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Aiken/Widom Year Off -- Hotels and Other Services

We were incredibly happy with 99% of the hotels and other services we used during our year of travel. The following list includes everything we wrote down or remember. Except as noted, all are recommended highly -- we would stay in or use them again without hesitation.

Our travel mode was "cost-conscious mid-range" (2-3 stars and lots of comparison-shopping), although occasionally we got terrific web deals on 4-star places, and in Asia we stayed in a couple of delightful 0-star (under $10) places.

We often selected places specifically because they offered good accommodations for our family of four. Kitchens were a plus (we liked "aparthotels"), especially in Europe as the dollar plummeted and restaurant meals skyrocketed.

After our travels through Europe we wrote up our strategy for European reservations on-the-go.

Where What Comments
Athens, Greece Best Western Museum Hotel Quiet location, everywhere reachable by subway (10-minute walk from hotel)
Tinos Island, Greece Porto Raphael Hotel Nice atmosphere, far from town
Naxos Island, Greece Faros Naxos Studios Rambling grounds and rooms, exceptional pool, nice remote location as long as you have a car
Amorgos Island, Greece Lakki Village Lots of character, convenient location
Santorini Island, Greece Hotel Village Mathios, Akrotiri Nice rooms and grounds but the management was kind of slimy
Heraklion, Crete, Greece Arolithos Cretan Village Odd but good place, well out of main city
Chania, Crete, Greece Lefka Apartments Nice management, good bargain
Sorrento, Italy Hotel Villa Fiorita Villages nearby, location is good compromise for visiting both the Amalfi Coast and Vesuvius/Pompeii
Rome, Italy Happy Holiday Bed & Breakfast Ended up in a nearby apartment run by the same people; the B & B looked good but not spectacular
Florence, Italy Hotel California Excellent location, good price for Florence
Tuscany, Italy Hotel Le Noci, Chianti Villages nearby, good base for driving around Tuscany
Venice, Italy Hotel Caprera Venice is challenging on a budget -- this place was expensive for what we got (no A/C for example) but it may be hard to do better; good location
Dolomites, Italy Hotel Garni La Maison, Alleghe Not most centrally-located town in Dolomites but we drove easily to lots of great areas
Chamonix, France Residence Les Balcons d'Anaite, Les Houches Excellent bargain for an apartment near Chamonix, bus stop and many stores nearby
Courmayeur, Italy Hotel Walser Fabulous top-floor room with big loft at reasonable price
Provence, France Hotel Toppin, Cavaillon Nothing special, reasonable base for visiting the region
Carcassonne, France Citea Carcassonne La Barbacane Aparthotel Brand-new place, easy walk to fortress
Spanish Pyrenees HG Cerler Hotel, near Benasque Might be better to stay in town of Benasque but place was very nice
Barcelona, Spain Aparthotel Napols One of our favorites of the entire year; despite the 2-star rating our apartment was decidedly 4-star
Madrid, Spain Best Western Hotel Arosa Helpful staff, very good location -- can walk everywhere
Marrakech, Morocco Riad Chouia Chouia We didn't look at other riads but this one was mid-priced and very atmospheric
High Atlas Trek, Morocco Mohamed Aztat guiding service Trek was perfectly organized with excellent guide and crew; also stayed in Mohamed's Imlil guesthouse
Ait Benhaddou, Morocco Dar Mouna Guesthouse Atmospheric, good food
Boumalne du Dades, Morocco Kasbah Tizzarouine Geared to tour groups but we enjoyed the nice rooms and swimming pool
Todra Gorge, Morocco Auberge Le Festival Remote place at end of gorge, intimate, a bit funky, great food
Camel trek, Merzouga, Morocco Adventures with Ali There are innumerable similar camel trek services; this one was fine but nothing extra-special
Midelt, Morocco Kasbah Asmaa Overdone Moroccan themes but we (especially the kids) enjoyed it
Fes, Morocco Hotel Mounia Good mid-priced choice for staying in the new city; we got a huge corner room but most rooms are small
Meknes, Morocco Ibis Moussafir Hotel Generic no-character Ibis but good price and location
Rabat, Morocco Royal Hotel Small rooms but good place, good staff
Paris, France Best Western Bretagne Montparnasse Pretty good deal (for Paris) on a quad room; pleasant neighborhood with cafes and good Metro access
Triberg, Germany Best Western Hotel Schwarzwald Residenz Main hotel for tour groups, nice place but not really walkable to center of town
Triberg, Germany Hotel Cafe Adler Stayed here when Best Western was full, excellent central location
Meersburg, Lake Constance, Germany Haus Mayer-Bartsch B&B Nicely done, very "Bed & Breakfast" atmosphere
London, England Premier Travel Inn - County Hall Large bread-and-butter chain hotel but fantastic deal (by London standards) in good location
Buenos Aires, Argentina Andean Roads motorhome rental Only outfit in South America renting good quality, reasonably roomy motorhomes, and they're doing a very good job of it
San Pedro de Atacama, Chile Estrella del Sur Bolivia tour Bolivia tours out of San Pedro can vary enormously (that's an understatement); ours was superb
Pucon, Chile Sol y Nieve Adventures Used this friendly and reliable agency for the Volcan Villarica climb, zip-lining, and horseback riding; they and next-door Pizza Cala were our Pucon hangouts
Bariloche, Argentina Refugio Otto Meiling Hike-in hut on slopes of Mt. Tronador, excellent guided glacier excursions
Phuket, Thailand Baan Suay Guesthouse One of our favorites (and longest stays) of the entire year
Phuket, Thailand Pro-Tech Dive College Superb PADI Junior Open Water course
Phuket, Thailand Latitude 8 Yachts Local yacht charter company, excellent boat, very helpful with our complex two-month charter
Andaman Islands, India Island Travels Helpful, reliable, overall excellent local agent
Kawthaung, Myanmar Faraway Yachting Phuket-based agency did a great job with our Myanmar arrangements
Bangkok, Thailand Somerset Park Suanplu Our #1 favorite of the entire year (thanks to a bargain web price)
Phnom Penh, Cambodia Kabiki Guesthouse Quiet and safe location, wide variety of rooms
Phnom Penh, Cambodia Lucky! Lucky! Motorbike Excellent visa, plane ticket, and other travel services (and motorbike rentals)
Siem Reap, Cambodia Tara Angkor Hotel New high-end hotel that was offering dirt-cheap "grand opening" packages
Luang Prabang, Laos Lotus Villa Boutique Hotel One of our favorites (and longest stays) of the year, great atmosphere and staff
Luang Prabang and Luang Namtha, Laos Green Discovery Adentures Used them for kayaking and trekking, not the cheapest but probably worth it
Mekong River, Laos Luang Say Cruise Got a good deal on an off-season up-river trip, very enjoyable
Huay Xai, Laos Arimid Guesthouse Our least favorite of the year, but there weren't many options in Huay Xai
Luang Namtha, Laos Boat Landing Hotel A liitle over-the-top with the "eco" theme but nice cabins; out-of-town location peaceful but not convenient
Luang Namtha, Laos Zuela Guesthouse Stayed here when Boat Landing was full; excellent at $7.50 per room, very helpful staff
Hanoi, Vietnam Hanoi Paradise Hotel The Hanoi hotel scene can be confusing at best -- this was a very solid find we were happy with in every way
Hanoi, Vietnam Columbus Adventure Travel Used them for Halong Bay, train & plane tickets; there are many unreliable agents in Hanoi but this is a good one
Halong Bay, Vietnam Santa Maria Cruiser Nice mid-range boat with a rare avoid-the-crowds itinerary
Sapa, Vietnam Lotus Hotel Best deal of the entire year at $9.00 per room with spectacular view
Bac Ha, Vietnam Sao Mai Hotel Nothing extra-special but there aren't many choices in Bac Ha
Hue, Vietnam Orchid Hotel Truly 4-star at 2-star prices, amazing staff
Hoi An, Vietnam Thanh Xuan (Long Life) Hotel Hoi An has tons of hotels; this one seemed above-average for its price range
Mammoth Lakes, California, USA Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Stayed three separate times adding up to one of our longest stays of the year, solid choice in Mammoth

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