STAFF HOTEL REVIEWS
Wherever we go, we have to stay somewhere. And we're picky about our hotels. So in addition to all of our user reviews, we provide staff reviews to help you find the best (and avoid the worst) places to stay. We sneak in advice about tourist attractions and restaurants too. But we save advice on frequent flyer miles and hotel points, among other travel tips and news, for our Travel Tips blog
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Archive for the ‘hotels’ Category
The Aquabella Hotel and Spa Thermus Sexitus
2, Rue des Etuves, Aix en Provence, France
To begin with, Aix-En-Provence is a magnificent town. In my opinion (and many others!) it is the crown jewel of Provence. To start, it is quite centrally located to just about anywhere you’d want to visit in the region, from Arles (with Van Gogh and a million art galleries) to the west – Isle Sur la Plage, Gordes (a breathtaking walled city), Avignon to the North, and, the gorgeous seaside town of Cassis to the southeast with a public sand beach that is worth a few hours of sun worshipping. Even St. Tropez, to see and be seen (and drop some serious Euros even just for a beach lounger) is a mere 1:30 (well, in no traffic!) away.
The rooftops of Aix-En-Provence
But then there is Aix-En-Provence itself.
Such a magical city! The friendliest people, the most beautiful vistas and streets. Clean, safe, and inviting. You can wind for hours through the cobblestone streets of the old city, spend more hours roaming the markets (if you are there on Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday mornings – they run until about noon) where you can sample all the tapenades and fromage and charcuterie., and spend even more hours in galleries or relaxing on a cafe on the Cours Mirabeau – perhaps at the famed Le Deux Garcons where the famous painter Cezanne used to have his coffee. If you have the time, a 15-30 minute walk outside of the main area will get you to Cezanne’s studio – where so many of his pieces were done and where you can see many of the objects he painted.
A Market in Aix-En-Provence
I could go on for pages about Aix-En-Provence – but if you are reading this it is probably because you have already chosen it as your destination and are looking for a hotel to stay in. Happily, I can absolutely help you there. I stayed for a week at the Aquabella Hotel
– just on the northeast corner of the old town – a 5 minute walk to the heart of it all but, with that slight detour outside of the main area, it is able to offer so many amenities that a hotel on, for instance, the Cours Mirabeau, simply couldn’t – a parking lot to start!
The pool at the Aquabella – fortress wall and all
But the piece-de-resistance at the Aquabella
is the attached spa to which all hotel guests have complimentary access. This spa is for real and includes a whirlpool with thermal water from beneath the hotel (great for soothing aching muscles after walking around all day!) as well as a large resort style pool with a backdrop that words can’t
describe (so I have this picture instead!). Not only that, but there is a full sauna and steam room as well as a couple of unique shower experiences (select the Mediterranean storm or the Caribbean storm to feel the difference (hint – the Mediterranean one is the intense one!). The spa includes a very small gym that is also complimentary for hotel guests.
If you are so inclined, and can speak a bit of French downstairs, you can reserve one of a huge array of spa treatments – some of which place you right in the thermal bath water and some of which are more standard hands-on treatments. Hotel guests get 20% off treatments that are “last minute”.
Every day before heading out I soaked a bit in the whirlpool and took in some sun at the pool. So relaxing.
For my room I paid to upgrade to a superior room with a terrace. SO WORTH IT. The views of the town (see picture) were breathtaking and I took breakfast each morning out there.
The room itself was also splendid – fully renovated with no details to fault (well except for an alarm clock whose plug could only operate when the attached light was on –
that was a weird one). The bathroom had a large soaking tub and there are bath salts supplied daily if you want to soak away those muscle aches in your own room instead of the spa.
Breakfast, which is included with some rate plans and approximately 16 Euro otherwise, varied greatly depending on if you could make it down by 10am for the buffet or took it in your room (until noon which was great). At the buffet, there was quite a large selection. Eggs, bacon, sausage, coffee and espresso, cheeses, croissants, pastries, and cereals. Seating was mostly outside which was nice except for the no-fear birds that had no issue flying to your table to fly off with a croissant! (Yes, this happened to me!) In your room, it was a basket of pastries and bread, coffee or tea, yogurt and juice. Overall nice, but I took some issue with the cleanliness of the plates and glasses. They really should be spot checking those based on the number of dirty cups I received over the week.
The staff was, uniformly, top notch. Friendly as could be, able to speak English quite fluently, very knowledgeable about the area. No complaints at all! When I needed dry cleaning that wouldn’t make it in time based on the usual methods, they found a local place and had it done on time for me – at the same standard hotel costs. They just had someone drop it off and pick it back up for me. No fuss.
View of hotel from the pool
Parking is in a lot near the hotel. Given the proximity to the old town, it’s a joy to have the parking (10 Euro per day). Note though that it’s quite an odd facility and requires some real maneuvering to get the car in and out if it is bigger than a compact.
In short, I cannot recommend the Aquabella hotel in Aix
enough. If you don’t mind a 5 minute walk into the action as opposed to waking up right in the middle of it, and if you enjoy having a full spa at your disposal, this is the hotel to stay in in Aix-En-Provence.
Hope to see you there next time!
When I booked this trip – for a stag weekend trip from NY – I wasn’t sure what to expect. The Hilton Dublin looked nice, but standard, and perhaps a bit far from the main attractions. But the group really liked the attractive prices (we booked in for around 95 Euro per room) and as I’m a loyal Hilton Honors member anyway, I was pleased to see what they had to offer.
Turns out, it’s quite a nice spot to stay in Dublin. It balances out the whole price / location issue nicely. Simply put, it’s maybe a 10 minute drive to the Centre, but there is a tram called the Luas that stops literally outside the front door of the Hilton Dublin. For less than 2 Euro, it’s just two stops to the centre of town – St Stephen’s Park, Trinity College, Grafton St., etc. Nice.
Dublin’s also got a bike sharing program set up and, conveniently, there’s a slew of bikes right outside the front door of the Hilton along with some bike lanes. Nice again.
As for the hotel itself: it’s pretty standard Hilton. Moderately sized (read: Europe-sized) rooms, well decorated, and pleasant – nothing “special” and nothing lacking. Just watch out when you step out of the giant (yet oddly narrow) soaking tubs as it’s quite a drop to the floor! The staff were all quite friendly and the attached pub was a nice place to watch a soccer match.
Breakfast (included in some rates, or for Hilton Gold/Diamond members) was quite good. Lots of hot choices including eggs (scrambled and fried), Irish sausage and rashers, Irish potato bread, pastries, cereals, etc. Even worth the E10 if you’re paying outright.
Unfortunately no pool, but that seems quite common in central Dublin.
Overall, great value for money at the Hilton Dublin. Recommended.
Hilton Dublin on HotelMagician.com
Hilton Dublin on VacationMagician.com
Book the Hilton Dublin from your mobile device.
On a recent one-week trip to Israel, we were so on the go that there really wasn’t time to properly review any of the properties fairly.
However, there was more than enough time to have a great (or poor) impression of the hotels… and in that week, we managed to stay at 3 Tel Aviv hotels, 1 Jerusalem hotel, 1 Dead Sea “hotel”, and 1 Eilat “hotel”. You’ll see why the last two get the quotation marks.
Day One: In Tel Aviv, we stay at the very new “Brown TLV“. The taxi driver had a heck of a time finding the place, since it’s so new, but happily the ride from the airport is a fixed fare so I wasn’t paying for that time! When you arrive at the Brown TLV, there’s a nice lobby with coffee / light snacks and a few couches. I waited for one person to get checked in ahead of me and then I got my room. The pros of this hotel are the sleek designs, a nice location, friendly staff and modern rooms. The only con was that the rooms (I saw two) were definitely small. If sharing, it’s a bit “intimate”. Free Wifi.
Overall, I wholeheartedly recommend the Brown TLV in Tel Aviv.
Day Two: The Harmony Hotel in Jerusalem. Here, the location is really AMAZING. It’s a 10-15 minute walk to the old city and one block off a main strip in the new part of town (who expected a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf 2 blocks away??). The staff was so friendly and they even upgraded us (3 adults) into a suite that had three beds with more than enough room to spread out and relax. Free Wifi, great staff, and a great location made the Harmony Hotel in Jerusalem a winner. It’s also modern like the Brown TLV.
Day Three: Off to the Le Meridien Dead Sea for possibly the worst hotel experience ever. The property itself is fine. The pool area, though it closes way too early at 6pm, is very nice as is the workout facility. The rooms are adequate (I mean you are there for the Dead Sea anyway). But the overpriced and lackluster buffets (about $25 a person) are your only on-property option! It’s extortionate and your only real alternate option is the McDonald’s nearby.
The worst part is the staff though – which range from clueless (it took us three tries to find someone that could get us towels to bring to the Dead Sea) to the downright rude (like the woman that denied the late checkout guaranteed by my Starwood Gold program status and made me ultimately spend over 20 minutes fighting for what I was rightfully entitled to). All after a complete bungling of the check in where we were told we had a room with three beds only to get upstairs and find a king bed and a futon with no room for the third bed. Which required an argument to get moved – to a much smaller and older room.
If I was at the Dead Sea again, I might try the Isrotel Dead Sea which we visited for a meal and looked much nicer.
Days Four – Five: Back in Tel Aviv, this time at Eden House TLV, a B&B that is somewhere between Hotel and Hostel (there’s no included breakfast, by the way, so using B&B is a bit of a misnomer…). Again, due to our three bed requirement, we were put in a different kind of room – this one across the street from the main rooms. The pro there was we had our own apartment. The con was that the included WiFi didn’t make it across to the apartment, requiring trips across the street to stand by reception in the freezing cold and download mail. It was also implied that there was parking – however the parking was not included nor was the suggested lot even open when we arrived, forcing a stay at a very expensive lot for two nights.
Overall, though, the location was good and the price was more than right at just over $100 a night and would recommend Eden House TLV on a price vs. quality scale.
Days Six-Seven: Now we head down to Eilat – the Jersey Shore of Israel. The hotel we were in was picked for us and was prepaid, so we toughed it out, but I would never recommend, to anyone, friend or foe, the Leonardo Club. No Internet access in the rooms, wired or wireless (and the Internet room has long since been abandoned), old and outdated rooms, inedible food, the included drinks (did I mention it’s all inclusive) only at certain times that we could never figure out, and a spa down a deep, dark staircase where, perhaps happily, it turned out to be locked and closed. Oh, and it’s not even on or near the beach – in a beach town. In hindsight, the Hilton Queen of Sheba Eilat would have been the best choice, right on the boardwalk.
Day Eight: Back to Tel Aviv for the night, we booked the Cinema Hotel Tel Aviv. It was a really short sleep and leave stay, but the hotel (coincidentally owned by the same company that owns the Harmony Hotel in Jerusalem) was in a good location, with working free WiFi, and randomly, a jacuzzi and sauna as well as a roof deck. The room was fine based on the short amount of time there, though nothing fancy.
Hope that helps some of you heading to Israel!
Hotels in Tel Aviv (TLV) Israel
Hotels in Dead Sea, Israel
Hotels in Jerusalem, Israel
Hotels in Eilat, Israel