Ibis Paris Montmartre 18ème (Paris, France)
I booked the Paris Ibis Montmartre when we needed a crash pad for a short trip. My brother-in-law wanted to fulfill his wife's dream of visiting the Eiffel Tower and we agreed to accompany them. As they only stayed in the UK for a short time the trip had to happen right before Christmas and we would only have time to stay for one night. ... There was no need to search for special comforts, we really only needed a bed for the night and a shower at an affordable price.
I knew the Ibis hotels from the past and was aware that they are nothing special . They are not really geared for the family market (we were travelling with two children), but they are usually contemporary, clean and run by young and friendly personnel.
A few days before our trip the big snow set in and news that the Channel Tunnel would be either closed and/or journeys be severely delayed came up. The brother-in-law decided that we should still try to go on the trip and so I called the hotel one day before our departure to confirm our arrival.
The young lady on the phone spoke excellent English and I found out that Paris so far didn't have any snow at all, and that we shouldn't worry about parking as there was a large public indoor garage directly under the hotel which always had capacities available. The later was a huge relief as parking in Paris can be a nightmare.
Either we were plainly lucky or the news about the tunnel delays were exaggerated to keep travellers away, our trip went smoothly and we made it to Paris more or less as planned.
The hotel is located directly at the Place the Clichy, which makes it easy to find no matter if you are using public transport or your own.
To find the garage was easy, it was exactly where the receptionist had told me, under the hotel, and signed out well too. Check in went equally smooth and within minutes after arriving we were on the way to our rooms on the second floor.
The Ibis hotels don't offer rooms for more than 3 people and the plan was that one of our girls would sleep in our room and the other with their aunt and uncle.
Nice plan, unfortunately it didn't work as both of our kids were tired from the journey, in a foul mood and refused to stay with anyone else but us. A change of plan was needed and we decided that the older daughter would get the spare bed and the little one would have to sleep in the middle. This was a decision we regretted as soon as we entered the room and saw the size of the bed ! As I said earlier, they don't do rooms for four and the reason why was all too obvious - there simply wasn't enough space and the bed would have been just about fine for two but not for three. Oh well, we survived it and can't really blame the hotel - they never wanted to rent this room to a family of four - but comfortable it wasn't.
The spare bed was a nifty construction under the window that could fold away totally and be turned into a workspace. The wardrobe is just a small hanging rack and a few shelves (in which we also found the chair that would have usually stood in front of the workspace-now-bed)
The plasma TV is fixed at the wall opposite the main bed but showed only French programmes (not too surprising if you are in Paris) but managed to keep the girls entertained with some cartoons while we each took a quick shower and got changed for dinner. There is a menu for room service which might be fine if you are travelling alone or as a couple but for us, with the only table in the room turned into an extra bed, no option. After spending hours cramped into the car the last thing we wanted was a picnic on the bed in an overcrowded room.
The bathroom is compact with a shower, basin and toilet. Everything was compact, not really big enough to swing a cat, but also everything was spotlessly clean. The only niggle I have is that the shower gel in the shower cabin was almost empty, which was a shame as it actually smelled very nice and I would have liked to use more than just the few drops I managed to squeeze out of the spender. Good thing we brought our own or we would have had to ask the reception desk for a refill.
About an hour later we were ready to go out and the receptionists were more than happy to give us directions towards the Moulin Rouge and Sacre Coeur. Given the fact that there was so little time we wanted to put some more sightseeing, apart from the Eiffel Tower, into the trip.
It had started to rain by now and we dismissed the walking directions we were given and went straight for the metro, which was around a two minutes walk from the hotel. In no time at all we were at the Place Blanche and from there made our way up to Sacre Coeur. So if you want to opt for this hotel, attractions are plentiful nearby and connection to the public transport is not an issue.
However, the neighbourhood of this hotel is about as family friendly as the hotel itself and I wouldn't necessarily stay in this area of Paris if travelling with children.
After a lovely dinner near the Place du Tretre we opted to walk back, the rain had stopped, and this took just 10 minutes, so you don't even have to spend money on the metro if you want to see around Montmatre.
Back at the hotel we decided to go for a drink in the bar. We were the only guests and served quickly but didn't feel like hanging around too long. The place was just too quiet and rather brightly lit. The restaurant, which is located on the same level, was already shut although it was just 8.30 pm.
By 9 pm I took the kids upstairs while the husband and his brother ordered another drink. Being awake since 4 am we were very tired and the bed was really comfy - until the husband appeared half an hour later and space became an issue. This queen size was really not made for 2 adults and a 7 year old and it wasn't the most comfortable night of my life.
By 5am I was very awake and decided to check out the 24-hr bar they advertise, hoping for a cup of coffee and a newspaper. Surprise, surprise the bar was closed and there also wasn't a newspaper. Not that they advertise the papers but they do state that the bar is open 24hrs a day. Not on this day though ...
A can of orange juice from the vending machine in the reception and a tourist information magazine would have to do and I managed to pass an hour before going back upstairs. I guess I would have managed to get a cup of coffee if I'd made a fuss and bothered the night receptionist but at 5am I'm not the most talkative person in the world, and just wanted some peace without a forever turning little girl kicking me every few minutes.
I don't remember the timetable for the breakfast, we went at 8am and all was set. There is a small reception in front of the breakfast area where you need to show your room card and then you are ready to go.
Breakfast in French budget hotels can be a sad affair consisting of just a piece of baguette and some jam but the Ibis offered a real proper buffet with a nice selection. You won't find a Full English breakfast, not even a boiled egg, but they had a variety of cheeses and cooked meat, several types of jam and honey, yogurts and fruit. There were croissants and a really very good selection of different types of bread, and, what was a really nice extra, pancakes and tortillas.
For drinks there is a variety of fresh fruit juices, milk, several types of coffee and a good selection of teas.
After breakfast we were ready to make our way to the Eiffel Tower and, when we finally entered our room to get our luggage and saw it for the first time in full daylight, realised that our room overlooked the Montmatre Cemetery - no noise disturbance to be expected from those neighbours !
A cheap and cheerful option for all who aren't looking for too many creature comforts but want an affordable hotel in an area that is not only near to some of the main tourist attractions but also offers great connectivity to the public transport. Being so close to Place Clichy means that there are plenty of restaurants and bars around, so getting bored in the evening is not something you need to be afraid of.
The staff were all very friendly and helpful and the garage beneath the hotel was a great plus. Personally I probably wouldn't use this hotel again. Not because we were disappointed but plainly because we need a bigger accommodation for the four of us to be comfortable. I'd recommend it for single travellers and couples - for families, even with only one child, it is rather cramped, especially if you'd like to stay for more than just one night and are planing to bring more than just a small bag .
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Hotel AC Porto (Porto, Portugal)
The AC that's handy for the FC The AC Porto is situated in the Antas area of Porto city, a district which was built up a few years ago for the European football cup and it's very conveniently placed for access to the major football stadium. Perhaps the testosterone charged atmosphere of the game accounts for the design of what ... is one of the most overtly 'manly' hotels I've seen in a very long time. If you are old enough to remember Mickey Rourke when he was still handsome, the hotel rooms look like they're an 'homage' to his apartment in the film '9 1/2 Weeks'.
I was dropped off by my colleague who lives nearby. She'd chosen this hotel because it's handy for her to ferry people around and it meant we could go out for dinner in Lisbon rather than the small town where our factory is based. I stepped into a high ceilinged and rather bleak lobby, decorated with lots of very modern leather seating, metal coffee tables, lamps galore and a lot of rather ugly vases. What is it with hotels that they seem to think all ills can be solved with vases? The whole 'Elle Deco' vibe was a little cold and gave me an uneasy feeling that the designers had been trying a bit too hard.
The check in was handled quickly and politely by a young lady who seemed unfazed by the extraordinarily ugly sculpture on the wall behind her which looked like it had been fashioned out of old coat hangers and Hoover fluff. She confirmed the time of breakfast and that it was included in my rate, gave me my card key and directed me towards the lifts.
A very manly room
The hallways were carpeted which was a nice surprise. Carpeting makes an enormous difference to the acoustics of hotel rooms and I was surprised to see it in Lisbon as hotels in southern Europe tend towards tiled flooring. With the door opened I stepped into a room with not one trace of anything even slightly soft or girly. The floors were of a dark wood laminate, the walls were painted grey, and the furniture was characterised by lots more dark wood and black leather. Could a place be more 'single man on the pull in 1985'?
To brighten things a little the curtains were white and had excellent blackout properties. The duvet and bedding were also white. On the wall was an ugly print of a boat, painted from what I can only imagine as a sort of sharks eye view.
Furniture included a large padded bag stand a long narrow desk with a smaller than might be expected flat screen television, a desk lamp and an ultra chic Jacob Jensen slim phone. I'll admit I fell slightly in love with the phone though it seemed a shame to put not one but two such beautiful iconic design classics into a hotel room, given that hardly anyone ever uses hotel phones any more. There was a black leather arm chair and matching footstool which looked great but were not the most practical things to actually sit in.
The bed side tables are platforms that just emerge from the wall. Lighting around the bed includes some pretty intense reading lights which I liked a lot. The wardrobe doors glow from the lights behind in a slightly eerie way but when I opened the doors it was intensely dusty inside and made me suspect that most guests probably live out of their suitcases like I do. Additional facilities included a small mini bar but surprisingly neither a safe nor an iron and board or trouser press. The Portuguese are normally pretty dapper so that seemed like quite an omission.
The bathroom was impressive - very sleek and ultra modern with a fabulous moulded glass sink that's strictly for those with time to clean it every time it's used or staff to do it for them. It was gorgeous but not very practical. Because the sink was so splendid they seemed reluctant to put anything on it so a small trolley underneath held all the toiletries and spare towels as if putting anything on the glass might be sacrilege. In normal Iberian style there was both toilet and bidet and the room was beautifully tiled in small grey-green tiles. You have to hand it to the Portuguese - they're world experts at tiling. The mirror was large and well lit but there was no shaving/make up mirror.
I slept well in my room and headed down to breakfast the next morning at about 7.30 am. The restaurant was enormous but completely empty and I did wonder if maybe I'd set my watch wrong or turned up before it had opened. But the food was laid out so I blundered around and helped myself. I got to the stage of wondering where they'd hidden the coffee when a slightly flustered waiter emerged and sorted me out with a cup. I asked him if it was always so quiet and he muttered something about 'calm before the storm'. I later learned he was referring to the fact that a Russian team was playing one of the Porto teams at the football stadium nearby that night and so the hotel was booked up solid for the next day or so. I found a good selection of cold food but very limited hot options. I wasn't bothered, they had mini 'pastel de nata' (the exquisite little custard tarts) so who needs scrambled egg when those are available.
My check out was handled just as quickly and efficiently as the check in had been the night before and my bill was 90 Euros which I thought was quite good value. Porto is always a city that delivers a lot for your money. Unless you need or want to be by the stadium or the shopping centre next door, I'm not sure that most people would pick this hotel. It's not so convenient for the more obvious city attractions but taxis in Porto are cheaper than many cities so it's well worth considering.
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Ixian Grand Hotel (Rhodes, Greece)
I stayed in the Ixian Grand in June 2011 for 7 nights with my Mum. We had talked about going to Rhodes and decided to go ahead and book the flights and hotel ourselves. I scoured the net for hotels and found several nice hotels in Ixia - not far from Rhodes town. This one was my favourite based on reviews and the hotel ... website.
**Booking & Prices**
I actually booked the hotel through a third party company Alpharooms who were offering a heavily discounted rate. We paid £600 for 7 nights in a standard room, which would have cost approximately £800 direct with the hotel. I immediately regretted my decision to use Alpharooms after reading a lot of negative press about it online. As the dates got closer I contacted the hotel to ensure they had my booking which somehow they didn't!! With only a week to go before the holiday and non-refundable flights I was mortified and contacted Alpharooms immediately. They were actually easy to get hold of and contacted the hotel for me, and somehow an agreement was made that due to their being no standard rooms available we would be upgraded to a deluxe room with sea view for no extra cost! As you can imagine we were thrilled with this! I still don't know who messed up - Alpharooms or the hotel, but either way it was dealt with very well.
The hotel is located on the Ixia strip which is basically a long road of restaurants and hotels. The Ixian Grand is on the beach side of the road meaning it has lovely views of the sea and its own private section of beach. Despite most of the hotels in Ixia being 4/5 star the area itself doesn't look that pretty. It actually looks quite tacky like a place teens would go on holiday, but without the wild nightlife. Also the road the hotel is on is impossible to cross. We found most restaurants were on the other side of the road and some nights it took us 15 minutes just to cross the road - no exaggeration!! The traffic just went on and on, with no lights to slow it down or crossings. It was literally like trying to cross a motorway!! Of course this is no fault of the hotel, but thought it was worth a mention particularly for those travelling with kids or those who aren't good on their feet.
The hotel is roughly a 10 minute drive from the airport, so we opted for a taxi transfer to and from the airport, which cost roughly Euro20 return. It is also only a 10 minute bus journey from Rhodes town which we visited on a few occasions including in the evening. The buses were fairly regular and reliable and there was a bus stop just outside the hotel on both sides. However we found taxis only cost slightly more to Rhodes town so ended up doing that rather than the bus on some occasions.
We were really impressed with the rooms, they comprised a studio type room with the bedroom and living area combined into one open space. The bed was huge and had plenty of pillows as well as a bedside table on each side with lamps. The living area was closest to the balcony doors and had a small sofa, chair and table. There was also a dressing table with mirror, lamp and drawers, and a large television. At the back of the room was a huge wardrobe which contained plenty of hangers and shelves, plus an easy to use electronic safe.
We occasionally sat in the living room area, although not too often as we preferred to sit on the balcony which had a lovely sea view and furniture - 2 stainless steel chairs and a small table for drinks etc. We made good use of the balcony area which also looked out onto the pool and gardens, and frequently sat and read books there in the morning and well as having a drink there in the evening.
The bathroom consisted of an open area (no door) with a large sink area, mirror and places to hang your towels. Then there was a toilet with separate door, but the toilet room actually led into a separate shower area. The bathroom was an unusual design and I wouldn't say it was the best use of space, but it was different and it made it look more modern somehow. The only flaw is if you were sharing with someone you're not used to they would be able to see you in the sink area (cleaning teeth etc) which could be a bit awkward! Also there would be no private area to get changed other than in the small toilet area or actually in the shower itself!!
I was also very pleased that there was a dressing table in the room with a chair and large mirror in front of it for getting ready. I enjoy getting ready before going out in the evening, and like doing different styles with my hair etc, so it was great to have this space and the mirror made it much easier to get ready.
I really couldn't fault the rooms, everything was immaculate and you wouldn't have known anyone else had stayed in there. The rooms were also air conditioned via an electronic unit, which was easy to use and was capable of cooling off the room very well.
Other features in the room were a television, although not many channels were available. In the end we usually opted for a radio channel which despite having foreign DJs played some great background music. We had a mini bar which was filled with various overpriced drinks and snacks which we avoided, however we did use the free space for water bottles which came in handy.
Another nice touch were the dressing gowns hung in the bathroom for our use throughout our stay. I'm used to wearing a dressing gown while drying off after a shower at home, so was nice to have this option whilst on holiday too.
We never had any problems with noise whilst sleeping in the room, although the music played in the bar could be heard from our room but this usually went off at around 11pm when we were still awake. However perhaps it could cause a problem if you were travelling with children or like to go to sleep quite early.
The rooms were cleaned daily to a very high standard and all towels and bed sheets changed daily. Although this was nice and better than things not being changed, I felt there wasn't too much need to change every towel and every piece of bed linen daily, however I couldn't really complain! I think it would be better with towels to do what many other hotels do and have a notice saying that if you wish towels to be changed please leave them on the floor to indicate this.
We were also never aware of the maids visiting, regardless of when we left the room we never had them knocking on the door or barging in! The rest of the hotel and outside areas were also kept very clean and I never saw anything that was remotely dirty.
The hotel pool area is at the very front of the hotel between the main building and the beach. It is a very large area with big pools, one salt water and one fresh water pool. The pools are surrounded by a vast grassy garden area where there a numerous scattered sun beds, parasols and tables. In the morning these are all set out neatly and in pairs, however guests are free to wheel them around to wherever is best. The sun beds all had a padded mattress which made sunbathing very comfortable and tables were easy to find and came in handy for drinks and sun creams.
We only went in the freshwater pool and found it to be warm and also shallow enough to stand up in (so not ideal for diving) but it was just right for casual swimming. Although the garden area was crowded the pool itself was never particularly busy. However the garden area was always very busy and on occasion we struggled to find a sun bed. This isnt really fault of the hotel though as they couldn't possibly fit in any more sun beds and the garden area is huge, it is more that it appeared that a lot of the people staying in the hotel preferred to be by the pool than going out during the day.
The pool area also had its own outdoor bar and bar seating area. The pool bar only really sold basic soft drinks, as well as one of each colour of wine and a couple of beers. We ate in the bar on the day we arrived and ordered a pizza and salad between us and 2 cokes. The drinks as expected were very expensive so we didn't bother buying drinks from here again. The food took about 20 minutes to arrive, but the pizza was lovely so it was worth the wait. The seating area was really modern and trendy looking but also comfortable, for example big sofa style chairs.
The main hotel bar is located in the hotel lobby and is a square area with bar stools all around it so the bar staff serve from all angles. There is also a large seating area next to the bar which extends outside onto a terrace. This area is beautiful with modern furniture and entirely glass walls so you can watch the sunset onto the sea.
We visited the bar on a few occasions after getting in from our evening meal. On each occasion we opted for cocktails as the bar boasted a wide variety of cocktails all presented on a nice menu. The cocktails were always very well made with high-quality natural ingredients. They weren't cheap at Euro10.00 each but the quality made this price worth it.
We opted for breakfast to be included when booking so we ate in the hotel for breakfast every morning. There was huge buffet area in the middle of the dining room with almost everything you could imagine for breakfast. I don't have much of an appetite in the morning so usually just had cereal followed by fruit with Greek yoghurt. However one day I did try the cooked English breakfast which was very good. There was plenty of choice and there would be something to suit all tastes. The dining room itself was very well appointed and the furniture and decorating was all good quality and tasteful, giving the room a modern look which matched the rest of the hotel well.
The dining room was very hectic at breakfast time which I suppose was to be expected when most people arrive at the same time and it is self service, however I felt the staff were doing their best to keep things under control. Despite this my Mum did struggle to get a cup of coffee which was being issued by various staff around the dining room. We also had to queue at the door on a few occasions as there were no tables available which was a bit annoying, but not really the hotels fault.
Overall I didn't particularly look forward to breakfast time, despite the food being good, I felt it was quite a stressful experience!
We didn't have any other meals included in the hotel so I can't comment on any other meal times.
**Other Hotel Amenities**
The hotel looks out onto a beach and the stretch of beach directly in front of the hotel is a private area for hotel guests only. The beach is a pebble beach so not ideal, but the hotel did put a few sun beds in this area for guests use.
There were toilets in a basement beneath the lobby which came in useful for when we were by the pool or in the bar. The toilets were very unique and featured huge chunks of wood made into sinks for washing your hands! There were 2 lifts in the lobby area for access to all floors in the hotel, we were only on the first floor so only used the lifts when we had our luggage with us, but when we did use them they worked fine.
On our first night in the hotel there was a big BBQ for guests outside and also traditional Greek entertainers who sang and danced. We didn't officially attend the entertainment but watched some of this from out balcony. Other than that we didn't really see any other entertainment in the evening, but may well have missed it if there were as we were out most evenings.
The street the hotel is on has many restaurants on both sides of the road (although most are on the opposite side which means crossing that horrible road!) We ate in several of these and all served traditional Greek dishes and although none of the restaurants looked particularly fancy, the food was fantastic! The restaurant staff and owners in all were also very friendly and welcoming. None of the restaurants were ever too busy as most hotels on the strip offer all inclusive and I think most guests must have opted for this, which is a shame when there are such nice restaurants so close by.
We also went in a few of the local bars which were even quieter than the restaurants. Again the staff were friendly and made us some lovely cocktails, which were also very cheap! The only issue is that all the bars and restaurants are on that busy road, which means the view isnt great and there is a lot of noise!
Therefore our favourite place to go in the evening was Rhodes old town, where we went twice. Here you could enjoy good food (of course for a higher cost) but with a great view and atmosphere around you!
All the staff we came across in the hotel were smartly dressed and presented and very polite and helpful. The reception staff were efficient during check in and out, and also helped us by booking our taxi on one occasion as well as giving us useful information on how to get around and when the buses arrive etc. The bar staff were equally as helpful and very friendly and well trained. The great service made the hotel even better and put the icing on the cake!
Overall we were so impressed with every element of the hotel. It truly is a 5* hotel and I couldn't see much room for improvement, other than bringing down the expensive pool bar prices! I would recommend the hotel to adult families and couples - however I'm not sure it is the best place for children, there weren't any child orientated facilities to be seen and the busy road outside makes it quite a dangerous place. However for everyone else I would highly recommend the hotel and would also strongly advise paying extra for a sea view, as it is a genuinely good sea view and very close to the water.
Ixian Grand Hotel,
Tel: +0030 22410 92944
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4 Stars Hotel International
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