Hotel San Carlos – A Review
As newlyweds, Anthony and I honeymooned at the historic Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, an opulent mecca for the stars and fat cats of the 1920’s, and the setting for the classic film “Some Like it Hot”, starring Marilyn Monroe. We returned home to Paso Robles where we had our own taste of Hollywood history: our apartment was formerly the hotel room where Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio spent their own honeymoon. Keeping with the theme, we have always tried to stay in vintage hotels whenever we travel (which is hardly ever). This year, for our seventh anniversary, we were excited to stay at the Hotel San Carlos in downtown Phoenix, where, you guessed it! Marilyn Monroe was once a guest.
There are certain things that you must understand about visiting a vintage hotel. It’s not for everyone. Usually, vintage hotels smell a little old, because they are old! The San Carlos was built in 1927 and the building has many of the original fixtures today. The elevators were updated in the 1970’s but you can still see the hand operated controls in the car alongside the modern buttons. Most of the furnishings and light fixtures are glamorously ornate, but we certainly appreciated the soft modern bed (with ample fluffy pillows) and the plumbing!
Hotel San Carlos is home to a small restaurant and a swinging bar where people seemed to be having lots of fun late into the night. We had dinner right next door at the fantastically charming Séamus McCaffrey’s Irish Pub and could have walked right across the street to have our shoes fixed by a cobbler (!) or a shave and haircut at the traditional barber shop.
After dinner (Shepherd’s Pie, Fish and Chips and a few pints of Guinness), we hired a talkative pedicab driver to take us to the local movie theater (we’re cheap and couldn’t afford the “real” Orpheum theater that was two blocks away). Riding through downtown we were really surprised at how quiet and empty it was for a Friday night. Our driver informed us that Phoenicians (yes, isn’t that a cool term for people from Phoenix?) usually go to Tempe for the nightlife. At least we didn’t have to fight anyone for seats! Properly laden with coke, popcorn and Whoppers, we watched “Eclipse” (yes, at last, we have kids and never see things opening night anymore). After the movie, we were able to call our same pedicab guy to pick us (and sleeping baby Josh) up and take us back to the San Carlos.
We returned to our room and settled in for the night. Our little room had a walk-in closet opposite a small bathroom. The bathroom had most fixtures updated, but the pedestal sink didn’t have a place to set anything, so we had to make do with a little ledge under the mirror to balance our toothbrushes. There was a desk with a chair, an armoire for the TV, two chairs and a round table by the window, and a bedside table. I had reserved an “outside” room with a view to the street online, but when we checked in, they said they had the air conditioning go out on the floor we had reserved, so we were given an “inside” room with a view to the 3rd floor roof-top pool (and $$ off our total). The view was not very exciting, since we could also see the back entry to the downstairs bar, complete with trash cans and stained concrete. Anthony was happy that the TV had ESPN, and he was able to check his teams before we turned off the light.
Here is where the vintage aspect of hotels just sucks. For whatever reason, the Hotel San Carlos was built with vents both in and above the door leading out into the hallway, so we had yellow stripes of light shining onto the bed. We were able to fall asleep fine, but around midnight, people near us (we never quite figured out if they were above, below, beside or across from us) got into a screaming argument that woke us up and went on for 20 minutes. Just as we were about to call the front desk, they stopped and we drifted back into a restless sleep.
I would like to say that we were woken by ghosts or something else romantically terrifying (the San Carlos is a “proven” haunted hotel), but nothing so paranormally awesome ever happens to us (I strongly suspect it’s because we have some mighty angels guarding our every move–not that I’m complaining). No, we get stupid humans. At 3 in the morning, the bar must have closed because we were suddenly surrounded by laughing, talking, arguing, drunk humans. Because of the vents in the door and the uninsulated air ducts, it sounded like they were all in the room with us. We called down to complain about the noise from (what we thought was) our neighbors, but because of the ease of sound traveling, it took security almost an hour to discover that the culprits occupied the room BELOW ours and we were hearing them through the air duct. Amazingly, Joshua woke up for his usual 1am feeding and went right back to sleep and hardly even twitched through all the noise!
By the time we checked out in the morning, we were exhausted from the interrupted night’s sleep. I’d like to think that, without the noise issues, it would have been a wonderful stay, but the only way to find out would be to go again, and we’re out of special occasions until next August.