But sometimes a hostelry is so special it makes me forget any unpleasant hotel experience I've ever had and makes me wish I could stay there for years instead of a day or two. Such a place is La Posada--Winslow, Arizona's saving grace.
and it is. A long winding path flanked with gardens, some hidden with only a gate hinting at the hollyhocks and fountains within and some clearly visible formal gardens, lead to a vestibule where it's difficult to choose which area to explore first. Should we visit the trading post, head to the gallery on the second floor, explore the sculpture hall, sit in the sunken garden or simply wander the halls that are lined with objets d'art?
|Doors leading from the train walkway to La Posada say Enter in Silence and Depart in Peace.|
|The ballroom is now a comfortable room for a game of chess or a cozy spot to read.|
|Our room overlooked the inner courtyard.|
Travel is derived from the French, travail, which means "toil or labor." Indeed, travel in the Middle Ages was fraught with difficulty, and it wasn't much better in the United States in the late 1800s. Before the interstate highway system, train travel was the only way to get from point A to point B, but it was inconvenient and tedious. No dining cars existed so, once you boarded the passenger car, that was where you stayed. Stops in towns along the way did not have any services for travelers with the exception of a grubby diner or two.
Fred Harvey addressed the needs of these tourists by building welcoming restaurants and hotels at the train stops and, as a result, literally changed the way Americans travel. Touring the West became popular when people knew they could count on a comfortable bed, regular meals, and even guides and touring cars available for hire. Suddenly, travail was taken out of travel. Truly, Harvey did as much for train travel as McDonalds did for fast food.
|One of many lovely items to look at in the hallway.|
Not only did Harvey have vision when it came to knowing what the public wanted, but he was ahead of his time in hiring women to do much of the work. "Harvey Girls" staffed his restaurants and made sure customers were served in a timely fashion. Ten years before women were given the right to vote in 1920, Fred Harvey gave the most prestigious job in his company to a woman, an architect named Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter.
She created 21 hotels and buildings for Harvey, including Phantom Ranch, Hermit's Rest, and Bright Angel Lodge at the Grand Canyon, but her most spectacular creation, most people agree, was La Posada. It cost $1 million to build in 1929, and another million to furnish and landscape. Colter considered it the most important work of her career.
Winslow was the chosen location for this masterpiece because Harvey believed the town would be the next Santa Fe, New Mexico. Even though this never happened, Winslow was popular for a long time due to the Santa Fe Railroad and Route 66. But, when the train stopped its passenger service and Route 66 was bypassed, the hotel was abandoned.
When Allan Affeldt and his wife, Tina Mion, purchased the Posada in 1997, they set about restoring this hotel, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, whose charms had been hidden by hallway after hallway of fluorescent-lighted utilitarian offices built by the Santa Fe Railway. Still, the architectural details--the arches, the variations in ceiling heights and materials, the sweeping staircases--were still there just waiting to be rediscovered. Allan and Tina did just that.
|Much to my delight, our room had a well-stocked bookcase. You'll find books in almost every private and public room in La Posada.|
Magic is like that.
This is such a beautiful place, packed with so much history and nostalgia, that you might expect the rates to be too high for most Tightwad Travelers, but this hotel is definitely worth a bit of a splurge. And you don't have to splurge too much as there are plenty of lovely rooms in the $119-129 range.
|Bathroom has original, restored tile.|
If you're a light sleeper, be sure to ask for a quiet room as trains still roll through town, behind the hotel, during the night.
Pack light, unless you know for sure you've got a ground floor room or you enjoy hefting suitcases up stairs, as there is no elevator.
To enhance the charm of the place, there are no telephones in the rooms but you will find books everywhere!
By the time we reached Winslow, David and I wanted only to travel independently, but when we visit again we may use the services of a guide named J D Allen. She's lived in the area forever and can take people to secret places on the Hopi or Navajo Reservations, find petroglyphs no one else knows about, and custom design any tour you desire for a reasonable (reasonable compared to the prices charged at Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly.) $100 a day. phone: (928)-203-6310 or toll free (877)-733-6621
Our friends raved about the restaurant in La Posada, The Turquoise Room, but we were not impressed. We loved our breakfast, though, at the Triple R's Home Cooking mom and pop place at 1308 E Third Street where everything from the biscuits to the apple butter is home made.
*Because of these experiences in hotels and for several other reasons discussed in my book, Europe on a Dime: Five-Star Travel on a One-Star Budget, I much prefer to rent vacation apartments when I travel.