The Old Clare Hotel – February 2016

This hotel hosted many a drunken evening in my youth, so I was more than excited to see what the renovations and creation of a new hotel would entail. And given i work around the corner, and live only a 15 minute drive away it was the ultimate in guilty luxury to just wander over to the hotel from my office and check in on a Friday night.

The restored hotel entrance is behind the main bar but not immediately visible. I understand that the Old Clare wants to be a little bit different – quirky and not your standard cookie cutter hotel. However if you can’t work out where the entrance or reception is, and your staff are not stuck behind the desk ( but their casual uniform does not actually help you figure out that they are the staff) its a bit of a problem. You still need to tell guests where to go – it is generally helpful. 

I love all the exposed brick and dark corridors as it gives the hotel such a cozy feel but I CAN’T SEE ANYTHING. Once we got checked in and we quickly realised we were in the wrong room ( I won’t take it personally that the room for our wedding anniversary had twin beds. It’s 5 years not 50 years of marriage thank you). A quick phone call and new keys were handed over to an upgraded suite. Huzzah!

However, the issue was that I actually preferred the smaller room as it is not smaller at all – the high ceilings and giant windows made me feel as though I was in Berlin again with those gorgeous old restored hotels. The bathroom is definitely not as luxurious but perfectly functional. 

But the suite was lovely nevertheless. A normal sized bed, walk in bathroom and large bath to soak your troubles away. The bottom level sitting room of the suite was wasted on us, and I craved the higher ceilings as the loft style left me feeling slightly claustrophobic. While it looks beautiful, i just couldn’t get on board and would have preferred the extra space in one room. 

We didn’t stay too long in the room as we had some important eatin’ to do. The Clare hotel hosts not one but three amazing restaurants: Kensington st social which is so NYC it hurts and possibly one of my top 5 Sydney dining experiences, Automata which offers a seasonal set degustation that speaks to the indecisive libran in me; and Silvereye which I am yet to try but I hear it is beef beef beef. 

The new little precinct in Chippo is fabulous. Great fancy restaurants next to cheap takeaway options – this never works but here it is seamless. The laneways have been restored and taken from dodgy, dark and dingy to exciting, buzzing and packed with peeps. Late night dining is an issue that is being slowly addressed in my hometown with great options like this.

And nothing quite beats stuffing your face with a degustation menu and then rolling up to your room for a blissful nights sleep. An early morning dip in the rooftop pool overlooking the city and I am refreshed and restored to start my weekend. I heart Sydney.

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The Westin Sydney – April 2013

When the opportunity to stay at the Westin comes up, you take it.

With family visiting from Melbourne, the question of where to stay comes up and as always my first recommendation is to stay at the Westin. I understand that the price point is more suited to business than leisure travelling, however securing a cheap deal on a long weekend feels like winning some kind of travel lotto. And with that, rooms are booked and the relaxing hideaway in the middle of the city begins. I can’t help but come along for the ride.

While most of my hotel experiences are focused on finding unique boutique hotels, small quirky places that make you feel special and appreciated as an individual, i must admit that sometimes i just love to fall into the hands of a giant chain that can take care of all your needs despite operating on a grand scale. The Westin always makes me feel this way. Yes, they are huge. Yes, they are almost always busy. But damn it, they know how to do hotels right.

The location cannot be beat – smack bang in the middle of the CBD, in a beautiful partially restored Post Office, it has to be one of my favourite buildings in the city. Offering a selection of restaurants and cafes on the lower level, this space is more than just a hotel and you could literally cover a lunch, a night out, and a hotel stay in one space. For the supremely lazy (like myself) I would be very happy to do so.

The rooms are instantly familiar despite the city location you are in. Normally something I would be turned off by, but the Westin manages to turn this into a comfy old friend trait, where you feel at ease immediately and know exactly what you are getting. The beds are indeed ‘heavenly’ as advertised, the size of the room is always impressive (of course certain cities will dictate smaller or larger rooms) and the bathroom spacious and decadent.

And as a beauty junkie, I often find that the quality of the toiletries on offer will always sway me (yes I am that vain) and the Westin gets a big tick from me. The smell of the body wash takes me back to my last Westin stay in Kuala Lumpur, with fond memories of starting our honeymoon adventure. I love that a simple scent can take me back on that path, despite actually being in my home city.

[For those playing at home, the best toiletries will always be at the Prince Hotel in Melbourne who used to offer an Aesop travel pack. I have a feeling this is no longer the case, but I wish they would bring it back!*]

A stay at the Westin is always a treat, and my home city break has only fuelled my desire to find a more interstate or international locations to try.

The Westin Sydney
1 Martin Pl
Sydney NSW 2000

* upon further research, the Prince now offers products from Swedish skincare brand Ren so all is not lost!

Hotel Concorde Berlin – October 2012

Tablet Hotels is of course one my favourite websites to daydream on, but while looking at booking a quick last-minute trip to Berlin I was pleasantly surprised to find a great deal for the Hotel Concorde at a fraction of the price of all other usual websites. 5 star hotel for the price of a shoebox in London? Sure!

As a purveyor of the design hotel field, I often will rate aesthetics over some luxuries in a hotel room. Then I stay in a 5 star hotel like the Hotel Concorde and suddenly I am transformed. I want the jet set lifestyle. I want the plush carpeted hallways. The large upgraded rooms with views over Kurfürstendamm Boulevard. I want to be the woman who has her LV bags stacked on a porter trolley, Burberry shopping bags stacked on top, waiting for her private car to the airport.

The hotel itself is quite remarkable looking  – a beautifully huge structure on a street corner that shouts out to the people below “look at me, I am MASSIVE”. But inside it does not feel like a big hotel. Attentive staff, quick check in, soft lighting – all the things you would expect in a small, design hotel.

The feel of the Hotel Concorde is slightly boutique, slightly business but all comfort. Spacious rooms with large windows that overlook the city – and incidentally some pretty funny 80’s dress shops across the road that brought me much happiness. Even though it is a French hotel, any influence is fairly minimal until you make it into the bathroom and realise it is fully stocked with Annick Goutal fragranced products. Ohhh pretty.

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The Hotel Concorde in the middle of one of Berlin’s key shopping districts, so there is no shortage of temptations on my doorstep. The hotel is located next to Berlin’s flagship Cos store, which means that I am telepathically aware of all their worldwide locations and thus can make hotel choices based on the proximity to Swedish minimalist clothing stores.

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And after a weekend of blissful sunshine, it was if Berlin turned off the magic as the working week commenced, and the tourists went home. This tourist stayed an extra day in town, and the city had a completely different feel with deep grey skies and patches of rain. But again the 5 star treatment kicks in with the doorman handing out umbrellas to guests. Feeling a little spesh once again.

What I love about the Hotel Concorde
– Tablet hotel upgrade thank you very much. Also for the macaroons which I did not need to eat (but promptly did nevertheless).

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– There is an ice room on my floor. AN ICE ROOM. With ACTUAL ICE. I haven’t seen this since I was a kid staying at the Sea World Nara Resort on the Gold Coast.
Giant bed, many pillows, sound sleep.

– A separate bath and shower feels like the most decadent thing on earth for someone who is so used to tiny apartment living.

– A million pay tv channels in a myriad of languages. Thank you.

– Proper wifi. Thank you. I know it cuts out a bit, but be patient and you will receive. Much better than so many other hotels that I’ve read about in Europe with pay per minute access like it is 1995 all over again.

Things I don’t love about the Hotel Concorde

– This one is not really a thing I don’t love, but apparently there was a Wellness Centre with a plunge pool. I totally missed it. This one is on me though, as I didn’t have enough time to explore the hotel. Damn.
Hotel Concorde

Augsburger Strasse 41, Berlin, Germany

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Manchester – October 2012

The cookie on arrival. I have made the point in previous blog posts here how much I love the DoubleTree cookie. It is a gimmick, and I am happy to support it on each and every stay.  Traveling with some friends who had not been to the DoubleTree were initially confused at how and where the cookies could be stored to always be hot (they have an oven under the counter) and were soon on board. Check in was a breeze (or was I just distracted by that hot cookie?) and we were on our way up to our rooms quick smart. A request to have two rooms located close together was ignored, but hey, no biggie.

Double Tree Manchester has all the perks of a mid-high range business hotel. Adequate cocktail/lounge/bar, a large dining area and open and airy entrance. The rooms follow suit, equipped with a large queen bed, medium sized bathroom and little special touches like an Apple iMac TV/PC. The hotel advertises the ergonomic ‘Mirra’ chair as being a feature for the office/desk area, but as our break was for musical pleasure, not business, there was no work to be done.

 

A pleasant stay, but would i rush back? Probably not. See reasons below of what really got under my skin.

Things I love about this hotel

–       Location, location – Assuming you are taking the train into Manchester (you would be a fool not to – so easy!), the hotel is very easy to get to. We got our phones out (obligatory cursing at the new stupid apple maps app) but realised our frustration would be short lived as the hotel was across the road from the station. Also around the corner is the Gay Village on the canals, and on the other side the Northern Quarter. I can highly recommend all the things at Almost Famous burgers on High st.

Things I don’t love about this hotel

–       Clean my room – It is not that hard. We arrived back to the hotel after an afternoon of strolling around the city and were dying for a disco nap, only to come home and find our room had not been cleaned. At 5pm. This seemed weird, and the only thing that was done was a hotel staff member came knocking at 6pm to check if the room had been cleaned. Not with an offer to clean it, but more a checklist. I was so annoyed and frustrated that I just asked for more towels and some tea to be replaced. Which they brought up a short time later without any milk. I AM IN ENGLAND HERE PEOPLE. I know how much tea means to this country, I respect that, I have EMBRACED it. To deliver tea bags without milk is just asking for trouble.

–       One towel set out in the bathroom – odd as we were definitely checking in as a couple. When more towels were ordered they only brought one set. I get that you want to keep your cleaning costs down, but I think they can assume that if one person wants fresh towels, so would the OTHER PERSON PAYING FOR THIS HOTEL ROOM.

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Manchester – Piccadilly

One Piccadilly Place, 1 Auburn St., Manchester

Hotel Missoni Edinburgh

I have the bag. I have the towels. I need to upgrade to a full blown Missoni experience.

The Missoni hotel in Edinburgh is beckoning; calling out for a weekend away. While the Edinburgh Fringe festival would be the perfect time to visit, those who are not organised enough (see:me) will have to make an autumn visit.

The suites look lush (read:expensive) but the normal rooms look stylish enough to justify the coin. Let’s face it, they had me at Missoni bathrobes….and the afternoon tea with Missoni tea sets.

I want to go to there.

http://www.hotelmissoni.com/hotelmissoni-edinburgh

Campanile Paris 11, Bastille, Paris – June 2012

How does one have a guilt free overnight mini break in Paris? Pair crazy cheap Eurostar fares with a cheap hotel in a great location.

Being a big fan of the 11th arrondissement, I thought it best to stick with what I know and book a simple hotel that while cheap, had a great bunch of reviews on tripadvisor. Given it was summer I was hoping to spend most of my time outdoors, soaking up as much Paris as I could in 48 hours.

However, even basic hotels would have a better feeling than this place, as from the moment I walked in the room I was not impressed and was surprised it had so many good reviews on tripadvisor.

The room absolutely did not reflect the images on the internet, and while I shouldn’t have been surprised that this happens, I don’t think I had actually encountered it before. I am not usually one to complain to the hotel to move rooms – there wasn’t anything technically wrong with the room, it just was not up to the standards I was expecting given the good reviews on tripadvisor. As the hotel has only one photo of the room on their website, I should have been smarter and booked elsewhere. After looking at other guests photos when I got home (which I don’t normally do) I realised all the good reviews are for rooms that are significantly more renovated than the one we had.

The room was tired – dirty/damp patches in the corners of the room, grubby bathroom and dated furniture. Then there were the strange little oddities like no hand towels, no conditioner, towels stored on top of the toilet. The only saving grace was that the bed was clean and comfortable. But that was it. The rest of the place had a very sad feeling.

 

Paper thin walls didn’t really help either, and I feel our neighbours had a lot of issues that needed to be sorted out (in an overly loud way). Plus a large group of Spanish students who were excited about the Euro match that evening and were sweet at first, and then increasingly annoying. It was like being on camp with all of your friends. Except replace friends with random, loud strangers.

On a positive note, the service was good – pleasant and quick arrival and check in. The check out was more complicated, with one frazzled woman manning the counter at 10am on a Sunday morning (peak check out).  Better staff planning could have appeased the impatient guests who needed to get away to the airport, or in our case, brunch.

Overall, you get what you pay for and I know the room was quite cheap but I am so disappointed that i could have had at least a better quality room in the hotel (and should have asked) or spent the extra £20 to stay at a boutique hotel nearby.

Hotel Lady tip: Unless you can be guaranteed to get a renovated room, this place is definitely not worth the money. There are thousands of hotels in Paris, and I am kicking myself I gave my money to this one.

 

Campanile Paris 11 – Bastille

http://www.campanile-paris-bastille.fr/en