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Australia – Brisbane Aerial View (Brisbane)

Peru – Lima Bar (Barranco)

Tanzania – Zanzibar Stone Town (Nungwi)

USA – Boston Skyline (Boston)

Best Western Atlantis Hotel (Melbourne, Australia)

4 Case Rating
Location Located in one of the business districts of Melbourne close to city centre , located not far about 5 minutes walk to Sky bus which goes to Melbourne airport (RTN 32AUS). There is also Southern Cross train station, Cole supermarkets, Hungry jacks and Subway outlets all very close to hotel. To drive from MEL airport it takes around 35 minutes. Room The room was simple ,white wall decor, slightly grubby on edges but still fairly spacious. Just had no character to the ambience. But offered functionality. The bed was comfortable of medium firmness offering adequate pillows. Either side are two glass top bed side tables, one with a phone and the other an alarm clock. Light switches that are spot lights above are offered each side. This is a small sofa seat on one side and a wardrobe on the other- this includes a Ironing board plus plenty of coat hangers. A large luggage rack exists as well. Facing bed is a large TV that offered 28 DTV channels some local some American TV series. There is also a DVD player offered underneath. Next to this is a working desk also with a phone and a few AUS plug sockets. No desk light but overhead lights. In the corridor is a small mirror area with plugs - below is a empty mini bar- just sachets of milk to accompany the tea and coffee with kettle on one of the side shelves. There is also an iron there. The bathroom was of adequate size but offering very basic amenities - only x2 soaps, shampoo and conditioner. Would be nice if they offered shower gel instead. Good selection of towels though. Overall for the price the room was functional and good it just felt a bit clinical and dull. Such as no lamps etc. They could also offer better functional amenities. Facilities WIFI is free but only for 3 items up to 1000mb only - otherwise there are chargeable options. Not sure if hotel offers any business facilities. However leisure included a decent size indoor pool, dry sauna and decent sized gym - did not use any but appeared clean. Catering did not try but menu is presented in room. The last order is at 915ppm and breakfast at 1030am. They charge 3 AUS for any room service. food is all Italian pasta and appetisers, but breakfast does offer a good selection of dishes such as Egg Benedict- prices range from 8-30AUS. Parking is available at the hotel inside same building with in/out privileges at 15 AUS a day. Staff Staff explained very little detail at check-in, simply asked for passport but could of explained WIFI or offer some degree of enthusiasm with service. No facilities were mentioned and service couldn't have been more robotic and lacking in detail. Overall this was reasonably priced hotel with a pool and parking. However it has got a poor vibe and room is simply so dull than even Ibis appears more exciting. I would likely try somewhere else in Melbourne.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] 300 Spencer St, Melbourne, Victoria 3000, Australia
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Belgium – Canals (Brugge)

Belgium – Market Square (Brugge)

Belgium – Sights (Brussels)

China – City (Chongqing)

Four Dutch Cities In Summer

  Leaving Amsterdam for day in Utrecht and Rotterdam By Train So during June & July, my flights took me to the enjoyable small country of Holland. I flew twice times this summer to Amsterdam all for about 24 hours or less. I also took a long drive to Maastricht from Frankfurt airport but ending up spending an evening there only. Though I was staying in Amsterdam due to my flights, I decided I wanted to spend the day exploring new cities. I choose Rotterdam and Utrecht. The country is so small both the cities are less then 30 minutes away by train from Schiphol airport. On top of that the Dutch rail networks are so convenient and as I discovered in Rotterdam, that the station was unexpectedly, one of the most interesting station I have been to My first trip though was a visit Maastrict, a place I have visited many times before in my late teens since I had Germans friends living closeby across the border. We used to go there and enjoy what Holland has to offer and have always oved this old romantic cobbled street city that feels nothing like Amsterdam. This time I flew into Frankfurt and decied to get to Maastraict by driving thru a very rainy Luxembourg, the adrenes forest and ending up at my hotel/suites by evening time. Despite going off topic from Holland, I wanted to see one new country and that was Luxembourg somewhere that I would not have the opportunity to visit with my job. This super small country was struggle on the day I went since it was pouring with rain and hard to see much of the sights, plus parking was a nightmare. However, I did see a amazing looking building, Luxembourg Bank and the famous Adolphe bridge. Luxembourg - Luxembourg Bank Building Luxembourg - Adolphe Bridge There are some nice building and city seemed very clean, it felt very much like being in parts of France and Belgium but nothing like Holland or Germany. I spent little time there because of the weather. So its one place I need to go back to (though not in a hurry). I continued my drive through Belgium into the Ardennes regions. Being a big fan of the TV series “Band of Brothers” I decided to do a quick stop in the village of Foy where the infamous Battle of Foy happened that took many American and German lives. It is featured in this series as one of the biggest battle scenes. Deep in the Ardennes Foy offers beautiful countryside somewhat similar to England with a large forest. Along the main road there is a statue for those Americans of 101st Airborne Division that died there. belgium-foy-band-of-brothers-memorial My understanding is that it was agift to the village by Tom Hanks. I also ventured into the nearby forest and saw some holes that looked quite clearly like they were former trenches. It had an eairy feeling of darkness of war that occurred here, plus made me some reflective thoughts of where we are in the world today. [gallery type="slideshow" ids="6926,6927"] Anyway by around 8pm following the road parallel to the Meuse river without time to stop in Liege I finally arrived at my hotel, which was more of a b and b suites place but in relaxing garden setting right on the river. My first encounter was a request of a taking a photo of a couple that just got engaged. Once I finally unpacked and drove into Maastricht everything was shut, apart from a few bars and restaurant. Since parking was also a pain, if you don’t want to pay, I had to walk quite far away but this gave me the chance to just walk around this old quiet university city. The interesting cobbled old squares mixed in with cosy little terrace house, gave a romantic feel. As I said I didn’t spend long but did take a couple of snaps. It’s a city that feel totally different to all the others. For one its more old, stonewall with a cross mix of border culture, since Germany and Belgium are very close. It looks like a nice place to live and the river enhanced that. Despite such a short time, I had a beer and some dinner, spoke to some people and found whilst everyone was polite and blunt, it had that north/south divide like in England, more reserved and slight air of snobbiness compared to these other Dutch cities I saw in the North this summer. [gallery type="slideshow" ids="6928,6929,6930,6931"] My second city was Rotterdam and I really did not know what to expect, the Dutch cabin crew on an Asian airline highlighly recommended I visit a market that has these unique cubed apartments. These were kind of ugly but artistic at the same time, the yellow colour looked a bit gross. With the windows formed downwards it did give wonders on how the set up is inside. Imaginations such as lying on a pillow on the windows facing down must be an interesting perspective if some are set up like that.  Just below are really nice bars to have refreshing beer. holland-rotterdam-cube-houses Rotterdam, being the largest port in Europe is very industrial, large office building tower over the many canals and rivers and first impressions or perhaps the way the route I took was certainly not much historical buildings or cosy cobbled streets houses, like in Masstrict which is why some people have described Rotterdam to me as the ‘Dutch Ghetto” . I was only there on a beautiful sunny day and walked about, mainly in search to get to the tallest tower, since I love to see a city from above. holland-rotterdam-art holland-rotterdam-river However I found the city to be unexpectedly very cool, and why because of the random and amazing art works found on the walls, statues and even the large park with some strange unusual sculptures. All this instantly made this dull industry look of a city an adventure as to what new art would be found around the corner etc. Its retro and its iconic. [gallery type="slideshow" ids="6935,6936,6937,6938,6939"] After finally arriving at Euromast, it looked a bit disappointing in terms of size since it looks a lot bigger when your not up close to it. Measuring 95 metres it looks dull but in someways iconic, it is sort of an old retro building, since an 80 year old Dutch man sitting next to me on flight from china said he watched it being built, while studying for his degree in the park below. holland-rotterdam-euromast Its cost about 10 Euros for an adult which overall was reasonable- you get to standard floor where to walk around and take photos but its not very high. The lift then takes you up to the top though never stops, it has seating and revolves around slowly going up and down also slow to the top and back a few times giving you a full 360 perspective from your seat- the first I have seen in the many tall towers I have visited.This meant you could really enjoy the view without moving and taking it all in – this huge port and seemingly large unnoticed from the ground, green parks The lift ride lasts about 10 minutes. I found it relaxing and would recommend people visit it. [gallery type="slideshow" ids="6943,6942,6941"] However as an alternative when returning to the very impressive structure of the central station, which looks a bit like a landed space ship that I really taking pictures of, you cant say that about many train stations. Holland- Rotterdam Centrall Station To the side though is a tall long large wide stair case that takes you to top of a building, also 95ft. Its free to go up though and the reason for it is that it is to celebrate 75th anniversary of Rotterdam’s reconstructions following the German blitz. The view from the top is very good but its not as good as the Euromast, but still great for photos. There are tall facing office building in front so the view is not that far but does offer a great view of the station. [gallery type="slideshow" ids="6946,6947,6948,6949"] As I saw in all parts of the city, there is this baby face art pictures, which I never found out the reason but I believe it is some festival happening since some musicians also played under a large baby shaped stage not far from the station. Overall I rated Rotterdam, it was an exciting city, less congested and hectic as Amsterdam though it is very industrial, it has character that is very creative. I hope to go back and certainly visit the museum in park It was an enjoyable city to visit for a day and walk about especially in the spring summer time. Though I can imagine like Amsterdam its quite a dark place in winter. My third city is Utrecht this was on another trip and again I decided to take the train down. This is the 4th largest city in Holland and is full of history. I very picturesque place somewhat half way between Amsterdam and Maastricht in the way it looked. It is also a student city.  I really wanted to go up the Dom Church, a tall church that is 112 metres high that is suppose to have an incredibly impressive view of this city. I was very gutted I didn’t get there in time, but it means I will return next time. holland-utrecht-dom-church I had a few beers by the side of the canal and its like a relaxing Amsterdam, without the stoned tourists. The buildings are very interesting, traditional old Dutch arictechture and cobbled streets. I didn’t do that much in Utrecht other than stroll around but I liked the vibe. It was relaxing and the canals like in Amsterdam are very picturesque. [gallery type="slideshow" ids="6951,6952,6953,6954,6955,6956,6957,6958"] Back in Amsterdam in the evening is so different to all the other cities, its very nice in the summer and I used to come here frequently about 15 years ago. I’ve been to many of the main dance music festivals and the Dutch really know how to party. Amsterdam is this really. As you walk about in the evening the smell of skunk looms in the air, which is mostly from the millions of tourists there but everyone seems chilled and happy. Its just so busy but perhaps because it was  asaturday night. [gallery type="slideshow" ids="6959,6960,6961"] Such as contrast to somewhere like London, wherby in Amsterdam no one is really rushing around or looks stressed, though the vibe is certainly different in winter. I enjoyed walking about despite how busy it was. It simply the most unique city in Europe. holland-amsterdam-sunset So that was my various in/out trips of Holland this summer. I have to say I think I liked Rotterdam the best.

Capsule Hotel Rex Inn (Kawasaki, Japan)

“2
Location This capsule hotel is located very central to the city of Kawasaki entertainment area - many pachinko places (the Japanese version of fruit machines), bars and restaurants plus across the road is a huge mall. From HND airport it takes about 15 minutes on the Keikyu Main Line, if direct. The station is Keikyū Kawasaki Station in which is about 10 minutes or so walk from the capsule hotel. As you exit into Kawasaki, you come out by a taxi stand, cross the main road and walk right for about 500 metres you will find it. The hotel is opposite a hospital if you need to ask for directions. Capsule This was my first experience in staying in a plastic capsule, mine did not have a TV but a fan. This I thought is a good idea as i can't sleep if i am too hot, but when the shutter is down it simply circulates the warm air because of lack of ventilation, though a very small and weak AC vent. In terms of space there is a small side table on one side of the wall, ideal only for a phone or small book. There is also a plug socket right next to your head! Plus a unit for dimming light and alarm clock radio. Since capsules are not allowed to be locked there is a small wooden shutter to pull down for privacy but even with fan on I felt very hot. The bedding is quite hard and the pillow was unusually hard, as it was a traditional Japanese rice pillow. My capsule was on the top row, with small steps to get down between capsules. Going to the toilet in the middle of the night is quite a challenge since it is hard to see the steps and jumping down would be noisy; likely to wake other guests. The system at the hotel works that you leave your luggage in a locker two floors up, they provide towels for the spa and a t-shirt & shorts as pyjamas. Be wary the lockers are quite small so my bag, which is the largest you can use for carry on, was hard to fit in. You cannot leave items inside your capsule unattended since they are not lockable and to avoid repeating journeys you should grab what you need with you for sleeping in one shot. I brought my laptop in the aim to do some work but it simply is too uncomfortable to use with the size of the capsule - it was ok to sleep with laptop on side against wall but I wouldn't recommending bringing much. I am not claustrophobic but definitely don't go if you are. My other advice is to bring ear plugs but if not, the hotel does sell them in the lobby shop. My whole floor of 30+ capsules seemed full and some loud snoring can make it hard to sleep. Though its excellent value for money the sleep comfort factor was not great, I simply felt too hot after about 5 hours of sleep and even after opening the shutters felt hot but it was an experience that needed to be done. Facilities The hotel offers free WIFI that worked in most places of the hotel. On every floor of the 8 storey building is a small room with sofa and TV and ever other floor has a dedicated well ventilated smoking room. The locker room have Pachinko machines (fruit machines) plus massage chairs and even washing and drying machines. Each floor also has a toilet with 2-3 washlets but for showers, its all very communal on the top floor at the traditional Japanese spa. There is a hot dry sauna with a TV inside, three pools, one freezing, great after the sauna, and others are hot with one of the two outside. For new comer westerners, be aware its all very naturist. There are many sinks around the room with showers and small seats, which offer free toothbrushes and razors, shaving gel and full large bottle of shampoo, conditioner and liquid soap. On one of the floors is a cafe that serves simple Japanese food plus vending machines. On the same room are a line of reclinable chairs in front of TV's for relaxing after a hot sauna and an area with desks to work from with a mini library, mostly manga. On the ground floor pre-reception are shoe lockers since you cannot bring your own shoes in, resulting in everyone walking around bare foot or in their own slippers. There is a small snack shop as well as items like ear plugs. Staff The staff are polite enough though they don't speak much English. The Rex Inn is really for Japanese business men sleeping off a hangover or staying at a cheaper place. Its not that foreigner friendly, there is no guide or much information given when checking in. I did feel a bit alien here since I seemed to be the only non-Japanese. However considering the guests are all in close proximity, no-one talks to each other so I guess this is cultural. However, for £22 it was very reasonable and alongside the spa offered good value for money. I doubt I will stay at here again if I was in need of a decent rest.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] 6-8 Ogawacho, Kawasaki-ku, Kawasaki 210-0023, Kanagawa
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Meitetsu Inn Hamamatsucho (Tokyo, Japan)

4 Case Rating
Location The hotel is located down a side street in the Daimon area of Tokyo. Quite easy to find from Daimon station around 5 minutes walk away. The area is fairly good place to be in Tokyo, many bars, restaurants and shops nearby plus the impressive Tokyo tower is 15 minutes walk away which is close to an interesting temple called Zoijoji. Room The smallish room was the most modern & innovative I've stayed at so far in Tokyo. A very comfortable twin bed, slumberland branded with two pillows one of which had some kind of rice seeds. Slept well. To the side of the bed is convenient switch to control the light including a dial dinner option. There is a desk below with a large safe , small fridge & cupboard with a kettle inside. There is an impressive tablet on the counter top that offers a menu of the hotel guide, local area guide - such as restaurants, attractions all very helpful. Plus a entertainment guide with a you tube for music, cartons, even mediation videos. Overall very helpful. There is also a very helpful plug that offers every kind of adaptor for charging your phones or tablets, everything from iPhone, Samsung, Blackberry and Nokia etc. The desks had two US plugs and a phone with a large mirror and comfortable circular chair for working. At the end of the bed there is a large TV - though no guide is offered and therefore TV was only in Japanese, however Netflix is offered at a charge. The room offers a trouser press, slippers and open wardrobe. The bathroom has the standard combined shower & bath. Shower gel, shampoo & conditioner in large bottles. A razor, toothbrush, comb & body towel? Plus a shower toilet is offered. In addition the room offers some kind of air humidifier/purifier not entirely sure what it was but looked innovative. Overall a clean and comfortable room with nice window modern decor and has a degree of being cosy though it is small. Facilities The hotels offers free WIFI which worked fast on my macbook but kept dropping on my iPhone. There is a 24 hour family mart adjoined to the hotel but no other facilities are offered. Staff Staff spoke some English and were efficient with check-in as requested offering me a room on high floor. They also gave me a umbrella to borrow to walk to Tokyo Tower during the rain. Overall a decent hotel in a good location with a clean cosy room and free WIFI.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] 1-19-14 Hamamatsucho, Minato 105-0013, Tokyo Prefecture, Japan
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Capetown – Table Mountain Cableway

Luxembourg – Adolphe Bridge City (Luxembourg)

Holland – Red Light District (Amsterdam)

Hoogenweerth Suites (Maastricht, The Netherlands)

3 Case Rating
Location The suites are located near the Maastricht marina in a beautiful green riverside setting, lovely gardens to relax in. Maastricht is around 2km or 5-10 minutes drive to the centre of the city. You could walk it but its good half hour walk. However they do rent bicycles out as well- so would probably take 15 minutes bike ride say directly to the centre square of the city. Room Quirky, artistic and interesting. A room like no other. I stayed in the Adam love suite, which is one of their ground floor suites- this includes a very comfortable (slept like a baby) double bed with very small tables each side. There are two tolomeo desk lights soon each side of the bed, which can be flexible to move down up wherever etc. In fact every light, except one wall, in the room is a Tolomeo desk lights, this is same in the toilet (the only seperate room with door to close). Also by the bathroom sink is the same light and the kitchen area. A small TV faces the bed in which has cable channels many are in English plus local Dutch. The kitchen area to the side of the bed offers an expresso machine, kettle with various teas and coffee. Plus a medium size refrigerator below in which contains some mini bar items- immediately you will notice the empty fake Veuve Cliqueot bottle to add to the quirkiness. The room offers no seating or desk and the open bathroom is right next to the bed, which includes an oval bath with detachable shower head (though found the controls hard to use for the shower head). A large leaning board is the sink which gives an innovative feel to the room. Amenities include mini bottle soap, shower gel, shampoo and body lotion by the brand Paul Schulten. Decent products. There is an shelf with coat hangers for clothes, a small safe (not for laptops) and a pull out luggage rack. Other than that no seating or desk. There is no air conditioning either, but a radiator is available. The room is quite airy but in mid summer I would hope they would include a fan etc- didn't see one though. Overall the room has this kind of 'love hotel room' vibe going for it. Nothing to suggest this in terms of amenities but the open bathroom and bed etc, has the quirky boutique love hotel feel to it. Certainly not seedy but a place for lovers, definitely. Not for business travellers or those with young families. Facilities The suites offers free WIFI multiple devices and is secure with password. Rather confused about what is offered at the premises, such as the main building house appears to be for private events though it does include a bar, i tried to check-in there and was escorted to the side building where the line of suites are located. Told building is used for private events only. There do offer breakfast, at a cost, but due to leaving early I declined. There is some kind of restaurant next to the suites which I assume is where breakfast is and dinner is offered- but am not sure if this is part of hotel. When you book, I didn't see an option to add breakfast but was offered on check-in at a fee. The hotel does hire out bicycles and the grounds are nice spots for walking with some wooden loungers and benches to relax and enjoy the scenery. Off course the hotel does offer free parking in which is why I choose this setting. You can park your car, if space is available directly outside of your room, so long you have a ground floor suite. Staff Only staff I met was a girl that checked me in, she was welcoming and escorted me to room- explaining the room etc. Friendly and gave me a map for directions. Overall a nice place to come for younger couple, definitely be careful coming out of the bath as the floor is shiny and slippery. The free parking and WIFI was the bonus for me. Located in nice setting but the facilities are confusing, its not really a hotel but more of a well organised bed and breakfast. I would come back.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] Hoge Weerd 2, 6229 AM Maastricht, Netherlands
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Holiday Inn Express Causeway Bay (Hong Kong, China)

4 Case Rating
Location Located from a 5-10 minutes walk from MTR Causeway Bay station , so long you exit at Time Square mall- Exit A. Whilst this hotel is opposite Time Square Mall, the metro has long walk ways & escalators from actual train. From airport it takes about 30 minutes to Hong Kong station, if you arrive late at night a Taxi will charge around 45HKG- it makes it more easier especially with large cases. Otherwise its 3 stops to Hong Kong Island via the MTR. Around hotel is a huge mall, many restaurants, boutique shops, bars and Wan Chai is about 15 minutes walk away. Everything you need in a city is close by. Room The room on the 29th floor, the highest floor as requested (at no extra charge) offers a nice view of the concrete jungle below. The room is very functional - offering a comfortable bed that offers side reading lights, soft and firm pillows of your choice (labelled that way). Bedside tables each side, one of which offers a plug and other has an alarm clock with lightning cable for all up to date I phone users. There is a small safe below for things like money and passport- not big enough for laptops. There is almost floor to ceiling Windows offering a great view, which offers a working desk next to it, with LAN cable, 2 handy plug adaptors, lamp and a phone. Opposite is a small sofa great for watching the city from the view. The room also offers a small LCD TV with about 42 channels that include local, Australian, BBC, US and Chinese channels- quite comprehensive selection. There is also a wardrobe with a few coat hangers & a small empty refrigerator inside. Two bottle waters are offered complimentary in the bathroom. Plus a portable luggage rack. The decor is colourful but not that innovative. AC is old style dial and switch but worked fine. The bathroom is quite poky but toilets does have its own door. There is a shower cubicle with dispenser soap and rather than have shampoo or body lotion they have dental kits, plus soaps and shower caps. Overall the room couldn't be faulted for the business traveller looking for value for money. I slept very well and enjoyed the view. Facilities There is free open un-secure WIFI for multiple devices which worked satisfactory. Business facilities included an Internet corner which has 2-3 Windows computers and one Apple . Free to use to look at internet but obviously printing and copying is chargeable. There is also meeting room and a self- serviced ironing room. Catering includes a free breakfast selected from a menu with 2 choices for westerners and 2 Chinese & 1 vegetarian from a set menu (see photo). This is in a sort of trying to be French restaurant. Food is ok but quite constrictive compared to a simple buffet. There is also vending machines in the lobby. Within actual building though there are other restaurants though not part of hotel but area outside has many choices. There are no leisure facilities such as a small gym. Staff Staff at reception are helpful though lack enthusiasm but that's HK in general. The restaurant manager is an interesting force to be reckoned with - he is ok. He wasn't impressed when I requested lemons for my sore throat but to be fair he did oblige. Overall nice hotel, cannot fault the room. Good location, quiet with a street across with nice bars and restaurants. I would stay here again, it just a shame it doesn't offer a gym or some leisure facilities.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] No.33 Sharp Street East, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, China
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Z Executive Boutique Hotel (Bucharest, Romania)

4 Case Rating
Location Hotel is located just off a side street from E81 in city centre, minute walk from Universitate metro station.This is the square where the intercontinental hotel is and where the 1989 revolution started from. From OTP airport it takes about 30 minutes and is about 17km. Famous sights such as Bran in the Romanian countryside are about 160km away or 2.5 hour drive. This is the old part of the city and a quick walk at night reveals very interesting old building and mainly the intensive bar culture night life, therefore a great place to stay if you like to party and go for drinks. Noise does not affect the hotel though as the bar streets are a 5-10 minute walk away. Tourist sights are walkable and in particular you are on the door steps of Bucharest Municipal Museum. The Palace of Parliament is probably a 20 minute walk. However the architecture and building in this old part of the city are very beautiful and impressive. Overall an excellent location for Bucharest. Room The room on 6th floor was an interesting feature. very clean, boutique design, very east european classy if you understand me. The room offers a very comfortable double bed whereby each side offered a bed side table and had convienient euro power sockets (staff can lend adaptors). Next to bed are flexi reading lights, though my side did not work. Above are interesting blue lights as overheads along with central spotlights and inner wall interior lights- many light options. Facing the bed is a large mirror and luggage rack - this is also where the desk is located but unfortunately it is clustered with stuff- such as the kettle, phone, the non working lamp and hotel guides etc plus part of the mini bar items. They offers free coffee sachets and green tea. Below is the mini bar, which is like the oldern days full of miniature liquor bottles but also soft drinks and some food items. The modern LCD TV is above the desk requires controlling from a cable box below- the two tv controls become confusing initially. There are many channel mostly local / regional but also German, French and English- BBC world etc and American channels such as Nat geo. The room has a side room in which was very convenient which offered an open wardrobe basically but in a room that you can close. There are many square pigeon holes and a laptop size safe that was easy to use. Plenty of coat hangers as well. Slippers, shoe polish are offered in here as well. The bathroom was interesting, they are trying the Asia/Chinese thing with a window that opens out into the bedroom. Though it does have blinds but perhaps you might see the TV from the toilet seat but the design is really about design rather than actual effectiveness. The bathroom though is spacious and offers a circular cubicle with rain shower and mini shower head. The sinks has spotlights but did not find a switch to use them. Amenities are odd- the shower cubicles has a fixed dispenser with the sign "professional shampoo and shower gel from Sweden by Tork" but there are still x2 mini bottles of shampoo- why not body lotion or conditioner. The room offers air-conditioning from a remote control unit and worked ok. Lighting was very good in this room, many options they just need to check all are working such as the desk lamp. Blue lights are weirdly offered overhead for that blue 'moment'. However an artistic room and enjoyed it. Facilities Business facilities include free secure WIFI for multiple devices- worked great. In reception one laptop computer and fixed tablet by reception. Worked ok. There is also a function room on the roof- more for private parties than meeting rooms etc. Catering included a bar (you get a welcome drink voucher upon arrival). A restaurant where you get 10% off with the welcome drink voucher. There is a restaurant on the top floor (9th) with fantastic views that offers quite a nice breakfast, unusual items but nonetheless enjoyable. Mostly continental buffet but there is a egg to order menu which includes omelet & eggs Benedict. Leisure facilities include a spa that offers a multiple massages with Balinese being the main alternative one. A general food massage costs 100 Lei for 45 minutes or a full 90 minute Balinese is 223 lei. There is also parking but it can prove difficult if road is blocked. Staff will try their best though. Otherwise you can use underground public parking at a charge. Staff Staff are really nice at this hotel. Very helpful with information about the city, warm and friendly and speak English very well. Overall excellent value for money hotel, right in the heart of old centre of Bucharest. Could do with better maintenance standards ensuring all lights works but otherwise a nice hotel, more aimed at the romantic couple, leisure traveller than the business crowd, though there is a desk to work on.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] Z Executive Boutique Hotel, 4 Ion Nistor Street, Bucharest 030041, Romania
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USA – 3d Rodeo Postcard (Houston, Texas)

Mixed Feelings On Texas But A Positive Lasting Impression

5 hours in San Antonio, 15 hours in Austin and 2 evenings out in Houston There has been a delay with this blog about Texas and it has been amended slightly because it was initially quite negative and lacked a lot of information about Houston. However, since my first visit I was fortunate enough to return to Houston a second time. We’ll come to that towards the end of the blog. On my first visit I had 48 hours in Texas, arriving and departing in Houston with late arrival and departure times. I planned to check out Houston and it just seemed like there was nothing much there, other than some Museums, which I get bored of easily and off course there’s NASA. Everyone I spoke with, friends that had been and cabin crew, plus what I had read online prior to arriving described it as an ‘extremely underwhelming’ place to visit. It doesn’t even rate that highly on Trip Advisor. I wasn’t sold on staying here and mostly thought about finding other places nearby. From my old job and in general from my interest in Music, I had heard so much about Austin. I knew the famous South by South West festival takes place in Houston and for that reason I really wanted to visit this city. Unfortunately I was 10 days to early (for the festival) but I still wanted to check out what many have described as the coolest city in the southern states. Plus it gave me an excuse to drive, which I have missed immensely since moving to Bangkok. The first night I arrived so late that I just slept in Houston at the Hyatt in the Galleria area. This is the main shopping area of the city, where there is a large mall and not much else but shops and offices. It didn’t really seem to offer much else of any interest so I went straight to bed for the planned early start. I looked at maps and thought I’d check out the city of San Antonio first and then continue to Austin for the night to see a bit during the following day before returning to Houston for my late departure. The Drive The drive to San Antonio is four hours but it can be done quicker. However I avoided the tolls and planned to take some side routes in order to see the countryside of Eastern Texas. I was pretty excited to be back in a car for a nice long drive so John Digweed’s latest 2 hour set in London banged out of my hired Chrysler car speakers. Whenever I drive I need the music to fit the environment but this didn’t fit the location, I mean I wasn’t in California, so the music went from Digweed to The Chemical brothers and then to Burial followed by some Thom Yorke. Eventually I ended up listening to Sigor Ros. If you’re not familiar with any of this music I started listening to some decent techno and gradually ended up listening to well, kind of depressing atmospheric progressive rock. None of the music really fitted the journey, simply because it was just about the dullest drive I have ever had. One hundred and fifty miles of almost straight roads and barely anything to see - just dull eerie bleak plains of flat land into the horizon. The highway had huge tall signs adverting gun shops, ranges, adult stores and mortgage companies – it was depressing. Coming off the main highways was even worse - True Detective Season 1 is the best way to describe it. Run down houses, battered trailers and old rusty cars on the lawn every ten miles showed the poverty but also gave rise to my inner imagination that this really was the rural southern America in need of hope. Cults, guns, Jesus Christ and depravation. Judgemental and ignorant of me I know, but I was so bored on this straight endless road. I even thought some of these trailers on the side of the road would be an interesting photo but I wasn’t going to risk being shot as I was still very aware I was in Texas. The Travelman | Drive To San Antonio The Travelman | Drive To San Antonio | Eastern Texas Even this bull gave me the look as if to say ‘come on my land I’ll shoot ya’. The Travelman | Texas Angry Bull   Stop 1 – San Antonio So, I finally arrived in San Antonio. A historical city dated back to 1691 established by Spanish colonials. The sat-nav said I was one street away from ‘The Alamo’ – A UNESCO world heritage site. I looked around for somewhere to park and the only available place I could find was outside a bar that had a meter in front. A man stood outside on his phone looking at me in disgust like I had taken his space, so I asked if it was okay to park here. ‘So long as you got quarters’ which I didn’t so he said I’d better use the ATM in the bar while he watched the car. I ventured in, got the cash from the ATM and asked the bar lady for change. She seemed fed up and the change didn’t include many quarters so I figured I had better buy a beer so I can get some more. I started to notice the bar was kind of weird. It had a few pool tables, grubby looking characterless decor, the odd poster here; very run down and had no real character. It’s a local’s bar with a grainy screen showing a baseball game. A slightly rough atmosphere to the place. I overheard two men arguing about Donald trump, one thought he can get things done the other thought not. Many of the locals were pretty heavily tattooed and wearing bandanas, not the kind of place you’d take your Grandma. I sat and drank up and thought I’d take advantage of the toilet while I can. Wow. The graffiti in the toilet summed up where I was. This was by no means art, just the crazed mumbling writings of messy locals. My first experience in San Antonio appeared to be a visit to an angry cocaine/crack bar. The Travelman | San Antonio Cocaine Bar No sooner had I made this assumption than I heard a couple of guys shouting at each another. Definitely an angry bar, so for me it was time to leave and check out the sights of this city. This first experience was interesting. So the Alamo Mission. A very old looking brick building faces me, with a flag. I have no idea what this place is about. A cop outside with a cowboy hat says its free entry and then I see another guy shout “video about to start”. Perfect timing as I had no idea what this place was about. To cut a long a long story short, Texas was colonised by the Spanish and this former Roman Catholic mission was where the famous battle of Alamo occurred in 1836. Though the building dates back a 100 years earlier. It was actually built to educate Native Americans of Christianity. The Mexican army occupied it but then surrendered it to the Texan army following the Texan Revolution. However, this pissed off the General of the Mexican army & he wanted to fight the revolution that resulted in creating a siege around this building and the eventual deaths of all the Texan army in it including Davy Crockett. The building has some further history following on from this. It was saved by from demolition by two women in 1905, Adina Emilia De Zavala and Clara Driscoll. They successfully convinced the state to purchase and preserve the building. Various other things happened there but I’m not going to go on much more about it, if you’re interested there is plenty of information available online. It is great that it still remains standing and is probably one of the oldest buildings in the states and quite a popular tourist attraction for this reason. It is so important in American history that it has world heritage status. There is nothing much to see inside though other than the odd sword or metal cup used by soldiers. These are protected within glass cabinets that you not allowed to photograph. But it is free and quite a nice place to take a look at from the outside. The Travelman | Alamo Mission After leaving I noticed a tower, now as this is early days in my venture to the world of blogging many readers are probably not aware that I am obsessed with towers. Going up them and taking photos from above makes the Travelman a very happy man indeed. Most are dull but I feel I haven’t seen a city until I’ve seen it from the highest building I can. So far I have 26 city towers under my belt. This tower had to be done, it’s called ‘The Tower of the Americas”. Not that big but it’s a tower none the less. The ticket prices included a 4D video that I was told was a must see. This is where my impression of Texas went downhill. The video could have been interesting; it could have focused on the fascinating history of Texas, but no. It was like watching a propaganda film about ‘how Texas is a state of mind’, how it’s the greatest state and the best place on earth but there was no substance. I believe the narrator even said those words, ‘a state of mind’, no, it’s actually a state physically located in America along with a lot of other states. The video follows a helicopter hovering over each city and bumps you about with your seat moving in a tacky way while you wear 3d glasses. It’s not worth it, in fact, I would pay good money never to have to experience that again. The Travelman | Tower Of The Americas Anyway, I came out of it thinking yeah right, the state that has magnets showing guns saying ‘we don’t call 911’, the state that kills more people on death row, and lets not forget the war mongering Bush family and more recently Ted Cruz. Apologies for being political but Texas really can’t claim to have bred the best. Anyway the view from the top was equally unimpressive, a bit like Dubai but it didn’t matter, it was another tower ticked off the list. The Travelman | San Antonio Skyline Before leaving it was time to visit what Trip Advisor rates as the number one thing to do in San Antonio: The River Walk. So I thought I might as well check it out, grab a beer and some food. The river lived up to its expectations and I enjoyed the walk, it was very well constructed and had a sort of Disney (due to it being man made) Venice Canal feel to it. People go up and down on boats but I had a 25 minute gap on the new meter as I had moved my car from the angry cocaine bar. The Travelman | San Antonio River Walk The Travelman | San Antonio River Off course I had to go for the Tex-Mex food, which Texas is famous for. My goodness I must say the Chicken Quesadilla was very good and so good a duck joined me and we ate together. He was keener on the nachos and the guacamole; I guess cheese doesn’t digest too well on a duck. I wondered if he was on holiday from across the border, he was so at home with his nachos with a bit of guacamole on them. After making a mess with the cheese and having had the waiter look rather unimpressed with me, I decided it was time to drive to Austin. The Travelman | San Antonio Quesadilla The Travelman | San Antonio Duck   Stop 3 – Austin So I finally arrive in Austin after another tedious drive, but I did drive past what looked like the biggest petrol/gas station I have ever seen - maybe 100 pumps but read online it has 250 employees, it’s called Buc-ee's. Petrol or gas is so damn cheap in Texas, $20 will fill a tank. The Travelman | Buc-ee's Gas Station Upon arrival in Austin, which seemed like a big looking yet small city, I checked into my hotel, which had really very nice staff. A huge Texan guy comped my parking and gave me a free drinks voucher. Now that’s the kind of thing I like, just how it should be, so knocked back a gin as my throat was feeling a bit dry and I looked up and enjoyed the hotels décor watching the lifts go up and down. I was now in the so-called music capital of the world, though the clientele around me looked as if there were at a car insurance conference. I suppose I was in the Hyatt though. After trying to arrange to meet an old school friend I was told use Uber. The kind bar staff explained to me to how to use Uber, I had never used it before but had the app on my phone. They assisted me well and I thought ‘wow’ Texas people are really nice and natural. The view from the bar after knocking back some neat gin… San Antonio Hyatt | Bar View The Uber car arrives. I’m picked up by a fella that I think had just finished his shift at Walmart. “I do this on the side” he says and he briefly explained the concept of Uber to me. I asked if he had any run-ins with regular cab drivers and he ignored the question, like it was a touchy subject. So anyway, the planned bar to meet my friend turned out it to be in another part of the city but he made the effort to get me there. To cut along story short, a mishap meant that my planned meet up with the old school friend didn’t happen but I ended up on the very famous 6th Street anyway and so I decided to walk through the city back to the hotel. It was around an hour to walk back and I enjoyed observing everything on the way. Austin is a strange place. People mentioned to me prior to my visit that if I liked Boulder, which I did, then I’d love Austin. My view on that is that Boulder, Colorado is a hippyville, holistic, with no major corporations on the streets, yeah everyone is stoned but Austin doesn’t actually have that same vibe. Maybe it did years ago but just from my observations it feels more like a mix of hipsters, hippies and yuppies - this is a drinking city full of corporations. There is a decent artistic independent bar scene and many great food trucks, mostly trailers & streamers. I decided it was a bad comparison and nothing like Colorado. My walk started off great, I walked past a few very cool artistic looking bars but at the same time I asked one of the guys inside about directions, had a beer in another and I can’t deny while these bar looked cool the hipster vibe was try hard, not like London but that kind of “oh dear, did I wear the wrong t-shirt kind, is it not ironic enough kind of vibe”. Meaning I felt it was not that welcoming but I can be quite an introvert and at times and socially anxious so perhaps It was just in my mind. Anyway after half a beer I decided to continue my walk. I walked past these guys with a high tech projector on a wall, which they were using as a stencil to paint – I guessed this was because it was night and perhaps that is normal but I did also wonder if a real graffiti artist might consider this to be cheating. Were these guys just pretenders? The Travelman | Austin Texas Graffiti Artists As I continued to walk past more cool looking bars and trailer food stalls. I eventually entered the main city, it now felt a bit more like the live music capital it was claiming to be. You could hear bands playing loudly from the bars, all kind of indie stuff. The problem I found was looking at the patrons, they appeared to be an interesting mix of wannabe hipsters and yuppie businessmen acting like idiots on the sidewalks. Pissed and not dissimilar to what you might see in New York in midtown. It was here that I also walked past huge Ernst and Young offices, GE and other major healthcare/insurance type buildings. All major hotel chains are there too. Plus, now seeing the mayor’s office – it became very clear that this city to me felt like a southern Washington DC at the same time lacking the conveniences you would find in a place like that. For instance I needed something from a pharmacy like CVS – no sir this closes at 10pm. What this? It’s a major city, the capital of Texas the bars ram on until 2am but everything else closes. I also noticed for some odd reason that in the centre of the downtown area, tons of cyclists like doing their evening exercise, it looked fun but it was 10pm, so many streams of cyclists going along the streets. I thought maybe this is an Austin exercise ritual. However I kind of wished I had a bicycle and could join then. I continued my walk as my hotel was across the river, then I came across a huge highway with really cool purple neon lights on the underpass below it, it looked cool but as I got closer, it became obvious that this was the major homeless place. It was almost as if this city had them all placed there out of the way like rubbish shoved under a carpet. There were possibly a hundred homeless people, just lying like piles of unwanted rubbish. It was sad seeing so many poor people living like this and sad that the city of Austin clearly isn’t doing much to help them. Again it’s no different to DC where I saw many homeless people confined to the lawns. The Travelman | Austin Texas Homeless Area After getting back to my hotel I decided to get up early and take pictures of some of the things I saw at night when it was too dark for my iPhone to capture decently in the dark. This is Austin; the big corporate America capital of Texas. The Travelman | Corporate Texas The Travelman | Corporate Austin Texas At the same time full of cool art work and bars. Strange juxterposition. [gallery size="full" type="slideshow" ids="4974,4975,4976,4977,4995,4996"] I had this great smoothie at one of the food trailers, but must say it seemed a bit overpriced. I was due to go to a Rodeo that evening in Houston and I asked the guy what he thought about this. His response was interesting, “Well it’s like country music festivals, rodeo and nascar; I go to these places just to simply watch people to figure out why they like it”. I thought it a rather pretentious response. Why waste the money? The Travelman | Austin Texas Food Trailer In the end I never made the Rodeo, whilst the drive back to Houston was better than to San Antonio, I started to feel ill and went to a hotel to sleep it off before my flight that evening. Overall I took more photos and have to say I felt these two pictures sum up Austin perfectly. It’s a city of conflicting lifestyles and the original hippies know it. Texas is one of the most conservative states, whilst Gun laws are lax, it’s one of the strictest states for abortion, medical marijuana is still not fully legal from my understanding has the highest number of death row executions. It’s a harsh state ruled by some seriously conservative anal cowboys. When compared to states like California or Colorado it is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Whilst the Mexican food is good there are no Mexicans serving it. Perhaps the Texans like their food but not the people? I dunno, I’m just blogging my observations but this is my first impression of Texas. I guess if I spent some more time there it’s possible that I could view the place differently.
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Houston As few weeks later I was fortunate enough to fly back to Houston there on a business consultancy trip and met a variety of interesting characters, from the cow girl to the gun crazy duck shooter and everyone in between including various Uber drivers. My perspective sort of changed a bit about Texas or at least Houston. I think despite some differences of attitude to thing like Guns, and politics, which I never avoided debating. The strength of Houston is the people, everyone is so warm and friendly. There was no attitude felt at all like you might find in the major coastal cities of the US. I spent an evening in the Heights area of Houston where I went for some drinks with a colleague and we were both dumbstruck on how nice the bar tenders were. Maybe because we were English but really friendly bar tenders, millennial twenty year old girls that were not all about trump but did love a good Gun. It was interesting hearing their perspective and American society but there was no pretentiousness all like I sort of felt in Austin. Just down to earth people in a very arty neighbourhood that had some cool restaurants and bars, north of downtown in the suburbs. One such bar war was Little Woodbrow which had a great selection of beer and that kind of old nice US vibe to it. Despite looking older than 35, bald I was asked for ID which was first in a long time but took it as a compliment. The Travelman | Austin Texas | Little Woodbrow Another great place we visited was Christian’s Tail Gate Bar & Grill where we ended up chatting again to the bar tender and her colleague for ages, they have superb burgers. Apparently award winning but oddly they put bacon inside the meat as opposed to on top still delicious. Though the best burgers I had overall was at Ruby’s Diner in the international area at The George Bush Intercontinental Houston Airport. Amazing! Another evening we decided to visit Mid town, where we told is most active place in the city for bars and restaurants, so we went and did the Uber driver thing again. Again the driver was so chatty and it was very interesting learning about Uber, how he makes $25 an hour, no issue with cab drivers like in Paris as he explained current cab drivers are changing to Uber anyway. All it requires is a $200 investment a car over 2010, with more money to be made the newer the car, drug test from the city and an inspection. He liked the fact he had freedom to do it as you choose when you decide to work simply by turning on the app. Anyway he dropped us off in mid town near the Breakfast Klub, a Zagat rated place for the best breakfast in Houston, unfortunately we were there for dinner and the area Breakfast Klub is in has a odd vibe. A side corner of bars and antique shop then a kind of shady vibe in surrounding area. However I liked it, it had amazing street art but my colleagues wanted to go to where the main part of mid town was which was about 10-15 blocks walk away. The art as I say was really cool. [gallery type="slideshow" size="full" ids="4983,4984,4985"] As we walked, I felt this city is one of the downtown cities that has nothing, like no shops, just offices and the odd fast food or coffee shop. Sort of reminded me of downtown Orlando. We did finally find the main mid town area, but it is quite small and certainly is not of any comparison to Austin’s 6 street. We decided to eat in a restaurant called Cyclone Anaya’s Mexican Kitchen and try the famous Mexican food. It was astoundingly good. Everyone was very impressed. Generally, it is a famous place for huge Margarita’s but seemed quite upmarket. Again very arty inside and loved the fabric interior of the washrooms. The Travelman | Cyclone Anayas Mexican Kitchen Austin Texas | Somewhere Between Here And There As a conclusion to Houston it is not the most exciting city but there is a very creative vibrant art scene here and the people, well the people are probably some of the warmest people I’ve met in the US. There isn’t really much to do in this city for a tourist but its great place to chat to people, so if your on business and staying in Houston for a short time. Check out the bars in the heights or go and eat in Mid town, you will meet some friendly characters and see some interesting art along the way. Overall this 2nd visit left me with more of a positive impression of Texas.
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