Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Roaming the Rust Belt (2017)


Hotel 1: Premier Inn, Heathrow Airport T4
Wednesday 22 Nov to Thursday 23 Nov (1 night)
Room 755 (Double)
Premier Inn Terminal 4 is a new-build budget hotel located close to the T4 Hilton, with which it shares an access walkway to and from the terminal. I booked this room (and the one for my return to the UK - see below) for the bargain launch-offer price of £30.50 per night. My request regarding room location was honoured, and I found the external soundproofing to be excellent. As expected, almost everything looked new, the one exception being the toilet seat, which had already worked itself loose on one side. While I chose not to use the in-house catering, the overall experience was perfectly satisfactory and an absolute bargain at that price.

Hotel 2: DoubleTree, Syracuse, NY
Thursday 23 Nov to Friday 24 Nov (1 night)
Room 759 (2 x Double)
This hotel had a relatively limited role in our plans: it was simply a first-night stop on our joint road trip, one that would allow us both to recover from a long day of westbound intercontinental travel. And it proved to be a perfectly good place to spend that first night on this latest visit to the USA. A welcoming lobby area, friendly staff and a good bar offering were the memorable points for me.

Hotel 3: The Del Monte Lodge (Renaissance), Rochester, NY
Friday 24 Nov to Saturday 25 Nov (1 night)
Room 319 (2 x Queen)
This Marriott-group property has an attractive and quiet location on the north bank of the Erie Canal, in the town of Pittsford, just outside Rochester. Both our room and hotel's public areas struck me as being a pleasing combination of modern, stylish, comfortable and even luxurious. On this short visit, we made use of the bar and the breakfast service, but did not have dinner in-house or visit the spa. Even so, I was most impressed!

Hotel 4: Holiday Inn Express, Buffalo, NY
Saturday 25 Nov to Sunday 26 Nov (1 night)
Room 605 ('Suite')
This city centre hotel was busy, noisy, and not at all stylish or appealling. In fact there was evidence of a lackadaisical approach to maintenance. Trying to be positive, as an award night the stay helped with keeping trip costs under control,  and we did well to score the suite upgrade.

Hotel 5: Holiday Inn Express, Uniontown, PA
Sunday 26 Nov to Monday 27 Nov (1 night)
Room 408 (2 x Queen)
In complete contrast to the previous night, this hotel was brand new and almost empty! It felt broadly similar to a (newly opened) Hampton Inn. It was also an astonishing bargain: just 5,000 points in an IHG PointsBreaks promotion, run shortly before the trip. Luckily, Bruce's eagle eyes spotted the deal.

Hotel 6: Embassy Suites, Pittsburgh, PA  
Monday 27 Nov to Wednesday 29 Nov (2 nights)
Room 2310 (2 x Queen, Suite)
This hotel is located on floors 15-25 of a classic American skyscraper, the Henry W Oliver Building dating from 1910. We did wonder whether Embassy Suites was really the best brand match for the grandeur of the structure, which looked perfectly capable of supporting a more upscale representative of the Hilton portfolio. Regardless of the answer to that question, this was a particularly stylish Embassy Suites property, and we were delighted to be allocated a super-quiet corner suite on one of the highest floors. The only negative of this stay was that the overall experience was let down somewhat by the combined lounge and breakfast area on the top floor. This operation struggled to provide the inclusive breakfast in a satisfactory manner, showing signs of a lack of adequate management and supervision. On our first morning I noted no clean bowls or spoons, a severely depleted supply of hot food and a huge queue at the egg station.

Hotel 7: Renaissance, Cleveland, OH  
Wednesday 29 Nov to Thursday 30 Nov (1 night)
Room 1235 (2 x Queen, Suite)
This felt like a solid choice for our overnight stay in the heart of downtown Cleveland. Located in one of the city centre's landmark buildings, this hotel combined convenience with an impressive sense of style. I liked the seasonal decorations, which had something of continental Europe about them.

Hotel 8: Westin Book Cadillac, Detroit, MI  
Thursday 30 Nov to Friday 01 Dec (1 night)
Room 1623 (2 x Double)
This hotel occupies one of Detroit's most iconic buildings. Constructed in the 1920s by the three Book brothers and originally known as the Book-Cadillac, it later became a Sheraton before passing to Radisson and eventually returning to the Starwood fold as a Westin. This heritage created high expectations, which sadly were not to be properly fulfilled. While it certainly wasn't a poor stay, we both thought that the building had a feeling of faded glory. For a brand like Westin, we were also surprised to note the poor use of space in our room.

Hotel 9: Westin DTW  
Friday 01 Dec to Saturday 02 Dec (1 night)
Room 737 (2 x Double)
Conveniently located in the McNamara Terminal of Detroit Metropolitan Airport, the Westin features a private security channel for passengers departing from that terminal. The hotel had a multi-million-dollar renovation in 2017 and consequently had a modern, stylish feel. We actually preferred it to its more illustrious downtown sister property.

Hotel 10: Hilton Garden Inn, Roseville, CA  
Saturday 02 Dec to Sunday 03 Dec (1 night)
Room 205 (King)
This was a straightforward, side-of-the-highway American hotel. It wasn't terrible by any means, but I did find myself thinking through all the examples of a Hilton Garden Inn that I'd stayed at previously, and deciding that this one was the plainest. Staff were very friendly, though.

Hotel 11: Hotel Sutter, Sutter Creek, CA  
Sunday 03 Dec to Monday 04 Dec (1 night)
Room 200 (King Deluxe)
I found this hotel problematic, although not to the extent where I raised concerns during my stay. It is situated on the main street of Sutter Creek and I had done enough research to expect a bit of gold-rush-era period character. What I didn't expect was to walk through the front door at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon and be greeted by the sounds of raucous, drunken yelling (liberally spiced with foul language) from a large group of inebriated locals who had more or less taken over the hotel's bar/lounge area. This would carry on - worsening all the time, obviously - until well into the evening, when the group finally decided that enough was enough. There was also evidence of staff fraternising with this group instead of getting on with their work.

My other main concern was that my room was directly adjacent to a large outdoor balcony, which in season would have been used for open-air dining (and probably drinking). It was not pleasant to contemplate the thought that only the cold evening temperatures at this time of year had saved me from the possibility that the unseemly antics going on downstairs could be happening just through the wall from me. (And what guest, incidentally, would want even well-behaved patrons occupying tables placed directly outside his bedroom windows?)

I decided to write this off as partly a lucky escape (thanks to the bitterly cold evening temperatures), and partly a reminder that chain properties are usually a safer bet.

Hotel 12: Best Western Plus Sonora Oaks, Sonora, CA  
Monday 04 Dec to Tuesday 05 Nov (1 night)
Room 133 (King Deluxe)
This hotel has a classic American motel-type layout, but is finished to a somewhat higher standard. My room seemed particularly spacious and was nicely furnished. The property benefits from the on-site Pine Tree restaurant and bar.

Hotel 13: Premier Inn, Heathrow Airport T4  
Wednesday 06 Dec to Thursday 07 Dec (1 night)
Room 740 (Double)
See Hotel 1 above - this was essentially an identical experience.