location location location

Who doesn't want to stay at a nice, comfortable hotel at an exceptionally low price? I do! Very often these accommodations are located in - euphemistically speaking - remote locations. The Spanish call it "en el culo del diablo" - in the devil's butt. And believe me, I've had my share!


If you want to stay at a really good price at the same hotel like four American presidents did before you, you cannot look in Manhattan, you have to go to Jersey City.

Ferry me across the water - do, boatman, do

My personal hotel lottery began in the early 1990s when I went for the first time - of course bye:myself - to the United States of America. I did not go to New York, I did not go to Los Angeles and neither to Miami. I did the hardcore tour of the deep, old South. Taking the Greyhound bus from South Carolina via Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi to Louisiana. This was in a time before this crazy new thing called Internet - essentially short after dinosaurs quit roaming the earth. Hence I bought a booklet with Greyhound vouchers to be used within 30 days and combed trough a hotel catalogue (book! paper!) where details like the distance to the city center were quoted, but I wasn't familiar with the US and thought, if the distance is five miles, there will be a perfectly functioning system of public transport, so what the heck. And of course the hotel would be located in a busy, busy area - nobody builds a hotel in the middle of nowhere, right? Wrong! Maybe the 'motel' in the name should have given me a hint, but I was such a US novice then. It dawned on me that things might be slightly different from what I was used to in Europe when the cab driver from the airport dropped me off at a small motel next to the freeway - but unfortunately next to nothing else. Oh no, that's not true, there was a "Wendy's" in the middle of a huge parking lot across the motel on the other side of the freeway.

Since the next day it was raining, I didn't have to solve the problem how to get to the center of Charleston from there. I stayed in bed watching TV - now here comes the pleasant bit of the story: I discovered what HBO is and that Oprah Winfrey is also a very talented actress because there was "The women of brewster place" on, a fantastic film after Gloria Naylor's fantastic debut novel. So go and see the film and read the book; and you don't even need to stay at an isolated motel run by Norman Bates for that.

After the movie was over, I walked over to "Wendy's" and got a bunch of burgers and laid on the bed, cried a little bit (because of my situation, not because of the film, although the film is extremely sad and disturbing - I'm telling you: watch it!) and watched anxiously the weather channel (also a new trinket to my European wealth of experience) for the rest of the day.

Contradicting the weather channel's prognosis, the next day it cleared up so that I was able to leave the motel and go downtown. Being European, to me going means walking. Especially since the lady at the motel told me that sometimes she did see a bus passing by, but she had no idea when, how often and where it's going. So I did this unbelievably European thing - I walked along the freeway towards Charleston. Everything went well after I stopped feeling funny because everybody passing by looked at me as if I was somehow funny. Everything went well till I came to this stupid bridge crossing a stupid wide river. This bridge has been constructed exclusively for cars. There was no way crossing it walking without getting hit by a car or falling over the below knee high railing. I had walked for over an hour, the city was right across the bridge, I could almost touch it - but no, no crossing. I turned and saw a big fancy hotel. Okie dokie - I walked back there and asked at the reception to call me a cab to carry me across the bridge - making the cab driver sort of a ferryman. And yes, I did feel moronic.

The old South - you can go with the wind, but you can hardly walk where you wanna go.

From this first experience with the American freeways and motels and distances and bridges I was much more careful choosing further accommodations (which didn't save me from experiencing a very similar situation at Elvis' birthplace Tupelo because uncrossable bridges sometimes can be found even downtown...).

Dawning of a new (booking) era

Now one might think that getting lost in the middle of nowhere was over with the wonderful invention of the internet and google maps and tripadvisor. Hold your horses - this was just a small step and a little help, but I still managed to end up in remote, inhospitable, unfriendly areas on a regular basis. I choose the word 'areas' because calling it neighborhoods would require neighbors, and often there aren't any.
I'm not talking about booking middle class hotels in New Jersey which cost a fractional amount of what you pay for a disgusting, tiny dump in Manhattan - only because they are on the 'wrong' side of Hudson River. You clench your teeth and commute every day with the working crowd from and to Jersey City to save a lot of money. That's a weighing of interests, that's a choice.

I'm talking about those 'even better deals' than the rooms downtown that you initially considered. Yes, the review on tripadvisor warned you that the place is far from everything, but these people are always so picky and sensitive. When you check it on google maps, it's only 7 km (approx. 5 mi) and there is a subway and a bus going there. On the map, it looks just round the corner, and the price for the room is really convincing, so what the heck.

Funny enough, once you're there, 7 km all of a sudden become quite far and the bus doesn't go as often as expected. It's also irritating when it leaves the urban area and, after passing some factories, rolls along meadows and fields. This happened to me in Munich, a city with 1.5 million inhabitants where you shouldn't be close to any meadows and fields.

Unintentional fusion dinner in Rome

And it happened to me in Rome, where the hotel was conveniently located at the final stop of the subway in the midst of a mall. Cool, it had four stars and was very cheap, let's go. Only they didn't tell you on the internet that you cannot walk from the last subway stop because it's on a channeling island and you would risk your life crossing one of the freeways. So I had to wait for a bus to take me to the very next stop which was literally across the road.

The wait was fun, though, because obviously there are many Russian immigrants living in that area and there was some sort of colorful Russian flee market taking place.
Then when I got to the - indeed very four star worthy - hotel, the mall next to it turned out to be specialized in household supplies and things of that sort. No boutiques, no drug stores, and most importantly no food court. After a long day sightseeing in Rome, after a very long trip down the entire subway route, after the wait on the Russian traffic island, I definitely didn't feel like going back downtown for a bite. That evening I had dinner at IKEA. I had Swedish meatballs. It's like they say: "When in Rome,..."

Hidden treasures in Verona

But this is still harmless compared to Verona, where I also found an Holiday Inn not too far from the center - unbeatable price including breakfast buffet. It was already a challenge to find the right bus, because nobody had heard of the hotel or the place - although it was just on the outskirts of Verona, but people are so oblivious to details. Anyway, finally I found a guy who not only new which bus to take, but who also had to take it and even got off at the respective stop. Turned out he worked at this Holiday Inn. That was a blessing because although the hotel was not far from the stop, we had to walk through some underpass and turn at corners and walk between construction sites (and I learned that 'Bella Italia' is just another dusty place when it comes to construction sites) - never ever would I have found the place without him! Although the building itself was very posh, it was standing on a traffic island next to the highway. This place was built for guests who are driving, who reach there from Julia's home in Verona within ten minutes by car.

I strongly object to this kind of discrimination of me being a declared non-driver.

Sheeps on the highway in Cagliari

Another driver's only hotel seemed to be the place in Cagliari, Sardinia's picturesque capital. Same procedure here: revues on tripadvisor do criticize the distance but mention at the same time a bus, so it cannot be so bad; and the price was unbeatable here, too.

Yes, there was a bus, but it took us there only halfway and then the driver explained us desultorily the way mentioning lots of rights and lefts. So after first going into the wrong direction for a while we realized that we had to turn back and followed the road that lead between run down car repair shops and wrecking yards behind high, barbed wire garnished fences. The German shepherds' fiercly barking and jumping against the fences gave the walk a more lively but not necessarily lovely twist. You wonder how a hotel in such a sinister surrounding lures guests in? It's easy: They are coming from the other side where the highway is. They don't see any of this B-film scenario.
As expected, the hotel was nice, we had a good night sleep.
The next morning I got up early. As I looked outside the window I saw a shepherd with a flock of sheep crossing the highway leading them towards a small forest.
This scenario was so surreal and said everything you need to know about the development of Sardinia; and the pristine location of this hotel.

When you wake up next to sheep in a big city, there's something wrong with your accommodation.

Begging for bread in Olbia

The cake takes the booking at a really sophisticated resort in Olbia at the Costa Smeralda in the East of Sardinia where all the celebrities go. We had rented a summer apartment on the much less snobby West coast, but had to spend one last night in Olbia before our flight. I'd found a room at this resort for like one third of the regular price and hit the button - mine! It's posh, so of course it's far from where local and ordinary people go. The last public bus goes there around six in the evening - dropping off and picking up mainly the employees - and that's it.
After we'd spend the afternoon at the elegant pool and on our verandah, around seven we felt like grabbing a bite. A look at the hotel's menu made us more hesitant but unfortunately not less hungry. Let's go for a walk, there will be something, this is Italy, there's food everywhere. Ya - nope, there wasn't. There was actually nothing at all. Dust. Rocks. One road. We walked and walked and then there was a construction site where nobody was constructing at this time of the day. But next to the construction site was a small wooden shack. No sign, but the door was open and there were three men playing cards and drinking something. Behind a counter stood a haggard lady. Needless to say that our entrance caused a short pause in what these people where doing; actually I had the feeling that not too many tourists from the sophisticated resort come to this place. "Ciao, do you have anything to eat?" The lady looked a bit puzzled and shook her head no. "Nothing at all?" "The only food I have is the left over bread from lunch." In Italy, as in many Southern countries, you get slices of white bread with your meal. I looked at my travel companion, remembering the souvenirs in my suitcase at the sophisticated resort: Sardinian farmer's sausage and a big chunk of Pecorino - sounds like a perfect panino, now we would only need the pane. "Would you be so kind to sell us the bread?" She hesitated, probably she thought we tried to play tricks on her. "You really want the leftover bread from lunch?" We nodded frantically. "Va bene, but you don't need to pay for it, I can just give it to you", she said putting the slightly dry slices in a paper bag. Oh my gosh, I had seldom felt so embarrassed - getting left over bread for free at a wooden shack in the...culo del diablo. We thanked her profusely, being particularly thankful for never seeing these people again in our lives.
The picnic on the verandah of the sophisticated resort was very pleasant - and quite Italian.


I know I could have avoided getting to know all these places by not being so cheap when it comes to hotels. But I refuse to pay a lot of money for resting there a couple of hours on the one hand, on the other hand I appreciate a good bargain; and I'm not driving - so that makes things a little more knotty.
On the other hand, I will never write a post about the many, many average hotels in average places I stayed at.

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