The Best of Accommodations

Since we started traveling together around the time we married, my wife and I have unpacked our bags in a wide range of quarters. We have stayed in cabins, cottages, Air B&B houses, condos, and any number of hotel and motel rooms. We have even experienced the nightmare of getting “bumped” a couple of times. On one of these occasions we were in a rural area with very few options, so we wound up at a low-rent motor lodge where the price of the room was literally less than the cost of our dinner earlier that evening. There was a loud party in full swing behind the building, and as I discovered later, most of the participants were not paying customers of the establishment. We had to wear ear plugs just to get to sleep, and even so, I heard several guys two doors down as they were setting up their Hibachi grill outside their room at about midnight. Let’s just say the star rating system usually used to measure the quality of motels was not applicable here.

The aforementioned example notwithstanding, we have been quite lucky with our accommodations through the years. From time to time we have really splurged on the price of a room, and a few of those places have been especially luxurious. I have narrowed the list down to five, in no particular order, and highly recommend each one.

Number 1: Old Edward’s Inn in Highlands, North Carolina

Old Edward's Inn, Highlands, NC
Old Edward’s Inn, Highlands, NC

We selected Old Edward’s Inn for a wedding anniversary weekend and opted for one of their cottages with a comfortable bedroom, spacious living area with a gas fireplace, and a beautiful bathroom with heated floors. It rained off and on, but the screened porch was perfect for relaxing and reading while listening to the rainfall. We indulged in a couple’s massage at the spa, which is rated as one of the best in North America. It was our first massage together and was a highlight of the weekend. There are several restaurants in Highlands that are surprisingly good for this small remote town in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Number 2: A casita on Canyon Road in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Our casita on Canyon Road in Santa Fe, NM
Our casita on Canyon Road in Santa Fe, NM

We spent the better part of a week in Santa Fe one summer in a grand casita with generous living spaces inside and a private outdoor courtyard with umbrellas, lounge chairs, gardens, and fire pits. The casita was within easy walking distance of dozens of art galleries and the charming downtown with museums, shops, restaurants, and other attractions. It was so invigorating to head out at sunrise for a brisk walk, explore the downtown area during the day, and relax by the fire under the stars at night.

Number 3: Charlemagne apartment in Paris, France

Charlemagne apartment in Paris
Charlemagne apartment in Paris

I call our apartment in Paris by the name of the street where the building was located, two blocks from the Seine River in historic Le Marais district. It was actually a flat jointly owned by some folks in America and France. Accommodations in Europe are typically cramped with few if any indulgences, which is why we were so pleased to find this fourth-floor spot with a small but adequate kitchen, a respectable bathroom, and a combination sitting, dining, bedroom space with soft lighting and tasteful décor. We were able to keep the windows open to enjoy the cool air and the sounds from the sidewalk café directly below us. As in Santa Fe, we were within walking distance of the finest bistros and bakeries the city has to offer.

Number 4: Hyatt Zilara, Montego Bay, Jamaica

Hyatt Zilara, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Hyatt Zilara, Montego Bay, Jamaica

Due to my struggles with a malady called Mal de Debarquement Syndrome (post travel vertigo), I avoid cruise ships like gas station sushi. However, I love the concept of all-inclusive resorts. There are very few in the states at all, but they are abundant in the Caribbean. We found an adult-only version in Montego Bay, Jamaica that was magnificent. Our room had a large bathroom with a separate spa tub and shower. The bed was heavenly and looked directly out the sliding glass doors onto the large balcony, which featured cut-above-the-rest plush lounging furniture. The view from that perch of the expansive pool complex, swim-up bar, and the ocean was absolutely stunning.

Balcony view, Hyatt Zilara, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Balcony view, Hyatt Zilara, Montego Bay, Jamaica

The Hyatt Zilara is located directly adjacent to the family resort, the Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall, and both places share bars, restaurants, shops, recreational facilities, and some beach activities. We enjoyed our share of good meals and creative cocktails (the dirty banana was a perennial favorite) while also spending hours just basking in the sun by the pool. One of the highlights of the trip was yet another couple’s massage, but this time in a white-curtained cabana on the beach, just a few yards from the crashing waves — bliss.

Number 5: Tickle Pink Inn, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Balcony, Tickle Pink Inn, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA
Balcony, Tickle Pink Inn, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA

I know, the name conjures up visions of a roadside stucco-style row of rooms that are rented out by the hour. In reality, Tickle Pink Inn is rated as one of the top ten hotels for romance in the U.S. by TripAdvisor and voted one of the top 500 hotels in the world by Travel and Leisure magazine. Our room was easily the most luxurious place we have ever stayed, even if it was for only one night. We were greeted with a chilled bottle of champagne next to our grand four-post bed. Our room had a balcony with a breathtaking view of the Pacific and a wood-burning fireplace. Combined with one of the best dining experiences I have ever had in the village of Carmel, our stay at Tickle Pink Inn ranks as one of my all-time favorite travel memories.

Everything’s Included; No Problem

I have been on one cruise in my life.  When my sons were much younger, their mother and I signed up with a group of families we knew and booked a vacation on the Disney Cruise Lines for four nights in the Caribbean, dropping in on the Bahamas along the way.  It was a great trip, and Disney knows how to entertain adults and children almost equally.  I especially liked the all-inclusive nature of the experience, where food, most drinks, and all entertainment were part of the package — no need to carry around cash or credit cards.  Unfortunately, it was shortly after we came in from the sea and returned home that I realized something wasn’t quite right in my head (yes, the jokes could go on forever).  I stayed on that damned boat for an additional two weeks, or in other words, it took that long for me to regain my land legs, as my doctor diagnosed it.  The feeling was similar to the sense of motion when riding on a fast elevator . . .  without the elevator.  After about two weeks it began to diminish until it completely vanished, but I was miserable in the interim.  Most doctors refer to this problem as Mal de debarquement (disembarkment) syndrome.  It was bad enough that I will never get on a ship again.  It happens after I fly also, but inconsistently and not with symptoms as severe as those following the Disney cruise.

My wife loves cruises and went on several before we met.  In recent years, we have been searching for resorts that would offer the similar all-inclusive package without having to set sail to get it.  We heard from a colleague at work about the all-inclusive resorts at Jamaica, specifically at Montego Bay.  After a bit of research, we decided on the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall Resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica.  The Zilara is an adult-only resort and is actually a recent addition to the older but expanded and renovated Rose Hall Ziva, formerly owned and operated by Ritz Carlton.  The two complexes are directly adjacent to one another with shared restaurants and retailers.  All meals, room service, alcohol, gym privileges, and many amenities are included in the price of the room.  The rooms are very upscale, with bath tubs, fancy showers, large balconies and way-above-average balcony furniture.  The view from our room was fantastic.

Hyatt Montego Bay Jamaica
View from our balcony

Obviously, the options are limited at a land resort.  There are no ports-of-call, the entertainment is not very extensive, and the food is not as plentiful.  But, the rooms are vastly more spacious than a ship cabin, there are no rough seas, and my head did not spin, even though I drank enough alcohol to practically send it into orbit.  We were introduced to a drink called a Dirty Banana (I like to call it a Nasty Nanna) that became a good friend.  We did decide to pay a little extra for a couples’ massage in a cabana located only a few yards from the lapping waves of the shores.  It was heaven.  In short, the Zalara met up to, if not exceeded, our expectations for what an all-inclusive resort should be, and we would definitely consider returning at some point in the future.

Jamaican Rum
All in all, it was a pretty good vacation