St. John’s Terrace

St. John’s Terrace
http://www.stjterrace.it/
street: Via Gabi 7, Appio Latino, 00183 Rome
email: info @ stjterrace.it
phone: +39 335 63 96 671

View from St. John's TerraceWe were in Rome for the first time last month and it left quite an impression. Actually, it started leaving an impression before we even got there – shopping for accommodations took my breath away. I knew that it would be expensive, but the types of places that I usually look for were well beyond what I will spend per night. It quickly became clear that hotels were out of the question, so I started sifting through B&Bs and vacation rentals. That’s how I found St. John’s Terrace. Continue reading St. John’s Terrace

Ca’ de Memi

The Joint


Agriturismo Ca’ de Memi de Scquizzato Ottorino
via Roma 4/B
35017 Piombino Dese PD

Tel.: +39 049 93 66 516
Mobile: +39 349 69 87 953
Email: info@cadememi.it
Web: http://www.cadememi.it

For our last minute trip to the Veneto, we stayed at Ca’ de Memi, which I found in a rather roundabout way. I knew we wanted to stay near Roncade in order to pick up wine from Castello di Roncade. But I didn’t want to stay there; we stayed there last time and, while we enjoyed it, I wanted to sample some other offerings of the region. Continue reading Ca’ de Memi

Balham B&B

The Joint

28 Old Devonshire Road
Balham
London
SW12 9RB

http://www.balhambandb.co.uk
Tel.: +44 20 8673 7179
Mobile: +44 7941 960 199
Fax: +44 20 8675 8058
Email: georgina@balhambandb.co.uk

Cliff

Loved it! We visited at a rather dreary time of year, but it was easy to see how lovely it would be to stay there in the late Spring. Georgina, your hostess, is the traveling gardner’s dream B&B proprietor, with her own garden at the house and a wealth of information to share about garden tours and events in and around London.

Each morning we had a scrumptious breakfast while chatting with Georgina about our options for the day. The breakfast highlight for me was the crumpet — perfectly done with homemade fruit preserves as a special treat after the eggs and bran flakes. What a great way to fuel up for tromping around London!

I was a bit dismayed at first at the distance from Balham to the city centre, but we quickly realized there are lots of options. Balham station is a tube stop as well as a national rail stop and if you’re flying in from Gatwick for a stay at the Balham B&B don’t take the Gatwick Express: you’ll overshoot the stop and have to backtrack quite a bit.

The Balham and Tooting area lends itself to walking around at night. I enjoyed the halal markets and cafés and restaurants in the area very much. It was a side of London I had not seen before, having only stayed in closer to the big city, and I’m glad I got to see it.

Sarah

We planned this trip with somewhat less lead time than is usual for us. Because places we’ve stayed in London have varied wildly with regard to quality, and because staying in London is usually an expensive proposition, I was looking all over the place for accommodation possibilites. Enter guardian.co.uk, the website for UK newspaper the Guardian. I don’t use this as a resource very often, but when looking for England-specific information, their travel information is pretty good. As luck would have it, there was an article touting London’s best B&Bs right there on their travel page. After sifting through all of the options and whittling them down according to pricing and vacancies, we ended up with the Balham B&B and our hostess, Georgina.

This is easily the best place we’ve ever stayed in London. Balham is a southern neighborhood of London, between the larger neighborhoods of Clapham and Tooting. The B&B is about equidistant between the Balham and Clapham South stations on the Northern line and is in a lovely row house, right off of the main drag. Georgina was a wealth of information about Balham and various cultural offerings throughout the city (museum and gallery exhibitions, music performances, botanical gardens, etc.). And she serves an absolutely wonderful breakfast with eggs, streaky bacon, yogurt, cereal, fruit – you name it, she’s got it. The guest room is large and comfortable, with a dresser and two closets and plenty of room to stash your suitcases. The guest bathroom was also roomy, stocked with fluffy towels, robes and slippers, plus an assortment of organic soaps, shampoos and lotions for our use.

One special note about the guest bed: this has got to be one of the most comfortable beds we’ve ever experienced in a hotel, vacation apartment or B&B. I am looking forward to going back to London at our earliest convenience just to sleep in that bed again. Some more.

The Light

The Joint

20 Church Street
Manchester
M4 1PN

Phone: +44 (0)161 839 4848
Fax: +44 (0)161 833 4898
Web: http://www.thelight.co.uk

Cliff

We arrived in Manchester for a long weekend a few Thursday nights ago to attend the Travel Bloggers Unite conference there. We followed the organizer’s recommendation to stay at The Light, since it’s located so centrally and within easy walking distance to all the conference venues and meeting points.

Walking in off the street, it was hard at first to match the images from their website to reality. But just past the reception desk, snapshots from different phases of the building’s obviously recent renovation project helped us understand the depth of transformation.

We split a two-bedroom suite with our travel buddies the Zurikas and discovered ours was a one-bathroom suite (we thought we’d reserved a two-bath unit). No matter though, we checked the pricing and found we were paying the appropriate amount, and we were pretty sure we could make the one-bath thing work between the four of us — even six had worked previously, but that was pushing it.

Our balcony afforded us a view of Manchester’s skyline — at least as much as you can make out through the haze.

Our suite was tastefully furnished and clean. I had high hopes for the kitchen, with its sleek black stone slab countertops, microwave, dishwasher, and generous refrigerator/freezer combo, and a Tesco Express market just one door down from The Light (Cheddar! Crumpets! Clotted cream! Full English! You get the idea.) There was a water boiler, French press coffee maker, toaster, and a few dishes, but absolutely no condiments (not even salt and pepper), dangerously dull knives (which mashed fruit rather than slicing it), and a ragged frying pan, threatening to donate its non-stick properties to my digestive tract. Quickly we realized that the all-metal utensils were to blame for the condition of the frying pan. I asked for a replacement and got another cleaner, but equally shreddy one a short time later. The photo is of the replacement. Jul gave them another chance to replace the frying pan after this failure to solve the problem and another one never arrived. So we left a comment with the front desk upon check-out that we’d really have loved to make more use of the kitchen, but couldn’t for lack of appropriate cookware.

I’d stay again at The Light for a long weekend or even for a long-term stay. I imagine it’s perfect for someone staying in Manchester on a business trip for several months. I’ll just make sure to inspect the cookware the night before I plan a fry-up next time. I would love to hear how anyone has solved the dilemma of having decent knives around to cook when you’re at a rental kitchen!

Sarah

Cliff covered the major issue with the kitchen. I think we were all pretty disappointed in the non-handling of that, but the griping ends there. The apartment itself was very clean, comfortable and attractively designed. The bedrooms were small, but the bed was generous and comfortable. The bathroom was actually pretty roomy and had some shelf space (a counter would have been best, but you don’t often find that). Here’s something important to a bunch of bloggers: there were enough outlets to plug in computers, devices and hair-styling tools. And the desk staff was unfailingly pleasant and friendly.

Provided you’re not going to need to use the stove, the Light is a great place to stay – centrally located, well-staffed and competitively priced. If they get the kitchen situation sorted out and equip a minimal pantry (salt, pepper, olive oil), I would unreservedly recommend staying here if you’re spending time in Manchester.

Hotel Alminar

The Joint

Álvarez Quintero, 52
41004 Sevilla, España
Phone: 954 293 913
Email: reservas@hotelalminar.com
Web: http://www.hotelalminar.com

I was very pleasantly surprised by this hotel. After looking at several options on booking.com, the Hotel Alminar had the combined advantages of great location (one minute walk to the Cathedral), great rating on booking.com and TripAdvisor and the right rate. That said, I don’t put that much stock in TripAdvisor reviews, but it’s useful for cross-checking.

Arriving in the early evening, we found the hotel pretty easily and were greeted by the very friendly desk staff, who got us checked in and gave us some good dinner suggestions. The hotel itself is in a small building in a very small street and the “lobby” and breakfast rooms take up as little space as possible. We went up to find out why – the modern room with dark wood ceiling beams and white and beige decor was quite generously proportioned! There was plenty of room for us to take off backpacks and put down our suitcase without jockeying for position. It was even easy to walk around the bed. The amazement continued into the bathroom – a nice, roomy shower cabin, fully enclosed with glass wall and door, a spiffy sink, all made out of one piece of transparent glass and pretty beige and gold tilework. The room also had a good-sized closet with safe and minifridge in it and a small bench, perfect for holding the suitcase. The bed was just okay – two twins pushed together – and the pillows were a little meager. To our delight, though, there was in-room wireless, easy to connect to with a strong signal. The room was immaculate and very comfortable.

The next morning, we went down to the breakfast in the tiny breakfast rooms. Again, given how generous the guest rooms are (and there are some located on the ground floor), I understand why the breakfast area is so small. They manage to provide seating for up to 12 guests at once. There was coffee available from an automat (not adequate), juices, milk, cereal, bread, sliced meats and cheeses, yogurt and fruit. They also had a very strange “toaster” that consisted of a carousel part and a grill-like part, neither of which toasted the bread beyond “tastes sorta stale.” So, we were less than impressed with the hotel’s spread. Luckily for us, it cost guests 6€ each for breakfast, so for the following days, we just opted out.

We asked one of the desk attendants for some help in planning our time in the region and she truly went above and beyond. We told her about our plan to go out to Granada to see the Alhambra, a three-hour train trip each way. In spite of having repairmen there asking her questions, answering the phone and working with a trainee, she took the time to really lay out the pros and cons of our plan and even told us that the information we’d picked up at the tourism office was 3 years out of date! Given our short stay, she suggested Córdoba as an alternative day-trip. It was only one hour each way and, in her opinion, the town itself is nicer than Granada. All in all, she must have spent 20 to 30 minutes with us just going over our options and said over and over again, “Please come to us with any other questions! We are here to help!!”

I would definitely recommend the Alminar to anyone staying in Sevilla. The rate we paid for a double was 90€/night, not including breakfast. Checkout time was noon and the desk staff was happy to hold our bags until we were ready to head for the airport. Another important point – the building is accessible to the disabled. There are no thresholds on the floors, there is an elevator and a gentle ramp at the street door. In Europe, this is a rare find in a medieval core.

Hotel Löwen

The Joint

Klosterhof 41, Ulm-Söflingen, Germany, 89077
+49 (0) 731 388 588 0

Heading further South and East from Burg Hohenzollern towards, we stopped in Ulm for the night at Hotel Restaurant Löwen. Sarah found it through booking.com. Our expectations were rather low, since we just wanted a place to sleep, and initially didn’t plan on eating there or exploring Ulm (native Franks and Bavarians had warned us that Ulm is not worth exploring), but I guess we were just lucky because this place was super. The price, at 112€ a night for a double with breakfast the next morning, was a little more than we like to spend, but just having cheaped out at Hôtel Aux Trois Roses, we could afford it. And it seemed like it was worth more than 112€ anyway.

Our room was very modern in design — lots of ultra-euro shapes and angles and surfaces, including a solid glass sliding door for entry into the bathroom, a fixed glass sprayguard half enclosing the shower cabin. When we asked about the WiFi network, the reception clerk apologetically handed us an ethernet cable (haven’t seen one of those in awhile!), because the signal wasn’t strong enough in our room. I thought that was a nice touch; usually you just get “well, it works in our Lobby…”

We ended up eating there that night and were very impressed with the atmosphere and attitude of the staff and quality and value of the food. This was my favorite breakfast spread of the road trip; a waitress came around to ask if we were sure we wouldn’t like some individually prepared eggs. And when I said “yes, thanks, one over-medium for me please,” she whispered in a mock-conspiratorial tone “Two is customary…are you sure you wouldn’t you like two?”

I like that. I’d stay there again for sure.

Hôtel Aux Trois Roses

The Joint

7 Rue De Zurich
67000 Strasbourg
France

http://www.hotel3roses-strasbourg.com/

The location of this hotel is pretty great – right across one of the myriad bridges leading into the heart of the old town. The gentleman at reception was very patient with our questions and even let us check in early, as our rooms were already prepared. I find in French city hotels, the rooms tend to be very small, and Trois Roses lived up to my expectation. Our double room was dominated by the double bed. Affixed the wall at the foot of the bed was a set of two large shelves – one high for the TV and one low for a small suitcase. Given the tightness of the room, the suitcase shelf was an absolute necessity. My brother’s single room down the hall was similarly cramped. When I walked in, he said “It feels like an airplane.” He wasn’t wrong. Here’s the kicker – the bathrooms were of normal size!

The stay was comfortable enough and the breakfast and parking were NOT included in the room rate (69€ for the double, 51€ for the single). Which was fine – what fun is it to stay in France and not go croissant hunting? I would consider staying there again if we go back to Strasbourg due to the price – but a little more elbow room might be worth a little more cash.