Day or night, rain or shine, crowds gather at the Spanish Steps. The atmosphere here can be exciting, but when I find myself in need of a little breathing room I walk a few blocks north, to the Via Margutta. Here, just off the main drag, is a quiet lane that seems to be from another century. Ivy spills over the sides of the hill and onto the roofs of the buildings. Crammed up against the hill that forms the edge of the Villa Borghese park, the noise of the city doesn't seem to penetrate. I suddenly relax, until now unaware of the tension caused by the noise and pace of the big city.
Lined with art galleries and unique shops, the Via Margutta is also home to one of my favorite restaurants, RistorArte Il Margutta, one of the most inventive and delicious vegetarian restaurants I've ever found. Worth a detour, even if you're not vegetarian.
Hotel Piet Hein
Vossiusstraat 52-53, 1071 AK Amsterdam, NetherlandsSingles: €95 to €105; Doubles: €165 to €195. All major credit cards accepted.
From the US
The Hotel: B+
Located in an old Dutch home, the exterior is a classic brick façade, giving no hint of what lies behind. The interior is modern and sleek, elegant without being pretentious.
The Location: B
Just across from the Vondelpark, the location is mostly residential, but an easy walk from the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh.
The Rooms: B/A/B+ (Ambiance/Cleanliness/Maintenance)
Straight lines and clean decor without a hint of frill. Grey and black are the dominant color in most rooms, though some have a lighter, blond wood decor. Lower priced rooms are in an annex with lots of stairs.
The Staff: A+
Very friendly and knowledgeable about Amsterdam sights and nightlife.
Hostellerie du Chateau
2 rue du Château, 68420 Eguisheim, France
11 rooms. Singles: €95; Doubles: €110 to €130. All major credit cards accepted.
From the US
The Hotel: A+
Not in a castle, as the name might imply, this typical Alsatian building is never the less charming, adorned with flower-filled window boxes.
The Location: A+
Located in the heart of the village, right next to the church.
The Rooms: A/A/A (Ambiance/Cleanliness/Maintenance)
The half-timbered and stone origins of the building show through in many of the rooms, which are done up in simple Euro-modern decoration.
The Staff: A
Small town friendly, and professional.
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