Archive for category Hotels

Albe Hôtel Saint-Michel, Paris, France

After a bit of a train delay on the RER B I arrived at Gare de Saint-Michel – Notre-Dame. I then proceeded, as is my way, to lose my bearings and go in completely the wrong direction and exit the station 500 metres from my hotel. If I’d actually looked at the signs, and exited towards Notre-Dame I would have surfaced, by way of a lift, about 50 metres from my hotel. But in the end I had to haul my luggage up the stairs and double back about 450 metres.

Arriving around 10am my room was clean and free, and I was able to checkin.

First impression was that the room was small, but, in hindsight, I didn’t notice the size of the room as the week went on. It was large enough for one person. Walls are a little thin so you will notice your neighbours.

There was a large, and very comfortable, double bed with decent pillows.

The bathroom came with a shower and was a decent size. Though, if you have a late shower you were fighting for hot water with the other guests.

Next to the bed there is a full length window that opened out onto Rue De La Harpe which is a busy street. I was on the second floor and, apart from Friday and Saturday nights, when it was very noisy, I was able to leave the window open to get some fresh, and at times, very cold air.

The TV is a small monitor mounted just above the writing desk, so not the most convenient to watch.

The wifi in the room was woeful though. I had to resort to using my mobile connection a couple of time to be able to do anything 🙁

I opted to pay for breakfast which was a basic, self service continental breakfast. Bacon, eggs, breads, cereal, pastries along with juices, tea and coffee. For €15 it was a great investment to be able to have a full tank for exploring Paris.

Hotel is in a great location and I would have no qualms with staying here again. The hotel is right on top of Gare de Saint-Michel – Notre-Dame metro and RER station. Also a 5 minute walk from Cité metro station a, and 10 minute walk from Châtelet mega metro station. Notre-Dame Cathedral is a 5 minute walk, and there are 100 restaurants and plenty of bars within ~500 metres of the hotel… as I said, it’s a great location.

The view from my room shows the quaint Parisian street the hotel is on.

Just a word of warning, Gare de Saint-Michel – Notre-Dame station is a den of pick-pocketing thieves. As I was leaving to head to Amsterdam, two dodgy Africans tried to pick pocket me. I was lucky enough to notice that I was being sized up while I waited on the platform so was able to keep my whits about me and scream at them as they made their move. Fucking scum!

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Hart Hotel, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

After the quick train ride on the Airport Express from Hong Kong International Airport to Kowloon station followed by a short taxi ride I was at my hotel in the bustling Tsim Sha Tsui neighbourhood of Kowloon.

Hotel reception is on the 10th floor, so up I went in the lifts that looked like they were being refurbished. The reception area has a modern, industrial feel and the staff were friendly and efficient.

Access to guest floors needs you to swipe your access card which is good as the lifts open up almost directly onto the street on the ground floor. There is, however, an art to swiping your card and pressing the floor number. I just employed the swipe, press, swipe, press method until my floor was selected.

The rooms are very small. I had 2 double beds which took up probably 70% of the wooden floor space.

In the corner of the room is the “bathroom” that consists of  a clear glass door that opens into the toilet cubicle. Given I was in a double room, if you were sharing you’d want to know the other room occupant very, very well, as there’s no privacy while you’re sitting on the crapper.

To have a shower you proceeded through the toilet cubicle into the shower cubicle, and then closed the second clear glass door behind you.

If the curtains in the room windows were open the inhabitants of the the building opposite would get a quite regular, and very disturbing, eyeful. The only saving grace is that it was almost impossible to open the curtains as that required me to climb over one of the beds to get access to them.

The walls between the rooms are quite thin and you can hear everything that your neighbours say and do.

On the plus sides, the hotel wifi was excellent and you can’t fault the location. Walking out of the lifts you have access to hundreds of restaurants and you’re only a 5 minutes walk from the bustling thoroughfare of Nathan Road (and the associated touts 🙁 ).

For a quick, one night stopover with easy access to transportation, food and shopping this is a decent place.

But if I were staying in Hong Kong for more than a night I would find the rooms too claustrophobic and would need to stay elsewhere.

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Swissotel The Stamford, Singapore

On my many trips to Singapore over the past 15 years I’ve probably stayed at Swissotel The Stamford 30 or 40 times. During that time you could see the hotel getting older and starting to look tired.

Thankfully the lifts, corridors and rooms have started to be renovated and are now quite fresh though the room has a number of issues.

They hadn’t renovated the whole hotel when I was there, but the new renovated rooms are listed separately on the website so you can ensure you get a “new” room.

First thing you’ll notice is the new carpet, much improved lighting, a HUGE television and modern artwork on the wall.

The old clunky wooden bedside tables are gone and replaced with a wall unit with the landline phone and clock radio. There’s also a mobile phone that you can use for making calls and surfing the web while you do the touristy stuff. But I couldn’t find a way to send SMSes, and I couldn’t set it up as a wifi hotspot. I ended up getting a local SIM and not using the phone.

The nightlights have motion sensors attached. So if you get up in the middle of the night the floor level nightlights will automatically come on – no fumbling for the light switch. Nice!

The TV isn’t in the best of locations. It’s inconvenient to watch from both the bed, and the couch.

Speaking of the couch. This is a new addition to the Swissotel rooms. They’ve replaced the desk and desk chair with a more modern table and couch combination. Not an ideal setup if you want to do some work. And if you want to charge your laptop and phone, then you’ll need to drape the cables across to the power points that are on the wall next to the couch. They do have USB charging points along with the power points which is nice, but you’ll need a long charging cable.

The whole desk, couch power point setup just hasn’t been thought through and I’m guessing they’ll be getting complaints.

The bathroom has also been rejigged. There is now a walk in shower, no bath anymore. However, the shower head in my room was playing up and leaking, and you could see the paint damage. The vanity area was well done.

My room also had a Nespresso machine, but that might have been because I am a Swissotel Circle Eleva member.

Overall, the renovation is a good start, but I think there needs to be a number of tweaks to make the room a little more functional, especially for a business traveler.

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Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney, Australia

I’d attended a seminar at the Sydney Shangri-La before but never had the opportunity to stay here.

It’s in a sort of weird location right at the corner of the Cahill Expressway and the southern approach to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. So close that my room window allowed me to almost look across the bridge in it’s entirety.

Upon entering the hotel you’re welcomed by a bright, marble reception area with a lobby lounge to the left and reception to the right. Checking in was fast and painless and I was off to my room in about 5 minutes.

In many hotels the corridors are cramped and claustrophobic. But here they are expansive. Probably the widest I’ve seen in any hotel recently. No filthy carpet like the Hyatt Regency either :).

The room was large by comparison to the Marriott and the InterContinental. I had a view of the Harbour Bridge and Circular Quay from my sixth floor room.

For drinks we headed upto Blu Bar on level 36 which offers absolutely magnificent panoramic views of Sydney. Drinks were standard hotel prices but the view means you’ll forget getting gouged.

The bed and pillows were some of the most comfortable I’d had in quite a while but that’s expected of a 5 star hotel.

Bathroom was large and had a separate bath and shower which you don’t see that often anymore.

Despite my room being on a low floor and being so close to 2 majorly busy roads there was no problem with noise.

Superb hotel!

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Pier One Sydney Harbour, Sydney, Australia

This is a little out of the way gem of a hotel on Sydney Harbour. This hotel is built on one of Sydney’s old piers and uses the rustic form of the pier in the design of the building.

The rooms are on the largish side and with soaring ceilings. My room had a huge beam as a central feaure that supported the upper floor of the original pier along with the intricate metal work that connected the beams together. It looked pretty impressive I must say.

Outside the front door of the hotel is the south supporting column of the Sydney Hardbour Bridge along with the extensive stone work that supports the approach road of the bridge.

Foodwise I couldn’t be bothered leaving the hotel and I had 4 meals at the hotel restaurant, The Gantry.

The dinner menu was small but had quality.

On my first evening I had the pheasant, and on the second the wagyu steak – both cooked to perfection. I would eat these dishes any day!

I also had breakfast at the hotel each morning as there was a special on that gave me free breakfast with the corporate rate.

My only beef with the restaurant is the consistent errors they made on the bills! When eating in the hotel I always have the total put on my hotel bill, makes it easier for me as I only have one bill to worry about at the end.

What were the problems?

Even though I charged my dinners to my room account I found out that they had added a credit card surcharge to the dinner bills before they added it to my room account. I noticed something was wrong when I was checking out as the restaurant bills weren’t round numbers. If I hadn’t noticed I would have been paying a credit charge surcharge twice for my dinners, and also paying a credit card surcharge on the credit card surcharge.

Secondly, even though I showed the discount card for the free breakfast to the wait staff they didn’t record it and still charged me for breakfast. I also bought this up at checkout and the charges were removed.

So a great hotel, a splendid restaurant menu…. just make sure you check your bill before you checkout so you don’t pay more than you should.

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