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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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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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St. Regis Bangkok: new luxury hotel with quality in all the details Jun 25

IMG_6023I have been to Bangkok a few times and I have stayed at hotels like Plaza Athenee, Sheraton Sukhumvit, Westin, Lebua, Centara CentralWorld, Le Meridien etc just to give some sort of idea of my experience with hotels in Bangkok before reading this review. I normally try to stick to Starwood hotels these days as I have a Starwood gold card and that can of course bring some benefits. This time I choose to stay at St. Regis as they had a special opening offer as the hotel opened recently and because the location seemed pretty good. As usual I booked the hotel online of Starwood Preferred Guest and the rate was 7300 Bath excluding taxes. This offer also included breakfast for two or dinner for two, complimentary internet and a 1000 Baht voucher for Elmis spa.

IMG_6007Getting the airport taxi staff to understand where we were planning on going was not easy. First of all it is a new hotel in Bangkok and Thai’s normally struggle with some of the sounds in the St. Regis name. But we explained that it was on Ratchadamri road and next to another hotel. At the hotel we were welcomed and a woman took us to the reception on a higher level. Check in was not done in the regular way standing at a desk – instead it was done by sitting down in comfortable chairs while getting everything sorted out. Check in went fast and I was taken to my room 2005. The room was very impressive at first glance – IMG_6006the floor being with white tiles to start with and the rest in darker wood. To start with there were the usual wardrobes with lots of hangers, a small safe, robes etc. There was room enough for my large Samsonite suitcase to be placed between the wardrobes and I appreciate that. There was a large Samsung TV and in the furniture underneath it there was a fridge that even included a half size bottle of champagne – you don’t see that every day in hotel fridges.
IMG_6008The bed was huge and quite comfortable but the pillows were a bit too big and hard for my liking. There was also a desk with two chairs and a two seat sofa with a small table. And then there was a beautiful view of “The Royal Bangkok Sports Club” from windows stretching from floor to ceiling. The bathroom was set up it a genius way – there were sliding doors between the bedroom and the bathroom and hence it was possible to make it into a full room with 4 walls. The bathroom was tiled with light tiles, included huge mirrors, a modern style bathtub, two sinks and a large shower with a huge rainforest shower head. There were also very good amenities and the shower soap even included some scrubbing grains. There were also tooth brush, shaving kit, mouth wash etc. The towels were huge and soft. The toilet was in a small separate room in the bathroom and I think that it a good idea.

IMG_6012The breakfast was included in my room rate – I normally don’t eat that much breakfast but it is always interesting to take a look at the selection. Some of the Bangkok hotels have an enormous selection of food at the breakfast buffet. At St. Regis it seemed to be toned down a bit and hence it was not as impressive as other buffets. But the hotel did have all the stuff that you normally need – bread, selection of cereal, various fruits, various cold cuts of Italian ham and sausages, a selection of eggs in various ways made according to your order. I did not try the restaurants at the hotel but they have a hotel bar with the same great view over the sports club. There was even a sword on the bar and it seems like they use this every night when opening the champagne bottles.
The pool area was not huge but it actually looked like there was quite a lot of sun during the day in the pool area. In addition to this it seems like they also have a nice spa and exercise room at the same floor.

IMG_6011Location of the hotel is very good – as you have the skytrain station right outside the door it is easy to get around. But you can also walk if you can stand the Bangkok heat. It is only about 700 meters to CentralWorld or a bit longer to the start of Silom road.
But there is no such thing as a perfect hotel and here are some of the things that can be improved or things that didn’t work out quite as I expected at the hotel.
The internet was complimentary in my room rate but normally this is something that costs like 500 Baht per day. In these modern days I would like to see the internet for free at hotels. The internet also stopped the second I checked out of the hotel!
I also had free pressing of 4 items in my room rate and I got in touch with the butler service to get it picked up. But when I came back to the hotel at night the shirts had not been picked up and were never picked up at all.

The shower was great but the problem was that it was leaking out on the bathroom floor – I hope this is fixed soon as it is annoying with water splashing around on the floor.
When I booked the room online I got e-mails from both the reservation desk and the butler service asking me the same questions. This shouldn’t be necessary.

Conclusion
IMG_6005Despite of the few problems that I have mentioned above, I have to admit that this is one of the best hotels that I have stayed at in Bangkok and even around the world. The reception was great and the staff seems to be highly focused on giving the customers an exclusive experience. The room itself was beautiful and there seemed to be quality in all the details ranging from furniture, leather casings for everything to the great amenities. When I checked out I mentioned some of my “problems” as a feedback to the hotel and this was picked up by the assistant manager. She gave me her card and took the time to listen to my feedback and I appreciate that. I would not hesitate to stay at the hotel again if the price is right. It is a true luxury hotel! You can find more info on the hotel homepage.

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Sauna experience in the room at Park Plaza Sherlock Holmes London Apr 26

We stayed at Park Plaza Sherlock Holmes during Easter of 2011 (from April 19th to April 24th) and I booked it online. We were a bit in a hurry when checking out so I totally forgot to take photos of the room – what an amateur. Anyway, we found the hotel without any problems (after all we use Google StreetView for what it is worth) but entering the hotel is a bit weird – you enter right into a small desk and a bar and I was a bit confused at first. But then I looked further into the room and noticed the check in desk was further in. Check in was fast and we were assigned to room 310 – there is just one small lift that can be slow but at least you don’t have to carry the suitcase to the room. I normally just used the stairs when coming down as I didn’t want to wait around for the lift but note that the stairs are a bit steep and narrow.

The room we got was a pretty decent size compared to other London hotels we have stayed at. The walls were painted in light yellow and there were light wooden floors. All in all the room looked pretty new and fresh so first impression was very good. The king-size bed was not too bad but it was a bit “springy” but at least soft enough for me – it only had one duvet but that didn’t turn out to be a problem – I’ll get back to that later on.

In the room there was a flat screen TV, there was a minibar that we didn’t use, a desk and chair – the desk had lots of plugs for charging our phones and stuff and we actually didn’t need to use the converter as one of the sockets fit to our Norwegian plugs. We had a window to Baker street and there was a bit of noise from the street but it was not a huge problem. There was enough light in the room but it was a bit weird that the switch to turn on my reading light over the bed was located at the other side of the bed – and vice versa. I think they must have done a mistake with the wiring ;-)

The wardrobe contained a few hangers but it was a bit on the small side for the two of us as it also contained the ironing board/iron and a safe. But it was at least great that there was an iron in the first place. I like the fact that the floors are wooden compared to carpets but it also introduce a few other challenges – our floor seemed to make a bit of squeaking noises when we walked around in the room. There were also some squeaking noises from our desk when the people in the room next door were walking around.

The bathroom was quite stylish – a bit on the small side but with tiles on floor and walls and with a proper shower corner that avoided splashing and good towels. The shower pressure was very unpredictable – one second I was blasted with great water pressure and the next there were hardly any water – I guess that happens when many take a shower at the same time? The amenities was limited to shampoo, shower gel, lotion and shower cap but the shampoo and soap was not bad at all. One thing that was a bit unorthodox was the door between the room and the bathroom – it is a glass sliding door. It is more or less frosted but it doesn’t provide 100% privacy.

The hotel had a pretty good internet policy – you could get an internet connection for free via wi-fi but it was a slow line or you could pay for it to get a better connection. Not a bad solution in my opinion. There are also a couple of PC’s located in the lobby area near the elevator and it seems like the user there was free of charge.

The location of the hotel is quite good – located on Baker Street it is only a couple of minutes away from the Baker Street tube station and this station has a couple of good subway lines to get around London (see location in this Google map). It is also possible to walk to Oxford Street in like 10 minutes. There are lots of places to eat in the area – we did not have breakfast included in the hotel but we could get breakfast at places like Eat, Starbucks, Pret a Manger, Canteen etc.

But I also have to mention things that were not that great. The room was quite warm when we checked in but I adjusted the air-con to 15 degrees as I thought that would solve the problem – but at night we woke up and we were soaking wet and the air-con did not seem to have any effect to the temperature at all. Some friends of ours also stayed in the hotel and they had the same problem and on Gowalla I saw a comment about the same thing (and that comment was given in the middle of winter). So in the end we have to turn off the air-con and open the window but that resulted in a bit of noise from the street. I see this is a problem noted several times in other TripAdvisor reviews and the hotel has an explanation but it doesn’t really matter – if you have an air-con you expected to work not to turn the room into a sauna.

The squeaking noise that I have mentioned already was also a bit annoying.

Conclusion
All in all this is a pretty decent hotel and the room looked quite new and fresh. The location is also quite good and it is easy to get around from here. But I’m not sure I would stay there again – the sauna experience in the room combined with the fact that it was kinda pricey for a room with no breakfast. Note that the frosted bathroom door can be a bit of a problem if you want some privacy from your fellow roommate. But kudos to General Manager Pascale Fioretti for taking the time to give feedback on reviews posted on TripAdvisor.

I paid 710 GBP for 5 nights (including taxes but excluding breakfast) – that is about 235 USD per night. You can read more about the hotel on the hotel website.

The London trip report will be posted later on on http://gardkarlsen.com Winking smile

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The world’s tallest hotel opens: Ritz-Carlton in Hong Kong Mar 22

It seems like hotels are opening in tall buildings around the world…Armani Hotel in Burj Khalifa in Dubai, Grand Hyatt at Jin Mao building in Shanghai etc. But now there is a new hotel that takes the title as the world’s tallest hotel. During these days the Ritz-Carlton opens in the International Commerce Centre in Hong Kong. The building itself is about 490 meters (1590 ft) tall and it is at the time the 4th tallest skyscraper in the world and the hotel itself occupies the floors from 102nd to 118th floor!! If you get a room with a view towards Hong Kong Island the view must be just spectacular – and there is even an indoor pool on the 118th floor. But staying at the hotel will of course come at a price – the rooms seems to start at about 4500 Hong Kong Dollar when looking at the hotel homepage – about 600 USD. But if you can’t afford staying there you can always go to the observation deck on the 100th floor called Sky100 Winking smile. Check out more information on the hotel homepage.

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Our hotel room at the Small hotel in Krabi, Thailand Dec 04

After a short stop in Bangkok, we moved to the Krabi area in the south of Thailand where we stayed at the Small hotel near Ao Nang beach outside Krabi. We had a moon deck suite and we did have high expectations but these were not met – maybe because we just came from a great hotel in Bangkok. But here is the review of the hotel as posted on Tripadvisor and below is a video of our room.

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Our room at Le Meridien in Bangkok Dec 01

We just had the pleasure of staying at Le Meridien in Bangkok. When we arrived we were upgraded to a suite and got a great room.

Le_meridien_bangkok_entranceI booked the hotel online on the Starwood Preferred Guest site and we chose this hotel as we wanted to try out a new hotel in Bangkok – from before we have tried hotels like Sheraton Sukhumvit, Westin Sukhumvit, Lebua, Plaza Athenee etc. The rate I got was 4590 THB (about 150 USD) including taxes but without breakfast. Le Meridien is located on Surawong road in the Silom area so getting to the hotel took a bit of time with a taxi in the Friday afternoon traffic of Bangkok – but we decided to use taxi as it is not very practically to drag around big suitcases on the airport express train and skytrain/subway. The taxi was about 500 Baht including the toll stations on the express way.

Le_meridien_bangkok_bedWhen checking in we were informed that the room we had booked (corner room) was not available and instead we had been upgraded to a corner suite – not the worst message one can get when checking in at a hotel ;-) We got our keys, vouchers for a free drink at Bamboo Chic and our suitcases were sent to our room. We got room 1124 and it was quite a room to say the least. When we walked in we were met by some sort of book shelf but behind this was a living room with two sofas with a table, a large flat screen TV, a work desk and even an espresso machine – we had the option of espresso, regular coffee (in a press mug) and there were even takeaway cups – how cool is that?.

Le_meridien_bangkok_living_roomThe room was tastefully decorated with books about Thailand in the bookshelf and with pieces of art scattered around in the room. The room was tiled with black tiles on the floor to start with but the rest of the room was with a yellowish carpet. The work desk had a large phone with a display that greeted us welcome – not that we used it much. From the living room there was a large window facing to Rama IV road leading to Hua Lamphong train station. The room also included a small fridge with various cold drinks and there were also proper glasses if you wanted to enjoy any of the drinks.

Le_meridien_bangkok_bed_room_TVFrom the living room there was a sliding door leading into the large bed room. In here there was a large bed of course which turned out to be very comfortable with one large duvet and 4 pillows. There was also a TV for the bedroom and in this room we also found the mini safe. There was also a chair by the windows with the same view as for the living room. The windows had electrical day and night blinds. A new sliding door took us into the bath room and it Le_meridien_bangkok_bed_room_bath_roomwas also possible to slide away most of the wall that was separating the bed room and the bath room. In the bath room there were black tiles on the floor and walls and we also had a bath tub, two sinks, lots of amenities ranging from shower caps, mouth wash, dental kit etc etc. A glass door led into the large shower with two separate shower parts…each part had a regular shower and a rain forest shower head option. The shower was all done in black tiles so it was a bit on the dark side – I would have loved to see lighter tiles here. The toilet was separated from the rest of the bath room with a door made with frosted glass – an excellent solution.

Le_meridien_bangkok_breakfastSome of the walls turned out to be not just walls in the bath room – some turned out to be the wardrobe with nice fluffy bathrobes and soft slippers and the other contained an iron. One even turned out to be a sliding door which opened up into the living room.
The breakfast was served at Last recipe on the 2 floor and as it was not included we had to pay. The full buffet was 650 Baht (22 USD) so there was no point in just going for continental breakfast as that was 550 Baht. Le_meridien_bangkok_breakfast2The breakfast selection was excellent as you would expect from a 5 star hotel – a good selection of bread, cereal, fruit etc. But there was also stations with staff that could make omelets, carve up meat, scoop up some frozen yogurt for you and there were also various selection of hot food. In some of the reviews on TripAdvisor the breakfast buffet has been described as the best in town so naturally we had high expectations but after having stayed at other nice 5 star hotels (like Sheraton on Sukhumvit and Plaza Athenee) I don’t think this was any better than what the others have to offer. Nikki was missing hard boiled eggs, she was not that impressed with the watermelon but she was impressed with the option of fresh waffles and that it was possible to get some funky smoothie blends. And it was nice twist with the Illy press filter coffee that was served at our table. We also stopped by Bamboo chic briefly to have an aperitif before going out one evening and it looked like a nice place.

Le_meridien_bangkok_bedroom_chairThe location of the hotel is not bad – located on Surawong road it is about a 10 minute walk from Sala Daeng BTS station and you can also walk a couple of more minutes to Silom subway station. But note that the most direct route leads you straight through Patpong – maybe one of the most famous red light districts in the world and certainly the most know red light area in Bangkok. Today there is also a night bazaar and if you walk in the middle of this and keep your eyes focused on this you might be able to avoid seeing all the neon lights. But trust me…you will get asked if you want to see ping pong shows or if you want to buy various movies.

Le_meridien_bangkok_bath_roomConclusion: well, it is hard to really give an accurate conclusion as we were upgraded to a corner suite and that turned out to be just an amazing room. I really think the layout of this room is one of the best layouts that I have seen in a hotel room and I loved the larger double shower. Special treats like a coffee machine, lots and lots of complimentary water etc made this into a very comfortable stay. But I can also mention a couple of things that I don’t like – I would have liked to see free internet in the room. We were actually informed when we called the first day that it was included but when it didn’t work the second day we got the opposite message. There was free internet in the lobby but it required a user name and password from the concierge and he seemed to only activate it upon request. Another thing that turned out to be a challenge was the air con – there was a separate air con in the living room and the bed room but we could never really figure it out and it was always freezing in the living room. But these are just details of course – all in all this was one of the best hotel rooms that I have ever stayed in. I have also uploaded a video showing the room by the way.

Regards
Gard
gardkarlsen.com – trip reports and pictures

Here is also a video that I took of the room…enjoy Winking smile

My trip report from Bologna in Italy Nov 02

Hi all

Nikki and I went to Bologna in Italy this summer. We first spent a few days in the city itself and stayed at Hotel Touring (see the hotel review here) in the city center. After that we changed hotel to Savhotel located just a bit out of the city center and we rented a car and we had some road trips to places like Ferrara, Ravenna and Modena. I have now posted the trip report with photos, videos, maps etc. on this page. I hope that it can be of some use to others that are going to Bologna and the surrounding area.

If you want to have an idea about eating out in Bologna you can also check out this section of the trip report . As you will see, there are lots of good restaurants and LOTS of good food to be eaten in this city. I have also made this interactive Bologna Google map that shows the location of the restaurants and attractions that we went to.
Well, there it is…hope that you guys will enjoy it. As always, let me know if you see something that needs to be corrected or fixed in the trip report. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or comments and I’ll do my best to answer.

Regards
Gard
http://gardkarlsen.com – trip reports and pictures

Review of Hotel Touring in Bologna in Italy Aug 12

Hotel_Touring_Bologna_entranceWe stayed at Hotel Touring in Bologna from July 21st to July 26th 2010. We chose this hotel as it was located near the city center and we wanted to explore the city by foot. I booked the hotel online and went for a gold room costing 119 € per night. We arrived late at night at the hotel – the city is only about 15-20 minute taxi ride from the airport. Check in was fast and we got room 333. The tiny lift was not big enough for us and our two large suitcases so I sent my wife together with the suitcases in the lift and went for the staircase myself. The room had a small corridor leading into the room and on the left hand side was a bathroom. The room itself had light wooden floor and was painted in light colors with some yellow/gold wall paper behind the bed. The room was not very large so fitting our two suitcases in there was a bit of a puzzle. The wardrobe area included a tiny TV with a few channels (but only 1 English speaking channel), a few hangers, shelves and also a safe large enough for our laptops and a tiny fridge with a small selection of drinks – the fridge was not very good as it could hardly keep the drinks cold.

Hotel_Touring_Bologna_bedThe bed only included a thin blanket as duvet so finding the right temperature at night was a bit tricky – the aircon only included two buttons saying “Too warm” and “Too cold” so it was easy at least. The bed itself must be one of the most uncomfortable beds that I have had in a hotel as it was way too hard for my liking. There was also a tiny desk and a chair and there were sockets on each side of the bed so charging phones etc was a breeze. The bathroom seemed quite new and it was tiled in light tiles – the room included a toilet, bide, sink and for once just a shower – I think bathtubs should have been left out of hotel rooms as I hardly use them. The shower was quite large and featured a sliding door to enter it. There was a large rainforest showerhead but the only problem was that the drain didn’t seem able to keep up with the shower – the shower would very quickly turn into a footbath. Maybe it is a genius way of getting people to use less water when showering. There were not that many amenities but there were shampoo, soap and shower cap at least.

Hotel_Touring_Bologna_room_terraceOne of the first things we noticed when we came into the room was the pleasant and sweet scent – there were sticks in a small bottle on the desk and I guess it is a signature of the hotel as they had the same in the reception etc. When we woke up the next day we also noticed that we had gotten a room with an enormous balcony. The balcony included two chairs and a table, one sun bed and one reclining chair. In the afternoon we had sun on the entire balcony – but I’m not sure that it was a great idea to put cast iron chairs in the sun on the balcony. When sitting down on one in the afternoon I felt like I got branded as they were so hot. If you don’t get a room with a large balcony you can head for the rooftop garden on the 5th floor. From here you get an amazing view of Bologna in pretty much every direction. I think you can also get drinks served there in the afternoon if you don’t want to walk out of the hotel to find a place for you aperetivo.

Hotel_Touring_Bologna_deskThe breakfast at the hotel was served in the vaulted rooms in the basement – the breakfast was simple but included the basics of cereal, bread, fruit, juice etc and if you ask nicely you can even get a proper espresso or cappuccino. If you want to iron something they have an iron and ironing board located in the room next to the breakfast room – just ask and they will set it up for you.
The location of the hotel is great – located more or less next to Basilica of San Domenico and it took us only a few minutes to walk to Piazza Galvani and from there to Piazza Maggiore (it is only 600 meters to walk Piazza Maggiore). If you like your high-end shopping you’ll be glad to know that the hotel is also close to Via Farini which includes stores like Hermes, Louis Vuitton etc. We had our aperetivo a couple of times at Caffé San Domenico located on the Via Giuseppe Garibaldi and I can recommend the Aperol Spritz ;-)

Hotel_Touring_Bologna_wardrobe_TVIt seems like Hotel Touring has gotten on the list of “Most charming hotels” and they seem confident with their product. When I checked out I even got a little note saying “Remember to post your review on TripAdvisor” – ah, the power of the internet. But there are a few things that could have been improved. When we checked in I think I asked about the Wi-Fi and I was told it was 10 € pr day. The next day I tried to use the PC in the reception and I needed a password and the girl that was working said that as I was staying in a gold room the Wi-Fi was free and I got a username and password. It would have been great to get this when checking in.
I have already mentioned the other things – the shower drain was not very good and the bed was soo hard that I had problem sleeping.

Conclusion
Hotel Touring is a charming hotel with a good location in the Bologna city center. The staff was helpful and smiling at all times. The room seemed to be fairly recently refurbished and even if it was a bit on the tiny side we still enjoyed our stay there and the balcony that we had was amazing. But the bed was the real drawback for me but I guess it all depends on what kind of bed you like. All in all, if you can handle a hard bed this is not a bad hotel for checking out the city center of Bologna.

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View from the rooftop terrace

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Review of Savhotel in Bologna Aug 10

Savhotel_Bologna_entranceWe stayed at Savhotel in Bologna from July 26th to July 30th 2010 after we had stayed at Hotel Touring in the center of Bologna first. The reason for choosing Savhotel was that it was a bit in the outskirts which made it easier for us when we wanted to drive out of Bologna to explore some of Emilia-Romagna. At the same time the rate was low, it is a fairly new hotel and close enough to the city center so that we could enjoy restaurant in Bologna at night. After we picked up a rental car at the Marconi airport in Bologna we had a bit of problem finding Savhotel_Bologna_deskthe hotel as the street of the hotel was not in our GPS. But we figured it out by putting in one of the streets nearby (Via della Liberazione) and after that we just followed the signs. Savhotel seems to be a very new hotel located just north of the ring road of Bologna – the area around the hotel seems to be a mixture of flats, new office buildings etc. We got room 303 and the room was quite inviting when we first entered the room. The room was setup with a modern design but it was not that big. The floor was laid down with dark wood and the walls had light wall paper.

Savhotel_Bologna_bedThe centerpiece of the room was a king-size bed that was firm but far better than the mattress at the Hotel Touring that we had stayed at the previous nights (see separate review). On each side of the bed there were cubes that acted as both as a small table and lighting as they were illuminated from within. The reading light on each side could have been better as it was not very bright and rather flimsy. There was also a desk facing the window with a good light over it and a plug for the laptop – excellent setup.

Savhotel_Bologna_TVThere was a tiny flat screen TV in the room that has a good selection of channels and both CNN and BBC – but I would have liked to see a bit larger TV. The wardrobe area included hangers, shelves, a small fridge with some sodas/beers/snacks and a safe that was large enough for storing the laptop. The bathroom was tiled in light tiles and included a toilet, bide, sink andSavhotel_Bologna_bathroom bathtub which included the showering option. There were not that many amenities but as long as there is some shampoo I’m happy. The shower option in the bathtub worked out pretty good as a glass wall acted as a shield preventing splashing everywhere. The ventilation in the room was not that great so after we had taken a shower the humidity would pour down from the walls and mirror. The bathroom was separated from the room by a frosted glass door.

Savhotel_Bologna_breakfast_selectionThe breakfast area was right next to the reception and it included a decent breakfast. There was small selection of cereal, some buns, some options of mortadella ham, cheese and salami to put on the bread, ricotta, nutella and also some cakes, fruits and even egg and bacon. As usual, we had to ask to get a proper espresso but that was brought to our table with a smile. The parking facility at the hotel wasSavhotel_Bologna_wardrobe excellent – there was a parking area in the basement and we could take the lift straight to our floor. They also kept the bicycles in the parking area and we could borrow these free of charge – the only annoying thing was the form that I had to fill out every time I picked up the bikes. The bikes also came with large locks and according to one of the guys in the reception it was important to use the locks when parking in Bologna as bike thefts are not uncommon. The bikes were in great condition.

As mentioned, the hotel is located just north of the city center and it was easy to bike into town. There was a bike lane leading towards the city center and from there we just biked in the streets. Getting into Piazza Maggiore didn’t take more than about 10 minutes biking at a slow pace (it is 2,5 km/1,5 miles to Piazza Maggiore).

Savhotel_Bologna_breakfast_areaLet’s talk about some of the things that can be improved at the hotel. It was great with the free Wi-Fi but it was annoying that we had to call the reception to get a cryptic username and password and it also expired in the middle of our stay and I had to call the reception again to get a new username and password. The Wi-Fi signal was quite weak and I was not able to pick up a signal with my iPhone 3G in the room (but my wife got a signal with her 3GS). When we checked in, our clothes had been in and out of our suitcases and were in desperate need for some ironing. But the room did not include this and when we called the front desk we were told that we were not allowed to have an iron in the room and they did not have a room where we could do the ironing. So the only option was sending the clothing to the laundry service for ironing – this is something that I think the hotel has to rethink.

We were a bit surprised to find that the hotel is quite “noisy”. As it is a pretty new hotel I thought there would be better sound insulation between the rooms and hall. But we could hear the TV from the next room and it was easy to hear the cleaning personnel doing their job in the morning. Another thing that was a bit noisy was the aircon. When it was running it was not a problem but when starting and stopping it made a bit of noise.

Conclusion
If you have a car this hotel is a great option to use as a base for exploring the region as it makes it easier when it comes to driving (as driving in the city center seems to be a nightmare) and it is still close enough to the center to make it possible to enjoy restaurants there at night. The rate was 62€ for the room and that is not bad when it included taxes, breakfast for 2, free Wi-Fi, free parking inside, bikes that we could use etc. But if you are just in Bologna to check out the city center I would recommend finding a hotel within the ring road and in a more charming neighborhood.