Thursday, August 2, 2007

Utica, New York and Hotel Stories

Before I talk about our class at Munson Williams in Utica, I would like to talk a bit about hotels. On the road we tend to stay in chain hotels-- not because we have anything against local businesses, but because it tends to be easier to book a chain hotel in advance and to be confident that we will have a room and that we'll have an idea of what to expect.

We've had some good experiences with mom and pop hotels, like the one in Elkhorn, Wisconsin.

On the other hand, we've had experiences like one with a hotel I will not identify. On this occasion we arrived ready to check in. When I got to the desk, I couldn't find anyone to help me. There was a bell to ring, and I rang, and rang... and rang. Finally I called the hotel number on my cell phone and someone arrived in the lobby to pick it up. I told the woman we were here to check in and that we had a reservation. The hotel had given me a rate of $53 a night over the phone, but when we arrived, we were told that the rate was now $100 a night.

"There's a concert in town," the helpful woman explained.

After some lengthy negotiation, I was able to get the price down to only $15 more than we'd been quoted. That done, the woman revealed a piece of information that might have been useful earlier-- they didn't actually have any rooms available.

'What do you mean you have no rooms available? I have a reservation for two nights."

"We don't take reservations."

We ended up at a different motel where the clerk gave you your key through a sliding panel in bullet proof glass. The rooms were surprisingly clean and presentable with lovely white bed spreads of which they were clearly quite protective. There were signs posted everywhere about not staining the bed spreads. Besides not having any hot water, it was a decent place to stay.

So this is why we tend to be leery of the local motels. In Utica, however, we stayed in the type of motel that swtill advertises RCA Color TV as an amenity and we had an overall positive experience.

We had a free day in Utica before our class (and time for shopping at the Big Lots). Our hotel was in a tiny rural area, and it gave us the impression that Utica was a sleepy village.
Come class day, however, we only turned one corner and discovered an entirely different and more urban Utica.

Munson Williams is a serious arts school with a dance studio in a separate building to the side. It's most distinctive feature is the presence of large ballerina statues in the lobby. We taught a special long class here. The floors were some of the best we've encountered. The students were of a mixed level, but followed well and learned quickly. We hope to come back again.

P.S. An open letter to the hotel industry: Thank you for the coffee, and we appreciate the effort but leftover donuts are not "breakfast."