My hOtel: Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills

myhotel

Sometimes good things happen to good people. I do my best ‘all the time’ to be a good girl – and every now and then you to get a reward in the form of an exceptional hotel stay. I can’t tell you how much I was looking forward to visiting the Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills and, more importantly, how much I look forward to going back.

Welcome to LA, baby!

Welcome to LA, baby!

Pre-Arrival

–          Was there any pre-arrival communication by the hotel with myself via email or social media?

There was indeed and a significant amount over the months that preceded my stay.

–          Did I try to engage the hotel via Twitter? Did the hotel interact with me and made me feel welcome/special?

Oh God yes – not just the hotel’s social media team, but also (and especially) its Marketing Director (the fab @luxehotelier) who was delighted to have me stay.

–          Has the hotel tried to gather any personal information (e.g. preferences) prior to my stay?

Indeed – all small little things that really made for an incredible stay.

Arrival

The lobby at Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills

The lobby at Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills

–          The wow factor! What was the hotel decor style?

The Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills is a classic hotel, and decorated in a very classic style – chic but not over the top. Lovely, really.

–          How quick and efficient was the hotel check-in?

As I walked in the hotel, I was welcomed by Greg Velazquez, Director of Marketing and Manolo Christ, the Director of Guest Services. I was quickly checked-in at the desk and escorted to my room by Manolo. It was quick, efficient and painless.

–          Was I addressed by name once reservation has been located? (it is all about the small details, some others are outstanding with this, and I love it, like I do when I board an airplane)

Absolutely, and this happened throughout my (sadly) short stay. It was quite interesting that people knew my name at the bar.. more on that later.

–          Did I get an upgrade from my confirmed pre-booked room type?

I did indeed – from a deluxe to a beautiful suite with great views over the city.

–          Did I feel genuinely welcomed by the hotel staff?

In true Four Seasons style, everything and everyone was fantastic. If there is something that sets this chain apart from others, I have to say, it is the consistency of the service. Everyone smiles, tries to genuinely help – no one is indifferent.

–          Luggage – how many people did I have to tip before the luggage made it safely to my room? This is cultural, I know

Well, we had packed for months, really, and the luggage was taken to our room after we checked-in. We were asked if we needed help unpacking, which we declined.

–          Wi-fi – was I told anything about it? Was there a charge?

Basic WiFi is free to registered guests and easy to log in with your room number and surname. It didn’t kick us out throughout our stay, which is always a nice plus. There is an option to purchase high-speed wi-fi.

Room Experience

My beautiful Executive Suite

My beautiful Executive Suite

–          First impressions – décor, size and wow factor

Our room was lovely – the décor is classic and a bit old Hollywood, but it was perfect for the location. We had a lovely living room with a balcony, a compact but very comfortable bedroom and a great bathroom. I noticed that the bathroom was not ‘inside’ the bedroom, but then there was light. This is LA, you are bound to entertain people in the suite.. why would you want them to go through your private bedroom?

–          Welcome amenity

Well well well… I have to say that I got an amenity and a half. Greg (oh Greg, no other hotel will ever compare to this) knows I love lychee cocktails. The whole world knows. But what did Greg and the team do? Set up all the ingredients so that Mr. O could mix us the ‘Mrs. O Lychee Cosmo’. We also had some chocolate – everything you see is edible. Lovely indeed.

12pm was a bit early to get started on the cocktails, so we waited until after 5pm – wasn’t easy to resist, but it was the right thing.

The tastiest welcome amenity ever...

The tastiest welcome amenity ever…

–          The bed

Was great. Uber comfortable and the pillows were to die for. Can’t fault it in any way.

–              Closet/Wardrobe – proper hangers or those annoying ones where you need a PhD to get them out one by one? This is a personal pet peeve of mine. I can’t stand them.

We had a wardrobe with obviously ‘normal’ human hangers. I had a bit of fun locating the laundry bag, which turned out was in the bedroom on one of the chests.

–          Iphone Charger/Dock

Yes, for iPhone 4 and we also had an iPad, where we could access all the hotel’s services. I didn’t play with it too much – I had to leave some things for when I go back.

–          Bathrobes and slippers

Of course.

–          Coffee and Tea

To be honest, I didn’t check – as I said before, it is something that really doesn’t matter to me. I am pretty sure I could call and get it sent over anytime. I only had eyes for the ‘Mrs. O’s lychee cosmo’.

One thing I love, is a balcony - makes a huge difference to me. And we had some great views!

One thing I love, is a balcony – makes a huge difference to me. And we had some great views!

–          Free bottled water

Yes indeed, and replenished at turn-down service.

–          Magazine selection – had some nice surprises and doesn’t happen often enough!

Quite a few options and quite readable – Travel + Leisure, Town & Country and Angeleno. Sadly, I didn’t have time to read any.

–          Power sockets in useful places – we have more and more devices and we know where we want them! By the bed, by the working area.

We didn’t have problems finding sockets near the bed.

Bathroom

Smart classic bathroom with a great shower and Bulgari amenities

Smart classic bathroom with a great shower and Bulgari amenities

–          First impressions – décor, size and wow factor

Again, in a classic style and very spacious. We had both a bath and a shower, which looked very inviting.

–              Bath, shower and taps – I am looking for Duravits and Hansgrohes (or other fab brands) around the world. How fab was the shower? And a little pet peeve.. was I able to operate the shower without asking Mr. O for help?

Everything was of the expected standard and the walk-in shower was very good indeed.

–          Towels – yes, please! How many and how soft and lovely?

Lovely and soft. And plenty.

–          Toiletries – own brand, super brand, baby ones or proper ones? I shall find out!

On this occasion, we had Bulgari toiletries which is always a nice touch.

–          Amenity kit – I don’t want more sewing kits thank you very much, but I will need a shower cap.

All there, no need for anything else.

–          Hairdryer – is it a human one, or just something stuck to a wall that only makes noise?

I saw it, and it looked proper – but I didn’t use it. I was in LA and went to have my hair done a couple of times while I was in town. I loved my LA hair.

Restaurant

The Cabana restaurant by the pool

The Cabana restaurant by the pool

We had a lovely lunch with Greg by the pool, which seemed quite busy as there was a big wedding party at the hotel. Needless to say, plenty of deliciously looking but über health conscious options – I went for the ‘indulgence’ menu options and loved the mahi mahi tacos and the spicy pulled chicken quesadillas. I would do bad things to eat those wonderful things again.

Bar

The Windows Lounge

The Windows Lounge

Oh my. We went out for dinner and drinks and expected to come back to the hotel and turn in early. That kind of didn’t happen – I must confess I wasn’t expecting the bar to be so lively. Pair that with some very good live music and dirty martinis and well, Mr. and Mrs. O had a very fun night out. I don’t remember the last time I danced until 2am (not to say I am not up at that time every now and then) – it was great fun.

Very dirty martinis... loved them!

Very dirty martinis… loved them!

Breakfast

I would love to tell you how beautiful the breakfast room was, but I never saw it. (hint: I am coming back). After our late night, came a late and lazy morning, and that meant in-room breakfast. I loved how you could just order exactly what you wanted – and we didn’t want a feast at all. It was delivered timely and was delicious. (Cost for our selection: $50)

Yummy breakfast for 2 in our living room.

Yummy breakfast for 2 in our living room.

General thoughts

–          How good and reliable was the wi-fi?

Very good and we never had a problem.

–          Did the hotel interact with me via Twitter during my stay?

They did on the Friday I checked in, but not on the second day – only the following Monday, and have been in touch ever since.

–          Location

A great location in Beverly Hills, in a nice and quiet residential area, but minutes from everything.

–          Cost – rooms starting from…

Standard rooms start at $455, Executive suites (similar to mine) start at $755 and one-bedroom suites at $1,100 per night.

–          Would I recommend it to my best friend?

She was supposed to come with me on this trip, and that didn’t happen. This will show her what she missed (again, hint: coming back)

–          Would I stay again?

Would you believe me if I said no? Exactly. I loved my stay at the Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills and, without a doubt, will return.

Have you visited this hotel? What were your thoughts?

xo

Mrs. O

Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills during this stay, but hopefully you will see that this has not influenced my thoughts about the property. For more information about the hotel, visit its website.

The Luxury Travel Blog Network – October 2013 Edition

LTBN Luxury Travel Blog

It is official, Autumn is upon us – and that makes us long for cozy evenings indoors with log fires and a glass of red wine. Believe it or not, I tried to stretch summer to the fullest and even managed to get a bit of sun in California during October – I am mentally preparing myself for the new season.

The girls have been busy as well and obviously, travelling around the world in style.

Kim-Marie aka Luxury Travel Mom having fun with Wilson in Hawaii. I want her to adopt me too.

Kim-Marie Evans, my idol (I want to be like her when I grow up and have children) tells us this month of a little something she came up with (any excuse): whenever one of her children turn 10, she takes them away on a ‘trip’, just the two of them. My parents took us everywhere with them, but I never had a solo trip, per se – and I think it is a brilliant idea. On her latest trip, she took Wilson to Hawaii. No comment (lucky boy!)

Nadine Jolie also loved her stay at the Kensington Hotel in London

Nadine Jolie, the ultimate California girl, swapped places with yours truly. Yup. She came to London, while I went to LA – on the same dates. That made us meeting absolutely impossible. But worry not, while I was sunbathing and enjoying the California way of life, she was living it up in London and sleeping at the Kensington Hotel, one of my London’s hidden gems.

Katie in a luxury Disney Resort? Oh yes, apparently!

Katie, the powerhouse NYC lawyer who only rests at the world’s best beds, found luxury in an unexpected place – at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. It is funny how I just pictured Mickey Mouse helping you with your bags at a Disney resort, but it couldn’t be far from the truth. And the girl had fun!

As for me, I have been catching up with work and real life, before a busy November ahead – I shall get to Amsterdam and Madrid and cannot wait!

Wishing you a fab weekend.

xo

Mrs. O

My hOtel: The Kensington Hotel, London

myhotel

The stylish Kensington Hotel in London

The stylish Kensington Hotel in London

Located in, well, Kensington, one of London’s coolest and chicest neighbourhoods, The Kensington Hotel is the London flagship of Irish hotel group, the Doyle Collection. A hotel I got to know really quite well over the last year or so – I love long courtships and actually getting to know the places I visit not just in one go. A stay was long due at this great hotel (also part of the Kiwi Collection and Mr. and Mrs. Smith) – but I wanted this stay to be special. So guess what, why not celebrate my wedding and going out anniversary with Mr. O? Call it the Irish connection, if you will – it was just meant to be.

Pre-Arrival

–          Was there any pre-arrival communication by the hotel with myself via email or social media?

As I said before, the hotel has been engaging with me for almost a year – they are part of my London experience, a place I visit frequently, and with a great social media presence.

–          Did I try to engage the hotel via Twitter? Did the hotel interact with me and made me feel welcome/special?

Yes I did and so did the hotel. I love the hotel’s tone of voice on twitter and how it became part of my life – they share interesting content, really understand their guests (not just yours truly) and we often have great conversations. They follow and engage on my other trips at other hotels, it is a great example of hotel social media which you really don’t see very often.

–          Has the hotel tried to gather any personal information (e.g. preferences) prior to my stay?

The team knew it was our combined wedding and going out anniversary (both dates celebrated in the same week, but the stay coincided with the latter).

Arrival

A period property with very modern touches. Oh and those sexy Irish accents.

A period property with very modern touches. Oh and those sexy Irish accents.

–          The wow factor! What was the hotel decor style?

The hotel is set in a beautiful period building – think of it as the ultimate townhouse, white and immaculate. But as you walk in, you are surprised by a rush of colour, which makes it very warm and welcoming. And inviting.

–          How quick and efficient was the hotel check-in?

Very quick and efficient – I knew that the hotel was part of an Irish hotel group, but wasn’t expecting so many Irish accents during my experience. Having people say “Hello Mrs. O’Reilly” properly and often almost made me weak in the knees. I was told that I would be staying at the Brompton Suite and was escorted to the lift.

–          Was I addressed by name once reservation has been located? (it is all about the small details, some others are outstanding with this, and I love it, like I do when I board an airplane)

Oh my. Mrs. O was in “da house”. Throughout my whole stay, the whole attention to detail was spot-on – not too much, just right. And I noticed the same attention to other guests, many of them clearly repeat ones. Very interesting indeed.

–          Did I get an upgrade from my confirmed pre-booked room type?

I did not have a ‘confirmed room type’ and was delighted when I was told that the Brompton Suite was all ours.

–          Did I feel genuinely welcomed by the hotel staff?

Everyone was lovely – and not just the Irish. The hotel had a mix of nationalities which worked very well. More on sexy Italian accents later.

–          Luggage – how many people did I have to tip before the luggage made it safely to my room? This is cultural, I know

I had just an overnight bag which I was allowed to take into my room.

–          Wi-fi – was I told anything about it? Was there a charge?

 Yes and wi-fi is free for all guests. A good start.

Room Experience

Our very comfortable bedroom

Our very comfortable bedroom

–          First impressions – décor, size and wow factor

There is something about this hotel – and as I came across on a review website, it was described as ‘regal but ravishing’. I cannot find better words myself. Our suite had a good size and it felt so warm and comfortable, that we didn’t want to leave. The bedroom was really well-appointed and uncluttered which is something I always appreciate.

–          Welcome amenity

Welcome number one - water, fruit (fresh and dried) and chocolates...

Welcome number one – water, fruit (fresh and dried) and chocolates…

I had not one, but two lovely welcome amenities. The first, we found in our suite’s lounge area – a modern interpretation of the traditional (and somewhat boring) fruit basket. The second, we found it our bedroom – and what a lovely surprise. It was a Mulberry luggage tag, for me to think of the team on my many travels. How sweet was that?

What a nice gesture. Thank you so much.

What a nice gesture. Thank you so much.

–          The bed

The bed was large – proper kingsize, and quite comfortable. The bed linen was also lovely – my only comment is that, strangely, there was no mattress topper, so you could actually feel the edges of the mattress. The next day, I mentioned this to Becky, the über fab new GM (seriously lovely person), who took note and did say that the hotel would be soon replacing all beds.

–          Closet/Wardrobe – proper hangers or those annoying ones where you need a PhD to get them out one by one? This is a personal pet peeve of mine. I can’t stand them.

All good in this department. We had a good-sized wardrobe, which came as it should!

–          Iphone Charger/Dock

There was an iPhone 4 dock, which I couldn’t use (because I have an iPhone 5!)

–          Bathrobes and slippers

All lovely and soft – but we didn’t use.

Our Suite lounge

Our Suite lounge

–          Coffee and Tea

We had a nespresso in the lounge, which we did not use either.

–          Free bottled water

We had bottled water as part of our amenity but also some extra bottles at turn-down. Worth noting that in the lounge, we had a port and whisky decanter and lots of chocolates. I was a good girl and resisted temptation, just…

–          Magazine selection – had some nice surprises and doesn’t happen often enough!

It was really quite good – Wallpaper and Vogue for me and GQ and Golf Magazine for Mr. O.

–          Power sockets in useful places – we have more and more devices and we know where we want them! By the bed, by the working area.

We didn’t have huge problems finding power sockets as there were some by the bed (on one of the sides).

Bathroom

I loved the bathroom!

I loved the bathroom!

–          First impressions – décor, size and wow factor

The bathroom was amazing – huge, very well-appointed and with great natural light.

–          Bath, shower and taps – I am looking for Duravits and Hansgrohes (or other fab brands) around the world. How fab was the shower? And a little pet peeve.. was I able to operate the shower without asking Mr. O for help?

The bath was beautiful (I loved the petals we found when we came back to the room after dinner), and the shower was outstanding – really really good.

–          Towels – yes, please! How many and how soft and lovely?

The towels were good and we had lots.

–          Toiletries – own brand, super brand, baby ones or proper ones? I shall find out!

I adore Aromatherapy Associates and was delighted to find it at the hotel, not just in the rooms but also in all common areas. The products were midsize, i.e. not baby and not normal sized.

–          Amenity kit – I don’t want more sewing kits thank you very much, but I will need a shower cap.

We had everything we needed.

–          Hairdryer – is it a human one, or just something stuck to a wall that only makes noise?

I didn’t use it this time, but it seemed proper.

The Bar

Cocktail Magic at the Aubrey Doyle

Cocktail Magic at the Aubrey

Before dinner, we were in for a treat: cocktails. Of course you heard me right! I had tried Alessandro’s delicious cocktails before and couldn’t wait to go back for more. We were taken on a journey around the world and time – it was great fun talking about and tasting some of Alessandro’s special ingredients which he brings from Italy. This gentleman is an award-winning mixologist and I promise you will be in for a great evening. A great host, it was great to see him experiment and just come up with fabulous concoctions just based on simple questions ‘you like gin?’ (duh!), ‘you like ginger?’ (it is growing on me, let’s go for it).

Dinner

The smart but very comfortable Aubrey restaurant

The smart but very comfortable Aubrey restaurant

On this night, we stayed for dinner – and what a good decision it was. I must say I was incredibly surprised how busy the hotel common areas were. I know the hotel was close to capacity but it was lovely to see so many people enjoying the Drawing Room, the bar and the restaurant – the turnaround was quite impressive too. I went all Irish, I must say – how could I not? Give me Irish rock oysters, Dublin Bay prawns, soda bread and a nice glass of Pouilly Fume and I am your girl. We really had a lovely meal and I will surely come back with friends.

Breakfast

The yummy Continental breakfast buffet

The yummy Continental breakfast buffet

–          Décor of breakfast room

Breakfast takes place at the restaurant, with slight layout changes. We actually had the same table for both dinner and breakfast and it felt totally different.

–          The spread (inc yumminess)

I cannot fault the continental breakfast – great bread (how could they not?), pastries, fresh fruit and juices, extremely well priced at £16pp. If you wanted anything from the cooked menu, which included eggs, waffles and kippers, the cost would be £21pp.

General thoughts

–          How good and reliable was the wi-fi?

The wifi worked very well and didn’t keep signing you in and out, which was lovely.

–          Did the hotel interact with me via Twitter during my stay?

Indeed they have, and we had a bit of fun.

–          Location

5 minutes walk from South Kensington Tube station, it was very easy to get to.

–          Cost – rooms starting from…

Rooms start at £180 on promotional rates (I saw a standard room and it was lovely), which is outstanding value for money, especially in London. Suites start at £500 per night.

–          Would I recommend it to my best friend?

Absolutely.

–          Would I stay again?

Without a doubt.

I really enjoyed my stay at The Kensington Hotel – it is quite a special property, a little bit of a hidden gem. The service was outstanding, but not too fussy – it just felt so comfortable, I cannot tell you. But the best bit? When someone *finally* said “Top of the morning to you”. Awwww

Have you visited this hotel? What were your thoughts?

xo

Mrs. O

Disclaimer: I was a guest of The Doyle Collection during this stay, but hopefully you will see that this has not influenced my thoughts about the property. For more information about the hotel, visit its official website.

My Flight: British Airways World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) on the new A380 – LAX to LHR

A review of British Airways World Traveller Plus - Premium Economy on the A380

A review of British Airways World Traveller Plus – Premium Economy on the A380

It has been a good 4 years since I last flew with British Airways in World Traveller Plus, aka Premium Economy, on a long haul journey. I pretty much do everything I can in order to fly in Business Class (Club World),  or even First (but possibly just a couple of times a year), but this time it wasn’t meant to be (or planned).

Nonetheless, I was quite excited (or kept telling myself ‘it was OK’) – for one single reason: I was to fly in the new A380, which had been on its maiden voyage under two weeks before.

Here’s how my Los Angeles – London Heathrow flight went.

A lovely big mamma!

A lovely big mamma!

Check-in

All flights from LAX depart from the Tom Bradley International Terminal. As a British Airways Gold Executive Club card holder (OneWorld Emerald), I get to check-in at any First counter, which is a lovely perk, irrespective of the class I fly. There was one passenger being served and as soon as he was done, we were next. Wait time: 3 minutes. Check-in was efficient and the lady who helped us was lovely and was really quite excited about the A380 – ‘do you know it is ‘the flight’ to get from LA, right? It is the new plane!’. I did indeed and that is why we booked this flight (and 500 of our closest friends). ‘Any chance we could have an upgrade?’, I asked. ‘I am sorry madam, but the flight is fully booked’. Worth a try, anyway!

 

Security

We used the fast-track lane at the terminal, which is a little bit of a joke as it only fast tracks you to the TSA agent checking your boarding pass and passport. You then merge with everyone else. Sadly, out of 6 lanes, only 2 were open – and I promise you, there must have been more than 20 agents manning them (or just walking around).

 

The Lounge

British Airways passengers use the OneWorld lounge which is located close to the security area. There are two lounges to use: Business (for Business Class, OneWorld Sapphire and BA Silver cardholders) and First (for First, OneWorld Emerald and BA Gold cardholders). We went into the latter for obvious reasons and got ‘the bonus’: a bit of celeb spotting. I never see anyone in my life (seriously), except on this lounge – and worry not, I behaved impeccably (it was so hard – think: cool band, lead singer, absolutely gorgeous and tall).

This lounge is quite nice (obviously not like BA’s lounges back at Heathrow) and the food selection was decent, for US standards – we had beef, pasta, vegetables, real cheese (wow) and some yummy cookies. The drinks selection was rather weird, but still with good wine but no champagne (only sparkling wine) and no ‘normal gin’ (only Bombay Dry). The restroom facilities were very good and the wi-fi was also working well – however, not enough power sockets, which made everyone move sofas in order to find some.

The magazine selection was poor but the newspapers were quite good – both US and UK.

The Flight

The new British Airways World Traveller Plus seat

The new British Airways World Traveller Plus seat

–          Welcome – we boarded the plane using the fast-track lane and took the escalators up to the 1st floor of the plane, where the World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) cabin is located. The A380 has two floors and you board directly to your designated area, so it is no different from a normal sized plane. Once on board, we were greeted by name ‘Welcome back, Mr. and Mrs. O’Reilly’, which is a nice touch if the crew member can spot your frequent flyer status. When we sat down, we were offered a glass of champagne or water, which surprised me – but obviously I didn’t say no. (I believe it was sparkling wine, and a very nice touch in this cabin – on the outbound flight the options were orange juice or water).

Getting in the mood, yes please!

Getting in the mood, yes please!

–          Amenities – on our seats, we found a pillow (loved the colour: it was grey!), a blanket and noise cancelling headphones. Weirdly, we did not have the little overnight amenity bag, which usually contains socks, eye-mask, ear plugs, toothbrush and paste and, guess what, a pen. I have only gotten a pen when I travelled on this cabin, years ago (and quite a few times since it has been introduced), which I find very handy. I actually asked the crew where this was, later on the flight, to be told that they weren’t loaded by the ground staff, which I found quite strange. I was asked if I needed anything, which she would get from another cabin and I requested a pair of Club earplugs (the best in the world, which I use on a daily basis and my friends kindly save them for me on their BA Club flights). It wasn’t a problem and the crew member was able to get them for me.

–          Drinks service – Prior to dinner, we had drinks and yours truly went for a G&T, as always, which was lovely. I was also given the choice to select the wine for dinner, and it was quite a moment when I asked which were the wine choices, which were ‘red or white’. I did smile (and thought it was a rather silly question as obviously I wasn’t in Club or First). I chose the red option.

Pre dinner Gin & Tonic and Dinner drinks

Pre dinner Gin & Tonic and Dinner drinks

–          In-flight dining – Things seemed promising when we were given a printed menu (I thought it was a really nice touch and wasn’t expecting it). But sadly, this was the most disappointing part of the flight (and interestingly, not so bad on the outbound flight to San Diego). There were some really good service elements – like a cloth napkin, proper cutlery, proper glasses and your own water bottle – but the way the meal was presented, with the foil covers, could seriously be improved. But in hindsight, it could have been for a reason. I wasn’t expecting foie gras or anything like that, but I was expecting a decent meal. The fillet wasn’t bad at all (if you removed the crust), and the rest was so bland, it was a real shame. Desert was as plastic as it looked. I tell you what, I was glad I ate dinner at the lounge.

My dinner on-board wasn't fab

My dinner on-board wasn’t fab

During the flight, the crew was very present (I was awake for most of it, by choice, worry not) and I didn’t go hungry, in case you were wondering! I loved the ice cream and the chocolates which were passed around the cabin. I may have even gone back for seconds. I missed my Club Kitchen but thought that these little touches were very good.

Breakfast sadly wasn’t much better – it did look OK, but the croissant was so hard, we just gave up. I must say that on the outbound flight we had lovely scones with jam and clotted cream. I would have loved those (even if at the wrong time of the day).

Our boxed breakfast

Our boxed breakfast

–          In-flight entertainment – this is where I went to town. I must fly with BA over 20 times per year every year and actually think the IFE selection is usually very good. Whoever picks them does a very good job (note: thank you for Veep. I can’t watch it in the UK but every month I can catch up onboard) and on this new plane, it was almost ridiculous. Very good choices indeed and I watched 4 films and all the Veep episodes (sense the obsession). The screen was much larger than on previous planes and the sound quality is very good – you gotta love new planes. The inflight map was also much more informative than previously and I must confess I am curious with the ‘chat room’ options available – will people really take part in them? I gave it a go but I was on my own… next time!

British Airways World Traveller Plus IFE system

British Airways World Traveller Plus IFE system

–          The seat – wasn’t bad at all. The pitch is significantly wider and larger than economy and the new seats are comfortable – the headrests are way better than before. What I think could be improved? There is very little leg support – only a teeny tiny footrest which doesn’t do the job on a 12h journey at all. I know I am comparing this to a fully flat-bed, and it may not be fair, but this is where I felt most uncomfortable. The first rows have different versions and they looked slightly better.

The British Airways World Traveller Plus seat, cabin and handy side storage areaThe British Airways World Traveller Plus seat, cabin and handy side storage area

The British Airways World Traveller Plus seat, cabin and handy side storage area

I loved the personal storage area by the window, perfect for any items you will need during the flight (so you don’t have to get up and disturb others), and also for any duty free shopping (selection is also better than ever – presence of Tanqueray Ten for £22 noted, thank you very much).

Final thoughts – Although I obviously prefer Club World (who doesn’t), I think this is a very clever product, which is being extended to many other airlines as we all know. I was pleased to see many service elements which really put it halfway between standard economy and business class – a smaller cabin (now larger on the A380, usually 4 rows only) which means a bit of peace and quiet, the printed menu, a bit of bubbles (always good for the soul), a proper napkin and cutlery and the personal storage space).

WTP Service Details

WTP Service Details

Service was very good – I can’t fault it in any way. Everyone smiled and tried to be helpful when needed. We felt welcomed and nothing was too much trouble – everything I expect from BA on any cabin, and I got it. The only downfall was the food, which I have to say it was way better on the flight from London to San Diego. The plane looked fab – the cabins (all of them) looked so smart, I can’t tell you. Even the loos were much more spacious.

World Traveller Plus can cost as little as £150 (each way, £300 return) on a flight from Europe to the USA – for that money, it is outstanding value, you do get what you pay for (and an extra piece of luggage, which is handy). But supply and demand change prices, as we all know, and seats can sell for more than £3,000 return. So if you usually travel in economy and fancy a treat, I would say do give premium economy a try – I did this 10 years ago and never went back. If the business cabins are shockingly expensive (as sometimes it happens – on my flight to San Diego, the difference between Premium and Business was £4,500 more, quite abnormal, but hey full plane, supply and demand!), you will surely survive a long haul flight on this cabin.

I still prefer *you know what*, but if that can’t be had every time, I will settle for this.

xo

Mrs. O

PS. To read my review of BA‘s First and Club cabins, just click here.

My hOtel: Rancho Valencia in San Diego, California

myhotel

I can’t tell you how excited I was to finally be in Southern California, a place we have been going back to, every year, for the past 8 years. But one of the places I was looking forward to the most? To get to the fab Rancho Valencia, 20 minutes north of San Diego in Rancho Santa Fe. Recommended by a lovely twitter follower (See? With an active community, advice goes both ways), it looked stunning. And I can tell you one thing… it did NOT disappoint! The only Relais & Chateaux in Southern California, Rancho Valencia has been on the sexiest hotel lists for years, especially after its recent renovation.

Southern California at its best. I adored Rancho Valencia.

Southern California at its best. I adored Rancho Valencia.

Pre-Arrival

–          Was there any pre-arrival communication by the hotel with myself via email or social media?

Everything was sorted via email and I was really excited to arrive.

–          Did I try to engage the hotel via Twitter? Did the hotel interact with me and made me feel welcome/special?

I did, and must confess it was difficult to get a response from the hotel at all. This changed on the second day of my stay, and over the weekend (which was quite interesting as most hotels ‘disappear’ on Saturdays and Sundays). Not the case here at all!

–          Has the hotel tried to gather any personal information (e.g. preferences) prior to my stay?

They did, but as usual, I had no special requests.

Arrival

Can't deny that these babies do make a statement!

Can’t deny that these babies do make a statement!

–          The wow factor! What was the hotel decor style?

Well, well, well. Arriving and seeing those fab cars parked by the entrance was well noted. Why? Because every guest at Rancho Valencia has the opportunity to drive a Porsche during their stay (on a first come, first served basis, obviously). You need insurance for this, and you need to bring your insurance details with you. We didn’t (as we don’t really carry them in Europe, where the cars are insured and not drivers), and being the weekend, we couldn’t really figure out a way to get some specific insurance to use in the USA (our rental car one obviously didn’t cover it). It was a shame we weren’t told this beforehand and if you do go, please check as it is certainly part of the experience.

–          How quick and efficient was the hotel check-in?

We were escorted by a team member to the reception, which was lovely and quiet. I love sit down check-ins and loved ours. We were also offered a glass of ice tea, which was very nice. We were also asked what time we would like turn-down service, which I thought it was really clever and useful – everyone has different schedules, and while some people have dinner at 6pm, I personally don’t, so turn-down at that time wouldn’t work for us.

–          Was I addressed by name once reservation has been located? (it is all about the small details, some others are outstanding with this, and I love it, like I do when I board an airplane)

Yes, Ms. Silva O’Reilly was our name during the stay, so we both got called this a lot, which was rather fun for Mr. O.

–          Did I get an upgrade from my confirmed pre-booked room type?

I did indeed. We were upgraded to a 1 bedroom king suite or casita.

–          Did I feel genuinely welcomed by the hotel staff?

Yes, throughout our stay, I must say people were lovely. This isn’t a big hotel, with roughly 50-something rooms so it does get quite personal.

–          Luggage – how many people did I have to tip before the luggage made it safely to my room? This is cultural, I know

As the casitas are all spread around the property as stand-alone rooms – they “don’t do corridors and halls at Rancho Valencia’ – we followed the hotel’s golf cart to our room and were helped by a staff member as we had an obscene amount of luggage.

–          Wi-fi – was I told anything about it? Was there a charge?

WiFi is complementary and worked very well during our stay.

Room Experience

Plenty of space for us at Rancho Valencia

Plenty of space for us at Rancho Valencia

–          First impressions – décor, size and wow factor

Wow wow wow. We had a lovely 1 bedroom suite with its own patio and jacuzzi. It was beautifully decorated and looked like the place one would never leave. And we hardly did.

–          Welcome amenity

We had a letter with a fruit basket and some water, which is always a nice touch. But a nice surprise? To have a whole drawer full of chocolates and snacks (replenished every day) as well as a complimentary mini-bar (non-alcoholic drinks only).

–          The bed

Our bedroom was lovely and the bed was a dream. It was a bit high for yours truly, requiring a little hop every time, which made it quite fun.

Our beautiful bedroom

Our beautiful bedroom

–          Closet/Wardrobe – proper hangers or those annoying ones where you need a PhD to get them out one by one? This is a personal pet peeve of mine. I can’t stand them.

We had a full closet, off the bathroom, with space for all our clothes and luggage. Everything was nice and tidy and actually away from the bedroom, which is a great idea.

–          Iphone Charger/Dock

The room had an iPhone 4 charger indeed, but something even better in this department.. wait a little bit ?

–          Bathrobes and slippers

They were wonderful and I used them for once, after showering and when retreating to my outdoor patio.

–          Coffee and Tea

Indeed – I didn’t use it, but checked it had a state of the art illy coffee maker.

A very well stocked complimentary mini-bar

A very well stocked complimentary mini-bar

–          Free bottled water

Water, and any soft drinks you would like (a good selection of over 10 different options) in the complimentary mini-bar. Waters were also replenished at turn-down service.

–          Magazine selection – had some nice surprises and doesn’t happen often enough!

We had 4 magazines to choose from, including Travel + Leisure and Food & Wine, plus some local magazines.

–          Power sockets in useful places – we have more and more devices and we know where we want them! By the bed, by the working area.

Oh yes! If you look at the photo of the bedroom above, you will see the lights on each bedside table. On each lamp, you could find 2 sockets, which were perfect for charging devices. Very clever indeed.

Bathroom

I adored our bathroom at Rancho Valencia

I adored our bathroom at Rancho Valencia

–          First impressions – décor, size and wow factor

I love bathrooms and this one certainly didn’t disappoint. Spacious and with great light, it looked fab!

–          Bath, shower and taps – I am looking for Duravits and Hansgrohes (or other fab brands) around the world. How fab was the shower? And a little pet peeve.. was I able to operate the shower without asking Mr. O for help?

The hotel has been recently renovated and everything was great. My only comment? It took a while to get the hot water going in the shower and I needed help from Mr. O to figure out the hot and cold. The shower head was OK, but could have done with a bit more power. What was really cool? The latest Toto loo (toilet). It did everything you could want.. except what you had to do yourself. I still feel very intimidated by these high-tech toilets and we did laugh at times when trying on the buttons, I must confess.

–          Towels – yes, please! How many and how soft and lovely?

Towels were lovely and plenty.

His and hers basins and a make-up station. Si, por favor.

His and hers basins and a make-up station. Si, por favor.

–          Toiletries – own brand, super brand, baby ones or proper ones? I shall find out!

Rancho Valencia uses Amala, a range especially designed for the hotel and its spa. I loved having handwash instead of soap (I do carry my own mini Molton Brown on longer trips as I really prefer it, and not so keen on having to open a new soap everyday..). Each basin had its own, which was a nice touch. I liked the shower gel but didn’t love the shampoo and conditioner.

–          Amenity kit – I don’t want more sewing kits thank you very much, but I will need a shower cap.

We had everything we needed.

–          Hairdryer – is it a human one, or just something stuck to a wall that only makes noise?

I used it and it was very good.

Breakfast

I loved the breakfast at Rancho Valencia. The perfect European and American mix

I loved the breakfast at Rancho Valencia. The perfect European and American mix

–          Décor of breakfast room

Breakfast takes place at the Veladora restaurant (see photo below) which is absolutely stunning.

–          The spread (inc yumminess)

Possibly one of the best breakfasts I ever had in the USA. I love both European-style and American-style meals, and must say that this was the perfect balance – certainly the Relais & Chateaux influence. The breakfast table was simple, but delicious – think mouth-watering crispy pastries, real bread, charcuterie and cheese, obviously cereal and cake and oh my, a new discovery: candied ginger (and other flavours).

–          Cost (I have seen a hotel charging €75 for breakfast – a tad much, maybe?)

The “breakfast table” costs $15 and for an extra $5 you can add a cooked to order pancakes, eggs, waffles etc. Other options available a la carte. Very interesting concept indeed.

Restaurant

The stunning Veladora restaurant - with a bit of Damien Hurst art at the back.

The stunning Veladora restaurant – with a bit of Damien Hurst art at the back.

We enjoyed a dinner at Veladora, and another at the Bar, the Pony Room. This one, more formal than the latter, was absolutely full at night – the restaurant and the bar attract a lot of locals which make it a very lively place (a nice and pleasant surprise for us). I loved the concept of “California coastal cuisine” and never thought I would have octopus carpaccio this side of the pond. I tell you what.. I did and I loved it. Simon and the team really looked after us.

Bar

The Pony Room

The Pony Room

We adored the Pony Room (and the uniforms!). A place where we spent a significant part of our time – for lunch (outdoors), one dinner and after dinner both nights, we loved the light bites selection (lobster slides, yes please!) and great cocktails. It was a really lively place and also with great music. A winner.

How could we not love this place?

How could we not love this place?

General thoughts

–          How good and reliable was the wi-fi?

The wifi was really quite good indoors and we didn’t have a problem at all.

–          Did the hotel interact with me via Twitter during my stay?

They did, while I was in the property and we had a bit of fun.

–          Location

Located 20 miles north of San Diego, a perfect base to explore the area. Also very close to Del Mar and Carlsbad (two words: Premium Outlets).

–          Cost – rooms starting from…

Double rooms start from $600 and the 1-bedroom casitas from $850 per night. Don’t forget that it may include the Porsche (subject to availability) during your stay.

Our casita's private patio and baby pool (aka jacuzzi)

Our casita’s private patio and baby pool (aka jacuzzi)

–          Would I recommend it to my best friend?

Without a doubt.

–          Would I stay again?

Absolutely. We loved Rancho Valencia. It was chic, understated and very relaxing.

Have you visited this hotel? What were your thoughts?

xo

Mrs. O

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Rancho Valencia during this stay, but hopefully you will see that this has not influenced my thoughts about the property. For more information about the hotel, visit its official website.

Lisbon, I missed you

It had been 6 months since my last trip to Lisbon, Portugal. I missed it so much – not just the city and the way of life, the light and the food. I missed my family and friends too. And obviously missed the sun.

So for a long weekend, which included a fab stopover in Alentejo and the Algarve, it was time to go back to my pretty hometown.

The first sight: the newly 'finished' Praca do Comercio

The first sight: the newly ‘finished’ Praca do Comercio

This time around, we stayed in a completely different part of town – and I have to tell you, what a nice change of scenery! The Mercy Hotel, located very close to Chiado and Bairro Alto was our home away from home, and its location completely changed our Lisbon experience. I did feel like a tourist, which was rather nice!

Lisbon is a pretty city, it really is!

Lisbon is a pretty city, it really is!

I love hotels (as you possibly know by now) – and what I love the most is how diverse they can be. Some people exclusively prefer boutique hotels, others only like chains – I like both. It is nice to see new projects opening up in town, and I must say I really liked this hotel. It was small and very personal, but the actual hotel product was good. Service was also very good (which is still one of my battles when I am in Portugal).

The very chic Mercy Hotel

The very chic Mercy Hotel

The room was lovely and spacious, the bathroom also very cool and black (which I love), but there was just a small but important detail: the hangers. Come on.. a sin according to Mrs. O’s hotel bible. The breakfast was great – and I loved the concept. The continental element of it is brought to your table and then eggs and fruit come later. Very nice and included in the room rate (we Portuguese know a thing or three about breakfast, that is all I can say).

On the next day, we did something quite different. I accepted Flytographer‘s challenge and decided to go for a walk around town with Mr. O. What was so special about it? We had Goncalo, Flytographer‘s photographer in Lisbon, with us.

I will take 3 glasses, por favor. Photo by Flytographer.

I will take 3 glasses, por favor. Photo by Flytographer.

I thought this was a great concept – you can hire a specially handpicked photographer in one of 50 locations around the world for 30 minutes, 1 or 2 hours. And you don’t pose, so it isn’t intrusive and you don’t really look silly. I loved my photos and they are, without a doubt, the best photos I have of yours truly and Mr. O in Lisbon.

I love these. Photo by Flytographer.

I love these. Photo by Flytographer.

Fun or what? Photo by Flytographer.

Fun or what? Photo by Flytographer.

It was lovely to go back to Lisbon for a day or so – with friends and family to see, I always find myself going between meals (this is how we meet!) and not really sure where time goes. I really hope I can visit soon, as no matter where I go in the world, it is still one of my favourite places ever.

And before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye to Lisbon.

And before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye to Lisbon.

But worry not, I am pretty sure I will be back.

Ate breve.

xo

Mrs. O

Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Mercy Hotel (room rates starting at $200 per night) and also of Flytographer (30 minute sessions starting at $200), and both were great experiences. Please visit their websites for more information.

Ice, Ice, baby by @devonone

Lynsey is possibly one of the best PR professionals I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and working with, and over time has become a very good friend of mine. Go is her verb and we have been to quite a few places together – and worry not, there will be plenty more. Lynsey has recently been on a trip of a lifetime, organised by one of her clients, Quark Expeditions. A born adventurer (the opposite of yours truly), she was so looking forward to this 2-week expedition, she couldn’t wait. For a significant part of the trip, we couldn’t follow her – but Quark’s team made sure we knew it was OK. It was strange to live without Lynsey in real life and on twitter for two weeks – it was quiet, I must say. I had to ask her to share this trip with us – you will see why in a moment. Xo, Mrs. O

As I rested on the shores of Reykjavik at Harpa, Reykjavik’s spectacular new music hall on the harbor, I immersed myself in contemporary Scandinavian architecture in the blazing August sun. My embarkation time was approaching and like a game of peekaboo, a large sign offering me a fishing trip was skewing my view of the ship I was about to start my adventure on. I finally spotted the sleek expedition vessel that was going to be my home for the next two weeks and rushed forth.

Iceland - which way now?

Iceland – which way now?

Like most people, I have a bucket list of things I want to do before I die, and one has always been to visit Greenland – the final frontier of Europe. I am a mountain girl who loves snow and ice but not really one to slum it or cruise. To me, Greenland has always held an illusion of being a mystical land where people live and work with the elements. When I told friends and family where I was off to with Quark Expeditions – the leader in polar adventures, most looked at me in bemusement: “Why, what will you see, it’s Green and don’t they live in igloos!”

The Sea Spirit

The Sea Spirit

At length, I explained that I was off to learn about the culture of the Greenlanders, get close up and personal with the ice whilst staying on the well-appointed Sea Spirit . The ship was previously used exclusively in Quark’s Antarctic season, so being smaller appealed to me, it boasts larger “suite-sized” cabins, in addition to private facilities and exterior views in every cabin. The hot tub on the back deck was a place to relax after a day of kayaking or as I have now learnt, paddling from my Kayak leader.

Whilst the food served three times a day in the formal dining room was appealing, tasty and stylish, the bar at night was open when one needed bubbles. The Expedition Crew led by Alex o’Neil, a very charming, silent but powerful type of Expedition leader from Canada with the Ship’s Captain’s Peter and Oleg took us on an expedition to places that would involve new encounters, which were exciting and magical.

Alex O Neiil

Alex O Neiil

With 80 clients onboard the ship, there were 18 different nationalities from the USA to Australia, from all walks of life. The husband whose wife refused to come on such an adventure, to a family of three who live down the road from me in the UK and, of course, we were rubbing shoulders with multi -millionaires staying in the rather lovely Captain’s suite. The promise of new experiences bonded us all together.

I am not one for sitting still and Mrs. O can vouch for that, so I opted to join the kayak team, eager for my first adventure. Just eight of us, we were a small knit community with an Israeli retired pediatrician, a 17-year-old fun loving California dude who was a cool addition to the team, Scott and Judy from the States, Karl from New Mexico and the lovely calm Canadian Laura and Jim.

Kayak time

Kayak time

We were on the deck ahead of schedule dressed in brand new fashionable dry suits ready for action. After a relaxed zodiac ride along the coast we kayakers disembarked in to our plastic boats. A quick team photo and the group began exploring the northern coast of Skoldungenfjord. Steep rock cliffs were littered with the 20cm tall Greenland willow forest. Black lichens speckled the rocks and we were granted a true sense of scale as we navigated along the coastline. The headwind challenged the group’s paddling abilities, but perseverance and muscle reigned as we pushed across wind and swell. A few small icebergs dotted the waters and I enjoyed getting up close and personal with bergy bits; even eating them and bringing a piece of 10,000 year old ice back to the ship for the vodka and tonic!

Vodka ice

Vodka ice

Alas a second exploration was in order, so we paddlers left our boats with Dangerous Dave the zodiac driving guru and ventured on to land to check out the abandoned village. It was a great start to the voyage-kayaking program with the vixen of a kayak leader Val Lubrik. Chatting with Val she was impassioned about why this is such a fab trip. Our people make the difference. The staff are passionate professional and diverse with a strong sense of adventure and fun. They come from around the world and truly enjoy what they do. Their passion and energy are contagious. Quark Expeditions make the most of every available opportunity. And because they are specialised in that they reach the far to go places that are off the beaten track and the secret hideaways known only by experienced staff and Expedition teams. The ships are well sized offering an intimate experience and the opportunity for good fun and learning with staff and other guests.

Quiet contemplation

Quiet contemplation

On day three, the original itinerary showed a transit of Prins Christian Sund. The excitement started on our approach, when the first narrow part of the entrance was seemingly blocked by a large iceberg. There was only a narrow gap between the iceberg and a small island holding us from either making it into the sound or having to turn back out into 40km winds outside to the Denmark Straits. After assessing current (we were luckily going into the current, and did not have it behind us), soundings, and the composition of the ice, Captain Oleg decided it was safe to proceed. It was an incredible feat of navigation and all of the passengers cheered as we cleared the passage and entered the fjord.

Steve, Leo and Lynsey - The Kingston possey

Steve, Leo and Lynsey – The Kingston possey

Everything we were able to do far exceeded even my own expectations for this voyage. The passenger energy was high. No one really knew what to expect. The expedition was billed as the Greenland Explorer – Enjoy culture and fascinating wildlife on the same trip. What is most apparent is the size of the natural features with imposing glaciers and deep fjords, nature is still champion in this land and the Greenland Explorer itinerary allows travellers to get to grips with this. But beyond the natural richness of the lands there is also a focus on the history of inhabitants and their culture with visits to settlements of varying sizes through the cruise. When visiting these towns and villages it is the churches and the historical sites that are focussed on providing a cultural experience. The capital of Greenland, Nuuk, has been a settlement since 2200BC.

What did we achieve in two weeks:

  • 7 Community visits
  • Polar Plunge
  • Furthest North 69’49’N
  • 10 Lectures
  • 47 species of birds and mammals
  • Yes – whales!
  • 8 Different kinds of local cuisine
  • 4 Unsounded bays
  • 9 Kayak Excursions
  • 2,314 NM Travelled 4,300kms
  • 8 Hikes
  • 2,678 Eggs Consumed
  • 2 Captains!
  • Helicopter ride across Ilulissat UNESCO World Heritage site and the Polar cap
  • 64 different wildflowers
  • Crossing the Arctic circle
  • 2 sets of Northern lights
  • Arctic BBQ
Helicopter at the top of the world

Helicopter at the top of the world

All I can say is get to Greenland, the final frontier of Europe for the most amazing adventure and with Quark Expeditions you can do it in a small luxury vessel.
Next year I hope to go again to try out: In the Footsteps of Franklin: Greenland & Canada’s High Arctic.

Lynsey

Disclaimer and Fact Box: Lynsey was a guest of Quark Expeditions on this trip. The upcoming “Footsteps of Franklin: Greenland & Canada’s High Arctic” trip starts from £3,865 per person for 12 nights (13 days) with three meals a day, one night accommodation pre and post ship in Reykjavik and Toronto, all inclusive beverages, shore landings and on-board lectures in August and September. For more information visit Quark Expeditions website.

My hOtel: One Aldwych, London

myhotel

Located at, well, One Aldwych, very close to Covent Garden and the Strand, this has been a hotel which I have been very keen to review. Why? A member of the Leading Hotels of the World, and truly one of a kind, the One Aldwych is known for its impeccable design and attention to detail. How was my stay? Let’s find out, shall we?

The One Aldwych in London

The One Aldwych in London

Pre-Arrival

–          Was there any pre-arrival communication by the hotel with myself via email or social media?

My stay was organised via email and I must state how keen the hotel has been to have me over for months now. It was just a matter of finding a suitable date! The team that handled the correspondence with me was outstanding – I really felt welcome before I even arrived.

–          Did I try to engage the hotel via Twitter? Did the hotel interact with me and made me feel welcome/special?

I did try and got a few tweets, but mostly after my stay (or on the morning when I woke up at the hotel). It was still nice.

–          Has the hotel tried to gather any personal information (e.g. preferences) prior to my stay?

Not really, but there was no real need.

There is nothing like a good entrance.. is there?

There is nothing like a good entrance.. is there?

Arrival

he very modern lobby. Hello!

he very modern lobby. Hello!

–          The wow factor! What was the hotel decor style?

The hotel has a fabulous building and I did get a lovely welcome. The decor of the lobby is fab and very sleek. I checked in at around 6pm, so the bar was quite busy and had a great vibe.

–          How quick and efficient was the hotel check-in?

I was escorted by the doorman to the check-in desk and had a very quick check-in.

–          Was I addressed by name once reservation has been located? (it is all about the small details, some others are outstanding with this, and I love it, like I do when I board an airplane)

Absolutely. The lady who checked me in was lovely and escorted me (and other guests) to the lift, which is always a nice touch.

The reception area, tucked in from the main bar

The reception area, tucked in from the main bar

–          Did I get an upgrade from my confirmed pre-booked room type?

I did indeed. The Dome Suite was all mine!

–          Did I feel genuinely welcomed by the hotel staff?

I thought the service overall was very attentive and quite relaxed. The hotel had a great “vibe” and when you needed someone, they were there.

–          Luggage – how many people did I have to tip before the luggage made it safely to my room? This is cultural, I know

I only had an overnight bag with me and was able to take it to the room without a problem.

–          Wi-fi – was I told anything about it? Was there a charge?

Wifi is complimentary and worked well during my stay.

Room Experience

A room with a London view

A room with a London view

–          First impressions – décor, size and wow factor

The Dome suite was indeed lovely! A great bedroom, a massive living room and a great looking dining room… under a dome. It was a rainy day, sadly, but the views were quite impressive still.

–          Welcome amenity

As a welcome amenity I had four pretty macaroons. Needless to say, they didn’t last very long.

–          The bed

Our bed was absolutely fantastic and very comfortable. Also loved the Frette bedlinen. I slept really well!

–          Closet/Wardrobe – proper hangers or those annoying ones where you need a PhD to get them out one by one? This is a personal pet peeve of mine. I can’t stand them.

Proper closet and hangers, no issues.

The sitting room in the Dome Suite

The sitting room in the Dome Suite

–          Iphone Charger/Dock

There was an iPhone sound system in the living room, which was great. No need for actual chargers… and you will see why in a minute.

–          Bathrobes and slippers

They were all there but I didn’t use them.

–          Coffee and Tea

The suite had a great “big bar” area – one can’t call it a mini bar with full size drinks and obviously a nespresso.

Yummy macaroons and good magazines!

Yummy macaroons and good magazines!

–          Free bottled water

Yes, left during turn-down service

–          Magazine selection – had some nice surprises and doesn’t happen often enough!

It was very good indeed. Have a look at the photo above.

–          Power sockets in useful places – we have more and more devices and we know where we want them! By the bed, by the working area.

Best "by-the-bed" socket arrangement I have ever seen. Noted, One Aldwych.

Best “by-the-bed” socket arrangement I have ever seen. Noted, One Aldwych.

Best power socket situation I have seen in a hotel – located on each side of the bed, it is fair to say we were totally charged up.

Bathroom

It is all about the details at One Aldwych

It is all about the details at One Aldwych

–          First impressions – décor, size and wow factor

To be honest, this is where I was a bit disappointed. The bathroom didn’t match the rest of the hotel standards. It was OK, but honestly it wasn’t fab.

–          Bath, shower and taps – I am looking for Duravits and Hansgrohes (or other fab brands) around the world. How fab was the shower? And a little pet peeve.. was I able to operate the shower without asking Mr. O for help?

We had a bath and a tiny shower, which wasn’t great.

–          Towels – yes, please! How many and how soft and lovely?

Lots and all Frette. Lovely.

–          Toiletries – own brand, super brand, baby ones or proper ones? I shall find out!

We had large sizes of Plantation toiletries which I had never come across. They smelled nice!

–          Amenity kit – I don’t want more sewing kits thank you very much, but I will need a shower cap.

It was very good and I loved the clear bag for flying. It came home with us.

–          Hairdryer – is it a human one, or just something stuck to a wall that only makes noise?

There was a proper looking hairdryer, but I did not use it.

Breakfast

The Indigo Restaurant where breakfast is served

The Indigo Restaurant where breakfast is served

–          Décor of breakfast room

Breakfast is served at the Indigo Restaurant which was actually very nice and airy. It was quite busy when we arrived, but we quickly got a table.

–          The spread (inc yumminess)

Made-to-order omelette for breakfast

Made-to-order omelette for breakfast

There is no buffet at all (which isn’t a bad thing). You have breakfast a la carte – either continental (where all the items are brought to the table) or you can order a la carte including obviously cooked items.

–          Cost (I have seen a hotel charging €75 for breakfast – a tad much, maybe?)

This was also an interesting surprise. Continental breakfast started at £16 and would include all your breakfast drinks. If you went a la carte, all items could be individually ordered and priced.

The breakfast was lovely but it did take a while to be served, which can be a problem if you are in a hurry.

Bar

Make mine an El Coco, por favor!

Make mine an El Coco, por favor!

Oh yes, I had to try the cocktails and must report they were excellent. My choice for the day was an El Coco, which was heavenly. The cocktail menu was really quite impressive. I will surely go back for cocktails again – maybe a post-theatre one?

Restaurant

The Axis Restaurant at One Aldwych

The Axis Restaurant at One Aldwych

The next day,  I had lunch at Axis, the hotel’s restaurant. Led by chef Dominic Teague, I enjoyed a fab meal. We were the only guests there on the day, which was quite unusual, but actually very nice. The restaurant is usually quite busy (I have been told).

I really liked watching Celebrity Masterchef recently, where the finalists were sent to One Aldwych to make afternoon tea. I was like “oh, I met the chef!”.

General thoughts

–          How good and reliable was the wi-fi?

Not a single issue.

–          Did the hotel interact with me via Twitter during my stay?

They did a little on the second day.

–          Location

It is a very good location for work and play, in my opinion. Also good public transportation around. Worked for me really well.

–          Cost – rooms starting from…
One Aldwych rooms are from £250 excluding VAT and breakfast. The Dome Suite costs from £865 per night excluding VAT and breakfast.
–          Would I recommend it to my best friend?

I would without a problem.

–          Would I stay again?

Absolutely. Mrs. O approved indeed.
Have you visited this hotel? What were your thoughts?

xo

Mrs. O

Disclaimer: I was a guest of One Aldwych during this stay, but hopefully you will see that this has not influenced my thoughts about the property. For more information about the hotel, visit its official website.

The Luxury Travel Blog Network – September 2013 Edition

LTBN Luxury Travel Blog

Oh my, where has the summer gone? I really do not know! But one thing I loved: that there was a whole two months of it in the UK, where I live. And I loved it! I have been on a few trips – but I tried hard to actually stay in the UK where I had a bit of fun. I had a lovely time in Hampshire, went to the beach in England for the first time in Devon and then managed to escape to Alentejo, in Portugal for a long weekend.

So where have the other fab Luxury Travel Blog Network ladies been up to? You are in for a treat!

This looks very nice to me...

This looks very nice to me…

Kim-Marie, aka Luxury Travel Mom was dragged to Sarasota in Florida, which doesn’t look too shabby, in my opinion. Could have been all the Ritz-Carlton love she had. Lucky girl! You can read about her trip, right here.

Not so innocent milk and cookies...

Not so innocent milk and cookies…

Katie, from Travel Panties, stayed local, in NYC (a fab city I had the pleasure to visit again this summer). She visited one of our favourite haunts, aka the Four Seasons NYC and discovered that this could certainly become her new favourite hangover brunch place. I believe her…Go ahead and read this review, but not if you are hungry. You have been warned.

I like the look of this Chateau in Quebec

I like the look of this Chateau in Quebec

Last but not the least, well, Nadine Jolie did not get engaged again (that was last month, and in Paris.. can you believe it?). She kept her French up to date as she went to Quebec, in Canada and wow, this Fairmont is quite pleasing to the eye, n’est-ce pas?

As for me, I am heading to California next week, and seriously cannot wait. I will be away for almost two weeks (like a normal person) and really looking forward to it.

If you want to enjoy this article properly, do it with some champagne. You did read the fab beginners guide that Champagne Jayne wrote just for us, didn’t you?

xo

Mrs. O

The best airport lounge in the world… does it exist?

I have been thinking about this topic for a while – i.e. what makes the best airport lounge, as I feel it is quite important and relevant for frequent travellers. A while ago, I asked my readers what their thoughts were on airline loyalty programmes – it did make for a very lively debate. It was extremely interesting to see how obviously our home airport conditions our choices and preferences but ultimately, there were a lot of strong opinions – favourite airlines, favourite alliances.

Recently, I have started a series about luxury hotel reviews, appropriately named ‘My hOtel’. Why? Because after I started another debate on what people really want, expect, love and hate about luxury hotels, the floodgates opened. I don’t care much about coffee and tea facilities, but many of you do – and I took on the challenge to review each hotel stay I go on according to our combined standards. It has been a very interesting experience. Recently, one of my favourite travel publications, the Sunday Times Travel did a feature on the topic and kindly quoted me – yes, I hate those hangers that are stuck in cupboards. I promise you, I have never stolen a hanger from a hotel (or anywhere else).

Let’s talk airport lounges… 

The need for airport lounges, in my opinion, is two-fold: they are (or can be) a very nice (or not so nice place) to kill some time before a flight or when (God forbid) a flight is delayed. But, and most importantly for me, they can really add to the travel experience and can actually make a difference.

I am spoiled. Why? Because my home airport is London Heathrow and my standard for a lounge is (or are) the British Airways lounges at their home airport. If we take Terminal 5 as an example, you have the choice of 5 lounges, which you can access depending on the class you are flying or your loyalty programme status.

The Concorde Room at London Heathrow

The Concorde Room at London Heathrow

– The Concorde Room – aka a little bit of heaven. Beautifully decorated and designed, it is a very quiet space and exclusive to those flying First (First, I must add, is not what USA-based airlines regularly call ‘first class’. That is business class for us on this side of the pond). A visit to the Concorde Room is a real treat for me, which usually happens once or twice a year and it is so good, it is worth getting to the airport early! Champagne bar, seat service and proper fine dining. You also get a 2-week membership of luxury concierge service Quintessentially which can prove quite handy for those hard to get tables in your destination. And if you can get organised, you can even pre-book one of the three cabanas and your Elemis spa treatment. I have recently reviewed a visit to this lounge, and you can read it right here.

BA Galleries First Lounge at London Heathrow

BA Galleries First Lounge at London Heathrow

– Galleries First – this is the lounge where you will find me more often. Open to BA Executive Club gold (oneworld emerald) cardholders (and First passengers), this lounge is larger but really really nice. I love the champagne and the wine bar, the fact that in terms of food you can either help yourself to the buffet or actually order anything from the menu and it will be brought to you either to your table or seat, depending how formal you want it to get. Needless to say, lots of computers, printers etc. They do some cracking bacon and egg sandwiches for breakfast which is great if you have enough time. One should not rush through this lounge.

Breakfast of champions - the fab made to order egg and bacon sandwich at the BA First Lounge

Breakfast of champions – the fab made to order egg and bacon sandwich at the BA First Lounge

– Galleries Club (2 lounges available on T5A and 1 lounge on T5B) – open to all business class and silver Executive Club members (one world sapphire). These lounges welcome a significant number of visitors but they are pretty decent. You have a fully stocked bar, a good breakfast selection and good food throughout the day – think pasta, rice etc, actual cheese (i.e. not plastic), fresh fruit and now some yummy cookies. The only thing missing for me is ice cream and chocolate (why not?).  There isn’t a champagne bar in this lounge, but you can ask for a cheeky glass and it will magically appear.

Apologies to vegetarian readers. But these are amazing. BA, please bring them back!

Apologies to vegetarian readers. But these are amazing. BA, please bring them back!

There have been recent changes in the catering and I am sad to report that the best bacon sandwiches in the world (you can sense a theme here) are now gone. If anyone from BA is reading this (or if you are a frequent flyer and miss them too, join me!), please bring the old bacon sandwiches back. They were incredible and sometimes I even had two because they were the perfect size (and I promise I will only have one from now on!).

The paragraphs above were just to explain why I am spoiled – why this is the standard for me when I travel. I think BA have a very good lounge product in their home base, but sadly it is not consistent everywhere (especially on the return journey).

So without further ado, here is my airport lounge wish-list:

Clear entrance policy – especially when code shares are involved and at away from home airports. Guests or no guests? When? It would make life easier for everyone. Oneworld seems to be making some progress in this area, but I find that there still are too many exceptions to the rules.

Fresh food  & drinks – I have never bought plastic cheese in my life.. why would I want to eat some before I board a plane? I have recently visited Qatar Airways lounges in London and Doha and can’t tell you how impressive it was. Sadly, in Helsinki, with Finnair, the only food we could get was salad and peanuts (and champagne was to be bought at 10 Euro a glass). But my best recent one? Being given a ‘premium drink’ voucher as Oneworld Emerald at an American Airlines lounge and being told that the only free food was pretzels and I think I saw some apples. I was surprised to see at Dallas airport (the home of AA) a full restaurant-style menu – for which you had to pay. I thought it was particularly interesting as I had paid $1200 for a four-hour plane journey where no food was served on-board (well, I could have bought some plastic cheese, if I was desperate). Where is the consistency?

Wifi – free, of course, and to be honest, in 99% of my flights in recent years it has never been an issue. The exception? The lounge (shared by all airlines) at Barcelona airport which actually when I last visited, didn’t have wifi. I am not joking.

Moi at the Almost @ Home Lounge at Helsinki Airport

Moi at the Almost @ Home Lounge at Helsinki Airport

Decent selection of newspapers AND magazines – this varies enormously and one would think it would be easier to sort out. And please, why have such obscure magazines full of ads? They take so much shelf space which could have been much better used. But sometimes one is so desperate that something in English would actually do. The best magazine selection I ever saw was at Qatar Airways‘ London lounge and I sometimes do quite well with BA, but it is not consistent (even at their home base). I am very happy to ‘have’ to leave such items behind for others to enjoy, that is not even the issue.

Enough seats – and comfortable ones. This is a difficult one as obviously there are space restrictions but…

Power sockets – things have changed immensely as we all know and the average person has to charge at least one device (or three). Some airlines have really caught on this quickly, others not so much.

Showers – this is a point raised by many of my readers, which I must confess I am not very familiar with as my normal long-haul flights are door to door, so to speak, so I prefer to shower when I get back home or when I get to the hotel. I would love some comments on this area as I am not knowledgeable enough.

Quiet areas – and I don’t mean child-free specifically, although obviously there is a definite need for child-friendly areas (for both the little ones and their parents). I like going to the lounge and, well, lounge, relax. And if I have to make a call, I am extremely conscious of my whereabouts and who may be around me (same goes for conversations on planes). I have been noticing more and more people having full-on skype calls where everyone could hear them. I couldn’t help but smile (sadly) when I overheard that poor Jessica from company X was going to be fired. I like the concept of quiet train carriages and some quiet areas on lounges would be greatly appreciated.

The stunning Qatar Airways premium lounge at Heathrow

The stunning Qatar Airways premium lounge at Heathrow

Better Flight information – I seriously think airport lounges need more screens. I actually quite like lounges where no flight announcements are made verbally, but I think better screen information would be welcome. When does the gate open, how long it takes to get there and when does the flight close. I recently missed the first flight of my life, which was delayed, because the screen information wasn’t updated. I kid you not. I was at a lounge, kept actively checking the screen which continued to say ‘Delayed’ and after 3 hours, I decided to go and ask. The flight had departed but the screen didn’t say anything. Great fun.

Lounge location – again a very tricky one, but in some cases, it can be complete madness. My favourite one is Lisbon airport where the lounge I am supposed to use is by gate 9 and the non-shenghen boarding gates are from 40 onwards. The distance is around 2kms, and I am not making this up.

Beauty Services and Spa – and since this is a wishlist, I can write whatever I want ;0. Honestly, spas are becoming more and more normal (thank you BA for Elemis which works well) but how about some quick blow-dry bars and maybe nails? Wouldn’t even have to be free, simply for the convenience. With a nice brand, of course.

And here you go, in the perfect world, these are the things that my perfect lounge would have. It is good to see that it is not far from reality – just bring back the bacon sandwiches, por favor.

Do airport lounges matter to you? Which are your favourites and why? What do you want to see in the ‘perfect airport lounge’. I have come up with my wish-list, but would love to hear from you.

Safe travels!

xo

Mrs. O