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When Less Isn’t More: a Minimalist Hotel Story

posted by in Space

Hanging out with other travel junkies one afternoon in a cafe, one of them asked me if I’ve ever stayed in a hostel. “Erm, no. I’m not a hostel kind of traveler. I like hotels,” I said, citing my need for security and space (Anyone else a Taurus like me?). She kept prodding me why not. I need certain creature comforts while traveling.  After wandering around all day in an unfamiliar place, I want to go home to a hotel where I can relax, feel comfortable and possibly order room service. Where I can leave my stuff in the closet and on the bathroom shelf, where I can walk around naked without worrying about a peeping perv, where I can blast the air-conditioner if it’s too hot. Oh, and absolutely no bugs.

Which Hotel Are You?

This brings me to my story about choosing a hotel in Seattle. Do you remember my blog post Which Hotel are You?. For my Seattle trip, I decided I wanted to be a trendy, indie hotel. Ace Hotel in Belltown has a “cool, minimalist vibe,” is within walking distance to Belltown’s hip restaurants and boutiques and has all good reviews on Tripadvisor. Even Time Magazine said it’s the next wave of hoteliers. In my opinion, it’s a hostel hybrid: though it has rooms with clean communal bathrooms outside, it likewise features private rooms each with their own bathroom. With locations in the very cool cities of Los Angeles, Portland, New Orleans, Shoreditch, London and Panama at friendly prices, it sounded like a gypsetter dream come true. In fact, my 23-year-old nephew Ryan says all the Ace Hotels are dope and that he was totally jealous I was going to stay there.

Welcome to Ace Hotel

Welcome to Ace Hotel

Ace Hotel, Seattle

Partly because we were going to travel onward to a one-week Alaskan cruise but mostly because I’m Filipina, I had two big suitcases – one for Enzo and one for me. So imagine my surprise when instead of entering Ace Hotel’s lobby lounge we were met with a long staircase. Oooookay. I’m cool. I can deal. “Let’s leave our stuff here at the bottom while we check in upstairs first,” I said.

A matter of perspective: Ace Hotel hallway and a view of Belltown

A matter of perspective: Ace Hotel hallway and a view of Belltown

We walked up the 15 stairs to a reception desk. They had a really charming communal area with an aquarium and live plants on a long table for people hang out and most likely Instagram so I told Enzo to make himself comfy there and #figureoutthewifi while I searched for help (and took some pictures). It was so empty I almost expected to see two little girls holding hands in the hallway, asking me to play with them. I was never happier for white walls and hardwood flooring.

Finally, someone showed up from around the corner. “I’m so sorry, I was off doing an errand,” he said as he went behind the desk to check us in. I mentioned our luggage was downstairs and he hustled to help carry them up. He didn’t complain one bit – front desk and bellhop, totally cool and minimalist! He walked us to our room which so so so cute. The kind of cute like the blog The Tiny Life where homeowners  seem to not own any real life stuff.

Communal table and Ace Space  where you can buy Ace merchandise

Communal table  where Enzo settled in real quick and Ace Space where you can buy Ace merchandise

This would have been fine if I was traveling alone but I had a kid. A boyfriend. Two big luggage. The boyfriend’s roll on. His backpack. My carry on. Enzo’s backpack. My LV Neverfull. “I asked for a double deluxe room,” I remarked, admiring the trendy furniture that was so minimalist my Neverfull could hold more stuff. We walked back to the front desk to check my reservation again and Mr. Front Desk Bellhop said he didn’t see any notes for a double room. “I specified we were 2 adults and one 11-year-old child – was I supposed to indicate I needed a double bed?” I asked. I don’t know how they expected two full adults and a gangly tweener to fit on one bed, a smallish queen a that. Mr. Front Desk Bellhop said there were no more double beds available but would I like to see if he could fit in a rollaway? Off he went again to get it.

I was beginning to understand why he wasn’t at the front desk in the first place.

We walked back to the room and he rolled the bed in. “Would you like me to set it up?” he asked. “Why not?” I replied. There it was, unfolded, right in the middle of the room. With just enough space to walk around it – if you were Mary Kate Olsen. Kim Kardashian might have had a little trouble.  “We can’t stay in this room,” I said emphatically. “There’s not enough space for that and all our luggage, too. I’m sorry – we’re going to need to move to another hotel.” Mr. Rollaway Bellhop said, “That’s OK, I understand.”

Mr. Bed and Bellhop was so nice and didn’t roll his eyes at us or anything, even after all that hard work. Thank you for your patience! Moreover he reversed the charges on my credit card – not one night was charged. I’m so used Manila’s No Refund policy.  I was really beginning to love Seattle already!

Yes, this is a bar in Belltown and did we play skee ball? Hells yeah!

Yes, this is a bar in Belltown and did we play skee ball? Hells yeah!

If I was traveling alone to Seattle only, I probably would have kept my room at Ace Hotel. It’s a stylish option for minimalist travelers who want to stay somehwere affordable yet dislike hostels. As advertised, Belltown is amazing! My brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews and I walked from our dinner at Pink Door in Post Alley to a cool bar called Clever Bottle. Afterwards we hopped right next door to Down the Rabbit Hole where they had skee ball to go with our scotch. Seattle rocks!

For this trip, I needed a hotel with ample space and no kind of vintage furniture would change my mind. What I learned from this experience is if you are planning to stay at a new hotel for the first time – make sure you do your due diligence and find out if they have what you need beforehand. A double bed. Four pillows. Air-conditioning. Breakfast in-house. Anything! If this information isn’t in Tripadvisor reviews and the hotel website, call the hotel – they’ll be very happy to help. Another lesson I realized about myself is that as much as I’d like to be a minimalist traveler – this will never happen. Does that answer the question why I don’t like hostels?

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"For mine is a generation that circles the globe and searches for something we haven't tried before. So never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite and never outstay your welcome.” - Alex Garland


We are two friends who were former magazine editors. Having moved onto other things, we both realized that the creative flow the publishing world used to offer us was missing from our lives. Armed with a common love of travel to the exotic and familiar, a penchant for the bohemian, an obsession with food and a lust for writing, we decided to collaborate our unique and fashionable journeys through life together in one passion project.

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