Inside The Normandy Inn and Suites, Minneapolis, is a restaurant that began business in 1941 and is known for its cinnamon popovers.
Work usually takes me no farther than Bayfield or Beloit, but there are exceptions, and in 2012, they included Israel and South Africa. Whether close to home or an ocean away, I found lodging that left a positive impression in a wide range of prices.
? Hilton Garden Inn, 611 N. Broadway St., Milwaukee: Here is fresh proof that nationally known brands don't always look the same.
The 1886 Loyalty Building, ex-headquarters for Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance, in November began new life as comfortable lodging with competitive rates downtown.
In guest rooms, 14-foot-tall, arched windows stretch from floor to ceiling and provide stunning, big city views. Modern amenities include free WiFi and in-room coffeemakers, microwaves and refrigerators.
A free shuttle transports guests within five miles of the hotel. Introductory rates start around $95. hiltongardeninnmilwaukeedowntown.com, 414-271-6611
? The Normandy Inn and Suites, 405 S. Eighth St., Minneapolis: Near architecturally beautiful churches and the vitality of Nicollet Mall's restaurants and shops is a modest, older hotel that stands welcoming and personable.
Warm cookies and milk appear at 10 p.m. daily. The hotel restaurant, Normandy Kitchen, began business in 1941 and is rare because it serves lutefisk (throughout December).
Winter rates start around $95. bestwesternnormandy.com, 612-370-1400
? Cape Grace, Cape Town, South Africa: Lovely indoor murals are but one sign of this waterfront hotel's splendid attention to detail. So are the artistic embellishments on fabrics.
Each room and suite is unique in décor. Customer service is refined yet friendly. Meals showcase native cuisine - such as ostrich, springbok (gazelle), bobotie (a minced meat and egg dish) and snoek (a local fish) - in unusual but appetizing ways.
Rates start around $675 at this time of year and include breakfast. capegrace.com, 27-21-410-7100
? Hotel Spa Mizpe Hayamim, Rosh Pinna, Israel: Near hotbeds of war - Lebanon to the north, Syria to the east, Israel's West Bank to the south - is evidence of absolute serenity.
This organic farm and health spa strives to be self-sufficient, and on its 37 acres are fruit-bearing trees that date back to biblical times.
In the farm herds are free-range chickens, grassfed cows, goats, lambs and more.
Rates start around $450 per night, including breakfast and dinner. mizpe-hayamim.com, 972-4-699-4555
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