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Accommodation

SOUTH AMERICA

ARGENTINA

1.Tango Y Bandoneon, Buenos Aires ( www.tangoybandoneon.com.ar)

This hostel is located about a 15 minute walk from the main hussle and bussle of Buenos Aires. Although told by the Tourist Centre and our taxi driver that it was not a great area to stay in, we have to disagree. We did take note of their advice not to venture through Constitucion which is the neighbouring suburb but we felt completely safe everywhere else.

Our room was a private double with shared bathroom and breakfast included. The cost of the room was $35AUD per night which was a pretty good deal. N.B. We realised once we got there that you can get  private room with bathroom for about AUD$50. The front door remains tightly locked at all times and you can only get in and out of the hostel by ringing the bell and asking the permanent resident Rosa, to let you in/out.

Breakfast is made by the hostel manager, Natalia. A simple meal of croissants, bread and marmalade with tea or coffee.

The bus stop to take you to the city centre, or main bus terminal is located one block from the hostel and with a little translation, we found our way around Buenos Aires both on foot and on bus.

What we liked: This hostel is fairly quiet (other than the traffic noise on the road), we didn’t hear noise from any other guests. Our rooms were cleaned daily with fresh towels and soap.

What we didn’t like: The shared bathroom was not very clean but we were soon to learn – actually pretty good.

Our Star Rating: **

2. Mundial Hotel, Buenos Aires (www.mundial-buenos-aires.hotel-rez.com)

This hotel is located in downtown Buenos Aires –  Avenida De Mayo.  The cost for a double room with ensuite and buffet breakfast is $61 AUD per night. We stayed here for one night before an early morning flight to La Paz, Bolivia as we were advised that it would be easy to get a taxi from the city centre at 4am.

This hotel is comfortable, clean and quiet and in a good position to access public transport, restaurants, bars, tango clubs and the popular shopping strip ´Florida´.

We can’t comment on the breakfast as we were up to early to check it out but reports from other websites claim that it is quite good.

What we liked: Location, helpful receptionist who booked our early morning taxi and arranged a wake up call

What we didn´t like: No complaints here. Our stay here was not very long

Our star rating: ***

3. Stop Hostel, Puerto Iguazu (www.stophostel.com)

On arrival at Stop Hostel, we knew that we were truly in a Backpackers World.

Stop Hostel is located very centrally in the main town of Puerto Iguazu. For AUD $50 per night we got our own private double room with bathroom and breakfast included. The room itself was clean and comfortable and we were happy to have our own bathroom due to the number of guests also staying there.

Breakfast in the morning is quite substantial and consisted of: Fresh Orange Juice, Cereal, Bread, Eggs and Tea/Coffee.

The hostel arranges private return transport to the falls on both the Argentinian side and Brazilian side.

This place has plenty of atmosphere and if you feel like socialising, it’s a good place to do so.

What we liked: Location and a good breakfast

What we didn’t like: Our room was directly over the bar so it was pretty hard to get any sleep when the noise carried on until 6am.

Our star rating: **

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BRAZIL

1. Klein Hostel, Foz do Iguazu (www.kleinhostel.com)

This hostel is located about 20 minutes by bus out of the main city. While at first we thought this would be a bit inconvenient we were pleasantly surprised by the actual hostel – clean, quiet and very friendly.

Our private room had a good ensuite and although we were only there for a short time, it was a really nice place to stay.Cost per night was $50AUD and included  breakfast however due to an early flight we didn’t stick around for breakfast.

There is a great outdoor area with pool and bar and a very comfortable lounge room where a number of guests were very happy to chill out and watch a video. As we had a 4am start the following morning, the hostel were very helpful in booking a car to drive us to the airport and advised that it was cheaper than taking a normal taxi. The public bus stop is about a 10 minute walk but once there it is fairy easy to find your way around and get to the Falls.

What we liked: A very clean hostel, friendly host

What we didn’t like: Location was just a little far away from town

Our star rating: ***

2. Hostel New Ipanema, Rio De Janeiro (www.hostelnewipanema.com.br)

Only one word to describe this Hostel – DISGUSTING!

Based on the fact that we hadn’t booked a hostel on arrival to Rio De Janeiro, we stayed at the first hostel we found and were somewhat lucky to get our own room (with shared bathroom).

Unfortunately the condition of the hostel was revolting and yet to date has been the most expensive nights accommodation so far – AUD$70 with breakfast. As soon as we saw a cochroach creep across the floor, well lets just say we did well to even get sleep that night.

The WIFI connection was also non existent however you could use their computers and internet.

What we liked: That a double room was available when we arrived in Rio De Janeiro at midnight.

What we didn’t like: The overall state of the Hostel – definitely couldn’t stay there longer than one night.Filthy bathrooms and the breakfast was pretty ordinary – in fact we took one look at it and then walked down the road to a really nice cafe.

Our star rating: No rating

3. Vermont Hotel, Rio De Janeiro (www.hotelvermont.com.br)

Following our revolting stay at Hostel New Ipanema, we moved around the corner to the Vermont Hotel – yes it was double the price of the hostel – AUD $140 / night but we just decided we needed to lash out for one night.

The hotel is 3 star, very clean, comfortable and right in the centre of Ipanema and about a 5 minute walk to the beach.  Its definitely not the sort of place that backpackers stay at but if you were visiting Rio for a short time, this hotel is worth looking at.

A buffet breakfast is included in the rate and it was the first time in two weeks that we were actually able to get some fresh fruit rather than just bread, bread and more bread.

What we liked: Excellent position in the heart of Ipanema. A fantastic breakfast with a variety of fresh fruits, cereals, breads, eggs, bacon, sausages, cakes , juice, tea and coffee.

What we didn´t like: No complaints here

Our star rating: ****

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ARGENTINA… BACK BEFORE ANTARCTICA

1. La Posta Hostel Apart , Ushuaia
(www.laposta_ush.com.br or check out www.hostelbookers.com/hostels/argentina/ushuaia/5109)

This very cute hostel is a 5 minute taxi drive from the Airport and another 5 minute drive or 20 minute walk into the centre of town – San Martin.

Arriving at this hostel, we felt like we were staying in a cosy Ski Lodge. This hostel is ‘family owned’ and you can tell. The place is absolutely spotless. Our double room (with shared bathroom) was AUD$55 per night. The bathrooms are quite big, with 3 showers and toilets in each and these are cleaned each morning and afternoon.

It is possible to do laundry at this hostel at a cost of $2 per load – very convenient.

There are two communal kitchens and dining rooms and so as we were getting sick of dining out each day, this is hostel is definitely the place you can cook an easy bowl of pasta, sit back and relax for the evening.

Breakfast in the morning is a selection of breads and croissants with tea or coffee.

The hostel is quiet and the rooms are nicely furnished.

We liked this hostel so much that we stayed here twice – once before leaving for Antarctica and then again the day we returned.

What we liked:The location,friendly staff, clean and comfortable surroundings

What we didn’t like: No complaints here – we highly recommend this Hostel

Our star rating: ***

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BOLIVIA

1. Hotel Select Comfort, La Paz (www.hostels.com/hostels/la-paz/hotel-select-comfort/36590)

When we arrived in La Paz and provided our taxi driver with the address of this hotel, he had no idea of the location. He then asked 3 of his friends at the airport who also shook their heads and said they didn´t know where to go. A quick stop at an internet cafe and we wrote down as much detail as possible to give to the taxi driver and it took us 3 more attempts to speak to drivers before one guy nodded his head and said ´Si Si´ and we were on our way.´If you do ever decide to stay here then our advice is.. Tell the taxi driver that the hotel is located on Calle Jose Maria Serrano No. 17, entre Av. Montes (TAM) y Plaza ALonso de Mendoza, a una cuadra de la Pasarela Perez Velasco. Then as soon as you get to the Hotel, pick up one of their maps and carry it with you everywhere so that you can point out the location each time you return to the hotel.

This hotel is in a great location – a five minute walk to the main bus terminal, a 15 minute taxi ride to the airport and a 5 minute walk to the tourist street Sagarnaga where you will find lots of lots of tourist agencies offering tours to Lake Titicaca, Uyuni and the Salt Flats, The Death Road Bike Tour and so many more. There are also a number of nice restaurants to choose from including Indian, Thai, Japanese, Moroccan, European….

Along the way to Sagarnaga and surrounding streets such as Cochabamba, Murillo and Linares are plenty of small market stands where Bolivians sell all sorts of goods from Snacks – toiletries – birthday cards – soft toys – electronic goods… just a wide variety of ´things´.

For $30AUD per night, we had a very comfortable double room with large ensuite. Breakfast is included in this rate and consists of Tea or Coffee and Bread with Jam and Butter.

The receptionist who works from 7am – 3pm speaks English really well and helped book us a tour to Lake Titicaca (although you can easily arrange this yourself).  Wifi connection is really strong and there are also two computers in the lobby where you can access the internet too.

What we liked: The location is excellent (once you find the place). The rooms are cleaned daily and fresh towels, soap and shampoo are also placed in the room each morning.

What we didn´t like: No complaints. We ended up staying here a total of 6 nights.

Our star rating: ***

2. Hotel Intikala, Lake Titicaca (www.hotelintikala.com)

Once you arrive by ferry from Copacabana to Isla del Sol, the walk to this hotel is not far but a bit of a climb up 100 steps and through the village so we recommend that if possible, just take a small day pack with you when visiting Isla Del Sol. Once you reach this hotel, you will not be disappointed. The views of the lake are probably the most spectacular in the whole village. Our double room with private bathroom had lakeside views, balcony and was tastefully decorated. The cost of this room was included in the private tour we took to Lake Titicaca from La Paz so check out the website for room rates. Our tour price included: English speaking guide, 3 meals, accommodation and the return ferry ride. We only spent one night here but we definitely recommend making the trip to Isla Del Sol. N.B. You definitely do not need a private tour to the lake – its very easy to get the bus to Copacabana, then the ferry to the Island and select from a variety of accommodation.

What we liked: The whole experience on this Island was beautiful. The villages are picturesque and stunning lake views that stretch.

What we didn’t like: No complaints

Our rating: **

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ECUADOR

1. Hotel Majestic, Quito (www.majesticquito.com)

This hotel is a 5 minute walk to downtown Amazonas and the Mariscal area where plenty of travel agencies will assist you in booking a trip to Galapagos Islands or Amazon Basin Jungle Tours. This hotel was definitely not one of oWur favourites. The website claimed that it was family owned and operated and in very good condition. Compared to other hotels we had stayed in for a similar price ($30 per night), this was one that we wouldn’t recommend but it was fine considering we arrived in Quito very late and just needed a place to crash. Breakfast is included in the rate but that too but not really worth mentioning.

What we liked: This hotel had availability and reception was open for us when we arrived at midnight

What we didn’t like: The websites advertises this hotel as a little more luxurious than it actually is and once you look around town you can actually find much better places for a similar rate.

Our rating: **
2. Magic Bean Hotel, Quito (www.magicbeanquito.com)

While wandering around Amazonas, we came across a café called The Magic Bean. No matter what time of day this place was bustling with people for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They also advertised accommodation so we looked into it and for $35 per night, we got our own private room with ensuite that was clean and in the heart of downtown Quito. Nearby are a huge selection of restaurants and bars and once it hits nightime, the town really wakes up. Breakfast is included in this rate and consisted of a selection of fruit, toast, pancakes, eggs, juices and teas or coffee. We highly recommend this hostel as a place to stay in Quito. We thoroughly enjoyed our time here. The WIFI connection here is also excellent which we are learning is a huge bonus.

N.B. This hotel is very small so if you want to stay definitely book.

What we liked: The location was extremely central and the breakfast was excellent.

What we didn’t like: No complaints
Our rating ****

Our private room with Ensuite at the Magic Bean Hotel

Our private room with Ensuite at the Magic Bean Hotel

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USA – A SHORT STINT

Miami Beach, Florida – USA

1. Majestic Hotel (www.majesticsouthbeach.com)

We had a quick stop over in Miami as our RTW ticket flew us here before we got our flight to Guatemala City , so we took the opportunity to spend a few days here and ended up extending our stay in Florida.

This hotel is located on Ocean Drive, in the heart of South Beach Miami. Our private room with ensuite was not overly luxurious considering we were paying around $90 per night but the location was absolutely perfect for walking across the road to South Beach or hitting the mayhem of the bar and restaurant scene. We loved Miami. A fun place to spend a few days wandering through the shopping districts, a tour to the Everglades (highly overated) and just chilling out in perfect weather on the beach. Its difficult to find a hotel in Miami that is any cheaper than $70 if you want to stay in something reasonable and in such a good area. We highly recommend Majestic Hotel.

N.B. If you are interested in delicious seafood and cocktails then you won’t have a problem finding Happy Hour at any hour and getting the biggest cocktails we have ever seen.

What we liked: LOCATION!!!!!

Our rating: ***

Orlando, Florida – USA

1. Econo Lodge & Suites (www.econolodge.com/hotel-orlando)

Located on International Drive about a 5 minute bus ride to Seaworld, this hotel definitely exceeded our expectations. For $45 per night, we were given a huge double room with private ensuite. The room overlooked a huge swimming pool and bar area. As we hired our own car in Florida, we were able to use this as our base and venture off to the Kennedy Space Centre or through town to Wet n Wild, so many themed restaurants and also shopping outlets. If you purchase tickets to Seaworld, DisneyWorld or Universal Studios, the hotel arranges a complimentary shuttle that drives you there as the gates open and picks you up when the parks close.

What we liked: Huge spacious rooms, great swimming pool and free parking for our car.

Our rating: ****

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CENTRAL AMERICA

GUATEMALA CITY

1. Howard Johnson Hotel, Guatemala (www.hojo.com/HowardJohnson/…/guatemalacity)

Our taxi driver helped us find a hotel when we arrived in Guatemala City as the one we had chosen on a website, we discovered had closed down when we pulled up outside. We didn’t do any sightseeing in Guatemala –a few people had warned us that its not really the safest place and so we were keen to get to Antigua the following morning. This hotel was quite nice but expensive  – $75 per night for a private double including breakfast. If we’d had more time to research the city, we may have found a more reasonable option but for one night, this was a nice hotel to stay in and had a good restaurant on site so we didn’t have to venture out.

What we liked:
Comfortable accommodations and a good complimentary breakfast.

What we didn’t like: Initially our hot water didn’t work (one feature they promoted) and it took several hours before anyone looked at it and had it fixed.

2. Hotel El Carmen, Antigua (www.elcarmenhotel.com)

Antigua is such a beautiful colonial city about an hour and half by bus out of Guatemala. The hotel we stayed at was a B&B.  For $60 per night, it was quite expensive particularly as the accommodation brochured we had received  made this hotel look really new which unfortuntately it wasn’t. However it was located closely to Central Park and the Manager was extremely friendly and helpful.

The rooms were quite small but had good bathrooms and cable TV (an advertised feature although we haven’t really had a night in front of the TV – yet).

Each morning a chef was on site preparing a buffet breakfast. Omlettes were prepared upon request and there was a variety of cereals, fresh fruit and some other hot dishes on offer.

We were able to organise a tour to Pacaya Volcano and a shuttle picked us up from the hotel. We also found a travel agency nearby that was so helpful in planning our transport to El Salvador (one more stop before arriving in Costa Rica).

What we liked: Friendly staff, clean accommodation, excellent breakfast

What we didn’t like: Very expensive considering the state of the hotel. The brochures also advertise a hot jacuzzi on the rooftop garden however this was a small empty hole.

Our rating: **

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EL SALVADOR

1. Roca Sunzal, El Tunco       (www.rocasunzal.com)

We were not planning to stay in El Salvador as we were trying to stick to a schedule and get to Costa Rica but once we looked into El Tunco Beach, we knew a couple of days here by the beach would be beautiful. Our hotel was located directly in front of a surf beach – El Tunco Beach is renowned for excellent surfing. Our accommodation was a large air-conditioned room with ensuite and a private balcony (with hammock and table setting) overlooking two beautiful pools. Other than the beach, there isn’t a huge amount to do here, so we took the opportunity to just…. Relax. There are a few restaurants and bars in the area but our hotel restaurant overlooked the water and was reasonably priced so like most of the other guests we had our meals here each day.

The cost of a private double room was about $65 per night and included a complimentary breakfast.

Down the road from our hotel is a very small travel agency that was able to assist us with the next leg of transport – an 18 hour bus ride to Costa Rica.

What we liked: Having a hotel so close to the beach was beautiful and the hotel surroundings were very well maintained.

What we didn’t like: We had read a travel blog about this hotel that quoted that laundry was done at $3 per load however once our laundry arrived back we were charged $10 US for a reasonably small load – a little frustrating.

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COSTA RICA

1. Cabinas El Pueblo, Monteverde      (www.cabinaselpueblo.com)

We arrived by bus into Costa Rica and the drop off point for Monteverde at about 8.30pm one night. Having been told by our bus company ‘King Quality’ that buses ran from a particular spot to Monterverde every half hour, we discovered as they drove off that this was not the case. After more broken Spanish with a few locals, a taxi driver agreed to take us to Monteverde (another 1.5hr drive) for $60US. We had no other options and unfortunately he did rip us off a little as we had to pay him in Colones which worked out to be about $75US… ANYWAY he did help us find accommodation late that night when many places were closed and we were really happy with our hotel.

Cabinas El Pueblo was located in the small town of Monterverde. This hostel had an on site travel agency, and onsite manicurist (which is Elissa took full advantage of) and a kitchen and sitting are for all guests to use. The cost of our private double room with ensuite, television and refrigerator was $35 AUD per night and included a complimentary breakfast.

In the morning the hostel left out a selection of cereals, fresh fruit, eggs, juice an tea and coffee for guests to help themselves.

What we liked: The convenience of having all our tours booked and shuttles to collect us for each activity, clean accommodation, good breakfast and we were able to utilise the kitchen to prepare some of our own meals which after a couple of months of various restaurants, it was great to cook a healthy meal.

2.  Cabinas Espadilla, Manuel Antonio (www.espadilla.com)

Manuel Antonio is another beautiful beach location that we were really happy we decided to visit. Our hostel in Monterverde arranged a private shuttle to take us to Manuel Antonio – a 4 hour drive from Monterverde. Without any accommodation booked, our driver kindly waited as we wandered around to several hostels and hotels before we found Cabinas Espadilla – a beautiful hotel that was 150m from the beach and a short walk to the National Park.

We booked into a room for $66 AUD per night. Our double room with ensuite, kitchenette and courtyard was the perfect stay for another couple of days by the beach. The hotel also had a partnering hotel up the road where we were able to walk through an extension of the National Park and also play tennis (for an additional cost).

The hotel was located really close to shops, supermarkets and surfboard hire so after doing a little grocery shopping, we hit the beach for the next two days. With the National Park set to the left of the beach, the scenery was truly stunning.

What we liked: The convenience of preparing our own meals in our little kitchen, excellent WIFI, beautifully maintained pool and good location. The staff were also extremely helpful and arranged for a driver to collect our bus tickets for the day we headed back to San Jose for our flight to Cancun.

Our rating: ****

3. Hotel Internacional JM, San Jose (www.hotelinternacionaljm.com)

We literally needed a bed for a few hours in San Jose before an early morning flight to Cancun so while there is not much to write about this hotel, it was convenient in that it was only a 5 minute drive to the airport. We got our own private double with bathroom for $30 AUD for the night. This place was so so basic but served our needs.

Our rating: *

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MEXICO

1. Hotel Real, Playa Del Carmen (www.realresorts.com/Real_Playa_Carmen)

Having spent the first few months of our travels in some rather interesting accommodation, we were so excited to get to the beaches of Mexico (on the Yucatan Peninsula) and decided to shout ourselves a week of total relaxation. For $120 USD per night, we stayed at Hotel Real Playa Del Carmen. Our room was in fact a suite with large bedroom, lounge room, ensuite bathroom and balcony. However the other amazing thing about this hotel was that the rate included all Meals – so breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks as well as all beverages. We could choose from fresh juices, soft drinks, a variety of beers and wine plus delicious cocktails. The accommodation was really clean and comfortable, the pool area was a lovely way to spend the afternoon and we also loved hiring bikes and riding to the beach to sit at our Hotel’s beach club where more drinks and snacks were served to you as you sunbaked.

Our rating: ****

What we liked: Absolutely Everything. We would definitely go back.

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USA – WE ARE BACK!

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COLORADO

1. Crossland Suite Hotel, Denver (www.crosslandstudios.com)

Arriving in Denver late at night on the 20th May, we had not booked in any accommodation and so Crossland Suite Hotels was recommended to us by the Airport Information Desk in Denver. We weren’t at all fussy. We just wanted a bed, hot shower and to be in close proximity to where we needed to pick up our RV the next morning. Our room also had a little kitchenette so I guess if you were planning to stay there a bit longer, this would be quite useful. The cost of the room for one night was $63AUD.

There are some much nicer places to stay at in the centre of Denver but for us it was all about location.

Our rating: **

What we liked: We were able to find a hotel so late at night that was in a good location for our RV collection.

What we didn’t like: They didn’t empty the rubbish bin in our room

This room cost us $62AUD.

RV Park Accommodation USA

From Mexico we flew into Denver, Colorado. As you may have read, we spent the majority of time in our Mobile Home and basically finding a place to park overnight. Some of our stays included RV Parks where you can plug the RV into Electricity and Water and in most cases there was WIFI Connection. We have listed these Parks below.

Colorado: KOA Camping Estes Park – $46AUD per night (estesparkkoa.com)

Wyoming: In Yellowstone NP we stayed at 3 different campgrounds – Madison, Norris and Mammoth
(www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/camping-in-yellowstone.htm) – An average of $20AUD per night

Washington State: Elma RV Park – $19AUD per night (www.elmarvpark.com)

California: Shoreline RV Park – $43AUD per night (www.shorelinervpark.com)

Arizona: Grand Canyon Motel and RV Park – $43AUD per night (www.thecanyonmotel.com)

New Mexico: Donnie’s RV Park – $22 AUD per night (www.hikercentral.com/campgrounds/107906.html)

Kansas: All Seasons RV Park – $15AUD per night (www.allseasonsrvcampground.com)

Note: For the remainder of US locations we visited on our Road Trip, we were most likely parked on a busy street, in a WALMART carpark, near a McDonalds or out the front of someone’s house.

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USA – FROM RV TO HOTELS/MOTELS/FRIENDS HOMES/AND MORE CAMPSITES

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ILLINOIS

1. Couchsurfing, Chicago

We didn’t give ourselves much time to find accommodation in Chicago due to being in the RV up until this point, however friends we met on our travels told us about couchsurfing so we thought we would give it a try. We logged onto the site www.couchsurfing.org and requested accommodation in Chicago.

A lovely girl named Brenda responded and said we could stay with her in for the 3 nights we would be in Chicago. Couchsurfing provides travellers a couch to stay on for one or two nights or more if agreed to by the host. The way the site works is that you can register as a couchsurfer or a host or both. There is no cost charged for the accommodation but the idea is that if you couchsurf at one point, once you return home, you will also return the favour and host other couchsurfers.

Brenda was incredibly generous and insisted that we stay in her room while she took the couch. She had a pile of maps and touristy suggestions for us to do while in Chicago and as she was busy working while we were staying, we would usually catch up with her in the evening and tell her what we had been up to.

This is a different sort of experience breaking up the hotel stays and its quite a nice way to meet people in the city who if anything have at least one thing in common with you – they love to travel.

WASHINGTON D.C

1. Motel 6, Washington D.C. (www.motel6.com)
We arrived in Washington after a very early flight and had absolutely nothing booked. We were hoping that we could make our way into the city and find a reasonable hotel. But what we found was a lot of overpriced places that really pushed the budget. We found Motel 6 on a website and although it cost $103usd We grabbed it. This hotel was a 40 minute bus ride out of the city centre but the route was direct so it was easy to find.

The rooms were clean and comfortable. There was a swimming pool on site but it didn’t look like many used it. This place served us well for the one night we spent in Washington D.C.

What we liked: This hotel is close to supermarkets which is convenient if you need a few bits and pieces and the bus to the city stops directly at the front door.

Our rating: **

ALASKA

1. Summerset B&B, Anchorage    (www.alaska-summersetbnb.com)
Our last stop in the US before flying to London was Alaska. We were there for a week of camping but on arrival into Anchorage, we booked just one night at the beautiful Summerset B&B. This B&B is superbly run by a Vietnamese lady named Elizabeth.

The basement of her home has been converted into double guest rooms with ensuite and there is also a comfortable communal kitchen and sitting area for her guests to use.

The bedrooms are perfectly decorated and the bathroom provides you with amenities and fluffy robes. The cost for a double room with breakfast is $110 usd

Breakfast in the morning is served upstairs in Elizabeth’s dining room and her cooking is a real treat. Everything is home made from scrambled eggs, toast, fresh juice and fruit salad. Elizabeth sits at breakfast with all the guests and chats away. She has lived in Alaska for over twenty years so she knows plenty about the area.

We would highly recommend this place to anyone visiting Anchorage. It really felt like home away from home

What we liked: Elizabeth’s incredible hospitality, and beautifully maintained guesthouse with all the creature comforts of home

Our rating: ****

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EUROPE

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UNITED KINGDOM

1. The Yorkshire Hotel, Harrowgate.
http://www.akkeronhotels.com/Hotels/Northern-England/The-Yorkshire-Hotel

Once we arrived in the UK we quickly made plans to see as much of Europe as possible so we decided to book our first trip –  road trip through the English Countryside on our way to Scotland. We booked nothing in between so our first day on the road stopped in the beautiful town of Harrowgate, not too far from Leeds.

This beautiful old building sits at the entrance of Harrowgate and our double room with ensuite really was the perfect place to rest after a long long drive.

Breakfast was included in the nightly rate of £70 and was the most delicious breakfast buffet

What we liked: Big spacious rooms and so clean plus an amazing breakfast

Our rating: ***

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SCOTLAND

1. Cragiebield House Hotel, Edinburgh
(www.booking.com/hotel/gb/craigebieldhousehotel.en)

Searching around on various hotel sites for a place to stay in Edinburgh, we booked our first night at Cragiebield House Hotel. The rate of £49 for a double room with ensuite and buffet breakfast was quite reasonable compared to many other B & B’s in the area. The only thing was that this hotel was located about 30 minutes out of the centre of the city in a small town called Pencuik. This did’t bother us as we had our own car.

The hotel is a fairly old homestead where the rooms are located on the second floor. Our room was a large room with king size bed and a view over the homestead gardens. We had our own bathroom and tea and coffee facilities were provided.

The restaurant where breakfast is served is also good for lunches and dinners so we stayed there for dinner that night.
Breakfast is an amazing buffet where you can help yourself to cereals, fruit and pastries. Then the waiteers come to take your order for porridge, eggs, fresh toast or the Full English Breakfast. This meal keeps you going all day.

What we liked: This is a really cosy place to stay just outside of Edinburgh. We did struggle to sleep that night as their was a large party downstairs but the owners were very kind and offered us a free nights accommodation so we ended up staying 2 nights. The 2nd night was much quieter.

Our rating: ***

2. Edinburgh House Hotel, Edinburgh  (www.edinburghhousehotel.com)

To be a little closer to all the attractions in the city we spent one extra night in the city at the Edinburgh House Hotel. This hotel is an old large mansion that has been converted into a guesthouse. The room is fairly basic with an ensuite and breakfast of cereal, bread and fruit is included for a cost of £50 per night.

What we liked: this hotel is in a good position, close to a large shopping mall, a beautiful park and access to the main part of the city.

What we didn’t like: Scotland was fairly cold when we arrived but this hotel overheated the rooms far too much. You wake up feeling pretty groggy after sleeping particularly as the windows couldn’t open and we couldn’t adjust the temperature

Our rating: **

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BACK IN THE UNITED KINGDOM

1. Dunvegan B&B, Windermere (www.dunveganguesthouse.co.uk)

Driving back down south onto Wales, we stopped off for a night in the Lakes District, a beautiful town called Windermere. No bookings on arrival but part of the fun is walking along the streets and knocking on the doors of the many B&B’s to find one you like. And there were plenty with availability to.

After checking out about 6 we decided on Dunvegan B&B which is managed by the lovely Evelyn.

We loved this B&B. The rooms were so clean and comfortable. Tea and coffee is provided in the rooms with delicious shortbread biscuits. The location is also great, only a short walk from all the shops and restaurants in town and a little bit long to the lake.

Breakfast in the morning was cereals and toast and then the Full English Breakfast including Black Pudding.

The cost for a double room for one night with breakfast was £50

Car parking is available at the back of the property.

What we liked: Evelyn’s superb hospitality

Our rating: ***

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WALES

1. Nosda Hostel, Cardiff       (www.nosda.co.uk)

The last stop on our UK road trip was Cardiff, Wales. There are the obvious large city hotels here but they are really expensive. We checked out a few B & B’s but they were all booked out. Thankfully one of the managers at a B&B suggested NosDa Hostel

This is a huge hostel offering everything from large dorms to private rooms with ensuite. We booked the latter. Our rate for one night accommodation and breakfast buffet was £55

The rooms are resembled something like a hospital room and overall the facilities were very basic. Breakfast was en mass for all the backpackers so you could help yourself to cereal and toast.

There is free carparking available at the back of the hostel. Wifi is good and if you feel like a workout, there is a gym onsite but you have to pay extra to use it.

What we liked: The position is really good. It’s an easy walk to the main gardens, Cardiff Castle and the city centre

What we didn’t like: The place doesn’t have much atmosphere except at night when a DJ absolutely pumped the tunes, that our walls shook.

Our rating: **

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GREECE

1. Kontonis Hotel, Lagana, Zakynthos     (No website available)

This hotel was booked through our travel agent at Flight Centre in a deal called ‘Arrival on Allocation’ so you don’t know where you are staying until you arrive in… Zante. Although we were told this allocated hotel would be 3 star, Kontonis Hotel is barely 1 star.

Our double room had an ensuite and small kitchenette. With soaring heat the room was incredibly hot and there wasn’t even a fan let alone air conditioner. Fans could be hired downstairs for a small fee but did little to relieve the heat.

Opening the door at night didn’t work either as the bar was located directly under our room and music blared till late at night. When the heat became too much we opened the doors only to find the cigarette smoke from guests below flew up into our room.

Needless to say we requested an immediate transfer…. Which took 3 days to arrange

What we liked: The owners were really friendly and were concerned that our stay wasnt enjoyable (totally not their fault that Flight Centre mucked up our original booking)

What we didn’t like: Pretty much everything

Our rating: None

2. Zante Star Hotel, Tsilivi  (www.zantestar.com)

Once we had arranged our transfer from Kontonis Hotel, we arrived at Zante Star –  a huge improvement.

Our lovely hotel room came with a very comfortable double room, adjoining balcony overlooking the large swimming pool. There was a small sitting area with our own kitchenette and refrigerator.

Our room also came with Air Conditioner.

The hotel has a fabulous pool and lounge area. Nearby is the bar and restaurant and the food here is pretty good. We would usually have a light lunch here and then walk about 20 minutes into Tsilivi to choose from the many delicious Greek restaurants for dinner.

The beach is only a short 10 minute walk away.

We are not sure of the rate per night as this was included in a package rate which included return flights and airport transfers

What we liked: Everything, this place is a really good 3 star resort

Our rating: ***

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GERMANY

1. Hotel Agon Aldea, Berlin    (www.booking.com/hotel/de/berlinaldeshot.en)

We found a good rate for is hotel on www.expedia. The cost was … Euro per night. We booked two nights. This hotel is in a fairly good position as its right near the Metro Station – Bueloestrasse.

The rooms are nicely furnished and are soundproofed so its nice and quiet at night. Wifi is also available in the rooms. Cost per night is £40 per night.

There is a bar and restaurant downstairs although there is so much to see and do in Berlin that we really only went back to the hotel to sleep.

What we liked: the hotel rooms are well maintained and very clean. Being so close to the train station was very handy.

What we didn’t like: The street that the hotel lies on seemed a little bit dodgy particularly at night – a small red light district

Our rating: ***

2. Hotel Pension 7, Himmel, Berlin (www.hotel-7himmel.de)

We felt that our first hotel at Agon Aldea in Berlin was just a little far out, so with a bit of research we relocated to Hotel Pension 7 Himmel, which is in close proximity to Potsdamer Platz.

This is quite a basic room with ensuite but comfortable enough for one night.  The rate of 59 Euro includes a buffet breakfast – a selection of juices, tea, coffee, deli meats, cheese and breads.

What we liked: The location

Our rating: **

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IRELAND

Abbeyside B&B, Quin   (No website available)

We flew into Dublin to spend a couple of nights with our friend Marty Xureb and his gorgeous fiancé Aiofe. They lived in a gorgeous town called Maynooth. Following a few days checking out Dublin, we hired a car for our Irish road trip.

We found the Abbeyside B&B in Quin which was in close driving proximity to Knappogue Castle where we enjoyed a medieval banquet.

A sweet elderly couple ran this B&B and we were the only guests for the night. In the morning the lady cooked us a beautiful full English breakfast. The cost for the night was 50 Euro.

What we liked: The price was the cheapest in town having looked into several other places in town and for one nights accommodation it was very clean and comfortable. We did feel like we stayed in someone’s home.

Our rating: **

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SPAIN

1. Chateau Le Roca, Santander  (www.chateaularoca.com)

Due to an air strike in France, we decided to make our way to Biarritz via Spain which meant flying into Santander. We were only going to be there for the night but the city hotels were really expensive. Chateau Le Roca was about 20 minutes out of the city by public bus.

Our room was quite big with king size bed, desk and television and ensuite bathroom. Wifi connection in the room was also strong.

Breakfast was not included in the rate although you could dine in the restaurant downstairs. We found a supermarket next door that had a fabulous bakery and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.

What we liked: Spacious comfortable rooms

What we didn’t like: There wasn’t a lot to do near the hotel. If we had booked earlier we would have chosen a place in the city centre before last minute rates got too expensive.

Our rating: **

2. Pension Kaia, San Sebastian    (www.pensionkaia.com)

We arrived in San Sebastian with nothing booked and so we walked into Old Town and started knocking on the doors of Pension’s. We probably enquired at about 15 places but found that many were booked out for the night and in fact the weekend due to a huge during competition that bought Kelly Slater into town and also coincided with U2 in concert.

We finally found Pension Kaia had a triple room ( so double bed and another single) with ensuite and decided to spend the night. This place was in a great location and we were able to easily walk through all the cute lane ways and enjoy Old Town.

What we liked: The location and the fact that this place had availability

Our rating:**

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FRANCE

1. Hotel Residence, Anglet      (www.hotelanglet-biarritz.com)

We booked Hotel Anglet on expedia.com and although the description said that this hotel was close to Biarritz, it wasn’t in Biarritz and took us about 30 minutes by bus to get into town. We did walk to our hotel one afternoon which ended up taking 3 hours but that time included dinner on the beach in Anglet and the fact that we got quite lost trying to get back to the hotel.

The hotel is quite large. The rooms are old and the place looks more run down than how it is advertised on the website. However it was clean and spacious. The cost for a double room with ensuite was 56 euro per night. Our room also had a small kitchenettes however a large door was pulled across it and locked and the hotel said it Costs more if we were wanting to use it. We didn’t!

The facilities at the hotel include a swimming pool, tennis courts, squash court and fitness room. We used the fitness room but again it was not what was advertised – just two old exercise bikes and some incomplete dumbbell sets. Squash was good fun. Wifi connection is free and works well in the rooms.

Breakfast is not included in the rate but for …euros you can book for the buffet breakfast which included fruit, yogurt, cereal, baguettes, cheese and ham as well as juice, tea and coffee. It’s a pretty good deal.

What we liked: The rate was really good considering the price of the hotels in Biarritz

What we didn’t like: Location was a bit far from the town and not in walking distance to the beach

Our rating: **

2. Hotel Grand Magenta, Paris    (www.grandhotelmagenta.com)

Paris is such a beautiful city and as such hotels are so expensive. We started looking at hhe 3 star and quickly moved down the ranks finding this hotel for 68 euros per night. The location was quite good as it was right near Gare de Nord – the station we arrived at from the Eurostar, so walking distance to this hotel.

The room was big and it had a little balcony overlooking the streets of Paris but it was a very basic hotel room and not well maintained. Everything was incredibly old and the bed was so uncomfortable and seemed to sink in the middle.

What we liked: The location

What we didn’t like: Everything else

Our rating: None

3. Massenet Hotel, Nice   (www.massenet.nice-hotels-reservation.com)

We arrived in Nice, meeting up with Nick Ock and drove into the city centre in search of a place to stay. We checked out perhaps two other places before coming across Hotel Massenet. This room was really lovely and although only a twin room, they managed to set up a very comfortable portable bed as well to make it a triple.

The cost for the room was 87 euro per night. Breakfast was not included in this rate but you could purchase it downstairs for an additional 15 euro per person. We decided to pick up breakfast from the nearby delicatessen and bakery.

This hotel was in a great location, about a 5 minute walk to the beach and also really close to shops, restaurants and the casino.

The staff were really kind and very helpful too.

There was also a carpark where we parked our car for a minimal charge.

We would definitely recommend staying here.

What we liked: Great location and very comfortable room

Our rating: ***

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ITALY

1. Vatican City Inn, Rome    (www.romebeb.com)

Rome was our first destination in Italy and so we booked two nights accommodation to avoid wandering the streets looking for a place on arrival.

The Vatican City Inn is a cute place to stay but quite a distance from the main city. The train station however is a 5 minute walk so it is easy to get around. The Inn is actually an Italian family’s home and it seemed that we were the only guests staying there.

The double room was quite small but we had the use of our own bathroom which was at the end of the hallway.

Breakfast is pretty basic. The first morning was coffee and croissant or small toasted biscuits yet the following morning, our host offered us cereal and juice which was straight out of his own pantry. He was extremely friendly and was happy to chat to us to practise his English. Unfortunately our italian was dismal.

For a very quiet, peaceful stay, we would recommend this place.

What we liked: Staying with this lovely Italian family. Bathroom was really modern and bedroom was comfortable.

Our rating: **

2. Hotel Nationale, Bolsena. ( www.hotelnazionale.net)

After our stay in Rome, we hired a smart car and headed towards Siena and Pisa yet having left Rome early that evening, we never made it to Siena and instead found a room at Hotel Nationale in Bolsena.

An elderly Italian couple ran this hotel and although none of us could understand each other, we managed to get a nice double room with ensuite plus breakfast included for 60 euro for the night.

Breakfast was one croissant and a coffee. Being in Italy though meant that we were guaranteed good coffee and this was a fabulous cappuccino.

What we liked: this hotel is located in a very cute Italian village. As we arrived in low season the area was very quiet and not at all touristy so it was fun mingling with the locals.

Our rating: **

3. Hotel Granduca, Pisa     (www.hotelgranduca.it)

After spending a day wandering around Siena, we moved onto Pisa for the night. We had dinner in the city centre and our waiter suggested we drive out of town to a newly refurbished hotel called Hotel Granduca.

We were told that the hotel had only reopened that week and that the staff would be able to give us a great rate – which they did.

For 65 euro for the night, we got a large kingsize room, free wifi and buffet breakfast.

This hotel is huge but it does lack atmosphere and the rooms are fairly basic even though they have just renovated.

What we liked: being able to negotiate such a good rate as initially they wanted to charge around 80 euro for the night.

Our rating: **

4. Hotel Nizza, Florence    (www.hotelnizza.com)

Our road trip continued on to Florence and we drove through Old Town in search of a place to stay for three nights. There are plenty of Pensions to check out but we were trying to find one in a somewhat quiet street where we could park our smart car.

We came across Hotel Nizza and absolutely loved it.

To start with, the staff are so friendly and welcoming and over the next three days they helped us to book various tours.

The rooms were spacious and clean and for 50 euro per night with breakfast included, we thought this was a great deal. Breakfast included fruits, cereals, fresh bread, meats and cheeses. You could also help yourself to the cappuccino machine.

Carparks were quite a distance from the hotel, but we managed to squeeze our little car in between the many scooters in the same street which was firstly convenient but also we avoided the expensive parking rates.

What we liked: Absolutely everything, we would definitely recommend this hotel

Our rating: **

5. Hotel Antiche Figure, Venice    (www.hotelantichefigure.it)

We arrived in Venice early in the evening with no bookings so our search for a hotel began along the beautiful Grand Canal. A couple of places were completely booked out until we came across Hotel Antiche Figure Venice.

This 3 star Superior Hotel was slightly out of our price bracket at a cost of 90 euro per night with breakfast. However when the concierge advised us that this rate included a free boat trip and tour through a Murano Glass Demonstration, we thought we had found a great deal.

The rooms were beautiful and tastefully decorated. The bathroom had lovely amenities. The buffet breakfast was amazing with a selection of fruits, cereals, breads, meats, cheeses and cakes. Staff would then take your order for any type of coffee you desired.

In the morning we were able to take our boat ride to Murano directly out the front of the hotel.

What we liked: Absolutely everything

Our rating: **

6. Hotel Caviate, Lecca on Lake Como   (No Website Available)

We never planned to drive all the way to Lecca from Como but when we couldn’t find accommodation one night in Bellagio, we continued driving until we found Hotel Caviate.

Our room had a beautiful view of the lake but the actual hotel was pretty old and run down. Still it was comfortable enough for the one night we spent there.

In the morning breakfast was served in the restaurant which was simply a juice, coffee and plain croissant. The total cost for the room and breakfast was 60 euro. There was plenty of car parking on site so we left our car there and walked into town which took about 20 minutes.

What we liked: The position overlooking the lake was beautiful

What we didn’t like: The room and bathroom were just passable

Our rating: *

7. Hotel Posta, Como    (www.hotelposta.net)


Having spent the day driving through Lecca and Bellagio, we made our way back to Como for one more night. After driving around looking into many hotels we drove into the old part of town and found Hotel Posta.

The room was really basic. A simple double room with ensuite. Breakfast was also included in the rate of 70 euro per night.

Staff here are friendly and helpful. Seeing as we had been eating in so many Italian restaurants we decided on staying in that night. The staff directed us to the nearest supermarkets and then we came back to the dining room and made our own dinner that night.

What we liked: Location was fantastic and in walking distance to some great shops

Our rating: **

8. Hotel Affittacamere ca’ die lisci, Riomaggiore    (No Website Available)

Our time in the Cinque Terre was short but our stay in Riommaggiore was absolutely beautiful. This little town has such character and we were happy to check into Hotel Afittacamere ca’ die Lisci before enjoying our night at a delicious restaurant.

We would suggest that you don’t carry too much luggage when staying at this hotel as there are quite a lot of stairs to climb and the passage way is very narrow.

Our room was fairly basic but really spacious, clean and comfortable. In the mornings you walk back to the main reception for breakfast and can enjoy cereal or bread with meats and cheeses at the buffet.

The cost for a double room with breakfast was 60 euro for the night

What we liked: just having a night in this beautiful town was well worth it and the accommodation was right in the heart of it.

Our rating: **

9. Hotel San Tommasco, Milan    (www.hotelsantomaso.com)

Our last night in Italy was spent in Milan. We decided that it should be easy enough to find a place to stay by knocking on a few doors and it was.

This hotel was located just outside the centre of the city so to drive to the Duomo took about 10 minutes by car.

The room was basic but quite nice. The cost was 52.50 euro for a double room and included breakfast which was a coffee and croissant.

What we liked: Location was quite good – in walking distance to nice restaurants and shops

Our rating: **

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AUSTRIA

1. Hotel Tirolerhof, Zell am Ziller      (www.zillertal-tirolerhof.at)

The first hotel we booked in Zell am Ziller was called Hotel Brau however just before arriving in Austria, we received an email to say that as we were the only guests booked to stay there just before Christmas, they decided to close the hotel and arrange a transfer. Originally this transfer was to Ferienhotel Sonnenhof however this was a 30 minute walk from the main part of Zell am Ziller and we wanted to make sure we stayed near our friends, the Cusacks.

So after some rearranging, we checked into Hotel Tirolerhof which was just across the road from Hotel Brau, not far from the main train station and directly out the front was the free shuttle bus that took you to the Ski Lift area.

Most hotels in this ski resort area work on a Half Board Basis which is accommodation plus Breakfast and Dinner. We stayed 3 nights at a cost of 133 euros per night

We loved this hotel. It had recently been refurbished so the rooms were beautiful and so comfortable.

Downstairs was a place to sit down, watch television, read or play games and out the back was the restaurant.

Breakfast each morning included juice, tea/coffee, cereals, fruit, yogurt, bread, meat and cheeses and eggs.

Dinner each night was always 3 courses and you were able to select your main meal from an extensive menu. Drinks were an additional cost but they had a great selection of beers, wines etc.

What we liked: Everything – the place was so welcoming, comfortable and amazing value. Location was also fantastic. We would definitely recommend this hotel

Our rating: ****

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SWITZERLAND

1. Hotel Baeren, Wilderswil    (www.baeren.ch)

We arrived in Interlaken, Switzerland late on the 22nd December and checked in to Hotel Baren in Wilderswil. This is the hotel we spent Christmas in with Elissa’s parents Mike and Leonie.

This family run hotel has incredible charm and was a beautiful place to spend a white Christmas.  It has been owned and operated by the same Swiss family for 300 years and everything they do is done to perfection.

Our double rooms with ensuite  were tastefully decorated and very cozy. This hotel also worked on the basis of Half Board so breakfast and dinner was included each day. The breakfast was a buffet where you could help yourself to cereals, bircher muesli, yogurt and fruit. There were incredible fresh breads of all varieties as well as eggs, meats and cheese.

Dinner each night was 3 courses so we were treated to some amazing dishes.

As part of our accommodation the rate also included a Christmas Eve Banquet and Christmas Day Lunch.

About 100 people enjoyed the Christmas Eve Banquet that started with amazing canapes, seafood and salads. Then guests could help themselves to the Hot meal of Christmas Ham, Turkey and roast vegetables.

Fritz made a speech to welcome everyone to Christmas and then his family distributed gifts to everyone before dessert. All drinks were included in this meal.

Christmas Day started with a horse and carriage ride through town and on return the staff had prepared Gluwein for us followed by a delicious 3 course lunch.

The final inclusion in our accommodation was the free shuttle bus that collected us just a short walk from the hotel and dropped us into the town of Interlaken. We were able to use this card for the duration of our stay.

What we liked: This hotel was the most hospitable place we have ever stayed in. Our hosts were so friendly and any request was immediately responded to. If you are ever looking for a unique Christmas then we highly recommend this hotel. Completely charming and a real treat.

To obtain a quote for this hotel, please visit the website.

Our rating: ****

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FRANCE…. WE’RE BACK!!!

1. Grand Bristol Hotel, Colmar    (www.grandhotelbristol.com)

Arriving by train in Colmar, we walked a very short distance to Grand Bristol Hotel. This warm hotel welcomed us in from the freezing -4degree day.

Our double room with ensuite was really lovely. The beds were so comfortable and bathrooms were a good size with hair dryer and amenities.

Breakfast each morning was a buffet and it was probably the best breakfast we ever had in our travels. Basically because it offered just about everything from fresh fruit, dried fruit, yogurt, cereals, fresh breads, meat, cheeses, eggs of any variety, juices, coffee, cakes. You name it, this buffet had it.

Other facilities included a fitness room, steam room (which we tried after a freezing day in town) and they also offer beauty treatments. Wifi is also free.

The main part of town is about a 15 minute walk which also takes you through a very pretty park.

What we liked: Everything this hotel was a fabulous place to stay

See the website for a nightly rate

Our rating: ****

2. Hotel Albe, Paris   (www.albe-paris-hotel.com)

Our 2nd stay in Paris was upgraded enormously thanks to Leonie and Mike. We stayed at Hotel Albe which is in the heart of St Michel Place. This hotel had been recently renovated and the rooms were lovely. Large bathrooms with bath and beautiful amenities.

The rooms all had a balcony, ours which looked over to the Seine and at night time when all the lane ways became busy with tourists and people dining in the many restaurants, it did get quite loud.

Breakfast was served each morning In the cafe downstairs. A buffet of cereals, fruit, pastries, eggs, meats, cheese, juices and delicious coffees.

Staff were helpful and assisted in booking several tours.

What we liked: Everything, this hotel is in a fantastic location, right near the Metro, close to the Seine and among many delicious French restaurants and shops.

Check the hotel website for hotel rates.

Our rating: ****


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