Shortly after entering the room at Hotel Monaco, my 6-year-old daughter discovered one of its most charming features.
“Look at the goldfish, Mom,” she said. “Do we get to keep it?”
Afraid not. The fish is a permanent resident of these sumptuous digs. Lucky him.
The Hotel Monaco is one of two spiffy new boutique hotels in the heart of downtown Seattle. (The other is the Inn at Harbor Steps, across from the art museum. But more about it later.)
“Boutique” hotels are a new breed of accommodations offering more than the standard bed, bath and TV. They give you the sense that you’re staying with friends - in this case, friends with impeccable taste.
At the Monaco - which opened last summer in a former office building that was completely refurbished - the omnipresent fish are just part of the hotel’s Mediterranean theme.
In the stylish lobby, stout columns soar up to the 22-foot high ceiling. A white stucco fireplace makes it feel cozy, not stuffy.
The color scheme in rooms is wild - yellows and oranges play off rich tapestry-like bedspreads. Our room had a cushioned window seat from which we could look down and watch the world walk by. (Unfortunately, there are no views of Elliott Bay.)
There’s also interesting artwork to study on the wall, and it’s illuminated with accent lights (one which we could not figure out how to turn on).
Adding to the homey atmosphere is a boom box equipped with a CD player. It’s tucked into the mahogany armoire with the TV. The set-up also included Nintendo (it’ll cost you) and a VCR.
Every evening, you can mingle with other guests in the lobby at a complimentary wine tasting that features selections from the Northwest.
Another bonus for guests staying at the Hotel Monaco is an edge getting reservations in the adjoining restaurant called Sazarac. Since opening last August, it has been one of the hottest spots in Seattle.
It’s a big, lively room with a Southern-inspired menu. (I’m not sure what’s Southern about it, but the grilled swordfish with gingered sweet potatoes was terrific. However, I was less impressed with the pricey brunch menu.)
At the Inn at Harbor Steps, food is also a big draw.
There, it’s the fresh baked cookies and coffee in the low-key lobby. Or, afternoon tea with appetizers and sweets in the stately library.
Then, there’s the belt-busting breakfasts. Every morning, guests can belly up to an ample meal served buffet style. There’s always cereal - hot and cold - along with fresh fruit and pastries.
On a recent visit, I enjoyed a nicely seasoned vegetable quiche and roasted potatoes with red peppers. I wasn’t hungry again until dinner.
However, there is no room service, a drawback that’s not too hard to take, especially because you’re within easy walking distance of lots of restaurants.
The Pike Place Market is just three blocks away, so it’s one of those transitional neighborhoods that’s being gentrified. There are remnants of the old First Avenue scene. In fact, The Lusty Lady adult arcade is just a couple doors down. Still, I never felt unsafe in the area, even at night.
The 20 rooms at the Inn occupy two levels of a brand new high-rise apartment building, where one-bedrooms rent for $1,400 a month.
The big advantage of being attached to this urban dwelling is that the Inn’s guests have access to the complex’s two workout rooms, a lap pool, sauna and two hot tubs, options normally available only at the biggest hotels. (Unlike any downtown hotel I’ve ever heard of, guests also have access to gas grills and an outdoor deck. So, you could conceivably pick up a hunk of salmon at the Market to barbecue and dine al fresco.)
Despite the building’s sleek, modern outward appearance, the Inn’s rooms are cozy and inviting. They’re thoughtfully decorated with antique prints and strategically placed dishes of fragrant potpourri. A cuddly Teddy bear sat on the bed with a tag that read: “I can be adopted.” (For $30.)
Because there’s no room service, there’s a wet bar, with a coffeemaker and a small fridge stocked with complimentary soft drinks and bottled water.
All the rooms have fireplaces, which can be lit with a flick of a switch. Very romantic. If it gets too warm, French doors open onto a pretty courtyard setting.
There are no chairs to rest on out there, unfortunately, but take a walk on the pathway and look at the old stone archway they kept from the building that once stood in the spot. It’s a nice tribute to the past.
The Inn’s nightly turndown service - where they turn down the bed and leave a chocolate on your pillow - included another considerate touch.
They leave a card with the weather forecast, offering umbrellas in the lobby if showers are predicted.
I felt very much at home at the Inn, especially after meeting the genial general manager, Gregory Crick, who grew up in Spokane. Small world.
Room rates at The Hotel Monaco range from $195 to $235 a night, but be sure and ask about seasonal specials or weekend rates when making reservations. Valet parking is $20 extra a night. To reserve a room, call (800) 945-2240.
The Inn at Harbor Steps charges between $150 to $200, with a break for corporate customers. Convenient self-service parking is $10 a night. For reservations, call (888) 728-8910.
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