Too much travel?

Strangely enough February has been an action packed month of travel, but we haven't documented anything here. This will be corrected over the next few weeks weeks as Madrid,  Frankfurt, Eindoven, Dublin and Fort Lauderdale are on the agenda. 

Some restaurant reviews will be added too. Big changes ahead for the company and travel from EasteEasterr. 

Cocktails at MEATmission 

Cocktails at MEATmission 

A taste of excellence

There are sometimes you approach a restaurant and you know about it,  you've read the reviews and already know what you are going to order.  Waterbiscuit, attached to the Intercontinental Malta, was not one of those restaurants. Serving an a la carte menu this was different to our usual style of restaurant. 

We decided upon the tasting menu and were very glad we did. On a journey of 7 courses, which included fish, quail, pork, chocolate and beef; we were treated to a culinary taste sensation. Each course was perfectly formed with the team of chef's preparing a well presented masterpiece.

Starting with an Amuse Bouche of beef:

A taste of Fois Grais:

We then moved on to a course of fish, then a quail course:

Each course was matched with a beverage to ensure that the drinks complimented the range of tasted you would be receiving from the food. As we're not wine buffs, we appreciated this input. The "main course" was a filet of Pork coupled with a slice of pork belly and crackling.

The pre-desert what an interesting spin on an old classic - a jelly martini with olive leaf

It was a hard act to follow the range of tastes and sensations from the earlier courses, but the rum and chocolate hit the mark. The Waterbiscuit comes heartily recommended from us here as a place to enjoy a great meal in nice surroundings.


A whole lot of flying going on

To get to Hawaii involves a bit of flying. Following on from our brief time in Dublin, we started our journey to Hawaii. First port of call was a coffee and a biscuit in the lounge at Dublin airport. 

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It was pouring down and a bit windy during the take off from Dublin and also at our landing at Heathrow. We have a few hours kill so we visited the North lounge, well saw a queue and so went to the south lounge. We stayed in the south lounge for about 30 minutes as there a gentleman snoring loudly near us. We trundled off, via the walkway to the B gates lounge. This was the air of tranquility and we stayed there until it was ready to board the big boy:

This was our first time on the A380 and it was an extremely good flight, with a great crew and some amazing views. We were seated on the upper deck and it really is a big plane, but so comfy. 

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Following our comfy flight and landing at LA, we caught a shuttle bus to the Embassy Suites North. A different brand to ones we normally choose, it was a welcome sight. We had a king bed suite on the top floor. The hotel is being renovated and only 2 elevators were operational. Tiredness and the quality of the hotel meant we had a good night's sleep. 

Our flights escapades continued as we picked up a Canadair Regional Jet 900. This little jet felt like a executive jet and was very comfortable. We were on the front row in the 1-2 configuration. This meant that we could listen in on the head Flight Attendant training a new recruit. We learned some interesting facts about the procedures they need to follow. We arrived in Phoenix with only 45 minutes to the next flight.  As we were doing domestic to domestic this wasn't a problem,  and within 15 minutes we were on the 757-200 ready to fly. 


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Lovely Ice Cream on the American Airlines flight to Hawai'i

Time to fly

on this trip we overnighted in Dublin. We flew in Monday on a small Aer Lingus regional aircraft. It's much smaller than most we've been on recently, yet Doncaster airport has one of the longest runways in the country. I don't think it took much more than half of the run way to take off. 

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Although a bit blustery it was a fun flight and we arrived in Dublin about 2 hours after setting off to Doncaster. We were staying at the Radisson Blu on the airport. It was a short walk there following our arrival at Terminal 2. 

Originally the trip was due to continued on Tuesday but due to prices and timings we started it out on Wednesday. This then left us a day in Ireland unexpectedly. We investigated getting into the City itself,  but we didn't have any euro for the reasonably priced airport coach and thought that both Uber and Taxi were expensive for the trip. We ended up hiring a car as it was more reasonably priced and meant that we could at least be warm as no one I the party had brought winter clothing. 

We explored the Boyne Valley in our little hire car. We stopped off at the Battle of the Boyne visitor centre, drove through the Newgange monument car park -  it was too busy and stopped at Admulchan Church. This was a highlight as the 15th century ruins afford some most spectacular views of the river below. 

 

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Christmas time in Munich

Many months ago we booked to come over to Munich to visit the Christmas Market, this was tied into a business meeting. The weather was not what we were expecting - it was warm and you could easily walk around with just a jumper.

We stayed at the Holiday Inn in the city centre. The hotel was perfectly positioned for our activities as it is situated in the Rosenheimer Platz S-Bahn station complex. The S8 train takes you direct from the airport to the station which is a bonus. We had an executive room on the refurbished 10th floor. The view from the room wasn't inspiring but still not bad.

We ate in the hotel on the first night and went to the FC Bayern Munich stadium on the Saturday.  The lights on the pitch would make our local groundsman happier. We had an hour and a half there and followed a tour before taking the train back into the centre to find some food. The Allianz Arena, whilst lacking atmosphere without the fans, was still a fascinating place.

We tried to eat a little more traditional Bavarian food during our time here, although we did sneak in a tasty meal at a Vietnamese on Sunday. As to be expected in Bavaria, we had lots of beer and wholesome food. We tried three different restaurants, each with their own spin on the the traditional dishes. 

The beer was a good attraction and even Libby partaked in having a couple. There are lots of local breweries but I managed to find a beautifully crafted dark ale, "Dunkel", which helped me wash down the veal and mushrooms shown above. The Gosthaus Gotthardgarten was a longish train journey from the centre through the commuter crowds but was situated next tot the station and offered tasty food.

We had fleeting tastes of the market on Saturday and Sunday, but we spent the evening on Monday sampling the ghulwien and lebkurchen . The only problem we found is that the temperature was a lot higher than we thought it should be only a week before Christmas.

We had a nice time in Munich and more importantly for the company, signed a Europe wide contract to implement Microsoft NAV in 8 countries. Exciting times ahead for the company as we've take on more staff and are looking forward for a good 2016.

Christmas at BMW

Christmas at BMW

 

 

5 nights 4 hotels

It was a bit busy this week, back in Bristol and Milford Haven and requiring a number of "stays"  to have status with Hilton and Marriott,  I had the ability to get status upgrades with both chains in one go. 

29th Nov Hilton Bristol. 

I've stopped and two of the hotels before and the Hilton was one. Booked during their Winter sale, I managed to snag their top room for only £89. Parking seemed to be free as the barriers were missing. 

 

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I like the Hilton, the rooms are always nice and well presented. The Doormen nuts are great too. It was a pleasant night after a long drive. 

30th Nov St Pierre Marriott, Chepstow  

A new hotel for me,  this Marriott doesn't feel corporate.  Situated in acres of golf course, the hotel has a church on it's grounds and is licensed for weddings. Although only stopping one night, this hotel was a joy to be in. The hotel is split into two distinct parts - the old building with stone walls, gothic architecture and the newer bedroom wing. There are some "cottages" available too.

I found my room large enough and a nice view of the golf course - not that I could enjoy it at this time of year it was dark. It was easy enough to find amongst the many rooms in the bedroom wing.

 

1st Dec Marriott Bristol City Centre

I've stopped at the Marriott Bristol City Centre before, so I won't go into full details. I was disappointed that my room was only on the second floor, as last time I was on the top floor, but overall as usual it was clean and well presented. I like the fact that, unlike the St Pierre, this Marriott allows you to "upgrade" your meal to have sweet potato fries rather than normal potato ones.

2nd Dec Lord Nelson, Milford Haven

A Brains pub which doubles up as a B&B, this was a nice place to stay. After experiencing a few issues with connectivity the last couple of visits to Wales, I thought I'd stay in the centre of Milford Haven. This turned out to be a good move. I couldn't hear the any noise from the pub as the rooms are away from the main bar area. Being part of a chain meant that I was able to grab a reasonably priced meal in the bar and a couple of drinks.

 

The room was nothing special and covered all the expectations that I could have. More important for me was the internet connection, running at 10mb down and 1mb up. This meant I could use it for finishing off a few pieces of work. I also tested my mobile connection and this was getting 4g so returned a nice speed:

3rd Dec Hilton Bristol

Back at the Bristol Hilton again tonight for the final stay in my status hunt. 

Stackpole Inn, Pembrokeshire

We stopped here for something to eat after a wet day in Pembrokeshire. We were greeted promptly and the drinks orders taken and then shown to our table. In the words of the waiter, we have a special area for couples which is quieter.

We ordered the soup of the day, which was butternut squash, it arrived promptly and was very good. For the mains we had steak and twice cooked chips. The steaks were perfectly cooked and a good size. The pairing with Rarebit on a flat mushroom rounded off a nice meal.

Butternut Squash Soup - very creamy

Butternut Squash Soup - very creamy

The decoration is very charming, with many pictures of dogs adoring the walls, with the original timbers and stonework visible too. There was even a place where Libby could even bang her head! (assuming one ignored the sign and the waiter's advice.

Beautiful steak

Beautiful steak

I would recommend the Stackpole to anyone coming to Pembrokeshire, as this is the second time I've been here and the service and food has been consistently good.

Vienna calling - Part One off to Gatwick

With a glut of points and airmiles, and a requirement for something different, we headed off to Vienna from London Gatwick. It was only 4 days away, including the overnight at the Crowne Plaza London Gatwick, but very enjoyable.

I took half a day of work to travel to Vienna on the Friday, but the evening before we travelled down to Gatwick. It always seems much further to Gatwick than Heathrow for us, but in truth there is probably only 10 miles in it. As part of my status with IHG branded hotels, I booked a club room at London Gatwick Crowne Plaza. The room came in £60 less than a standard room, which was a great deal, especially as the Club Wing was only accessed through a private door. Our room was top of the block, room 655, and we were very impressed.

Top of the block

Top of the block

The room was a spacious suite with a living area split between a sofa area and a work area. Internet speed was poor, but I could get a could signal from my mobile and so used a tether. I don't like paying for hotel internet if I can get a good mobile signal. I tested the included free wifi and couldn't even browse.

The bed was comfortable, with extra pillows that I always require, but the room was sparsely populated with electrical outlets. This was rather annoying for the alarm in the morning as there wasn't a clock next to the bed either. There were three TVs in the suite and so for a change we watched some. I enjoyed the Chris Tarrant travel programme. One of the TVs is in the main living area, as above. The others are in interesting places - for someone who doesn't watch TV most of the time.

TV at the end of the bed

TV at the end of the bed

TV Above the bath

TV Above the bath

The bathroom was a reasonable size with a separate bath and shower. My wife found the bath adequately comfortable. I stuck to using the shower, which had a large rain shower style head and gave good pressure. Overall, it was a good experience at the hotel which was only tempered by the fact we had to walk through the smoking area to get to reception from the back car park not the most pleasant entrance to the hotel.  The staff were friendly and the club lounge was well appointed - we didn't stay for breakfast.

Marriott Bristol City Centre

There are some places I dream of going and Bristol isn't one of them, so after a few weeks working from home, I'm back down in the city.  This time I chose the Marriott as it was short notice booking and they had a good rate or £89 for a night.  This was a room only deal and so I can't comment on the Breakfast, but I did have room service.

The outside of the hotel is nothing special, but fits in with other 1970s style buildings in the area - it doesn't look quite as bad as the Holiday Inn Express near Bristol Temple Meads. I booked a standard room on a prepay rate, so I didn't have access to the executive lounge and due to work commitments I didn't have chance to sample the gym, pool or hot tub (shock, I know!).

The room was nice, smaller than I had at the Hilton, but still came with the amenities you would expect from a business hotel. Although I wish that they would realise that today's business traveller has an optical mouse and so why put a glass surface on top of everything?

I was disappointed that the mini bar was empty, although there was a note offering to fill it if you required. I took a stroll into the city centre, as this hotel is perfectly placed to do so, and bought a drink from a shop. On the picture above, there was something that brought a light to my eyes and that was the charging station. It's a gripe of mine, especially in hotels built before the 1980s that they don't appear to realise that most people bring an array of electronic items, all of which need charging.

As I said, I didn't sample breakfast, but I was working in the room and so I had a few coffees and took advantage of room service. I ordered a Marriott burger, which I found to be very tasty and big! I'm glad to say that the first option on the menu for a side to go with it was Sweet Potato Fries. I know they are in fashion at the moment, but I also find them much nicer than potatoes as I don't eat them.

Overall I found the hotel very pleasant and the staff friendly. When I return in a few weeks, I will be on a B&B rate and so will be able to sample the breakfast and may even upgrade to a club level room. If there was a drawback, apart from the glass top, I'd have to say that I thought the bathroom fittings looked a little dated and maybe could have been freshened up, although the bathroom itself was clean and brightly lit.

A Jaunt to Helsinki

Following the post holiday blues at the beginning of the month, we decided to book a quick trip over to Helsinki. It was just an overnighter, with only a bit of time on the ground. You could say that we went there to get some dinner and champagne.

To maximise my working time, we travelled down the night before and stopped at the Crowne Plaza Heathrow. At the reception desk the lady was surprised when I said it was 8 years since I'd stopped at the hotel. Plane tickets are just much more cost effective from Dublin. Our room was an executive, so I was able to get some hours of work in before we had canapes in the lounge.

Waiting for the beer fridge to light up

Waiting for the beer fridge to light up

The lounge is small and has 2 work stations with printers and internet access. Although open all day, only soft drinks are available until 6pm when they server wine and beer with the canapes. From 7pm you can spirits. The alcohol and food lasts until 9pm. We only had a small starter and a couple of glasses of wine as our restaurant reservation was 7pm.

We ate at the hotel in the indian restaurant, one of the two restaurants that the hotel boasts. We had the set meals, I chose spicy whilst my wife chose what we thought would be a milder one. She often has Chicken Tikka Masala but found this one too hot for her. My madras and spicy poppadoms were very nice.

Chicken kebabs for starters

Chicken kebabs for starters

Following the meal another quick drink in the lounge we headed off to bed. Our flight wasn't early - 11.30am, but we decided to get to the airport for around 8.30 so we could have breakfast. We had lounge access and so made use of the facility to have some bacon rolls and a very strong coffee. As the time ticked through, we managed to make it until 10.30 before we thought we'd have an aperitif.

You hum it, I'll play it

You hum it, I'll play it

Boarding was slightly delayed and I was tempted to play the piano in the boarding area, but thankfully for everyone just as I started to get up we were called onto the plane. We were near the front, and were hand baggage only as this was a test for our trips later this year. Soon after take off the nice Cabin Crew were round with drinks from the bar. It's been a while but I thought I'd have a bloody mary (or two).

Someone drank a bit

Someone drank a bit

Arrival in Finland, we stayed at the Hilton on the airport. The hotel was nice, with a very impressive lobby and very welcoming reception staff. When I book rooms at hotels, I always like the highest floor possible and also to be away from the elevator. Thankfully, with Hilton's online check-in you can choose your room. We were in 584 for the night. The room was on the executive level, although I didn't plan on working whilst we were there. All rooms on this level come with a private sauna, which made my wife happy as she gets cold easily.

The bed was a king and I'd preordered some champagne - another perk of online check-in. We liked the room, although found much amusement on the placing on some of the attributes of the bathroom.

As we were on a flying visit, we enjoyed the lounge at the hotel before we went down to dinner. We had the Nordic Platter for a starter, which seemed to me to be aimed at the tourists. Small portions of a few Nordic dishes - including Reindeer - but to me overpriced. We had a burger for our main course and requested medium, but it came out rare. That was the only aspect of the hotel which let them down. 

Next stop - I'm back down to Bristol, before seeing the sights of the Austrian capital.

Back at Lamphey Court

This week I've been back to Lamphey Court hotel, one of the more picturesque hotels I've been I  recently. Set in the beautiful Pembrokeshire countryside the hotel boasts 20 rooms, studio rooms in the converted coach house and a full spa and gym on the grounds. The spa and gym was built in 2010, with architecture sympathetic to the main building. 

 

Forgot the all weather tennis courts in my introduction 

Forgot the all weather tennis courts in my introduction 

I had stopped here before, 2 months ago but arrived late and left early so didn't get to enjoy the hotel. I had a executive room, which was large and included a desk sofa and easy chair in addition to the king size bed. 

 

Big bed

Big bed

This time I was determined to see what the hotel had to offer, so after the long drive here I ordered room service to allow me to catch up on some work. The comfortable chair was nice,  but there was also a table chair to allow me to eat my meal in a comfortable position. 

Nice to have a table and chair when having room service 

Nice to have a table and chair when having room service 

The bed was comfortable and I had a nice rest. Next morning breakfast was a full cooked one for me. My Welsh breakfast consisted of Scrambled Eggs,  Bacon, Sausage,  Black Pudding, Tomato, Beans. The eggs were cooked just how I like the  and I had to turn down toast on 2 occasions. The staff here are very attentive and seem genuinely wanting to help. 

 

Deep bath

Deep bath

Being an executive room the bathroom was equipped with a deep bath. Although it was deep,  there was more than enough hot water to fill it. The shower had reasonable pressure, even though it was a rain shower with a large head. 

O the Wednesday night I took in the spa, having booked a treatment Monday evening. I had a back massage from Kay. I will say it was one of the best I've had in a hotel Spa. She really hit the spot to cure the knots and aches from my back. Very pleasant to talk with as well. 

 

Goats Cheese starter

Goats Cheese starter

Food at every meal at the hotel was a joy to eat. I can see why the restaurant is recommended. Overall I find the hotel very enjoyable and relaxing, including a deep tissue back massage in the adjoining spa.

Hilton Bristol

Making down here just before the rugby started was a godsend, as the prices shot up. This hotel is perfectly located,  just off the M4/M5 interchange,  although as notified on their website there is a diversion in place to get here. The hotel itself is nicely laid out although, I would prefer it to be taller rather than the long walk to my room. 

It has a full leisure club as part of the hotel,  including a pool and a large selection of gym equipment. True to form,  I didn't test any of these out (as I completely forgot what facilities were here when packing). The hotel also boasts many meeting rooms and conference halls. I can't say how these are for businesses as I was working elsewhere. 

It was a long walk to my room, but this could just be the aching legs from a weekend PT session. The room was a decent size with a nice ambiance. 

 

How much electricity is wasted by the TV? 

How much electricity is wasted by the TV? 

I stayed 5 nights at the Hilton. I had room service one of the nights. It was good food,  well presented and delivered with a smile. The restaurant, Brunels Hat, was cosy and has an reasonably priced menu. 

 

Lamb with Sweet Potato mash

Lamb with Sweet Potato mash

Overall it was a nice experience staying here after a couple of weeks at the more dated Holiday Inn Swindon. Another bonus for me was the proximity to the office. 

 

There was only 1 of me but 2 of them 

There was only 1 of me but 2 of them 

A drawback I found was the lack of power outlets near the bed. Unlike the Doubletree, this Hilton harken back to the olden days where you we didn't take all manner of electronic devices all requiring charging. Thankfully I get around this by taken my own extension leads. 

 

Not quite power but forceful enough 

Not quite power but forceful enough 

Comfortable bed but no power

Comfortable bed but no power

Probably for most people the comfort of the bed rates highly on things they look for, well the bed here was one of the best I have slept in recently.  

DoubleTree by HIlton (Bristol City Centre Hotel)

Dates: September 2015

The DoubleTree by Hilton is conveniently located near Bristol Temple Meads railway station. The car park was undergoing some changes during my overnight here, but still a reasonable size and costs £10, which will be added to your bill.

The rooms are nice and look to have been refreshed fairly recently. I stayed on a bed and breakfast rate but also ate dinner at the Temple Bar. As I only stayed one night I wasn't in a position to make use of the fitness suite.

Nice Decor

Nice Decor

I liked the room, it was bright and a reasonable size. Probably the most amazing thing was the vast number of sockets - I counted no less than 12 in the room. This gave the room a modern feel compared to the tired look of the Holiday Inn.

The food was nice, although nothing special. I had Singapore vermicelli. It was made quickly and the wait staff were professional and very friendly.

Overall, from my short time there, I had a positive experience and would recommend the hotel for anyone wanting a quick break. There wasn't a notice of how long the car park would be undergoing changes, but it didn't really detract from the stay.

Back in blighty

Well,  the US adventure was great but we're now back in Britain and the usual routine. This week I am staying in the Holiday Inn Swindon. As before,  the room looks a little dated although it's clean and efficient. 

The pool is closed until further notice, so I am unable to test out that facility. The pool and fitness area is one of the redeeming features of this hotel.  

 

 

empty car park

empty car park

There is a large car park,  although half of it is around the back and has no direct access to the hotel. It's a bit of a disappointment as the front car park gets full quickly as the gym is only accessible through reception. 

Overall,  I find it an acceptable price and location but will be trying out some other hotels in the coming weeks. 

The End is Near

Our US adventure is nearing it's end today as we have one more day left to explore before traveling tomorrow. Yesterday we went to see the USS Intrepid, a world war two aircraft carrier which was decommissioned in 1974.

 

Lots of planes

Lots of planes

We spent a good few hours there and more photos will follow, but we were very impressed. We started on the flight deck to look at the history of planes which the Intrepid used to carry and some others special planes too. We also went to the Space Shuttle pavilion, we're we saw USS Enterprise in her glory and marvelled at the wonders of the Hubble telescope. 

I'm hoping the pictures of the G-Force air simulator have come out OK. Watching the kids fly upside down was very funny. 

The rest of day we wandered around Central Park but heading off to find some more steak.   

Selfie

Selfie

Pigeon Lady 

Pigeon Lady 

Home Alone  2

Home Alone  2

Our Lady Liberty

More tourist things today as we strolled down to Battery Park to pick up our tickets for the Statue of Liberty tour. The ferry ride was fun but I would have suggested another gangway onto the boat. It took about 15 minutes to get everyone  on. 

 

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We had tickets to the top and pretty soon after we got there we embarked on our 393 step journey to the crown. We stopped off at the top of the pedestal to enjoy the view and take a quick break. 

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Following our 10 minute wander around the pedestal, we were ready to embark on the twisting staircase and head up the body to the crown. These steps are steep and there are a lot. Safe to say that it was a great workout for the legs. 

 

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The crown is a little cramped but was worth the visit. We didn't do the Ellis Island tour, but will do that on another visit. 

Shopping Capital

People always say that London is full of shops and people wanting to purchase stuff,  but I always find it over priced and overrated for its shopping. We ending up spending a large part of the day shopping guide following breakfast in Chelsea and a walk along the high line. 

 

Not mine, but my first breakfast in NYC ever was the same as this -  18 years ago

Not mine, but my first breakfast in NYC ever was the same as this -  18 years ago

Breakfast was had at The Dish on 8th Avenue. A small space but wonderful food served in a pleasant atmosphere. I forgot to take a snap of my breakfast burrito but it was good. Above is the waffle and bacon my son had. Following the breakfast we visited the Levi store and the Asics store, before a stroll along the High line. Being Sunday it was busy and so we dropped down to grab a drink from a cafe, La Grainne Cafe. Although not terribly hungry  I managed to sink a couple of Duvel beers and also had a Crepe Flambee.

 

Fiery Grand Marnier 

Fiery Grand Marnier 

Crepes are great for a quick bite,  although the children needed something more filling. 

 

Chocolate and Banana 

Chocolate and Banana 

Orange

Orange

We headed for the serious shopping following our restocking and headed off on the subway to Prince St/Spring St/Broadway area. Not sure how we managed to spend 3 hours in the area, especially when I didn't get anything for me. 3 hours shopping is more than anyone should take,  so I needed refreshments. Calling in at the Spring Street Natural for a couple of cocktails and some desserts made for a welcome pitstop.

 

Brooklyn Negroni 

Brooklyn Negroni 

We headed back to the hotel for a shower and break from all that shopping. It's been hot in the city with it reaching 88 degrees today and scheduled to be hotter tomorrow.