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Thriving on a Corner in Winslow, AZ: La Posada

16 Jun
La Posada Hotel

La Posada Hotel was built in 1929 by the Santa Fe Railroad. Bruce Anderson

If you ever find yourself on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, consider a stop in Winslow, Ariz. – and not just because it’s a line in the famous Eagles song (“standin’ on the corner in Winslow, Arizona”).

It’s also the home of La Posada, a former Santa Fe Railroad hotel, and one of architect Mary Colter’s grandest creations.

During the heyday of passenger rail travel in the United States, the Santa Fe built numerous “Harvey Houses” in the major western cities on its route. Many of these southwestern-themed buildings were designed by Colter, who also was responsible for hotels at several of the western national parks.

Grand Canyon Railroad

Steam charter on the Grand Canyon Railroad. Bruce Anderson

I recently had the pleasure of staying at this wonderfully restored hotel en route to a steam photo charter trip on the Grand Canyon Railroad.

La Posada’s career as a hotel ended in 1957, when rail travel also began to decline. But 40 years later, things changed, when artists Allan and Tina Affeldt bought the building and restored it to its former glory. Allan and Tina moved in and never looked back. They still live there today, and their restoration continues.

Southwest Chief

Amtrak's Southwest Chief stops daily at La Posada. B. Anderson

The inn has 22 guest rooms, the full-service “Turquoise Room” restaurant, a formal sunken garden, and best of all, an adjacent Amtrak station, which is served daily by the Chief.

The hotel is indeed a masterpiece of architecture and art.  It was voted one of the top 10 affordable hotels in the United States by TripAdvisor.com and one of the “World’s Best Places to Stay” by Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List. Room rates range from $109 for a standard to $169 for larger accommodations. All are filled with historic photos, fine art, murals, full baths and views of the gardens. There are also plans to house a Route 66 museum in the Amtrak station.

I highly recommend this hotel for anyone interested in southwestern architecture and railroad history.  A true gem.

To reserve, call (928) 289-4366. Or reserve here on the hotel’s website. (Editor’s note: La Posada is not on the itinerary of the IRT Society’s “Grand Canyon Discovery by Amtrak” independent tour. But the tour could be customized to add La Posada.)

A Very Unusual Guest on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

18 Mar

Reporting from the Venice-Paris-Calais route of  Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Continued from Part One

The Hardys on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. IRT Photo

Following lunch in diner “L’Oriental,” our train glides northwards towards the Italian/Swiss border. Eleanor and I laze in our double compartment, sleeping, reading, gazing out our open window…

…and daydreaming how we meet the most interesting people on train trips.

My thoughts drift back to Venice, where we spent two glorious nights at the five-star Hotel Cipriani, and where we met a charming young Brit named Alan.

Cipriani garden. E. Hardy, IRT

We were relaxing on a bench in one of the hotel’s incredible gardens, when a young man waved to us.  We waved back.

Despite the metal stud in his lip, two more in his eyebrow, and his  unkempt hair and beard, he was dressed in a beautiful suit and tie. Friendly as he was, I took him to be a member of the Cipriani staff.

But he was a guest. And he was simply overwhelmed, he told us, to be at the Cipriani, where he’d arrived the day before from London on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. He and his new bride were spending five nights at the Cipriani before returning to London, again on the Orient-Express. They thought of the most wonderful thing they  might do for their honeymoon, and round trip on the Orient Express and five nights at this fabulous hotel was just the ticket.

The Hotel Cipriani, Venice. E. Hardy, IRT

He said he was in the process of selling his company, which provided security against credit card fraud.

Interesting business, we said, and we’re sure you’re busy. Oh very, he responded.

How did he happen into that line of work? we asked.

“I used to be engaged in credit-card fraud myself,” he explained cheerily. “Never did much at school. Dropped out when I was 16. I’ve been working ever since.”

Indeed, we said.

But then Alan got caught by the police and, apparently, served at least part of his sentence by teaching the authorities how to protect against people like himself. His services were sufficiently valuable that he founded his own company, which he was in the process of selling – at age 27. His clients included such multi-national corporations as SONY and American Express. From the sound of it, it seemed this would be the last work he would need to do.

Fortuny Restaurant, Hotel Cipriani. Eleanor Hardy, IRT

He was a charming young man, thrilled by the Orient-Express, thrilled by the Cipriani, and delighted to meet us.  He wanted to know if we had a dining recommendation. We spied him at dinner that night on the outdoor patio of the Fortuny restaurant, two tables away, with his young bride. He waved again.

Our dining reservation card on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Our dining reservation card on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

They looked like two children playing dress-up. They probably could buy us out many times over. I gave him our card (but not our credit card) and said I hoped he’d travel with The Society of International Railway Travelers some day.

Maybe we’ll meet again on the Paris-Istanbul Orient-Express for his fifth — and our 35th — wedding anniversary.

Or maybe we’ll wind up at Paris’ delightful Esprit Saint Germain hotel following the great train’s other annual extravaganza: Istanbul-Paris .

Wherever we meet, we wish him well and echo his appreciation of the world’s great luxury trains.

More pictures of the Cipriani.

Next time: Part 3 – Dinner in the Côte D’Azur

Some Great Railroad Hotels — (and Others Accessible by Rail)

5 Nov
Glacier Park Lodge

Lobby, Glacier Park Lodge & Resort in Montana.

Great story in the Arizona Republic today about railroad hotels, which you’ll find here.

I’ve been to the three Canadian hotels mentioned in the story; all are incredible and worth extended stays. And during a family trip to Glacier Park via Amtrak’s Empire Builder, we visited the Glacier Park Lodge but did not stay there. We opted for the Izaak Walton Inn in Essex, MT, a rustic hotel opened in 1939 to cater to Great Northern Railroad employees. It’s a charming hotel and a great place to watch trains; the trade-off is it’s not centrally located, and you have to drive a considerable distance just to get to Lake McDonald.

Prince of Wales Hotel

Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada

(The IRT Society’s Glacier Park Discovery Tour, incidentally, includes the Empire Builder between Seattle and Chicago as well as three nights at the Glacier Park Lodge and one night at Many Glacier Hotel, another former Great Northern property. And don’t forget to have afternoon tea at the Prince of Wales Hotel, another Great Northern creation; it proudly bills itself as “the most photographed hotel in the world.”)

St. Louis Union Station Marriott Hotel

St. Louis Union Station Marriott Hotel

I’m also a fan of St. Louis’ old railroad hotel, now a Marriott, located in Union Station, and easily accessible via Metrolink light rail and a 10-minute walk from the present Amtrak station.  And, some years back, fellow IRT Society member David Minnerly put us on to a comfortable little hotel, the Mornington, just a five-minute walk from London’s Paddington Station. Not a railroad hotel as such, but still an inexpensive hostelry accessible by rail and within walking distance of Hyde Park.

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