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?
Jetlag, insomnia, irritating plane passengers, hyperactive children and loud hotel neighbours… just some of the things you don’t want to encounter when you’re away. I’m all too familiar with a lot of these bugbears, and I’d do pretty much anything to avoid them, but a lot of the methods I’ve tried have only been partially effective. Earplugs can be fiddly, eye masks can be uncomfortable, and switching hotel rooms or plane seats is often impossible.
Desperate to find a product that would help reduce noise and distractions whilst travelling, I tried out the SleepPhones® Volume Control Headband Headphones, which offer noise control and allow users to play their own music (preferably something relaxing) through the headphones to help them sleep.
Picking a hotel in London isn’t an easy task, even in the Internet age, but when I was nudged in the direction of the Mercure London Bridge, I soon stopped dithering; it has a four star rating and comes recommended by Expedia, Hotels.com and Booking.com. I recently checked in for a one night stay, armed with my camera and notebook to report back to you.
If you’ve never heard of the brand before, here’s a quick primer. There are over 700 Mercure properties around the world, often with unique selling points, including the Ink Hotel in Amsterdam (part of the MGallery Collection), based in a former Dutch newspaper office. Closer to home, Hythe in Kent has the Imperial, a sprawling Victorian house complete with a spa and golf course. London has several different hotels under the brand, from Kensington to Greenwich, and a Hyde Park branch will open in October 2015.
“It’s Luigi! The actual Luigi!” I hissed at my family as we waited for our coffees to be prepared at Rome’s famous Bar del Cappuccino (50 Via Arenula). Luigi Santoro, an award-winning über-barista, is the much-discussed man behind the place’s success, drawing a steady stream of both nonchalant locals and excited visitors six days a week. Clippings stating his claim to fame lined the right-hand wall as we walked in to queue for our drinks. There he was in print form, captured in the pages of newspapers from Japan and Italy, with his thick moustache and a face gripped in concentration.
Peru is undoubtedly one of the most engaging countries I’ve visited. I may have only spent just over a fortnight there, but I managed to pack so much into every day that I don’t feel short-changed. What’s more, I got to meet fellow travellers from around the world and discover the country with them.
If, like me, you can’t afford to spend months here but you’d like to really get to know what Peruvian culture and history involves, guided by experts, you might be tempted by the trip I booked – Majestic Peru, with Intrepid Travel. Knowing how important peer reviews are when picking a specialist tour operator, I’ve broken down my review into three stages so you can get a clear idea of what to expect.
Set just a stone’s throw from the exclusive shopping street of Avenue Louise, The Hotel Brussels takes its cue from its stylish surroundings and creates something that never goes out of fashion. I saw this for myself when I took the short walk from the Louise Metro station to the complex, passing Versace, Chanel and Jimmy Choo stores in the process. Stepping inside the building, my jaw began to drop as I took in the seriously chic decor – dark panelling, thick grey carpet and elevators sealed by gold doors. Definitely a classic.
My hotel in Boston had enough history to qualify as a tourist attraction in its own right. It was the birthplace of the Boston Cream Pie, had its own clubs for 19th century men-about-town, was Charles Dickens’ crash pad during his American lecture tour, and once had Malcolm X as a staff member. But what was it like to actually stay here? I visited with my family for a four night city break, looking to see the sights.
I shared a twin room with my sister and we were lucky enough to have huge beds, a flat-screen TV, dressing gowns and a seriously tempting snack selection on offer from the minibar. We settled down to watch a news piece about a jelly bean that looked a bit like Kate Middleton and were soon really chilled out, if a little bemused about the jelly bean.