Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: American Double 2014


Hotel 1: Sofitel, London Heathrow T5
Thursday 30 October to Friday 31 October (1 night)
Room 1103 (Twin)
The Sofitel, directly attached to Terminal 5, is one of the very best of the Heathrow hotels, in terms of both convenience and the level of luxury offered. This degree of comfort and ease of access normally come at a price, but when a suitable deal is available, the Sofitel makes a truly excellent place in which to start or a finish a trip. The level of soundproofing is very impressive and I have never had any problem getting a good night's sleep, in terms of being shielded from both external sounds and any extraneous noise created by other guests. The Sphere lobby bar and lounge is a particularly civilised place in which to round off the day.
Hotel 2: Sheraton Hotel & Towers, Casablanca
Friday 31 October to Saturday 01 November (1 night)
Room 824 (Twin)
The Sheraton was actually our second choice in Casablanca: the original booking was made with the nearby Royal Mansour, which at the time was a Le Méridien. It seemed odd that there were two respected Starwood brands on each other's doorstep in Casablanca, and sure enough, one subsequently left the group. The Sheraton is certainly well located in the city. It looked impressive from the outside and this feeling continued in the lobby. Other parts of the hotel, and in particular our allocated room, seemed in contrast to be well past their 'sell by' date; indeed evidence of shabbiness in some of the furniture is visible in at least one of the photos below. We weren't sure what to expect for this one-night stay and in the event it turned out to be tolerable, but uninspiring. The room just didn't feel like a Sheraton.
Hotel 3: InterContinental, Boston
Sunday 02 November to Monday 03 November (1 night)
Room 410 (Twin)
The InterContinental enjoys a good location on Boston's waterfront, close to the well-known 'Tea Party' attraction. It is within reasonable walking distance of Boston South station, the financial district and most of downtown Boston's historic sites. The hotel also has its own underground parking. We thoroughly enjoyed this all-too-short stay in the property's unashamedly five-star luxury. It's not really appropriate to say much more based on a brief night stop, except to make it clear that we would go back without hesitation.
Hotel 4: Hilton, Providence  
Monday 03 November to Tuesday 04 November (1 night)
Room 707 (King)
The Hilton Providence is located just off the I-95 freeway and adjacent to major conference venues. Downtown Providence is within easy walking distance, and even the historic East Side, home to Brown University and a 'must' for visitors, is walkable without difficulty. I found my room comfortable and pleasant enough. The hotel has a Starbucks branch and a steakhouse restaurant, and for those who may have over-indulged, a swimming pool and fitness centre. There is also plenty of on-site parking. The staff seemed particularly friendly and welcoming, even by American standards.
Hotel 5: Mill Street Inn, Newport
Tuesday 04 November to Wednesday 05 November (1 night)
Room 205 (King Townhouse Suite)
This boutique-style hotel is conveniently located on a quiet side street just over a block uphill from Thames Street and the waterfront area, close to Trinity Church. Located in a former mill building, it is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World and participates in its loyalty programme. I was allocated a comfortable and very private 'Townhouse' suite with a King bed. Breakfast was adequate, but seemed a little basic for an SLH property. A limited amount of off-street parking is available both outside and under the building.
Hotel 6: Crowne Pointe Historic Inn & Spa, Provincetown  
Wednesday 05 November to Friday 07 November (2 nights)
Room 305 ('P3' King)
This boutique hotel is one of the most prominent features in central Provincetown, being located in six architecturally striking historic buildings that are clustered around a pleasant courtyard setting. As well as the hotel itself, the complex includes a fine-dining restaurant and wine & cocktails bar, and the excellent Shui spa. Many of the hotel rooms and suites include fireplaces and private hot tubs. A complimentary wine and cheese event takes place between 5 and 6pm each day. The hotel has positioned itself as a quiet escape for adults and operates a 'no children' policy. I had a thoroughly enjoyable stay despite foul weather.

Did you notice my 'P3' designation above, as part of the room type? It stands for - would you believe - Pamper Me Three Times!
Hotel 7: Westin Beale St, Memphis  
Friday 07 November to Monday 10 November (3 nights)
Room 405 (Double-Queen)
Somewhat similar to the InterContinental Boston (above), the Westin in Memphis is all about a contemporary interpretation of five-star luxury. It could hardly be more conveniently located in downtown Memphis, just steps away from Beale Street, the home of the blues. Despite this, we didn't experience any street noise. Parking is in an adjacent public garage, but at hotel rates. The lobby bar proved to be a civilised and and pleasant venue for evening drinks. As explained in the trip diary, however, not all of the Saturday-night clientele were what you might expect in a five-star environment!
Hotel 8: Gaylord Opryland Resort, Nashville  
Monday 10 November to Wednesday 13 November (3 nights)
Room G5038 (Double-Queen Atrium View)
This property, which I can safely say was quite unlike anywhere I had previously stayed, is located on the edges of Nashville within a bend of the Cumberland river, a very short distance from the iconic Grand Ole Opry country music venue itself. The resort is huge, incorporating several large conference centres and featuring extensive atrium areas that looked like a cross between Disneyland and something out of Las Vegas. The midweek clientele were very different from what I had feared might be the case, consisting in the main of business people attending conventions.

This property will not be to everyone's taste; the hotel's own website speaks of a "one-of-a-kind experience". I wasn't entirely sure that it would suit me, but I was able to accept it for what it is and ended up having a mostly good time there.  While the rooms were up to normal Marriott standards, we encountered some ludicrously inflated prices in the various atrium attractions, and at least one example of shockingly poor service.
LEFT: Room G5038 and view
BELOW and BELOW LEFT: General resort impressions
Hotel 9: Read House Historic Inn & Suites, Chattanooga  
Wednesday 13 November to Friday 15 November (2 nights)
Room 704 (King Junior Suite)
The Read House is conveniently located in Chattanooga, directly on the free downtown shuttle route. It is a reasonably charming historic hotel, but the words 'faded glory' quickly came to mind on arrival. The hotel had recently dropped its Sheraton branding, but unusually remained as an unbranded property within the Starwood group. We were upgraded to a Junior Suite. The hotel has its own branch of Starbucks and the in-house restaurant is Porter's Steakhouse, the bar section of which proved to be an agreeable venue for cocktails and lighter snacks. An on-site valet parking service is provided.
Hotel 10: Hilton, Atlanta  
Friday 15 November to Saturday 16 November (1 night)
Room 2250 (King Deluxe Studio)
The Hilton is centrally located in downtown Atlanta, within easy walking distance of many city centre attractions. It is positioned as a convention hotel offering ample facilities for conferences and other large functions. My Hilton HHonors Diamond status got me an upgrade to a wonderfully spacious King Deluxe Studio, as well as access to the Executive Lounge. The latter had an unusual open-plan design, but all too typically across a number of chains in recent years, it suffered from overcrowding. In the case of this hotel, I suspect that this was aggravated by lounge access being granted as part of certain group bookings for conferences. The building featured a wide range of food and drink options, including a prestigious roof-top restaurant, a branch of Trader Vic's and a Starbucks in the lobby. There was also an unusually wide range of sports and fitness options, probably aimed at all those conference attendees.