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Published: September 13th 2021
The other day I had a friend ask me about how we decided where to stay when we were traveling internationally. My friend wondered how we found the places and knew the hotels would meet whatever standards we may have for that moment or that experience. I have booked international hotels hundreds of times, but when she asked this question I sort of stumbled over my response. How do I explain something that I have not really thought about, but rather just done?
Sometimes you do lots of research. Sometimes you ask seasoned friends. Sometimes you call in the local experts. Sometimes you concede that where you lay your head that night is not much of a big detail. And sometimes you simply take a leap of faith and hope for the best. However, all the time, as is always the case in travel, you remain flexible.
In this digital age, the ease of researching and booking hotels was unimaginable way back when I took my first dip in the world of international travel. A traveler can book an entire trip in one evening sitting on the couch in their living room. Or they can
make dramatic flight and accommodation changes from their cell phone along the side of the road.
This trip to The Republic of Georgia was thrown together very last minute and in an incredibly short amount of time as we played travel defense in the name of Covid. Last minute bookings, fried nerves and hurried pressure meant that we did not get to relish the joy of anticipation. There was not a lot of pouring over itinerary options, must see sites or hotel choices. And due to the last minute nature of the trip, we faced a few roadblocks of places being booked and limited availability.
Overall this wasn’t a big deal and we were still fortunate to have so many luxurious and incredibly affordable options available to us. In some instances, we even faced that annoying obstacle of having too many great options.
But when my friend inquired about finding suitable and maybe even enjoyable accommodations, I could not help but to think about one situation that surfaced while in Georgia. There was a hotel we really wanted to stay at in the Kakheti region of Georgia. It was a boutique
hotel by Radisson that was built in this old estate. It was gorgeous, aethetically creative, conveniently located and beyond luxurious all the while fitting into our very modest budget. I have a weakness for old buildings that have been brought back to life with new purpose and Tsinandali Estate fit that bill. Unfortunately, it was fully booked according to the internet booking site we were using.
We chose another highly rated resort located just down the road from the Radisson and knew we would have a good time no matter what because we would be in Georgian wine country.
Our hotel, Akhasheni Wine Resort, was located smack dab in the middle of vineyards, set off from the major highway and nestled in with pools, spa, tasting rooms and everything you would expect. We checked in and found it to find our needs, enough.
The food was incredible and unique. The waitstaff was like nothing we had encountered in Georgia: they had waiters and waitresses waiting to meet your needs at any given moment and would come to your table if you just happened to look like you might need something. We
got lucky and happened to get the same waiter many times who spoke perfect English and was just an all around likable kid. The front desk staff members were also helpful and went out of their way to help us plan our wine tasting adventures along with communicating with our driver for us since we did not speak Georgian.
Despite all of these amenities, it just wasn’t quite our sort of place. The air conditioning did not work in our room the first night and it was a struggle to get any sort of resolution. The rooms were over stuffed with furniture, as were the common areas, forcing you to walk through little goat paths to get around. The clientele vibe seemed more Jersey Shore than we expected and I am sure the other guests looked at us like “who are those two stiffs who actually come to meals wearing clothes rather than their bikinis and swim trunks?” Dance music blasted through the place most of the day and night.
It was impossible to eat a meal in any sort of air conditioning or even with a fan circulating air. It sounds so picky
to even say it now, but the Georgian summers are hot and the meal seating was all out on a concrete patio, in the sun. With no air moving through and the sun beating down, it just didn’t seem inviting to sit down and eat an elegant meal. I suppose we should have dined in our bathing wear like the other guests!
Some of our issues with our hotel were so comical we just enjoyed the good laugh they provided. Like the morning I ordered a cappuccino with breakfast and was told no cappuccinos could be served until noon because the person who knows how to make cappuccinos would not be at work until noon. I looked at the cappuccino machine behind the bar, smiled, nodded and knew I could not argue with that sort of logic.
Were all of these issues deal breakers? Of course not. We were not staying in a dirty, unsafe place. We remained flexible and simply laughed at how we viewed things. Our expectations for this occasion were not being met. But, this is where you sometimes have to jump at opportunity.
We went to the
vineyard located at Tsinadali Estates which was part of the complex where the Radisson was located. He told ourselves not to get too jealous when we walked into the hotel for a refreshment break. Wow, that was a tall task. It was so beautiful and elegant. It was air conditioned and there wasn’t any dance music blasting at us. As we passed the front desk, we just decided to roll the dice. We told the manager how we had tried to book a room and found it to be full. She tapped around on her computer for a bit, made a phone call and shuffled some papers. Then she threw us this life preserver. She said she could get us a room for one night, which happened to be all we needed. And then she said, she could would upgrade the room free of cost. Sold!
We raced back to our hotel, threw everything in our suitcases, made up some story to the front desk about how we needed to leave early (we did not want to hurt their feelings and let them know we found something better) and we had our driver whisk us away.
It meant that we, of course, lost the money we prepaid for the night at our original hotel, but both hotel rates combined still made for an affordable night. Being my frugal self, (also known as cheap) this would normally have given me a moment to pause about wasting money and such, but I had the luxury of changing my mindset in the name of travel opportunities.
Our one night at the estate was nearly dreamy as we dined, enjoyed the sunset, soaked up the full moon in the adjacent historic park and fed our creative hunger with the stunning decor and landscaping. We jumped at a chance opportunity and reminded ourselves that when we are traveling, time is as much a commodity as money and experiences are the reason we explore.
While we may not have glowing reviews for Akhasheni Wine Resort, we appreciate the lessons in all the travel choices we make.
**For more stories and photos about our travels, please follow along on Facebook at Valeri Crenshaw and on Instagram at Valerispassport!***
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