Before I made reservations for a hotel in Marfa, I posted to my friends on Facebook the question, “going to Marfa – which hotel should I stay at? The Paisano or the Thunderbird?” From the friends that have actually been to either or both, I received opinionated responses. I totaled them up and the Paisano came out on top by a two vote margin. Granted, of my friends that have been to Marfa, there were only 4, still it equated to a 2:1 margin for the Paisano.



Undeterred by my friend’s opinions, I made reservations for two rooms for two nights at The Thunderbird Hotel. The iconic 1950’s motor court appeal swayed me from the more traditional, yet historic downtown Paisano.

I feel that it was a mistake.

From the Hotel Thunderbird’s website: “A locally run hotel since 1959, Bob Harris of Lake/Flato Architects reinvigorated the Thunderbird’s classic ‘50s horseshoe shape and interior courtyard for its 2005 reopening. The renovation transformed the structure into a model of modern design and livability while maintaining the original hotel’s bygone feeling of leisure.”



The renovation was a success in that the building’s interior and exterior, as well as the pool area is quite remarkable. At night the entire ensemble looks fantastic. Unfortunately, that is where the praise for this establishment ends. I have only two requirements from a hotel: one, as I have made reservations, the rooms be ready and clean when I arrive, and two, as I am typically visiting the place I am staying, I like the staff to be informed about places of interest. While the room upon arrival was ready for me and my traveling companions, they failed miserably at criteria two. Service was below par.



Despite the laid back atmosphere, even in a town of 2,300, it should be quite easy to know when restaurants are open and closed, especially when referencing a chart at the front desk. Alas, the staff was wrong on both attempts. Another disappointment began Sunday afternoon when I asked the preferable time to visit the Prada, Marfa installation, 40 miles west of town. The unanimous response from the three staff – go at night and see it lit up. That was all I needed to hear, because that was my opinion as well. We’d have a dinner in town, then drive the 40 minutes out to see Prada, Marfa. I partially blame myself for not having done the research on this, but this is also why I list an informed staff as a high criteria for my stay at a hotel; according to one website I found online, the Prada, Marfa installation has not been stocked and lit for quite some time, nor will it be ever again. Finding that information was disconcerting given that a group of people in a small town would not know this about one of the large attractions in Marfa. Seeing what remains of the installation during the day is no doubt a must.

After these two let downs they then screwed up our credit card billing upon check out, and to top it off, they were out of coffee in the lobby “annex”. I was very disappointed with the level of service from the staff at the Hotel Marfa.

Nevertheless, the Thunderbird Hotel is a real gem of architectural resurrection, and if you value aesthetics over service, then the Thunderbird Hotel is your place. If not, you may want to look into a stay at the Paisano.



Comment

#1 · Peter

29 07 2009 - 17:31

You should get a picture of the confused faces of the staff.