Hotel Amalia, Athens

The location

The Athens heat was blistering and the drive from the airport dangerous. I was glad to arrive at the (perhaps too) cool reception area for a courteous welcome. The lobby of the hotel is spacious and well-kept. The hotel’s location will allow you to quickly attend meetings in the nearby ministries or businesses, as well as pay a visit to the Acropolis (about 10 minutes on foot).

ImageLooking at the empty shops you really have a sense here that the country is undergoing a serious crisis. The many Greek patrons at the lovely rooftop bar at the hotel de Grande-Bretagne, and the many Greek passengers at the front of the Air France flight indicate, however, that the crisis has not affected everybody in the same way.

The room

My room was rather tiny, but offered nice lateral views of the Parliament and the adjacent park. The bed was comfortable, but some may find it a bit bouncy. I found the bathroom to be rather dark and the shower lacking in pressure. It was quiet enough, except from when other guests decided it was appropriate to start a conversation in the lobby.

The breakfast

There is definitely some choice and some OK cooked options. Coffee and orange juice are disappointing though.

I also sampled the room service. Provided your order before 21:30 you can get a selection of tasty dishes.

The price

165 euros a night including breakfast, so a rather decent offering in high season.

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Hotel la Griffe, Rome

Athènes 001The location

I had the occasion to visit this hotel, which is also part of the M Gallery collection, after my stay in Amsterdam. I visited twice recently, and on both occasions found the location to be a bit remote, on the busy Via Nazionale. It is however very close to the Quirinale hill and within walking distance of an excellent restaurant (Rinaldi al Quirinale).

The receptionists vary between aloof and friendly, although I thought that the friendly doormen left a good impression of the hotel.

The room

Both my rooms were quiet, with large beds. I was lucky enough the first time to get IMG_0476a junior suite on two levels and the fun of it helped to alleviate the shortcomings of the room. For instance, the plasticky floor (although the suite had wooden floor in the bedroom) does not look very good. Both bathrooms were equally big, with a poorly attached sink in the second. There is apparently wifi but I was unable to connect an iPhone or a VPN.

The breakfast

Served on the top floor, it symbolises the hotel’s delusion of grandeur. You will be able to enjoy a decent view over Rome, with substandard food.

The price

On both occasions, I managed to pay over 200 euros a night. This is OK for a junior suite, albeit a flabby one, but far too much for a room. I was jealous of my colleagues who managed to get a reservation at the Mancino 12 down the road for less.

The Convent hotel, Amsterdam

The location

After a mostly sunny stay in the US, I arrived on a very chilly day. The hotel is located within walking distance from the train station, which offers excellent connection to the major Schiphol Airport. The reception was friendly enough, but I was immediately disappointed with the hotel’s dated feel.

The room

It had the same dated feel and was particularly cold on that chilly day. The bathroom was the biggest let-down, with a broken plastic sink.

The breakfast

Don’t even go there.

The price

I know Amsterdam was quite busy at the time, but 235 euros a night (including a rubbery burger on room service) is outrageous for this level of comfort. I think this also points to the shortcomings of the M Gallery brand, owned by the Accor hotels, which feels like it has been put there to accommodate the hotels they did not know what to do with. I may go back to Amsterdam in a couple of weeks and I have booked a different hotel.

The Normandy Hotel, Washington, DC

The location

A couple of rainy days were to conclude our otherwise lovely stay in the US, so we probably did not enjoy the location as much as it can probably be at this time of year. The hotel is up a hill, in a quiet side street located within the diplomatic district. Staff are nice enough, but this hotel struck me as having ideas above its station.The Dupont Circle Metro station is not too far; make sure you stop at the fantastic Kramer bookshop along the way. I bought the first hefty tome of Robert Caro’s fascinating biography of LB Johnson and it has proved an excellent read. The bookshop also doubles as a rather good cafe.

The room

Our room was quite small and dark. The bathroom was, however, comfortable, with a nice shower. Because of the quiet location, you don’t get much noise from the road. Sadly the same cannot be said about adjacent rooms. I also had to unplug the minifridge because it was too noisy. The overall feel was however quite cosy and the bed was comfortable. We also avoided breakfast.

The price

At $287 a night, this was our most expensive hotel night of this trip. As I have said, I would recommend visiting at cheaper dates or try to get a good deal at a hotel like the Kimpton hotel down the road, which we enjoyed last year.

Howard Johnson Manhattan Soho, New York

IMG_0470[1]The location

We arrived from Washington DC after a brief stop in Philadelphia to a sunny but still rather cool New York. This ensured we got plenty of nice Central Park sun after visiting the amazing Metropolitan Museum.

From Penn Station, we had to navigate the fiendishly complex New York subway system, but eventually were able to get on a direct train to Soho. It was quite interesting to visit this part of New York, but slightly getting off the beaten track did not allow us to escape from the packs of French tourists that were roaming the city.

The room

It was small, lightly equipped, but the bed was comfortable despite strongly smelling of bleach. The bathroom was more like a wet shower room. The room itself was not very silent, although I noticed it was much quieter on a Sunday. Complimentary tea (and something masquerading as coffee) is freely available all day in the reception area, with extra snacks available at a price.

The breakfast

Something posing as breakfast is included in the price of the room and offered in the hallway. We did not sample much of it, preferring  a satisfying brunch at Untitled in New York on our first morning. On our second morning, while heading out of the city towards our train back to Washington DC, we did sample a few of its muffins and cereal selections, which were acceptable.

The price

$236 a night, so actually not that bad value for money. But again, my recommendation would be to visit out of season.

Club Quarters Hotel, Washington DC

IMG_0448[1]The location

It could not be more central, just one block away from the White House. The Farragut North and Farragut West Metro station are also within spitting distance, making it an ideal starting point to explore the many gems of the Federal capital and sample its many great restaurants.

The room

It was actually quite tiny, and noise could heard from the adjacent street. The bathroom was also quite small, and the shower had a curtain. On the upside, the bed was reasonably comfortable, and wifi was free and easy to set up. You can also take advantage of the club lounge on the first floor, where various beverages and biscuits are offered for free.

The breakfast

We did not have breakfast at the hotel, preferring instead to take advantage of the hotel’s central location.

The price

$250 a night including tax. I would not call that good value for money, but it seems better deals may be had out of season.