Tag Archives: Hotels

A Petition for Better Swimming Pools

When I travel, I like to swim.  It’s easier to carry a pair of goggles and light-weight Speedo than it is to cart a whole bunch of keep-fit stuff in your bag.

So, I have a fairly honed in radar for decent pools.  I even have an app to detect swimming pools in Paris and I know all the great pools in London.  I swim in the sea if the beach is protected and the water is calm but I constantly run into hotels with lots of land and inadequate pool facilities.  I wonder if these guys ever had a pool advisor.  If you would like to work out in a pool, it has to be a minimum of 20 meters; 25 is preferable and anything beyond that is gravy.  It always amazes me that on cruise ships with 4,000 to 5,000 passengers and luxury accommodations, the pool is nothing more than a tiny splashing pool a little bigger than a big over-chlorinated Jacuzzi with God knows what in it.

Huge resort complexes have fancy pools with kidney shapes that you cannot swim in and more often than not are unheated.  Hotel pools are, in general, absolutely hopeless.  I just want to advocate for a few more meters and some common sense.  After all, people do use swimming pools for exercise and when you sit on a 1,000-acre complex, what difference does it make to add 10 extra meters to a pool?!  Trying to find out whether the pool in a hotel or complex is adequate for swimming is also tricky.  Go look at the photographs of the pool online.  Those images can be mighty deceptive.  It’s like the pool at the villa in Tuscany or Spain that you rented that turns out to be a little bigger than a bathtub.

For those of us who like to swim, preferably in a heated 25 meter pool, let’s just get some common parameters for discovery and let’s ask hotels and complexes to give a little more thought, a little more honesty, and a little more land for the non-Olympian swimmer who likes to keep fit.

AirBnB Magazine…lovely…

Here’s a shocker.  High-tech, super slick Airbnb have teamed up with the Hearst Corporation to produce a travel magazine; essentially Airbnb Magazine.  The rationale is that nobody knows better where people want to go than Airbnb does.  They see it in demand and deals and have it resourced from billions of data points.  As such, they can provide stories for people and places that are hot and can write about places that are trending.  Savannah, for example, is one of Airbnb’s biggest sourced destinations, Porvoo in Finland is another.  Go figure!

The first launch will be this May.  It’s going to provide competition for mags like Afar and Conde Nast Traveler but Airbnb is different by basing stories and articles on where people want to go.  In other words, they’re putting the power into the hands of the consumer instead of the usual fantasy articles that occupy most chapters of a travel mag.  Incidentally, one of the best travel mags for me is British Airways High Life.  Of course, the only problem there is that British Airways has to fly there and it’s only available on the airplane.  I always steal a copy!

Airbnb mag is an experiment but like travel books, people still love travel in print form.  Look at the success of Rick Steves.  Regular monthly mailings will be forthcoming if this finds success.

Zurich Pietro Place Peter Jones


I had never been to Zurich before and probably will never go back.

Last year I was in Lausanne and promised myself never to return! I added it to my list of boring places – Deauville, Trouville, Biarritz. Places that I was curious about but couldn’t muster up enough energy or desire to return. Cross them off the list and add them to Cyprus and a few other places that I have been inquisitive about and will not go back to. But Zurich…I am torn.

This year we descended upon Zurich because I had heard some great things about it. A good nightlife, diverse restaurants, and an overall beautiful city. We stayed in the Stork Hotel. A fabulous location in a great part of town. Café stools outside overlooking the river made it utterly charming and even with cold weather, they provided blankets! I loved this hotel. A pure Swiss scene with beautiful houses over the Limmat River, three towering clock towers, and an extraordinary museum, the Kunsthaus Zürich, packed chock-a-block with masterpieces through the ages. There was a lot of Giacometti, in fact the whole family of Giacometis, a fair amount of Chagall, and a splash of Picasso and other xtraordinary artists. It had the lot. It was slightly overwhelming!

There were the two principal churches in Zurich with their stained glass windows rendered more spectacular by the artists whose paintings I had just seen in the museum. The walks were pleasant, the streets and squares were made with lots of cobblestones, all extraordinarily clean. Everything spilled onto the lovely river, even the Bahnhof with its underbelly filled with shops and eateries was decidedly clean and accesible. And of course there were swans. Lots of them.

This is a city with enough to do if you plan two or three days max.

On the restaurant scene, there are expensive places that have an iconic history in Zurich folklore like the Kronenhalle. The food there is pure Swiss with rösti, lots of meat, and fabulous desserts. The ambiance is extraordinary. Original artwork is all around – a Chagall here, a Miro there. Not far away there is Brasserie Lipp, one of Paris’ most reputable brasserie’s transplanted into the heart of Zurich. There are less expensive options and of course a few pubs where you can grab a beer, a burger, and watch a soccer game. The nightlife was a bit thin and daytime was a little quiet. Everything was very orderly and very Swiss. The tram system was incredibly efficient and very clean. As I walked along the narrow alleyways by the river and crossed one of the smaller bridges to get to the Church of the Grossmünster, I thought of how civilized this place is. Probably a nice place to bring the kids up. It’s a bit like Vancouver. But I really do not think I could live here!

Zurich Pietro Place Peter Jones Zurich Pietro Place Peter Jones Zurich Pietro Place Peter Jones Zurich Pietro Place Peter Jones Zurich Pietro Place Peter Jones Zurich Pietro Place Peter Jones


Vancouver – Hit or Miss?

Having spent several days on the West Coast – a little Seattle earthiness, a bit of the gorgeous climate of San Diego, and a touch of L.A. – I had this absolute desire to go to Vancouver.  I am not really a Canada freak but I do enjoy it.  I quite like Montreal partly because you get to try your French skills out.  Quebec is old world charm and the restaurants are not bad.  Frankly, it’s also not far from Boston.  But Vancouver, I had heard, was a fun, vibrant, and cool city with an incredible ski resort not far away, Whistler.  So off I went.

Canada has an incredibly efficient entry and exit customs clearance facility.  It is orderly, there are people who direct you with a smile, the machines all work and it is relatively quiet and highly civilized.  The journey in from the airport is pretty stunning.  We could make out beautiful waterfront glass skyscrapers that faced the mountains on the other side of the bay.  The mountains were huge and there was snow on the top.  It really was a breathtaking setting.  We came in through the charming Granville district and then headed through a bunch of boutique shop fronts before getting to our hotel, the Rosewood Georgia.  I was liking this place.  The Rosewood was right in the center of the city and I have stayed at Rosewood properties before and I like the chain.  The hotel was, as is always the case at Rosewood properties, excellent on service and detail and I felt sure that this was going to be a fun few days.

We had planned to do sightseeing the following day, visit the Granville Island famous for the marketplace, take a little ferry ride around, head over to the Vancouver Convention Center, and maybe even try a seaplane ride.  So why did I find myself going to a James Bond movie at 7 o’clock the following day?  There was something about Vancouver that was not quite making sense.  It was a bit dull and there were not that many people around.  There was a phenomenal exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery highlighting the Group of Seven and Canadian painters influenced by them.  But after that, it got a bit thin out there.  We did not go for the seaplane but we did discover a great seafood restaurant called Coast.  They had dover sole!

The next day we went to Whistler and it snowed.  The drive up was absolutely spectacular but Whistler was one of those fake villages that had been put up a few years ago and it did not look like there was much of a scene beyond the usual blah blah.  The snow did look great, although I was not skiing, but it was fun to be in the thick of skier talk in the gondola.  So, the scenery is stunning, the snow levels are higher than comparable ski resorts in Colorado but it still was not convincing.

I felt a bit sheepish about it.  Everyone had said that this place was beautiful but I seemed to have missed it.  Maybe it was the seaplane I should have taken or maybe it was just a weekend when everyone was away.  The city had no edge to it.  Maybe I will go back and look for it again next time.

Vancouver Pietro Place Vancouver Pietro Place Vancouver Pietro Place

Vancouver Pietro Place

Image credits: Vancouver Sun and HelloBC.com

Update on Cuba

We have a lot of surge in Cuba for business for 2016 and 2017.  Everyone got hot on Cuba at the same time.  Now, Cuba is turning into a high-demand, little supply destination.  Hotel rooms are sold out months in advance.  With talk of more restrictions being phased out, the 36% increase in American tourists will grow and grow.

But where to?

Here’s a brief update on Cuba:

Over 2 million people traveled to Cuba in the first part of this year alone.  There are about 61,000 hotel rooms in Cuba and many are booked 18 months in advance.  Americans still have to travel under a People-to-People status so it is difficult to sneak in and sneak out for a quick weekend in Havana.  Bottom line is that tour operators are starting to turn people to other destinations which is a drag but understandable given the lack of infrastructure and available bednights.  With places like the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica waiting in the wings, Cuba has better get its act together or there will be plenty of hotel beds and not much demand.
Update on Cuba Pietro Place Peter Jones Update on Cuba Pietro Place Peter Jones

Beauty and the Beast – 2 Hotel Reviews

2 Hotel Reviews: Beauty and the Beast


Hotel Belle Juliette

One of my favorite streets in Paris is the Rue Cherche-Midi in the 6th arrondissement. The street name is actually used in a famous French expression – chercher midi à quatorze heures – to make something more complicated than it really is. The street was actually one of the main exits from Paris for the aristocracy on their hunting jaunts. And they always left no sooner than midi for a spot of light animal killing. So on this lovely street, full of cafes and interesting stores, a wonderful old working hardware store and a newspaper stand (yes, a real one), there is a delightful hotel called La Belle Juliette (http://www.hotel-belle-juliette-paris.com/en/).

I would recommend booking the superior room. Every room is different and funky with beautiful wood floors and, even though the corridors are a little dark and difficult to navigate, the rooms are wonderfully bright and the fixtures are cool and functional. Apple TVs and sophisticated lighting – suffice to say I love this place. It has a beautiful garden area with a nice lounge area. The staff was super friendly, with service living up to a location right on one of the nicest streets of all of Paris. Even the infamous Gerard Depardieu has a house opposite, but more importantly you are a 10-minute walk to the river, 5-minute walk to Montparnasse and along the street there are so many nice little restaurants. My 5-star recommendation is a 4-star hotel with 4-star prices.

GardenBelleJuliettebelle2 belle









Hotel Montalmbert – Don’t Judge a Hotel by its Star Rating

I have been lost since the Hotel Lutetia closed its doors over a year ago to begin a huge renovation project. It was my go-to pad in Paris. An old-style Belle Epoque hotel in the seventh arrondisement, five minutes from my office in Paris and reasonably priced. I’ve been struggling ever since – jumping from one average hotel room to another average hotel room. So this Paris stay I split myself between two hotels, to try to find a new home for my small work stays in Paris.

First stop was the Hotel Montalembert (http://www.hotelmontalembert-paris.com/).  It promised to be a fabulous boutique hotel just off the Boulevard St. Germain. I was never more disappointed in a hotel in my life. The staff looked bored. The room was smaller than a 3-star room near the Gare du Nord. The bathroom was even smaller than I could imagine in a room like that. Picture Alice from Wonderland looking for a wafer to shrink to fit into the shower. And the television had so few channels it reminded me of England in the 60s. Not to mention that the bed was the most uncomfortable small bed I have slept on for some time.  If you’re in the hotel business, you must get that right.

It was dark and dreary with dreadful décor – the set of an indie film that I didn’t want to be in. The funny thing about that particular part of town is that all the fun and vibrancy of the Rue du Bac disappears immediately after you cross Boulevard St. Germain heading toward the river. How I longed for the Lutetia. But first I had to escape and red card it!


Hotel Pet Peeves

Traveling as much as I do, I am always frustrated at the little things that drive me mad in hotels, otherwise known as my Hotel Pet Peeves.

Recently, in the Flyertalk.com 2014 Pet Peeves Survey, people ranked the stuff that really bothered them. I have only one word to say, “Hallelujah”.

Wireless internet is always a rip-off and hotels have tricks to get you to sign up for their most expensive package. The least expensive package is so horribly slow that you are almost forced to opt for the other one. Honestly, what excuse is there for charging for wireless in this day and age? The irony is that if you’re staying at a low-budget hotel such as the Red Roof Inn, it’s free, but if you are staying at the five-star Minerva Hotel in the center of Rome, it costs you 30 Euros a day. So, if I pay $30 for my room, I get wireless for free, but if I want to pay $600 a night for a room, I have to pay for wireless. Go figure.

The other complaint that ranked up there was the accessibility of electrical outlets. Hotels simply have not caught on to the fact that we all need to charge our phones at night. Sometimes it can take 10 minutes to find the outlet you need and most of the time I end up unplugging a lamp so that I can put my phone charger in. No problem at the Red Roof Inn incidentally.

A personal pet peeve of mine is the system of lighting which is very specifically a challenge in places like Spain and Italy. You press a switch and a light goes on that you had no idea would turn on but the light that you do want on is on a mystery switch somewhere that is hard to find. One time, a mate of mine staying at a hotel in Spain got so tired of looking for the light switch to turn off the lights that he simply pulled the card out that controlled the main circuit for the room. Incidentally, that is another pet peeve of mine. Why don’t American hotels have an energy saver switch? In other words, your room card controls a main circuit that turns the lights on and off. It should be standard fare.

In addition, what is the story of the hair dryer? They pop up in the most mysterious places but never in the place that you want. Sometimes they are in the closet with the ironing board and sometimes they are in some drawer that you would never guess. Also, what about the coat hangers? Do they really think I am going to steal them? Do they really not trust me? The answer is no which is why we have to deal most of the time with the permanently attached coat hangers. Red Roof Inn does not have those. Why do hotels still have alarm clocks by the bed? I have never figured out how to work them and if you ever try then there is a good chance you will miss your flight because you screwed up or you will be awakened by 4 AM by a music station you have never heard of. Now we have phones for that…after all we do not use them to make phone calls anymore.

Lastly, a piece of advice. The lines at the front desk for checkout are always too long. So I just discreetly leave and wait for my credit card bill to show up. How do I let the cleaning lady know that I am gone? I leave the door open. It always works. If somebody needs to use my room for a while before the drop-dead checkout time…good for them.