There’s a new hotel in downtown Columbus that’s actually pretty old. If that sounds confusing, it’s because the LeVeque Building — since the 1920s, the most iconic building in the downtown area — has been rehabbed and converted, in part, into a hotel.
I went to meetings at the hotel yesterday and today, and they’ve turned this Art Deco masterpiece into a pretty cool hotel. The fixtures have been cleaned and brightened — allowing nifty Art Deco touches, like elevators with names like “health” and “prosperity,” to shine through. The lobby area (shown below) is open and airy, and there’s a nice second-floor bar, too. I spoke to someone who was staying at the hotel, and he said the guest rooms are great.
This is another nice step forward for downtown Columbus. Every town needs cool hotels in the core area.
I’ve been traveling on business long enough to remember when a free hotel “breakfast bar” consisted of a few packets of instant oatmeal, a bin of stale muffins, and a pot of coffee of doubtful provenance. It was a sad, grim place that you wanted to leave at the earliest opportunity– if you even went there in the first place.
No more! Now hotel breakfast bars are actually decent places to have breakfast. The breakfast bar at the Hyatt House in Lakewood, Colorado, where I stayed this week, had fresh fruit, Greek yogurt and toppings, cooked bacon, eggs, and potatoes, cereal, muffins, bagels, and bread, different kinds of juices and coffee, and a made-to-order omelet station that turned out a really good, piping hot omelet. The surroundings were spotlessly clean, bright and cheerful, and you could read the Wall Street Journal while you ate. It was such a nice place I actually heard a guy go up and order a second omelet.
Imagine! A hotel breakfast bar where you’d actually like to linger for a while. It’s a welcome change.
I stayed recently at the Renwick hotel in Manhattan, and while I didn’t particularly care for the stenciled quote on the wall of my room, I did like the look of the Renwick’s cozy lobby. I thought the stacked books painted to create a portrait were an especially cool touch.
Hotel lobbies — constantly pushing the boundaries of room decor!
When I got to my room at my hotel in NYC last night, I discovered it was one of those places that has random quotes printed on the walls.
In this case, it was the above quote attributed to Andy Warhol — although some contend it actually originated with Marshall McLuhan — helpfully placed right next to the bathroom. For good measure, the mat on the desk has a quote attributed to John Steinbeck: “People don’t take trips, trips take people.” (This is a paraphrase of sorts of a line from Travels with Charley: In Search of America that reads “We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”)
What’s the point of quotes on the walls and on desk mats? I’m guessing it’s supposed to convey a certain erudite edginess, like you’ve suddenly found yourself in some intellectual artist’s loft in Soho, rather than in a stodgy hotel. But in my view, the wall quote places are really more alienating than the standard generic hotel room. After all, I didn’t pick the quote — and in fact I don’t think I’d ever print any quote upon my wall, even if it were some deeply meaningful quote from the Gettysburg Address rather than a vapid observation about gullible art critics. So when I wake up and see the quote on the wall, it immediately tells me that I’m in a strange room. It doesn’t exactly convey a “make yourself at home” feeling.
Everybody seems to be big on quotes these days, although many of the quotes you see are actually fake. It’s as if the message is that there’s no original thinking yet to be done, and we should just sigh with appreciation at the wisdom of the ancients — which is an approach I heartily disagree with. But even if you are a big fan of quotes, what does a quote from Andy Warhol about art have to offer a weary traveler? My guess is that Warhol himself would find the fact that his quote appears on a hotel room wall to be a hilarious commentary on the wannabe state of modern society.
This week I stayed at one of those pop-up hotels you see in many suburban communities. This one was in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, one of the suburbs of Philadelphia. From my experience, the hotels cater to an itinerant population of lawyers, salesmen, accountants, and other business people during the week, and soccer moms and traveling team parents over the weekend. They’ve become the vagabond way stations of modern America.
The lobby of this hotel includes a seating area with a wall that includes shelves with the “decorations” shown above. Is there a rhyme or reason to the choice of objects, their color, their form, or their positioning? If so, I couldn’t discern it. It looks like a combination of the kind of random “accent pieces” you see at furniture showrooms, mixed together on shelves.
The implicit message was clear: you’re in the generic zone, weary traveler! This isn’t home, so don’t get too comfortable. Pass by quickly, without a second glance, and move along.
So I did.
One weird thing about American hotels — they’re not satisfied with traditional table items. So instead of a little pitcher that immediately tells you it holds cream, you see a steel rectangle with a notch in the side . . . and you have to figure out it’s the cream dispenser.
Well, I guess it helps you to get your brain working in the morning.
Hotel air conditioning in the common areas can be . . . uneven. The temperature in the elevator lobby on my floor of the hotel last night was so cold the air had a kind of gelid feel to it. It was only a fraction above see-your-breath levels. I half expected to see cattle carcasses hanging from hooks, or a sad-eyed kid whispering “I see dead people.”
Of course, my actual room was hot.