“ Address: Carrer de la TV3 2 / 08970 Sant Joan Despi / Spain / Tel (+34)93/4755800 „
We liked the Novotel Sant Joan Despi, but not the location. I booked very last minute for me, hubby and teenage daughter - we decided on Barcelona as it has the rare combo of culture with a beach. This hotel looked good as it has a pool which is tricky to find in a city without paying the earth. It was very clean and a bit lively with quite a few families coming and going, and modern. The reception staff were very helpful with maps and suggestions of what to do. Our room was quite large, and the sofa bed great for my daughter, bathroom large but soulless. The view was of a motorway, but no noise from it at all as the glazing was excellent. The breakfast was included, but was the usual cereal, bread, boiled eggs of Spanish hotels. We took breakfast to the room for our daughter, have you tried to get a teenager out of bed when on holiday? But the staff tried to stop us - they didn't want food leaving the breakfast room.
The down side was that it took a tram and metro ride to get to Las Ramblas. This was fun on day one, but by day five we were bored with it. There was a 7 day ticket which made the travel inexpensive, but we ended up leaving late morning and not returning until midnight just to reduce the commute. One evening we did eat in the hotel restaurant, it wasn't very cheap, there was no atmosphere, and we were done in about 40 minutes. There isn't much nearby in the way of bars, so we went to bed early that night.
The hotel is fine - just look properly on google maps before you book to make sure it is in a suitable location for what you want.
When I visit our company's office in Barcelona I usually stay at the Hesperia Sant Just which is not a very convenient place for going into the city but is very handy for work. I'm not sure if it was full last week or if the travel agency was 'experimenting' but I found myself over the road from the Hesperia at the Novotel Sant Joan Despi instead. One of my Belgian colleagues swears he likes the Novotel better but I can only assume he's taking some kind of perverse pleasure from self-denial as it's really not a patch on the usual place. It's not a bad hotel at all, but it doesn't come out well in a comparison with its neighbour.
I arrived late in the evening with two colleagues and we came out from the Olympic Port by taxi. The taxi drivers in Barcelona deserve a review of their own for their weasel-ways and clever techniques for turning every fare into a bigger fare (there's no need to worry about how much to tip them, they'll just decide for themselves and take it) but let's just suffice to say I was careful to check he took a credit card before we got in and he didn't get a tip.
You can't help feeling like you're entering the Novotel through the back door and there's a real 'tradesman's entrance' feel about the entry, located is it is on a quiet back street. After you've beaten your way through the fug of smokers clustered around the ash-tray and got inside you can't fail to notice you're in a Novotel. It's blue and orange so it couldn't really be anywhere else. It's not unpleasant and I find the orange seating rather jolly and the bright clean white floors do rather 'lift' the place. The lobby has a few spots worthy of notice - the free computer with internet access that's provided for customers to use is a massive-screened Mac and there's a Nintendo (or similar - I'm no expert) and a kids play area nearby. With the reception desk behind you, you can look through the building, past the seating area and the stylishly furnished bar and through onto a patio outside. Turn slightly round the corner and you can see the restaurant and the small outdoor swimming pool. If I were there for a holiday the pool might be a welcome bonus but for work, I'm unlikely to strip off and sunbathe by the pool. There's an attractive gravel garden (or as my cats might describe it, a giant litter box) with spiky plants running outside one side of the lobby which looked pretty but I didn't have the impression you could go and sit in it.
~Very Good Reception Staff~
Some of the rudest reception staff I've found anywhere in the world work in Barcelona but thankfully not at this hotel. Check in was quick and efficient and the receptionist found my Accor card details in their system without much delay.
My room was on the 6th floor and after a false start in the wrong lift (the one that went only to the basement car park) I was soon in the right place. The overwhelming branded feel of Novotel hotels is quite hard to ignore. I know they are a chain but I always think it would just be lovely to be surprised occasionally. Instead I know before I open the door what shape the bath will be, where the hairdryer can be found and how I would open the sofa-bed if I ever needed to. It's not a BAD thing in a world of uncertainties to know that some things will always be exactly as you expect them to be, I'd just prefer that to apply to my credit card bill rather than my hotel room.
~Everything EXACTLY As I expected~
Stepping into the room I found my rather plasticky bathroom to the left and a hanging area (for clothes, not depressed travellers) to the right along with a room safe. Continuing into the room it's all just very beige and subdued. I knew that the bed would be comfy but it was so beige and colourless that I really wanted a little bit of colour to brighten things up. All the colour was next to the bed in the form of the orange covered sofa-bed with a couple of blue cushions, just in case you've forgotten where you are. Down the other side of the room the furniture offered me a suitcase stand (much appreciated) and lots of storage (not needed). The desk was long and not too cluttered by all the stuff with which hotels want to surround you. The flat screen TV was on top of the mini-bar at the end of the room. I didn't switch it on but I suspect that if I had, I'd have struggled to see it from the bed.
The best thing about my room - which lifts it from completely bland to something a teensy bit special - was the view. I suspect that most people wouldn't notice and would dismiss this as an ugly view of 8 lanes of traffic and an industrial area, but tucked in the middle was one of my favourite Barcelona buildings. It's a big red amorphous almost organic-looking building by an architect called Ricardo Bofill and I believe it's called Walden 7 and dates to 1974. Bofill has moved on a lot and now does big airports, business HQs and tower blocks but this was one of his earlier pieces, a place designed as an experiment in social living space that looks a bit like something from a Star Wars movie. Apparently it leaks and is falling to pieces and the social experiment was less than a resounding success, but it remains a building I always enjoy seeing although it's unlikely to ever get on a tourist map. It's a shame I can't add any photos.
Back to the room and into the bathroom. In Spain you almost always get both toilet and bidet, and sure enough that's the case here. The sink is one of the classic moulded Accor hotel chain sinks and the bath is the long thin one with the bulge on the end - a bath designed to really be a shower instead and like most compromise designs it fails to be entirely adequate at either role. But I wanted a bath so I had one despite the funny shape. The toiletries are just the basics - soap, shower gel, shampoo, but the fragrance was pleasant and I couldn't help thinking I was smelling rather nice after my bath and I skipped adding any perfume on top.
The bathroom layout was far from perfect and if I didn't shut the bathroom door (I was on my own, so it wasn't a priority) I was likely to get trapped behind it whilst sitting on the loo but I can live with that. Most importantly it was clean and they gave me two towels - a bit small but still two. I had forgotten my toothpaste, something that happens more often than it should, and the hotel provided a small kit with a brush and a sachet of paste. Annoyingly the tissue box in the bathroom was empty both days I was there and if I wanted to be REALLY picky, the toilet roll tail was hanging the wrong way, but hey, life is not too bad if that's all you can find to bitch about. One other complaint that I think does need addressing though was the quality of the bedding. The sheets and duvet were decidedly scratchy in texture and I had to get up after a short while and hunt down my pyjamas because the cotton was irritating my skin.
Breakfast was not the greatest I've had and Spain is normally a great place for hotel breakfasts. The selection didn't include anything unexpected and I wasn't inspired to feel hungry but the quality of what was there seemed to be OK if a little uninteresting. The coffee was second rate and the orange juice was bitter - neither was the sort of problem I'd expect to have in a Spanish hotel. An overworked lady took my room details when I arrived and then missed my colleague completely so I wasn't too surprised on check out to discover that they charged me for breakfast both days even though I went only once. The bill was quickly changed but to be honest, they shouldn't have tried it on without a signed breakfast receipt.
Getting a taxi from the hotel is a little bit hit and miss unless you ask reception to call one for you. There's not really any passing trade so it's worth allowing a little longer or if you're in a hurry, walk over to the Hesperia and pick up a taxi at their rank, directly outside. My Dutch colleagues found the taxi drivers were very grumpy once they realised they only wanted a short jourey and theirs harumphed the whole way to the office. I really don't know what they are expecting. If you stay somewhere like Sant Joao Despi, chances are you want to be somewhere nearby and aren't looking for a 70 euro fare to somewhere a long way away.
I didn't suffer the grumps because I got into a taxi with a Portuguese colleague who charmed the driver but he still helped himself to a tip of 25% that wasn't offered.
If you find yourself looking for a hotel in this area, I'd have to say that this doesn't come close to the quality of the Hesperia even though the prices are similar. If you don't NEED to be in this part of town, go elsewhere. There's nothing around that will attract a tourist and with Barcelona's taxi drivers out to squeeze every cent out of every passenger, anything you save by going out of the centre will soon be lost on transportation costs. There's nothing wrong with the Novotel but it shouldn't be your first choice for a trip to Barcelona.