La Tour Notre Dame (France)
Choice criteria... When you're looking for a room in Paris, the choice is purely and simply overwhelming. My reason for booking was a 3-night stay whilst my partner ran the Paris Half Marathon. So the criteria were fairly particular. I wanted a central location because with only having 4 days/3 nights I didn't want to use our time ... or money travelling around. I also wanted a maximum budget of £80. This is more than I would usually spend for a break, but bearing in mind my wish for "central" and it being Paris, I thought it should be achievable. Within that I was looking for a hotel with relatively modern decor and looking clean and tidy.
When I spotted this one coming up at £78 a night (Booking.com) I couldn't believe it, because I would have expected a central Paris Best Western to be out of the equation. The photos on the website looked like it was everything I wanted. The information said it had been renovated and the public and the bedroom areas on the photos all looked like new. The location stated 500m from Notre Dame Cathedral, and looking on the maps it was literally one street away from the nearest Metro, and only a tiny bit further to the main line which ran from Gare du Nord, where we would be arriving into.
Arrival & Personnel
True to the maps/claims it was a 3-4 minute walk from the St-Michel metro station, one of the main lines. The hotel appearance was great, no litter or dirt outside, polished brass door handles and paintwork which looked clean and relatively new. The reception was lovely and clean and bright, decorated in modern colours with modern furniture. In the reception area there are seats and bookcases, and a small 'mini bar' offering drinks and snacks (a bit pricey!) We were greeted by a receptionist in perfect English (despite my best efforts at "bonjour" - we must have looked so English!!) who checked us in, and even surprisingly offered us a choice of room - street or courtyard, and offered to show us each one if we wanted to see them, although he did tell us all rooms were identical, it was simply the location that differed, so we declined to see them and opted for a street room. The check in was quick and efficient, and there is a lift to take you to your room or a spiral staircase. There were two staff around at the time, both were friendly and immaculately dressed, giving a very professional impression. Check-out was equally trouble free - quick, with an accurate bill - and again we left our luggage to collect before our return home so we could use every last minute in Paris to sightsee without our luggage in tow. The entire time of our stay, the various people on reception were, without exception, friendly and spoke excellent English to us. They were only too happy to provide extra tea bags, sugar etc and offered to bring them to our room.
The room we had was a standard double room. In it was a small wardrobe, small desk with a stool, and a bed with wall-hung bedside 'cabinets'. There was a flatscreen tv and a kettle with coffees, assorted teas and some biscuits. The size of the room could only be described as small. There was enough room to walk around the bed and that was it. We didn't need more room, though, and was what we expected. There was a huge window onto the street which gave lots of natural light, although at night the lighting was not the brightest. I'd describe it as adequate - you would need to use the bathroom light/mirror for make-up etc. The decor was very modern and everything in the room felt quite new. The bed and pillows were very comfortable, we both slept great all three nights - although that was probably due to all the walking (or running!) around Paris! The room was warm throughout our stay but there were extra blankets should they be needed. The only issue with the room is that there was a lot of noise in the street on Saturday night - the usual "Saturday night out" noise. On reflection, a courtyard room may have been a better option, so bear that in mind if you are offered the choice.
There is no beating about the bush here, the bathroom was TINY. The bathroom basically is a corner shaved off the bedroom. So you open the bathroom door and step in ... That is the extent of the floor space. In front of you is a small corner shower, the toilet is on your right, the sink is on your left. Like the bedroom, everything in the bathroom looked sparkling new. All the chrome was beautifully shiny, all the ceramics looked new, no mould or discolouration in the mastic around the bowl or anything like that. The shower, however is far and away the smallest shower I have ever encountered. I'm not slim by any means but I'm not huge either, and showering was actually a bit of an effort. My partner is slim and even for him it was a challenge. You couldn't really turn round, and if you dropped anything there was no way you could pick it up without stepping out of the shower. Washing legs and feet was a real challenge! Added to the confusion, the water operation in the shower was a tap which you had to pull towards yourself to operate the shower ... this meant if you inadvertently pushed against it whilst trying to wash, the shower was turned off. That was poor design in my opinion. Obviously after showering, there was very little room to dry off either. But the bathroom lighting was very bright and despite the limitations of the shower it was functional, complete with heated towel rail above the toilet. All space was utilised!!
We took breakfast one morning, it cost 11 Euros each. At first we thought that was extortionate, which is why we didn't take it the first morning, but having looked around Paris for alternatives, it didn't seem quite so bad, and we thought we would give it a try on day 2. They offer cereals, croissants, bread (and toaster), preserves, cheese, fruit, eggs which you can boil to your own choice, lovely fresh juice and tea and coffee. We really enjoyed our breakfast. The breakfast room is in the basement, however, and cramped to say the least. There were other guests eating that morning but it wasn't full - I don't think I'd have enjoyed trying to have breakfast there if it was full. Despite being small, though, the basement breakfast room was decorated nicely and was really bright, not an unpleasant place to be at all.
The location was every bit as good as the hotel's claims. Within minutes you were in the heart of a buzzing area of streets of restaurants of every cuisine and budget you could name (and some I'd never heard of!) If you didn't fancy a walk at all there were two nice looking restaurants next door and next door but one to the hotel itself. 5 minutes walk you were on the bridge admiring the breathtaking sight of Notre Dame Cathedral, looking up and down the Seine, and as I mentioned above - Metro stations were also only a few minutes walk. As it happened we walked everywere - being central to the city and starting walk, you soon realised you were within a few minutes of the next major sight. The street itself was clean and there was a row of city bikes outside which you hire using a credit card and can use to cycle the city - (that's my understanding, its not something we tried). Apart from the city night-out noise of Saturday/Sunday small hours, the street was also quiet and the area felt safe and well-lit at night.
For the price paid, this will definitely be my first port of call if I'm lucky enough to be visiting Paris again any time soon. Location, cleanliness, friendly staff and value for money - in all those areas, outstanding. The challenging bathroom was a small price to pay for all that.
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Fosshotel Lind (Reykjavik)
Usually when reviewing a hotel I would explain why I'd chosen that hotel and go on to say whether my expectations had been met and comment on the value for money. My stay at Fosshotel Lind in downtown Reykjavik was, however, part of a competition prize of a long weekend in Iceland courtesy of Jet2.com so I didn't get to choose the hotel ... myself.
Jet2 did send me the details of the accommodation in advance, though, so I was able to see the hotel website and look at the location. The impression I got was of a simple but smart budget hotel, close to the centre but not so close that we'd be likely to be disturbed by noise in the early hours on a Friday or Saturday night.
This hotel is situated on the edge of what is known as 'downtown Reykjavik'. There are hotels much closer to the 'centre' but if you are capable of walking you can be at the city hall or the harbour in less than fifteen minutes. There's a supermarket just round the corner as well as the Phallological Museum so if you are particularly interested in willies then this hotel is ideally located.
All the tour companies offer free pick up and return from just about every hotel in Reykjavik and Fosshotel Lind is no exception.
Fosshotel is probably the biggest Icelandic hotel chain and have a number of hotels in Reykjavik as well as a few scattered around the island generally. Lind Hotel is one of the chain's two hotels in central Reykjavik. It has a typically Nordic exterior and is pretty unremarkable among Reykjavik hotels which tend to look very similar, differing mainly in size/number of floors.
We arrived mid-morning but check in wasn't available until 2.00pm. While a number of the other passengers on our trip moaned and whined, we simply stashed our bags where indicated and went out to explore, coming back after 3.00pm when we were able to check in without queuing. The luggage store was actually a tiny room off the hotel restaurant and not at all adequate for the amount of luggage that needed to be stored. (On our last morning we left our bags there again and when we returned to collect them a large party had just arrived and almost half the restaurant had been taken up with their cases, making it difficult to get to the luggage store-proper to collect our own bags.)
The hotel lobby is small and has only a few chairs. This proved to be something of an issue each morning as guests waited for pick ups for tours because it was too cold to stand outside and so everyone was crammed into the lobby.
Superficially the rooms at Fosshotel Lind look fine, but they are undeniably bland. The painting on the wall just above the bed might have injected a bit of much needed colour to the room but the subject matter was somewhat dismal, depicting six colourful but glum looking ladies.
The look is undeniably Scandinavian with light laminate flooring, white walls and plain white bedding. I can't bear to stand on soft laminate with bare feet so I cringed each time I had to stand on it; a rug would have made the room look a bit warmer and more homely. There were no curtains in our room, only blinds, so the light would pour into the room very early (and remember, it hardly gets dark at all in midsummer). Photographs of Lind's room on the Fosshotel website, however, show rooms with curtains.
At first we thought that the windows were draughty but it transpired that two had not been shut tightly and once rectified the situation improved. The plastic knob to alter the radiator setting was broken, making it difficult to adjust the heating; we should have complained but we knew we'd spend so little time in the room that we couldn't be bothered to ask to switch rooms.
The rooms at Lind are not bad, just ill thought out. The flat screen television was placed opposite the bed at such a height that the picture was far too dark to be viewed from either the bed or the chairs and no amount of adjustment would make it any clearer. There were bedside lamps but the bedside tables had to be pushed away from the side of the bed so the lamps could be plugged in and in order to extinguish them, one had to get out of bed. Similarly the table on which the kettle stood had to be moved in order to plug in the kettle. Although there is wi-fi throughout the hotel, there was no desk in the rooms and the only table was a tiny low level on that is hardly practical for anyone wishing to use a laptop. I ended up lying on the bed to use my netbook but when the battery was almost empty I had to lie on the very edge of the bed to allow the cable to reach the wall socket.
According to the hotel's website this hotel has 77 standard rooms and one 'junior suite'. Looking at the photograph of the hotel exterior you might think that the fourth floor room where the window juts out proud from the others is the junior suite but that is actually our room which had the underwhelming advantge of an extra two feet of floor space. We jokingly referred to it as the penthouse suite.
On the bright side the rooms do have facilities for making a hot drink and a selection of teabags (but no coffee) is provided which we were very grateful for given the cost of a cup of tea in Reykjavik cafes (between £3.50 - 4.00). I wasn't much impressed by the provision of cardboard rather than ceramic cups, though they proved to be more resilient that I had anticipated.
The bathroom was small but functional and clean. The size would not have been an issue had it not been for the fact that it was essentially a wet room and the water didn't drain especially well. We'd shower before breakfast and go back to the room to brush our teeth again before going out but the floor was still wet and quite slippery when we returned. As one must expect in Reykjavik the water smelt distinctly eggy (from the sulphurous water that comes from the hot springs under the city). I knew to expect this but I was still surprised by the strength of the smell when I took my first shower.
A buffet breakfast is served in the breakfast room in the hotel basement, a large room but somewhat crowded because everyone appeared to be taking breakfast at the same time (as there is a standard departure time for most morning or full day tours, this is highly likely). As a result of this it did get a bit congested around the buffet.
While the breakfast was not spectacular, there were plenty of different options including ready prepared fruit salad or slices of watermelon or pineapple, muesli and other cereals, sliced meats and cheese, and hot items such as dinky sausages and (proper) baked beans (possibly available because there was a large contingent of Brits that weekend). In addition there were four different types of pickled herrings/herring in a dressing and they were really delicious. I adore herrings anyway but it was nice to have something typically Nordic among the breakfast choices. The bread selection was not the best I've ever seen but there were several kinds of rye and spelt bread which, again, was something a bit Icelandic among all the usual fare. All items were fresh and tasty; my only criticism would be that the hot items were only just lukewarm.
Coffee was from a machine and I passed on it, sticking to juice. I'm not a fan of machine coffee unless freshly ground and although there was a decent selection of tea bags, the cups provided were too small for practical tea-making.
Breakfast is included in the room rate.
The Other Bits
We didn't use the unfortunately named 'Confusion' hotel restaurant because we always prefer to see what's on offer outside of our hotel so I can't comment on that, nor the hotel 'bar' which shares the restaurant space. I think I would find it a bit odd to be having just a drink when other guests are having dinner but the bar is open from 5.30pm. We are not late nighters but when we came back from our first evening on the town in Reykjavik we were surprised that the bar was already closed at 10.30pm although the website states that it is open until 1.00am on Friday and Saturday nights. The restaurant is only open in the evening.
Hotel reception can arrange airport transfers and book tours though we booked ours online saving 5 per cent. An array of tourist information leaflets can be found in reception.
For guests who have hired a car for their stay, there are parking spots at the front and side of the hotel. Although it is not 'secure parking' motor vehicle crimes are uncommon.
Fosshotel Lind is a pretty average hotel. There are some issues around simple practicalities in the rooms and I would not recommend the hotel for business travelers because not only is there no suitable workspace, the location of electrical sockets is annoying impractical too. Although the corridors and doorways appear exceptionally wide there did not appear to be any ground floor rooms for disabled guests and the lift was very small.
All the staff we came into contact with were extremely helpful, though not all of them friendly. All of them speak impeccable English including the young breakfast staff who I believe were Spanish. Housekeeping standards were good and I saw no evidence of poor cleaning.
For leisure travelers this hotel does represent excellent value, despite the flaws. Looking at the Fosshotels website for May 2013 there are double rooms available from £89 most nights with just a couple of Fridays and Saturdays coming in at £135. There are lots of different price permutations, some dependent on a minimum number of nights booked, the inclusion of wi-fi or on whether you can cancel your booking, so it's worth looking at all of the options available.
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Guayarmina Princess (Spain)
The Guayarmina Princess is a four star hotel based in the Southern resort of Costa Adeje in Tenerife. We stayed there in early June. It was before my daughter was born so we travelled as a couple. I would say that this hotel is mostly suited to couples and older families. Although there are odd things, such as miniclub for kids to take ... part in, the activities on the whole were more adult orientated in the day eg aqua aerobics, darts, water polo and pool.
When we arrived, we'd requested a sea view and high floor but we weren't guaranteed them as we'd not paid for them. We were pleased when we reached the room as it was on the 2nd floor and it had a partial sea view - when we booked our two week holiday for around £1200, I remember it cost around £500 more at least to book a sea view room! We were either just lucky or they do try to accommodate requests. Check in was simple, even though it seemed that the whole plane had booked this hotel (the coach was full and dropped everyone at the Guayarmina!) and we weren't waiting long. There are glass lifts that lead up to the higher floors which I liked because I hate lifts but felt a bit better being able to see out!
The room we had was exactly as the brochure picture - the rooms are a bit dated although ours was very clean and comfortable. There is a lot of wood veneer - the wooden headboard is huge and takes up most of one wall. There were two double beds, a desk and chair and a huge wardrobe with a safe, although this was charged for. It was the first time we'd travelled on a short haul trip for 2 weeks and I'm sometimes a bit fussy but I thought the room, even though dated, was great. It was cleaned every day to a high standard. We did have an issue with the room one night with the toilet (it wouldn't stop making the flushing noise!) but maintenance came to us within 15 minutes and fixed it. They offered to move us to another room too incase we weren't happy but they fixed it promptly and it wasn't a problem. The bathroom was the nicer part of the room. The whole thing was tiled and had a shower over the bath but that didn't pose any issues for us. The bathroom was quite small. We had a balcony that partly overlooked the Iberostar hotel next door and partly over towards the sea - it had a small table and chairs on it but we didn't use it much because whenever you sat down, you couldn't see anything because the partitions between balconies were so high - so after our request we didn't get to look out to the sea very much really! Some rooms have balconies that overlook the road and I would try to avoid those if possible.
We were half board and I think the majority of bookings here are. The dining room is on the lower ground floor. The dining room is small for the size of the hotel, it was busy but not as busy as I'd expect in the very high season and we had to wait for a table a few times. This is what lets it down. The food is lovely, but the dining experience isn't great. We felt rushed and a bit cramped while eating - our evening meal is part of our holiday experience really so it was a bit disappointing. The selection of food is good, all food is buffet style. The breakfast is nice, with an omelette station and the usual cooked breakfast items, including the Spanish version of bacon (more fat than meat!). There's fresh fruit and cereals available too. For dinner, we found some lovely choices, including a roast most nights, although sometimes we spotted some weird things too (eg bulls tails was on one night?! That really reminded me of I'm a celebrity and I steered well clear of those) Veal was common. Chips were available every night although there were some other potato choices too - I usually put a few chips on my plate anyway. The food was filling though and there is a waiter service for drinks in the evening, including for alcohol, including jugs of sangria! Drinks in the evening were charged for.
The pool area is great although it is far smaller than the brochure makes it look. There are huge pillars at the back of the hotel just before the pool areas and the hotel looks magnificent at night when these are lit up. There's also a seating area here but we weren't keen on it because it was constantly full of smokers having a quick cigarette. There are two pools - the one right outside the pillars is freezing cold, the other one is nice and warm but often there's activities in there, aerobics and water polo. The sunbathing area is a bit uniformed and we found it difficult sometimes to grab two sunbeds together because of the usual reserving with towels. There are two pool bars, one has a lovely seating area and serves hot food in the afternoon and it was nice to get out of the sun for a bit up there. The other is just a walk up bar to grab ice creams and drinks at. There's also an outside seating area from the main bar which is nice to sit under to cool down.
The bar area is good, especially outside, but can be a bit cramped when it gets busy later on in the evening when the entertainment is in full swing. Weird entertainment sometimes - a fashion show of lots of white garments was one, didn't really see the point myself but other women were buying stuff so perhaps that's just me! There's a mini-disco for kids early on and a lot seemed to enjoy that. The drinks are expensive - obviously being half board meant that none were included! We spent 12 euros on one round on the first night - one beer and one cocktail so after that we used the bar some nights and went out other nights. There are some far cheaper bars around in Costa Adeje. The hotel also has a piano bar but this always seemed empty and we never used it. It did have a happy hour every day but it was between 4pm and 5pm and this wasn't ever a time that suited us in our day.
Other facilities at the Hotel
The hotel also has a shop which was great to get an English paper from, a hair salon and gym although I never used them - in fact, I never saw where the gym was during our stay. There are also computers towards the lifts on the ground floor for the internet as there's no internet in the room itself.
Beach and Bars
The beach is just across from the walkway at back of the hotel. The lift is needed to get from the pool area to the walkway and at night they close this so we found we then had to walk all the way round to the front of the hotel (an extra 5 minutes) to get back in the evening. This was a bit of a pain but it made me feel a bit more secure about staying there. We only went onto the beach once, but we walked along it many times. There are plenty of bars and restuarants along the walkway too. One of our favourites charged 1 euro per pint! Had quite a good atmosphere too. Other things in the area include a McDonalds about 2 minutes walk away and a small shopping centre a few minutes walk away towards the beachfront.
I would recommend this hotel, we had a lovely stay and will probably visit again. I would say it is worthy of it's four star holiday rating, but there are things that need to be updated really (eg the dining experience) for it to keep up with other four star rated holidays.
Thanks for reading :o)
A similar review has been written on TripAdvisor
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