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Crowne Plaza Madrid Airport (Madrid, Spain)

3 Case Rating
Location The hotel is located on the side of a motorway about 25 minutes or so from the airport. Its about few miles further out than the Marriot. There is nothing in the area and it feels like a industrial business park. There is a free shuttle in that website states it is every 30 min, however I ran to the bus and the guy looked at me and drove off. Not a good start. However after calling reception, he re-turned up about 15 minutes later. Be ware the bus can only carry possibly about 8 passengers, so if it is busy well your stuffed and have to wait till next one. Saying that you book one back to the airport in the morning in which guarantees your slot. Room The room I was given on the ground floor did not feel like a crown plaza room, more like Crown plaza had just taken over from say a best western standard of room (not premiere) however they charged a reasonable rate so it makes sense- but there is nothing innovative or modern about the room other than the TV. Saying that the room was spacious, clean and very wooden decor, sightly cold & old etc. The bed though was large and quite firm. The most disappointing aspect were the pillows that felt cheap quality and very long, not comfortable and more what you expect at an Ibis. However large bed side tables either side with a phone. Light controls were easy as next to bed and there are lamps either side, each has a spotlight that assume you can use as a reading light - but they didn't work despite many attempts at all the switches. There are multiple light options. There is also one plug socket on one side. The room offers two red felt arm chairs - great for an old couple. A large desk does face the bed and was of good size but looks like it is from the 80's with some obvious wear and tear- opening one of the door is very loose so its certainly not well maintained. This where the fridge is- full of mini bar items and on top sweets and everything chewing gum, halls etc, must be a big income for them. There is also a kettle and some teas and coffee with water bottles though it doesn't say if they are complimentary. The desk though has a lamp & a large mirror- it is pretty spacious to work on a computer from. There is also a luggage rack. Tall wardrobes exist that contain a laptop size safe, iron and board. Plus a robe. The bathroom also felt quite old with a combination shower and bath. No temple spa amenities here like every other C Plaza I have stayed a, instead they have in house 'crown plaza' branded mini bottles shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, x2 of everything except the most important item- shower gel whereby you only get one. However they do offer a dental kit & shoe polish. The washroom does offer a bidet and is clean though- it just looks as dull & clinical. The highlight of the room is the relaxing sleeping kit, different from the temple spa version but has a pillow spray and roll on pulse relaxer. This was nice. Overall the room was disappointing and not really representative of at the all the many crown plaza's I have stayed at globally. The pillows were the item that disappointed me the most. This room you also can not open to get some fresh air, just stuck with sealed windows and AC though that is digital. Facilities WIFI is free and secure worked on two devices. There is a premium option though. They have a business centre but the cheekily charge for internet access on it. I noticed a bar / restaurant and 24 hours room service but didn't use any. There is also a gym but didn't see it. The hotel seems to be a car hire place as well, similar to the Marriot but it is more prominent in reception so expect the bus fills up as a result of this. Staff Starting with the van, other than looking at me and driving off from airport which in itself was rude since i banged on door. But when he did finally return after I complained 20 minutes later, the driver put stuff on top of my bag which concerned me because it had a fragile sticker on it and only noticed this after he removed a large item on top of it. Was not impressed as wanted to put on my lap anyway which he wouldn't allow. Lucki the china items inside didn't break but they could of following this negligence. Reception staff was very unenthusiastic, no welcome no smile, demanding a 50 euro deposit which is fine but I stayed in the Marriot down the road a few days earlier and they did not require this- they just gave me the option. Perhaps I was 'sensitive' because of van issues but I didn't get a warm reception or feel the brand's reputation of service and product is being maintained in line of the reputable standards of the IHG hotels. Definitely the weakest one I have stayed at. However to be fair she did ask when I cud be leaving and booked me in for a van and then offered a wake up- perhaps keen to get rid of me! They also don't read the room requests with pre-booking since when I asked for a high floor which 95% of hotel honour or say sorry they don't have. It felt this hotel just ignores requests. Overall I would say the Marriot down the road is a much better option if its the same price. That hotel has tons of facilities including free use of business centre, vending machines shops and a fantastic spa, pool area & gym polite and warmer staff with a much more modern arty room. Crown plaza honestly felt more 3 star & I got the impression they took over a former lower quality hotel so its in need of an update to meet the global level of the brand. However the sleeping amenity kit they give is very nice and relaxing which aids one to get to sleep on the uncomfortable pillows and destress from the frustration of the hotel. Probably why they have it.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] Calle de Lola Flores, 1, 28022 Madrid, Spain
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Madrid Marriott Auditorium Hotel & Conference Center (Madrid, Spain)

5 Case Rating
Location Hotel is located about 15-20minutes from Madrid airport. 20min from T4. The shuttle bus runs every 30 minutes, on the hour from hotel & 25' / 55' past the hour from T4- it is quite a small van which can only carry 19 passenger and don't expect much help with luggage. Within vicinity is the main road from the airport & not much else but there is a pavement if one wishes to walk to some restaurants and a fuel station about 5 min walk away. To downtown Madrid it takes about 20-30 minutes. Room The room on the 4th block looked very new and clean- the decor is all white and has a boutique artistic feel to it by the mellow lighting coming of the white lamps and white and brown painted walls - overall a nice design. It was a spacious room that offered a very comfortable high king size bed with nice little reading lights either side plus lamps built into the headboard. One side offered a phone and the other also had a table. Plug sockets either side for convenience. The room also offers a small table with two arm chairs facing each other next to a tall lamp. It is not a desk but its ok for working. A large Samsung Smart TV faces the bed with apps such as you tube, spotify, twitter etc if you need all that. There is an option to mirror the TV if you have a Samsung phone. TV Channels offered include about 100 cable channels obviously majority is Spanish but some English, lots of German, some French, Russian and a few Chinese and one Arabic channel. There is a nice luggage rack and a large wardrobe containing a laptop size safe, plenty of clothes hangers and a mini fridge, empty apart from two water bottles. There is also a kettle with some hot drinks sachets of coffee and tea. The bathroom felt very modern offering a shower and bidet. Amenities included Acca Kappa mini bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and shower gel. It was clean with decent towels. Overall room was nice and mellow, with blackout window blinds and I slept well and comfortable. Facilities The hotel is quite big, rooms are located in 4 blocks and can be a longer than expected walk if you are, like me in block 4. This is because the hotel is basically a conference centre with no less than 24 conference rooms and even a Auditorium which you walk past on the lobby level to get to the elevators of rooms. It seems more like a conference centre with a hotel as an addition rather than other way round but I was not there during conference hours so found it not an issue. However the hotel does offers some good facilities. Leisure includes a large pool for laps, sauna, and a gym - all clean & of a modern standard. Catering includes a few bars here and there and a restaurant. I did not try this so cannot comment on food. However a burger via the room service is around €16 but they close at 11pm and I was too late to try. There is also a few computers with printers close to lobby area, a shop with some souvenirs type items and a line of vending machines. WIFI does not require a password and was very fast. In addition AVIS car hire is also in the building. Staff Reception did take a while to check me in due to many guest but lobby staff were helpful & proactive with directing guests in an orderly line to next available check-in desk. They also acknowledge in a friendly manner. Check-in was very detailed and clear about transfers and room directions from a trainee female staff. I also couldn't find the swimming pool and staff helpfully directed me to it. Staff service was as you expect at a 5 star in Europe, meeting a good standard. I just hope guests with large bags get assistance to the rooms as they can be far especially in block 4. Overall for price paid £87 this hotel was good value for money in being close to the airport between flights, it was comfortable with decent enough facilities.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] Av. de Aragón, 400, 28022 Madrid, Spain
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Italy – Packet of Bologna (Rome)

Italy – Scottex Toilet Paper (Rome)

Spain – Austrias Village (Oveido)

ITC Hotel (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

3 Case Rating
Location Hotel is located about 30 min walk from central station or 10 euros by Uber. Less than 10 minute walk is Rembrandt Plein. Lots of bars, restaurants and coffee shops are. In the immediate area is some shops, souvenir, clothing, restaurants nearby hotel. The walk to central station is quite easy to get to. There is also a tram stop very close to hotel in which goes to central station but choose to walk. The canal outside hotel offers a nice view of boats and canal houses. Room The small pokey room; 11 is located at the final frontier of this hotel from reception in which require 3 flights of challenging steep creeks staircases to get to it. Forgot it if your not healthy and have heavy bags, it's a work out getting up & down. However this is a traditional Amsterdam canal house. The room is pokey with single but quite comfortable bed is placed under a leaning roof face. Those that are claustrophobic might find room intense. There is a small bed side table with a phone and a mellow light behind bed. The only accessible plug by bed is occupied by this lamp or if you have along lead the above the sink is a plug. There is also a small wardrobe that has a small safe inside. 13' TV feels small but faces bed and offers various local TV. The room also offers its own sink around corner from bed but no bathroom or toilet. These are just down the hallway outside of room. They are sort of clean but obviously shared facilities so not after a the occupants of a few rooms have had a shower. It's quite creaky inside and outside of room but gives the authentic canal house vibe. The highlight is the view from window across canal and the window is presented open as you enter room, since room gets hot from pipes. It's still felt quite warm despite nice breeze in -1 temperature in February. Summer I wouldn't reccomend as must be very hot as no AC is offered, though I am sure other rooms are less pokey and better ventilated. Main concern of the room is if there is a emergency of fire, if wouldn't be a easy to get out of building from this room. Facilities The hotel offers free secure wifi for multiple devices. Worked well. There is a small cafe / restaurant by reception which offers breakfast at around 7 euros, after reading another various review of breakfast on google decided to just go and eat a nice croissant at a bakery. The area around reception has a vending machine for beers to snacks plus a small computer exists. Staff Guy at reception was friendly and helpful with directions with check-in and was helpful with maps Check out was also fast. Overall one of the lower price bracket hotels for Amsterdam in an lower noise level area. However it takes a good 20 min walk to where most of the main action and attractions are. If you like a view and have heavy bags then expect a challenging stair case walk (rooms 9 and above) and don't worry about things like fire escape then go for top floor it does offer you a good view but since I'm not that healthy it feels like a full work out from the ground. Just popping out is a right mission. Price & view is attractive but comfort is a miss with shared bathroom and pokey rooms. However you do get to experience a canal house. Next time I will look elsewhere.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] Prinsengracht 1051, 1017 JE Amsterdam, Netherlands
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Holland – Flying High (Amsterdam)

Ramada Frankfurt Messe (Frankfurt, Germany)

3 Case Rating
Location The hotel is located in a suburb of Frankfurt with a view of the city skyline in the distance. There is very little close to the hotel other than a wood maybe to walk at across a main road. The hotel operates a free shuttle bus from Frankfurt airport at Terminal 1, pick up is outside of arrivals exit B5 but you have to call them in advance. 15-20 min drive away. From hotel they have a small bus every hour in the morning but you have to book as soon as you check in as availability is limited. It's a business hotel convenient for the airport, but not for visiting city without your own car as transportation links do not appear to be close by. Unless you go back to airport and get train from there. Room The room on the 7th floor offered a double bed fairly comfortable but if your solo, they only offer you one pillow. It's a big pillow and not that comfy if you are used to two small ones like 95% of hotels i have been to. However either side are bed side tables with plug sockets and nice mellow lamps, with one side offering a telephone & some German magazines. Facing the bed is a decent size desk to work from, again with a lamp and local plugs. They offer a small complimentary bottle of water with two glasses, like having a double shot each. Above the desk directly in front of bed is a flat screen TV with you name and hotel services displayed on home menu. It offers around 65 channels. Satellite TV from Germany but does have RT, BBC, Bloomberg, Al Jazera , lots of French channels, some Spanish, Chinese, Korean, some US and the odd Turkish. It's a smart TV so you can use it as an Alarm clock and woke me well- TV doesn't come on but the alarm from it sounds. Next to this is a luggage rack. Large wardrobe in the corridor offer a lap top size safe and faces the small ibis standard of bathroom. Shower only with just fixed soap dispenser offered as an amenity. For Ramada brand seemed a bit cheap. Later I learned I didn't have my toothbrush and upon calling reception to find a shop, they said they offer one for free at reception along with other items but didn't see. Its a shame they don't display a sign in bathroom saying amenities on request etc. The room also offers a central AC/heater unit controlled by the wall and a curved chair not particular comfortable to say watch a movie. Better in bed. There is a balcony in all rooms I believe in which is good for smokers not wanting a smoking room, some views as well but no where to sit. The room overall is very clean & quite colourful with flower pictures and mirrors, think Park Inn style. Functional and clean. Facilities Wifi is free and requires no password for multiple devices, it worked ok but struggled to stream videos on Facebook- perhaps during high traffic hours. There are some conference centres but no public computers. Catering includes a small bar by reception and opposite a restaurant. I had breakfast and thought it was ok, good selection of nice fresh breads, meat and cheeses plus some hot western breakfast items, cereals, yogurts and fruits. There is also a snack shop by reception that has a free coffee machine, water table, and buyable sweets and savoury items. Randomly they also sell Jewellery. Leisure facilities include a gym with basically has a few but very modern cardio machines. The hotel is redeveloping its pool and sauna with signage suggesting it will be complete in November. A sign at reception also showed massage services. Parking is offered at a fee, I think 15 euros per day. But self parking on main room is available for free so long you find a space. Staff As others have mentioned check-in did take a while and it's not the most warmest of welcomes but that is Frankfurt vibe in general. My booking was a double bed booking but I was presented with two twins. I then asked to change and was told "but their system showed twins", so I showed them my receipt which clearly showed a double. They were reluctant to change initially until I said I would call hotels.com where the booking was made and then they rectified it. Despite being solo I can't deal with a single bed as I sleep much better in a double. The staff in restaurant looked a bit surly but they cleared plates and maintained the buffet efficiently. Overall for £80 with breakfast, free WIFI, free transfers somewhat close to Frankfurt airport in between flights -the hotel served its purpose. The room was cosy just a weird pillow and tight on amenities but clean and colourful for a businessman on a budget. Breakfast was also ok if you like good standard of continental style.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] Oeserstr. 180, 65933 Frankfurt, Hesse, Germany
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BEST WESTERN Eindhoven (Eindhoven, Netherlands)

4 Case Rating
Location Hotel is quite well located, just on the outskirts of the city centre in a residential area. Depending where in the city centre you are headed, it's only a 10 - 20 minutes walk to the centre. Nearby is a supermarket, cinema and some restaurants. Bars & shops as well. Room Room on top floor was quite a simple room, a notch up from Ibis but similar set up. The bed was soft , one of the softest mattress I have slept in. It's ok but a bit of shock when your home mattress is firm. It offers these 4 pillows that aren't very soft so it's a bit mis match plus they lay the duvet all the way to the back under pillows. which seems like they can't be bothered to make a bed right but then that just might be their standardised way. Behind bed in centre is a convenient lights main switch plus either side are tiny bedside tables with lamps and Flexi-lights. Ok for reading but they aren't right over the bed etc. Plus a phone on one table . No nearby plug sockets. A jazzy arm chair comes with a small table and then there is a very small desk where lamp exists and two EU plug sockets. Facing the bed , to the side is a TV with 28 or so channels from all over Europe. It's seems standard cable but good selection. There is an open wardrobe with coat hangers , luggage rack with kettle and some teas/coffee plus a safe - not large enough for laptop but money, tablets and phones all fit ok. The bathroom reminds me of IBIS hotels design, very poky with a shower cubicle - they use a combined shampoo / shower gel dispenser but best western does include a mini body lotion item , vanity set and odd face towels by the brand Bhuvana. There is a hair dryer plus EU sockets The room has a large radiator , as well as a air conditioner unit. Windows can also open but quite noisy as main road is outside. Overall I slept ok but the mattress is so soft, the room is clean but overall quite small and simple for BW. The noise which can be heard throughout did wake me up a few times- both the road and other guests. One thing to say is a odd un welcoming smell as you walk in but that is not that noticeable after a while. Facilities The hotel offers free secure WIFI for multiple devices. It worked fast and was well. There is a bar and restaurant but did not use these but looked nice and colourful. Breakfast is charged at 15 Euros. I did not try since the supermarket a 2 min walk was a cheaper option. There is also free parking but it's not a very orderly car park ram packed too hard to park but I guess I was there with last free place at night. Decor in the hotel is colourful and it is very clean. They do offer some vending machines both drinks and snack items at reception. There is also some conference rooms. The hotel does offer a small elevator and they offer some airport luggage carts for you to use for your bags. Staff Staff are very pleasant and helpful. AsIi arrived the car park was explained to me as too full so told which streets to park nearby which are free during the day- was a bit disappointing to hear as this was one of the reason I booked hotel was for free parking. Later though when i was about to move car from directly outside (which is free after 9pm-9am) and asked staff which streets to go for, I was told a space became available and staff were keen to tell me. Overall check-in and check-out was fast and staff did so in a friendly manner. Overall the hotel room is ok but felt slightly over priced. Walls are also thin so you hear you a lot during the night including the road outside. It was quite a convenient location but I think I would try somewhere else if I come to Eindhoven again. Somewhere more quieter room as I am a light sleeper, plus the mattress was just too soft for my back. It was a last minute booking so perhaps the £62 rate is higher than their normal rate for a Thursday night.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] Leenderweg 80, 5615 AB Eindhoven, The Netherlands
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Hotel La Reine (Eindhoven, Netherlands)

3 Case Rating
Location Located within s short walking distance of city centre (5 minutes) where shops, bars and restaurant even next door to hotel.Though they advertise self parking, its a public car park about 5 minutes walk away at €4.50 all day until 9pm- 9am when its free. It is quite open and not really near the hotel so when you have a lot of baggage its a bit of hassle unless you park very close for a few minutes but the streets are resident zone parking. So be quick. Room Room is quite a simple but is an interesting Dutch hotel room with a lot of character to it. The proud Dutch orange fabric head board radiates the kitsch vibe in the room above two twin beds placed together. The room though had a relaxing ambience. Partly because of the overhead hanging light that has slated wooden lamp which radiates this lines of light round sort of like a sick ball but with lines. The bed was of adequate comfort, prefer not to have two beds together as essentially it is a single bed but I slept ok. Each side of the bed had convenient plug sockets & a small ball shaped lamps again creating this relaxing 1970's vibe. One side had a telephone but its not for outgoing calls only reception to get hold of you. Thick brown curtains and a dark wooden desk is offered that is adequate for working. Kettles also presented there with a bowl of teas and coffee. A convenient luggage rack and tall mirror is offered to the side of desk. Above is the TV with over 40 channels all satellite that included Dutch, International cable channels that are in English plus French channel TV monde. There is a thin tall wardrobe in the room with a small safe inside, good for phone but not for small laptops, coat hangers and spare pillow is also in there. The bathroom is entered thru wooden sliding doors on one side of bed, quite small with open shower- offering both rain and separate shower head. Amenities are the absolute minimum with two dispensers for combined Hair/Body/hands both at sink and in shower. its a push dispenser and quite annoying as the room I had the lid kept falling of. Overall the disappointing aspect of the hotel as even the towels are small. Overall it is a relaxing room quite cosy and feels slightly 1960 - 70's but re-birth furniture not from that time. Large windows are offered and offers good natural light and view since I was on the top (4th) floor. Facilities The hotel does not offer parking but they do advise at a public car park 5 minutes walk away. Free WIFI in which worked well for multiple devices. There is a vending machine by the reception for chocolates and drinks. I was offered breakfast at 12 Euro for buffet at their sister hotel a block away but did not try it. Staff Only met one staff, a very nice lady whom was very clear about where to park and where to walk into city centre. Every times came in was greeted, didn't meet any other staff but she presented a good standard of staff service welcoming and efficient. She even offered help me with my bags which was very kind but I was ok. Overall a nicely positioned hotel for Eindhoven with good value for money if you just want a simple but interesting room with a unique ambience and not concerned about other facilities. I would stay here again.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] Wilhelminaplein 3, 5611HE Eindhoven, The Netherlands
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UK – British Seaside (Swanage)

Enterprise – VW Golf

Car Rental Company: Alamo/Enterprise Company for Purchase: Expedia Location: FRA- Frankfurt International Airport Straight out of arrivals of Terminal 2, you will find the long line of car hire counters. Alamo which is under the Enterprise brand offered a counter with two desks. Actually the first set you will see once you come out of arrivals.  It was noticeably the largest queue of all the car hire places at around11am with a 30-minute wait. Staff Staff was straight forward than welcoming but after my request of a Golf, he did make effort to ensure one would be held for me- so long I pay 5€. I found this slightly ‘corrupt’ since the order from Expedia states VW Golf or Similar. However a VW golf was awaiting me in the car park. Since I was driving to various countries a cross border fee of 7 € is charged which covers your insurance. GPS was also added at a cost of 10 €. This was suppose to be the in built VW version but due to some fault, that staff couldn’t explain I was offered a Garmin. This worked fine at the beginning of my journey thru Luxembourg, Belgium and to Holland but the next day back to Frankfurt I had many issues, it simply flicked out of location when on autobahn past Cologne recognised my position in a field when clearly I was on the main road. Even turning off and on again did not help. As you enter the car area, staff do a check on car as usual and this was when I was offered an upsell of damage waiver at a cost of €20- which I went with since I was driving the first time on an autobahn. When returning the car and agreeing to bring it back with a fuel tank -be wary of lack of access to fuel stations near FRA airport, I ended up returning with half a tank full as I couldn’t find a fuel station due to the failures of the Garmin. With an explanation of this, staff waived any fuel charges due which was fairly decent since half a tank of fuel would have been more than refunding me the GPS fee.  However staff should be checking these things and I it took a further 20 minutes of staff trying to figure out the initial built in GPS before offering me a Garmin when I wanted to leave sooner from the airport, plus they should check the Garmin is up to date. Car Selection It seemed Enterprise have a lot of Citroen and French cars weirdly rather than German in the hatchback category. According to staff the reason I had to pay 5 Euros to hold a VW golf is because they have very few. Car Review - VW Golf R (Manual) Seating Electronic seating which was easily applied and comfortable, I drove in total over 24 hours 800km, whilst there were stops, journeys lasting over 300km -I did not experience any issues with comfort. Overall a comfortable hatchback with good ergonomic seat design more racing style with customised controls. Controls The controls were fairly good, the Bluetooth connection was easy to set up and worked well and this was displayed on the dash computer screen and between the dials behind the steering wheel. Displaying the music and phone connection service seen clearly. The actual computer was touch screen plus clear side buttons for radio, media – which is based around either digital radio or USB/Bluetooth connection. Digital Radio is included. On the screen it also had the front proximity warning system as well as rear view camera. I found both a huge help since I am used to this on my own car. AC is personalised to each front seat and worked find – dial control with digital centigrade seen on individual displays. Below is a small closed storage box where the USB and AV sockets are. Easy to store and phone or MP3 player to connect, charge and close the box for storage. The computer between the rev and speed dials does offers easy to use customizability to change from KM to Miles if you are more used to that, which being from UK I find Miles to be easier. The gear controls worked fine with smooth gear changes and a strong clutch. The only issues I found here is the reverse, first gear and reverse are too close together and so it wasn’t always going into reverse easily requiring some effort to push it down. The hand brake is a switch button next to the gear stick- which being non-automatic when parked was easy to forget initially but got used to it fairly quickly after a few parking’s. The main annoyance I found of the controls were essentially my unfamiliarity with the way the steering wheel controls were set up. In reverse order to other cars I have driven, to which the Golf has indicators on left and window wipers on the right it took me a few hours to get used to this and I did keep cocking it up. Other cars I have hired and my own are in opposite order. This was also the case with the cruise control and volume settings. Overall I found the cruise control hard to use when compared to other cars. It seemed more complex than even a range rover Evoke to understand. I therefore did not figure it out but desperately wanted to since I was driving on autobahn and wanted to cruise on these long periods of driving. The other issue was the built sat nav was not working properly despite being installed, it just kept coming up with some warning in German that I didn’t understand. I paid the additional extra for it so was annoying that I had to return to the car hire podium and they did a check it with staff also not understanding what the warning was, since it was in built and eventually gave me a Garmin- this whole process took 20 minutes and delayed the drive from the airport. Space and Storage Boot is your standard hatch back size and Enterprise did offer a cover so it did feel secure. I recon two medium size checked luggage cases could be placed easily in back. Or one large with hand luggage. General standard space for a hatchback. 5 seats are offered and space at the back seemed reasonable.  There was no option of a central arm rest drop down, if say there was 2 passengers seated in back. The front seats did offer spacious side pockets easy for putting ipads etc or books and drinks etc. There is also a cup holder in the front and a storage arm rest. Driving The VW Golf R was an excellent drive. It felt powerful for a hatchback with superb acceleration and good breaking. Ramming it at full speed down the autobahn caused no noticeable shaky issues you find when you push other hatchback above say 110mph/180kph- it felt in control with a strong breaking system. On other windy roads the manual gear box was fun to use since the car does meet good acceleration strength in lower gears. Overall one of the most powerful hatchbacks I have driven in terms of power for the engine size. I did really enjoy driving this car, it felt exciting and comfortable for the distance I was travelling. I just found some of the controls hard to get used to quickly- such as the wipers and indicators being opposite side. Overall a hindurance. Perhaps there was but I couldn’t find an auto setting for lights or wipers so when used to that function it was an effort in heavy rain. Despite this I had to drive fairly fast not to miss my flight in some extensive showers with the car occasionally aquaplaning but it managed it well without dangerously bouncing out of direction. Audio The audio was fairly good with easily accessible Bluetooth or USB. The car offers 8 speakers and sound was good but not enhanced with directional controls of where you want the sound like I’ve seen on US cars. However the sound was good, standard setting of strong mids level in which was fine for Rock.  Some customisation of levels, done easily when driving on the touch screen - is needed for say Drum N’ Bass & Techno but once tweaked sounded great with decent sound level. Fuel Efficiency I drove 850km and filled it up from yellow light to full and when arrived at drop off the tank was half full, meaning I did 1.5 full tanks – again I believe the engine was 1.8 but not entirely sure. Considering the distance, it seemed economical for a non-diesel car. Verdict For the price paid £30 GBP for 24 hours via Expedia, then an additional 37€ (damage waiver, border crossings and ‘VW Fee”) - it was more than say prices for the US for the car type but overall it was better value than buying online prior than there and then. Saying that I enjoyed the golf, driving was fun, it looked cool felt comfortable and handled the roads well. A well-made hatchback that felt a safe car especially for high speed on the German auto bahns. My only criticism were the controls - the cruise control in particular was hard to use as well as the unfamiliar position of the wipers and indicators – but this can be bias because I drive a Japanese car in the UK. However, I haven’t found this on other cars I have hired even in Europe.

Belgium – Canals (Brugge)

Belgium – Belfont Tower (Brugge)

Belgium – Market Square (Brugge)

Belgium – Sights (Brussels)

Cyprus – Aphrodite Greek Goddess (Larnaca)

Cyprus – Donkey (Larnaca)

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.

Holland – Dom Tower of Utrecht (Utrecht)

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