Thursday, September 22, 2011

ITC Maurya, New Delhi

Stayed 2 nights at the ITC Maurya on my way in and out of India to London. The first night was in the club tower and on the return in the Maurya suites.

Service is excellent, 5 star Indian standards, including a few lovely touches like a laundry voucher for 2 garments, unlimited free bottled water etc.

The tower room was much smaller than the Maurya suite. But rooms in the tower allow you access to the tower club room. Breakfast is served at the tower club room (which I did not try as I much prefer the unlimited spread at the Pavillion) There's free coffee and tea through the day in the tower club room and free cocktails and snacks for a few hours each evening.

Lift to the rooms in both buildings can only be accessed by a key card.

Eating at the ITC Maurya is expensive for Delhi standards. A simple meal for 2 will cost upwards of Rs3000. Food at Bukhara, West View Grill and Dakshin is excellent, but also very expensive.

The complimentary breakfast buffet at the Pavillion is excellent. There must be over 100 items on the menu. Sadly I could not do full justice to breakfast during either stay because of a 9am and 5am flight.

Toiletries are very good quality of ITC's own brands Fiama Di Wills and a men's range - Aqua.

The Maurya suite has a dressing room and a little corridor and the bedroom itself is twice the size of the tower rooms. Curtains are excellent and allow you to sleep through the day without any sunlight getting in. The pool looked lovely and welcoming, but the bed won the battle as we were exhausted with the hectic travel.

They have a currency exchange counter if you need to convert foreign currency to INR but not the other way around.

Plenty of stores on the ground floor, including a Wills Lifestyle store and another from which you can buy "Kitchens of India" ready to eat food to carry home.

A water heater and a French press with coffee and tea making facilities is provided in each room. There were complimentary brownies and biscuits and fruit in our room each time.

The suite had an ironing board and iron in the closet. Hairdryers too.

Its very close to the airport and that worked well for us on this trip.

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Club Quarters St. Paul's, London

We had travelled to London on work and stayed on for the weekend to enjoy more of the city. Club Quarters St Pauls have reduced rates on weekends as it is primarily a business hotel.

The location is excellent. 5 min walk from St Pauls Underground station and 2 min walk from the National rail station. If you don't have much luggage, you can take the picadilly line from the iarport and change for the central line at Holborn. (there are steps to climb, so you won't be able to do it if you have too much luggage)

If you get a room facing the road, you will have a wonderful side view of St Pauls Cathedral. Since this is the financial district, it quietens down by evening and its not too busy or noisy. On Sunday morning, we heard 2 rounds of a half an hour symphony of the church bells. The first around 9am and the 2nd around 11:30am.

There is so much to see around this area and everything is walking distance- Millenium Bridge, Shakespeares globe, Tate modern, Gaugin, London school for boys. There are at least 15 more historical churches within a 15 minute walking radius. We even walked upto Trafalgar and the London eye and back. There's a new mall thats opened up just next door, if you want to shop.

There are plenty of restaurants around this area. Sadly, majority of them aren't open on the weekend. However, the St Paul's restaurant - Cote Brasserie is open 7 days a week and provides good food at good rates. If you want a larger choice and lower rates, step into the Marks & Spencer food store next door. The range is from scones to sushi and they have a wonderful choice of meal packages (large sandwich + dessert + drink for 2 people under 6 pounds)

The biggest advantage of the club quarters are their room sizes. This is the 3rd hotel we have stayed at in London and we found this to have the largest rooms (we took a standard double). There is a large desk in each room which made it easy for us to work with our multiple cameras and laptops. (other hotels, we had to use the bed to spread out our equipment)

Free wifi and wired access in every room. 3 workstations in the club room downstairs with internet that are free to use and a printer to take free printouts - really helpful for boarding passes and online bookings of attractions.

Every floor has a water dispenser serving distilled chilled water and sealed half litre bottles to take away water, even when you leave the hotel.

Every room has a kettle and facilities for brewing tea and coffee. The guest supplies room on every floor, has extra blankets, tea, coffee and other necessities. You just open the closet and take what you need.

The club room also has a coffee machine which brews fresh cappucinos, lattes, espressos and other types of coffee. Magazines and newspapers are available here for reading. The rooms all have a few books on London.

Good quality soap, shampoo, bath gel were provided in each room. Club quarters are designed in a way that makes the traveller self sufficient and least dependent on service staff.

If you book a longer stay, you can request for a fridge and microwave in your room. They supposedly even have studio apartment set ups with a kitchenette, but we didn't get a chance to take a look.

Keycards give access to the lift, so secuirty is very high.

Although check in is supposed to be at 3pm and check out is supposed to be at 12noon, when we checked in at 11:45am our room was already available, so they showed us straight in. We checked out at 9am and used their locker facilities for our luggage. After sightseeing, we came back to the hotel by 4pm. Used the washrooms in the basement, repacked in the club room and had a cup of coffee before our taxi came to pick us up at 5pm. 

Room Tip: Ask for a room with a view of St Pauls Cathedral. Since it is in the business district and there is double glass, there's no noise at night, even if you are facing the road. The intermittent 30 min bells symphony will wake you up on Sunday morning though.

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Renaissance London Heathrow Hotel, London

We had travelled on work. Conference was at this hotel and hence we had to stay here for the duration.

The hotel is quite close to the airport and there are quite a few free bus services to the hotel. 111, 245, 555 etc. However if you need to get into the city, then you need to take one of these buses to Terminal 3 and then catch the underground or Heathrow express to the city. It took an average of an hour and a half each way.

Rooms were decently sized. bathroom was also a decent size, but the bathtub that you have to climb into, to take a shower was quite high and could be difficult for people with stiff joints or aching legs. There was no handrail in our bathroom and we had to hold on to the shower apparatus to ensure we didn't slip. The flushing system in our room was terrible.

Breakfast was good and had a large spread with eggs to order and waffles, but room service was absoultely terrible. The day we first reached, it was too late to go anywhere. We ordered a medium rare steak - it came well done - too dry, no sauce, no seasoning. Couldn't even take 2 bites out of it. The thai green curry was a sticky mess. Who puts cornflour in thai curry?

This is a huge hotel and has plenty of people needing to use the 4 elevators. But the elevators are so slow. They take about a minute after reaching, for the doors to open on each floor.

Service staff is friendly and helpful. The concierge was very good about booking some tickets for us. They have a tie up with a taxi company if you need to use one.

You have to pay for internet access.

There is a starbucks on the premises which offers better coffee and lite bites, than the hotel restaurant. Water heater is provided in the room with provision for brewing tea or coffee.

There's a store at the gas station opposite from where you can buy crisps, juice, soda and water. (Bottled water in the hotel is very expensive).

If you have to stay here, I recommend a 5 minute walk to the 3 magpies next door for a much better quality meal.

This hotel is ok, if you need to be near the airport. We wouldn't stay here of our own choice.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hotel Russell, London

We booked this hotel online while searching for something close to the Covent Garden area. This was our first trip to London and it looked like most of the attractions that we wanted to visit in the evenings, were within walking distance from the hotel. We weren't mistaken.

From the airport, the Picadilly line brought us straight to Russell Square station which is not even a 2 minute walk to the hotel. We booked the shopping package which included full breakfast buffet and a 20pound Harrods shopping card.

The building is absolutely beautiful and staff were very helpful. However, being used to hotels in India, South East Asia, USA, Africa and the Middle East, we were horrified when we first looked into the room. It was so tiny! The bathroom was bigger than the bedroom! The bed was pushed into a corner, so when sharing a bed, one person has to literally jump over the other if they need to wake up at night. However, after subsequent hotel stays in Europe, we realised that the room was a fair size for its location.

Location was wonderful. The train station is next door. the Big Bus stop is less than 3 minute walk. We took an Evan Evans tour to Stonehenge and their pick up location was in a hotel opposite the dining room. The British Museum is less than a 7 minute walk. Kings Cross station is about 12 minutes walk. And the walks are wonderful, around these historic buildings and lovely gardens. We were really lucky on our August trip as it was bright weather throughout.

Breakfast buffet had a huge spread of hot and cold items. tea, coffee and toast is served at your seat. The dining hall is very busy, so you need to mind your belongings as you really can't expect the staff to keep an eye with so much going on.

Plenty of restaurants in the area, we discovered a couple of really lovely Italian family run places that served outstanding food until quite late at night (11pm). There are a couple of 24 hour stores around, if you want to pick up crisps and drinks.

We absolutely loved the hotel and the only reason we did not stay here on our September trip was because we wanted to explore another part of the city.

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