I was looking for a stop on the way to the Villages in Florida. If you are bored with Disney Land try visiting there instead. The choice for a road trip overnighter is always a bit limited and the competition is fierce. I decided to look a little further up-market and came up with The Mansion on Forsyth Park in Savannah, a town I have meant to visit for a while now.
Looking at the reviews of those who had gone before it seemed as if a lot of people had only praise. But not a few had quite the opposite opinion. In fact 43 reviews were not bad, they were horrible. These are not things one would wish to read about a hotel where you are about to invest the odd $400 or so for a night of rest and recreation. It might put you off. So that made the choice slightly more problematic. It is a Marriot hotel and that means quite a lot in terms of expectations. Not only is it a Marriot, it is also part of their boutique hotel offering which goes under the name of "the Autograph collection" although just why is not so clear. But you have to call these things something.
I decided to stay at the The Mansion on Forsyth park because it is an anomaly. It is somewhat aptly named because the Mansion exterior shares that parvenue charm reminiscent of the Forsyte Saga series about a nouveau riche family of somewhat stunted taste who lived a violently profligate life in the early part of the last century. The exterior of the building has been beautifully harmonised to enhance the frontage it has on Forsyth Park, which, since the reconstruction of Savannah has become a place of quite calm, alien beauty and the haunt of joggers rather than a no-go area of muggers and worse. I believe it is the trees that give the park its weirdness with those strange hanging streamers of moss and lichen trailing in the hot summer evenings. Altogether a picture of Southern charm. And Savannah has a lot of that. Even the panhandler who asked for (and received) $20 in the park was charming and polite, desperately relating his dreadful plight in a low voice. We felt better as human beings for having helped him and it was only the fact that he did not wait for us to get out of earshot before moving in on another couple taking a stroll that made us think that perhaps he was not in quite as bad a situation as he would have us believe. But he was very, very charming.
If you wanted to place the Mansion in a category it would certainly be "boutique hotel". It has all the signs: from the extreme camp interiors that are so over the top your eyebrows get tired of shooting up to meet your hairline, to the miles of art hanging on the walls which all appeared to be basically the same daub but with minor variations. Theming your hotel as an Art hotel first began in Berlin in the seventies with the Art-Sorat hotel. Arguably that was one of the first real boutique hotels which, as time went by, became a small franchise and then gradually faded from sight to become part of one of the larger beasts out there. This version was much bigger and included its own gallery which is rather an odd thing to do in a hotel unless you are supporting a local community of artists. There were also some very bizarre public areas. The main bar, which was deserted by guests and staff every time we visited it, was memorable for its eye-jarring interior and display of ladies hats, all carefully preserved in glass cabinets. One wondered why? If hats, why not underwear or some other item of personal clothing? Bras for example, they have an interesting history.
We arrived quite late, sixish, which is usually a quiet time on hotel weekdays. It was raining in the way it rains in Hollywood films, sluicing down, so getting in to the hotel was something we needed done quickly and efficiently. It was quite well taken care of but no towels were offered to dry us off and there was an immediate feeling that this was not a happy ship. While the front desk was a little dysfunctional the staff generally had that certain diffidence and disdain as if they wanted you to know that this was just a temporary job until their degree was finished, their offices opened, whatever. They did not think that providing good service was their job. You were a minor inconvenience in their lives and they were not going to let it bother them that much. As a matter of fact arriving at the hotel and leaving where the only times we had any interaction with the staff. It almost felt as if they were hiding. The room was a little quirky with its two large serving hatch doors that opened from the bedroom into the bathroom, presumably so you could watch a friend having a dump from the comfort of your bed. The extremely agitated style of the entrance is a little calmer in the rooms with, of course, muted greys and blacks. But we both liked it and it was clean with no obvious signs of great use or advanced age. The bathroom with the toilet in a glass cubicle carried on the weirdness part, but it was part of the overall experience.
If I was to make any criticism of the Marriot approach to Boutique hostelry it would be this. Staying at a boutique hotel is, by definition a uniquely personal experience. If you build and run your hotel according to the largesse and taste of beancounters then this is what you end up with: a depersonalised assault on the senses that would be more aptly named as Extreme Hotels, the Authograph Collection. So that is the Mansion on Forsyth Park. Not a great hotel, an accountant's dream hotel, which might explain a lot. We never tried the spa and pool but they were, of course, suitably camp and cool in design.
Try for a room overlooking the park. Weird views and quietly strolling people most of the time.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.