Last month, I wrote about some of the things we look for when choosing a place to stay: character, local ownership, cost, etc. We’ve stayed in plenty of places that fit those criteria, but here are some of the more welcoming, comfortable, and all around incredible places we’ve discovered:
St. Briavels Castle
I first stayed in this ancient Norman castle in 2007 while backpacking through England and Wales. I liked it so much that I returned in 2013 during a much shorter trip.
Today, the castle is a youth hostel, though all ages are welcome (I was not a “youth” during my last visit). It has large rooms that are particularly good for families, and of course as a hostel it’s inexpensive. The nearest major “site” is Tinturn Abbey, though there is also a very old church and graveyard just across the street from the castle. More than anything else, however, the castle and surrounding region are a pleasure to explore while pondering the hundreds of generations that have come to this place for war, lodging, safety, and celebration.
The Maze Inn
I’ve written about the Maze before, and I’m sure I will again. It’s set high in Rio de Janeiro’s Tavares Bastos favela, and was literally built by owner and British expat Bob Nadkarni. The Maze gives travelers stunning views of the city below, delightful breakfasts with whoever happens to be around, and an architectural wonderland that is somewhere between Gaudi and Tatooine.
It’s also worth pointing out that staying at the Maze means having a kind of culturally immersive experience that is often hard to find. Tavares Bastos is safe and pleasant, but it’s still a favela. And while “favela tourism” is something of a dirty word (for good reason), I do believe that respectfully visiting a location, engaging with people who live there, and spending money in locally-owned businesses can be a responsible way to learn about a place.
The Inca Inn
The Inca Inn is classic Americana. Located on the northern end of Moab, Utah, this little roadside motel is charming, clean, and friendly. It’s also inexpensive and located near some of the most stunning natural landscapes on earth: Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and the Colorado River.
The Inca has a good, included breakfast and is popular with European travelers. And in the end, it’s just a very good, simple motel with a very helpful staff.
Dar Chams Tanga
We arrived late one night in Tangier, Morocco, without a place to stay. After wandering the dark streets of the Kasbah, we ended up at Dar Chams Tanga. This sprawling guesthouse includes several rooftop patios from which to look out at the rest of Tangier’s old town, a sumptuous breakfast, and an elderly, French proprietor who doesn’t mind the language barrier. The interiors are filled with ornate woodwork and traditional Moroccan motifs.
Dar Chams Tanga is by far the most luxurious place on this list. But while it’s not extraordinarily cheap (the prices are fair), it is a worthwhile oasis in a bustling and often wonderfully chaotic city.
The Moore Hotel
A few weeks after my first stay at the Moore Hotel in Seattle, I mentioned to my grandparents — who are from Seattle — that I had found a charming old place just blocks from Pikes Place Market. When I told them the name, they both burst out about how iconic the Moore historically had been. Apparently at one time it was a major fixture in downtown Seattle.
Over the years, the hotel underwent various declines and revitalizations. Today, it’s the rare example of a budget friendly hotel with character in an American downtown. It’s easily accessible via public transit, is within walking distance to numerous destinations, and is my go-to hotel in the Pacific Northwest.
— Jim Dalrymple II