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Archive for July, 2011

Not a 5 star hotel–but decent enough at a good location Jul 31

IMG_9855When we started looking for a hotel in Washington DC it was as usually a bit tricky as we have never been to the city before and hence it was not that easy to understand where the best location would be.  We first started looking at Westin but the feedbacks were not that great and we also wanted something a bit cheaper as we were staying for 10 days. In the end we decided to go for Washington Plaza as it seemed to have a good location, because it had a pool and because the price was not bad. I booked the hotel on Expedia and it was 890 Norwegian kroner per night (which is about 165 USD these days) including all taxes but excluding breakfast.

IMG_9849We took a Supershuttle from the airport to the hotel and arrived late afternoon. The hotel is located at Thomas circle. The check in was fast and we got room 232 with a view towards the pool and Thomas circle. I think the hotel has been updated recently and they were still working on a room/suite on our floor. Our room was not very large but the layout was not bad. The bed was what might be called super king-size  as it seemed to be like 2 meters wide and hence it took up a fair bit of the room. In addition that this there was a chair and stool but we used this for storage space for all the fancy pillows from the bed that you don’t really need in the first place. Apart from that there was a desk area which included the desk, stand for the TV and space for keeping one suitecase as shown in one of my photos. When I checked out the room I thought here would be a small fridge under the TV but that was not the case – it was empty.  The walls were painted in light colors and there was a carpet in more or less the entire room.

IMG_9857Upon entering there was a door on the left hand side that led to a room that included the safe, a “wardrobe” (meaning a few hangers on a bar over the safe) and the sink with amenities. I always think it is a bit weird with a sink area with carpet underneath it. Another door led into the tiny bathroom which included the toilet and a bathtub with a shower option. The shower curtain was actually quite good as there were two layers and this seemed to prevent the water from splashing everywhere. It would have been great with better ventilation in the bathroom. There were some amenities but not very impressive in any way – I was glad I brought my own stuff. There was also an iron and an ironing board by the wardrobe and it is always good to have this in case you need to iron some shirts. The hotel also offers laundry service.

There was also a bit of turndown service in the evening and we got a couple of bottles of water – you can also drink the tap water but it does taste and smell a bit of chlorine.  It was also excellent that the hotel offers free wifi – we got a username and password when checking in and we could use this on our different devices.

IMG_9854There was a coffee maker in the bathroom (on the sink) and we tried it once but it took forever to make a cup – so it was easier to just enjoy coffee in some of the nearby coffee shops. The aircon in the room could be controlled to keep the room at a certain temperature. But to do this it would turn on and off all the time and the draft from it was very noticeable. But I was glad that we had aircon as it was really hot in Washington during our stay there. The room also had a door leading out to a common balcony which had stairs leading down to the pool area. The pool area had quite a lot of sunbeds and in the afternoon it seemed to be a popular spot as you could also buy cold drinks from the bar there. And the small pool was quite crowded by kids and adults that wanted to cool down in the summer heat. There was a life guard on duty and the pool was actually 8 ft deep in one area.

IMG_9851Thomas circle is quite busy with traffic and at night it was easy to hear the traffic noise in the room. The regular traffic noise was not a problem but it seems like ambulances and firetrucks use the sirens in a very active way! The location of the hotel is not bad at all – from the hotel to the Mall it is about 1 mile (about 1,6 km) so we walked there several times. We also walked to McPherson metro station located about 500 meters from the hotel (it took about 10 minutes). But one of the best ways to get around might be taking the bus – there is a bus stop right by the hotel and you can e.g. take the Circulator bus to get around.  We did feel very safe in the area and we walked to U street, Dupont circle and the Mall at night. The hotel has a small kiosk in the lobby area where you can buy postcards and snack. In the same area you can also find an ATM which is handy. You don’t have to walk very far to find restaurants and cafes either – within a block or two you can find Starbuck’s, Au bon pain, the brown bag etc so it is not a problem finding a place to have breakfast.

Conclusion
This is not a fancy 5 star hotel but it was a pretty good hotel for our Washington DC vacation. The location is quite good and the area feels safe. The room was a bit on the small side and the amenities were not great. But it was great to have free wifi, access to pool on warm days and to have aircon to keep us cool at night. I would not mind staying at the hotel again and I would also recommended to friends and family.

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Category: Hotels, Travel  | Tags: , ,  | One Comment
Shangri-La Sydney: amazing view and amazing staff Jul 01

IMG_6086We decided to stay at Shangri-La in Sydney as it looked like it had a good location and as we are Golden Circle Jade members. We took a taxi into the hotel from the airport and in the lobby area there was a long line of people waiting to check in and out. But we asked one of the staff and we were sent to the horizon lounge on level 30 were we got a great welcome by the lovely Emily. There was a line of people waiting there as well but at least there we could sit down after a long flight and relax while waiting for the check in. And what a view there is from the Horizon lounge on the 30th floor! I think this must be one of the best locations and views in Sydney as we had a great view to Sydney Harbor Bridge and the opera house from the lounge. We enjoyed some coffee and juice in the lounge while Emily checked us in and I got room 3417. I booked this online and I had to pay 305 AUD for the room – as we were booking my colleague got the last room on the Horizon level (executive level) but when we checked in I got a complimentary upgrade to Horizon level. It was also possible for me to pay to get access to the horizon lounge but as I where there with a colleague it was sufficient that he had access.

IMG_6088My room was located on the 34th floor and it looked good at first glance. A hallway lead into the room and the bathroom and wardrobe was to the left. The room had a soft and light brownish carpet and the main item in the room was of course the bed with a golden bedspread. There were two chairs with a small table and on one of the walls there was a desk for working and a small desk that contained some fruits that I got and underneath was a small fridge. The wardrobe contained hangers, a safe and a robe.

The bathroom was old school with yellowish tiles and patterns on the floor. But there was both a shower corner and a bathtub and the amenities included shaving kit, toothbrush, emery boards, bath salt etc etc. The shampoo and shower gel was very nice and I enjoyed them during my stay. The best part of the room was maybe the incredible view. Located on the 34th floor I had a view towards the harbor including the opera house and I could see the sun rise every morning – just incredible.

IMG_6089The location of the hotel was pretty good at least for me as I was working in the city center. And from the hotel it is only a couple of minutes walk to “The rocks” area and down to the harbor.  We used the lounge quite a lot as we were working there after the regular work hours. The staff in the lounge on the 30th floor was just great – we experienced service that we normally just experience in Asian countries. A bit thank you to Emily, Jasmine, Jerry, Alexis and so on for being so generous to us. At night there is complimentary drinks and snacks from 6 to 8 and it is always a bit tempting to have some – the stuff they had to eat was quite delicious so be careful to not eat too much if you want to enjoy a dinner later on. They were also very, very generous with the drinks and they had various wines to offer – but a word of advice to the staff: you should be careful calling the Australian sparkling wine for Champagne ;-). We also had breakfast in the lounge and they had a small selection of stuff that you need for breakfast there.

We had to leave the hotel early one morning to fly back home and we left at 5.30 AM. When we came to the lobby they said that we could get the hotel car to take us for 50 AUD in a big BMW X6 – we used this offer as it was the same that we paid the taxi when going from the airport to the hotel.

IMG_6097But there are always some things that can be improved. The lounge is located on the 30th floor and stretches up to 34th floor. I’m not sure if this was the problem but it was more or less always freezing in the lounge and we were sitting around with jackets on. We told the staff several times but as it was central heating there was not much they could do about it. The lifts were also a bit moody – some would read the cards to get to my level and some would not, some would indicate when arriving at a floor and some not. And I did not get the small things that I’m entitled to as a Jade member but it didn’t really matter – I was just happy with the room upgrade. All in all this was a great hotel experience. The rooms might be a bit too old school for me but they seemed to be in good condition. I also enjoyed the view, the complimentary wi-fi in the room and lounge and the incredible staff in the lounge. Travels would be so much fun if all hotels were like this.

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