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Hotel/Accommodation, Qatar, Travel

Staycation in the Sky: InterContinental Doha the City

December 5, 2016

InterContinental Doha the City

Over the weekend, I was invited by the InterContinental Doha the City to enjoy a staycation with them. The end of a semester is always stressful at my day job. Having a staycation is a way for me to relax and wind down without having to make travel plans or get on a plane.

The warm welcome from the InterContinental Doha the City started even before I arrived when I received an email welcoming me to the Club InterContinental. The benefits of staying there as a Club InterContinental member is that you get to check-in at the Club InterContinental on the 45th Floor, late check-out, afternoon tea, evening drinks and snacks. You are also able to use the club anytime. At the InterContinental you get the added best benefit of stunning views of West Bay!

InterContinental Doha the City

The Room

Light flooded the room from the floor to ceiling windows in the room. The views were just as incredible from the 42nd floor where my room was located. Besides the view, the next best thing was that when I shut the door, it was quiet. The noisy streets of Doha disappeared when I closed the door.

InterContinental Doha the City

InterContinental Doha the City

The living room area of the suite felt like walking into someone’s apartment and not a hotel room. There were a small couch and a chaise lounge. The tv was across from these but not the focal point of the room, which I prefer. Next to this was a good-sized desk where there was both a Nespresso coffee machine and a tea kettle. The best part about the desk the plugs were built into the desk, and a universal plug was included!InterContinental Doha the City

More windows greeted me as I entered the bedroom. The king-sized bed was facing another tv and another view of downtown Doha. There is also a plush chair to sit in. Off the bedroom was the bathroom with, you guessed it, more windows! You can have a bubble bath and watch the traffic go by. The view extends into the shower, which is large with a rainfall option.

InterContinental Doha the City

InterContinental Doha the City

InterContinental Doha the City

Overall, I loved the room. The carpet was plush, the bed comfortable, plugs beside the beds, coffee maker and blackout curtains are all things I love about a hotel room. There could always be more plugs and the windows provided great views but did give glare off the tv. I wouldn’t trade the views for the tv, though!

The Food

If you are going to a hotel for a staycation, then you probably don’t want to leave the hotel and to do that you need great food options. The InterContinental Doha the City does not disappoint. Since I was there on Friday, I was invited to have brunch at Hwang. Brunch is a traditional activity here on Friday. Hwang is Pan Asian, and the brunch is their take on Yum Cha brunch. Unlike the traditional buffet brunch, Hwang is a tasting menu that you order from, and they bring you as much as you like.

InterContinental Doha the City

InterContinental Doha the City

Having only been to Hwang once before, I was eager to have the things I know I liked and to try new dishes as well. Not only was the food superb the service was excellent. The waitresses suggested items to try and made me feel like I was eating with friends. My favorite dishes were the Crispy Prawns with Wasabi Mayo and the Crispy Wok Friend Duck with Long Beans and Thai Basil. The brunch is reasonably priced at QR 228 with soft beverages, QR 328 with wine and beer and QR 428 with wine, sparkling wine, beer, spirits and cocktails.

InterContinental Doha the City

That evening I had dinner at Al Jalsa Garden Lounge. Now that the weather has cooled down in Qatar, this is an excellent option as it is outside. The offerings are mainly Arabic food and shisha is an option. The muttabel I had there is the best I have had in Doha and I have had tons of muttabel.

InterContinental Doha the City

You can’t stay in a hotel without enjoying the buffet breakfast. The wonderful service continued at The Square where upon entering they took my coffee and omelet order! Kids will enjoy this breakfast as much of it would be visible to them. In fact, I saw one little boy jump from his stroller when he saw strawberry milk.

There are several more options in the hotel including Prime, the steakhouse, the lobby lounge for tea, Strata lounge and restaurant and Hive restaurant and lounge. You will never go hungry at the InterContinental Doha the City.

The InterContinental Doha the City is an excellent choice for a staycation or a weekend in Qatar, check rates here. Even if you decided to venture out from the hotel you are close to two malls, Katara, the Corniche and the amazing Souq Waqif.

 

Hotel/Accommodation, Italy, Travel

A Room with a View: Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum Hotel

November 21, 2016

Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum

Nothing will catch my attention faster than the word museum being in the name of a hotel. Sitting in Gubbio, Italy, I was planning where to sleep for the night. I was having a tough time deciding between staying Gubbio or heading to Assisi, Italy. In an unusual manner, I had not booked a hotel for the night or even decided if I was going to stay away from my apartment in Umbria. After searching for hotels in Gubbio and deciding that the one I wanted wasn’t available, I moved on to Assisi.

Choosing to sleep in Assisi might have been the best hotel choice I have ever made in my life! As I said, I was caught by the word museum in the name of the hotel and the gorgeous photos of the spa. To be honest, I don’t think I looked at pictures of the rooms at all. And normally I do some kind of research on the hotel, but I only read the TripAdvisor reviews and booked the Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum! The hotel looked stunning on my tiny iPhone 5, and that was enough for me. Only later did I discover it was a 13th-century monastery for Benedictine nuns.

Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum

When I arrived, I did not think my room would be ready as I had only booked the room about two hours before. However, my room was ready, and they never let on if my last minute reservation was stressful. I had gone to the wrong entrance when I arrived, and my bag had been left at the spa entrance. While I was waiting for my bag to be brought up, I was offered a drink while I waited. During that time, they took my bag directly to my room, which was great since there is no elevator in the Nun Assisi Relais.

The Room

My room was room 12. Each room is different, and there are only 18 in total. Entering through a small double door, I walked into a small sitting area with the television. The seating options were a bench area and one lounge chair with a footstool. From the lounge area, you walk down a hallway to the bedroom. Along the way, you pass the closet and bathroom. The closet is a walk-in and is larger than almost every closet I have ever had! The bathroom is not large but has a wonderful rainfall shower and shower gel that smelled so good I brought it back to Doha with me. My only complaint about the bathroom was the mirror was up so high that I could only see my forehead.

Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum

Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum

The bedroom contained a large and very comfortable bed. There was also a television in there. Once I laid down on the bed, I realized I had a stunning view of the Rocca Maggiore. The view was even better as the sunset. The room had air conditioning, but it was not what most Americans are used to, but I wasn’t hot through the night as I thought I would be. I discovered the reason why in the morning, linen sheets! I wanted to take them off the bed and bring them home with me. Want to sleep on these linen sheets, check rates here.

Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum

Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum

Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum

The Spa

Once I arrived, I decided that I was in need of a massage from all the walking I had been doing all over Italy. I booked a massage for later in the day so I could still sightsee during the day. I was told to put on the robe in my room and go down to the spa a few minutes before my appointment.  Since I was going for a massage, I didn’t take my camera, which was a mistake. This is also where the museum portion comes into play. The spa is in the ruins of a Roman amphitheater. The space is gorgeous and immediately calming. Despite my wanting to explore the whole space, I had to go directly to my treatment.

The massage is one of the best I have had in my life. Unlike in the US, you lay on the table without a towel. I am assuming it is because Italians are less concerned about nudity than us Americans. It didn’t matter though as the table was heated and the massage therapist made me feel comfortable. It was a rough massage, but I felt so relaxed, I almost fell asleep. What I also liked is that the room was dark, there was relaxing music playing, and the massage therapist did not talk much.

There is also the option to do the Nun Circuit, which is entering several different rooms of different temperatures. It is supposed to bring immediate purifying and regenerating effects. There is also a multi-massage pool. All of this is just an excuse to go back since I wasn’t able to do any of this because I had a reservation at the restaurant.

Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum

The Food

The hotel has a restaurant on the property. I found it amusing that the restaurant is called “Eat Out” since if you are staying at the hotel, you could consider it eating in. Anyway, the view of Assisi from the restaurant’s terrace is worth a visit alone. You can see most of Assisi from there, and it is especially popular when the sun is setting.

While Assisi is awash with ancient structures, Eat Out is thoroughly modern inside. The interior is clean and simple with neutral tones and dark wood. Some of the kitchen is open plan, so you can see the chefs working.

The menu changes with the season. Much of the ingredients are sourced locally and are organic. The portions are not large; the food is not complex but flavorful. The wine list was carefully selected and paired well with the menu choices. I ordered linguine with pork. I tend to order lots of pork when not in Qatar! The desert was a kind of cake covered in chocolate. Given my lack of enthusiasm for chocolate, I should have ordered something else. Overall, I loved the food and the experience and only wish I had been there longer to have a chance to taste more of the menu.

Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum

Location

Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum is located in Assisi just inside the historic gates of Assisi. Look for the white church across from the parking lot next to the bus stop. The exterior is plain white stone, so it blends in, and the sign is not obvious. The entrance is actually through the garden as I discovered after I entered through the spa. The hotel does offer parking, but I am not sure of the price as I parked in the public parking lot, which was not expensive for the 24 hours I was there.

Hotel/Accommodation, Italy, Travel

Sleeping in History: Hotel Plaza Lucchesi, Florence

September 20, 2016

Plaza Hotel Lucchessi

Classic luxury is the phrase I would use to describe the Hotel Plaza Lucchesi in Florence, Italy. From the Murano glass chandeliers to the gold-plated elevators to the elegant rooftop bar and pool, the Hotel Plaza Lucchesi makes you feel special when you stay there.

Plaza Hotel Lucchessi

Both weekends I visited Florence, I stayed at Plaza Hotel Lucchesi. I originally chose the hotel because it was close to the sights, had parking, but was outside the limited traffic zone. This is an area in which you have to be a resident to drive through. After the first weekend, I knew I would come back to Florence, and I knew I would stay at this hotel again. 

Plaza Hotel Lucchessi

My first weekend there, I was given a room with a view of the Santa Croce and the Duomo! To this day, I am still not sure how I got that room. In addition to the amazing view, it had two balconies! The room was large and had a great bathroom. Once I came back for the night, I discovered the bed was very comfortable as well. While this room had a great view, it did have some negatives. One was that the wifi did not seem to want to work in that room. It worked everywhere else in the hotel. The other was that it was next to the stairs to the rooftop bar, so when people left the bar, they were loud. However, I would choose this room again and just wear earplugs! 

Plaza Hotel Lucchessi

Plaza Hotel Lucchessi

The next weekend, I was given a room with a view of the Arno River. The room was again large. While there was no balcony, there was a bathtub. The wifi worked great in this room, and it was very quiet. It was nice to see a different view of Florence.

Plaza Hotel Lucchessi

Plaza Hotel Lucchessi

Plaza Hotel Lucchessi

The service in the hotel was outstanding. Everyone was very helpful, nice and remembered me the second weekend. The breakfast was simple but good. Both weekends, I parked my car with them. The first weekend, I had to pay because I didn’t make a reservation in their garage and it was full. The next weekend, I knew to reserve a spot. The first weekend, valet saw me checking out and retrieved my car for me right away! 

One of the best things about this hotel is the exceptional views from the rooftop bar and pool. You can see the Santa Croce, the Duomo and the Arno River all at once. At one end you can see the Ponte Vecchio. I did not swim as it was still chilly for me. No one else was either. Happy hour time attracted many people to the bar. If you are planning to go there for happy hour, I would make a reservation so you can sit at a table with couches.

Plaza Hotel Lucchessi

Staying at the Plaza Hotel Lucchesi was a splurge for me, and I probably couldn’t afford to stay there again. However, for a night or two, it was definitely worth every euro. At least when I go back to Florence, I will know where to see the sunset with a view. 

Hotel/Accommodation, Prep, Travel

The Year of Traveling Fearlessly: Picking your Accommodation on a Solo Trip

May 27, 2016

Picking Your Accommodation on a Solo Trip Picking where to stay on your trip is probably the most daunting task when booking travel outside of deciding where to go. This is not just a solo traveler issue either, but it becomes more pronounced when you are traveling alone. There are many things you may want to consider when picking a place. Hotels are not your only option! Here are my tips for picking the type of accommodation you want and what other factors you should consider when booking.

What Kind Of Accommodation?

What is most important to you when picking the kind of place you stay in? This sometimes varies depending on your location and the time of year you are traveling.

Hotels –  Good for shorter trips when you don’t have lots of time and need to be close to the attractions or public transportation. Hotels are also great since you can ask staff for advice or the maybe even the concierge to book things for you. Also, they are good if you have mobility issues as most will have an elevator and or have ground floor rooms. Don’t think you can’t book a hotel because it will be expensive! Not all hotels are expensive.

Hostels – Hostels are good if you are watching your budget, which doesn’t always mean they are cheap and uncomfortable! Hostels are slowly changing their image and many have private rooms at a fraction of what a hotel would be. It just may mean you have a communal bathroom or a small room, but who cares you aren’t living there forever right! Hostels are also great if you want to meet people as they usually have communal areas and sometimes free tours or happy hours. Several other travel bloggers I follow on Snapchat have been staying at hostels and I have been amazed at how nice they are and they have some amazing art on the walls! The Hostel Girl reviews hostels all over the world and is a great resource if you are looking for a hostel.

Apartment or Airbnb – If you want to live like a local, then I highly recommend that you stay in an apartment or Airbnb rental. The apartment gives you a feel for what living in that city is truly like. If you stay with someone in an Airbnb then they can give you the local’s insight into the city. In many cities, Airbnb is cheaper than a hotel. The other advantage is that you may have access to a kitchen allowing you to cook for yourself and save money. If you are traveling for a longer period of time then cooking for yourself is very helpful to the budget. Also, you may have access to laundry facilities in an apartment or Airbnb.

House sitting –   Another great option if you are staying longer in a location. If you are not familiar with house sitting, basically you look after someone’s home for an extended length of time. Usually, there are chores involved, such as taking care of pets or garden. The upside is that this is usually an exchange of services and you don’t pay any money to stay at their house. You will also get to experience living like a local and have access to a kitchen.

Couchsurfing – While Couchsurfing sounds similar to Airbnb, it differs in a huge way in that you are not paying to stay at the person’s apartment or house. However, you may actually be sleeping on a couch! This is definitely not for everyone and you need to check other’s reviews for safety factors.

How Do I Chose Where I Want to Be?

Once you have decided what kind of accommodation you want to stay in, then you can research where you want to stay. Here is what I look for in a place to lay my head.

Reviews! – My first stop is TripAdvisor for hotel reviews. I know lots of people discount them since some people have claimed that negative reviews have been deleted, but not all of them are and I have found it is a good place to start. I especially like that they tell you the most popular places in town and the map view. Keep in mind that one negative review does not outweigh all the positive reviews or vice versa. One person could be incredibly picky or have unrealistic expectations of a place. Pay attention to what negative things people are talking about because it could be about things that don’t bother you. I frequently see complaints about small rooms in Europe and I know that small hotel rooms in Europe are normal and I don’t care! Some people complain about outside noise, but I know that some people like outside noise as it helps them sleep. Airbnb and Couchsurfing also have reviews.

Location, Location, Location – Next to finding out the scoop on the places on reviews, is to look at their location. Do you want to be close to the attractions or do you want to be away from them? The convenience of being near them may mean higher prices and more noise. If I am only going somewhere for a short period of time then, I tend to stay near the sights so I don’t waste time getting there and that is worth paying more to me. You also want to consider safety along with the location. Reviews may have information regarding safety, but you may have to dig deeper into blog reviews or other sites to find this out. Also, is the hotel safe itself? Are there deadbolts and key cards? If after the first night, you don’t feel safe, change accommodation. This may cost you money, but your safety is worth more!

Amenities – Is there a pool? Do you want to have spa treatments? Think about what you want in a place. Some Airbnb places will rent you the room, but may not let you have access to the kitchen, which if you were planning on cooking then you’re in trouble. Last summer, I was looking for a place in Verona, Italy that had parking available for my rental car. Each type of accommodation will have different amenities available, so check out the place’s website and don’t rely on reviews for what is offered as they may be out of date. I have also emailed hotels and gotten great responses and most of them respond in less than 24 hours.

Comfort – Just because you are on vacation and not sleeping in your own bed does not mean you shouldn’t be comfortable. My biggest thing is to look for reviews stating that the bed was uncomfortable. I hate soft beds as they make my back hurt, but again you have to look at more than one review as each person has their own preferences. The next thing I look for is noise in my hotel. The worst experience I had in a hotel was because the walls were so thin and each night I could hear the people in them and each night was a new set of people, including a crying baby. I didn’t get much sleep that week and was attending a conference, not a good combination.

Most of this you may already know, but it can be hard to remember all these things when looking for a place to stay. Hopefully, you can use these tips will help you pick an excellent space on your next trip!

Need a place to stay in Venice, Verona, Bangkok, Doha or Goa. Click on the links to see my reviews of hotels I have stayed in. What do you look for in a hotel?