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As vacation season in the north hemisphere approaches, many among the lucky are planning what to do and where to go. Some consider a trip to the Caribbean, while others may finally get to visit Uncle Bob who, since he’s moved to Alaska, no one has ever heard from. Gosh, he hasn’t even met the kids yet.
However you plan your time off, though, there are a few famous hangouts you’ll probably never get to sleep at: the Chelsea Hotel, in New York, and the Stanley Hotel, in Colorado, both celebrated in film and song, the Netherlands’ Divorce Hotel, and the fantasy-themed Balade de Gnomes, in Belgium.
The Chelsea Hotel, which is now operated by a chain and has lost much of its gritty appeal, was the home, temporary and permanent, of some of the most influential artists of the 20th century. You probably know the Stanley by its fictional name, the Overlook Hotel, made famous by Stephen King’s novel, and Stanley Kubrick’s movie, The Shinning.
If you think that none of these are appropriate to take the kids, the brainchild of Dutch entrepreneur Jim Halfens is even less so. Advertised as the place where couples check in, sleep in separate rooms and leave free after a few weeks, the Divorce Hotel has been a hit for its pragmatism: wouldn’t you know, Dutch law requires takes its time, before granting you a divorce.
But across the border, the B&B Balade de Gnomes has been an instant classic since it opened. Shaped like a wooden bull, it has several rooms, each decorated with a different fantasy-literature theme. Problem is, since it’s small, booking a room may take you a few generations. No worries, though: in the meantime, you can prime your French, for their Website has no English version.

It doesn’t make any justice to the century-old reputation of the Chelsea Hotel to simply list the celebrities who once walked those hallways, in the time they were not quite celebrities, and even the meaning of the word was insulting. It all changed with Andy Warhol in the 1960s, of course, who spent time there, along with many of his ‘superstars.’
And so did Mark Twain and Arthur C. Clarke, Jack Kerouac and Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and Patti Smith, who all have created works of enduring quality while living there. British expatriate Quentin Crisp has spent his entire life in the U.S. within those walls, while Welsh poet Dylan Thomas and Nancy Spungen, the girlfriend of Sex Pistols’ Syd Vicious, both lost theirs in two of its dingy rooms.
It’d be also boring to enumerate all the works of art, music, film and literature that were conceived and produced there, and we’re not about to describe the scandals that marked the hotel’s history either. Cultural landmarks, even though they become as such as result of the people who’re related to them, don’t need that kind of connection any longer to survive.
Except when they don’t, which is what many fear about the Chelsea Hotel, since it’s been wrestled out of the control of the Bard family, who had been operating it for over sixty years. Times do have changed, paraphrasing Dylan, and despite preserving many of the works of art that grace the walls of the hotel, reforms and ‘improvements’ have all but disfigured its interiors.
For all purposes, and not unlike many a New York City landmark, the Chelsea’s heyday is all but behind us now, and even if some would be shocked and sad if it were to become a condo or be finally defeated and destroyed by Manhattan’s steamroller real estate market, many wouldn’t shed a tear about it.
For them, it no longer matter what the place may become. What, they ask, would you like to see Justin Bieber or Jaz-Z recording a live album there, sponsored by Coca-Cola, with a tour and a DVD to boot? Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend at least a night there, just for the outdated counter-cultural value, you know, flowers in her head, drug overdoses, alcohol binges and scandalous crimes sake.

When the Jack Torrance character is literally breaking through with an ax the bathroom where his wife and kid were taking shelter, The Shinning had already turned from one of the most celebrated horror movies, to a tour-de-force on the realm of slash flicks. We had, though, by then, had a pretty good (creepy) feeling of what’s like to be stranded by winter in a huge, isolated, empty hotel.
The Overlook became a crucial character itself in both the novel and movie, a place where unspeakable murders had taken place, and whose hallways Danny, the psychic kid, would memorably navigate aboard his tricycle. But through the magic of the movies, it’s utterly fictitious, a composite of which the Stanley served only as a springboard.
Most of the movie was shot in sets at the Elstree Studios, in England. Both the Stanley and the Timberline Lodge, on Oregon’s Mt. Hood, served as stand-ins, and many scenes were shot faraway, as the opening one, an aerial view of Montana’s Glacier National Park (leftover of these shots were later used, and discarded for the Director’s Cut, during Blade Runner‘s final credits. You’re welcome). By the way, the maze, also a prop, was made of fake snow and chicken wire, and it was also discarded.
But who cares? You’re looking for a place to ax-murder your family, right? Oh, so sorry, our bad. Just think about the space, the views, all the trivia you can, obnoxiously, discuss with strangers at the dinner table while there, they should all make for a grand time, guaranteed for all. Unless, of course, you decide to come up with a reason why the director and the hotel share the same name.

The Dutch, it seems, have it all figured out. After all, the Divorce Hotel doubles as a place to mediate the usually painful affairs of a couple’s separation, throwing a few pleasant touches in the mix, such as room service and a choice of different locations, for the whole thing is a concept, not a single place one can visit.
Still, it has some pretty nice amenities, such as a full-time, on-site moderator, designated to follow through in the arrangements, and a few strict rules. For, alas, squabbling couples are not accepted. It’s all for the kids, you see. The idea is to smooth the process out, while the couple eases themselves to the new realities of their lives.
About that Dutch law, it does take a few weeks, but you may actually check out, practically divorced, pending only a judge’s signature, the handling of which is one of the management’s duties. It’s all very civilized but not as impersonal as a Las Vegas shotgun wedding. Many divorcees are known to actually enjoy a night in town (their last?) with their soon-to-be exes.
So you may be thinking, why on earth would you mix your precious vacation time with finally coming to terms with the fact that you two can’t live together any longer, right? Well, just remember, if you do consider splitting up, how many instances can you picture that you’d do that and also have a chance to share a bottle of Dom Perignon?

Finally, about that fantasy-themed bread and breakfast in Belgium. The last thing anyone, north of 20 years of age, would want is to take time off and spend it in a busy place, where there’s always something happening and even the decor won’t let you sleep. Thinking about that, the Balade de Gnomes may not be quite the place of relaxation that one might envision.
But again it’s all about the kids. If you absolutely must take them along, you may damn well choose a place that drives their attention away from you. With the added benefit that, unlike most theme parks full of rides and ‘adventure,’ you don’t have to be pulling out your wallet every 15 minutes, to pay for some themed-junk that may wind up in your basement.
Plus, this being Europe and all, there’s a chance they’d all get busy learning French, while you nap all day in your room. Which may, we admit it, be a reenactment of sorts of Baba Yaga’s hut, or a garish troll’s den. Coming to think about it, you’d better not get too tipsy or the whole room may turn, specially if it’s a Gaudi-theme one, with all those curved walls and quirky windows.
But there’s still time to check that cheap Western Inn in Florida, or the Holiday Tour by the Bayou. You won’t need to put up with the annoying know-it-alls of New York, or learn more trivia you could care to know about Stanley Kubrick. Or even lose it for good, just because that wealthy German is about to check out and had the gall to invite your soon-to-be-former-but-not-quite-there-yet spouse for an night in town.
How dare they. What are you supposed to do with the kids? Ax-murder them? Now come come.

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