Posted in Travel, Uncategorized

The Imperial Hotel – Brighton

During my recent trip to Brighton for a family wedding I stayed at the Imperial hotel which is situated further down from the hustle and bustle of Brighton seafront but still a stones throw from the beach at Hove.

I stayed with my mum and daughter and we had a room with three single beds. On entering the room we were met with a strange musky smell but were pleased that we were not all cramped into a small space as the room was quite spacious and we quickly opened the windows for some fresh air. The décor seemed to be stuck in the 80’s and I new it needed updating when my mum declared that she liked it and would decorate her front room the same way!

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The beds were comfy and there was a nice little seating area by the window which was lucky because the TV was tiny in comparison to the room and was hard to see from the beds so if we wanted to watch anything it was easier to sit there. The view from the window just overlooked other buildings but if you opened it up and leaned out you could just about see the lapping waves of the sea.

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During my past stays in hotels I have chosen to stay in the more well known chains such as the Sofitel in Paris, The Hilton Garden inn in Manchester and the Crowne Plaza in Amsterdam and I have complained that they don’t seem to have much personality but during this trip I actually missed a lot of the amenities that I have previously experienced and for all around the same price brackets. I wouldn’t say the Imperial was particularly comfortable in the sense of luxury that I had at the Sofitel and when I went to look for the iron (I never usually take advantage of the iron but had a particularly creased dress) I realised there wasn’t one and had to ask at the desk, they bought one to the room with an ironing bored but it was very basic and didn’t do a great job!

I knew that my mum would drink as much coffee as me and I usually use all the little long life milks sachets in one cup (which still doesn’t provide me with my usual milky coffee) so I bought a pint of milk on the way and then realised there was no fridge in the room (even though there was plenty of room for one) so we had to finish it all off before it started to smell. It wasn’t particularly hot in the room and with it being and old building I wasn’t expecting it to have built in air con, like I have had in other hotels, but it would have been a nice touch to have a fan available for the muggy evening air. Another thing missing was a hair dryer which was apparently available at a price!

The bathroom lacked any sort of décor, it was pretty basic and could have done with having a fan as it was particularly stuffy and hot after a shower and needed to be aired out a bit before the next person could use it, but it had clean towels and running hot water.

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The rest of the hotel was pretty much the same as the room, lots of clashing colours and patterns but quite spacious if you wanted to hang out. We didn’t really make use of the bar or restaurant available as we were out most of the time but as we were on the third floor we did have the pleasure of using what can only be described as the worlds smallest and slowest lift.

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We didn’t particularly find our stay sumptuous and there was no grandeur to the Imperial hotel but we did sleep well and the staff were very friendly and helpful. There do seem to be hundreds of hotels in the Brighton area and would probably look for somewhere a bit more contemporary should I visit Brighton in the future.

If you are visiting Brighton at any point, check out my post on 13 things to do along the beachfront.

 

Posted in Food, Lifestyle, London, Travel, Uncategorized

A spa day at The Montcalm Hotel – Marble Arch

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As a London and Travel blogger, my friends and family know that I like nothing more than to get out and experience new things (when I’m not lying in bed reading a good book) so when it comes to buying me presents they usually opt for the physical type, a meal out, a trip away or an experience voucher… just don’t make it skydiving because I would never do it!

On mothers day I received a Virgin voucher for a trip to a spa with a champagne meal for two…oooh. It took me a while to get round to booking it but the process was quite easy and one thing I liked about it was that it gave you the option of swapping your experience for something different if that particular activity didn’t take your fancy, for instance if I received a skydive I would have swapped it for an afternoon tea perhaps! I knew my eldest daughter would also appreciate a spa day so she accompanied me to The Montcalm.

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The Montcalm is a short walk from Marble arch and has a five star rating. It seems quite small from the outside but as you enter you are met with a light, spacious lobby area that is filled with little seating nooks with mismatched furniture in neutral warm tones.

We were shown down to the spa in the basement which was divided into different spaces and were given a pair of slippers and a towel each. I didn’t particularly want to use the gym but wanted to try out everything that was on offer so we brought our gym clothes for a quick workout. There were a couple of people in there when we arrived but they were just finishing up their session and we soon had the place to ourselves. I tried out all the machines but left well away from the contraption that was full of weights, it was supposed to be a relaxing morning after all!

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After the workout we had a quick change into our swimming costumes to visit the spa room. It consisted of a sauna and steam room that had a shower in between. Next to that was the Jacuzzi that had the option of the bubble machine, this switched itself off every so often and you had to wait a while for it to be reactivated. The small pool was also similar to the Jacuzzi, the water was warm and although it had buttons to get the same jet stream effect as the Jacuzzi, these did not work. To be honest the pool was nice just to relax in but wasn’t big enough to actually make use of if you wanted to have a proper swim and as we found out a few minutes after entering the space can quickly feel crowded.

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While we were in the pool there were two guys in the Jacuzzi, it would have felt a bit awkward to get in there with them so we went to try out the sauna instead. As we both suffer from panic attacks and there was a big red panic button on the wall it kind of made us a bit apprehensive so we just tried it out with the doors open… I know you would think this defeats the purpose but it was still really hot in there!

As we left the sauna, the two guys had moved over to the pool so we went into the Jacuzzi but then another two ladies came in and it felt even more awkward, I mean there are lots of chairs around and a snug little area with magazines but nobody wants to go to the spa to sit around on chairs do they? After a while it was approaching our lunch time and we felt very hot and sweaty so we departed to cool off in the showers and get changed.

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The changing rooms were clean with lots of space to keep your stuff but only had two showers and two toilets so luckily we were the only ones in there, especially as the showers are not very private with see through glass doors!

Before our visit to the spa we tried to check out what food would be served with the virgin voucher but couldn’t find any information other than the fact that it was a one course meal. I mean I don’t know how much the voucher costs because I don’t like to check these things as it was a present but I thought a one course meal was a bit miserly and if they want to make it a special day they should at least add a dessert, even if they charge a few pounds extra.

The restaurant, which is just beyond the lobby, was a lovely big room with skylights to provide extra light. I liked that the artwork on the wall matched the furniture.

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We were a bit confused as to why they gave us a menu with all three courses on it if we were only to choose one meal and although I assume we could have purchased more had we wanted to, we were not offered their normal menu with the prices of anything on. There were only three main meals on offer unless we wanted to pay a supplement and if you are a vegetarian then you better be a fan of eggplant as that is all your getting! This did just remind me of Hard rock café all over again and I think that when Virgin make these deals with restaurants that they should be more upfront with what they are offering!

We both went for the Corn-fed chicken supreme with thyme and truffle although it didn’t mention any sides and we were left wondering if it would just be a bit of chicken on a plate. Luckily it was accompanied with a creamy mash, vegetables and half a roasted garlic and it was absolutely delicious, I ate everything including the garlic which surprisingly didn’t taste very garlicky. We also enjoyed a nice glass of prosecco (for some reason the small print states that you only get champagne if you attend the other hotel outside of London) which I had to finish for Jasmin as she didn’t particularly like the taste.

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Overall we had a really lovely morning, although it would be nice if the vouchers from Virgin experience were more transparent so you know exactly what to expect.

Have you ever visited a hotel spa or used a Virgin voucher, what was your experience like?

If you have visited anywhere in London then feel free to join in with my new linky #thelondonlink to add any of your blog posts, old or new!

 

 

Posted in Travel, Uncategorized

Hilton Garden Inn Hotel – Manchester

The Hilton Garden Inn Hotel in Manchester is part of the Emirates Cricket stadium in Old Trafford and overlooks the grounds. I am not a cricket fan at all and in fact I have been a Manchester United football fan for most of my life but when looking for a hotel to stay at on our recent trip to Manchester I felt quite drawn to the Hilton Garden Inn.

The hotel has 150 modern rooms and many overlook the cricket ground so you can watch the game from the comfort of your own private balcony. We didn’t book a pitch side room as seeing the cricket wasn’t really a priority but we were given complimentary tickets so that we could go into the stadium and watch the cricket at any time during our stay which I thought was a nice touch.

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The hotel reception is quite small but has this lovely seating area. We were checked in quickly and took the lift up to our room. I was pretty sure I booked a double room and not a twin so was surprised to see two beds when I entered the room, we did call down to reception to see if we could change but unfortunately they were fully booked up.

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The room was neutrally decorated with Manchester landmark prints adorning the walls. It was clean and comfortable but a bit of a tight squeeze, much as what you would expect from a Hotel chain. The bedside table had a little alarm clock which I thought was a handy addition if you need to get up at a certain time but I woke up in the middle of the night and was nearly blinded by how bright the clock face was. The bathroom was decorated in large grey tiles and looked very swanky, it didn’t have a bath but a rather large walk in shower.

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As we had the complimentary tickets we thought we would check out the grounds and see if a match was on before we left. It was a really hot day and although there was a match playing, they were in the middle of a break so we just did some people watching while sitting in the sun before retreating to the bar to cool off.

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The restaurant/lounge area is next to the reception and offer breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as just a relaxing area next to the bar for drinks. We didn’t use the restaurant as we already had plans to eat out in the city centre at The Hard Rock café and at the Kashmir 1887, which is a lovely Indian restaurant local to the hotel.

The hotel is a great location for getting around Manchester as it is right next to the Old Trafford tram stop. It is a short walk to the football ground and about a twenty minute walk to Salford Quays which is home to a lovely waterfront and many other attractions. including the Imperial War Museum North and Media city.

We had a very pleasant stay at The Hilton Garden inn and would love to try out their other branches, maybe Singapore, Dubai or Hawaii next time?!

Posted in Travel, Uncategorized

Crowne Plaza Hotel – Amsterdam

During our recent trip to Amsterdam, we chose to stay in the Crowne Plaza hotel which is situated quite close to Schiphol airport. We took advantage of the free shuttle bus service to the hotel rather than try to walk as the roads were really busy.

On arrival we had a bit of a wait in the lobby as there were a few people in front of us and although we had already paid before arrival we were asked to pay a city tax charge which came to around €8.00.

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The hotel room had the usual layout of a bedroom and bathroom, neutral décor in a brown and red colour palette and all the amenities we needed, including a comfy chair complete with some tourist magazines and a foot rest and a desk which I had no intention of sitting at. Although there were big windows, there wasn’t much of a view. We overlooked the car park and were mostly surrounded by roads but being five floors up it was probably better than some.

I do like when they leave something a little personal and on top of the huge bed (which we were most impressed with) was a little bottle of lavender sleep spray. There was also a huge dressing gown, but only one which was weird as there was two of us booked in the room!

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The TV showed all the channels so we didn’t miss any of the soaps when we got back after a day of exploring, and tea, coffee and hot chocolate was available, although I’m not really a fan of those tiny milk pots and tend to use them all in one cup.

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The bathroom was pretty basic with a bath rather than a walk in shower but had everything we needed and was clean and fresh.

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There was a restaurant situated just off the lobby and room service available 24 hours but we found it to be quite expensive. On the first night after a busy day visiting Keukenhof gardens we were too tired to go out looking for food so chose to order a takeaway, which the hotel didn’t seem to have a problem with.

The following morning we went to the Royalflora auction in Aalsmeer and the staff were really helpful in giving us directions, although during our stay there were some bus strikes going on so we chose to book an Uber so we didn’t end up stranded in an unfamiliar city.

We didn’t actually spend much time in the hotel but there is a fitness and wellness centre and a shop to pick up all those souvenirs you forgot on your travels.

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It was a comfortable stay, nothing quirky or particularly special but all that we would expect from a large hotel group.

 

 

Posted in London, Travel, Uncategorized

The Cumberland Hotel – Marble Arch

I mentioned in my post – 10 places to visit in London  that I have never had the opportunity to stay in a hotel in London as I have always lived here so it was something on my list of things to do this year. We decided that Valentines day would be the perfect time to have an overnight stay somewhere special so arranged a night at The Cumberland Hotel in Marble Arch.

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The Cumberland is situated right opposite Marble Arch at the end of Oxford Street so a great location to see all the landmarks of the West End and a perfect position if you are planning a shopping trip, I saw loads of people that seemed to be from overseas carrying large Primark bags so that is obviously a popular choice for tourists.

As you walk into the hotel you are greeted with a wide open lobby space, it does look nice but I got the feeling that it was a bit wasted with a seating area on one side and nothing on the other.

We were told that our room was on the sixth floor and that it had just recently been refurbished so we were keen to see what it looked like!

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The Cumberland is part of the Guoman chain of hotels and has over 1000 rooms. The hallways seem to go on forever and I could easily get lost in here after drinking one too many! When we reached our room we were pleased to see it was nice and spacious and looked very clean and comfortable. It was a bit chilly but we soon worked out how to set the air conditioning on to heat the room up although this was quite loud so didn’t keep it on for too long.

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The room did have everything we needed (there was coffee in the drawer) but I felt it lacked a bit of character, this might be because it was just refurbished but it seemed to suit someone that was just staying over on business and didn’t have any personal touches.

The one thing I was most disappointed about was that I was imagining a long soak in a bubble bath with music playing (imagine Julia Roberts in Pretty woman but without the prostitution) only to find that there was no bath! There was a shower that squirted water from different directions but I actually almost froze to death being squirted with cold water while I worked out how to use it. It was also a shame that the view just overlooked other windows in the hotel as I imagine you could see some pretty interesting things along Oxford Street at night.

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Although the rooms seem to lack any sort of decoration, there was loads of pieces of art to see around the hotel. On our stroll down to breakfast, which was actually quite a walk, we admired the surroundings of the space which included sculptures and charcoal drawings.

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When we eventually reached the dining space we were shown to a table and told that the breakfast is self service and we could chose between cooked or continental. I must say there was so much on offer and I imagined having a large cooked breakfast but as with any opportunity to eat as much as I like I suddenly don’t have a very large appetite! I opted for pastries and muffin with waffles and pancake on the side, while the OH (who is currently a vegetarian) had scrambled eggs with mushrooms and beans which he enjoyed so much he went back for seconds.

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We had a really good sleep, the room was comfy, the amazing choice of breakfast was great and we enjoyed our time at The Cumberland but it felt a bit too basic to be a four star establishment, I feel like that little something special was missing.

Prices for The Cumberland are currently from £129 a night, we were lucky enough to get a friend and family discount as my daughter’s boyfriend works there (it’s not what you know, it’s who and all that!)

We would love to compare some other hotels in London, where is your favourite place to stay in the capital?

Posted in Lifestyle, London, Photography, Travel, Uncategorized

Photography project – Haymarket Hotel

You may have seen my last post Boogie bounce with My PFF app where I attended an event at the Haymarket Hotel. In between bouncing around on trampolines, eating delicious food and talking about light bladder weakness, I managed to pop out and take some photos of the swanky interior at the hotel.

I loved the mix of traditional sculptures and ornamental vases with more modern pieces and quirky décor, particularly the fish wallpaper in the toilet! I did have a look around one of the bedrooms but I didn’t have my camera with me at the time so you will have to take my word for how luscious it was.

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I really liked the way each part of the hotel had a different style and there were so many little cosy nooks where I could imagine curling up with a good book, even this chair in the toilet looks inviting! Maybe one day I will get to try out an overnight stay!

Posted in Travel, Uncategorized

Sofitel hotel Paris

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During our recent trip to Paris we stayed at the luxury Sofitel Hotel which is part of the Accor hotel group and has more than 120 hotels worldwide.

When visiting a city for a short space of time I don’t think the hotel is much of an importance because most of the time is spent outside exploring but as it was my birthday the OH decided that I deserved a treat. (It’s true, I did!)

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The hotel is situated in the La defense area of Paris and although it wasn’t too far from the metro station it was quite difficult to find and we had to ask a local to guide us.

On entering the hotel we were faced with a very distinctive smell, it wasn’t unpleasant but was quite overpowering, probably came from a plant. The reception area looked really cosy and colourful but there didn’t seem to be many people around. As the receptionist went over all the details I was preoccupied with taking photos, well you know, priorities! We were given a card to use in the lifts and for our room but on first use it didn’t work so we had to go back and change it.

When we finally got in there, we were really impressed with the comfort and style of the room. I did have to question whether I really wanted to see the sights of Paris after all when I could just put my feet up and have a relaxing break… no such luck!

The room had a large TV, music system and a fully stocked fridge which we steered clear of! We were told we could have coffee and tea but unfortunately we couldn’t  get the coffee machine to work.

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344A4016The bed was one of the comfiest I have ever slept in and I didn’t want to get out of it but with the sun shining through the window (we were expecting rain) we were eager to get out and see the sights and to buy some coffee.

The bathroom was lovely and I liked that it had a speaker in the ceiling so you could listen to music while in the bath, although it scared the life out of me when I went to the toilet and the OH put the TV on, all of a sudden there was a mans voice in the toilet with me!

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344A4019No hotel room is complete without a giant mirror to take selfies into!

344A4023We were up on the sixth floor and had a nice view of the business district, La Defense is full of interesting architecture and artwork so has become a popular part of Paris for tourist to visit, there are also lots of other hotels around the area.

344A4015As it was a quick visit we didn’t have a chance to check out any other facilities in the hotel. There was a bar and restaurant right next to the reception but on the first night we had already booked a table at La Grand Bistro which was a few stops away on the metro and the second day we were out visiting the town for the whole day so we didn’t use it.

Overall we had a pretty positive experience at Hotel Sofitel and would consider visiting another of their hotels in the future…Dubai would be nice 😉