ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel Grand Court Nagoya, Nagoya, Japan

After landing at Haneda Airport around 5am and finding I couldn’t exchange my JR Pass at the airport until close to 8, I decided to see if I’d have better luck at Shinagawa station, but alas it was not to be (they open at 9am), so I headed to Tokyo station where I knew the ticket office started exchanging JR Passes at 7:30am. I was 2nd in the queue and I had my JR Pass and a reserved seat on the Shinkansen to Nagoya in my hands by 7:45. A quick snack at Tokyo station and I was on my way to Nagoya at 200km/h around 8:30am.

I arrived in Nagoya station around 10:20am. The ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel Grand Court Nagoya is in the Kanayama area of Nagoya right next to Kanayama station. You can get there using your JR Pass for the ~5 minute train trip.

I walked into the hotel around 10:45 asking to check-in early to be meet with a stony “check in is 2pm” by the trainee at the front desk (TripAdvisor tells me that I’m not the only one to receive this treatment). I had to point out that as an IHG Ambassador Spire Elite I get to check in early if a room is available. They checked my IHG status and I was in my room by 11am for a quick snooze and shower before heading out get a SIM card and explore.

Room was large, quiet and well appointed. I had a view out over southwest Nagoya.

I didn’t partake of room service or the restaurants in the hotel as there were many bars and restaurants in the surrounding streets to have authentic meals at. Decent coffee (not Starbucks – yuck!), beer, yakitori & okonomiyaki are all within 5 to 7 minutes walking distance from the hotel.

I did have a couple of drinks at the hotel bar on the 30th floor, STAR GATE, which has pretty good views of southwest Nagoya down to the waterfront area. Drinks were expensive (like most hotel bars) so it was good for a couple of drinks while you look at the view. Be warned, they allow smoking in the bar area.

I had 3 days exploring Nagoya and the hotel was a good base being about 5 minutes from Nagoya station.

Check-out was very efficient on the last day and I was on my way to Osaka just after midday.

In retrospect ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel Grand Court Nagoya is a decent hotel, in a reasonably good location. Front desk staff need more training on how to treat guests though.


DoubleTree by Hilton Amsterdam Centraal Station, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The last stop on my European adventure was Amsterdam.

For my Amsterdam home I’d chosen the DoubleTree by Hilton right next to Amsterdam Centraal Station and this was to prove to be my favourite hotel of my trip.

You can’t fault the location. You exit the Central Station, turn left, walk about 7 minutes (mind the 100s of bikes and occasional trams and buses that’ll whiz past you) and you’re at the hotel. From the hotel it’s then a quick walk over to the party area of De Wallen and all the trouble you can ever imagine getting yourself into.

At check-in you’re given the DoubleTree biscuit (be darned if I’ll call it a cookie!) while the paperwork is done. In a couple of minutes I’m off to my room.

On walking into the room I noticed there wasn’t a TV, but there was an iMac on the desk – turns out that the iMac, which you can use as a standard computer, also doubles as the rooms TV. Nice idea!

The room is medium size, fresh, bright with a view out onto the inner harbour and across to the canals of De Wallen. If you’re a boat watcher you could spend hours watching small boats and canal buses shipping the locals and tourists around outside your window.

Free wifi was pervasive throughout the property.

I was given Executive Lounge access for my stay which gives you a simple breakfast and pre-dinner drinks (beer, wine, soft drinks) and light snacks every evening from 6 til 8. On my first evening, Saturday, the lounge was chocker block full, but was able to get my fill of semi decent red wine and a couple of so-so snacks. The other days the lounge wasn’t as busy.

As an aside – It’s always interesting to watch the free-for-all that occurs when there’s free food and drinks available. There’s always a decent supply of food and drink (never seen them runout!) but some people almost sprinted to the counter when they saw fresh food come out, and then proceeded to build a mountain of food on their plates that Sir Edmund Hillary would have had trouble climbing over. Ugly greediness – Americans and Australians seem to be the worst based on my experience.

On my last evening in Amsterdam I decided to eat in the hotel restaurant, the Eastwood Beer and Grill. And I’m glad I did as I ended up having one of the best meals of my trip. My server was magnificent and steered me towards the Veal Rib-eye cooked medium rare with pepper sauce and I cannot fault his guidance one bit as this was a great dish accompanied by a couple of great Dutch beers all finished off with a small sweets plate and a couple of nips of Bushmills single malt Irish Whiskey. Great final meal for my Europe trip.

Only issue was that the shower drain seemed to drain incredibly slowly meaning you had to have quick showers or you stood the chance of flooding your bathroom.

Great hotel, will stay here again!

Crowne Plaza Antwerpen, Antwerp, Belgium

Antwerp is about 70 minutes north of Brussels by intercity train and was the next stop on my European tour and I’d chosen to stay at the Crowne Plaza.

The hotel is in Antwerp South next to Antwerp Expo, so it’s a little out of the city but there’s both buses and trams close by for the ~15 minute ride into Central Antwerp and a taxi to Central Station is all of €12.

Crowne Plaza’s are generally a notch down the pecking order when compared to either InterContinentals or Hiltons, but I was pleasantly surprised with this property. The lobby was spacious, light and clean, and the hotel bar / restaurant seemed to be the local meeting place as it was always buzzing.

In contrast to the tardy check-in at the Brussels Hilton, the check-in here was super fast and efficient and I was on my way to my room within 5 minutes of walking in the front door.

My room was smaller that what I’d had at the Hiltons in Brussels and Paris but as I was only sleeping here for a couple of nights it was more than large enough. I’d hazard a guess that it’s been recently renovated.

I had huge ceiling to floor windows with a view of Nachtegalen Park which was the location for the archery competition in the 1920 summer Olympics.

The bar / restaurant had a great menu and I had a couple of good feeds, and the beer list was superb as well.

All round a good hotel but a little far out of the city for my liking. If I go back to Antwerp I’d probably stay much closer to Central Station.


Hilton Brussels City, Brussels, Belgium

After the train trip from Lyon to Brussels Central station I was in a taxi for a short ride to my next hotel The Hilton Brussels City in Rogier.

If I’d done my homework a bit better I’d have gotten a train to either the Rogier Metro station or to Brussels Nord station which are both a ~5 minute walk from the hotel… but alas I’m not known for planning so spent ~€15 on the taxi.

The hotel is in a great location next to the botanic garden about a 10 minute leisurely walk from the centre of the city.

The room itself was nice – I was in a converted loft like room with a living room and seperate bedroom but you can tell this is an old hotel that’s had a cheapish makeover.

One of the powerpoints was falling out of the wall. One of the windows you could open, but the other one was screwed shut.

Also, cleanliness left a little to be desired. There was a swatted mosquito on the wall when I first went into my room, and it was still there when I left. And there was a nice hair from the room’s previous inhabitant waiting for me in the shower – yuck!

On the plus side the air conditioning worked great, there was a Nespresso machine and free Wifi throughout the property.

I had breakfast in my room rate which was a self service buffet in the breakfast room which had the standard scrambled eggs, bacon, potato croquets, pancakes, pasties and cheeses plus juices and hot drinks… and the waffle maker 🙂 A good enough spread that I’d head out exploring filled with energy.

There’s also a nice bar off the hotel lobby that opens late afternoon for drinks, and doubles as the dinner restaurant. The beer menu was pretty good and the bar staff were able to help me try most of the good beers throughout my stay. The food choices were quite good as well for hotel food, not Michelin quality, but robust with decent serving sizes.

Check in and check out were a little tardy as the front desk staff seem to retreat to the office and have to check through the office window every now and then to see if a customer is waiting – this really needs to be improved. But once they were on the case the process went smoothly.

Its a good hotel and with some improvements would be really top notch.

Hilton Paris La Défense, Paris, France

Landing in Paris at around 7am I was heading to my hotel, the Hilton Paris La Défense, via the RER – 2 trains with a interchange at Châtelet – Les Halles for the onward train to La Défense – all up probably 75 minutes. I was hoping that I could check in early to get some shut eye after the flight from Hong Kong and I struck it lucky in that my room became available just as I was checking in around 10am.

If you’ve been to Paris you’ll know that La Défense is a little out of the city, but not too far. RER takes around 10 minutes, and from memory the Paris Metro was around 20 minutes to get into the city. Not too bad.

If you are at the Arc de Triomphe looking down the Champs-Élysées then if you do a 180° turn you will see the Grande Arche at La Défense. So not too far away but definitely a train ride anywhere.

The hotel is in the CNIT building.

Anyway, now that you know where the hotel is, what was it like?

I had a room that was reasonable size with a desk area behind the bed head. The view was out over the La Défense ‘common’, for the want of a better term. I was on the third floor and heard no noise.

Internet was supplied via Wifi and was decent.

The bed was very comfortable as were the pillows, but being about 8 timezones from home still meant my sleeps were shockingly bad. And that the sun came up around 5am didn’t help me either!

Breakfast was included in the rate I was on which allowed me to have a decent feed, including pastries and freshly cooked waffles, before heading out to explore Paris.

In the evenings you needed to make a decision of whether to train it into Paris, or stay in La Défense. The Tangerine Bar was the hotel bar that I had several drinks at after a day exploring. The menu had a somewhat limited drink and food choice but what you ordered was top notch. One peeve – took a while to get the attention of the serving staff at times.

All round, if your office is out west of Paris it’s a good place to stay but next time I am in Paris I’ll be staying somewhere a little more central.