A Very Unparked Domain
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Category — Hotels

Farewell Taj Mahopolis

It’s late. We should be sleeping. Instead we are packing up to leave after an extended stay in Indianapolis.

It’s something of an emotional farewell.

Before we arrived in Indiapolis, we booked several nights online at a hotel that, for reasons that are about to become clear, I won’t mention by name.

Normally we book the absolutely cheapest room we can find–at least the cheapest room that is non-smoking, includes Internet access so Neil can log into work, and seems half-way clean and safe.

Based on these high criteria, we have managed to stay in some doozies.

“The cheapest room in town” is quite often under an Interstate, or in an industrial park, or surrounded by strip malls. We wind up staying in neighbourhoods that are conveniently located for travelers seeking payday loans, Harley Davisdon accessories and tattoos, but not necessarily for finding independently-owned organic vegetarian cafes or going for a nice walk. Then again, we’ve stayed in rooms for as little as $28/night. For safety and vegetables, you pay extra.

So, following standard protocol, we booked a cheap hotel room, sight-unseen.

At extended stay hotels, we usually stay in a very modest studio room. This particular property only had smoking studios available when we booked, but they had a great deal of a non-smoking Queen Suite, so we nabbed it.

And when we arrived, we fell in love.

This “suite” is bigger than several of the apartments we’ve lived in. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean this is big: our first apartment was a studio of about 400 square feet. Unlike most apartments we’ve lived in, the suite’s kitchen has counter space. (Who builds all these kitchens with no counter space? They drive me crazy.) And there’s more storage space than the house my family lived in when my brother and I were babies.

There’s even a pull-out sofa!

Okay, the presence of a sofa may not impress you luxury travelers out there, but you have to picture a typical day for us in a hotel studio: Neil is sitting on the only chair in the room programming all day, which leaves me sitting on the bed, ALL DAY. I don’t mind; I’m bed-oriented. I’d go so far as to say that beds are my natural habitat. But to be in a suite with a sofa, and be able to get out the bed and sit on actual furniture during the day…I’m telling you, it is the lap of luxry.

We checked into the room and we were awestruck. We rhapsodized about the size, the space, the sweet spectacular splendour of it all.

In my family, when you really love something, you give it a name. (Or when you loathe it. Or sometimes when you’re luke-warm on it. We’re pretty big on naming, now that I think about it.) Neil and I cast about for a name for the hotel. We started to call it the “Taj Mahal,” in deference to the pinnacle of luxury it represents.

But “Taj Mahal” is already taken (obviously), and the name just seemed inadequate.

And then Neil had a stroke of brilliance: we could combine “Taj Mahal” and “Indianapolis” to make “Taj Mahapolis.”

And thus the monicker was born.

Why won’t I reveal to you the actual name of the Taj Mahopolis?

Once we were here a few days, we noticed the stink of garbage in the halls, the TGI-Fridays level of customer service, the deeply frightening stain on the boxspring. The furniture is chipped, the baseboards are scuffed, the wallpaper seams are peeling. The decor is a depressing mixture of sad beiges and washed-out blues. In short: it’s the kind of hotel that men check into when their wives kick them out for having an affair. A real up-beat kind of place.

And even factoring in the smell, the drab interior, the lackluster service: it is still one of the nicest places we have stayed in a year. Which Neil and I find hysterical. As dumpy as it is, it’s the Taj Mahopolis to us.

Tomorrow we check out and head to Peoria, on our way to Minnesota. The Taj Mahopolis has been good to us. We will miss it.

I hope, no matter what your circumstances in life may be, that you can always enjoy the Taj Mahopoli that come your way.

July 24, 2009   9 Comments

Live from Little Rock

We’re going through our morning routine right now (washing, eating, programming) in an Extended Stay America (again) in Little Rock, Arkansas, gearing up for another big driving day.

We had a good visit with our sister-in-law Paige, our nephew Tyler, and Paige’s mom Donna in Seymour, Tennessee on Thursday, but Paige and Tyler both have hacking coughs (or, in Paige’s words, “the crud”), so we got a little room in Knoxville for the night. (It was enough of a dump that we won’t be reviewing it, but we sure got a great price on the room!)

Paige has been trying to take us to take us to The Old Mill restaurant in Pigeon Forge ever since we visited last fall: we tried twice last year, and every time the wait for a table was well over an hour, sometimes as long as two. Thursday was our third try, and maybe because we had Donna along for good luck, we finally got to eat there. You order your own entree and the sides are served family-style, in big bowls for the table to share. Dinner was very reasonably priced and included a bowl of their house corn chowder, green salad, corn fritters, and a choice of three deserts. While this might not be an optimal dining location for vegetarians or people with restricted diets, we managed just fine. (My heart goes out to vegetarians in the South, it truly does.) Take a look at The Old Mill recipe page if you want to try some Tennessee country cooking at home.

(Pigeon Forge sports possibly the highest billboard density of anywhere I’ve ever traveled; after driving along tree-upholstered interstates for several days in a row, the contrast is a little over-stimulating.)

We managed to put in 8 hours of driving yesterday, traversing almost the full width of Tennessee. After a full day of map reading, the Tennessee’s trapezoidal shape really reminds of the Pink Pearl erasors we had when I was in elementary school.

We started the day with breakfast in a Knoxville Cracker Barrel. Not familiar with Cracker Barrel? Just like Piggly Wiggly, you really have to see it first hand to believe it. We’ll write more on Cracker Barrel in a future post. (More on our dietary restrictions in a future post, too.) Suffice to say that trying to eat a gluten-free, corn-free, meat-free breakfast at a restaurant that prides itself on its generous portions of biscuits, cornbread and pork products is a great way to avoid over-eating.

We stopped in Nashville for an Indian vegetarian buffet lunch at Woodlands. I realize that vegetarian Indian food is a far cry from typical local cuisine, but we are rapidly approaching our lifetime quota of Cracker Barrel meals, we were craving vegetables, and accommodating our dietary restrictions on the road can be very challenging. The food was great, and their dosas (rice crepes) were amazing, even if Neil wound up with a very limited number of dishes he could eat.

(Why are there so many Indian buffet restaurants named Woodlands? I’ve eaten at oodles but I’ve never figured out why the name is so common. Does anyone know?)

We drove straight through Memphis, over the Mississippi River, into Arkansas, and on to Little Rock. (We’ve visited Memphis before, years ago, and since we’re trying to make good driving time right now we didn’t feel compelled to stop this time around.)

We enjoyed a light, if late, Turkish dinner in Little Rock at Istanbul Mediterranean–and throughout the meal thought of our friend Sean-Paul Kelly who is in Turkey at the moment. SP, if our menu last night was in any way representative of Turkish food, I am newly and even more deeply jealous of your trip!

There was so much severe rain and thunderstorms predicted for Tenessee yesterday that we thought we might have to put pontoons on the Mini to clear the state. We were delighted to discover that, even in some fairly heavy rains, the humidity felt lower than in Charleston or Richmond. The weather also feels subjectively much cooler without the humidity: yesterday we were stretching our legs in an Arkansas rest stop and felt comfortably cool, even though it was 91 degrees.

Yesterday’s drive represents the early stages of a 5,000 mile odyssey we have planned for the next five weeks. (More on that soon, too.) We are pleased and excited to see how well we are falling back into our heavy-travel routines, and remembering and relearning “how to do travel”.
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May 16, 2009   2 Comments

Barometric in Boylston

Adventuring, traveling and writing have all been light lately due to inclement weather conditions.

Last Sunday (September 7), we were on the verge of signing up for a bargain-priced, charming little sublet sit out the rest of September outside Burlington, Maine, close to the Canadian border and far from just about every other reference point on earth.

And then we checked the weather report.

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September 11, 2008   No Comments

Unembattled in Brattleboro

After our two-part misadventures at our last stop (see: Knackered in Nashua, and Lathered in Nashua), we have landed happily in a nice(ish) hotel in Brattleboro, Vermont.

That is not to say that the universe has changed. We are still us. You could tell which room was ours, from all the way down the hall.

It’s the only one with that number sign on it.
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August 23, 2008   2 Comments

Lathered in Nashua

After we lost our air conditioning on Saturday night, I felt like it was reasonable to ask the hotel for some kind of discount.

I wasn’t really sure how to ask or what to ask for. I checked in with our friend Jason, who worked in hotels for years and is the consummate hospitality professional; he gave us some great advice that I’ll be sharing in an upcoming post. (Stay tuned!)

And yet, I’m not an especially greedy or material person, and I felt a bit like a weasel for asking for a discount.

And that’s why the hotel did me a great favour in supplying some serious motivation, at the 11th hour, to ask for a discount after all…

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August 22, 2008   12 Comments

Nostalgic in Nashua

I have spent the week sitting in a hotel room, watching TNT, and feeling absolutely nostalgic.

I’ve had a rough week in Nashua battling the elements, and losing. That means I’ve been too tired to write and too tired to read. I have actually been reduced to watching television.

The challenge is to find something to watch on TV that doesn’t make me feel worse!

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August 21, 2008   No Comments

Knackered in Nashua (Part 2)

We haven’t seen much of beautiful, historic Nashua, New Hampshire yet, because we’ve been fighting the weather.

After a rough start in Nashua in Friday, we spent a lovely Saturday afternoon walking around downtown, but that’s all we’ve managed to see so far.

By Saturday night the heat was unbearable, and Friday’s unseasonably high temperatures had developed into a full-out heat wave.

Every room in our hotel was booked, because of the Can-Am League baseball game in town, and so was every other hotel in Nashua.

And around 1:00 a.m. Sunday morning we realized the air conditioner had stopped working.

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August 20, 2008   5 Comments

Knackered in Nashua (Part 1)

We are in beautiful Nashua, New Hampshire, in the south east corner of the state, absolutely under siege from the elements.

We took the back roads in from Sturbridge, Massachusetts on Thursday, August 14, and got in late.

How late?

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August 19, 2008   3 Comments

Sturbridge Massachusetts: 48 States Postcard Project

Sturbridge Massachusetts is the source for our first postcard to our nephews in our 48 States Postcard Project.

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August 12, 2008   No Comments