This post about sleeping in unusual places on the road is the result of an exciting exchange I had a few months ago with Annalisa, a fan of my Facebook page, but above all a great traveler and lover of the unusual.
We both agree that where to sleep is also an experience and sometimes it can be just the real travel experience. Sleeping in the ranch in Tombstone for example was the main reason for my unforgettable stage in the heart of Arizona and I could mention many other similar accommodations.
However, Annalisa and her husband Dario are real experts in this type of unusual accommodation and I asked her to tell me about her favorite experiences, how she organizes her trips and if she can advise me about the unusual places that I should include in my bucket list
Sleeping in unusual places: Annalisa’s advice
My name is Annalisa Dei and I live near Arezzo (Tuscany), but I come from the area of Florence. I am administrative manager in a web agency in Arezzo and I graduate in foreign languages and among my thousand hobbies (photography, TV series, anime, reading, writing, gardening, etc.) I love traveling.
I travel all year round around Italy on weekends to take part in several exhibitions of MOC Lego. Unfortunately, for work reasons, we can only grant ourselves a proper vacation once per year, always in August and always lasting three weeks.
I usually keep a notebook on my smartphone, divided by continents and then into states and every time I find an interesting location I add it. To select the various locations I use any means, from online travel diaries, TV series locations (for example Sedona and Atlanta for The walking dead), or I do a targeted search for parks / zoos / aquariums, dark places, unusual places or I search by photo, entering the name of the place and from there broadening the search.
I have been traveling with my partner Dario since 2012 and each one has its own task: I find all the “pearls” (especially the non-touristy ones), then I propose them to Dario and if he likes them too we start searching all the related details.
Once we defined the places we want to visit, we open a map and start adding all the selected spots: green for those we need to see, orange for those to see only if we have time and red for those we could also skip. Once the spots set, we decide the itinerary, checking timetables, rates, arrival times and average duration of the visit based on both online reviews and our priorities, as we both love photography and we know more or less how much time we need.
The tour virtually established, Dario looks for all the GPS coordinates: hotels, parking lots, landmarks in desert areas, etc.
In the meantime we select and book the accommodations, mainly based in strategical hubs to arrange all the visits and following stages. Once everything is defined, we transcribe routes and info on what will be our logbook which is actually a big ring-binder.
Basically when we leave we have already paid for flights, rental car, accommodation and tours. Extras onsite include fuel, meals, parkings and personal purchases.
The first three years we have thoroughly visited all of Great Britain which has many hidden pearls, then Scotland and the Outer and Inner Hebrides, then Iceland, then the parks in western USA and last year the south of the USA from Atlanta to Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and back (about 9700 km).
Every trip has its peculiarities, there is not a single one I liked more than another, ’cause each one is realized following our own desires.
Unusual accommodations in Wales
In every trip, if there is a possibility, we treat ourselves with “special accommodations.
In Wales we slept in a beautiful Mansion: Llanmihangel Plas, £ 35 per person. Inland from the south coast of Wales, it does not have a specific address. It is located in the village of Llanmihangel.
A mansion fully furnished according to medieval style (bathroom included). It is gorgeous and the friendly owners told us “do as if you were at home”. Rich and delicious breakfast served in an elegant dining room that made us feel like two nobles, being seated each at the head of a very long table.
I recommend a stroll in the small garden and in the grove, always part of the property.
The only cons: it’s not easy to find it without GPS!
In Wales we also slept at Gwydir Castle: £ 85 per night. It’s located in the village of Llanrswt (North Wales). The price of the rooms varies according to the chosen one (there are three available); ours was the Duke of Beaufort’s Chambe.
We were the only guests and it was a unique experience as it’s considered to be a “haunted” castle.
A spectacular place, serving a very good breakfast in the dining room, which closes right after the meals being part of the official exhibition. Same thing for the gardens, reserved to the castle’s guests till 10 a.m. and the open to the public.
On request we were handed the keys to the private chapel, accessible by car, and visiting it by ourselves was another treat.
The only cons: light in the room virtually nonexistent…
After the shop closes, the owners leave and guests are left alone in this paradise. There is a room where you can eat surrounded by hundreds of books. Very nice bedrooms, obviously packed with books, and even our bathtub with lion’s feet was surrounded by books. They serve a very good breakfast and if you want you can even book a Japanese one as Mariko, the owner’s wife, is Japanese.
The book store is very interesting, composed by many rooms and niches where you can sit on sofas, read, relax and observe old toys.
The only cons: the parking lot next to the B&B is not a free one, but the owners do help with this too.
In Iceland we slept at: Glamping & Camping, in Vestman Islands, in a bungalow at € 75 a night. They are hobbit hut-like huts built at the foot of the mountains.
Furnished in Ikea style but very stylish, including mini sitting area at the entrance and a bedroom. The bathrooms (public and with showers) are located at about 200 m, in the main residence, where you can also use the kitchen, internet and other services.
You can also sleep in tents, but in August it was very cold and humid at night and the huts are equipped with heating. Cars can be parked nearby.
The only cons: there are no market or shops to buy food nearby, but you can find a Bonus supermarket in town.
Unusual accommodations in the States
In the USA we slept in a Saloon in Montana at the entrance of Yellowstone: The Range Rider Lodge – 109 U.S. Park County – Montana 59081 USA, for $ 94 per night.
The place is fantastic and to get there you pass by the Lamar Valley and in the evening you can watch out for the bison herds that cross the street.
As soon as you enter, you find yourself directly inside a mega saloon and the rooms are located along the perimeter of the gallery and each has a woman’s name (yes, they were the ones used by prostitutes). Small, quiet and comfortable rooms with common bathroom, always along the corridor.
The only dining place is a quaint mini restaurant right across the street. Very good, but it closes quite early at night. To get from the restaurant to the hotel it is pitch dark (we found some deer next to the restaurant door) and therefore it is better to walk around with the lamp provided in the room.
After dinner, in the dark, you can sit on the rocking chairs under the porch to chat and watch the stars. There is no front desk and the saloon is open only on certain days. When we were there is was unfortunately closed.
In the morning a bison was waiting for us on the lawn just below our bedroom window. Highly recommended!!!