Tag Archive | Hotel Review

Hotel Review: Mercure Avignon Centre Palais des Papes

This is my favorite hotel in Avignon. It was my second time to stay at this hotel and I’d stay here again. My favorite part about this hotel is its excellent location. The hotel is smacked right in the heart of the Old Town and just few steps away from Palais des Papes. I also like that they accommodate very late check-in. My partner and I stayed at this hotel last Easter when we did our road trip.

One big tip if you have a car and you’re trying to get to the parking garage – do not put in your GPS the hotel’s address! Put in the “Palais des Papes parking” instead. The hotel’s parking is the Palais des Papes parking, which is few meters away from the hotel. Don’t get confused with the other Mercure Hotel which has the direct access to the Palais des Papes parking – yes, there are 2 Mercure Hotel at this area that are just about 300m apart. Enter the Old Town through the entrance on the river ride. This is much easier and the parking entrance/exit is just immediately as you enter the Old Town from that side. If you enter through the city center (this is usually where your GPS will take you if you put in the hotel’s address) and you find yourself driving around and couldn’t even get close to the hotel because of closed streets, especially in the evening, get out of the Old Town and drive towards the river.

There were 2 minor comments on my stay on this hotel. First, the air conditioning wasn’t working yet. This is probably the most commented issue but it is quite normal in France and Switzerland where a/cs are turned off until mid-Spring (heaters are turned on instead). But then again, you can have a hot day/evening in Spring and this kind of set up can be uncomfortable. We tried opening the window but the wind was insanely strong that it’s impossible to sleep with the noise. Second was that aside from the receptionists, I struggled with the staff who didn’t understand even a little of English. They are quite friendly but it can be frustrating to explain as simple as canceling a room service order. The receptionists weren’t that very helpful as they kept on forwarding me to the non-English speaking staff when I asked for help to convey a message to them. Don’t get me wrong, as I said, these are just minor incidents and they don’t out shadow the best points about this hotel.

Hotel Review: Hotel Barcarola (Van Der Valk Hotel Restaurant Barcarola)

Hotel Barcarola (Van Der Valk Hotel Restaurant Barcarola)

Hotel Barcarola (Van Der Valk Hotel Restaurant Barcarola)

As part of our Easter road trip, my partner and I drove to Costa Brava, Spain to enjoy the sea. We stayed at Hotel Barcarola in Sant Feliu de Guixols. We stayed in this hotel for 2 nights.

Location/Accessibility (4/5)

Sant Feliu de Guixols is an hour far from the busy and touristy Barcelona and about 30-minute drive from another tourist hot spot, Girona. I honestly don’t know how one can reach this area without a car or via public transportation. I see this as an advantage though as it really gives you a “city break experience”. With this, it will not be fair to give the hotel a low accessibility rating; therefore, location-wise, the hotel is conveniently located close to the beach. It is not immediately right next to the beach but it is like 60-seconds walk to the beach. I prefer this because the main street immediately right next to the beach or the beach front has the restaurants and bars. I imagine this can get pretty busy and loud in the summer.

Important note: the reception is located in the restaurant. I know that sounds weird but the reception, breakfast room and restaurant are detached from the actual hotel. The reception and the restaurant is located across the hotel and on a street corner and has a big sign. The parking area is just across the hotel’s restaurant/reception (it’s an open air/outdoor parking).

Hotel Barcarola's reception and restaurant

Rooms and Facilities (3/5)

We had the luxury room with balcony. It is by far the largest hotel room in Europe that I’ve stayed at.  It was clean and the bed was comfortable. The bathroom was huge too. I enjoyed the balcony as it gave us view of the sea.

What I didn’t like is that if you need water in the middle of the night, your only chance is the vending machine by the hotel entrance that didn’t work sometimes. I’m not sure if the reception can do that or if room service will be available (I highly doubt it). I guess that’s the inconvenience of having a detached bar, restaurant, reception, etc. If you need anything from them, you have to walk across the street.

Staff and Services (2.5/5)

The staff were very friendly. However, they seemed unorganized when we were there.

I also got a wine and bodega package to surprise my partner. According to the package, it includes a bottle of cava, a visit to a bodega (I assume that’s a cave or wine cellar) or an olive orchard and a “welcome drink” in their Tucan beach bar – which is located at the beachfront.

After checking in, I was expecting the cava in our room but there was none. I thought that maybe they will bring it tomorrow. We were also given 2 vouchers for the welcome drink in their Tucan beach bar. We asked if the bar has a particular opening hour, considering the siesta practice in Spain. The receptionist said the bar is open all day. It was 7 pm, which is too early for dinner in Spain so we decided to just grab an aperitif at the Tucan beach bar. It was close. The bar was closed the entire night. The following day, we mentioned to the reception that the bar was closed last night but she insisted that it was open. When the bar finally opened, we were told that the welcome drink is only beer. For non-beer drinkers, there goes your free drink.

When we checked in, I also asked the reception how the bodega or olive orchard tour works. The receptionist said we should just tell her when we want to do it and they will do the necessary arrangements. The following day, we told the reception we wanted to do the tour the next day. She explained to us that she’ll see if the olive orchard is open since it’s a holiday. I explained to her that we obviously paid extra for the package (room rate is from EUR 60 per night while we paid EUR 139 per night for the same type of room). Later on that day, the receptionist rang us to say that they’ve booked the tour, gave us the name of the olive orchard, was told that we can research the exact address in the internet or come by the reception and she’ll give us the flyer. So basically, the “olive orchard visit” in their package is just ringing up an orchard and you drive yourself to the place. The tour is free and the transportation is not provided… so, I don’t know what they charged us extra for.

Lastly, that bottle of cava almost didn’t happen. Again, I had to ask about it at late in the afternoon on our second day at the hotel. The reception told me I had to ask for it (they don’t automatically put it in the room).

Security (3/5)

Apparently, there was an access control on the hotel’s main entrance where guests have to use their room key cards. I only learned about it on our third day because the door just automatically opened in our entire stay.

Price (2.5/5)

According the hotel’s website, the average rate per night for their luxury room is EUR 60. We paid a total of EUR 278 for 2 nights or EUR 139 per night. For a 3-star hotel with a package that technically only had breakfast, 2 beers and a bottle of cava, it’s not a good deal.

Overall, I rate this hotel 3/5. It’s a nice 3-star hotel with a good location. It can potentially be a reasonable hotel – just don’t get the package. It’s not worth it.

Hotel Review: Best Western Plus Laguna Brisas Spa Hotel

For my summer travel this year, I decided to go to South California and see family and friends. For my bonding time with my university girlfriends, we decided to have girls’ Friday night out and Saturday hiking activity at Laguna beach where we also booked a hotel room. We stayed at the Best Western Plus Laguna Brisas Spa Hotel. The hotel is a 3-star hotel.

Location/Accessibility (4/5)

The hotel is located at 1600 S Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651. The hotel is by the main road and can be easily be missed because of its little sign but it is not really that difficult to find. It is maybe a mile and a half or about 2 km from the town center. There is a trolley that runs around the town and you can catch one at the corner next to the hotel.

The hotel is also just few steps from the beach but just to be clear though, it is not along the beach (it is across the beach side).

Rooms and Facilities (3/5)

We had the room with 2 queen-sized beds with kitchen. Being used to European-sized hotel rooms, I find our room massive. It also has a balcony, which can be nice, but it is very close to the next room’s balcony so there’s really no privacy. The rooms are a bit outdated and the carpets are quite old. The hallway smell chlorine from the pool but I’m not bothered by it.

There are complementary coffee and tea in the room but I was disappointed that there’s no complementary bottle of water considering the rate of the room we paid for the night. Coffee and tea are also available at the reception lobby 24/7 (at least from what I understood).

To say that I’m a frequent traveler is an understatement. I say this because I’m not kidding when I say it’s one of the only two times I to encountered a hotel that only starts serving breakfast at 7:30 am. Maybe it’s an American thing. Hotels always start serving breakfast at 6 am. So, I was slightly disappointed with that because if you plan to hiking at 7 am, then you have to find your breakfast some place else (Orange County has beautiful hiking trails that are perfect for early morning activity).

They have parking but not for free, we paid USD 15. It wasn’t a problem with us that they can allow one parking space per room but I could see how this can be inconvenient for a group with more than one car.

Staff and Services (4.5/5)

My favorite part of our stay in this hotel is the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff, most especially the reception staff. They were very accommodating to our requests.

Security (4/5)

The security was pretty standard and I like the fact that there are 2 access doors to the parking garage (doors with access control, using room key, to enter from the garage) from the 2nd floor as the reception is located below the ground level with narrow stairs going out. Building evacuation can be tricky if people are expected to leave the hotel through the main entrance.

Having someone at the reception 24/7 is also a good layer of security.

Price (3/5)

We paid USD 300+ for a night stay at this hotel. I see that the other rooms can be cheaper but for me, this room rate is too high for a 3-star hotel.

Overall, I rate this hotel with 3.7 out of 5. I will likely comeback to Laguna beach for holidays and I might consider staying in this hotel again because of the hospitality of the staff and it’s convenient location. I’d like to try another hotel in the area for comparison.

Hotel Review: Hotel Mercure Lyon la Part Dieu

A couple of friends and I just spent a weekend in Lyon to relax and take a break from our routines. Whenever I organize this kind of weekend getaway with my friends, I always prioritize finding a good accommodation. For this trip, I had to look for a hotel that: 1) close to the train station (we were arriving quite late in the evening); 2) can comfortably accommodate 3 people in 1 room; 3) reasonably priced but will make us feel privileged. This hotel was a winner.

Location/Accessibility (4/5)

Hotel Mercure Lyon la Part Dieu is located at 50 rue de la Villette. The hotel is conveniently located right next to the train station and has easy access to the metro, trams, and bus lines that go to the main tourists areas such as the old town, the shopping street, etc.

From Geneva, we took the train to Gare de la Part Dieu (Lyon’s main train station). The train travel takes about 2 hours. At Gare de la Part Dieu, we took the “Porte Alpes” exit (the train station has 2 exits and the other exit is quite a walk to the hotel because you’ll end up going around several blocks).  Upon exiting the train station, on your right, you’ll immediately find a building of several hotels and Hotel Mercure is one of them.

From the hotel, going to the old town or town center is easy. Take the C3 bus from the “Thiers – Lafatte” bus station (from the hotel, walk towards the train station – I think it’s a block or 3-5 minute walk from the train station). Take the C3 bus going Gare Saint-Paul. The old town is the end of the line/terminal Gare Saint-Paul while you can get off from Cordeliers or Hotel de Ville to reach/walk around the town center.

Rooms and Facilities (4/5)

We had the privilege room, which can accommodate 3 persons (our room had a double bed and a single bed) and it was quite spacious. It has an impressively big bathroom and the designs and equipment are very modern. I was impressed that they have a Nespresso machine in the room and they offer cold drinks (water, juice, soda) in a mini fridge for free. The quality of the bed and pillows is very good.

The reception is manned 24/7 and the elevators are pretty new. Although we didn’t try, I noted that the hotel has a restaurant, which is convenient in case you too tired from travelling to go out and eat but would like to have a proper meal.

The free wifi was pretty fast although on our first night, we weren’t getting enough signal in our room therefore we weren’t able to use it. This seems to be just a glitch though since we woke up with a full wifi signal the following day.

The restaurant had a really breakfast buffet. As non-Europeans, when we say breakfast, we mean pancakes, sausages, scrambled eggs, bacons, etc. The patisseries were also fresh and even warm. They also had bio options, which for me was a really good option to have.

Staff and Services (4.5/5)

The staff were very friendly and helpful. Checking in was very quick.

The staff at the breakfast buffet were very accommodating and were checking with us if we needed anything every now and then – a kind of customer service I don’t frequently experience in Europe.

Security (4.5/5)

I love the fact that the elevators were accessible only with the key card. The entrance door also locks up at certain hours in the evening and only the receptionist can open the door – my friends and I were coming back to our hotel quite late and we never had a problem coming in since there’s always someone at the reception 24/7.

Price (4.5/5)

The privilege room rate was EUR 326 (without breakfast) for 2 nights and there were 3 of us. It’s like EUR 55 per person per night for us. This was such a good deal for a 4-star hotel.

Total   : 4.3/5 – Hotel Mercure Lyon la Part Dieu is highly recommended for those who are looking for a hotel close to the train station. True, it is quite far from the city center but the public transportation in Lyon is so easy and convenient that it doesn’t actually matter. It location is so much convenient especially for those who are arriving late in the evening at the Part Dieu train station. It is also not as expensive, considering we had the privilege room.

Hotel Review: ATHENIAN CALLIRHOE HOTEL, Athens, Greece

ATHENIAN CALLIRHOE HOTEL

Kallirrois 32, Athens 11743, Greece

Website: http://www.tac.gr/en/

Rate: 3.6/5

 

Location/Accessibility (4.5/5)

The Athenian Callirhoe Hotel has the perfect location especially if you’re only stopping in Athens for a night. It is about 500 km or approximately a 10-minute walk to the Acropolis Museum, where you can find an entrance to the south slope of the Acropolis or where the Theatre of Dionysos is. It is approximately 35 – 36 km from the airport. I took a cab from the airport and it took me 35 to 45 minutes to reach the hotel. I think my actual cab fare was 28 euros and I added a 2-euro tip, this already included the toll fee.

Rooms and Facilities (3.5/5)

A welcome drink and view of the Acropolis

A welcome drink and view of the Acropolis

I find the room smaller than I expected it to be, especially for its price – although the room I stayed at has a small balcony (I’m not sure if all their rooms have small balconies).  They have a tiny elevator that might be quite challenging if you have big luggage. One big comment on the room though was the carpet, which seems to be too old and worn out.

The two hotel facilities that I like the most are their restaurant and free access to sauna and gym. The hotel’s restaurant gives you a view of the Acropolis and the view is particularly beautiful in the evening. The Callirhoe VIP Roof Garden Restaurant also offers good menu – the non-pasta dishes are quite pricey though. As for the sauna, after doing long walks the whole day, I always like to go to a sauna to relax my muscles. So, for me, this is a big brownie point for the hotel.

Staff and Services (3.5)

The staff are friendly, especially the staff at the restaurant. Although at check-in, no one will help you to carry your luggage up – a service quite usual to most of the 4-star hotels I’ve been too. I’m bit disappointed that this hotel did not have flexibility on early breakfast or offered simple cookies and coffee for those who are checking out very early. I checked out at around 05h30 to catch my 08h25 flight. I didn’t mind at first but my other overnight in Athens in a 3-star hotel has a service that offers round the clock cookies, coffee and tea for those who are checking out before the breakfast buffet opens. Now, call me crazy but if a 3-star hotel can provide this simple service, why can’t a 4-star hotel do it?

Security (3.5/5)

A usual comment to almost all of the hotels I’ve stayed in: when checking in, it is a common safety and security procedure not to announce the room number especially when there are other people around and most especially for female single travelers. As a security professional, I have to emphasize this in all my reviews as hotel management should be reminded of this very basic security procedure.

As mentioned earlier, the hotel has an excellent location, not just for tourism but on the security aspect as well. The streets around it are well-lit and always have people. Basically, I find the neighborhood safe. The reception is open 24/7.

Price (3/5)

I paid for USD 158.19 for an overnight in this hotel and it’s almost the same rate as the 4-star hotel I stayed at in Nice, France. Unfortunately, the quality of the room and service is not even close. With that, I would say I’m not impressed.

Summary

Based on its location, room and facilities, staff and services, security, and price, I rate this hotel at 3.6/5. I have to admit, I wanted to give this hotel a lower rate on its 4-star price but perhaps a borderline 3-4 star facilities and services. However, this hotel can be a good recommendation for solo female traveler because of its location… if money is not an issue. If Athens is just an overnight stop over, you’ll be travelling on other islands, and you a certain budget, I wouldn’t recommend splurging on this hotel.

Hotel Review: ADI Doria Grand Hotel, Milan, Italy

A couple of friends and I drove to Milan for the weekend and we stayed at the ADI Doria Grand Hotel – a 4-star hotel. While it was my first time to stay in this hotel, it was my friend’s third time and she refuses to stay in other hotels in Milan. I enjoyed my stay in Doria Grand Hotel and I understood why my friend loves staying there.

Location/Accessibility (4/5)

A classic, double bed, room at the ADI Doria Grand Hotel

A classic, double bed, room at the ADI Doria Grand Hotel

ADI Doria Grand Hotel is located at Viale Andrea Doria 22, 20124 Milan. The hotel is conveniently located across the Milan central train station. With the GPS navigator, we also didn’t have a hard time finding the hotel. From the airport, we were told that the hotel is about 53 – 55 km away and you can take the train as a cheapest option.

The hotel is 5-minutewalk to Corso Buenos Aires (a more or less 1.5 km stretch of shops). For us, it was pretty convenient when we did our shopping. Two of my friends just recently recovered from injuries therefore we had to take the cab a lot to go to the tourist sites and restaurants. From the hotel to Duomo, a cab ride usually cost us EUR 10-12.

Rooms and Facilities (3/5)

We had the classic, double bed, room. As I often say in my hotel reviews, one thing about Europe is that hotel rooms are normally small. In this case, the room size is pretty much with in my expectations of European hotels. The room is pretty, in a classic way, and fully equipped with television, safe box, mini bar, hair dryer, phone, etc… it is a 4-star hotel after all. I was particularly impressed with the bathroom’s size. It was quite spacious. When I was reading reviews about this hotel, I saw some comments that the furniture is old or something like that. The thing is, that’s the hotel’s theme – vintage. One might find the lighting a bit too dark too as they have thick curtains and yellow lights.

A comment though is that we were booked at the 1st floor, which seemed to allow smoking. Although we don’t smell it in our room, the lobby smelled all the time. Therefore, if you don’t like to smell cigarettes first thing in the morning after leaving your room, you might want to ask for a non-smoking floor. Another minor comment was the toiletries (soap, cotton, cotton buds, etc.) – for some reason, we only had one of set of toiletries in the bathroom. I personally don’t mind since I usually bring my own stuff when I travel. However, if there’s one thing that my friend and I needed was a shower cap and they only provided one, I guess for us to share. Moreover, it was a disposable shower cap yet they didn’t change it the entire time. Again, this is a minor detail but just noting it since it was my first time to encounter such problem with a 4-star hotel in Europe.

The hotel conveniently has parking garage too. I think it’s like EUR 28 per day.

Staff and Services (4/5)

The staff members are friendly and helpful. Initially though, when we asked for restaurant recommendations in a certain area, the receptionist told us “you will find many pizzerias in the area”. But that was just one incident and with one person because the rest of our stay there, the other reception staff were very helpful to us and provided us good recommendations on shops and restaurants.

Security (4.5/5)

The reception desk is open 24/7. I could give it a 5/5 but the garage felt like you’re in a horror flick and can be accessed by non-clients.

Price (4.5/5)

We paid EUR 270 for 2 nights with breakfast. For a 4-star hotel in a good location, I say that’s an awesome rate! The breakfast was not bad at all. There’s a city tax of EUR 10 per person.

Cleanliness (4/5)

I would have given it a 5/5 but the smoking floor bothered me a little.

Total   : 4/5 – I definitely recommend ADI Grand Doria Hotel to friends and colleagues if travelling in Milan and I can definitely stay in this hotel again if I go back to Milan.

HOTEL REVIEW: Hotel Pulitzer Barcelona, Spain

Hotel Pulitzer GenevaBarcelona remains my favorite city in Europe… so far. I spent my Easter weekend there with only one thing planned – rest. Okay, I didn’t really just stay in my hotel and slept the whole 3 days. For that travel, I only wanted to see the Montserrat, the Montjuic castle, and Park Guell. It was my second time to visit Barcelona and I’ve practically seen the major tourist sites. So for me, when I was looking through the possible hotels that I’ll be saying at, I only had 2 C’s in mind – comfort and convenience. I chose Hotel Pulitzer Barcelona, a 4-star hotel located in the heart of Barcelona.

Location/Accessibility (5/5)

The Hotel Pulitzer Barcelona is located at C/ Bergara, 8 – 08002 Barcelona. This hotel has probably the most convenient location in Barcelona that one could hope for. To get to the hotel from the airport, just take the Aerobus (a single ticket costs EUR 5.90, tickets can be bought through a machine nearby or through the bus driver) and get off at Plaça Catalunya. From the Aerobus station, walk directly to the other side, cutting through Plaça Catalunya. The street between the FNAC and BBV buildings is Carrer Bergara. The hotel is probably about 100m from Plaça Catalunya.

The importance of being right next to Plaça Catulunya is the accessibility to public transportation and shops. Plaça Catalunya is a major metro station and buses going to popular areas stop here. Right next to the hotel is also an ATM and a Starbucks (well, I always like trying out the Starbucks in different countries/areas and compare the difference). The hotel is about 3-5 minute walk from the famous La Rambla and Rambla de Catalunya.

Rooms and Facilities (4/5)

Standard Double Room - Hotel Pulitzer BarcelonaI had a Standard Double room at the third floor. The bed, the linens, and the pillows were really comfy – just the way I wanted them to be. The room, including the bathroom, was spacious and chic. I was welcomed with 2 complimentary bottles of water and mini squares of dark chocolates (maybe not the case for everyone but I actually appreciate these little details). Also, I usually don’t use hotel soaps as they usually tend to smell like cheap hotel soaps, but the soaps they have smelled really good that I actually used them. They also have complimentary his and her mini toiletries package, which I found perfect since I forgot to bring my comb and they had one in their mini package. Things in the room include a safe, an air conditioning, slippers, hair dryer, full-length mirror (very important!), television, a phone, and wifi (it was pretty fast but not fast enough to watch live streaming… at least in my experience).

My only comment, about the room was the noise. There were guests, probably in the same floor as mine, who would slam their doors shut and I could really hear it. Also, I heard the footsteps of the guests above my room, especially when I was in the bathroom, quite loudly. I only noted these noises as a comment and not exactly a complaint because I’m not fuzzy on these things. However, to be fair to those who are particularly sensitive to such noises, I decided to give this category a 4 instead of perfect 5.

My favorite part of this hotel was the terrace. During my short stay, my favorite part of the day was going to the terrace late afternoon with my book and a glass of kir or cava. There weren’t so many people who hanged out in the terrace so it was an absolute tranquility. I would stay there for hours, until it was already too dark to read. Although perhaps in the summer, when the terrace bar is open, it has more of a party mood than a relaxing one.

If I read it correctly, the pool and the gym are located in another building but you can ask the receptionist for an entrance card and it is for free. They also have bicycles for rent (I think they are roughly EUR 18 per person– I can be wrong). Lastly, I tried their breakfast once – it was okay, not bad but nothing special.

Staff and Services (5/5)

When it comes to staff and services, Hotel Pulitzer is currently my favorite! Every single one of them is really friendly and accommodating. I honestly felt so spoiled by the hotel staff.

The receptionists were very friendly and helpful. They automatically gave me a map and an interesting book on a gastronomic tour in Barcelona. They also offered to book reservations for the restaurants that I am going to. The hotel is also in some sort of a partnership with a tour agency called Julia Travels. They have several tour options at cheaper costs compared to the other guided tour companies that I’ve seen in the internet. The receptionist booked my tour to Montserrat and that was honestly a big help for me.

The restaurant and bar staff were also very service-oriented and friendly. They talk to you with a smile on their faces – something that, after being in Geneva for almost 3 years, looks unusual.

Security (4/5)

The location of the hotel, for me, is generally a safe area. I also noticed that at some time of the day, Hotel Pulitzer has security personnel outside, by the door. If not a Hotel Pulitzer security guard, I would see a guard in front of Hotel Regina Barcelona, sister hotel of Pulitzer and is located immediately next to it.

The reception area, manned 24/7, is located next to the entrance door which allows the reception staff to see everyone coming in and going out of the hotel. I quickly peeked at the emergency exit/stairs and it was wider than any hotels that I’ve been through before.

I’m not sure if the bar at the terrace is accessible to non-guests, when open. If it is open to non-guests, I’d be concern on the access to the floors/rooms.

Price (4/5)

I got my room for two nights at EUR 378.80 (VAT included), which is normally EUR 473.00. For me, considering the location, quality, and service in the hotel, it was a pretty good price. If you are up for a relaxing time in Barcelona, this hotel is worth trying.

TIP: Try booking a reservation at the Hotel’s website at least 21 days before your actual stay – they give out 20% discount (it’s an advance payment and non-refundable though). For some reason, the price in the hotel’s website is a little cheaper than the other hotel booking sites.

Cleanliness (5/5)

Total   : 4.5/5 – The Hotel Pulitzer Barcelona is definitely a hotel worth trying when in Barcelona if you are looking for a convenient, comfortable, and relaxing hotel.

Hotel Pulitzer Barcelona's Terrace

Hotel website: http://www.hotelpulitzer.es/en