Hotel Curious in Barcelona is the most recent example of our good fortune --
Hotel Curious has the best solution we've ever seen for easy access to packed clothes in a small hotel. It's so elegant that Paul had me snap a number of photos because he thinks he might try to replicate part of the system in our guest space at home. This counter/desk hinges flat against the wall when not needed, but the two halves can be brought up singly or together to be used as desk space or to open out cases.
So how did I find this gem? Well, my system involves starting several months before our trip. After all, I have some pretty stringent requirements -- price being a big consideration -- and I expect that the good places will book up quickly. I generally begin simply, by entering basic keywords into the Google search engine. This time I probably used: Budget Hotel Barcelona . . . and then I will often use one more adjective, such as "Charming" or "Boutique" -- even "Family-run."
I might spend an hour or two, over several evenings, sorting through the possibilities this search brings up. Along the way, I often find a list of, say, the "10 top budget hotels in Barcelona," published by one of the major newspapers (in this case, The Guardian, UK). I compile a short-list of possibilities, being careful to put the bookmarks in a file so that I can find them later. Generally, 5 or 6 contenders emerge: Either a hotel shows up on a number of different lists, or I really like the sense I get from a hotel website or TripAdvisor rates a hotel highly. I read guest feedback on TripAdvisor and other sites (always keeping in mind that my criteria might vary, that some travelers unrealistically want luxury accommodations for budget prices, that others expect American amenities and service in a European environment).
Why don't I simply stick to TripAdvisor? Or, as my sister does, rely on one of the sites that sells off really great hotel deals at a variety of price points? Primarily, I guess, and I might be completely wrong here, misguided, naive, but I want to preserve some element of individuality. I'm looking for something beyond the latest iteration of Best Western, even though I know that chain has some lovely properties not far from the Jardins du Luxembourg. My method has so far brought us to places that reflect the local while yet nodding to the international realities of travel. I want to hang on to the chance of discovering just the right amount of quirk, if that makes any sense. . . .
So, finally, I email an enquiry about dates and availability. Again, because I know that the best of these hotels, in this price category, will book up quickly, I often send out 3 or 4 emails at once. Not only does this broaden my odds of finding a room, but it also gives me the opportunity to compare customer service. I had already noted that the staff at Hotel Curious followed guest comments at TripAdvisor, being quick to respond both to compliments and to any suggestions for improvement -- never defensive, they seemed genuinely pleased to receive the generally appreciative comments, but they also obviously wanted to learn how to make the hotel an even better experience for their guests.
This is the impression we got, as well, from the very first email they sent, responding to our enquiry, to the follow-up questionnaire sent after our stay. Front-desk service is the friendliest and most helpful we've ever seen, aside from our friend's Paris hotel Similarly, the young woman who cleared away dishes and replenished coffee in the self-serve breakfast room (with its very ample and satisfying buffet), brightened every day with her sunny greeting.
In short, the Hotel Curious in Barcelona, is a stellar example of what can found for around 100 Euros, including breakfast for two, in a European city -- and with the all-important free WiFi. We hope to return someday, as five days in the city barely gave us a taste. . .
I'd appreciate your feedback here. . . could you stay in a room like this or do you need more space, more luxury? Or are you prepared to pare down even more for budget (we've begun to insist, over the past 5 or 6 years, on our own bathroom, but savings can be had for those who don't mind crossing a hallway for the toilet or shower)? No judgements, I'm just curious to know how others travel, and why. I'd also love you to share any tips you might have for discovering new hotels in far-off places. . .
And if you've missed my earlier posts on budget hotels, you can find those links by clicking on "Other Travel" at the top of this page, just below the banner photograph. . . .