Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fairfield Inn, Laurel MD

The most annoying feature of this hotel was the squeaky buzz that the elevator made to announce each floor. It was nasty and grating. Otherwise, the hotel was a clean and comfortable place to stay--quite mid-range, with a few amenities.
Our room had two queen-sized beds, one narrow window, a nicely functioning air-conditioner with controls that allowed us to change it to our preference. You could also open the window, if you wanted to attempt fresh air from the parking lot.
I had checked off "rollaway bed" when making the reservations, and it was dutifully standing against the wall, but I don't think there was enough floor space to open it. We told the desk people to take it away and they did. The kids shared the other queen bed.
I don't know why I've begun to assume that hotel rooms always have a mini-fridge. This one did not. There was a small coffee maker on the bathroom sink-counter, with one packet to brew decaf and another to brew regular coffee. I made a pot of the decaf when we arrived. It didn't taste very good, but I am kind of fussy about coffee.
The next morning, at the included-with-room-price breakfast, I poured some of the non-decaf to try it. It didn't smell very good. Alas, the hotel does not Proudly Brew Starbucks. Then I noticed that they had a hot-water spigot and tea bags, including Earl Grey and Constant Comment, so was happy to drink tea after that. The coffee and tea is available 24-hours, so I didn't attempt to brew the other packet of coffee after that.
I know I'll sound like those ladies at that Catskills resort who complained that:
This food--it's inedible! 
Yes! And such small portions!
when I say that I thought they should have replaced the vile packet of decaf the next day, but they did not. I mean, housekeeping couldn't have known that I didn't drink it and didn't want more. No, really, we didn't pay enough for mind-readers on the staff.
Sweeteners, lemon packets, and some weird creamer stuff was out 24-hours, but I was glad I nabbed a packet of honey at breakfast when I made myself some herb tea late at night. The honey was only available at breakfast, and honey is best with herbal tea late at night.
OK, for breakfast, the fun thing was the make-your-own waffle, which really worked out better if you took the time to read the short instructions as to how you were supposed to do it. I stayed at a Marriott in Pittsburgh earlier this year that had the same waffle-makers and two kinds of batter. The second batter was "blueberry", which was a ground-up purply gloop that I somehow couldn't resist trying, but it was pretty awful. I was glad that the Fairfield only had the plain batter. There was no real maple syrup. The syrup provided was not a good imitation, but my kids were happy with it. I was happy to find packages of real butter under all the margarine packets, but didn't find those until the third and last morning of our stay.
There was oatmeal, which suffered from the usual problem of institutional oatmeal in not tasting good after sitting out a few hours. Why don't they learn to change it hourly, like coffee? So one day it was okay, and the next day too glutinous.
There were hard-boiled eggs, too-sweet muffins, bread and English Muffins to toast, some sort of bacon-egg-cheese sandwich to microwave, and little cereal boxes. My kids were happy to grab Fruit Loops, which they've never seen at home. The first ingredient listed in Fruit Loops is sugar, not even wheat.
There were two brands of yogurt. One brand of strawberry yogurt was colored with carmine, which is made from beetles and therefore all-natural. The other brand had artificial sweetener and red dye. There was also apricot yogurt and fruit cups. The "super-fruit" fruit cups of pear in blue-juice was bad. The grapefruit sections were great.
There were also soft cookies in the lobby in the afternoon. That put smiles on the kids after a long traffic-delayed drive from New York when we first checked in. The staff was friendly, though we did not have to deal with them much.
My main complaint with the room was that the bathroom vent was too small and there was no fan. Taking a shower really steamed it up in there. I did like that the shower nozzle was good for showering, though lacked one of those quick switches at the top to temporarily shut off and save water while you're putting conditioner in your hair. I liked the clean smooth tub, and that the tub-plug worked for when I wanted to take a bath. Showering-only has become so prevalent that some hotels forget to make sure their tubs work. After walking around in museums two days straight, it was nice to soak aching muscles in a tub.
When we arrived, there were only three bath towels in the bathroom and not enough shampoo, even though the reservation said four people. After we mentioned this, more towels and shampoo appeared in our room when the rollaway bed was taken away.
We all enjoyed cooling off in the outdoor swimming pool in the evening. The pool opened at 10 am on weekends, but not until 3pm on week days. After Labor Day, it was either going to close or have shorter hours. The pool was not large, but not as small as the indoor pool in the Pittsburgh Marriott. The kids could have fun racing across and back, though they are not strong swimmers.
There is a fried chicken and fish restaurant next-door to the hotel. It might have been good, but it kind of smelled off. On the other side of the hotel is a large shopping plaza with a grocery store and lots of chain restaurants. Free and ample parking. Less than a half-hour's drive to D.C., depending on traffic.

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