My hOtel – Swiss Luxury Apartments in Geneva, Switzerland

There is nothing like trying a new place to stay – as in brand new! I am relatively new to the concept of staying in apartments, but having been introduced and invited to try the Swiss Luxury Apartments on my recent trip to Geneva, post Verbier, I couldn’t say no. Why? Because they looked lovely, and I knew I would be comfortable.

The Swiss Luxury Apartments are located opposite Le Richemont Luxury Hotel & Spa and the Beau Rivage Hotel. They are situated right in the centre of town, with its great shops, restaurants and bars (well, if you bear in mind that this is Geneva – which doesn’t scream late night fun pour moi!). The apartments are literally two minutes’ walk from Lac Leman (or Lake Geneva).

Within a couple of minutes, this could be your view...

Within a couple of minutes, this could be your view…

Pre-Arrival

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

No, the booking process was organised by the lovely Lauren di Marco, who handled all communications with the property.

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

The apartments do not have a Twitter account, so not much I could do.

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

No.

Arrival

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

To be truthful, this is not a hotel. When you arrive, there is some sort of reception, which a seating area too. It was quite nice, although a little bit cold, in my opinion.

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

Very efficient as all our details had been pre-processed and our keys were ready.

–          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)

We were indeed – and with 3 ladies, it wasn’t easy to learn all our names.

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

We were confirmed to stay in a luxury 2-bedroom suite, which is exactly what we got.

–          Did I feel genuinely welcomed by the hotel staff?

Very much so. Samuel was our host and we saw plenty of him during our short stay.

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

None. Samuel helped us with our luggage (which was a lot as we had just arrived from Verbier).

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

Wi-fi is free for all guests. excellent news.

 

Room Experience

Yes, this is lovely

Yes, this is lovely

 

–          First impressions – décor, size and wow factor

Wow wow wow, it was lovely. Beautifully decorated and presented, I loved the apartment the minute I walked in. Seriously nice.

–          Welcome amenity

We had some lovely sweets and drinks. Much appreciated as I was a little bit hungry.

My bedroom at Swiss Luxury Apartments

My bedroom at Swiss Luxury Apartments

–          The bed

A Frette heaven. It was outstanding – and beautiful!

–          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.

To be honest, as we were only staying for a night, I didn’t unpack.

–          Iphone Charger/Dock

No.

–          Bathrobes and slippers

All there and Frette, of course (I was very impressed).

–          Coffee and Tea

As an apartment, you actually have a very efficient kitchen, which comes with all facilities. Nespresso, obviously.

–          Free bottled water

And free mini bar indeed – still and sparkling water, juice and coke. Simple, but so great

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

I honestly cannot remember!

–          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 a problem with this, there were plenty around (but with Swiss sockets, beware.. some European plugs do not fit!). I also loved the actual light switches (you may have gathered I have a little fetish for interior design).

Bathroom

Very nice bathroom indeed

Very nice bathroom indeed

–          First impressions – décor, size and wow factor

The bathroom was fantastic – all with the latest specifications, seriously good. But one thing I couldn’t find? The toilet! That is right! We had a 2-bedroom suite, one of which had a “full en suite bathroom”. The other room, mine, didn’t have the toilet, which is a fascinating French phenomenon (I know I am in Switzerland, before you think I am confusing my geography!). The toilet was indeed a separate room, so it could be used by guests as well – I find this really quite strange as where I come from you always have “an extra” toilet for guests, you don’t remove one from the main bedrooms. Would love to know the rationale behind this, but I am afraid I don’t!

–          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?

Shower heaven, bathroom heaven. It was lovely!

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

Brand new Frette towels which were soft and lovely and despite being new, didn’t leave anything behind… oh and large too!

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

Full toiletries by a “spa” brand were provided, which I didn’t use.

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

I did have my shower cap, and everything I needed.

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

I didn’t use it in this occasion, but it was there.

Breakfast

A nice breakfast room

A nice breakfast room

–          Décor of breakfast room

Being an apartment, breakfast is not provided, but croissants can be ordered in advance, which is what we did. (Thank you, Samuel!). We had everything else we needed (coffee, juice, etc).

Bar

Nice and functional kitchen

Nice and functional kitchen

No bar, unless you have your own little party. On that night, we had an incredible dinner at the Four Seasons Geneva and indulged in some lovely cocktails (and walked 5 mins back to our place – so good!)

General thoughts

–          How good and reliable was the wi-fi?

We didn’t have a problem at all.

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

No.

–          Location

Really really good – also close to Geneva train station, to which we had to travel to and from. You had to cross the lake to get to the shops, but it isn’t a problem at all.

–          Cost – rooms starting from…

Starting at 450 CHF (370 Euro) for 1 bedroom apartments, and 900 CHF for the 2-bedroom suites for short stays. Better rates can be found on longer stays. I found it expensive at the beginning, but if you compare with similar luxury hotels in Geneva (which can be really expensive), it can be a good option.

–          Would I recommend it to my best friend?

Oh yes, and I know she would love it!

–          Would I stay again?

I have stayed at quite a few 5-star hotels in Geneva and I would think that this concept beat them all. Seriously impressed.

Final thoughts:

I really really liked these apartments and would recommend them without a doubt. They were super spacious and the decor was faultless. I seriously wouldn’t mind moving in, if I had to be in Geneva (which I still find a teeny tiny boring, I am sorry!).

Have you visited these apartments? What were your thoughts?

xo

Mrs. O

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Swiss Luxury Apartments during this stay, but hopefully you will see that this has not influenced my thoughts about the property.

My hOtel – Ten Manchester Street, London

A night in London is always fun. As I don’t live too far away, I always like coming into town and try new hotels – which is useful for those thinking about visiting London.

Ten Manchester Street was, without a doubt, a great find. A little boutique hotel located in Marylebone (possibly my favourite neighbourhood in London), which isn’t far from Oxford Street and all its shopping attractions.

A smart building in Marylebone

A smart building in Marylebone

Pre-Arrival

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

No! This stay was booked with a day’s notice and there was no time.

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

I sent a tweet when I was in the property but got no response.

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

No, but as I said, no time, really!

Arrival

I really liked the design of Ten Manchester Street

I really liked the design of Ten Manchester Street

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

Ten Manchester Street has a very smart exterior and the lobby is quite compact – as is the whole property. It looks modern and welcoming.

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

Excellent, and you get to sit down while you do it, which is always a very nice touch.

–          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 receptionist was lovely and immediately asked if I would like a glass of champagne. I knew things could only get better from this moment onwards.

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

I did indeed. I was booked on a superior double but due to availability, I was upgraded to a Junior Suite.

–          Did I feel genuinely welcomed by the hotel staff?

Very much so. Being such a small hotel (boutique in fact), it wasn’t difficult. I was impressed with the staff in general.

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

Not an issue – I had an overnight bag and declined to be escorted to my room.

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

Wi-fi is complementary, which is excellent news!

Room Experience

Smart and spacious Junior Suite

Smart and spacious Junior Suite

–          First impressions – décor, size and wow factor

I wasn’t so impressed with the lift (which was tiny, but hey!), but the room was faultless. Very tasteful decor, in various shades of beige. It was spacious and I loved how the TV separated the room from the lounge area. Everything matched.

–          Welcome amenity

None.

–          The bed

I had a nice king size bed which was extremely comfortable. The pillows were great too.

–          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 as it should be.

–          Iphone Charger/Dock

Yes!

–          Bathrobes and slippers

Lovely and very soft.

–          Coffee and Tea

Coffee and tea lovers, nothing to worry about. A Nespresso was there, with plenty of pods, and there were also tea making facilities.

–          Free bottled water

Absolutely, still and sparkling, which was a nice touch. I do like my bubbles!

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

Very good – I had the latest Sunday Times Travel magazine, a Conde Nast Traveller and more options, which were very useful as I had dinner on my own.

–          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.

Not too bad – and there were some by the bed, which is always good.

Bathroom

–          First impressions – décor, size and wow factor

I really liked the bathroom – very simple and beige (ha!), but very tasteful.

–          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?

Yes yes yes. Hansgrohe Axor taps and shower and Duravit. I was seriously impressed as I wasn’t expecting it. I had a lovely bath and a walk-in shower (my only comment is that the shower leaked outside, which I told the hotel the next day. If we don’t say anything, they will never know!)

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

Plenty of towels, not just 2 per person. They were very good too.

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

I absolutely loved the Rituals toiletries. It is a Dutch brand which I really like and was the first time I have ever seen them in a hotel. I love their quirky scents and this was a nice unexpected treat.

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

Everything you could expect, and more. Really good shower caps, by the way (boys, stop reading!).

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

I used it and it was a proper one.

Breakfast

The cozy room which doubles up as restaurant and bar

The cozy room which doubles up as restaurant and bar

–          Décor of breakfast room

Very nice and cozy – it is the restaurant/bar, which doubles up as a breakfast room.

–          The spread (inc yumminess)

Very good – and I was particularly impressed with the variety of fresh bread, which isn’t normal in England (the home of sliced bread, which can still be fresh). I was delighted with my baguette and cheese selection.

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

It was included in the rate.

Bar

I really liked this area

I really liked this area

This is an interesting one. The hotel invited me to have dinner – which I hadn’t realised, and Mr. O was busy that evening, joining me later. So I did what I never do, just went downstairs and spent some time on my own. The hotel has a very nice “Cigar Patio”, which didn’t stink by the way, and that is where I spent a good 3 hours. It was a nice evening (helped by the patio heaters) and a treat in London. I had a glass of champagne and a glass of wine, and pigged out from the menu, which was great. I ended up with quite an eclectic selection – truffle fries, parmesan and rocket salad and some cheese. But it is what I really wanted and I loved it.

The bar was busy and service was outstanding. As I was on my own, I noticed some extra effort, which was much appreciated. Needless to say, I had the wi-fi and the magazines from the room, which kept me company.

General thoughts

–          How good and reliable was the wi-fi?

Very good.

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

No.

–          Location

Great location (for me). Marylebone High Street is literally around the corner, with great restaurants and shops. Selfridges is a 7 minute walk (I counted, by the way).

–          Cost – rooms starting from…

This is the beauty of this place – I think this hotel offers outstanding value for money in the centre of London. We are talking a 4-star  + property, modern, comfortable, with great service and location. Doubles start from £149 and suites from £259 + Tax.

–          Would I recommend it to my best friend?

Without a doubt. I actually mentioned it to an acquaintance who was coming to London. His response: I found that hotel 6 months ago and have been staying ever since. Boy, was I surprised!

–          Would I stay again?

Without a doubt, can’t fault this hotel. Outstanding value for money and everything you need for a good hotel in London. Obviously, you can’t compare this with some of the other hotels that cost £800!

Final thoughts:

Ten Manchester Street was a really nice surprise. I had a great night in and really enjoyed it. The staff and service were outstanding throughout my whole stay. I think this is a winner.

Have you visited this hotel? What were your thoughts?

xo

Mrs. O

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Ten Manchester Street 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.

Introducing The Luxury Travel Blog Network

I bet you you are curious, aren’t you? What is the Luxury Travel Blog Network? I love reading other blogs and have found some extremely talented writers out there. So five of us, decided that every other week, we would bring you the best content we have each produced, and make it easy for our lovely lovely readers to find some great travel inspiration.

So without further ado, meet my ladies..

Nadine Jolie

Nadine Jolie is a beauty and travel writer specializing in luxury spas. A former magazine editor (Lucky, Ladies’ Home Journal, FHM), Nadine was dubbed “the poster child for the blogger generation” by the New York Post and has published two books: Confessions of a Beauty Addict and Beauty Confidential. Nadine’s travels have taken her to spas in places including New Zealand, Austria, South Africa, Montreal, and Scotland. She is a contributing writer for VanityFair.com and Angeleno magazine and regularly writes for FoxNews.com and luxury New York publication Hudson Mod. Fluent in French and conversant/literate in Italian, Spanish and Arabic, Nadine enjoys learning how to say “Where is the nearest Sephora?” in new languages and is currently working on her third book, a novel set in England.

Follow Nadine Jolie on her blog, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube channel.

Noteworthy post worth checking out: Nadine’s favorite hotel in South Africa!

Katie Goldstein

Katie Goldstein is an avid traveler whose tastes are simple: she enjoys the best.  Katie works by day as a lawyer and by night as a successful writer. Katie often lends her travel expertise to prestigious outlets, which include  Forbes, Fodor’s, and She Knows. She has also written about varied topics for WE TV and for FoxNews.com. Katie is also the founder of famous luxury travel and lifestyle sites, Travelingpanties and Smartypanties, where she chronicles her adventures around the world to spectacular countries like Thailand, Argentina, Laos, Cambodia, Uruguay, Australia, France and more. When Katie isn’t traveling, she can be found scouring her home base, New York City, for the next hotspot. In her free time, Katie enjoys trying new restaurants, taking advantage of NYC’s fabulous shopping and practicing her photography skills.

Keep up with Katie’s escapades on her Blog, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Noteworthy post worth checking out: Best Things to do in Buenos Aires

Kim-Marie

Kim-Marie Evans is a freelance writer specializing in luxury and family travel. She has traveled the world with her four children to places as glamorous as the south of France and as challenging as Rwanda. Her work has appeared in print and online. You can find her best travel secrets on her award winning blog LuxuryTravelMom.com and at TravelingMom.com. With a background in radio and television, Kim-Marie is as comfortable in front of the video camera as she is behind the keyboard.

Follow Kim-Marie on her blog, Twitter and Facebook

Noteworthy post worth checking out: Last Minute Spring Break Travel Ideas

Charu Suri

Charu Suri runs Butterfly Diary, an online magazine, with stories on how travel can transform one’s outlook. Charu left a career in Investment Banking to pursue her passions — travel and writing– several years ago and has not looked back since. A full time freelance writer and Social Media consultant, she loves to pen her journeys in the following beats: affordable luxury destinations, culture, vegetarian food and the digital community. As a new mom, she’ll be paying a lot more attention to kid-friendly places.

Follow Charu on Twitter, Facebook and Linked In.

Noteworthy post worth checking out: Traveling Luxuriously in a Vintage Beetle

Wishing you all a great weekend, wherever you may be!

xo

Mrs. O

My hOtel: Sofitel Berlin Gendarmenmarkt

I visited Berlin for the first time ever in early March 2013 to attend ITB, Europe’s largest travel exhibition. I had a little bit more time than I anticipated to explore the city and I must say: I was very impressed with what I saw. Which obviously means I need to go back with Mr. O and get to know the city better.

During my stay in the city, I tried 2 hotels – the last one being the Sofitel Berlin Gendarmenmarkt, centrally located in East Berlin. And I have good things to report indeed.

The Sofitel Berlin façade

The Sofitel Berlin façade

Pre-Arrival

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

No.

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

I did try a tweet or two, but the hotel’s twitter account is inactive.

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

No.

Arrival

I loved the reception area

I loved the reception area

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

Very modern and sleek. The decor of the lobby areas was very nice. It isn’t a “huge” hotel, and quite compact, but whoever designed it, tried to maximise space.

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

Very good. There was no queue, which obviously helps and the ladies at reception were lovely.

–          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)

Everytime, Ms O’Reilly this, Ms. O’Reilly that – and with great smiles. Was quite impressed.

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

No. I was confirmed a superior double and that is what I got.

–          Did I feel genuinely welcomed by the hotel staff?

Overall, yes – I also noticed that most staff members were female, which is quite different than usual. I did see a gentleman at some point.

–          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 my carry-on luggage as was “able” to get to the room by myself.

–          WiFi – was I told anything about it? Was there a charge?

WiFi is free for all guests, and I was given the respective codes at check-in.

Room Experience

Nice, simple and comfortable rooms

Nice, simple and comfortable rooms

–          First impressions – décor, size and wow factor

The room wasn’t huge, quite compact indeed, but had everything I needed. Modern decor and a great view of Gendarmenmarkt square!

–          Welcome amenity

The standard Sofitel bottle of Evian and some fruit. Nothing particularly special.

–          The bed

I love Sofitel’s “My Bed” and slept really well. Actually difficult to get out of bed the next day. Love the pillows.

–          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 as needed. Had lots of hangers, and of various types.

–          Iphone Charger/Dock

Sadly, no. But had Bose sound system/alarm clock. For a second I thought I was going to be able to charge my phone!

–          Bathrobes and slippers

Yes, as standard.

–          Coffee and Tea

No in-room facilities – I did have a look as I know many of you appreciate them. I honestly never use them.

–          Free bottled water?

Yes, Evian

One could call this a room with a view!

One could call this a room with a view!

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

Nothing in particular.

–          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.

There were some plugs by the bed, which is good for phone etc. But needed a few more!

Bathroom

I have a thing for well-designed bathrooms...

I have a thing for well-designed bathrooms…

–          First impressions – décor, size and wow factor

Really modern and actually very nice. I love “dark” bathrooms and this one combined black and white very well. The main door doubled as the toilet door (I can’t say loo or half the world won’t understand me!), which was tricky at times, but nothing to worry about.

–          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?

Yes yes yes, all fab. The shower room was really quite nice. And we were in the land of Duravit!

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

They were quite good, soft and fluffy. I had two sets which was great (as staying on my own).

–          Toiletries – own brand, super brand, baby ones or proper ones?

I was expecting Hermés, but got baby Lanvin instead, which was a very nice surprise. Very good quality products. I love the whole “French brand thing” that the Sofitel has as a concept.

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

It was very cleverly disguised inside a box, which was actually a very good idea. Space saving and also made the whole experience more luxurious and discrete.

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

It was easy to find but I didn’t need to use it.

Breakfast

The breakfast room at Sofitel Berlin

The breakfast room at Sofitel Berlin

–          Décor of breakfast room

Breakfast was served until 12pm (Saturday and Sunday), which I took full advantage of (obviously!). It was large room but a little bit soulless, in my opinion.

–          The spread (inc yumminess)

Very nice – I love Sofitel’s range of juices (always more than the usual orange, apple and grapefruit). I had strawberry and mango (not together!). Always fab bread and viennoiserie and local delicacies (cured meats, cheese, etc).

Bar

There is no bar as such, but this is surely a reflection of the size of the property – I think this Sofitel could almost be classified like a boutique hotel. The hotel’s very cool restaurant, Aigner, has a bar, but it gets too busy as many people wait there for their tables. I enjoyed a Gin & Tonic, which was very nice, at €14.

General thoughts

The reception seating area

The reception seating area

–          How good and reliable was the wi-fi?

To be honest, I ended up not using it as my mobile phone has a European data package and I didn’t need to. Please note that wi-fi is free in this Sofitel, which is great news.

–          Location

Unbeatable, if you are or want to be in East Berlin. As you can see from the images, the hotel is bang on Gendarmenmarkt and just around the corner from Friedrichstraße, aka shopping heaven in this part of town. A visit to Galleries Lafayette is a must (which I confess I wasn’t expecting in Berlin, of all places!).

–          Cost – rooms starting from…

Standard rooms cost from €130, which is very good value for money.

–          Would I recommend it to my best friend?

Absolutely, it is a good 5 star hotel with all the amenities you need.

–          Would I stay again?

Without a problem.

Final thoughts:

I enjoyed my stay at the Sofitel Berlin Gendarmenmarkt and have no problem recommending it. However, due to the layout of the hotel, one is not invited to spend a lot of time in it – I do like using the bar, doing some work in the lounge, i.e. get away from the room, and this isn’t possible as common areas aren’t huge. One thing that annoyed me? Having the housekeeping staff talk in the corridor first thing in the morning (from 8am), which did interrupt what I hoped it would be a nice Saturday lie-in – this still happens a lot in many hotels, and I know it may not be easy to manage, but it is a point I would like to make. On another hand, I noticed a lot of female staff (which is quite rare – I think I only saw 3 men, vs 10-12 women) and it felt very safe and female-friendly, something that matters to me when I am travelling alone for business, which was the case.

Have you visited this hotel? What were your thoughts?

xo

Mrs. O

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Sofitel 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.

A perfect weekend in Milan

Milan is underrated – mostly people fall in love with the beauty of Rome and Florence, and totally disregard what is Italy’s business centre. Often described as grey and industrial (like nearby, Turin, which can be a lovely surprise), I personally think it can be the perfect European city break – the centre of town is actually quite pretty, the restaurants are amazing, the shopping is pretty much as good as it gets (and of course, everyone looks the part!).

Ciao Milano! Our first glimpse of the Piazza del Duomo

Ciao Milano!

What is not to like? I adore Milan, a city I have visited many times on business trips and was yearning to return, after spending a lazy sunday in town, on my way back from Genova.

This time around, I travelled to Milan as a guest of BIT Milano, which is a travel exhibition for both trade and the public, which takes place every February, and a smaller scale version of London’s World Travel Market or Berlin’s ITB. We spent a day at the Fira Milano, but really looked forward to a weekend in this incredible city.

Here’s my itinerary for a perfect weekend in Milan.

Love was all around us at Via Montenapoleone

Love was all around us at Via Montenapoleone

Friday Afternoon

It was Valentine’s weekend and love was definitely all around us. As we checked into our hotel for the night, the lovely Four Seasons Milan, we knew we couldn’t find a better location. Right there, by all the lovely and wonderful shops – needless to say, I was in retail heaven. Mr. O looked a bit worried, and I have no idea why.

A little Four Seasons love is always good for the soul. And the body.

A little Four Seasons love is always good for the soul. And the body.

A little bit tired from walking around the exhibition (even in flat shoes!), we knew everything was going to be fine, as we checked into our lovely Junior Suite. My first (and second and third) impressions from this hotel were great. Service was outstanding (the usual FS love, with a bit of Italian love) and our room was lovely – had everything we needed, plus lovely chocolates! (how did they know??)

After that, it was time for cocktails – which is, as you may know by know, one of my favourite parts of the day. The Four Seasons, through its Milan Twitter account, had been teasing me for weeks, sending me photos of mouth-watering delicacies. I was mostly impressed with the choices available. I ended up choosing the “No name” cocktail, which besides looking and tasting lovely, was to be renamed “Ana” for that night (apparently, the first person who orders it each day gets it named after him/her. Even if not strictly true, it was a nice touch).

The "Ana" and a bit of "Glamour"

The “Ana” and a bit of “Glamour”

Cocktails are priced at around €20, but it is worth mentioning that, as we are in Italy, these come with “aperitivo”, some delicious pre-dinner nibbles which are a staple in this part of the world. The Four Seasons’ selection was outstanding and if you are not staying here, it is worth visiting just for that.

At this stage, it was time for dinner – and time for us to meet my lovely (Milanese) friend Clara and her partner Fabio. Clara and I worked together for many years (in different countries) and at home, she is known as Santa Clara. If I need anything in Italy, she’s my walking Michelin guide – she’s sent me to eat at the most incredible (and weird, at times) places, and I never had a bad meal. Needless to say, she was in charge of my foodie needs throughout the weekend and everywhere we ate had her seal of approval.

Loved La Voliera (photo by restaurant)

Loved La Voliera (photo by restaurant)

The Osteria La Voliera was her choice for this evening, and needless to say, it was fabulous. It felt like we were in someone’s dining room and it felt so comfortable, we stayed there all night! Oh well!

Saturday

No rest for the wicked, as they say – as we needed to make breakfast by 10.30 am – and we did.. just! As we were located on Via Gesu, in the heart of Milan, it seemed appropriate to just explore the retail (and architectural delights, of course) of the city.

With Via Montenapoleone, at our doorstep, we followed the Golden Shopping Trail, which also includes Via Spirito Santo, Via della Spiga and Via Sant’Andrea. I am not going to go into detail (obviously), but loved visiting the new Acqua di Parma boutique – it is such a classic brand, and I loved how it has been reinvented.

Swanky Acqua di Parma boutique at Via Gesu

Swanky Acqua di Parma boutique at Via Gesu

Not quite sure where time went, but after walking for 3 hours or so, it was time for lunch. I had a little preview of The Excelsior Milano last time I was in Milan, and knew that this was the place to go to for lunch. Part department store, part delicatessen and seriously cool, The Excelsior is definitely worth a visit – even if just to see its design and how more traditional brands like Tiffany & Co. were willing to take risks and adapt its brand to a more modern clientele. Eats is the place.. well, to eat and having booked early, we managed to get a table. We couldn’t decide if we wanted the Japanese or the Italian menu, and we were kindly placed in an area where both waiters could serve us. It was fun indeed.

Excelsior Milano

Excelsior Milano

After a lazy lunch, it was time to see some proper sights – we were so close to the Duomo, that it would be rude not to say hello. I seriously like this square and it is worth a visit (I went on a Walks of Italy guided tour of the Milan sights in October and loved it).

But as it was soooooooo busy, I decided to take a little shortcut – and enjoy the view from a different location. Not bad, is it?

The same view, and definitely no hoardes of tourists

The same view, and definitely no hoardes of tourists

So where is this place? No, it is not the top floor of the La Rinascente department store (also great and worth a visit). It is located at the top of the Autogrill building a block before the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle. Just locate the building (I think it has signs to Burger King or something as exotic), ignore everything and take the lift to the top floor.

And this is what you get at the Terrazza Aperol.

An aperol spritz with a view, in Milan

An aperol spritz with a view, in Milan

In case you are intrigued by the Aperol Spritz, here is how to make it:

  • 3 parts prosecco D.O.C.
  • 2 parts Aperol
  • Top up with Soda Water (or sparkling water)
  • lots of ice and half a slice of orange

I first discovered the Spritz when I went to Venice, and it is part of our lives. Of course it tasted better right there, at the source. And at €8, it is incredible value for money – especially for the view!

After a relaxing afternoon, it was time to get back to the hotel and get ready for the aperitivo. You know, cocktails and a nibble. Or many. And the place to go? Obviously the Armani Hotel, located in the “Armani powerhouse and flagship” in Via Manzoni.

The Armani Bamboo Bar - an oasis of calm and exceptional design

The Armani Bamboo Bar – an oasis of calm and exceptional design

After we were wowed by the modern look and feel of the place, it was time to try the aperitivo. And for 2 hours (no joking!), we were taken on a culinary and cocktail journey around the world. I loved how Mattia, the coolest bar manager in town reinterpreted great classics (such as the Mint Julep, here called the Oriental Julep) and having heard for my love of Gin & Tonics, prepared me the most special one I have ever had.

Aperitivo at the Armani Hotel

Aperitivo at the Armani Hotel

Dinner took place at Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia, a place where we had an incredible dinner last time we were in town. Santa Clara approved of the choice and I don’t know how, but we managed to get the last table (having booked with only 1 week’s notice).

First time we went, we were slightly worried as this place is quite far away from the city centre – we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Where we getting kidnapped? We were slightly nervous.. This time around, we knew (kind of) where we were going (add a €25 one-way taxi fare).

Some of the best cuisine I have ever had in Italy

Some of the best cuisine I have ever had in Italy

One thing I loved (and remember from this place) is the fact that ladies’ menus do not have prices on – always a good sign. I am obviously joking, but I remember the days when this was the norm. I also remember choosing something and being told by Mr. O “no”, you may want to try the 3rd one on page 3. We laugh about that to this day.

Sadly, we couldn’t justify one of the tasting menus, due to our aperitivo at Armani. So we went with some great a-la carte choices, which we obviously didn’t regret. Dinner here costs around €250 for two including wine, and it is incredible.

Sunday

Not an early riser myself (which you may know by now!), I was delighted when the Westin Palace, where we stayed on the second night, announced that breakfast was served until 12 noon at weekends. This is the first time I have ever seen anything like this – I really hate having to wake up at 9am on a Sunday to make it to breakfast just before 10.30pm and was indeed in heaven.

Or was I? I loved our suite, which included a turkish bath, with incredible views of Milan. As I said, I slept like a princess and loved it – every now an then I love a more old-fashioned hotel.

The Westin Palace in Milan

The Westin Palace in Milan

Following a recommendation from another Milanese expert, we walked to 10 Corso Como, which is a seriously cool shop. Located at.. number 10 in Corso Como, it is absolutely worth a visit.

Very impressed by 10 Corso Como

Very impressed by 10 Corso Como

From here, we made our way back to the city centre, taking advantage of the fact that some of Milan’s shops are now open on Sundays (they never were and it was always a pain!). We inspected every single square metre of La Rinascente (which was much better than I remembered) , with just enough time to spare before we met another of our friend’s for brunch at the Armani Cafe.

With my last saffron risotto, it was time to say Ciao, to this incredible city. Which we all know I am so coming back to.

Grazie, Milano!

xo

Mrs. O

Disclaimer: A huge thank you to BIT Milano for inviting me to visit the city and the exhibition. I was hosted by the Four Seasons Milan, Westin Palace Milan and the Armani Hotel, which I adored and can’t recommend enough. My opinions are, as always, my own. Grazie mille!

My hOtel: Hotel Pulitzer, Amsterdam

The Pulitzer is an Amsterdam classic in the O’Reilly household. Between us, we must have visited over 6 times in the last 10 years and know our way around this quirky and unique property pretty well. Here’s how our recent stay (February 2013) was like.

The Pulitzer façade

The Pulitzer façade

Pre-Arrival

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

I did a few tweets before, and received a pretty standard ” we look forward to welcoming you” response, 2 weeks before my arrival.

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

See above – not too much excitement, pre, during or post stay, which is OK.

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

Only from my Starwood SPG profile.

Arrival

The Pulitzer's lobby - simple but sleek

The Pulitzer’s lobby – simple but sleek

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

The Pulitzer is a unique hotel, with its own personality – it is not trendy, but has some edgy design features. The lobby was exactly how we remembered it – quite welcoming!

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

Very impressive. No queue, but the lady who helped us was really good, smiley and happy to see us. A good start to our Amsterdam trip!

–          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, both of us.

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

Yes, we had a Deluxe confirmed and were upgraded to “The Suite”.

–          Did I feel genuinely welcomed by the hotel staff?

It could be a Dutch trait, but everyone was exceptionally nice. The doorman, the check-in lady and the bellman. We had to be walked to our room as the hotel is a little bit of a maze (which makes it even more special!). Also very impressed with the call from Duty Manager as we got to the room.

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

We had carry on luggage, but were escorted to our room, as it was quite difficult to get there. I only tipped one person.

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

 I was told about the wi-fi, and there is a charge. As a platinum SPG, I am entitled to free internet, but it is not for everyone, sadly.

Room Experience

Our Suite living room

Our Suite living room

–          First impressions – décor, size and wow factor

Big, very big, especially for a Canal property. Light colours and a bit of retro chic.

–          Welcome amenity

We had some tulips and some nibbles too. And a lovely Pulitzer book.

–          The bed

Possibly one of the best beds I have ever slept in. It was also massive and I lost Mr. O. Seriously comfortable and the pillows were incredible.

–          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 hangers. Good news.

A Deluxe Room at the Pulitzer. I don't have a photo of my actual room - it looked exactly the same, but was larger and had a fireplace.

A Deluxe Room at the Pulitzer. I don’t have a photo of my actual room – it looked exactly the same, but was larger and had a fireplace.

–          Iphone Charger/Dock

Sadly, no.

–          Bathrobes and slippers

Yes, but did not use.

–          Coffee and Tea

Yes, but did not use.

–          Free bottled water

Yes indeed. Also comes as standard to Platinum SPG, so not absolutely sure if applies to all rooms.

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

Quite interesting, and all in English.

–          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 did struggle with this a bit – one of our phones had to be charged in the living room.

A little Amsterdam montage

A little Amsterdam montage

Bathroom

–          First impressions – décor, size and wow factor

Hum, guess what, we had not one, but 2 bathrooms, which was quite funny. One for me, and one for Mr. O. The “main” one had a full bath, whereas the other one had a walk in shower. I think these need a bit of updating, but overall good.

–          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?

It may be time to upgrade the bathrooms, but showers had been replaced recently by Hansgrohe beauties, which always ticks a box in my list.

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

Absolutely fab, and we had more than 1 each.

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

We had very nice Bulgari toiletries and “twice” the normal baby size, which does encourage its reuse. Smelled lovely.

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

The Luxury Collection amenity kits are always very good and have useful things – from cotton buds to pads, loofahs, nail files etc. Also a good shower cap. And almost unbranded, which is nice.

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

Sadly, I didn’t need to use it, so didn’t check it.

Breakfast

Yummy continental breakfast

Yummy continental breakfast

 

–          Décor of breakfast room

Well, we were lazy and had breakfast in bed. Brings back good memories and this is the only hotel I remember doing this in. The hotel does something very cool: calls in advance to let you know that breakfast is on its way, saving a bit of embarrassment once it arrives. They have done this in previous stays.. why can’t all hotels do the same? I really like this.

–          The spread (inc yumminess)

We had continental breakfast and got everything that we ordered – pictured above!

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

Continental breakfast starts at €25 per person and is free (in the main dining room) to all Platinum SPG guests. We had to pay for a service charge, which is totally acceptable and understandable.

Bar

We did not try (or even see) the bar as we were out with friends on both nights and ended up returning to the hotel quite late.

A hotel with a view

A hotel with a view

General thoughts

–          How good and reliable was the wi-fi?

Worked pretty well.

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

No.

–          Location

Very good. I love the 9 streets area and its handy for great restaurants, shopping, etc

–          Cost – rooms starting from…

Standard rooms start at €200 and suites at €800.

–          Would I recommend it to my best friend?

Absolutely.

–          Would I stay again?

Just tell me when! It is a very good hotel.

Final thoughts:

I do have a lot of love for The Pulitzer – it is quirky and has personality. For me, it is an Amsterdam classic. Personally, I think it may be time for a little refurb. I was slightly disappointed that the suite did not have a view – as many other standard and deluxe rooms seem to – but obviously I understand. Service was very good. Mrs. O approved indeed. I have also created a TripTease review. Read it here.

Have you visited this hotel? What were your thoughts?

xo

Mrs. O

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Starwood Hotels 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 New York City by @travelpanties

Start spreading the news.. I am so NOT leaving today… I am not in NYC as often as I would like (a visit each year is a must) and stay haven’t got round to do my little guide to NYC.. so I asked the lovely Katie Goldstein to share some of her favourite New York places with us. And I love it that I have been to most of them – which certainly means I have to go back again and discover the city that never sleeps. I adore New York. xo Mrs.O

Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges Image by Katie Goldstein

Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges Image by Katie Goldstein

New York City is an urban playground brimming with countless fine dining establishments, unique museums, the world’s best shopping, as well as every type of indulgence one can imagine. Because of the endless options afforded to visitors, planning an itinerary for a quick trip can be an overwhelming task, even if you are armed with a basic knowledge of New York.

Being a New York City local for nearly a decade, I’ve planned out a solid itinerary so you can see some of the highlights the city has to offer. I chose attractions that are tourist favorites and local-approved. Get pumped for an action-packed weekend! Who needs rest in the city that never sleeps?

The Perfect Kiss in Times Square Image by RAD Photography

The Perfect Kiss in Times Square Image by RAD Photography

Where to Stay: As cliché as it may be, I always recommend Times Square to friends and family coming to stay because of its extremely central location, right in the middle of it all! It’s also accessible by nearly every subway (1, 2, 3, N, R, Q, W, 7 & S), which is important in a city where even tourists should use cheap and easy public transportation.

The subway is often the preferred mode of transportation, even among the wealthiest Manhattanites because the traffic in NYC can be so grueling. Plus, although jaded locals sometimes forget, Times Square is really quite spectacular!

Friday Evening:

Katie Goldstein and Husband in Grand Central Subway Station Image by RAD Photography

Katie Goldstein and Husband in Grand Central Subway Station Image by RAD Photography

Once you’re settled, head over to Grand Central Station, one of my favorite New York City landmarks. Witness a piece of Manhattan’s history that is celebrating its centennial anniversary this year. Be sure to gaze up at the celestial ceiling mural located in the main concourse. When your neck starts to hurt, it’s time for a drink.

Visit the swanky and intimate Campbell Apartment for old-fashioned cocktails or sip champagne at the bustling Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant as commuters rush to make their connections. Local secret: if you and a friend stand at opposite ends of the gallery in front of Oyster Bar, you can whisper secrets to one another and be heard all the way across the bar. (Take the S or 7 Trains to Grand Central).

Friday Night:

Striphouse's Rich, Red Dining Room Image courtesy of Striphouse

Striphouse’s Rich, Red Dining Room Image courtesy of Striphouse

No visit to New York is complete without a visit to one of its famous steakhouses. If you’re a traditionalist, Sparks is your best bet. Professional, old-school waiters serve up classic steaks and sides in a saloon-like shrine to meat. If you’re looking for a trendier scene, Strip House is where you want to be. This eternal hotspot serves up creative twists on steakhouse classics.

If you have any room left you could head for a late-night dessert at Serendipity, renowned for its long waits and frozen hot chocolates. Wait times shrink considerably late at night after all the shoppers have gone home. If your night is just getting started, head downtown to the Lower East Side and have a nightcap at The Pink Pony or pop by Pianos if you’re looking for a wild night out.

Saturday Morning:

Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in You've Got Mail at Cafe Lalo

Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail at Cafe Lalo

Take part in brunch, a weekend institution for locals. One of my favorite places for this great weekend activity is Café Lalo, where you should sample an H&H bagel, its famous steamed eggs and a perfectly crafted espresso drink. This well-known Upper West Side haunt was featured in “You’ve Got Mail.”

Other great brunch options on the Upper West Side include: Popover Cafe (kitschy yet classic) and Barney Greengrass (a rough-around-the-edges Upper-West institution that serves classic New York deli food).

Saturday Afternoon:

The Conservatory Garden in Central Park Image by Katie Goldstein

The Conservatory Garden in Central Park Image by Katie Goldstein

After brunch, take a stroll through Central Park, which is only a short walk from the restaurants mentioned above. Take a romantic boat ride around the lake by The Loeb Central Park Boathouse, visit the Conservatory Garden, check out the Great Lawn and walk through Strawberry Fields, named for John Lennon’s favorite part of the park (across from The Dakota where he was assassinated).

The Met

The Met

After you’ve made your way through the Park, you must visit one of New York’s best museums. My vote is for The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Aside from housing the largest and perhaps most significant art collection in the U.S., its rooftop bar offers sick views of Central Park. The Met is seconded by The Natural History Museum.

Saturday Evening:

Carmines Restaurant in Times Square

Carmines Restaurant in Times Square

After a long day, rich in culture, it’s time for some fun! Apart from steak, Manhattan is perhaps most well-known for its Italian food. Be sure to make reservations at the famous family-style restaurant, Carmines if you’re looking for delicious and enormous portions of Italian classics. Bond 45 is another one of my favorites, famous for its paper-thin pizzas and fabulous cuisine.

Next, it’s time to take in a Broadway musical. While great bargains can be had by standing on long lines at TKTS (Located in Times Square and Southstreet Seaport. Download the TKTS app to see what’s available before getting on line), the hot tickets like Book of Mormon, Wicked, and Jersey Boys must be booked in advance and discounts are unlikely. For these shows there are nightly lottery drawings for those who feel lucky and have an hour or so to kill.

Another dining option–one that many fashionable New Yorkers opt for–is eating after the show. This way you won’t be rushed through your dining experience with the rest of the theater-going crowd. If you’re not looking for Italian, grab a table at Joe Allen or Orzo, famous for being post-show celebrity hangouts.

Sunday Morning:

Balthazar Bakery in SoHo

Balthazar Bakery in SoHo

To maximize your time, grab a quick pastry for breakfast at Balthazar, New York’s famed Parisian-style bakery/bistro on Spring Street. Then take a stroll around the West Village and SoHo and check out designer outposts and unique boutiques. A jaunt down Broadway will lead you to Bloomingdales, J.Crew, Forever 21, Levi’s, Hilfiger and Topshop. Follow Christopher Street west and find fancy boutiques like Intermix, Olive & Bette, Marc Jacobs and Ralph Lauren.

If fashion isn’t your thing, head to Bleecker and peruse foodie shops like Amy’s Bread and Murray’s Cheese Shop. Sprinkled in between are some unique record stores and other fun gift shops.

Sunday Afternoon:

Beautiful Fountains in Rockefeller Center Image by Katie Goldstein

Beautiful Fountains in Rockefeller Center Image by Katie Goldstein

Grab a slice of New York pizza at John’s Pizzeria (located on Bleecker) or New York’s oldest pizza joint, Lombardi’s (located on Spring). After lunch head over to Fifth Avenue and 60th Street and head downtown as you peruse the city’s fanciest department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and Barney’s of New York. FAO Schwartz and the Apple Store are also along the way.

You can also walk into The Plaza Hotel to check out the lobby or have tea and shop downstairs. If you’ve had enough shopping, visit the Museum of Modern Art, where you can see what Zagat calls six floors of “the best modern art anywhere.”

Katie Goldstein posing with the artwork at the MOMA Image by Katie Goldstein

Katie Goldstein posing with the artwork at the MOMA Image by Katie Goldstein

After another tiring day, head back to your hotel and off to the airport. New York will be waiting for you when you choose to return!

Katie

Katie Goldstein is an avid traveler whose tastes are simple: she enjoys the best.  Katie works by day as a lawyer and by night as a successful writer. Katie often lends her travel expertise to prestigious outlets, which include  Forbes, Fodor’s, and She Knows. Katie is also the founder of luxury travel and lifestyle sites, Travelingpanties and Smartypanties, where she chronicles her adventures around the world.

When Katie isn’t traveling, she can be found scouring her home base, New York City, for the next hotspot. In her free time, Katie enjoys trying new restaurants, taking advantage of NYC’s fabulous shopping and practicing her photography skills. Keep up with Katie’s escapades on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

My hOtel – an insight into luxury hotel rooms

What makes a hotel fab? Why would you want to go back? Would you recommend it to your best friend?

The more hotels I stay at, the pickier I get, so I decided to start a new series called “My hOtel”, where I actually show you what it is really like to stay in each property. Details matter, and often – especially when we are talking about luxury hotels, which is the focus of this blog – it is the small things that make you want to go back for more.

I have done some research before writing this first “My hOtel” post – and would like to thank all my lovely Facebook and Twitter followers who took the time and effort to share with me what they thought about luxury hotels – what do they like? What do they need? What do they expect? And most importantly, what really annoys them.

A room with a view at The Yeatman

A room with a view at The Yeatman

We are paying good money to stay away in these homes away from home. Sometimes it is a special occasion, sometimes it is simply a business trip – but if we chose hotel A instead of hotel B, that happened for a reason.

I personally find it outrageous that luxury hotels charge for wi-fi – and usually more than I pay for a whole month of superfast broadband at home. I also feel very strongly about being charged €5 for a bottle of water – when I am paying €200, €400 or more per night to stay. I would much rather it is added to the cost of the room and psychologically, it is “included”. What do you think about this?

I personally don’t care much for coffee/tea facilities – but my initial research demonstrated that most people do. This has been a learning journey and once again, thanks to everyone who took the time to help out and join in the conversation.

I won’t be reviewing past hotels – it wouldn’t be fair on them. There are too many details and I am only human and honestly cannot remember if every shower was Hansgrohe. My point here is not to be over critical or mean – on the contrary. I am fortunate enough to stay in incredible places, and those who follow this blog do so as well – so why not share incredible experiences? The purpose of mrsoaroundtheworld.com is to inspire people to travel as much as they can and need.

Sexy and cozy library at the Sofitel Legend Amsterdam The Grand

Sexy and cozy library at the Sofitel Legend Amsterdam The Grand

So, without further ado, here are the points that Mrs. O shall be looking at when on her next luxury stay:

Pre-Arrival

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

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

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

QT Hotel in Sydney

QT Hotel in Sydney

Arrival

–          The wow factor – sometimes these words come out of my mouth when I enter a hotel! What was the hotel décor style?

–          How quick and efficient was the hotel 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)

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

–          Did I feel genuinely welcomed by the hotel staff?

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

–          Wifi – was I told anything about it? Was there a charge?

 

Room Experience

A room with a view? Four Seasons Sydney

A room with a view? Four Seasons Sydney

–          First impressions – décor, size and wow factor

–          Welcome amenity

–          The bed – this is very important. There have been hotels whose beds I never wanted to leave. Bed linen – did I want some of it at home?

–          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.

–          Iphone Charger/Dock – seen more and more often and absolutely necessary

–          Bathrobes and slippers – something I rarely use, but most of you really value it, so I shall take a closer look

–          Coffee and Tea – which I never use, but shall see if a Nespresso moment can be had.. and what alternatives for tea lovers

–          Free bottled water

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

–          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.

Bathroom

Sexy bathroom (and room) at the Sheraton Lisbon

Sexy bathroom (and room) at the Sheraton Lisbon

–          First impressions – décor, size and wow factor

–          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?

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

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

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

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

Breakfast

Mondrian Hotel in Los Angeles

Mondrian Hotel in Los Angeles

–          Décor of breakfast room – there are some beauties out there

–          The spread (inc yumminess)

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

Bar

Eclipse bar at W Barcelona

Eclipse bar at W Barcelona

–          The wow factor – obviously!

–          Service

–          Cocktail yumminess

Beach and non-city properties

A "pool" at he Viceroy Maldives

A “pool” at he Viceroy Maldives

–          Sun loungers – the good, the bad and the ugly. And the not included in the price of the room ones (excluding Cabanas, obviously)

–          Towels – I am “slightly” obsessed with towel quality and they deserve their own bullet point

–          Food and drink selection

–          Child-free or quiet pool/beach areas – have seen this more and more and think it is a really good idea. We are all there for different reasons – I like to sleep and read, not to hear about other people’s life stories or screaming children. (Once I have children, I shall move to the other side!)

General thoughts

Timeless elegance at The Berkeley, London

Timeless elegance at The Berkeley, London

–          How good and reliable was the wifi?

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

–          Location

–          Cost – rooms starting from…

–          Would I recommend it to my best friend?

–          Would I stay again?

And last but not the least… my 3 favourite things about the hotel!

Ames Hotel Boston

Ames Hotel Boston

So there you are, with each hotel I visit, coupled with great photos, you will know what to expect if you decide to book a stay there. As always, I will always disclose if I am being a guest of the hotel or not – it shall not cloud my judgement in any way.

And incredible hotels will get something special.. the Mrs. O seal of approval. Oh and a Triptease review!

My question to you: what have I missed? Do let me know by commenting below, and I shall add them to the list!

Xo

Mrs. O

Love skiing, LOVED Verbier

Switzerland.. oh that small, neutral and centrally located country in Europe, where everything just works. I was very intrigued how seriously they took skiing (as I am a French Alps girl).. and when Verbier called and invited me to come and experience some serious Swiss skiing, I could only say: “I am on my way, and surely won’t be late”.

And after a short flight to Geneva, an impeccably timed 2-hour train journey to Le Chable, we were almost in Verbier. Given the choice of taking the cable car up to the resort, or try the new Verbier Porsche, I chose the latter and got there a bit quicker.

Chalet de Flore in Verbier

Chalet de Flore in Verbier

The newly re-opened Chalet de Flore, a new member of Verbier Luxury Hotels, was our home away from home in the Swiss Alps – and it was indeed lovely. Stylish and uber comfortable rooms, very nicely done common areas and with incredibly friendly staff, I really enjoyed my stay here. We were a bit hungry from all the travel and were delighted with the simple spread we were presented with – great cheese (Gruyere from different years!), cold meats and.. wait for it.. Swiss wine! This little detail was one of the revelations of our Swiss Girls Adventure!

Who were the girls, I hear you asking? Of course you know who they are – my two travel partners in crime, all the way from the U. S. of A., Leah and Lola joined me for this short break. It would be rude of them to leave me alone to enjoy all this.

The Swiss Adventure Girls - moi, Lola and Leah

The Swiss Adventure Girls – moi, Lola and Leah

Dinner was an early affair (jet lag had to be dealt with on the first night) at the newly opened La Cordée des Alpes hotel. Stunning food, but what really got me was the beautiful spa – not too shabby, was it?

La Cordée des Alps' stunning spa - photo by Leah Walker

La Cordée des Alps’ stunning spa – photo by Leah Walker

After a good night’s sleep, we were ready to conquer the mountains. The funny bit was that we never skied together – and I am not one to ski with groups. I like doing my own thing (I don’t disturb anyone!) and don’t like any pressure. But I decided to go along and needn’t have worried – we were to spend the morning with British skiing legend Warren Smith, who was going to “look after us”. I am not sure what he was told beforehand, but he looked worried – but it turned out we were way better than he thought!

The Swiss mountains were alive! Simply stunning

The Swiss mountains were alive! Simply stunning

We had an incredible day – and so much fun! Turns out we were all pretty much similar and Warren was the most patient guy in the world – that made us try extra hard and be as good as possible – we couldn’t make him look bad!

Warren Smith and Lola

Warren Smith and Lola

We were on the lookout for James Blunt, one of Verbier’s residents – you have heard one of his songs – so we looked everywhere. There is even a chair lift named after him – so I can cheekly say that I sat on James Blunt.. but we managed to get to La Vache, a recently opened restaurant co-owned by Mr. Blunt, Lawrence Dallaglio (English rugby player) and Carl Fogarty (world superbike champion).

We found La Vache.. and needed a little rest!

We found La Vache.. and needed a little rest!

After a little rest, it was time to continue our skiing adventure. I must say, the weather was stunning and the snow was very good. We skied like goddesses. We were on top of the Swiss Alps. We felt amazing.. and we didn’t look bad either!

One of the official "Girls Swiss Adventure" photos

One of the official “Girls Swiss Adventure” photos

And what did I love too? The après ski. It was a big surprise for me to see so much excitement in Switzerland – and this trip actually made me change some of my ideas about the country. Switzerland is not just efficient and pretty – Switzerland can be a lot of fun!

One thing I loved, was the warmth of the people we met when we were there. At one point, I couldn’t resist asking a particular person: “so, you are in the centre of Europe, surrounded by the top football nations in the world? Why in the world can’t the Swiss throw a football?”. She looked at me, smiled, and said “but we aren’t bad at tennis, are we?”. Match point. I loved the humour.

Bubbles and skiing to be enjoyed in moderation...

Bubbles and skiing to be enjoyed in moderation…

Verbier’s après-ski and dining scene is legendary, and I can assure you it did not disappoint. We had a great dinner (raclette with Swiss wine, obviously!), followed by a great night out, which went on a bit longer than I anticipated. But I loved every minute of it!

Our third and final day in Verbier was one of mixed feelings – I was a bit tired, but I really didn’t want to leave. And as I couldn’t feel my legs (they hurt so much from skiing the day before), I decided to treat myself to a massage. Not a relaxing massage – a proper sports one, which hurt a teeny tiny bit. But before and after, I got to enjoy the beautiful pool and solarium at the Chalet d’Adrien, a Relais et Chateau hotel, which is “connected” to our very own Chalet de Flore.

A beautiful pool at Chalet d'Adrien

A beautiful pool at Chalet d’Adrien

After this, it was time to go – and I was seriously very sad. And even my little St. Bernard was sad to see us go…

I know the feeling :(

I know the feeling ?

I loved Verbier and I seriously cannot wait to be back. I may not wait until the next ski season, who knows?

xo

Mrs. O

FACTBOX AND DISCLAIMER:

A huge thank you to everyone who made this trip possible. I loved every minute of it as you can tell!

Verbier St Bernard Factbox

Verbier St Bernard is one of Europe’s premier ski resorts with extensive and reliable skiing as well as a town to match with a lively nightlife and good quality restaurants. With Verbier at the centre of events the other areas within the area should not be forgotten with essential scenery and attractions in these small villages throughout the valley. Verbier St Bernard has experienced great early snow this season setting the resort up for an unforgettable season both on and off the mountain.

6 day lift passes start at £237 for an adult Verbier lift pass (£189 for children) and £239 (£191) for a 4 Vallées pass. Ski hire starts at £91.50 for 6 days from Fellay Mode et Sport on www.verbier.ch

For more information and to find out details of accommodation and booking please visit www.verbier.ch

Le Chalet de Flore in Verbier is a 4* hotel right in the centre of the village, just 100m from the Medran lifts. A new member of Verbier Luxury Hotels, the Chalet de Flore**** is joining the Chalet d’Adrien***** in the ranks of Verbier’s charming, luxury, elegant hotels. Linked with the Chalet d’Adrien daily by a permanent shuttle (9h – 22h30), clients at the Chalet de Flore have full access to the Spa and Gym at the Chalet d’Adrien. They also have priority at the restaurants and benefit from all services at the Relais & Châteaux member establishment. For more information visit www.chalet-flore.ch

For more information on the Valais region of Switzerland and events visit www.valais.ch

Air Transportation and First class SWISS Passes were provided by www.myswitzerland.com – prices start at £179 for a 4 day pass with first class passes starting at £285 for 4 days with concession prices available.

A lux weekend in Amsterdam by @sabinedewitte

When Mrs. O invited me to write a post about a perfect weekend in Amsterdam, I immediately know what I would write! When people think of Amsterdam, luxury isn’t the first thing people think about. Around the beautiful canals there is so much to enjoy…

A (very stylish) girl about Amsterdam..

A (very stylish) girl about Amsterdam..

Mrs .O and I ‘found’ each other online while sharing our favorite champagne and food moments in seriously cool places around the world and also bonded over our love for fab hotels and a bit of shopping. Guiding Mrs O and you around in Amsterdam is a great honour. First, right here for your enjoyment but actually, I am extremely excited that, later this February I will get the chance to show her my favorites in person, as Mrs. O is coming to town. Get ready for a tour around lux Amsterdam!

Amsterdam on a Friday night

Friday night starts with an after work drink, mostly champagne. One of my favorite spots is Bubbles & Wines at Nes, where a tasty champagne flight or the perfect bellini is a great way to start the weekend.

From Nes, I like to stroll through the city towards the lively Reguliersdwarsstraat. Formerly known as ultimate gay area, but recently became a stylish street with trendy cocktail bars and fancy restaurants. Lion Noir is perfect for oysters and cocktails or wine by a cozy fireplace – you can also find a great French inspired menu.

Love oysters!

Love oysters!

Prefer Mexican food? Roses’ Cantina knows how to combine burritos and a stylish interior! To unwind from all the coolness and pretty people, walk back to the Keizersgracht and enjoy an amazing canal view. Watch the lights on the bridges, take a deep breath and simply feel the vibe!

The latest hotspot in town is in the Pijp area, the Dutch ‘quartier latin’. Izakaya is a Japanese restaurant with Peruvian influences and besides great food you’ll spot some famous (and good-looking) Dutchies for sure!

Got energized and feel like dancing? Clubbing happens at AIR, where the music system will blow you away! If you prefer live music, Paradiso is the place to go. Big names as well as yet undiscovered talent are showcased there every weekend!

Saturday

Dewasserette

Dewasserette

Saturday is the perfect day to spoil yourself! Start with a relaxed but healthy breakfast at Carla’s. Their homemade granola is the perfect base for lots of energy. From there, walk to the Damrak. Lots of tourists around, but when you enter Options, you’ll understand why I brought you there. Design, furniture, stationary, gifts, challenging to walk out empty-handed. Stock is connected to the stylish concept store and serves all day breakfast and delicious cakes. Perfect for a coffee to go while walking towards the 9 streets.

The locals really do it!

The locals really do it!

This area combines unique local boutiques with bigger brands and a couple of chains. A must go is the Kaaskamer, cheese heaven and famous for Amsterdams’ old cheese. Skins is perfect for original scents, skin care and luxury treats to pamper yourself on Sunday. Mendo is a must for book lovers, amazing coffee table books and the beautiful Amsterdam book they created themselves. Hungry? Bar22 serves you tasty bites and capture the beautiful handmade paintings on the walls!

The Andaz

The Andaz

Our latest pride and joy is the Andaz Amsterdam Hotel, designed by Marcel Wanders. Go here for a treat in the Spa, a drink in the lobby or a tasty meal in the Blue Spoon restaurant. After a little relaxation, you’re good to go to the ‘posh’ PC Hooftstraat. Here you’ll find all the luxury boutiques and some fab shopping. Experience the super service at Montblanc, do some window shopping at Tiffany’s and Chanel, or pick out a new bag at Louis Vuitton, a scarf at Hermes and some Victoria Beckham goodies at Azzuro [Note: Mrs. O and I love the new handbag collection]. Scandinavian brand Filippa K is the place to go for a fashionable new look for a Saturday night in Amsterdam!

After a little shopping spree, go for a special cigar to La Casa del Habano. Diederik can advise you as if he has known you for years and you can either smoke in the shop or bring the cigars with you. Situated in the already famous Conservatorium Hotel, the luxury shops are also worth a visit. Take a look at the impressive lobby and cool down with a gin tonic or wine at the Tunes bar. You can also smoke your cigar upstairs in their luxury smoking area!

Sabinne at the Conservatorium Hotel

Sabinne at the Conservatorium Hotel

Hurry, as Amsterdam shops close at 5pm or 6pm on Saturdays and there is one area you can’t miss:the Cornelis Schuytstraat is a lively area with good shops like 1 (for men) and 2 (for women), the famous Van Dam butcher and nearby you’ll  also find George WPA, where they serve steak tartare, eggs Benedict and French fries.

A bird in town

A bird in town

One of my favorite dinner place on a Saturday night is Rosa & Rita, outside the city centre. In a former factory hall, they now serve steak & frites, pizza and French inspired little bites. It is great value for money, has fabulous wines and it is a lovely concept. After dinner, go to Roest or Hanneke’s Boom.

Party time in Amsterdam on a Saturday night! Trouw is famous for its dance parties, the Sugarfactory and Melkweg always have some reason to celebrate.

Cultural Sunday

Sunday is the perfect day for a visit to the recently re-opened Stedelijk Museum. The impressive building looks like a bathtub from the outside but has some impressive contemporary art in the inside. Make sure you buy your tickets online in advance and enter before 11am to avoid the queues. After enjoying all the artwork, enjoy a coffee at the Stedelijk cafe and watch the cyclists passing by.Want to start your Sunday with some music? Enjoy a ‘zondagochtend concert’ at the Concertgebouw. A classic start of the day!

Frozen Fountain

Frozen Fountain

After, visit the FOAM museum for unique photo exhibitions and a great museum experience. Go for lunch to Hutspot conceptstore in the Van Woustraat. Stroll down to the Utrechtsestraat for more boutiques, a drink at Bar Moustache and at Prinsengracht hop on to one of the “hop on- hop off” boats for a tour on the canals. Hop off at the Hermitage museum for Russian art, enjoy a drink and oysters at the museum restaurant Envy and afterwards walk in the direction of the famous Carre theater. Walk a bit further to the Amstel Hotel and enjoy a tea at the Serre and its amazing Amstel river view. If you’re looking for some dinner, the hotel’s restaurant La Rive is the place to go. Other star restaurants that would be the perfect cherry on the Amsterdam cake are Samhoud Places or Le Garage.

If you prefer more shopping over cultural visits, the Haarlemmerstraat area is a must – unique boutiques, original bars and typical Amsterdam coffee shops.

sabine-roadtrip

Sabine de Witte shares her luxury travel, lifestyle adventures and hotel explorings at sabinedewitte.nl. Tweeting about her discoveries on @sabinedewitte, showing (off) her experiences on Instagram and offering you a sneak peek in her whereabouts on Facebook!