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I saw your tweet about the new Sofitel in Vienna. I just returned from 2 nights there, and had an experience similar to your dreadful one at that Shangri La property in Abu Dhabi . . .
Despite having pre-paid for a particular room type we wanted, we arrived and found out that only the lowest room category was available. While we were refunded the difference, and given a complimentary breakfasts, that was still not a great way to start the experience.
I think you'd despise the rooms and suites: all white or all black . . . and very awkwardly designed, such that the bathroom runs along the full side of the bedroom, but is only divided by a sliding, semi-transparent glass screen. The all-white room we were in was "enhanced" by an "artist" who had taken a pencil and scribbled a one-inch wide scrawl across the ceiling and down one wall. Sigh.
Housekeeping was abysmal: taking both of the two towels but inexplicably only replenishing one, despite there being two of us in the room. The complimentary minibar contained only water and juice, and was never replenished despite info to the contrary. And it was just uncomfortable: putative "style" over substance. I really think you'd hate the place.
The lobby is all black and very chilly in mood and feel. The breakfast was all-buffet, no a la carte options.
The one plus: the views over Vienna are stupendous.
Very disappointed, since I've been longing for a decent bolthole in Vienna for ages. I return there in March, and will have to resign myself to one of the smaller boutique properties, since the grand dames seem frightful and I won't ever go back to the Sofitel.
TP – USA.
SPAIN & PORTUGAL
We just returned from a trip to Portugal and Spain and I thought I would pass on our thoughts on the hotels we visited.
LISBON - BARRIO ALTO. EXCELLENT LOCATION AND VERY NICE STAFF. ROOMS WERE NICE AND GOOD AVAILABILITY OF HIGH TECH ITEMS. ROOMS WERE A LITTLE SMALL. VERY GOOD AND VERY CORDIAL STAFF. THE OTHER COUPLE WE TRAVELED WITH HAD STAYED AT THE PESTANA PALACE ON THEIR LAST VISIT, 2 YEARS AGO, AND THEY PREFERRED THE PESTANA TO THE BARRIO ALTO. I THINK THE LAPA PALACE MIGHT BE THE BEST HOTEL IN LISBON, BUT IT IS A LITTLE OUTISDE THE MAIN TOURIST AREA OF LISBON.
FUNCHAL, MADEIRA. WE STAYED AT THE REIDS PALACE AND LOVED IT. WE THOUGHT THE SETTING WAS GREAT. IT IS OLD, BUT WELL MAINTAINED AND MANY ROOMS HAVE UNDERGONE A RENOVATION RECENTLY. VERY GOOD BREAKFAST BUFFET. BETTER FOOD THEN THE BARRIO ALTO. EXCELLENT STAFF
WE REALLY LIKED MADEIRA. IT WAS BEAUTIFUL.
MADRID - STAYED AT THE VILLA REAL FOR 2 NIGHTS AND UPON OUR RETURN, AT THE PALACE, WHICH IS RIGHT NEXT TO THE VILLA REAL. THE VILLA REAL IS IN DIRE NEED OF RENOVATION. WE HAD STAYED THERE 8 YEARS AGO AND THE ROOMS LOOK LIKE THEY DID 8 YEARS AGO. THE PALACE WAS REALLY NICE AND THERE IS NO COMPARISON BETWEEN THE 2 HOTELS. WE STAYED ON THE 6TH FLOOR OF THE PALACE WITH A RENOVATED ROOM AND IT WAS REALLY NICE AND THEY HAD A GREAT BREAKFAST BUFFET WHICH WAS INCLUDED. THE ROOM RATES WERE ALMOST IDENTICAL OF ABOUT 275 EUROS PER NIGHT WITH FREE WI FI AND THE BREAKFAST BUFFET AT THE PALACE. I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND THE VILLA REAL.
MADRID WAS VERY VERY HOT AND I WOULD ADVISE NOT TO VISIT THERE IN THE MONTH OF AUGUST
SEVILLA WE STAYED IN THE COUNTRYSIDE AT THE SAN RAFAEL HACIENDA. TOO FAR OUTSIDE OF TOWN AND VERY ISOLATED WITH NOT MUCH TO DO AND VERY LIMITED AMENTITIES AND ACTIVITIES. RECOMMENDED HIGHLY BY ANDREW HARPER AS ONE OF THEIR HIDEAWAYS OF THE YEAR, BUT I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND IT.
10 years of Gallivanting
I am just checking out at the charming Victory Hotel in Stockholm and enjoyed two wonderful days with an exquisite organic and regional cuisine.
After subscribing more than 10 years to your Gallivanter’s Guide and having several editions of the Ultimate Hotel Guide in my bookshelf, I just wanted to let you know my appreciation for your excellent work.
Your advice smoothed the way of my wife, my family and myself through many beautiful resorts and places, whether it was for business and pleasure. Sometimes we were fortunate enough to follow your trails, just weeks after your advice appeared in the Gallivanter’s Guide and the hotels or resorts had been still unknown to many others (Amanjena, Gresham Palace, Terre Blanche). In other situations we just were happy to know about a "better alternative", when organizers, companies or travel agents wanted to park us to the Hiltons, Sheratons and Mariotts of this world.
Though I personally disagree with your praise of Faena in Buenos Aires, Maricel in Palma de Mallorca and Four Seasons Milan (these are the only three so far ;-)) I cherish your work, your masterly assurance of style and your passion for outstanding hotels. And yes, I do encourage your endless effort to convince GMs to use natural Spa Products and to focus more on local and organic cuisine.
Kind regards and simply thank you!
CS – Germany
ROSEWOOD SAN MIGUEL, MEXICO.
You mentioned you'd be interested in hearing what I thought of the new Rosewood San Miguel, so here's my quick rxtn.
The best food, by far, that I have ever had at a Rosewood, where I've never been very impressed by the cuisine. But here, it was sensational, with the chef even preparing some amazing dairy-free dessert options for my traveling companion. The food was best when hewing close to Mexican tradition -- the attempt at fining dining was slightly less successful, but still very accomplished.
What I think Rosewood does better than any other group is pool service --and that holds true here as well.
And the rooftop tapas bar is wonderful, with the best views in town.
Service wasn't polished. Good intentions but lack of follow through. The exceptions were in all the dining venues, where the service was unfailingly superb and solicitous.
I was also much less impressed by the design than I have been at Las Ventanas and Rosewood Mayakoba. The physical structure just seems too BIG for its environment, like a very large apartment building looming on the outskirts of the historic centre. They try to warm it up with candles in lanterns, but it lacks the magic a more intimate scale would provide, or a more nuanced design. I think of places like Anantara Qasr al Sarab where, despite how large the property is, there is such an abundance of motif and diversity in the design that you feel a sense of magic as you stroll. I didn't feel that at all here, despite ample outdoor courtyard spaces that are well furnished--the design is just too much like a large condominium complex, to my eye.
The pool area lacks drama in its design.
We booked one of their top suites, The Tower Suite, and I wasn't crazy about it. Way too much furniture in the sitting room, which felt cramped, esp in comparison to the under-furnished bathroom. The large roof-top terrace was haphazardly furnished--a few padded benches, a long dining table, some sun chairs, but it isn't landscaped at all nor does it appear to have been designed or decorated--just a bunch of outdoor furniture put in place.
So overall, it was a bit of a disappointment, and strangely, was the exact opposite of other Rosewood experiences, where usually the design triumphs when the food does not.
Glad it got to me to San Miguel, though, which I found really interesting, by far the nicest town I've visited in Mexico, and the hotel is well situated for strolls throughout the historic centre. We were there for Easter, which we hadn't known was THE time to visit San Miguel, and I really enjoyed the centuries-old processions and celebrations. Perfect weather throughout.
TP – USA
FOUR SEASONS IN LONDON, PARIS & ISTANBUL.
You were correct on The Four Seasons Park Lane. It is finally great to have a place to go in London. John and Mario really took care of us, and it was close to the level of The George V. The George V, was of course The George V again.
I am ecstatic to have Park Lane there as I will be coming to London at least twice a year to work.
Four Seasons Bosphorus. Wow!! I judge every city hotel by George V Standards and this place was right with them. Maybe even better due to the pool and the spectacular setting. We also had a huge room facing the strait for 525 Euros. Food, and service was truly spectacular. Also, The Concierge Team was second only to The George V. Definitely one of our new favorite hotels.
MS – UK, USA & New Zealand