Category: Travel (Page 4 of 5)

Red Lion Hotels – Medford, OR & Vancouver, WA – Reviews

We usually visit my in-laws in Vancouver, WA, every Thanksgiving, and stay over at a hotel (though the kids often pernoctate with the grandparents). We usually stop over in Medford, OR, for the night in the way there. I usually priceline the hotels – the rates are so much cheaper than those you can get otherwise -, after checking for prices and possible hotels at Bidding for Travel and for hotel reviews at Trip Advisor. That’s what I did this year, and I ended up with rooms @ Red Lion Hotels in both Medford & Vancouver. Both ended up being good experiences and fairly good deals.
Red Lion Hotels – in general
The two Red Lion Hotels we stayed at were very similar properties. In both cases they were older buildings, well kept but a bit outdated (they still have old-style TVs, for example). They had nice furniture (two Queen-size beds, one night table with a lamp, a dresser/entertainment center and a desk with a chair. The room in Vancouver also had a comfy chair with an ottoman), comfortable mattresses & pillows and largish bathrooms (the one in Medford, with a separate sink) with good water pressure. Rooms were appointed with a coffee maker, a small fridge & a small microwave. There was coffee/tea/sugar/creamer. The rooms were clean and not particularly smelly. One issue with both hotels was that the heater units, while quite efficient, were very loud. In both instances we chose to turn them off while we slept. Another issue is that while the rooms are for two people, there is only one desk/chair – which means only one person can work comfortably at the time.
The facilities at both hotels were also pretty similar, and they included outside swimming pools, a small gym (which we didn’t use), nicely appointed lobbies and a restaurant/bar. The hotel has cable TV, but only offers a dozen channels or so (one was showing cartoons). There is free internet, but it was slow @ both hotels and had some blocked services. Both hotels offer soap, shampoo & conditioner (but not lotion) in the rooms, and they say they have other toiletries upon request.
Service in both hotels was very good, the front desk staff was very friendly. Then again, we did not have any special needs/requests.
The one thing to consider vis a vis the Red Lion Inn, is that the rates DO NOT include breakfast. Breakfast at the Vancouver Red Lion was $8 for adults (free for kids). That means that you must really add $20 to the nightly rate to get a sense of its “true” rate vis a vis other comparable hotels.
Now, as for each individual hotel:
Red Lion Medford
We stayed here last year as well and had liked it. This year the rate was more expensive (about $65 a night, including taxes – my priceline bid was $51), but not a bad deal for the area. This hotel is “motel style”, with a lobby that houses the restaurants and two buildings with guest rooms around a parking lot. One of the buildings is right next to the freeway and you can definitely hear some freeway noise from the rooms there – though it was drowned by the heater noise, when on. Rooms on the other building are much quieter – so ask to be put there.
We had dinner at the restaurant at that hotel last year, which wasn’t great, but this time we didn’t even go in, so I can’t even say if it’s still open. We’ve never tried their breakfast.
Red Lion at the Quay – Vancouver
I was disappointed when Priceline gave me this hotel (we stayed at the Residence Inn last year, which was both cheaper, much nicer and included breakfast!) for my $40 bid (plus $10 in taxes), but the hotel itself is nice. The lobby was nicely decorated with a large Xmas tree (and a few small ones), and the location at the River is very nice. We walked along it one morning and got to see the famous Old Apple Tree. The hotel is also very convenient (i.e. a couple of blocks from) downtown and the bridge to Portland.
We had the breakfast buffet at the hotel one morning ($8 per adult, free for children, including tax, but waiters clear out your plates so you have to tip them), and it was OK. The breakfast included two dry, paltry, unappealing mini-pastries, fresh fruit, 3 dry cereals, bread (there was a toaster) and hot scrambled eggs, bacon (very dry), sausages (fine) and country potatoes (also dry). They have a cool pancake machine – you press a button and get two warm, fresh pancakes in 45 seconds. The pancakes had that industrial taste that comes from commercial mixes. There was coffee & tea, milk and juices. In all, it was definitely nowhere as good as the free buffet we got at the Residence Inn the year before. The one plus is that the restaurant has beautiful river views.
In all, our stay was fine and we’d be fine staying here again.
Margarita’s Hotel Reviews

Off to the Yucatan

We’ll be going in our short trip of the Yucatan soon, and I have set up a blog about it: Marga & Mike’s Yucatan Adventure. We are also taking the girls, so the title is somewhat deceiving, but I think that traveling with the girls will, in itself, be adventure – specially given how hot & mosquito-filled the Yucatan is likely to be when we visit.
So add the website to your RSS feed or visit it periodically.

Rambling thoughts on going back to the Yucatan

It’s been 18 years since that summer I spent “travel writing” in the Yucatan – and, as it’s often the case with the distant past, it seems both as it’d happened in another lifetime or just last year. It is strange to me that I am separated by almost half my life from that young, adventurous girl that I once was, so eager for life, for experiences. And yet, aren’t I just the same? Have I really grown since? Do I miss her? I’m 40, still unaware of where my youth went, but old enough that I am just beginning to look back and cherish memories from what now it’s become so long ago.
The Yucatan is a special place for me. I’ve traveled a lot in the last 18 years, but never for so long and so thoroughly. Writing a chapter in a guide book really requires that you get to know a region intimately, that you inquire into its secrets and moods, and really, that you fall in love with it. Indeed, I see my relationship with that region not so differently from that with a long lost lover – you are curious to see him again, but also apprehensive of what time has done to you and him. I know that the Yucatan has changed; sleepy Plaza del Carmen, in particular, is now said to be a huge tourist mecca with hotel development after development. And yet, I’m told it still retains its character as a beach town. We are staying there (at an all inclusive hotel, of all things, but it was amazingly cheap, in a per-person basis it would almost accommodate my 1992 budget of $20 a day). I’m hoping to take a look at La Ruina, the “hotel” I stayed for many a night back then. It was located near the main bus road in Playa del Carmen, right at the beach, and was named so because of the small Maya ruin still in the property. I slept on my hammock under a huge communal palapa, enjoying the sea breezes and the friendly atmosphere. I don’t think I’ve thought about this place, about the Yucatan, really, in seventeen years. And now the memories leak through.
It is very strange to look through the couple of Yucatan guide books I borrowed from the library. It’s almost like re-encountering a foreign language, once you once knew fairly well but that is now a mystery (I have, indeed, the same experience with Arabic and ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs). I remember the words, the names of the places. The resound in the back of my mind. But what do they mean? What are they? Conjuring the memories of what each site looked like, of even going there, is hard. I remember the earlier sites better than the later ones, though not always. I know for a fact that I stayed several days in Ticul – I can picture the lobby of the hotel where I stayed and my table at the restaurante Los Almendros -, but for the life of me I cannot remember in the least what the town looked like, or where I went from there, forget about the other hotels and restaurants I must have visited. Sayil, Calakmul, Dzibalchen… words (places) I spoke once, and now I have no idea what they are. It is sad, by the time we realize that we memories are indeed lost, it’s too late to try to keep them.
This trip to the Yucatan is accidental. I hadn’t planned to go anywhere this summer, I can’t afford to go anywhere this summer. But then a few weeks ago I found out that airfares to Argentina were impossibly cheap (under $500!) – and I decided that it was my opportunity to go back. I spent weeks (OK, a week) planning the trip, only to come to the conclusion that a month with the girls but without Mike, in a potentially cold apartment with no clear ideas as to what to do, might not be particularly enjoyable to anyone. I want the girls to learn Spanish, but I wasn’t clear on how I’d accomplish that. The apartment’s fridge and washing machine are broken, cable is cut so there may be no TV. In the end, I decided not to go.
But I had the travel bug and I checked out what fares to other Latin American countries were. Those to Mexico were, of course, the cheapest. My original plan was to find a beach somewhere in Mexico, rent a very cheap house, and spend a couple of weeks there. Not knowing anything of Mexico, I asked for advise and the first recommendations were of Progreso – in the Yucatan. Now, renting a house in Progreso in July is just not doable. Half of Merida has the same idea and available houses are few and at outrageous prices. But… that peaked my interest in going to the Yucatan. Fares to Cancun were also impossibly cheap – my no-stop tickets to Cancun from LAX were $275 each! -, much cheaper than to other areas of Mexico. Moreover, the Yucatan has great beaches, specially for kids who hate waves.
So the Yucatan it was, and slowly my trip morphed from 2 weeks at the beach to a tour of the region with four final days at an all-inclusive in Playa del Carmen.
I’m not unaware that this trip is not necessarily a good idea. Not only is the trip beyond our means (and while that never stopped us before, it’s time we become more fiscally responsible), but it will take place in July, when the Yucatan boils with heat and mosquitoes are at their fiercest. Yes, I traveled the region in July before – but I was young and leaner and I didn’t have two little kids along – two little kids very allergic to mosquito bites, moreover. Yes, not a good idea.
But I’ve pushed forward. For one, I wanted a trip to celebrate my 40th birthday, I wanted to go back to the past. It was to be Egypt but that would have cost twice as much. Plus I didn’t study my Arabic or my hieroglyphs, as I promised myself I would two years ago when I first had the idea of a trip. Today, at the library, I picked up a book on the Maya (something which I don’t think I even bother to do 18 years ago) – let’s see if I’m more industrious these weeks before the trip.
I also want to show this region that means so much to me to Mike and the girls. I want to see how it’s changed, how it’s the same.
It is strange, as I read the guidebooks and plan my trip I unconsciously go back into “travel writing mode” – something I haven’t done since that summer. I start to think that I have to write about that place, make a list of questions that I need answered – only to realize moments later, with a little bit of sadness, that this time I only have to think about enjoying myself.

A weekend in Sonoma and the Lake County

The age of long vacations through the developing world seems to have passed for Mike and I. We can’t afford either the expenses or the time, and we feel too old to go to super-hot places in summer, when the kids are off school. Oh well – we had fun while it lasted.
So for the last couple of years we’ve been taking short trips to the wine country. Last year we went to Napa, the Russian River and Mendocino, and this year we went to Sonoma ant the Lake County. I had a great time. Mike less of one as he didn’t really wine taste and had to drive a lot (he’s tired of driving) – but we both, at least, got to relax.

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