Sunday, February 2, 2014

(Temporarily) Living In Luxury

Turn down service for a 4 year old includes stuffed animals
being tucked in and slippers laid out
We are a single income family whose breadwinner is a military officer; therefore we are by no means wealthy. We are comfortable but not rich. We like nice things but understand that in order to have them we must make sacrifices. This means picking and choosing what we spend our money on and this was especially true for our time in Albania. On a day to day basis we drove an old twice-used car and lived rather simply but one of the things we splurged on in the past couple of years was nice hotels whenever we traveled. I chalk it up to the fact we lived in a house that was lacking in many of the creature comforts others took for granted. Yes, we had a lot of living space but it was by no means luxurious. Our house was drafty when the weather was both hot and cold and it was leaky when it rained. Power surges were a way of life and water pressure left a lot to be desired. Our only heat source in our bathrooms was a plug in space heater (and don't even get me started on the lack of air conditioning in the summer months). So yes, whenever we traveled we splurged on our hotels. Glenn developed a knack for selecting nice hotels and even nicer hotel rooms. For us, they were always our little bit of heaven in an otherwise chaotic and often ugly world.

I'll admit, the prospect of staying in high end hotels with a four year old (or younger) often makes me nervous; after all, people are paying good money for their rooms and don't want to be disturbed by rambunctious children. Some hotels have been more welcoming than others; anyone that offers babysitting services (although we've never taken advantage of this), special children's rooms service menus, or other child friendly options is definitely child friendly in my book. Requesting a "child's bed" often proved to be interesting.  In Ljulbjlana, Slovenia we were provided with a newborn sized cradle while in Prague, Czech Republic Sidney had his own queen sized four poster bed. Usually, however, the bed falls somewhere between these two extremes. But regardless of the sleeping accommodations, these hotels welcomed children. Prior to our most recent trip, our favorite child friendly hotel was the Sofitel Chain Bridge in Budapest, Hungary where Sidney was greeted with not one, but two, stuffed bears awaiting him in our room. These bears affectionately became known as the "Buda twins" and are now a part of collection of favorite stuffed animals.

But the nicest hotel we have stayed in to date was on our recent move from Albania to Belgium. While in transit we spent three nights in Hamburg, Germany at the Atlantic Kempinski Hotel. When it comes to hotels we are not brand loyalists; rather we select hotels that are in the right location (for us). And as it turns out, we lucked out in so many ways when it came to staying at the Atlantic. First, as is the case with all Kempinski hotels, they are incredibly child friendly.  But none of that matters at the Kempinski where even the sternest of Germans welcomed Sidney with open arms. Second, there is something to be said for staying in a true five star hotel.  The service is truly exceptional in every way. Even when this travel weary, raggle-taggle family checked in amidst a black tie reception, we were greeted with friendly smiles and warm welcomes.  As we approached the reception desk they already knew our names and the doormen remembered us each and every time we went out the door. (I'd like to think that it wasn't because we made such a spectacle of ourselves). I can't remember a time when I was treated with such respect and called "Mrs. Brown" so many times. And only at a hotel of this caliber do the doormen spin the revolving door for you so you don't have to exert the effort.  From the evening turn down service where even the smallest of guests are treated to robes and slippers to the radiant floor heating in the bathrooms, complementary mini-bar and concierge desk that makes reservations for you and then asks whether or not you enjoyed the experience, this hotel was top notch. And I loved, enjoyed, and appreciated every moment of it.

And now we are back to our new reality. We are still staying in a hotel but this one does not have five star accommodations. Rather this hotel is our home for the foreseeable future until we can move into our new Belgian house. It has neither a concierge desk nor valet service but we do have a coffee pot and a heated bathroom. Our family of three is living in a family suite which is actually a bedroom and a living room/kitchenette space. We are staying in a hotel on a US military base. It is nothing if not utilitarian.  But that is OK. We knew what we were getting into which is why we enjoyed our time in transit so much. You don't know how much you appreciate simple luxuries until you don't have them (i.e. heated bathrooms) so when you once again have the basics you really appreciate them. And when you have the opportunity to experience the luxuries, you enjoy them at the moment then remember them fondly after they are gone.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree with you. I remember not living with a shower for three months (we had to get water from a well in a village in Ghana). When I got home I just stood in a hot shower for ages happily. Now I still feel guilty when I take long showers, but sometimes you just have to treat yourself. Good luck with the move! And good luck with NaBloPoMo - I'm trying the challenge too - :)