A sense of place at Homewood Suites Lake Mary

Chain hotels can be depressing places, because when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all.

It didn’t help that we’d just watched Up in the Air, the George Clooney movie about a business traveler whose home is a seemingly endless series of hotel rooms, when we checked into the Homewood Suites in Lake Mary, Fla., yesterday.

This is the second of 26 Homewood Suites in Florida that we’re visiting during the next year. And yes, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the sameness of Homewood’s properties — the swirling-gold wallpaper in the bathrooms, the grass-motif carpet, the Neutrogena lotions and shampoos.

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If you want a sense of place — an authentic lodging experience that reflects the area you’re visiting — is this the kind of place you’d visit?

Well, yes.

Sure, the Lake Mary Homewood Suites is very much part of a chain. That’s what guests expect when they check in here, in the same way you would expect a triple grande latte to taste the same at Starbucks, whether you’re in Sarasota or Seattle.

But look closer. The meeting rooms here have a distinctly local flavor. There’s St. John’s and Wekiva — named after the rivers — and Monroe, as in Lake Monroe. The artwork on the walls is very Central Florida. Is that a painting of Lake Jessup on my wall?

And, at breakfast, there was a hotel employee poring over a map with a guest who was in town to do some fishing and look for gators.

This Homewood Suites may look like the others, at least on first glance, but it is not. It isn’t exactly a “sense of place” that you’d get in a National Geographic Traveler story, but careful observers will see something distinct that sets it apart from the other properties.

George Clooney would approve.

(Photo: Riverbanksoutdoorstore/Flickr Creative Commons)

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