Monday, May 10, 2010

chic & basic.

when it comes to choosing hotels, i take my time. although i also believe in spending the least possible amount of time in my hotel room, i still consider lodging an important detail of the trip.

my travel budget is never huge and, therefore, i cannot just pick the swankiest hotspot in town. nonetheless, i do not go for the cheapest alternative, nor do i select based on stars – grading or lodging – but try to find a combo that includes a reasonable price, an interesting location and a special orientation to design. sometimes design just means the place has crazy personality, not your average idea of a design hotel, but i'm sure you get the point...

it's not easy to find a compromise, but as i wrote before about hotels i recommend in nyc, amsterdam and paris, there are always a few that work.

my nyc recommendations could benefit from the addition of ace hotel to the list, based on hearsay.

this time i did my research unaware of the dynamics of the city, and at first chose casa camper, located in the middle of el raval. unfortunately they were booked full for a part of our trip and i had to turn elsewhere.

i stumbled repeatedly into a hotel that was named rather cheesily, chic & basic, but after browsing their site, decided to give them a go. the area, el born, a part of the old city next to parc de la ciutadella, said nothing to me and was not mentioned too favorably by anyone i asked. people knew it was dubbed as a fashion neighborhood, but the idea i got was somewhat vague.

as our choice, the hotel was spot on. el born turned out to be touristy – as all barcelona is – but classy and trendy. the street grid was the same style as everywhere in the ciutat vella (old city) – that is, intimate and cosy compared to the city above plaza catalunya – but the neighborhood seemed significantly cleaner than el raval. there were numerous excellent restaurants and the most interesting boutiques were pretty much around the corner. we were still a decent distance from the rambla ('decent' meaning 'far enough'), but close to everything including the beautiful park where we spent two afternoons relaxing. as a location you cannot do much better than el born, really.

as far as the design goes, the entire hotel was constructed of sleek white surfaces inside an old private residence. the spacious room (size large, they also have medium and xl) consisted of a huge white bed, a glass shower in the middle of the room and details from the old palazzo. needless to say, the glass facilities do restrict the occupants to the less bashful kind...

there was a continuous stylistic choice throughout the hotel: plastic "bead" curtains that hid the entrances to the rooms and also acted as light curtains inside the actual rooms where a led lighting system could be altered to suit your mood. in the hallways the led lights created an almost eerie mood. the cleverest little detail were the shaped cushions that could be used as nightstands, backrests, chairs, etc. – made of white leather, naturally.

the hotel had definitely lived past its days of glory as the hottest spot in town, but had not suffered terribly from the wear and tear despite the fact that the material choices spoke more of ingenuity than big cash. thus, although slightly pricey for the overall quality, i do recommend it based on the atmosphere, cleanliness and service. major plus for the firm beds – and can someone explain me why hotel sheets seem so incredibly soft compared to even good quality linens at home...

others hotels in the neighborhood we stumbled across that seemed interesting – and were a tad more affordable – we'll try next time: ciutat and banys orientals.

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