Hotel We Love: Jupiter Hotel, Portland, OR
Log cabins are to the Pacific Northwest what skyscrapers are to Manhattan and adobe houses are to Arizona, but if you think a hotel in the center of Portland, Oregon, is gonna offer classic log-cabin lodgings, think again. The city known for its creativity and eccentricity has accommodations that are true to form, and Jupiter Hotel is perhaps the most representative of Portland's originality and zany energy.
Originally opened in 1964 as a motor lodge, the building was bought in 2004 and spruced up in a style that hints at a log cabin motif but also flies in the face of it, thanks to rooms appointed with creative, modern furniture. With all the rooms' entrances lined up along outdoor corridors, it has a distinctive retro charm, but that's where the vintage element ends. The sweeping, airy window-lined lobby doubles as a 24-hour gallery, with works by local artists changing every two months. If your visit falls on a first Friday of the month, partake in the neighborhood's art walk-around, when the hotel and many other nearby venues offer free wine and bites.
In standard Portland fashion, creativity reigns supreme. The rooms have an underlying Scandinavian minimalism about them, all clean lines and bright colors down to the turquoise remote control, but a Pop Art vibrancy ensures that a stay here is an engaging affair. For instance, giant chalkboards hang from the doors, with signs encouraging you scribble a masterpiece and post a shot of it on Instagram. Just don't forget to tag it: #jupiterhotel.
Sleep options include one bed and two, and each of the 81 rooms is adorned with its own unique, colorful mural. And in a cute nod to Portland's all-inclusive attitude, there's a copy of The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide To Personal Freedom, a treatise on creativity and happiness based on ancient wisdom, in the bedside nightstand's drawer.
The hotel is located in what's locally known as LoBu (shorthand for Lower Burnside) and more technically referred to as Central Eastside. It's something of a destination for foodie types, as it's home to the celebrated Le Pigeon, which offers French-minded fancy food in a decidedly informal setting. It's the flagship restaurant from two-time James Beard Award-winner Gabriel Rucker, who opened Canard, an equally French-inspired cafe-style eatery, right next door to Le Pigeon in April. The Jupiter's sister property, Jupiter NEXT, which opened in June, features Hey Love, a casual all-day/late-night restaurant/bar/lounge specializing in warm-weather-inspired food. And for quick convenience, Plaid Pantry is just three blocks away. Vintage shops and a handful of design-minded businesses also keep the neighborhood buzzing.
The hotel doesn't have its own eatery, but it sits adjacent to Doug Fir Lounge, a bar/restaurant/music-venue hybrid that's open from 7:00 a.m. until "late," with a 3:00 p.m. happy hour in between and live music every night in the downstairs performance space. (Concerts are ticketed.) The restaurant dishes out elevated pub fare made with seasonal ingredients as well as craft beer and cocktails. Call in an order for takeout and relax in your room, or stick around and mingle with locals, as it's a popular hangout with a lively patio scene. It's worth noting that there's a delightfully stylish, slightly kitschy log-cabin-meets-lounge look to the place. Expansive logs make up the bar-top, the walls and even some of the furniture.
ALL THE REST
Of the hotel's 81 rooms situated in several sprawling buildings, 41 are located on the "chill side," out of earshot of Doug Fir's many patio revelers. Those rooms fetch a slightly higher rate than the bar-side rooms, so be sure to note your preference when making reservations. Also, to help you feel like a local during your stay, you can rent one of the hotel's bicycles and see the city on two wheels, alongside the many, many other urban bikers occupying the streets. Rates are $35 per day or $10 an hour.
RATES & DEETS
Starting at $139 for the bar-side rooms and $149 for the chill-side rooms.
500 E. Burnside Ave.
Portland, OR 97214
(503) 230-9200 / jupiterhotel.com
#BTReads: ‘Eating My Way Through Italy’
Say the word travel. If the first image that comes to mind is a table exquisitely set with heaping bowls of pasta, bottles of wine, and, ideally, a field of cornflowers in the distance, then Elizabeth Minchilli’s Eating My Way Through Italy: Heading Off the Main Roads to Discover the Hidden Treasures of the Italian Table may be the book you’ve been waiting for all your life. ENJOY AN ENTHRALLING FOOD MEMOIR - PLUS RECIPES! (Ermess/Dreamstime) Elizabeth Minchilli is perhaps the only food writer working today who could have pulled off this miraculous hybrid, a book that belongs in your carry-on the next time you fly to Italy, and on your kitchen shelf the next time you want to whip up an authentic taste of, say, Umbria (you must try the white bean soup recipe in the chapter on olive oil). Because Minchilli has spent decades studying, celebrating, and writing about the food cultures of the Italian peninsula, most recently in her masterful memoir-cookbook Eating Rome: Living the Good Life in the Eternal City, and on her website elizabethminchilli.com and bestselling app Eat Italy, she brings a depth of experience, wit, and contagious enthusiasm to each chapter. Open Eating My Way Through Italy to any page and dive into an anecdote, recipe, or travel suggestion and you know you are in the hands of a writer who starts with your best interest at heart, a writer who wants to educate you even as she enthralls you, and, in a media world increasingly dominated by food writers who seek to amass an audience before they actually have anything remotely interesting to say, a writer who knows her subject so deeply and brings such love to her work, you simply can’t stop reading. TRAVEL ACROSS ITALY IN 289 PAGES (Giuseppemasci/Dreamstime) I confess, I tend to read travel and food books (and hybrids like this one) with an eye toward my favorite destinations or foods, so I went straight to “A Crash Course in Parmigiano Reggiano,” in which Minchilli sorts out the rules under which the cheese is made, plus tips for how to buy the best and use it well. Spoiler alert: Never, ever, buy cheese labeled “parmesan.” For more, you’ll have to read the book. From Parmigiano, I moved right to “A Sense of Place and a Bowl of Farinata,” which not only delves deeply into the Tuscan polenta-beans-and-kale recipe but also divulges locals-only secrets of my favorite Italian city, Florence, from the point of view of a lifelong Roman (Minchilli lives in a rooftop apartment in Rome), which, frankly, is a little bit like a native New Yorker explaining how much they’ve genuinely come to appreciate Boston. (Toldiu74/Dreamstime) Basically, Eating My Way Through Italy allows you to drop in on Italy’s many culinary regions. We Americans often forget that what we think of as the country of “Italy” is a relatively new, 19th-century entity, and its centuries-old regions, from Emilia-Romagna in the north to the Mediterranean islands of Sicily and Sardinia, encompass a variety of flavors, terroir, dialects, architecture, and style that cannot possibly be reduced to a single adjective, no matter how alluring the word Italian may sound. With Eating Rome and Eating My Way Through Italy on our nightstands, kitchen counters, or in our carry-ons, Budget Travelers will always be just steps away from an authentic Italian feast. What a gift Elizabeth Minchilli has given us.
Hotel We Love: The Godfrey Hotel, Boston
The Freedom Trail runs around and adjacent to hotel's Downtown Crossing, a centrally located maze of mostly retail-lined streets, but the district, just up the street from Chinatown and Emerson College, is anything but fusty. The old-world architectural details of many of the buildings are preserved, but otherwise it's a thoroughly modern shopping area with "ambassadors" lingering on the partly cobblestone streets to guide visitors and outdoor tables for loitering in warmer months. In other words, it's a welcoming area for tourists visiting the city who want to stay in luxury just steps from American history. THE STORY The Godfrey, a small national boutique hotel chain, has its flagship property in Chicago. Boston, which has 242 rooms and opened in 2016, is the second property. Others include Tampa and LA.) It's located in two thoughtfully combined and renovated 110-year-old buildings that are listed on the National Historic Registry. Having once housed corporate textile and fabric trade offices on the upper floors and retail outfits on street level, they're credited with having had a historical impact on the city's once lively commerce. THE QUARTERS Despite being located in a densely-packed urban center, the rooms, which are appointed in neutral shades of grey, beige, charcoal and green, with tartan headboards tossed in for good measure, get plenty of light thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows. Rooms range in size from a standard size to a slightly larger double queen (two beds) to a larger studio king, which features a pullout couch, to sprawling corner suites on the top floor. Mini-fridges are not set up in the standard rooms, but they're available upon request, a thoughtful way to cut down on energy, an underlying mission at the property. The hotel pulled out all the stops where technology is concerned. Each room has a 55-inch LCD televisions with smartphone-to-TV streaming capability for your own Netflix and Hulu accounts, Bluetooth-compatible Bose wireless speakers, and Keurig coffee makers. Spacious bathrooms have a luxurious feel, plenty of counter space, and neat design touches like deep basin sinks. High speed WiFi and bottled water are free. THE NEIGHBORHOOD Suffice it to say you can’t be more centrally located in Boston than Downtown Crossing, a mix of gorgeous historic buildings and lots of familiar stores. There’s a number of restaurants and pubs nearby, and Chinatown is a few blocks away, but it’s primarily a retail district, so it’s very quiet late at night. The hotel is walking distance from the sprawling Boston Common and a stone’s throw from all four subway lines. (They’re designated by color here: the Red Line, Green Line, Blue Line, and Orange Line.) THE FOOD The Godfrey is certainly not a big property by hotel standards, but when you hear about its varied eating and drinking options, you'd be forgiven for thinking otherwise. First things first: coffee. A George Howell Cafe is connected to the lobby. Howell's name may not be as familiar as Howard Schultz's but it should be. In the 1970s, long before Starbucks, Howell founded the Coffee Connection and pioneered the specialty coffee movement, even coming up with the Frappuccino, which he based on the frappe, a classic New England milkshake. The drink became part of Starbucks' repertoire when the company bought Coffee Connection in 1994. Today the cafe features a range of specialty drinks and locally made pastries and sandwiches. Baristas explain the nuanced flavors of different single estate beans. The dinner option is Ruka, a creative Japanese-Peruvian fusion spot that features creative dishes and drinks in a lively, colorfully appointed space. And for a nightcap--or afternoon tipple--the lobby bar, helmed by forward-thinking barmen, offers seasonal cocktails amid the marble columns of the high-ceilinged space, which has tall windows facing the buzzy street. Belly up to the marble bar or hunker down on one of the stylish chairs or couches. ALL THE REST There's a 24/7 fitness center, but the hotel offers other outdoor options for getting active, too. You can borrow a bicycle for free or tag along with the "running concierge," who'll lead you on a fast-paced tour through the Boston Common or along the harbor. RATES & DEETS Starting at $199 The Godfrey Hotel 505 Washington StreetBoston, MA 02111 (617) 6494500 / thegodfreyboston.com
Locals Know Best: Washington, D.C.
You might say Washington, D.C., suffers a bit from its overexposure. With so much daily—nay, hourly—attention laser-focused on the White House, the Capitol Building, and the people who dwell there, it’s easy to forget that D.C. is a town of neighborhoods, a town of generations-old families, a town where creatives ensure vibrancy and originality on otherwise unremarkable corners and down unlikely alleys. Sunny Sumter can attest to all of that. Executive director of the DC Jazz Festival since 2009, she gravitates towards talent and anything that is, for lack of a better word, hip. Moreover, she’s a born and bred Washingtonian and a graduate of the city’s Howard University, so she has a thorough and deep-seated understanding of our nation’s capital and how it’s changed over the past few decades. We checked in with her to get the skinny on what goes on there, well beyond the bluster and chatter of Capitol Hill. ALL THAT JAZZ The DC JazzFest brings world-renowned artists to the city each June, and under Sunny’s watch, the dazzling array of musicians has gone well beyond traditional jazz and included artists like Common, The Roots, Maceo Parker, and plenty more. But even with the talent that she brings to town, she says, “We believe the finest jazz artists in the world live in DC.” And she’ll point you to any number of venues that back up that claim on a regular basis. Mr. Henry’s, for one, is a Capitol Hill joint that looks like an unassuming neighborhood joint from the outside, but go in and it’s a music-lover’s nirvana. Sunny loves the Wednesday night jam sessions, led by local fixtures Herb Scott and Aaron Myers. “Aaron is a comedian in addition to an amazing singer. And Herb plays loops around the sax. The sax has to work to keep up with him!” she says. “It’s a really cozy place. You always feel like you never want to leave.” The session is free, so it’s no surprise that it gets pretty crowded. She advises reserving a table ahead of time so you can eat while you’re there. And speaking of dining, The Hamilton, which fast developed a local following since it opened in 2011, features casual American fare and a subterranean music venue. “It's small enough that you can touch the artist and big enough that they can bring in big artists,” she explains. And happy hour here is not to be missed. When she has fellow musicians in town, she always makes a point to take them to Blues Alley in Georgetown, the longest-running jazz club in D.C. “They do a great job every single week serving up the jazz in there, all forms of jazz,” she declares. EAT YOUR HEART OUT There are several Pizzeria Paradiso outposts around the region these days, but Sunny has been going to the original brick-walled location at 21st and P for as long as she can remember, and it’s the one she’d point anyone to for a quick helping of delicious pie. The menu seems simple, barely covering a single page, but considering there are about 50 toppings to pick and choose from, you’d have a hard time not finding a perfect meal for even the pickiest eater. One of the fun parts about eating out in D.C. is using it as an excuse to explore the neighborhoods. “People think of it as a federal city, but I think of it as a local city. It’s unique, truly a neighborhood town. You go to different neighborhoods and each has its own flavor,” she says. Ivy City, for instance, is a neighborhood in transition. Once a warehouse district, that industrial vibe has been stylishly appropriated at the rustic Tavern at the Ivy City Smokehouse, which specializes in house-smoked seafood. Its wood tables and floors and chalk-written menus give it a cool, laid-back vibe, making it a top pick for “date night” in Sunny’s book. They also have a market that offers a wildly popular takeout menu. No market, however, is more popular than Eastern Market, the sprawling bazaar where area farmers, food purveyors, and craftspeople sell their bounty on weekends. It’s been one of Sunny’s go-to's since her college days. Staying in town for a while? Forget the grocery store and head here to stock up on everything from local cheese, bread, and produce to meats and smoked fish, or just wander the aisles and sample the tasty goods. OUT FROM UNDER THE SMITHSONIAN’S SHADOW Washington, D.C., is the envy of much of the rest of the nation when it comes to its museums. After all, the many branches of the Smithsonian are free to enter. Sunny's pro-tip: Don’t limit yourself to the Smithsonian, varied though its options may be. Just north of bustling Dupont Circle, the Phillips Collection is a serene and approachable space that features work by a vast array of artists and designers. “They’re so thoughtful in their installations,” she says. “And they do a good job featuring unknown and established artists, both iconic and modern, American and international. You wouldn’t even know it’s so ginormous from looking at it, but you can spend an entire day there.” Sunny admits to doing so herself. With an outside garden, a café called Tryst (“their cappuccinos are really good!”), it’s what she refers to as her “go-away spot” when she needs to get her mind off programming JazzFest for a little while. And parents, take note: There’s a kid-friendly arts and crafts room. DAY TRIPPERS Sunny is an unapologetic thrift shop forager, and she recommends anyone who shares the obsession make a day trip to Savage, Maryland. This quaint town about 20 miles north of DC is home to a range of stores, some of them located in an historic cotton mill that’s been converted to a very modern shopping complex that encompasses everything from antique palaces to galleries to second-hand boutiques. She’s partial to Charity’s Closet, which sells items for $5 and donates proceeds to an affiliate shop that provides clothing to unemployed women. While you’re there, might as well make a day of it. There’s a walking trail near the river and, for when you’re ready to recuperate, Rams Head Tavern is a dependable place to refuel with elevated pub grub and craft beer. It’s one of a handful of spots in town with live music.
A Sneak Peek at the High-Tech Hotel Room of the (Near) Future
The instruction was simple enough: there was a cute robot on a sticker on the mirror at the entrance of my hotel room. If I needed a wakeup call or anything else, I could text the phone number next to the 'bot, whose name is Botlr, and voila! Done. I sent the text, and it immediately confirmed it was set. "No problem!" it continued. Then came the rest: "I'm happy to help. FYI, breakfast is available at Re:fuel from 6am to 10am. My favorite is the English muffin, egg and bacon. Basically the best way to start your day." There was a frying pan in there, too. Noted, Botlr. I don't eat bacon, but thanks. ALL THE COMFORTS OF HOME, ON THE ROAD Bottl is merely one example of how hotels are incorporating smart technology into their everyday guest experiences. The Aloft property’s efforts don’t end there. In a select rooms in their 130-room Boston property, which opened in 2016 in the city’s rapidly developing Seaport district, ten are equipped with voice-activated technology, making it the first room of its kind in the industry. Guests set up use a custom app so they can use their own voice to adjust lighting, play music, surf television channels, and explore options for local attractions. And regardless of what room you stay in, anyone with the Starwood Preferred Guest awards program has access to the keyless room, which allows you to use your smartphone to unlock your room as well as bypass the desk at check-in. Add to that the fact that the 100-plus hotels around the world have put a premium on its fast, free Wi-Fi and Aloft stands as a fine example of how hotels are using implementing digital services on a variety of scales, from the full-fledged Futurama intensity to the basic, but increasingly necessary, convenience-is-king level. “In this day and age, there are blurring lines between home and away. People who are away want to feel at home," said Christy Loy, Aloft's hotel manager. "Tech is so intrinsic in our lives, from the way we watch content to setting security and lighting at home. It's part of how guests expect to live life. So at a hotel, it helps guests feel connected to what’s important to them.” The future is now at hotels around the country. From high-end luxury palaces to budget-minded chains, companies are pulling out all the stops when it comes to technology. Some digital programs and amenities are designed as a matter of convenience, others are intended to ensure guests can feel like they’re in their home away from home when they’re on the road, complete with creature comforts like one’s personal Netflix account streaming right to the television. And other initiatives yet are created to astonish. This tends to involve robots, artificial intelligence, or some other ultra-high-tech wonder. Want to do yoga in your room? Program a smart mirror to instruct you. But for the most part, it’s just hotels doing their part to keep up with the rest of our everyday lives. Deanna Ting, hotels editor at Skift, a travel trade organization and publication, commends Starwood, calling out Aloft in particular, for it being an early adopter. She notes that Marriott’s approach is to work with Legrand, Samsung, and other electronic brands to incorporate voice activation and take personalization to the next level, but these early implementations are merely just a suggestion of where the technology can go. But she warns to not to be too swept away by Jetsonian elements. “If something sounds outlandish, it probably is. In terms of guest experience, the biggest tech trend to keep an eye on is deployment of smart hotel rooms," she told me. "Some chains are doing it to various degrees. Hilton’s idea of internet of things is to put control of rooms in guest hands.” YOUR SMARTPHONE: THE KEY TO THE HOTEL ROOM OF THE FUTURE Indeed, to enhance guest experiences, Hilton’s services include choosing a room through the app, which is available to any Hilton Honors member. (The awards program is free to join.) Josh Weiss, Hilton's VP of Brand and Guest Technology, explains that the app lets you control the room before you even arrive. For instance, you can open the door, set the lighting and thermostat, which contributes to energy efficiency, as energy isn’t being wasted to heat or cool a room unnecessarily. Upon checking in, you can open the door, raise or lower the curtains, and sync the television to a personal Hulu and Netflix accounts. And as a clever thoughtful bonus, the app lets you select channels by icon instead of spending time figuring out what channels correspond to which network if you don’t feel like scrolling through the menu. And as an added convenience, the app alerts the hotel if any system isn’t working. Focusing on software, versus equipment, in the nearly million rooms of its 5000-plus hotels allows for aggressive flexibility. Weiss says Hilton is also tackling another tricky aspect of travel: exercise. Hilton’s recently implemented Five Feet To Fitness initiative lets you book a room with exercise space and equipment, even a bike. “Five Feet To Fitness transcends price-points. It’s a convenient, comfortable ways to stay fit,” he said, explaining guests can stream fitness instructions on their television. It won’t replace fitness centers, it just gives another option to guests who prefer privacy. Weiss also notes Hilton’s focus on sleep. "In terms of the Internet of Things, there are devices for white noise and sound isolation," he said. "We’re working on making them compact and scalable so guests everywhere can enjoy them.” FROM VIRTUAL REALITY TO THE REALITY OF A HOTEL STAY Best Western Hotels & Resorts, another mega-chain, uses virtual reality to allow guests to experience the hotel pre-arrival, allowing guests to see layout online and give a sense of what they’ll experience at the property. “It’s more than just a static picture, they can sense it,” said Ron Pohl, Best Western's Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. Other initiatives include using the Echo Dot to ask about the weather or request extra towels be delivered. “We’re all connected 24/7, so how can we apply that to apps, to the phone, to make it feel more like home. Expectations are set at residence, and people want the same capability when traveling,” Pohl told me. “If you come into hotel, we want to identify who you are without you having to tell us. We’re always looking at how to inform before you ask, so we ask you. Then we can send things based on what we know, like notification of a seafood special in the restaurant, or something going on in the area.” He also noted that the hotel industry is merely following trends set by other industries. “Before hotels dictated how they communicated with customers. Today customers are driving that, they decide when they want to talk to the hotel. Automation caused that. People would rather do it themselves and not rely on other humans. It adds to ease of the customer experience. We call it 'frictionless,' from booking through departure.” ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE DELIVERS REAL SERVICE Speaking of note relying on other humans, Caesars Entertainment Las Vegas Resorts implemented a 24-hour virtual concierge that can, in typical Vegas fashion, perform some over-the-top feats. Michael Marino, Chief Experience Officer, describes it as a remote control—with artificial intelligence-- for stays at over 10,000 rooms across several Las Vegas resorts. (Plans are to roll it out to the rest of the properties later this year.) Her name is Ivy and she’ll greet you with a welcoming text upon arrival. After that, she’s capable of making reservations for restaurants and each hotel's spas, booking tickets for shows, ordering food that can be delivered anywhere on the premises, even the casino floor. It’s so efficient and engaged that people have been text it soliciting advice. (“Is this outfit right for tonight?”) TripAdvisor reviews suggest guests ask for Ivy, as if it’s a human concierge. But Marino is hardly resting on his laurels. "It's quickly becoming table stakes. People are starting to expect this kind of stuff," he says. "Even 18 months ago, it was a 'wow' factor, but there's not nearly as much reaction like "I've never seen anything like that in my life." There are cool things everywhere, but this isn't just a bell or whistle that’ll be stale soon. It’ll always be helpful to people.”