Location: Berkeley, California
Overall Rating: 9/10
Sometimes Expedia really comes through. I use them mostly when the major hotel chains with which I have rewards membership are overpriced and I am looking for a cheap deal. The site and map functionality is the cleanest and best of any ‘online travel agent’ type of website, in my opinion. They can also offer some killer deals. Such was the case when I was booking a night for a recent visit to our Berkeley office. All the IHG hotels in the area were over $200/night, and the SPG options were even higher, so I was out of luck with my go-to chains. Expedia offered me a few choices within walking distance of the office: the Quality Inn for $180, a smoking (icky) room in the Knights Inn for $130, or this place called the Berkeley City Club for $150. It had very good reviews, so I figured I’d take a gamble and book it.
I didn’t realize what a gem I picked. The hotel is on the list of historic hotels of America, and the interior of the building is beautiful. I had seen from the online photos that the building looked historic, but I was even more impressed than I expected. I was checked-in by a pleasant desk agent who gave me a bit of info about the hotel and breakfast, and then handed me my room key. A literal metal key. I haven’t stayed at a hotel using real keys for quite a while.
The room had the antique feel that I have only experienced in a few hotels. An old radiator was still present along one wall, and the bathroom was tiny, but both of these things just added character to the place. I wandered back down the hall and out of the building to grab dinner, noticing that the elevator floor indicator was the old vintage type, a metal semicircle with an brass arrow that slowly moved as the elevator traveled up and down. This place was great.
I grabbed dinner from an Italian place down on Shattuck, and headed back to my room after wandering around for several blocks. I’m not crazy about Berkeley, but I figured an evening walk and some fresh air would be nice. Once I was back in my room, bedtime came quickly since my body was still on Eastern Standard Time.
Morning came too soon as well. One night is simply not enough for my body to adjust back to California time. I woke up at 4:30 feeling fairly refreshed. Waking up early gave me a great excuse to use the pool, which opens at a very early 5 a.m. Pool usage extends beyond just hotel guests, as the Berkeley City Club offers sells memberships, and they have a full changing room and showers. The morning swim was nice, and the pool itself was unique and elegant as well.
The hotel also offered a free continental breakfast for guests, and it was an decently good selection of pastries, fruit, and yogurt, with the usual beverage offerings of coffee, water, tea, juice, and milk. Everything was definitely good, but nothing stood out.
As I was checking out, the lady at the desk remarked about how deep of a discount I had gotten on my room. As it turns out, when I initially was booking the room on Expedia, it came to about $165 after tax. After I had logged in and entered my payment info, the screen refreshed and said the price had changed and the new total was now $150 and change. I am not sure what happened, but it was definitely a cheap rate for the place, and the front desk was definitely surprised. Considering this is a 3 star historic hotel in the Bay Area, I am surprised that the rates weren’t over $200. I’m gonna chalk it up to lucky timing.
Overall, it was a short but great stay. Don’t be afraid of third-party booking sites like Expedia. Sometimes they can be the best way to go. My only after-the-fact complaint is that the Club doesn’t code as a travel purchase. Heads-up on that little detail.