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.

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Volksboutique Microresidence

Some friends in Berlin passed on an ad they’d seen for a rental apartment in Prenzlauerberg — a part of town that intrigued us and we’d liked before in November 2005, when we stayed near Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz. The landlady was helpful and informative via email as we were finalizing our plans, and we were pretty worn out when we arrived in Berlin, so we were thankful that her directions from Tegel Airport to the apartment were spot-on.

The first impression the apartment makes is a good one — just like the pictures she’d sent us via email upon our request. But that’s about where the satisfaction stopped.

We saw short and curlies in the tub greeting us upon our arrival (so they couldn’t have been ours…). The WLAN connection was extremely weak — so unreliable that it really shouldn’t be counted as an amenity. The bed — something typical from IKEA — would have been fine, had it had a normal mattress. I suspect it was Jaren. This was the hardest surface I have ever paid to sleep on.

Speaking of paying — when you book accommodations somewhere, do you expect to pay by day or by night? The Volksboutique Microresidence charged us by the day:

  1. arrival late Thursday night (as planned and communicated well in advance)
  2. Friday
  3. Saturday
  4. check out Sunday

…at 40€ per day, not per night, that meant 160€. Well, the price was still pretty good (by normal accouting it would work out to 53€ per night for Thursday night to Sunday morning), so we didn’t complain about that part.

When I found the door to the “tea kitchen” padlocked shut though, I managed to send her an email inquiring and the response was

I’m sorry for the misunderstanding…and that I forgot that was still listed in the Berlin Scholars posting. A small kitchenette is planned, but we’ve had so many guests that I haven’t been able to install it! I had been making interested parties aware of this fact, but in reviewing our correspondence, I realize I forgot to address it with you both. My apologies. I hope your stay is enjoyable all the same.

A place to eat donuts or something and have coffee in morning and — especially during the heat wave they’d been having in Northern Germany at the time — keep some cool bottled water at the ready was a big part of the reason we opted for a vacation apartment instead of a hotel stay.

Unfortunately, that’s not all that was wrong. The tub didn’t drain properly, so soap and shampoo scum (and aforementioned hairs) always await the next user. The bathroom had some bare wiring in place of a lamp over the mirror.

The price would have been great had it not been for all the the above points. The area is trendy and there is good access via the M2 tram line.

But I will be looking elsewhere for our next Berlin trip.

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Casa Garzotto

P6061607Casa Garzotto
Via Garzotto 8
52210 Rovinj, Croatia
Tel: +385 52 811 884
Mobile: +385 98 61 61 68
Fax: +385 52 814 255
caragarzotto@gmail.com
http://www.casa-garzotto.com

This was a great find by our traveling buddy Jul for our Istrian Road Trip. We were a little disoriented upon arrival — the Altstadt confused us, and our GPS, and we were unsure parking in the big city lot outside the the old town was a good idea or not.

But it all worked out for the best. The location is ideal. The price was reasonable. The staff was extremely helpful and friendly, and never steered us wrong with recommendations for gelato or restaurant meals. We had a nice breakfast in the main area, just around the corner (≤10 second walk) from our rental apartment and were charmed by the apartment’s old-world, multi-level design (kitchen and one bath on the ground floor, loft bedroom up the right-side staircase, 2nd bedroom and bathroom up the left-side staircase).

I’d stay there again in a minute.

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La Terre des Lauriers

The Joint

La Terre des Lauriers
Pont du Gard – Rive droite
30210 Remoulins


Cliff
La Terre des Lauriers

We stayed in one of their two gîtes — cottages — available alongside their B&B offerings. As you can see here in the pictures, the grounds are beautiful. I think clearly the best aspect of La Terre des Lauriers is its location — proximity not only to the Pont du Gard, but also within easy driving distance to large and small towns more than worthy of exploration, like Aix-en-Provence, Nîmes, Uzés, Castillon-du-Gard, and of course Avignon. Le Chalet might have been suitable, size-wise, for 2 adults and a couple of kids (in fact, that looks like precisely the configuration they were expecting) but for four adults, it was more than cramped. The air conditioning was effective for the main bedroom, and that was nice on the hotter nights, but it would have been much better to equip all the windows with screens so that we could open them for cross-breezes without fear of bug attacks.

Sarah
La Terre des Lauriers

The location was really ideal. We could be at the Pont du Gard in 15 minutes on foot. We were about the 10 minutes from town, as well, but the area we were in was very quiet and isolated. And, as Cliff stated above, the grounds were really lovely and our host, Gerard, was very kind.

Here’s the but: the accommodation left something to be desired. Given how immaculate the b&b and the other gîte were, our “cottage” looked and felt like a hasty add-on. We decided to stay in self-catering accommodation so that we would have access to a kitchen, but the kitchen was difficult to use – the stove consisted of a double hot-plate, there was no oven and the pans were falling apart. The bathroom was tiny but adequate, and the beds were comfortable with enough storage space for our clothes in the bedrooms. Overall, though, that unit is too small for four adults. We were constantly dancing around each other while getting ready in the mornings. If we were to return, I would not stay in this particular unit again.


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Vienna City Flats — Praterstr. 78

The Joint

Praterstraße 78
1020 Leopoldstadt
Vienna
Austria

web site

Cliff

Sarah found this place for us online and she did a great job. It’s just a hop (no skip or jump required) to the Praterstern (a.k.a. Wien Nord) train station, which last time (Thanksgiving 2006) was merely a tram and subway stop. Now it’s a full-service train station. Simply put, the location of this apartment was an ideal compromise between accessibility and price. It was well-equipped, meeting all our basic requirements:

  • shower consisting of more than just a hose in the tub
  • generous kitchen with stove and fridge
  • accomodations for four

My only beef: they had one of those IKEA sofabed things that rolls out to unfold into a mattress, but it was either broken or we couldn’t figure out how to get it to remain a couch — it kept rolling itself out (good idea, bad implementation).

Nice touch: offering to let us stow the luggage at the apartment while it was being cleaned after our check-out until departing Vienna later that day. Could have saved us luggage lockers and airport/train station schlep and hassle.

Sarah

I love the location of this place. Located right across the street from the spankin’ new Praterstern/Wien Nord U-bahn, tram and ÖBB station, it’s a great base of operations for getting out and searching Vienna. For our purposes, it was pretty well equipped and the landlord and administrator were easy to get a hold of for when we had questions. In light of what a generally nice apartment it was, the thing with the rolling couch was kind of disappointing.

The neighborhood that the apartment is in might be an issue for some people. It’s definitely not posh. It looks like there’s a good mix of native middle-class Viennese and immigrants. There were a few drunks and beggars wandering around (plus lots of drunks at the train station, but that’s kind of par for the course), but no more than would be expected for a major European city. There is easy access on foot to grocery stores, bakeries and pharmacies – plus the bonus of the nearby train station is that there is some shopping available on Sunday.

Apartment Ausstellungsstrasse

The Joint

Ausstellungsstraße 31
1020 Wien
Austria
Phone: +43-1-728 66 98
http://www.apartment.at/index_eng.php3/app/115/0/0/

Cliff

This was a fantastic apartment in a great location. My only complaint: the listing says it has an oven; if it did, we couldn’t find it. Generous fridge, beautiful interiors, and most of all, a very helpful, friendly, and informative landlord. I’d love to come back to Vienna and stay there again.

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Sarah

We are vocal advocates of vacation apartments over hotels when you’re staying for a few days in a certain area and when you’ve got 4 people (or more) all traveling together. It usually ends up being significantly cheaper (due to kitchen facilites and no housekeeping) than a hotel. Still, this place was a shock upon arrival. The apartment is HUGE! Not just in area, but volume, with gorgeous high ceilings. The landlord, from whom we picked up the keys, gave us a very thorough tour, several maps of the area and lots of great tips for the area (where’s the ATM, closest grocery store, etc.). Plus, it was on the European 3rd (American 4th) floor of a walkup building – great to work off those Viennese pastries!

London House, Apartments Apart

The Joint

13 Craven Hill
London W2 3
U.K.

http://www.apartmentsapart.com/Europe/UK/London/Apartments/Detail/495

Cliff

We had a great time wtih Apartments Apart in Berlin in 2004 at a one-bedroom apartment set up for 4 guests. I was a little disappointed with the London House studio apartment – the results were better in Berlin. I was expecting a stove in our kitchenette, and the lack of one made cooking there impossible (we’d been hoping to cook a few meals in the apartment to save on restaurant expenses).

Note to self: get a clear definition of nebulous terms like “kitchenette” and “shower” (tub with a curtain? shower cabin? tub with a hose?) before you book. In this case, we got the shower all squared away before booking, but neglected to consider what might be considered a “kitchenette.” Got a little miffed about that.

Other than that, the room was a great deal and well-situated for our purposes.

Sarah

This company frustrates me. As Cliff stated, our experience with them in Berlin was outstanding – beautiful, in an interesting neighborhood and generously sized and appointed – a great value for four people. This place is something else entirely. Part hostel, part boarding house and part dumpy hotel. The desk staff was nice, but the room itself felt more like a cell. Ugly carpet, threadbare and coming up in one corner, tiny shower cabin with crappy water pressure and a small refrigerator, sink and microwave glorified into a “kitchenette.”

The location is in a very nice, quiet, safe-feeling neighborhood. It’s very close (10 minute walk) to a central tube station. That just made the condition of the accommodation all the more disappointing.

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