The Hotel Eclat Beijing:  A Chic Luxury Hotel With an Artsy Vibe

The Hotel Eclat Beijing: A Chic Luxury Hotel With an Artsy Vibe

Eccentric luxury sounds like a contradiction in terms and generally not something you want in a hotel. The Hotel Eclat Beijing is the exception though. It’s the brainchild of a Hong Kong tycoon who wants to bring contemporary art out of collector’s confines and put it in public spaces. Nice public spaces though. The Hotel Eclat Beijing is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels brand which has long been a favourite of ours for great luxury hotels that have style and panache. The Eclat Beijing delivers on all of those accounts and with a soupçon of irreverence.

The elegant furnishings of the hotel lobby signal early on that this hotel pays attention to design.

The elegant furnishings of the hotel lobby signal early on that this hotel pays attention to design.

First Impressions

I was a little bemused when we pulled up in front of a giant glass and steel encased mall with modern sculpture strewn across the front garden.  Was this a pit stop? We were supposed to be going to the Hotel Eclat Beijing. When the driver pulled out the bags, we realised we were at the hotel!

The giant glass and steel pyramid entrance to the Parkview Green Mall.

The giant glass and steel pyramid entrance to the Parkview Green Mall.

Once you enter the mall, the entrance to the Eclat Beijing is off to the side. There’s a reception desk and a long lobby filled with more contemporary art. A glass escalator whisks you up to your key-coded floor.

The glass elevator had a red traditional couch. We loved the juxtaposition of old and new.

Style

The Hotel Eclat Beijing is definitely meant for lovers of modern art AND luxury. There are nods to traditional Chinese imagery (such as the red lanterns above the room doors) mixed with modern elan.

Sculpture of a man breaking through a wall.

Sculpture of a man breaking through a wall. What can it mean??

For example, both of our rooms’ terraces had variations of a barfing Buddha as well as giant upholstered leather sofas that would not be out of place in an English  country house library.

What’s the story with the barfing Buddha?

What’s the story with the barfing Buddha? Maybe a bit avant-garde for us.

Ambience

The rooms are spacious, the ambience discreet and the staff attentive. In some views, I felt like I was in a gilded jewellery box.

I actually felt like I was in an episode of the Truman Show where I was living in an enclosed bubble. We were separated from the noise, pollution and OTT-ness of Beijing by the glass dome which covered the mall.

The view of Beijing from the Hotel Eclat.

The view of Beijing from the Hotel Eclat.

I’ve heard people have complained that the glass dome was filmy.. Hello??? This is Beijing. The crazy pollution of the city is just outside that dome and the glass is never going to be clear.

The mall was perfectly temperature controlled so we could sit out in our terraces and enjoy being outside without actually being outside. While inside our little dome, we did not have the itchy eyes and a rasping throat that plagued us when we were out and about in Beijing.

The Good

I never thought I’d enjoy staying at a mall but I did! It also felt totally Chinese – an homage to conspicuous consumption and an artificial reality constructed to make everything seem pleasant.

Parkview Green Mall

Parkview Green Mall in Beijing is one of the best high-end malls in Beijing. It also has modern art scattered throughout.  The stores are a blend of Chinese and Western brands. We saw Gap, Build-A-Bear, Van Cleef and Arpels and Stella McCartney which is a fairly odd combination in my opinion.

Being located in an upscale mall has its advantages in terms of foodie options. It’s got a Starbucks, and a branch of a couple of our favourite Chinese restaurants (Dadong for Crispy Duck and Din Tai Fung for dumplings. There’s a whole slew of options including pizzerias, cafes and Japanese restaurants. Something for everyone, then.

A multi-coloured Buddha is one of the modern art pieces on show.

A multi-coloured Buddha is one of the modern art pieces on show.

The Location

Hotel Eclat Beijing is located in an upscale area of Beijing near the Embassies. It is located bout 20 kilometres away from the Beijing international airport. The hotel is in between the central business district which has the tourist sightseeing places. and the trendy area of Sanlitun. There is a subway nearby should you chose to avail yourself of that mode of transportation.

Family-Friendly

We did see other children around but the hallways and common spaces were quiet. Maybe you wouldn’t want small children around all of the artwork, but my kids got a kick out of it. Besides, its clear that everything at this hotel has a price tag. I’m sure if your kid breaks something, they will be expected to pay for it.

The television had mostly Chinese channels with a few English-channels like HBO and Cinemax. The room though had an Blu Ray player with a disc full of children’s favourites.

A disc with English language movies to keep the kids happy.

A disc with English language movies to keep the kids happy.

There seems to be candy everywhere – from the lobby to the Afternoon tea. It may be a hipster thing but it made my kids very happy.

We had asked for connecting rooms so that our children could be next door. The initial rooms they gave us were not connecting. The hotel did rectify this situation as soon as they had a room free next door to the one in which we were staying.

The George Bar

You get a voucher for a free drink at the George Bar in the lobby when you check in. My husband took my son down to the bar to oversee the math homework he had been assigned from school. In return, he took my free drink voucher which  I thought was a fair trade.

The French colonial glamour of the Georg Bar.

The French colonial glamour of the Georg Bar.

Although the atmosphere was lively, the bar was not too noisy with attentive staff. I loved the vintage French decor – a nod to the glamour and decadence of French colonial rule further south in Asia.

The Great

We thought our rooms with the connecting terraces were fabulous. I could totally see myself having an apartment in New York with a similar set up. It gave us enough privacy but also gave the children assurance we were nearby. We had temperature and pollution-controlled outside space to enjoy as well.

The Rooms

We loved our rooms which had connecting terraces. The bathrooms were large with separate soaking tubs and power showers. My kids were super-impressed with the Japanese style deluxe toilets which was operated with remote controls. In fact, the lid opened and closed with a motion sensor. The beds were comfy and we slept like babies.

We had a comfortable queen bed in our room and twin beds in the children’s room.

This hotel is the first one which had a massage chair in each room. I am a huge fan of massage chairs and kept ours pretty busy sorting out the knots in my back from travelling and carrying bags.

Why don’t more hotels have massage chairs?

Why don’t more hotels have massage chairs? Travelling is the worst thing for my back

My kids absolutely loved the toy-gun activated bedside lamp.

My kids LOVED this lamp which turned on when you pointed the gun at it.

As with everything else in the room, the lamp was for sale. A price list handily appears on the television screen as does the room service menu.

The television handily lists all the things you can buy from the hotel

The television handily lists all the things you can buy from the hotel, including the bath mat. Who buys a bath mat?

The Terraces

The terraces were charming. Plenty of room to sit and relax in your own hideaway. They had couches, lights and giant tables perfectly set up for outdoor living. It reminded me of many New York City apartment terraces.

One of the terraces in our hotel room at the Hotel Eclat Beijing

One of the terraces in our hotel room at the Hotel Eclat Beijing.

If you pay more than we did, you can get one of the 20 rooms with terraces which have individual pools.

Room Service

We were feeling so pampered, we opted to have room service on our terrace at the Hotel Eclat Beijing. It’s all done through the iPad in the room, but ironically the hotel staff had to call you to confirm a few things. For exam, my daughter wanted pasta but they called to confirm the type.

The food was excellent, the service prompt and we had a lovely relaxing time hanging out as a family in the terrace.

The room service dinner menu had a good variety of food options. We were all able to have a variety of items. I was craving something spicy which I got in the form of  Laksa soup. My daughter ordered pasta which is her go-to anywhere. My husband and son got comfort food for themselves, too – steak and ribs. The burgers and steak was Wagyu beef so it was a prime cut with matching prices.

Could Be Better

I felt I was nitpicking when i tried to find things I disliked about the Eclat Beijing. It’s a bit too trendy – so there may be trends you dislike such as for example, the lack of privacy in bathrooms.  The afternoon tea and the gym were a bit lame. And, if you find good WiFi in Beijing that’s considered a bonus. Definitely don’t expect it.

Trends I Dislike

I honestly really dislike bathrooms that allow you to see into them. On the plus side, there are window dimmers so you can have privacy. No matter how much you love someone you don’t want to watch them brush and floss their teeth.

You can dim the window from the bathroom into the bedroom.

You can dim the window from the bathroom into the bedroom.

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea is served to hotel guests. We were a little surprised to find that this meant a huge assortment of candy and some cakes. Needless to say the kids were thrilled. My husband and I were feeling peckish and expecting an English-style afternoon tea though with those little finger sandwiches.

There was free candy on tap to the delight of my children.

There was free candy on tap to the delight of my children.

Gym

The gym is a small room overlooking the mall which has just enough equipment to be adequate.

The small hotel gym overlooks the mall.

The small hotel gym overlooks the mall.

Wifi

The Wifi was honestly as terrible as in the rest of Beijing. Being in a luxury hotel is no guarantee of having good WiFi. Your best bet is to find the nearest Apple store and hang out fo awhile if you want to catchup on the outside world.

Our Opinion

You can stay in Hotel Eclat Beijing and be in your own little world. Is that a good thing? It depends on your opinion of Beijing.

For the latest rates for Hotel Eclat Beijing, here are a selection of travel booking sites:

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You can read other reviews of the Hotel Eclat on TripAdvisor which seem to like this boutique hotel in Beijing as much as I do. 

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Where To Stay in Osaka Japan: A Room With A View at the Marriott Miyako Hotel For Modern Luxury

Where To Stay in Osaka Japan: A Room With A View at the Marriott Miyako Hotel For Modern Luxury

When I was in Japan on tour in 2010, I felt like I was 30 years into the future. I love technology and they are so advanced with their phones, computers, everything.

– Soulja Boy

When we were searching for where to stay in Osaka Japan, we were not short on options. We were searching for cool and modern Japan  as well as Osaka accommodation for families with a bit of style and luxury. There would be plenty of traditional places to stay elsewhere on our 2 week trip in Japan. Thanks to being the second biggest city in Japan, you will have your pick of places to stay in Osaka, including many  5 star hotels from the major hotel brands. We specifically wanted an Osaka hotel near a JR station because we were using our stay in Osaka as a base to explore other places in Japan. Our choice of the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel also made my architecture-obsessed son happy because it is located in the tallest building in Japan. So would we say the Marrott Miyako is a recommended hotels in Osaka including for families? Read on and find out.

First Impressions of the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel

My first impression of the Marriott Miyako Hotel was that it reminded me of the skyscraper hotel in the 2003 Lost in Translation movie with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johanssen. It’s striking, glossy and glamourous. The impeccably groomed receptionists are lined behind glossy long white lacquered tables. The lights of Osaka glimmer in the double-height windows. You definitely feel the sense of being small in a big city.

The reception area of the Osaka Marriott Miyako

The reception area of the Osaka Marriott Miyako

The service though added warmth to this glossy white space. Everything was organised and our room keys given to us in a jiffy. A smiling receptionist took us to our room on the 51st floor. My son was delighted – he adores skyscrapers and we had never stayed on a floor this high before. At check-in you get some freebies for staying in the tallest building in Japan, such as a discount coupon to use at the department store in the building and free passes to the observatory in the tower.

The view from the Marriott Miyako Hotel at sunset

The view from our room at the Marriott Miyako Hotel at sunset.

Family Accommodation in an Osaka 5 Star Hotel

We had a double bedded room (with queen beds) which was a good size in terms of Osaka accommodation for families.  The fancy toilet was a separate room from the  bathroom sink, bathtub and shower area.  Good thing because my kids were completely fascinated with the toilet controls and spent inordinate amounts of time in there.

Our fabulous bathroom at the Osaka Marriott Miyako hotel.

Our fabulous bathroom at the Osaka Marriott Miyako hotel.

I loved the bathroom because it is in a style usually found in high-end Japanese design. The bathtub is in a separate glass enclosure with the walk-in shower. You have all the benefits of a large walk-in shower without the water splashing everywhere.

There is a seating area, a workspace area and the usual amenities of bathrobes, a safe and mini fridge. What was extra and really nice were the Japanese pyjamas. Not only were they super comfortable but it meant that we could save our own pyjamas for later in the trip.

Style at this Osaka 5 Star Hotel

The Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel is glossy and modern. The lobby on the 38th floor is a cavernous open-plan space with double height ceilings and windows. The area is slightly subdivided with a separate gift shop and restaurant area. The middle of the floor though are bar areas. A musician plays in the evenings which is nice if you want to chill out with a drink.

One of the bar areas in the lobby

One of the bar areas in the lobby

The rooms are comfortable and cozy in feel though. It’s got a minimal of clutter which I appreciate. We bring our own clutter to hotel rooms!

There were definitely elements of Japanese traditional style at this hotel. For example, I loved this piece of pottery which incorporates the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi (the idea that imperfect is perfect). My daughter wasn’t buying it though. She thought maybe the potter had broken it and was trying to cover it up. Such cynicism.

Wabi Sabi (Imperfectly perfect) pottery at the Osaka Marriott Miyako

Wabi Sabi (Imperfectly perfect) pottery at the Osaka Marriott Miyako

Ambience of the Tallest Building in Japan

The ambience of the tallest building in Japan is definitely straight out of Lost in Translation. Giant windows overlook Osaka as it sprawls into the horizon. Fifty floors up, the people and trains below don’t seem quite real. Little toys scampering around.

Tub chairs in the lounge which overlook the Osaka city skyline

Tub chairs in the lounge which overlook the Osaka city skyline

By the way, how can this hotel be located in the tallest building in Japan? With a skyscraper geek in our family, he was only happy to educate us.

Well, technically the Tokyo SkyTree is taller but it is deemed the tallest structure in Japan. Most of the Tokyo SkyTree is unoccupied and serves as a broadcasting tower for the Tokyo metropolitan area. It’s as famous a Japanese sightseeing destination as the much smaller Eiffel Tower knock-off, the Tokyo Tower.

That leaves the Abeno Harukas building in which the Marriott Miyako Osaka is housed as the tallest building in Japan. It has 6o floors which are separated by function:

  •  the 2nd to the 14th floor is the main branch of the Kintetsu Department Store and the largest department store in Japan;
  • the 15th to the 37t floor is office space
  • the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel occupies the 38th to the 55th floor
  • the top floors have an observation deck and restaurants
No matter how slick, of course the Abeno Harukas building had a kawaii mascot

No matter how slick, of course the Abeno Harukas building had a kawaii mascot because … Japan.

By the way, we used our free tickets to the observatory in the Abeno Harukas building but can truthfully say the view from our room was just as good!

The view from our Osaka Marriott Miyako Osaka at night

The view from our Osaka Marriott Miyako Osaka at night

The Good Bits of the Marriott Hotel in Tennoji

What were we looking for when we were choosing where to stay in Osaka? A Convenient Osaka accommodation for families in a 5 star hotel with a bit of style.

There are plenty of cozy seating spaces in the open plan lounge area

There are plenty of cozy seating spaces in the open plan lounge area

Convenient Location

In terms of convenience, we really wanted an Osaka hotel near a JR station. I love Osaka for its food and fun but we knew we would be using Osaka as a base for a few days to explore other places in the region. This Osaka 5 star hotel is wonderfully located above a major transportation hub. At the end of a long day, we could drag our weary bodies straight upstairs to bed from the train station downstairs.

Amenities on Your Doorstep

Having the Kintetsu department store downstairs meant that we had quite a few options for breakfast and snacks. They have a GREAT food hall which we loved. Did I mention that my children are completely addicted to Japanese candy and sweets?

The giant train station complex meant there was lots of good shopping options, for both food and other supplies we needed..

There  is a separate convenience store which is pretty upscale for the people who work in the offices  from which we got dinner once. Of course you will need to take multiple elevators to get to it from the Marriott Miyako hotel.

The Marriott Branding

The Osaka Marriott Miyako is part of the Marriott brand and so part of the Starwood Group. You know how much I love the Starwood Group for both great hotels, excellent service and a fabulous rewards program.

We didn’t partake but this hotel does do afternoon tea.

We didn’t partake but this hotel does do afternoon tea. I did wonder what New York Breakfast tasted like – caffeine, bagels and lox?

The Great Bits of the Marriott Miyako Hotel in Osaka

What would I consider some of the extra add-ons that go above and beyond in terms of staying in an Osaka 5 star hotel?

Exceptional Service in a Medical Crises

We were very grateful to the Marriott Osaka Miyako Hotel manager for finding us an English-speaking doctor in the middle of the night. One night our son felt ill  because his ear hurt. Although he has had ear infections before, they have never occurred while we were away from home.

The concierge desk of the Osaka Marriott Miyako hotel.

The concierge desk of the Osaka Marriott Miyako hotel. I really had the impulse to peel that ‘paper’ off the wall every time I saw it.

My husband and I were in a bit of a panic about finding an A&E in country where we didn’t speak the language. My husband’s first reaction was to suggest that my son was just being dramatic and he could just power through the pain. I was not happy with that decision as the whimpering got progressively worse..

The manager at the hotel sorted everything out for us in an hour after our phone call to him.  He put  my husband and son in a hotel taxi to a hospital together with a note to the hospital explaining the circumstances in Japanese. My son was seen by an English-speaking doctor who prescribed antibiotics for a definite ear infection. My son felt better the next day  and I felt immense superiority in being right.

Excellent Location

I was looking for a good Osaka hotel near a JR station. The Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel is actually located above the massive JR Tennoji station as well as Osaka Obenabashi station for the private Kintetsu railroad.

This simplified map shows where Tennoji is in relation to the Osaka loop line (photo credit: JR Rail)

This simplified map shows where Tennoji is in relation to the Osaka loop line
(photo credit: JR Rail)

Tennoji JR station is one of the main stations in Osaka and is served by several JR and Osaka subway lines.

  • With your JR pass you can go directly from Kansai  International Airport to Tennoji JR station in half hour  on the Haruka Express or 45 minutes by the Kansai Airport Rapid Service.
  • We used the Kintetsu train from Obenabashi directly to Mount Yoshino.
  • You can go directly from Obenabashi to Mount Koya, a UNESCO world heritage site and one of Japan’s holiest places.
  • You can take the JR Yamatoji  line from Tennoji Station directly to Nara in less than an hour depending on what type of train you take.

On the JR Osaka loop line, you can use your JR pass to get around large parts of Osaka without paying extra for the Osaka subway. For example, on the loop line you can get to Osaka station and then change for a train to Himeji.

You really are spoiled for choices for transport links around and out of Osaka.

What Left Us Underwhelmed

In such a tall building, the elevator banks are a bit confusing to negotiate. It took us a while to figure them out, such as the floor we needed to get off to go directly to the JR station. The elevators themselves are speedy but different sets of elevators serve different floors.

We ordered room service once. For a simple meal of Onigiri (Japanese rice rolls) and Miso Soup, it took close to 45 minutes to deliver.Maybe they had issues navigating all those elevators too!  It’s the sort of thing you can get in a Japanese convenience store much cheaper and much faster.

On that issue of laundry, the costs are sky high. We thought very briefly about sending some items for cleaning but balked when the cost of laundry for a pair of socks came out to about $10. Instead, we just went out and bought 3 pairs of new socks for $10.

Plenty of champagne to pop as you would expect of an Osaka 5 star hotel.

Plenty of champagne to pop as you would expect of an Osaka 5 star hotel.

Our Opinion of the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel

I can definitely say the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel is our recommended hotel in Osaka, and not just because the manager got us out of a tight spot. We loved the location, the convenience and the uber-cool feel of it. Our other hotels in Japan were more traditional in feel which is what you would want in the historic areas of Kyoto and Kanazawa. In the brash neon glam of Osaka, the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel perfectly captures the modern city glamour of Japan.

Check out the great TripAdvisor reviews that the Osaka Marriott Miyako hotel received from other guests.

Compare hotel rates for this hotel on your booking engine of choice:

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Sparkling chandeliers inside and sparkling city lights outside

Sparkling chandeliers inside and sparkling city lights outside

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The Saunton Sands Hotel, A Fabulous Family Hotel in North Devon

The Saunton Sands Hotel, A Fabulous Family Hotel in North Devon

Although my husband grew up in Devon, he did not know the North Devon coast very well. I had heard the surfing culture was strong and of course there was the lure of Exmoor national park. In terms of luxury hotels in North Devon, we were immediately drawn to the Saunton Sands Hotel for its location by the sea, proximity to gorgeous Saunton Sands beach and family-friendly reputation. All of these things were as advertised! We had a fabulous weekend break in the UK and the weather even cooperated for the most part.

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Surfing lessons at Saunton Beach for children

Saunton Sands Hotel is a four-star Devon hotel by the sea. The hotel is part of the family-owned chain of Brend Hotels which own 11 hotels in Devon and Cornwall.

Saunton Sands Beach

Saunton Sands Beach is a glorious swathe of white sand beach with waves perfect for playing, surfing and boogie boarding. The beach has as small cafe which serves food as well as a small store with souvenirs and necessities you may have forgotten. There are sand-friendly wheelchairs available for the use of less-abled visitors.

We saw surfers at Saunton Sands beach from the early morning until after sunset. These surfers were hardcore! You can arrange lessons with the schools on the beach through Saunton Sands Hotel. We saw many hotel guests with their surfing gear ready for a day at the beach.

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A sign showing the path from the hotel to the beach

You should note that Saunton Sands beach is a dog-friendly Devon beach all-year round. Very popular with dog owners, my kids were in their element with all the adorable dogs playing in the sand and water. I found the dogs well-behaved.  The Saunton Sands Hotel though does not allow dogs to stay.

The Saunton Sands Hotel Review

Saunton Sands Hotel is that rare hotel that does everything right – not only were the rooms great, the hotel has an excellent location and load of amenities. It’s a renovated Art Deco hotel in Devon which really looked like it could have come straight out of an Agatha Christie novel.

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The beautiful Art Deco hotel was built in the 1930’s.

The Hotel Room

We had an adjoining family room which had a layout that we appreciated. There was a queen bed leading to a hallway with a bathroom and another bedroom with twin beds. Both bedrooms had doors. The hallway had a generous closet so that we could have the clothes near the bathroom.

Many other family rooms in hotels we have stayed at prefer a duplex family room layout. Usually the adults’ room is upstairs and doorless. The kids sleep in the studio part downstairs which is usually where the bathroom is located. If you want to check in on the kids at night or use the toilet, you have to sneak downstairs quietly.

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Although the hotel building is art deco, the decor itself is fairly neutral with only the occasional art deco touch.

The rooms themselves are a good size with the usual seating area and tea and coffee facilities. There is a small refrigerator if you wanted to store anything. My kids loved the bluetooth speaker for their music.

I loved that there were flat screen televisions in both rooms so that I didn’t have to watch what they were watching. I could even close the bedroom door so that I didn’t have to hear them arguing on what they were going to watch!

We found the beds very comfortable.  I’m a stickler for mattresses and even I was impressed. There were bathrobes provided for the adults but not the kids (such a hard life!).

Saunton Sands Hotel Amenities

We really enjoyed that the hotel had so many amenities. With so much to do to keep them entertained, my kids didn’t even bother with their iPads for the whole weekend. I actually managed to catch up with some reading on my kindle with the great (free) wifi.

The pools

Beach hotels in Devon with a pool are a luxury, especially hotels with both an indoor and an outdoor pool. The indoor pool is a Godsend especially when its raining outside and the kids need to let off steam.  One end of the indoor pool has a separated shallow kiddie pool which is perfect for babies and toddlers.

Along one end of the pool, there is a small sauna and a ping pong table.  We spent a few hours lazing by the pool mixed in with some competitive ping pong.

The Saunton Sands Hotel Spa

Despite my love of spas, I did not have a chance to use the Saunton Sands Hotel Spa. There was so much to do at the hotel and the area, I decided I would rather hang out with the family then indulge in some spa time. Yes, I am a saint. And you know those activities have to be fun!

Other Amenities

Saunton Sands Hotel has a small gym and and a room with a large snooker table. My husband loves snooker and he’s been teaching our kids to play. My daughter has taken to it with the enthusiasm of a true pool shark.

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The making of a snooker shark (even though she needs a stool to reach the table)

Next to the large lawned area overlooking the beach, there is a small playground and a putting green.

Although it look really cute, Saunton Sands hotel has a children’s creche which my kids did not use. The hotel offers 2 hours free supervised care for children for under 8’s.

The path down to the beach also goes from the front of the hotel. It is wheelchair friendly (and Saunton Sands beach has sand-accessible wheelchairs for disabled guests).

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Easy access to the beach is a big plus point.

Saunton Sands Weddings

The hotel is a popular wedding venue and we ogled a charming Saunton Sands wedding on the Saturday. The wedding party went down to the beach for photos and the reception was in the ballroom adjacent to the hotel lounge.

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My daughter is at that age where she loves all things wedding for their glam romantic factor.

Unlike other hotels we’ve stayed in where there was a wedding, we were not disturbed by the wedding celebration. The music did not filter up to the rooms and the lounge/bar areas were not overtaken by wedding guests. In addition, the hotel kitchen seemed perfectly capable of running the food at the wedding reception without inconveniencing or delaying dinner guests.

Saunton Sands Food and Drink

The restaurants and bar are along the beachfront side of the hotel. We did see people enjoying drinks on the terrace but it really was too chilly for a meal outside.

The Bar

After (barely) winning their snooker match, my husband treated my daughter to a Shirley Temple at the bar area. There are comfy couches where you can sit and hang out. The non-alcoholic drinks were a big hit with my kids. We liked having lounge areas where we could sit which wasn’t in the hotel room.

Saunton Sands Restaurant

The restaurant serves a large buffet style breakfast with both cold and hot options. It has the traditional English breakfast options as well as yogurts, fruits and heart-healthier options.

In the evening, the restaurant menu for dinner has a good selection of surf and turf which caters to the tastes of the multi-generational guests. You have old British favourites like fish and chips as well as freshly caught fish and seafood and a selection of steaks. I thought the Lundy lobster bisque with freshly caught lobster on toast was divine.

The fine dining aspect is nice without being snooty. The ingredients are locally sourced and the food excellent.

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The lobster bisque made with local Lundy lobster was my favourite dish.

If you have younger children, the Saunton Sands restaurant does a children’s dinner in the late afternoon until 6:30.  Our children ate dinner with us and chose off the regular Saunton Sands restaurant menu options. My son had fish and chips and my daughter ate macaroni and cheese.

Why The Saunton Sands Hotel Devon?

For family-friendly weekend breaks in the UK all year round, or a longer holiday in North Devon, the Saunton Sands Hotel is a fabulous  hotel which will provide an enjoyable escape for everyone in the family, no matter the age.  A couple of things to note:

  • This hotel is great for the less-abled members of your family. Not only is the hotel accessible for the less mobile, so is Saunton Sands beach. I would definitely add Saunton Sands hotel to my list of luxury hotels with disabled facilities in Europe (even if you argue that Britain isn’t part of Europe despite its geographical location). This hotel is a wonderful example of the great British seaside holiday of yore.
The Saunton Sands Hotel, A Fabulous Family Hotel in North Devon | Saunton Sands accommodation | Saunton Sands Devon | luxury hotels North Devon |  Devon Hotels by the Sea

Isn’t the view of the bay glorious? photo credit: Saunton Sands Hotel

  • Saunton Sands is a really good base for a multi-generational holiday in terms of North Devon accommodation. I spoke to one family group that was celebrating the grandparents’ golden wedding anniversary. There are so many activities in the area that everyone will find something to enjoy. Next door to the Saunton Sands Hotel, for example, is the Saunton Sands public golf course. Teenagers and sporty types will enjoy the great surfing at Saunton beach. Children will love playing at the beach.
The Saunton Sands Hotel, A Fabulous Family Hotel in North Devon | Saunton Sands accommodation | Saunton Sands Devon | luxury hotels North Devon |  Devon Hotels by the Sea

Colorful beach huts at Saunton Sands Beach

  • Saunton Sands Hotel is located near many of the fun things to do in North Devon.  The Gnome Reserve (which my children loved) was a 45 minute drive from the hotel. In nearby Appledore, on the other side of the bay,  there was a book festival on the weekend we visited. Another great beach by Appledore is Westward Ho! which has a sheltered bay good for beginner surfers. For sheer cutesy charm, the cobble stone streets of the nearby town of Clovelly are hard to beat. Nearby Ilfracombe has boutiques, art galleries and a giant statue in the harbor by British artist, Damien Hirst.
The Saunton Sands Hotel, A Fabulous Family Hotel in North Devon | Saunton Sands accommodation | Saunton Sands Devon | luxury hotels North Devon |  Devon Hotels by the Sea

Westward Ho! has an even bigger sand beach than Saunton Beach.

Want a second opinion on the Saunton Sands Hotel Devon? The reviews for Saunton Sands Hotel on TripAdvisor are great as well.

My stay was courtesy of the Saunton Sands Hotel. All words and opinions are my own. This site also generates income via partnerships with carefully-curated travel and lifestyle brands and/or purchases made through links to them. More information may be found on our Disclosure Policy.

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The Madonna Inn in Central California Revels in its Quirkiness

The Madonna Inn in Central California Revels in its Quirkiness

“What would you recommend for lunch?”

“You mean, here?” The waiter responded as if startled by the question. “To eat?”

Considering I was sitting in a booth in his restaurant at lunchtime, it was my turn to be bemused.

After a pause, he said, “The breakfast here is really good.”

I did not find his opinion very helpful since I was at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo at lunchtime. Maybe he was feeling stroppy because he was not wearing lederhosen unlike the waitresses who were outfitted in drindl dresses.

visit Madonna Inn in san luis obispo

Visiting the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obisbo which is quirky and fun for the whole family

I was at the Madonna Inn because so many people have Inn on their bucket list that I thought I really have to see it.   So my husband and I went with another couple on a mini road trip from Santa Barbara where we were staying.  We were so entranced by the experience that we took our children there for a meal when we visited the area again.  Clearly, the dizzy waiter was part of the places’ oddball charm and did not affect our opinion of the place.

Boy is it odd. My experience with the waiter was just the beginning. Of course, the hot pink Mock Tudor exterior of the building was a dead giveaway that we were entering a different world.

The Madonna Inn San Luis Obispo

Despite the concerns over ordering, our lunch was excellent. I had a tuna melt sandwich in sourdough bread which was crispy and fresh. My husband’s pastrami on rye smelled equally delicious.

The Madonna Inn San Luis Obispo

On our first trip, we didn’t try any of the cakes (available for take out) but they looked suitably over the top as well.  Despite my love of cakes, I felt these looked sugary enough to send non-diabetics into a coma.

Bakery at The Madonna Inn
When we went with our children, there was no way my kids were passing up on dessert.  We had a selection of sundaes, cakes and pies.  After the taste-testing, we agreed that the carrot cake was superb.

Cake at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo

clockwise from top left: carrot cake, cherry pie, lemon cream cake and a strawberry sundae

We sat in the bar area which was red leather booths with time-weathered copper-topped tables.  The walls were decorated with a drawings that would not be out of place in The Museum of Bad Art.  There was lots of Pepto-Bismol pink everywhere.  Even the salt shaker held candy floss pink salt.

The Madonna Inn San Luis Obispo
The women’s room was a riot of color too. The men’s room is famous for its fixtures and fittings. We saw a group of women exiting the men’s room. They had gone in en masse to check it out.

The Madonna Inn San Luis Obispo
This place definitely believes too much is not enough. The Inn, opened in 1958, is an homage to vintage decor.  Lots of vintage decor, in one place, with sparkle thrown in for good measure. Sort of like if Vegas went vintage.

The Madonna Inn San Luis Obispo
The restaurant has a party room in full scale hot pink with mirrors and fake flowers. It’s the sort of place Barbie would host her wedding reception. There’s lots of pink, red, flowers, sparkle and mirrors.

the madonna inn in san luis obispo

cuteness overload! welcoming piglets, and my daughter deciding to take a bow at her imaginary wedding reception

Although my daughter thought it was very cool, she admitted that if she were five years old, she’d have thought she had died and gone to heaven.

The Madonna Inn San Luis Obispo
The Madonna Inn itself is further up the hill. It is famous for having 110 rooms each with a different theme. Sadly my husband was done with kitsch and I couldn’t convince him to take a look. Beer tasting in San Luis Obispo took priority over seeing the fuchsia-coloured tennis courts.

The Madonna Inn San Luis Obispo

Some postcards of the individual Inn rooms.

You can check out the individual rooms online before you book.  All the rooms are pictured and have associated whimsical names to match their look.  I liked the Yahoo room (the bed is a golden carriage on wheels), the San Francisco (red/gold bordello theme), Oriental Fantasy (you can guess) and Krazy Dazy (70’s psychedelic).  It’s the sort of hotel that you’d want to hop between rooms if you are staying more than one night.

Visiting the Madonna Inn:

The Madonna Inn is considered a landmark resort in Central California. It is located in the outskirts of San Luis Obispo at 100 Madonna Road.  The Inn has a spa, wine tasting room and boutique as well as the restaurant facilities.

Its all about ME

Its all about ME

I had a chance to tour one of London’s newest hip designer hotels, the 5 star ME London, as part of the Meet the Blogger Conference a couple of months ago.
photo: ME London

photo: ME London

The hotel was designed in its entirety by Foster + Partners (of Lord Norman Foster fame) and is sleek and beautiful.  This practice is unusual in the first instance.   Usually, the interior design is handed over to designers and not left with the architects.  You can easily tell the interior was done by people with an architectural background  – it’s all geometric lines and hard surfaces.  The hotel itself is on a triangular site which lends itself to angular design.  There is lots of gleaming metal everywhere, such as in the large rods separating spaces in the restaurant.  It’s all very dark and moody with giant groups of flowers everywhere as a softening effect.
rods
lighting
restaurant
The hotel is located in a fairly convenient location (the Strand) near the City and Covent Garden.  Next door is the Marconi building, the former home of the BBC from which they first broadcast radio in 1922.  You are reminded of this history with the Marconi Lounge located near the entry to the hotel. The ME design is very inward looking — all the focal points are inward.  For example, the hotel check-in is on the first floor in a large pyramid-shaped room with no windows except a great rooftop light soaring high above.
skylight
I felt like Alice in Wonderland because the designers have played with scale.  The seating area comprises of a long organic-shaped couch and a giant stone book.  Very Alice.
couchandbook
There is little natural daylight in the corridors and rooms.  Granted London doesn’t have much sunshine, and the idea must’ve been to try and embellish on that theme. In addition, the interior hallways are decorated with dark materials which leads to an intimate, cocooned feel.   Brilliant for nighttime, but I expect for me an extended stay at this hotel would lead to seasonal affective disorder.  If it weren’t for the stunning rooftop view of London, you would be hard pressed to say which city you were staying in.
flowers
The rooms are likewise sleek and modern with a monochrome colour scheme.  The windows in the rooms are a triangular projection onto the street.  It’s a bit disorienting to stand on them because you feel you are hanging over the street below.
room
There is a 2 story penthouse as well which sadly I didn’t get to see.  The penthouse sounds spectacular with 360 degree views of London from a glass cupola which is the living room space.  The closest I came was the Radio Rooftop Bar which also has amazing views over London.  The Bar terrace has lounge seating and seems perfect for a drink on a balmy summer night.
photo:  Telegraph

photo: Telegraph

For you pet lovers, dogs are allowed to stay in the rooms and a range of doggie treats are available in the mini bar.
dog bone

Overall I thought the hotel was cool.  I couldn’t stay there very long though without feeling claustrophobic.  I’m just not a clubber at heart.  Also, I like hotels with big windows because I actually think city life is beautiful in its own right, especially at night.
bar
What do you think?  Do you think hotels should emulate clubs?