The Romantic Gringo

Monday, October 08, 2012

Lake Leelanau, Michigan

This past summer, R.G. convinced her chums M.B. and D.S. to Say Yes to Michigan for a week. They began with a ferry ride across Lake Michigan, from Milwaukee to Muskegon. This watery expedition received mixed reviews: R.G. and M.B. loved every bumpy, windy, blue-skied second of it, and D.S. was a queasy good sport. Once on the peninsula, the three camped among the sandy dunes of Manistee National Forest until a crazy storm ravaged their tent, forcing them to take shelter in a Day's Inn. Imagine R.G.'s unhappiness in that Day's Inn! But the whole storm debacle was technically her fault, so she had to suck up the beige sanitation.

Three days in, they made it up the coast of Michigan to the lovely Fountain Point Resort. Fountain Point is a resort in the 19th-century sense of the word, in that one may rent a cabin on the grounds, swim in and boat the lake, and apparently see the same folks every summer. R.G., D.S., and M.B., however, treated the place like a cool old hotel, which they recommend. Their suite was an odd and adorable two-room, three-bed affair with sink but no bathroom. They kept their bottles of L. Mawby's Talismon in the fridge of a nearby utilities room, which was probably totally against the rules but no one touched them. The staff are high school or college kids it seems, and they are VERY mellow. Devoted readers will know that R.G. deeply respects lackadaisical staff--very important element in the Romantic Gringo experience. As a result of these particular unbothered hoteliers, our heroines drank their fine Leelanau bubbly on the lawn every night, washed M.B.'s poor tent and left it up to dry for a couple days, and generally settled in like they lived there.

Fountain Point is a charming spot from which to take in the Sleeping Bear National Duneshore, The Manitou Islands, Grand Traverse Bay, Old Mission Point, and the wineries. After a dip in Lake Leelanau, on which Fountain Point sits, R. G. and M.B. are happy to report that they were as free of swimmer's itch as they were before submersion. Breakfast, while not the worst R.G. has ever consumed, cannot in all honesty be called good. Otherwise, though, Fountain Point Resort is an old Michigan gem.

Fountain Point Resort, 990 South Lake Leelanau Drive, Lake Leelanau, MI, 231-256-9800, $150 for a triple, breakfast included. No TV, no internet, just as it should be.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania

For Memorial weekend this year, R.G. bussed to Delaware Water Gap with her grad school buds, V.C., L.R. and J.Z., as part of her glorious return to Deerhead Inn. That her companions were from grad school was appropriate because R.G. first stumbled on Deerhead in 1994 en route to the Bronx with her mother to check out FU. At that time, the place was a real Romantic Gringo gem at $30 for a double and kittens running around, one of whom slept in R.G. & mom's room with them. R.G. was only able to stay at the Deerhead one more time like that before it turned into an artists' colony. Because the town is so remote-feeling while so actually-close to NYC, R.G. and cohorts continued to vacation in the area, but Deerhead was just for drinking Yuenglings on the porch (see pic #4) or perhaps a fancy meal. However, when V.C. threw out the idea of getting out of Dodge for a few days, R.G. thought of the Gap and checking on the Deerhead's status as an inn. Voila!

Deerhead's primary identity has always been a jazz club, which is still the case, and R.G. regrets not snapping a photo of the gorgeous bar area. However, they've upgraded the hotel part with lovely beds and respectable furnishings. Respectable furnishings are not what R.G. covets in a caravansary, but Deerhead's, as you can see, are not too horrible. R.G. was even content to pay four times the old price, just to roam those halls again.

Deerhead's second identity is a restaurant, and their breakfasts are amazing. V.C., L.R., J.Z., and R.G. broke their fasts with relish both mornings, before and after hiking the Appalachian Trail that runs alongside the inn. They also scoffed dinner, tolerated some jazz, visited the local pub for TV hockey, and downed dinner and drinks at the bar of the very egalitarian country club up the road. (Lack of room at the inn forced L.R. and J.Z. to spend the second night at the club, and V.C. and R.G. hoofed up there to join them for dinner. L.R. and J.Z. report the club is not as nice as the inn as lodging, but V.C. and R.G. really made themselves at home at the club bar. J.Z., unfortunately, was room-bound in consequence of hiking through downpours in his only trousers. When V.C. and R.G. made it back to the inn, the bar sounded like a jazz party and R.G. was tempted to join, but her hike-weary bones demanded rest.)

Deerhead Inn, 5 Main Street, Delaware Water Gap, PA 18327 570.424.2000, $120 for a double with $7.50 vouchers towards breakfast.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Glenwood Springs, Colorado

>As soon as R.G. and her brother C.G. spotted the stained-glass spectacle of the Starlight Lodge signage, coupled with the fairy tale facade of its office, they knew their miserable drive was over for the night. (The trip was really gorgeous through the mountains right there, but they'd racked up too many miles that day to appreciate it properly. Plus, it was dark.) When they entered their room to find forest trompe l'oeil wallpaper, Ukrainian folk art, and paisley bedspreads, C.G. announced, "Hard work, paid off!" Joy, don't you know.

The Starlight is adorably weird, as you can sort of see from R.G.'s photos. (R.G.'s camera phone is inadequate to indoor light.) Glenwood Springs is also a find. A couple blocks from the lodge (technically a motel but indeed situated in lovely Alpine mountains) are ancient Indian vapor caves, in which R.G and C.G. sweated the next morning. You walk in through a spa, descend into crazy cavernous caves with multiple rooms, pick a slab of rock on which to recline, and steam yourself into bliss. Then you shower and sit in an ugly solarium until you're ready to either do it again or embrace your day. Despite their good accommodation luck, R.G. and C.G. let the driving get to them and had a blow-out fight before entering the caves, and, quick as you like, those caves melted their animosity right out of them.

Starlight Lodge, 121 West 6th Street, Glenwood Springs, CO,(970) 945-8591, $50 for a double; dog free with promise of good behavior. TV, coffee maker, no internet. Yampah Spa and Salon,

Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs has been a dream destination for R.G. ever since she saw, in the mid-nineties, in The New Yorker, a photo spread of its mid-century architectural glories. So when she discovered the geographic truth that to get from Phoenix to L.A. a driver would have to gas right on through Palm Springs, she knew a night in the desert oasis would soon be hers.

Research for an inexpensive old charmer that allowed dogs turned up Caliente Tropics Resort, where, in its heyday, Elvis Presley once cavorted. These days Caliente is a cool, somewhat ironic, tiki-themed, high end motel with lovely pool and grass-hutted dog run. (When R.G. and C.G. were there, C.G.'s dog ran it by his lonesome.) The resort aspect--restaurant and bar--is awaiting a kick start. But for restauranteurs to lease it, The Congo Room (see third photo) is all set to go. If you are such a person, please make this happen. R.G. forgot to take photos of the inside, so you'll just have to take her word for its tiki magnificence.

On the other hand, a hopping Congo Room would surely up the rates, and as it is now the nearby Ace Motel provides excellent nightlife and eating. The Ace Motel also has great aesthetics, at significantly higher rates. Stay in Caliente, visit Ace is R.G.'s sage advice.

Caliente Tropics Resort, 411 E. Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs,, $73 for a double, $25 for dog. TV, internet, coffee maker, knowledgeable concierge.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Holbrook, Arizona

For over a decade, R.G. has yearned to stay in the Wigwam Motel of Holbrook, AZ. Coincidentally, R.G.'s great aunt moved to Arizona in the '40s, around the time the Wigwam Motel first opened its wigwam doors. R.G., however, caught wind of the place after it reopened in the '90s. It's taken until now for her to be able to manage a visit, but the experience surpassed her buildup, which is saying something.

The Wigwam Motel is amazing. It's super cute from the outside, super cute from the inside, and, what you wouldn't expect, just plain lovely. The mattresses are heavenly and the towels are huge and fluffy. It was so nice in there that R.G. and her brother found it hard to motivate themselves to leave and saunter to The Empty Pockets Saloon, which was an obvious misstep. R.G. is pretty sure Empty Pockets would have been the creme a la creme. A train runs behind the wigwams, but amazingly you cannot hear it from inside. The only downside to the place that R.G. can detect is the overly aggressive shower spray. Too hard, that shower spray!

Holbrook is cute, by the way. Besides Empty Pockets, there's Joe and Aggie's Cafe, which is adorable with very charming owners/staff. The friendly teenager who manages the liquor store spoke of belligerent local youth, but R.G. and brother didn't see any troublemakers for themselves. (There was some concern because C.G.'s traveling attire is shiny and pink, which they suspected might rile a ne'er-do-well with strict ideas about gender roles.) It looked pretty peaceful, but then again it was quite cold out.

If it's serious eating you're after, drive 30 minutes west to The Turquoise Room of the magnificent La Posada Art Gallery/Hotel in Winslow. Not cheap, but local-sourced and masterfully cooked. 303 E 2nd St Winslow, Arizona 86047, (928) 289-4366,

Wigwam Motel, 811 W. Hopi Dr., Holbrook, AZ 86025, Hopi exit off I-40, (928) 524-3048, $60 for a double. TV, no internet or coffee maker in room. Dog $5 extra.

Tucumcari, New Mexico

R.G., her brother, C.G., and her brother's dog, E.G., are making an automotive pilgrimage from Detroit to Carefree, AZ for the holidays, and Tucumcari was, as you may intuit, an important motel stop. The old strip of Tucumcari that runs along Rte. 66 has many adorable '50s motel exteriors. It looks like the old section of Vegas or Reno, without the depressive gambling. A part of R.G. wants to go back and try out a bunch of them. The Buckaroo, however, did not disappoint: it was cheap, clean, un-renovated, and un-updated (which is to say dated, as R.G. commends). Well, the mattresses have been updated, which R.G. appreciates, but the rest of the decor gives the proper time capsule vibe. Fake wood paneling, padded headboards, vintage furniture. The owners are sweet and sensible. It's just good there.

The only complaint to be had was that R.G. and brother found the area nightlife a tad lacking. They went to the only establishment that appeared to be open, the promisingly named Lizard Lounge, and found an empty bar. They patronized it, and the bartender was nice, but it wasn't much. Tucumcari food looked scarce too, but that might be because the Buckaroo is quite far down the strip.

In any case, don't risk it. Instead, stop 20 miles before Tucumcari at the Dhillion truck gas station off the Logan exit. Don't be intimidated by the frankly unnerving exterior. The samosas they make inside are transcendent.

Buckaroo Motel, 1315 W Tucumcari Blvd, Tucumcari, NM 88401, first exit off I-40, (575) 461-1650, $30 for a double. Dog $5. TV, no internet, no coffeemaker.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

New Orleans, Louisiana

R.G. recently celebrated the end of the semester with a trip to visit her old friend A.T., currently residing in Mobile, AL. Their Gulf Coast holiday started in New Orleans, where, although she had never before visited, R.G. has been harboring a secret desire to move. That fantasy has been bolstered. New Orleans is true R.G. territory. The hotels are not cheap as in Mexico or even Paris, but many of them boast R.G.'s other requirements of history, charm, minimal decor, quiet street locations, balconies, etc.

One of these, thanks for asking, is the Hotel St. Pierre on a lovely, residential street in the northern French Quarter. The St. Pierre is sort of a collection of small buildings, the oldest of which dates to 1778. Most of the rooms face inward and many have internal balconies, which, particularly in the French Quarter, are the best kind. Because they demanded this double twin room set-up, A.T. and R.G. had to forgo the balcony. Their room was very cute, though, and R.G. wishes she had captured the darling bathroom. She also wishes she had swam in one of the pools (you know how R.G. likes a hotel pool!), but she was under the misapprehension that the rest of the trip would be spent in the ocean. (In fact, they went from New Orleans to Ship Island, Mississippi by ferry and spent a beautiful blue-skied day on the beach, where, unbeknownst to them, they were frying themselves halfway to Kingdom Come. R.G. was trying raspberry seed oil as sunblock, which, it turns out, is not sunblock, is not sunscreen, is not, in the last analysis, much of anything at all. Such are the tolls of an open mind. To give their epidermises a rest, A.T. and R.G. had to spend the duration indoors, heavily drinking. It's a good thing Mobile has such excellent bars and beer.)

The St. Pierre's free breakfast is not good, which is really its only downside. The staff are no-nonsense, which R.G. likes in staff, and the parking is free, which is important if you've driven there, like A.T. did. When she goes back, which she definitely will, R.G. plans to try out a few other hotels, but the Hotel St. Pierre did her right.

Hotel St. Pierre, 911 Burgundy St, New Orleans, LA, ph. 866-539-0036,, $125 for a double twin.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Bloomsbury and Bayswater, London

R.G. popped across the vast Atlantic Ocean recently to give a paper at the Jean Rhys conference at King's College. When living in London at the turn-of-the-last-century, Rhys roomed for a time in cheap boarding houses in Bloomsbury, so R.G. decided to really soak up the Rhys atmosphere with her own such room at St. Athans. Turns out, that was excellent thinking. The pictures (first two) look bleak, but St. Athans has a certain charm. The ceilings of the rooms are very high, and the decor is plain but tasteful. What it really has to recommend it is the breakfast, which is full, cooked, English, with what tastes like real coffee. Free internet in the lobby and even a communal computer you can use if you're lucky enough to snag it. R.G.'s room was right on Tavistock, which is a tad busy, but the hotel location is unbeatable, as is the price. Unlike in Paris, London hotels are expensive.

After the conference, R.G. moved to Bayswater for a complete change of place. She picked this area, actually, for The Pavilion Fashion and Rock & Roll Hotel, which, appropriately, draws models and rock stars. If in London one might as well hang out with rock stars, R.G. reasoned. (The same logic could be applied to R.G.'s home base of NYC, but, for R.G., NYC is a real place whereas London remains the stuff of fantasy.) It was a splurge, taken because The Pavilion's decor is amazing. If you like witty excess, as R.G. very much does, this is the place for you. Each room is a whole different world. R.G. and her old chum, H.M., stayed in Funky Zebra, documented here with the photos of red tapestries. Photos, in order, are of entrance way; concierge; Funky Zebra interior and ceiling; and secret, Victorian sitting room that R.G. and H.M. found through a bathroom doorway, as if they were entering Narnia. (R.G. recognizes Narnia was discovered through a wardrobe, but you get the gist. Magical.) R.G. and H.M. clandestinely drank their rose in there one evening, which was lovely.

Speaking of imbibing, The Pavilion needs its own bar. They have a liquor license, evidenced by the room service drinks one may order, so it wouldn't be a stretch. The hotel's location is just okay, between parks Regent's and Hyde, but a bar would make the Pavilion its own destination.

St. Athans Hotel, 20 Tavistock Place,020 7837 9627,, 44 pounds for a single.

The Pavilion, 34-36 Sussex Gardens, 020 7262 0905, 60 pounds for a single, 100 pounds for a double.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Old Montreal, Montreal

R.G. took the train, naturally, to Montreal last week to attend a modernism conference. The conference was at the Delta Centre-Ville, which gave participants a 'deal' of $160 a night for a sanitized business room. Scoffing heartily, R.G immediately located the lovely Hotel Champ-de-Mars in Vieux-Port, aka, Old Montreal. Look at the romantic haze that ensconces the place! (R.G.'s camera lens appears to be smeared in vaseline, which she cannot explain.) A double is about $60/night for a corner room on the third (in American terms) floor, and the first photo is R.G.'s view from one of her two windows. Make sure breakfast is included in your booking, which wasn't the case for R.G. due to her choice of online booking agent.

After full days of rigorous intellectualism, R.G. whiled away the evenings in the charming lobby (see what you can make out of it in picture 3) on her computer with a bottle of wine. That choice reflects R.G.'s poverty, not the state of Montreal's nightlife. Occasionally a fellow guest, an international student or other bohemian sophisticate, would join her. R.G. plans to make her way to Quebec City in the none-too-distant future, where she surely will be fully in her element, and she will revisit the good folks at Hotel-Champ-de-Mars before and after.