Thursday, April 2, 2015

West Coast Accommodation Reviews

My current artistic- and life-pursuit is the MAMA Project, and for this I need to travel, both to interview mothers, and to present various aspects of the project. Because life-learning means learning in everything we do, I bring the kids with me on most trips; my husband telecommutes (usually) from the road, and we allow the MAMA Project to lead us into some wonderful life-learning experiences. In this way, the kids learn not only about their parents' jobs, but also the lives and employment of the many many diverse people we meet along the way. All of us enrich our lives, this way, and learn, together.

We have traveled down the US West Coast, all the way to San Diego, interviewing mothers in many diverse communities. Interviewing for and setting up the MAMA Project can be exhausting work, and we have been blessed by the support of various people, along the way. These people have welcomed us into their restaurants, hotels, and inns, in support of the work I'm doing, and in return I will review those who want to be reviewed on this blog.

I know quite a few unschoolers are also travelers, so... should your travels bring you in the direction of these places, do keep these establishments in mind:

Wild Shores Guest House (Ucluelet, BC)Grade: B+ -- beauty, health, wilderness, and authenticity!
We spent three nights at this lovely self-check-in guest house. We found it to be quiet and cosy, especially after we explored the small cove and island it's situated beside. The rooms are clean and spacious, the bath and electric fireplace are warm, the shelves are stocked with hot drink options, and everything is decorated with beach finds. The views from the rooms aren't amazing, but in my opinion are entirely made up for by the delights outside the door. The house we've been calling Mary's House, AKA the Wild Shores Guest House, is a perfect retreat for adventurers who want a clean, cosy space to curl up in after a day of exploring. And it appears to be one of the most affordable waterfront options in Ucluelet, too.I posted a full review to my blog: link here.

The Requa Inn (Klamath, CA)Grade: A -- beauty, health, culture, and authenticity!
We actually didn't stay in the rooms, but were accommodated by the host family, in their own home. So I can't comment on the rooms of the Inn, but I can certainly tell you about the food! We had breakfast and dinner in the dining room, and it was fabulous! This place was a delight for locavores like ourselves, and we were even privy to some of the preparation. As the kids were sitting outside they watched the chef smoking chicken ("an experimental recipe", he said), which he then served for dinner, that evening, as well as fresh-caught salmon from the river below the Inn, homegrown and wild salad, acorn cakes made with acorns that the Yurok trade with the people further up the river for their own sought-after seaweeds, and wild-indian-tea sorbet. Wow. For breakfast we had homegrown green smoothies, granola with home-made yogurt, local eggs, and various baked goods. In the afternoon, the Inn sets out a tray of warm, fresh-baked cookies for guests to enjoy.

We had totally beautiful walks in the area, as I mentioned in my blog-post at the time: link here.

The Requa Inn is certainly expensive, but absolutely worth it if you're interested in learning a bit about the place you're staying.

The Inn at Schoolhouse Creek (near Mendocino, CA)
Grade: B+ -- nice location (though a long, winding road to get there!), great food, and kind hosts
This place was lovely. The property was spacious, which really helped us relax when we arrived exhausted and a little car-sick. The cabin was laid out beautifully, and our particular cabin was also fully wheelchair-accessible. We loved the in-room jaccuzzi tub, especially, since the weather was cold and rainy when we arrived. Our cabin also had a little gas-stove, which had some trouble starting up, but the owner quickly came to fix the problem, when we reported it.

The food was great. We only ate breakfast in the restaurant, but we were impressed with the options. Guests can choose from a small buffet of baked goods, and can also order hot foods from the daily menu. Tea and coffee are always available for self-service, and guests are welcome to take their breakfast to their cabins on a tray, if they wish. We didn't, however, because it was so lovely to sit in the dining room and watch the birds and chipmunks eating outside the windows (they feed them, to promote this lovely view).

More photos and details, here: link.

The Mill Valley Inn (Mill Valley, CA)
Grade: B -- great location, and the rooms are luxurious. Breakfast buffet is huge and varied.
The rooms manage a lovely character feel, with very high ceilings, long drapes, and a tall comfy bed. They also have tiny balconies; just enough to lean out and see what is suburban San Francisco: a quiet side-street of Mill Valley. I can't say the rooms are spacious, but it hardly matters; there's enough room, and the height of the ceilings makes them feel quite open.

The dining room has plenty of space, as well as a lovely dining patio facing the forest, which we did not make use of simply because the frigid spring had still not let up! Every morning a generous spread of fruits, baked goods, make-your-own waffles, and granolas was available, along with teas and coffees, and espresso drinks from the kitchen. The atmosphere was calm and friendly.

The Mill Valley Inn is a converted building; interesting in that the rooms and dining room all connect via a suspended walkway the surrounds... the parking lot, below! It would be totally romantic if this area was actually a courtyard garden, or even the dining room, but as it is covered from the top, it serves as an exhaust-trap for the vehicles of guests. Thankfully it's a small Inn, and the vehicular comings and goings are few, so it's not really a problem. But strange!

More info and photos, here: link.

The Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa (Montery, CA)
Grade: B -- it's absolutely high-class and beautiful; they treated us like royalty. But I missed the authenticity of the smaller places.
Well, this place was amazingly high-class. We've never experienced anything like it before. I'm not sure if it was just the manager's enthusiasm for the MAMA Project (which was plentiful and gracious), or whether all guests are treated to such opulence, but, well... we stayed in a 5-star hotel and felt like rockstars. Here's the story: link.

The Days Inn (Portland, OR)
Grade: C-. Convenient to the Unschooling Conference, but not preferable!
This isn't the most glamourous hotel, but it's conveniently close to the Washington border (and the Unschooling Conference in Vancouver, Washington!) The room we were given was on the ground floor, and had a nearly-empty liquor bottle in it when we got there; the windows were graffiti'd from the outside, where it was clear people sleep, at night (between the window and the shrubs outside), and there was an unidentified white substance caked on the blanket and TV-schedule. Thankfully, we brought our own bedding for later use, stripped the beds and slept in our own bedding. The kitchenette was functional, but rather old and worn. We used our own cooking supplies. I gave the suite a once-over with soap and dish-towels, and after a day or two we felt much more comfortable, there.

Is it dangerous? Maybe. It didn't feel that way to us, but we're quite comfortable in some potentially dodgy situations. I have a hard time getting over filth, but not humanity. People are just people, whether their lifestyle is like ours or not. We were warned by a trucker in the hallway that this hotel is not a safe place to leave one's door or window open while in the suite, or to allow children out unattended. I did find my son waving goodbye out the window one morning, and when I questioned him he responded "I'm just waving to that guy who was outside the window. I think he lives there." Not a problem. We weren't worried, but I can see how some families might be.

The breakfasts were a buffet of pre-prepared foods (dry cereals with milk, hard-boiled eggs on ice, trucked-in pastries and bread-slices, as well as fresh-baked biscuits and gravy kept warm in slow-cookers). They weren't horrible; we managed to find something for the adults in the family (the kids are gluten/egg-free), and found it interesting to sit around listening to the conversation of the many different types of people who were staying there.

The hotel staff were gracious and polite, and the housekeeping staff seemed to set up the children's stuffies with care, each day.

The Howard Johnson Inn (Tacoma, WA)
Grade: C- --  It was reasonably clean, but we didn't feel safe.
I didn't post about this hotel at the time, because I'm not happy about having to share such negative reviews, but in the interest of honesty, here is my review:

Without being ungrateful for their sponsorship of the MAMA Project, I can't say I would ever stay here again, and I certainly wouldn't recommend it to others. We walked in past a very angry-looking patron who was watching TV at top-volume in the lobby by the front-door, and glared at us. The front desk girls did not stop their conversation to check us in; they simply continued, while we waited. And what they were talking about was rather worrisome: The apparently more experienced of the two was explaining to the newer one that having the police called to the hotel was not at all unusual, and that a few times a week wasn't a big deal; usually they didn't even ribbon anything off, unlike at "the hotel down the road", where having a police incident was pretty much a nightly event. I can tell you we began to feel uncertain right about then. Then we got our keys and proceeded up the outside staircase, past a few smoking truckers on the balcony, and into our room. The room was reasonably clean, with the exception of some big dirty handprints on the wall by the door, and the towels were folded in the shape of a swan, which we found to be pretty comical, given the overall feeling of the place.

Anyway, once I made sure that the windows were locked and the beds were clean (we brought our own sleeping bags up, just in case), we did manage to sleep just fine. I believe that there was some breakfast available in the lobby, but we were in a hurry to be on our way, and didn't wish to try it.

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