Sunday, September 2, 2012

Date Night at the H Hotel in Midland, MI

Even though Chris and I did have a sort-of date day last weekend, we were long over-due for some time away, just the two of us. Getting out town without children in tow is quite a rare occurrence for us, but luckily my mother-in-law is happy to step in and take over parenting duties for us. She offered to stay at our house so we wouldn't have to worry about getting someone to watch our dog, and she gave us a Groupon for a hotel in Midland, the H Hotel.

We had stayed at the H years ago, before it became the H. I can't remember its former name, but it was a "regular" hotel back then. Now it is anything but regular. It is more in the category of totally awesome. It is situated right in the middle of Main Street in downtown Midland. Midland, as the home of Dow Chemical, is known as Chemical City, but its downtown area has a friendly, small town, USA feel to it. Within walking distance of the H you can find a variety of shops, restaurants, bars, a Farmers Market, and the Tridge park. The Tridge is a unique triple bridge that crosses both the Tittabawassee and Chippewa Rivers. Visitors can find a splash pad, a playground, picnic tables, skateboard ramps, and trails. In short, the H is perfectly located to conveniently enjoy downtown Midland.

When arriving, pull around back to check in, or go right into the attached parking structure on Ashman. There are elevators and luggage carts available, so don't worry about having to lug your bags. Also, parking is free for hotel guests. Use your room key to exit the structure during your stay, and upon check-out you will be given a parking token. Also note the bicycles, various sizes, racked up in the garage, which are available for rent.

As soon as I entered the H, I felt a sense of serenity and of truly being on vacation. The lobby decor is contemporary, comfortable, and visually appealing. I requested a King room, and ours was on the second floor. As it turned out, it was a handicap accessible room, which meant the bathroom was huge and it had a big walk-in shower. I'm not sure what the bathrooms are like in the regular rooms. Ours had soft, fluffy towels, a telephone, a hair dryer, and a nice assortment of Gilchrist and Soames toiletries (including shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, a facial bar, a larger bath bar, and dental rinse), and a shower cap and shoe shine sponge. There was an actual bath mat, which might be a minor detail, but I love using a real bath mat as opposed to throwing a towel down on the floor (like we do at home). I have a small complaint about the bathroom, and that is that all the hooks were pretty low. I am assuming this is because we were in a handicap accessible room, but we aren't wheelchair-bound, and I would have liked to have been able to hang my dress up in the bathroom while I was in the shower.

Our room was equipped with a comfortable bed, piled with several pillows. Considering that Chris and I each typically sleep with three pillows at home, this was a nice touch. There was a desk and chair, a night stand on either side of the bed, an arm chair and an armoire. The armoire contained a small ironing board, an iron, a luggage rack, and the television. The television was one of the few disappointing aspects of the room because it was an older, small model and not a flat panel like one would expect in such a room. But we didn't watch television during our stay, so it didn't make a difference to us. There was an alarm clock, a small bottle of hand sanitizer, and a Keurig coffee maker, complete with a selection of various coffees and teas. Let's not forget the chocolate square on the bed! Everything was very clean and comfortable. I felt relaxed and pampered just being in this lovely little space! One other minor annoyance: there was not a full length mirror in our room. I like to get a full view of myself before heading out in public, so this would be a very welcome addition to the room. But none of my tiny little complaints would in any way discourage me from staying at the H again - when I have the chance, I'll be back in a heart beat!

Within moments of settling into our room, we received a phone call from the front desk, just checking on us. A little while later, as we were getting ready to go out, there was a knock on the door - turn down service! We were given two delectable cookies and a little card with the next day's weather report, so we could plan our day accordingly. Every time we turned around, we encountered more and more of these thoughtful little touches.

For dinner, Chris and I decided on Cafe Zinc, which came highly recommended. It is attached to the hotel, along with Table Restaurant and Bar Oxygen. Although all three are attached to the H, I'm not sure whether or not they can be accessed from within the hotel. We walked outside, through the large courtyard, to get to Cafe Zinc. Inside it is decorated much along the contemporary lines of the H, and looked quite lovely, but we took full advantage of the gorgeous evening and dined outside. I had the Vegetable Tofu Pad Thai, which was quite good, and even enjoyed a cocktail (Raspberry Kiss: Kahlua, Chambord, and cream - delicious!). Chris had a steak, which he was also very happy with.

While I'm discussing dinner, I'm going to go ahead and blabber on and on about the fabulous service we had during our stay and even beforehand while I was booking our room on the telephone. Whether it was at the front desk, in the hallway, in the fitness room, at Cafe Zinc, or anywhere else we encountered an employee of the H, we were blown away by the friendly service. Every employee was kind and helpful, ready with some light conversation and a genuine smile. I hope I am right in assuming that these are people who are treated well and enjoy their jobs. If not, they are all capable of Oscar-worthy performances.

After dinner, Chris and wandered up and down Main Street, stopping at a nearby bar to listen to some live jazz music, before meandering back to the H's large outdoor courtyard. We sat outside and talked, enjoying the view of the Blue Moon, and marveling that the astronomical rarity must have been the reason the stars had aligned for us to get away together for a couple days. Because, you know, once in a Blue Moon...Chris and Alysia can go somewhere as a couple and enjoy each others company without being interrupted by the constant chatter of four children. It was a beautiful night, and I was soaking it in while starting to mourn the end of another fabulous summer.

Eventually we went inside and changed into our swim suits so we could take a dip in the swimming pool, which is opened 24 hours a day. The pool is accessed via the well-equipped fitness room, and we were both wishing we had thought to bring gym clothes as we walked through. There was enough equipment for several people to work out at once, fresh towels, and a big basket of fresh fruit on the counter. Right outside the fitness room is a restroom and a small alcove with ice tea (green tea Friday, raspberry on Saturday). By the time we got in the pool, it was about one o'clock in the morning, and we were the only guests using it at that point. I tentatively dipped my toes in to test the water and was delighted to feel water that was at a warm, comfortable temperature. I cannot stand cold pools, and had it been cold I would have headed straight for the hot tub. Instead we both jumped in the pool and leisurely swam around and talked for a good long while before getting out and relaxing in the hot tub.

After swimming and  hot tubbing, Chris and I were hungry for a little snack. We could have taken advantage of the 24 hour room service, but we just wanted something small. Chris went looking for vending machines, and found soda machines on the third and fifth floors, but no snack machines. He called the front desk to inquire, and was told that he was welcome to head up to a room called The Pantry on the fifth floor and help himself. Inside the pantry was a fridge stocked with cold beverages, Hot Pockets in the freezer, baskets of chips and cookies, and a microwave. We could snack on anything we wanted, and it was all complimentary. The two of us were astounded, having never encountered such a thing before in a hotel. See what I mean about all the thoughtful little details? It's those small touches that will be bringing us back to the H, and recommending it to everyone!

The next morning, we slept too late to order room service breakfast. I was a little bit disappointed, but very happy to have had a full, sound night of sleep in a comfortable bed. I had a cup of coffee, which is not something I normally drink in the morning, but to be honest I got a kick out of the Keurig! I want one! We were able to take our time getting our things packed up because check-out time at the H isn't until 1:00 in the afternoon. We were in no hurry to leave either, believe me! Had they not been booked solid Saturday night, we would have been tempted to stay another night. We fully intend to return to the H as soon as the opportunity arises. It would also be a good place for a girls weekend, or a family destination, especially considering there is plenty to do in the area.

Have you ever stayed in a hotel that just blew you away?

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