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This page is here to document some thoughts and information on some
of my favorite hotels. Some are upscale, some are not. My reasons for
listing certain hotels are strictly personal and not necessarily because
the properties are famous or particularly luxurious, though some
certainly are. Hope you get the chance to stay at one or more of these
places. If you do, let me know what you think.
Brad@backtobrads.com
The Chateau Lake Louise
The Chateau Lake Louise is a gorgeous old hotel located in the heart
of the Canadian Rockies, and is the first hotel at which I worked. Part
of the reason I continued to work at hotels after my stint at the
Chateau is due to the positive experience I had there, and the fun,
comfortable feeling of working in such an historic, grand, and famous
locale. The Chateau Lake Louise was built in 1890 to accommodate
those traveling through the Canadian Rockies on the famous
Trans-Canadian Railway, and has become one of the most famous
travel destination in all of Canada.  There are about 550 rooms/suites
and three full-service restaurants. Edelweiss is the expensive, formal
restaurant. The Victoria Room is the large-scale "main" dinning room.
The third restaurant is a cosy little wine bar/fondue spot that often
goes unnoticed by most guests, but was always my favorite of the
three.

Lake Louise is a year-round destination, with the world famous Lake
Louise ski resort being the main attraction during the winter, and the
lake itself being the center of attention at other times. The area offers
great hiking, fishing, canoing, and camping, but I've always thought
that, with the exception of the obligatory hike to the "Beehive," the
way to best enjoy a stay at the Chateau is to view it as a romantic
hideaway, and to merely relax, take in the view, and spend quality
time with the one you love. There are plenty of places to enjoy the
activities the Rockies provide, but very few that have the stunningly
beautiful, romantic setting provided by the special combination of
glacial lake, grand hotel, isolated locale, and world class dinning and
services.

A small tip to those lucky enough to spend a night or two at the
Chateau; find the employee pub which is detached from the main
building and not advertised to guests (although guests are more than
welcome to enter). It's a fun, wild time, and a real insight into the
world that exists behind the scenes.
Princeville Hotel
The Princeville Hotel is the crowning jewel of the well-known
Princeville area of north shore Kauai. Situated above the dreamlike
tropical beauty of
Hanalei Bay, there is no other hotel I've had the
pleasure to visit which is so appealing for those who seek to "get
away from it all" and be pampered by world class luxury and 5 star
service. The Princeville area is full of condominiums, and I wouldn't
scoff at the chance to stay at one, but to me, it would be a shame to
visit Princeville without at least spending some time in and around
this wonderful hotel.

Tee and I have been fortunate enough to stay here on a couple of
different occasions during the time that I was working for the
Sheraton Moana Surfrider. At that time we would have never been
able to justify paying the rack rate for our room here, but because
this is a sister hotel to the Moana I was able to secure some
wonderful rooms at a HUGE discount. Because of my employee
discount, we were even able to treat our parents, Tee's sister Sue,
and her partner Sybelle to a few days here when they came out to
Hawaii for Tee's graduation from her graduate programs at the Univ.
of Hawaii.

My tips are to have a drink and cigar while playing backgammon in
the Library Bar. Spend a lot of time lounging by the pool/beach
area, occasionally swimming up to the pool bar for a drink. Play a
round (or two) at the number 1 ranked
Princeville golf courses. Go
out of your way to have at least one meal at the best "Pacific fusion"
restaurant in Hawaii,
A Pacific Café.
Princeville Hotel Live Cam
The Royal Hawaiian
The Royal Hawaiian Hotel is one of Hawaii's most famous and most
historic properties. Built by the Matson Navigation Co. in 1927 in
order to accommodate it's luxury liner passengers, the "Pink Palace"
continues to be a destination to many who wish to take in the
atmosphere of "old" Waikiki. Highlights of this property include the
peaceful coconut grove, private beach area, Moorish architecture,
and beach front bar. Rooms are relatively small, but full of character.
Service is also of a high standard (say "hi" to their longtime Head
Concierge Klaus and ask him any question you may have - he'll have
the answer!).

For several years I worked at The Royal Hawaiian's sister hotel,
The
Moana Surfrider, just two doors down. My daily routine often
included eating lunch at the Royal Hawaiian's Surf Room and taking
a short nap while seated on one of the main lobby sofas (the one on
the furthest west [ewa] end). This hotel provided me a unique escape
from the hustle and bustle of daily life in Waikiki. I feel very
fortunate to have been able to enjoy the calm and beauty of this
special place on so many occasions. If you're visiting Waikiki, make it
a point to at least walk through the coconut grove and lobby, with
perhaps a stop at the famous Mai Tai bar for a relaxed drink.
Royal Hawaiian Live Cam
The W Hotel Union Square
Over the past few years Tee and I have begun to stay at
several W Hotels when we get the odd weekend out of
town. As many of you know, Tee travels A LOT, and
fortunately there are a few perks, one of which is a
healthy number of hotel points we're able to use when
doing personal travel. W Hotels are part of the Starwood
chain, and are fun, funky, hip properties that appeal to
us when we travel without the kids because they help
us to feel that perhaps we're still fun, funky, and hip!
The W Union Square is the best of the New York Ws in
which we've stayed. It's a great neighborhood and a
grand building. Service is great, though the hotel lacks
a lot of extras. If you're in Manhattan, this is the hotel I
most highly recommend.
The W Hotel San Diego
This property is the latest W Hotel we've stayed
in, and we had a great time. Of course, I think
one really has to try hard NOT to have a good
time in San Diego, but a stay at this hotel no
doubt helps. The W San Diego is located in a
somewhat odd area, removed by a few blocks
from the main shopping/dinning areas of the
Gaslamp district. This is actually a good thing,
giving it a sense of quiet isolation, while still
very convenient. A very friendly and helpful
concierge staff, quality spa facility, and very
well know and "happening" outdoor bar area
called "The Beach" make this a great San Diego
destination and definitive W property.
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The Grande Laguna Phuket
Unfortunately I must start with a caveat about this property. Due in part
to the damage caused by 2004's tsunami, in addition to the age of the
property, The Grande Laguna Phuket is perhaps not as grand as it was
when I last spent time here (May 2000). My personal experience was a
very good one. After staying for a couple of days in the dizzying fun house
that is
Patong, I was in desperate need of some peace, quiet, and
pampering. This hotel is about a 20 minute drive north of Patong and is
part of the
Sheraton Luxury Collection of hotels. There are several
sections of the hotel property which helps to give it the feel of two or
three different properties in one. Outside of the outstanding service and
wonderfully relaxed and exotic feel of drinking at the central bar, my
favorite aspects of The Grande Laguna is the beautiful, expansive private
beach area and the various pool areas connected by narrow "swimming
canals" (see picture left). From what I have heard recently, the hotel has
had a significant decline in quality. While service is still of high quality,
maintenance of the rooms and facilities has fallen off, and it's physical
structure is now apparently in need of renovation. Hope that happens!
The Cathay Hotel
This hotel is different from most others on these pages due to it being far
more affordable and less well known. At the same time, this is one of the
best hotels I've ever experienced; not because of the amenities, not
because of it's luxury (there is none), and not because of spectacular
service (it's basically a family run business). The reason it's included
here is because of how well suited it was for me at the time I was looking
for an affordable yet comfortable place to stay when I was in Penang.

Originally I had planned to stay in the more tourist oriented Batu
Ferringhi , but I ended up choosing to spend most of my time on
Penang
in Georgetown. Without any prior booking, I found myself leafing
through my
Lonely Planet South-East Asia and came across a one
sentence description of The Cathay Hotel. Basically, it wasn't one of the
very cheapest hotels recommended, but still in my price range. The
minute I checked in I knew this was the place for me.

The hotel architecture is colonial Straights-style, with a wide-open, airy,
main lobby. Rooms are spacious, comfortably sparse, and clean. The
location is also extremely convenient, with the Esplanade, Fort
Cornwallis, and some of the main dinning areas of town within a few
minutes walk. The neighborhood is also surprisingly quiet. The entire
atmosphere hearkens back to a bygone era, and you'll feel you've been
swept back in time to Penang's historic colonial days or onto the set of a
1940's film noire.
Banff Springs Hotel
The Banff Springs Hotel is THE icon of the town of Banff, Alberta,
Canada. Sister hotel of the Chateau Lake Louise, this hotel was also
originally built in order to accommodate the passengers of the
Trans-Canadian Railway. Built in the Scottish Baronial style over
one hundred years ago (and rebuilt in the 1920's after a fire), the
hotel is now owned and operated by
Fairmont Hotels and Resorts,
who under saw a massive renovations a few years back. The original
architectural style remains, but a large world class spa has now
been added, and entrance/lobby location changed. It's history,
architecture, craftsmanship, and majestic locale have come together
to create one of the world's most famous hotel destinations.

While working for the Chateau Lake Louise, I was able to enjoy stays
at the Banff Springs via a generous employee discount. It was a
highlight of my time spent working in the Canadian Rockies. There
are several wonderful restaurants located within the hotel (including
a quality sushi bar!), a large pool/patio area, and a
spectacular golf
course here. Unfortunately I didn't play golf in those days. However,
the course was so inviting that I spent time just walking parts of it.
It's by doing this that I discovered one of my favorite spots on the
Banff Springs property, the old style English pub located smack dab
in the middle of the course. What a treat!
W Hotel Times Square
The last time I was in New York I stayed here
at the W Hotel Times Square. Times Square
isn't my favorite part of Manhattan, but I do
like to go there on occasion. There is nothing
spectacular about this hotel, but it is
conveniently located, and provides all of the
fun and funky atmosphere one would expect
from a W Hotel. Get a corner room on a high
floor and you may want to spend time in your
room just for the view! The Blue Fin
restaurant is nice; just OK if you consider the
price. The night club/bar
"Whiskey" in the
basement is cool; I really like the "squishy"
psychedelic floor tiles. The hotel doorman are
particularly friendly and helpful as well.
The Moana Surfrider
The Moana Surfrider, known also as The First Lady of Waikiki, was
originally built as a private residence by Walter C. Peacock, and
eventually opened it's doors as Waikiki's first hotel in 1901 after being
purchased by William Matson of the Matson Navigation Company. It was
my fortune to be able to call this unique and historic property "home" for
3 1/2 years while working in various capacities for the hotel from
1992-1996. First employed as a front desk receptionist/concierge, I
eventually became Guest Services Manager. This position gave me the
unique opportunity to be involved in almost every aspect of the hotel.
The hotel staff became my family and I truly felt the Moana to be my
"home" in
Hawaii. While Waikiki isn't my favorite place in Oahu, let
alone the island chain, it is without question at the heart of Hawaii's
nightlife, shopping, beach going, dinning, and tourist business. So,
while I was glad to "escape" to my humble one-bedroom apartment in
the relatively quiet suburb of Makiki each day after work, I feel lucky to
have been able to truly have become part of the local scene in Waikiki. I
still always try and stay at least a night or two at the Moana anytime I'm
in Hawaii. I miss my friends there; say "hi" to Sandie at the concierge
desk, Winnie at the front desk, Peter at the Banyan Tree Bar, and Tim at
the WC Peacock for me! Yes, they're still all still there...why would you
leave? I still ask myself that question sometimes!
Moana Surfrider Live Cam
The Peabody Hotel Memphis