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Monthly Archives: March 2014

Le Meridien or The Le Meridien

This is a stupid question, but it’s bugged me each time I’ve written about Starwood’s Le Meridien brand.  First off, Le Meridien joined the Starwood Family in 2005.  It started in 1972 as a home away from home for the passengers (assuming crew too) of Air France.  The term meridien (or meridian in English) means a circle of constant longitude passing through a given place on the Earth’s surface.

So here’s my question, when discussing the hotel, is calling it “the Le Meridien” duplicative?  The The Meridien?  I just think it sounds odd, when writing in English, not to use the English language article “The” + the French name “Le Meridien”.  Take a look at these two sentences and see which one sounds better:

  1. I stayed at the Le Meridien last night.
  2. I stayed at Le Meridien last night.

To me #1 sounds much better. What do you think? Have you ever thought about this?  Do I have to much time on my hands?

Le Meridien Mexico City

We decided that the Le Meridien Mexico City would be our home during our quick stay in the City.  I was pushing for a Starwood Property so I could be guaranteed Platinum Status for 2014 – the next issue was which Starwood Property. MS had stayed at the W previously and he described the area as a bit like the Viagra Triangle (an area in Chicago with touristy mediocre restaurants that are frequented by douchy patrons — you get the idea, every City has one of these areas).  That being said, we decided to give the Le Meridien a try – away from Douch-town.  The rate we got, I thought, was pretty reasonable – with all the taxes and other fees associated with hotel bookings, our nightly rate was $146.

The hotel is located on the Paseo de la Reforma, which is a major boulevard that cuts diagonally across Mexico City.  The building itself looks very modern and sleek from the outside.  The cab driver wasn’t really sure where the hotel was – we gave him the actual address as well as the major cross street, but he was still a little confused.  It took us about 25 minutes to get to the hotel from the airport.  Once we pulled into the porte-cochere two bellmen leapt to help us with out bags.

The lobby is located on the second floor of the hotel while the first floor has a Starbucks and the hotel’s restaurant – C’est La Vie.  As a side note, we only ate at the restaurant once, for breakfast after our first night.  The buffet was slightly better than I was expecting, but I also have horribly low expectations when it comes to hotel breakfast buffets – especially outside of Asia.  The $30 price tag was a bit much for this buffet – that’s or sure.

We were welcomed at the check-in desk with a hearty “Bonjour…buenos dias”.  I introduced myself in French and was met with a blank stare – so I switched to Spanish which was slightly more recognized.  The young woman working reception jumped into English, which served us all well. She then explained the hotel amenities to us, including the restaurant, the business center, the fitness center and she made a special point to talk about the ice machines – an odd thing to focus on.  We were then given keys to our room on the 12th Floor and told that our luggage would join us shortly.

The room was quite spacious – much more so than I was expecting.  We entered into the living area which had a couch and a chair in complimentary colors/style facing the TV and two pseudo dining chairs flanking a cocktail table opposite.

Living Room Suite

Living Room Suite

Living Room Suite

Living Room Suite

Living Room Suite

Living Room Suite

Heading up a couple stairs the bathroom was to the right and the mini bar to the left.  While I never really use the mini bar, this one was nice, as we could use the sink to brush our teeth while one of us was in the bathroom.  Speaking of the bathroom it was in good shape – clean, good water pressure and good temperature control (no surprise freezes or scaldings).  It was a bit tricky getting in or out of the shower — the ledge was quite high, which was more problematic when exiting the shower as the step down was quite steep.  This was exacerbated by the fact that the shower curtain didn’t really keep the water from running all over the tile floor.  We both nearly broke our necks the first morning.  We figured out the idiosyncrasies pretty quickly though (Darwinism at its finest).

Modern Bathroom

Modern Bathroom

Modern Bathroom

Modern Bathroom

The previously mentioned mini bar area had a handful of snacks and a fridge partially full of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. We did not partake – mostly because we are cheap – the idea of a $7 Kitkat Bar is really too much for me.

Mini Bar

Mini Bar

The bedroom was quite comfortable as well. We had a nice king sized bed that was not nearly as comfortable as our Heavenly bed at home, but I (who am a pretty light sleeper) got use to the lumps of this mattress pretty quickly and quite honestly, slept very well after the first couple hours on night one.  The bedroom area also had a TV, which we only turned on when we were getting ready in the morning – and I watched TV5.

Suite Bedroom

Suite Bedroom

Suite Bedroom

Suite Bedroom

My biggest issue, as is my normal complaint, there were no accessible plugs next to the bed.  I had to plug my phone and tablet in across the room.  I like to keep my phone close to me at all times.  Often when I travel, I will use a white noise app, mostly because of a snoring travel companion, but depending on the City and the hotel room itself, I do find it comes in quite handy.  Speaking of noise – our room faced out on to the Paseo de la Reforma but we heard no street noise whatsoever.

Each night when we returned from our daily adventures, we found that our room at been cleaned and then (assuming later in the day) turn down service had been completed.  We were left with sweets on the pillow each night — and boy were they gross.  Basically we were left with the sugar/jellied candies that tasted like something your great aunt would serve when the kids came over.  I appreciate the touch and I’m sure many people like this type of treat, but it really was outside of my wheel house.

I have two problems with this hotel.  The first relates to our departure. Our last night in Mexico City, we returned to the hotel around 22h30 and asked the front desk what time we should get up so we could make our early morning (~07h00) flight home.  They suggested having a cab pick us up at 05h15 – fine.  At 05h15 we are waiting for the taxi, which the hotel had pre-arranged for us — which coincidentally never showed up.  We were put into a separate cab just in the nick of time. The Paseo de la Reforma was being shut down for a massive protest.  Thousands of people were being bussed in from all over the region to protest governmental action or inaction (it wasn’t clear).  The bellman told us that if we hadn’t gotten out when we did, we’d have to walk more than a mile to get around the blockades and find a taxi.  This really frustrated me because this was the first and only time we were told there may be traffic issues (especially at 05h30 on a Sunday morning).  I think what also makes me frustrated was that the hotel had been very good about communicating other irregularities — for example, C’est La Vie (the hotel restaurant) was closed for a private event — we were informed by the bellmen when we walked in and we had a written note from the management team the day before the closure.  I was impressed.  That all went away the day we left.  They delivered more than I expected in some instances but didn’t in others.

The other problem with this hotel really is the location.  Yes, it’s on a major thoroughfare and relatively close to public transit, but there isn’t a whole hell of a lot going on in this area.  I hate to say it, but next time I think I’ll stay over near the W — despite the douchebags and tourists — at least there are bars within walking distance of the hotel.

This was my third Le Meridien stay ever — all in 2013, come to think of it.  In March we stayed at the Le Meridien Angkor and then in June we stayed at Le Parker Meridien.  All in all, I like this Starwood brand.  Each hotel is completely different – different style, different vibe.  Unlike the W, where no matter what City you’re in, you know you’re in a W.

Have you stayed at the Le Meridien Mexico City before?  Did you like the property and the neighborhood?  Next time you are in Mexico City where would you stay?

UA 359 ORD-MEX (United BusinessFirst)

Our trip to Mexico City for the weekend started with pretty short lines at ORD, which allowed us quick access to the United Club. I usually only visit the United Club near B17 at ORD (it’s newer and I can almost always get a nice seat in the back area, near the bar).  We were heading off on vacation and I decided to kick off my vacation with a little United Club Bloody Mary.  Shortly after we arrived at the Club, my phone buzzed – our flight was now 45 minutes delayed.  I had a second Bloody and after 30 minutes decided to head off to the gate.  As we arrive, we found the gate area was completely empty.  Boarding had began on schedule and United failed to update the big boards.

Pre-Vacation United Club Bloody Mary and Banana. Breakfast of champions.

Pre-Vacation United Club Bloody Mary and Banana. Breakfast of champions.

We got on board and were met with one of the rudest flight attendants around.  She was quite frustrated that we weren’t already seated. She was also quite upset that we were attempting to put our bags in the overhead bin. She, very curtly, told us to go take our seats and when I told her we were her last two passengers up front, she got even more frustrated.  I stowed my bag in the only open bin I could find – above row 20 – the first class stew wouldn’t allow me to stow my bag in the closet up front either.  It was clear, I had made this woman’s day utterly miserable – and she did not hide it.  The door closes, we pull back from the gate and immediately go to the penalty box and sit for another 30 minutes.

Carrier: United Airlines (ORD-MEX)
Flight: UA 359
Seat: 3E
Departure: November 27, 2013 – 09h29 / 10h21
Arrival: November 27, 2013 – 13h50 / 13h47
Travel Time: 4  hours 21 minutes / 3 hours and 26 minutes
Flight Miles: 1,699

Once we were airborne the stew was still crabby, but she did make a screwdriver for me.  I’m not a breakfast person in general and airline breakfasts are pretty mediocre – so when it came time for me to order breakfast I just ordered one of the buy on board options from Economy. She told me that I wasn’t allowed to order from a different cabin (that’s the first time I’ve come across that before).  She finally agreed to allow me to have a sandwich when I told her I’d pay for it.  The gentlemen from coach who delivered the sandwich was floored that she was going to make me pay for this meal and he gave her quite the glare as he pushed my credit card away and walked back to coach.

Other than the rough Stew up front and the pre-departure time in the penalty box, the flight was pretty smooth.We even arrived prior to our scheduled time despite leaving nearly an hour late.

We touched down and headed through customs / immigration and were in a taxi heading to the Le Meridien within 20 minutes (we even stopped at the ATM for cash).  This was my first time to Mexico City. My first impression of the airport was that it stunk like no other – actually, it smelled a lot like the Frankfurt Airport – smelling of cigarettes and feces.  Lovely.

Have you ever been put into the penalty box when you departing? How do you handle super cranky stews?

Thanksgiving in Mexico City: Introduction

Following our great trip to Ireland in 2012 for Thanksgiving, we decided to visit someplace a little closer to home and a little warmer. We decided that Mexico City would be fit the bill. I had never been and MS had only been there for work with limited time to explore the City. My main reason for choosing Mexico City was for the food – I love Mexican food. I also wanted to visit the City before the next earthquake, which undoubtedly will destroy many of the historic buildings. Our trip was only five days from departure until return.

Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary - Mexico City

Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary – Mexico City

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be telling you about the following aspects of this trip.

What did you do for Thanksgiving? Did you spend time with family/extended family or did you jump ship and head off with friends to explore on your own?

Asiana’s New Shuttle Service at ORD

Earlier this week, Asiana announced a shuttle service between LAX and San Diego – which I thought was a great idea. Flights between LAX and SAN are on a glorified greyhound bus with wings — a nice private car service would be a hell of an improvement.  Then this morning I saw that Asiana was also offering this service in Chicago.  My first thought was that Asiana was trying to compete with ANA, who is offering complimentary arrival limo service at Narita on the afternoon departure from ORD.

But it looks like I got a little ahead of myself. This service for people who have a short distance connection after arriving in ORD.  The Asiana service is between ORD and Champaign/Urbana (U of I), West Lafayette, IN (Purdue University), Madison, WI (University of Wisconsin) and Milwaukee, WI (Marquette).  I was hoping this was going to end up being a car service into the City, which would have been a nice benefit (for me at least).  Following my recent trip on Asiana in their Quadra Smartium Business Class, I would have loved to have been met at the gate and escorted home.  Based on the locations it looks like they are gearing this to University students or other visitors.   You can get all the details here.

While this service doesn’t look like something I’d ever use, I’m sure it’ll be useful for some.  I really wonder how many people will actually use this service. My gut is that this is one of those “special perks on paper” that doesn’t really get used all that much.

The terms and conditions are listed below, in case you are interested. My favorite is of course #9:

1. Reservation must be made at least 5 days in advance otherwise not guaranteed.
2. You may request ride to/from your home instead of station for $15 oneway surcharge.
3. We do not supply baby/child seat, you must supply your own.
4. If you want cancel or change your reservation, you must do so 3 days in advance.
5. Reconfirm mail will be sent 3 day before you leave with drivers name and phone #
6. Even you are Asiana ticket holder , $40 will be collected by driver without reservation
7. Mileage award ticket holders can use shuttle with proper reservation.
8. Baggage policy is same as Asiana Airline’s, we charge $25 per extra baggages
9. Driver’s tip is not mandatory but he will be appreciated for your tips.

There are several vehicle types available too – everything from a 42 passenger bus all the way down to a Hyundai Eqqus (the latter requires a $15 surcharge and is available by special request only).

What do you think of this service? Is it a real value add or just an on paper bonus that won’t cost Asiana anything since no one wll use it?  Would you forgo hopping on one of these shuttle options in lieu of taking a small regional aircraft if you were connecting to one of these Cities?