This year I’m determined to travel differently. Though I’ve taken self-catering holidays before, I’d never booked an apartment, so when I was recently introduced to SACO (the Serviced Apartment Company) the time had come to see what I’d been missing. Apartment rentals are a rapidly growing part of the travel industry, celebrated by 2015 trend reports and highlighted by the likes of Travel + Leisure magazine. But what gives a serviced apartment the edge over other types of accommodation?
Basically it’s like having a home away from home, or – more accurately – a flat away from home. You have the convenience of being in a city centre, and the facilities to make your own meals in your own time and kick back on the sofa afterwards. SACO offers anything from a one night stay to a month, or even a year, in comfortable surroundings. There are properties all over the world, from Amsterdam and Istanbul to New York and Seoul, and 40 options in London alone.
SACO sent me a quiz to work out where I should stay in the UK (offering a 10% booking discount at the end, and the chance to win a weekend break – don’t miss out!), and I was pleased to see Bristol topped the list, because it’s somewhere I could happily return to again and again. I’ve previously blogged about Bristolian street art and coffee culture, but I knew there was much more to learn about this city. Unsurprisingly, the quiz classed me as an ‘Urban Adventurer’, so where better to seek adventure than a place known for merchant seamen, pirates, a classic Hollywood star (none other than Cary Grant), the voice of Darth Vader (Dave Prowse) and the world-famous Banksy?
Broad Quay Accommodation
With the Hippodrome just across the road, the shops of Park Street round the corner, and some of the city’s best museums, arts venues and pubs a short walk away, this is a good central location on the quayside. The apartment block is seven stories high and has cafes, shops and mini supermarkets on its doorstep. Quality in Tourism gave the Broad Quay apartments a 4* Gold Award in 2014, which recognises high levels of cleanliness, comfort, customer service and overall quality; they’ve also been given a 4* rating by Visit Britain, and they’re the flagship apartments for the brand.
I was based on the fourth floor in a spacious two bedroom apartment, with king-size beds. One bedroom came complete with a TV and en suite bathroom with a shower, and the other had a separate larger bathroom with a bath and shower; little details such as L’Occitane toiletries, heated towel rails and light-up wardrobes made an impression. A stylish lounge and kitchen area sat between the bedrooms, topped off by a balcony overlooking the quayside and the edge of Queen’s Square.
The kitchen facilities helped me feel at home, especially as so much was provided (oven, hob and microwave options; fridge, freezer and toaster; washing up liquid and cloths for the all-important cleaning!). Basics like milk, tea bags and bottled water were on hand, and the porridge in my breakfast pack kept me going until lunchtime. I stocked up on everything else (snacks, kitchen roll, decaf coffee, tea towel, etc.) at the branch of Sainsbury’s found about 50ft down the road.
Checking in was effortless – I’d been given access codes for the car park, allowing me to park securely underneath the building before catching the lift up to reception with my suitcase in tow. The receptionist explained how to use the electronic key fob at the main entrance on street level, and she gave me access to the apartment slightly earlier than the official 4pm check-in time (it pays to arrive early, people).
Once I’d settled in with a cuppa and browsed the welcome folder with instructions on gadgets, safety and getting around the area, I connected to the Wi-Fi network. Guests are given 24 hours’ free basic access, but you can upgrade if you want to use a lot more data – useful for anyone on a business trip, or those with a penchant for downloading epic film sagas. Afterwards I set off for a browse round nearby bookshops and the Arnolfini Gallery, then walked up Brandon Hill, enjoyed a meal at Loch Fyne (having fish in a nautical city was a no-brainer) and wandered along the waterside, before retiring to the apartment.
As I was staying on a Friday and Saturday night, there was a bit of nightlife noise, but that’s to be expected in a city centre, and it wasn’t a huge issue. I couldn’t hear traffic on the road below, or any noise from neighbouring apartments. Following a restful night, I packed in loads of Saturday activities, such as a much-needed back massage, an unforgettable Pirate Tour, drinking coffee in Cafe Revival (the city’s oldest coffee house), shopping in Cabot Circus and St. Nicholas Market, and eating at the very chic River Station restaurant. Finally, on Sunday morning I didn’t need to check out until 11am, so there was enough time for a leisurely breakfast before leaving, and I felt totally refreshed after a weekend away.
Perks of Apartment Life
It was great to relax on the sofa in the apartment lounge at the end of a long day and make myself a proper drink – I really appreciated having a living area as well as a bedroom, and the chance to chill a bottle of wine or make a coffee with real milk (not the packet stuff!), rather than being faced with a minibar.
I also didn’t miss the daily housekeeping you get in a B&B or hotel, as there was no need to change towels or bed linen daily; had I stayed more than seven days, a weekly service would have been provided by SACO, but I don’t think anything more frequent is necessary.
As someone who likes being independent, I felt more relaxed without the fear of housekeeping asking to clean when I was in the middle of a cat-nap or hotly debating evening outfit choices (not that I’ve ever been in either of those situations… ahem). Whilst I won’t give up hotels altogether, I’ll definitely try using serviced apartments again in the future. The whole experience gets a big thumbs up from me, for a more mature and low-key way to take a city break.
- The company fundraises for the Teenage Cancer Trust and offers free accommodation at Broad Quay to friends and families of young patients receiving cancer treatment at Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre
- Collectively, the team speaks 14 different languages and offers accommodation in 220 locations around the world
- In 2013, 91% of SACO guests rated their stay as ‘Excellent’ or ‘Good’
Choose from studio, one, two or three bedroom serviced apartments at Broad Quay, Bristol BS1 4AW, with prices from £80 per night. Secure underground parking can be added to your booking, charged at £15 per day (good value, considering the price of all-day parking nearby!). Breakfast packs and a more substantial internet package can also be added for an additional charge.
Disclaimer: SACO covered my two night stay in exchange for a review, but I had full editorial control of the resulting blog post. As ever, all views are my own.