Someone must have mistaken me for someone important. I am thirty floors up, living in this enormous hotel suite (which I calculate must at least be a thousand square feet) looking down on the breadth of San Antonio, Texas. To be specific, I am in the Marriott Rivercenter hotel. Perhaps my Marriott Silver Elite status entitled me to this free upgrade. In any event, I feel more than a bit flabbergasted. I have spent my share of time in four star hotels and in suite hotels. I have never had such an upscale hotel room as before. You could fit four standard Courtyard Inn hotel rooms (another Marriott brand) into this hotel suite.
All this space was purchased at a government rate, which is not much over a hundred dollars a night. I have to assume I won the Marriott lottery or something, or someone on our convention planning committee highlighted my name and told the hotel to make sure I got a really nice room. While probably higher graded than most of the attendees, there are plenty attending this convention that make more money that I do. This makes me curious: what are their rooms are like?
How do you make a luxury room more luxurious than the competition’s? To some extent you go to silly extremes. For example, my clock radio has dual stereo speakers and also comes complete with a MP3 docking port. The floor lamp has a foot control that you use to vary the light level. You make sure the toilet has two push buttons instead of a handle, a number one (which delivers a half flush) and a number two (which delivers a full flush). Presumably you use the number one for going Number 1, and the number two for going Number 2. I haven’t looked at my local Lowes to see if this model of toilet is available there. I am guessing not. In any event, press either button and you get a huge, instant whoosh that quickly carries away any excrement.
The room also comes complete with a high definition 42-inch television. Plain wooden furniture won’t do. The dresser has to have a marble top on it, and the drawers have to be on metal rails. The coffee and end tables appear to be brushed metal. The sofas and chairs have pillows for lumbar support. The bed, oddly, is much lower than my regular bed but like all four star hotels these days it comes with six enormously stuffed pillows, far more than any couple could possibly use on this king sized bed.
Alas, I am here alone. However, had I known I would have gotten a room this nice, I would have insisted that my wife accompany me. She could spend her days ambling up and down San Antonio’s lovely River Walk, which you can get to from a shopping mall on one side of the hotel. Moreover, with this magnificent view it seems kind of a waste for me to be here all alone. This is the sort of room where you should definitely include some romantic cardiovascular exercise, preferably with the curtains wide open and the lights off. I am betting the rear entry position while gazing out the window would never feel more ecstatic than here thirty floors up and with the city of San Antonio splayed like a postcard out my window.
In any event, this room has pretty much anything I could want except a whirlpool bath and a comely woman between the sheets. No matter, there is a large pool and Jacuzzi on the fourth floor, and I intend to try it out later tonight and perhaps some comely females in tight bathing suits will be there. I need the exercise from the pool, although I did at least amble a mile or so this evening along River Walk. On the River Walk, the birds fearlessly grub for food among the tightly packed ambling humans. Motorized tourist boats chug down the small river (at best no more than three dozen feet across), and visitors can choose from literally hundreds of restaurants, many with live musicians and servers anxious to make eye contact so they can invite you to dine.
I haven’t found it yet, but somewhere near the River Walk is The Alamo, where occupying Texan soldiers were slaughtered by a much larger Mexican army some hundred and seventy plus years ago. As with most things, the Battle at The Alamo has been made to sound far nobler than it was. Vastly overwhelmed by the Mexican army, they could have easily been routed in a day, but Santa Anna wanted to play with the defenders, much like a cat will play with a mouse before killing it. While the battle does not deserve its overblown hype, it, plus the nearby River Walk helps bring in a lot of tourists, which makes the merchants, restaurant owners and hoteliers in San Antonio very happy.
San Antonio in May is quite warm and humid but still lovely. The River Walk is a strangely beautiful experience, but is somewhat marred by its many restaurants and shops that are clustered so close to its banks. It is full of paths and bridges, artificial waterfalls and limestone masonry. The city exists largely above it, which explains why I could not see it from my hotel room. This latitude has never agreed with me: it is too hot and humid overall, but at least along the River Walk you can forget the inch and a half long cockroaches and other scaly things you occasionally see here. Instead you can revel in the experience, which is sort of like the flume ride at Disney World without the flume, just the last bit before they haul you out of the boat on their artificial river. The San Antonio River is real enough, just smaller than I envisioned, with much of its water now able to be diverted along underground tunnels carved through the limestone. This is needed in the event of flooding, which happens periodically. I learned today that San Antonio still holds the world’s record for the largest volume of rainfall delivered in less than twenty four hours.
Three more days of meetings in conference rooms await, with one day already behind me. Today I just listened and took notes. Tomorrow I speak for twenty minutes or so to sixty people or so signed up for our workshop. Down on the conference level the internet is free, but up here on the 30th floor, Marriott wants you to spend $12.95 a day for the privilege. It is too pricey for me to indulge, so instead I will take a quick ride down to the third floor to post this.
I expect during my week here to be charmed by San Antonio as well as eat a lot of great Mexican food, something I don’t do back home as my wife dislikes Mexican food. I expect to feel a little hot under the collar when I venture outdoors, which suggests I should first put on a T-shirt. This hotel, like most here in Texas, is a big believer in excessive air conditioning. Likely I will glad to be heading back to Northern Virginia on Friday.