The first thing I noticed when I walked into the Embassy Suites by Hilton Amarillo Downtown was the artificial waterfall (it is two stories tall after all), but the second was the vertical garden — a wall of very real leafy green plants stretched floor to ceiling all the way from the “hotel guest” lobby to the “meeting rooms” lobby.
French botanist Patrick Blanc came up with the concept about a decade ago, but most vertical gardens (his or derivatives) are on outdoor walls. This one in the Texas Panhandle is indoors, albeit lit by some powerful grow lights. I had to check it out close-up: yes, all the plants are real. They’re in individual pots so if one, ahem, gives up the ghost, a replacement can be “invisibly” swapped in its place.
Opposite the vertical garden is the elevator bank. In between is a feature I’ve not seen in a hotel lobby before: two glass-enclosed spaces. One is set up with a table and conference chairs. The other is outfitted with more casual seating. Either would be a great place to hold a quick meeting, share a quiet conversation, or for one parent to corral a crying baby while the other checks in at the desk.
The Embassy Suites, 550 South Buchanan Street, Amarillo, Texas, has all the expected amenities of the upscale brand, from the eponymous two-room plus bathroom layout to the 24-hour fitness center with “dry sauna” and indoor pool. A breakfast buffet with eggs cooked to order is included in the room price, which starts about $110.
The spacious rooms make it easy to get work accomplished, even if you’re sharing with someone who wants to sleep or watch television (just go into the other room!). I found the wallpaper behind the bed puzzling, until I figured out it was a blow-up of topographical maps — probably local.
The thermostat on the wall, however, was frustrating. There was a gauge to give the illusion of control, but when I pressed the buttons to adjust the temperature and fan, the screen responded: “Under Centralized Control. Adjustments at the remote control are being restricted”. Well, allrighty then.
Parking is an extra $7 per night for self-park and $20 for valet service (although many guests seemed to park — at no charge — on the streets around the hotel). Of course, there’s free WiFi throughout the property.
I must admit I was disappointed with the breakfast. The line for “cooked to order” eggs was always too long of a wait, and the other mundane choices wouldn’t be out of place at a mid-range motel. The coffee was machine-made-to-order, and the “orange juice” was indeed orange, but not “juicy” at all.
(Photos by Susan McKee)