Hotel Oberforsthof (Alpendorf, Austria)
For this year's skiing holiday we took a break from our usual money-saving options of a self-catering apartment or a cheap B&B hotel. We had already decided to go to Austria, to the ski resort of Alpendorf, and when our first choice hotel was revealed not to have rooms when we wanted to travel, we decided, to hell with it, we ... deserve some luxury. So, we chose instead the 5 Star Oberforsthof Hotel, half board.
The hotel was organised as a part of a package holiday with Crystal, our usual ski holiday provider. The flight to Austria was from Stanstead and arrived at Salzburg airport. From there it was just an hour's drive on the coach to a rendezvous point with a local taxi, to take us the short distance to Alpendorf and the hotel.
The hotel is quite modern; built well within the last 10 years. The covered entrance colonnade leads to the Reception where we received a warm welcome and the very kind offer of a free room upgrade; we would be in room 223.
Although the manager who received us speaks excellent English, one thing I have found in the years we have been visiting Austria is that people with a good grasp of English are far less frequently found in Austria than in most of the rest of Europe. This applies to young and old alike, so isn't just an age thing. This is also true of the hotel's staff. I confess my own German is little better than "Get By" (I learned French at school) but between us all, and with a little sign-language, we managed to make ourselves understood.
...was large and very clean, with a balcony overlooking the valley and superb views, when the weather was good. The double bed was actually two singles bolted together and so very large. The room also had a sofa bed, a separate armchair, a couple of tables and chairs and a unit containing a mini-bar.
Our room also had a kettle and a coffee machine, which is one possible reason why we got an upgrade, I believe: I had contacted the hotel in advance about tea and coffee in the rooms and was told that not all rooms have these facilities. Normally we would take a travel kit but we were right up against the baggage limit so left it behind.
There was also a TV attached to the wall but not a single English language TV services were available, not even CNN or BBC World News. The best was Channel 31, the local service for Alpendorf, which showed the mountain webcam feeds, interspersed with weather reports, to the background of the local radio station, which did at least mostly play British and American pop.
The separate bathroom was also very large, containing both a bath and a stand-alone shower cabinet. The toilet was also roomy and a separate room off of the bathroom. The bathroom floor was heated, which was nice, but what we didn't immediately realise was that the temperature was directly controlled by the thermostatic radiator valve on the heated towel rail at the end of the bath!
Towelling robes and slippers were provided for use in your room or, if you want to use the hotel's leisure facilities, for going down to the spa, which we did. Also provided is a wicker basket containing towels that you can take with you down to the pool. These are replaced after having been used.
There was no problem with adequate hot water but the actual shower head fell of of the wall whilst I was adjusting it and was never satisfactorily repaired during our stay. Also, the soap dish, by the wash basin, drooped alarmingly, clearly not being properly fixed to the wall.
However, the biggest problem was that there was no facilities for drying our skiing wear, specifically the base layers, which we normally rinse out and hang to drip dry overnight for use the following day. We were forced to use the heated towel rail, which meant there was nowhere to hang the towels! All it needed was a fold-out airer attached to the wall at the other end of the bath, that could be extended over it.
Also, when you get out of the shower, what is it you want to hand? A towel. However, there was nowhere to hang a towel close to the shower cabinet although there was certainly space for a hook.
In fact, adequate hooks or pegs was a problem in general, one that I have found in far too many hotels, not just this one. Although three generous-sized wardrobes were provided, when returning from a day's skiing you don't want to put you outer clothing on a wardrobe where they will not be able to air adequately; you want to hang them on hooks. A few hooks were provided, squashed into a small area behind the door, where they couldn't really air properly, but the long wall of the corridor leading past the bathroom, where there was plenty of room for some hooks, was completely devoid of anything at all!
There was a set of folding glass windows between the bathroom and the bedroom that could be opened! We had these closed most of the time because, overall, the temperature in the bedroom was on the high side for our preference, even though the separate radiator in the bedroom was off completely, and we didn't really want the heat from the bathroom leaking through. We mostly left the door onto the balcony, which could be opened as a inclined window instead, open to allow the room to cool down and to provide some ventilation at night. Overall, the room was always comfortable though.
Room servicing (as opposed to Room Service) was variable: the room was always kept spotlessly clean and the beds turned down for us before we went to bed but far too often we found ourselves having to contact Reception to complain that, once again, tea and coffee cups had been taken away to be washed and not replaced!
...and drink: the Bar is really quite small considering the size of the hotel. The serving area takes up a lot of room, with seating squashed in all around it. The range of drinks is generally good and not unreasonably priced, with the added interest of some very nice locally sourced farmhouse schnapps. Be aware though, the bar has NO smoking restrictions and we did find that Austrians generally still smoke a lot! Refuge could be found next door where a large lounge with leather settees and armchairs enabled you to relax in a smoke-free atmosphere, in front of a frequently lit, roaring log fire.
The restaurant is excellent and with a smoking ban; if you want to smoke you have to go outside. Breakfast is the usual buffet affair, with plenty of choice by way of cereals, cooked food and cold meats and cheeses. There were also a decent selection of fruit but largely in the form of fruit salads rather than actual apples, pears, bananas and so on, which was a pity, as these were provided in your room!
For our evening meal we were allocated a table for the duration of our stay. The food was excellent, if a touch "Nouvelle Cuisine". Each course, in itself, would not be considered a decent meal but when you've had 5 or 6 courses, you come away knowing you've had your fill, and not had a chance to get bored. The wine menu was extensive, with a full range of prices, starting at around 25 Euros. We took the opportunity to re-familiarise ourselves with Gruner Weltliner and also found a truly excellent red St Laurent, similar to a Pinot Noir.
Service, throughout the week, was always friendly, polite and attentive, just as I like it.
All the hotel's leisure facilities are in the basement, one floor down from Reception. This is actually the Ground Floor on the downhill side of the hotel.
As we were skiing, the most important facility was the ski and boot room. The hotel doesn't have lockers. Instead there's a room with stands for your skis and heated ski boot racks where the pegs that you hang your boots on blow warm air into them to dry them out and make them nice and warm to put on the following day. You can get into this room from outside via the gates below the entrance. Your room key will gain you entry.
The entrance to the Spa gains you access to the swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna and solarium. The pool is very nice and is surrounded by glass walls that look out onto the hotel's gardens. Around the pool are chairs and loungers on which to relax. Beware the sauna: nudity can be expected; apparently this is not unusual in Austria, in the sauna! I can't vouch for elsewhere!
There is also a fully equipped exercise room, with weights machines, treadmills and static bikes. You should be able to find something you like to keep you fit, if the weather isn't suitable for skiing. There are also pool tables, an electronic dart board and other games also available in the basement.
We very much enjoyed our stay at the Oberforsthof and would certainly have no qualms about staying there again or of recommending anyone else to stay there. It might sound, from my review, that the hotel is less than perfect. Certainly, there are issues but none of them could be considered more than minor niggles. It will be interesting to see if the hotel's management responds to this review and if other guests, especially any using our room, report improvements.
Largely, the issues revolve around the designers of the hotel not seeing it from the point of view of a guest; of being more interested in aesthetics that practicality. This isn't the first and certainly won't be the last hotel guilty of that, no matter what "Star" rating it has.
Abridged version of review posted on TripAdvisor.
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Grand Onder Hotel (Kusadasi)
Of the ten or so hotels in Turkey I recently stayed in, I arrived hopeful that this would be one of the most promising. One of the potential tour spoilers is having no control over where you stay, but I did a little research before going hopeful that being forewarned would mean not finding any nasty surprises. Kusadasi - Kus ... meaning bird and ada meaning island reflecting the number of migratory birds stopping over - has a more Mediterranean feel to it than most of the locations we stayed in. Which is not surprising as it is not only situated on the Aegean coast but as the Kus might fly it overlooks Greek islands such as Samos.
.. were good. The town has around 60,000 residents which nearly rises tenfold in high season. Aside from being a beach resort, it owes its popularity to the proximity of Ephesus.
Thankfully Kusadasi isn't reminiscent of some trashy Spanish resorts though, and this hotel stands at a modest four floors. With 80 bedrooms it isn't hideously huge either, nor is there likely to be room for another tour group to be staying at the same time.
~ Pouting at the grouting ~
Rather optimistically the Grand Onder website describe their rooms as debonair. Perhaps something was lost in translation, but I wouldn't come here hoping for some Manhattan boho chic. Our room and ensuite while perfectly acceptable, were if anything more shabby than urbane.
The first thing I noticed was the carpet. Odd maybe, but I personally dislike carpeted rooms in hot countries. Tiled or wooden floors would surely be easier to clean and feel cooler under foot. That said, it may well have helped with the sound proofing as I slept soundly both nights.
The second thought was more cheering in that the room was a decent size, unlike some of our other Turkish dwellings. The decor was a neutral beige but the tired CRT television, although it worked perfectly, wasn't really a nod in the direction of sophistication.
The ensuite was more disappointing. Too small to fit a bath and the shower surround was a cheap plastic which didn't feel all that secure. One place black feels neither urbane or suave is when it's the colour of choice for grouting as it is here. It merely reminded me of mould which is unfortunate as the ensuite didn't have a working extractor fan so the room tended to fill with steam easily.
Oh well, if I haven't done a good job of selling the hotel so far it's because I've saved the best till last and that is the views. The same steep lane the Grand Onder is situated in that proves a pain for coach drivers is fantastic for those with sea view rooms. Although the hotel is a five minute stroll to the waterfront, our balcony had a wonderful view of the bay and the harbour.
Breakfast and dinner are both buffet meals and we sat and watched from our balcony as poolside tables were laid on the swimming pool terrace by staff the first evening we were there.
~ Advantages ~
There are tables in the dining room inside, but provided the weather is good (which it was even in late September when we were there) dining alfresco is a must. Watching the sun rise over the harbour sets the day up wonderfully.
The food too was good. Cereals, fresh watermelon and other fruit, the obligatory toast and yoghurts were both plentiful and fresh at breakfast. Our tour provided for dinner on the first night but not the second. We stayed two nights and our package provided for dinner on the first night but not the second. We opted to try a local restaurant on the promenade the second evening. The buffet at dinner the first evening was good though, and all the better for having reasonably priced wines to wash it down with.
Despite some of its tired features, the hotel and rooms are nevertheless well maintained. That perhaps might prove harder in high season, but despite the grouting and carpets, I couldn't fault housekeeping. The same went for the pool itself and surrounding area when we were there - we had a few free hours before dinner the second night we stayed and like several others on our tour took advantage of the warm weather and splashed about a bit in the pool. Space is at a premium in Kusadasi and so there aren't any gardens as such, only the pool terrace. Still, what there is is kept spotless.
It's a short drive to the Greek and Roman ruins of Ephesus. Those who, as John Lennon said, should rattle their jewellery are more likely to opt for a cruise. We saw several large cruise liners docking overnight.
~ Disadvantages ~
Perhaps the Grand Onder has had issues with previous guests, but there is a strict policy of allowing no food or drink in rooms or they threaten to charge you for them. Not only are there notices at the entrance but in the rooms too. The oldish mini bar didn't get used during our two days here. Normally I'd be only too happy to keep some shop bought water cooling in the fridge, but not with those signs. Rather regimental In these days of customer friendliness I thought.
Not all the rooms will have a sea view. It you travel here under your own steam I would suggest asking for one at check in; the location really is the making of the hotel.
There is no indoor pool. Given that the hotel is open all year around that makes swimming here unlikely during the cooler months.
Given there are more positives than negatives then yes. The Grand Onder is located in the north of Kusadasi bay. Not only is it very convenient for a walk along the seafront and to the shops and restaurants, but perhaps more importantly it's a short drive to Ephesus. Having covered what seems like huge distances during the course of our tour, it was a relief to know that for once we wouldn't have an early morning start.
Both my mother who has arthritic knees and I scrambled down the steep road and returned like billy goats, probably thanks in part to the wine with our dinners. It's near enough the beach and town to not feel isolated, yet far enough away to not hear any noise from bars or traffic (Incidentally, the lovely promenade is lit up with fancy blue lighting after dark).
Some reviews on Trip Advisor had warned of surly staff, but I didn't find that to be the case. Check in and out were both smooth and pain free and we had no other reason to contact reception.
Address: Ataturk Bul. 4.Sokak No : 10 YatlimanI KarsIsI, Kusadasi 09400, Turkey.
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Bhanuswari Resort (Ubud, Bali)
As I have mentioned in past reviews, I recently went on a trip to Bali where I saw a lot of it doing a guided tour. On the last night we had an extra night to stay in Bali and could choose wherever we wanted to go so I had decided to stay in Ubud as this place had a lot to offer. Now, upon choosing a hotel for the last night it was a ... hard choice as Ubud has so many great places to stay but I had noticed some were quite pricey for what they were offering. I actually decided to go on lowcostholidays.com in the end where they were offering better priced rooms and I could check Trip Advisor to see if these hotels were as good as they were saying.
The Bhanuswari Resort and Spa caught my eye, I did notice it was a little bit out of Ubud but it had such good comments and when I clicked on their website it was a professional looking website which seemed important to me. Looking at the images and what guests had said this sounded too good to be true for the price. They have the option of a standard, deluxe or superior room, I opted for a superior being the last night but they do also have the choice of private villas, it all depends on what you want. I made my booking and was actually quite excited to finally get here and see what the hype was about especially for what had been paid.
On our taxi to this hotel, it was a drive through a lot of small villages and the taxi driver had not heard of this place before, I was starting to panic the more narrow the roads were getting into the hotel, it surely couldn't be here? I saw a run down building and panicked but after the taxi driver asking if it was nearby, he directed us and when we pulled up I was in shock. It was gorgeous and I was a mix of relief and excitement, a member of staff greeted the driver and instantly took our bags up into the marble hobby where all staff were so polite and helpful. Check in was from 2pm but we were early and still they had the room ready for us, there were a lot of leaflets at reception and comfortable chairs to sit on too.
You can see leaflets on activities, spa treatments, etc but you will get all of these in your room anyway so not to worry. The reception is tied in with the restaurant where meals are served and lots of staff are working so it is very clean upon first impressions. Once checked in, staff took our bags to our room, you turn out of reception and down a path with palm trees and rows of hotel rooms, it is almost like a small village but very posh, it looks out onto the rice paddies and there are two swimming pools, we got to our room and had a ground floor one which has a small porch to sit out on with chairs and a table and a light, it is very nice and I was glad we didn't have an upstairs room, I think these are standard rooms.
Once sliding the doors open to the room, I was amazed it was beautiful, almost 4 star quality really and we paid so little for it. There was a four poster double bed with draping net curtains, a small side tablet with tea and coffee making facilities, some treats and fresh towels made into animal shapes. There was room to leave cases, a tv with cable TV and a DVD player and film choices if you want to pay, it was spacious and I loved the room and it had air conditioning as well which was nice. The bathroom to the back is a big sliding wooden door you open it up with a wet room shower in the corner and large bath in the centre of the tiled floor, it is all open plan and has a mirror and sink there too.
The bathroom was gorgeous and toiletries were in there as well as more freshly cleaned towels, an economical toilet and a large window which it is not possible to be seen in. The bath was spotless as was the whole room really which made a change and also there were Balinese flowers left everywhere to add a touch of colour. There were some DVDs left in the room and a leaflet for room service meals, spa treatments and a history of the Bhanuswari logo which I thought was a nice touch. There is a phone in the room also where you can get a wake up call and can dial room service or reception. There is also free wi-fi which is a great connection throughout the resort never faultering.
So, being the last day of our holiday I wanted to try out everything Bhanuswari had to offer, there were a lot of Ubud activities that could be arranged but I had been here before on the tour and done a few, so I didn't do anymore. Instantly I went to the infinity pool, this was lovely, very clean and there was a little bar area that was shut, it is right on the rice paddies so very tranquil and there is a small circular pool here, it goes quite deep and is just relaxing. There are sun loungers and towels can be picked up for these too. I loved how peaceful it was here and it looked very well kept which was nice, a few others were lying here too.
Now, the room service menu is a fantastic facility, normally room service is expensive but not here and the choice of food is brilliant. There were Western food choices and typical Indonesian choices. I chose a few Indonesian and a club sandwich, you just needed to ring from the hotel room and they even brought it out to the pool area and took it away once finished. An average wait of about 20 minutes for food wasn't bad at all and food averaged at about £4 each meal. The next day I ordered again for lunch before leaving and again had lovely food here, they cook everything so well and this was some of the nicest food I had on my stay.
The breakfast was also very nice here, this was included in the cost and you could choose whatever you fancied. I went for pancakes which became a favourite of mine while here as they serve them a lot. These were lovely, nice and sweet and fresh juice served with them, the restaurant area is very nice and has no glass windows, it is all open so you can hear the sound of the surroundings. Again, staff at breakfast were very friendly and the tables were very clean here too. I only ate at the restaurant for breakfast while here but was very happy with what I was given and wish I could have had even more food.
Next, the spa was another thing I tried out, treatments weren't the cheapest but I booked in for a massage and just had to ring up and book in. They came to the room to get you for the massage and it maybe cost about £10 for an hour which seemed like slightly less but it was that good, I won't complain. It was very relaxing and there was a small room for spa treatments, they also did nails too and offered a good range of treatments. Nothing beats a massage here, what a nice end to a holiday and all equipment was kept very clean, I know I keep saying it but in a place like Bali you don't always get spotless clean rooms so it is nice.
Now, the other great perk of this hotel which made me choose it in the first place was that they offer a free shuttle service to and from Ubud. You just ring reception and book it in and will be taken in a people carrier to wherever you need to go, he will pick you up also if you arrange a time and place and it kind of adds to their service being slightly out of town as this makes it good to stay here. On the way back we wanted picked up earlier and rang the hotel and he still came and got us and took us home, it was roughly a 15 minute journey but the guy was lovely so it didn't seem that bad. I liked this idea of the shuttle it was so easy to do and they always seemed happy to take you in.
I had a great sleep at Bhanuswari and left feeling refreshed, watched a few DVD's and just took it easy in the quiet surroundings. Upon check out we were meant to check out at 10 but we weren't leaving until 2 and asked at reception if they could extend our room until then. Most hotels normally charge extra for this or would decline but they were lovely and checked they availability for the day and just moved who was meant to be going into our room so we could stay until 2, it was very kind of them and I appreciated it so much. They didn't have to do this but they went the extra mile which is why I want to write this review to say how impressed I was by their service.
The facilities here go far beyond what the price entails and they really should get more recognition but I feel being slightly out of town may make people unsure. There were a mix of nationalities staying here and a lot of rooms seemed occupied so a lot of people must be hearing about the Resort & Spa. The staff couldn't have been any better, so friendly, helpful and attentive and I'd definitely go back here and recommend a stay to anyone visiting the area. It isn't the easiest to find but the room was lovely, luxurious and hot water wasn't a problem here, every single detail was thought of to add to a comfortable and carefree stay.
I booked my stay here on lowcostholidays.com where they charged £23.50 for a standard room with breakfast or £27.50 for a deluxe room with breakfast so it is all very reasonably priced.
The official Bhanuswari website is http://www.bhanuswariubud.com/ where you can also make bookings and see pictures.
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