Monday, July 02, 2007

Beware the monkeys; rent a pet.

Toot-toot.
Wyndham Union Station, Nashville, Tenn.
Train stations have become art museums and schools, but few have made the transition to hotels. Union Station in St. Louis is probably the most famous, but I prefer the Wyndham in Nashville, where the schedule of the trains is displayed behind the lobby desk and freights still rumble by (sometimes noisily). Call 615-726-1001 or go to http://www.unionstationhotelnashville.com/. Rooms from $119 per night.

Here is the beginning of the story...

Lodgings where quirks are all-inclusive
By Gary A. Warner
ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

At the Aria├║ Amazon Towers , built on stilts, guests may have close encounters with monkeys. Scores of towns and countries. Hundreds of hotels. Thousands of pillows. After spending much of my lifetime on the road, the places where I have hung out the "Do Not Disturb" sign have become a blur.

I remember the bad ones. Like one called Pocono East, where a guy worked all night on his motorcycle - in his room. Or the blissfully beautiful ones, like Amandari in Bali, set against the terraced rice fields.

But mostly I remember the quirky ones. The ones that didn't just break the mold, but more than likely had no mold in the first place. Here's my personal list of the funniest, funkiest and most wonderfully strange places I've visited.

Remember: Rates can vary wildly by time of year and time of week, so check it out before checking in to these offbeat gems.

Jungle dance.
Aria├║ Amazon Towers, Brazil.
This outpost on the Rio Negro outside of Manaus is undoubtedly the oddest hotel I've stayed in. Its rooms sit atop stilts that suspend the hotel above the jungle floor. Excursions include piranha fishing. The most memorable moment was when I decided to climb to the top of a wooden observation tower (the kind you could never build here) to see the sunrise. I arrived at the top to find that it was apparently the bunkhouse for a half-dozen monkeys, one of whom immediately jumped onto my chest, then wrapped his arms around my face. Believe it or not, I had been briefed about just such an occasion, so I knew not to pull the sharp-clawed critter off - just wait a minute or so for it to find something else of interest to do. Sure enough, it jumped off. But that one minute, in the dark, with a monkey on my face, will stay with me a lifetime. Call 1-877-442-7428 in the United States or go online to http://www.ariautowers.com/. Packages start at two nights for $407 per person.

Cat house.
Anderson House, Wabasha, Minn.
The town on the Mississippi River is best known as a great place to see eagles. But the Anderson House, the oldest hotel in the state, has an in-room amenity unlike any other hotel. From a set of fancy cages on the ground floor, you can pick a feline companion to stay with you for the night. I don't know who was more in danger - my toddler or the cat. The current lineup includes Goblin, Morris, Ginger, Arnold and Aloysius. Call 651-565-2500 or go to http://www.historicandersonhouse.com/. Rooms from $79 per night.

Dog house.
Hotel Monaco, Denver.
The Kimpton chain has always been funky, fun and pet-friendly. I was especially charmed by Lily Sopris, the Jack Russell terrier who served as the "director of pet relations" at the Hotel Monaco in Denver. Energetic, happy and charming, Lily did a better job of making you feel welcome than many staffers at many hotels I've visited around the world. Lily recently retired after six years, and the search is on for her replacement. Rooms from $209 per night. Call 303-296-1717 or go to http://www.monaco-denver.com/.

To read more, visit the Philadelphia Inquirer

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