Undercover Director Checks Out Conference Hotel

By Diana Savage, director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal confereUndercoverDirectorPinablence

When I agreed to become conference director, I never dreamed the assignment would turn me into an undercover hotel guest. But that’s exactly what happened in January.

While taking part in the NCWA* WriteTech Conference in Kirkland, WA, I checked into the Redmond Residence Inn. This renovated facility is only about five minutes from where our May writers conference will be held at Overlake Christian Church. Our out-of-town speakers will stay there, and we’ve also secured a special rate for conferees.

But was the Residence Inn a hotel we could be proud of? The list of features was impressive:

  • Enhanced studio rooms, each with a queen bed and fold-out sofa (for sleeping up to 4 people)
  • Kitchenettes in every room, with appliances and well-stocked cabinets
  • Complimentary on-site parking for registered guests
  • High-speed Internet
  • Flat-screen television
  • Ergonomic desk and office chair
  • Fitness center
  • Outdoor swimming pool
  • Dinette table and chairs
  • Complimentary hot buffet breakfast in main-floor dining room
  • Morning copy of USA Today
  • Grocery shopping service
  • Redmond Town Center shopping mall nearby

ResidencePorticoDirections: Even without GPS and while encountering a detour, I found the Redmond Residence Inn easily using directions I’d printed off the Internet.

Parking: It helped to know that the hotel’s portico and entrance were in back of the building. I left my vehicle under the portico for a few minutes while I checked in. Once I had my room key-card, I swiped it through a box in front of the parking lot. The gate opened, and I parked for free.

ResidenceBedRoom amenities: The clerk directed me to the elevator, and I took my luggage up to my third-floor room. The studio had a queen bed, large flat-screen TV, foldout sofa bed that could accommodate two more guests, an easy chair, a desk with a lamp, and a small dinette table with two chairs.

During my stay I used the stairs almost exclusively. The stairwell was close to my room and provided great exercise. If I’d had more time, I would have checked out the hotel’s fitness center too.

ResidenceKitchenKitchen: The kitchen was equipped with a sink, stainless-steel dishwasher, refrigerator with freezer, 2-burner glass-top electric range, coffeemaker, and microwave. The cabinets were stocked with dishes, glasses, stemware, stainless-steel pots and pans, a colander, measuring cup, toaster, nested mixing bowls with lids, and a couple of microwave-safe cooking dishes.

SnackBasketIn-room food: Knowing ahead of time about a microwave being in each room, I brought my own supper to heat up. That saved me time and money—plus, I didn’t have to dine out alone. For an evening snack, I took advantage of the package of microwave popcorn left in a basket for guests. To accompany the popcorn, I wanted a cup of decaffeinated tea, but the only tea bags in the basket were caffeinated. LobbyBeverageCartHowever, in the main-floor lobby, I found a well-equipped beverage station with hot water, regular and decaf coffee, ice water, and a dozen varieties of tea bags.

Shopping: Sundown comes early in January, so, after I unpacked a few things and while it was still light, I stopped at the hotel’s desk and asked if the Redmond Town Center shopping mall was close enough to walk to. “Oh, my yes!” they said, handing me a brochure and explaining how to get to my destination. At the mall’s security office, I inquired about getting 150 of the brochures to include in our conference registration packets. It just so happened that they had received their order of brand new brochures that very day. The woman at the desk handed me a stack on the spot.

The most difficult part of dishing up my bowl of old-fashioned oatmeal was deciding which toppings I wanted.

The most difficult part of dishing up my bowl of old-fashioned oatmeal was deciding which toppings I wanted.

Hot-buffet breakfast: The next morning, the tremendous variety of selections at the complimentary breakfast buffet blew me away. The service begins at 6:00 a.m. on weekdays and at 7:00 a.m. on weekends.

Although the conference will feature a continental breakfast on Friday and Saturday, hotel guests who need heartier fare will find everything they need—and then some—at this buffet.

I appreciated the fresh fruits and veggies.

I appreciated the fresh fruits and veggies.

Choices seemed endless: hot and cold cereals, bagels, muffins, donuts, breads for toast, and waffles—all with numerous topping selections. In warming containers were red-skinned potato wedges, sausage patties, french toast, and scrambled eggs.

High-protein, low-carb, low-fat, or whatever your preference, you can probably find exactly what fits your dietary needs.

High-protein, low-carb, low-fat, or whatever your preference, you can probably find exactly what fits your dietary needs.

Ice kept fresh fruits and vegetables chilled, yogurts were at another station, and hot and cold drinks were readily available as well.

Networking areas: The main floor lobby features a lounge area with upholstered seating arranged in groupings conducive to conversation. Not far away is the breakfast area with tables and chairs that are perfect for setting up laptops at other times of the day and schmoozing with fellow writers.

OutdoorPatioNot to be missed is the outdoor patio area with even more seating options, some of which encircle a cozy fire pit.

Challenges: At first I had a problem finding an Internet connection. The dialog window said I was connected, but when I tried to check e-mail using Mozilla’s Firefox browser, I got an “Untrusted Connection” error message I couldn’t bypass. The same thing happened when I tried to log in at social-media sites. I finally opened Microsoft’s Internet Explorer to connect to e-mail. That brought up the Residence Inn’s welcome page requiring me to choose either the regular (free) connection or opt for a premium ($4.95/day) connection. After that I accessed the sites I wanted and switched back to Firefox with no further problem.ComputerOnDesk

The novelist in me wonders if being in Microsoft’s home town had anything to do with the glitch.

Reserving your spot:

The Residence Inn will hold a block of studio rooms for us until April 16, 2015, at the special price of only $99** per night. Want to save even more money? Why not bring a few writing friends and share a studio room (sleeps up to 4) or a 2-bedroom suite (sleeps up to 6)?

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll mention that the general manager gave me the complementary overnight stay so I could check out the hotel. My experience was such a pleasant one that I’m confident the Residence Inn will serve our conferees well.

If you haven’t registered yet for the Renewal, there’s still time to get in on the early-bird conference rate good until April 6. Sign up today!

* NCWA: Northwest Christian Writers Association

** Hotel room rates are subject to applicable state and local taxes (currently 12.5%) in effect at the time of check-out.

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DianaSavageDiana Savage, a graduate of Northwest University and Bakke Graduate University, sold her first article when she was still in college, and she’s been writing ever since. Now the principal at Savage Creative Services, LLC, she is also director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference. Her latest book is 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times.

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