November 2009 – Treetops at Cottage Point, Sydney

To celebrate one of my besties 30th birthday, he kindly booked out the architectural masterpiece Treetops at Cottage Point for a BBQ, party and general laze about. A drive a short 45 mins out of the CBD to a tranquil, beautiful spot in the Kurungai National Park – hmmm didn’t take much convincing to get me there.

The house feels like an upmarket ski lodge, perched over the river rather than a ski slope. Great for entertaining, the house comes equipped with a full kitchen, outdoor entertaining area, a range of crap dvds (FAIL) and an xbox with a range of games (a big win with the kids that arrived the next day).

With four bedrooms, it sleeps 8 quite comfortably not to mention the giant comfy couches in the living space. The decor is bright and cheerful, and makes me want to paint my house yellow. The outdoor area has built in sitting and is perfect at night to welcome the nocturnal neighbours such as prince* the possum.

Note – drinking champagne in the hot tub only leads to bad things.

And the great thing is that if you run out of food or booze, you only have to wander down to the waterfront to find the Cottage Point Inn. A great modern australian restaurant, the atmosphere is wonderfully peaceful. Or perhaps that was all the wine.

Treetops

Cottage Point, NSW

http://www.stayz.com.au/31406

* this may or may not be his real name. Most likely because we were drinking too much wine and listening to Prince at the time.

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August 2009 – B Hotel

When we were doing our travel research, I was spoiled for choice as there were so many great little hotels that I didn’t need to break the budget for our ‘treat’ hotel. Usually when booking the nicer hotel, there is some guilt associated with parting with the extra cash if it doesn’t work out as any better than our cheaper hotel choice. No guilt this time, as we took advantage of a 99 euro a night package with hotel room, breakfast and a cocktail included.

A giant B is perched on top of the hotel making it easy to find once we had been dropped off at Plaza Espanya. It is also only a 10 minute walk down to La Rambla (which I visited and then promptly avoided for the rest of the trip). Designed by Alfredo Arribas, this modern hotel presents a fresh and cutting edge style and all the mod cons. The rooms were average sized, with a glass bathroom (fitted with blinds so that not all bathroom activities were broadcasted) and more than comfortable enough for two.

Things I love about the B hotel

– Rooftop pool – 2nd day of European holiday? Well, I will just spend half the day in the sunshine, by the pool, watching the traffic stream by Plaza Espanya. The sides of the pool are glass and it feels like you could almost spill out on to the road.

– Buffet breakfast – usually reserved for Ma and Pa Traveller, I am not a fan of buffet breakfasts in small hotels. I always expect a line up of bain maries of shitty breakfast food. Not at Bhotel – Chorizo and cous cous for me thank you very much and REAL coffee. Bless you Espanya.

– Free Wifi – we sat by the pool and were able to catch up on all things interweb. For free. Hooray! (Note – why is Australia so far behind on this? Travelling around the world it seems I can always get wifi everywhere except at home?)

– Great TV selection meant that an afternoon nap turned into a documentary marathon. I am a sucker for airline disaster re-enactments, which is odd when I JUST GOT OFF A PLANE.

Things I dislike about the B Hotel

– The free cocktails with our room booking…that were alcohol free. WTF?

– Burned again by twin beds.

B Hotel

Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 389-391
08015 Barcelona, España

opposite Plaza Espanya

www.bhotel.com/

August 2009 – Market Hotel, Barcelona

The Market Hotel is located in the Barcelona neighbourhood of Eixample, right next to the San Antonio markets. The hotel is set back from the toursity areas, which made for a much more relaxing stay. I prefer to feel like I am a local in a city rather than having ‘tourist’ stamped on my head.

This was our designated ‘budget’ hotel for our Barcelona stay. When we travel, my deal is that I will find the best budget boutique hotel to lodge in for the majority travel time – with one night in a fancy/cool/ubercool/f-off cool hotel that we can afford as a bit of a treat. This place was meant to be the crap/budget hotel, but it was SO great – a lovely surprise! It was difficult to navigate through the narrow doorframes of the hotel with international luggage, but the rooms were high celinged and very roomy, with four poster beds, dark wood floors and crisp white sheets. Ok, so there was no pool and we were there in the middle of summer, but we took refuge in their sweet little bar next to the restaurant and became a fan of a chilled afternoon vino.

Things I love about the Market Hotel

–  The restaurant – Looks fancy, is cheaper than a midweek night out. After realising that yet another place we wanted to visit was shut for the summer, we were wandering the streets until we noticed that the hotel restaurant looked great and was packed…..on a Wednesday. Expecting to see exorbitant prices, the most expensive main was 9 euros. Seriously. And can I say that it was my favourite meal of the trip? I was treated to one of the restaurant’s signature dishes – the cod fish with light garlic and pear mayonnaise with tomato marmalade. Hands down the best value for money seafood dish i have ever had. Two courses and a bottle of wine for 2 for under $AU100. It was so great we went back the next night – and were so happy to only have to stumble upstairs to our room!

– The bar is fantastic. Waiting for our room was a pleasure. SO much so, that we continued to make a daily visit for a cheeky afternoon beverage.

– Big bathroom with a  ‘rainwater’ showerhead felt more like I was in Thailand than in the middle of the city.

– Free water and apples at the door helped us start each day on a fresh note. Well for about 5 mins until we got struck down by the summer heat. And had to stop for a vino.

Things I dislike about Market Hotel

– The ongoing mistake of booking a queen bed in Europe – it is just two singles wedged together. I need to get over this, but I just don’t understand!! Surely two of those beds cost the same as one queen mattress?

Market hotel

Passatge de Sant Antoni Abad, 10
08015 Barcelona,

www.markethotel.com.es/

August 2009 – Apex Hotel, London

Long haul flying from Australia is not really an activity that lends itself to a spritely arrival to your holiday destination. While we were excited to kick off our euro 09 tour, the tall man and I decided booking in to a hotel would be a better idea than sponging of our London friends purely for the access to sleep. Yes, yes I know we need to get the body clock working again, but if I want to have a nap at 1.30pm damn it I will. This hotel was a short walk from the tube station – not that we knew it at first as our tiredness prevented us from reading maps correctly.

After sleeping in an airline chair, even the ground seems like a comfortable option. So the fact that we had a king sized bed covered in cloud pillows meant I would have given the hotel any amount of money to get a little shut eye. Luckily we only parted with approximately 100 pounds, which is good value in any city let alone London. Perhaps I have limited exposure to London hotels due to the generosity of my London friends ( and being used to the shocking exchange rate). But the Apex Hotel really ticked all the boxes as a holiday traveller, despite the obvious focus on business clientele (being in the Bank area). The rooms were large and comfortable, and great plasma tvs to fall asleep in front of.

Things I love about the Apex Hotel

– Giant comfy bed, with lots of plush pillows. Ok, who am I kidding, this was our first stop after a long haul flight so the fact that I could lie down meant I was happy. This just made me extra happy.

– Giant bathroom – very impressed.

Things I dislike about the Apex Hotel

– As it is geared towards the business market, it does feel a little cold.

Apex City of London Hotel

No 1 Seething Lane
London EC3N 4AX

www.apexhotels.co.uk/hotels/city-of-london