Sunday, September 22, 2013

Il Giglio d'Oro B & B, Florence, Italy

Il Giglio d'Oro B & B 
Via Antonio Pacinotti, 11,

Florence was the second stop on out Italian itinerary. In Rome, we stayed in a B&B right in the center of Rome. So it was great to stay a bit away from the centre of the city in Florence. It felt more homely and less touristy.

Edo was a great host. He and Celia manage the place themselves, so it was more like staying with friends than in a B&B.

On one of our days in Florence, we just wanted to sleep in late to counter the exhaustion of sightseeing in Rome and Florence. We had a very restful and quiet sleep, even though we woke up quite late.

Edo introduced us to a lovely bakery/pattiserie nearby that served the most awesome breakfasts we had in Italy. And for a change the cappuccino there was served steaming hot.

The balcony attached to our room was excellent. We would come back after a long day and just sit in the balcony enjoying the quiet and the clear skies. The bathroom was nice and large and clean.

While we did have to take a bus to get into town. The buses were frequent during the day. The bus on the return journey stops right in front of Giglio D'Oro.

Edo will also do a load of laundry for you for extra charge. While there are a few laundromats around, this service really helps, because you just leave your laundry with him in the morning and it is all ready for you when you return at night and you don't have to wate any of your sightseeing time, by monitoring your laundry.

The only drawback was that given that this is a residential and non-tourist area, the supermarkets and restaurants/trattorias/ osterias etc, all close quite early (around 10). So if you plan on returning late, then pick up water and have dinner in the center of the town itself.

Room Tip: We loved the large room on the first floor with the attached balcony.

Rating : 5 / 5

Value : 5 / 5
Location :  4 / 5
Sleep Quality : 5 / 5
Rooms : 5 / 5
Cleanliness : 5 / 5
Service : 5 / 5

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Hotel Le Isole, Venice, Italy

Hotel Le Isole
Castello 4661
Fondamenta del vin,
30122 Venice

Its a beautiful Hotel set in a 16th Century Monastery, but refurbished in a completely modern manner.

Its very conveniently located. If you use the water bus to get here from the station, you can actually reach the hotel in 5 minutes, without having to climb any stairs.

Theres always a lot of staff around who will help with anything from carrying your luggage to offerring you free ice tea in the lounge.

Breakfast was a huge buffet spread of Continental food and hot cappuccinos, which was a welcome change from most other breakfasts (on the go) that we had eaten in Italy.

Mini bar was free with beer, water, sparkling water, juice that was refilled every alternate day.

They had a tea/coffee machine in the room and would bring hot milk if we needed it.

They don't have a restaurant inhouse (except the buffet breakfast), but there are plenty of lovely places around to eat at.

Rating : 5 / 5

Value : 4 / 5
Location : 5 / 5
Sleep Quality : 5 / 5
Rooms : 5 / 5
Cleanliness : 5 / 5
Service : 5 / 5

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Pensione Barrett B&B, Rome, Italy

Pensione Barrett
Largo di Torre Argentina, 47,
00186 Roma, Italy
+39 06 686 8481

Pensione Barrett is ideally located. We walked everywhere! We only took the bus from the Station and back and an electric bus to Villa Borghese (to save time), everything else, we walked.

The Area Sacra (where Julius Ceasar was murdered) is right opposite the Pensione and now houses a lovely Cat Sanctuary on its premises.

The Room was on the smaller side, but filled with every convenience. We never tried the TV, but we used the back and foot massage daily and truly appreciated them given how much we were walking around town.

The bathroom was compact, but had everything we needed.

There were all kinds of breads, cheese, meat etc to fix breakfast if we wanted to. But we like our breakfasts hot, so we ended up eating breakfast on the go from one of the many bakeries around on most days. However , my husband did have a coffee each morning and loved the coffee machine in the room. One of the days, he even tried the croissants and said that they were excellent.

Michael was extremely helpful, when we met him (we started most days before 8am and returned after 10pm) and we weren't disappointed with any of his recommendations. They were all excellent. The restaurant he recommended near Santa Scala was brilliant. We were in 2 minds about visiting some locations and he gave us a very clear description about what to expect, which helped clear our thoughts.

However, the restaurant that the night manager recommended in the vicinity turned out to be a disappointment. I'd go with Michael's recommendations blindly, but not the managers.

While we did have help carrying our luggage up to the second floor on the day we arrived, there wasn't anyone to help us carry our luggage down on the day we left. So do keep that in mind when packing/booking.

They charge extra 10Euro/day for air conditioning, which we thought was worth it, given that there are no ceiling or pedestal fans in any of the hotel rooms in Italy.

Rooms are cleaned daily and I think we were given fresh towels daily too. We had booked a double room, but were given a room with a third bed which was helpful for opening our luggage, I'm not sure how much space for luggage there is in the other rooms though.

We will definitely stay here when we return to Rome.

Room Tip: “We chose the room overlooking the Area Sacra and used the Air Conditioning. Street Noise was not a problem for us at all. (but we are reasonably heavy sleepers)”

Rating : 5 / 5

Value : 5 / 5
Location : 5 / 5
Sleep Quality : 5 / 5
Rooms : 5 / 5
Cleanliness : 5 / 5
Service : 4 / 5

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Milan Marriott Hotel - Milan - Italy

Milan Marriott Hotel
Via Washington, 66,
20146 Milan,

The husband had a 4 day meeting in Milan and we planned a 15 day trip out of it. We stayed at 3 smaller B&B's in Rome, Florence and Venice which were excellent, but the Marriott in Milan was a complete and utter disaster.

Husband is a Marriott Glod Rewards Member. We had requested a doublebed room 3 months in advance when this meet was scheduled. When we arrived at 11pm, we were given a twin room and told that there were no queens available, but they would shift us in the morning. (In the morning, I took a look at the Queen sized bed room, but that was much smaller than the twin room, so I elected to stay put in the room we were originally given, even though we were there for 5 days.)

While most people attending this conference were booked for 5 nights. My husband and a few others had booked for 5 nights. The Hotel claimed that they had not been intimated of the extension.

The next thing they told us was that something was wrong with their credit card system, so instead of blocking the amount, before the stay, they would charge us before the stay.

Next we were told that the wifi was under maintainance and would not be working. It took over 14 hours for the wifi to be up and running, which was when we were told that we would be charged 12 euros per day per device for accessing wifi in our room. Every other place we stayed in, in Italy gave us free wifi in our rooms with excellent speed.

They said that they provided free wifi in the lobby, but after a long day of work (husband) sightseeing (me), who wants to go down to the lobby to surf basic news, mail and fb? We just want to lounge in bed for an hour or so in our pyjamas, read up on whats happenning in the world before we crash in bed. Given how well dressed people in Milan are (a lot of them visiting the bar opposite the lobby) it felt embarassing to come down in slippers, but in a day or 2, we just couldn't care anymore. I neeeded to access the internet to plan my next days trip and mail family back home.

After checking into the room, we realised that there was no tea / coffee maker in the room, which was a pain because Milan was really cold and all I really wanted was to constantly sip on some warm water in the room, so I wouldn't catch a throat infection.

Breakfast was the only bright spot at this hotel. A wide range of good tasting food.

One night we ordered soup (you have to order before 11, if you want any hot foods, otherwise your options are cold sandwiches or soup) because husband wanted some hot liquid down his throat. The soup was more solid than liquid. It was tasty, but chock full of vegetables, potatoes and pasta. It was barely 10% liquid and 90% solid. Not what he wanted at all.

The staff is sweet, but something seems seriously wrong with this Marriott. We have stayed at other Marriotts across the world and the only Marriott that could compete with this one for last place is possibly the one in Luxor.

If you are forced to stay here and don't want to pay 4Euros + service tax for water, walk across to the supermarket opposite and pick up half liter bottles for 25p

Also the hotel is quite far away from the Duomo and the City center, so it isn't ideally located for sightseeing either.

We would not recommend this hotel to anybody.

Room Tip: Avoid the hotel itself as far as possible

Rating : 2 / 5

Value : 1 / 5
Location : 2 / 5
Sleep Quality : 3 / 5
Rooms : 2 / 5
Cleanliness : 4 / 5
Service : 4 / 5

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

WelcomHeritage Maharani Bagh Orchard Retreat - Ranakpur

WelcomHeritage Maharani Bagh Orchard Retreat
Sadri, District Pali
Near Ranakpur Temples,
Ranakpur 306 702

“Wonderful Property, Service, Staff, Food”

We had such a lovely experience when we halted at Maharani Bagh for lunch while visiting Ranakpur.

Right from the person greeting us at the parking lot and escorting us to the dining area across the beautiful wooded gardens, to the staff serving us lunch. It was an experience to remember, even though lunch was all that we had stopped for.

The buffet was excellent jazzed up home style food. We really loved the chicken curry and the laal maas.

Every person of the staff that we interacted with, was a pleasure to talk to. If we, ever have to stay overnight at Ranakpur, we will choose the Maharani Bagh for sure.

Rating : 5 / 5

Monday, August 19, 2013

Club Mahindra Fort Kumbhalgarh, Rajasthan

Club Mahindra Fort Kumbhalgarh
Maharana Pratap Marg,
Kumbhalgarh 313325

We stopped here at Club Mahindra Fort to have a Coffee and refresh ourselves before the long drive back to Ghanerao. We were the first guests to order evening coffees and it took us 2 hours from time of order to bill settling. All this time - for 2 coffees, 2 lime sodas, 1 french fries and 1 chicken sandwich!

Resident guests who ordered after us, had even longer waits.

This is our second visit to a Club Mahindra Property after Gir, so we know that we will never consider visiting or staying at one of their hotels. Most Club Mahindra Properties are a little too crowded and noisy for our liking, but I can see the appeal of the place for people with young kids.

Rating : 2.5 / 5

Value : 3 / 5
Location : 2.5 / 5
Cleanliness : 2 / 5
Service : 1.5 / 5

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Ghanerao Jungle Lodge,

Ghanerao Jungle Lodge
Near Muchala Mahavir Temple
PO Ghanerao,
Ghanerao 306704,

“Excellent Property, but our trip was at an unfortunate time.”

We had booked the Ghanerao Jungle Lodge for the long weekend Aug 15-18 and were quite excited to be staying there. Unfortunately, a week before our departure, there was a demise in the family and so things for the hosts were thrown out of gear.

It is commendable for them, that they did not cancel our booking. They ran the lodge with skeleton staff who ensured that we lacked for nothing.

Having read all the glowing reviews on trip advisor, we would have loved to have had the chance to spend more time with our hosts, but sadly that was not to be.

With the incessant rains of the last few months, the road from Mt Abu to Ghanerao was in bad shape in huge patches. You definitely need an SUV, if you plan to drive here during the monsoons. We reached only at around 10pm, but the staff from the lodge kept calling us to ensure that we were on the right track and all was ok. they had a nice hot meal waiting for us when we arrived, which was perfect for our exhaustion levels and we just tumbled into bed.

The next morning, we had a wonderful time wandering around the property. The Muchachala Mahavir temple is right next door. We could not visit the crocodile dam as the rains had caused some streams to appear in the path and we weren't feeling adventurous enough to hop across the streams. However, they did take us for a nice walk around the property and pointed out some indigenous herbs in the area.

We did day trips to Ranakpur and Kumbhalgarh from here and the location was quite convenient for both. But the roads are currently, really bad in patches, which makes driving really difficult and the ghat section to Kumbalgarh is not for the weak stomached.

The property too is bearing the brunt of the monsoons, expanding doors (due to moisture) that won't close properly, rain water seepage etc. As long as you aren't allergic, its still a good experience.

However, I do think that summer would be a much better time to visit, so you can explore the national reserve and observe animals that come down to the stream near the lodge for water.

The peace and quiet at night with just the insects chirping is something I haven't experienced for an extremely long time. The Ghanerao Jungle Lodge is a lovely place to just sit and relax and enjoy nature. Maybe next time, we will visit in summer and just stay put and not go rushing around to catch the nearby sights.

Rating : 4 / 5

Value : 5 / 5
Location : 4 / 5
Sleep Quality : 4 / 5
Rooms : 4 / 5
Cleanliness : 4 / 5
Service : 4 / 5

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Aodhi Hotel, Kumbalgarh, Rajasthan

Aodhi Hotel
Dist. Rajsamand,
Kumbhalgarh 313325

“Beautiful Property. Average Service. Terrible Buffet Lunch”

After reading the reviews on trip advisor, we visited Aodhi for lunch on the day that we visited Kumbhalgarh from Ghanerao (where we stayed on this trip).

Their website clearly mentions that they have 3 restaurants. But when we visited they said that they did not have any other restaurants except the one that was serving buffet. We asked if we could order a la carte, but they said that would not be possible.

Given that it was late, we decided to go ahead and have lunch here anywhere. The food taste was less than average, hardly any spice in any of the food. Everything tasted bland (tasteless bland, not just non-spicy bland) They just had one non veg item chicken kheema on the menu and that too was tasteless. They charge almost 1000Rs per person for this buffet and it was unpalatable, except for the hot rotis. My husband finally asked if we could add on another dish to our order, which they finally agreed to and got us some chicken curry which at least had some taste.

Dessert was fruit salad of just apples and papayas in a thin custard. Fortunately they agreed to give us ice cream instead.

We had much better food on this trip at Maharani Bagh & Fateh Bagh in Ranakpur, Ghanerao Jungle Lodge, Devigarh Fort and all at much better prices.

Its a beautiful property, but we will never go back. The whole experience left an unpleasant feeling at the end of it, except for 1-2 wait staff who later tried to get us something palatable to eat.

The feeling we got during lunch was that they are only interested in catering to the foreign tourists and don't want any Indians around.

Rating : 3 / 5

Value : 0 / 5
Location : 5 / 5
Cleanliness : 4 / 5
Service : 2.5 / 5