Brondo Architect Hotel : Palma : Mallorca

Brondo Architect Hotel : Palma : Mallorca

Over the last few years, we’ve been very lucky to be able to pack in a huge amount of travel – as well as actually move abroad, relocating from Manchester to Istria, in northern Croatia. We’ve spent the last couple of years renovating a stone house and exploring our new environment. But, one place has so far eluded us – Mallorca. Even though it’s always been on our radar, we’ve always found ourselves plumping for somewhere else. Until now. A combination of being very busy with our design business, cracking on with the house renovation and some pretty unseasonal weather – rain, rain and more rain – made up our minds and we booked flights to Mallorca. First port of call was Palma, and a night in the absolutely beautiful Brondo Architect Hotel.

There’s so much choice, accommodation-wise in Palma, but we have a very clear idea about the kinds of places we want to stay. Wherever we stay must be at least as nice as our home. It must be unusual. It must give us interiors inspiration. It must also be mid-range, budget wise. Too cheap, you get what you pay for. Too expensive – just silly. We’ve not got a bottomless money pit. So, Brondo Architect Hotel seemed to tick all of our boxes when we spotted it on Booking.Com.

Tucked away down a cobbled side street, but less than a 10 minute walk away from Palma’s iconic cathedral, the hotel is set in a 17th century Mallorcan building. From the moment you step into the reception area, you know that this is going to be a special experience. A huge eye-catching mural, featuring Rubenesque women dominates the entrance – it is bold and brassy and totally in keeping with the style of this unusual hotel. Public areas feature quirky artwork, astonishingly beautiful Spanish floor tile, exposed brickwork and copper piping with striking lighting features.

Our room was more of a junior suite, with a large bedroom and seating area, and a big separate bathroom, with an adjoining corridor. The decor and furnishings were really lovely – a super comfy four poster bed, two squishy armchairs, great artwork, map wallpaper. A stylish mix of retro and modern.

Our stay was short, unfortunately – but, we will return as we genuinely loved this hotel – so we didn’t get to experience the roof terrace. There’s also a gym, and massages can be arranged. However, we did enjoy a welcome drink (a nice touch) on the terrace outside the restaurant. We stayed early season, so there didn’t seem to be too many guests, which was lovely as we largely had this decked courtyard area to ourselves. Eclectically furnished with low sofas, brightly coloured parasols, big cushions, olive trees and bouganvillea and mis-matched tables and chairs, this is the perfect spot for an early evening drink, before heading out into the bright lights of Palma.

Morning coffee, in the warm May sunshine, was an absolute treat on the terrace. Those colours. And that sky…

The restaurant is quite simply, stunning. Packed full with interesting and unusual objects and pieces of furniture – and a very pretty cherry blossom tree – it’s the perfect place to enjoy breakfast. And, what a breakfast! There’s a huge choice – pastries (sweet and savoury), pies (yes, pies for breakfast!), cold meats, cheeses, fruit, youghurts, juices, breads and a really good hot selection. I always tend to avoid the hot options, which have usually sweated all morning in silver catering trays. But this one was exceptional – the food is obviously refreshed regularly, rather than allowed to sit and become rubbery, and we enjoyed a Spanish style full English. Very, very tasty.

Communal areas are filled with quirky artefacts and artwork.

The hotel is located on a pedestrianised side street, but we found a car park, just a 5 minute walk away which meant that we could dump the car and not worry about parking restrictions etc. Brondo is also really centrally situated, so wandering the labyrinth of Mallorcan streets is a joy.

I’m delighted that we opted for this hotel for our first night – and by sheer coincidence, as we had absolutely no idea when we booked that they were connected, our next stop was the exquisite Lluna Aqua Hotel in Sóller. The sister hotel of Brondo, and the second in the tiny chain of Unusual Hotels…

This is NOT a sponsored post. We paid the full price as quoted when we booked & have received no payment for this blog. We just wanted to share this lovely find of a hotel in Palma.

Officine Cavour : Padova : Veneto : Italy

Officine Cavour : Padova : Veneto : Italy

Our second accommodation on our weekend stopover in Padova was an apartment, slap bang in the historical centre, called Officine Cavour. Directions to the car park were great – but we struggled a little bit initially to find the actual apartment. It’s located in a small square called Piazza Camillo – perhaps the easiest way to locate it is to stand in front of the statue of Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour, and it’s just behind him, to the left. We stayed on a rainy Sunday in early February, so the square wasn’t exactly alive. However, there was plenty of evidence that it’ll be a different story later in the year, as plenty of very nice looking bars and restaurants were in the immediate vicinity.

The actual apartment is located on the first floor of one of the historical buildings facing into the square. We’d exchanged emails with the owners and had actually arrived much earlier than the stated check-in time, but via the magic of remote access, we were able to get in, and out of the rain, and get warm. Always a good sign, when owners take into account circumstances and don’t stick to rigid rules.

We were super impressed by the apartment. Although not huge, it had everything you would need for a few days. There were only two rooms – the main area and the shower room, and both were so stylish. The attention to detail was fantastic and it’s clear that the owners have really thought about how to create ambience and comfort.

Anyone who’s had peeks of our renovation project in Istria, will have an idea of our taste, and this apartment ticked all of our boxes. We’ve painted our interior stone walls white, simply because it would have been a mammoth task to have them all cleaned up and looking like the one above. A little bit of me does wish I hadn’t been so impatient with the white paint, and given at least one of the walls a chance, but too late now. I’ll have to get my bare brick kicks in places like this! The bed was super comfy, and with that lovely velvet wrap around headboard, was a bit sofa-like when you re-arranged the pillows and cushions. Lighting was all very well thought out – dramatic spotlights in the ceiling and cool industrial lamps, dotted around the room. I also love a bit of faux foliage. I mean, what’s not to like? No watering and no maintenance and they live forever, so these big green plants did it for me, softening up the exposed brick wall and the industrial style furnishings.

The fridge was stocked with a little mini-bar, operating on an honesty bar policy – the welcome pack just asked that anything you took, you paid 3 euros for. We *think* the bottle of water was free, as it wasn’t in the fridge, so apologies Officine Cavour, if it wasn’t. We’ll pay next time we stay ? There was also a generous stock of tea bags and coffee, with a Nespresso style machine. The kitchen area is well equipped – as well as the coffee machine, there’s a toaster, small hob with a couple of rings, kettle, dishwasher, plenty of very clean and well cared for crockery, glasses, cutlery and pans. Drawers were pristine – no crumbs, or signs of other visitors. Clearly somewhere that places hygiene and excellent cleaning high up on the agenda. There’s also a small table and two chairs, so if your stay is  longer than a couple of nights, and you fancy rustling up a simple meal, it can be done.

This is not an impersonal apartment. As I said earlier, the owners have clearly injected personal style and have thought about adding details to create something very lovely. Additions like the glass jar, the Moroccan style rugs, tealight holders, mis-matching lamps all add to the decor and sense of individuality. Also, I have that glass jar, so big tick!

So, two things I love about the above photo. 1. The beams and 2. the hanging plants. Again, my boxes are ticked! Having spent the best part of the last year, treating, caulking and filling, undercoating and top coating, our wooden beams (and still not finished), it’s great to see old beams looking very pretty. Most of ours were far too knackered to ever have ended up looking this good in their naked, natural state. We do prefer ours now, in the soft cool grey satinwood finish, but a good old wooden beam is hard to beat. And, from our beams, I am creating, in various parts of the house, hanging gardens. These green glass globes are gorgeous – they are all over Istria (originally used for wine, people like wine here!) and so rather than having them as floor ornaments, I’m getting my macrame head on, and making hanging globes out of them. My beams aren’t going to know what’s hit them!

I really liked this cute desk set up in the window. How simple? But how effective? A shelf and a chair, with the long curtain pulling across in front, so when it’s time for bed, you can just switch off.

Bathrooms are often the make or break for me in apartments and hotels. I’ve been known to, at best, request a room change. And also, walk out. My maxim is, if it’s not at least as good as what we have at home, I’m not staying in it. (Which is why I really do my research before booking anywhere. Multiple walk outs, and I’d be walking home). But, like everything else at Officine Cavour, my boxes were ticked. Power shower. Separate rain shower head and additional removable shower head. Long shower trap (like I insisted we have), rather than plughole. Tadalak style walls and flooring. Underfloor heating. Everything white. Big sink. Gleaming taps. Good toiletries. Great towels – I even got over the two colours ? Super, super clean.

This was a proper home from home. I like seeing things that I have, in places I stay – it’s always nice to see your taste reflected back. Like the tealight holder and the concrete apple. Like I say, a home from home.

Because we were only staying a night, we definitely weren’t going to cook. So, as we do in most places we stay, we decided to find an Indian/Nepalese restaurant – and Buddha Restaurant came out as the stand out place to visit. Reviews were amazing and it was only a ten minute walk from the apartment. Worth every step of the way – not a grain of rice was left at the end!

Buddha Restaurant, Via Giotto 31, Padova

Mixed veggie platter starter, goan fish curry, lentil dahl, paneer masala, garlic naan, cumin rice and a bottle of Pinot Grigio – just over 50 euros. Utterly delicious. Could not recommend Buddha Restaurant enough.

 

Best Western Plus Net Tower : Padova : Veneto : Italy

Best Western Plus Net Tower : Padova : Veneto : Italy

We often drive around the outskirts of Padova (Padua) when we travel back to Istria from Italy. We’ve always found it – even with Google Maps – quite a perplexing city to get out of. It’s not a big city, but the outskirts are a bit on the confusing side, so we generally use the big red tower as a marker. We’ve never really looked that closely at this tower, because it didn’t seem as if was of any relevance. Until very recently…

We’d booked tickets to see Massive Attack and they were playing at a sports arena on the outskirts of the city. Too far to walk to, we didn’t want to negotiate public transport or book taxis and we definitely didn’t want to drive, so accommodation in the centre – about 5kms away – wasn’t really an option. However, a quick search of hotels near the Kioene Arena included the red tower, above. Turns out it’s a Best Western hotel – the Plus Net Tower Hotel. We usually avoid chain hotels if we can. Not that we’ve anything against them – it’s just that there’s always so much other choice. But, this hotel was a 6 minute walk from the Arena, and reviews were really, really good so we booked a superior king room for € 89.25. To be honest, we weren’t expecting too much – so were absolutely delighted when we arrived and realised what we’d actually booked.

Parking is often an issue when staying somewhere – it’s pretty rare to find free on-site parking, and so we often have to do street parking or a car park. This isn’t a problem, as we do expect to pay if we are using our car and want to park it up somewhere – but, being able to do it for free, and not having to fight for a space, is a definite bonus. As well as lots of space at the front and to the sides of the hotel, there is also an undergound car park. All free for users of the hotel. We’ve definitely noted this, as we drive back to England fairly regularly and always seem to return – usually via Padova – with a haul of goodies, meaning safe parking is sometimes a real consideration for us.

Check-in at The Best Western Plus Net Tower Hotel, Padova

The hotel entrance is very stylish – spacious, with big, soft loungy sofas and cool lighting. I’m not sure how long this hotel has actually been open, but the interior is absolutely pristine. No suitcase scuff marks on the walls. Door handles and light switches were positively sparkling. All very impressive so far.

Room 507 – one of the superior king rooms – was quite beautiful, with caramel and cream interiors. The corner room was huge, with floor to ceiling windows on two sides, so it was light and airy. The bed was very big and super comfy, and additional bedding was stored in a cupboard. For anyone wanting to work when staying, there was a very cool desk, with an additional table and designer chairs. The bathroom was large and exceptionally clean, with a separate walk in shower.

We chose to eat in the hotel restaurant as there wasn’t anything else nearby, so we were taking our chances. However, this was in Italy where food is king. We’ve stayed in hotels in the UK, which were much more expensive than this one, and had food which could best be described as bland. This food was excellent and of a really high standard, with great choice. Not too much choice, which might have suggested that a lot of dishes were possibly frozen. Just enough to know that everything on the menu was fresh. A big basket of warm, freshly made bread was delivered to the table with oils, for us to snack on as we perused the menus. Always a good sign for me when a restaurant has the uber stylish Dag-Style menu covers…

Pumpkin Risotto and Three Cheese Macaroni, with a crisp bottle of Pinot Grigio went down very well. Incredibly tasty and just the right size portions. And for just under 40 euros, an excellent meal.

So, there you have it. A night in a chain hotel – great value for money, extremely comfortable, well designed rooms, an excellent restaurant and superb location for the Kioene Arena, where we had a date with Massive Attack…

 

London : England

London : England

Not too long ago, when we still lived in Didsbury, we often thought about having time away in London, but never got round to it, because, well – London was just too far away from Manchester. The traffic would be awful. We’d end up sitting on the M6 or the M25. It was over-priced and over-crowded. And so, for a long time, we never did the trip. The last time we were in London was, I think the early 90s. But things are different now. We think nothing of long trips – and so when we were planning our Christmas road trip back to England, we decided that this time we would take in London.

Not all of it, of course – we were on a fairly strict timescale and so had to narrow down where we were staying, so that we were able to do a bit of the touristy trail, but also head up to Manchester quite quickly. As we were driving, we took a ferry from Calais to Dover, so it made more sense to stay in the East, rather than driving through the London traffic on the afternoon of the last Friday before Christmas. Rather than search by area, I searched for accommodation that I liked the look of first, and then checked out the area – and this was how we came to find the very lovely Pilot Inn, in Greenwich. The journey from Dover up to Greenwich was easy – just over an hour, straight up the A2. No traffic jams either. As you will all know, Greenwich has changed beyond recognition. We’re lucky enough to now visit lots of places on our roadtrips, but there was something quite exhilerating about being a tourist in London, and seeing for real some of the landmarks we’ve only seen on TV.

My usual choice of accommodation isn’t usually a pub with rooms above, but The Pilot Inn ticked our boxes. It has been refurbished and whilst it is still a pub downstairs, it has been very stylishly renovated. There’s a restaurant too, and we chose to eat here – it’s clearly a very popular choice amongst locals as it was packed. The food was exceptionally good, too – definitely not pub grub. Breakfast next morning was as good, with plenty of vegetarian options, too. Our room was lovely – just what we needed after a long journey through Slovenia, Austria, Germany, France and across the channel. Very tastefully decorated, with a super comfy bed, metro-tiled bathroom with a powerful walk in shower, strong wi-fi and views of the O2 Arena and the iconic gas holder at East Greenwich Gas Works. Another bonus was free parking bays, just outside the accommodation.

A good sized piece of green space, right in the heart of Greenwich Peninsula. The Pilot Inn is at the end of the little terrace, to the right.

Love a navy wall. Makes me feel right at home!

River View, Greenwich, with The Pilot Inn at the end of the terrace. The very terrace (albeit with doors now painted blue) that featured in Blur’s “Parklife” video…

Blur : “Parklife”. With red doors.

The Pilot Inn is perfectly located for the O2, which is no more than a ten minute walk away. Again, ashamed to say, we’ve never been here since the area was redveloped and so were quite surprised at how beautiful it all is now. With the Canary Wharf glass towers glistening in the winter sunshine, and the redevelopment of the river area, and the explosion of modernist buildings around Greenwich Peninsula, we really did regret not having taken more of an opportunity to explore the capital when it actually was a lot easier. Now, a journey of four hours seems nothing. Previously, it seemed like such a long time to spend in a car. How your perspective can change!

We spent a good few hours just walking, taking it all in – and I even persuaded my other half, who has a very real fear of heights, to do a round trip on the Emirates Air Line, which crosses the River Thames between Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks. I thoroughly enjoyed my aerial view of London. Not too sure about him…

Body language. Arms folded. Steely, fixed expression. *I am not enjoying this*

The Emirates Air Line, Greenwich

Beautiful facade of Ravensbourne University, next to the O2 Arena

It was a shame the next day that we couldn’t extend our touristy trip of London, but we had to head north to Manchester. Instead of skirting around the M25, we decided to do a drive through the city and so were able to see some old haunts, as we drove through Deptford, Bermondsey, Southwark and over Tower Bridge to the north of the river. We’d wanted to get to see The Cutty Sark, The Royal Observatory, The Naval College and of course, a bit of retail therapy at Greenwich Market, but time was against us.

Tower Bridge, London

However, our taste for London has returned. Now that our preferred way to get back to the UK is by driving, we’ll factor in a capital visit next time. Especially as I’ve now got my eye on The Good Hotel – the concept of which is described on the website as combining…

…premium hospitality with doing good for the local community. The hotel is located in the historical Royal Victoria Docks in London, on the river Thames, and is a profit for non-profit business. This means it employs a social business model that re-invests all its profits…

 

Hotel Rocca Della Sena, Tropea, Calabria

Hotel Rocca Della Sena, Tropea, Calabria

When we were in Italy, last year, we had an awful experience with a hotel in the beautiful Calabrian town of Tropea. We’d booked into Hotel Valemare for four nights, but it was so terrible, we left the next morning, not knowing if we’d get a refund*. We’d heard of Hotel Rocca della Sena and reviews suggested it was amazing, but as were doing a lot of travelling we thought it might be a bit too much above budget. However, lady luck was on our side, and through Booking.com we secured a room, packed our bags, left Valemare and checked into Rocca della Sena. And what a difference…

We were offered coffee on the terrace, over looking the sea as we were checked in – and then told we’d been upgraded. And, this was a real upgrade, as there’s no way we would have booked the honeymoon suite! For three days and three nights we lived in the lap of luxury – and because we’d booked last minute, bagged ourselves the most amazing deal. And after nearly two weeks on the road, this unexpected treat was much appreciated! As well as an en-suite bathroom, we had the added bonus of a huge walk-in shower, with mood lighting. (Well, it was the honeymoon suite, after all!) Plus, a beautiful balcony, with a hammock, sun-loungers and a jacuzzi ? Fresh fruit was delivered each afternoon, but because the breakfasts were so generous, to be honest, this was an unnecessary luxury!

Hotel Rocca della Sena is located about 10 minutes from the centre of Tropea, which is a perfect stop-over point if you’re travelling onwards to Sicily as it’s only about 40 minutes away from the port of Reggio Calabria.The whole experience can  only be described as “understated elegance” – every need is clearly catered for in this hotel, but in a way that is effortlessly unobtrusive. This was a real experience and a stay that we’ll certainly remember for a long time to come.

Tropea itself is described as a jewel, and this description isn’t an exaggeration, especially as it hugs the south west of Italy and so also benefits from glorious sunsets. Perfect to watch from your jacuzzi on the balcony ?

We stayed here in September 2013 and booked through booking.com, receiving a very unexpected upgrade upon arrival.

* We did get a refund, some weeks later, but only through sheer persistence – the refund came from Booking.com, rather than the hotel who steadfastly refused to acknowledge that their accommodation was NOT as described on their website.