Hotel New York, Rotterdam

The location

Truly spectacular waterfront location. I arrived late on a rainy and windy November evening, and enjoyed the surrounding of illuminated skyscrapers in the night. My room also had a superb view. Sadly I did not have much time to enjoy the town, as my meeting was taking place in the hotel. Staff are nice and speak perfect English. Somebody even phoned me to ask if my room was alright, something I had never encountered before.

The hotel’s building has an interesting history, being the former head office of the Holland America Line, and the place where European emigrants would leave for a better life in America. Today these days are long gone, the place bustling with affluent Dutch who are able to enjoy an unprecedented era of freedom and tolerance. I found this environment quite stimulating; an invitation to travel which reminded me of my earlier visit this year to Ellis Island.

The room

The first impression was excellent: the room was spacious, the bathroom large, the bed comfortable with a duvet. There was also a Nespresso machine, which is a better option than the coffee served at the hotel restaurant. The room was however very cold, and there was some sort of permanent light illuminating the flight of stairs leading to the sleeping area, which I think was enough to wake me up at regular intervals during the night. Wifi was also non-existent.

The meal

I had two dinners at the large and stunning restaurant downstairs, the first one on my own and the second one with the company of my French and Dutch colleagues. The second meal was better (I had fish instead of meat), with the first one being a bit heavy. The portions are also quite big.

The breakfast

Breakfast is served in the restaurant, where you will be able to enjoy the waterfront views. I found it to be of an excellent standard, with quite a few cooked options: I sampled the eggs, the sausages and the bacon, which were all excellent and cooked by a friendly employee.

The price

Not inexpensive (about 160 a night plus 17 euros for breakfast). The light in the room and its coldness would make me hesitate to return, while the comfort of the bed, the breakfast and the views would have me come back.

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Hotel Barcelo Sants, Barcelona

The location

I was staying in Barcelona on business, so was there with a colleague, and while we had been promised that it was easy to get to the hotel directly from the airport (the hotel is located at Sants Estacio, right above a major train station in the west of the city), we had had difficulty finding the train at the airport and so got a bus followed by the metro, which was then followed by at least a 10-minute walk. Not the most fun activity at 10pm in a city we don’t know! Nonetheless, this was not the hotel’s fault – probably more thefault of the organisers for not being more explicit.

A Miro-influenced section of the Ramblas

When we did find the hotel, however, we were pleased to note its access to several helpful amenities, including local tapas bars, vending machines, cashpoints, and of course, Sants Estacio itself.  From here, you can indeed access the airport by train, as well as being linked to metro lines that can take you directly to several major tourist attractions, including the Ramblas and the Sagrada Familia.

The room

As you can see from the photograph at the top of this post, the room delivers a clean, light and airy atmosphere (taking this latter quality to the extreme in its slightly chilly and apparently unadjustable air conditioning). There are, however, a large number of glowing lights in the room (TV, air conditioning, clock radio…) which some may find extremely bothersome as they actually light the room quite considerably. Extremely modern and spacious, it had everything you would expect: large shower with excellent water pressure, tea and coffee making facilities, and easy-to-set-up wifi. The only things lacking were tissues and bottled water, but this was more than compensated for by the rest, including turn-down chocolate.

Other hotel facilities

The hotel’s up-to-date astronomic theme lends itself well to the technology and space on offer. A large round table with starry lights in the basement area is replete with desktop Macs for guests’ use at their leisure, and has plenty of plug points for you to use your own laptop. Chargers for all manner of mobile phones and other electronics are also available for rent at a fee. Business-wise there’s little for complaint: the projectors worked well and the sound system was excellent. The air conditioning also worked well and the rooms were kept full of bottled water, although this was accompanied by boiled sweets and not mints, which would have been more refreshing. Tea, coffee, pastries and fruit were also available in abundance during the breaks.

The breakfast

I have rarely experienced such vast and high-quality breakfast choice in any hotel. While what was available here didn’t quite touch the dizzying heights of my experiences in Tenerife or Florida, it certainly didn’t disappoint. You can fight off dodgy filter coffee with ease, as a monster Nespresso machine means that unlimited caffeine is available in a decent concentration. A range of cereals were available, including the chance to make your own by adding seeds with fresh or dried fruits; there were at least four different kinds of juice, of which peach was one; cooked Spanish specialities were also on the menu, such as spiced sausage; there was a variety of types of bread and European pastries; and there was meat and cheese for those that wanted it (which, along with the horizontal rolling toaster, enabled the creation of cheese toasties). This really did well to set us up for the day, and was all laid out in a highly intuitive way, under chandeliers made of bent cutlery.

fountain on the Plaça de Catalunya

The price

My employer picked up the tab for this one, benefiting from the group rate of €121 a night including the wonderful breakfast mentioned above. This is compared to the usual rate of €152 B&B (note that this is the rate you get when booking at least three weeks ahead). This is arguably then not a “cheap” option and I’m sure competitive rates abound in Barcelona. However, for this standard of hotel, I would happily pay the €152 a night for the sleek rooms, excellent service, available technology, satisfying breakfast, and easy access to this beautiful city.

Plaça Paisos Catalans, Estacio de Sants  08014 Barcelona, Spain

0034 935 03 53 00

www.barcelosants.com

Hotel Pantheon, Rome

The location

I stayed for two nights in October and Rome could not have been more charming: arriving from a foggy Paris, I found the City basking under a warm autumn sun. The central location of the hotel, within walking distance of the Vatican, the Piazza Navona or the fora meant I was able to enjoy succulent meals in authentic restaurants and walk to my meeting while enjoying spectacular views.

The room

It felt quite dark, the bathroom was slightly smelling of sewage (not uncommon in Rome I was told), and wifi was expensive and impossible to configure, while 3G and GSM were near non-existent. Animated conversations from the street could however find their way to the bedroom. I am fairly confident I also heard somebody from the adjacent room coughing.

The breakfast

It was of quite a low standard; I had to rinse my mouth after tasting the orange “juice”. They even had the bare-faced cheek to serve filter coffee. In Italy! To be fair they did offer a cooked option (scrambled eggs and bacon) but I found it of dubious quality.

The price

This is where it really starts to hurt: € 180 a night. While I understand this is to be expected, I would certainly be looking for other options were I to visit again.