Mount Murray Hotel and Country Club – Isle of Man, UK

I had been in the taxi from the airport for about 15 minutes. The driver was telling me the story of the infamous Fairy Bridge when he suddenly stopped and informed me that we had just driven past the hotel. Oops. Once the meter was stopped he turned around and we drove up a very dark path for about half a mile.

The mount Murray hotel isn’t just a hotel. The mount Murray is a Hotel, Spa and Country club so I suppose I should have guessed that it would be in the middle of nowhere. The hotel is set amongst the private golf course with a very pretty lake that you can see from the hotel bar.

Check-in was exceptionally fast as a pre auth had already been taken from my card. Usual questions were asked about newspapers and wake up calls and I was informed that breakfast would be served in the bistro behind reception. All great stuff. I was told that my room was “over the road” but this just turned out to be over the very small courtyard at the entrance to the hotel.
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Novotel Edinburgh Airport Hotel – Edinburgh, UK

I had arrived into Edinburgh airport late having started the day in the Isle of Man and then had a couple of hours layover in Birmingham. I didn’t have my car at the airport so I would have had to catch a bus then a train and finally get a taxi. As I was meeting a client early in Edinburgh the next day I thought I would stay the night. I used a couple of apps on my iPhone to check prices of hotels near the airport. The Novotel Edinburgh Park was coming in at £95 per night breakfast included. There was also a holiday inn just 2 miles further away coming in a £79. For reasons that I am not yet sure of, I decided to try the Novotel.

I called the hotel directly and asked for the best bed and breakfast rate. I was informed that the rate was £95 as advertised on my Apps. I asked if they could do £80 and they agreed. It was after all now after 11pm. I jumped in a cab and £10 later I was at the hotel. This is a modern building situated a stone throw from the fairly new Edinburgh Park railway station. Edinburgh Park is a business park full of big Plcs and multi-nationals. The M9 is right next to the hotel as is the City Bypass so pretty well connected in all. Continue Reading…

Barcelo Marine Hotel – Troon, UK

I arrived at the hotel around 4:30pm having driven from Edinburgh which took around 90 minutes. I managed to bag the last parking space outside however I should add there is a car park adjacent to the hotel; I was just being lazy really.

This hotel has been in existence for a long time and has changed hands more than once (as demonstrated by the old branding on the wastepaper bin in my room). The property is situated at the edge of the small town of Troon, pretty close to Ayr and Prestwick Airport (PIK).

Check – in was pretty quick, however the staff member was happy to chat and indeed I left with a complimentary upgrade to a Deluxe room.

Club Room at The Barcelo Marine Hotel

As I had laptop, iPad, trainers and holdall I opted for the lift to the 1st floor. My room was at the very end of a long corridor and the first thing I noticed about it was that it was cold. Very cold.  Oh and there was a big stain on the bedspread too.

I had a view of the golf course (well some of it anyway) from one window and I could just about make out the

sea from the other. The room was pretty spacious (although I sort of expected it to be so due to the location), had a King bed, desk and a small coffee-like table (with chairs) in the “turret” of the building. The bathroom was fairly standard however it had everything that I needed and it was pretty big too. The toiletries were standard Barcelo branded stuff which I think is a shame – this is an opportunity to bring out the character of the hotel.

Just as I was about to leave the room for the bar, my mobile rang. It was a business call and I had just changed out of my suit; I looked around the room for the standard notepad and pen however to my dismay there was none. No branded notepad, no branded pen.

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AF690 – CDG – MIA

Having killed another 30 minutes in the airport already I was really beginning to wonder how on earth I could entertain the JTFs (Junior Travel Freaks) when the announcement was made.  A sixty minute delay was posted due to a “technical fault” which I believe, was the entertainment system.  Anyway, we had a 60 minute delay anyway.

We found some ridiculously expensive chocolate at the airport which vaguely amused the JTFs however the early start was starting to catch up with them.

As a “by-the-way” this flight was way oversold and listening to some other passengers it seems that this is usually the case; may be a nice upgrade opportunity if you are Sky Team Elite (or better), certainly lots of upgrades were given out at the gate.
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Wonderworks Magic Dinner Show, Orlando – USA

Wonder-works is located beside an up-scale shopping and dining area in International Drive.  We left allowing enough time to find somewhere to park, ended up in a traffic jam with what we thought were a few minutes to spare, dumped the car with a valet parker, ran a few hundred yards to wonder-works (simultaneously carrying and/or dragging several children), only to discover a multistory car park right beside wonder-works and a twenty minute wait to actually get in to the show.

Tickets advise you to get there half an hour before the show starts. Unless you are deeply concerned about sitting at the front, don’t bother being that early as they just make you wait until five minutes before the show to let you into the seating area. We were seated fairly near the back and we could still see the magician.

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Alamo Roadside Assistance

OK so you may ask what there is to review about hiring a car… here are some observations…

We booked a seven-seat minivan for 21 days online (with a cool promo code that you can acquire by buying this book, which we would highly recommend for anyone going to Orlando on vacation) for just over $700 with unlimited miles and up to five extra drivers.

The rental was booked from 10 am through to 5pm (I had paid for the extra day).  As the Junior Freaks were still working on UK time they had us up real early.  We went to pick up the car at 6am and they had added an extra $50 to the quote (later found out to be for the 4 hours extra I had to car…).  I was not informed of this – it was only when I went to sign the paperwork that I noticed the extra fee; luckily I had a printed copy of the reservation with me as the staff member didn’t have a clue.  After a discussion (“Are you having a laugh?”) the extra charge was removed from the rental… I wonder how many suckers fall for that.
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Best Western CDG Restaurant

Lunch

We had a voucher for 25 EUR and I has been informed (by TEO, see review of hotel for more on this) that this amount could be spent how I pleased; naturally this was not the case.

There was a hot buffet which was (interestingly enough) 25 EUR.  I gave the eldest JTF (Junior Travel Freak) this; he easts everything and as I age I become more fussy.  I opted for some pasta (allegedly in a four cheese sauce) and Mrs TF had more pasta (in a tomato sauce).  The younger JTFs were jet lagged and frankly not themselves.  We ordered one kids meal and some extra chips (what can I say other than we had been in the US for too long; fries are habit forming…)
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Edgewater Beach Hotel – Naples, Florida, USA

As we pulled up in our rental car I wasn’t sure that we had the right place. I knew there was another Edgewater Hotel in Naples and I was considering the likelihood of having navigated to the wrong one on the Sat Nav.

The building was situated in a nice street full of members clubs and other hotels but there was a distinct lack of branding. I left Mrs Travel Freak and the Junior Freaks in the car and went to investigate.

Once I entered the hotel I found the familiar “Hilton HHonors Worldwide” sign at reception and realised this was indeed the correct hotel. The lobby was small, however I could see into the bar / restaurant and the pool and beach beyond, noting that the lobby and pool were just as the pictures online showed! Continue Reading…

Best Western – CDG, France

We had travelled on the red eye from Miami and arrived into CDG around 9AM. Courtesy of Flying Blue Petroleum I was awarded some (complimentary) goodies at the transfer desk:

A breakfast voucher
Day use of a local hotel
Lunch voucher ( to be used in said hotel)

I thought this was a pretty good offering; the only qualifier is that the layover has to be in excess of six hours.

I picked up my goodies from the transfer desk and asked for directions to the hotel.  I was informed that the hotel was near the train terminal. It transpired that this was not quite true; the train terminal was the location of the bus stop where I could board the courtesy bus that would take us to the hotel. My hold luggage was (luckily) tagged through to EDI however it was a bit of a task moving Mrs TF (Travel Freak) and 3 JTF’s (Junior Travel Freaks) with buggy (stroller) and a million bits of hand luggage.

We didn’t wait long for a bus however as the same bus stops at a number of hotels (6 I think) it took a good 20 minutes or so to be get to the Best Western; it’s also the last stop on the bus route which means the bus is full of guests (and luggage) who have got on the bus to go back to the terminal by this point.

Anyway I digress.  I presented myself a check-in along with my “ticket” from Air France. I was greeted by a very well dressed gentleman ( it is France after all) and was given my room key and a voucher that stated I had 25 euros to spend in the restaurant. So far; so good.
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Hilton Miami Airport Hotel, Miami, Florida, USA

I imagine that most people who stay in an airport hotel have probably used a plane recently… we were no exception.

We had been awake for almost 21 hours and we were really tired. The Junior Freaks had done really well, but were now desperate for some sleep. We enquired at the information desk as to where we could catch the hotel bus from and were told to flag it down outside (the whole US-anything-goes has much less structure than us British).

We hauled our 13 bags and 3 Junior Freaks to a spot on the curb and waited. We then waited some more. And waited some more still. The bus eventually arrived (after a 45 minute wait) and stopped… about 50ft along the kerb. A sudden rush of people appeared and it became apparent very quickly that all these people (and all the bags) were not going to fit. Continue Reading…

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