Spa Review: The Spa @ Sheraton Porto Hotel, Portugal

Stepping off the elevator, we’re greeted by the minimalistic lobby of The Spa (aptly named). In case we’ve forgotten which floor you’re on, the words are engraved onto a bronze plaque on the floor.

The Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spaA friendly face at the reception desk takes our room number and then shows us the dressing rooms (separate male and female).

The spa at the Sheraton Porto Hotel is a sprawling level, consisting of various water and heat therapies. The dressing room was elegantly appointed with wonderfully lit vanities and digital lockers. I slipped into a soft, creamy toweling robe and donned the rather strange looking rubber slippers. The main room, also the largest relaxation area, contains a wonderful heated vitality pool, big enough to still feel spacious when at capacity. In front of the ample pool are arranged several ergonomic loungers covered in bright orange towels.

The Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spa

We choose two loungers at the far end and settle into them, adjusting the backrest to our perfect specifications via the handy remote.

The Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spaBut it isn’t long before the lure of the tranquil swimming pool calls out. Slipping into the warm waters is heaven. The pool is virtually deserted, and perfect for lap swimming, if you’re so inclined.

The Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spa

I much rather preferred to try the hot tub. The hot tub was very popular, and several people lazed inside; some applying the traditional jet therapy to their backs and necks, whilst others preferred the more efficient hydromassage from the gushing showerheads at the center of the jacuzzi.

As the crowds in the jacuzzi swelled, we decided to try some of the heat therapies. We made our way to the herbal sauna. The room was dimmed to perfection and eerily quiet. The only sounds appeared, like clockwork, when the wooden bucket tilted to release a burst of water onto the hot stones below creating a hiss of herbal steam.

The Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spa

There is also the option to enjoy a more traditional steam room, but much preferring dry saunas to steam rooms; we quickly showered and opted to try the salt inhalation laconium next. This was by far my favorite heat experience at The Spa.

Much cooler than the other saunas, the room gave off an oriental feel, and the dim lighting and red mosaic tiled couches welcomed us. Breathing deeply into the salty air, I felt myself totally relax. When too hot, we hosed off with cool water and continued in our meditative state. After 20 minutes in the laconium, I felt completely rejuvenated, and the niggling muscle aches I’d been carrying around that week evaporated.

The Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spaThe Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spa

Apart from these wonderful water and heat experience The Spa at the Sheraton Porto Hotel also features a fully functional gym with state of the art workout machines. Our time at the hotel did not permit us to try the gym, but I would have loved to have tried one of their Fitness by Core Performance classes.

There is also a yoga room, and a small but beautiful Zen Garden – complete with soft wicker couches and a trickling waterfall to totally relax your mind and soul.

The Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spaThe Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spaThe spa treatments at the Sheraton Porto Hotel are reasonably and wonderfully priced, so we booked massages for the next day. Being a huge fan of the ESPA range we opted to try their ESPA body treatment – an hour long aromatherapy massage.

We arrived at the spa the next afternoon after a very long day of sightseeing around Porto, and we were really looking forward to a relaxing afternoon at The Spa. My legs were sore from walking endlessly around the city, and I felt in desperate need of a good massage. My therapist was simply fantastic. Welcoming and extremely friendly, she led me to the treatment room where I prepared for my massage.

The next hour went by in a blur, but to be honest, as a person who has had her fair share of massages in her lifetime – I can truthfully say this was by far the best massage I had ever experienced. From the perfect pressure to the quick responsiveness of my therapist, I felt complete and utter bliss for a full hour as she worked on my tired muscles. Afterwards I felt like a new person, deeply relaxed and completely peaceful as I sipped on green cinnamon tea. We were shown to the relaxation room were we spent a good half hour, eyes closed, reveling in the wonder of The Spa.

The Spa Sheraton Porto Hotel and spa

Modern Luxury in the Heart of Porto

Hotel Review : Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa, Porto – Portugal

The Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa is a 5-star oasis of tranquility in Porto, a short metro/taxi ride from the city’s attractions. The modern steel and glass structure sits in the heart of Porto’s business district, and from the moment you set foot onto the red carpet, you know you’re on to something special.

SONY DSC Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

We arrived earlier than anticipated, and of course, check in was not for hours yet, but the very accommodating reception staff ensured that our luggage was whisked away, we were given temporary room cards and shown to the club lounge on the 12th floor. Here we enjoyed a drink and caught up on emails thanks to the high-speed, complimentary wi-fi.

Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

The club lounge is an access-limited feature of the Sheraton hotels, giving club member (or guests staying at the club floors) some additional perks such as complimentary internet access, and the privilege of using the club lounge.  In the lounge, you find a little relaxation space, with comfy couches, a computer with printing facilities, and a large screen TV. There are complimentary snacks throughout the day, and we enjoyed an aperitif each evening before dinner of Porto’s signature drink; Port wine.  The club rooms are also typically positioned on higher floors, ensuring sweeping views over the city.

Sheraton Porto Hotel and SpaSheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

Club members can also choose to have breakfast in the lounge, although I wouldn’t recommend it if your stay already includes breakfast, as the Porto Novo restaurant, in my opinion is a far superior option. But more on that later.

After spending about an hour and a half in the lounge, I went back to the reception to enquire about the availability of our room. I must add at this point, the elevators in this hotel are truly amazing. So speedy, and so silent, I often got the buoyant feeling of being on a Disneyworld ride each time I went up to the room. By this time, our room was ready, and we headed up to the 10th floor, to find our luggage had already been placed inside. The room was large, airy and bright. Faultlessly clean with white linens, and plenty of soft towels. I found delicious smelling toiletries, the same ones we’ve had at previous stays at Sheraton. However, there was no little bottle of mouthwash this time – I am not sure if they have decided not to leave these in the rooms anymore?

Sheraton Porto Hotel and SpaSheraton Porto Hotel and SpaSheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

There was plenty of closet space, and we quickly unpacked the essentials, getting the suitcases out of the way. It had been a long week, and seeing as the weather was grey and dull, we headed to The Spa to enjoy the heated pools and saunas.  (I’ll be writing a post on our amazing spa experiences soon).

We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the comfy day beds in the spa, before heading into the historic city centre (UNESCO World Heritage site) for dinner.

The Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa is not a small hotel – with 12 floors and over 260 rooms, but the level of service we experienced at the hotel was second to none.  I loved the décor, from the use of modern glass and steel that merges effortlessly with the more traditional wood and marble.

Our room was quite large and the king size bed was super comfy. We found enough plug sockets for 2 iPads, both our phones, and a camera, all conveniently located – without having to move a couch or unplug a lamp.

Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

The bathroom was big and wonderfully lit – not the type of hotel where you needed to squint around in a dimly lit space to apply your makeup. His and hers sinks was convenient, and the ample-sized bathtub was a draw card which faced the room via a glass wall. But if you’re not travelling as a couple, fear not, there are blinds that can section off the bathroom to ensure privacy. There is also a separate shower and a separate toilet –which I appreciate.

Sheraton Porto Hotel and SpaSheraton Porto Hotel and SpaSheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

The next morning we enjoyed a spectacular breakfast at the Porto Novo restaurant on the lobby level. I loved the breakfast at this restaurant because the food choices were so vast (both hot and cold options) with everything from fresh fruit to made-to-order eggs and omelets. I enjoyed pancakes one morning topped with fresh berries and drizzled in maple syrup. A mimosa added to the relaxing feeling of being on holiday.

Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

The reception staff were ever-willing to hand out maps and point us in the right direction for all the city’s major sights. And after a long day of sightseeing, battling the famous Porto winds a little bit, we welcomed the opportunity to return to our luxurious room ach afternoon, slip into our swimsuits and decompress in the Jacuzzi.

The New Yorker bar located in the lobby is the ideal spot to enjoy a cocktail or three, as the soothing sounds of the grand piano envelopes the room. Plush carpeting, richly textured couches and expertly mixed drinks all add to the feeling of glamour.

SONY DSC SONY DSC Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

All in all, I found the Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa to be the perfect hotel in Porto, whether you’re travelling for business or leisure. The location may not suit everyone, particularly those wishing to stay in the historical centre itself, but I found the location perfect for sightseeing, and enough removed from the city hub to give a sense of calm.

SONY DSC Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

The level of service is what one would come to expect from a 5 star establishment: courteous and highly efficient.

The design of the hotel itself is impressive, and the imposing all glass façade is a feast on the eyes.

Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa

I would not certainly hesitate, for a second, to stay the Sheraton Porto Hotel and Spa when in Porto again.

SONY DSCRates from 90€ for a deluxe room, to 2000€ for the presidential suite. Club rooms rates begin at 156€. 1 Night spa packages from 190€ pp sharing. For more information and specials, please go to the hotel’s official website.

Disclaimer: We received a complimentary upgrade to club level at the Sheraton Porto Hotel and spa. All opinions expressed in this review however, remain completely my own.

Free First Class? 6 Tips for bagging a Flight Upgrade

In the roaring 90’s when business travelers were regarded in awe, flight upgrades were routinely dished out by airlines to ensure passenger loyalty.

These days, a free flight upgrade comes around about as often as a royal baby. So why then are there numerous ‘experts’ in the industry touting the simple rules of “Be polite and ask” and “Dress smartly” as the answer to a golden ticket?

It goes without reason that being polite is a requirement if ever you were to receive an upgrade. No desk agent would upgrade an abusive, complaining customer. In fact, she would probably try to ensure your flight was as miserable as possible by sticking the largest person, or the crying baby, in the seat right next to you. Being rude is a no-brainer way to guarantee you’d never get a free upgrade, but being polite won’t get you in the 180° reclinable seats upfront.

Dress smart – Again, the shabby gent in the Hawaiian shirt and flip flops probably won’t be dining on free caviar mid-flight, but donning your smartest suit with silver cufflinks won’t open the champagne fountain either -thousands of smartly dressed people fly economy every day.

how to get a free flight upgrade

Source: Quantas.com

Even the once magical phrase “We’re on our honeymoon” doesn’t even warrant the bat of an eyelash from a desk agent these days.

That being said, unless you’re actually flying the plane, if you hope to be turning left when you board, try these ‘expert’ tips:

1.  Join the airline’s loyalty program – and work your way up

You’ve read it a thousand times: loyalty pays. Whilst being an elite member of an airline’s loyalty scheme may never bring you an upgrade, if one were ever available, the list of elite members on that flight would –without fail – be the pool from which the lucky person would be chosen.

As if to make a point: of the hundreds of flights I’ve taken, I was upgraded, for free, only two times, during which I enjoyed privileged status on the airlines loyalty program.

how to get a free flight upgrade

First Class Dining: Source Emirates.com

2. Agree/ Offer to be bumped

With ever-increasing fuel prices, airlines are more pressed than ever to ensure that their flights are as booked as possible. Poorly-sold routes are routinely being cut, and overselling is at a record high. I once heard an announcement, minutes before boarding a flight from Charles de Gaulle to Heathrow, enquiring for passengers who were willing to be bumped onto the next flight (1h40 later) who would be compensated 300€! For some, that was more than the price of their ticket! No doubt, the desk was swarming with volunteers! Agreeing to be bumped allows you the rare occasion to ask for a free upgrade, better yet, let the desk agent know you’d be willing to be bumped even before they make the announcement.

how to get a free flight upgrade

Suites onboard A380: Source Emirates.com

3. Fly popular routes at busy times

Airlines are nowadays under strict rules not to issue upgrades unless absolutely warranted. Seeing that popular business or holiday routes at peak times are on high demand and likely to be oversold, airlines may give the green light to issue upgrades (usually from their list of frequent fliers, see point 1) or this situation may allow the opportunity for you to agree/offer to be bumped (point 2).

how to get a free flight upgrade

First Class Cuisine: Source Singapore Airlines

4. Pay more

This tip may sound counterintuitive to nabbing a free upgrade, but it makes sense that the most heavily discounted economy fare will probably never be upgraded to a first class ticket. The full fare tickets would most likely benefit from an upgrade if it were available.

how to get a free flight upgrade

The privacy of your own Suite: source Singapore Airlines

5. Seat trouble

The is a good chance of being moved from cattle class to the coveted seats upfront if there is an issue with your seat that would make the flight uncomfortable or unsafe. Of course you could just be moved to an alternate economy class seat, but if none are available, then you’ll probably be upgraded. Some examples would be a non functional TV screen on a long haul flight, or a broken seatbelt. That being said, please don’t try to damage your seat deliberately…that could land you in hot water.

how to get a free flight upgrade

Champagne on Tap: Source Capitolife Magazine

6. Go it solo

Even if you followed all the tips above, it would exceptionally hard for a desk agent, or a crew member to offer an upgrade if you travelled with a group, family, or even a partner. Justifying an upgrade is difficult enough, justifying it for more than one person can be more so. Solo travelers are more likely to receive free upgrades, especially if meeting one or more of the criteria above.

how to get a free flight upgrade

Showers on Board for Emirates First Class Fliers: Source Emirates.com

That being said, using miles to upgrade tickets, or purchasing discounted business/first class seats at the check in desk, although not free, may be the more realistic option to ensure you’re sipping champagne before you even take off.

Capture the Colour Competition

With only a few days left to enter, I’ve been nominated by Tiffany Wüest of ‘World Meets Girl’ for the Capture the Colour Competition.

To be honest I had never even heard of this competition before, but after checking it out I decided to enter, for the following reasons:
Firstly, there are some serious prizes to be won from iPads to a cool £3000 travel fund. But more than that, the competition itself sounds pretty awesome, and I can’t wait to see the entries in each category.

Here’s how it works:

Capture the Colour Competition

So I went in search of images representing Red, Green, Blue, Yellow and White from the hundreds of travel photos I’ve accumulated over the years.

But I decided to take my own little spin on the competition by paying homage to my home country: South Africa. Extremely apt, seeing as South Africa is known as the Rainbow Nation…every colour welcome!

So here goes:

Red is… A fiery sky showing off at sunset, Durban

Red Capture The Colour

Sunset, Durban

Caught completely unaware by the setting sun, I managed to snap this photo just as the last of the light was disappearing under the horizon.

Blue is… A lone stingray in Ushaka Marine World, Durban

Blue Capture the Colour

Lone Stingray, Ushaka, Durban

This picture always makes me feel as if he was looking right at me, if only for a second.

Green is… the grass on which lay the baby zebra, Kruger National Park

Green Capture The Colour

Mother and baby zebra, Kruger National Park

I had never seen a baby zebra before; some of his stripes were still brown! Too tired to stand anymore, he playfully fell at the feet of his mother, and rolled over for attention.

Yellow is the fancy headdress of the African Crane Bird, Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park

Yellow Capture the Colour

African Crane Bird, Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park

Like a golden crown – the African Crane bird is regally clad. National bird of Uganda, but sometimes spotted by lucky safari-goers in South Africa.

White is… powder-soft sand at Clifton Beach, Cape Town

White Capture The Colour

Clifton Beach, Cape Town

There isn’t a shortage of natural beauty in Cape Town. From Table Mountain, to Cape Point – the city is alive with picturesque landscapes at seemingly every turn. This photo was taken on my honeymoon in the Mother City.

Feel free to let me know what you think of my entries!

And in turn, I nominate the following 5 bloggers:

1. Sarah Shumate: @Wanderblogger

2.Jenna Longoria: @Nomad_Notions

3. Shannon Reilly: @wanderReilly

4. Mike Hopkins: @TTMyEyes

5. Houssam Eddine: @tourismhoteltip

Berlin: A Photo-Essay

As I have taken hundreds of photos on my last trip to Berlin, I thought it would be fitting to end my series of posts about the city with a photo-essay.

I adore Berlin. The people are friendly and smiley. The transport systems (both public and private taxis) are cheap and easy to navigate, there is a diverse assortment of food, and there are of course, some stunning hotels to lay your head at night.

But what I love most, is unearthing a little bit more of Germany’s, and in particular – Berlin’s history each time I go there. I am completely fascinated by the stories of the wars, the human accounts, the Wall, the legends. Germany’s history reveals itself throughout Berlin, with educational trips to museums and exhibitions dotted around the city.

But history aside, the German capital is a trendy, fashion-conscious city, which makes it an ideal destination for a glam weekend city-break.

So without further delay, here are my favorite images from my trip to Berlin:

berlin photo essay

Brandenburg Gate

Berliner Dom

Berliner Dom

Berlin Grafitti

Poignant Graffiti

Berlin photo essay

Old and New

Berlin photo essay

Currywurst

Altes Museum in the Lustgarten

Altes Museum in the Lustgarten

Berlin photo essay

Temporary exhibition

Berlin photo essay

DDR Museum

Berlin photo essay

Checkpoint Charlie

Berlin photo essay

Propaganda

Berlin photo essay

Berlin Concert House

Berlin photo essay

East Side Gallery – Berlin Wall

Berlin photo essay

More currywurst – it’s serious business!

Berlin photo essay

Mother with her Dead Son – War Memorial

Berlin photo essay

Holocaust Memorial

Old World Charm

Afternoon Tea at Hotel Adlon Kempinski, Berlin – Germany

What do Albert Einstein, Charlie Chaplin and Michael Jackson all have in common? Well, they were all guests of the Hotel Adlon in Berlin. Not at the same time, of course – although that would have sure been something!

The Hotel Adlon is one of the most famous hotels in Germany, if not Europe itself. The hotel survived both the first and second World Wars, only to be gutted by a fire mere days after WW2 had ended. But like a phoenix rising from ashes of the old, the Adlon was rebuilt shortly after the reunification of Germany, and now operates as part of the luxury Kempinksi Hotel chain.

Hotel Adlon Berlin

The Adlon’s history is vast, rich and somewhat chequered; yet in modern-day culture, it is primarily known as the hotel from which Michael Jackson notoriously dangled his then-infant son Blanket from the hotel’s balcony, in a somewhat misguided attempt to debut the baby to the hordes of screaming fans outside.

If you read my blog regularly, you’ll know that I do love a good Afternoon High Tea (proof here, and here). There is just something about the elegant British tradition that I absolutely adore.

So, on a warm summer’s day in Berlin, I made my way over to Pariser Platz to enjoy afternoon high tea at this iconic institution.

Brandenberg gate Berlin

When I arrived at Berlin’s most famous square, the Brandenburg Gate took center stage, poised about a 100m from the hotel itself. Greeted courteously by the smartly dressed porters outside, I made my way along the same path that I presume Brad and Angelina strolled when they stayed at the Adlon, and into the hotel’s stunning lobby.

Afternoon tea is served in both the Lobby Lounge bar, and the Bel Etage (first floor lounge). Sophisticated clientele were seated around the Lobby Lounge, amidst thick conversations in German, Italian and French (from what I could decipher).  There were young clusters of women enjoying the tradition of afternoon tea, businessmen in suits and colorful ties, and groups of families having a late lunch.

afternoon tea adlon hotel berlin

I settled into a plush velvet chair and immediately succumbed to a friendly waiter proffering a chilled glass of Moët and Chandon – how could I resist?

afternoon tea adlon hotel berlinafternoon tea adlon hotel berlin

Having skipped lunch to fully appreciate the tea experience, I got to work on my three-tiered cake stand filled with delicious treats, as I took in the ambience of the hotel.

afternoon tea adlon hotel berlin

The style and décor can only be described as old-world charm. From heavy fabrics to imposing chandeliers, the impression of old-fashioned luxury in the lobby expands like the film set for the Great Gatsby. Again my mind drifted back to the Adlon’s illustrious guest book – Nelson Mandela, Franklin Roosevelt, Greta Garbo, and the Queen herself, have all enjoyed the hotel’s impeccable hospitality.

afternoon tea adlon hotel berlin

Feeling rather special amidst the history and grandeur, I delved into the savory portion of my cake stand…several finger sandwiches displayed ever so elegantly . The quail egg and cucumber sandwich went down effortlessly well with the glass of champagne.

afternoon tea adlon hotel berlin

afternoon tea adlon hotel berlinThen, as I smothered my scones in clotted cream and strawberry jam, I was somewhat disappointed in the rock-hard texture of the scones. Perhaps left a little too long in the oven, the scones were slightly harder than I prefer.

afternoon tea adlon hotel berlinHaving chosen a delightful summer tea bouquet (named Granny’s Garden – a fruity rhubarb concoction with a hint of bourbon-vanilla), I sipped the delicious tea, poured from a real silver teapot. The hotel thinks of everything, even going as far as supplying a soft, monogrammed teapot holder to avoid guests burning their hands on the teapot, as silver can get smoldering-hot.

afternoon tea adlon hotel berlin

By the time I arrived at the third and final layer of my tea stand, I was actually quite content to sit back, cup in hand and listen to the soothing sounds coming from the grand piano on the Bel Etage.

afternoon tea adlon hotel berlin

If I closed my eyes, right at that moment, with the backdrop of hushed conversations and the tinkling of fine china floating around, it would have been easy to forget the present day and time, and simply slip into a bygone era where flapper dresses, wingtip shoes and fedoras were all the rage.

But a white chocolate truffle with my name on it kept calling out, and soon the delicious burst of café-crème filled my tastebuds as the truffle was washed down with the last of the champagne.

afternoon tea adlon hotel berlinThe sound of the central fountain in the courtyard of the Lobby Lounge was ever-present, adding a serene and calming ambience to the experience. And with one final peek at the luminescent stained-glass dome high above, I shook off the ghost of Daisy Buchanan and I said goodbye to the Adlon Hotel.

afternoon tea adlon hotel berlinafternoon tea adlon hotel berlinafternoon tea adlon hotel berlin

Tapping in to Lux 11

Hotel Review : Lux 11 Design Hotel, Berlin – Germany

Imagine the scene, under communist rule, the phone lines of normal East Berlin citizens are tapped, and conversations recorded. The KGB officers in charge listen attentively, trained to discern any signs of ‘unorthodox political and religious ideas’; basically, any signs of free-thinking.

As I relax, cocooned in a luxurious room in one of Berlin’s hottest new boutique hotels, with its candy-cane bedthrow, and amply stocked minibar catering to my every whim, I find it hard to believe the Lux 11 Hotel was once the headquarters for such operations.

Lux 11 Hotel BerlinLocated a mere 5 minutes from Alexanderplatz in the vibrant Mitte neighborhood, the hotel is perfectly poised for a night on the town; be it club hopping or bar crawling. If that’s not your thing, then the location is also ideal for visiting the city’s museums and galleries, and there is no shortage of restaurant choices; whether you’re craving Berlin’s famous currywurst, authentic Italian pizzas or spicy Mexican burritos.

Lux 11 is a boutique hotel, housed in a sprawling whitewashed building. The alabaster backdrop is a designer’s dream, and as such, the minimalistic design elements of the hotel come to life. The furniture, in muted earthy tones allow for the deep contract of hot pink splashes that seem to jump out at you, aiming to surprise.

Lux 11 Hotel Berlin

I check in to an executive suite on the 3rd floor. The room is huge – by any standard. Large windows run along one wall, letting in masses of daylight. There is a living area, with beautiful monochrome couches and a contemporary low-lying coffee table.

Lux 11 Hotel BerlinI find a long table on one end, which can be used for dining or working depending on your need. Sectioned off from the living area is the huge king sized bed in clean white linen, and the stylish bathroom with rain shower. The enormous walk in closet is any woman’s dream come true.

Lux 11 Hotel Berlin

Lux 11 Hotel BerlinLux 11 Hotel Berlin

It’s cozy, relaxed; with an ‘at-home’ feel that can be sorely missed after spending too many days on the road. There is a fully functional kitchenette stocked with crockery and cutlery for 6 place settings and the bar fridge is well-appointed.

Lux 11 Hotel Berlin

I find a toaster and a coffeemaker, which I use frequently. I think I love the aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafting through the room almost as much as the coffee itself. In the cupboard I find several long-stemmed wine glasses, and they seem to be issuing a siren call to the bottle of red sitting on the counter. To my amazement I find there is even a dishwasher!

Lux 11 Hotel BerlinI love the luxurious full-size bath amenities and like its sister hotel, The Weinmeister, I find  a range of essential toiletries in a gift box by the vanity –including minty dental floss.

Lux 11 Hotel BerlinLux 11 Hotel Berlin

Lux 11 is exploring the concept of the ‘apart-hotel’, which provides all the comforts and luxury of a traditional hotel but with a coziness that allows guests to make the room their own – even if only for a short while.

Lux 11 Hotel Berlin

From the candy gifts to the iPod docking station, it seems no detail is too small at Lux 11.

Lux 11 Hotel BerlinWith its prime location and the contemporary minimalistic design, Lux 11 is the embodiment of Berlin itself: classic yet ever trendy; stately, but with a hint of a wild side.

Lux 11 Hotel BerlinLux 11 Hotel Berlin

For the latest pricing and special offers visit the Lux 11 website.

Rates from 119€ to 299€ per night (depending on various factors such as room category, season, events in Berlin and the number of people), excluding continental breakfast.

Disclaimer: I was a guest at the Lux 11 Design Hotel, staying in an Executive Suite. All opinions expressed in this review however, remain completely my own.

 

Punk Rock Design

Hotel Review : Weinmeister Hotel, Berlin – Germany

‘Hip’ and ‘happening’ are two words that can be used to describe Germany’s capital city. From the street food vibe to café culture, Berliners seem to be in-the-know on the latest trends, remaining ever so edgy, yet ever in style.

In keeping, the Weinmeister Hotel located in one of Berlin’s coolest and most dynamic neighborhoods, Mitte, is a shining example of what transpires when design-luxury combines with all things ‘in vogue’. Referred to as the ‘Golden Cage’- in reference to the golden façade the six floor building exudes when lit up at night, it’s certainly a ‘cage’ you wouldn’t mind being stuck in.

Arriving at the hotel one shouldn’t be fooled by the seemingly haphazard graffiti scrawled across the front entrance. Graffiti is, after all, synonymous with Berlin, and the scribbling gives an opening taste of the provocative and daring design the Weinmeister hotel has perfected. Drawing a crowd of artistic clientele from the film, art and music industry, the hotel is known to be frequented by celebrities.

Weinmesiter Hotel Berlin

Exterior of Hotel

Paying homage to ‘monochrome’ with soft, earthy undertones the hotel oozes a luxurious modernity. None more so, than in the Lobby Lounge; defined by oversized chairs in plush fabrics that invite you to sink in with a coffee and a book. The space doubles as the hotel’s restaurant serving continental breakfasts and a selection of light dishes throughout the day.

Lobby Lounge Weinmesiter Hotel Berlin

Lobby Lounge Weinmesiter Hotel Berlin

The Schwarz Bar is the draw card for the trendy population that breezes through the door of the Weinmeister Hotel on a seemingly endless loop. The bar is believed to be named after the German actress Jessica Schwarz, whose family brews a popular liqueur especially for the hotel.

I check into room 501 – the Hurts Chamber; a rather special room at the Weinmeister Hotel. The room was designed by members of the British electro-pop duo, the Hurts, who have won a string of recognized music awards and have recently released their 2nd studio album. Alongside the generous bath in dark bold lettering: “I don’t mind the lullabies from the machines”; a quote from their song “Evelyn”.

Hurts Chamber Weinmesiter Hotel BerlinGiant black and white images of band’s members Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson adorn the space, and their original gold record for the song ‘Wonderful Life’ hangs on the far wall – a gift to the hotel.

Hurts Chamber Weinmesiter Hotel Berlin

The influence of these two artists can be felt throughout the room: from the framed signed poster, to the concert backstage pass; from the books in the drawer to the music uploaded on the iMac computer.

Hurts Chamber Weinmesiter Hotel BerlinHurts Chamber Weinmesiter Hotel BerlinDid I mention there is an iMac computer?! Traditional television sets being obviously too lackluster for the Weinmeister hotel, all rooms are fully equipped with a large screen version of cutting-edge Apple technology. Internet access is quick and more importantly, free; whether you prefer using the computer or connecting to the Wifi on your own device.

Weinmesiter Hotel Berlin iMac

The room is huge. There is a couch lining one wall, a walk in shower, a work desk, and the aforementioned bathtub. There is no closet but rather, exposed clothes-hangers suspended above a storage chest that doubles as a bench. It’s certainly unorthodox, but that’s just the style of the Weinmeister.

Hurts Chamber Weinmesiter Hotel BerlinThe room has a dynamic flow to it: the large floor-to-ceiling windows letting in an abundance of light. But it’s the bed – in its ‘pod’ design – that dominates the room. Oversized, and slightly imposing, it’s perfectly made up with crisp white linens. There is sufficient space between the pillows to fit another single bed – such is the enormity!

Hurts Chamber Weinmesiter Hotel BerlinThe vanity is stocked with outrageously decadent toiletries – full-sized bottles no less, so you’re not fumbling about with tiny lotions and shampoos like in typical hotels. There’s a collection for men with spicy masculine notes, and a female collection with softer, floral undertones created in collaboration with two leading perfumers. In keeping with the ethos of the hotel, the range is cheekily called “Love it or Leave it”.

Love it or leave it Weinmesiter Hotel BerlinLove it or leave it Weinmesiter Hotel Berlin

 

It seems the management has thought of everything, from the black cotton pyjamas that lay on the bed (in my right size!), right down to the dental floss and hairband I find discreetly presented in the amenities box tied with a black satin ribbon. Even the slippers and bathrobe are nontraditional! My feet are cushioned in fluffy flip-flops with hot pink soles, while the bathrobe is plush and soft.

Weinmeister Hotel berlinI run a bath and enjoy a decadent soak. I contemplate booking a session at the hotel’s spa on the 6th floor, but I make my way back down to the lobby for a little sightseeing instead. A little tip: when at all possible, take the stairs. The walls and corridors of the stairwell come alive as an urban art gallery. Berlin based artists have gotten together to create the colorful cartoons and perplexing drawings that jump out at you, making you glad you skipped the elevator.

Weinmeister Hotel berlin paint clubWeinmeister Hotel berlin paint clubWeinmeister Hotel berlin paint clubI know that once I step outside the hotel I will find myself right in the center of the lively Mitte district; an array of restaurants, bars and cafes at my fancy. Finally, squinting into the elusive German sunlight, I reluctantly ‘escape’ the cage – granting, only for a short while – as I begin my exploration of this fascinating city.

What I loved:
  • The stylish feel of the hotel: The edgy designs, the color choices and the flamboyant, oversized furniture choices create a space that doesn’t sacrifice function to form. I truly loved the modern feel of the rooms and common areas.
  • The rooftop terrace: with amazing views over Berlin, it’s the perfect spot to enjoy a sundowner.
weinmesiter hotel rooftop terrace

View from the rooftop terrace

  • Location: There is not much more than can be said about the location of the Weinmeister hotel, except that it is the perfect base to explore the city.
  • Concept Rooms: From the Hurts Chamber, to the Peppermint Jam room, there are some special concept rooms available at the hotel that is sure to add a little something extra to your stay.

Hurts Chamber Weinmesiter Hotel Berlin

What I didn’t love:

• The one small gripe I have would be that the hotel serves only continental breakfast. If you’re looking to start your day off with a full, hot breakfast you’d have to find a restaurant in the nearby area. However, it’s worth noting that there is the opportunity to make your own waffles and boil your own eggs…if you’re seriously craving some hot breakfast options.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at the The Weinmeister Hotel, which provided a fresh dose of contemporary luxury in the heart of Berlin.

For the latest pricing and special offers visit the Weinmeister’s official site.

In keeping with the über-cool nature of the Weinmeister, room categories are standard, medium and large, with rates from 119€ to 299€ per night (depending on various factors such as room category, season, events in Berlin and the number of people), excluding continental breakfast.

Disclaimer: I was a guest at the Weinmeister Hotel, staying in the Hurts Chamber   (large room category) including continental breakfast. All opinions expressed in this review however, remain completely my own.

Giveaway: A Luxurious L’Occitane Summer Essentials Kit

L’Occitane en Provence, the renowned French cosmetics brand, has been producing luxurious products since it was founded in 1976.

My travel bag is never without one of their sumptuous hand creams, and one lucky reader could soon know why!

I’m giving away L’Occitane’s Summer Essential kit, which is absolutely PERFECT for travelers!

GiveAway

In it, you’ll find:
- 1 Verbena Shower Gel 30ml
- 1 Verbena Body Lotion 30ml
- 1 Shea Hand Cream 10ml
- 1 Shea Foot Cream 10ml
- 1 Shampoo 35ml Aromachology
- 1 Shea Butter Soap 25g

All this comes packed in a nifty travel purse designed by Julia Wauters.

To stand a chance of winning these delectable treats, you will have to follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook page. Easy peasy!
If you’re already a fan on Facebook and Twitter, you’ll merely need to click to confirm.

TO GET STARTED CLICK ON THE RED LINK BELOW:

L’Occitane giveaway

Competition closes on 26/08/13!
* Ts & Cs apply

Let Them Eat Cake

Afternoon Tea at the Four Seasons Georges V, Paris– France

Walking along the Avenue Georges V is an experience in itself. Having just passed the colossal Louis Vuitton flagship store, with its ornate gold dinosaur window displays, we rounded the corner and strolled along the relatively tranquil street in wonder. The Avenue Georges V, together with the Champs Élysée and Avenue Montaigne, form what it called the ‘Triangle D’Or’ – the Golden Triangle. Apt, seeing as the net worth on these 3 streets alone probably rival the GDP of some small countries.

We knew we had arrived at the Four Season’s Hotel Georges V, when our feet sank into a super plush carpet on the street entrance – a telling sign of the luxury that was about to come. Owned by a Saudi Prince, no extravagance was spared in the hotel’s renovations in 1997, and the hotel proudly claims a spot amongst the six establishments in Paris to have been awarded the honor of ‘Palace’ classification.

Having recently become accustomed to the decadent tradition of Afternoon High Tea, my friend Sam and I took the opportunity to investigate the High Tea offerings at this renowned Parisian Hotel.

Upon entering through the ornate revolving door, my breath was instantly taken away! In front of me stood the most theatrical, the most extravagant – by far – flower display I had ever seen.

Flowers Afternoon Tea Georges V

Don’t get me wrong, I was well aware that the hotel’s florist extraordinaire; Jeff Leatham has a long standing reputation at the Georges V, but nothing prepared me for the sight which greeted us in the hotel’s lobby. Coral-tinged peonies (hundreds and hundreds of them) elegantly collided with deep purple hydrangeas to create a summer wonderland. Indeed, feeling like two Alices who had just sashayed down the rabbit hole, Sam and I crossed the foyer and into the Mad Hatter’s dreamland.

Flowers Afternoon Tea Georges V

Flowers Afternoon Tea Georges V

To the left there was a giant installation (not arrangement, as Mr. Leatham likes to call it) of red posies – again a dazzling marriage of peonies and hydrangeas. En masse, and shaped into several perfectly round, individual bouquets, they took their daring places in tall flute vases of varying height to create what can only be described as a Jeff Leatham work of art.

Flowers Afternoon Tea Georges V

Flowers Afternoon Tea Georges V

In fact, so esteemed are the rock-star of florist’s creations, that his celebrity clientele include the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Madonna, Celine Dion and Kylie Minogue. When he’s not creating floral installations for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, or putting together daring designs for celebrity weddings (he was commissioned for Eva Longoria’s wedding to Tony Parker), he serves as the in-resident flower guru for the Hotel Georges V.

Flowers Afternoon Tea Georges V

We stepped out into the grand central courtyard of the hotel, and again uttered astonished ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ at the overhead floral designs. Strings of purple Vanda orchids were suspended in the air, fashioning a stunning canopy over the courtyard as rays of sunshine streamed in, creating an ethereal atmosphere.

Flowers Afternoon Tea Georges V

Making our way pass yet more impressive floral designs we headed to La Galerie where afternoon tea was served.

La Galerie’s décor can only be described as opulent. Priceless historical antiques adorned the space, along with fine Flemish tapestries dating back to the 17th century. Murano-glass chandeliers hung aristocratically from the high ceilings, and a 500 square-foot Savonnerie carpet graced the floors. No Dorothy, we were certainly not in Kansas anymore.

La galerie Afternoon Tea georges V

La galerie Afternoon Tea georges V

La galerie Afternoon Tea georges V

We were shown to our table which was set with fine Limoges porcelain. Before we even sat down, the maître d’ brought over two little stools for which to lay our handbags -no handbags on the floor at the Georges V!

We browsed the menu and settled on “Thé complet a la Française”: The French twist on an elegant British tradition.

Our waiter took our order, and promptly arrived with 2 champagne glasses (monogrammed, no less!) that were ceremoniously filled with Moet & Chandon bubbly. We toasted to our auspicious surroundings as we sipped on the liquid gold.

La galerie Afternoon Tea georges V

Taking in the atmosphere of La Galerie, I noted it is the most perfect spot in the hotel to people-watch. From the families outside in the courtyard enjoying lunch, to the well-heeled couples appreciating a sundowner before sundown; I kept one eye on the entrance half expecting a celebrity sighting (not uncommon at the Georges V).

Our waiter magically appeared with our three-tiered trays laden with epicurean treats. On the first tier; an assortment of finger sandwiches prepared with an array of different breads (tomato, rye and spinach). The sandwiches can be ordered to your preference, as I chose a vegetarian option.

La galerie Afternoon Tea georges V

The second tier comprised of an assortment of French delicacies that included a creamy, cinnamon-dusted macaroon, mille-feuille (‘thousand sheets’ – referring to the layered pastry) with piped custard, a strawberry tartlet, and apricot panna cotta topped with roasted almonds. The macaroon was by far the best I had ever tasted – Ladureé be warned!

La galerie Afternoon Tea georges V

As if that wasn’t enough, the top tier, and perhaps my favorite, comprised of a warm scone, a madeleine (soft French cake immortalized by Marcel Proust’s memories), a caramelized canelé from Bordeaux and a petite raspberry financier.

La galerie Afternoon Tea georges V

I covered my scone in clotted cream and generously smothered strawberry jam, while Sam simply drenched hers in honey. Our tastebuds went to heaven!

La galerie Afternoon Tea georges V

SONY DSC

For our hot beverages, my companion chose a white tea from the extensive selection, while I was eager to sample the hotel’s famous hot chocolate. Served in an authentic hot chocolate pot (‘chocolatière’) complete with frother, the hot chocolate is unbelievably decadent, thick and creamy. It is served with warm milk in the event you needed to dilute the chocolaty goodness. The beverages are poured for you (bien sûr!), and the waiter flitted by every now and then to see if we were in the mood for a refill.

A pair of musicians serenaded the guests, and we sat relaxed – chatting, laughing, and of course, eating. We only realized that 2 hours had gone by when the staff began lighting the evening candles, signaling that dusk was upon us.

I smirked at how discretely the bill was presented to us (ironic that talking about money in rich circles is considered philistine!) and picking our bags from their pedestals, we left the plush confines of the Four Seasons Georges V to join alas, the real world.

Afternoon Tea georges V

Thé  complet a la Française at the Four Seasons Georges V costs 58euro (approx 760 ZAR)
per person. For more: http://www.fourseasons.com/paris