Is the “Luxury Hotel” a thing of the past?

Is the “Luxury Hotel” a thing of the past?

As a constant traveler, I’m always in search of experiences that stand out. I am not at all interested in cookie cutter hotels that look and feel the same no matter if they are in Iowa or Inverness. I intentionally seek opportunities for uniqueness that can only exist in one solitary place in the world. Now this isn’t always possible (i.e. when motoring down the highway with my 100 lb dog in tow), but interesting one-of-a-kind places are more common than you might think if you are open to a bit of adventure. Whenever possible, I also lean toward places that focus on luxury because why would anyone ever turn down a bit of pampering?

Last week I found myself in Boulder, Colorado. In my search for accommodations, two possibilities stood out: the Hotel Boulderado and the St. Julien. Both seem to offer historic charm, unique non-chain accommodations and convenient locations. However, the word “luxury” seemed inextricably linked with the St. Julien. That was enough for me and I booked a room for the night.

I chose the St. Julien!

The hotel is ideally located within the Pearl Street shopping area of Boulder, putting diverse dining options and oodles of boutiques just steps from my bed. The staff was polished and welcoming. The layout of the hotel itself is odd and winding with long dark hallways that feel somewhat dated. The room also felt a bit dated, but was bright and appointed with a few luxurious touches.

The room was comfortable, but had a decidedly dated feel.
The bathroom was warm and clean. It was stocked with spa products and comfy robes!
The bedside bottled water and chocolates were a nice touch!

After exhausting myself in Boulder I headed for the spa at St. Julien. I booked a winter special that included a body polish, a mud wrap, an aromatherapy massage and a health elixir of locally brewed kombucha. I arrived well in advance of my appointment with the intention of enjoying the pool, steam and sauna. Frustratingly, the pool and jacuzzi are not really a part of the spa, but are located just outside of the “relaxation room” of the spa. On the day I visited, a family filled with rowdy toddlers had taken up residence at the pool and jacuzzi. This not only made a leisurely soak impossible, but the noise echoing from the pool drowned out any chance of relaxation in the spa room designated for just that purpose. The tikes were so loud that they could be heard in the treatment rooms which was also rather disappointing. With this, I determined that the odd layout of the hotel extends to the spa as well. All in all, my spa treatments were wonderful, but the facility was a drag. The overall experience at the hotel was similar, wonderful location and people tainted by a lackluster space.

The friendly spa attendant led me to an assigned locker that was stocked with toiletries. Hot tea, wasabi nut mix and dried fruit were offered in the relaxation room. It was too bad that “relaxation” was impossible due to rowdy toddlers frolicking in the adjacent indoor pool.

My brief stay at the St. Julien had me wondering if I was mistaken in my understanding of the term “luxury”. A quick internet search turned up the following: “the state of great comfort and extravagant living”. Hmmmm. That is not what I experienced at St. Julien. In fact, I cannot recall experiencing “a great state of comfort and extravagant living” since my stay at the famed Hôtel de Crillon in Paris nearly twenty years ago! I’ve been to some very nice places since then and have many amazing memories, but nothing has stopped me in my tracks like my stay at Hôtel de Crillon did. I’m beginning to think that the “luxury hotel” is a thing of the past. I’m always searching for the next great place and won’t give up until I find it, but I’m wondering if I seek something that has gone the way of land lines and rabbit ears. I’d love to hear your recommendations for any truly luxurious experiences that remain. Feel free to comment below or email me at with suggestions.

Nowhere to Be Project

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