Posted by: Josey | October 21, 2008

Are You Staying Where You Think You’re Staying?

A while back I was on a travel site, such as Orbitz, Expedia or Travelocity, booking my hotel stay for a trip to Chicago. Now, I grew up in Chicago so, when I saw that my list of results included hotels in Libertyville, Illinois, Deerfield, Illinois, Schaumburg, Illinois and Rolling Meadows, Illinois, I thought, You can’t fool me, travel site! Those hotels are in the ‘burbs! (each at least a half hour outside the city of Chicago… considerably more in traffic). But how would someone who isn’t from Chicago know to avoid them?

I don’t doubt that the hotels in the Chicago suburbs are lovely. But, when I tell friends that Chicago is a must-visit city, one of the most interesting, vibrant cities in the world, a hotel in the ‘burbs is simply not the experience I have in mind for them. I picture them on or near Michigan Avenue or at least along an El train line so they can access the hot spots, museums, music venues and world-class restaurants easily (and without paying for parking). There are deals to be had downtown if you do your homework!

Yesterday I arrived at Newark Airport after a long flight from London. I breezed through customs and picked up my baggage, then I followed the “Ground Transportation” signs to the Newark Airport Express bus counter, where I bought my $15 one-way pass to Port Authority in Midtown Manhattan. Ticket in hand, I walked outside to the bus stop and collapsed in exhaustion on the nearest bench. A minute later, a Japanese woman sat down next to me and spoke to me in a near-incomprehensible accent.

“Uh, excuse me. You are from the New York City?”

“Yes, I live in New York.”

“Ah, okay. It is my first time, uh, here. Will this bus take me to my hotel?”

She pulled out a pad of paper, and I squinted to read the small print:

YMCA. FLUSHING, NEW YORK.

(That’s about an hour away from Midtown Manhattan by subway—not to mention the bus ride into the city from Newark, New Jersey.)

“I’m afraid not.”

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