Where's your family headed?
School's out, the weather's warmed up, the pool's open—it must be summer. Families will head in droves to Orlando, the Grand Canyon, a national park, or the beach.
Is your family headed to one of these tried-and-true destinations, or is this your year to do something different? In short: What are your family's travel plans this summer?
Hotels: First Aloft opens in Montreal
After more than a year of hyping its new lifestyle brand, Starwood unveiled the 136-room Aloft Montreal Airport last week. A reservation search turned up Internet-only rates of $107 ($109 CAD) for June 28 and July 4 and $156 ($159 CAD) for June 19. Aloft hotels will open later this year in Minneapolis, Minn.; Chicago O’Hare, Ill.; Philadelphia Airport, Pa.; Lexington, Mass.; Ontario/Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.; Rogers/Bentonville, Ark.; and Beijing, China, according to the Montreal press release. I got the inside scoop on the Aloft concept back in 2007, when I chatted with Ross Klein, then president of Starwood’s Luxury Brand Group (he just jumped ship to Hilton)… Klein credited guests of the company’s W hotels with the inspiration for Aloft. “We do a lot of events, and one of the things that kept coming up each year was ‘I live in X city and I know we’re not really big enough to have a W, but it sure would be fun,’” he said. Seeing an opening, Klein said the company set out to combine the hipness of W with lower room rates and a different location strategy. Most Aloft properties will be near corporate or college campuses, at airports, or slightly removed from major cities and tourist attractions. Instead of Boston, for instance, an Aloft will open in Lexington, Mass., this summer. Aloft hopes to attract W loyalists as well as point-to-point travelers looking for a more appealing place to stop for the night. “The landscape for roadside hotels was very polyester, very fluorescent, and anti-social,” said Klein. “Those things we heard from our guests were very anti-W, which is social, uses lots of natural materials, and has room products that are residential and have lots of personality.” To test the products for Aloft, the company went so far as to build two sample rooms and public spaces in a huge warehouse in Hawthorne, N.Y., where they experimented with layout, lighting, finishes, and music. The results: rooms with nine-foot ceilings, large windows, and platform beds, and a living-room-like lobby (complete with a pool table) that encourages hanging out. You can also expect hotel-wide Wi-Fi, a pool, a bar, and a 24-hour snack area. “We’re hoping to make memories along the way and make the select-serve hotel category memorable versus forgettable,” said Klein. MORE HIP HOTELS InterContinental’s Indigo and NYLO, whose first property opened in Plano, Tex., are two more chains catering to a style-conscious clientele. Read Brand News for details.
Madrid: Goya and Renaissance portraiture in the spotlight
Two of the summer's most buzzed about art shows are at the Prado in Madrid. Through July 13: "Goya in Times of War" is a retrospective devoted to the Spanish artist Francisco de Goya (1746-1828). In more than 200 works, the master painter and printer vividly portrays the brutality of the Spanish war of independence. Most of the pieces are on loan. Some have never been publicly displayed before. Through September: The Prado is also presenting "The Renaissance Portrait: From Pisanello to Rubens," which draws together works from more than 70 artists who helped define the genre. Admission is usually €6, or about $9.40. But admission is free from 6–8 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday, and from 5–8 p.m. on Sundays; museodelprado.es
Paris: A new skyscraper to rival the Eiffel Tower
Paris is buzzing about the decision to build the Signal Tower, a skyscraper resembling four stacked cubes, in the central La Defense district. The tower will climb 71 stories high, just shy of the peak of the Eiffel Tower, according to news reports. It's set to open in 2015, says the International Herald Tribune. Hunter Walker at Jaunted helpfully notes: "The only other seriously tall building in the city is the Tour Montparnasse, which isn't much more than a big, ugly, black box." MORE ON PARIS This Just In
Hotels: 8 things you probably didn't know
A new book from A.K. Sandoval-Strausz's, Hotel: An American History, is full of fun tidbits. Here are eight facts that surprised us. 1. Hotels as we know them now are a distinctly American invention. Large hostelries had been built earlier in Europe and elsewhere, but these were primarily for kings and nobles. 2. Before the age of hotels, American travelers stayed at inns and taverns where they had to share beds. "After you have been some time in bed," complained one wayfarer in 1767, "a stranger of any condition comes into the room, pulls off his clothes, and places himself, without ceremony, between your sheets." 3. The first U.S. hotel was City Hotel, a five-story, 137-room hostelry located on lower Broadway in Manhattan. It opened in 1797. 4. In the 1840s, Americans considered it to be unpardonably rude to ask for room service because this implied that you thought yourself too good to sit at the same table with everybody else. In the world's first modern democracy, this was unforgivably snobbish. 5. One nineteenth-century minister preached that hotels were immoral. Asked why, he explained that any establishment that sold liquor and contained so many beds had to be sinful. 6. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination in hotels, motels, and other public accommodations, was based on an ancient Roman law code from 530, known as Justinian's Digest. The ancient rules prohibited innkeepers from picking and choosing which travelers they would accept as guests and which they wouldn't. 7. The apartment building as an architectural type is partly modeled on the hotel. Throughout the nineteenth-century, many wealthy American families chose to live permanently in hotels because the work of cooking, cleaning, and laundry was done by hotel staff rather than wives and daughters. Building designers soon adapted hotel architecture to create a new kind of shared dwelling. 8. Hotels helped to advance the settlement of the U.S. frontier because they allowed tourists to experience the appealing weather and natural beauty of new places. Hotels like the Antlers in Colorado Springs, the Raymond in Pasadena, California, and the Ponce de León in St. Augustine, Fla., spurred huge migrations to surrounding regions. —A.K. Sandoval-Strausz, author of Hotel: An American History, (text edited for the blog format; interview by JD Rinne)