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Cocktail Hour

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Here’s what was available at the Sofitel in Kunming when I visited in June.

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Hotel Review: Sofitel Kunming

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I used some points to stay at the Sofitel in Kunming. Although they were extremely busy with a meeting between Yunnan and Taiwan, the staff went out of their way when I checked in and whenever I was in the lobby to see to it that I received good service and my questions were answered.

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My room was sleek, modern and comfortable. I even had a TV in the bathroom, which seems to be a Sofitel standard on the club floors. (N.B. If you belong to the Accor loyalty program and travel regularly, you’ll soon earn Gold status which offers upgrades.)

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I was on the club floor and had access to the lounge, where guests can indulge in afternoon tea and then in cocktail hour. The sweet and savory options were delectable and while there was a lot of seafood, which I don’t eat, there was no excuse for going hungry.

Since there was a big meeting between Taiwanese government officials and Yunnan provincial big wigs the club was off-limits for regular guests. The Chinese required that the Taiwanese delegation be sequestered and watched at all times. So breakfast was only offered in the main restaurant which is large and offers the biggest variety of quality cuisine that I’ve ever seen for a breakfast. In fact the breakfast deserves its own post.

As spectacular as the food was, I think the personal attention that Sofitel offers is what I liked most about my stay. At every meal or any time I asked for directions, the staff were warm and informative. They know how to show that they care.

Novotel: Central Sydney

 

For its downtown location and good price, I chose to stay at Novotel’s Central Sydney. I’ve been happy with the size of room and the modern bathroom and stylish room. It was just an 8 minute walk from the train station.

My first night I tried to order room service, but no one would answer the phone. It wasn’t a huge problem. I decided to eat in the restaurant and my fettuccini with sun dried tomatoes was great and could have served two easily.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Anticipation

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1. Each week, we’ll provide a theme for creative inspiration. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog (a new post!) anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme will be announced.

2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “Weekly Photo Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use the “postaday″ tag.

3. Follow The Daily Post so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements, and subscribe to our newsletter – we’ll highlight great posts. Add Media photos from each month’s most popular challenge.

Other themed photos:

Novotel Blackfriars, London

I just stayed one night at the Novotel Blackfriars in London, but I’d definitely go back. Though small, my room was nicely decorated and the bed was so comfy that I felt like a princess, like the princess in “Princess and the Pea.” The small bathroom was stylish with slate floors and chic toiletries.

Best of all, the location was great. I could walk to the London Eye in 10 minutes and to Big Ben and Westminster Abbey in 15 minutes. It’s half a block from a tube station.

Of course, there’s free wifi and a fitness center, which looked clean and up to date.

As a gold level member, I usually get a plate of fruit and an upgrade. On my stay I didn’t get either. Perhaps there were no bigger rooms available. As for the fruit, which I missed, I got a free drink voucher. I’d hoped for fresh orange juice at the adjacent restaurant, but all they had was standard concentrate. Novotel should just get some fruit to welcome us.

I didn’t eat any meals there. They have a breakfast buffet for $13, but there were several other choices where I could get a good breakfast for less.

Easter Brunch

We returned to the Grand Mercure on Sunshine Street for Easter Brunch. This time there were 150 other guests and around noon it was chaotic. (So go early if you go.) While there were plenty of non-desserts on offer, the pastry chef did a remarkable job with Easter themes.

Hotel Review

The Grand Mercure Dongchen offers beautiful rooms and good service. I actually reserved a room here by accident. I wanted to book a room at the Mercure by Beijing’s South Cathedral, but inadvertently booked this location.

I found the staff welcoming and the room, a junior suite modern and comfortable. (I’ve stayed at enough Accor hotels this year to get upgrades for each reservation.)

One nice touch was that they printed their hotel guide on scrolls to harken to Beijing’s past.

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The hotel is within walking distance of the Yonghegong Tibetan Temple and the Drum and Bell Towers, but these sites are really, in my opinion, of interest for travellers who’ve already seen Beijing’s most famous sites like the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, the Temple of Heaven, and Summer Palace. They’re nice but not essential to see. It’s nowhere near the cathedral I wanted to get to and got lost finding. While I think it’s a lot newer

It’s not very crowded and the cocktail buffet had meagre offerings compared with busier hotels.

All in all, I’d suggest staying here if business brings you to north central Beijing but don’t bother with the Executive Lounge as you’ll probably need to eat more anyway. Room service would be the way to go.

Qing Ming Staycation

We’ve had a three day weekend for Qing Ming (Tomb Sweeping) Festival. My friends and I have no tombs to sweep and the weather hasn’t been great so rather than go out of town, one friend and I opted for a stay-cation at Jinan’s Grand Mercure Hotel.

Getting the reservation was tricky due to my internet problems and their website problems (i.e. choosing the right number of rooms and people was impossible on the site taking several days and thus I was unable to qualify to book on their three nights for the price of two promotion. How regrettable.)

Eventually I did book for two nights (when I called customer service they couldn’t correct this. Again, regrettable.)

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We checked in and got an upgrade from our Executive floor rooms to junior suites. The Executive floor lounge is closed so we got to have our Happy Hour in at the nightly buffet which offered all sorts of vegetables, leg of lamb, beef, chicken, Chinese dishes, American barbecue ribs, and dozens of sweets.

After checking in we asked where the West Market was. We’d heard that it was a great market, but had no idea how to get there. The staff promptly showed us and got us a cab.

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The West Market was nearby and first we got let out near a mall. We wondered inside and I’d been here before and din’t think it was much of anything special We saw some shoppers going through what looked like a service door. We followed and discovered a movie theater with the latest releases. We saw another service door and boldly went through. After walking through a corridor we found ourselves in a jewelry and beauty supply wonderland. West Market has vendors selling every kind of accessory and sundries. You could get tons of knock off perfumes, hats, watches, stationery, household goods, accessories, you name it.

After a few hours exploring, we returned to the hotel in time for Happy Hour. Since this Grand Mercure’s Executive Lounge is closed we got to eat in the restaurant – leg of lamb, loads of side dishes, pastries. All so delectable.

The hotel promoted a tea ceremony and morning tai chi but when I left hotel for Easter mass, no one was doing tai chi out front and when I asked about the tea ceremony we were told they didn’t have one but we could go to one at a tea shop. The easiest fix for these is to remove the slides featuring them from the hotel TV station.

Easter brunch at the Mercure has become a tradition for the foreign teachers at my university. Each year it gets a little better. This year there were two little bunnies along with an “Easter tree” and lots of cakes and sweets decorated for the holiday. Not only did we have a wonderful brunch, but the manager gave us a bottle of wine.

I thought I’d never eat again, but after hitting the fitness center and catching up on the world news with the BBC, I managed to make it to Happy Hour.

Review: Westin Miyako

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Zen Garden at Westin

One of the best choices for this trip was to stay for a couple days at the Westin Miyako Hotel in Kyoto in one of their traditional Japanese rooms. Now not everyone wold want to take this step, but I’ve slept on Japanese futons before and know what to expect from a Japanese bathroom.

Staying at the Westin was so convenient. They have a shuttle two blocks from where the airport shuttle stops. I did have to ask the Kyoto Station information desk exactly where the Westin shuttle came, but they spoke very good English and knew that it was close to their office. Since I like to walk, I found the hotel location great as I could walk to several temples, shrines and museums from the hotel.

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Here was a room with the closet and mini bar, a main room which had a low table and chairs and an alcove (tokonoma) with an ink painting and simple floral arrangement which was changed daily. The floor had tatami mats which smell wonderful and are the reason for “no shoes.” There was a little desk, modern TV, and wifi.

The bathroom was typical for Japan. In one part is the toilet which was heated and had bidet functions. It was chilly in the room in the morning and night as Most Japanese buildings don’t have insulation. The heater was in the main room so it didn’t do much for the bathroom. Then there was the area with the sink, which seemed like it was two feet high. That I could see changing. On the right was the bathroom, which had a wooden tub so small I couldn’t sit “Indian style” let alone stretch out my feet. The main part of the bathroom is for showering. You’ve got a little stool you can sit on, a faucet and shower head. The main rule is NO SOAP in the tub! In Japan you clean yourself outside the tub and by clean yourself, I mean, so that every particle of dirt is off you. A good rule of thumb is that a non-Japanese person should scrub twice as long as they normally would. Then you get in the tub just to soak, to get some serenity.

At night the maids come and set up your futons and pillows. I found the futon comparable to a mattress, not the new fangled Western beads that have toppers and are extra comfy, a mattress that’s a bit old school. It was just fine.

The wing with the traditional room, is by the bird-watching trail and fox shrine so in the morning I woke up to the sounds of birds singing each morning. Also, it’s got a zen garden out front and the trail is a nice short hike.

On Sunday I had their high tea. Great food, great tea. Even if you don’t stay at the hotel, but are at a temple in the afternoon, stop by for great pastries, a scone or quiche, and little sandwiches.

The concierges and staff were so efficient.  I got good help with figuring out why my emails to a Japanese friend I had dinner plans with kept bouncing and with figuring out what to do on a rainy day. I’d never have discovered the Chishakuin Temple, which has remarkable paintings in one of its halls.

When I return to Kyoto, I’d definitely stay at the Westin again and I’d book a traditional room for two nights and a regular room for a third night to take a Western style bath.

Travel Theme: Interior

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Peace Hotel Lobby

Peace Hotel Lobby

Humble Administrator's House, Suzhou

Humble Administrator’s House, Suzhou


Ailsa of Where’s My Backpack invites bloggers to post travel photos each week. This time she’s given us “Interior” for a theme because the first week of August is Simplify Your Life Week.

If you would like to join in (everyone’s welcome!) here’s what to do:

  • Create your own post and title it Travel theme: Interior
  • Include a link to this page in your post so others can find it too
  • Get your post in by next Thursday, as the new travel theme comes out on Friday
  • Don’t forget to subscribe to keep up to date on the latest weekly travel themes. Sign up via the email subscription link in the sidebar or RSS!

 

Please click to see more Interiors.

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