Review of Ah, Rose Marie Bed & Breakfast, Fairbanks, Alaska

The Ah, Rose Marie Bed & Breakfast is a seven-room B&B in downtown Fairbanks, Alaska. I spent 3 nights there in June 2008 before and after my Hulahula River rafting vacation. My buddy and I picked the Ah, Rose Marie because it was recommended by our tour company, which isn’t surprising because the place caters to a lot of people going out to or coming back from the Arctic. While the place ended up being passable, I probably would not choose to stay there again if my travels took me back to Fairbanks.

Location

The B&B is located in a mostly residential neighborhood about a $20 cab ride from the Fairbanks airport. The B&B is a convenient few blocks (a quick 5 minute walk) from the Chena River and the restaurants and other tourist attractions in downtown Fairbank’s core center. Unfortunately, downtown Fairbanks is a so-so tourist destination; while it generally caters to tourists’ needs, there is no grocery store (or even convenience store) in downtown, and the area outside of the core can get a little sketchy quickly.

The B&B is located on Cowles Street, a through street that gets a surprising amount of loud road noise. I stayed in the upstairs room facing Cowles Street for two nights, and the road noise was noticeable. You might try to avoid this room.

Facility/Rooms

The B&B is a 1920s Craftsman-style house with 7 rooms. The rooms are generally small/cozy, and most of the rooms have some sort of goofy layout feature. For example, at least two of the rooms (the first floor room and one of the basement rooms) are advertised as having “private” baths, but in fact the bathrooms are outside of the room and across the hall.

The rooms and bathrooms were very clean/spotless, but their decoration was kitschy. Even I noticed the lack of style. The common areas were thematically decorated. There is a nice sitting area in the side yard.

Personally, I found the B&B noisy. The proprietor warned us in advance that Room A in the basement is noisy. Room A is right under the common areas and the floor/ceiling is just wood–no insulation or other material to muffle the sound. As a result, whenever anyone walks over the room (which inevitably is well before 7 am because people are heading out to their Arctic excursion), the floor/ceiling squeaks pretty loudly. If you are a really heavy sleeper, it may not bother you; but there was no way my buddy or I could sleep through the noise, guaranteeing an early start to our day.

We were warned about the basement noise, but I found the upstairs room to be noisy as well. As I mentioned, the front room faces Cowles and gets street noise. Further, noise from the common areas travels directly up the staircase to the upstairs rooms. This is not the noisiest place I’ve stayed, but I got less sleep there than I’d hoped.

Some other noteworthy attributes about the facilities:

* the second floor and basement are reached via a spiral staircase, which might pose an unexpected navigation problem for some folks.

* the first floor room is advertised as having a private bath. Not only is it across the hall, but the proprietor encourages other guests and outsiders to use this bathroom, so it’s not very private.

* the B&B has wireless Internet access. Ask the proprietor for the password.

* there is a house cat, a short-haired Siamese named Tyla. Personally, I like friendly B&B house pets, but it’s potentially problematic if you’re allergic to cats.

* the proprietor graciously offers to provide free storage for your luggage while you’re on a tour. Note, however, that the storage area isn’t secure (it’s just in an open area at the bottom of the staircase). I felt a little uncomfortable leaving my iPod and cash there. If you’re going to take advantage of the storage option, you may want to minimize the number of valuables you store there.

Breakfast/Food

Breakfast included a home-cooked omelet, some baked good (typically store-bought), a choice of cereals, toast, fresh and dried fruit and juice/coffee. Unlike some B&Bs, there were no quantity limits. I thought the breakfast was generous and satisfying. Throughout the day, the proprietor also makes available some sweets, fresh fruit, and lemonade/iced tea.

Proprietor

The proprietor infuses the house with a strong sense of his family. There are reminders throughout the house of his mother, the eponymous Rose Marie, and there’s a small corner dedicated to his deceased wife and daughter who were killed in a tragic car accident in the 1970s. Superficially, this emphasis on family (among other things) gave the place a homey feel.

At the same time, the hominess is undercut by the proprietor’s enigmatic mix of gregariousness and standoffishness (perhaps apropos descriptions of Alaska generally). At times he went extra lengths to please his guests; but at other times, I thought he was rude and condescending (both to me and other guests), easily annoyed (watch him get wound up if someone parks in the wrong place) and only grudgingly helpful. This volatility/drama was off-putting enough that, while I was away on my tour, I slightly dreaded returning to the B&B for my last reserved night.

Also, the proprietor lost a lot of credibility with me when I asked him about restaurants and he recommended a Thai restaurant (Bahn Thai) that he claimed was the best Thai restaurant in the world. Those are fighting words! Of course I had to try it. The food was competent, better-than-expected for being in the middle of Alaska, and good enough to go a second time. But c’mon, best in the world? The restaurant is no Cha’am or even Amarin, and it was ridiculous to insinuate otherwise. Given this puffery, I would rely on his recommendations cautiously.

Conclusion

It’s inevitable that any hotel charging less than $100/night in Fairbanks during summer has at least one major defect with it. You usually get what you pay for, so you roll the dice and take your chances. In my case, if I needed budget accommodations in Fairbanks again, I’d probably roll the dice on some other place than try this one again.

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