My hotel in Boston had enough history to qualify as a tourist attraction in its own right. It was the birthplace of the Boston Cream Pie, had its own clubs for 19th century men-about-town, was Charles Dickens’ crash pad during his American lecture tour, and once had Malcolm X as a staff member. But what was it like to actually stay here? I visited with my family for a four night city break, looking to see the sights.
I shared a twin room with my sister and we were lucky enough to have huge beds, a flat-screen TV, dressing gowns and a seriously tempting snack selection on offer from the minibar. We settled down to watch a news piece about a jelly bean that looked a bit like Kate Middleton and were soon really chilled out, if a little bemused about the jelly bean.
Although it’s right in the city centre, on School Street, there weren’t any problems with noise at all, unlike the standard 3am siren wail outside most New York hotels. The only issue I really had was finding the right temperature in the shower, which involved some unplanned cold water therapy on my part, before getting to a comfortable level. But hey, you’d pay a lot for that kind of treatment in a spa (I believe it’s called a Scottish shower?).
In a place this historic, the decor is obviously going to be traditional, and it might take some getting used to if you’re more familiar with minimalist design and clean lines; instead you get lots of gold and wood, everything polished to perfection and lovingly preserved. I imagine it wouldn’t be as much fun with a hangover (all those little details would be a bit much to focus on), but it certainly seemed to impress the guests. Oh and, if you get the chance, pop into the public loos – they’re pretty bloody amazing, too.
Of course, the one aspect that is the hardest to get your head around is the uber-politeness and friendliness of the staff – something we’re not that great at in Britain, where you’d struggle to get more than a fake smile and a mumbled hello from most receptionists or porters in your average city hotel. The situation is slowly being turned around as more of us Brits get to grips with the concept of customer service, but it’s something that the Americans seem to do really naturally.
So, what about the food? Well, on the first night we decided to have a light snack in the hotel, as we were all pretty knackered from travelling and just fancied something low key before browsing the TV channels and trying to find General Hospital (guilty pleasure). What we ended up with was more of a banquet, as the lounge’s snacks menu was in typically generous American portion sizes, so I had enough French onion soup to last a lifetime, whilst my dad tucked into a huge burger.
Luckily, our stomachs seemed to expand over the next few days, which meant we could comfortably fit in about three courses at breakfast, which included everything from fruit and muffins to mouth-watering grits and bacon. Honestly, don’t pack skinny jeans or anything body-con in your suitcase if you’re going to be digging into the menu here, because you’ll be grateful for a little breathing room and an elasticated waistband. Interestingly, Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh worked in the bakeshop back in the early part of the 20th century – I wonder if he was tempted by some of the weird and wonderful baked food?
Now, I may have said I didn’t have a hangover, but I did visit the bar – well, it’d be rude not to, seeing as it was the first time I’d been legally allowed to drink in America. What I wasn’t quite prepared for was the continued generosity with portion sizes, which extends to measuring spirits. In the US they just sort of make an educated guess and go with it, which means that you inevitably end up with something a hell of a lot stronger than you would back home. Great for your wallet, not so great for your head, so try and be vaguely sensible if you don’t want to ruin the next day’s sightseeing. Honestly, I don’t know how Charles Dickens managed to conduct a lecture tour with this kind of distraction. For those of you not old enough to drink, there’s a great gift shop to visit (pop through the interconnecting door near the computer room), where you can gorge yourself on sweets instead.
- One of the 1,000 best places in Massachusetts, according to the state list
- Has a green eco-leaf rating of 2, due to its 21 eco-friendly initiatives – this means it’s a sustainable travel option
- One of America’s top ten historic hotels, as decided by AAA inspectors
- The oldest hotel in America to be continually operating (it’s been going strong since 1855, fact fans)
- Its average Trip Advisor rating is 4/5
Omni Parker House will suit anyone who likes their hotel to have its own back-story. If you’re sick of staying in anonymous little places that all blend into one, this is the perfect remedy – plus, it’s really central and is on the Freedom Trail route. Pack your not-so-sexy elasticated trousers and be prepared to indulge.