Carlton Hotel Guldsmeden, Copenhagen **

I booked this hotel on HRS because it had a very high user rating, and because it was reasonably priced (considering how expensive Copenhagen is).

After booking, I checked into TripAdvisor on it - and was disconcerted by some of the entries. At that point, however, there was no going back (prepaid). Some people absolutely loved the hotel on that site, some found it to be horrible.

The most important thing to know: it apparently has nothing to do with what the frequent business traveller would normally associate with the name „Carlton”. The hotel operator is Guldsmeden; they operate other „different” hotels in Denmark, as well as on the Côte d’Azur and - of all places - Bali. Sounds to me like a financially independent whose hobby is small, private hotels.

The location is quite ok, it isn’t far (walking distance) from the „hip” places in Copenhagen and it is just down the road from Central station (I walked to the hotel from there with a big suitcase and a laptop backpack).

The room I had was 150, just under the roof and right next to the elevator (which, albeit, opens to the other side). Luckily, my initial tingling of fear (I’ve had some horrific room-next-to-elevator experiences) was unnecessary: I heard nothing of the elevator at all - in fact the room was very quiet in general.

It was clean, but really quite small. The angle of the ceiling (i.e. the roofline) didn’t help. It didn’t have a closet of any kind, so my clothes hung „in the open” on hangers suspended form hooks in the wall opposite the (small) bathroom.
Neither did it have much drawer space, making me deposit my socks and underwear in the small drawer of the bedside table and my folded garments (t-shirts, etc.) on top of the minibar cabinet. I personally prefer to have my clothes out of the way (of dust and prodding eyes), but that may be a personal paranoia.

The hotel offers everything as „biological”: the breakfast, the beers and - believe it or not - the shampoo / soap. I tried the beer (free „welcome” glass) which was good (but not extraordinary) as well as the shampoo and soap. Besides a very unusual (sticky) consistency, I didn’t lose and hair (or grow it in places I didn’t want), nor did I get a rash, so it seems to be ok.

Novotel Girona Aeropuerto **

I booked this mainly due to its proximity to the Girona airport, but price was also a key consideration.
We stayed here with our two small kids, which worked out well. The room (and, it appears, most rooms) has a large (king size?) bed and a sofa that can be expanded into two single beds (basically, the two beds are sitting on top of one another and the top one gets pulled forward).

We paid 70€ for the room (without breakfast). The room was spacious enough, it had a door between the short piece of corridor leading to the toilet and room exit door and the rest of the room, with the door to the bathroom opening into the room. Subsequently, any noises from the hallway were drastically reduced.

On a negative note, the room had a strange, somewhat pungent smell. Luckily, it was possible to open the window; the smell disappeared quickly with fresh air coming in. When the window was closed, the smell was back just as quickly. We got „used” to it, but nonetheless it was a bit annoying.

The room has a mini bar and a TV (used neither) as well as a large flat surface along the entire one side, giving plenty of room to put stuff. The bathroom was in a rather poor shape, not dirty but very used. The shower temperature was difficult to control.

The hotel had been advertised to have a pool (which the kids would have appreciated), unfortunately, this was half empty, with the remaining „water” in a condition that raised an innate desire to stay away from it. The drive into town is quite lengthy (although it is apparently only 12 km) and costs about €27 per taxi.

Recommendation: if you’re looking for a good price and a hotel very near the airport (because you have an early morning flight out the next day), then this is a good choice. I would book in Girona (which I recommend to visit extensively - very pretty old town) otherwise.

Old Town Apartamentos, Barcelona ***

What wasn’t very clear from the HRS description of the hotel: the address given is the office of a company that rents out apartments. You go to the office to pick up the key and instructions to the apartment they allocate to you. You then either walk or take some other transport to that address to get to your room(s).

I had booked two rooms, one for two adults and two kids, the other for two adults. Even though I had a confirmation from HRS, when I arrived at the office the second room wasn’t included in the apartment. While they would have charged for a single room only (still expensive at 140€), there wouldn’t have been enough room for all of us. Luckily, they had another apartment (further away) with enough beds and rooms.

The apartment was really quite exceptional - it had three bedrooms: two doubles and a single, as well as a sleeper couch in the living room. It sported a huge patio (enclosed), a TV (not used) and a full kitchen, as well as two full baths.

Recommendation: Seeing as hotels in Barcelona are incredibly expensive, the cost per room through Old Town Apartamentos is ok. The apartment we had was exceptional (I could easily have stayed in it for the entire vacation), but that isn’t a guarantee for others they offer. If you’re traveling in a group with lots of luggage and/or kids, you should consider sending someone from the group to fetch the key and map instructions instead of everyone going to the office and then to the apartment.

Arabian Courtyard Hotel & Spa, Dubai (UAE) ****

Very nicely located hotel - within easy walking distance of the south side of The Creek. The front is right across from the old Dubai Fort (which is now a museum). The street it is on is busy, but not annoyingly so.

I had a business room, which was - at least at the time I stayed (seasonal pricing) quite inexpensive for Dubai, and the room was indeed spectacular. In line with the general furnishings of the hotel, it had dark oak (?) paneling, a huge wooden bed and even a separate room with a couch + television, with a door separating the bedroom and the “living” room.
The view from the window - which was quite soundproof - was quite nice, see above.

I had some food in the English Pub in the hotel which was commendable - all in all a hotel I can recommend to visitors and business people alike.

Van der Valk Den Haag, Netherlands ***


Lara Beach Hotel, Antalya (Lara), Turkey ****

Currently, there is a major construction site next to the hotel, but so far it’s been relatively quiet.

Nice place with a super pool, excellent food and really good service.

I have to admit it: I’m not here for vacation - in fact, I don’t even want to be here, but it’s a heck of a lot better than most travelers stuck due to the biggest aviation disaster ever (see my travel blog for details); they are spending their time stuck in an airport, while I get to lounge in a nice vacation resort.

The place is really quite nice, about 30 minutes east of downtown Antalya and apparently only 12km from the airport. It is one hotel in a long row of hotels, some of these are quite spectacular. The Lara Beach Hotel doesn’t fall into that category, quite the contrary, it is relatively ugly from the outside. Not that this matters, but be aware of the fact that the hotels in the vicinity remind me of Las Vegas casinos whereas this one just looks, well, “useful”.

Subsequently, most of the hotels here seem much newer. The Lara Beach Hotel was built in 2005, which isn’t that long ago, but it has the flair of a refurbished 80’s hotel. But the room I am in is in very good shape and comfortable enough.
The hotel pool, garden, etc. are also very nice - no complaints. There is a huge (!) construction project next door, but you only hear it if your room - like mine - is in that direction and you have your window open. The closed windows absorb a lot of noise, they are double-paned.

The food is very good, something for everyone including a huge dessert buffet.
There is free Wifi in my room, I just had to enquire the connection password from reception. The speed is excellent, I had several (Video-) Skype sessions with very good throughput, one to the US and one to Germany.
The pool offers some nice water slides for adults, but they have separate slides (some quite challenging) in the kiddie section, so there shouldn’t be any complaints.

The beach is very nice, though I suspect that during high season it will be quite full, as it is relatively narrow.

Negative Aspects
What really surprised me: the hotel only has four non-smoking rooms! To be honest, I’m in a smoking room and really can’t tell, but for a country where smoking is not permitted in buildings, I can’t understand that they wouldn’t at least offer half of the rooms as non-smoking.
The air conditioning system was quite obviously switched off due to it being pre-season (and - most of the time - very pleasant temperature-wise); the system only blew same-temperature air into the room, room temperatures in other parts of the hotel were higher than I would have expected. This wasn’t a real problem (except for the early afternoon, when the outside temps peaked). It did mean opening my windows to let some fresh, cooler air in (which I’m fine with) and subsequently quite a bit of noise from the construction site next door.
The water temperature in the shower seemed oddly inconsistent. Not that I scalded myself, but it varied more than I felt comfortable with.
Last but not least, an issue for a business traveller: when I checked out at 6:00h in the morning, the guy at the reception desk was unable to generate a bill for me - this, apparently, can only be done by accounting - and they wouldn’t be there until 9:00h... I just hope I don’t have any issues getting a bill sent to me by email.