Sensimar Medina Gardens, Marrakech: Hotel Review

Marrakech has been on my bucket list for years, but Steve has never been keen.  However, in the spirit of ‘just do it’ he agreed, in a weak moment, to spend a week at the Medina Gardens which is located within the Medina and close to all the action.  We chose this hotel for a few reasons.  Firstly, it is all inclusive and great value for money.  We don’t mind paying for all inclusive then eating out too – it doesn’t work out that expensive, plus you are limited for places to drink alcohol outside of the hotel, which is fair enough.  Secondly, this is a way to do ‘Marrakech light’ if you like, a namby pamby way to see all the sights without full immersion in the culture. Thirdly, the location really appealed to us as we like to walk everywhere if we can when on holiday and everything is literally on your doorstep.  I will write about Marrakech soon, but concentrating just on the hotel, this is what we thought.

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The gardens are fabulous!  The air is heavily scented with neroli from the orange trees which were in blossom during our March visit.

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All the herbs for the kitchen are grown in the gardens which is great to see.

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They have pet tortoises which are partial to a banana smuggled out of breakfast.

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The food was fabulous – if you like tagines and veggie dishes with lots of pulses, this is for you.  It suited me perfectly. The wine is a bit on the rough and ready side – it was called Kasbah (of course it was!) and we found the rose to be the most palatable.  Steve couldn’t get on with the beer at all.

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Our room was a garden room, so no view, but it was adequate.  I have to say there were maintenance issues – the wall light fell off, the wardrobe doors stuck, coming perilously close to preventing a change of clothes, and the sink had a tendency to block.  We fondly dubbed it Fawlty Towers, but it was OK really.

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The service was on the whole, poor.  Hard to get a drink in the bar.  Another downside was that although our holiday started in thirty degree heat, later in the week the temperature plunged to eight degrees at night and there was limited space to sit and chat indoors.

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The Thomson rep service was good and nothing was too much trouble.  We very rarely go to a welcome meeting because we like to make our own mistakes (ha ha) but this time, we took planned trips to make sure we didn’t miss anything.

At dusk, sitting around the pool and hearing the call to prayer from the Koutoubia Mosque I have to say it was quite magical.

If you are looking for an easy way to see Marrakech then you could do worse than give this a try.IMG_1219

 

 

 

 

A Night At One Of The Most Haunted Hotels in Britain: The Adelphi, Liverpool

Why I booked myself into the Adelphi when I am scared to death of ghosts and ghouls is beyond my comprehension, but anyway I did it.

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We were going to a concert at the Liverpool Philharmonic, the Adelphi is on route, it was a bargain price on Late Rooms (£49) and I really didn’t engage my brain.  I just clicked ‘book’.

Then (and I always do this after the fact) I checked Trip Advisor which mostly went along the lines of ‘do not stay at this hotel’.  Hmmm – have I made a mistake here I thought.  People said it made Fawlty Towers look good, or that it was like staying in the Grand Budapest Hotel.  But no-one mentioned ghosts.

I don’t mind camping out in a dodgy hotel if the price is right and it’s only for one night (you can always sleep clothed on top of the covers after all).  I also tend to take Trip Advisor with a pinch of salt as I never review anything myself and I suspect many like minded folk are the same. So I thought, oh well, let’s go with the flow.

Then, a little niggle popped into my mind.  Hadn’t this hotel been on the telly?  Hadn’t I read somewhere that it was haunted.  I always avoid haunted hotels as I know I won’t sleep a wink, so it seemed a mighty cock up had been made here.  Anyway, to check, I googled ‘Adelphi haunted’.

What popped up was terrifying.  Not only is it haunted, it is haunted by multiple ghosts and people actually pay to go on ghost hunting breaks here.  Flippin’ heck – this was getting very scary.   The third floor in particular is said to be possessed by a demon with people reporting being violently ill, feeling someone watching them, or in some cases, seeing someone rifling through their belongings who then disappeared into thin air.

Deciding to man up I turned up on the day and was delighted with the architecture of the public rooms: simply stunning and exactly what you would expect from a grand old hotel built in 1911.  It’s all marble walls and crystal chandeliers – faded grandeur at its best.

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Checking in, we were given a key …..to the dreaded third floor!  I had a momentary panic and thought about asking for another room, but not wanting to look like a nutter, I smiled and said thank you.

The room was huge and although minimally furnished (one tea bag between two people anyone?) it was clean.  The mattress was a little thin but I had no qualms about sleeping here.  Until about 11 p.m. when we were back from the theatre and the reality set in…..I was about to spend the night in a haunted hotel!

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Giving myself a talking to, I dropped off for a little while, only to be woken at midnight by that feeling you get when your mind is alert but your body won’t move.  I get this all the time, so no matter, but it did unsettle me and I decided the best course of action was to sleep with one eye open until at least four a.m. as I figured there would be no hauntings in the morning hours.

I had five blissful hours sleep from four ’til nine and have to say, the Adelphi was actually fine.  No ghosts, no poor service, no dirt.  A bit shabby chic maybe, but I can live with that.

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Would I stay again? Absolutely – although maybe not on All Hallows Eve: don’t want to go looking for trouble do we?

 

 

Atlantis by Giardino, Zurich

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to readers of my blog that I read Lonely Planet magazine, nor that my bulging bookshelves contain Lonely Planet guides to far flung places such as the Amazon, Australia and Thailand.  I buy them for inspiration, education and as often as reminders of places I’ve been.

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This month, thanks to a Lonely Planet competition, I struck the jackpot and won the most amazing city and spa break in the urban retreat, Atlantis by Giardino just on the outskirts of Zurich.

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From the moment we were chauffeured from the airport in the hotel’s sparkling white Range Rover (with heated massaging seats no less!) to the minute we were whisked back to the airport after five blissful days, I can honestly say we were treated like very special friends.  Instead of having to stand at reception to check in, we were offered iced tea and hot towels whilst our details were taken.

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The rooms are beautifully appointed and equipped with everything you might need, including robes and slippers, a free mini bar stocked with local soft drinks and Swiss chocolate, a Bose sound system, Nespresso machine, flat screen TV and my personal favourite, a huge walk in rainforest shower.  Above is the view of the city from our room which had a huge balcony to enjoy in sunnier months.

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Because the hotel is just outside the city, there was no noise pollution, unless you count the tinkling of cow bells (yes- the cows really do have bells in Switzerland) or the occasional sheep calling out.  Oh, and in case you think being a couple of miles away from Zurich is a disadvantage, I should mention there is a free shuttle back and to into town at whatever time suits you.

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The hotel has the most stunning floral decorations. Orchids (real ones) everywhere plus bowls of fresh fruit dotted around should you ever feel peckish.

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The hotel has two restaurants, the two Michelin starred Ecco and the casual dining Hide & Seek where we had dinner and breakfast.  The choice was staggering at breakfast, with continental breakfast, or cooked, with eggs prepared to order.  The buffet even including a fresh honeycomb.

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We had dinner at Hide & Seek on two nights, each including a wine flight of carefully chosen wines to accompany each course. My favourite dish was this shrimp coconut bisque which tasted out of this world.

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We visited the spa every day to take advantage of the pool and Jacuzzi and the soothing Dipiu spa products.  I enjoyed an aromatherapy massage too, with Franco, who has the most magical hands! I was massaged to within an inch of my life, and as a trained masseuse myself, I can tell you he was good!

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There is so much I want to tell you about the city, that I will cover it in another blog post, but in the meantime, if you ever find yourself looking for a break in Zurich, then this is the place to book.

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Hotel Strasbourg: Review

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Our trip to Geneva was triggered by Geneva Tourism’s 1001 nights campaign, whereby you could have a free night in a hotel, but of course you pay for flights and everything else.  We checked out the prices on EasyJet and we could fly there for £165 total which isn’t bad and the cost of one night at this hotel was approx. £120 so we thought why not go for it!  We’d never been before and we could get a couple of nights at a reasonable cost, so we booked.

We chose the Hotel Strasbourg for its proximity to the railway station (only five minutes walk) and were pleased to see it was situated in an area with lots of bars and restaurants too.

On arrival, we were upgraded from a basic room to a suite, which was very kind of them.

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The décor was very eighties, but nonetheless, the space and comfort were very welcome.

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The bed was extremely comfy and the room was spotless.

Breakfast was continental and pretty much what you would expect: croissants, bread, cheese, ham, eggs, cereals, fruit.  The coffee was good too.

The only downside was the lack of aircon, although we did have a fan.

There was no bar service or restaurant but there was a mini bar and plenty of options for eating and drinking locally.

The clientele seemed to be a mix of business travellers and tourists and it’s a great option for just one or two nights.

It takes less than ten minutes to get from the hotel to the lake and maybe 15 minutes to get across to the old town.  We thought the location was perfect for a city break.

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If you would like to know what we got up to in Geneva, have a look at my blog post here.

 

 

Hotel Bardolino: Review

This pretty B&B in Bardolino, Lake Garda, is situated about fifteen minutes walk from the centre of Bardolino and about two minutes walk from the lake.

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We booked it as a last minute break for an absolute steal via Thomson Lakes & Mountains, so we were not really expecting much.  However, we were pleasantly surprised.

Although basic, the B&B offers everything you need.  The aircon was fine, the Wi-Fi, although a bit patchy at times was OK.  The breakfast was excellent with lots to choose from.

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The décor was fab.  A jumble of eclectic pieces which really worked well together.

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The hotel has no bar but you are welcome to bring drinks of your own and enjoy them in the small garden.

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If you are looking for a Lake Garda break and you’re on a budget, then this is a good choice.

The Old Swan & Minster Mill: Hotel Review

If you’re looking for some Cotswold charm without the hoards of tourists, then look no further than Minster Lovell.  It’s a pretty village, not far from Oxford, situated on the River Windrush.

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We stayed two nights at the Old Swan & Minster Mill, which is actually two separate properties.  The six hundred year old Old Swan village inn and the 18th century Minster Mill.  Our room was in the mill and looked out over the lovely gardens.

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The room, although compact, was very comfortable with thoughtful touches such as a hot water bottle, magazines and beautiful glassware.  There was a Nespresso machine, kettle and plenty of teas and coffees to choose from.  The spa was just down the corridor and the aromatherapy scent drifting down to our room was gorgeous.

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Beware if you decide to have a cuppa in the pub garden.  A pot of tea for two is £8.  Better off sticking to the cider if you want value for money.

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Dinner on both nights was at the Old Swan, and the food I thought was exceptionally good.  My dessert on night two was a chocolate and passion fruit delight and I could have licked the plate clean.  There is a dining room or you can choose to eat in the bar.  We did a bit of both for variety.  The bar is doggy friendly which appeals to me – one waitress even brought a cheeky sausage out for someone’s little Manchester terrier.

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Breakfast was self serve, which initially jarred with me as this is a five star hotel, but I have to say the quality was top notch and I was immediately converted.

The hotel has really interesting gardens for those who like a wander.  An Archimedes Screw has been installed in the grounds which harnesses the power of the Windrush and provides energy for the hotel.

There is some lovely planting, including veg and herbs.  You never know, you might even come across Parker, the pub cat, who is a real sweetie.

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Bull Hotel Bridport: Hotel Review

The Bull is one of my favourite hotels in the UK.  It has a bit of a shabby chic vibe, a bit of boho, a friendly welcome, a pretty courtyard and fabulous food!

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Let’s start with the rooms.  They are all individually styled and a lot of thought has clearly gone into comfort.  This time we had room 104 which has a free standing bath and a four poster.  Perfect for chilling out.  The Bramley toiletries supplied are proper botanicals with a real essential oil hit.

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The bed is huge, with a really snuggly appeal, a comfortable mattress and the softest velvety throw at the bottom which I was tempted to take home!

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The bathroom has plenty of space with a proper walk in power shower, thick fluffy towels and bathrobes for lounging.

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The hotel’s courtyard is just perfect for pre dinner drinks, morning coffee and lunch al fresco.  The planting is really colourful and well thought out – not just a few petunias in a tub, but an explosion of colour and a good variety of plants.

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Breakfast is a real treat.  During our three day stay, I had smoked salmon and scrambled egg, the full English, and on the final day, kippers.  There is ample fresh fruit, Dorset honey, Dorset cereals and pastries.  The apple juice is locally pressed too.

Dinner in the restaurant is a relaxed affair.  Both Steve and I chose fish as a main, but there are plenty of other options including some interesting veggie dishes.

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If you’re looking for a Dorset break, you won’t go far wrong here!