Apr 122010

A Morning Moon at The View Hotel

John Ford made Monument Valley a star.  He filmed classics like Stagecoach, Fort Apache and The Searchers here, and he defined enduring images of the American West.  The marketing has since never relented.  It’s been globally saturating.  On a visit last week I heard 6 or 8 different languages.  There may have been almost as many international visitors as there were Americans.  And it was off-season!  Most such heavily-touristed places wind up feeling like kitschy theme parks and are studiously avoided by discerning travelers.  Not Monument Valley.  Incredibly, and thankfully, the immense landscape manages to hold on to its overarching stillness and serenity.

Nearby lodgings haven’t always been so lucky.  Nearly a half-million tourists a year trek to this remote place hundreds of miles from the nearest significant airport.  They never had any options about where to sleep.  Built in 1953, Goulding’s motel had always been it, period.  It was that or drive at least 20 miles to a banal chain hotel.  There was no way to avoid over-priced tourist traps.

The View's Guest Rooms

So about 16 months ago, when Armanda Ortega opened her View Hotel at Monument Valley, hopes were high.  She garnered international media attention.  Bonnie Tsui reported in The NY Times that a local flute player performed at dinner.  Mark Vanhoenacker, in the LA Times, called it “hip”.

Indeed, the architecture, by Albuquerque’s Desert Sky Designs, is promising.  The hotel’s rooms form a wing that’s a bit monolithic but appealingly sculpted.  The interiors boast Navajo art and furniture, in not only the lobby, but the rooms, too.

Lobby Fireplace

But don’t be misled, The View is not a luxurious resort hotel.  The place, necessarily I guess, caters to tour buses.  The dining room’s menu is very limited and tends to such things as “John Wayne Chicken Fried Steak”.  The decor’s collections and furnishings are not artfully or tastefully arranged, nor even carefully edited.  The lobby’s fireplace, for instance – itself a great beauty – is festooned with giant dolls that look uncomfortably like sacred Hopi kachina, but, I’m told, were made by Navajo artisans, and are pure kitsch.

Monument Valley deserves your visit.  The View is the best place to stay when you go.  But don’t expect an AmanResort.

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