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Northern Europe in five hotels [Apr. 29th, 2017|04:57 pm]
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Or, more accurately, five hotels in Northern Europe. But this is going to be a dull enough post (unless you're actually contemplating a trip to one or more of these locations) so indulge me in my immodest header. Five hotels, booked through Booking.com, which I find reliable and transparently easy to use: I didn't actually set out to pick five completely different hotels, but if I had, I couldn't have done it better.

Booking a hotel in Ghent was the trickiest one: I looked at several with no rooms available for the dates we wanted. That's how we ended up at the NH Gent Belfort, which is one of a chain of hotels, more geared to business users than we would normally choose, and more expensive too. On the other hand, you could see what the money was buying. For one thing, the location was astonishingly central - not quite as central as our hotel in Trier, but our window looked onto the Town Hall; out of the hotel door it's only a few steps to the street corner, and the belfry is right in front of you (if my Flemish were not nonexistent, I'd have known what 'Belfort' meant). There is parking underneath the hotel, our room was enormous, and the buffet breakfast was excellent: a wide choice of things which were all fresh - I had great fun trying all the different kinds of bread.

We spent a single night at the Hotel de la Poste - Relais Napoleon III, in Bouillon, and it was fine. We had a room with a view of the river, and if we leaned out of the window, of the castle, too, and we had a fancy meal in the fancy restaurant, and enjoyed forgetting we were not quite in France (but all of three miles from the border). The most memorable thing appeared at breakfast, which was soundtracked by what my notes call "the creaking of the orange-disembowelling machine": you put a glass underneath it and dropped two oranges into the top, and freshly squeezed juice was served. This is the hotel which keeps badgering me to review them on TripAdvisor, but I can't really say that, and I can't think what else to say.

Zum Christophel was the hotel hard by the Porta Nigra in Trier, and our little room was in the attic, which is why the boxroom across the corridor had that view; we looked the other way, with a view of the cathedral and the sound of bells. This may not sound encouraging, but I liked it a lot; it was bright and clean, the bathroom also had a rooftop view (and I do value natural light in a bathroom, let alone a view!), the staff were friendly and helpful (and escorted Roger to their car park, a couple of streets away). Breakfast was in the café downstairs and it was very much a café breakfast: you could choose rolls with cold meats and cheese, or with jam and nutella, or both, and you got what you paid for, but we added in fresh orange juice and sometimes extra coffee, and were very content.

We got off on the wrong foot with the Pallazzo Alfonso: this wasn't anybody's fault, but there it is. It didn't help that this was the hotel I had the highest expectations about, because it was so strongly recommended in my guide book. Trying to take a balanced view, then. Our room was generously sized, running across the full width of the back of the building, and that back wall was floor to ceiling windows opening onto a balcony, draped in wisteria and across which a red squirrel ran from time to time. We had a couple of folding chairs, which we could have taken out onto the balcony, if the weather had been a little warmer, or if we'd had a table on the balcony and wanted to picnic - and we might have been tempted to picnic, as we were just far enough out of the center that there was one evening I really wasn't ready to walk back to town to eat. We had a mini-bar, but no kettle, which is the wrong way round, in my opinion. The breakfast buffet was lavish - excessively so, even if the hotel had been full, and at times we had the impression that we were the only guests, so that the huge array of food made us uncomfortable. Also, and probably for this reason, it relied on orange drink rather than fresh juice, long-life rather than fresh viennoiseries, pre-packed jams. This was the only place where a jug of coffee was placed on the table, rather than serve yourself, and although the quantity was generous it was very weak. The hotel had a lot of charm, and if your requirements were different to mine (and if it's not a problem that there's no life) you might get on better than I did.

The Star Lodge Hotel, Utrecht was the joker in the pack: Utrecht itself was a last minute decision, somewhere within easy striking distance of the ferry port at Amsterdam, which would be an interesting place to spend however much or little free time the journey allowed. It's a very modern hotel just outside the old town, and it's cheap enough that we weren't sure what we were letting ourselves in for. It was a great choice: green surroundings, pleasant room, cheap parking, friendly and helpful staff, good breakfast, convenient buses into town, excellent restaurant next door...

tl;dr version: no disasters, one disappointment, two perfectly OK, two strong recommendations (Trier and Utrecht).

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.