Tuesday, January 27, 2015

48 Hours at the Urban Villa London

After being luxury travel bloggers since not even a full year of operating, we were really excited when we received the invitation to be part of one of the craziest and coolest hotel openings in 2015. This was one of our first hotel openings and therefore we were really excited to review such a new and not-yet-official-opened hotel. 

After a long journey with probably the worst taxi driver I have ever met - it took us nearly 2.5 hours since our landing at Stanstead Airport -  we finally went through the doors of Urban Villa. At least, the cabin crew at our EasyJet flight was alright.

So of course we came to the hotel in the middle of the opening party and therefore were not able to go to the room immediately. We were having cool cocktails, prosecco, white wine and finally one of the best burgers we have ever had - AND: the best french fries, with truffle and parmesan cheese - we just loved them.When we were queuing for the burger, Mr. Hussain (the Director of the hotel group) provided us with the keys. While we got a huge Master Villa (in fact a suite with a separate bedroom, living room, bathroom, and a winter garden), Mr. Beverage Executive received an airy Studio overlooking the main square of the newly built areal called GWQ (Great Western Quarter). It was nice to see the two different room types - so we also had a better overview of the main style and the layout.

The beds were extremely heavenly - we could have slept more than just the 10 hours. One small problem emerged when we were all looking for a minibar. Once we found the fridge we had to experience that it was completely empty. After the first night we found the water dispensers on the front desk. Nevertheless a filled minibar would have been a lovely touch. 

Inside our Suite, we had an issue with the telephone, which did not work yet. After that I would like to mention that the hotel represent the concept "affable luxury" and therefore is more casual with the amenities provided. There are no usual luxury hotel amenities yet, such as body lotion, bath robes, slippers, bath mats, nor a fully equipped kitchen. Some amenities will be changed and added this year, so keep updated. A great plus were the quality of the sheets, towels and toiletries by Malin+Goetz. 

At the next morning we were ready to discover London - naming itself "The biggest city in the world". The breakfast is catered by an outside company and therefore not included. The croissants were good, the juice too and the prices were moderate for a hotel bar, charging two Pounds for a croissant. So there is no bad surprise like in the big luxury hotels in Central London, e.g. at the Wellesley where a small San Pellegrino costs you nearly 17 Pounds. We believe that the Urban Villa will be a cool and chic business styled all-suite hotel once everything is in right oder.

Last but not least - we would like to express that we are glad that we have stayed at so many luxury hotels all around the world and therefore are really experienced in this sector. We came to the conclusion that the Urban Villa is a cool all-suite hotel at moderate prices and proximate distance to Heathrow airport. The design is casual and very stylish - spreading a really urban feeling, so that we sometimes felt transformed to a residence in New York City. 

All in all we had a pleasant weekend in London but we are definitely the sort of people who love to be in the center and might choose another hotel for that reason next time. 

Nevertheless, we think the Urban Villa is perfect for every business traveler needing to stay an overnight due to a connecting flight at Heathrow or young travelers like us, who want to experience London in one week and don't ming taking the tube every day!

A very special thanks to the Urban Villa and NoHo Hotels for the generous invitation for the whole weekend stay and transport to and from the airports.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

48 Hours at the Alpenpalace in South Tyrol

As one of the latest additions to the five star luxury hotel segment in South Tyrol the "Alpenpalace" in the Ahrn Valley is the only potential candidat to be a member of the world renowned "The Leading Hotels of the World".

Having stayed at the "Hotel Castel" in Dorf Tirol and at the "Castel Fragsburg" in Merano, the two competitors of the Alpenpalace haven’t had so much potential to be a real Leading Hotel. While we missed the warm heartening customer care at the "Hotel Castel" and a huge spa at the "Castel Fragsburg", there was absolutely nothing we missed at the Alpen Palace.

After a picturesque drive through the beautiful south Tyrolean scenery, we found ourselves in a calm century old valley, full of ancient castles. Having thought we took the wrong road we were surprised to find a hotel of such caliber in this remote location.
Upon arrival we were warmly greeted by no one else than the owner himself – Mr. Mairhofer. We were served a nice aperitif while we waited for our room to be ready. In addition to the nice welcoming chat with the owner the very kind receptionist showed us to our room and gave us a brief introduction to the in-room facilities.

The Suite upgrade, the bottle of Moet et Chandon as well as the enormous fruit basket made our arrival even more pleasant than it already was. With a separate entree, a huge and light filled living room with sofa, writing desk, dining table and fire place, a very nice bedroom with heavenly bed sheets (Loved them!) and a bathroom with a single vanity, separate shower, toilet and bidet as well as a Jacuzzi tub with built-in television. Beside this TV in the bathroom,we also loved the Bulgari amenities, and the floor heating. At turn-down service they even prepared the sofa bed, due to the fact that we requested twin beds and they only have king bedded rooms. During the day, the housekeeping put the sofa bed away and we had a very comfortable seating area.

The most amazing part of our stay was the "Alpine Spa", the real heart of the Alpenpalace.
What we liked best was the heated outdoor swimming area including a vast outdoor pool as well as a hot Jacuzzi at comfortable 32°C. The 2000 m² indoor Spa area offers a wide variety of saunas and steam baths as well as a relaxing salt bath. Fortunately, the brilliant weather made our stay even more unforgettable. Think of swimming in a wonderfully warm pool under the stars in the night, while the snow falls in your face. Can it get more romantic? Yes, probably with a perfect treatment by the so kind and excellent therapists. The product range of La Prairie rewards this spa with a very luxurious touch. Although the hotel was fully booked during our stay, we always found an available lounge chair, and there were always plenty of towels. Throughout our stay, the Spa was in perfect condition.

Worth a special mention is the excellent service – every staff member has been kind, attentive and personal all day long, especially our waiters. They have been the same throughout the whole stay, Salvatore (the server at the evening) and Maggy (the breakfast waitress). Both knew all our preferences since the first day. Every time we sat down at the table a bottle of sparking water at dinner and Cappuccino at breakfast were already prepared for us without even asking. This is the kind of service you should receive in every leading hotel of the world, which this one is unfortunately not part of yet. Of course, this is not the case in all member hotels e.g. the Grand Hotel Stockholm.

The best way to start the day is of course with an extensive breakfast buffet. So we started our day with one of the best breakfasts in the region, offering a live cooking station and a vast selection of breads, croissants, ham, cheese, and fruits. The cook Martina has always been very kind to us and prepared excellent scrambled eggs, served directly to our table. A very nice idea is also the etagere with a smoked trout, prosciutto and slices of brie cheese. 

On the second day, we were ready to ski. After breakfast, the Alpenpalace brought us to the nearby Speikboden resort - only 5 minutes by VIP Shuttle Service (included in the room rate and departing upon request). Due to the fact that this ski resort is less popular than the "Kronplatz" in Bruneck, there were nearly no waiting times on the lifts. The slopes were nearly empty and we could enjoy the day at its fullest. The weather was brilliant, which also gave us the opportunity to overlook the whole Dolomites area. When we were finished with skiing, we simply called the hotel and they immediately sent a shuttle again to pick us up. 

All in all we would say that the "Alpenpalace" is a truly luxurious Ski and Spa resort in a serene area of South Tyrol, one of the most beautiful areas of Europe. The room rates are completely fair for what you get. At 300 Euros a night, the rates includes a breakfast served all day in-room, a light snack and cakes in the afternoon as well as a 8-course dinner.

A very special thanks to the owner of the Alpen Palace, Mr. Mairhofer and Mr. Colin Service for organizing our stay. The test stay was completely sponsored by the Alpen Palace Deluxe Spa Resort.