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Checking in to Cool

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Last week I rediscovered the thrill of checking into a hotel. It's been a long time. I travel a lot nowadays, and even when I stay at a very luxurious hotel, it doesn't seem as much fun as it was when I was a kid, when I got a kick out of room service and those free, little bottles of shampoo.

I'd been reading about these new W hotels recently opened in New York, Atlanta, and San Francisco. So I was curious when into the San Francisco W. First of all, the name, W, means nothing in particular. Taking a cue from the Paramount in New York or Delano on Miami Beach, W is très fashionable, which it ought to be at more than $200 a night. The staff dresses all in black. Decor is minimalist with small plants set amid black stones and black and white photographs where other hotels have pastoral paintings. I thought maybe the whole thing would be just too hip, but it turns out the hotel works. The gray, black, and white rooms come with six oversized pillows, comforters, Internet access, CD player . . . every design element is thought out. And it may be the only hotel room that comes with its very own soundtrack on CD.

Got a problem? There's a button on the phone called "Whatever/whenever." The room service part of the hotel guide is labeled "Replenish." Memo pads and Post-It notes, contained in a black, leather display box, sport a cut-out "W" logo. Very cool. But, as I said, not so cool that you think you have to be Karl Lagerfeld or Claudia Schiffer to check in. If you're a frequent business traveler who's tired of the same old, same old, you might want to check out W. I took the CD home.


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