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The Biltmore hotel was built with the help of the architect, Frank Lloyd Wright (FLW -- one of my enthusiasms), so I decided to stay there when giving a talk on dizziness and migraine at the ARO (association for research in otolaryngology) convention.
The place is very beautiful -- with very clear FLW influences everywhere. It was also very difficult to find. On the map, it looks as if you should practically see it from afar shining in the distance, but in reality it is hidden inside of a large complex of very fancy residences. One can easily go around and round in circles for 20 minutes -- there are almost no signs, and the place is not on the edge of the subdivision. The trick to getting there is to just take 24th street north from the airport. When you attempt to leave the property -- it is very very tough to find your way out. Most roads end either in dead-ends or circle around forever within the Biltmore estates. Here, it seems that there has been very little attention paid to basics such as road signs.
When I got there, I was surprised to learn that there was an additional charge for self-parking. Apparently it is on an "honor plan", as you are just pointed in the direction of a parking lot, and told that you will be charged $10/day. The other option is to use the valet parking -- $25/day. The Valet lot is very close to the hotel -- if you opt to self-park, you might end up with more exercise that day than you planned. It seems here that the hotel has opted to make the guests suffer, perhaps in an attempt to encourage them to purchase the valet service. Even the staff don't seem to know where the parking is located. I asked a very friendly hispanic hotel employee where the parking was located. He cheerfully sent me on a wild goose chase through a door in the end of the complex that ended in a service entrance.
Another surprise was the way that the Biltmore deals with people who want to drink coffee in the morning. Generally, when I stay in nearly any other hotel -- there is a self-service coffee pot in the room, and many even provide a complimentary breakfast. For example, I recall an Econolodge in North Dakota -- the charge there was $57/night, and it came with coffee and doughnuts. Still -- the Econolodge didn't have any FLW buildings.
The Biltmore takes a different approach. No coffee pots for the Biltmore guests -- instead you get up, put on your clothes, and trek down about a 10th of a mile to the cafe which serves ($5/cup) Starbucks coffee. This whole process reminds me of a another resort hotel where I stayed in a few years ago. I asked them where the coffee maker went, and they said they removed it because of "terrorists". Bombs in coffee makers ?
At the risk of sounding pedantic, it seems that there is a "bell curve" relating hotel amenities to the room rate. The very inexpensive hotels offer nothing but a bed. The middle of the road -- family oriented hotels -- provide breakfast, coffee, newspapers, etc. The fancy hotels drop back again to the same level as the very inexpensive hotels.
I was also surprised at the Biltmore at check-out by the "resort charge" -- of $25/night. I asked the front desk lady -- what do I get for the "resort charge ?". She said that it went to pay for the internet. I replied -- they told me at check-in that the internet was free. Seemed a bit inconsistent -- must be a large "class" of people who are hurt by this undocumented charge.
The Biltmore has a nice restaurant -- basically just one fancy one. There are myriads of other decent and far more interesting restaurants in close proximity however. Tomaso's restaurant -- Italian of course, is a short drive (or cab ride), and has terrific food. The Gelato place across the street is outstanding too.
All in all -- I think the best strategy for someone visiting would be to stay at a "middle of the road" hotel in the Scottsdale area -- there are myriads of these. Then, if one wants to see the Biltmore -- just drive over and take a look around. You might also want to take in Taliesen west - -another FLW stomping area. Or, if you just have to stay at the Biltmore, bring some instant coffee with you.
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