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Park Inn – York, United Kingdom

Angry Cartoon TVHaving decided I needed a couple of nights away on my lonesome, I used the Avios website to book a two-night stay at the Radisson Park Inn in the beautiful city of York.  The philosophy of this hotel chain is to provide guests with a ‘vibrant and lively’ atmosphere, offering a fun environment and a friendly, welcoming service. The hotels are mid-priced, aimed at business travellers and holidaymakers.

The hotel is ideally situated on the River Ouse, near the city centre.  All the major attractions are within walking distance, and the railway station is five minutes’ walk away.  I started to feel slightly anxious when I saw a group of frankly manly women sitting on the front steps of the hotel smoking and adjusting their underwear.  I politely side-stepped these ladies, avoiding eye-contact, and entered the reception area. It was dark and cheerless, not at all like the bright and happy pictures on the website.  Two receptionists were having a whispered discussion at the end of the reception desk.  While they pretended I was invisible, I quickly twigged that there was a mix-up with a booking for the group of elderly ladies sitting in a corner behind me.  It was five minutes before one of the receptionists said she would be with me in a minute. (No apology for keeping me waiting.)  Eventually, she checked me in, while on the phone to someone else.  My key card was almost thrown at me.  No eye contact, no helpful information, no smile.  Nada.  Where was the ‘friendly and welcoming hospitality’ raved about on their website?

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Carbis Bay Hotel – Cornwall, UK

Check out our first post from the latest member of the Travel Freak community – Mrs Control Freak!  Welcome to the gang!

I’ve just spent a week pottering around Cornwall with my husband and 11-year-old son.  Despite the changeable weather, we found lots to do in this lovely part of the country.

We stayed in a self-catering apartment owned by the Carbis Bay Hotel, which nestles in an idyllic cliff-side location overlooking its own beach.  This three-star luxury hotel is family-run, and has been for over 100 years. The 47 rooms are of a high standard, the reception area and hallways clad in elegant marble and lit by impressive chandeliers.

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Derag Living Hotel Kanzler – Bonn, Germany

The client I was working with had booked my stay at The Kanzler on my behalf.  I was a little despondent as I was hoping to cash in on a Hilton Hhonors promo.

I arrived at the hotel around 11:30am having arrived back into the UK only the night before from a stay in the US.  It was cold in Bonn and I may have been just a touch on the grumpy side but was trying hard not to show it.

Check in did not go well.  The staff member was bordering on grumpy (although perhaps this is a German thing), and throughout the very lengthy check-in process I helped myself to a chocolate from the bowl at reception.  As I reached for another chocolate the staff member moved the plate to the other side of the counter.  Seriously.

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Me Hotel, Barcelona – Spain

For the first time in a while, I was on a leisure stay with Mrs Travel Freak!  Best of all the Junior Travel Freaks were somewhere else.  We were alone for a whole weekend!

I had booked my stay at Me Barcelona almost by chance.  It was a Hotwire adventure and having Googled the area, start rating and amenities for a while, I was pretty sure it was the Me I was booking.  I pressed the ‘book now’ button and waited, feeling just slightly nervous.  It was indeed the Me Hotel Barcelona.

With a confirmed booking I explored the website – seems that Me is a funky hotel for the cool and sophisticated… not sure that’s me but I decided i’d try my very best to fit in.  I started an email conversation with the hotel and ended up agreeing to pay for an upgrade to The Level which gave me a bigger / better room, a Nespresso machine and access to The Level Lounge with freebies.  Normally I get sort of upgrade free with my many loyalty cards so I had high hopes…

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Hyatt Place Tempe, Arizona – USA

I had arrived in Phoenix on the first of four countries I was visiting for a project.  My day had started at 03:35 UK time and I had flown via CDG and ATL; I was beginning to get tired.  The local time was almost 23:00 when my plane landed at Phoenix International Airport.

I had already cleared customs at Atlanta and my bag was out pretty quickly; all I had to do was find the shuttle bus.  There was a large section of one wall that had details of all the airport hotels along with the short code to use to call them from the courtesy phone.  All the airport hotels except the Hyatt Place Tempe.  Having spent far too long trying to get my iPhone to work (user error…) to call them direct I eventually went into the Delta luggage office.  I was lucky enough to find a soul who took pity on me and she allowed me to use her phone to call the hotel.  I was told to leave at exit 4 and cross the street and that the shuttle bus would be with me shortly.

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Park Royal on Beach Road – Singapore

I was staying in Singapore for 11 nights on business as part of a project.  There were some 21 global colleagues staying in the same hotel; alas I had no choice in the brand.

I had never heard of Park Royal hotels before I received the reservation confirmation from my client.  They seem to have a number of hotels in Asia that target the higher end of mid-range clientèle.  They do not have their own loyalty programme, however they are part of GHA (Global Hotel Alliance), which is at least something.

A chauffeur car was included with my Emirates flight and less than 20 minutes after leaving the airport, we were pulling into the hotel.  The first thing I noticed was that there was a huge building site right next to the hotel – more on this later.

There are 7 floors here but from the outside, the building looks a lot bigger.  There are many rooms here – indeed walking from one end of the corridor, passed the elevators and down the other end is a task that I don’t want to repeat.

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Hilton East Midlands Airport – Derby, United Kingdom

I stayed here last year for almost a month.  I didn’t bother to review it here because it was a bit sort of… dull.  The standard used-to-be-Stakis, UK regional Hilton, that is more than a bit tired.  However all that changed with a business stay recently.

I had flown down from Edinburgh to East Midlands early (there are two flights, 08:20 and 18:40) and taken a cab from the airport to the hotel (£8).  Yes – despite the hotel being called the Hilton East Midlands Airport and despite the fact they have a shuttle bus I had to get a cab.  The shuttle bus needs to be booked and unless you are on a stay which includes parking costs £8.  I know.  Don’t get me started.  It truly is an outrage.  Anyway, I digress.

I presented myself at the reception around 10:00 and smiled.  I was way too early for my room but I knew that the bar / lounge here gets so very busy (the M1 is less than five minutes away which makes the hotel a good choice for business meetings) and I was hoping that the hotel hadn’t been full the night before.

I was, of course, informed that my room wasn’t ready, however as I had asked very nicely, I was given another room to use until my room was ready for me.  I thought this was a really nice touch and off I went to catch up on some work.
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Hilton Petaling Jaya, Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia

I live in the UK.  The UK is a very, very long way away from the Hilton Petaling Jaya.

I was travelling alone on business and had flown from Newcastle to Dubai and then onto Kuala Lumpur.  I paid for the budget taxi (not dodgy or falling apart – perfectly functional) in the airport and then followed the signs for the cars.  The heat hit me as soon as I got out.  I removed my heavy winter jacket and tried really hard to stay awake during the 40 minute journey to the hotel.

As my taxi pulled up the bellboy appeared and helped me with my luggage.  The hotel lobby was cool (in an air-conditioned way, not trendy) and I walked right up to the counter.  I am a Diamond Hhonors member (Hilton’s frequent guest program) so could have checked in upstairs.  I was reminded of this by the clerk – I didn’t see the point in going upstairs to come back down so I just asked him to carry on.

He wore a badge that read ‘Training to help serve you better’.  This was probably apt – he wasn’t your standard Hilton clerk – he didn’t ask about newspapers, my journey or anything else actually.  Nor did he welcome me back… He did take a credit card swipe of 2500MYR (about £550) for an 11 night stay which is probably about right.  The room rate was being billed direct to the company but came in at just under £60 per night.  This rate turned out to be pretty good value.
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Hilton London Metropole Hotel – London, UK

The Hilton London Met is a huge hotel.  I mean really huge.  This is a big hotel for international conferences from everything to defence (yes, guns) through to sex toys.  It is also a big group hotel with a large number of school parties.

This is definitely not the hotel to visit if you are looking for individual attention and service – it’s simply too big.  The hotel is located pretty close to Paddington and is handy for the Heathrow Express if, like me, you can’t afford the Hilton London Paddington (£200 plus per night).  The London Met is a 15 minute walk from Paddington station (or less than £5 in a cab).  The nearest tune is Edgware Road which is a five minute walk from the hotel.
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Stracey Hotel – Norwich, UK

I find Norwich a bit of a strange place.  There doesn’t seem to be very much to it; however every major insurance and finance company seems to have a regional office here.

I flew to Norwich from Edinburgh and was pleasantly surprised to land a few minutes early.  I was then a little disappointed to wait almost 45 minutes for a taxi to town!  Once the taxi eventually appeared the journey to the hotel took about 20 minutes.

The Stracey hotel is situated just up the hill from the train station which is a 10 minute walk away at most.  I was slightly dubious about the hotel as I had been informed that it was a B & B and may not have the facilities I would expect.
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