The Post 1898 Hotel, Ghent

Introduction

The Hotel Post 1898 gets its name from the fact that the building was originally constructed as the main post office for the city of Ghent in 1898. It’s ideally located right in the heart of the historic centre and on the canal that runs through the city.

The hotel has plenty of character. For example, on the second floor there is the honesty bar, which gets its name because it is not attended. Therfore, the management relies on their guests’ honesty to write down any alcoholic drinks they take from the bar.

The hotel doesn’t have a restaurant in the traditional sense. However, snacks and small dishes can be had at The Cobbler bar, which also serves as the breakfast room. The also do some very nice cakes in the afternoons.

I can highly recommend the chocolate cake and the frangipani tarte.

The room

I’m staying in a room type referred to by the hotel as The Postcard. It’s on the second floor and looks out over the main square. The room is on two levels, with the bedroom, working area and toilet on the lower level, and the shower on the higher level.

The attention to detail in the room is quite amazing. There are little knick-knacks everywhere and give the place a lovely, cosy feel.

The room has a fully stocked minibar, water kettle and Nespresso machine. A bottle of still water is standing next to the bed.

Conclusion

I very much enjoy my stay at the hotel. It’s not just that it’s very nicely finished. The whole place just somehow feels welcoming. The staff are friendly and very helpful. Nothing you ask them for ever seems to be too much. And the room is just very comfortable. Perhaps the only criticism, or let’s say the only word of caution, is that there are a lot of steps in this hotel. Sure, there are lifts. but most of the time taking the lift is cumbersome. So perhaps this is not the place for somebody not quite so stable on the feet.

The Pullman Hotel at Bruxelles Midi

Introduction

The Pullman Hotel Bruxelles Midi belongs to the Accor group of hotels. It is located inside the railway station building at Bruxelles Midi. There is a direct access to the hotel from the railway station.

Reception

The reception area is kept in white and cream, which makes it seem very bright. During my stay two of the reception desks are permanently attended and the staff are friendly and very efficient. That is one of the things I really like about the Accor hotels. The check-in is always very efficient. Sometimes, you get to a hotel and it takes them an eternity to check you in, even though you’ve supposedly already given them all your data at the time of booking.

Of course, it also helps that with my status I can pretty much count on an upgrade everytime I stay at one of the Accor hotels.

Superior room with city view

I’ve been upgraded to a superior room with city view, which is slightly larger than the standard room. The white and cream colours continue in the room, which is quite daring. I’m guessing it must take a lot of work to keep it looking clean. But they pull it off. The room is clean and looks well maintained.

The main difference to a classic room is that there is a larger sitting area – which I promptly take advantage of to spread my mess…

Amenities

The room is equipped with an electric water kettle and a Nespresso machine with four capsules. Cream and sugar are also provided. In addition, there is a bottle of complimentary still and sparkling water in the fridge.

Welcome gift

On the small club table there’s also a small box with hand sanitizer and santizing towels and a box with four Belgian chocolates. Basically, it’s a ginger cookie with a white cream piled up on top of it and then smothered in chocolate. They’re good, but very rich.

Lavatory & shower

The lavatory and shower are separate. There’s no bath, but a nice walk-in shower with good pressure and reliable temperature control. And, you don’t end up flooding the whole room trying to have a shower. The amenities are by Biggleow’s.

Bed

The king bed is large and comfortable. I prefer a firm matress to support my back, which is not something you get very often in a hotel. This one is adequate though.

Bar & restaurant

A bar and restaurant are located on the first floor, which is also where breakfast is served. The breakfast is a buffet with hot and cold dishes, but there is also the option to have hot dishes made to order. The breakfast is fine, but nothing to write home about.

The Cambrian Hotel, Adelboden

The Cambrian Hotel is located in the heart of the village of Adelboden in the Bernese Oberland. By public transport Adelboden is only accessible by bus from a town called Frutigen, there is no train.

I enjoyed my stay at The Cambrian very much. From the specutacular vistas from the balcony of my room to the excellent and very friendly staff, I can highly recommend staying here.

Rooms at The Cambrian either look out over the valley and the mountains beyond, or onto the main street in front of the bus terminus. From what I could tell from the floor plan, there are only standard rooms facing the street.

The room

I stayed in The Cambrian Suite, which was spacious and well appointed. The living room had a comfortable armchair and sofa, as well as a dining area and a bar with a fully stocked fridge, a Nespresso machine and electric tea kettle.

The bedroom

The bedroom was completely separate from the living room. It had plenty of storage space. The bed was large and the mattress was reasonably hard and certainly supportive for my slipped disc.

The bathroom

The Cambrian Suite had an en suite bathroom with a bath and a separate walk-in shower. In addition, there was also a separate toilet next to the entrance to the suite. The amenities were by the Grown Alchemist.

The view

Of course it helped that the weather over Easter was stunning here in Switzerland. Even so, I really cannot say enough about the views from the hotel. Being a corner room, the suite had three balconies on two sides. All of them offered spectacular views of the valley. I could have spent all day sitting out there just watching the world go by!

The restaurant

The restaurant was on the lower level, given that the hotel is built on a slope. The chef is a Welshman by the name of Bryant Williams. I woldn’t say that the menu offered any unusual or extraodinary choices, but the food was well prepared and nicely presented. For breakfast there was a large buffet with a wide selection of hot and cold dishes.

When I first arrived, it was still a bit cold in the mornings to sit outside. However, by Easter Sunday the temeprature had risen sufficiently to be able to enjoy breakfast outside.

The hotel grounds

The hotel had a large spa area which proved very popular with the Japanese tourists, who clearly used it as their onsen. The outdoor pool was heated. From what I understand, there was an indoor pool too.

The lobby was nice and cosy. I can only imagine that it must be lovely in the winter, to be able to sit there watching the snow, preferably with a mug of hot chocolate by the open fireplace.

The staff

The Cambrian Hotel gave the impression of being a very well maintained and professionally run establishment, and this also showed in their staff. Everybody I met at this hotel was really just so nice. At breakfast, it was nearly as though the waiting staff had a sixth sense: every time I was about to finish my coffee, one of them would appear by my side out of nowhere and ask me if I’d like a refill. At dinner too, the service was efficient, friendly and completely unpretentious. Just perfect!

Adelboden

Adelboden is clearly geared towards winter sports. There are many good slopes in close proximity to the village. Even so, it’s also very nice to visit in the summer, be it for relaxation or for hiking. The long Easter weekend is an excellent time to visit too, because that’s when the village is between seasons. During my stay many hotels had already closed down until the start of the summer season in June. As a result, it was very quiet and not at all crowded.

Conclusion

I enjoyed my say at The Cambrian in Adelboden so much. I honestly can’t remember the last time I had such a relaxing stay anywhere. Adelboden is lovely and the hotel made it all the more enjoyable. Granted, staying at The Cambrian Hotel was not exactly cheap. But that is not something that is unique to this hotel, but something you have to accept when visiting any one of the Swiss ski resorts – even in the off season.

Hotel Conservatorium, Amsterdam

Introduction

I’m in Amsterdam to see, or rather hear Bach’s Matthäus Passion at the Amsterdam concert hall. The interior of the building is quite spectacular, and so is the music. The concert hall is located on the enormous Museumplein or museum square in Amsterdam, in close proximity to the Van Gogh museum and the Rijks museum. And that is also why I’m staying at The Conservatorium Hotel, which is literally just across the road from the Van Gogh museum.

Reception and public area

The hotel is housed in what was once a bank. The entrance to The Conservatorium in through a quiet courtyard off the main road.

The reception is bright and airy, with a high glass ceiling. The receptionist is quick to check me in and show me to the room.

The Conservatorium Junior Suite

I’m staying in a junior suite, which is large and spacious and spread across two levels.

On the entrance level there is a comfortable sitting room and a desk, the wardrobe and the bathroom and toilet.

The bedroom and what I call the secret shower are located on the upper floor.

Upstairs shower room

To be honest, I only discovered the secret shower the day after I arrived at the hotel. Nobody had told me it was there, and so I only discovered it by chance.

Downstairs bathroom

The downstairs bathroom is much larger and spacious than the shower on the upper level.

Bathroom amenities

Amenities in the bathroom are provided by Malin & Goetz and smell refreshing and natural.

Room amenities

There’s also a Nespresso machine in the room.

Restaurant

Breakfast is served in the main restaurant at the far end of the lobby on the ground floor. I usually tend to have breakfast early, even on my days off, at around 07h00. The restaurant is not very busy, so it’s nice and peaceful.

The breakfast spread is excellent, with a large selection of sweet and savoury dishes from the buffet. In addition, there is a large selection of hot dishes from a separate menu. They are complimentary and the staff will make sure to check if there’s anything guests would like to order. I decide to go with the American pancakes served with berries and maple sirup. And I have to say, they’re probably the fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever tasted!

Staff

The staff were all very friendly and polite. Whenever I passed one of the staff on the hotel grounds, they would greet me and inquire if they might assist carrying my suitcase or shopping. The turndown service is nicely done. When I return from the concert hall in the evening, the Nespresso capsules have been replenished, a bottle of still water is stading near the bed and my night robe and slippers and have been laid out for me.

Conclusion

The Conservatorium is an elegant, quiet hotel in the centre of old Amsterdam. It’s close to many of the city’s sights and is easily accessible. The rooms are nicely appointed and the service is friendly and helpful but without being fussy.

Hotel SO/ Das Stue, Berlin

Das Stue lies in a quiet street close to the Siegessäule, adjacent to a sprawling park and the Berlin zoo. The building dates back to the 1940s and was originally intended to be the Danish embassy.

After the war it stayed empty for many years, until eventually it was purchased and rennovated by a Spanish consortium that turned it into a hotel. It is now part of the Accor group of hotels under the SO/ brand.

Getting to the hotel from Berlin Zoologischer Garten in the middle of the night is just a tad spooky, as you have to talk through the darkened park. It feels a bit like something out of American Werewolf…

The architecture of the lobby is quite austere, with clear straight lines. Even so, the entrance with its spectacular chandalier and the rows of lit candles on the side somehow still manage to make the place feel cozy and intimate.

I stayed in one of the suites on the fourth floor, and I very much enjoyed it. The room was very spacious and elegant. The bathroom was big and had both an enclosed walk-in shower as well as a large bathtub. The toilet was separate from the bathroom.

There was also plenty of storage space should you be planning a longer stay.

The staff at the hotel were all very friendly. I think they managed successfully to be welcoming and laid back but without being intrusive. For example, breakfast was à la carte, which I’m assuming was due to Covid. The staff in the restuarant were great, and no request ever seemed too much for them.

All in all, I very much enjoyed my stay at Das Stue and I certainly wouldn’t mind staying at the hotel on my next visit. The only drawback for me was really that it is just a bit out of the way.

Mama Shelter Hotel, Kirchberg – Luxembourg

On my most recent stay in Luxembourg I stayed at the Mama Shelter in Kirchberg. Kirchberg is where all the banks, offices and the European parliament are located. In as much, it’s a prime location for all the business traffic to the city.

Mama Shelter is the Accor Group’s latest hotel franchise. And from what I can tell, their target demographic are the terminally hip and hopelessly trendy that normally stay at a CitizenM.

The décor of the hotel is gaudy and pretentious. Parts of it look as though they have been designed specifically to act as an ‘interesting’ backdrop for the selfie of yet another brainless influencer. There are so many different patterns and colours going on everywhere, it literally makes my brain hurt.

The lobby, love the mushrooms…

Dinner and breakfast are served in a large, cavernous space. Funky music plays over the loudspeakers, requiring you to yell at the staff for them to understand your order. Although I must say that the food at the restaurant is rather good and offers quite a wide selection of comfort food and healthy dishes.

The room is huge and has a fairly large bathroom. The shower is powerful and allowed me to take a shower without flooding the whole damn building. And the bed is very comfortable with a hard mattress.

But no matter how stylish the room may be, practical it is not. There is a desk to work on at the foot of the bed. But the only seat for it is this uncomfortable bench that is way too low for the desk and makes it inconvenient to work on.

All things considered, I think I would stay at the Mama Shelter again for a business trip to Luxembourg – partly because it still has the look and feel of a new hotel, whereas the Novotel and the Sofitel next door are starting to look old and dated. If you can look beyond the nauseating interior design, the room is comfortable, the food is very good and the staff are very friendly and helpful.

Hotel Kempinski Engelberg

The Kempinski Engelberg is a five-star property that opened in spring 2021. Engelberg is one of Switzerland’s top ski resorts, partly due to the fact that it has some nice slopes, is easily accessible and not quite as far off as other places like Gstaad or Adelboden.

The Kempinski is in easy walking distance from the railway station. You really can’t miss it as you exit from the station. I spent just the one night at the hotel, from Saturday to Sunday, and also had afternoon tea and dinner there.

The public areas of the hotel are somewhat generic, and parts of it look haphazardly put together, with design elements that either don’t always fit or don’t match, such as the horrific plastic faux-palm trees…

The room I stayed was nice though, and I was quite surprised by how large it was. Clearly, they were going for rustic Alpine chic with the design of the room. And mostly I think they succeeded.

The room had a Nespresso machine with four cups, and there was a bottle of water on either side of the bed.

Most importantly, the bed was large, hard and tremendously comfortable.

The bathroom was also quite large and featured a separate bath and shower, as well as a separate toilet. The toiletries were by Salvatore Ferragamo.

And the view from the balcony was stunning.

Where the Kempinski really falls short, in my opinion, is the service and the staff. None of the things they did were really major issues, they just seriously lacked the kind of attention to detail I think a guest should be able to expect from a five-star property.

As I wasn’t sure how busy the hotel would be, I made a reservation for two persons on Saturday afternoon for tea. Only, when we arrived, it became quite apparent that there was no reservation for us, even though it had been confirmed to me by mail. In as much, it wasn’t really such a big deal, because the place was far from busy anyway. However, instead of sorting out the confusion, the staff seemed a lot more preoccupied in trying to figure out what had gone wrong and, more importantly, who they could pin the blame on. And while they tried to figure that out, they just ignored us.

I had also made a reservation for dinner for 19h30. However, the confirmation I received was for 20h00. I have no idea if this was an accident, but again, I would have expected better.

And then dinner was just a mess and honestly not very good. First, one of the waitresses came to ask if we wanted still or sparkling water, to which I responded that we would like sparkling water. I also told here not to bother with the wine menu as we don’t normally drink wine. The wine glasses were not removed and two minutes after she had left, the waitress returned wanting to confirm that we wanted still water.

A short while later she came back to take our order. For the main course, my partner ordered agnolotti filled with ricotta and herbs. A few minutes after we placed our order, the same waitress returned again, wanting to confirm that my partner had ordered the fillet of veal. So again, I explained that he was having the agnolotti. I mean, if the poor woman suffered from such a serious case of short-term memory loss, which didn’t she just write down what we’d ordered?

I ordered a soup to start and fish for the main course. However, the cutlery was not changed for me and it was only when the soup was served that the waiter actually noticed that I didn’t even have a spoon to eat it with. Then, when the main courses arrived, my partner was given a plate of Älplermagrone, which is a Swiss pasta dish with loads of melted cheese and didn’t really look all that appealing. When we pointed out that there had been a mistake, the waiter just wordlessly walked away in a huff and without even as much as an apology – leaving my fish on the table to get cold. And then nothing happened, until eventually the correct dish we had ordered arrived. By this time of course, the fish was cold. It was also very oily and frankly not all that good.

All things considered, I wouldn’t really recommend the Kempinski Engelberg. I think it’s seriously over-rated and over-priced for what you eventually get, and the service was, with all due respect, lousy.

The Sofitel Villa Borghese, Rome

In Rome I’m staying at the Sofitel Villa Borghese, which is perfectly located in a fairly quiet part of the city (as quiet as it gets in a place like Rome…). From the hotel it’s a twenty minutes walk to Roma Termini railway station. The Spanish steps and the luxurious Via Condotti, the Fontana die Trevi and the Vittorio Emanuele monument are all within walking distance.

The hotel’s facilities are excellent, the rooms and reception are elegantly appointed and very comfortable. What’s more, the restaurant is located on the top floor of the building and offers excellent views of Rome. Most importantly though, I think this Sofitel’s outstanding feature is its staff. Everybody at the hotel was very friendly and open, and gave the impression of actually liking their job.

The room I stayed in had a fully stocked fridge, tea and coffee making facilities and bottles of still water. The room overlooked the street leading up to the hotel, but it was still quiet enough to get a good night’s sleep.

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.