What it’s Like to Stay at the Hoshinoya Fuji: Hotel Review

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Hoshinoya Fuji Hotel Review

I immediately fell in love with Hoshinoya Fuji when I was browsing hotels in the area. We had plans to attend the Pink Moss festival, and while I was originally imagining a practical Airbnb near Kawaguchiko Station, those serene, modern rooms with Mt Fuji views hooked me.

Hoshinoya Fuji calls itself a “glamping resort”, a charming, if not entirely accurate label. Modernist guest “cabins” are connected in staggered rows along a wooded hillside facing Lake Kawaguchi, and you’re presented with a backpack full of camping essentials like bug spray and binoculars upon check-in. However, rooms offer all the creature comforts you’d expect from a luxury hotel, and feature stunning views of Mt Fuji.

Location

The location of Hoshinoya Fuji, set above Lake Kawaguchiko and directly across from Mt Fuji, was a major selling point for me. Sure, there’s no shortage of hotels in the area, but there’s fewer that can compete with the amazing views and luxury setting. (the other drool-worthy Fuji view hotel I was considering does have the added feature of onsen, but it’s twice the price!)

The hotel is a 20 minute taxi ride from Kawaguchiko Station, which is easily accessed from Tokyo. There’s a number of train and bus options that will get you to Kawaguchiko Station, including one direct Fujikyu Railways train. There’s onsite parking available as well if you’re driving.

Those who drive will find it easier to get around, but in general, a stay at Hoshinoya Fuji is best for rest and relaxation at the resort itself. With its location up on a hill, a bit away from town, you’ll want a car or taxi to leave the resort (though there are bicycles available to borrow if you’d like). Staff are happy to arrange a taxi and a ride down to the reception, but it’s a bit of a production. Taxi costs will also add up quickly.

This wasn’t an issue for us– in fact I appreciated those limitations. After 10 days running around Tokyo, I needed an excuse to relax.

Check-in

The resort is located on a hillside, up a winding, single lane private-access road. You’ll begin check-in at a small airy reception building at the foot of the hill, and select your preferred backpack to borrow from the large wall display. From there, staff drive you up the hill to check in at the main building, and deliver luggage directly to your room.

During check-in, staff will schedule your meal reservations and arrange sign-up for any activities you’d like to participate in. The two phase process and details to decide on mean that check-in takes a little longer, but you’ll be sitting with a glass of herbal tea and forest view for most of the process.

Note that check-in is only available from 3pm-9pm. You’ll want to contact the hotel beforehand if you must arrive outside of those hours.

The Room

We booked a D Cabin– described as King Bed with Mountain View on Expedia.

I’d recommend checking availability at Expedia and Booking.com first, as their room rates are significantly cheaper than booking directly through Hoshinoya. Hoshinoya’s booking process is also a little confusing, as they list rates per person, per night, so that what initially looks like a deal comes out to be quite a bit more expensive.

From reception, you’ll walk down to your private cabin. There’s umbrellas and rain boots for inclement weather just outside the door, and slippers inside.

We booked this stay roughly in the middle of a 2 1/2 week trip, sandwiched in between Tokyo and Osaka. The serenity of the setting was exactly what I needed, and I couldn’t resist sinking into the fluffy bed before snapping photos.

I thought the big cozy coats were such a cool touch, but as with everything else here, available sizes are tailored to the Japanese frame. Not an issue for me, but Devin looked like a giant trying to squeeze into the coat, with the sleeves stopping mid-forearm.

The large blackout curtain did a good, if not perfect, job of blocking light in the morning, and blinds can be lowered over the patio door as well.

With so much natural light coming in the window, additional lighting wasn’t necessary during the day. The soft lighting above the bed could be adjusted with controls on either side of the bed and by a panel by the door. There were ample outlets by the bed, along with a small radio.

The bathroom was simple and spacious, with a deep soaking tub and Japanese toilet with all the bells and whistles. The shower setup in our room was a little awkward, as more often than not, Japanese bathrooms have a separate shower area, rather than showering in the tub.

Basic amenities were provided, including moisturizer packets and a Hinoki and Mulberry scented bath packet that smelled divine. I do think they missed the mark on the shampoo, conditioner and body wash, though, which had a chemical salon shampoo type odor. Something more natural (1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge’s incredible cedar scented toiletries come to mind) would have been welcomed.

I’m a sucker for a bathtub with a view, so I made sure to book a room with a bathroom view. All rooms have Fuji views, but only the King Bed rooms have views from the bathroom as well. Our large bathroom window looked out over the balcony and toward Mt Fuji. (I kept the blinds down for modesty, but they can be completely lifted for an unobstructed view).

Bath with a view of Mt Fuji (when it’s not cloudy)

The huge balcony cushion is such a pleasant spot to relax, and those provided coats came in handy. We visited in early May, but due to the elevation it could still be a bit chilly during the day and cold enough to merit the provided coat at night.

If you stay during the winter, your balcony will be outfitted with a kotatsu (and a couple rooms have an old-fashioned wood stove on the balcony!). But I imagine the resort would be incredible during the summer; still warm, yet a welcome relief from the stifling heat of Tokyo.

If you wish, staff will light the sunken fireplace in your balcony ledge each evening. It doesn’t put off any real heat, but does contribute to the glamping aesthetic.

The Property

The resort is arranged in levels up the hillside, with rows of staggered cabins at the lower level. Only guests are permitted on the property, and the relatively small number of cabins means that you don’t need to jockey for lounge space up on the terraces.

It probably goes without saying, but the property is not handicap accessible. Those with limited mobility may be able to work with the hotel to arrange a cabin closest to the road and easier to access. However, the sheer abundance of stairs will make it difficult to enjoy the full resort.

Several flights of steps up from the guest rooms is the Dining Hall and staff desk, along with a small gift shop. You can grab a drink here in the evenings, as well as at the Cloud Terrace.

At the top level is the Cloud Terrace, with wide patios and plenty of cozy seating areas.

The small Library Cafe building at the Cloud Terrace offers refreshments, s’mores fixings, and small snacks throughout the day, along with books, newspapers and even blankets for chilly weather.

At night, old movies are projected onto the canvas shades, a nice selection of Japanese whiskey is available for sipping, and there’s even live music.

Beyond lounging at the resort, Hoshinoya Fuji offers a number of nature activities like canoeing and hiking that you can sign up for– most for an extra fee. There are also a couple free activities: aerial stretching, a short hike for children, and participation in wood chopping for the bonfire. We were tempted by the hike in Aokigahara forest, but less so by the 6am start time and $60 per person fees, and ultimately didn’t take advantage of any of the formal activities.

Food

If you’re staying at Hoshinoya Fuji, you’ll probably be eating most of your meals there. As I mentioned in the location section, you’ll want a car or taxi to leave the resort, and won’t find much within walking distance.

We hadn’t fully considered those logistics when we booked, and I was originally thinking we might eschew the resort’s dining options for cheaper fare. Fortunately, the food turned out to be fantastic, and the relative isolation was a good excuse to relax at the resort for a couple days without the usual city FOMO.

There are multiple dining options, including room service, for each meal. You could theoretically order every meal delivered to your cabin to be enjoyed with that gorgeous Mt Fuji view.

Staff will schedule your meals when you check in. However, if you’re intent on a particular schedule or dining experience, I’d recommend contacting the hotel ahead of time, as you may find that some options are already booked up on the evening of your arrival.

With so many steps, a room service cart won’t cut it here. Still, I was surprised to see our breakfast box delivered by a staff member wearing a huge metal framed backpack filled with all our goodies. The same held for our glamping curry shown below, even with all the heavy pots!

The breakfast box (about $25 a person) above, was a favorite, and one of the better values available. With fresh bread, salad, soup, omelet, sausage, veggies, yogurt, and granola, it’s a huge–and delicious– breakfast.

Dinner in the Dining Hall (about $90 a person), was also excellent.

Presentation is consistently careful and beautiful. The high quality fresh veggies in the appetizer paired with the miso dip were a revelation–and the server was kind enough to write down the recipe for the miso dip when I expressed interest.

The only meal we weren’t as impressed with was the glamping curry. This room service option looked awesome on paper, but fell a little flat. At around $50 for two people, it was comparatively economical, but the portion sizes were on the small side, and the food was just ok. The presentation was nice, and hewing to the rustic theme, they include small bottles of spices along with a heavy cast iron spice grinder to doctor up your curry if you like.

There are additional neat food experiences, like a Forest Pizza Workshop, and Dutch Oven dinner in the outdoor Forest Kitchen. With nicer weather, I’d have given one or both a try.

The Forest Kitchen is roped off when it’s not in use, so I wasn’t able to snap any photos of that dining area. But all of Hoshinoya Fuji’s outdoor dining spaces looked lovely, and I’d definitely recommend taking advantage of the beautiful setting to eat al fresco if weather permits.

Service & Amenities

When you check in, you’ll be asked to select a backpack from the wall to use during your stay. The backpack includes a headlamp, binoculars, bug spray, a small inflatable seating mat, refillable water bottle and biscotti. The biscotti is complimentary and the water bottle is yours to take home. All other items must be returned at the end of your stay.

While there is minimal lighting to assist in navigation throughout the resort at night, you will probably want that headlamp or the flashlight provided in your room. I loved that they didn’t go overboard with the nighttime lighting: it made a trip up to the Cloud Terrace feel a little more like an adventure.

I can’t believe I forgot to take a photo of it, but the room keys (real, solid keys!) include a wooden fob that doubles as a bird call. It’s a beautiful touch, and representative of how committed Hoshinoya Fuji is to the rustic aesthetic of the property, even in the small details.

Rooms are stocked with comfy cotton pajamas that I was very tempted to take home! (you can also purchase them in the gift shop). As with the coats, sizes are limited. Larger sizes are available on request, but only up to about a women’s large/ extra large.

Rooms are stocked with tea, coffee, tin camping style mugs and electric kettles. You’ll find a selection of juice and alcohol in the mini fridge, along with gelato and tinned meat (I wasn’t too eager to try that). The bottled water in the fridge is complimentary, and re-stocked daily, which I appreciated.

There’s no TV in the room for obvious reasons, however the WiFi is excellent, and free.

Hoshinoya’s custom Jeep Wranglers provide drop off and pick up anytime you’d like to come and go. Staff deliver and pick up luggage directly to and from your room.

Service was predictably great throughout our stay. Every staff member we interacted with spoke English, and was gracious and friendly.

We’d saved up some postcards to mail, which the staff quickly took care of for us, adding the nominal fees to our bill. Any dining or other purchases made at the resort are added to your bill, so there’s no need to carry a wallet (Service fees are added to dining, but tipping is not otherwise expected for handling luggage, etc.). If we’d stayed a little longer, I imagine I could have racked up quite a bill sampling Japanese whiskey each evening!

When I booked via Expedia, I remember seeing a note about a separate resort fee charged at the hotel, but there was no additional charge on our final bill.

Overall Impressions

This was an overall amazing stay! The modern glamping concept occupies a nice space in between standard hotels and more traditional ryokan type lodging, while still maintaining an atmosphere that feels distinctly Japanese. In my experience, photos vs reality of hotel views can often disappoint, yet the Mt Fuji views here are legitimately fantastic, and Hoshinoya Fuji lives up to its luxury moniker.


Check rates for Hoshinoya Fuji on Booking.com and Expedia


1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge Review

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Our Stay at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

We chose 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge for stay to visit friends in Brooklyn recently The hotel was gorgeous, though not without some minor flaws. Read on for all the details, but if you’re looking for a quick summary, I do recommend the hotel so long as you’re certain the location is right for you.

It wasn’t any cheaper to book directly through the hotel and they’re not part of any loyalty programs, so I booked the room as part of a package deal on Expedia, which netted me Expedia rewards for the purchase.

One of my favorite things about 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge was the rich smell of cedar at the entrance, a theme which continued in our room, with Cedar and Vetiver scented bath products. I usually stay away from hotel lotions due to perfume sensitivities, but theirs was a nice mild unisex scent.

The serene lounge area off the lobby. Nearly every space in the hotel seemed carefully thought out and matched to the overall aesthetic.

We booked a King Room with Statue of Liberty views, though really the views of lower Manhattan from our window were more impressive than the distant figure of the Statue of Liberty.

Rooms feature bedside iPads with thermostat control (useful when you wake up cold and don’t want to get out of bed), service requests, and hotel info.

Though not a large room, it was comfy enough for two people, and the open bathroom made it feel larger. The shower and toilet are next to each other in separate glass partitions, just beware there’s not a lot of, ahem, auditory privacy in the bathroom.

As part of their eco-friendly efforts, rooms feature taps with filtered water in lieu of bottled water. It’s a cool idea, but I didn’t love the taste of the water–and this in a city known for its water quality. Perhaps the filter needed to be changed?

Other amenities included free WiFi, complimentary cozy socks, and free pods for the Nespresso machine. I appreciate these little things when so many hoteliers seem to take the “luxury” label as an excuse to gouge on everything. You will pay the normal premium prices if you pull from the fully stocked mini bar, though it’s nice that there’s an effort made to include local booze and snacks.

I loved this little patch of green at the end of the bathroom counter (and there’s enough counter space that you don’t feel like it’s in the way).

The views of lower Manhattan were fantastic, and if you peered out the window to the left, the Statue of Liberty is (distantly) visible. If you look closely, you can see that the window is a actually a French balcony. The middle section of the window slides open, which was so nice to let in the warm air and listen to the city sounds.

So, circling back to my initial comment about location, 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge is convenient to the Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO area, though about a 10 minute walk to the closest subway station. There is a ferry stop very close by, which will take you to lower Manhattan and Williamsburg. The ferry is scenic, if not the fastest mode of transport.

We chose the area because it’s close to friends we were visiting, but found that even then we spent more time in hipper Williamsburg, which features far more late night bars and restaurants.

When we wanted to pop into a drugstore for a forgotten toiletry around 11pm on a Saturday, we were surprised to find that while there were multiple Duane Reades open 24 hours across the river in lower Manhattan, there weren’t any open drugstores within a reasonable walking distance of the hotel.

The hotel itself is lovely, but the area sometimes seems more designed for transport by cars, and we ended up taking more Ubers than we’d planned. Do note that the hotel offers free rides within a 3 miles radius in their house Tesla–that is if you can snag it. Rides are on a first come, first serve basis, and we unsurprisingly weren’t able to catch the car when it was free over the busy holiday weekend.

I love the idea of rooftop bars, but very often they’re super scene-y and overpriced. 1 Hotels Brooklyn Bridge has a rooftop bar with incredible views, and yeah, it’s scene-y and overpriced.

The good news is guests don’t have to wait in the long lines on the weekends, just take the elevator directly up. The bad news is that even though there’s a dedicated rooftop line outdoors and a separate elevator for the bar, the hotel was often crawling with people trying to get up to the bar, or jumping in the guest elevators only to be confused that it went nowhere without the required keycard.

There’s also a plunge pool on the rooftop, though it wasn’t open yet during our stay in late May (perhaps this is why we weren’t charged the laughable $19 a day “resort fee” that Expedia mentions?). While looking for a spot nearby for drinks with friends, we also discovered that the bar closed at the bafflingly early hour of 8pm

The small section of the rooftop that was open during our stay didn’t carry through as well with the hotel’s immersive aesthetic, and at any rate was too crammed with people to take any attractive photos. There was a roped-off seating area to one side with tables that could be reserved, and the rest was first come, first serve.

Given all of the above, perhaps they’re still working out the kinks. At this point, I’d recommend taking a quick jaunt up to the roof to check out the views, just don’t waste your money on the perfunctorily served and mediocre $20 drinks.

Reaching the end, I feel like I’ve criticized enough that I should reiterate that we really did enjoy our stay! It’s a gorgeous hotel, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it–just be sure its limitations fit well with your travel plans.

Book 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge on Expedia

Book 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge on Booking.com

Book 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge on Hotels.com

7 Best Airbnb Competitors to Turn to When Airbnb is Booked

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Airbnb Competitors & Alternatives 2020

I’m a longtime fan of Airbnb, and still sometimes book with them. But with Airbnb’s frequent unwillingness to provide decent customer service and their recent hidden camera problems, I always take a look at all of my options before booking!

In addition, as Airbnb’s popularity has exploded in the past couple of years, the best rentals are often booked up.. Turns out there’s quite a few alternatives to Airbnb, from luxury vacation rental sites, to budget friendly options like housesitting. Stay away from the scammy rental sites out there, and book your next vacation with one of these:

Best Airbnb Competitors Quick Comparison Chart:

Airbnb AlternativeBest ForPrice Range 

Flipkey
Families, couples, singles, business travelers $ - $$$

Homeaway/ VRBO
Families, couples, singles, business travelers$ - $$$

Booking.com
All travelers!$ - $$$

Love Home Swap
Families, Couples$

Kid & Coe
Families$$ - $$$

Housesitting
Couples, flexible travelers$

Flipkey

Flipkey Airbnb Competitor

Flipkey is TripAdvisor’s vacation rental site, so in addition to details and reviews of each property, they’ve integrated their lists and reviews of tourist attractions. Each property listing includes a list of the attractions that the rental is close to! You’ll find a good variety of rentals worldwide, from budget conscious to high end. Compared to Airbnb, they’re a little lighter in their selection of rentals in less touristy areas, but worth checking out unless you’re headed somewhere truly obscure.

Homeaway & VRBO

Homeaway and VRBO vacation rentals

Homeaway and VRBO are sister websites, and very similar, but you may find slightly different rental listings on each. They’re both similar to Flipkey, with a nice selection of rentals around the world, and some surprisingly reasonable prices (less than $200 a night for an apartment in Paris? yes please!). If you’re a fan of renting private homes and apartments on Airbnb, you should definitely consider this Airbnb competitor.

Booking.com

So you’re probably familiar with Booking.com as a hotel booking site, but did you know they offer vacation rentals as well? If you’re on the fence, you can choose to see results for both in your search, making it easier to find the best deal. A quick search for last minute Tokyo stays showed some sky high hotel prices, but a number of reasonably priced apartments still available. The variety and ability to compare with hotels makes Booking.com one of my go-to Airbnb competitors.

Love Home Swap

Love Home Swap offers up an interesting twist among Airbnb alternatives: join a community willing to “swap” homes for vacation. You stay at their home or apartment, and they stay at yours. Granted, you’ll probably need to be in a desirable area to make this work, but the perks are huge, given how much you’d pay to rent a home. If you can’t get your vacation planning to line up, you can also swap for points, meaning that you let a family stay at your home (and maybe head to the in-laws for a week), accruing points that can be used towards a future stay at someone’s home.

Kid & Coe

Kid & Coe, as the name implies, caters specifically to travelers with children. It’s a higher end vacation rental site, with a curated selection of homes that already have the necessities that parents might stress over when traveling. Think high chairs, cribs, and safe, kid friendly neighborhoods. The selection is on the pricey side, but if you’ve got the funds, it’s a fantastic Airbnb alternative for parents.

Housesitting

Housesitting requires some flexibility, along with responsibility, as many homeowners are looking for someone to care for their pets. But it’s an awesome way to stay in home and areas that you could never afford to otherwise. Trusted Housesitters is one of the major reputable housesitting sites. You’ll pay a yearly membership fee, and can apply to as many housesits around the world as you’d like! Just keep in mind that the timing of your vacation/housesit revolves around the homeowner, and you’ll have to be quick to snag the best housesits.

Hotels!

Yeah, yeah, I get it. Airbnbs and hotels are often very different experiences. But I more frequently find myself reconsidering vacation rentals lately for a number of reasons.

Oftentimes hotels are simply a better deal. Now that cities are aggressively taxing vacation rentals, taxes plus the platform and cleaning fees can tack on an additional 25%+ a night. A nice hotel is often actually cheaper than a comparable rental.

There’s also some legitimate ethical and legal concerns with short term rentals. Even if you don’t have reason to believe the rental is negatively affecting the local housing market or creating frustrations for neighbors, many rental sites don’t do a great job of policing legal rentals. Finding out halfway through your vacation that your rental is illegal isn’t exactly a formula for a stress-free vacation.

6 Creepy Halloween Airbnb Rentals Around the World

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I’m a fan of unusual vacation rentals no matter what the season, but what better time than Halloween to rent a spooky hideaway? Here’s 6 creepy Airbnb rentals that I’m dreaming of staying at this Halloween–just not alone!

p.s. see last years list here

6 Creepy Halloween Airbnb Rentals Around the World | Thought & Sight 6 Creepy Halloween Airbnb Rentals Around the World | Thought & Sight1. Decaying Creole Mansion

This stunning New Orleans mansion would have just the right amount of creepiness once the sun went down (and let’s be honest, I also chose it because it feels like Lestat might wander in at any moment). But if you’re looking for potentially rich history–and maybe a spirit or two to summon by name:

Maison Vitry was built for Free Woman of Color, Louise Vitry and her French consort, Archille Courcelle in 1855. The house was subject of an 1858 Louisiana Supreme Court Decision in which Louise Vitry was allowed to keep her house and her 7 slaves prior to Civil War.

6 Creepy Halloween Airbnb Rentals Around the World | Thought & Sight 6 Creepy Halloween Airbnb Rentals Around the World | Thought & Sight 6 Creepy Halloween Airbnb Rentals Around the World | Thought & Sight 2. 1880s Old West Jail

How about Halloween night in an historic jail dating back to the 1880s? This jail turned bed and breakfast in Anaconda, Montana has been renovated with creature comforts like full bathrooms. However, the bars on each room remain –bars that could slam shut in the middle of the night, trapping you in a room with a vengeful ghost.

6 Creepy Halloween Airbnb Rentals Around the World | Thought & Sight6 Creepy Halloween Airbnb Rentals Around the World | Thought & Sight3. The Haunted Bedroom at Talliston

Rent a room in an Essex home that recreates the bedroom of an Edwardian child, complete with plenty of creepy, gothic details. No word on whether it’s actually haunted, but the owners promise you’ll experience “sounds of ocean at base of cliffs outside windows”, and “unexplained smells and sounds.” The entire house is worth a look, with 13 rooms that recreate various locations and time periods.

6 Creepy Halloween Airbnb Rentals Around the World | Thought & Sight 6 Creepy Halloween Airbnb Rentals Around the World | Thought & Sight4. Historic Ship Crew Quarters

Stay in the crew quarters of an 1896 Dutch ship on the River Thames. Is that the moaning of a ghost, or just the wind and water? Also, I’d watch out for that shady stuffed monkey.

6 Creepy Halloween Airbnb Rentals Around the World | Thought & Sight 6 Creepy Halloween Airbnb Rentals Around the World | Thought & Sight 6 Creepy Halloween Airbnb Rentals Around the World | Thought & Sight5.Transylvanian Cottage

This Romanian shepherds hut might skew to quaint, if it weren’t in set in the Carpathian mountains (yeah, that Carpathian)–near historical Transylvania. But just because it’s the perfect setup for every B horror movie you’ve ever seen doesn’t mean it’s haunted, or surrounded by zombies. I mean, probably not.

6 Creepy Halloween Airbnb Rentals Around the World | Thought & Sight 6 Creepy Halloween Airbnb Rentals Around the World | Thought & Sight 6 Creepy Halloween Airbnb Rentals Around the World | Thought & Sight6. Quing Dynasty House

The hosts look super sweet, and I bet this historic home in rural China would actually be an amazing stay…but could you really pick a better place to take a midnight walk and stumble upon a mournful spirit?


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6 Spooky Airbnb stays for Halloween

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6 Spooky Airbnb stays for Halloween | Thought & Sight

1. Haunted Chamber Apartment

At the top of my list is this 600 year old haunted “madness chamber” in North Yorkshire, UK! Spooky, gothic vibes, and the promise of a haunting? The stuff of Halloween fantasies.

6 Spooky Airbnb stays for Halloween | Thought & Sight 6 Spooky Airbnb stays for Halloween | Thought & Sight2. Laura’s Cottage

Snag this spooky 18th century cottage in Savannah, Georgia for great local shopping and fine dining…or cozy up and wait for things to go bump in the night.

6 Spooky Airbnb stays for Halloween | Thought & Sight 6 Spooky Airbnb stays for Halloween | Thought & Sight3. Irish Castle

This gloomy medieval castle in Galway is secluded in the Irish countryside, so no one will hear you scream! (just kidding, your hosts will actually be staying downstairs, ready to cook up a tasty breakfast after your spine-tingling night).

6 Spooky Airbnb stays for Halloween | Thought & Sight 6 Spooky Airbnb stays for Halloween | Thought & Sight4. Haunted Victorian House

Sure, it’s possible that the only scary thing about this Midwestern Victorian home is the photo filtering, but be warned that there are no refunds if you flee from ghosts in the middle of the night!

6 Spooky Airbnb stays for Halloween | Thought & Sight 6 Spooky Airbnb stays for Halloween | Thought & Sight5. NOLA Backyard Shack

Just see if this bare-bones New Orleans shack doesn’t conjure up visions of voodoo and tormented spirits. The most rustic of the bunch, but at $50 a night, you’ll have plenty of cash leftover to participate in the local festivities.

6 Spooky Airbnb stays for Halloween | Thought & Sight 6 Spooky Airbnb stays for Halloween | Thought & Sight6. Inaka Home

This traditional house in a small Japanese village is lovely and spooky….and perfect for those of us who’ve overindulged on Japanese horror films (am I the only one who’s still sort of afraid of The Ring?)

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A Stay at Cincinnati’s Art Deco Netherland Plaza Hotel

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This seems to be turning into art deco week on the blog, but I couldn’t wait to share these! We were in Cincinnati recently for my brother’s wedding, and stayed a night at the Hilton Netherland Plaza Hotel.

This downtown art deco gem was first opened in the Carew Tower complex in 1931 as the Netherland Plaza Hotel. Nowadays the Hilton brand has been tacked onto the name, and while guest rooms are much the same as you’d find at any Hilton location, the hotel is worth a visit for the lobby area and neat art deco details scattered throughout the building. Here’s some of the best bits of the hotel:

A Visit to Cincinnati's Art Deco Netherland Plaza Hotel | Thought & Sight

Once the hotel’s grand lobby, this space has been restored and converted into the “Palm Court” bar and dining area. The Louis XV style murals along the ceiling are a bit of a departure from the overall French art deco style of the hotel, but they are part of the original decor.

A Visit to Cincinnati's Art Deco Netherland Plaza Hotel | Thought & Sight A Visit to Cincinnati's Art Deco Netherland Plaza Hotel | Thought & SightThe incredible, locally made Rookwood Pottery ram’s head fountain sits at the end of the dining room, with Louis Grell murals on the ceiling above depicting the hunt of Diana, and Apollo on his chariot.

A Visit to Cincinnati's Art Deco Netherland Plaza Hotel | Thought & Sight A Visit to Cincinnati's Art Deco Netherland Plaza Hotel | Thought & Sight A Visit to Cincinnati's Art Deco Netherland Plaza Hotel | Thought & Sight A Visit to Cincinnati's Art Deco Netherland Plaza Hotel | Thought & Sight

Chandelier and Louis Grell murals (with the message “Welcome Travelers”) above the entry staircase.

A Visit to Cincinnati's Art Deco Netherland Plaza Hotel | Thought & Sight

A Visit to Cincinnati's Art Deco Netherland Plaza Hotel | Thought & Sight A Visit to Cincinnati's Art Deco Netherland Plaza Hotel | Thought & Sight

A Visit to Cincinnati's Art Deco Netherland Plaza Hotel | Thought & Sight

Carew Tower was envisioned as a multi-use building before the concept was commonplace, offering shopping and office space in addition to the hotel. This unique vision ended up being financier John Emery’s salvation in 1929. After being declined for a bank loan because the building concept was unconventional, Emery ignored his financial advisers and sold his stocks and securities to finance the project. Not long after, the stock market crashed, wiping out the fortunes of many–but not Emery, who was able to continue with construction in the aftermath.

The shopping arcade features these fantastic floral Rookwood Pottery tiles at both entrance arches. (More info on Rookwood in this post).

A Visit to Cincinnati's Art Deco Netherland Plaza Hotel | Thought & Sight A Visit to Cincinnati's Art Deco Netherland Plaza Hotel | Thought & Sight

If you’re thinking about seeing the hotel in person, you can easily stop in and wander through the hotel without spending a dime (ok, maybe on parking). But I’d recommend using the grandness of the Palm Court bar as a very valid rationale to sit down and have a drink or two.

8 Quirky Airbnb Apartments in Cuba

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Now that travel restrictions have been eased, I can’t be the only American dying to visit Cuba before it gets turned into a giant spring break resort. And because we really needed more reasons to while away hours browsing airbnb, they have announced that they’re now accepting Cuban listings!

You can find some completely renovated luxury apartments amongst the Cuba airbnb listings, but I’m digging the vintage, lived-in charm of many of the offerings. Here’s 8 of my picks for that trip to Havana someday:

8 Quirky Airbnb Apartments in Cuba | Thought & Sight1. This gorgeous four bedroom colonial apartment in Havana has high ceilings, so much natural light, and multiple balconies looking onto the street (and the waterfront Malecón, if you peer down the street just a bit). At just $105 a night, you could go with a group of friends and end up paying less than you would for a hostel.

8 Quirky Airbnb Apartments in Cuba | Thought & Sight2. A cute, colorful two bedroom apartment in Havana, at only $55 a night!

8 Quirky Airbnb Apartments in Cuba | Thought & Sight3. A more luxe option that offers plenty of character, the Villa Caridad sits in a quiet neighborhood of Havana, and is still just $160 a night.

8 Quirky Airbnb Apartments in Cuba | Thought & Sight4. This colonial style townhouse in Havana is beautiful, if a tad dated. But you won’t find me complaining about the gloriously pink bathroom, and it’s a steal at $55 a night!

 

8 Quirky Airbnb Apartments in Cuba | Thought & Sight

5. This Havana luxury villa makes the cut despite my suspicions that their photos are in fact scanned in from a 60s home decorating magazine. This crazy time capsule will set you back $172 a night.

8 Quirky Airbnb Apartments in Cuba | Thought & Sight6. An airy, minimalist apartment in the heart of Havana for $120 a night. I’m sold on the wonderful courtyard facing balconies and all that peaceful blue.

8 Quirky Airbnb Apartments in Cuba | Thought & Sight7. Stay at this adorable Cuban grandmother’s house in Havana! The last decor updates were in the 80s, but seriously, no snarking. This is fucking delightful (and only $25 a night).

8 Quirky Airbnb Apartments in Cuba | Thought & Sight8. The biggest splurge at $222 a night, this restored villa boasts a pool and tons of outdoor living space.

 

(top photo source)

 

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Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey

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Grand Budapest Hotel Lookalikes

Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey

I walked out of Wed Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel dying to take a trip to the fictional (but why?!) Grand Budapest, as it was in the 1930s. While there is no “real” Grand Budapest to journey to, production designers took inspiration from real historic hotels– and I’ve dug up some great lookalikes!

In no particular order, 6 amazing real-life hotels that will help fill the Grand Budapest shaped hole in your heart:

1. Taleon Imperial Hotel

Far from the alpine setting of the Budapest, the Taleon Imperial Hotel sits on the Moika River in St Petersburg, Russia. This luxury hotel boasts a salmon pink facade and predilection for red in the interior design that can’t help but bring to mind our imaginary hotel.

Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey

2. Grandhotel Pupp

Cited by the production designers as one of their sources of inspiration, the Grandhotel Pupp in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic has retained much of it’s historic elegance, though sadly you’ll find neither 30s nor 60s design in the sleek and modern baths.

Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey

However, you will find a dead ringer for the Budapest’s deer overlook in the town of Karlovy Vary!

Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey

And, if you needed a little more inspiration to visit Karlovy Vary, check out the facade of the Bristol Palace Hotel, almost certainly a source of inspiration for the Grand Budapest:

Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey

3. Hotel Gellert

The stunning thermal baths are the draw at Hotel Gellert in Budapest, Hungary, as the guest rooms seem to have been mostly recently updated in the early 80s. Day visitors can pay to use the baths (which are actually run separately from the hotel), so stay elsewhere, bring your swim cap and hope that Ralph Fiennes will be there waiting for you ;)

Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey

4. Grandhotel Giessbach

The historic Grandhotel Giessbach sits high above Lake Brienz, in Switzerland, and offers access from the pier below via a funicular railway! (In retrospect, I ought to have prioritized the list and made this number 1, purely on the strength of the funicular.)

Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey

5. New York Palace

Part of what makes the Grand Budapest Hotel feel so grand is the multi-story open atrium lobby. The second Budapest hotel on the list, the New York Palace, has a similarly stunning atrium lobby. (If you like the atrium lobby concept, check out my post on West Baden Springs Hotel here in the US.)

Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey

6. Hotel Miradouro

If you’re looking for the 1960s vibe that Jude Law’s young writer encountered on his visit to the Grand Budapest, Hotel Miradouro in Porto, Portugal is just the ticket, with some pretty fantastic original 60s decor!

Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey

The Historic West Baden Springs Hotel at French Lick Resort

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A Stay at the Gorgeous West Baden Springs Hotel

After an hour on a two-lane state route winding through the country– accompanied by much anticipation– we rolled up to the magnificent West Baden Springs Hotel, nestled just outside a small town in the rolling hills of Southern Indiana.

In the hotel’s heyday in the 1910s and 20s, it offered a host of entertainment options including mineral springs baths, two golf courses, bowling, a theater, and a covered two-story bicycle track! Nowadays, with the springs sealed over and entertainment options rather more limited, the grandness of the hotel feels a bit out of place.

Restored after years of dilapidation and neglect, today the West Baden Springs hotel is part of a resort complex that includes a second historic hotel, casino and golf course, and is a mere hour’s drive from Louisville.

Clearly it would be unfair to imply that there is nothing to do in the vicinity of this historic gem; for us, the hotel was a destination in itself.


The stunning domed atrium. All that gorgeous natural light!

West Baden Springs hotel was opened to great fanfare in 1902, advertised as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” and boasted the world’s largest free span dome (an achievement not overtaken until the 1960s by Houston’s Astrodome).

When the depression hit 27 years later, the hotel limped along for several years, until it was closed and then sold to a Jesuit seminary for just $1.

Rooms at West Baden Springs Hotel

The circular hotel offers rooms that overlook the domed atrium, as well as rooms with exterior views. We got a balcony room overlooking the atrium, which was well worth the splurge.

The view was gorgeous, and even with the cold winter weather outside, it was surprisingly warm and cozy out on the balcony.

And our lovely room! (continuing my grand tradition of never remembering to take hotel photos until I’ve messed up the bed).

I love having a separate water closet!

The Lobby and Amenities at West Baden Springs

If you can pull yourself away from your balcony, the large lobby is beautifully restored, with plenty of spaces for lounging.

Looking out into the atrium from inside the cozy hotel bar.

The indoor pool. There is a second pool out the doors just to the right…and it did look like it was heated, but we weren’t keen on venturing into the cold to try it out!

The hotel even has a small museum, with historical information and items like the original hotel china.

Above, the exterior entrance to the dining room. While the majority of the restoration of the restaurant was unremarkable, the ceiling was quite lovely, and I wish I’d thought to snap a photo with my dslr, but see my Instagram here.

The Hotel Grounds

The grounds are no doubt prettier and much more pleasant to explore in the summer (which, not coincidentally is the hotel’s high season), yet there’s something really wonderful about basking in the warmth and abundance of natural light in the atrium in the middle of the winter. Still, we took some time to explore the grounds before retreating back into the cozy atrium.

Above and below, two of the original springs houses. Sadly, the springs were sealed over by the Jesuit school that occupied the hotel for three decades, in part because they were prone to flooding.

West Baden Springs Hotel at French Lick Resort  | Thought & Sight
photo source

The building and grounds in their original splendor, and then in disrepair in 1995 after enduring wear and dismantling at the hands of the school, followed by nearly a decade of abandonment.

West Baden Springs Hotel at French Lick Resort  | Thought & Sight
photo source
West Baden Springs Hotel at French Lick Resort  | Thought & Sight
photo source

And a couple more to illustrate the incredible amount of restoration work that had to be done!

West Baden Springs Hotel at French Lick Resort  | Thought & Sight
photo source