Saturday, February 28, 2015

Barcelona at your fingertips

After a heavenly night at the impressive Arts Hotel, we were ready to discover the beauty of the capital of Catalonia. We organized a private tour through Barcelona Experience before our departure. Our guide Gaston was already waiting at the Column of Christopher Columbus, one of the most hidden tourist attractions in Barcelona. The guide took us up to the top of the column by a very small elevator, from where we had an impressive overview of the gothic quarter, Barceloneta (the beachside), the uphills, Las Ramblas (which is starting at this column), as well as best views of our hotel, the cathedrale and some other nice churches we visited afterwards. 

We immediately took the Las Ramblas in direction to the Placa Catalunya, where our guide told us the history behind this amazing shopping street - riminding of a very nice and more relaxed copy of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. At the very mid of the original Las Ramblas (going from the Column to the Placa Catalunya), we entered the gothic quater with its narrow and shady streets, like a labyrinth. After a few turns we ended up on the most wonderful city oasis I have ever seen - the Placa Reial with lots of cafés, restaurants as well as original flamenco and jazz clubs.

Before we headed back to Las Ramblas to see La Boqueria market, we strolled further in the Gothic quarter and visited the Basilica del Pi - a typical Catalan church with a wonderful and tranquil square in front of it - and a pine tree in the middle of this enormous metropole. In the Boqueria market we found ourselves passing by the freshest fish available - the lobsters and king crabs were still alive! There were plenty of exotic products we never imagined to get in Europe - it is a heaven for foodies of all kind.

Back in the Gothic quarter we visited the old ruins of Barcino - the roman name of the original Barcelona. Following the imaginary roman roads, we ended up in front of the old gate to Barcino - right next to the impressive "Cathedral de Barcelona". Having passed this monumental highlight we followed our excellent private guide Gaston, who was now leading us through the really heart of the gorhic quarter, passing by the oldest and most wonderful buildings of Barcelona - of course also the Placa del Rei - the old King's Court. Our last stop was on the most central square - the Placa Sant Jaume, where the government of Catalan and the city hall of Barcelona are situated. This was the last stop of the tour and the ending. 

Actually we expected a tour with lots of facts and therefore kind of annoying, but Gaston went beyond all expectations and convinced us from the complete opposite. Thanks, it was perfect!

We were really impressed of this 2 hours tour leaded by Gaston and organized by Barcelona Experience, and we can only recommend this experience to every traveler going to Barcelona - you won't regret it! 

Our Private Guided Tour was sponsored by Barcelona Experience. The above written review expresses our own opinion.

Friday, February 27, 2015

24 Hours at the Grand Hotel Stockholm

After an unbelievable trip to the capital of Catalonia where we stayed at the Arts hotel in Barcelona, we have had the honour to go to the City of Islands, Stockholm. The flight has been short and comfortable and the pick up from the airport to the famous Grand Hotel Stockholm was incredible. Upon arrival the bellmen brought us to the back entrance because the main entrance was due to open on the same evening (there was a renovation ongoing). The employee at the front office was a bit unfriendly and did not give us the feeling to be welcome. Although he insisted on the fact that our room was a newly refurbished Deluxe Room, he sent us to the hotel room. In fact it was one of the older double bedrooms with a stunning view over the harbour of Stockholm.

 When we arrived at the Deluxe Harbour View Room we were amazed about the style and the lovely details of the 45 square meters big room. The main area, which includes the bed and a small seating area, was in a beautiful colonial style. The bathroom was extensive and modern designed. A big rainfall shower and a bathtub are there to hang out and relax from a stressful day of sightseeing. The Molton Brown toiletries are a nice touch. 

 At the first evening, we did a short walk through the Östermalms quarter and went to the market in this part of the city. At the beautiful little shops, you could buy everything you could imagine from Fruits to meat over cheese and jams to fresh fish and shellfish. We went to a small fish restaurant in the back of the market and ordered a shellfish platter for two. We got a big cold platter with Lobster, King Crab, two crawfishes and two sorts of shrimps served with a delicious glass of Chablis white wine.

 After this delicious dinner, we went back to the Hotel to relax at the world famous Spa area. When we arrived at the front desk, the friendly lady asked us if we want to book a massage. We did not had that much time so we decided just to go to the pool. After swimming in the well-designed pool we went to the steam bath witch was a little too hot for us so we decided to go to the whirlpool, which was so amazing and relaxing. You have to try it!!!

 The breakfast at the “Veranda” was delicious with a big choice. A young woman brought us a good cappuccino while we were eating fresh scrambled eggs. The buffet offered us a huge selection to choose from various meals, such as salmon, bacon, different sorts of cheese and jam. The location is one of the best in Stockholm. You can enjoy a beautiful view over the harbour and the royal palace.

We have been invited for one night by Mrs. Madeleine Brack, the General Manager of the Grand Hotel Stockholm to experience the full "Grand Experience".

With my best regards,

Beverage Executive

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Breakfast with Angela - Restaurant Käfer Berlin

Restaurant Käfer im Bundestag

Frühstücken im gleichen Gebäude wo die deutsche Bundeskanzlerin arbeitet? Stimmt! Hört sich im ersten Moment komisch an. Zugegebener Weise, sie ist nicht immer im Bundestag aber an manchen Tagen kann man sie bei einem Kaffee im Dachgarten Restaurant Käfer treffen.

Aufgrund der hohen Sicherheitsstandards mussten wir bei der Reservierung die wir über Mail gemacht haben unsere Namen mit Geburtstort vorher angeben. Mit hohen Erwartungen und viel Vorfreude machten wir uns Mittwoch früh auf dem Weg vom Hotel Adlon zum Bundestag. Empfangen wurden wir gleich mehrmals. Die erste Station war der Außenbereich des großen Gebäudekomplexes. Hier warten zwei sehr nette Damen auf die angemeldeten Gäste.

Bemerkenswert ist der Extra-Eingang  weil zu Stoßzeiten sehr viele Leute in den Bundestag wollen und sich so lange Schlangen bilden können. Nach der Anmeldung ging es weiter zum Sicherheits-Check, der exakt wie beim Flughafen abläuft – ähnlich nettes Personal versteht sich von selbst. Eine Aufzugfahrt später sind wir dann im Restaurant angekommen. Nach einer sehr netten Begrüßung wurden wir zu unserem Tisch, in der ersten Reihe mit wunderbarer Aussicht auf Berlin gebracht. Vielen Dank an dieser Stelle für die 2 Tassen die als Geschenk verpackt auf dem Tisch standen.

Das gut besuchte Restaurant präsentierte sich mit stilvollen Ambiente .Lobenswert und leider eine Seltenheit heutzutage ist die einheitliche Kleidung die von den Mitarbeiterinnen getragen wird.

Wir entschieden uns für das Wohlfühlfrühstück für 28,50€ pro Person. Innerhalb kürzester Zeit wurde der Cappuccino wie das Rührei, Trüffelpaste, die 4 verschiedenen Käsesorten, der Joghurt, der frischgepresste Orangensaft, der Sekt, der Wurstaufschnitt und der hausgebeizte Lachs an den Tisch gebracht.  Was bei solch einem exklusiven Frühstück nicht fehlen darf, ist das Glas Prosecco. Dieses Frühstück hat den Namen Wohlfühlfrühstück wahrlich verdient.

Das Preisleistungsverhält dieses Restaurant ist aufgrund der tollen Lage und der noch besseren Aussicht meines Erachtens angemessen. Man muss ja nicht gleich das Frühstück für knapp 30,00€ aussuchen. Die Karte bietet mehr als nur dieses Frühstück.

Mit den wärmsten Empfehlungen,

Food Executive

Saturday, February 21, 2015

96 Hours at the Adlon Kempinski Berlin

Berlin in February, what does that mean? Exactly “Berlinale”. The Berlinale is one of the most important film festivals worldwide. So this means everybody who is interested in lifestyle, movies, food and hotels is going to Berlin. Of course the best way to stay in central Berlin is at the historical Hotel Adlon which is located on Unter den Linden, the main boulevard in the central middle district, at the Pariser Platz, directly opposite of the Brandenburg Gate and the Holocaust Memorial.

After a warm welcome, the very nice receptionist showed us our room. Honestly, we have expected an “Executive Room”. However, we received one of the best suites I ever stayed in so far. This suite included a separate entrance hall, living room, bedroom and maybe the best of all: a wonderful bathroom with a steam shower.

The beds were one of the most comfortable that I have ever slept in. The only thing I could compare them to would be the clouds. 

The view was breath taking. Multiple times during our stay we just couldn’t believe how beautiful it was because most people take pictures from the Brandenburg Gate in front of it. Ok why not. But we had the pleasure to live in a Brandenburg Gate Suite with view to the Brandenburg Gate. So every time we looked out of the window, we saw the tourists in front of the Brandenburg Gate taking pictures.

The SPA is like an oasis in the middle of Berlin. Nobody would expect to find a spa underground, beneath the historical hotel but this is the case. Every guest can enter the spa area through a separate elevator from the Rooms.
The spa offers a variety of saunas as well as steam baths, a Jacuzzi and a vast indoor pool.  It is definitely a place to re-enter yourself and enjoy pure relaxation.

Our stay hasn't been sponsored by the Hotel Adlon Kempinski. We have received an upgrade to a junior suite as well as a welcome champagne. Our above written review hasn't been influenced.

Monday, February 16, 2015

48 Hours at the Hotel Arts Barcelona

After a 15 minute ride from the airport of Barcelona, we finally drove inside the driveway of the famous Arts Hotel Barcelona. Being informed that this high end property is part of the Ritz Carlton Chain, the welcome was more than warm. Sara was the first smile we experienced at the Arts, she immediately transferred us to the main Lobby on the First floor, where we had been allocated to the PR Manager Melanie. She was the one which accompanied us to the Level 33 - the Club Level.

Upon arriving with the elevators, the whole team of the Lounge greeted us by last name and welcomed us with a glass of Laurent Perrier. After doing some paperwork we have been given a short introduction to the city with a map and Laura gave us some tipps and recommendations about what to do in Barcelona. 

Harry showed us the way to our spacious, yet breath-taking room with views of the city and the Mediterranean Sea (the Med as they used to call it at the Arts). Our vast Club Room was furnished in a very light, elegant style and had two very heavenly queen beds. Due to the situation on the corner, the whole room was filled with sunlight and offered spectacular views from nearly everywhere. 

The amazing bathroom is wonderfully designed and very spacious as well. The separated power-shower and the deep bath tub were a big plus, as the luxurious Asprey toiletries and the many guest products (like wood comb and cool toothbrush). There were plenty of towels (nearly three bath towels per person) and toiletries and the housekeeping did a great job when preparing the room. On the arrival day, they forgot to do the turn-down service. 

As the real highlight of the stay, the Ritz Carlton Club Lounge was really breath-taking and we can highly recommend to upgrade yourself to this luxurious level of finest service. Every staff member did give his utmost and went beyond the expected - we were flashed by the warm welcome and how friendly they treated us. After the first day we felt like old friends. There were five different kinds of meals at the Club Lounge: Continental Breakfast, Light Lunch, Afternoon Tea, Evening Hors d'oeuvres as well as Late nights snacks. 

Another advantage of The Club Lounge was the complimentary open-bar which included alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, such as whiskey, spirits, vodka, gin, lemonades as well as San Pellegrino and Evian waters. This was highly appreciated by us as we never needed any money for such extras in the city. In fact we would definitely say this is worth the high price tag for a Club Room. 

Unfortunately we haven't been at the wonderful Spa on the 43 Floor, but next time we will definitely go there as well. Due to the fact that it snowed in Central Europe and we were so glad to finally see some sun, we weren't shocked of the warm temperatures of Barcelona. So we went to the outdoor pool and finally jumped into the heated jacuzzi next to the pool, under the palms.

So we found ourselves under the palms in mid february with lots of sun in a heated jacuzzi, while it snowed in tons in Germany and Austria. What an amazing feeling. This and also the service is why we love the Arts and definitely will return soon in order to also test the pool and stay at one of their vast and breath-taking apartments ;-)!

We have been invited by the Hotel Arts Barcelona, a Ritz-Carlton managed property. Our review expresses our own opinion and has not been influenced.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

24 Hours at the Jagdgut Wachtelhof

Have you ever dreamed of a Private Ski Hideaway with lots of fur, fire places, wooden rooms, elegant design and a perfect situation - meters from the lifts and slopes - in the heart of the Alps? Well, you might have, but never thought that this dream is even affordable. Alright, it is not Gstaad, St. Moritz, Courchevel or Kitzbühel - it's simply Maria Alm - more exactely Hinterthal. That doesn't mean that you have to miss five stars, excellent food, luxurious furniture and personalized service: the Jagdgut Wachtelhof has everything. 

So why else should you spend your holidays at this lovely Small Luxury Hotel Property (SLH)? I would define the factors service, spa, food, location as well as my favourite part: design. Styled and designed by no one else than Mr. Michel Bönan himself, this hotel could also be a hotspot in Florence or Rome (he also designed the famous J.K.Place hotels). This was why my colleague, Mr. Beverage Executive and me arrived with high expectations and a need for a day of doing simply nothing than relax (we have been skiing for three days in various ski resorts in the Tyrol before).

Upon driving the driveway, we were impressed by the charme of the building and the location, near the slopes. Mrs. Maierhofer welcomed us and while we filled out the paper work, we were treated with an excellent rosé sparkling wine which tasted like fresh berries from the forest. After a short tour through the hotel, including the private cinema (a real highlight), the underground bar "Schluf" as well as the spa, we were accompanied to our wnderful yet spacious Deluxe Room.

Inside the room we found a handwritten letter and a small sledge with the hotel branding as a welcome gift - a very nice touch. The minibar as well as a large bottle of sparklig water was complimentary and much appreciated by us (most of the hotels only offer still bottled water). The whole room was larger than expected and we even had a sofa, walk-in wardrobe, hallway and a small but very nice bathroom with shower-/tub combo, toilet and single vanity. The toiletries were branded by the sister hotel and made by a German soap factory - however the smell was very good and the size at 100ml is very generous, too!

The yet so stylish "Heurigen Spa" turned out to be even more glamorous in the inside. Beside a huge dry sauna, an armomatic shower, changing rooms, vast showers and a small bar in the heart of the small building, there was an impressive and perfectely designed relaxation room overlooking the heated outdoor pool, snow capped roofs and mountains as well as fire places around the pool. There was also a jacuzzi around the corner, but at 26 degrees celsius we didn't find it comfortable to use - by the way the water level of the swimming pool is simpy too low (guessing it was 1 to 1.20 metres) and the temperature was also way too low - also the reason why no guest was using it. This should be considered to change in order to be a real spa hideaway.

Another important part of our stay - the food and beverage outlets: Having dined at the best restaurants, we found the cusine of the Jagdgut Wachtelhof very good for the region and the type of hotel/restaurant which is the typical Austrian chalet style. From the salmon tartar, the cream soup of chestnut, to the main course, which was a perfectly cooked fillet of venison with butter "spätzle" and an excellent sauce. The grand final was a parfait of elderberries on a milky and creamy souce. We had an excellent Barbera d'Alba (perfect to meat) and a glass of excellent Austrian Eiswein, followed by a housemade nut liquor. 

Last but not least - a stay with Mr. Beverage Executive wouldn't be final without having an excellent post-dinner drink -  we got two different ways of Gin Tonic (in fact it wasn't something you might think of!). I took the excellent "Mare" with spanish Gin, while my colleague chose the one with German Gin (helping to his home country ;-) ). Honestly, it was the best Gin Tonic we both ever had and it took our breath with every sip we took! This was the best barkeeper and hopefully he doesn't return to Apulia - where he is originally from.

All in all this is a perfect ski hideaway in the real Austrian Alps and we guess the prices are very moderate for what you get. You will feel like owning a private ski chalet - due to the guest-staff ratio of 17 rooms and nearly as many staff members.
We were invited by the Hütter-Bönan Hotel Group for a test stay at the Jagdgut Wachtelhof. All our above written represents our personal opinion and hasn't been influenced in any way.

Friday, February 6, 2015

24 Hours at the Hotel Cervosa

The first hotel of our first and only "Ski Week" indeed exceeded all our expectations. In the real center of Serfaus - one of the loveliest ski towns I have ever seen - a bit up on a small hill, there is a true wellness and gourmet temple: The Hotel Cervosa Serfaus. Owned and managed by the welcoming Westreicher Family - Mr. Hugo Westreicher takes care of the guests by himself when he walks through the restaurant every evening during the dinner. Mrs. Westreicher, the friendly and welcoming soul of the house welcomed us with a glass of sparkling wine. 

Upon entering our wonderfully designed and very spacious "Junior Suite de Luxe", we were really surprised to find a bottle of sparkling wine and a nice welcome plate with apples and chocolate donuts. I really liked the layout of our suite - the bathroom was kind of open plan with access from the bedroom and the hallway. A very nice touch was the Nespresso coffee machine, the warm colors of the room as well as the balcony on the south side overlooking the wonderfully snowed town and the new spa building. 

I would describe the atmosphere of the room as very comfortable and welcoming, simply perfect for a ski hotel like the Cervosa. Our huge bathroom offers a bath tub, walk-in shower and a separated toilet with bidet. The toiletries were by Bulgari and therefore as luxurious as the complete experience we had during these two days. In addition to the furniture, I experienced the bed sheets and the mattress as very heavenly. 

One of the most important parts of this hotel is the vast wellness and spa area which boasts more than 3.000 square meters of pure tranquility and relaxation over three floors. The entry level is equipped with a large indoor pool, two jacuzzis and a separated area for treatments. Furthermore there is a huge thermal area, a large and wonderful steam bath, an aromatic sauna as well as a jacuzzi, hot loungers and water beds on the first basement. A recently added spa building can be accessed through a tunnel. In this spa building there is a small bar for tea and drinks, two wonderful relaxation rooms, a breath-taking panoramic sauna as well as a heated outdoor pool with fire places and views over the snow capped mountains and house roofs of Serfaus.

After the relaxing spa break, we headed down to the hotel's own restaurant. Fortunately we arrived on Sunday and were therefore invited to be part of the Gala evening with an amazing Gala Dinner, including six courses. The first course was a sashimi of tuna, followed by a creamy cocos-curry soup, a breast of quail and a sorbet of mango with lots of champagne. The main course was an excellent fillet of veal with potato gratin and vegetables - sounds not as good as it tasted. The grand final was a wonderful chocolate cake with a gorgeous mock ice cream. Finally we were treated with excellent cheese from the Tyrol.

On Monday we had the possibility to discover the slopes of the enormous ski resort "Serfaus Fiss Ladis". Unfortunately the weather was not the best and therefore not that good for a lovely ski day. During our ski day we discovered that the resort attracts a lot of families and beginners. If you want to live your ski dreams as a professional skier, you need to hide away to the black, more extreme slopes. All in all, there are some really goof food outlets, such as the Lassida Restaurant, the Fine Dine at Masner and the new Seealm Hög. 

A very special thanks to the Westreicher Family for the generous invitation to the overnight stay with half board. Our ski day has been sponsored by the tourism region "Serfaus Fiss Ladis".