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A Bucket List of Historic Hotels of America Proportions

DSC_0054When it comes to travel blogging I've been pretty much winging it with the philosophy of "have bag, camera, and computer - will travel and write" and as such I try to design any travel plans around a destination that has some sort of historical significance which will then make for a good blog post. I have a Bucket List of historic hotels and inns that I'd love to be able to stay at and then write about but what does one do when one has a limited income and a Bucket List that keeps having more places added to it than getting scratched off? Well in my case one dreams a lot and wistfully says "someday" and then hopes that the writing fairy will swoop down from the big travel agency in the sky and - poof! - I'm a bona fide travel writer.

Until that time, though, I'm thankful for people like Juli Lederhaus, General Manager of the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, Massachusetts which, as anyone who knows me knows, is probably one of my very favorite places to stay anywhere. In addition to being a truly wonderful person, Juli is what one might call a very progressive General Manager and as such she has really grabbed hold of the whole concept of Social Networking and run with it to promote the Hawthorne.  She blogs, she tweets, she puts the hotel out there as much as she possibly can and she does a phenomenal job of it.

It was through my own blogging about the Hawthorne that Juli and I became friends and not too long ago she did me a wonderful favor and wrangled me an invitation to the Historic Hotels of America Client & Media Reception Showcase that was held at the historic Waldorf=Astoria Hotel in New York City on May 18th.

To be honest I was quite nervous about going as I'd never been to something like that ever but by the same token I was excited about it as I was really looking forward to the prospect of meeting Public Relations representatives from some of the very destinations that I really, really would love to go to. I didn't really know if introducing myself and saying "Hi, I write travel posts for my blog and I'd love to know more about your hotel!" was going to get me any closer to being able to stay at any of them but I did know that sitting home in Connecticut and waiting for "someday" was definitely going to get me nowhere!  With that in mind, along with Juli's encouragement, I found the courage to hop on the train from New Haven's Union Station to New York's Grand Central Terminal on what was a rainy Wednesday night to make my way to 310 Park Avenue and the Waldorf=Astoria.

Tall Buildings in NYC

Now there's no doubt in my mind whatsoever that I've been to New York City enough times in my life to not be intimidated by the skyscrapers that loom over my head or the New Yorkers who walk briskly past in their no-nonsense way heading to or from something that must be horribly important based on the intense looks on their faces but walking into the Waldorf=Astoria and gazing up at a beautiful crystal chandelier made my palms sweat a bit.

A Waldorf Astoria Chandelier

What on earth was I doing in such an elegant setting?  

Waldorf Astoria Lobby

Good grief! I'm a blogger from a small dot on the map of Connecticut for crying out loud and certainly not an honest-to-goodness bona-fide get-paid-to-do-it metropolitan-type travel writer. The people at the reception who were waiting to meet real writers were going to see right through me and laugh me right out of the room. Why did I ever think I would fit in at something like this in a place like this?

For awhile there I briefly thought about hiding out in the ladies restroom and then slinking back out through the revolving doors before sheepishly climbing back on the train and heading back to where I came from but then I decided that I was being silly.  Just because I was in the Waldorf=Astoria with people who didn't just wanna-be travel writers but really were travel writers was no need to be intimidated; after all, they all started somewhere once upon a time themselves so I needed to get myself out there and do what I went all the way to New York City to do - meet some historic hotel people!

Media Reception Sign

My fears were pretty much alleviated shortly after I joined the queue of others that were checking in at Registration when Gina, a staff member of the Historic Hotels of America, greeted me warmly saying that she was so glad that I had made it as Juli had spoken so highly of me when they were at a meeting in Chicago.  I immediately felt worlds better as I confided in Gina that I had never been to one of these sort of events before and had no clue what to do.  She explained that it was pretty much like any other trade show out there and that representatives of the various hotels were just as anxious to tell people about their facilities as we were to hear about them.

HHA Media Reception

Gina gave me a book that listed all of the members of the Historic Hotels of America along with a bag to put whatever brochures and such that I collected into as well as a flash drive that held information on all of the hotels that were attending the reception that evening.  I wouldn't have to scribble notes or try to remember everything as it was all going to be right there on the flash drive.  Wow.  You have got to love modern technology!

People at the HHA Media Event

Entering the Hilton Room where the event was being held I waded into the fray and started making my way around to the various tables that were set up.  Juli had told me to concentrate on the hotels and inns that were more local to my area as obviously it was going to be easier to get to a place in New York or Massachusetts or even Washington DC than it was to someplace in California or Alabama or Texas. With that in mind I chatted with representatives of an inn in Vermont (just seven miles down the road from the lovely Inn Victoria as a matter of fact!), Public Relations people from hotels in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Washington DC, Virginia, and New York, and even a lady from the Norwich Inn & Spa right down the road from where I work which I had never even thought about as being a historic anything!  The big hedges surrounding the property are rather a deterrent to those of us who are local. 

Even though my chances of ever getting there are slim to none I also talked to folks from several places a lot further afield than I'd probably ever get to as their hotels looked so fascinating and I figured it couldn't hurt to dream. Heck, I may get back to California one of these days!  Closer to home, though, I was more than happy to talk with several ladies from the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York.  Juli had told me about the wonderful castle in the Shawangunk Mountains that was built in the 1870's during one of my stays at the Hawthorne and I had immediately put it on my "list".  Speaking to Lori I got the feeling that if I ever did get the chance to stay there, I'd be writing a lot more than one or two posts as well as taking hundreds of pictures as it sounds absolutely wonderful and then some.  A castle in the mountains ... sigh ... 

iPhone At the Waldorf

Food was being served as well as drinks from several bars that were set up on each side of the room so I decided to get myself something and just stand back and take it all in for awhile before continuing around the room.  I could have pretty much had any kind of cocktail I wanted but I opted for a glass of Diet Coke.  Yea, I know, I'm pathetic! Not wanting to appear like too much of a yokel, I snapped the picture above using my iPhone while nibbling on mini-grilled cheese sandwiches towards the back of the room. I figured I'd keep the Nikon out of sight as nothing screams BLOGGER! more than taking pictures of everything and anything so I was going to fake sophistication even if it killed me and made for a picture-less and boring post! 

Finishing my drink and snack I waded back into the mob - and trust me, it was crowded! - to check out a few more properties and maybe snag a few more cool pieces of swag.  A lot of the hotels had neat little things that they were giving away but I hesitated in taking too much as I kept thinking that they were more for the "real" writers.  I did come home with a bag full of pretty cool things though which I'll show you later in the post.

The last group of people that I spoke with were from Omni Hotels & Resorts who just happen to have several historic properties that are high on my Bucket List - The Omni Parker House in Boston, the Omni William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh, and of course the Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire.  Those three historic hotels are my Holy Trinity of places that I someday really, really want to stay at as the history behind all of them is enough to make a history-lover like myself swoon! Omni owns twelve historic hotels in total but for now I'd be more than happy to start with those three!

I learned quite a bit about the Omni Mount Washington Resort while talking to Craig, the Director of Sales and Marketing, and I told him that he was a very lucky man to have the job that he did. He totally agreed with me and it was easy to tell that he loved his job as well as the company he worked for.  We talked about the history of the hotel as well as the history of the golf course (yep, it's historic, too!) and by the time we finished I was hankering to go there even more than I was before if that's at all possible!  Before I left he gave me what I thought was a pretty special gift which I'll show you in a minute when I show you pictures of all the goodies I brought home.

All in all I ended up being fairly relaxed by the end of the evening and not quite as self-conscious about being a blogger in the midst of a group of professional writers.  Almost everyone I talked to was quite friendly though of course there were a couple of people who were rather dismissive but I guess that was to be expected; my name badge did proclaim me to be a blogger after all but they were from places that I figured were way out of my league anyway.

Before I took my leave of the Waldorf=Astoria to catch my train back to Connecticut I decided to walk around and take just a few pictures.  After all, I probably will never get back there again except perhaps in passing and at that point I figured it was okay to look like a tourist in the very posh hotel.  Built in 1931 in the Art Deco style, the 47-story landmark hotel is a member of Hilton's Luxury and Lifestyle Brands with luxury being the operative word there! Even though I could delve into the hotel's rather interesting history I won't but will instead just show you a few pictures so you can get an idea of what it looks like inside.

Waldorf Astoria Clock

This gorgeous clock sits in the main lobby and had quite a few people taking pictures of it in addition to myself! 

Signage for Waldorf Astoria Clock

A Bank of Phones

Look!  It's a bank of black telephones like my
grandfather used to have!  I just had to take a picture! 

Waldorf Astoria Hallway

There were several shops and such down this hallway along with lots of woodwork and beautiful chandeliers overhead. 

Another Chandelier

I seem to have developed an affinity for chandeliers after cleaning the one at the Inn Victoria

Rainy New York Evening

Finally I decided that if I was going to catch the train that I wanted to get on in order to get back to Connecticut before it was too late (I did have to work in the morning after all) I had best get a move on and hie myself back down to Grand Central Terminal which was a relatively short walk from the Waldorf=Astoria.  The rain had stopped but the night was a bit murky looking as I made my way back down Park Avenue.

The Helmsley Building

One of the things that I love about New York is that I always feel like I've stepped back in time!

Grand Central Terminal

Rushing through Grand Central Terminal like everyone else I snapped one quick picture before I hopped on my train and made the trip back to New Haven where I picked up my car and made the last leg of my journey to Norwich and home. 

And now for all of those goodies that I told you about.  Once I got home and got everything all sorted out I found that I had quite a bit of "swag" from my evening in New York City.

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The whole "haul"

Business Cards & Stuff

Pens and brochures and business cards, oh my!

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A nail file from the Sagamore in Lake George, New York among other goodies

Mohonk Mountain Resort Swag

Scented soaps from the Williamsburg Inn, Virginia
and creams from the Mohonk Mountain House.

Business Cards

Business cards and flash drives are the way to go these days! Even the guitar holds a flash drive from The Peabody in Memphis!

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The ghost from the 1886 Crescent Hotel in Arkansas glows green at night!  I was kind of surprised to find that out!

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If I needed any help at all in trying to figure out where to travel next, this travel guide from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and map along with my flash drive from the Historic Hotels of America would certainly point me in the right direction! 

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See why I want to go there?  Isn't it absolutely beautiful??

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Even if I never get to stay at The Boston Park Plaza Hotel & Towers maybe I can get to the afternoon tea that they offer on weekends.  They say there that "tea is the new wine" and with one of the very few tea sommeliers in the country making her home at The Boston Park Plaza you just know it's got to be quite the experience!  

The Mount Washington Resort Book

Finally, what I consider to be the Pièce de résistanc of the Reception - the hard-cover book that I received from Craig of the Omni Mount Washington Resort that tells all about the history of the resort with plenty of pictures also. Just look at that cover, how could I not want to go there? Someday.  Someday I promise! 

In conclusion I want to say a big thank you to Juli of the wonderful Hawthorne Hotel for providing me with the opportunity to go to New York and find more wonderful places to put on my Bucket List and for believing in me as a writer so much as to recommend that I be invited.  Thank you also to the Historic Hotels of America for trusting Juli's judgment and inviting me; it truly was a wonderful experience!  

Comments

  1. Wow! Very cool.I have stayed at exactly one posh hotel and felt completely and utterly out of my element.

    Yes, flash drives are the way to go! Everyone wants digital. I have a few from my own industry's trade shows. The proverbial 'They' are trying to replace flash drives, print media and other media with QR codes, but I don't think anyone has figured out how to do that in a way that actually has any value to anybody.

    A hardcover book is a very expensive piece of trade show swag! Whoa! That would also be my favorite!

    Next time you attend one of these functions may I suggest that you list TheDistractedWanderer.com on your credentials badge rather than your blogspot blog? And perhaps have photo-business cards to exchange in case your badge is not scan-able or swipe-able. Something you can put into their hands to see and feel is always good!

    I hope you wake up one morning very soon to find that you are a paid travel Journalist!

    Big hugs xo

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Barb, thanks for stopping by and leaving such a nice comment! Just as an aside, when I received the invitation from HHA, I didn't have this blog yet hence the reason my other blog was on my name badge. I did have business cards with me listing this blog as well as my contact information that I handed out to a few people. As a matter of fact it sports a lovely picture from our cruise! I'll have to send you one so you can see!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think you do a great job with these posts. I've always enjoyed your historical photo essays. Keep taking chances and building up your confidence.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Add the Grand Hotel in Mackinac Island to your list and I'll go with ya. That's one of my bucket list hotels.

    Looks like you had a great time.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wonderful article. Your usual great job well done. I see Barb already suggested the business card for this site to pass around, but saw you had some already. If you do one for this site, I love that "on the road" picture. It certainly invites people to travel.

    ReplyDelete

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