Hotel Isabel (Torremolinos, Spain)
After a grueling visit to Jerez and Seville, the thought of three days lounging around at a beach resort had a certain appeal. Torremolinos on the other hand, didn't. But short of uprooting this hotel and relocating to somewhere more tasteful, we were stuck. So why go there? Simples, for the hotel. As I said, we wanted a beach hotel and ... we wanted a nice beach hotel and we wanted an affordable beach hotel. Somewhere picturesque would've been nice, but in actual fact, HOTEL ISABEL is located in a quiet area of the town so it wasn't too bad at all.
ON THE BEACH
Well, not quite. The hotel's address is: Paseo Maritimo, Playa del Lido, Playamar so it's a safe bet to assume it's not in a rural, mountainside setting but rather close to the sea. And it is. Admittedly, you have to cross a road to get there, but as the hotel is situated at the far end of the town and there's not a lot of traffic on the road, it's no biggie.
It's far enough away from the busier parts of town that it's fairly quiet at night but it's certainly not remote and a few minutes stroll along the promenade will take you to the centre. Besides there are oodles of shops, bars and restaurants within spitting distance (although most object to that)
They offer covered parking at a charge but, apart from the weekend when the streets are jam-packed, you can park relatively close by for zilch. So I did.
OFF THE BEACH
Strangely, the main entrance is at the side of the building. Well I suppose with the pool area situated at the front, you'd hardly want to be lugging your luggage past scantily clad sunbathers, would you?
The reception area is pretty much standard for a costa hotel with acres of shiny, slippy marble abounding. It's not a large area and wasn't exactly overstaffed but it didn't take too long to do the necessaries and be on our way.
The hotel has two elevators, a normal one (normal in the fact that it's cramped, clunky and claustrophobic). The other is a glass, scenic elevator. Now, mabe I'm being over cynical (moi?), but a scenic elevator on a building that only has seven floors seems a bit optimistic. Especially one at the back of a building where the scenery consists of a supermarket, small apartment blocks and parked cars.
ROOM WITH A VIEW
We had requested a room on a high floor with a sea view (actually, we paid extra for the sea vew so that wasn't so much of a request as a contractually binding agreement) and we were given one on the third...close enough I suppose. The room was bright and airy, well furnished, and although the furniture was a little dated, it was all in good condition.
We had the usual bits and bobs which make life in a hotel room bearable, namely: two comfortable twin beds with stripey covers that matched the curtains (not to my taste, but I guess they didn't do it just for me) , a small dresser/desk with the minibar/fridge underneath. Thinking about it, it couldn't really be described as a mini bar as there was nothing remotely bar-like in it...in fact there was nothing at all in it. It was handy for storing cold drinks in though...more of a fridge then. I wasn't impressed with the fact that, in a four star hotel, this had to be rented, as did the safe. A little mean, if you ask me.
More marble in the shape of a floor - not just to keep the noise and danger levels up, but also to keep the room cool. The room was a decent size at 24m² and there was plenty of storage and drawer space in the large wardrobe. Great air conditioning and a nice touch was the tea and coffee making facilities.The room was well decorated and very clean.
We had an average size balcony with table and chairs which overlooked the swimming pool and over the beach to the sea. Very nice. Very quiet. Very relaxing.
The bathroom did indeed have a bath. Not only that, but also a shower (which was ok) and the rest of the porcelain themed acoutrements one might reasonably expect to find in a room of this sort. More marble, a lovely beige colour this time, adorned everything...exept the aforemention 'p.t.a.'s'...obviously. And the large, well lit mirror. Oh, and of course the abundance of towels which were thick, fluffy and large enough for the most ample of bodies. Toiletries were of the individual squeezy-tube type and were replenished as and when. Everything was very clean so no complaints from me in the bathroom department...thankfully.
That's the toilet, now the humour: I got fired today for downloading porn on the work computer and causing everything to crash.
Some would say that's a bit harsh.
But they're pretty strict at Air Traffic Control.
Nobody goes to a hotel on the Spanish costas to partake of the gym facilities, do they? Which is handy because this hotel doesn't have any. In fact the amenities consist of a swimming pool and a ping pong table. There's not even a restaurant - just a cafe-bar that sells snacks during the day. Luckily, there are one or two restaurants and bars in the town so it's not really a problem. It might be for someone who doesn't want to venture further than the hotel but then they should really go to one of those all-inclusive deals where you don't have to think for yourself. Nope, no complaints about lack of amenities from me.
We did partake of breakfast though. Well at only £5 extra on the room price (for both of us) we'd've been completely mad not to.
Breakfast wasn't too shabby. Plenty of choice of both hot and cold items coffee and juice and well worth £2.50 each for goodness sake.
We paid a paltry £66 per night for this hotel which I think was pretty good value. It ticked all the boxes for me regards location and the room itself. It's actually rated 3rd of Torremolinos hotels on Trip Advisor which, although not the word of Zod, is a pretty good indicator.
All in all a pretty decent hotel and one which I would have no hesitation in recommending to others or staying at again myself. And Torremolinos was much better than I expected as well. In fact, we enjoyed ourselves so much we're returning to Toremolinos for a few days later this year. So obviously we will be returning to the Hotel Isabel...won't we?
We...ll, no actually. We'll be staying somewhere else. I hate repetition. I say I hate repetition.
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Shangri La Rasa Ria Resort (Malaysia)
RASA RIA - KOTA KINABALU This hotel was luxury in the ultimate and the most luxurious we have ever stayed in. We had four days at the end of our Laos Borneo holiday in this hotel to chill and recover from all the flights before we went home and back to miserable weather in England. When my parents lived in Malaysia I remember ... the Rasa Sayang being built in Penang but this is another rung up from that hotel even though owned by the same company.
When we arrived at the hotel rather grubby and dingy looking as we had just been out in the rain forest and yet we were welcomed as though we were the King and Queen. First of all our driver took us to one part of the hotel which is where we were booked into and as we arrived we were told we had been given an upgrade to the superior Ocean rooms from the Garden room we had been booked into. We were very chuffed with this as not only are the rooms superior but you get to use other pools and also you can go to have breakfast in a special dining room too.
The first impressions of the hotel are fabulous - everyone smiles and the reception area is opulent but comfortable, a perfect representation of the rest of the hotel as it turns out.
After a bong on the gong to announce our arrival, we were shown to some comfortable chairs and given drinks and cold towels .The lovely tiny young ladies in their very slim fitting uniforms welcomed us and then asked us to come to the reception desk to complete a few bits and pieces then one of them escorted us to our room while a porter took our cases for us.
Wow and Wow! I have never seen such a fabulous room. Firstly it was enormous. The room itself had two queen beds which they rushed around and made into a 'double' so huge we had to wave to each other. This was really comfortable and the pillows were large but soft and just perfect for me after the odd ones we had enjoyed when in the rainforest.
Beside the bed was a chaise long with silk cushions. - I did try lying on here and looking elegant but somehow it didn't quite do it despite the setting, I think it was me that spoiled the effect.
A large round table with chairs was in one corner and on that table was a fruit bowl and also some chocolates to welcome us. These were refreshed daily and the fruit was something different each day.
Next to the table was a desk and inside the drawers we discovered everything you might ever need from glue to scissors, stapler to writing stuff and sticky tape. I have never had that in any hotel before. Internet access was available free.
Our bathroom had an enormous walk in shower, two basins and all the toiletries were all L'Occitane. I have seen these selling on Ebay for a lot of money and I di collect mine daily but gave them away to our children when we got back. The toilet was separated from the rest of the large bathroom by a sliding glass screen.
Between the bedroom and bathroom was a dressing area with wardrobe and drawers as well as a cupboard for shoes and a safe. There were soft cloth bags for beach stuff, flip flops and slippers also for our use and I think you could take them with you but we didn't.
The piece de resistance was the balcony which not only had a really comfortable sunlounger and chairs but also had a huge tiled bath. Seriously i could almost swim in it and there was plenty of room for two. This had screens you could bring down with the touch of a button so that you could enjoy you double romantic bath in privacy. You could ask for special aromatherapy oils and massage as well but they were not cheap so we just filled it and tried to lie back and enjoy the relaxation but in truth it looked more exciting than it was as it was not that comfortable and I kept sliding down and floating around rather than being able to just lie back and read.
GARDENS AND POOL
The gardens were stunning and even though there was some building work going on at the other end of the hotel we could still walk around and enjoy the gardens and there were several pools to sit around and enjoy in various places around the resort.
WILD LIFE RESERVE
There is also a special Orang-utan Sancturay within the hotel grounds and you can pay extra to go and see the Orang-utans being fed. We didn't do this as we had already seen Orang-utans in the rainforest in the wild and nothing could better that.
We did however go on a night walk which promised all sorts of nocturnal animals but sadly we didn't see anything much at all so we were a bit fed up that we had paid for a bit of a waste of time and were also glad that we had seen Orang-utans in the wild and in Sepilok Reserve which was much better .
the hotel organised many trips including to visit Kota Kinabalu, Mount Kinabalu and also a fire fly trip. We had already seen fire Flies on a river just outside Kuala Lumpur but I persuaded my husband to do this and it was fabulous. I have written a review on this previously on this site 'Twinkle twinkle Little fire Flies'. You are collected from the hotel and taken in small lepa lepa boats up the river and you do get to see these wonderful creatures up close.
COAST: Because we had been upgraded to the Ocean rooms we were able to have our breakfast in the 'Coast' dining room. This had the most sumptuous buffet I have even seen with champagne and Bucks fizz too. They also gave you a menu to select particular specialities such as eggs Benedictine , Malay specialities, salmon fillet and so much more. I was not that bothered by the cooked menu as there was so much to choose from on the buffet from sushi through to wonderful tropical fruit and the disgusting chicken porridge was there as well.
This was built to represent a Malay street market and so it was a buffet and you could eat as much as you like and the choices ranged from lots of freshly prepared seafood through to Indian options, Malay options and Chinese options. The desserts were better than they usually are in Malaysia and I was really so full whenever we ate there which was twice in the four nights!
This was not a cheap meal but as you really could eat as much as you liked you got your money's worth really.
One thing I was impressed with is that a 10% service charge is included in the price of everything, so tipping is not expected at all. This means that the service charge is equally shared between all staff which is a far fairer system that just waiting on staff getting the tips.
OTHER DINING OPTIONS
The choice and quality were both excellent. We ate twice at the Malay buffet restaurant which wasn't cheap but the choices were so many and you could eat as much or little as you wanted. There were other restaurant options from the more formal 'Coast' through to Japanese and Indian places. Breakfast was in served in two places but as we were in the Ocean wing we ate at the more formal option which had champagne as much as you wanted, a buffet and a menu of freshly cooked items as well.
The other thing was that as you sat around the pool which was specifically for the garden rooms the lovely staff brought you little tasters during the day and these were things like spring rolls so with a few of those that took care of lunch most days for us.
There was a great gym with shower and toiletries, water and fruit were also supplied in there too. In the cafe there were a number of Mac computers for guests to use, We made some use of these and also used the wifi in here on my laptop. They were happy to print off our boarding passes for us when we checked in for our flight and on the last day after we had checked out of our room we spent the afternoon in here relaxing before we were picked up and taken to the airport.
There was a spa but treatments were sort of UK prices so we didn't bother as we had enjoyed massages in Laos recently.
Golf on an 18 hole championship course designed by Ted Parslow but again this costs extra.
For adventurous types and water enthusiasts there were a variety of sports, including jet-skiing, kayaking, banana boat rides and windsurfing.
Although the setting is perfect with a beach of perfect white sand, lovely pools and beautiful gardens it is a long way out of town so this is somewhere you go and stay on the resort to enjoy what they offer so two stars off because of that.
It is a fair way out from the city of Kinabalu so you needed either a taxi or the shuttle ride to get there and that takes a lot of your day. So we chose not to bother as there was nothing much we desperately wanted to see in Kinabalu.
VALUE FOR MONEY
This was not so much more than some of the other hotels in the area but the difference in what you get is worth every penny. Food and drink was not cheap and you were pretty much forced to eat here as you were a long way out of town. I think that would be my major criticism in that you had to eat in the hotel or use most of the day or evening getting into Kota Kinabalu for an alternative.
A truly luxurious resort but it is some way from the city so if you want to visit Mt Kinabalu and the town then I suggest staying in town to do that then moving out here for a luxurious relaxation after that.
I could go on and on about this hotel but I think you get the idea, Total luxury.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.
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Renaissance Shanghai Yu Garden Hotel (Shanghai, China)
Where is the Renaissance Shanghai Yu Garden Hotel? This attractive 4 star hotel belongs to the Marriot chain of hotels, located on South He Nan Road in the Huangpu district of Shanghai. The location is excellent near to the Yu Yuan Metro stop and within walking distance of the Old Town and Yu Yuan Gardens & Bazaar. There ... are lots of small streets hidden away off the main artery which are really fascinating with street stalls, shops selling anything from silk, musical instruments, pans, steamers, buttons, and lace, all sorts of weird and wonderful objects. The Bund and water front is only about 30 minutes away; one of the top attractions of Shanghai.
Arrival at the hotel was a blessing. We were exhausted and overheated; all we could think about was having a shower. Our hosts had a different idea. They had ordered lunch and wanted us to go to the restaurant to eat. We really didn't want any food seeing that we had been eating all the time on the plane but we didn't want to sound ungrateful so managed to persuade both of them to wait in the lounge while we went upstairs for a quick shower. They agreed and went to check us in which was a nice gesture. The reception desk is based in the lounge, a long desk attended by 4 or 5 efficient Chinese staff. Passports had to be handed over and checked and my husband was then called over to sign a form displaying all our details and the reason for coming to China.
Our room on the 18th floor
We both liked the look of the hotel immediately. It's rated as a 4**** and think this is a true rating. Our assigned room was on the 18th floor which is reached by a black and chrome lift. You have to insert a key card as you enter the lift before you press the floor number. I loved the lifts in this hotel; they were spanking new, speedy and smooth. We reached our floor in no time.
As usual the door to our room didn't open at first not because the key card was faulty, our technique was wrong. Over the years I have realised that there definitely is a technique to using these cards. The gentler you place the card into the slot the better results you get.
The design of the room was contemporary mixed with a touch of Chinese retro Art Deco. I particularly liked the lacquered cupboard which the flat screen TV stood on with its glass and chrome windows. What was a bit off putting was the large transparent glass panel between the bathroom and sleeping area. Luckily, we could close the venetian blinds. Whilst I am all for walking around skimpily dressed in such humidity I am not sure I wish my husband to view me seated on the loo at 7am. Once the blinds were closed I felt much more relaxed.
We had a very large double bed with a medium to hard mattress and six pillows in total; three giant sized, displayed upright on the cream padded leather backdrop followed by three smaller in the front. The first evening we threw four out on to the jazzy turquoise carpet although half way through the night I did reach out for an extra pillow so I could make myself comfortable. We set the air conditioning on low to cool the room down but the blowing noise got on our nerves in the end so we left it at room temperature. I had only been in bed five minutes when I had to kick off the duvet. It was too thick and warm. A linen sheet was adequate and this is all I had on the bed every night of our stay.
As my husband had to do some written preparation for his conferences he was grateful for the use of a desk with telephone, reading lamp and super fast internet connection. He was pleased with the cream leather chair too. My writing area was opposite his desk, a blue velvet chaise longue with two colourful cushions and a small marble table facing the window. The view from the window was spectacular; I could see the Bund Centre, Westin Hotel and other amazing skyscrapers. This was my cosy corner and I was very happy lying here with my notebook perched on my knee writing up my adventures of the day. I loved the view of the futuristic buildings especially about 4pm when the sun eventually peeped through the grey clouds leaving amber shadows on the tower tops.
The bathroom was very smart and a good size. There was a large standing bath with a mat so you didn't slip and bang your head, an enclosed shower unit with two shower heads, one the size of a sunflower and the other a normal size. The taps were contemporary and very shiny; they looked brand new as did all the fittings. In the shower there was one central device which turned both shower heads on. You pressed the device forward for the large head and backward for the small head. I don't think my husband ever did work out how to use the large showerhead; he's not the most practical of guys.
Underneath the square wash basin was a bamboo coloured unit with two drawers, one contained a hair-dryer placed in a velvet bag and in the other was a selection of toiletries included a dental kit, bath salts, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, shower cap, vanity kit, mouthwash, hand and body cream. Two large, very soft, white towels, two medium and two small were rolled up and placed in the middle section of the unit. Good job there was a leather bound tissue box with tissues in as my husband had a stinker of a cold during our stay. There was also two chunky glasses with two medium sized bottles of mineral water. Also, nice to see a spare toilet roll just in case of any upset tummies.
Tea, coffee, drinks
If you are the kind of person who likes a cup of tea or coffee as soon as you wake up then you will be pleased to know that there was a two door cupboard at the back of the desk which had two drawers containing tea, coffee, jasmine tea, sugar, brown sugar and powdered cream. I'm not a fan of powdered milk or creams but I did use some sachets and it was okay. A funky kettle, coffee percolator, ice bucket, glasses and cups are also tucked away in the cupboard as well as a bottle of Berringer red wine from the Napa Valley in California. The price of this will knock you back 150CNY (£15). A litre bottle of Evian mineral water costs 80CNY (£8.50) which is expensive. It is much cheaper to buy a bottle from a local shop. We did look in the fridge but weren't tempted as the prices of beer were too expensive at 35CNY (£3.50) for a piddling can of local beer. I found a shop that charged only 5RCNY (50p) so I used to smuggle a few cans in every night.
The dining room or main restaurant is called the Yu Garden Café and is on lobby level, open from 6am until midnight daily. The lobby/lounge area is the place to sit and have a pre-dinner drink; a luxurious lounge with a bar and some very abstract ornamental features. There is also a wonderful view of the back of the Yu Garden bazaar with its Ming style architecture. At night when all the curly roofs are lit up it is pretty outstanding and a view I'll remember for a long time to come.
The Restaurant is a pretty funky place and I fell in love with it from the first time we sat down for lunch after our shower on the first day. It has a real 80s feel to it with orange and yellow plastic cylindrical lights decorating the central aisle where food is displayed. There is an L shaped fruit section where you will find bananas, kiwi fruit, water melon and freshly squeezed juices. Another section displays cheeses, hams and also a sushi section. Cross over the other side of the restaurant and you come to the main cooking area, a very attractive area with a green backdrop where shelves of jars containing spices and herbs are displayed. Three or four chefs are always doing something whether it is making noodles, preparing curries or cooking scintillating dishes like shrimp a la Shanghai, sweet and sour Mandarin fish, black bean chicken etc. You can choose from the buffet selection or à la carte menu but I think the buffet is better value and obviously you can mix hot and cold dishes and eat as much as you wish. I did try a couple of meals from the à la carte, they were okay but the portions were small and sometimes the vegetables weren't cooked enough. If you choose the buffet selection in the evening a prepared drink is included in the price; a liqueur with coconut milk served in a coconut shell. One evening we sat down to eat the buffet and fancied a bottle of wine. It was a bit of a drama as the young waiter on duty wasn't sure if we were allowed to have a bottle of wine because we were meant to have the coconut drink. In the end the head waiter said it was okay but they looked a bit baffled. I would say that most of the Chinese people I met during my stay didn't drink a lot of alcohol and certainly not wine.
This is the same room used for breakfast and generally a buffet is displayed from 6am and replenished up until 2pm in the afternoon. Breakfast choices were very good, there was a section serving croissants, different breads, cakes, cereals and shrimp patties. These were gorgeous, the pastry was soft and really did melt in your mouth and at the same time you got a kick of shrimp. I had to have one of these every morning. There is a cooked breakfast section for international guests. Here you can choose eggs, bacon, hash browns, mushrooms, baked beans. All the ingredients used in a typically English fry up. I didn't try the cooked breakfast as I didn't like the look of the bacon; it was dried up and glistened with oil. Overall, I would say there is a great choice of food on both menus but the food is only mediocre in taste but beautifully presented.
The waiting staff were very nice, courteous, very good at organising guests so they find the correct seats within minutes of entering the restaurant. We were treated well at this hotel and it seemed nothing was too much trouble. Most of the staff could speak a little English but only phrases they had learnt. As soon as you entered into conversation they looked baffled. However, they all tried very hard and I could see they were pleased to communicate and wanted to speak English so much.
Every night and sometimes in the morning at breakfast the manager of the hotel would walk around the restaurant and have a little chat with guests. He was a lovely man who was originally from Hong Kong. He always looked interested in what people had to say, he wasn't just making conversation because it was his job. I became quite friendly with some of the waiters and waitresses; they were so accommodating and chatty. I felt quite sad on our last evening so asked if I could take photos of the restaurant and some of the people who had served us during the stay. I even gave one sweet girl a hug and a Polish goodbye kiss (3 kisses). In a well-known guide book I had read before going to China it stated that kissing and showing affection wasn't really acceptable in China. I found this to be not true as all the people I came into contact were very happy being hugged and not embarrassed at all.
There are three other restaurants in the hotel, Yu Sushi, Yu Bar and China Bistro. We didn't try any of these because we liked the atmosphere in the Yu Garden Café and felt relaxed there.
The Renaissance Yu Garden Hotel has top facilities like other international hotels; a business centre, fitness centre including swimming pool, 24 hour room service, navigator, club lounge, shoeshine, laundry services and even a pillow menu where you can choose your own favourite kind of pillow.
There are designated smoking areas within the hotel, if a guest is found smoking in an area where it isn't allowed there are charges applied to the equivalent of one night's stay.
In theory check out time is noon. We didn't have to leave for our flight until 4pm so we asked if we could leave the luggage somewhere and collect it just before leaving for the airport. Luckily, we were told that we didn't have to vacate the room and we could stay as long as we liked before our departure.
The hotel was booked by our business colleagues in Shanghai; they took care of all costs. We could have had full board if we wanted to. My husband did sometimes have lunch especially on the days he was running the conferences. I generally only had breakfast and evening meal with a couple of beers beforehand and we shared a bottle of wine with our evening meal. My husband asked his colleague the price of the room including all the extras. He said that it worked out about 110 pounds per night for both of us. I think that's an amazing price and extremely good value.
I loved this hotel, the location, restaurant, the room itself, and all the staff. I have never stayed anywhere where I have felt so relaxed and cared for. The views from the room and lounge are out of this world. I can't wait to go back in October.
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4 Stars Hotel International
Hotel International / 4-star hotel in Shanghai, China.
Address: Hoefijzerlaan 37 / Hotel International / B-8000 Bruges / Belgium
Address: Plaza de Pradollano s / Hotel International /n / 18196 Sierra Nevada / Granada / Spain
Hotel International / Holiday village located on the Costa del Sol, Spain.
Address: Rock 1 / Hotel International / 414 51 Gothenburg / Sweden
Address: Pahkalantie 447 / Hotel International / E FI-91200 YLI-II / Finland Phone: +358 8 8170 492
Address: Am Hauptbahnhof / Hotel International / 48143 Münster / Germany / Tel: +49 (0)251 84 69 280
Address: Bristagatan 16190 / Hotel International / 60 Märsta / P.O. Box 55 / 190 45 Stockholm / Sweden
Address: Locht 117 / Hotel International / 5504 RM Veldhoven / Netherlands / Tel: 31 40 2537475
Address: Viale Amerigo Vespucci 71 / Hotel International / 47921 Rimini / Italy / Tel: +39 0541 22506
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