Category Archives: Hotel reviews

A Sofitel heaven in Marseille

Hotel Sofitel Vieux Port in Marseille is nicely located in the center, overlooking the old port. The view from the upper floors is outstanding and gives the visitor an immediate feeling of what this historical city has to offer. This hotel is definitely among the best the samandthedunes-team has ever reviewed.

Our room were tastefully and contemporarily decorated, if a bit smallish, but otherwise it provided all the amenities that one can wish for. The pool downstairs is big enough to keep guests happy and the sun-beds are plentiful. There is also a nice cafe outside the pool area where you can enjoy a gourmet lunch with some excellent wine or champagne. If it gets really hot during the day (which is often the case in the summer) try the sophisticated hotel bar inside, with a wide selection of snacks and drinks. In the evening, book a table at the hotel top floor restaurant Les Trois Forts. It is considered one of the best in the city and here you can enjoy mouthwatering dishes from the sea (the lobster was especially good) while gazing at the old port and the passing by cruise ships – an experience not to miss.

The service at Sofitel Vieux Port is beyond praise, attentive multi-lingual staff ensure that your stay is as pleasant as possible. If you are in Marseille for business, pleasure or just for a couple of days before starting off on a trip to Cote d’Azur, don’t miss this Sofitel experience. It’s a place of tranquility and luxury that will make you smile with appreciation.

A taste of the sea at restaurant Les Trois Forts



Top five hotels in Gran Canaria

Summer has arrived and some of us might be scratching our heads while trying to come up with a last minute vacation plan. If you then decide to spend your summer holiday in a five star resort in the south of Gran Canaria (Maspalomas/Meloneras) we have created a list of the five best hotels this area can offer.

Maspalomas beach

1.      Seaside Grand Hotel Residencia
In our view, the best resort in Gran Canaria. It’s luxurious and offers everything imaginable for the picky traveller. The hotel is quiet but yet centrally located near numerous bars and restaurants. Be aware though, Grand Hotel Residencia is very pricey and you better hurry booking since it might be tough getting a room on such short notice.

2.      Lopesan Villa Del Conde Resort and Thalasso
Big, boisterous, lots of things to do, several pools, fantastic spa, restaurants, bars…you name it. On top of that, every evening you will be offered various entertainment at the outdoor stage located in the picturesque hotel courtyard. Rather expensive but a great place that definitely will satisfy the entire family.

Lopesan Villa Del Conde

3.      Lopesan Baobab Resort
A family paradise with plenty of entertainment for kids.The food is excellent and you have a pick of several restaurants to eat. Prices are relatively reasonable. We would not, though, recommend this hotel for a romantic or lazy holiday since there is a big risk you wouldn’t appreciate being overwhelmed by kids playing football in the hotel corridor in the early morning hours!! (yep, it happened to us).

View over Meloneras from hotel Baobab

4.      Sheraton Salobre Golf Resort and Spa
If you are into golf, this is your best bet. Located in the mountains a bit outside Maspalomas, Salobre Golf has one of the most picturesque courses on the island. The Resort offers several restaurants and pool areas (don’t miss the roof top pool with an extraordinary view). One big drawback though: Maspalomas town and the ocean are a 10 minutes taxi/bus ride away.

5.      H10 Playa Meloneras Palace
With a nice and quite location and plenty of entertainment in the evening this hotel is perfect for the family. It is not the most luxurious but definitely the most affordable 5-star hotel in the Maspalomas area.

For more information about Gran Canaria, photos, hotel and restaurant reviews, check out our free e-guide.

Hotel Santa Catalina – a historic weekend hideaway

Hotel Santa Catalina is considered the best hotel in Las Palmas (Gran Canaria) and all major dignitaries usually stay here. It offers 202 rooms decorated in a beautiful old Spanish style and the junior suites are very spacious. The ones at the lower levels have huge terraces overlooking a park.

The hotel has one buffet restaurant and one a la carte restaurant (nicely located at the terrace next to the main entrance) and one bar. We stayed in this hotel several times and generally had a very pleasant experience. It has a historic feeling that is compelling, especially compared to the super modern five star hotel complexes in Maspalomas and Meloneras. The breakfast is nice but you are better off having lunch or dinner somewhere else. Restaurant Segundo Muelle located next door is the best choice in our view; they serve exquisite food in a trendy atmosphere.

There is an OK-ish pool, pretty small for a five star but functional enough and there is also a spa (unfortunately we never checked it out since it looked quite old). The location is fabulous, you are next to the Yacht Harbor with many restaurants and bars and downtown shopping is only a few minutes away.  Hotel Santa Catalina is a nice place to spend a weekend but would not be our first choice for a week-long holiday. The hotel has a pleasant atmosphere but is in need of some renovation to remain number one in Las Palmas.

Rating: 3/5

oHotel Bristol in Vienna – best of the best!

Hotel Bristol, Vienna. Photo: Fabrizio Scarpa

A Luxury Collection Hotel in Vienna, Bristol has opened its doors to heads of state, composers, rock stars and, of course, since it is located across the street from the Vienna Opera, to plenty of opera celebrities. This historical landmark dazzles with its opulence, grandeur and charm. The staircase looks like it came from a palace and the luxurious lobby is a wonderful place to have a tete-à-tete (sorry, l’accent circonflexe missing) or to savor a drink before going to the Opera (as many do).

The rooms are not very large but spacious enough and offer all the amenities one would expect from a 5 star hotel.

Restaurant Korso is well known in the city as a gourmet’s delight and don’t miss the bar downstairs which is one of the most elegant in Vienna. Over a glass of some gorgeous Austrian wine try their smoked salmon; it will probably be one of your better meals.

The staff at the hotel are of the old school type: proper, efficient, and non-intrusive. If craving for that ticket to the Opera, the concierge is the one to talk to, they can do amazing things.

The location of Bristol is about as good as it gets, steps away from many historical sites that Vienna is famous for and close to some awesome shopping, be it for luxury goods or the usual tourist trinkets.

There are very few hotels in the world that are as good as Hotel Bristol so don’t miss your chance to try it out. Many A-list types would vouch that you can’t find it much better.

Hotel Four Seasons in Cyprus – an elegant hideaway

Main pool & beach area (Photo: Four Seasons Hotel)

A luxury and really posh resort, Hotel Four Seasons in Limassol (Cyprus), has everything that money can buy: six fantastic restaurants and cafes, four bars, several pools, its own sandy beach, spa (as you can see, we can go on, and on, and on). No fighting for sun-beds here in the morning, plenty are around.

The breakfast buffet offers numerous choices and, obviously, sparkling wine. Pour yourself a glass and enjoy with some delicious grilled Halloumi on the terrace massaging the soul (and the stomach) while watching the Mediterranean.

The hotel also has an Italian restaurant, Vivaldi, that has won several awards and by far the best Chinese in Cyprus, Seasons Oriental, a gem of Asian cuisine of the sophisticated type.

The rooms are spacious and if you go for the suite, you can enjoy the sunset over the sea from your balcony.

Bottom line, Four Seasons in Cyprus is an exquisite resort where one can relax, work on that sun-tan and dine in Michelin Star level settings.

Outdoors cafe (Photo: Four Seasons Hotel)

Best 5-star choice for the family

Hotel Baobab

Lopesan Baobab, located in Meloneras,  is arguably the biggest and most impressive looking hotel in Gran Canaria (we mean really big, almost a thousand rooms). When checking-in, you even get your own hotel map to study while sipping on a glass of sparkling wine. The design is African with vibrant art and an entrance built as a tropical garden with flamingos and waterfalls. But among all this architectural achievements, there is something very essential missing – lamps. The lightning is so bad in certain places that during the evening you actually have to make sure you don’t bump into a wall or sprain your ankle on the staircase. Cozy lightning is one thing but here you almost get the feeling that there is an electricity cut somewhere!

Hotel room

The rooms are normally sized and very well designed and if you get a balcony overlooking the sea, it’s even better. (But why on earth is the shampoo bottle attached to the wall a meter away from the bathtub?).

Food-wise you will definitely not be disappointed. The buffet offers a nice variety of choices and the restaurant “Akara” has a unique setting and a very tasty menu. For instance, we can highly recommend the spicy banana soup as a starter. It’s delicious beyond believe! The gym is small and relatively functional. But for some reason, no running machines are provided which we thought was disappointing. Another minus is that you have to pay extra for the safe deposit box (it’s the same in all Lopesan hotels in Maspalomas/Meloneras) which usually is offered free of charge in other 5-star hotels.

Banana soup

There are several pools and lots of stuff to do for the many kids at this hotel. You will even find huge crocodiles and giraffes (not real ones – plastic) around the pool area. As a couple, looking for a vacation in a relaxing atmosphere, who enjoy a spa and cool bars, we will probably avoid this place in the future. However, if you go to Gran Canaria with your kids, don’t hesitate; Hotel Lopesan Baobab can definitely be something for you.

Rating: 4/5

View from the hotel

Location, location, location

A lobby corner in all its glory

Claris hotel***** in Barcelona we found by chance on the internet; it sounded very nice and had a great location on Pau Claris so we decided to go for it. We were not let down. A beautiful building in downtown Barcelona houses this great 5-star hotel for holiday makers and business people with Passeig de Gràcia and Rambla de Catalunya just around the corner. Not cheap, for sure, but it offers its guests everything they can wish for: large and well-designed rooms, several restaurants, a roof-top pool, bar and friendly service. There is a small business center with free internet and a gym. The balcony in our room was a bit strange though, it was two meters below floor level so you actually couldn’t use it (remember that after a long night out), but at least we could get some fresh air in.


Another thing: we had a duplex suite and for reasons that we still can’t fathom, the bedroom, closets and the bathroom were downstairs and the living room upstairs. It’s generally customary to have it the other way around. In this case we ended up never using the second floor (somewhat of a bummer). Otherwise, hard to complain.

If you are into seafood check out the small restaurant across the street, Josephine, serving great shrimps and oysters that one can enjoy in a charming urban atmosphere with fabulous local wine. The main shopping street is only a block away so you can spice up your cultural activities with some serious money spending on Louis Vuitton, Gucci and the likes.

Rating: 4/5

More reviews from Barcelona: Bar Mut

A royal vacation in Tenerife

“-My prince, I think we forgot the zoom”

If you want a quiet, secluded vacation with no hassles in a small boutique hotel, Royal Gardens Villas Hotel in Tenerife is your choice. A set of villas attached to each other offer you a 5-star delight that includes your own private swimming pool (small, true, but enough to leisure around with a glass of champagne), separate living room and bedroom; if you are in the mood for cooking a kitchen is provided. There is also a small gym. The hotel property has only 28 villas and you rarely run into other guests outside of breakfast. You can genuinely feel like royalty here.

The hotel has an excellent restaurant with some exquisite fish dishes that is worth trying (but why is it located in the basement with no windows?). The view from the terrace and the rest of the hotel is amazing: you can see the country side, mountains and the ocean. If you are into golf, you have come to the right place: the course is just across the street and the hotel will make all the necessary arrangements. The nearest beach is a bit of a walk but try to see it as a good chance to exercise, especially coming back when you have to mount a humongous hill. This is a true gem in the south of the island, far away from those all-inclusive hotel complexes.

Seaside Hotel Palm Beach – time for a new outfit

The second most expensive hotel on Gran Canaria, Seaside Hotel Palm Beach***** in Maspalomas, is advertised as a 5 star but fails to live up to the standards. Built in 1975, it was refurbished and re-designed into an updated version of the 70s style in 2002 and became the only hotel on the Canary Islands that belongs to Design Hotels. Sure, you get the welcome drink, rooms are nicely decorated and there is a fun bar in the basement. However, once you start looking closely you get more and more disappointed considering the amount of money you actually pay. “Is it really worth it?” was the question constantly popping up in our heads while staying here. The bathroom is a slightly enlarged shoebox and the room ends up feeling cramped (we can swear that the bed was at least 15 cm shorter than usual). We also tried their signature restaurant Orangerie and were not impressed. For starters, the oysters arrived at our table half frozen!! The restaurant manager tried to assure us they were fresh and that they just spent too much time on ice (hellloooo, guys, where is quality control?!). The outside gym looks like it hasn’t been updated since the stationary bike was invented. We actually never tried the spa and wellness center (Thalassotherapy pool, saunas and relaxation area) since we decided we just couldn’t take another disappointment. The only thing that impressed us was the 70s type bar with groovy tunes and fun bands playing late into the night. The clientele average age is high, though. So high most of them actually seemed to have been retired already when the Beatles made it big. To make a long story short: not a bad hotel but definitely not worth the money charged. Basically, Seaside Hotel Palm Beach is a semi-failed 5 star pretending being the flashiest kid in town.

Rating: 3/5

An unexpected 5-star surprise in Geneva

It didn’t start on the best of terms when we arrived at the Intercontinental, Geneva. As usual we checked in, got our keys, went up to the room, opened the door and…SURPRISE! somebody was sitting on our bed, in our room (well, at least it was supposed to be ours for a couple of days). After an embarrassing exchange of glances (staring might be a more proper word), we quietly closed the door and went back to the reception. After explaining this weird incident, a red-faced manager immediately apologized and decided to personally escort us to a nice suite that we later found out was almost four times the price of what we paid for. Wow, and this was one suite! (Intercontinental, we forgive you!)

We had a panoramic view of the Geneva Lake, a marble bathroom, lots of space and an exceptionally comfy bed. Some of the gadgets on offer required serious research on what exactly they can be used for and we’re sorry to say but we couldn’t figure out the purpose of four strange looking buttons in the bathroom. There are no surprises once service is concerned. If you want coffee delivered in ten minutes, it will be done so. Sharp. Exactly on the dot. (There must be a reason why all the best watches are being produced in this country).

One thing for sure, in Geneva the prices will scare the living daylights out of you. A beer at the hotel bar is about 16 dollars and pasta with your choice of sauce is 40 (yes, dollars!!). A five minute taxi ride downtown clocks 25 green ones. However, you will be amazed by the attention lavished at the bar, restaurant, reception, concierge, etc. All your requests are attended to as promptly as possible. The staff are fluent in 4-5 languages, so no worries here.

The food is first rate and the atmosphere in the lobby is one of calmness and efficiency. The Intercontinental looks a bit bizarre from outside (it’s a 60s type new architecture building), but if one can live with that, then you will understand why more than 150 heads of state have chosen to stay here over the past 50 years.

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

Rating: 4/5

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