I had been traveling across the north of Europe for a couple of weeks when I decided that I needed a break. What better city than Amsterdam to relax and while away some time. I checked into the well known but rather worn “Bob’s Youth Hostel”, a place that has been there for years and actually feels like it. It’s not a traditional youth hostel at all, mixed dorms, people staying up all night (it IS Amsterdam) and you’ll often wonder what is going on in the bunk next to yours. Not the kind of place you would recommend to your sister.
There I met a somewhat crazy Welshman that was determined to travel as long as his finances would hold out. We hit it off and went out for a night on the town. After many beers and to much Jenever (a scary Dutch form of Gin) we decided to travel for a while together, at least until we wanted to go different ways. Our first port of call, would be Dubrovnik. A long ways, but the city sounded like a place we both just had to visit.
Later that evening we met 2 American girls traveling together. We told them of our plans, enticed them with stories of the castle in this once great city and convinced them that they too should go. I won’t lie and say that we didn’t fancy them a little, but that was not the main motive.
On the Road
We all took off the next morning for Yugoslavia (yes, that was a country once). They had Eurail passes, so would arrive long before us. We would do the hitchhike-bus-train-walk-flight route. Cheaper for the real budget traveler. Yes, we did actually walk from the town of Trieste into Yugoslavia, and an internal flight in that country back then was just 18 bucks. We arrived there some 3 days after we left, we assumed they would have arrived the day prior. We had agreed to meet at the only youth hostel in Dubrovnik.
When we got there, the hotel touts were out in force at the bus station. We shrugged all of them off saying we were headed to the hostel. “It is closed” they all said, “Stay at my place!” One particular old woman would not give up. Her English was barely understandable, and as we walked to the hostel with her in tow we explained that we were meeting friends, 2 girls, we had plans, thank-you-very-much. “They are in my place” she said, over and over.
When we arrived at the hostel after a 20 min search, it was indeed closed down. Looked like it had been for years. We decided that Let’s Go really doesn’t update their travel books. We relented and walked back inside the castle with the old woman. All the while, she said, “your friends are here, you like my place, nice view.”
We got checked in, paid for a few nights (like 3 dollars a night) and looked around. Then we heard a giggle from the next room, where the door was slightly open. Who was there?
Yes, that’s right. Our friends from Amsterdam, just as surprised to see us as we were them. Just goes to show, you never know what you’ll find at that hotel around the corner.
I have been traveling since I was 17. That would make me… well, older than you. I have been all over the world and stayed in some great places. Others you would not wish upon the guy who stole your first girlfriend. It’s not always easy picking a good place, sometimes the outside of a hotel looks stunning and then you find that the room has a broken toilet that was last seen to in 1924 and a shower the size of a cereal box. Other times, the facade is just dull and plain, but the interior opulent and lush, like some 19th century castle that has been refitted and modernized.
I have a few favorites around the world. These days I get to travel a little more on the first class, due to the fact that I am a dj and not a backpacker. But the truth is, some of the best places I have stayed are within reach of the budget traveler.
Take a nap Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand
A perfect example of how expensive does not make a cool hotel, The Take a Nap is
located smack in the heart of Bangkok Silom district It’s hip, cool convenient and clean. This is a place for the traveler with style. But you can stay here for very little.
They have something like thirty graphic-designed rooms. I have stayed in only 2 different ones but each has its own style with an individual work of wall art. Some have funky street paintings, others have cool fairy tale themes. It’s is a cool place, lots of fun but it does get noisy sometimes quite early
Shangri-La Boracay, Philippines
Pure luxury on a tropical island. Who wouldn’t want to stay here? This is like one of those places that you see in the movies, and wonder if they actually exist. The hotel has private huts perched on a hillside. You feel as if you are surrounded by lush tropical nature. You would think it costs a fortune to stay here, but with the exchange rate on the peso, you get absolute luxury for the price of an average airport hotel on the edge of JFK or Heathrow. And while this place is pure solitude, the wild party beaches of boracay are just minutes away.
Chelsea Hotel, New York, USA
This hotel would probably not make it on to everyones list of favorites, but there is something magic about this place. I was put up here for a gig once and at first I thought the promoter was crazy. It is an old building, in fact heritage listed, but it has been home to numerous writers, musicians, artists, and actors, including Madonna, Bob Dylan, Virgil Charles Bukowski, Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith and Iggy Pop. It was also where the whole “Sid and Nancy” episode happened. It is classic New York at it’s best.
The Elephant Camp, Wild Horizons Wildlife Sanctuary, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
One of the most beautiful places I have ever stayed in my entire life. The views of Victoria falls are breathtaking. They have taken absolute luxury, built it in tents with a private pool just outside your door step, and stuck the whole thing in one of the planets best wildlife sanctuaries. Don’t think “tented safari” here, think James bond on an unlimited budget.Read More
I lived in Sydney Australia for 5 years. Absolutely loved the place. I often had the opportunity to travel around the country while designing events and the majority of the time I would end up in Melbourne, Australia’s “second” city. (Unless you ask a local from Melbourne, in which case Sydney is second.)
It’s a fantastic city, with less of the beach culture you find in the rest of Oz, and more of the European flair you might find somewhere like the south of France.
You will be spoiled for choice when it comes to accommodation, with everything from absolute budget backer dives to opulent luxury hotels. Here I present my top 5.
Hotel Claremont Guest House
On the budget end of things the Claremont is located right on Toorak Rd, the artsy district of Melbourne. While it is primarily aimed at the backpack crowd, the have rooms that range for shared dormitory style to private rooms and even apartments for families. This place is busy, no doubt about that, but if you are new in town and want to meet fellow travelers, this is the place.
Vibe Hotel Carlton
A groovy place in the Carlton district with the all important swimming pool. Carlton is just a short way from the city centre by tram, but it is one of those neighborhoods that make Melbourne what it is. Loads of great shopping, fashion and of course the famous Lygon Street, where the Melbourne café culture was born. It’s a funky place, with a real 60s retro feel to it, but it is comfortable and not over the top in price.
Intercontinental Melbourne : The Rialto
This place was built in 1891, but it is totally modern.they have a hot tub, day spa and an indoor pool overlooking the Melbourne skyline. I was lucky enough to get put up here once for a gig I did at the Docklands, which is just a 15 minute walk away.
The amazing rooms have a luxurious bathroom with a rain shower, bathrobe and slippers. Complete luxury at a price to match.
Mansion Hotel & Spa at Werribee Park
While not exactly in Melbourne (it’s 30 min outside the city) this place is more akin to staying in a castle. Dating back to the 1870s, the illustrious mansion, with it’s 10 acres of spectacular manicured gardens and historic seminary, is somewhere you will never want to leave. They have a rose garden, the most amazing indoor pool I have ever seen and they even have their own winery onsite. Not to be missed!
The Prince St. Kilda
St. Kilda is the center of cool, so it’s no surprise that this hotel oozes art cool and grace with it’s amazing art deco style.One would think that this place is top end, but you really can stay here without going broke. One big plus is that I found the staff very friendly, and they let me extend my checkout time until 5 at no extra cost!Read More
Last month I returned to Nice for the first time in 18 years. I was just a little worried that everything had changed, that the magic flair might be gone. I imagined new buildings everywhere. We took a taxi in to town, as all the busses were not running. In classic French style, everything, and I do mean everything, shuts down on a public holiday. My driver spoke fair English, and I spoken worse French. I conveyed my feelings about the town. “Oh no Monsieur, it is ze same, exactly ze same.”
Having stayed here many years ago, I knew that the hotels near the train station were rather seedy, at best. One even has a strip club in the basement. Not really the kind of area to take your wife. Fine if you are a solo male traveler that doesn’t mind offers of girls or hash every 10 minutes. So I found us a place just 5 minutes from the old town, far enough away from the station to feel safe.
The Petite Lourve
The Petite Lourve has a nice name to it, conjuring up images of art on the walls, a majestic building and years of history. Well, it does have years of history. I am sure the lift was built in the 19th century. But I chose this place for the location, and because it had a kitchenette, not for the lift.
Another resemblance it has to it’s name is the “petite”. I have never encountered a room so small yet with everything you could ever need in a place to stay. There were 2 tables, which neatly folded out from the wall to open up. But you can not leave either open if you care to move in the room. The kitchenette is somehow miraculously stashed into a 2 foot space, but somehow it all works.
The truth is, you can sit on the bed, and reach everything but the fridge and the toilet. Yes, it did have a private toilet and shower, but of course at 6 foot tall, fitting in the shower was akin to a sardine can. But funny enough, it all functions. We were not there to spend our day in the hotel anyway. Nice is a pretty expensive place to stay, and this place is a total bargain for its location. Just don’t bring the family.
We spent a few days in this lovely town, stopping in our hotel only to eat and sleep. But as we shopped for things, the space did become considerably smaller. and somehow the lift got slower too. You won’t want to relax away the hours here, but for a good nights sleep at a fraction of the Old Town hotels cost, you won’t mind How petite it really is.Read More
When you travel for long enough, you begin to realize just how many things that hotels forget to supply to the weary traveler. Of course most hotels offer you soap, shampoo and conditioner in nice little bottles which are just the right size to take home in your carry on luggage, but what about going one step further? Perhaps a toothbrush, cotton buds and a little sewing kit. You actually will get these in some luxury places, and some even include those amazing bathrobes that you can ONLY find in top hotels but never seem to manage to find at your local department store.
But honestly, for a good hotel to be a great hotel, they could all go a step further.
Here are some things I have encountered around the world at various places which I think every hotel should have.
With the exception of some hotels in France, this little item I have yet to find in most other decent hotels. Being a connoisseur of delightful red wines of the planet, I love to pick up a bottle or two where ever I travel. But there is nothing worse then having to call the concierge or walk down to reception at 3 in the morning to get your bottle opened.
An Espresso Machine
Ok, So i have only stayed in one place, a refurbished medieval mansion in Italy, that had one of these in the room. It was not one of those big ones you see in your local Starbucks, but a single handle Gaggia, perfect for drawing out a double espresso. They even supplied enough for coffee for 4 shots (not enough for me, I bought more). But it was the thought that counts. The best way to wake up ever.
In the 21st century, there is wifi everywhere. And it costs nothing. Some hotels charge ridiculous rates to use their wifi hour and hour or 2. When you are traveling abroad and the only thing you can say in the local language is “one beer please”, then you certainly won’t be watching TV. Even IF the offer you a 52 inch flatscreen. This is when you need your wifi to watch a movie. Oh, and email your friends to make them jealous.
No explanation needed really. You don’t want to leave your valuables laying around and you don’t want to carry them with you at all times. A sturdy little programable safe is essential.
Seems a bit silly when you consider most places have a mini-bar. But with the cost of a Pepsi running at about the same price as a small diamond, who would actually use this stuff? There is never room in the fridge for your own food and drinks. A good hotel should leave you the option of buying your own fresh strawberries and champagne.