The joy of hotels

20:55, Dec 11 2012

I constantly battle a notion that at 28 I remain a pretend adult. This feeling rears its head always when I check into hotels.

I get a bit shifty when I'm at reception, as if somebody is going to tap me on the shoulder and say, "Excuse me sir, but could you please get out? You're clearly not the hotel type." There's some part of me that has not accepted that I'm old enough to go on holiday alone.

That aside, I love all hotels in a near childish way.

We checked into the El Dorado in downtown Reno at 11am, a little weary. I had got us up at 5.30am in San Francisco, far too early in hindsight for our 9am flight out of Oakland. We consequently spent 80 minutes at our gate killing time, waiting for our flight.

Any grogginess, however, quickly faded underneath my internal squeal and delight upon entering our room. I find hotels to be a strange, domestic Disneyland. The El Dorado was no different.

Today, as always, I found myself wanting to play with everything.


I was suddenly drawn to ordering in and paying $13 for a movie I could probably rent for a dollar or two.

I saw that we had a bath in our suite and knew immediately that I was going to have to have a long soak in that at some point.

I found myself interested in what channels the TV had. Even though I have a television of my own at home.

I wanted to make myself bad coffee from the in-room coffee machine. I wanted to bounce on the bed. I definitely had to hit the gym (and as it transpired, really cash in on the free bottled water).

It was a pretty busy schedule I had in front of me considering that I also had an actual city to explore.

Hotels are a funny piece of chemistry. In essence, a hotel room is a space for you to stay when you're away. It replicates in miniature (and often, as with the El Dorado, with comfort) the things that we have at our disposal in our own homes: bed, TV, bathroom, small fridge, coffee, and so on.

But this, right now, is better than my own home, which I am very fond of. There's a joy to staying in a hotel that's partly a result of the escape of it all, a little about the added comfort and partly that you don't have to clean up as strictly.


The resort hotel-casino angle in Reno adds another element of the surreal to these in-room comforts. There's the traditional casino technique of creating an internal world that is divorced from time and place and the way that you can walk between all of the casinos on Reno's main strip without deviating outside. (At one stage we bounded into a casino, to our surprise, which was part children's arcade and part gaming floor. LP and I stayed and played a while.)

I also need to give a shoutout, while we're talking surreal atmosphere, to the elderly duo who were in the bar belting out Sinatra covers, rocking their respective saxophone and piano proudly, trading vocal duties. It was a pretty good post-dinner wind-down and seemed to get the (predominantly much older) crowd on their feet.

I then resisted the urge for a little post-dinner splash on the slots.


Reno itself is hurting. On the main strip there seem to be as many hotels open as there are shuttered. There are a fair few people downtown who seem to be struggling, and there's a lot of empty real estate.

One of our afternoon stops was at CommRow, a rock-climbing facility, music venue and entertainment complex in the corpse of a recently closed asino and hotel across from the El Dorado.

I passed up the opportunity to climb, struggling as I do with a hereditary fear of heights. LP did not. She shot up that wall like a rock star. (For climbing nerds, CommRow has the tallest climbing wall in the world at 164 feet.) 

We spent a nice while chatting with Brian Sweeney, one of the facility's managers since it opened almost a year ago. A young guy, Reno born and bred, Sweeney filled us in on just how badly Reno was hit by the rise of online gambling and Indian casinos in the past 10 years with the added punch of the global financial crisis. As big an industry as gambling is in Reno (Nevada casinos pay all of the state's income tax for the rest of its residents, he said), it can't sustain Reno's future anymore.

So now there's CommRow and a kayak training facility on the river that cuts through downtown, which are all part of the city of Reno's attempts to rebrand as an adventure tourism hub, which I admire in intent, as hard as it may be and as long as it may take.

There's still something entertaining within this slightly diminished Reno though - a penchant for neon-lit wild-west hotel signs, a taste of the theme park - which entertained LP and me. (It has a superb automobile museum, also, if casinos aren't your thing and you've already hit the climbing wall.)

It is just a city, I guess, that has been through a lot. 

I am travelling through Nevada as a guest of the Nevada Commission on Tourism     

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