Kruisheren Hotel

The building housing the monastery of the Crutched Friars of the Order of the Holy Cross in the beautiful city of Maastricht is one of only very few buildings in the Netherlands build in the Gothic tradition that remains intact in its entirety.

In 2003 what used to be the monastery was sold to a hotel group and turned into the Kruiserenhotel, which is also a member of the Design Hotels. The hotel lies in a central location just off the main square of the town and about twenty minutes walk from the main railway station.

Once you are inside the hotel, there is a large outdoor courtyard that is closed off on all sides and is very serene and quiet. Generally speaking, there is something very grand and imposing about the place that constantly has you feeling you really should be whispering.

The hotels’s public area with the resturant and bar are probably the most spectacular features of the hotel. In the bar, the decor is kept in plush, extravagant dark red velvet that clashes dramatically with the austere lines of the gothic architecture.

The restaurant sits on top of the bar and here the decor is kept simple, presumably so as not to distract from the spectacular ceiling that gives an impression of infinity in the abesence of any other visual references to gauge the height. Which is probably the effect they were already aiming for when it was still a church.

There are sixty rooms in the hotel. The decor is something you may like or you may not. The contrast is certainly interesting between the bright decorations and the vaulted gothic ceilings in the building. A lot of the hotel’s design is dictated by the fact that when work started to turn the building into a hotel, they were not permitted to alter the structure. As such, anything that was added had to be inserted to the existing buildings.

All in all, the rooms at the Kruisheren are fairly small, after all the rooms were built for modesty and not opulence. But the hotel is comfortable, and even if you’re not staying, it’s definitely worth a visit.

The food at the hotel is very good and dining in a church is an interesting experience. They have a tasting menu which is extensive and probably safe even for the pickiest eater, because they will adapt the menus to suit your preferences.

Al-Maha Resort Dubai

Introduction

The Al-Maha Resort is situated around half-way between the city of Dubai and the town of Al-Ain, which is actually in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. On clear days you can see as far as the Hajjar Mountains that separate the United Arab Emirates from the Sultanate of Oman.

Originally, the hotel belonged to the Emirates Airlines group, but has since been sold to Marriott Hotels.

Al-Maha is the Arab word for an oryx antilope, of which you’re likely to see quite a few during your stay. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you may catch one of the braver animals venturing right up to the edge of your pool for a drink in the early morning.

The Rooms

The hotel only has free standing villas, most of which have their own private pool and vary mostly in terms of size and the number of quests they can accommodate.

The interior of the villas is very Lawrence of Arabia, if oyu know what I mean, but they’re comfortable enough. The villas also have an easel, canvas and paints – in case you feel inspired to express your creativity during your stay. And I must admit, the light on the desert during the twilight hours really is quite spectacular to watch.

The Private Pool

So, as I already mentioned, most villas come with their own private pool. There is also a larger, common pool. But during my stay I don’t think I ever saw anybody in the larger pool.

The layout of the individual villas offers a lot of privacy. There is the main deck right by the steps leading into the pool. And then there is a separate sun deck off to the right.

Activities

I suppose if you wanted to, you could drive in to Dubai from the Al-Maha for some shopping or sightseeing. The journey by car without traffic is probably around 45 minutes. But in Dubai there is always traffic, and a lot of it.

The hotel does offer a good range of outdoor activities, which usually are scheduled for the early morning or in the evening, when the sun is not so fierce. You can go dune surfing, visit the falconry station or take a camel ride into the desert in the evenings for a sundowner.

Conclusion

I very much enjoyed my stay at the Al-Maha, mainly because I just loved the size of that private pool and because the venue of the hotel really is in a nice spot. There is something quite poetic about the desert. Other than that though, while the villa was comfortable, the style was not so much my cup of tea. Although I should say that the fittings and furnishings of the villa was very nice.

The Chedi on Ghubrah Beach

Introduction

The Chedi Muscat is one of my favourite resorts. It’s just a very nicely finished and very well managed hotel. The moment you set foot inside the beautiful lobby, you just know you’re going to enjoy your stay.

I have no idea who the interior designer of the hotel is, but they definitely took good care to incorporate local architecture in the layout of the grounds and the individual buildings. As such, The Chedi is laid out in a style that is clearly reminiscent of the Al-Hambra in Spain. There is the main building with the lobby, restaurants and the standard rooms. But then there are the garden villas, the spa and the lounge, which are set amid neatly trimmed lawns and connected with each other by a system of elegant fountains and ponds.

The Service

The service at the Chedi is impeccable and very attentive. When you arrive, the first thing that happens is that you are seated and brought a wonderful rose scented cold towel and a glass of iced lemon water with mint. Everything is explained in detail, and the staff will point out things that may be of interest to you along the way as they show you to your room or villa.

There are many comfortable seating options outside where you can just lounge or have a drink. However, you have to keep in mind that this is Oman and the heat and humidity can be very high in the summer months. So sitting outside may not be the best idea, unless you’re visiting in winter. Even in the evenings, the temperature rarely dips below thirty degrees.

The Rooms

The rooms are richly appointed and very well maintained. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to capture all the fine details on photo. I usually stay in one of the garden villas, which have their own small patio and, in some cases, overlook one of the many ponds.

The villas are very private, and even when you’re sitting outside, you rarely every see any of the other guests.

I can highly recommend breakfast out on the patio, if you’re staying in a villa. But again, with the heat it’s probably best to have an early breakfast before the temperature and the humidity become too stifling.

The Beach

If you’re going for a classic beach front vacation, The Chedi may not be what you’re looking for. The hotel has its own private section along Ghubrah Beach, and while it’s clean, it’s also not spectacularly beautiful. Furthermore, there are a few things to keep in mind when you’re at the beach in Oman: it gets so hot that it’s basically impossible to walk in the sand barefoot. You will literally burn your feet.

And don’t expect any respite once you enter the water, because the sea is warm too. You have to swim out quite far for the temperature of the water to cool down and refresh you. But unless you’re a good swimmer and used to swimming in the open sea, I really wouldn’t venture too far out.

The Pools

The Chedi has three pools. One is for adults only and is close to the main building. Then there is a second pool down by the beach, and eventually the long pool in the most recently added part of the hotel. My favourite is definitely the beach side pool, because there’s usually a nice breeze going there and it offers enough shade to avoid the worst of the sun. And the pool restaurant is very good too!

The Location

Muscat is the name of a fairly large, sprawling area along the coast of Oman. As such, The Chedi is in Muscat but it’s still on the outskirts of the actual city. If you’re just visiting for a resort vacation and aren’t planning on going anywhere anyway, then that’s fine. But if you’re intending to see the sights, you’ll probably need a car or a driver. However, this is not necessarily a drawback specific to The Chedi, it’s an issue you’ll face which every hotel you stay at in the area.

The royal palace, the souk and the Corniche along the harbour are all located in Mutrah, which is about twenty minutes by car from the hotel. If you are going to rent a car in Oman, the good thing is that the petrol is dirt cheap. The driving is an experience.

Conclusion

The Chedi is a lovely hotel. It’s quiet, calm and very relaxing. It offers a lot of privacy to its guests and the grounds are extensive enough to make it easy to avoid having to interact with the other guests if you don’t feel like it.

The staff are exceptionally nice and genuinely friendly. Whether it’s in the lobby, by the pool or in the restaurant, they always have time for a friendly chat and ask you how your day has been.

Six Senses Con Dao, Vietnam

Con Dao is one of sixteen islands of an archipelago just off the coast of Vietnam. The island has a rather dark history in that the French built a prison there in the 19th century that was later also used during the Vietnam war.

Today, the island of Con Dao is a lot more peaceful and quiet. I stayed at the Six Senses Hotel, which is a beautiful facility spread out along the beach. There is the main complex with the spa, restaurants, and reception and then there are the beach villas that sprawl over quite a vast area.

The villas offer a lot of privacy. I stayed in an ocean-front two bedroom pool villa, which was really quite huge and offered a lot of space for just two people. Essentially, there are three structures to the villa. In the centre is the common living area with the living room, dining room, kitchen and laundry.

To the left and right are the two bedrooms, both of which have large double beds and a large bathroom with an in- and outdoor shower.

The villa had two pools. The smaller, square one was probably intended as the kiddie pool, where as the larger one was for the ‘grown ups’. The larger pool was about ten metres long, so still not long enough to do laps.

Of course, for some serious swimming you can always take a dip in the sea, which is literally just a stone’s throw away…

Spicer’s Hidden Vale

Introduction

The Spicer’s Hidden Vale is a lovely estate near Grandchester, Queensland. To get there, it’s probably best to fly into Brisbane and then continue from there by car. It’s a distance of about 100km and takes about 90 minutes to get to.

The hotel is spread over a number of buildings, with the restaurant in the main building and the guests’ rooms scattered across the grounds.

There’s also a pool and a spa and the hotel organises a whole set of daily activities for guests. However, if, like me, you just prefer to spend your day lounging about without doing anything much, it’s a great place to do it.

The Room

The room is comfortable and cosy, with a nice porch by the entrance. Although to be honest, by day there are too many flies and by night there are too many frogs milling about.

The Restaurant

The food in the restaurant is good and breakfast outside on the veranda in the morning is really lovely. However, if you’re vegetarian or picky eater, then perhaps this may not be the place for you. I stayed for three nights and more or less exhausted the all the options on the vegetarian menu. But the dishes were certainly well prepared.

Conclusion

The Spicer’s hidden Vale is a lovely place set in a gorgeous scenery in the middle of nowhere. It’s the kind of place you should go to if you need to relax and unwind and you most certainly will. In the mornings I went running along the only road that passes through the area. It was always very quiet. And how cn you resist with a view like this?

The Datai Langkawi

The Datai Langkawi is a beautifully laid out facility draped on a hill that gently slopes down to the shores of the Andaman Sea. The main public areas are roofed but are otherwise open to the elements. The main building is up on the hill, and so are the rooms.


Further down the hill then, there are the the garden villas and eventually the beachside villas by the water. Some of the villas have their own pool, but there is also a large communal pool up by the main building.

On request, the hotel will also do a lovely afternoon tea with all the trimmings.

Just one word of warning for those of you who are perhaps a bit nervous around the creepycrawlies: The Datai is set in a forrest. As such, while there are quite a few sweet little monkeys in the trees, you should also expect quite a few bugs, geckos and frogs. I found it quite poetic to sit upstairs in the lounge with a drink in the evenings, listening to the sound of the forrest around me. But it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

While I was there, I caught this guy taking a dump right on my doorstep…

Palazzo Barbarigo Venice

In 2007 I visited Venice for the first time. The Hotel Palazzo Barbarigo had only just opened and was therefore offering exceptionally low rates, especially considering that the albergo is situated right on the the Canale Grande.

I arrived in the evening, after dark. The hotel had sent a little vaporetto to pick me up and take me to the hotel. I couldn’t really make out anything much outside because of the darkness.

Upon arrival at the hotel, I was informed that I would be the only guest in the whole hotel that night. And therefore, even though I had booked an absolutely rock bottom rate, I was given a room overlooking the Canale Grande, so I would have a view in the morning.

I honestly don’t remember much else about the hotel, except that the landside entrance was down a very small alleway way that I’m sure I would have missed if I’d arrived on foot.

I took the trip in December of 2007, which perhaps will explain the relative lack of crowds.

In any case, with COVID-19 it’s really not a good time to be travelling. And that’s what makes memories such as these all the more precious now – as a place to escape to within the confines and safety of your own mind.

The view from my room
The alleyway leading to the hotel is just to the left of the green door in the foreground
Piazza San Marco
The Campanile
The view from above
Approaching the Rialto bridge

Hotel Majapahit, Surabaya

Here’s the link to the Hotel

The Majapahit Hotel, Surabaya was built in 1910 by Lucas Sarkies, who also founded The Raffles Hotel in Singapore.

I thoroughly enjoyed my stay here. The hotel has the same old world charm as other, more famous establishments – like The Savoy in London or The Peninsula in Hong Kong. The public area in the lobby is kept in the Art Deco style, while the rooms are elegantly appointed in what I can only describe as a colonial style – although nowadays it’s probably politically incorrect to say something like that.

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The hotel is laid out in a number large courtyards with lush vegetation and neatly trimmed lawns. The rooms are all located around the individual courtyards, giving the hotel a very open and exotic feeling.

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During my stay I was lucky enough to be upgraded to a Heritage Suite, thanks to my status with the Accor group of hotels. Apart from the fact that suite really is huge, it also has direct access to the pool, which incidentally is 25 metres long.

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Admittedly, there isn’t really anything much to see or do in Surabaya city and the traffic is bad enough to make a grown man cry. But if ever you happen to find yourself in this part of the world, it would be a shame to miss the fabulous and stylish Majapahit Hotel.

MGallery Hotel Le Cour du Corbeau Strasbourg

Strasbourg is the capital of the Grand Est region of France and the official seat of the European parliament. It’s a very neat and pretty city that is easy to navigate on foot. The centrepiece of the city is, of course, the magnificent cathedral – a huge, imposing building with intricate masonry and a very tall bell tower.

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Personally though, I think my favourite it the main railway station. The original building is already very nice, with large windows with coloured glass looking onto the platforms. The entire building is now covered inside a huge glass structure that is quite unusual.

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In Strasbourg I am staying at the MGallery Hotel Cour du Corbeau, which belongs to the Accor Group of hotels and is ideally located just on the other side of the canal from the cathedral. The facility has been open since 2009 and is obviously very well maintained, because there are hardly any signs of wear and tear. The hotel consists of a number of old buildings and town houses that have been beautifully restored and parts of the original buildings have been integrated into the hotel’s structure.

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The rooms are nicely appointed and very clean. Next time I’m visiting Strasburg I’ll definitely be staying at this hotel again.

Here’s the link to the hotel.

Hotel Magasinet Trelleborg, Sweden

Trelleborg is a quaint little town on Sweden’s southern cost. It’s really very small and there isn’t anything much to see, other than its quaintness. It’s the day after the summer solstice, which is a public holiday in Sweden. As a result, the already very quiet town seems deserted. You know something can’t be right when you walk into the local tourist information office and the clerk starts with ‘the problem is…’.

In Trelleborg I’m staying at the Best Western Magasinet Hotel, which is located right next to the exit from the port and also doubles at the passenger terminal of Trelleborg harbour.

The hotel has basic facilities; the rooms are nice and simple. Here’s the link to the hotel.

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