This is a bit of a lost post but 2014 is drawing to a close — what a crazy year, my friends — and I have some free time on my hands for the first time since my 30 days of blissful unemployment in June and July. (Oh but to have those 30 days back!) I was in Paris back in August, my first time back in four or five years. My friends Karen and Bob were in town so I hopped on the Eurostar and met them for a lovely weekend of wandering and wine. They had rented a flat in Paris and the original plan was for me to stay with them at the flat. But the flat had a cat. And cats and Krista don’t get along. So Hotel Les Dames du Pantheon it was.
And I had made a nice choice in my hotel selection. My room had pretty views over the Pantheon and was a leisurely stroll from a few different metro stations. (Truth be told though, after a long day of walking on Day 1, I kinda wished the stroll back to the hotel from the metro wasn’t so leisurely.) The room was spotlessly clean and also gorgeously, decadently decorated. Each floor in Hotel Les Dames du Pantheon is decorated after a famous French woman. My room was a Juliette Greco room. Greco, a singer, was also a member of the Resistance. A bohemian freedom fighter. Love it.
When I arrived at the hotel, it was fairly late at night. So I was tired and disorganized when I made this video. It might make you dizzy. But it should give you a feel for the place just the same, and if you don’t mind a leisurely stroll or three, you’ll like it here very much.
The Verdict: Recommended. But bring your walking shoes.
Dude, I was on a Hotwire roll in London. Who doesn’t love a discount? Particularly if the discount gets you a centrally-located luxury hotel like The Langham. Although upon check-in, as you can tell from the video, I wasn’t too enthused about my room — the furniture was ancient but not in a good way and the bathroom was badly in need of an upgrade — by the time I checked out, I was converted. There’s something to be said about staying somewhere with a high level of service.
Here’s what I liked and what I didn’t…
Location. I love Soho so being just a short walk away up Regent Street was perfect for me.
My bed was a marshmallow cloud. Seriously, the linens, the pillows, the mattress…the Holy Trinity of beds. Absolutely lovely.
The staff. Lovely, everywhere, helpful, funny, sweet, everything.
The bar. The bar at The Langham is absolutely gorgeous. I would gladly meet anyone here for a drink or five. Maybe even a mandarin panda drink. It gets way too buzzy and popular in the evenings, but in the afternoon, it is an oasis of calm with lovely and attentive service.
Bath products. Many and plentiful and restocked over and over again. I am past the days of collecting hotel bath products, but if you are still in those days, you will love it here.
Free wifi. Plentiful and everywhere and always connected. Well done, Langham.
Free canapes in the bar! Apparently at 6-something every evening, The Langham celebrates the year of its founding and sends out free canapes to everyone in the bar. NICE.
The room was a little dated. The service and the amenities made up for this, but I would generally prefer something a bit more updated.
The clientele. OK, this is picky of me but there are some very wealthy people who stay here and they act it, in that new money way. (Is that terrible of me to say that? To talk about new money vs. old?) Not once but twice while waiting for the concierge, I was cut in line by men who totally knew they had cut in front of me and they didn’t give a shoot.
Now all this being said, I did not get a chance to try out the fitness center or the spa. I was out and about for most of my stay. But while I was in my room, I was rolling around in my marshmallow cloud and feeling quite smug that I hadn’t paid $600+ a night for my stay.
The Verdict…And Hotwire Logistics
If you visit London and you like fine things, you should stay here. It’s tremendously lovely. I was lucky and got it via Hotwire. I booked this five-star mystery hotel for $275. 83 a night. At the time of booking, a comparable stay booked directly with the hotel would have been $6334.33, so I saved 56.16%. And I slept in a marshmallow cloud. Fantastic.
I stayed a couple of nights at the Waldorf Hilton in London the other week…another Hotwire via Expedia bargain. I got the hotel for $275.83 a night all in on Expedia, booking it again as an “unnamed hotel” and not knowing what I’d get until I got it. The hotel’s list price on the day I booked was $336.61. On the day I moved in, the price had gone up to $396 a night. So using that figure, I saved 30.35%. Not bad. I’m happy with that. I also saved even more because the hotel charges for wifi. I couldn’t get it to work, so they gave me complimentary access for my entire stay. SCORE.
What I liked…
I liked this hotel’s location…right on Aldwych, so a short walk to Holborn tube and just a generally good area in general for restaurants and walking around and public transport.
My room had been very recently renovated, which was really nice. The bathroom was brand-spanking new and very pretty. I would like the bathroom in my house to look like this.
The towels were great. Nice and new and long. I like a good bath sheet.
I needed to print a few tour vouchers and rather than charging me for printouts, they printed everything for me for free.
John the piano guy in the bar who works most afternoon seems like a lovely guy.
What I didn’t like…
I ordered room service one night and my stir fry was pretty terrible. Super greasy.
I asked for a bucket of ice when I first got to the hotel — my ankle injury from November is still plaguing me and I wanted to ice it down — and the front desk said they’d send it right up. They never sent it up. When I asked hours later, the guy at the front desk said something lame like “I was going to do it but then I got distracted and I forgot.” (At least he was honest, I guess.)
I wanted a Diet Coke from the minibar one afternoon. There wasn’t a bottle opener in the room. I called the front desk and then said they would send one right up. You can guess what never arrived.
The safe was a bit low. (The safe sat on top of the minibar.) Safes at this level make me nervous after I left my camera lens in Singapore last month.
The room was pretty small. I’m okay with a small room, but I think I would go crazy if I stayed here more than a few days and if I was sharing this room with someone else.
Would I stay here again? Hmmm…I’m not sure there’s anything compelling me to return. But if I could get another good value like I got on Hotwire, I’d do it. It’s a nice hotel in a very good location.
I like being an expert on something. I’ve decided to become an expert on THE BAHAMAS. I’ve lost track now of how many times I’ve been to this island nation of 300,000, but the first few times were to the easier parts. The parts easily accessible from Fort Lauderdale, Florida and West Palm Beach. If my memory serves correctly, the most western parts of the Bahamas are only something like 45 miles from West Palm. So now I’m trying to get out there more in the Bahamas…go east and east and east.
Last year, I went to the Abacos. The year before, it was Lucaya. This year, it was time for Exuma, a long stretch of land surrounded by the most gorgeous of shallow turquoise water. I hope to share some of my photos of Exuma in the coming days and weeks.
While in Exuma, we stayed at the Grand Isle Resort & Villas. And many people will like it here. Our three-bedroom villa had everything you could ever want: a huge kitchen and breakfast bar, good (not great wifi), Netflix — don’t try to get your older relatives into Orange is The New Black — and comfortable beds and linens.
There were a few things that niggled at me though for the price we were paying at this resort. Firstly, the stairs in the villa were poorly constructed. I should have taken photos with a ruler. The steps were really uneven, which was made all the more terrible because my mother has some motor control issues. I didn’t like her on these stairs. Secondly, the wifi didn’t cover my bedroom, which as I hope you can imagine, was supremely annoying for someone like me. And thirdly, we had this very odd incident with our boat tour and I still don’t understand how it happened.
When we checked in, the resort confirmed that on Tuesday morning, Exuma Water Sports would pick us up at 8:30 am. I have a typed confirmation that says this. Imagine our surprise on Tuesday morning when we get a call from the front desk at 8 am. “The bus is here!” So we all run out and get on the bus and in the process, we are super apologetic and show everyone how our paperwork says 8:30.
The bus drops us off at the office for the tour. Only problem? IT’S THE WRONG TOUR. This is an all day tour with another outfit. So we were put on the wrong bus — why they let us on, I don’t know — and we ended up in the wrong place.
In the end, it all worked out, but as the responsible party in the group, I was a little more than stressed. Add 90 degrees and super sunshine, and this is all a bad scene.
So…would I stay at this resort again? Hmmm. Not sure. Would I go to Exuma again? Hmmm…not sure. Although maybe I would go back if I could live on a boat and float on the endlessly turquoise water. Abaco to me is more of a sure thing. I loved the Abaco Club at Winding Bay — enough to go back and I never go back to anywhere — and I loved going into Hope Town and zipping around on a golf cart and eating ALL THE FRIED CONCH. So right now, that’s my vote. Abaco, not Exuma. But please feel free to change my mind!!
Boy did I get lucky. A few days ago, I wrote about my experience using Expedia’s Unnamed Hotel feature. Well, here is the result. I got a three-night stay at the gorgeous Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green in London. Now, for someone like me, who loves East London and the 55 bus, the location is perfect. BUT! If you are here for the shops and restaurants in West London and you want to walk out the door and have London right there in front of you, The Town Hall is probably not for you. But check out my room! It is awesome. Seriously beautiful. What’s not pictured? A WASHING MACHINE. Yes, I was able to do laundry, TWICE. (I had arrived from Chicago on Saturday morning, but I was in the Bahamas up til late Wednesday night, so I was still a little behind on things. Plus, I know my other hotels won’t have washing machines so lest I get swindled at $6.50 a pair of drawers, best to arrive with all clean laundry. I made good use of this washing machine.)
What I liked…
I loved my room. It was super-spacious — unbelievable so — and I appreciated the kitchenette and the washing machine. Honestly, I might not even call the kitchenette a kitchenette. It was very functional. The bathroom was gorgeous. I took a ton of pictures so that when I make the millions I deserve, I can reproduce this box of white and glass.
Free bottled water (still AND sparkling) and lots of it. I vaugely remember that Town Hall has a natural spring on site, but don’t quote me on that.
The design-ness of it all. This is a really beautiful property.
My dinner at The Corner Room. Delicious, delicious lamb.
The cool bar area and Filipo from Florence who I spoke to at length in the bar.
What I didn’t like…
The wifi was super-slow. Trying to upload the video above took about 90 minutes.
Dearth of nearby amenities, restaurants, cafes. Everything was a short bus ride away.
My server at dinner at The Corner Room. Kind of a jerk. Seemed surprise that I wanted to sit down and actually EAT.
So in short…would I stay here again?? My heart says yes, my wallet says yes, but the logical person inside me wants to be closer to a Boots (the UK drugstore chain that has everything you can ever imagine). Does that make sense? I am on the fence!
The Money Situation…
What I paid all in, using Expedia’s Unnamed Hotel Service: $215 a night, USD.
Price of the hotel the day I booked it all in, for the same room and same nights: $321.22 USD.
Price of the hotel for the actual room I received (upgraded to a suite) as of the day I checked in: $393.84 USD.