Category Archives: hotels

What to do before check in?

I opened my eyes and was ready to bail on this place. It took me less than ten minutes from the time I woke up to be checked out of the hostel. I asked for a taxi and instead found out I could easily walk the 15 minutes to the hotel. ‘Muy cerca,’ I was told. Very close, I translated silently. And it was. Gear and all, I believe I made it in under 10 minutes.

Arrived at the hotel only to find out that I had hours before check in – which 2pm. I had just over 4 hours until I could check in and close to 6 hours before the girls would arrive.

It was a beautiful property.

hotel-1

One of the gorgeous views.

The staff invited me to eat breakfast, which was lovely. And since I had plenty of time to spare, and a solid internet connection, I decided to take care of business … I Skyped with family, booked a hostel in Salta, Argentina – my next stop, got the details for the bus terminal where I’d be departing from in a few days and emptied out all the papers, notes and tickets I had been collecting in my backpack, adding unnecessary weight to my load.

tickets

Some of the tickets I had been carrying around, unnecessarily. Tucked into pockets here and there, the weight adds up.

I even went so far as to pull together my dirty laundry since I planned on dropping it off at a lavanderia in town. This must have been quite a sight to see … remember I’m in their ‘lobby’ since I can’t check in for hours.

While this seems like a lot of ‘to do’s,’ and a lot less travel, it was nice to regroup and get reorganized with this downtime. Once I was able to check in, I showered and began to download photos off my camera, so I could get those uploaded and clear out some memory.

After a few hours, Alana and Courtney arrived and it was quite the reunion!

arrivalSince they flew overnight, connected in Santiago for Calama and then took the hour-long drive from the airport in Calama to San Pedro de Atacama, they had a pretty long run of travel. They got settled, showered and we made our way into town. I didn’t go into much detail around ‘town.’ Since I was pretty surprised, I wanted them to be too! I was eager to see what they thought. We’d be there soon enough.


Desayuno = Breakfast

Holy heck. This was the spread that awaited at my hotel breakfast the next morning.

breakfast1

The hotel catered to English speakers, but this was ridiculous. If you couldn’t figure it out (bread and toast) by what it was, then you had no business eating it.

Isn’t part of the fun of traveling not knowing what you might be eating? Or saying? 

Even so, this stuff wasn’t too difficult to figure out. I found this so humorous, I had to take photos.


Making a Plan: Cordoba to Mendoza

The staff at the hotel were so helpful. The bartender clearly was great, and the front desk manager on duty helped me figure out my plan for the next day.

The bus was another doozy — ten hours. In order to get to Mendoza before the sun went down, I’d need a bus that left around sunrise. A few glasses of wine in, this was no longer an option.

I could take a night bus the following night, but that would mean no Super Bowl (and let’s be clear, it wasn’t so much for the Super Bowl but for the camaraderie that accompanies it). Plus, I was planning to be in Mendoza for a few days so it would have been nice to meet some other travelers early in my stay.

But, my new bff at the front desk told me, that I could also take a flight. We looked at the price and if I took the one at 5.40pm, I figured it was actually only $30 more than the bus. I didn’t want to cut my day short in Cordoba by leaving too early so this was perfect.

The guy at the desk did tell me there was a recent crash on this airline. I had a slight buzz, I was spoiled by my luxury environs, the speed with which I could get to Mendoza was desirable, flying sounded grand and so I decided to hope for the best.

We outlined a few things I could do in the morning and early afternoon before my flight, I said thanked him for his help, said good night (because I couldn’t wait to choose a pillow!) and I went back to my room to book it.


Finding My Bed For the Night

My taxi driver stopped in the middle of a street. A street full of nondescript buildings and a cafe were the only noticeable things about this street. Nothing about this street said hotel.

street

I gave him the address again, and he literally drove around the block, stopping again at the same exact spot. Thinking this had to be it, I got out.

I looked up, and sure enough, one level up, there was a sign, displaying the name Azur Real Hotel.

signage1

I rang a button and was admitted into a lobby. A totally deserted lobby except for a tube that looked like a space ship. With no idea what was happening here, I got inside.

elevator

As soon as the doors closed, I was whisked up and found myself on this floor. I walked out (yes, that is a glass floor) and was greeted by the smell of lavender wafting through the air and a great music soundtrack. Was this heaven?

I made my way around the corner and found the check-in desk. Not only did she have a room for me but I could get early check in. Check in typically was not until three, but she had a room available and I could check in immediately. I could also use the pool (!) but I would need to wait until 10am, after the staff was finished cleaning.

Before we finalized the cost, I had remembered all the Visa signs in Uruguay, so I asked if there was any discount for credit card holders. She looked through a book of promotions and found one that would work for my one night stay. My already reasonable rate was just made even more reasonable and I got perks of early and late check in and a free glass of wine and tapas at the bar at happy hour.

I paid for my room, we talked about my plan for Cordoba and I was given a map. Then I was shown to my room. Ahhhhhhhh. This was so worth it.

bedclosets

deskshower

I didn’t have a converter for Argentina, so my laptop was no good. The hotel staff had an extra one so I let it charge while I went to explore. I had an extra skip in my step because it seemed like there was a strong WiFi connection and I was certain I would be able to Skype with my family while in this hotel. So even though I wasn’t going to meet many new people, I’d be able to chat with the people closest to me — even though they were far away.


Change: The Search For (coins) and Departure From (budget travel)

Before I had departed Buenos Aires, I had reasoned with myself…

Since this was my first long-haul bus ride, I would reward myself with a <gasp> hotel room for the night.

I figured there would be internet in the bus terminal and I could just check TripAdvisor, find a nice, centrally located hotel that wouldn’t be outrageously priced.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of myself — but here’s the imagery:

I had disembarked an overnight bus a few minutes prior. I am sitting with my rucksack and a daypack at a computer in the bus terminal. I wrote down a few addresses from TripAdvisor’s top reviews and am comparing them to the location on a physical map (you know the kind, they are folded nice and neat but once you undo them, it’s a mess to get back together) trying to determine which hotel’s location was ideal.

I tried to check availability on a few of the sites and because it was a reservation for that evening, the message said ‘contact hotel.’ Without a phone, and hardly in the mood to think about Skyping, I decided on the Azur Real Hotel and tucked the address into my pocket and went to pay for my internet time.

I didn’t have enough small change to pay my total bill so I went to the ATM. Took out large bills and as I soon as they spit out of the machine, I remembered that changing big bills is a feat in itself. Of course when I got back to the counter, the guy didn’t have change. He told me to go and get some. My exhaustion came out front and center.

I handed over all the Argentinian pesos in change that I had, I found a few Uruguayan pesos in my bag and handed them over. I asked him if it was okay. He shrugged and took the coins without protest.

I thanked him profusely and headed to the taxi line. Yes, the taxi line. Hopefully my driver would have change for my paper bills.

If I’m departing from budget travel for a moment, at least I can take a taxi to (what I hoped would be) my hotel.