Archives Hotels

The Four Seasons Hotel Sydney: Review

Four Seasons Hotel Sydney: the lobby

The Four Seasons Hotel Sydney has all the luxuries one would expect from the brand. The premises are open and modern, with clean lines. And the well-trained staff, particularly the concierges, offer cheerful greetings and lots of assistance. If you want to stay in, you can always head to the coffee shop for a snack or to the Mode Kitchen and Bar for a gourmet meal. Although I didn’t try it myself, Grain Bar looked fun.

Décor: Luxury modern

Location: The Rocks

Room Size: Comfortably large, but not huge

Best amenity: the offer of showers in the spa upon arrival

Advantages: Excellent location, steps from the Circular Quay

Disadvantages: The ground floor event space can spill out into the lobby

Tip: Rates vary with season and length of stay. Be on the lookout for deals.

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Hotel Estheréa in Amsterdam: Review

Hotel Estheréa in Amsterdam: Bar and restaurant area
Hotel Estheréa in Amsterdam: Bar and restaurant area

The delightfully quirky Hotel Estheréa in Amsterdam earns a spot as one of my favorite hotels of the year. The lobby’s eclectic décor entices hotel guests to look and linger. Each day, the staff puts out a tier of Dutch cookies and chocolates that guests can accompany with complimentary espresso, cappuccino, or tea. Plus, the location can’t be beat. Our trip to Amsterdam was made that much more special by this hotel.

Décor: Eclectic Dutch

Location: on the Singel Canal

Room Size: Small, but large enough for two to move around

Most surprising: the riot of disparate objects in the public spaces creates an elegant, relaxing ambience.

Advantages: Excellent staff and location

Disadvantages: Popular with tour groups

Archives Travel

Three Days in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Three Days in Amsterdam:  A hot August day on the canals
Three Days in Amsterdam: A hot August day on the canals

Our three days in Amsterdam, the Netherlands became a whirlwind tour, mostly because, in truth, we had only two-and-a-half days. Plus, we cheated a bit by taking a tour outside of the city. No matter. Our jam-packed itinerary gave us plenty to do and see. I’m amazed by how much we managed to fit into a short period of time.

Best museum: the Rijksmuseum

Best restaurant for foodies: Rijks

Most surprising: the speed and danger of the cyclists whirring down the streets

Favorite out-of-Amsterdam stop: Edam

Most disappointing: The Heineken Experience

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Domux Home Ricasoli in Florence: Review

The Bargello Room in the Domux Ricasoli Apartments in Florence
The Bargello Room in the Domux Ricasoli Apartments in Florence

We never would have stayed in the Domux Home Ricasoli in Florence if my husband’s colleague hadn’t found it first. I argued that I wanted a full-service hotel, with a front desk and housekeeping, not an apartment. My husband wanted to stay in the Domux Home Ricasoli because of the reviews. Eventually I relented after reading what he had. Even so, the reviews didn’t prepare us for the luxury within. We had a real wow moment when we stepped inside. Despite my fears, our trip to Florence had begun in style.

Décor: Contemporary

Location: a block from the Galleria dell’Academia and down the street from the Duomo.

Most surprising: the luxurious dual bathroom with the tiled, jetted tub and rain shower head.

Room size: huge, with a living room, kitchenette with island, enormous bathroom, and king-size bed.

Disadvantage: Housekeeping every other day. Front desk is manned only during business hours.

Security: You are given a security code to be used on the front door keypad to gain entry.

Archives Hotels

Kimpton Lorien Hotel & Spa: Review

Kimpton Lorient Hotel & Spa Lobby
Kimpton Lorien Hotel & Spa lobby

Years ago, when it first opened, I stayed at the Kimpton Lorien Hotel & Spa in Alexandria, VA. I wasn’t a fan, so I approached a recent visit with some trepidation. Not to worry! As the hotel has come into its own, everything about it has improved to become one of the better lodging options in Old Town Alexandria.

Décor: Contemporary mixed with historic accents

Favorite in-hotel experience: Happy Hour at Brabo

Location Advantage: Quiet end of King St.

Location Disadvantage: Somewhat shabby block.

Most distinctive public area: The courtyard you walk through to get to the entrance.

The Property

Kimpton Lorien Hotel & Spa courtyard
Kimpton Lorien Hotel & Spa courtyard

The Kimpton Lorien Hotel & Spa mixes contemporary décor with accents of Georgian architecture. For example, the property is set back in a traditional courtyard, with brick pavers underfoot and an old-fashioned clock in the center. The hotel nods toward historic Alexandria while still emphasizing contemporary clean lines and colors.

Public area in the Kimpton Lorien Hotel & Spa

The public areas of the Kimpton Lorien are open and inviting. Because the hotel, like all Kimptons, offers a free wine hour starting at 5 pm, it has a large sitting room area adjacent to the lobby to accommodate guests. You can sit and read, or meet with friends, or chat with other guests. Brabo, the hotel’s restaurant, offers meals and an excellent Happy Hour.

The Room

King room at the Kimpton Lorien Hotel & Spa
King room at the Kimpton Lorien Hotel & Spa

Our king room was clean and modern, mostly white but with green/blue Rorschach blots on the wall above the bed. It had a large screen Samsung TV, a huge and wide mirror for checking dress from head to foot, and a long desk with mini bar fridge and storage.

For those like me who travel with tons of electronic devices, the room had plenty of open outlets. I especially appreciated that outlets, plus USB ports, on both sides of the bed.

The bathroom had a tiled shower with clear glass shower door. The Kimpton no longer uses individual bottles of shampoo, shower gel, and conditioner. Instead, you’ll find huge refillable dispensers of them, something I hate. Those dispensers make me feel as though I’m in a cheap hotel. Likewise, the small, rough, and thin bath towels didn’t match the hotel’s image.

The Staff

The desk clerks must be on the lookout for returning guests because they seemed to open the doors remotely when we approached them. Every employee we interacted with met us with a smile and complete attention. Housekeeping was thorough, resulting in a clean, fresh room every day.

The Location

The Kimpton Lorien Hotel & Spa sits on the far end King Street, close to the Alexandria Metro station and about a mile from Waterfront Park. Because of its location, it tends to be less touristy and therefore more quiet than other Old Town hotels. That said, everything is still within walkable distance: the historic sites, the restaurants, and the stores.

The Verdict

I would stay again at the Kimpton Lorien Hotel & Spa without hesitation. Because I’m a walker, I didn’t mind the distance to the waterfront. Besides, most things in Old Town Alexandria were much closer.

For nearby dining options, see my post Dining in Old Town Alexandria.

Debbie Lee Wesselmann


Loews Minneapolis Hotel: Review

Room at the Loews Minneapolis Hotel
Room at the Loews Minneapolis Hotel

I recently stayed at the Loews Minneapolis Hotel in downtown Minneapolis for an extended weekend. The hotel itself was comfortable with a modern décor. Theoretically, the location was also good, across the street from the Target Center, two blocks from Target Field, and a five-minute walk to Nicolette Mall. Unfortunately, what we experienced inside this hotel did not match what we experienced outside.

Décor: Contemporary

Favorite in-hotel experience: Cocktails at Relevé

Location Advantage: Walking distance to event centers and restaurants.

Location Disadvantage: Weekend night crazyiness

Fun part of stay: Sharing a hotel with the Milwaukee Brewers

The Property Itself

Although the Loews Minneapolis Hotel has a small lobby, the area offers some low, upholstered, bench-type seating for ten or so people. Off the lobby, the Apothecary Bar offers drinks and snacks until 5 pm, when the bar upstairs, Relevé, opens. A Starbuck’s is just outside the hotel’s side door and across the hall.

Relevé Champagne Bar
Relevé Champagne Bar, on the fourth floor

The architect for the Loews Minneapolis Hotel came up with a strange design, probably for security. To access your room, you must take the elevator to the fourth floor where you exit and proceed to a different bank of elevators. The second bank of elevators require you to use your card key to get to your room’s floor. Since the fourth floor is public space both for the Relevé Champagne Bar and the dining room, people can’t gain access to your floor without a key.

Although Relevé specializes in sparkling wines, it is a full service bar with a limited Happy Hour menu. Check the hotel signs for hours. You may choose to sit at the bar or at a chair next to a small table.

We did not eat in the dining room because we chose to patronize Minneapolis’s excellent restaurants. Also on the fourth floor, you’ll find a grab-and-go market.

The Room

We booked a room with a king-size bed at the Loews Minneapolis Hotel. Although not huge, we found that it had ample room for two. My husband always claims the desk for himself, so I was glad to have an upholstered chair with a side table for myself. The calming grays-and-white went well with the accent wall of blue and green.

Bathroom at the Loews Minnaepolis Hotel

The bathroom had a contemporary green glass sink and a walk-in, tiled shower. The bath towels were small and rough. I’ve had bigger, softer towels at a Spring Hill Suites, and so thought the bath linens did not match the quality of the rest of the hotel.

The room contained plenty of power outlets, particularly at the long desk. The large screen TV, Keurig coffee maker, and bedside lamps completed the amenities in an otherwise spare room. Except for the rough towels, the room fit the chain’s “luxury” self-branding.

The Staff

We were greeted every time we entered by a friendly and efficient staff. They opened the door for us, both when we left and when we returned. When we had a question, they had an accurate answer. The largely unseen housekeeping workers kept the room clean and well-stocked. In terms of the staff, Loews Minneapolis Hotel couldn’t have done better.

The Neighborhood

During the day, we found nothing undesirable about the hotel’s surrounding area, but on Saturday night, all hell broke loose just a half-block away. The sidewalks filled with partying and often drunken (or high) people. A fatal stabbing occurred that night just two blocks away. While the stabbing may have been an anomaly, the rowdy pedestrians probably were not. We had previously stayed at the Grand Hotel Minneapolis several blocks away, and we had experienced none of this.

The Verdict

We loved the short walk to Target Field and local restaurants but not the Saturday night madness. After serious consideration, we decided that we would probably not return to the Loews Minneapolis Hotel in downtown Minneapolis solely because of the neighborhood at night. Even though the Grand Hotel has changed ownership from Kimpton to Hyatt, we may return there next time.

Debbie Lee Wesselmann