Friday, December 14, 2012

Porto Vista Hotel in San Diego's Little Italy District

On a spontaneous "I-Need-To-Be-Anywhere-But-Here" trip to my brother's place in Irvine, California, I made myself a mini vacation to San Diego to get away from it all. Online, I booked a couple week nights in Porto Vista Hotel. Last time I visited San Diego was during a massive convention with no time to visit elsewhere in the city (unless I wanted to pay a transport/tour fee). Little Italy was one of the places I wanted to see, which is why I decided on this hotel.

Porto Vista Hotel is located one block east of India Street, the main street for the heart of Little Italy. Booking through Orbitz, the hotel has a 3-star reviewer rating and came with a nice price for my Thursday-to-Saturday getaway.

At the moment, I'm writing this blog post the morning after the first night of sleep, and while I can comment on how nice my sleep was, the truth is that I've been sleeping in my brother's tiny one-bedroom apartment on a very old and saggy futon sofa. After 4 nights of kinks in the neck and waking up every 2 hours, any "real" bed looks inviting (no criticism on my brother -- he had no idea I was coming down). The moment I walked into room 503 assigned to me, I plopped myself on the king-size bed and took a nice long nap like I hadn't slept for a week, which is not so far from the truth. It's a very comfortable bed with a soft mattress topper and surrounded by lots of pillows.

I got to observe the room more closely after I finished my catch-up sleep. Every room comes with a wall-sized retro California gal black and white photo mural... a nice artistic touch though a little bizarre when you wake up to a big face on the wall. However it does give me ideas about a having a mural back home at the house as another alternative to buying wall hangings.

The TV is pretty small and has the basic channels. I noticed no bonus movie packages which is fine for me since I barely spend anytime with a TV when I get a hotel room. But it may be a disappointment to other guests. I haven't ventured the fitness gym yet or their restaurant since my first call upon arrival (after the nap) was to have pasta in one of the world-class eateries in San Diego's Little Italy. (And trust me it did not disappoint!)

The bathroom is spacious... so much so that it is almost a waste of room. But when you are using it, it feels great!! I'm not a big fan of the toilet design with the flush button so far back that you either do a chicken fight with it hopping on one leg, or if you are more adventurous, can lean your head over towards the toilet bowl to press it with your fingers (yuck!). The toiletries are clearly meant to deter you from taking any home, though I'm sure many guests will still try. The ambiance is pleasant and has an updated old-world feel to it with the granite walls and flooring. I like it over the cramped porcelain decor you typically find in hotel bathrooms.

The bonuses in the room are wonderful. Free personal wireless internet for each room (they give you your wireless code upon check-in), a fridge, microwave, complimentary tea and coffee with the coffeemaker, iron and ironing board, hair dryer, inroom safe, lots and lots of room for unpacking your clothes and belongings, a work desk, pleasantly large sized mirrors, chair and ottoman, a small walk out balcony, and aesthetically pleasing wood furniture decor (I'm a bit of a sucker for the cherry wood color).

I tried the complimentary hot breakfast this morning, served daily from 6am-9am. That was an "interesting" surprise. All you can eat scrambled eggs, roasted potato bites, bacon, and sausage rounds, and a complimentary coffee, tea or water. Evidently missing is the juice (or fruit of any kind for that matter), breads, or sweets. If you want toast, its $3. They don't offer oatmeal or cereal, but I assume there's other paid options as well. So while it's nice to wake up to some hot food in the morning, and sit by wall-to-wall windows in a pleasantly chic dining room, I'm not sure this food is what will provide me with the nourishment I need to walk around sightseeing for the day. I'm headed to an Italian cafe tomorrow morning for some REAL breakfast!! (I say this while chomping on an apple I bought last night just in case breakfast didn't pan out... wise foresight on my part I would say.)

For the price I'm paying, which is around the same or less than Travelodge or Best Western, this is a far superior choice. But I feel like I'm in a 3-star hotel that attempts to provide some 4-star luxuries to compensate the absence of other standard hotel amenities (clearly for the purpose of saving maintenance costs).

Being surrounded by Little Italy definitely helps to overlook some of the downgrades and makes my stay worth it.

Now it's off to the world famous San Diego Zoo for the day.