January 9, 2007

In Room Robe
Buenos Aires, Argentina

After five hotel rooms in less than 10 days Babak and I have thrown away the hotel star rating system and boiled the quality of accommodations down to one single question: Do they provide a bathrobe?

Before going into all this, let me say that after more than a year of living in housing that has consistently disappointed or fallen far short of the comfort mark, each and every hotel room that my friend Babak and I stayed at had qualities that exceeded the majority of those I've found myself in. Not once did I have to question if the bed I was about to lay down on was laden with bedbugs, privacy—private bathroom included—is often something of a dream, and of course there's always room service and housekeeping—need I say more?

Babak's arrival into BsAs on the 31st launched me out of a sweaty dorm room (with intermittent mosquito problems) and into Hotel 562 Nogaró.

The 562 was completely understaffed for the holiday, which annoyed us when trying to get ice for the room, but worked to our advantage when we grossly overslept past the checkout time on New Year's Day. It was a lovely Sunday afternoon and the absence of a pool was a bit of a bummer, but it was easy enough to slip onto the rooftop of their sister establishment, Hotel 725 Buenos Aires.

The price of accommodations at Hotel 725 was ratcheted up for New Year's Eve, but returned to reason the day following—Babak reserved 562 for just a single night, and we then boogied over to 725.

Hotel 725's bathroom

I think B and I immediately clicked with Hotel 725. The modern surroundings, ever-pleasant staff, free wireless internet in the room, a mini-fridge stocked daily by the staff that was free of charge (an absolute first of any hotel I've ever been in), and yes, a robe in the swanky bathroom. Reservations were only made for three nights—if we knew then what we know now it would have been for the remainder of Babak's trip—and a few days later we found ourselves packing up yet again.

Two things kept Babak from making long-term reservations at any one hotel. The first was that we weren't sure if he was going to make the jump across the big river into Uruguay or not, and the second being that he was interested in staying in different parts of town (although this never really ended up panning out as planned).

The lackluster room at Dazzler Suites was our third home for a few nights. Babak was irritated to no end by the discrepancy between the photos on the Web site and the room we were staying in. Jumping from the contemporary styling and curious service at Hotel 725 to Dazzler was a noticeable downgrade. The staff wasn't particularly friendly, the front door to the hotel was consistently locked at night, and our room's in-window air conditioner looked like it was older than me (and was clearly on its last leg—strange noises, barely pushing out cool air, and occasionally spitting out dirty ice all over my bed). One morning we were able to attend breakfast only to find that the chef didn't show for work so there would be no warm food.

The scene at Rochester Concept was a visual improvement from Dazzler, but we still felt slighted. The front desk staffers were often surly, the room cramped (but contemporary), noisy from the single-paned glass window blocking out the noise from the city street, and hot from the air conditioning for which we were given no temperature control in the room. Speaking of the A/C, it kept shutting off. We would get noisy air out of a vent in the room for an hour or two, then it would just stop—I wish I had a dollar for every time Babak had to call down to the front desk and issue an order to have it turned on again.

Rochester Concept, like every other hotel we encountered (save 725) charged an extra fee per day for Internet access in the rooms (typically an additional US$7 per day). The wireless in the lobby wasn't working, and the in-room speed was a fraction slower than a dialup modem circa 1993. I returned to the lobby in the late evening to see what I could do with the wireless (the front desk staff said it might be functional tomorrow, as there was something wrong and they were clueless).

Babak at the 725 bar

I could tell Babak's laptop was getting an IP address from the wireless router, but just couldn't pull up any Web pages. A nerdy command or two in old DOS window gave me the address of the Linksys router, which I logged into using the admin account because they never bothered to change the default manufacturer password. I tinkered for bit, and low and behold—I gave Internet access back to the clients of the hotel. (shaking head)

After a phone call to American Express returned a friendly Yes, sir to the inquiry of getting Babak's money back for a reservation at a hotel that was not delivered as promised, B decided not to take any more chances and put us up again at Hotel 725, in an upgraded room. Returning here yesterday was like taking in a breath of fresh air. After several consecutive days of disappointment, this hotel is one of many pleasant memories that will linger in my head as a result of Babak's travel to Argentina.

So the next time you're hunting for a nice hotel downtown somewhere (and are perhaps having a tough time making a decision), simply remember the IRR factor—the in room robe.

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