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Ten Favorite Hotels

Gary Lee

I am leaving The Post as of Nov. 2, so this is my final blog in this space. As the Post travel writer assigned to the hotel beat for the past seven years, I have had the good fortune to critique hundreds of accommodations all over the world. I toured a couple of thousand properties, including bed-and-breakfasts, inns and hotels with zero to seven stars. I have tested the sturdiness of beds, checked the thread count of sheets and the quality of linens and pillows, looked for views, called room service, ordered gin and tonics in lobby after lobby, and munched on English muffins in many a downstairs breakfast room. Nearly every place -- even those with bouncy box springs and no hot water -- intrigued me. I would go back to most of the hotels I have stayed for a second stay.

A few stood out. I list here 10 of my most beloved properties in different parts of the world. Like favorite destinations, favorite hotels change every day. Ask me tomorrow and this list may be totally different. They were all selected according to my own subjective, sometimes whimsical, tastes. The price ranges vary wildly. Some rooms go for as little as $35 a night, others for $1,000 a night The only thread that links these properties is that they all have a special way of blending with ease into their surrounding environments.

1. The Merrion, Dublin . The collection of original art, spacious rooms and fine attention to detail would make this a property worthy of a one-in-a-lifetime trip anywhere. But manager Peter McCann's charm, warmth and helpful sprit are what makes this place purely Irish -- and sets it apart from other top Dublin hotels.

2. Explora Atacama, Chile This resort in the midst of the breathtaking Atacama desert in the north of Chile is a relaxing base for a nature getaway. Great service, excellent guides -- the whole experience leaves you feeling as close to nature as you can get.

3. International House, New Orleans The Louisiana-made wooden beds, slow-whirling ceiling fans and other fine furnishings make this boutique property near the French Quarter a real Big Easy original. The lively lobby bar and the warm staff provde a special Southern flavor.

4. The Taschenberg Palais, Dresden, Germany. This baroque palace, just across from the Dresden opera, does an impressive job of blending 18th-century grandeur with up-to-the-minute technology. And that blend is what this corner of Germany is all about.

5. The Mondrian, Hollywood. With its simply furnished but very hip rooms, this property captures all the cool of surroundiing L.A. Of all the properties fashioned by boutique hotel czar Ian Shrager, it's the one that hits all the right notes. And if you tire of looking at the words "sleep" and "think" stencilled on the walls in your room, there's always a crazy scene in the Skybar downstairs, one of the trendiest nightspots in very trendy Hollywood.

6. The Pelican, Port of Spain, Trinidad. The beds here are not the most comfy, the furniture is basic and the music from the downstairs pub sometimes rises just when you're trying to catch a wink. But then, it wouldn't be Port of Spain without funkiness and above all, music. The staff here is friendly and helpful.

7. The Inn at Woodyard Farms, Pawhuska, Okla. This four-room bed-and-breakfast in the small city of Pawhuska, Okla., about an hour from Tulsa, feels so much like Grandma's house I am always reluctant to leave it. There are rocking chairs and patchwork quilts, and homemade ginger snaps in a jar on a side table. Breakfast -- a sagging table of homemade biscuits, fresh-baked ham and whatever else you want -- could easily serve as your one meal of the day. Innkeeper Carol Maupin mothers every guest. It's a short drive to a wildlife preserve where bison roam freely.

8. The Art Hotel, San Francisco. Every room here is painted and decorated by a different local artist and most of them are personal, whimsical and fun. You never know what kind of personality your room will have or what kind of character you'll run into in the lobby. But then, that's San Francisco, isn't it?

9. Bahia Othon Palace Hotel, Salvador Bahia, Brazil. With its 1970s decor, this place has not kept place with the trendier options along the ocean in this Brazilian enclave. But many details -- from the dark wood paneling throughout the property to the way the warm breezes sweep into the rooms -- link it strongly to the myterious culture in the surrounding city.

10. Ladera, St. Lucia. With its breathtaking views of the Piton mountains and rooms with one wall open to nature, this place brings you about as close as you can get to the nature of the Caribbean. But it does so with warmth and elan. If I were to plan a honeymoon, this would be high on my list of places to stay.

What are your favorite properties? Which do you think could be added to this list?

P.S. -- Any of you blogging fans with queries about hotels or other travel matters should feel free to shoot me an e-mail at askgarylee@gmail.com.

By Gary Lee |  November 2, 2007; 9:33 AM ET  | Category:  Gary Lee , Hotels
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Gary - thank you for all your fabulous stories over the years. You are one of my favorite reporters and your work will be missed. I am pleased to know that I have stayed at one of your favorites - International House - what a fabulous hotel - and the restaurant and bar were wonderful too. I loved the spacious dual head showers! And, Ladera is on my list of hotels to stay in...the three sided rooms with plunge pools look so enticing. Best wishes to you in all you do in the future! Signed, a fan from orignially from Virginia!

Posted by: Philly, PA | November 2, 2007 10:18 AM

Gary, thanks for the farewell post. There are some great ideas there. Calling Oklahoma my home, it is great to see that spot included and I'll have to make sure to visit it when home to see family. Thanks again!

Posted by: alexandriamom | November 2, 2007 11:34 AM

I will miss your reporting. Since I don't drive I was always pleased when you mentioned ways to enjoy travel to so many different places without a car.

Posted by: EHardwick | November 2, 2007 12:08 PM

I would nominate The Witchery by the Castle in Edinburgh. The only bad thing about it is that it was hard to want to get up and leave the room! The restaurant is fabulous as well.

Posted by: Rosslyn, VA | November 2, 2007 5:37 PM

This is horrible news! I'm so sorry that you're leaving the Post. Your coverage of Russia, long before your move to the Travel section, was a model of best-practices in journalism, worthy of being taught in journalism classrooms for years to come. Godspeed--and many thanks, as a reader, for your humane and intensely vivid coverage. You made the world a better, more interesting place for so many people!!

Posted by: Sean O'Neill | November 2, 2007 8:27 PM

Favorite hotels

The Homestead in the tower 17th floor suite
w/ the huge patio in July. Thunderstorm came rolling over the mountains in the afternoon and my girlfirend and I frolicked naked on the patio. Was a free upgrade since it was our anniversary

The Venetian Vegas max tackiness but great service and amenities-Vegas should give comps for shopping

A little hotel and restaurant down on the bay in Sorrento with a restaurant overlloking the bay. Cant forget my room with views of the bay. Walked out my door and down a view steps to the restaurant.

Will miss your blogs and articles.

Posted by: Dave | November 3, 2007 6:37 AM

My husband and I have such great memories of staying at International House. Loa, the bar lit only by candle-light, drinking gin martinis and listening to Radiohead. The lobby, furniture swathed all in white - the only color, a lone purple orchid. The accents of Louisiana: the jazz posters and CDs in the rooms, the the ironwork of the front desk inspired by LA wildflowers. We love this place!

Posted by: Amanda | November 13, 2007 5:23 PM

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