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Bed in a Tree by Bettina Kowalewski
I bought this unusual book through a charity auction on another website. I have had a couple of other books along these lines and enjoyed planning a stay somewhere different and so I thought this would be a good one to add to our collection. Despite this being the third such book I have yet to actually manage to stay in any of the featured hotels but I am hoping that one day I might.
This being a nonfiction sort of travel book there is no story so to speak. The book is a very square book with a very welcoming front cover which features four of the hotels written about within the book. It is published by my favourite guide book company Eyewitness Travel and so i knew there would be lovely pictures to tempt me.
The hotels in the book are from countries all over the world but out of the twenty seven featured hotels fifteen or sixteen are in Europe ( depends on whether you count Turkey as in Europe or not) , four in the USA or Canada, two in South Africa, two in New Zealand and then one in each of Australia, and Mexico. So it is a limited selection of weird and wonderful places not a huge hotel gazetteer.
So which of these rather quirky hotels caught my eye? Well so many really appeal but realistically I was very tempted by the DogHouse which is in Idaho and got very excited as we went to Idaho on our recent trip. The hotel or B&B is in Cottonwood Idaho and is in the shape of a massive dog and puppy and you actually stay inside this huge creature. It stands at a height of 33feet and is 17 feet wide and is affectionately known as sweet Willy! Apparently he is the largest beagle in the world but then I wouldn't think there would be that many mad people building huge wooden dogs that would be competing with this one.
For those of you who are a bit sceptical and think I might be making this up then take a look for yourselves http://www.dogbarkparkinn.com/ aboutdogpark.htm. Unfortunately on our trip we went nowhere near this wonderful Dog Bark Park Inn so sadly I didn't get to see this. What does it cost to stay in the dog's stomach? Well a bargain at around £60 for two people for a night and this includes a homemade breakfast too. I really wish we could have managed to get there!!
A second one that I have been so close to yet missed is the Troll Hotel or Mira Mira in Victoria Australia. Had I known about this before our trip to Australia I would have made the effort to try and at least see this place but I shall have to just enjoy looking at the wonderful photos and reading the descriptions of the 'Bondage room' which is the second bedroom and I'll leave that to your imagination. This place gets its name Mira Mira from the Aboriginal spelling of Mirror, mirror and to complete the sentence ..." Mira Mira on the wall, what's the weirdest accommodation of them all?
This very different retreat was built rather sadly,when the owner learned that he had terminal cancer and rather than being the end he said it gave him the motivation to do the things that he had always wanted to do and this rather wonderful place to stay was built. For those who want to see pictures this is the link http://www.visitvictoria.com/Regions/ Gippsland/Accommodation/Cottages/Mira-Mira-Accommodation.aspx Prices for this for a week end stay for a couple for two nights minimum are a fairly reasonable £200ish. The accommodation has two bedrooms and this price is for one room including breakfasts on both mornings.
There is an ice hotel which always sounds so wonderful until you realize that you will be very cold indeed. I think I'd like to visit but maybe stay in a warmer place nearby! I am not a cold weather person you might have gathered.
Another one that appeals not a bit is the "Under the Stars" in Westphalia, Germany. Basically they put a double bed in their large garden or field and if it rains you have to bring all the bedding in again. No thanks, this one didn't tempt me in the least even at the very decent price of £30 including breakfast. No this is not a joke; please take a look for yourself http://www.pension-kamerichs. de/pk.php?mcont=up .
There is however one in Berlin which is a possibility for me to manage to stay and as the price is pretty reasonable I will try and persuade my husband when we visit Berlin. This place is a very modern and is like staying in a piece of artwork. It is called 'The Habitual Work of Art, Propeller Island City Lodge' and it is found on a side street off Kurfurstendamm . Within this hotel you will find 27 double rooms and 2 apartments some have a TV and an ensuite bathroom and that would be a must for my husband I feel - the bathroom not the TV. The price ranges from between £60 to £170 per room for one person and additional people are £13 each.
I would have to choose my room carefully as some of them are so weird that sleep might be difficult. Can you imagine sleeping in a room that is bright orange or red throughout including the bedding? I'm not sure that I would find that conducive to sleep. Neither does it appeal to me to sleep in a coffin with a closed lid ( Gruft -No 31 if you want to take a look).I really liked the look of 'Electric wallpapers' No 44 and then saw that this is the most 'normal of their rooms - I must just be a boring person wanting normal. Oh well, hear was I thinking I was quite adventurous and I select this one.
If you go to the link then add in the comment s box which room you fancy. http://www.pension-kamerichs.de/pk.php?mcont=up I think places like this are just so great and would really like to stay in at least one of those in the book and some are quite reasonably priced which is something I liked about this book compared to others we have which offer great places but at really quite inflated prices. Most of these are within normal people's price range apart from the one in the Seychelles but that is just way out of the league when it comes to prices.
At the end of each chapter or weirdly wonderful hotel there is information about how to get there and what you might do when you are staying in the area. It is written in a very informal style and it is the sort of book that you can dip in and read a couple of sections then put to one side again. I always look through all our interesting hotel books before we go somewhere new just in case we might be able to visit one.
I won't tell you any more as it will spoil the book and it is well worth buying as it is entertaining and also makes a great conversation piece for those who enjoy travelling or just armchair travelling as the photos are really lovely.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.
I bought Bed in a Tree when I was in Stamfords Travel Bookshop in London where it was one of the weeks featured books - and as I like to stay in quirky and unusual accomodation I thought it was a book that could have been written specifically for me. Sometimes when I'm planning a trip to a specific country, I am not entirely decided on my route and, at times, I have been led by the range of accommodation within a particular area. For example, I specifically travelled to Andorra so that I could stay in an Igloo Village. This book seeks out unique accommodations and tells you about the accommodations, together with some information about the local area and what you can do should you visit there.
I like how this book goes through such a wide range of accommodations and that there is something in there that can fit everyones budget. When I have looked on websites on the internet for these unique type of accommodations, I have noted that they have tended to focus on the very exclusive and expensive - but that isn't the case here. Sure, some accommodations are expensive and out of the reach of most people, but equally there are some which most could afford for a one off stay.
I have a few favourites from the book that I would genuinely consider staying in:
1) House on a Lake in Vastmanland in Sweden which is basically a tiny cabin that floats on a lake....with part of the cabin under water.
2) In a Seashell in Isla Mujeres in Mexico which are seashell houses in the form of a conch....which look absolutely beautiful.
3) The Ice Hotel in Sweden.....which is rebuilt every year and looks very exclusive (VERY expensive).
4) The Cave Hotel in Cappadocia, Turkey
5) The Glass Floor Villa in the Maldives - which is partly under the indian ocean. Beautiful!
There are a few that I think "why on earth would anyone want to stay there!"....such as:
1) The Wood Colliers Hut in Vastanland which basically looks like a shed in the forest.
2) The Escape Capsule in the Netherlands - which is one of those emergency capsules for someone working on the oil rigs.
3) Inside a Suitcase in Germany - which is a tiny tiny cabin which, from the outside looks like a suitcase. Why??
However, although there are some properties that I couldn't believe anyone would want to stay in, it was still fun to see that they existed. I like how they give the background about how some of the properties came about - because it adds to the story and makes some of them a little less random - but I do feel there needs to be a little more information about what it's actually like to stay in these accomodations - for example, it gives you the features but without really providing a personal insight into how it all fits together into an overall experience.
This is a fun book. I think if you were planning to stay in any of the accommodations you would need to look up further information on the internet to complete the picture, i.e. how to get there. But it's interesting - and quoting the book also gives you a 10% discount at some of the hotels!
Bettina Kowalewski's "Bed in a Tree: and other amazing hotels around the world" is a beautifully illustrated and inspiring travel book with a difference. Most of us, when we plan a vacation, choose the destination first then think about the accommodation but how about if you found the most amazing accommodation and the destination was a secondary consideration? In this book, published by Dorling Kindersley, Bettina suggests some terrific accommodation (some but not all could be called hotels) that might just get you thinking that way.
The majority of the suggested places are in Europe, and of the rest five are in North America and the rest are in South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and the Maldives. I imagined that all of these would be out of my reach pricewise but there's a reasonable mix of price brackets and assuming you can get to these locations, there are ideas to suit most budgets, and if you have no immediate plans to travel, this is still a quirky book that should delight armchair travellers.
Most strikingly there's a visually stunning shell like house on the Isla Mujeres just off the coast of Cancun; it's like a cross between Boticelli's "The Birth of Venus" and something dreamt up by Gaudi. It's designed by architect Eduardo Ocampo and the interior decor uses lots of natural materials but certainly doesn't skimp on luxury. At the other end of the scale is "The Suitcase Hotel" in Lunzenau in Germany: it really is an over-sized suitcase, the idea of Matthias Lehmann, a railway worker for over 25 years with the German Bundesbahn. Inside this little valise there are two bunks, a wardrobe made from an old station locker a washbasin and a separate toilet "compartment". It's tiny and it's hardly luxurious but it's all about the experience and at just Euro15.50 per person per night it's a steal.
In the Rhine Valley you can stay inside a converted wine barrel in the picturesque town of Rudesheim . Maybe a charming, traditionally decorated gipsy caravan in the French countryside in Beaujolais would be more your thing? How about a former prison cell in Lucerne, Switzerland? For brave souls there's an ice hotel in Sweden, or, if you like that idea but prefer to stay warm, there's a little field of glass igloos in Finland (stay here when the Aurora Borealis are in action and watch the swirling light show from the comfort of your bed!). Igloo-shaped but certainly not chilly, there's a real curiosity in California's Mojave Desert - this domed building was built by ufologist George van Tassel who claimed that he had been told by a visitor from Venus to construct a time machine that would rejuvenate human cells. Whatever the story, there's no denying this is one cool place to stay. This one is best suited to groups apparently and when a group of thirty books, the cost is $28 per person per night.
Of course, your accommodation is only one consideration and Bettina helpfully suggests a couple of ideas for things to see and activities to do for each of the accommodations listed. There are plenty of excellent colour photographs of the interior and exterior of each of the accommodations featured and an interesting text on each one, talking about the owners and the history of the property.
If you are attracted to any of the properties featured there are details of how to book and information where appropriate about the times of year the hotels are open (not all are available all year round) as well as any instructions for what you made need to take with you (for example, you'll need to take a sleeping bag or bedding to some of the cheaper ones) and some have self catering facilities only.
I bought this book through a charity auction and thought I'd pass it on as a gift. However, I'm very taken with it and intend to keep it for myself. It's a lovely book to dip into even if I probably won't stay in many of the accommodations featured in it (I do plan to stay in at least one of then in Sweden, however). It's beautifully presented and illustrated, well researched and a lovely distraction from dull days at home.
~What Comes First, the Destination or the Accommodation?~
When planning a holiday or a short break most people choose a destination, book the flights or train tickets and then go looking for accommodation that fits in with their plans. In Bettina Kowalewski's book "Bed in a Tree" the author has turned this 'destination-led' approach to travel on its head. She introduces us to 27 unique hotels and other types of accommodation and then tells us what else there is to do in the area if you go to them. It's an 'accommodation-led' approach that puts the place you'll sleep in at the heart of the holiday and creates a sense of 'Hotel as Destination' that may well get readers to stop and think about the nature of holiday. Even if you cannot afford to travel to some of these fabulous and funky hotels, castles, tree houses and really weird places, it might just make you stop and think about places nearer to home that you could consider booking. Hopefully the advice it gives about what you'll find to do in the area will also stop you doing what I've sometimes done - booking a fantastic looking hotel and then discovering that it's miles from any form of civilisation.
I received my copy of Bed in a Tree through the Curiousbookfans.co.uk end of year charity book auction. I was clearly not the only person who fancied this one as it generated quite a lot of bidding. If I'd seen it in a book shop or on Amazon I probably wouldn't have bought it because I expected it to be a bit of a 'coffee table' book, full of beautifully staged 'travel porn', lots of artistically lit and mucked about with pictures. I generally prefer a guide book that's more practical but since the money from the auction was going to the fabulous Room to Read charity which supports literacy and schooling for girls in the developing world, I was more than happy to indulge in a bit of travel eye-candy. Despite my preference for the practical, sometimes great photography, blue skies and aspirational accommodation can raise the spirits on a cold January evening.
~A Feast for the Eyes and the Mind~
After a few days dipping in and out of this book I was feeling very jealous of Bettina Kowalewski. Who wouldn't love to get paid to go and stay in places like this? Sixteen of the listed places are in Europe, five are in north America and the remaining few are split between South Africa, the Maldives, Australia and New Zealand so this is probably a more relevant choice for readers in Europe and the USA or for those with big budgets. There are lots of crazy places in Scandinavia in particular - clearly all those long dark nights are good for creative architecture.
The accommodation - really, I can't call them hotels - ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous. Some will make your jaw drop open in admiration whilst others will give you the giggles and have you asking why on EARTH anyone ever thought to do THAT. There's a B&B in Idaho that's shaped like a dog. I'm no expert but I'd say it's a beagle and it's called Willy so there's plenty of scope for some smutty titles in a review of that one, I'm sure. There's a stunningly beautiful Gaudi-esque accommodation formed in the shape of two big white seashells that looks like there can't be a straight line in the entire place. Mind you, it's very expensive and you'll have to get to the Caribbean to visit. Cheaper and a lot more down to earth is a youth hostel in Sweden that's a collection of wood 'colliers' huts. They have no electricity or running water and will cost you about £20 a night but you can indulge all your fantasies about going back to the woods. Sweden also has a very strange semi-submerged floating raft house in the middle of a lake or you could pop over to Lapland for some astonishing glass igloos, located in a place where you can see the Northern Lights. Just imagine lying in your little glass pod watching the swirling of the Aurora Borealis - heaven on earth and you don't even have to get cold. A few places are quite famous like the Swedish Ice Hotel that's built from scratch each year and is perfect if you want to sleep on an ice bed under a pile of reindeer skins but most of the places were completely new to me.
Do you remember the end of the Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me where Roger Moore and Barbara Bach end up in an escape capsule getting frisky? Two North Sea oil rig survival capsules had been converted into floating accommodation and if you don't mind a chemical toilet and a bed that's a string hammock it could be perfect. If you've ever bought into the myth that Germans don't have a good sense of humour, then maybe you'd like to try sleeping in a giant suitcase in Saxony or the very weird hotel in Berlin with rooms where you can sleep in a coffin or on a suspended platform. There's a hotel where all the rooms are old giant wine barrels.
My personal favourite and the place I'm most likely to go for is the Gothic Lodge at Stowe in Buckinghamshire which is only about 40 minutes from where I live. Despite being expensive, if you go off peak and split the costs with another couple then it might be manageable. I could be tempted to take a few days off-season, especially if we could book it when the sheep are lambing around the park. I think I'd better start saving up.
For each of the listings we get several pages of spectacular photographs both exterior and interior as well as a fascinating text about how the place came into being, the people responsible and what makes it such a special place. There is enough detail about where to find these places and how to book them and price indications are given. Prices of the places covered go from youth hostel level up to super-luxury with most price points in between. Most importantly, perhaps, if you're someone who needs lots of things to do when you're on holiday, there are always details of at least three things that you can do in the area.
Bed in a Tree is a lovely book stuffed full of great photography and plenty enough practical detail to keep my satisfied. In its 240 pages Bettina Kowalewski squeezes in something for all budgets that'll be ideal for those with a very wide range of holiday aspirations and interests. It's not just a pretty face!
Bed in a Tree - Bettina Kowalewski
ISBN - 978-1-4053-3497-6
Price - £14.99
Thank you to Dorling Kindersley (my favourite guidebook company) for supporting the Curious Book Fans Christmas Auction.