Along with all the lists and stuff, there are some practical things to mention about our trip. One of those things is about where we stayed.
There are a lot of options for places to stay when travelling to Addis, suiting all sorts of price ranges and needs. And it took us a long time to decide on where we were going to stay when we first started planning the trip. I am all about the cheap; I love saving money. But we also like our creature comforts too. So where to stay was a tough call, and we looked at a few options.
In the end, we chose to stay at the Hilton in Addis for a number of reasons. First of all, we could get a really good “adoption” rate (actually it’s a corporate rate) through our agency. That meant that for the price of a Best Western here in Ontario we would be able to still have some of the amenities we wanted, and that pretty much made the choice really, really easy.
The things we wanted in a hotel were not too flash, I don’t think: we wanted security and cleanliness, access to reliable power/water in case of rolling blackouts, a place to take the baby out to walk, and internet access. Security is an obvious thing, and one you’d consider when travelling anywhere internationally — with the outings and whatnot we’d be on, we didn’t want to have to worry about our passports or money (all cash, as is necessary in Ethiopian travel). So the Hilton has in-room safes or a safety deposit box to take care of those things. Access to reliable power and water is also a nice thing when you’re travelling with a baby, and we were told that the Hilton has generator power in case of emergency.
I was pretty insistent on having some sort of grounds to be able to take the baby out. BDH thought I was nutty, but my thinking before we left was full of “what ifs”. I thought about things like wanting to have a place to walk the baby if she was fussy, or being able to get out and walk around if we all got a little stir crazy in the hotel room, or one of us taking her outside if the other needed a nap. So that was important to me. And the grounds of the Hilton are really nice. You can walk around by the pool or the shops, or take a walk to the coffeeshop or grocery store on site. And it was really nice for Stinkerbelle to get out a bit, since she loves the outdoors and she enjoys walking in the snugli.
The power outages we’d heard to be prepared for were intermittent, but not at the Hilton. In the short time we were at the airport, the power went out repeatedly, but we only ever experienced flickers of power at the hotel. And that was a nice-to-have thing for us, just to be able to boil water to wash bottles and nipples whenever we wanted, or to have power for a bar fridge to keep drinks cold. Same thing with the water — only once when we were there did I notice any appreciable loss in water pressure. And after a long day of trooping around bumpy roads in a crowded van, I really appreciated a hot shower. And being able to flush the toilet, especialy toilet paper… LUXURY. Especially when some intestinal distress hits you.
Security was good at the Hilton, too. A little intimidating, perhaps, to see an armed guard at the gate and have a metal detector and bags scanner at the entrance, but in a lot of places a guard is de rigeur. It’s weird for me, since I don’t know exactly what the guards and scanners are protecting me FROM. My security concerns are more of the everyday sort, like I would look for in a hotel in any part of the world: Do I feel safe in my room? Is there someplace safe to store my valuables (money, plane tickets, documents and passport)? And as for cleanliness, the Hilton was clean and neat, and stylish in a late-70s sort of way. But comfortable.
Internet access was important for us to be able to keep in contact with people at home. We are not cell phone people. But we ARE email and internet people. So that was a nice thing, even though “high speed” in Ethiopia is not what we’re used to back home, and was out for the better part of a day at one point. We also downloaded some lullabies from iTunes for Stinkerbelle while we were sitting in the room one night, which turned out to be a great thing since she was used to the lullabies being played at the Transition Home.
Other great things about the Hilton:
- The staff. The staff were fantastic, and fawned over the baby like crazy. The service we got was friendly, and the help always appreciated. We are big proponents of treating people as we’d like to be treated (we’re big believers in the saying “you can tell the quality of a person by how they treat wait staff”) and so I think that really helps — if you are friendly and appreciative to those you meet, you get the same in kind. We got to know some of the staff quite well, like Misrak who did our housekeeping at night and always played and laughed with the girl, and all the security staff who had big smiles and love for her whenever we came by.
- The shops. I can’t tell you how nice it was to have a coffeeshop and a grocery store on premises. We loved going to the coffeeshop each morning, not just for the excellent baked goods and cappuccino, but more for the lovely staff who smiled and played with the baby and taught us at least one new word or cultural thing every day. They became like friends we were eager to visit.
- On site restaurants. Okay, so the food was… meh. And probably way overpriced by Ethiopian standards. But nothing beats ordering in room service when you’re tired and don’t feel like going out hunting and gathering or cooking for yourself.
- Peace and quiet. We’re homebodies a lot of the time, me and BDH. And we like some quiet time. So it was nice to be in a peaceful, quiet environment for sleeping or for just spending some face time with our new daughter. We were central to getting out and doing stuff if we wished, but we had the option of staying in for quiet time too. And that was nice, on such a long trip.
So would I recommend it? Absolutely. Not a budget option, obviously, and it doesn’t have the camaraderie of a guest house. But it was perfect for us.