I have decided to add a small travel review section to my blog. I travel extensively for client work and sometimes find hidden nuggets on my journeys. I should say that when I was ‘a suit’ in the corporate world I was able to travel well, first class air travel (prior to 9/11 and when airlines served real food), hotels like The Plaza in NYC, the Hay Adams in Washington DC, the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, Hotel Utah in Salt Lake City, the list goes on and on. I listed some of the places I’ve stayed not to brag, but to give some reference to my point of reference. Staying on an expense account is very different than paying on my own dime.
Since becoming a small business I have much more flexibility for travel. My clients foot the bill for airfare, meals, hotels, etc. But I am very mindful to watch expenses to keep my expenses low for the sake of my clients. For pleasure travel I look for bargains as well. And since I don’t have an 8-5 job, when I take vacation is dependent on client needs. December tends to be a ‘slow time’ for me since client work is rare during the holiday period.
Four years ago I was staying in Shell Beach at The Cliffs at Shell Beach. My girlfriend and I decided to explore the area a bit and ventured into Avila Beach which is just 10 minutes south of Pismo Beach. We fell in love with the area and while walking around we spotted a small hotel in Avila called Avila La Fonda. A Spanish style building with a very quaint and homey feel. So we asked if we could see a room and the desk clerk gladly accommodated our request. The room we viewed was one of their ‘spa rooms’ a large hot tub in the corner and a gas fireplace adjacent to the bed. The bathroom had heated towel racks and a double head shower. We decided that our next visit to the area would be a good time to try out the hotel.
So a year later we reserved two nights at Avila La Fonda. In each room is a ‘gift basket.’ You know the snacks most hotels charge you 6 bucks for a bottle of water? Candy, popcorn, water, soda, etc. all complimentary. And if you don’t like what’s in your basket? You go down to their little store and exchange what you don’t want for what you do want! What we didn’t know is every morning they serve fresh hot chocolate croissants, coffee and juice. In the afternoon beer and hot snacks and in the evening wine and freshly made hot snacks.
Not only are all of the treats of great quality, but at 8:00pm each night they serve three freshly baked pies from Avila Valley Barn for the guests to enjoy. Seriously? Pie each night? For me a pie is killer, a treat I have at home when I can. But to have three to choose from each night to eat in the hot tub? Oh My Gawd! My friends know that when I go to Avila “Mark is on his pie cleanse program for the time he’s there.” So as our checkout day approached I would go down to the desk and ask if our room was available the next day. Each day the desk clerk said “Yes it is, do you want to stay an extra day?” And six days later we ended up reluctantly checking out. Oh and since we had only planned on staying two nights we didn’t have enough clean clothes. So I asked the clerk about the closest Laundromat to which she replied, “Oh why, you can use our laundry facilities here. We have detergent and softener. Just feel free to use our washers and dryers after noon and be done before 9pm so you don’t disturb other guests.” What? Huh?
The following December we stayed at Avila again for four nights and we just returned from our fourth stay at Heaven on Earth, AKA Avila La Fonda for five nights. I call it our ‘five night Holiday party’ since it’s just me and my girl in our little commercial photography company. But way beyond the incredible amenities is the staff. I often overhear the housekeepers, innkeepers and desk staff talking to one another. And their conversations are happy and cheerful, not meaning in addressing guests, but talking to one another. Having managed people all of my life I know firsthand that a happy crew is a direct reflection of the manager and the owner of a facility. During our most recent visit they were having their own holiday party just down the hall from our room. Was it noisy? Yep. Was it irritating? Not in the least. I could hear children and the staff laughing and having a grand time.
So when we checked out I asked to speak to the House Manager. She came out and I was shocked at her age, she’s young. When I mentioned that to her she smiled and said “Oh I’m not as young as you may think.” Pffff, she’s young. And the desk clerk said with obvious pride “A young woman at her age manages the best hotel in the area, that’s pretty special.” And the House Manager went to college to study Hospitality and now works in Hospitality…imagine that. A person who went to college and works in their field of study! AND enjoys what they do! I tell everyone who will listen to me to stay at Avila La Fonda. Three of my friends and two who I simply know have done so. Now they too are disciples of La Fonda!
My only complaint? They don’t have a permanent resident program…..