Hotel review: Gordon Hotel&Lounge Tel Aviv

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The hotel industry in Tel Aviv is offering every year more and more pleasant surprises and new rising stars, the boutique hotels being one of the most dynamic offers. Situated at the corner of Hayarkon and Gordon Street, the newly renovated Gordon Hotel&Lounge is hosted in one of the famous Bauhaus white buildings. It used to be before only a small bar, that was maintained now, with additional 12 cosy rooms and a modern restaurant and bar space.

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The entrance looks a bit poor and may misguide you about the simple and warm yet polished ambiance waiting from inside. As it is situated on a very busy street, minutes away from the beach, the high traffic can be a problem,  including during the night, for those looking for some perfectly quiet nights. But you are in the ‘City that never sleeps’ so don’t expect too much slow life during your stay hee…

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Once I arrived from Jerusalem to join my friend for a long weekend in the bubbling city, I preferred to go first to catch the sunset from the terrasse, with a glass of wine and the view of the beautiful Mediterranean sea in the front of my eyes. Altough the end of December, the weather was perfect not only for photographic opportunities, but also for enjoying outdoors on the comfy chairs the beautiful colours of the sky reflected into the water. For a couple of minutes, the time just stopped.

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Indoors, I was welcomed with a smile by the personnel and given always good suggestions for the choice of breakfast (my constant choice, delicious black lentils and artichokes, hummus, red beet and cranberries). The decorations of the rooms and of the lobby are in the style of the 1970s, in light colours and transparent stickers, the warm contrast to the black massive doors.

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The rooms are cozy, with simple functional additions and depth perspectives given by the discrete and romantic lights. The rooms are provided with technical facilities, plasma TV, mini-bar and Internet (during my stay, the wifi was not properly working, but I took it as a sign that I can use my time otherwise than checking news online). From the balcony, one can spend hours and hours looking at the sea and the fast city life.

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The predominant white in the rooms gives you a feeling of quietness and peace and makes your sleep full of nice dreams. The only think that I did not exactly understand from the interior design setting was the curtain outside the bathroom glass wall. Maybe an opaque glass wall would have been a more practical and aesthetical solution. But spending time in the room – although the temptation to watch the international news on the huge tv is dangerously great, but I can stand it – is not on my to-do-list, and shortly after checking I am out to see, feel and smell the city.

On the way to the beach, I could not resist to make a stop to the tempting SALT Kitchen&Drinks Restaurant, and I am lucky to find a place and hang around chatting with the locals. The next evening, the bar is fully booked for a party, but from now on, I know that regardless how much I want to see new places in the city, I will make sure that at least once in a while I will stop here too.

For more images from Gordon Hotel&Lounge, check the dedicated Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/gordon-hotellounge-tel-aviv/

Hotel review: Hotel Palazzo Zichy, the Italian palace in the heart of Budapest

??????????After a long journey from Berlin to Budapest, with a short stop in the lovely city of Prague, arriving at Hotel Palazzo Zichy, our residence for the next days of adventures in the city was the classical one: taking a cab from the international bus station. If I would have prepared better my travel homework I have discovered that there is a metro connection which takes around 15 minutes. In a way, it was not such a bad decision, as I had enough time to get in touch with a city I haven’t visited in ten years. Although situated in an area that is getting only now more interest for tourists and local developers, the streets around Lorincz pap ter are leading to the main attractions in the city: the National Museum is within minutes of walk, and so is the Jewish quarter. The metro connections are also efficient.

Once I closed the door entrance to the hotel, a new world was ahead of me, introduced by the cozy game of lights: quietness and discretion, fresh air and mystery, smiling faces and efficient friendliness as the check-in procedures were faster than a beautiful dream. The next step was the entrance into our room bubble, designed simply yet with elegant taste.

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When you know you will be on the road for weeks, changing cities and currencies, memorizing directions and addresses and trading languages every other day and note sure any more where your home is exactly, nothing makes you feel better than a personalized note welcoming you. Nearby, a plate with fresh fruits, plus some small squares of chocolate made in Italy: enough energy supplies to keep fit and refreshed till tomorrow. The hotel does not have a restaurant of its own, but for late arrivals, there is a big range of restaurants on the streets around serving Italian, Russian or Asian dishes till late in the evening.

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Home slippers were waiting in the wooden closets, discretely hidden behind the sliding doors. I started the air condition – in Central Europe the summers are original trademark, with heat and hot temperature all round the day – and started to do a little bit of work. Fortunately, the Internet connection, complimentary gift for the guests, was very fast and I was able to finish all my work within one hour. On my desk, a detailed directory with information in English, French, Italian and German about various practical tips you need to make the best of your stay in Budapest.

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The bathroom has branded products, pleasantly smelling the  jasmine. Everything looks elegant yet with a lot of modernist touch. In a plain translation: quality Italian design fit to answer the basic needs of the various visitors of this 4-star boutique hotel.

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Take, for instance, the bathroom. Wall papers reminding of silk bad covers from the modern palaces and a wooden floor in the shower space. At the first sight, it gives a certain feeling of frugality, but visiting such a great city, with so many sightseeing requests a Spartan time management.

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The rooms are also provided with a mini bar – a bit disappointing at the first sight, but you can survive this feeling – with some basic products that will help you to survive the high hydration emergencies. There are also some Made in Hungary products, such as the classical Unicum.

??????????While we were heading to the breakfast room the next day, we noticed the mysterious discretion of the hall, with what seem to be the typical wallpapers in a very chic black variant. The numbers of the rooms are situated on the upper left side of the entrance. At the beginning, you can get a bit lost, especially if you have a predisposition for that – as I do – but after a while one can get used with the right directions around the simple maze from each floor.

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The breakfast space is situated at the ground level, in the cubicle bordered by glass that delineate the middle of the lobby. A transparent glass square outlines some old stones from the original building creating the feeling of surprise and unexpected adventure. As the hotel has only 80 rooms, the space is relatively small, and if you go to eat after 8.30, there is a bit of hustle around and an entire Babel of languages. But there is a reason to rush for: the diversity of breads and cheese, a troubling selection of pastry, the fresh salads and the fish, as well as the delicious coffee – the lucky heritage of the Turkish presence in the area.

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During my stay, I made a fixation for the jams: silky, fresh and natural, work of decades of traditional art, fit to match the black breads and other simple mouthwatering pastries. The customer service is not only friendly, but ready to help, as I notice often in the case of families with children trying to find the best chairs for their very small ones or when hot milk was especially prepared for them. There are a couple of rooms – including with connection that can turn them into parts of a bigger appartment –  that suit the needs of family with children and a child under 12 years can be hosted free of charge.

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The guests arriving at the hotel are either on vacation or on a short visit for checking the local business opportunities. In the lobby, one can find small discrete places where you can start a warm-up discussion and the offer of Internet free of charge is also available here. The busiest time for the hotel is between May and September, with most guests originally from Italy, Germany, Austria and the UK. The personal was always helpful, giving me the right insights for finding my way through the city or helping me with other basic requests.

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Coffee and tea are available free of charge in the lobby till 17 o’clock every day. There is also a small wellness area for those keen to keep up with their physical training during the holiday time, that can also be used free of charge by the guests. For the massage room, there is necessary an appointment in advance.

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One of the first boutique hotels in Budapest, Hotel Palazzo Zichy was built in the 19th century, and used to be the residence of Nandor Zichy, an educated local noble. Going through serious renovation under the Italian management, it succeeded to harmonize the classical style of the Hungarian architecture to the boldness of the Italian elegance.

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The feeling of home was added by the care to add to every cold corner of the building into a personalized element that invites you to comfort and relaxation.

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Especially if you stay there for more than one day, this feeling will conquer you easily and when we were in the rush to leave for new travel adventures, we felt the nostalgia of saying ‘good bye’ to a new friend. Maybe we should be ready to drop a ‘hello’ soon!

For more images from this 4-star boutique hotel, have a look at the dedicated Pinterest board: http://www.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/hotel-palazzo-zichy-budapest/

Disclaimer: I was offered a free stayed at Hotel Palazzo Zichy during my visit to Budapest, but the opinions are, as usual, my own.

Hotel Review: Ibis Hotel Bordesley Circus

When I first saw the offer of booking a double room at Ibis Hotel Bodesley Circus for the ridiculous sum of 30 £ the night, I gave up any expectations. I stayed at several Ibis hotels in Europe, especially in German, but never for such a low price and being familiar with what you can usually get for such a price in London, all I wished was to have a clean room and a place to sleep before heading as early as possible to the next and final destination of our England trip: Llandrindod Wells. The travel writer in me wanted to spend a little bit of time sightseeing, but I was ready for a bit of sacrifice. 

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A completely different and much more pleasant reality was waiting for me. First, the hotel has a very good location: close to the international airport, but also with good connections to the center, with regular buses coming and going every 10 minutes. If you are in the mood for walking, it may take around 30-40 minutes to reach it from the coach station, but only if you don’t have big loads of luggage. Otherwise, the taxi is not very expensive, with around 10 £ from the coach station. The hotel has a parking place as well, plus some fast food options a couple of minutes away, in case you are not too pretentious in terms of food. 

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At the reception there were always at least 2 persons available to help, including late in the evening. After checking out, you can store your luggage for less than 24 hours. Plus, we were also helped to freeze our ice from the cooler box during the night. As I would later discover, kindness seems to be one of the main character threats of the people in Birmingham.

The price of the room did not include the breakfast, that can be taken in the restaurant which serves various snacks and British pies. Coffee and drinks – beers and wines among others – are available in the lobby area till late in the evening. If you bring some food with you, you can set up your own breakfast or lunch on the wooden tables near the entrance, a good idea during the summer time – if you don’t mind the bees, apparently a problem in England this time of the year. 

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Let’s talk about the room now! We headed to it on a bed of poppies. The double room is spacious, with enough space to store your luggage, plus a table for a little bit of work, and a TV. The Internet is free, but somehow, my computer refused to get connected and needed to use for a basic checking the option of 1 £ for 20 minutes offered by the computer in lobby. I felt that I am back in a different century, as almost half of the time and of the money were wasted for uploading the pages. There is no fridge in the room, but tea and coffee is offered for free. 

The hotel has the newest Ibis mattresses, with special smooth duvets and ample pillows that gave the best comfort and sweet dreams. Exactly what I needed so many hours of coach and airplane and a lot of rush. 

The bathroom is good looking, with a green and clean toiler, with a stylish wooden pavement. However, the shower was not crystal clean hence the 4 not-so-shining stars given to the bathroom facilities. The hotel residents can also use the hair dryer.

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The overall experience of the couple of hours spent here was satisfactory. I was able to go quite fast in the center at least twice in the morning and see almost what I wanted to see in the city. I did enjoy the pleasure of eating out and had a quiet evening and night relaxing a lot before another exhausting hours of changing trains and coaches. The personnel was more than welcoming and I recommend it to anyone looking to enjoy Birmingham while having also some decent time indoors and without spending a big fortune. 

Fore more pictures from Birmingham, check the Pinterest board: http://www.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/birmingham/

Hotel Review: Quality Hotel & Suites Nantes Atlantique

Assuming that I am the smartest and IT-literate person in the house always getting the best prices for accommodation, I am always in charge with the reservation for the next stay. Sometimes I use booking.com system that offers comparative views in terms of price and conditions, sometimes I follow various online or offline recommendations. From time to time, except the good price, there it is not too much to say positively about my choices.

For instance, two years ago, I booked an amazing hotel – according to the web descriptions – in Corsica. One hour of taxi ride from the Bastia airport later, we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere with nice goats and some lezards and the view of the sea 20 km. of mountain hike away. No restaurant to spend our nice evening and nothing to do except to look at the sky and listen to the bells (not my cup of morning tea). 

Back in France, this time alone, I did another brave reservations of mine. On booking.com I’ve found the tempting: Quality Hotel & Suites Nantes Atlantique. Most probably attracted by the pleasant resonance of the name ‘Atlantique’ I continued with the process and booked a room for 2 nights, for around 90 Euro. I am not sure right now where I saw the description according to which the hotel is ‘around 10 minutes away from the center’ and insisted that this is the truth, even after I was told by 3-4 local people in the sweet French language I grew up with that it is not and most probably it is out of town if the street where the hotel is located did exist though.

When you at the end of over 20 hours of non-stop travel and outside is raining cats and dogs it is the last thing you want to hear. Over a glass of red wine and a galette, trying to do not fell asleep automatically, I was thinking that either I better find a nice hotel in the center and enjoy the pleasures – and take the risk of paying some extra for the bad first choice of hotel – or I assume the risk of my stupid decision and go finding the hotel. At the end of the meal, I had enough energy to go on the second bet. A busy taxi driver mentioned a tram station where I should go before changing for a bus and continuing by foot. I took that tram, but at the Gare de Nantes station I decided that I better take a cab. End of the problems: the cab drove me in exchange of 25 Euro to the hotel.

In the morning light, I’ve found out that it is not such a big pain to arrive to the hotel, unless you are not very tired and not afraid to walk in the dark in a semi-industrial area, with no soul around for a couple of minutes. There are some fast foods and even a Leon restaurant close to it. By tram, it takes around 15-20 minutes to go to the center and there it is not that kind of hotel you will like to stay for a Romantic vacation.

Let’s visit the hotel

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When I arrived at the hotel, closely to midnight and a bit nervous, I was welcomed by someone smiling at the reception desk and thus, all my unhappiness – no one by me was guilty for such a choice, of course – went away. I was offered the electronic key to my apartment and wished ‘good night’. The next day, there were two persons at the reception, all smiling that guided me to the right way to the tram station. I needed to trust the words of my guide, as there were no maps or tourist materials at the entrance. 

The payment is done at the end of the stay. Those interested in having breakfast, will need to pay an extra 10 Euro. I was not interested and thus did not check the dinning room. There it is a city local tax of 0.85 Euro paid at any hotel in France that it is added to the original price.

The lobby was looking busy, with group tourists being hosted here, or other French tourists arriving by car or some Eastern European families. 

The room cleaning is not done daily, unless you want to pay some extra for this too, but there it is a special room dedicated to massage or cosmetic treatments. Did not feel the need to do so or to visit another hotel room so preferred to wait to be back in Berlin for a visit to my beloved Ahava. Image

Another surprised I offered myself was the room: a family apartment, with kitchen and other facilities that I did not need. There were a lot of plastic and glass plates and pans and some glasses too, plus a clean sink and a microwave. In case that you want to do some special cooking, you don’t have a proper table to do so, and thus the only choice is to heat some ready made food in the microwave. There it is a fridge  – but not a minibar – as well, where to keep your goodies. 

The rooms have air condition, but the weather was not that hot for fully using it. And me, who was missing so much to play with the air conditioning remote control…

As I am a full freelancer, I need to have a good corner to set up my computer and a proper Internet connection. If possible, a proper lightening too. I had them all, plus a TV – never used it – and landline phone. The Internet connection is made via the phone cable, not always speedy, but offered me the right conditions to finish some work. 

ImageThe bed is big and the sheets were white clean. There were same art on the walls, a bit sad looking abstract wooden composition, that I will not like to have it at home. The view out of the window was not happier either, with a parking in the middle of some construction site. I decided to better focus on my work and have everything done in time for enjoying the time outside the hotel as much as possible.

Those interested in the ecological hotels will love maybe to stay here. In line with Nantes’ local policies – the city is the EU Green European Capital this year – the visitors are advised to separate the garbage – but there are no separate containers for plastic or paper though, trusting maybe our clear ecological mind – and to take care of limiting as much as possible the energy consumption. The hotel is no(anti) smoking. 

ImageThere are two different spaces for bathroom, respectively the toilet and I really appreciated this. But there it is any source of clean air in both of them. The bathroom looks elegant, and clean, with simple design of the furniture and some fresh shampoos and soap, but there was a persistent unpleasant smell of humidity that intensified during my 48 hours of stay, that I did not like it at all. (Who would like it, anyway?)

All said, I will recommend the hotel only for families on the road, eventually travelling by car and looking for an affordable accommodation. Otherwise, I bet there are many interesting options, even with 2 stars, in historical buildings for instance, that may offer something much better.