What A Difference A Day Makes

In a recent post i shared some thoughts and images, about the Hard Rock Hotel in Chicago. (Sidebar: As the owner of this blog, i took a liberty with the word ‘recent.’ It was not that recent. In my defense, I knew May would be hectic with work commitments but i underestimated just how hectic it would really be. As a result, my personal interests and passions, like training for my ride and this blog suffered. Sorry. Sadly, i’m human not Super Human. I am trying to get back on track and appreciate your understanding. End Sidebar) After my work in Chicago ended, i was off to Santa Barbara to attend another conference. I stayed at the Marriott Courtyard.

What a difference a day, and hotel chain makes. Here is what the Marriott Courtyard bathroom and furniture looked like. The facilities are clean, not full of grit or in need of a sand blast.

Marriott Courtyard

The furniture, while not new, is not full of cracks and otherwise on the brink of being kindling for a fire pit. Furniture

Even the staff was more accommodating: calling for cabs when i needed them and helping with a minor phone issue. And i being Southern California they had an outdoor fire pit!

Like most people, i love a great hotel with all the amenities. At the end of the day, i have a stronger appreciation for a hotel that gets the basics right. In this case, props to the Marriott Courtyard. I don’t stay at their properties often but this experience was great and i will keep their hotels in mind when i’m traveling for myself or making arrangements for clients.

After my previous rant, i felt compelled to share this experience. It really bothered me that people would think i’m a primadona  about where i stay. I guess we all have a streak of narcissism in us and now you know mine.

Where to Rest Your Head in Millennium Park, Chicago

If you read my previous post, you already know i’ve spent a fair amount of time in Chicago. While that time is limited to the area surrounding Millennium Park, i’ve been there enough to have some strong opinions on where to stay as well as a couple of eating suggestions.

There are a lot of hotels in this area. I’ve stayed at the Hotel Monaco, the Hard Rock Hotel, the Fairmont and a few others that i can’t remember off the top of my head. The Fairmont, if you have access to a corporate rate, is hands down the best. The property is well maintained (read: clean, everything works), the beds are comfy and the linens are clean and crisp. The gym on-site is SPECTACULAR and the restaurant, Aria, is also rumored to be excellent and quite the spot for night life.

If you don’t have a corporate account, or prefer a boutique hotel, the Hotel Monaco is terrific. Again, the rooms are clean, the beds are extremely comfy and the linens are generally in good condition. The staff is always unbelievably helpful, like they have actually been trained in customer service. South Water Kitchen, the hotel’s restaurant is great. It’s low-key compared to Aria but you can never go wrong with this place if you need a solid location for a meeting. My only compliant is they don’t have a fitness center.

I’ve stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel on three occasions and have to say, i will never stay here again. I’m old enough to remember when HRC was synonymous with quality and fun. I get the brand is about bringing the ‘rock star persona’ to life but every time i’m here, it falls so incredibly short on just basic stuff. On this occasion, my bathroom smelled like bleach, the shower was in serious need of a sand blast, the walls had scratches and the furniture had clearly seen better days.

This shower has clearly seen better (and cleaner) days
This shower has clearly seen better (and cleaner) days

Generally, i’m not a complainer especially if i’m traveling at the request of a client. After three stays, i just cannot recommend this hotel to anyone visiting Chicago. IMO, i think this hotel is still in business because guests are staying as part of a conference package, getting a discount. There is just no other reason to stay here.

I did not mention the above complaints upon check in. I figured it was no big deal. However, after complaining about the state of the room for the third time to my S.O., i realized how upset i was. When i checked out, the staff was indifferent to the concerns i shared. Ultimately, this is why i can not recommend this hotel to anyone. If the best the staff can muster is, “oh”, i’ll take my business and my recommendations elsewhere.

This damaged furniture is another example why my stay at the HRH was a total bummer. Shoddy all around
This damaged furniture is another example why my stay at the HRH was a total bummer. Shoddy all around

On a more positive note, if you are in the Millennium Park area, i suggest heading to Pastoral Artisan for a salad or sandwich. The vibe at this place is great and the sandwiches are delicious.

Pastoral Artisan, a fave causal lunch place in Chicago
Pastoral Artisan, a fave causal lunch place in Chicago

If you get there before the lunch crowd, there are a few tables in the restaurant. Another place i always find myself at is The Gage. This is a popular destination for happy hour and can get loud. Don’t let that deter you, it’s great for dinner. I’ve taken clients, co-workers or eaten at the bar myself and never been disappointed. My most recent dinner was Mussels Vindaloo with a Pinot Nero. Delicious!