My dear friend Janice Waugh recently went on a trip by train from Chicago to New Orleans. She wrote a series of fascinating articles documenting her experiences and observations which have been published on the Solo Traveler blog. Janice kindly offered to share some of her insights gained during this trip on the Velvet Escape blog, specifically the differences between the North and the South.

Thank you Janice! 🙂

Luxury North and South

When it comes to travel and accommodation, the word luxury has become synonymous with expensive. This, I believe, is a mistake. While luxury may not come cheap, it isn’t necessarily defined by a price tag. It’s not the hotel that’s luxurious but the experience that one enjoys when staying there. And the experience results from design, service, attitude and genuine hospitality. The latter is the most important.

My best experiences have been in guest houses, inns and boutique hotels. On a recent trip from Chicago to New Orleans, I have experienced two hotels that I found luxurious in every sense of the word. While very different – in the north there was a quirky sophistication, in the south a traditional southern hospitality – both were wonderful experiences.

The surprising North

In Chicago I stayed at the Hotel Monaco. The reason that this hotel was luxurious was because it kept surprising me.

goldfishI arrived at midnight and went right to my room. The décor was theatrical with lots of reds, odd mirrors, interesting wallpaper… it was a delight. I opened the curtains to have a look at the city and there was a 4’ x 3’ window seat with cushion. I climbed up to take in the view. The hotel welcomes pets but if you don’t have your own, they have a Guppy Love program. Just ask and they’ll put a cute goldfish in your room. They offer a wine reception every afternoon. And, to top it off, they have been Green Seal Certified for having met rigorous environmental standards. Oh yes, and the staff are always helpful and caring.

It was a fun, luxurious experience of great hospitality. Just what I like.

The friendly South

Traveling south I went down to Jackson, Mississippi by train. On the way I met a multi-generation family of seasoned American travelers who really questioned my choice of Jackson. They saw no reason to go which got me worried. But oh, they were so wrong.

DSC00281-1I loved Jackson and I loved my stay at The Fairview Inn. This was a completely different experience than Chicago. Luxury wasn’t represented in surprises but quite the opposite – a deep sense of tradition. Over the course of my stay I found myself feeling calm and speaking more quietly. The owners, Peter and Tamar were present and I chatted with them on a number of occasions. Elegant rooms and communal tables for breakfast made the whole experience wonderful.

I have to add that my fondness for Jackson also comes from experiences beyond the Inn. Everyone was friendly and helpful. I went to the Old Capitol Museum and left with a spontaneous city guide. Ruth, the hostess there, just volunteered. She had no particular plans for the afternoon so we had lunch together and she toured me around. In the evening I went to 930 Blues Café and again, I was taken under wing by locals. That’s southern hospitality.

Defining luxury

A relaxing bath, a chocolate truffle, a good stretch… can all be luxurious. Luxury is about enjoying the moment. It’s about the experience. Traveling the United States, luxury comes in many forms. Fortunately, we can keep traveling to experience this multitude of luxuries.

About Janice Waugh
janice_waughJanice Waugh is an avid solo traveller who, in her every day life, combines her two passions: travelling and writing. “I’ve been in tight spots made by strangers and been the beneficiary of great kindness from the same. Travel has been a constant source of wonder, education, fun and confidence. I enjoy the freedom of freelance writing”. Janice currently incorporates what she loves with what she’s good at in the Solo Traveler society.

Follow Janice on Twitter.

7 Responses

  • Another great area is the lower east coast – South Carolina and North Carolina both have great, beautiful beaches. NC has the Outer Banks, and just south of the there are some great Myrtle Beach oceanfront hotels that are really good deals compared with a lot of the gulf spots. It’s a fantastic area, but so many southern cities and states are – and Northern ones. Americans are usually much friendlier than their reputations, and folks in the south definitely are!

  • OH! I would love to have little gold fish as my companion if I can keep my kids from putting their hand in the bowl. 🙂

    Back to the point, I think it’s so true about luxury. It doesn’t have to be 5 stars hotel. It’s the little touch that makes it special!

    Thanks for sharing.

  • I want to stay at Hotel Monaco. Sounds wonderful. I agree that luxury is a state of mind. I have stayed in some terrible places and then gone out for the day and had some luxurious experiences, like a massage, a great cup of coffee and an incredible sunset.

  • I agree with Janice about how some places instinctively quiets you down and, ultimately, calm you down. That, to me, is part of the ‘luxury package’. I stayed at this 6-room guesthouse in Marrakech (Riad Dar One)–and you wouldn’t believe that only a few meters / feet away is the bustling city! Inside the guesthouse, everything was hushed. Only the sounds of the bubbling fountain, soft whispers and ginger footsteps can be heard throughout the day. At night, nothing. Just my voice (in me head?). That’s luxury to me! Thanks, Janice for giving us a great definition of Luxury!

  • Hi Jen,

    Thanks for the comment. Luxury is a state of mind isn’t it? To me, luxury is a great bed! My sleep is precious! 🙂


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