Nikki’s Nest: Riad Joya (Marrakech, Morocco)

The amazing Riad Joya courtyard

The amazing Riad Joya courtyard

Planning a trip to the majestic city of Marrakech? I recommend staying at the fabulous Riad Joya (designed by the eclectic & posh Umberto Maria Branchini). Featured on The Today Show’s 2012 “Hotlist”, this decadent riad captures the essence of different African cultures and each suite is light & airy.

Located in the very heart of the Medina (in the historical and protected area of the Mouassine quarter), Riad Joya is just a short walk from main monuments, the souk and Djemaa El Fna square (where you can buy spices, get a henna tattoo or take part in snake charming). You can also see some of the most exciting attractions of the red city, such as the Coranique School, the Koutubia and the Museum of Marrakech.This elegant boutique riad is a welcome retreat of peace & tranquility after spending the day exploring the chaotic Medina. I had the pleasure of spending 3 lovely days at this riad last year and can’t wait to visit again.

What’s a Riad?
Historically, it is a traditional Moroccan home with an open garden or courtyard. However, now most function as hotels/resorts. Riads are more inward focused. You won’t see large exterior windows. In fact, the exterior is rather plain and you are unable to tell if the home is upper or lower class. There are clay walls with a huge (and in some cases, ornate) door. Once you enter thru the massive door, you will be amazed at how lovely the interior is. This is where the magic happens..beautiful tiles & mosaics, water fountains, lush fabrics…riads offer you the opulence of a grand mansion combined with a cozy atmosphere. These lovely “homes” only have a small number of rooms (i.e. 5-10). Riads provide you with a unique Moroccan experience that you won’t get staying in a traditional hotel. You receive special attention & stay in beautiful surroundings. It’s like a slice of heaven.

Getting There

Riad Joya will arrange for a taxi from the airport, train station, or other cities at your request. Your taxi will drop you off just outside one of the gates to the Medina. The streets are very narrow inside the Medina so no cars are allowed…only push carts, donkeys & mules. They will also arrange for a luggage porter to greet you at the gate and lead you to the riad which is just a few minutes walk away. My advice…do not try to find the riad on your own. The Medina has many streets and this riad is located off a side street from another side street. A 20 Dirham (which is about $2 USD) tip to a luggage porter is money well spent. Plus, this will allow you to take in the sights and sounds of the Medina while walking to your destination.

Promotions

You can book directly via the website or go thru a 3rd party discount booking agency (i.e. Jetsetter; Trip Advisor).

The Courtyard

This riad surrounds a breathtaking courtyard that has a water fountain and beautiful plants & flowers. There are open lounge/sitting areas surrounding the courtyard. Each area makes you feel comfortable and relaxed.

View of the Riad Joya from the rooftop at night

View of the Riad Joya from the rooftop at night

Marrakesh 442Rooms & Suites

Riad Joya is an elegant 7-suite luxury boutique hotel. Each suite has a theme based on a particular African region. The riad website describes it best, “The overall atmosphere is of an elegant private house where understated luxury fuses with eclectic style and bespoke service and attentions.”

This hotel also has a “Butler service” which offers tailored services “from the assistance with transportation and luggage, to recommendations of activities, Joya‚Äôs Butler is always ready to ensure that all our guests have everything needed for an enriching stay.” We were spoiled rotten! He anticipated our needs, handled getting our laundry washed & pressed; walking us to and from the hammam and inquiring about our favorite fruits & vegetables to help with dinner selection. I really needed him to come home with me ūüôā

Each suite features a private seating area and large dressing room. The bathrooms are amazing!!! They are “all made in natural stones combined with the traditional tadelak, are bright and spacious and features large shower and a vanity corner.”

Be sure to check out the pictures on the riad website (linked above) or tripadvisor.com as each suite is different. Upon arrival, we are told we can pick from a variety of suites since the riad was not fully booked (fab-u-lous!). After we chose our suite, we were taken to our room and given time to relax before heading down for dinner. Words really can’t capture how wonderful this place is.

We stayed in the largest suite — the Dar Arabe…absolute luxury!

A writing alcove in the Dar Arabe suite

A writing alcove in the Dar Arabe suite

Vanity area

Marrakesh 431

Soaps, shampoo & conditioner

Marrakesh 411

Seating area

Seating area

I was also given a tour and was able to photograph a few of the suites that weren’t in use.

The Tuareg suite (inspired by the Berber people). Love the eclectic look & feel of this room (even if it is the darkest suite of the bunch).

Entrance to the Tuareg suite

Entrance to the Tuareg suite

Sweet dreams in the Tuareg suite!

Sweet dreams in the Tuareg suite!

Marrakesh 425

Check out the sinks!

A copper bathtub surrounded by a circular cloth shower curtain.

A copper bathtub surrounded by a circular cloth shower curtain.

Marrakesh 426

Seating area

Seating area

The Naos suite – in Egyptology, naos refers to that which is hidden and unknown inside the inner sanctum of a temple (source, Wikipedia).

Naos suite

Naos suite

Naos suite

Naos suite

Naos bath

Naos bath

The Domus suite…

Domus suite

Domus suite

Domus seating area

Domus seating area

Dining

The chef at the Riad Joya is PHENOMENAL! You can dine in their beautiful dining room or on the terrace (which is up several sets of very steep stairs). The riad provides a bountiful breakfast of fruits & pastries (you can request eggs as well) and a daily set menu.

A bountiful dinner

A bountiful dinner

Ambient lighting in the dining room with their beautiful Moroccan lamps.

Ambient lighting in the dining room with their beautiful Moroccan lamps.

Delicious dessert

Delicious dessert

The Hammam & Spa

What better way to unwind from a day of sightseeing than to enjoy a hammam & spa? Unfortunately, the riad’s hammam was out of service during our stay but they did set us up with an appointment at another hammam a short walk away (and the massage is fab-u-lous)! You pick between a couple of fragrant oils (my choices were “orange flower” and “jasmine”). Those magical hands lulled me right into a light nap. Want to know more about what to expect when visiting a hammam? Check out my Tale of 2 Hammams post.

Overall

If you are looking for the perfect place to unwind and relax during your visit to Marrakech, this inviting sanctuary is the place. Have insightful conversations over mint tea while learning about Moroccan culture from the locals. I must warn you that this riad is not suitable to those who are wheelchair bound or have mobility issues due to the amount of stairs. Other than that, this place is perfect. Centrally located with delicious food and an absolutely phenomenal staff, the Riad Joya is a wonderful place to stay during your exotic trip to Marrakech. So forget using hotel chain rewards points and enjoy the unique experience of staying in a riad!

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Nikki’s Rating: Absolutely Wonderful 5

Rating Scale 1-5 (1 = GET OUT NOW; 2 = Seriously?; 3 = Eh, it’ll do; 4 = Fabulous; 5 = Absolutely Wonderful)

Looking for a place to stay in Fez? Check out my review of the Riad Laaroussa. Interested in visiting Morocco? Check out my travel adventures here!

Nikki’s Nest: Riad Laaroussa (Fez, Morocco)

Warrior Dash 414Planning a trip to the fascinating imperial city of Fez?  I recommend staying at the Riad Laaroussa which is located inside the Medina.  This 17th century palace is a welcome retreat of peace after spending the day exploring the chaotic Medina.  My Mom and I had the pleasure of spending 3 lovely days at this riad in September 2012.

What’s a Riad?

Historically, it is¬†a traditional Moroccan home with an open garden or courtyard.¬† However, now most function as hotels/resorts.¬† Riads are more inward¬†focused.¬† You won’t see large exterior windows.¬† In fact, the exterior¬†is plain¬†and you are unable to tell if the home is upper or lower class.¬† There are clay walls with a huge (and in some cases, ornate) door.¬† Once you enter thru the massive door, you will be amazed at how lovely the interior is.¬†¬†Beautiful tiles & mosaics, water fountains, lush fabrics…riads provide you with the opulence of a grand mansion¬†combined with a cozy atmosphere.¬†¬†These lovely “homes” only have a small number of rooms (i.e. 5-10).¬† Riads provide you with a unique Moroccan experience that you won’t get staying in a hotel.

Getting There

Riad¬†Laaroussa¬†will arrange for a taxi¬†from the airport, train station, or other cities at your request.¬†¬†Your taxi will drop you off just outside one of the gates to the Medina.¬† The streets are very narrow inside the Medina so no cars are allowed…only push carts, donkeys & mules.¬† They¬†will also arrange for a¬†luggage porter¬†(who will have a wooden cart) to greet you at¬†the¬†gate¬†and lead you to the riad which is just a few minutes walk away.¬† My advice…do not try to find the riad on your own.¬† The Medina has over 9,000 streets and this riad is located off a side street from another side street.¬† A 20 Dirham (which is approximately $2 USD) tip to a luggage porter is money well spent.¬† Plus, this will allow you to¬†take in¬†the sights and sounds of the Medina while walking to your destination.

Promotions

You can book directly via the website or go thru a 3rd party discount booking agency (i.e. Booking.com).

The Courtyard

This riad surrounds a breathtaking courtyard that has 2 water fountains and beautiful landscaping. There are open lounge/sitting areas surrounding the courtyard.  Each area makes you feel comfortable and relaxed.  Tables surround the courtyard so you are able to eat breakfast or dinner in a lush environment.

The courtyard is also where you will find 3 of the Riad¬†Laaroussa¬†inhabitants.¬†¬†Mimi the Cat and her 2 canine companions¬†are extremely friendly (and very lazy).¬† If you are an animal¬†lover, you won’t want to leave them at the end of your stay.¬† Typically, Mimi¬†& crew¬†are waiting to greet you as you enter the courtyard and hang around long enough for belly rubs before dinner (and will stick around during dinner just in case you are feeling charitable & want to share).¬† As you can see from the pictures below, they aren’t missing any meals ūüôā

Rooms & Suites

There are 8 rooms (4 rooms & 4 suites) at the Riad¬†Laaroussa.¬† Each room has a theme color (we stayed in the Orange Suite).¬†¬†Be sure to check out the pictures on the riad website (linked above) or tripadvisor.com as each suite is different.¬† Upon arrival,¬†we were¬†taken to our room and given time to relax before heading up to dinner.¬† Words really can’t describe how wonderful this place is so I created a video.¬† My videography skills aren’t that great (this is my first one) but I hope it captures how fabulous this place is.

Dining

The chef at the Riad Laaroussa is PHENOMENAL!  You can dine in the courtyard or on the terrace (which is up several sets of very steep stairs).  The riad provides a bountiful breakfast of fruits & pastries (you can request eggs as well) and a daily set menu.  Want to learn how to cook the fabulous Fassi cuisine?  Join the chef on her daily trip to the market and spend an afternoon in the kitchen watching her create delicious dishes for the evening.   Make sure you are camera ready as the staff will stop by your table to take pictures then email them to you so you have a keepsake of your time in Fez.

Mom and I at breakfast

Moroccan appetizers

The Hammam & Spa

What better way to unwind from a day of sightseeing than to enjoy the Riad¬†Laaroussa’s¬†hammam & spa?¬† The massage¬†is fab-u-lous!¬† You pick between a couple of fragrant oils (my choices were “orange flower” and “jasmine”).¬† Those magical hands lulled me right into a light nap.¬† Want to know more about what to expect when visiting a hammam?¬† Check out my Tale of 2 Hammams post.

Overall

If you are looking for the perfect place to unwind and relax during your visit to Fez, this is the place.  Have insightful conversations over mint tea while learning about Moroccan culture from the locals.  I must warn you that this riad is not suitable to those who are wheelchair bound or have mobility issues due to the amount of stairs.  Other than that, this place is perfect.  Centrally located with delicious food and an absolutely phenomenal staff, the Riad Laaroussa is a wonderful place to stay during your exotic trip to Fez.  So forget using hotel chain rewards points and enjoy the unique experience of staying in a riad!

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Nikki’s Rating:¬† Absolutely Wonderful 5

Rating Scale 1-5 (1 = GET OUT NOW; 2 = Seriously?; 3 = Eh, it’ll do; 4 = Fabulous; 5 = Absolutely Wonderful)

Nikki’s Nest: Rocabella Santorini Resort & Spa (Santorini, Greece)

Planning a trip to the beautiful Greek island of Santorini?  I recommend Rocabella Santorini Resort & Spa which is located on the outskirts of Imerovigli, at a distance of 1.5 km from Fira.  You can hike or take a local bus to the bigger villages of Oia and Fira.   My Mom and I spent a lovely week at this resort the last week of May 2011.
 

Getting There

From Athens, you can either fly (via Olympic Airways or Aegean Airlines)¬†or take a ferry (via Hellenic Seaways or Blue Star Ferries¬†from Piraeus port).¬†¬†The ferries offer an eight-hour trip (which could be either during the day or overnight depending on the season) and a 4 hour hydrofoil.¬† We opted to take the 4 hour hydrofoil ferry (Blue Star Ferries) as it was cheaper than flying.¬† If you decide to take the ferry, you need to know the following:¬† 1) Ferry schedules are suggestions, not fact.¬† You should arrive at least 1 hour in advance as the ferry could leave early (it will state this explicitly on your ticket).¬† Therefore,¬†plan accordingly.¬† A ferry with a 7:25 scheduled departure could actually end up leaving the port at 7:00;¬†2) Buy insurance.¬† This is Europe and strikes happen.¬† And with¬†the current state of fiscal affairs in Greece right now, I’d definitely recommend buying it for peace of mind.¬† If you happen to purchase your trip via Viator, they will¬†re-book you on a flight to Santorini in the event of a strike;¬†3) There are assigned seats.¬† You may want to consider an upgrade for more room.¬† Four/Eight hours is a long time to be packed in with other people.¬† The ferry can start to get a little musty by the 2nd hour; and 4) Bring snacks.¬† There¬†is usually a food concession on board but it is a bit expensive.¬† There are plenty of shops around the Piraeus port.¬† Pick up a meal or 2 to go.

Rocabella provides transportation to/from either the airport or port for a fee.  You will need to call the resort prior to your arrival to arrange pick-up.

Promotions

I found a great deal thru Expedia which saved me some money.  If you prefer to book directly, the resort website also has special deals and discounts.  Santorini (and Greece in general) can be a bit expensive.  I highly recommend pre-booking to take advantage of early booking discounts and/or free-night offers.  Also, if you are planning to visit during high-season (June РAugust), pre-booking will guarantee your room is available as the island gets overcrowded.

Rooms & Suites

Each room or suite has a jacuzzi, flat screen tv as well as a minibar.¬† There are¬†several types of rooms:¬†¬†Senior and¬†Superior¬†Rooms (full or partial ocean view) and¬†Suites.¬† Be sure to check out the pictures on the resort website or tripadvisor.com as each suite is different (I love the one with the ceiling made of stars!).¬† I pre-purchased the Superior full ocean view room (definitely upgrade to a full ocean view.¬† You will never get tired of watching the sunset over the caldera from your balcony…it’s heaven on earth).¬†¬†When we arrived, we found out we were upgraded to a Superior Suite with a full ocean view.

Nicknamed “The Cave”, this suite was very spacious.¬† However, we asked to switch the next day due to the room having a mildew smell.

The front desk was very accommodating and actually let us¬†choose from¬†several other rooms.¬†¬†We ended up in a Superior Room with full¬†ocean view that was perfect!¬† Notice that a portion of the ceiling has a “faux sky”.¬† Marvelous!

   

Even with all the concrete, the rooms are comfortable.¬† Each balcony has a private jacuzzi, loungers and a table where you can waste away an entire day¬†while drinking mimosas¬†and¬†reading your Kindle or listening to music while looking at the beautiful blue ocean.¬† The best part?¬† Watching as the sun sets over the caldera.¬† Hint:¬† Order room service and eat “alfresco” on your balcony while the sun¬†descends into the sea.¬† You won’t want to leave!¬† The beds lull you to sleep with the soft featherbed under fresh, crisp linens.¬† The shower is spacious and modern.¬† I could spend all day in there.¬†

Hiking the trail towards Oia. Great workout for hips and booty.

The Fitness Center

I worked out at the fitness center once¬†during my week-long visit.¬† It’s¬†very small, hot and the equipment is a bit dated.¬† I ended up skipping the gym and hiking along the caldera to Oia then back to Fira.¬† Plenty of hills to work the glutes and the views are breathtaking!

The Spa

The resort offers spa services.¬† Unfortunately, they were booked solid when I decided to go so I can’t review¬†this area.¬† Therefore, I recommend booking your services prior to arrival.

Dining alfresco.

Dining

The resort has 1 restaurant.  We ate there for breakfast and ordered room service a couple of times.  Overall, the food was fine.

Activities

In addition to a small fitness center and spa, the resort also has several¬†pools with a¬†DJ playing music in the afternoons.¬† You will find that most of the activity will be around exploring the beautiful island of Santorini.¬† Hike along the rim of the caldera.¬† Go shopping in Fira (which had some fabulous boutiques).¬†¬†Take a walking tour of¬†Oia.¬† Enjoy a sunset dinner cruise or¬†relax at¬†one of the many beaches.¬† There is so much to do, you will find that the time slips away much too quickly.¬† You may have noticed that I mention (repeatedly)¬†watching the sunset over the caldera.¬† Words cannot adequately describe how magnificent it is.¬† You will find yourself waiting for the end of the day to enjoy those magical minutes of breathtaking beauty.¬† So, if the only activity you do is to sit on the balcony and watch the sunset, you’ve done enough.¬† You can read my review of Santorini here.

Rocabella pool at sunset

The magical Santorini sunset in the caldera.

Nikki’s Rating: Fabulous 4

Rating Scale 1-5 (1 = GET OUT NOW; 2 = Seriously?; 3 = Eh, it’ll do; 4 = Fabulous; 5 = Absolutely Wonderful)

Nikki’s Nest: Radisson Blu Scandinavia (Copenhagen, Denmark)

¬†The¬†Radisson Blu¬†Scandinavia¬†hotel¬†(located at¬†Amager¬†Boulevard 70 in Copenhagen, Denmark) is 8 kilometers from Copenhagen’s Kastrup¬†airport and about a¬†5 minute walk from the Islands Brygge¬†Metro station.¬†¬†This hotel¬†has¬†26 floors (500 guest rooms and 42 suites that feature 7 different styles), four restaurants, a bar and a casino (billed as the largest in Northern Europe).¬† I spent¬†5 nights at this wonderful hotel and would definitely visit again.

Promotions

Denmark is on the Danish Kronor (DKK) so for those of us with¬†weaker¬†currency, it¬†makes fiscal¬†sense to¬†take advantage of the promotions.¬† I highly recommend pre-paying for hotels that¬†have offers which include breakfast (if your¬†travel schedule is not subject to last minute changes).¬† As a general rule, I would not recommend pre-booking a hotel too far in advance (at max, a month or so) just because you never know what can happen (i.e. the hotel goes out of business or starts a major renovation that will affect the quality of your stay).¬† Breakfast tends to be¬†pretty expensive unless you can find a cheaper alternative nearby (although there is a gas station next to the hotel which sells pretty tasty pastries for cheap).¬† By booking ahead, you can save up to 20% on the hotel’s current rates.

Rooms & Suites
There are 5 types of rooms available:  Standard, Business Class, Junior Suites, Scandinavia Suites and Family Room.  The Standard & Business Class rooms are all the same size and have almost the exact same amenities with the exception of the Business Class rooms being on the upper floors and having Nespresso coffee machines.
I booked a Standard room but was upgraded to Business Class (on the 17th floor) and it was wonderful!  The view is phenomenal and the room was really comfortable.  Very contemporary and updated.

view from the hotel room

 

The Fitness Center/Spa

The hotel offers a decent-sized gym¬†(which is free) and 2 squash courts.¬† Now, since you don’t know me, I¬†could say that I worked out at this gym everyday but my pants are screaming out, “LIAR, LIAR PANTS ON FIRE FROM FAT THIGHS RUBBING TOGETHER.”¬† So, let’s just say that I did check it out and leave it at that, k?¬† It is one of the better hotel gyms I’ve been to though.¬† The Spa offers aromatherapy¬†& Scandinavian massages, facials,¬†reflexology and ear acupuncture.

Dining

There are 4 dining rooms — Kyoto [Japanese], Mamas¬†& Papas¬†[American and Italian], The Blue Elephant [Thai] and The Dining Room (which is on the 25th floor).¬† I ate at 2 of the restaurants (Kyoto and Mamas¬†& Papas).¬† Overall, I found the food to be pretty good. ¬†The wait staff is helpful and accommodating.

Overall

I found this hotel to be comfortable and a great value.¬† I didn’t try the casino as I refuse to pay to go gamble and Denmark was kind of expensive.¬† The rooms and food were pretty good and the location¬†is excellent.¬† You are pretty central to most of the attractions (Christianshavn is just across the lake, and City Hall & Tivoli Gardens is a 10 minute walk away).¬† Copenhagen is a beautiful place to walk (or ride a bike) and this hotel is perfectly situated.

Nikki’s Rating:¬†4 “Fabulous”

Rating Scale 1-5 (1 = GET OUT NOW; 2 = Seriously?; 3 = Eh, it’ll do; 4 = Fabulous; 5 = Absolutely Wonderful)

Nikki’s Nest: Hilton Helsinki Airport — Vantaa (Helsinki, Finland)

photo courtesy of Hilton Hotels

The Hilton Helsinki Airport Hotel — Vantaa¬†(located at¬†Lentajankuja¬†1 in Vantaa, Finland) is about a¬†3-4 minute walk to the Helsinki airport terminals and 30 minutes by car to the center of the city.¬†¬†This hotel¬†has 5 floors (the 5th floor is the Executive Floor) and¬†a¬†full-service restaurant and bar.¬† I spent¬†4 nights at this wonderful hotel and would definitely visit again.

Promotions

Finland is on the Euro so for those of us with¬†weaker¬†currency, it¬†makes fiscal¬†sense to¬†take advantage of the promotions.¬† I highly recommend pre-paying for hotels that¬†have offers which include breakfast (if your¬†travel schedule is not subject to last minute changes).¬† As a general rule, I would not recommend pre-booking a hotel too far in advance (at max, a month or so) just because you never know what can happen (i.e. the hotel goes out of business or starts a major renovation that will affect the quality of your stay).¬† Breakfast tends to be¬†pretty expensive unless you can find a McDonald’s nearby.¬† By booking ahead, you can save up to 20% on the hotel’s current rates.¬† Which you can use towards buying some bear liver pate (which is apparently a Finnish delicacy).¬† ūüôā

My room at the Hilton Helsinki (Room 240)

Rooms & Suites
There are 3 types of rooms available:  Standard Guest Rooms, Deluxe & Executive Rooms, and Suites.  The Standard, Executive & Deluxe Rooms are all the same size ( 28m²/301sq.ft) and have almost the exact same amenities with the exception of having access to the Executive Lounge for those staying in Executive & Deluxe rooms.  The King Junior Suite has a separate living area, is a bit larger (58m²/624sq.ft) and has Executive Lounge access as well as a private sauna.
I stayed in a Standard Guest Room and it was fab-u-lous!¬† The layout of the room is wonderful and the room is not only contemporary but also very ergonomic.¬† The windows are soundproofed so you have total silence while you sleep (assuming you don’t have noisy neighbors).¬† This is great as it cancels out all the noise from planes landing & taking off.
If I didn’t already love the room, the bathroom would have sealed the deal.¬† All rooms have bathrooms with a separate shower and tub.¬† And the added treat?¬† The tiled floors are HEATED!¬† Yes!!!!¬† Since I traveled over there during their winter season, it was a delightful surprise to step out of the shower onto a heated floor.¬† No slippers necessary!!!¬† Seriously, more hotels need to do this.¬† While I’m not a fan of Nicky, whoever her daddy hired to design this place is a freaking genius!
 

The Fitness Center/Sauna

Sauna (photo courtesy of Hilton Hotels)

Gym (photo courtesy of Hilton Hotels)

The hotel offers a decent-sized 24 hour gym and sauna.¬† Now, since you don’t know me, I¬†could say that I worked out at this gym everyday but my pants are screaming out, “LIAR, LIAR PANTS ON FIRE FROM FAT THIGHS RUBBING TOGETHER.”¬† So, let’s just say that I did check it out and leave it at that, k?¬† It is one of the better hotel gyms I’ve been to though.

Dining

Restaurant Gui (photo courtesy of Hilton Hotels)

You can dine at the Restaurant Gui where you can choose Finnish dishes (reindeer) or traditional dishes (club sandwich, salmon, hamburgers, etc.).¬† Breakfast was included in the cost of the room (for Advance Payment reservations or those staying in Executive and Deluxe Rooms or Suites).¬† It’s buffet-style and they have a wide selection¬†to choose from (cereals, eggs, bacon, sausage, etc.).¬† Overall, I found the food to be pretty good.¬† I am not adventurous enough to try reindeer or bear but I did have the club sandwich and chocolate¬†souffl√©.¬† The wait staff is extremely helpful and accommodating.¬† You really can’t ask for better customer service.

Restaurant & Bar Gui lobby (photo courtesy of Hilton Hotels)

The hotel also has a fully stocked bar next to the restaurant which offers an open fireplace where you can sit and drink.  Which was especially helpful since there was a snowstorm during my visit.

Amenities

In addition to free use of the gym & sauna, each room offers free wireless internet service, LCD flat-screen televisions, a coffee/tea maker (including a selection of teas), Crabtree & Evelyn products, iron & ironing board (do not take this for granted), nightlight and a safe (just to name a few).  For a complete list of amenities, be sure to check out their website.

Overall

I found this hotel to be comfortable and a great value.¬† The rooms and food were fabulous.¬† The only negative (if you are using this hotel as a base during a visit to Helsinki) is the distance to the center of the city.¬† However, if you don’t mind the commute or are looking for a great place to stay before taking an early morning flight, this is the place for you!¬† Want to know more about Helsinki?¬†¬† Check out my city review here.

Nikki’s Rating:¬†4 “Fabulous”

Rating Scale 1-5 (1 = GET OUT NOW; 2 = Seriously?; 3 = Eh, it’ll do; 4 = Fabulous; 5 = Absolutely Wonderful)

Nikki’s Nest: 25 Derwent Yard, Ealing (London)

I had the pleasure of staying at this wonderful vacation rental over the holidays.¬† Owned and¬†operated by Colin & Anne Pedley of Clarendon House Apartments, it’s a nice size flat in a clean & safe neighborhood.¬† Booking & checking in are simple and easy.¬† They even have warm biscuits waiting for you upon arrival!¬† I really cannot say enough great things about the owners.¬† Since they live around the corner, they are available to resolve any issue in a timely manner.¬†
 

When I booked the flat (and paid a small refundable deposit), I asked if it would be possible for us to check-in at 8am instead of 3pm since our plane would arrive at 6am.  Colin was more than accommodating.  He made sure the flat was not rented the night prior so that it would be clean and ready for us early the next morning. 

Also, the luggage of one of my co-traveller’s was delayed by a day.¬† It was due to arrive on the day we scheduled a day trip to Paris.¬† Colin had the luggage delivered to his home and dropped it off at the flat so it was waiting for us when we arrived back¬†late that night.¬† You cannot beat their customer service!

Location

Located in¬†Ealing (just southwest of London), it’s convenient to Heathrow airport and London city center.¬† We took the Tube¬†from Heathrow to Northfields. ¬†Since Northfields station¬†is on the Piccadilly line, we did not have to change trains which was great since we had large suitcases.¬† Once you exit the train station,¬†you turn right and the flat is 5 doors away.¬† I’ve been to London 5 times and this was the easiest check-in I’ve ever had.¬†¬†¬†

The flat is approximately 25 minutes from Leicester Square in the center of London.  While that may seem like quite a distance, the train ride goes fairly quickly.  I found it nice to leave the hustle and bustle of the city to come back to a quiet neighborhood to rest.  The flat is also right next to a Sainsbury (grocery store) and close to several restaurants, banks and shopping boutiques.  Everything you need is either within walking distance or a short bus ride away.

Rooms

The flat sleeps up to 6 people with 2 bedrooms and a sleeper sofa.  One bedroom has 2 twin beds while the second bedroom has a full-sized bed. 

 

Bathrooms

The flat also has 2 full bathrooms.¬† The first bath has a shower while the second bath has a tub.¬† I wish the second bathroom was a more traditional shower/bath combo but it really wasn’t that big of a deal once you got used to it.

 

Common Areas

Hall/Kitchen/Living Room

   

Staying in a vacation rental proved to be economical and relaxing.¬† We had more¬†space than the standard hotel room, were able to buy groceries for breakfast and snacks at the Sainsbury next door and could do laundry (which meant we didn’t have to bring as many clothes).¬† The flat also has free wireless internet and free incoming calls.

Overall, I really enjoyed staying at 25 Derwent Yard and would definitely stay there again.  You cannot beat the comfort, location or price.  I loved the space and feeling of being in an apartment, the customer service from Colin and Anne and amenities (laundry & internet).  You can read other reviews on FlipKey (which is how I found the vacation rental).  If you ever visit London and want to stay in a flat, I highly recommend this apartment. 

Nikki’s Rating:¬†4 (Fabulous)

Rating Scale 1-5 (1 = GET OUT NOW; 2 = Seriously?; 3 = Eh, it’ll do; 4 = Fabulous; 5 =¬†Absolutely Wonderful)