Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Service Review - Wyndham Garden Hotel, Austin, TX

I stay in a hotel at least once every two weeks, usually more often. One time my friend Andy called while I was unpacking in yet another Radisson or Holiday Inn Express and asked what I was doing. I said something like, "You know, sometimes it's fun to just stay in a hotel, watch the TV, be by yourself."

And he said, "No. It's ALWAYS fun."

I have to say, he's right. Business travel has never lost its allure for me. It can get to be hectic sometimes, but I always enjoy a new place. I never get tired of flying over Texas and seeing the landscape, or of the tiny coffee makers in hotel rooms, or of local news in a distant city.

As much as I like hotels, they do, for the most part, have some generic qualities. None have ever inspired me to review them, or deserved to be in a blog about the environment.

Until now.

The Wyndham Garden Hotel in Austin may look, on the outside, like a typical business travelers' hotel. But the moment you walk inside, you're greeted by the uber-friendly staff who seem genuinely happy to see you. As you check-in, they explain this doo-hickey to you:

Of course I didn't have my camera when I needed it. Sorry about the phone photos.

You put your key into this slot in the wall, and it tells the computer brain of the place that you're home. When you do that, you're able to control the thermostat. When you take the key card out, control reverts to the hotel so they can save energy. Pretty savvy, eh? Saves them money AND saves the planet.

My room was spacious and comfortable, and the bed had pillows of a variety of softnesses (trust me, this is a big deal if you travel a lot). The bath products were lovely and citrusy-smelling. A big bonus - the alarm clock had very explicit instructions on how to set it. Again, this is a big deal if you travel a lot. It's hard to sleep if your unconscious is anxious about whether you set the alarm correctly. I actually bring my own alarm clock quite often. So, this alarm clock resulted in a good night's sleep.

The hotel also had all of your usual eco-friendly amenities:

And some that aren't so usual, such as the recycling stations in the hallway.

Of course, nothing is perfect, so there were a few kinks that need to be worked out. The service staff was stretched a bit thin, working the restaurant, the espresso bar, and room service. But they were very friendly, and the restaurant was certainly a cut above your usual highway hotel. They had lots of vegetarian options - my veggie burger was yum - and possibly the world's best bourbon bread pudding.

All in all, **** (out of 5) to the Wyndham Garden Austin.

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