Review: A Charming Inn in Nelson, NZ

22 04 2009

Over the course of our visit to NZ, we stayed at a multitude of hotels, bed and breakfasts, and apartments in a variety of price ranges. All of our experiences were extremely positive. From the high end B&B on Waiheke Island, to the gigantic apartment in Queenstown, to the very hospitable B&B in Kaiteriteri, everyone we encountered was ultra friendly, helpful, and contributed greatly to our NZ experience. Our favorite place to stay, however, was the charming Baywick Inn bed and breakfast in Nelson.


The Baywick Inn in Nelson, NZ

The Baywick Inn is an elegant but comfortable bed and breakfast located in a beautifully restored Victorian house in Nelson. The B&B is owned by a Kiwi and Canadian couple, Tim and Janet, who have poured their hearts and souls into the restoration of this beautiful home. Everything we saw was well maintained, clean, and wonderfully decorated. We loved the B&B from our first glimpse.

Janet was a chef in Canada, and it shows! Her breakfast was superb, and only enhanced by the interesting and lively conversation we had at breakfast. I can personally attest that her homemade Muesli is awesome. Be sure to ask her about all her Princess Diana tins and other memorabilia!


The Breakfast Room

We stayed in the Parkdale Suite, which in my opinion, is the best room in the B&B. The bedroom is beautifully decorated in a Kiwi Victorian style. Everything was placed for both looks and comfort, including the inviting bed. After hiking all day, this little piece of civilization was a dream to come home to.

The Parkdale has a modern ensuite bathroom that includes both a shower and a claw footed tub. LOVE!

The Parkdale also includes a private enclosed porch with a wonderful view of the middle of New Zealand. I am being serious – the white pole you see at the top of the mountain is the geographic center (centre) of New Zealand. 

We wish we could have spent more time just sitting on this porch contemplating life with our cool drinks. We slept with the windows open and it was divine.

Should you wish to relax outside, the Baywick Inn also has a nice outdoor area for guest use.

Now for the practicalities – the Baywick Inn is located about a 10 minute walk from downtown Nelson. Being in Nelson, it is close to the area wineries, art, and shopping, and about one hour from Abel Tasman National Park. As mentioned earlier, you can hike to the center of New Zealand, which is supposed to be a nice scenic walk. The inn provides a computer for guest internet use for a small fee, but there is also free wireless internet throughout the house.

We only stayed a night at the Baywick Inn and we wish could have stayed longer. We felt truly relaxed at this B&B. In addition, Nelson has enough sites and activities that a visitor could easily spend 2-3 days here and never be bored.  Next time we are in the Nelson area, we will definitely be ringing up Janet and Tim for another stay here!





Review: The Langham Hotel, Auckland

1 04 2009

Anticipating jetlag on our first night in New Zealand, we booked a club level room at the Langham Hotel in Auckland.  The Langham is conveniently located in Auckland’s Central Business District (CBD), just one block from the southern end of Queen Street.  We found the Langham to be a world class hotel that was the perfect place to relax and luxuriate after our 13 hour flight from Los Angeles.  The Langham had all the class and none of the attitude that sometimes accompanies hotels of this caliber.  

We elected to book a club level room over a standard room because it included a full hot breakfast, internet terminals with printer for guest use, and access to the Club Lounge.  In addition to the breakfast, the Club Lounge serves drinks and snacks all day long.  Given our flight’s arrival in Auckland in the early morning, this proved to be a great value because we were able to have breakfast twice during our stay.  Since we requested an early check-in by email prior to our arrival, we were able to check into our room at 8 AM.  We were then able to shower in our room and have breakfast in the lounge on arrival, which allowed us to take maximum advantage of our first day in New Zealand.  When we returned that night, our bathroom was even cleaned already.   

The room itself was elegantly appointed, comfortable, and clean.  I especially liked the deep warm tones, the beautiful use of wood, and the multitude of pillows.  The bed was comfortable to sleep in – not too hard and not too soft.  

The bathroom was luxurious and included a full bath and shower.  Nothing was lacking.  There was even a full amenities kit in a leather box that included a sewing kit, baby powder, and toothbrushes, among other things.   The extra set of towels was much appreciated.  Shower pressure was good.  

We found service from check-in to check-out to be excellent.  Everyone we met was friendly, helpful, and professional.  We used the concierge in the lobby frequently, from asking for directions to the nearest cell phone store, to the best way to explore the CBD by foot, to how to book the ferry to Waiheke Island.  Every question was answered in a helpful and friendly manner.

Overall, we were very pleased with our stay at the Langham.  Although the club level room was more expensive than the standard room, it was worth every penny.  In addition, given the strong dollar, this stay was a fantastic value for a luxury hotel.  We expected a high end experience and received it with a friendly smile.  We would stay here again in a heartbeat.





Review: Hilton London Tower Bridge

18 02 2009

We stayed at the Hilton London Tower Bridge for 5 nights on our visit to London in November.  This Hilton is located on the South Bank of London and is primarily a business hotel.  However, it can be a good alternative for visitors who do not want to pay Central London prices and still stay in a very nice hotel that is close enough.  

Despite being across the river from Central London, the Hilton London Tower Bridge proved to be a very convenient location primarily because it is only two short blocks away from the London Bridge tube/railway/bus station.   The London Bridge station is only one railway stop away from Charing Cross / Trafalgar Square and one tube stop from Bank Station in the business district (“the city”).  In addition, there is a Marks & Spencer mini mart in the same square as the hotel, which is really convenient for breakfast foods, newspapers, snacks, and some groceries.  The area felt safe and I was comfortable walking to and from the station by myself.

Check-in was easy and all the staff we interacted with were friendly and helpful.  

 

The actual accomodations were stylish and comfortable.  The room was moderately sized by London standards and included all the expected amenities, such as high speed internet (for sale in 24 hour increments) and a flat screen TV.  

 

The bathroom was chic and clean and included both a shower and a tub.  After staying at a variety of places overseas, I no longer take this for granted!  Shower pressure was excellent.

Overall we had a very nice stay at the Hilton London Tower Bridge and I would recommend it.  The hotel does not have much character nor is it particularly London-y but its rates are usually reasonable for this class of accommondation.  

I have listed more transportation details below.  London has an extremely useful transit website at http://www.tfl.gov.uk/ , which has maps, updates, a trip planner, and other information.  I used it frequently and would highly recommend checking it out.  The London Bridge station is large and complicated, but basically the tube station is on the 1st floor and the rail station is on the 2nd floor.  You can buy tickets from ticket windows or machines and the employees at the station are very helpful.  Generally, an Oyster card is worth it but note that it doesn’t cover railway tickets.

To Trafalgar Square:

From London Bridge Railway Station (2nd Floor), take the Southern towards Charing Cross.  After crossing the Thames River, alight at Charing Cross, which is at the SW end of Trafalgar Square.  Incidentally, Charing Cross station is just one short block from Embankment station, which is on the Circle and District Lines that go around all the sights in Central London.

To Bank/Monument:

From London Bridge Tube Station, take the Northern line North (end of line differs by train, but any one going North will work) for one stop.  Disembark at Bank/Monument.





Review: Hotel Kurcafe in Füssen

22 10 2008

On the night before we visited Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles, we stayed in the town of Füssen at Hotel Kurcafe.  We decided to book this hotel because of good reviews from both Rick Steves and Tripadvisor.  We had high hopes for this hotel because of these reviews.  Unfortunately, we were disappointed with the service and accommodations.

First, let me start with the positives from our stay.  Our initial impression of the hotel was very positive.  The location in the town of Füssen was very convenient, the room was very clean, and the hotel seemed very nice in general.  In addition, there is a parking lot right next to the hotel and we were able to park for a nominal fee.  The room’s decor was fine and looked comfortable, although we were amused by the sexy picture above the bed.

Now I will get into the negatives.  First, when we checked in, the woman at the front desk was very brisk to the point of rudeness and made us feel like we were imposing by staying at this hotel.  I have stayed in many 4-5 star hotels, and this kind of treatment is unacceptable, especially at a hotel that bills itself as 4 stars.  In addition, the woman at reception only gave us one room card for all four of us.  She only gave us another key after we specifically requested it when we went out to dinner later that evening.  I will point out that this woman was the only person at the hotel who was rude, and everyone else we encountered were very friendly, courteous, and professional.

Second, the room we were assigned differed from the one that was advertised.  We booked a four person family room at Hotel Kurcafe.  As we booked online directly through the hotel, we expected to get the room advertised as the family room for four people as you can see here.  In the picture shown for this room, there are what look like two queen size beds side by side.  Instead, we received Room 10, which has one queen size bed and a pull out sofabed.  If they had advertised the room as a queen bed with a sofabed, we would not have chosen this room.  Since it was past 7 PM when we checked in, we decided to make the best of it.  However, in the middle of the night, the sofabed became unhinged and broke.  Thus it ended up being a very uncomfortable night.  Since it was after midnight at that point, we tried to fix it ourselves and ended up being able to put it back half hinged.  We found that if we did not move at all the sofa would stay hinged and in one piece.  As you can imagine, this made it a bad night for us.

The bathroom was very modern and chic.  However, since the door was see through, it was not very suitable for a room for four people.  I do not fault the design, per se, as I found the aesthetics pleasing, but this room is clearly a two person room.

We were very pleased with the continental breakfast served the next morning.  The hotel had a full spread of both cold and hot breakfast foods, including bacon, eggs, bread, toast, and other typical items in addition to fancier fare like chocolate covered strawberries.  Like many European hotel breakfasts, you must order your coffee and cappucinos from the server (although it’s all included). 

When we checked out, we made sure to let the hotel know of our displeasure with the sofabed.  The lady at the reception (a different person from the night before) was very apologetic and courteous, which we appreciated.  She deducted 20 euros from the room rate and gave us a small bag of truffles for our trouble.

In summary, if you are looking to book a four person room at this hotel, be very careful of what you select.  Definitely request that you not be put in Room 10.  Since the other reviews from Tripadvisor are generally positive, though, I hope that our experience was isolated.





Review: Gotisches Haus in Rothenburg

13 10 2008

While we were in Rothenburg, we stayed at the Gotisches Haus (Gothic House) on Herrngasse for one night.  We loved every part of our experience here and would highly recommend it to anyone who wanted to stay within the walls in Rothenburg.

The location on the Herrngasse was ideal because it is right in the middle of the city.  We were just half a block from Market Square.


View onto the street from the Third Floor.

We loved the decor of the hotel. The hotel is actually in a building that has been there since the middle ages! We felt like we were staying in a castle.


Sitting area in the Lobby


Breakfast Area in the Front of the Hotel

My husband and I stayed in room 30, which also included a small sitting room and a balcony. The ceiling does slope down because of the eaves, but we thought it just added to the great atmosphere of the hotel.


View from our private balcony.

Even though the building itself is old, they have all the modern amenities, including a luxurious, modern bathroom.

My sister and her husband stayed in room 20, which is shaped more like a conventional hotel room.  They really liked their room too.  If you feel claustrophobic from low ceilings, I would recommend a room on the first or second floors.  You can see pictures and rates of each room on the hotel’s website here. Rooms range from 86 euros to 168 euros a night.

Breakfast was included with the rooms.  The hotel serves intercontinental breakfast.  You order your choice of coffee drinks and hot cooked items such as omelletes.  There is also a cold buffet with bread, croissants, cold cuts, hard boiled eggs, juice etc…  We thought breakfast was pretty good.

Rating: HIGHLY RECOMMEND

Hotel Gotisches Haus GmbH
Herrngasse 13
D-91541 Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Tel: 09861-2020, Fax: 09861-1317
info@gotisches-haus.de
Geschäftsführer Axel Rüter
Reg. Ansbach 3477, USt 199-70801





Review: The Barclay New York (Intercontinental)

19 05 2008

I stayed at the Barclay Hotel in NYC for one night in May 2008 on a business trip. Overall, I found it be a very nice hotel, both for business and for pleasure. The hotel is located right in midtown Manhattan on the East Side right off Park Avenue, near Rockefeller Center.

Check-in was quick and professional, although not particularly friendly. The lobby of this vintage Federal period hotel was elegant and beautiful.

(Sorry for the grainy pictures, I didn’t know that my camera was set to a high ISO.)

The room itself was pretty sizable for a NYC hotel room but smaller than most normal hotel rooms in the US. Everything was immaculately clean and tasteful, as one would expect for this class of hotel.

There’s no flatscreen TV, but the room had everything you need. The desk had high speed internet (for a fee I believe), a mini-bar, and the usual assortment of coffee maker, ice bucket, and cups.

The bathroom was pretty small, but nicely appointed. Good shower pressure.

All in all, this was a very nice stay. The corporate rate was pretty expensive, but according to some Tripadvisor reviews, some guests have successfully acquired a room at this hotel for $160 on priceline (last minute) and for $219 on Hotwire. Those prices must be an urban myth because they are just plain fantastic deals for this hotel. The average price on Tripadvisor for this hotel is much higher.  I would stay here again if I could score a room around $200 (or for business), although I’m sure that’s pretty much impossible.





Google Translate – It’s Magic!

7 05 2008

I was looking at my blog stats the other day when I noticed something very strange. One of my referrers was a Chinese translation of my blog! Apparently, one of my readers had found my page through Google Taiwan and then used the Google Translate function to transform the entire website automatically into Traditional Chinese. You can read more about the background in this Wikipedia entry on Google Translate.

To see my blog in Traditional Chinese, type in “Travels with Sandy” at www.google.com.tw and when the first hit comes up, press the linke titled [翻譯此頁] next to it. You can view any page in Simplified Chinese by going to www.google.com.cn and doing the same thing.

The Chinese to English translation is still in the BETA stage, but seems to have promise. My skills at reading Chinese are not very good so I am not a very good judge, but from what I can read, the translator actually reverses word order when appropriate and translates simple sentences fairly well. However, like any automatic translator, more complex sentences and words with more than one meaning are easily garbled.








%d bloggers like this: