la concha soul boutique hotel : paguera : Mallorca

la concha soul boutique hotel : paguera : Mallorca

It’s hard to imagine that there could really be anywhere to avoid on Mallorca. We’d discounted Magaluf, as unfortunately we’re no longer in our early twenties, and so, when booking places to stay, we were pretty confident that every place we chose, would be a winner. When we travel we do our homework. We read reviews, check out websites, look at the area etc. My rule of thumb is, if it’s not at least as good as our own home, we’re not staying there. So, Brondo Architect Hotel in Palma, Lluna Aqua Hotel in Sóller and Petit Sant Miquel Hotel in Calonge were all amazing, and we’d highly recommend.

We decided that we wanted to have a few days doing absolutely nothing, apart from lazing around a pool. We quite fancied a hotel on the western side of the island, so we could catch the sunsets. We definitely wanted a pool. Somewhere that played quiet, chilled out music. Somewhere a bit funky. And we definitely thought we’d found all of this when we discovered La Concha Soul Boutique Hotel, in Paguera.

Now, we’d not been to Mallorca before and so had no idea what Paguera was like. Not that it really mattered when we were looking for accomm0dation, as the plan was to pool lounge for a few days. For those of you who know Mallorca well, you’ll probably know what’s coming, as we checked out of the beautiful Lluna Aqua in Sóller after two amazing days, and set off for Paguera. Looks pretty snazzy, doesn’t it?

The website certainly suggested it was a cool, laid back, chilled out kind of place and the photography certainly reinforced this. Reviews were promising. Just what we’d been looking for.

The first sign that things weren’t going to be as expected, was as we entered Paguera. Gone were the beautiful Mallorcan townhouses, and individuality and beauty, of Sóller and Palma. Instead, a long beach front strip of fairly down-at-heel hotels, souvenir shops, bars, fast food joints and hoardes of tourists. Now, nothing wrong with any of this, IF this is what you’ve come for. But we hadn’t. And I was already beginning to wish I was somewhere else.

However, we’d already decided that we wouldn’t really be investigating Paguera, as we were going to be relaxing around the pool, so all would be OK. Only, it wasn’t. The hotel, on arrival, definitely did not look as pristine as the one we’d been seeing online. A hunch told me that this wasn’t going to be a long stay, so the suitcases remained in the boot of the car as we went to reception. The main entrance – at least we think it was the main entrance, as we couldn’t find another – was around the back of the hotel, where the car park was located. Plus point – free parking. You’ve got to find these plus points somewhere. The entrance was in need of some TLC – peeling paint, scuffed door, neglected plants. However, we decided to give it a chance – even though the reception area had the feel of a youth hostel…

See, I wasn’t exaggerating. This is the main entrance. OK, that tree to the right looks OK, but I mean, look at the plants on the balconies…

We were advised we’d been allocated a superior room on the top floor, with a view of the pool area. Unfortunately, this was where it all started to go really wrong. There’s no lift in the hotel – not a problem at all, as we’d left our luggage in the car – but it did mean that we got to see the communal hallways in all their glory. Filthy. Scuffed walls and ripped wallpaper. Cleaning was still going on – a plus point, because at least we witnessed that cleaning of sorts happened – but on one of the landings, dirty towels were all over the floor. So many of them, that we couldn’t step over them. There was no way I was moving them, so we had to walk over them. The cleaner wasn’t arsed in the slightest. Unreal. And then, the room. The superior room…

Yep, this is what we walked into.

Above, was the window ledge. Below, the shower cubicle…

We weren’t sure if the bed had actually been properly made, or if this was how a previous guest had left it…

Word to the wise, guys. If you include the word “Boutique” in the name of your hotel, understand that there will be expectations from guests. Shoddy, shoddy paintwork…

Our superior room, with a view of the bins. Sorry, pool…

Safe to say, the receptionist seemed not in the least bit surprised when we headed back down and told her we wouldn’t be staying, and exactly why we wouldn’t be staying. Because we’d booked through Booking.Com, the payment for four nights had already been taken – at this point, we didn’t care. We just wanted out and away. She was very understanding regarding what we were saying about the filthiness of the room, and the hotel in general – she couldn’t really argue once we showed her the evidence. However, she did want us to give the hotel a chance and offered us another room. We politely declined. The manager was called. He too seemed completely unsurprised by what we were saying. Although he also wanted us to look at another room. There would also be a free BBQ that evening and if we left, we’d miss that. He (and the receptionist), to their credit, took everything we were saying on the chin, and finally accepted that we would absolutely not be staying. We were most surprised that the manager agreed to refund three nights – we definitely did not expect this, and certainly didn’t expect that he would do it as quickly as he did. So, another plus point for La Concha Soul Boutique Hotel – but unfortunately, a hotel which was not boutique, and with no soul. We’ve since looked back at the hotel website – and yes, it does make the hotel look better than it is, but look closely and the tell-tale signs are there. We just didn’t spot them, which is unusual – so maybe, good on whoever designed the website or took the photos. They’ve certainly done a good job of glossing over the fact that this is a pretty dire hotel. Although, we seem to be in the minority having this view – as rave reviews are still coming in for it. Maybe we’re over-fussy. Or prefer to stay somewhere that is clean and isn’t the standard of a hostel, but the price of a hotel. Or maybe, we just arrived on the wrong day, at the wrong time. But, we don’t think so. That grime on the window, and around the door and in the shower, had been sitting there, for quite some time.

But, all’s well that ends well – and very fortunately, the Lluna Aqua Hotel, back in Sóller, had one room left. Which unsurprisingly, we booked. And got out of La Concha and Paguera as fast as our car could take us! An hour after taking the above photographs, we were delighted to be back *home*…

The difference between that awful, slapdash paintwork and these beautiful Mallorcan tiles. Attention to detail = a boutique hotel.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the Lluna Aqua Hotel would be a much more expensive a hotel to stay in. It was more pricey, but definitely not at the kind of prices you’d blanche at. And, it was very, very clear what you were paying for.

A real boutique hotel. Full of soul. The real deal.

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

The Adriatic Hotel is located right on the picturesque harbour of Rovinj, a Venetian town on the south western coast of the Istrian peninsula. It is in the pedestrianised old town, full of pastel coloured Venetian buildings fringing the sea. Cobbled streets, full of the most exquisite shops, bars and restaurants, wind their way up to the top of the hill and the Church of St Euphemia, who from the top of the spire, watches out across the Adriatic Sea to Italy.

It’s one of our favourite destinations – and we know that we are very, very lucky because now that we live in Istria, we can book out of season when prices are much more suited to our pockets. It is Rovinj’s oldest hotel, dating back to 1892, the most recent refurbishment being done in 2015. The original facade has been retained and in its pale grey render, it is elegant and understated. A terrace outside, with big squishy grey and white sofas, which wraps around the front and side of the hotel, is the perfect place to while away a couple of hours, people watching or just being soothed by the sound of small fishing boats coming in and out of the harbour. The wooden shutters above the grounds floor – which comprises the Adriatic Brasserie and Breakfast Room and beautiful, beautiful bar – hint at the luxury behind them.

By hotel standards, it is small – there are fourteen rooms and four suites. All are different sizes and configurations – there is absolutely no “corporate” feel here. The ensuite rooms and suites have high ceilings with the original old-fashioned cornices retained. White walls are hung with big mirrors, wooden parquet floors have that added touch of luxury with modern black-and-white rugs. The beds are huge, with crisp white bedding and lots of pillows. Lighting is subtle (but sophisticated) and individual artworks, by local artists, can be found in every room. Coffee-making facilities are available, with fresh milk delivered and every afternoon, a little treat of homemade chocolates is delivered to your room. One of my favourite touches – as well as the hand written welcome postcard – is the selection of three mood scents by the bed. Grey-marble bathrooms have black-and-white mosaic-tiled floors, rain showers with glass doors, and Molton Brown toiletries, with matte black taps and handles and radiators. Of all of the rooms we’ve stayed in, the bathrooms have been huge and spacious and light. Communal areas are stylish – black carpets (with not a speck on them) fitted onto sweeping stairs, with almost black walls and very subtle lighting. Just gorgeous.

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Although Rovinj is packed with amazing – but reasonably priced – restaurants, including Monte, awarded a Michelin star – the hotel brasserie is fabulous, and definitely recommended. If you don’t fancy eating in the restaurant itself, room service is quite something too. All off the a la carte menu (although you can order form a smaller room service menu too) and brought your room on a trolley, presented in exactly the same way as would be if you dined in the restaurant. Breakfast too, is a real treat – an extensive menu of hot dishes, plus an array of continental options. And, as you are eating it, you can watch the glitterati of Rovinj, strolling past.

We have always paid, in full, for every stay at Hotel Adriatic and have never asked for, or received, any kick-backs. This blog is based solely on our personal experiences.

 

 

Les Jardins de Villa Maroc, Essaouira

Les Jardins de Villa Maroc, Essaouira

It’s always great having friends in-the-know when you travel abroad, as they often give you top tips that you don’t find in guide-books or through internet searches. Because usually you don’t know about these places and so don’t search on them. One of these gems turned up on a trip to Essaouira. Sandra, who runs Riad Remy in the Medina, also manages the apartment we stayed at, and so was on hand throughout our stay. She has a wealth of information about Essaouira, especially on the eating out front, but her stand-out-top-tip was a day trip to Les Jardins de Villa Maroc, located about 15km inland from Essaouira.

This secluded idyll is reached by private transfer, arranged through the sister hotel – Villa Maroc – in Essaouira, and when we visited, the cost was approximately £25pp. (The countryside villa used to be the private home of the owners of Villa Maroc). We met our driver at the hotel for an 11am departure and by 11.30 were around the pool, in the most amazing surroundings imaginable. We were there in January and so the only guests, so literally had the whole pool area and restaurant to ourselves. Lunch was served on the terrace by the pool and it is no exaggeration to say that what was brought to us, could have fed at least six people. Every dish was full of home-grown produce and each dish was cooked there and then. Essaouira has no shortage of brilliant places to eat, but this was something special!

Les Jardins de Villa Maroc has three separate boutique suites and private swimming pool – perfect for families or a group of friends. There is also a beautifully equipped kitchen in the largest suite and the hotel staff, if required, will prepare food here. Design wise, it is the most exquisite complex – and the perfect retreat if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the beach or the medina. It was apparently the first riad in Morocco and is now a hotel, comprising of three suites, dating back to the 18th century, with a full hotel service. Designed with nature in mind and ecologically friendly, using solar heating and solar power it is self-sufficient place. Let us take you on a tour, both external and internal, of the villa…

EXTERIOR

INTERIOR

We cannot recommend this villa highly enough – even for a just a day of rest and relaxation. And if you like your interiors (and exteriors), it’s a visual treat. Very 1970s – you could definitely imagine Pierre Cardin chatting to Brigitte Bardot around the pool, looking super stylish and probably smoking Gitanes…

 

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.

The Falstaff : Canterbury : Kent : England

The Falstaff : Canterbury : Kent : England

When we drive back to England, we tend to do a much needed stopover in the south-east after the ferry crossing from Calais. This year, we plumped for The Falstaff in Canterbury, which, according to its website

…has been a focus for hospitality in Canterbury for over 600 years. A traditional 15th century coaching inn, the hotel is steeped in history…

Only 30 minutes from the Port of Dover, we found it to be absolutely ideal for what we wanted. As we were travelling for a few weeks, and therefore staying at a quite few places on our travels, we couldn’t splash out on the most expensive rooms. The hotel (the rooms are situated above a bar and restaurant, more of which later) offers rooms called “Cosy Doubles”, and we decided to book one of these, knowing that it would probably be a bit on the small side, especially given the description on the website –

Our cosy double rooms comprise one small double bed and are all ensuite. All rooms have baths and integrated showers or walk-in showers, hairdryers, tea and coffee making facilities and flatscreen televisions with Freeview. They are best suited as double rooms for single occupancy, but do make for very cosy double rooms also. If you require more space we recommend booking one of our traditional double rooms. Cosy double rooms cannot accommodate extra beds and cannot be used as twin.

We were prepared to be a bit cramped but it was only for one night, so weren’t overly concerned. But, we definitely weren’t expecting what we were actually allocated.

Westgate Towers, Canterbury, Kent

First impressions of the hotel were excellent. Located just outside the famous medieval gateway, known as Westgate Towers, it was clear immediately that a lot of thought and creativity had gone into the refurbishment of The Falstaff. The reception area is a beautiful room in its own right, and I think we were lucky to visit just before Christmas and see it in all of its festive glory.

The Falstaff Hotel Canterbury, Kent

Room 1 (take note of that number if you want a room that doesn’t break the bank, is much larger than you might think it will be and doesn’t scrimp on design details) is up in the eaves of the building – it’s called one of the Turret Rooms. If you are tall, you need to be aware that the ceilings are low, with exposed beams – there are notices alerting you to this, but best to just watch out. Once inside the room, we were really, really surprised at the size of this cosy double. The bed was definitely not small – it was more than spacious and super comfortable, with gorgeous white Egyptian cotton bed linen. Sumptuous velvet cushions and throws, in pale pinks and greens, added texture and colour. The room had everything you would need for a stay – excellent wi-fi, wall-mounted TV (so out of the way), a good size table/desk & chair, ample storage, soft lighting with switches next to the bed (always a plus point!), tea and coffee making facilities and a really good selection of said teas and coffee. Thick curtains and a double glazed panel, which slid across the old leaded windows, kept the heat in and the noise out.

The Falstaff Hotel, Canterbury, Kent

If you like your rooms to be on the toasty side, then the cast iron radiator will definitely warm your cockles. However, it was just a bit too toasty for us and we actually turned it off completely – and the room was still warm enough.

The Falstaff Hotel, Canterbury. Kent

The Falstaff Hotel, Canterbury. Kent

When we are travelling, we usually accept that if a room we book, offers a bath or a shower, we’ll end up with the shower, unless we specifically request a bath. We didn’t on this occasion, and so expected a teeny weeny bathroom with a shower shoe-horned in. Wrong! The bathroom was huge, with a great bath and a very powerful shower. Double treat!

The Falstaff Hotel, Canterbury, Kent
think you can tell a lot about a hotel from the attention to detail in the bathroom. It’s easy to bung in a relatively inexpensive white bathroom suite and for it to look OK, but when you can see that what has been installed isn’t budget, it does make a massive difference. A heavy ceramic bath and sink, beautiful waterfall taps, rainhead shower. And metro tiles.
The Falstaff Hotel, Canterbury. Kent
Plus, another leaded window. And the fluffiest, whitest, cleanest towels.
The Falstaff Hotel, Canterbury, Kent
As mentioned previously, downstairs there is a bar and restaurant area, with a number of interesting rooms, perfect for groups of friends or cosying up by one of the log fires. Again, Christmas time definitely lent itself to a more cosy look, but I’m guessing The Falstaff gets it right all year round. (And, with it being Xmas, the bar was busy, but we didn’t hear a thing once we’d retired to our room).
The Falstaff Hotel, Canterbury, Kent
The Falstaff Hotel, Canterbury, Kent
The Falstaff Hotel, Canterbury, Kent
The Falstaff Hotel, Canterbury, Kent
The Falstaff Hotel, Canterbury, Kent
The Falstaff Hotel, Canterbury, Kent
A big plus for us, as we don’t travel light, was the secure car parking (for an additional £10 per day), at the rear of the hotel. Easily accessible and as far as we were concerned, super secure. Breakfast was another plus. Buffet style, and in a lovely dining area, there was more than enough choice. Cereals, cheeses, hams, bread, fruit, juices – as well as a hot breakfast, with excellent quality produce.

We actually rated The Falstaff so highly that we chose to reurn, this time for two nights, on our journey back to Dover. Booking directly via the hotel (as opposed to Booking.Com) meant a discount was applied to both the room rate and the breakfast. And we got Room 1 again. Just like a home from home ?

PS – the bar has a very extensive cocktail and gin menu. I’d like to personally recommend the Salted Caramel Martini. Probably the best I’ve had…

The Falstaff Hotel, Canterbury, Kent