our hostess was very welcoming.
We seemed to have the whole place to ourselves. The lobby needed more people to enjoy all the curious lighting and style. I took a trip up the marble stairway, which was covered in gray and mustard carpet... that looks like cement in the photo. From the mezzanine above, I had a better look at the central light display.
Globes and Chains
mobiles. It was like staring at a piece of modern art, when you say, "I can do that." And then you say. "No. I can't."
New or Old?
And when I turned around as the elevator doors closed, I was reminded again. There was a huge "1" painted on the first set of doors and a "0" on the other.
Hall and Door
I even liked our room number and the design on the hall carpet. I guess I'm getting used to renovations that are more like facelifts. This was a real overhaul.
The room even smelled new... in a fresh way, not a gagging, paint-smell-way. The windows looked down below to the old Basilica and some mature trees and the buildings of Old Historic Mobile.
There was a very cool light fixture and some shiny white and gold furiture. The desk held a Keurig coffee maker and the dresser had a curious frame around the flat screen. Oh, how I once snickered at this style, back when my parents hooked me on rustic antiques. But this was fun stuff.
I had to laugh at the sliding "barn door" to the bathroom. Frosted glass windows don't offer much bathroom privacy and this annoying trend is even bigger in Europe. But no worries here, since the door opened to a little dressing area near the closet.
We had heard something about honey bees on the rooftop. Supposedly 3 honeybee apiaries provide nearly 200 pounds of honey each year. Well we didn't find any of that. In fact it pretty much looked like we weren't supposed to be up there on that roof.
But what a perfect view, just as the building began to light up at dusk.
I wouldn't have minded a nice meal in the newly opened Launch Restaurant. I spoke with a manager and server, just as they opened at 5:00.
They talked about their fresh farm to table ingredients. And I found out that the honeybees are actually housed on a third floor walkway between the hotel and parking garage.
Corner 251 Lounge
I peeked in the lounge before dark, when light poured into the spacious cafe and bar through big corner windows. It looked almost stark and uncomfotable with no customers.
But it seemed like the better choice later. The hotel was finally beginning to come to life with a few customers. We were able to have a casual meal, (Salmon Cake Rueben and decadent fried green tomatoes) studying some of our fellow guests.
Enjoying the Rest of the Evening
Or we could have worked off our dinner in the small fitness center... which I'm afraid I didn't even peek at.
But we wanted to make use of our location. Just a block away we wandered Dauphin Street, which was pretty lively on Friday night. It was sort of fun on January 8th, to see the Mardi Gras decorations coming out at the German Biergarten and a Christmas tree still decorating the center of Bienville Square.
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!