Category Archives: Hotel reviews

Bab Al Bahar hotel in Dakhla – a small paradise on the Tropic of Cancer

Bab Al Bahar hotel

Bab Al Bahar hotel

Dakhla is a coastal city on the Atlantic Ocean located 1700 km south of Casablanca, right on the Tropic of Cancer. Its claim to fame is kite-surfing with hundreds of enthusiasts and professionals descending on this small city on a regular basis.

However, if you are not the bucket list type and prefer to go for a relaxing fishing trip rather then risking life and limb flying through the air on a surf board, then Bab Al Bahar hotel (part of the Best Western chain) could be something for you.

It is located in the town itself; right on the bay where you in the morning can hear the waves rolling onto the shore – not the worst kind of a wake-up call.

In the evening, enjoy dinner at the restaurant and dig into those shrimps, oysters, whatever seafood you fancy. If you happen to be there on a Saturday, don’t miss the special seafood buffet dinner, 20 Euros and you are set for the evening. Of course, a nice selection of wine is there to make this an even more enjoyable experience.

Bab Al Bahar hotel is well-known among those who venture to this part of the world. If you get a chance, spend a weekend here, it is definitely worth it.

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Palais de la Méditerranée – a Nice-ish hotel

Excellent location

Excellent location

Palais de la Méditerranée is one of the more recent additions in Nice, having opened after restoration in 2004. It is located on the Promenade des Anglais, the main boardwalk, and is only an arm’s length away from the turquoise water and fantastic beaches. The location is definitely as good as it gets: close to the city center, restaurants and bars that are in abundance here.

Palais de la Méditerranée-lobby-Nice

The lobby

However, although Palais de la Méditerranée describes itself as a “luxury hotel” it still has a lot of work to do to actually become one. For starters, the service is not very efficient, there are long lines during check-in and check-out and only one or two persons at the desk dealing with customers. The rooms are clean and functional but more of a 4-star level. The restaurant has breath-taking views of the sea but there the glamour ends: the food is mediocre, the service abysmally slow. Not what you would expect when sipping an over-priced glass of wine while waiting for your starter.

The room has nice colors but it's pretty basic for being a five star

The room has nice colors but it’s pretty basic for being a five star

There is one thing that really stands out and that is the concierge service: also slow-ish but nevertheless you will get your reservation in a popular restaurant. Even if you need a vet (we did for Sam) they will go the extra mile and find one for you. But that was probably the only pleasant experience we had at Palais de la Méditerranée.

You are much better off at Hotel Le Negresco a few blocks away, where you for more or less the same money get surrounded by stylish luxury and history.

Rating: 3/5

More about Nice: 24 Nice hours

Le Meridien – tradition meets modernity

Le Meridien Hotel in Vienna

From outside, Le Meridien Hotel in Vienna radiates old-fashioned luxury, along the lines of many other buildings in this city. But once you go inside, you’ll see something completely different.

Le Meridien is ultra-modern and its fashionable design starts in the lobby and continues all the way up to the room. We can guarantee that your stay here will be a completely new experience. Just take a look at the bathroom – it’s an avant-garde masterpiece!

Elevators

Elevators

After a long day strolling around various Christmas markets, the fitness center at Le Meridien will definitely get you into the right mood. Unwind in the beautiful SPA, have a nice sauna or why not go for a hot steam bath before getting ready for dinner.

The SPA

The SPA

The restaurant and bar are exquisitely decorated and offer some fun fare (we remember that the horseradish ice cream was a killer).

Location is as perfect as Bristol Hotel (which we reviewed earlier), just across the street from the Vienna Opera and next door to plenty of sights.

 “Luxury has a soul” – should we say more?

Junior Suite

Junior Suite

All photos are courtesy of Le Meridien Hotel in Vienna.

Hotel de Crillon – number one in Paris?

Hotel de Crillon, Paris

Hotel de Crillon, Paris

Hotel de Crillon, located next door to the U.S. Embassy and a stone’s throw away from Champs Elysées, is considered one of the best hotels in the city. Maybe even THE best? Well, the jury is still out, we would say it’s probably between Hotel de Crillon and Hotel George V.

Individual service is one of the main selling points of this hotel. When you arrive, you are seated while doing your check-in (keyword “seated”, you don’t stand in a queue at the reception desk). Makes you feel very comfortable after a long trip.

The standard rooms are smallish but nicely decorated in a baroque style. At your disposal there are several restaurants (the stylish restaurant Les Ambassadeurs and L’Obé, which is more relaxed) where you will encounter some of the best French cuisine. After your meal, you may want to enjoy a late digestive at the piano bar – it is renowned as a major meeting point in Paris among the powerful and famous.

The hotel was built in 1758 and has seen history in the making for over two centuries. During the past decade, it has changed owners several times and, according to the French media, the hotel was bought in 2010 by a member of the Saudi Arabian royal family.

Although it is in excellent shape, a few bits and pieces do look border-line shabby and when we asked the staff about it, we were told that the new owner plans to close it down in 2013 for a major refurbishment.

One can only imagine how Hotel de Crillon will look after it had been thoroughly polished through. Then it just might beat George V.

Carlton Hotel Guldsmeden in Oslo – perfect for a weekend

Cozy but not much space to maneuver a big suitcase

Cozy but not much space to maneuver a big suitcase

The Carlton Hotel Guldsmeden in Oslo is an eco-friendly establishment that doesn’t fall under the category “luxury hotels”. However, we would still like to review it on our blog since we thought it offered amenities that made this hotel somewhat special. (I shouldn’t use the royal “we” since Alex unfortunately couldn’t join me. I also know that he would have insisted on staying in the Grand Hotel or something along those lines. You know him by now, right?)

Anyway, I ended up at The Carlton Hotel Guldsmeden for a couple of days in July when I was in Oslo doing some research for a travel story for the National Geographic Traveler. I was kind of in a hurry and I was desperate to find a hotel that could accept my fury friend (Sam). The Carlton Hotel Guldsmeden was the first hotel I found where dogs were allowed (that in itself is worth an extra star in my book).

The Carlton Hotel Guldsmeden is small, family-owned and quite centrally located on Parkveien 78. The rooms are nicely decorated in neutral earth tones, but, they are really small. Really, really small. This is definitely a weekend hotel so you should keep your luggage to a minimum (there is no closet, only a coat hanger). But the fact that the room was tiny didn’t really bother me too much. Everything was clean, fresh and the service was super-friendly and that is more important than anything else.

The breakfast room had a warm and cozy atmosphere and the buffet offered a wide range of mainly locally produced, organic food. Natural yogurt, cereals, wide selection of nuts, home-made jams… (I can go on forever). If I wasn’t in such a hurry, this is definitely the place to sit down with a warm cup of tea and chitchat with other hotel guests for hours.

If you are visiting Oslo for a weekend and are not dragging along a big suitcase (and you’re not planning to spend most of your time in the hotel room), I would definately recommend Carlton Hotel Guldsmeden.

Rating: 3/5

Hotel Splendide Royal in Rome – Not splendid, not royal

Hotel Splendide Royal

The 5-star Hotel Splendide Royal in Rome is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World and advertises itself as “designed to be royal and luxurious.” We really don’t know what royalty they are talking about but suspect those that have lost all their money gambling and now reside in this hotel that at least has “royal” in its name. We stayed in a suite that was smaller than most standard rooms in an average 5-star hotel. The so-called living room could barely accommodate two people. The bedroom wasn’t much bigger.

The lobby

The top floor Restaurant Mirabelle boasts of having one Michelin Star. We suspect the Michelin people have not been checking on their client recently. Sure, the view from the 7th floor over Rome is amazing, mesmerizing and the atmosphere romantic. But the food was really below any standards. The pasta was overcooked and the sauce tasteless, the fish a bit chewy. There is no bar downstairs and the one upstairs closes in the evening when the restaurant opens. To call it a bar is probably a bit pushing it since there are only two bar stools and enough space for about 3-4 people to mingle without getting their elbows into each others faces.

Hotel Splendide Royal definitely does not deserve its 5-stars, 4 maybe, if not 3.5. Or it needs a major face-lift to get up to the level it professes it is already.

Rating: 2/5

Hotel Beau Rivage – a family affair in Geneva

The Jet d’Eau on Lake Geneva

Next time you get a chance to visit Geneva, the beautiful city on the lake, why not make your stay as comfortable as possible? Check-in at the centrally located Beau Rivage, a five star luxury hotel established and still owned by the Mayer family since 1865.

The hotel is not only luxury, good service and excellent dining but a historical landmark that has witnessed events that have shaped politics over the past two centuries. For example, in 1898, the Empress Élisabeth of Wittelsbach was killed by an anarchist just as she left the hotel; and in 1918 the “birth” of Czechoslovakia was signed on its premises. The atmosphere whispers historical references, many we didn’t know, but were happy to listen to.

Hotel Beau Rivage

Beau Rivage is basically a legend among connoisseurs who come here for the ambience but also the gastronomy offered by the two restaurants – the Le Chat-Botté and Patara (fine Thai cuisine). The bar L’Atrium is known as a top meeting point for local dignitaries and international financiers.

Our stay here was very pleasant. The location next to the Geneva lake is unbeatable and the service at the reception impeccable. The room is well planned and offered everything we could ask for. The only drawback we could find was the WiFi, it was way too slow.

Make yourself at home

Make yourself at home

In 2008, Beau Rivage became the first and only luxury hotel in Geneva to get an ISO 9001-200 quality certificate from the International Organization for Standardization. In 2009, it became a member of the Leading Hotels of the World. Not bad, not bad at all.

More reviews from Geneva: Hotel Intercontinental and restaurant Auberge de Saviese.

Rating: 5/5

Hotel Martinez – old-fashioned glitter, glitz and glamour

Hotel Martinez

What can we say? It seems impossible to explain in a blog post all the history, glamour and numerous stories associated with one of the most recognized names in the business – Hotel Martinez on La Croisette in Cannes. Here enter the Sam and the dunes team earlier this summer with Sam embarrassingly barking his head off. Polite faces turn, forced smiles from the staff, “Welcome to Martinez!” Personally shown to the room, water bowl brought for our four-legged friend, impeccable, absolutely impeccable.

Martinez has the biggest private beach in Cannes; the fourth most expensive suite in the world; one of the best restaurants in France and if you really want to show off, book a sun-bed on the pier for a hefty 450 Euros per day. After some tough hours at the beach, get a treatment at L. Raphael Beauty Spa to tip off your afternoon before heading over to Bar L’Amiral. Jimmy McKissic no longer plays here (Alex knew him well and these days he is a classical pianist at Carnegie Hall in New York) but the crowd is as boisterous as always. Jazz and Blues rule and cocktails flow by the gallons.

The stories never end, who did what during this or that Film Festival, celebrities going crazy and the rich indulging in everything available. With Bentleys, Ferraris and Rolls Royces constantly parked outside (just a reminder who tends to frequent Hotel Martinez), this place is visibly a goldmine for paparazzi and tabloids.

One thing, though, some of the rooms have not been refurbished for a long time so make sure to check if yours is of the new type (the old ones are OK, but not really up to the standards of this hotel).

Will we come back? You bet! (Not you, Sam, this was the last time you stayed in a five star hotel. Period.) Hotel Martinez is a one of a kind experience that you cannot match anywhere else.

Here are some photos of us enjoying Hotel Martinez.

Hanna, in her best dress

Alex, in his best hat

Sam, relaxing on the best dress and the best hat

Follow the joyful animals from Madagascar to Hotel de Paris

There are luxury hotels, and there are LUXURY hotels. Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo definitely belongs to the second group. We have written about James Bond in a previous hotel review but here it would actually be a disservice to our readers not to mention 007. With all the glamour and flair this hotel radiates, no wonder a couple of James Bond movies were filmed on its premises. In fact, it’s not hard to picture Sean Connery elegantly entering the lobby, charmingly looking around with glitter in his eyes before he sits down for a martini at Le Bar Americain. The hotel has also been featured in two additional Hollywood blockbusters, Iron Man 2 and Madagascar 3, while plenty of other movies have been filmed in the vicinity.

A humble little bouquet in the lobby

To be honest, we really couldn’t find anything to fault Hotel de Paris (what were we expecting?). The service was exquisite, quick, efficient and non-intrusive. The hotel, which was established in 1864, has “chateau-like” rooms that are beautifully decorated, spacious and offer everything imaginable.

Superior Room

Superior Room

In the evening, Le Bar Americain will entertain guests with some jazzy tunes and if you are up for a game of roulette (of course you are), the Monte Carlo Casino is located just across the street.

The hotel is a regular item on the Conde Nast Traveller Gold List and to sum it up – you will not be disappointed staying at Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo. All your needs will be taken care of (for a hefty price, of course).

Rating: 5/5

Hotel Benkirai – a charming place in glamorous St. Tropez

Hotel Benkirai in St. Tropez is advertised on several travel websites as a five star establishment, which it is not. It is in fact a nice four star hotel to spend a few days enjoying life on the French Riviera. It’s located only a five minute drive from St. Tropez with all its beaches and jet-set life this former fishing village, turned glamour capital, has to offer. The hotel has an excellent taxi service free-of-charge until midnight, so you can easily go to town or enjoy the beach whenever you feel like it.

The hotel itself is very pleasant with a lovely restaurant/bar area, a nice pool and plenty of comfortable sun beds (in the morning you are not stressed looking for a place to put down your old bones to get some tan). The rooms are small, that is a fact, but rather well designed in light blue and white colors. You have either a nice terrace or a balcony. You may feel a bit claustrophobic, but then again, who comes to St. Tropez to hang around in the hotel room?

The restaurant serves traditional Mediterranean food in a tranquil setting and is an excellent choice if you don’t have the energy to take the taxi downtown. Being rather picky travelers, we were not able to fault the service even one small bit, everything was top notch. And most importantly, Sam (our dog) was very much welcomed. So if you are planning a visit to St. Tropez and don’t want to stay in the town itself, don’t hesitate to book Hotel Benkirai, it’s an absolutely beautiful place with plenty of charm.

Rating: 4/5

Pool area

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