Archive for the ‘Hotel Review’ Category

Winchester Writers’ Festival, University of Winchester, West Downs Student Village, Winchester, England

The Winchester Writers’ Festival is held in the middle of June and attracts over three hundred emerging novelists, poets, short story writers, children’s writers, script and memoir writers  from across the UK and the world to the University of Winchester. Delegates attend workshops, talks and one-to-ones with over seventy literary agents, commissioning editors, authors and expert practitioners throughout an inspiring and supportive weekend. This year was the first time I had ever attended The Winchester Writers’ Festival, but it was recommended to me by my friend and mentor, Simon Hall.winchester

I had the opportunity to meet with four agents and publishers, three of whom expressed an interest in my work. However, it was eventually Crooked Cat Books, whom I had submitted my work to, prior to attending Winchester, that accepted my debut crime novel, ‘Hunter’s Chase’ for publication.

At Winchester, I stayed in student accomodation. My goodness, it took me back! Accommodation with breakfast is available at the University of Winchester in basic student rooms in the West Downs Student Village and in Beech Glade on the main King Alfred campus.  A free shuttle bus service will run between West Downs and the Festival venues on the main King Alfred campus at key times over the weekend. En suite and Standard (shared bathroom) accommodation is available at very reasonable prices. Beech Glade is much more convenient for the main campus where the talks, meetings and meals are held, but only West Downs has en-suite accommodation, so the deal was set. I was staying in West Downs. The West Downs Student Village is at the top of a steep hill, so I was glad the course ran a shuttle bus morning and afternoon.

winchester university diningThe accommodation is basic, but clean. My room contained a bed, wardrobe, desk chair and book shelves with an ensuite shower room. Basic bedlinen, toiletries and towels were provided too. I was only there for a long weekend, what more did I need? Accommodation includes hot and cold buffet breakfast for the nights you stay. If you are attending the conference for the day, lunch is also included. Dinner is not and requires to be booked and paid for separately. The meals were ample and tasty and there was provision for vegetarians. Prices in the bar are much lower than in the real world.

Winchester makes great play of being inclusive and having rooms suitable for wheelchair users. I did not see any wheelchair users at the conference. The pack I received states that, although there are stairs leading from conference buildings to the bar and dining roomm, there are lifts for those with mobility issues. I do not have mobility issues, but there were delegates who required assistance to walk. The lifts did not work. That was unsatisfactory.

Free, but limited, parking is available at West Downs and further parking is available in the main car park and Medecroft car park on the main campus but as I travelled to Winchester by train, this did not affect me.

lemnsissayThe keynote speech was delivered on the Saturday morning by Lemn Sissay. I enjoyed the talk and found him a motivating and interesting speaker. Unfortunately, as many people queued to buy his books after his talk, we were told he had somewhere else to be. As a result of this, he stopped dedicationg the books and just signed them, then he left. Not all those waiting with books go them signed. This was bad organisation disppointing and tacky. I have never seen this happen anywhere before. I opted not to buy any of his books.

The Winchester Writers’ festival was interesting some seventy-five speakers delivered fifty separate talks, readings and workshops to almost three hundred writers. The accomodation was adequate. However, bearing in mind the conference only lasts three days, it is extremely expensive. I would not attend the Winchester Writers’ Festival regularly, but I may attend again in the future. I believe there are other writers’ events that are better value for money.

Val Penny

 

 

 

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1745 Cottage Restaurant, Traquair House, Traquair, Innerleithen

I had lived within 40 miles of Traquair House at Traquair, Innerleithen, Scotland, for many years, but had never visited it. So, earlier this year, My friend Anna and I took time out to visit Traquair House and we had lunch in its 1745 Cottage Restaurant. The date in the name of the restaurant refers to the Jacobite rising of 1745 was the unsuccessful attempt by Charles Edward Stuart to regain the British throne for the males of the House of Stuart.traquair house

Traquair House is Scotland’s Oldest Inhabited House. Throughout its history it has been visited by 27 Scottish Kings and Queens. The house dates back to 1107 and has been lived in by the Stuart family since 1491. Traquair House was originally a royal hunting lodge, and played host to Mary Queen of Scots. Later as staunch Catholics they supported the Jacobite cause without counting the cost.traquair 1745

Now, in its grounds, there is a maze, a selection of craft workshops, a brewery and the 1745 Cottage Restaurant. traquair 1745 in

The 1745 Cottage Restaurant is situated separately from the main house. It is picturesque outside but spotlessly clean inside. Internally, the restaurant combines traditional features and modern cleanliness. For lunch, I chose the leek and potato soup. It was home made, but lacked seasoning. I was a bit disappointed by it. Anna made the better choice. She thoroughly enjoyed her homemade tomato and basil soup. Certainly the portions were generous and the rolls served with it, although they did not look homemade, were fresh and tasty.traquair 1745 inside

After our soup, we were served a selection of freshly made sandwiches. Again, there were plenty of them. There were prawn, tuna salad, ham and tomato, egg mayonnaise, cheese ans cheese savoury sandwiches washed down with a pot of strong tea. or coffee. We enjoyed the sandwich selsction very much. Also the service at the 1745 Cottage Restaurant was polite and friendly. The restrooms were spotlessly clean and the restaurant offers good access for those with moblity issues. We were pleasantly surprised by the price, too.

If you have a chance to visit the house and gorunds of Traquair House, I am sure you will find it interesting, and I recommend the 1745 Cottage Restaurant. Anna and I enjoyed our meals.

Val Penny

 

 

Apple Apartments Greenwich O2, 1 Providence Place (27 Blackwall Lane) London, England

One of the great joys in my life is my family. I have two beautiful daughters of whom I am unfailingly proud. It is, therefore, a great delight that they agree the three of us should have a ‘girls’ weekend’ once a year.Apple apts livingroom diningroom

This year we spent our special weekend in London, at Apple Apartments Greenwich O2, 1 Providence Place (27 Blackwall Lane) London, England . It was a lovely weekend and the apartment was very spacious.Apple apts livingroom kitchen

We had three double bedrooms an en-suite shower room and a family bathroom upstairs with a large living/dining/kitchen and small wc downstairs. The concierge was helpful, the accommodation was spotlessly clean and the beds were comfortable, so the most important boxes were ticked. Apple apts main bedroom

Little things brought the apartment from excellent to good. The third bedroom had no bedside light, so I moved one from the main bedroom, only to find it had no bulb, so I needed to move a bulb from the sidelight in the living area. There was a dishwasher, but no tablets to allow us to use it. There was washing up liquid but no cloth or brush to give it effect. There were no dish towels to allow us to dry dishes, so we ended up using a hand towel.Apple apts bed 2

Having said all this there were sufficient mugs, glasses, plates and cutlery for the three of us to enjoy meals in the apartment. There was a tea bag and three sachets of sugar. Happily, we came prepared and the predilection of the British to drink tea continued unabated!Apple Apts bed 3

The bathroom facilities were exceptional. I was pleasantly surprised to have a  downstairs wc as well as the two bathrooms upstairs. It was a very useful and welcome addition to the accommodation. There were plenty of hand towels and bath towels.Apple Apts family bathroom

The beds were all comfortable with crisp white sheets, however, the stairs leading upstairs were quite steep and I was surprised that there was only a bannister on one side of them. Nevertheless this did not detract from our comfort during our stay. Apple Apts ensuite

My daughters treated me to a visit to the Duchess Theatre in Catherine Street where we saw the hilarious show, The Play that went Wrong. Public transport to and from the Apple Apartments Greenwich O2 to the theatre district was good. There is only one underground line from the nearest station at North Greenwich, but trains run regularly.Apple Duchess Theatre

All in all, we had a lovely weekend and I can recommend Apple Apartments Greenwich O2. It offered excellent value for money. We enjoyed our stay and with very small tweaks, this would be truly exceptional accommodation.

Valerie Penny

 

Peebles Hydro,Innerleithen Rd, Peebles, Scotland

Peebles Hydro outsideI have always enjoyed visits to the Peebles Hydro. It is a beautiful building in marvelous rolling countryside, indeed, the Peebles Hydro that is there now was built in the early 20th century as a country house hotel and spa resort in Peebles in the border region of Scotland at the south. The hotel actually opened in 1881, but burnt down and was rebuilt in 1907. It served as a hospital for injured service personnel during  World War I before reverting to hotel use.peebles-hydro-peebles-lounge

Peebles Hydro is a magnificent category B listed building. Peebles Hydro offers a peebles hydro entrancebeautiful setting in gardens, in the border town of Peebles. This charming, historic hotel features an indoor swimming pool, a spa, a gym and restaurant and overlooks the Tweed Valley and is backed by Glentress Forest. It is a 14-minute walk from the Tweeddale Museum and Gallery, and only 1.2 miles from Peebles Golf Club. The Scottish Borders are ideal for cycling, walking, fishing and golfing. The River Tweed is a short walk from the hotel.

peebles hydro poolWhen my children were growing up we made regular visits to Peebles Hydro, there is a lovely pool and special activities for children to be safely entertained. There is also a playground for children and there are lovely walks by the river Tweed nearby. Films are played for the children and there is a special early teatime for them. peebles-hydro-peebles-restaurant

I enjoy lovely views when enjoying breakfast or dinner in the restaurant. There is also a Peebles Hydro outcocktail bar. The evening dinner is always a favourite, the meal choices are tasty, the wines exquisite and the service first class. More recently, my husband and I regularly visit with my mother for a delicious, traditional afternoon tea on her birthday. The fresh sandwiches, scones and cakes washed down with tea poured from elegant pots enjoyed looking over the vibrant views of the Scottish borders is always a treat.

peebles hydro roomMost recently, last week my friend and I ventured to Peebles. It was a dleight to be back at the Peebles Hydro. Our rooms were lovely, each room at Peebles Hydro features classic décor finished in lightly coloured tones. All rooms have free Wi-Fi, a TV, tea and coffee-making facilities, heating and a bathroom with free toiletries. Breakfast was delicious and, as vegetarians, we had plenty of choice. I always enjoy visiting Peebles Hydro and highly recommend it.

Valerie Penny

 

 

Hilton New York, Midtown, 1335 6th Ave, New York, NY, USA

hilton towersNew York City is one of my favourite cities in the world. The skylines, the night life, the theatres and the shops are beyond compare, as are many of the hotels. Amongst those excellent hotels is the Hilton New York, Midtown, on 6th Avenue.

My advice is to request as high a room as possible so you can enjoy the views. This hotelhilton towers out 2 is centrally situated and is often the base for the major conferences I have attended in NYC. It is by the Rockefeller Centre, the theatres on Times Square and the shops on 5th Avenue.

 Hilton New York, Midtown, has courteous staff and a large reception area that makes checking in a pleasure. There is a bank of elevators so that access to rooms is usually swift. Whether conducting business, keeping up with a fitness routine or looking to spend quality time with your family, the Hilton hotel New York is here to make the most of your stay by offering the services you need, the amenities you expect, and the extras you deserve.

hilton towers in 1

hilton towers in 4The stylish NYC hotel rooms and suites are designed to exceed the modern traveler’s expectations. Business travelers, couples and families appreciate the array of amenities at this Midtown Manhattan hotel. During my last stay my room was on a high floor and I enjoyed the view over the New York skyline. The rooms have always been spotlessly clean and cleaned thoroughly daily. It was useful to have a desk at which I could work and the wifi is readily available.

The Hilton New York, Midtown, has various meeting rooms, a variety of restaurants tohilton towers in 2 choose from and pleasant bars and coffee shops to spend time. It also boasts a well-kitted out fitness room, so you have no excuse to give up on your regular routines and can stay active during your stay in the fully equipped fitness center.

There are lots of dining choices within this large hotel. You can start the day with a breakfast buffet and specialty coffees at Herb N’ Kitchen. Unwind with a few friends and a few drinks at the sophisticated Bridges Bar. Enjoy light fare or a late night snack at the Lobby Lounge. After a long day, enjoy a cool experience at the Minus5 Ice Bar where you explore handcrafted ice sculptures and enjoy even glasses made of ice, or a fresh meal delivered to you through the convenience of room service.hilton towers dining.jpg

I usually started my days with breakfast in Herb N’ Kitchen and as it features seasonal hilton towers in 5salads, artisanal sandwiches and brick oven pizzas, the kids enjoyed it for lunch. The hotel is so large that on days when I was working all day, the kids could find lots to entertain them, without leaving the premises. The barista zone offering specialty coffees to enjoy either in the restaurant or on the go is a particular favourite. Being able to relax in your hotel when you are in a city on business is vital. The Hilton New York, Midtown, is a hotel where I have always found it easy to do that. Partly because the service is so good and partly because there are places that allow for different types of relaxation.

Overlooking the reception, the Lobby Lounge is a great spot to rendez-vous with clients or colleagues. Enjoy exceptional wines, cocktails, light fare, as well as terrific people watching. Whether you are meeting for an end of the day debriefing or a late night escape, the Lobby Lounge never disappoints. Another favourite is the Minus5°.  It is an ice bar where you can touch, feel, and explore handcrafted ice sculptures and architecture made from Canadian ice. Everything inside minus5° is made of ice, even the glasses that you enjoy our famous vodka-based cocktails in. No matter what the event, you and your companions will be treated to the coolest experience in town. It is hilton towers out 3definitely worth a visit.

I have enjoyed the Hilton New York Midtown every time I have stayed there. I have no doubt I will stay there again and highly recommend it to you.

Valerie Penny

 

 

 

Apex Hotel Haymarket, 90 Haymarket Terrace, Edinburgh, Scotland

Apex city-roomOn a recent visit to Edinburgh, Scotland, I needed an inexpensive room for an overnight stay in the city centre. The Apex Hotel Haymaket fit the bill. The hotel is situated at the West end of Haymarket Terrace and so there are hotles closer to the train station, however, The Apex Haymarket is of a higher standard but around the same price. The hotel, before it was extended, would originally have been an elegant family home with the servants’ room in the attic on the top floor.

The reception is around the corner from the main road and is on Magdala Crescent. The street-side entry to the hotel restaurant is from Haymarket Terrace. Reception is small, only one desk, but there was only one person ahead of me, so I did not have to wait long. The receptionist was courteous and efficient and complimentary maps of the city centre are readily available for those unfamiliar with the city.  Tha Apex Haymarket is also convenient for local transport. There is a bus stop directly outside; the tram and train station are just a short walk to the East. Apex room 2.jpg

I had booked a small double room as I was only in the city for one night and would not be in the room for long. The room was on the fourth (top) floor, so I was in the original servants quarters. How times have changed! This was a bright, colourful room with an en-suite showerroom and full, complimentary hostess tray. The room was small, but that was fine, it was advertised as small and the price paid was commensurate with that.

The bed was comfortable and, although the room was hot that night, I slept well. The shower was powerful and the room with en-suite was spotlessly clean. Access to the hotel and restaurant is disabled friendly.

Apex outside Breakfast was an extra charge, the price was £2.50 less if I booked it before midnight than afterwards! It was tasty, but service was slow. The coffee, tea and toast were brought to the table as were the cooked options. The continental breakfast was self service. Everything was freshly prepared and I enjoyed it.

I would definitely use The Apex Hotel Haymarket, Edinburgh again and recommend it as an economical, central Edinburgh hotel.

Valerie Penny

Aparthotel Adagio, Marne la Vallée Val d’Europe, Disneyland, Paris

Aparthotel Adagio Marne la Vallée Val d'EuropeWe arranged a family holiday to Disneyland Paris, Just a few days break during the school summer holidays. The Disney hotels themselves seemed expensive and we wanted extra space for the kids so decided on an apartment at Aparthotel Adagio, Marne la Vallée Val d’Europe.

The staff were very Parisian, and that is not a compliment! They were surly and unhelpful. That, would not have been tolerated by the Disney brand. Adagio Val d'Europe

However, the apartment was spacious and spotlessly clean and gave us the space we needed. The Aparthotel Adagio is located close to Disneyland Paris. Ours was a 3 room apartment for up to 6 people. It was very comfortable and fully furnished with a balcony. There was a car park, which we did not use but the heated indoor swimming pool was lovely to relax in. We also found the free shuttle linking the aparthotel and Disneyland very useful.

We very much enjoyed our stay at the Aparthotel Adagio and, weighing up the convenience of staying in a Disney Hotel to the space and cost of the Aparthotel Adagio, we would stay here again.

Valerie Penny