Enoteca L'Angolino, Berlin****

Knesebeckstr. 92, Berlin

Great little Enoteca, very good selection of offered foods, comfortable seating and small enough to be cozy.
Great value on lunch offers.

Thistle Kensington Gardens, London, UK **

As I came in from the city, I walked from Bayswater station to the hotel (which is only about 5 min.). I spotted the hotel sign right away, but all I saw was a construction site and a gas station wedged under a building… the entrance to the hotel is actually around the corner (not sure why the address is Bayswater Road, then) and you need to go up on the 1st floor for reception.

The girl at reception apparently had a long night, she seemed to fall asleep twice while getting me checked in. Very odd. The room was on the 5th floor and faced Kensington Gardens, which sounds nice but actually just means you get a lot of noise from Bayswater Road, as the trees across the street are so high you can't see anything of the park. There was a sliding window on the inside of the room and a regular window on the outside, but that didn't help much to keep road noise at bay. My guess is that the windows are both quite old, as it wasn't possible to sit comfortably at the desk due to cold air coming off the closed windows - I had to pull the drapes closed to stop the cold air.

The AC isn't the newest either - it was quite loud for being set on low fan, it didn't heat the room all that well and it smelled funny - probably needs a cleaning. Also, I turned it off at night because the noise was bothering me, but it just kept running. It actually shut down at some point, though that was at least 15 min. later.

The shower is also a bathtub, which will make getting in and out for some people a challenge. Also the narrow end of the bathtub is where the shower water hits, so you're forced to stand with your feet quite close together while getting wet. For me, that was uncomfortable, for anyone that has issues with balance, it isn't going to work well.

Other than that, the room - even though it was supposedly a "luxury" room was borderline too small. It was clean enough, and the bed was quite comfortable. There is a biggish TV (didn't use it) and free Wifi (with reasonable speed for emails, likely you won't be happy streaming video).

Breakfast was ok though there were no rolls or bread available. The only baked goods were toast, croissants and some type of cake. Full English breakfast was the main stay. Coffee is ok and get-it-yourself from a machine.

I've no idea what the average hotel runs for in London these days, but for the amount I paid for the night, I could have gotten a 5-Star top-of-the-line hotel in Berlin with a huge room and a fitness center. Had the rate been lower, I would have given three stars.

Castello Village Resort in Sisi, Crete, Greece ***1/2

Stayed: October 2016

Important: The bartender informed us that the hotel will be renovated once it closes for the season this year. So some of the things I’ve written about in this review may not apply anymore for the vacation season of 2017.

The village of Sisi is about a 45 minute drive from Heraklion Airport; it would be faster (it isn't far), but unfortunately a lengthy portion of the highway is under construction and speeds are frequently limited to 70km/h.
We arrived in the evening, having found Sisi using Google maps and the hotel by just following the road to the beach (pure luck, really). Google maps acts pretty oddly along the route, but apparently the highway is - in part - quite new. At one point you could still see the markings of a roundabout that the highway now went across. Maps was a bit odd along the country roads to Sisi coming off the highway, indicating a left turn that didn't exist and immediately indicating to turn left in 1.x km. Very odd.
The guy at reception was very friendly and asked us to go straight through to the restaurant before doing the registration, as it would close shortly - very forthcoming. The people working at this hotel are all very friendly and helpful, as it turns out. Five stars for the service!

Our room (number 353) turned out to be a bit of a letdown. For one thing, it looked quite lived down, for another it was along the eastern side of the hotel, so the small sitting area looked over an empty lot on the one side and up at a side of balconies that were in parallel to the empty lot.
All the shutters for windows and french doors - both in the bedroom as well as the living room (with two sofas converted to beds for the kids) were extremely tight, which left little space for light or air to get through. AC would have cost 5$ per day, which we didn't think we'd need in October.
As it turns out, it would have been very good to have; for one thing, the room was very warm and just didn't cool down, even with shutters wide open (as it turns out, it had some sort of warm water pipe running the entire length of it, essentially providing a heated floor) and because you definitely didn't want to close the windows at night (it would have gotten even warmer), you were blasted from all sides by AC compressors hung from walls outside adjoining rooms. Needless to say, we didn't sleep well that night, despite being very tired.
The next day, we checked with management to see if an upgrade would be possible and, after waiting for that room to get cleaned after a late departure, we moved into room 403 at 5PM.
This room is diagonally across the hotel campus and has a partial sea view (you get the noise from the ocean at night, really nice!) and a better floor plan. You also get a cool breeze from the sea (yea) and there are no compressors anywhere to be heard at night!

Neither 353 nor 403 have what you would call ample storage... there is about 2m of hanger space in a wall closet, with two small drawers. Then there is a two-drawer cabinet in the bedroom. 403 also had two nightstands with one drawer each that 353 didn't have. There are no drawers or hanger space for the kids sleeping on couches, which is pretty silly at best, especially because there is enough space along the walls to place a cabinet of some sort.
We met some people that started out in the very same room we had started in, and also were able to upgrade it the next day. Perhaps the room is the "90% will upgrade from here" cash cow, I don't know. The upgrade was €15 per night so I'm not complaining.

You do hear the pool bar music in the bedroom of 403, even if you close the french doors to the „patio“. The bar closes at 1AM, so if you're the type to go to bed early, you may need ear plugs.
Both rooms had a small kitchenette with a two-plate "stove", but no pots or pans to use on it. The bathrooms are functional (353 has a bathtub, 403 a shower). The beds are almost comfortable, though a bit hard for my taste.

All in all, I would recommend the rooms at the lower pool, as they are likely to have the least issues with noise - the lower bar closed early (at least while we stayed there). If you get a room facing the upper pool / bar, be prepared not to sleep before 1AM!

The restaurant is quite quaint - there is an outside seating area (quite small), a main eating room (too bright) and a section towards the front of the hotel that was our favorite. It isn't as bright and canteen-like but more like a restaurant.
The buffet consists of several cooler areas in the center of the buffet section, with some more buffet (with warm food) along the walls. The choices are less than other hotels I've been to, but then this is a relatively small hotel. The food is good for the most part (matter of taste, of course) and you'll always find something local amongst typical western European foods.

Two complaints I need to voice are that the Zaziki was sub-prime every day I tried it. I love Greek food and have had it both on various Greek islands, on the mainland, on Cyprus and of course in Greek restaurants in non-Greece Europe. I've never had Zaziki this horrible anywhere before. I have no idea what is wrong with it - maybe it is the yoghurt used or some spices missing, it is unrefined and offensive to the tongue. The second complaint is the choice of fresh fruit for breakfast, which usually consisted of Watermelon (which I don't like) and nothing else. They usually had two more fruit out of a can, which is a shame - considering the diversity of fruit that grows on Crete.
We had the Breakfast+Dinner Buffet package and drinks are charged for dinner. I found the prices to be a bit high: a bottle of water, a beer and half a liter of local wine for 18€ doesn't fit to the level this hotel is at.

There are two pools and two pool bars at this hotel complex - one at the top, one at the bottom of the hill. The pool at the bottom is quite a lot smaller, but the bar is spectacular as it looks over the ocean. There is also a playground and a volleyball court (sand!) down there - really quite nice. The bottom pool has a kiddie pool next to it.

The top pool is large enough, about 10x10m in an L-shape. It was surprisingly warm for October, but as I found out the hard way (sunburn), the sun packs a lot of punch down here even this time of year... after all, you're on the same longitude as northern Africa.

Both pools were very clean.

There are three Wifi networks available nearly anywhere on "campus": one for Castello Village, Appartments and _. While one might think these are localized to the individual locales, this isn't the case - apparently, all three are broadcast everywhere. You also see access points frequently, so coverage is good. Unfortunately, performance is a disaster. If you're dependent on a fast Wifi connection while on holiday, then this hotel is NOT for you! Depending on where you are (likely an access point issue), connecting to one or more of the networks simply doesn't work; even though you very carefully enter the (correct) password, a message comes back stating that the password is incorrect. Use the same password at a different location and you get connected.
I did a Wifi speed test via an app on my iPhone and the results are actually not that bad (19ms ping, 3.24Mbps down, 1.06Mbps up), so I'm assuming that there is some issue with either a filtering software or the firewall. In any case, it is quite frustrating. The really odd thing is that you mainly wait for your requested URL to start loading - once it has started, it actually loads quite quickly.

The hotel is - luckily - about 500m away from the center of Sisi. Luckily, because there are lots of bars and restaurants down there and the noise level might be annoying if the hotel was right next door. This way, you have a good compromise of being there in 5 min. on foot if you want to party and not being bothered too much by loud music.

Towards the east, you have about 500m to beautiful Boufos Beach that is - at least partially - sand. The sea actually has a lot of rocks in it (most of them rounded), so beach shoes that stay on your feet in heavy waves are absolutely required. The first time we visited the beach, wave action was heavy, but this was really cool, even for the kids. The waves would throw you down, but since there is a plateau in the ocean you can stand on that isn't jagged, you don't hurt yourself falling down. The beach also had a nice bar on it where you can sit in the shade and enjoy a food/drink special for prices that make it fun to be on holiday.

All in all, a hotel to be recommended. We enjoyed staying here once we changed rooms.

FFFZ Hotel Tagungshaus, Düsseldorf ***

Stayed: August 2016

I picked this hotel as I had an early morning flight to Zürich and didn't want a long drive to the airport. Also, it was drastically less expensive than similar (and worse rated) hotels in the vicinity. I don't think there were more than 5 guests the night I stayed - I presume the place fills up either for trade fairs (the fairgrounds are very close) or for events in the adjoined conference center.

The room was spacious and seemed relatively new (or recently renovated), with plenty of storage, a mini bar, a decent sized bathroom and a double bed. It also had a relatively large flatscreen TV (I've seen smaller in more expensive hotels!). You are very close to the airport and the windows are only double glazed, i.e. you'll get air traffic noise. You also hear the nearby tram if you have the window open (my room was to the back, not to the street). But you can't have everything, right?

There is no A/C, so a room to the south is probably not a good idea. There are only 47 rooms, so the place will likely not be buzzing even when full.

Honestly, though, I've never seen Wifi performance this slow in a hotel: 1.59 MBits downstream and WHOPPING 220kBits Upstream (here are
my results as saved on speedtest.net)! Just check out that Ping time…! It was so slow, I had to view a simulcast from our CEO using my mobile phone as a hotspot. This was so annoying, that I'm taking a whole star off my rating just for that!

I didn't have a chance to test the breakfast due to my very early flight the next day. There is a parking garage, which costs 9€ per night (this charge is not to be found on the website, which I didn't appreciate).

I'd certainly stay here again if I needed to be near the airport or the fairgrounds, though if you're looking to go out in the old town, you'll need to take a tram (stop is nearby) and change once - it's at least a 20 Minute ride.


Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Brussels ***

Stayed: June 2016

I'd stayed in a
Radisson Blu in Stockholm two years back and was very impressed by that hotel. Subsequently, my expectations for this Radisson were high. They weren't met, unfortunately.

The hotel is within walking distance of Central Station (if your mapping application can figure out which way you're pointed, otherwise you'll take a detour) and within several nice (and very touristy) locations in the city. It has a huge atrium and three "outside" elevators that take you to your level. My rate included breakfast and this was a real treat, though I had to wait for coffee for way too long.

The room showed its age in places, especially the bathroom. The bathroom door had severe scuffs on it where the paint was gone, though I have no idea what it might have hit against. I found the shower to be a bit confusing but usable, once you realize that you have three valves, one for the handheld shower, one for the overhead shower and one for the tub faucet.

I found it very annoying that you have no window to open, especially because the bathroom had a distinctive chemical smell to it and the AC smelled odd as well. It would have been nice to be able to control room ventilation by just opening a window, but there you are.

Also odd was that even though I'd changed my reservation a day after I had made it (two months agol!), with a confirmation having been sent by the reservation system, the local system still had me registered for the extra day. It got straightened out relatively quickly, but still - odd.

I was there for a conference, and while the staff at breakfast were so-so friendly, the people taking care of the conference guests did a really good job. Very annoying and completely unreasonable was housekeeping that went through the hallway just before 7:45, knocking on seemingly every door.

All in all I expect more from a Radisson Blu at the pricepoint it is at.

So here are my +/o/- points:

+ located close to central station and some nice (though very touristy) bits of the city
+ large bed, comfortable enough (though not amazing)
+ large room
+ excellent breakfast with everything you'll want plus made-to-order eggs and omlets
+ multiple power outlets at desk
+ relatively little noise from the outside or hallway, despite trash collection right below in the morning

o unspectacular bathroom with odd shower fixtures

- locked windows
- odd, chemical smell in bathroom
- air from AC didn't seem fresh
- housekeeping waking up entire hallway at 7:40h
- seemingly no stairway to take, annoying when you only have one floor to go; not even sure where the fire stairs were


Hotel Kunsthof, Vienna **

Stay: June 2016

This used to be known as Hotel Reichshof - the change must have been relatively recent, the taxi driver didn't know the current hotel name. Located close to Praterstern station (and the Prater), however all the action, shopping, bars, etc. aren't in this section of town. A good place to start for that is Stephansplatz, which is three stations from Praterstern on the U2 Subway.

All in all, the stay was a "mixed bag". Would I stay again? Not in summer, that's for sure. The room was warm (no AC) despite the weather being only partially nice. Wouldn't want to stay in July or August. You're not in "the center of things" here yet the street the hotel is on tends to be quite busy (and loud).

The good, the bad and the ugly:
+ Quite close to Praterstern station
+ Room is good size
+ Mattress was comfortable
+ quaint city hotel, open spaces, nice little courtyard to sit in (when it isn't raining) and lots of stucco
+ room seems recently renovated
+very friendly personnel at reception + in the restaurant

o Breakfast was ok, but relatively simple: Bread, rolls, jams, plain yoghurt, meats and cheese + some juices. Oh - and boiled eggs. Nothing warm, no salads.
o there is no phone in the room! If you need to call reception… well, you're going down there or using your mobile!
o no mini bar in the room - there is a row of refrigerators on the ground level opposite reception full of drink and snacks you can buy

- TV signal horrid (watched EM game), completely blurry
- On busy street with lots of traffic and running trains - it does quiet down a bit at night, but only a bit.
- no air conditioning, to cool room at night, need to open windows (see point above)
- no shower (!) - just a bathtub with a handheld __ - you need to either squat or be very careful to spray the water only in one direction to get clean! At least you can watch yourself do it in the brown smoked mirrors all around… the bathroom was, apparently, only partially renovated - at least the floor was in pretty bad shape.
- free WIFI is relatively poor quality, wasn't able to have a voice Skype call due to signal breakup

Club Hotel Riu Oliva Beach Resort**

We stayed at the Riu from Jan. 4-9, 2016.
All in all, the hotel is certainly a place you can spend some time, though there are better choices in Corallejo. The food is of excellent quality and there is plenty of selection. The service quality is mostly very good. The beach is phenomenal, of course, but the hotel has caveats as well - primarily the low building quality and the lack of control regarding reserving of lounge chairs - of which there are by far not enough. We had extensive lunch sessions at the outside seating of the bar and a large portion of the chairs are "reserved" and remain unused for hours.

Quick summary
  • The most positive: the food quality and the beach.
  • The most annoying: the matress and the restaurant.
  • I would not want to stay more than 1 week.

Hotel / Resort
We'd stayed in the hotel before; not sure when, but at least 10-12 years ago. I don't have much recollection of how it was back then, so in this report I can only discuss the resort part. This was probably built after the hotel (it seems to be a bit newer) in the western part of the property. It has its own restaurant, bar and pool (though you are not forced to go there, you can also go to the hotel facilities).

The resort buildings are generally three stories, though I saw at least one that had four. The building materials and style is typical Spanish - no consideration for sound dampening between rooms, doors that are nearly impossible to close quietly, tiles that move due to improper work, single-pane windows, closet doors that a child will not be able to slide open or closed (they stick like glue), etc. To be fair, you'll find this in many hotels on the islands and on the mainland in Spain; apparently, they're just not able to do it better

The hotel seems to be in worse condition than the resort, which would fit my theory that it was built beforehand. Large pieces of plaster have fallen off the front right corner of the building, which doesn't help since this is the corner which the main entrance opens up in. The resort buildings, too, show a large number of cracks of varying length and thickness, so the teeth of time have gnawed at it as well.

We had a very good room (3301) - we'd ordered a family room which gives you a separate master bedroom and two separate beds for the kids in the "common" room. These beds are normally two 2-seater couches which consist of a relatively thin mattress laying on plywood, so don't expect a high level of comfort; our kids didn't complain, though.

We had a huge (!) terrace and, since the room was on the 3rd level, at least no-one that could stare at us from above. While the terrace had a round table and four chairs, there were only three lounge chairs available. The terrace looked south but we could see the ocean to the east and the last streets of Corallejo to the west - if it wasn't for the main road being rather close, it would have been quite perfect. Depending on the wind direction, the road can be quite noisy, especially if you leave the doors open at night.

The room came with a round table and three chairs, a couch table (low but relatively large), a TV sitting on cabinetry with lots of drawers for clothes but no place to hang up clothes (except for the hooks by the door where we had our jackets). Both the bedroom and the "common" room have sliding glass doors to the terrace. There was a standard, counter-high refridgerator that I ended unplugging, as it was quite noisy. We never even turned the TV on, so I can't say anything about available channels, etc.

The bathroom really showed the building's age - I've never seen such an abused bathtub, probably from generations of travellers showering the sand off their bodies. It really needs some silicone - or even better, replacement. There is a toilet right behind the door and the latter doesn't have a lock - so make sure you announce your intentions or you might get the door right on your toes or knees.
Don't get me wrong: the room and the bath were clean enough - just obviously very much used and quite old.

The bedroom has twin beds that are spacious (I would guess 90cm wide) but the matrasses are a nuisance - you can feel individual springs in your back, so I'm guessing they are probably as old as the building. Again, for a couple of days this is just bearable, for two weeks I'd rather stay elsewhere.

There is A/C in the bedroom, but not in the common room, so in the hot months, you need to make sure you keep the windows covered with the sun blocking curtains!

We generally ate in the restaurant La Oliva, which is right by the resort pool. The restaurants (not the food!) really were the lowpoint of the hotel/resort, for several reasons.
For one, the noise level in them is rediculous - there is nothing that will absorb sound and the ceiling isn't that high, so you feel like you're at a busy airport.

Secondly, at least at La Oliva, the vents over the cooking area don't seem to work properly, as there is a constant smell of grease in the air, especially during dinner. Since it is dark out at dinnertime (at this time of year), you can see a constant cloud hovering at the ceiling, cut through by the beams of light from the downlights. After about half an hour, I repeatedly had a strong urge to get out into clean air, as did our son, which doesn't make dinner (or lunch) particularly enjoyable.

Last but not least: while the folks clearing dishes and tables and setting clean ones for new guests are always in motion, there seems to be a constant shortage of made-up tables - no matter when you enter the restaurant (unless you're there right at the start of a meal, of course). This was the case for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which leads me to the conclusion that there just isn't enough personnel to cover the number of guests. The result is that you hunt for a free table, try to raise someone to clear it for you and 10-15 minutes later you can sit down...

The food is certainly a major upside. The quality is really good with vegetables cooked to the right point and meat not overdone. While breakfast generally had the same, albeit very large, offering but lunch and especially dinner surprised again and again with excellent combinations and new tastes. The selection of hot as well as cold foods, cheeses and deserts was huge and I would think every walk of life will find some tastey food they like. I'd like to have seen more prepared fresh fruit, especially for breakfast, such as papaya or melon that isn't watermelon, but it was ok. Filter coffee is available at breakfast, the bars have the typical, non-drinkable coffee-from-unknown-powder-and-water stuff. There was also espresso-based coffee available at the bars (made by the bartenders), but as I never ordered it, I don't even know if it is included in AI.

The all inclusive offering also pertains to bar drinks, of course, but we had a similar experience as we've had at many (if not most) AI bars: you'll be fine if you stick to simple classics such as beer, wine, vodka lemon, gin-and-tonic, etc. Mixed drinks like pina collada or caipirinha are made from pre-fab mixes and are thoroughly disappointing. Beer and different wines are available self-serve, both at the bars and in the restaurants. The quality of both the red wine (didn't try the others) as well as the beer was fine.

Pools & Grounds
There are two regular pools available: one at the hotel and one at the resort, though as with any of the facilities, you can use either wether you're in the hotel or in a resort room. Both pools are clean and nice enough, though I prefer the resort pool at it is not just square and has a palm island in the middle.

The hotel also sports a kiddie pool and a "hot" tub (it is warm, not hot), though the latter is only for guests 16 years and over.
On the south side of the hotel area, there is a "make-believe" beach - a relatively large area filled with has regular sand with solid shade "mushrooms" and lounge chairs. It is difficult to get a chair here, as well, as they tend to be "reserved" all day, as they are at the pools.

Really annoying is a horrid smell at the west side of this area, likely coming from the building that lies between the pool grounds and the parking lot - I'm presuming this is some sort of waste water treatment facility (it has large pipes on the outside) and, depending on how the wind direction is, can swamp the aforementioned relaxation grounds with a smell that makes you want to run away (somewhat similar to what you may have smelled after an exterminator was in your room).

On the south side of the aforementioned "simulated beach" are several volleyball courts. These are already outside the hotel grounds, though they belong to the hotel.

There is a single exit to the east to get to the beach which is suppsed to be controlled access, but more times than not the chair of the guard is empty. The hotel does not have lounge chairs on the beach, by the way - these are rented out by someone else. As we had no need of a chair, I have no pricing information.

The hotel is situated, along with one other Riu Hotel, in the national park "Dunas de Corralejo". It was likely built before the area became a national park, which gives you an idea of the age (see "Room").
If you're a beach person, the hotel is perfectly located; you can walk a long ways along the beach (or run, if you're into that), which is frequented by Windsufers and Kitesufers. 

The beach is absolutely spectacular and getting there easily and quickly from either the hotel or the resort is one of the major positives of this Riu. There are lounge chairs at the beach with a sun umbrella for every two chairs. I doubt these belong to the hotel and they are probably for-charge, as the umbrellas have a different logo on them (it actually looks like the Hilton logo), though we never bothered with them and I don't know for certain. There is a kiosk on the beach that you walk by coming from the hotel. The beach has lifeguards posted at intervals and there is the typical green-yellow-red-black flag system used to indicate any danger levels for swimmers.

Corallejo is one of my favorite towns on Fuerteventura, and you can walk there from the hotel in under an hour (its about 3km away) - I don't know wether there is a bus service from the hotel or not, as we had a rental car. There are taxis waiting outside the hotel, though, if you're not up to walking. The drive from the airport is about 45 minutes while the shuttle bus will likely take much longer.