CombatCritic Recommends the BEST VALUE HOTELS OF THE US

CombatCritic Recommends the BEST VALUE HOTELS OF THE US
TravelValue ... TravelSafe ... ValueTravel

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Portland, OR: Airbnb Nightmare On Lombard Street

Albert's 2 Bed, 1 Bath, Kitchen, Pets OK!
North Portland (Arbor Lodge), Oregon
Price: $$$$


The place has potential, but it is severely outdated and dirty. The fridge, heat, hot water heater, and coffee maker did not work. The electrical is a mess, the blinds need to be replaced, the heat needs to be fixed, the kitchen needs a severe makeover, the plastic in the shower covering the wall needs to disappear, and the floors need replacing.  The blinds are old, barely work, rusty and dirty. The kitchen counters are stained and gross. There is a glob of something in the kitchen sink, but I did not want to find out what it was by touching it.





My Only Heat Source Other Than Small Wall Heater In Bedroom
Albert, the host, was fine before and during check-in, but then he checked-out and everything went downhill from there. With no heat and nothing working the first night, I tried to contact him at around 9pm, 10pm, and 11pm, but he would not pick up the phone or respond to texts. He sent an electrician the next day, but he said "I can't find anything wrong", even though there was not enough amps to run more than one or two things at the same time. When I returned the second evening, I expected the problems to be solved, but they were not. Again, I tried to contact Albert, but he said "there's nothing I can do". A guest, me, was freezing (temps in the high 30s during the day and 20s at night) and nothing worked, but there was absolutely no sense of urgency and even less communication.

The location is not bad, but it is an old building in a rather seedy neighborhood with little within walking distance except a couple dive bars and a 7-11.
Plastic Hiding Something In Shower

Bathroom Heater Hasn't Worked In Years




The apartment was uninhabitable and should have never been rented. I cannot believe that I was charged for the two nights I stayed there, freezing and unable to shower (no hot water), make coffee or store anything in the fridge. I feel that the host could have done much more to solve the problems or at least communicate that he could not. He had my phone number and knowing that there was still no heat and nothing working on day two, a simple phone call or text would have allowed me to find suitable accommodations. It is inexcusable for a "paying" guest to have to suffer and as someone with experience in the hospitality industry, he should have known better.

Thanks to Airbnb for your professional help and the $200 credit. Even though I had to suffer for two nights, your representatives were compassionate and very helpful.

Finally, I got this wonderful text (5:47AM - Friday) from Albert after he read my honest review online:








This is the kind of person you will be dealing with if you choose to stay with Albert. Your choice!

CombatCritic Gives Albert's Place 1 Bomb Out Of 10 And A Spot On My "WALL OF SHAME"
One Bomb Equates To:

Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp - Elite '14/'15/'16/'17

Tabelog - Official Judge (Silver)

Zomato - #1 Ranked "Verified" Foodie

View my food journey on Zomato!



... And Don't Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube


Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!


Title: Portland, OR: Airbnb Nightmare On Lombard Street

Key Words: Airbnb, Albert, North portland, Portland, Oregon, apartment, room, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, accommodation, hotel, motel, guest, review, Yelp, Airbnb.com, Lombard, street

Translation for Civilians: FUBAR = "Fucked Up Beyond All Repair"

Vancouver, WA: Quiet, Clean, Private, And Affordable Airbnb Apartment Or Room

Chris and Michelle's Clean, Quiet and Safe - No Cleaning Fee - Full Bed
Vancouver, WA
Airbnb Link
Prices: $$$$

I found this quiet, comfortable place on Airbnb short notice after "The Nightmare On Lombard Street" and Michelle and Chris were more than happy to oblige. They welcomed me warmly and I soon had a new home ... for five nights.
The house is in a residential neighborhood FAR from any restaurants or shops, so a vehicle is recommended. It is a nice 1950s home with lots of brick and wood floors. Chris and Michelle live in the mother-in-law apartment in the basement, leaving three bedrooms, a bath and a half, large living room, dining room, and remodeled kitchen.
There was just one other couple there, for one night - they were asked not to extend, during my entire stay, so with Chris and Michelle spending the vast majority of time downstairs, I pretty much had the place to myself. The kitchen is fully stocked with plates, pots, pans, silverware, Keurig coffee maker (and coffee), fridge. gas stove, microwave and dishwasher, everything you need to self-cater if that is your bag.
The living room couch has Lazy Boy style pop-out foot rests on each end of the couch, but the TV only gets over the air broadcasts (no cable/Netflix/HBO/Etc), but the Wi-Fi is fast and dependable, so I enjoyed Amazon Video, Netflix, HBO, CBS All Access, and Sling since we went cable free (like they did) on my computer or tablet.
Smoking is allowed (hey, it's Washington, so ANYTHING goes), but only on the back porch where you will find a table with ashtray and two comfy chairs overlooking a massive backyard.

I had the smaller of the three bedrooms, but it was plenty big for me with a double bed, small dresser, nightstand with light, and small closet (empty - I have stayed places where the hosts pack the closet with their own stuff, making it impossible to hang clothes). The bathroom was right across the hall, but is shared by three guest rooms if all are booked. 
I spent most of my time in the house spent in the dining room where I set-up my computer during most of the stay (Chris and Michelle had no problem with it) and living room where I watched the Super Bowl and news on Fox or streaming movies or series on my tablet.

It was very quiet, comfortable and relaxed. Chris and Michelle chilled in the basement most of my stay and had no rules other that you "smoke 'em if you got 'em" out on the back porch. Otherwise, I felt at home with no stress or interference from my wonderful hosts or other guests.

The only negatives, if you want to call them that, are the remoteness of the house from restaurants and shopping (which I did not mind because I had a rental car) and the lack of cable or streaming video services. Otherwise, this Airbnb is top notch and an excellent value smack in the center of Vancouver and just a few miles from downtown, malls, restaurants and shopping.
CombatCritic Gives Chris and Michelle's Clean, Safe, No Cleaning Fee, Full Bed 9 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!


Nine Bombs Equates To:


Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp - Elite '14/'15/'16/'17

Tabelog - Official Judge (Silver)

Zomato - #1 Ranked "Verified" Foodie

View my food journey on Zomato!



... And Don't Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube


Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!


Title: Vancouver, WA: Quiet, Clean, Private, And Affordable Airbnb Apartment Or Room

Key Words: Chris, Michelle, Clean, Quiet, Safe, Airbnb, room, hotel, accommodation, apartment, Vancouver, Washington, Portland, Oregon, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, review, Yelp

Translation for Civilians: OOH-RAH = "U.S. Marine Response To A Verbal Greeting Or As An Expression Of Enthusiasm"

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Portland, OR: (Airbnb) Heather's Cozy NE Portland Apartment

Heather's Cozy NE Portland Apartment (Airbnb)

NE 79th Avenue
Portland, Oregon
Montavilla, Glisan and I-205
Website
Prices:$$$$
 
Let me start by saying that I have a very popular travel blog and have received numerous accolades on several of the top travel and restaurant websites/apps. Unlike many reviewers who are either afraid to tell the truth or have a personal relationship with the business, I reserve 5-stars (10 Bombs on my blog) for only the most flawless restaurants, accommodations, businesses, attractions and destinations, those where you absolutely and without a doubt get the most “bang-for-the-buck”. I try to remain as objective in all of my reviews as possible, providing the pros and cons as I see them and providing a rating based on the overall “value” as compared to similar entities in similar locations. Otherwise, if I hate a place, they get 1-2 Bombs (1-star); if so-so with numerous”issues", they get 3-4 Bombs (2-stars); if average (the vast majority of businesses fall into this category if you look at the distribution of my ratings), they get 5-6 Bombs (3-stars); if above average, they get 7-8 Bombs (4-stars); and if they are one of the very rare “best of the best” values in my experience, they get 9-10 Bombs (5-stars – I always round up from bombs to stars because I use a 10 point Likert-type scale in order to be more discernible). Now, on to my review …
The size of the apartment, privacy, photos and amenities were all spot-on and the apartment was extremely clean, organized and well stocked. Heather even left us a very thoughtful welcome note, a bottle of Oregon wine, and a few local cans of beer in the fridge upon arrival.
The Airbnb description notes, in two places, that the area has "quiet time after 10pm” and that the “hosts live upstairs”, but well after 10pm on our first two nights there was quite a bit of sound emanating from people walking and talking in the rooms upstairs. Heather left on an extended holiday trip a couple days after arrival, so things were extremely quiet and peaceful thereafter.
Otherwise, we were not mislead in the least and the apartment was for the most part “as advertised” except as noted above and in the “Location” section below. The apartment was quite large and modern with one big room where there is a sitting/TV area and kitchenette (small fridge, microwave, toaster, kettle, and utensils) with a large table, a decent size bedroom with a comfy queen size bed, and a huge bathroom with shower and all of the amenities you might need while using the “loo”.
There was little communication after making our reservation on 9/3/2016 and 11/17/2016, four days before our scheduled stay from 11/21/2017 to 11/27/2-16. I finally sent an Airbnb message to Heather four days before check-in, asking about arrival details and telling her what time we would arrive. Heather quickly replied with a detailed message outlining most of the things we needed to know when we got there.

We had no idea how to enter the apartment as listed in the description or messaging, not knowing if we were in the right place because the side door had no exterior light and we had no idea that you actually had to touch the lock before the key pad would light-up. However, I called Heather and she quickly came outside to show us how to get in and give us a quick orientation.

Observation: An exterior light near the entry door and a reference regarding how to operate the electronic keypad, informing guests that you need to touch it to activate the backlight would have been very helpful. We had to use the LED lights on our cell phones while hauling four bags in the drizzle to see where we were going and, even then, we were still unsure if it was the correct door.

I also tried to call Heather the first night to find out how to access the TV channels, but she failed to answer even though I could hear (quite well I might add as noted in "Accuracy") her and her companion moving around upstairs until quite late. She called me back the next morning, apologizing and giving me the required information as well as telling me which phone number would be best used to contact her in the future.
Observations: 1) Clearer instructions or an orientation describing how to use the Apple TV (we had never used Apple TV before) and exactly which channels (there are over 30 options available) are accessible by guests would be helpful; 2) Even though it was noted that "Cable TV” was excluded (looking again at the description after we returned), it would be nice if cable was included in order for guests to be able to access local channels (news, sporting events, etc) during their stay; and 3) Information regarding which phone number to use (work or cell and which was which) for contact purposes would have been very helpful in advance, particularly because of our difficulty finding out how to enter the apartment.
Heather left for the duration of our stay a couple days after we arrived and she gave us clear instructions about how to contact her boyfriend (who was staying in the area) in the event of an emergency. That was fine with us because the noise from upstairs (people walking around and talking) was quite distracting. She did check in with us by phone a few days before departure to make sure things were going well, but we had no interaction with her during our stay other than by phone/text and the five minutes she physically spent with us upon arrival. There was no place to wash the limited number of plates, cups, silverware and glasses other than the bathroom sink and we ran out of coffee shortly after she left, but they were minor inconveniences as there was a Fred Meyer (Kroger’s Oregon version of Walmart) less than a mile west on Glisan.

Observation: We stumbled upon the Fred Meyer by chance while driving back from dinner, so it would be nice if Heather listed such details (nearby markets, pharmacies, hospitals, etc.) in the listing description or, otherwise comprehensive, orientation booklet.
The apartment was extremely clean and comfortable upon arrival with almost all of the amenities you might need during a short stay. 

However, we had no idea how to enter the apartment as listed in the description or messaging, not knowing if we were in the right place because the side door had no exterior light and we had no idea that you actually had to touch the lock before the key pad would light-up. When I called Heather, she quickly came outside to show us how to get in and give us a quick orientation.

Observation: An exterior light near the entry door and a reference regarding how to operate the electronic keypad, informing guests that you need to touch it to activate the backlight would have been very helpful. We had to use the LED lights on our cell phones while hauling four bags in the drizzle to see where we were going and, even then, we were still unsure if it was the correct door.

The apartment is centrally located as advertised and it is extremely easy to reach most areas of Portland, which is made-up of a “downtown” and several unique and charming neighborhoods, within a 10-30 minutes car ride depending on traffic.
The neighborhood sounds wonderful in the description, but is not what I would consider an “upscale” area and the restaurants and bars within walking distance (over 1/4 of a mile) looked a bit seedy. The closest main streets (NE 81st and NE Glisan) did not look like appealing or extremely safe places to walk at night, so we ate at the many wonderful restaurants around Portland.

For the price, I would say that the locations is very central if you have a vehicle, but expect a fair amount of walking and a somewhat complex transit system if without transportation. 

At $90.17 per night, including taxes and fees (we did not receive the 15% discount because our stay was one night short of the 7 day requirement), the apartment is a very good value for the Portland area where things are a bit pricier than in the Midwest and many other places we have visited (41 countries so far). A quick search located several well known chain hotels/motels in the area ranging from $56 to $87 per night, so considering the size, cleanliness, and amenities included in the apartment, we were very pleased with the accommodations although a price in the $80 range would seem more appropriate.

CombatCritic Gives Heather’s Cozy Apartment In NE Portland 8 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!


Eight Bombs Equates To:
Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp - Elite '14/'15/'16

Tabelog - Official Judge (Silver)

Zomato - #1 Ranked "Verified" Foodie

View my food journey on Zomato!



... And Don't Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube


Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!


Title: Portland, OR: (Airbnb) Heather's Cozy NE Portland Apartment

Key Words: Portland, Airbnb, Heather, Cozy, NE, Apartment, Oregon, Montavilla, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, accommodation, hotel, motel, guest, bed, breakfast, review, Yelp

Translation for Civilians: WTFO! = "What-The-Fuck ... Over!"

Monday, October 10, 2016

Manhattan, KS: Lovely 1920's House With Untraditionally Modern Decor And Quirky Host Left Me Puzzled

Anderson Bed & Breakfast

1719 Fairchild Ave
Manhattan, KS 66502
Phone number: (785) 539-4994
Website: andersonbnb.com
Prices: $$$$$

First impressions are everything. The large house with three guest rooms, two smaller queen size en suite ($129) and a much larger king size with a separate vestibule and sofa ($149), is well kept inside and out. A lovely 1920's stone and wood structure, the Andersons have unfortunately modernized the house extensively inside, losing most of the early 20th Century charm expected of a B&B. The furnishings are also predominantly modern and tastefully done, but they seem out of place in a B&B.











Dawn, the lady of the house, seemed very nice, but had to leave on errands when we arrived, so her husband Phil briefed us on the details of the house and showed us to our room, the smallest of the three rooms, a.k.a. the "Peters" room. He briefly showed us the other two rooms only because the doors happened to be open and I had enquired about seeing them, but that was the end of it.
Peters Room

Peters Room
Peters Room
Peters Room
Peters Room
Peters Room
I tried to make small talk with Phil about the house, our 1860s home in Lawrence, and about the obvious Dutch influence in their house, but soon had the perception that Phil is the kind of person who seems to know everything and fails to listen to what others have to say. For example:
I mentioned our 1860s home in Lawrence and that we were unsure as to when it was built and whether or not it had survived Quantrill's raid, being a wood structure and unsure of the exact history of the house (Quantrill and his men killed hundreds of Kansan's in the raid and burnt down most of the wooden structures in Lawrence). Most of the wood structures in Lawrence had not survived the raid except for a few, one being the house next door to ours, the home of a local bootlegger.
Well, Phil seems to know much more about Lawrence history than I do, me being a Lawrence resident and all, quickly correcting me and stating "Quantrill's raid was before the Civil War, so your house couldn't possibly have existed prior to the raid if it was built in the 1860s". Knowing better, but not wanting to argue with him, I said "OK Phil" and went about my business.
In-fact, the Civil War lasted from April 12, 1861 to May 9, 1865 and Quantrill's raid occurred on August 21, 1863, clearly during the war and in the 1860s as I had stated. I do not like correcting people, even if they are wrong, especially with people who seem to think they know everything but do not.
Fair enough, I quickly ended the one-sided conversation and returned to settling-in.

We were also told that there would be only two other guests arriving that night, staying in the other small (Parsons) room and leaving the larger Van Maanen Suite free. As we were unpacking, the other couple arrived and I overheard the conversation as they were just outside our door in the hallway. Dawn had returned by then and was showing them to their room, stating "I had you in the Parsons Room, but I'd like to upgrade you to the Van Maanen Suite at no extra charge if that's OK with you". Strange, I thought, because we had arrived much earlier and it was obvious that these were, like us, not return guests, but we were made no such offer to stay in the empty room even though I had told them it was my wife's birthday. What are we, chopped liver?
Parsons Room
Parsons Room
Van Maanen Suite
When I came down to get our luggage from the car, Phil was cooking dinner. I asked him about the obvious Dutch influence in the house's decor and he referenced Dawn's Dutch heritage, telling me about their trips to the Netherlands, but cutting me off and not wanting to hear anything about my visits there. He then told me, "We're having family over for dinner 'in the dining room' (which takes up most of the main living area) at 6:30", sounding like a rather big hint that we were probably not welcome in the main area of the house even though we were paying $130 per night to stay in their B&B. I told him, "Don't worry Phil, we will make ourselves scarce", to which there was no reply. When we came back from dinner around 7:30pm, the house was full of family and children, making it uncomfortable and impossible to enjoy the main area of the house, including the large adjacent enclosed porch, so we sequestered ourselves to our room. 


Anyway, as I said, first impressions are everything, but I tried to be as objective as possible during the remainder of our stay, not letting early perceptions slant my bias as I will, and as always, attempt to do here.

Even though I do not agree with the modernization of a historic home, the house is nice and the rooms comfortable and clean. There was a TV with cable in the room, although FS1 and the NLDS was not available, and the Wi-Fi was fast and dependable. Although we had restricted access to the main living area, there were several books available to read as well as a large screened-in porch which we were unfortunately not able to enjoy.

I was hoping to get some ice water before bed, but the open kitchen is "off limits", clearly listed as "PRIVATE", so I had to make do with tap water during the night.


The bed was comfortable although rather small for a "queen", but we had no way to control the temperature in the room and it was very hot, uncomfortable for sleeping as I like sub-70 degree temperatures to sleep and it was closer to 75 degrees in the room overnight. I also prefer darkness in the morning, but the curtains were thin with no blinds, allowing the morning sun to wake me up at 7:30 whether I liked it or not.

We were asked to designate the exact time we wanted breakfast the night before and it was ready at 8:30am at the appointed time when we went downstairs in the morning. The "upgraded" couple from Texas were at the table when we arrived as were coffee and juices. Breakfast consisted of what was described as an "apple pancake" made with eggs from the chicken coop out back, as well as tomato, grapes, melon slices, and three small kielbasa. The egg was somewhat dominant in the pancake and not to my taste, but I finished it nonetheless as not to insult the host. The coffee, juice, and kielbasa were all good.

In all, the house was nice, as was Dawn, and centrally located. The limited access to the living area due to the impromptu dinner party and the kitchen being "PRIVATE", Phil's somewhat controlling, know-it-all demeanor, and the excessive heat and light in the room made for a less than perfect stay. At $130+ including tax, comparatively speaking, Anderson B&B was at least $30 overpriced as we have stayed in much nicer, more historically accurate B&Bs in comparable mid-size Midwestern cities (St Joseph and Hannibal, Missouri for example) for well under $100 per night.

CombatCritic Gives Anderson Bed And Breakfast A Very Generous 5 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

Five Bombs Equates To:


Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp - Elite '14/'15/'16

Tabelog - Official Judge (Silver)

Zomato - #1 Ranked "Verified" Foodie

View my food journey on Zomato!



... And Don't Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

Read Chris S.'s review of Anderson Bed & Breakfast on Yelp


Tabelog Reviewer CombatCritic
View my food journey on Zomato!



Title: Manhattan, KS: Lovely 1920's House With Untraditionally Modern Decor And Quirky Host Left Me Puzzled

Key Words: Anderson Bed & Breakfast, Anderson, bed, breakfast, B&B, Fairchild Avenue, Manhattan, KS, Kansas, 66502, hotel, accommodation, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, review, Yelp, state, Kansas State University

Translation for Civilians: Charlie-Mike = "Continue Mission"