Tim Foolery

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Interesting Hotel Service…

I’m spending a few days at an Embassy Suites for a work conference.  I’m not a Hilton guy (but thanks to my American Express Platinum, I do have Gold Status) – I much prefer Starwood Properties (Platinum).  I checked in and everything seemed normal, but I get to my room and before I can even start to unpack (can’t have a wrinkled suit), there is a knock at the door…I ignore it.  Then again…this time more forcefully…then continuous.

I reluctantly open the door, thinking it was a colleague.  Nope, it was an Embassy Suites Maintenance Guy.  He was here doing a “Peephole and Clock Check.”  I told him I was fine, but he wouldn’t listen.  He came in, I left the doors open, and followed him around.  He looked through the peephole (from the outside and in) – checking something off his list.  He then moved into the bedroom where he checked the clock – confirming the time (it was off by 3 minutes – he reset it) and confirmed the alarm was off.

I wrote about my hotel pet peeves a few years ago, and while the clock issue never made my list, it has more recently. I hate when the hotel clocks are wrong and I utterly loathe when the alarms are set.  I know I should always check the alarm before I go to bed, but I often forget (shame on me).

This seems so strange to me that this guy (in full Embassy Suites uniform) came in to check these two things. He wouldn’t explain why he did it either. He was gone as quick as he came.  I did pop by the front desk to ask about this and they said that they had some complaints about the clocks so they started checking them regularly.  Other than the service itself, nothing seemed off about this guy (he was properly uniformed and had a maintenance cart with him).

Am I nuts, or does this seems really strange to you guys too?

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Hotel Bristol Vienna – A Luxury Collection Hotel

My flight on Austrian Airlines landed a little late, but since I couldn’t be guaranteed check-in at the hotel until 15h00, I didn’t mind.  I hopped on the City Airport Train (CAT) and made my way from the Airport through Wien Mitte to Oper/Karlsplatz U-Bahn Station.  Last time I visited, I left the underground from the wrong exit and wandered aimlessly trying to find the hotel. This time I followed the signs to the Opera House and emerged exactly where I needed to be.

I’ve stayed at the Hotel Bristol before and really enjoyed it. I knew I wanted to stay again and I found that the price was a bit more than I wanted to pay, so I used Starwood Preferred Guest Cash+Points for the two nights – which cost 110USD+6,000 points each night.  The value was there for me on this stay.  I also used two Platinum Suite Night Upgrades to move us from a standard room to an Opera Suite – the same room type I had last time.

I walk into the hotel lobby at around 10h15 and was greeted with a cheery “Good Morning.”  After my relative success on the Austrian Airlines flight, I attempted to continue my German language practice.  I was tired and it fell apart pretty quickly.  The folks working at reception did try to play along, but my mind just wasn’t in it.  We finished the check-in process in English.

I was surprised that my room was ready for me immediately. So often, when landing early in the morning in Europe your room isn’t ready for hours – which just makes that first day a struggle. I want a shower, I want to take a quick nap – I don’t want to sit in the lobby and wait and I don’t want to go exploring while feeling all dingy.  I was escorted to my room by the bellman and the receptionist.  I didn’t need two staffers helping me – I had just a briefcase and a roller bag, but the service was a nice touch.

Our Opera Suite was on the fourth floor of the hotel, looking directly out onto the beautiful Opera building.  The huge suite is perfectly appointed to entertain before the opera.  As you walk in, you encounter various hallways, leading to the bedroom or the salon.

Bristol Hotel Vienna – The main seating area was enormous and filled with classical music our entire stay.

Bristol Hotel Vienna – Main Seating Area in Suite

The salon is large with multiple seating areas, including a small dining area, perfect for a morning breakfast or an afternoon tea.  The fireplaces were all faux, but still gave the warmth (both because they hid a radiator and the style) of a bygone era.

When we entered the salon, a Mozart CD was playing.  A fitting accompaniment to the room, the view and the overall vibe of the hotel.

The salon has a small, but full bathroom attached (sans bathtub, but with a full shower).  This is excellent design when hosting a pre-Opera party, no need for your guests to traipse through your bedroom.  It is truly a luxury to have a hotel room with two bathrooms – I love it.

Bristol Hotel Vienna – The second smaller bathroom

Moving back through the salon to the bedroom, you immediately see how grand the sleeping quarters are. The king sized bed does not dwarf the room itself.  An additional sitting area, writing desk and huge closet system also fill this room – but with ample space to maneuver – and to try on various outfits before the opera.

Bristol Hotel Vienna – The Bedroom with King Bed and seating areas

Bristol Hotel Vienna – faux fireplace in the bedroom

Bristol Hotel Vienna – Bedroom Desk

The main bathroom, off the sleeping area, was quite large with double vanities, a walk-in shower, a large separate tub and the requisite toilet and bidet.

Bristol Hotel Vienna – The Main Bathroom with double vanity

Bristol Hotel Vienna – The Main Bathroom with separate shower

Bristol Hotel Vienna – The Main Bathroom, with toilet and bidet plus a huge bathtub

There was also another hallway and closet area – you can never have enough closet space when you are hosting a pre-opera party, I guess.

Bristol Hotel Vienna – The Hall Closet

The Hotel Bristol is truly a five-star luxury hotel and one of my favorite Starwood properties in the world.  I sure wouldn’t want my home decorated like these amazing Opera Suites, but I do love the opulence and splendor whilst on vacation.  The Hotel has quite the history too – as it was first constructed at the end of the 19th Century and hosted many of the world’s most famous people, including Teddy Roosevelt and George Gershwin – who was working on “An American in Paris” while staying here.  Most famously the Prince of Wales and Wallis Simpson stayed in 1936 during their affair.

It wasn’t always sunshine and luxury at the Bristol though.  In the early 20th century, Samuel Schallinger, a Jewish businessman, owned a stake in the hotel, but was forced to sell in 1938. He was then deported from Austria to Germany where he died in the Theresienstadt concentration camp.  A horribly dark part of the rich history of this magnificent hotel.

Vienna is an incredibly easy city to get around – with so many things within walking distance, and a really great transit system – this hotel couldn’t be situated in a better spot.  Being just meters from the Vienna State Opera, the U-Bahn, Streetcars, the City Park and countless museums, you’d be hard pressed to find a better hotel.

Hotel Bristol – View from our Opera Suite

Hotel Bristol – View from the Opera Suite. The State Opera is a magnificent building.

When I return to Vienna – I don’t know when that will happen, but I know it will soon – I will definitely stay at the Hotel Bristol again.  The space is beautiful, the service team is truly stellar and it feels like my home in Vienna.

Where do you stay while visiting Vienna?  Which Starwood Property is your favorite in the world?

Help Me Plan: A Week in Belgium

We decided to take a few days and explore Belgium this spring.  We’ve been to Brussels for a layover on our way to Spain a few years ago.  We had about 8 hours on the ground and we got out of the airport and explored the City for a few hours – eating waffles, drinking beer, wandering the streets, checking out the pissing statues…you know, a normal day in Brussels.

This time, we are getting out of Brussels straight away, but we aren’t totally sold on where we are going.  We figure Bruges is high on the list – it’s one of the dozens of cities called the Venice of the North.  I’m also contemplating Ypres, which has some amazing WWI memorials.

Can you help me answer the following questions:

  • What cities would you visit?
  • Where should we dine / which restaurants?
  • Which hotels should make our list?
  • Do you have any recommendations on bike tours?
  • What areas should we skip entirely?

Looking forward to hearing about your trips and recommendations!

A Weekend in Vienna

Having no real travel in the first quarter of 2018 really started to wear on me.  I decided to take a long weekend (Thursday through Sunday) and visit Vienna.  I had been to Vienna once before, also for a long weekend and will undoubtedly have more opportunities to visit in the coming years – so I don’t feel obligated to hit it hard and see everything on one trip.  The purpose of this trip was to escape from the daily winter work life in Chicago, cash-in some miles and points and get away.

The Wiener Staatsoper / Vienna State Opera House.

If you follow me on Instagram, Twitter or Vero you’ve seen some of my time in Vienna (and if you don’t, you should).  This trip was like almost all of my trips, centered around good food, exploring a city, experiencing it’s art, culture and history — and finding a nice glass of wine along the way.

Over the next few days/weeks, I’ll be posting about key parts of my trip, including:

I’d love to hear your thoughts on my trip and get suggestions from you all for my future trips to Vienna.  What am I missing?  What shocks you that I haven’t seen?  Do you have a favorite dessert place you always go?

My First Airbnb Stay

I mentioned recently that I needed to be in Oregon last weekend and that hotels were unreasonably expensive. This pushed me to try Airbnb for the first time, as the rates were nearly half that of the hotels. I was able to find a place, exactly where I wanted to be and the reviews were positive. I mentioned to people that I had never used Airbnb before and they were shocked – for someone who travels as frequently as I do, how could have never tried such a common lodging option?

So for the place I picked the location and the price were spot on, but the room it self was awfully small.  The worst part of the apartment I chose was that there wasn’t really a place to sit other than the bed.  The other room in the apartment was more of a kitchen and you could sit on the uncomfortable dining chairs, but that wouldn’t last too long.  I just wish there was a couch, a lounge chair or even a desk chair.

This was the only real seating area in the apartment. Not conducive to relaxing, is it?

The bedroom was small, but a perfectly acceptable size and the bed was quite comfortable.

The funky layout was fine for a single traveler, but would be rough for two people- even two people who were really close. I think it would be awful with two people.

The whole Airbnb process worked fine, from downloading the app, to searching for a place, to gaining access to the building, not an issue popped up. I only stayed one night at this property, but I know if I stayed two, I would have missed the daily maid service. I did feel a little disconnected since there was no staff to assist with anything (I didn’t need assistance, it was just a security blanket thing, I think).

I don’t think I will be changing my travel lodging preferences – I’ll keep staying in hotels, but I think I may at least check Airbnb options, depending on the city I am visiting. What do you love about Airbnb? What do you absolutely hate about the program?