Saturday, August 29, 2009

One More Thing About Rogue River

We reached Rogue River too early to stop on the way back from San Fran, but we stopped for dinner at the Mexican place we failed to find on the way through the last time.

Food was quite good, but what really impressed me was the cleanliness of the bathrooms. Immaculate. When bombing up and down the I-5 and need a place to stop for the night, Rogue River will be my pick again.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

SLCC 2009

I can haz sewing projects? From the lobby of the Westin Bayshore, San Francisco, the 2009 Kamilah Hauptmann look. (Sans corset, three hours into the Odd Ball I went upstairs and removed it before it killed me.)

Shot by Jaelle Akula.
Shot by Jeremy Linden. (With my camera not properly set up. Shutter speed too slow. He has a pretty steady hand nonetheless. :) )
Jaelle Akula. I made this dress for her, hoop skirt and all! :D
Casualties: One tassel lost while dressing. One hook and eye while dancing. One strap on the mask while wearing it hung about my neck after midnight. (I'd gotten changed around 11:30, enough was enough and there were only around a dozen people left.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

American Monuments

America has always been one of those alternate universe sci fi shows. So close to home, then you see a high school marching band, or a gas station buried under flags. The trip this time is even weirder, having spent the last three weeks in France and the UK.

We started off this morning, still jetlagged, for San Francisco. We made good time, covering ground at three times the rate possible in the UK, despite the lower speed limits making highway travel feel like swimming in molasses.

The west coast isn't known for over the top monuments, except for the Space Needle. The striking things to me are the little subtleties, bear statues, barns, wagon train coffee huts, old farm houses.

Here are some pictures of Rogue River, Oregon. Where we stopped for the night.

Ornaments outside a bank in town. The fountain is active.

Another fountain in town, artificial stream, no obvious owner, civic?

Coffee house.
Town square? War dead monument, and local social club listings.
Sidewalk usage warning. I prefer this approach to a long list of what's not allowed. I wonder if this extends to aggressive seniors on electric scooters.
Closed service station mural.
This, along with the war monument, really speaks about small town mindset.
Random shot off the bridge, east along the river.
Plaque on the bridge.
The bridge and the big R on the mountain.
The bridge.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hotels UK

With a side of France. :)
I'll chronicle here the hotels I stayed in for my trip to the UK, brief commentary, and leave the Googling to you.

Night one: Novotel St Pancras, London
After that ordeal that was the Relay For Life, we wanted to stay in a very comfortable hotel, and this is a very comfortable hotel. The bed was excellent, service excellent, location right next to the Kings Cross, Euston, and St Pancras rail stations.

Night two, three, four, five: Hotel Eiffel Park, Paris
This location just can't be beat in Paris, five minute walk to Rue Cler, fifteen to the Eiffel Tower (The majesty of that Ultimate Steampunk Edifice just can't be believed until you've been there and touched it.), metro stations all over the place with all the major sites of Paris within trivial reach, including Versailles. We booked a theme room, I loved it to pieces, except the mattress was living hell. I was fine, I'll sleep on bricks or eat anything not nailed down. Anyone who needs a soft mattress, however, will do what we did, and take the mat off the bench for an extra padded layer, or bring an air mattress, or run away screaming. That aside, the staff were helpful and informative, friendly, breakfasts were good, and every manner of service needed was within a stone's throw of the hotel. Everything you've heard about rude French is a lie, or something you bring with you.

Night six: Travelodge Kings Cross, London
A cheap rack for the night next to the train station we needed. A little grubby but not too bad. Helpful staff, serviceable for the night, breakfast is a zoo in the morning. You'll be lucky to get to the coffee machine.

Night seven, eight: Best Western Palace Inn, Inverness
Your basic Best Western attraction in a lovely location right on the river Ness, most services, and free wifi. (Woot!) I'd stay again.

Night nine, ten: Tingle Creek Hotel, Ebrusaig near Kyle of Lochalsh, and more famously, Eilean Donan Castle
Family run hotel with all that TLC, great locations a short drive away including Plockton, and a longer drive up to Portree on the Isle of Skye. Comfortable beds, limited TV channels, free wifi, attached pub. Nothing else in walking distance.

Night eleven: Falls of Lora Hotel, Connell (by Oban)
This was the most eccentric building I have ever laid eyes on. Classic Victorian building plus additions over the years, but the interior is overrun with curios and oddities and whatnots. (I loved it in so many ways.) Drawback being the hotel is entirely smoking allowed in the rooms. Bonus being, when we did get there they gave us three keys, stated the prices per person per room, and off we went to inspect them. One room had some pretty bad smoke odour. The other two weren't too bad at all. Some rooms just ventilate better than others, I suppose. Oh, and free wifi.

Night twelve: Holiday Inn Express, Greenock
We tried looking for something less corporate, but the hotels we did look at were houses of horror. A corporate hotel was just what we needed. Clean, decent.

Night thirteen: Premier Inn, South Warrington
This night was a horror night for hotels. Rushing from Scotland we bypassed Glasgow and made for Wales. Starting in Chester, and dredging all the way to Bangor along the lovely north coast of Wales, we saw carnivals, caravan parks, camp sites, and nothing but full hotels. In Bangor they even phoned local B&Bs from the Premier Inn there, but we ended up in a rout and fled back to East Chester, asked at the Premier in there, again a random find, and the night reception made a few phone calls, and found something in Warrington. Premier Inns are a 2 star chain of corporate hotels aimed at the business traveler. I say they're the best chain in the UK. Stuck? Head to a Premier Inn, if they don't have something, there are a dozen more within an hour's drive and a terminal in the lobby to do some searching. Which I did the following morning and found:

Night fourteen: Premier Inn, Swansea City Centre
Another well run inn. We found the bathroom not to our satisfaction and within five minutes we were moved across the hall by the very accommodating staff. Unbelievable they only charge 60 pounds a night for double.

Night fifteen, sixteen, seventeen: Rudloe Hall Hotel
I love this hotel so very very much.

Night eighteen, nineteen, twenty: Jolly Hotel, St Ermins
I was blown away at how gorgeous this hotel was from the outside and in the lobby. Pity I didn't put my suspicion alarms on full power when they right off the bat gave us a 'complimentary room upgrade'. I should have had a look at the room first, and then refused it even though I'd booked through my travel agent months in advance. The room stank to Hades of cigarette smoke. Now if they had told me what I was looking forward to right there at the desk before I'd signed all the papers, not just snuck it by me, I wouldn't have felt I could not trust the staff. That set the tone for the rest of the stay. The pedantic reception to asking to change rooms was additional insult. The next time I came back I put the little purple book of Premier Inns on the counter where it could be seen. Yup, they'd have a fresh room on a non-smoking floor for the following two days. Oh and Hai! The air conditioning crapped out in the middle of the night in that stinky room. :) The bed was comfy, though. Too bad the bed in the new room the next two days wasn't much better than the one in France. But I'm not all evil, I did inform the desk of the water leaking through the ceiling light in the bathroom over the tub. Some clown must have flooded the floor in the room above us on the second night. Location was fantastic in London, as good as the Eiffel Park was in Paris, but the building, lovely in the common areas, was such a gong show it was insane. Keep in mind I was at my wit's end at the end of the trip, spoiled by the best hotel in all the UK, and tired. But they really should have dealt a straight hand on the first check in. I might go back for a drink in the restaurant, but stay? Er, um, no. Where's the closest Premier again? Oh neat, four within walking distance.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Rudloe Hall Hotel

First afternoon free since Paris. I've been on the road a lot and learning the hard way that despite Britain's small size, it is still enormous. Except with regards to road lane width and car parking facilities. I could do a half hour comedy routine about the car park in Swansea, but instead, glad to be out of there, I'll give a little tour of our hotel outside Bath, the Rudloe Hall Hotel.

This is a firmly four star, if not a little better, establishment, I booked it online this morning from the hotel room in Swansea. (Two star or not, the Premier Inn chain in the UK is a wonderful last chance planning on the fly way to cross the UK when you're not in the mood for 'surprises'. When town hopping one night per city, I'll definitely use them again.)

Rudloe, however, is full of surprises, top notch ones. Here's the exterior.

And the entry foyer.

Main stairwell to second floor.
Top of stairs on second floor.
Looking backwards from top of stairs on second floor.
A little sitting area on the second floor.

Narrow little staircase to third.With a t intersection at the top of the stairs. Our room is first door on the left. We sprang for the best room in the house, conning ourselves into believing 250 pounds/night really meant L$250. O_o
But it was worth it, strange a-frame room.

Antique desk.

Fireplace and TV.
Antique bath.

And what's this? Second floor?

It is, it is a second floor sitting room. Outdoor on balcony jacuzzi, even.
And a third floor? O_o
Yes, right up the tower, a Princess bedroom on what's the fifth floor of the tower.
With mind-bending view to the south(ish).

And the west(ish).And the parking lot. Watch for vertigo.
And another floor? o_O
Which led to a barred door, presumably to the roof of the tower.

There's a pitch and putt, an indoor swimming pool, spa options, dining room, sitting room, billiards room, and a garden, but various photos are up on the Rudloe website and I've already been pants with the photos for this post. :) This will be our base of operations until the sixth. Money well spent and my alter-ego is purring.