H10 Rubicon Palace Lanzarote: Review

I had such high hopes for this five star hotel, but all I can truly say in its favour is that the room was lovely.  The rest of it was just OK, nothing wrong with it, but all a bit ‘meh’.  IMG_3156

I think my judgement was coloured because we started off on the wrong foot.  The hotel allocated us a room which was barely completed (ie the paint was still wet) and there was a huge noisy digger right outside our window making the whole block tremble. I was off down to reception sharpish to complain but was told they could not move us until the next day.  I complained to Thomas Cook who couldn’t do anything about it.  Very disappointing.

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We were moved next day to a lovely bungalow room with a sea view which was mercifully quiet.  Because we had been inconvenienced on day one, we were compensated with a superior room which I have to say was lovely.  We were also invited to have dinner in the Vulcan restaurant which is for Privilege guests only and was excellent.

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The bathroom was great and the bathrobes were a nice touch.

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The hotel is big, with several restaurants to choose from and plenty of pools, should you be inclined to take a dip.  Not for me unless it’s 28 degrees outside!  There is a really nice piano bar where you can take advantage of the all inclusive drinks package while you listen to some good live music.  There’s also a sports bar where we spent a couple of nights.  Service in the piano bar was a bit patchy but the sports bar was better.  Drinks quality in both was excellent.

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One of our favourite spots was Mike’s coffee shop where you could get a nice cappuccino and sit in the sun with a book.

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The food was overall good, but not great.  I’m not veggie, but I do like a good amount of vegetables and this is where I found it lacking.  There were plenty of salads but cooked vegetables were disappointing.  Breakfast and dinner were a bit of a scramble – hard to get a cup of coffee as I think the place was understaffed; cutlery, crockery and condiments were on a ‘steal it yourself from a spare table’ basis and there were long queues for speciality things like fresh pancakes.  Fresh juices at breakfast was a nice touch but often the jugs were empty.

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Lunch was a delight as it was warm enough to sit outside and I think the burger bar tempted some people away from the restaurant so we had more space and better service.

The location of the hotel was OK.  There is not much to do or see in Playa Blanca, but for a week of just getting some sun on your face, it’s fine.  Lanzarote is notoriously windy and our week was no exception.  You need a cardigan or sweater in March and a jacket for evenings.

What I did enjoy was the opportunity to wear a dress in the evenings as the hotel felt dressy enough.  Quite often these days everyone is in jeans and I do like to dress up now and again.

One mistake we made, and entirely our own fault, was that we booked a week that overlapped with the start of the Easter holidays, so that by the last couple of days the place was inundated with children.  No-ones fault but our own! Really must be more careful with dates.

I enjoyed our week, but I think that the poor start definitely clouded my opinion and I wouldn’t return.  This was our first stay with H10 and I can’t see me trying any of the others in the chain.

 

Hotel San Gil Seville: Review

Set in the back streets of Seville’s old town, we picked this four star hotel for our two night stay based purely on its Moorish architecture.

We were on our home from Jerez De La Frontera as part of our train journey around Andalucia and I wanted to spend some time in Seville to see the Alcazar without the tourist hordes that had accompanied us on our previous one day visit.

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The hotel certainly is a stunner with its mosaic tile covered reception area and bar plus its riad style central courtyard.

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It’s about half an hour walk to the Alcazar.  It would probably have been less if we had gone the right way, but there are so many nearby narrow streets to explore and diversions to take that it probably didn’t matter.

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We arrived at the Santa Justa train station after dark and took a taxi.  Good job as we would have never have found our way through the alleyways on public transport and it is about a 35 minute walk to the station, assuming you know where you are going, which of course we did by the time we were leaving for the train back to Malaga.

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Our room was on the ground floor and had a window facing out onto the courtyard.  You couldn’t draw back the curtain as everyone could see in.  I think it was a disabled friendly room as the bathroom was exceptionally large with a walk in shower.  All good stuff and no complaints there.

I do have one very big gripe though.  On our final morning, we were woken around 7:30 by a smell of chemicals so strong that my eyes were streaming and I was coughing as if my life depended on it.  I dashed out of the room, looking like a mad women and went to reception to ask what was going on.  The receptionist said that someone had accidentally allowed bleach to get into the aircon and not to worry!  Wowzers!  I’m asthmatic, so not for taking chances, we packed up and left immediately.

Anyway, notwithstanding the poor attention to health and safety, everything else was fine.  The breakfast buffet was extensive and the coffee was good.

There are lots of bars and restaurants to choose from in the nearby streets, but beware the tourist menu of insipid paella – there is so much more out there if you seek out the proper menu.  This squid was exceptionally good and cost about eight euros.

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This hotel was a good enough base for a two day stay, but based on our experience I would not recommend it.  By all means pop in and have a drink at the bar though as you can appreciate the architecture for the cost of a coffee!

 

 

Radisson Blu Manchester Airport: Review

When we have an early flight we often stay over at Manchester Airport in one of the airport hotels.  Last month we tried out the Radisson Blu for the first time and it was really relaxing.  The great thing about staying over is that you can check your bags in (for some airlines anyway) the day before and avoid that horrible wait at stupid o clock the next day when everything is just too much trouble!

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This time we checked in at two p.m. then spent the afternoon drinking coffee, browsing and shopping for books in WH Smith and then lazing in bed!  There is a pool but I had just had my hair done so no way I was going to spoil it with a swim.

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The rooms are large, as you would expect, with great quality bedlinen, shower plus bath, flat screen TV and wifi.  Check in is efficient and you can do it all when you arrive so no timewasting next day having to check out.  There is a restaurant on site but we walked through the tunnel to the airport to grab something to eat.

There are lovely This Works beauty products, fluffy towels, decent tea and coffee and an iron/ironing board should you need it.  The room was quiet despite proximity to the runway and aircon worked just fine.

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When it was time to leave, we were too early for breakfast, but the hotel provides a free grab and run service for early risers so you can pick up a coffee, some fruit and a cereal bar which you can take with you as you make your way to the airport.

As we had already checked in for our flight, we clocked the huge queue snaking to the door and thanked our lucky stars we could go straight to security.  We were on the other side in no time.

We have decided to do this for all our early morning flights from now on.  The cost can be combined with a Meet & Greet parking deal so the cost isn’t too bad.

I am most definitely not a morning person and this works just fine for me!

 

Hotel La Palma Princess & Teneguia Princess: Review

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We’re just back from a winter break at this popular hotel in La Palma, Canaries.  It’s popped up many times in our holiday searches and we’ve dismissed it because of remote location, but as we’ve had a mad few months we thought we would give it a go.

It certainly is a place to rest, with over ten pools to choose from and loads of sunbeds. One pool is heated and this was naturally the busiest, but there were lots of secluded places to nip off to and read.

We were all inclusive and generally speaking the quality of the food was good – especially the veggie selections.  I can vouch for the rose wine and cava but the coffee was dire and completely unpalatable. There is a kettle in your room, so my advice would be take your own.

We took breakfast on the terrace at the La Choza restaurant and it was fab to start the morning with a sea view.

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The hotel is set in lush sub tropical gardens which was a real joy.  Loads of wildlife too – including lizards, egret and a couple of kestrels which flew over every day.

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Our room was colonial in style with an excellent shower, separate bath and marble basin.  The room was huge with a large verandah looking out towards the gardens.  My only complaint was that the room was cool because it got no sun at all.  Fine in the summer, but in the winter, not so good.  We enquired about upgrading but the hotel was full so we stayed put and they gave us extra blankets.

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The hotel is fairly isolated, but there is a little bar about 25 minutes walk where you can get decent coffee, as well as a good selection of fresh fish and wrinkly potatoes with freshly made mojo sauce and alioli. The view from the bar is fantastic too.

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We took the bus to the capital one day – an hour away over the very tortuous mountain road.  It has really good shopping plus some very pretty houses with traditional balconies.  We enjoyed some excellent tapas too.  The bus ride is not for the faint hearted – in fact the lady behind me threw up because of all the twists and turns!

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We picked a bad day to go into town unfortunately as it poured with rain and was pretty cold – but it gave me an excuse to buy a jacket!

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The hotel is surrounded by banana plantations which we found fascinating – there were little trucks carrying bananas about and lots of processing plants along the road to the hotel.

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Evenings at the hotel were spent in the huge riad style bar/lounge. There is a separate entertainment lounge for those who prefer to watch a show, but we were happy to chat to anyone and everyone in the bar.  The hotel appeals to a diverse range of nationalities and we enjoyed some fun conversations with new friends from Aarhus to Essex.  Bar service was hit and miss at busy times with no-one clocking who was next in the queue, so that those who shouted loudest were served.

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I think I would return if I wanted a complete rest – I read eight books in two weeks which was pretty relaxing!  There is a little library where you can swap books and I made full use of it.  The hotel is four stars and it just about gets there….better coffee would make all the difference!

 

Church Lodge Birdham: Review

We had the most relaxing winter seaside break last month in Birdham, West Sussex, staying at the delightful five star B&B Church Lodge.

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Birdham is about a ten minute drive from the beaches of The Witterings and as it was December, they were almost deserted, save for these amazing starfish we found washed up on the beach.

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Just a short stroll away from Birdham, you can reach Chichester Harbour, which on the day we visited, was still frozen and looked all the more beautiful for it.

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Our accommodation at Church Lodge was this Scandi style cabin, kitted out with a huge bed, flat screen TV, shabby chic furniture and sheepskin rugs to warm your toes as you get out of bed.

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The bathroom was tastefully decorated and Nicky, the owner, had provided lots of thoughtful beauty products to make our stay more enjoyable, plus a stash of magazines for reading in the bath!

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Breakfast at Church Lodge is huge and one of the best I’ve had at a B&B.  Everything was great quality, from the home made muesli, the fresh fruit and of course the very filling fry up!

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One of the highlights for me was meeting the resident husky, Roxy, who is absolutely adorable and amenable to a cuddle too!

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Nothing was too much trouble for our hosts Nicky and Martin.  As soon as we arrived we were offered tea and fruit cake in the conservatory while they gave us the low down on where to go and what to see.

We were even invited to Nicky’s Pilates class, although a drink at the local Lamb Inn put paid to that!

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What makes this place special is the hospitality and the feeling that you really are away from it all.  It was the perfect antidote to the crazy run up to Christmas.

 

 

 

 

A Dream Holiday Win: A Week In Crete

Thanks to the very generous people at Silver Travel Advisor and Simpson Travel, we’ve just spent an amazing week in Western Crete at the GK Beach Hotel.  As you know, I’m a keen comper and I always have my suitcase packed for my next trip, so I was able to combine my travel experience with my comping hobby by adding several reviews onto the Silver Trip Advisor website and I ended up bagging this wonderful prize.

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First thing first.  Let me tell you about the first class pre-departure service we received from Simpson Travel.  A personal booking service, the offer of car hire or private transfer to our hotel, a generous 20kg luggage allowance each, proper luggage labels and meet and greet at Chania airport on arrival with a cool bottle of water.

On arrival at GK Beach we were met by Chris and Sev, our Simpson Travel reps who showed us personally to our junior suite (room 1A) and gave us a run down of the facilities.  It was fabulous to have such a personal touch.  Simpson Travel also provided us with a gift of Cretan honey, lavender oil and some oregano (handy for those Greek salads).  As we were on a B&B basis, they also provided a very generous 50 euro voucher towards dinner and drinks at the hotel.

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The hotel is small and friendly.  All the communal space is outdoor and is, in the main, shared with the general public (with the exception of the pool and certain designated sitting areas and sunbeds for Simpson Travel guests only).

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Our room was bright and spacious with a mini kitchen area so we were able to knock up a quick lunch…..well, until, that is we discovered the village bakery at Kalyves, then it was pies all the way (spinach, feta, potato and burger!).

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Breakfast was an absolute delight and included Greek yoghurt, thyme honey from the owner’s hives, feta cheese, a selection of fruit and veg, a cooked selection (eggs, bacon etc), pastries, excellent quality coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, PG Tips, and the yummiest sourdough bread.

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The location of GK Beach couldn’t be better.  It is right on the beach, five minutes to the local supermarket and 20 minutes walk to the centre of Kalyves with its many tavernas and shops (oh and the aforementioned bakery).

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We dined at GK a couple of evenings. The food is fresh and made to order.  We both had this very tasty sea bream.

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We spent our days walking into the town which has a lovely little harbour, mooching about and generally doing nothing.  There is of course much to see in and around the Souda Bay area, but as we are in the process of moving house, we just wanted to chill out.

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The evenings we didn’t spend at the hotel, we tried some of the local tavernas.  In Provlita, right on the seafront, I had the most delicious lamb chops I have ever tasted in my life. The Greek salad served there was a jewelled masterpiece too!

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My favourite thing to do the whole week, was to sit under this tree in the main square in Kalyves, reading my book, and drinking coffee.

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We had a fabulous break!  Thanks so much to Silver Travel Adviser and Simpson Travel for such a wonderful experience.  Crete has worked its magic on us.  We submitted to the gentle pace of life and have come home refreshed and ready to move house!

 

 

 

Bosworth Hall Hotel & Spa: Review

From the outside, this beautiful building looks the perfect place for a luxurious weekend away.  Standing in generous grounds, yet just a five minute walk from the chocolate box village of Market Bosworth, it would seem an ideal choice for a quintessential British break.

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Check in was quite encouraging – the entrance is a grand affair, with a huge chandelier and some interesting sculptures in the lobby and plenty of information about the resident ghost: the Grey Lady of Bosworth Hall who met a very sticky end.  So far, so good.

The room wasn’t bad either.  I loved the bedroom furniture – my guess it was early to mid 20th century and original too.  It gave the room a bit of old fashioned Cunard style elegance.  There were some very nice lampshades which set off the style beautifully.

However, here began the issues.

One of my pet hates in hotels is windows that are jammed shut.  As lovely as the original sash windows were, I am a woman in my mid fifties and I need to get the window open guys!  Especially as the heating was blasting away and there appeared to be no way to turn it off.

The next issue arose at dinner (a carvery affair which was included in the very reasonable dinner, bed and breakfast price).  The restaurant was too small for the number of guests, resulting in a bit of a bun fight.  Tables were cleared as fast as the staff could manage, but inevitably there was plate scraping in situ (yuk!!) as bums were accommodated on seats.  The food was generally OK at dinner although we went for mains only as the soup looked gloopy and the salad offerings were heavy on the mayo.

The overspill from the restaurant meant that the bar was full of people waiting to eat and at times, the queue for a drink was ten deep.  The smokers’ outdoor area was right next to the bar and dining room so a right royal gale was blowing through.

We slept well despite the overheating as the sheets were good quality as were the pillows. The Grey Lady didn’t make an appearance – although she is said to roam the corridors at night.  Eek!  Should have checked for ghosts before I booked.

The breakfast experience was similar to dinner- too many people, lots of waiting to get into the restaurant, hasty plate clearing and scraping.  The food was motorway service standard.

In fairness to the hotel group (Britannia Hotels) it must be a nightmare to run this type of building and make a profit.  They have adopted a pile it high and sell it cheap approach which clearly works, as the place was bouncing.

In an ideal world, this grand old building would be home to a superior holiday offering, with tinkling champagne glasses, a piano bar and a fine dining experience to match.  But, as they say: you get what you pay for.

We had booked the hotel via Late Rooms, not specifically looking for a country house hotel, but just somewhere close to the Bosworth Battlefield Centre, where we were attending an event.

I wouldn’t rule out staying again as overall the accommodation was fine.  However, I would book on a room only basis and try out one or two of the pubs and restaurants in Market Bosworth for dinner and perhaps a grab a pastry from a local coffee shop for breakfast.

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If you are a Richard III fan (as I am), then Bosworth is a great place to base yourself.  It’s about a three mile walk to the actual battlefield where Richard died fighting Henry Tudor.  The Battlefield Centre has a restaurant, picnic area and museum where you can read up on the events of 1485 and there are a series of walks around the area, dotted with plaques explaining how the battle unfolded.

The village itself is absolutely gorgeous and so worth a visit.

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