This is an edition of the newsletter Pulling Weeds With Chris Black, in which the columnist weighs in on hot topics in culture. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Thursday.
Lost in the slow-building backlash against Airbnb—the discourse arguing that it is, essentially, cursed, with temporary landlords demanding that you spend the last hours of your work trip or vacation stripping bed sheets and taking out the trash—obscures a less talked-about truth: Trendy faux-boutique hotels often aren’t the move either. They are plagued with overwrought restaurant concepts, non-destination nightclubs, and, inside the rooms, oddly sexy bathrooms and unsightly decor and art (or even more inexplicably, record players).
I was never one for Airbnb—I see little appeal in surrounding myself with someone else’s knickknacks, even at a bargain rate. As for hotels, maybe it’s my age, but I believe they should offer a quiet and serene place to rest your weary head after days spent working or exploring. But somewhere along the way, we lost the plot—developers and hospitality brands started getting too creative. The goal seemed to be to create a money-making venture that you never have to leave. You sleep, eat, and party under one roof, and they rake in the cash generated by all of it. Las Vegas, but make it everywhere.
The thing is, when you’re traveling, even for work, most of your time should be spent outside the hotel. I don’t want to be entertained; I want a great bed and good water pressure, and I don’t want to feel the bass from the in-house nightclub vibrating my floor. The bathroom should be well-appointed and well lit. (And please, please don’t make the inside of the shower visible from the bed.) Plus, the “cooler” the hotel, the more issues you tend to have with room service—which is one of life’s last great small pleasures. The menu can be concise, even just the classics, but it needs to be available 24 hours a day. The omelet should be cooked perfectly, the french fries crispy, and the club sandwich perfectly portioned. The TV should be large and not require me to log in to my own Netflix account to watch three hours of Bar Rescue before dozing off. The internet should be fast and free, requiring me only to enter my last name and room number so I can send emails—I gave them every last piece of my personal information when I checked in.
I was just in Melbourne and Sydney, on How Long Gone–related business. While planning the trip, we were hit with several options for hotels in the faux-boutique mold. Then I saw the Grand Hyatt Melbourne on the list, and instantly knew it would be my home away from home. It wasn’t in a hip neighborhood (e.g., “The Williamsburg of Melbourne”). It was in what the city’s residents lovingly call the Paris End, surrounded by pristine streets with designer stores, excellent coffee, and a croissant place locals were willing to line up for. The accommodations were spot on: the room simple and clean, with a big bathtub and a nice shower, and the gym world-class, with a pool, tennis court, sauna, and steam room. The lobby was filled with well-trained hospitality professionals ready to help the guests, who were well-heeled world travelers with a respectable two pieces of luggage, and there was no DJ in sight. I’m always in the mix with cool people; when I’m staying at a hotel, all I want to see are older couples and business executives. When it comes to travel, at least, we could all learn something from them.