|East Village, NYC|
A traveller needs shelter for the night, a room at the inn, or wherever is available -- a stable, a couch. Frequently it involves a business transaction, but lucky travellers more often depend on the kindness of friends.
In Québec, a room with a sloping ceiling and a narrow view of the snowy Plaines d'Abraham. Then, later in the year, a charming old corner of New York's East Village, a superb vantage point on the near 24-hour basketball action at Tompkins Square Park.
|Instant bedroom, Harlow/Parson home|
Amid such variety, it's hard to choose favourites. Still, the hands-down most unique room of the year had to be the space thoughtfully created by artist-hosts, Steve Harlow
and Ruth Parson
, who transformed an open-plan domestic area into a private bedroom by erecting walls of their paintings.
Some rooms offer only the promise of a view, such as Bright Angel Lodge, where budget accommodations meant a whole-two minute stroll over flagstones to the lip of the Grand Canyon. Old-fashioned sash windows with screens. The smell of dry sage. And close enough to slip out at night for stargazing under the black, black sky, or to be among the first greeting Dawn as her rosy red fingers glanced on the rosy red rocks of Canyon sandstone and siltstone layers.
Modest but historic was the third floor room at the Weatherford, in Flagstaff, Arizona. Iron bedsteads, a tiny corner sink, literal floor to ceiling windows that looked on the theatre across the alley, and the veranda outside the bar down the hall where popcorn was free whether you ordered a drink or not.
A skeleton key opened the rattly wood door. The gaslight-dim hallway led out to a broad, red-carpeted, two-flight stairway down to the lobby, the pre-dawn streets, and the Amtrak station, one block away.
|Western style, Flagstaff, AZ|
A rooster crowed half-heartedly next door to the casita in Santa Fe. Dry leaves skittered along the entry path between adobe houses. The temperature dropped to freezing. Dogs barked. A light shone on a shrine to the Virgin in the chain-link fenced yard across the street. Outside another casita, in sunnier Phoenix, the sound of water circulating from a small waterfall to a pool surrounded by a garden of palm trees and hibiscus, and sagauro cactus with its fat bristly arms. A rare and early morning conjunction of Venus, Jupiter and Mars shone in the eastern sky.
An overheated third-floor walk-up in Toronto, windows iced shut; a blow-up bed behind a feed store; a niece's basement rec room, with a futon bed unfolded beside the wet bar. A not-such-high-Quality inn. Before, between and after, the smell of the forest out the window, familiar yellow walls hung with pictures of calla lilies and icebergs, and a long slept-on mattress that needs turning.