Q Station North Head

In the very early days of the island colony of New South Wales, if a ship reported an illness or the outbreak of a disease aboard, the passengers would not be allowed off the boat and were quarantined at sea, off the Australian coast. Unavoidably, this meant that the ships’ crews didn’t really have an incentive to report any problems to the authorities because if they did, it usually meant a lot of additional costs that totally messed up the ship’s turn and its journey home with revenue passengers and cargo.

In 1836 this lead to the establishment of the the North Head Quarantine Station, on the north side of the entrance into Sydney Harbour. If a disease was reported, all the passengers and crew were made to disembark at the quarantine station and had to remain there until there were no more cases reported among any of the ship’s crew and passengers. Only then was everybody allowed to leave.

The building in the two first photos below is the old boiler house, where passengers’ luggage was disinfected. Behind it were the showers, where passengers had to disrobe and wash until the onlooking authorities were comfortable that they were sufficiently disinfected as well. The shower facility can be seen in the third picture.

The quarantine station sprawls over a vast area at the tip of North Head and today is part of the Sydney Harbour National Park. Obviously, it not longer operates as a quarantine station.

The area is really beautiful, and there are many walks you can take around the park and what used to be the old army barracks.

Currently, the quarantine station operates as the Q Station Hotel, which is operated by the ALL Accor group. The old buildings have been converted into guest accommodation. The Australian government emphasizes that the purpose of running the Q Station as a hotel is to generate funds for the conservation of this historical site. This also means that when the place was converted into a hotel, management had to make sure that all modifications and updates to the buildings could be made undone, to preserve the unique character of the place.

I spend two weeks in one of what used to be the officers’ cottages.

The cottage has two porches, two living rooms and three bedrooms to accommodate a total of six persons. There is one bathroom with toilet, a shower and toilet and a separate toilet.

There’s also a fully equipped kitchen if you prefer self-catering.

Breakfast is served in the main building, just a short walk from my cottage. The old boiler house has been turned into an à la carte restaurant that sits at the bottom of a set of stairs with 236 step. So at least you get to work off some calories on your way back to your accommodation. Currently, the Boiler House restaurant only opens Wednesday through Saturday.

From the Q Station it’s a walk of about 45 minutes to Manly wharf. There is a bus. However, that runs only once an hour, and it doesn’t run very later either, with the last bus departing the wharf at 19h42.

I very much enjoyed my stay at the Q Station. For the purpose of my visit – that bloody PhD – it was perfect. It’s quiet and secluded. And when you step outside to air the brain a little, the view of the sea is breathtaking.

Pullman Hotel, Roissy Airport

The Pullman Hotel at Roissy airport is located right next to Roissypole station, between Terminals 1 and 2. It’s literally about two minutes on foot from the station to the lobby.

Since my last visit, the hotel has resumed full operations. Back in the spring there were still Covid restictions in place. This means that the pool and the gym are now back in service and open to hotel guests.

The lobby and bar area have windows all around, which gives the space a nice, bright appearance. Strangely though, whenever I visit this hotel, it feels a bit like a ghost town.

Opposite the bar there’s a small, open business centre.

During my stay, I’m upgraded to a king suite, which is spacious and nicely designed. The suites take up the space in the rounded tip of the building. In any case, there is a sitting room area with a good size working desk.

The bedroom is large and very comfortable. It’s a slightly odd shape though, owing to the rounded facade of the hotel.

There’s also an Illy espresso machine and complimentary soft drinks and beer in the fridge.

The bathroom is spacious and has a separate shower and bath.

The cosmetics are by Bigelow’s.

In addition, every room has its unique QR code that guests can use to order room service. If your rate includes breakfast, this also means that you can order breakfast to be served in your room at no extra charge. It is also possible to order breakfast for the same day, and there are multiple options for breakfast available, which allow for a lot of customization.

Seetel Hotel Atlantik, Heringsdorf-Bansin

When I decided to take this trip to Usedom, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. And that made finding a hotel a bit difficult. Moreover, if you’re looking for the big hotel chains here, you’re out of luck.

Eventually I settled on the Hotel Atlantik because I figured it offered the best mix of proximity to the beach, accessability with public transport and food.

I’m in room 10, which is on the first floor and has a balcony overlooking the promenade and the dunes behind it. The room is small but obviously well maintained and looks new. There are no tea of coffee making facilities. Only a bottle of sparkling water is provided.

The food at the hotel’s restaurant is very good. There is a three- or four course set menu every evening and the standard à la carte menu. However, the staff are great, and you can mix and change as you like.

An extended à la carte menu and a vegan menu are also available, but dishes from those menus need to be ordered in advance, at the latest by 16:00.

On one evening, the meal started with an amuse bouche of Mediterranean crêpe.

Then to start home made gnocchi with sweet potato, tomato and gorgonzola espuma from the set menu.

And then a Thai fish curry with rice for the main course, which was also from the set menu.

And then for dessert the divine Apfel Tarte, which was an interesting mix between a tarte Tatin and an apple pie. This was not part of the set menu, but I could change without any hassle at all.

The Thai curry was unusual. It tasted authentic, although the lemon rice was more like risotto than anything you’re likely to get in Thailand. The breakfast spread is also excellent and very extensive.

The hotel is small enough to be familiar, but big enough to have all the amenities you’d expect. And the breeze, sitting out on the balcony in the evenings is priceless!

Return to the SO/ Berlin Das Stue

The last time I stayed at the Stue was in December. The hotel itself is perhaps a tad overly hip for my taste, but I like the architecture of the building and the rooms are very nicely laid out.

This time I had a suite on the first floor, which overlooked a quiet street.

The welcome gift this time was another bottle of champagne and some grapes.

There’s also a Nespresso machine and real Nespresso capsules in the Nespresso branded box.

The hotel has its own backdoor entrance to the zoo. You still need to purchase a ticket online, but if you show that at reception, they will let you into the zoo from there, without having to queue.

The Zoologischer Garten is certainly worth a visit. During my stay I’m also lucky that the weather is not too hot, so that it’s not unpleasant to stroll through the park.

RIU Hotel Plaza de España, Madrid

The RIU Hotel Plaza de España takes its name from the square in the heart of Madrid that it overlooks. It is situated in walking distance to the Palacio Real, the Plaza Mayor and Plaza de Sol.

The building has had turbulent history. Construction of the Edificio España, as the building is officially known, started in 1948 and finished in 1953. Since then it has been sold, threatened with demolition, sold again and then immediately re-sold…

Today the property belongs to the RIU group of hotels, who have invested a lot of time and money in doing it up. As you can see in the photos, the hotel is enormous. As such, it’s impossible for it to be intimate. Nonetheless, I think they’ve done a really good job with it, and part of that is certainly due to the exceptional staff they have at the hotel. They’re proactive in handling guests and crowds, so that even when it’s busy, you never have to wait for long to be seen to.

I booked a suite on the tenth floor, with a balcony overlooking the Plaza de España. The rooms is very comfortable, and despite the fact that it overlooks a busy square in the centre of Madrid, the noise from the traffic below cannot be heard inside the room.

The view from the tenth floor is brilliant, and in the evenings when the temperature cools down, you can just spend hours out there, watching the world go by…

… or watching the city awaken in the early morning. Although, this being Madrid, up until seven in the morning the impression is that the city is only just starting to go to bed from the night before!

Oh yes, and the breakfast is something to behold, because it’s enormous and serves an excellent array of local Spanish dishes as well as anything else you might just have a hankering for. The hotel is also excellent for public transport, there’s an entrance to the metro just a few metres away from the hotel.

I really enjoyed my stay at the hotel, because it was just very relaxing, and the view from the balcony was just so cool. Having said that, if you’re going to stay at this hotel, I would really recommend that you pay a little extra for a room looking out over the square.

The St Pancras Hotel, London

Seeing as I arrived by train at St Pancras station from Paris, I figured I might as well save myself the hassle and stay at the Rennaissance St Pancras, which is part of what used to be the old station building. The St Pancras is a Marriot Bonvoy property.

The location of the hotel is excellent. The British museum is in walking distance and there is a tube station literally just down the road.

There are two wings to the hotel. The Chambers wing is in the old building. The centrepiece of which is a very grand old staircase that doesn’t look unlike the oppulent staircases I’ve seen at Fontainebleau or Versailles.

So, of course I’ve decided to stay in the old Chambers wing. My room is very spacious. Even though it’s not what I booked, I’ve been given a wheelchair accessible room. So I’m not sure if this is the standard size of a room in the Chambers wing, or if I just got lucky.

The design of the furniture is nice, and the room feels comfortable. But I think that gradually it’s starting to show its age. The bathroom is large and spacious. Of course, being an accessible room there is no bath. But that suits me just fine.

As in probably most hotels in London and the UK, there are tea and coffee making facilities in the room. What I do find a bit odd though, and not just a bit cheap, is that there is a Nespresso coffee machine and even a Nespresso coffee box next to it. But the capsules inside it are not Nespresso, but some other brand. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a coffee snob, I’m not even particularly fond of Nespresso. But I do think it’s more than just a bit shabby of the hotel to “pretend” they’re offering Nespresso to their guests in the rooms, when in fact it’s clearly not. I’m also not sure what Nespresso would have to say about this either.

Other than that, the staff at the hotel seemed a bit disoriented and were obviously not very well trained. For example, I only found out by accident after I checked in that my rate gave me access to the member’s lounge, which the guy at reception was oblivious to.

Access to the lounge is through the restaurant, The Booking Office. Funny thing is though, when I wanted to get a drink from the lounge before I headed out, the young lady at the restaurant’s reception had no idea about the lounge and wouln’t let me in.

All in all, the St Pancras wasn’t a bad place to stay. I don’t think it was so overwhelming though that I’d definitely stay here again in future.

Hotel de L’Aigle Noir MGallery, Fontainebleau

L’Hotel de L’Aigle Noir is an MGallery property in Fontainebleau. It’s located literally across the road from the side entrance to le Château de Fontainebleau and just a short distance away from the park.

The hotel is quite busy when I arrive with a large group of scandinavians staying at the hotel for a meeting. As a result, and owing to my status with Accor, I’ve been upgraded to the Napoléon Bonaparte Suite.

And the suite is enormous! Behind the main door is a long corridor that runs the length of the room.

The first right is the toilet and bathroom, with a separate bath and shower – and copious amounts of towels.

Then there is a large sitting room with a sofa, coffee table and desk.

Also, there’s a Nespresso machine and water boiler.

And then comes the bedroom, overlooking the square. The bedroom has four sets of French windows, which give it a bright, airy feel.

Incidentally, the queen bee motif on the curtains, carpets, wallpaper and cushions harks back to Fontainebleau’s royal history. At the French court it was customary to have the queen bee motif embroidered on the royal’s garments or bed clothes as a symbol of their authority.

The furniture in the bedroom is by Ligne Roset, and includes an elegant desk and chair. Which is where I sit and work on my PhD during my stay, when it’s too hot to be out in the midday sun anyway.

As a welcome gift, I’m given a box of chocolates in the shape of Napoléon the third’s iconic hat, which I find rather funny…

The Aigle Noir is what is referred to in France as a garni hotel, which means that it serves breakfast but not lunch or dinner. The breakfast is extensive and features a variety of hot and cold dishes that varies from day to day. There’s no need to worry about them not serving lunch an dinner though, because there are many very good restaurants in easy walking distance to the hotel.

I rather like this hotel. It’s a great place to use as a base to explore Fontainebleau and the surrounding area. The staff are friendly and very knowledgeable about the château.

Hotel Bathazar MGallery, Rennes

The Balthazar is an MGallery property of the Accor group of hotels. It is conveniently located mid-way between the Rennes railway station and the centre of town, with both in easy walking distance.

I suspect the interior designer of the hotel took their inspiration from the CitizenM hotels, and there are even individual pieces of decoration that I recognise.

In the middle of the lobby is the stairwell, built of solid brick. The seating area is spread out around it. And here too there are a few pieces of Vitra furniture that I recognise.

The staff at the hotel are friendly and helpful. When I arrived on Saturday, I inquired about reserving a table at the restaurant. The poor woman at reception seemed distraught to have to tell me that it was fully booked.

My room is on the first floor, overlooking a small courtyard. There are a few tables in the courtyard where guests can sit & have a drink or a light meal, but it never gets noisy and they close off the outside area fairly early in the evenings, so there’s really no bother with the noise.

The room is very comfortable and spacious. There are tea and coffee making facilities and the minibar is complimentary, although that may have something to do with by status with Accor.

The bathroom features the usual set of amenities you might expect, including bath robes and slippers.

The restaurant is located on the ground floor, and this is also where breakfast is served. For breakfast they have a very nice buffet. In addition, warm dishes including eggs and pancakes can be ordered from the kitchen.

I very much enjoyed my stay in Rennes at the Balthazar hotel. The location is great, the rooms feel comfortable and the staff are friendly and helpful.

Yotel Air, Amsterdam Schiphol

Location

The Yotel Air at Schiphol airport is located airside above lounge 2 in the non-Schengen area of the terminal complex. This means that if, like me, you are arriving and then departing on a Schengen flight, you will need to go through immigration twice. It’s not a big deal, especially seeing as you will not have to go through security either way.

Price

I booked the Yotel for three and a half hours, which came to about EUR80. Admittedly, that may seem a lot. But given that I really did have an early start and the alternative would have been to sit in the KLM lounge for six hours, as far as I’m concerned, that was money well invested.

What to expect

Okay, so the Yotel is airside. Inside the terminal. So in case you’re wondering, no, there are no great airport views to be had from the room.

I booked a queen room, which includes a shower and toilet en suite. The only window in the room overlooks the corridor and there is a light-proof blind that can be lowered manually.

The room is incredibly functional and well designed. Upon entering, the mattress in folded up, so that the bed looks like an oversized sofa. There are two buttons on the edge of the bed side table that are used to extend the bed and unfold the sofa. I was expecting that in the open position it would be impossible to move in the room. And it really is tight, but there’s still enough space to not have to climb over the bed to get to the loo.

What struck me about the room is that it’s very quiet in terms of outside noise. You don’t hear anything that’s going on in the terminal. In contrast, the room itselfs makes quite a lot of noises.

The Kempinski Corvinus, Budapest

The Kempinski Corvinus is ideally located in the centre of Budapest, close to the Confiserie Gerbeaud (if you’re feeling peckish…), the bank of the Danube and the Chain Bridge.

The hotel is very well managed and the staff have obviously been well trained. They’re friendly and helpful. Moreover, they all speak very good English and interact pleasantly with guests.

I don’t take any pictures of the restaurant so as not to pester the other guests. However, it is worth mentioning that their breakfast spread is truly amazing and very extensive. There are two main restaurant: ES is the main restaurant, which is a kind of steakhouse and serves everything a meat lover’s heart desires. This is also where breakfast is served in the mornings. Then there is Nobu – a Japanese restaurant, as well as a deli, the Living Room Lounge and the Blue Fox Bar.

The facility is very well maintained. However, the rooms are starting to look a bit old fashioned. It’s not that they’re in bad shape, quite the contrary. It’s actually quite difficult tp put a finger on it. I think it’s just that the rooms are in a fairly opulent style, whereas more modern hotels tend to be in a somewhat austere or functional style. But perhaps that’s just because that’s the type of hotel I usually go for.

The bathroom features a separate bathroom and shower. Bathrobes and slippers are also provided in his and her sizes.

The amenities are by Ferragano.

All in all, the Kempinski Corvinus is a comfortable place to stay if you’re visiting Budapest. Of course, the location may not be as spectacular as that of the Hilton up on castle hill, but it’s certainly a lot more convenient and central, with many of the sights, shops and a lot of good restaurants in close proximity.