Thursday, April 14, 2011

Free Hotel Night in Exchange for a Sternly Worded Email

So, I gets back from the Santa Fe and stays the night at the Ramada by the airport in Spokane. I didn't plan on that but getting back on a delayed flight meant it was nearly 1am when I got in. I was too tired to drive so stumbled across the road and rented a room for MORE than it cost me for a night in the grand suite in Santa Fe. I get up and try to use one of those tiny coffee makers they leave in the rooms of industrial hotels. Well, the water ran out as fast as I poured it in and the coffee maker would not turn on. This was after getting to move the bed around to plug in the lamp upon arrival (it was that or take a toe off trying to find the bed in the dark as no other lights are accessible once one is in the aforementioned "bed"). On checking out, shortly after NOT having coffee and deciding that using the hair-trigger-between-scald-and-freeze shower was not going to happen, I said, "The coffee maker didn't work." or something like that. The response: ......... [insert sounds of crickets]...... Nothing. Not "please get a complimentary cup of coffee to go from the restaurant." Nothing. I stared a bit and got "Sorry." Oh well..."sorry" perked me right the f up...didn't it. (nope). Nice. That covered it. Especially since on the way out to Santa Fe I stayed at the same place (6am flight) and found that the coffee maker was unplugged. I had to move it across the room but at least it worked when I plugged it in. I wish I'd taken a photo of the nest of cords all going into the same outlet using a conglomeration of power strips and extension cords and one of those things that turns 2 outlets into 6 outlets. Very safe. After I get home and HAVE A CUP OF COFFEE, I sit down and compose a sternly worded email to Ramada stating that while 100$ rooms aren't much to some people, given that I just rented a 100$ APARTMENT with breakfast included IN SANTA FE, I thought that for the same price in Spokane I could at least expect a cup of coffee. I went on for 2 paragraphs about how the last 2 stays there have not been worth the money but based instead on my wish to not drive between the hours of 1am and 4am and that in the future I would strongly consider sleeping in chairs in the airport since I knew I could at a minimum get a decent cup of coffee. Today I get a voucher in the mail for a free night's stay at that hotel. We'll see. I only stay there when I'm flying in or out.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Relatively Thrifty Vacation

Vacations are optional. The thing about being frugal is that I choose where I spend my $$. I like to spend some on vacations. Of course, my vacations are fairly thrifty affairs compared to some (people who go on Carnival Cruises spend WAY more money than me) and not so thrifty compared to others (people who pitch a tent in the backyard and wash up in hose water spend less than me).

This vacation was a long weekend in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Pam (Hi Pam) and I went to surprise our mom (Hi Sher) and her sisters (Hi Chris and Marcie).
Pam cost me big bucks on the flight by saying 'if we wait until tuesday the price will go down' went UP for me. Oh well.

We spent 4 nights at a B&B, Casa Pacifica for a total cost of 460$ (there is a 15% hotel type tax so the room rate was 100$/night). I'll stick the link to the place in here when I'm not on dial up.
It was a lovely room. Really it's an apartment with a loft for the bed and a good size deck.
Breakfasts were wonderful and healthy and generous. Every day you get a fruit plate. This is followed by a full breakfast made according to your dietary restrictions or preferences. The first morning we had banana pancakes with bacon. Pam doesn't like bacon so I got double.
The second day Pam got asparagus and I got more bacon with our omlettes. 3rd day was french toast made with texas toast type bread (thick!). It was amazing. I think the meat was bacon again.

The last day was even more impressive than the other three. We had "chorizo eggs". Pam had hers without chorizo (mexican sausage) and asked to eat light. So as Linda (the owner) served us she said, "Here is your one sad scrambled egg." I got 3 or 4 eggs scrambled with chorizo mixed in and red chili sauce on top! it is my new favorite breakfast and I'm not a fan of recognizable eggs (I prefer them on french toast, hidden in pancakes, or chocolate cake). Sides were toast and black beans. My beans came with no cheese. I needed a nap after that meal but alas, no rest for the wicked.

We arrived on March 31st and made our way with a rental car (thanks Rob) from the Albuquerque airport to Santa Fe. Pam did a very good job driving in the morass of construction and bad drivers that is NM. After checking in and being stunned at the size of the place we were getting for the price, we went to whole foods to stock the kitchen a bit (full kitchen with side-by-side fridge freezer, full size front loading washer and dryer, gas stove/oven, dish washer, double sinks and about 1 acre of counter space). We didn't end up cooking there much, but you need snacks and ginger ale for a nice vacation.

Then we relaxed. We didn't want to do too much running around since the old ladies were out and about in the same town and did not yet know we were there. We did go out for dinner at Tomasita's. It was delicious. We scoped out some jewelry at the vendor outside the restaurant (for those unfamiliar with Santa Fe...folks who make their own jewelry sell at tables or off blankets on the sidewalk around town, by restaurants, along the plaza, or wherever...this is NICE stuff, not junk made in a factory).

On the morning of April 1 (get it?) we started walking towards the old ladies' rental. We knew the street and general area of that street from the information Chris had sent. But, we didn't have the specific address. We were looking for Marcie's car. We couldn't find it. So, we stood somewhere we thought was pretty close, and I called Sher's cell phone. I said we were having something delivered and needed the exact address. Sher said they were headed out to Albuquerque shortly but I said the delivery would be there in 10 minutes. She was suspicious but gave me the address anyway. Turns out Pam and I were about 30 feet from their door. We had to go down a sort of alley/culdesac thing. I rang the bell and heard "well that was too fast" or something similar. Sher opened the door and the dramatics commenced. Marcie as of course the most dramatic. All were good sports about us crashing their vacation.

Their rental was a condo but really a new adobe home with 2 bedrooms, 3 beds and 2 bathrooms. Really nice. Lovely patio (but it was so windy when we were there that sitting on the patio was not in the cards). They also had a kiva fireplace where Sher showed off her girl scout skills.

Our rental had more "cache" and theirs had more class and convenience (e.g. they could park right in front of the door and get to their place without climbing a long exterior stairway). Something for everyone.

I, of course, had packed my travel clothesline and enjoyed doing the odd load of laundry and hanging it outside or in the room. (It seems odd saying "room" since it was an apartment). Pam guided our exploits with her ipad (very handy mapping options on it).

So for the first day, we joined the ladies in Albuquerque for some shopping and then had dinner with them at the Range Cafe in Bernalillo (burn a LEE yo). Delicious.

The next day...what did we do? Oh, shopped the outdoor vendors on the plaza, bothered Marcie at work, and had dinner with Marcie's husband, Jerry, at the Amaya restaurant in the Hotel Santa Fe. Jerry was not informed ahead of time that we were there so we got to surprise a second person. Pam had gotten over heated during the day (it was WARM and SUNNY...gorgeous) and came to dinner a bit late. I was forced to order dessert in French as the restaurant hostess, Sophie, is french. She did a great impression of a french instructor, while being helpful. She reminded Pam and I a bit of Julie Ferrier's "Prof des Artes Plastiques" (she's on youtube but don't watch it at work...there is a bit of nipplage).

On Sunday we met Marcie at the shop for a chat and also ran into Gerald Nailor Jr., artist and governor of Picuris Pueblo. Then we headed out for shopping and lunch on Canyon road. WE lunched at the Tea House which offers organic light meals with vegan options (always nice for the nondairy folks). There I learned that one can dehydrate slices of citrus fruit for a delicious addition to ice tea. I would have known this already if Jonny (Hi Jonny) hadn't taken my dehydrator cookbook. Or if I wasn't stupid. One or the other.

I REALLY wish I could have stayed longer. On the way home my flight was delayed (all southwest flights were delayed) and I didn't get in until after midnight. I was too tired and disoriented to drive. I considered driving a ways away from the Spokane airport to get a cheaper room, but I could barely stay awake to walk. So I checking into the airport Ramada...I'd parked the car there before leaving anyway. Well, I get to the room and have to move the bed out to plug in the reading lamp. It was either that or shut the light out by the door and then grope my way to the bed trying not to lose a toe on some unseen obstacle. But I thought "oh well"...still, the room cost more than the apartment in Santa Fe! In the morning I woke up and got a pot of coffee going. Well....I poured the water in and it promptly ran out the bottom, onto the fridge, behind the entertainment center and on to the floor. I mopped up with one of their shiny white towels. The coffee pot would not turn on. No coffee. The day before I'd been in a great and reasonably priced room in Santa Fe, served good coffee and a big breakfast in a lovely kitchen with dogs coming by to say hello (I like dogs). This morning I got no coffee and no breakfast. Oh well. Vacation must be over.

Still, it was a pretty good deal for a vacation in Santa Fe in easy walking distance to the plaza.