Things are relative. Paying 150 USD for a hotel room can sometimes be more than good value while at others downright outrageously expensive. Let’s take a closer look at two examples.
1. Quality Suites, Orlando
150 USD is a discounted rate for a suite with free hot breakfast when you book through one of the well-known online booking systems. However, don’t be misguided by the words quality (as in high standard) or suite (as an above the average room in a hotel).
From the outside the hotel looks like any relatively modern roadside chain hotel. It is surrounded by greenery (like everything in Orlando) and when we parked our car, I was actually relieved that we will not be staying at some dirty worn-out place. My naive hopes all died the moment we walked into the lobby. I mean, who puts vending machines into a hotel lobby? To me this says: we will provide you with anything to get your money, we just won’t bother serving you in any way. Unfortunately, this was a very detailed prediction for the whole stay.
The room, pardon, suite was huge. There was a living room with a kitchenette and breakfast counter, bedroom with two queen beds and bathroom. And it was definitely well sanitised because it smelled of chlorine as if someone soaked the thick carpets with it. I would doubt the cleanliness though. The smell made me wonder what must have happened in this room that they had to use so much chlorine. I better never find out.
Breakfast on the next morning was one of the most bizarre meals I have ever experienced. First of all, forget any kind of decoration in the dining hall, let alone tablecloths or place mats. Anything beyond plastic plates and Styrofoam cups would cause unnecessary costs and labour. Don’t let me even get started about the food. Care for a waffle with maple syrup lookalike made of palm sugar? How about coffee with sweet non-dairy creamer with hazelnut aroma? Or perhaps some buttery taste bread spread? I decided a slice of toast with some jam-like spread would be the closest thing to food there. Damn, if I just didn’t have to always read the ingredients of the food I am eating, it’s all my fault, right?
2. Laurel Oak Inn, Gainesville
For 150 USD you can also stay in one of the five rooms at the Laurel Oak Inn in Gainesville. Yes, it’s an old house, but it’s far from being worn-out. It was lovingly restored by the owners Monta and Peggy. As soon as you park your car in the beautiful garden the magic begins. Imagine a place that makes you feel as if you’ve finally arrived. A place you immediately fall in love with and where you wish you could stay just one more night. And then perhaps another.
We arrived just in time for the evening “social hour”. This meant that we were immediately offered wine in the kitchen that smelled of freshly baked banana pecan bread and chocolate cookies, which were by the way delicious. Can you think of a more welcoming arrival than that?
Our room was like something out of a fairy tale: antique furniture, fireplace, old squeaky wooden floors. Big claw-foot massage tub was the centerpiece of the bathroom and I still regret not taking a soak in it, just so I could try the bathing salt that Monta and Peggy prepare themselves. The towels were neatly folded on a chair and tied with a silk bow. Everywhere I looked I could see pretty details like this. After our evening walk downtown we returned to our room only to find our bed already made with chocolates on pillows and lights turned on… Turndown service like in a five star hotel!
Next morning we woke up to the inviting aromas of breakfast that Monta was cooking up in the kitchen. It was actually a three course meal of fresh fruit, that delicious banana pecan bread and eggs Benedict with bacon. Not to forget the Brazilian coffee which they have roasted especially for them.
It’s hard to put in words the experience we have had there. We hope that someday maybe we are able to return. Next time we will plan at least two days to do all the things we missed now: take a tube ride down the lazy crystal clear Ichetucknee river, observe the alligators in the Paynes prairie and just relax on the porch watching squirrels play in the garden. Next time…
As for that other place and other chain hotels anywhere in the world, I will continue to follow my general rule: If you don’t have big bucks to spare and afford a really good hotel, stay away from them altogether.