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Tim Foolery

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Tag Archives: SPG

Hotel Bristol: A Luxury Collection Property

After flying all day from Singapore, I found myself in Vienna at 18h30. I had booked myself a room on points at the Hotel Bristol right across from the Opera House. This is the only hotel I’ve stayed in while visiting Vienna. I love it. I even used Suite Night upgrades which cleared a week in advance. These upgrades moved me to an Opera Suite. I’ve been fortunate enough to ONLY stay in the beautiful Opera Suites at the Hotel Bristol.

I arrived straight away from the airport at 19h00, timing on transfers were perfect. Upon check in, the man working reception attempted to down grade me to a normal room because “you are just one person here for one night, you dont need this much space, it is too hot.” He was accurate, it was very hot in Vienna (33C), but I didn’t follow, nor like his logic. After a bit of discussion, he allowed me to stay in my original room.

Opera Suite

This time, my suite was on the third floor, with the same stunning view of the Wienner Staatsoper (Vienna Opera House).

Bristol Hotel Vienna - Opera House

The summer view from my Opera Suite at the Bristol Hotel Vienna

The room was quite warm and being in the room for less than 5 minutes a knock came at the door. It was hotel maintenance. He came to check on the air conditioning. Evidently these large suites don’t cool down as efficiently. He was here to make sure certain doors and windows were closed to ensure the bedroom area was as chilled as possible.

Ah…so that’s what the guy at reception was trying to say…

Bristol Hotel Vienna

Main seating area – a Formal Affair

Bristol Hotel Vienna

Seating and chandelier in the main room

Bristol Hotel Vienna Coffee Service

Coffee Service for a Coffee City

Bristol Hotel Vienna

The romantic fireplace in the Opera Suite

I didn’t spend much time in the room, since I had a flight home before 10h00 the next morning. Plus, I wanted to explore Vienna in the summer.

I slept well, albeit not very long. The hotel is really wonderful. The rooms are so perfectly appointed and the service is always on point. Plus, the views cant be beat!

Bristol Hotel Vienna - Master Bedroom

The Main Bedroom – Luxurious

Bristol Hotel Vienna

The perfectly appointed bedroom in the Opera Suite

Bristol Hotel Vienna

Twin Vanities in the Master Bath

Bristol Hotel Vienna

The large soaking tub

Bristol Hotel Vienna

The separate shower was a bit small, but still quite luxurious.

Bristol Hotel Vienna

Le Chemin Bath Products

Bristol Hotel Vienna

Small Guest Bath in the Opera Suite

Bristol Hotel Vienna

Small Guest Bath in the Opera Suite

Bristol Hotel Vienna

A second bathroom is a lovely luxury in a hotel.

Have you had the opportunity to stay at the Hotel Bristol? How are the standard rooms? What is your favorite hotel in Vienna?

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Beagle 2.0 an American Express Gift

I recently signed up for the new Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury Card by American Express.  Two days later I received my card and have been using it diligently ever since.  I chose to sign up for this card because of the sign up bonus – after spending $5,000 in three months you earn 100,000 Marriott Points.  Today, I received a surprise gift from AmEx – the Beagle 2.0.

Beagle 2.0 from American Express

Beagle 2.0 seems like an odd gift from American Express.

What is the Beagle 2.0

What is it exactly?  Well, it’s a bluetooth tracking device, like Tile, Protag or TrackR.  If you aren’t familiar with these devices, you attach them to your keys, your wallet, your dog or anything else that could get lost and you’d want to find in quick order.  You connect the device to your mobile phone and when you lose it, you can find it with your phone.  These ubiquitous devices are given away quite frequently; I get them at conferences all the time.

Now, it’s not necessarily strange to get these from a credit card company, but what I do think is strange is that it arrived with no warning.  Usually credit card companies like to tout the additional benefits they are giving their members.  There wasn’t even a welcome letter or real instruction on how to use the device.  The only thing in the box was a card with the app name – other than the disclosures.  The first of which, says that AmEx will not be tracking me with this new tracking device they’ve gifted me.  Well, isn’t that nice of them?

Who else received Beagle 2.0 from American Express?  Is it just me, or does this seem like a strange gift?  Do you find any value in these bluetooth trackers?

Singapore: By the Numbers

Regular readers know that I had a quick trip to Singapore – returning home last Monday.  This was indeed a whirlwind trip.  My better half was in Singapore for work and since I had never been and always wanted to go, I found a way to make it work.  I’ll have much more details notes coming soon, but here are the high level numbers and stats.

  • Airlines Flown: 3
  • Flights Taken: 5
  • United Miles Redeemed: 180,000
  • Miles Flown: 20,288
  • Hours in the Air: 44
  • Time in Singapore: 68 hours
  • Time in Vienna: 15 hours
  • Airport Lounges: 6
  • Hotels Nights: 4
  • Hotels Stayed: 3
  • Cities Explored: 2
  • Meals Eaten: 6
  • Restaurants Dined: 1 (everything else was Street Food / Hawker Stalls)
  • Cocktails / Wine / Champagne Consumed: Countless
My Route to the Singapore for the weekend

My route to Singapore

It was a quick trip, but with more hours on the ground than in the air, which is always a key metric for a trip like this.  That being said, spending 44 hours flying (excluding layovers) in some great business class products isn’t too bad of a way to spend a the dog days of summer.

Give me your honest opinion – would you go to Singapore for just 68 hours?  Does the fact that it cost nothing (other than points and time) change your opinion?  What’s the longest you’ve traveled for the shortest stay?

Important Changes to Marriott / Starwood Redemptions: Act Now!

Marriott acquired Starwood in 2016 but had a very slow and methodical integration of their loyalty programs. Kudos to them. Doing it right is better than doing it fast. I’d prefer to remain an SPG member, but the changes that Marriott is making are pretty reasonable. These changes are much better than we’ve seen with other travel related acquisitions.

The new program launches on August 18 and with that there are changes in Elite Status, Earning Rates and Redemption Rates. I can’t do anything about Elite Status or Earning Rates, but I can use the Redemption changes to my advantage.

For example, I have another trip to Austria coming up later this summer and I found that my favorite hotel, the Hotel Bristol, is going to cost 14,000 points more per night. Now this hotel only costs 12,000 SPG Points (which are worth 36,000 Marriott Points). After August 18th, the hotel will cost 50,000 Marriott Points to book. Booking now, I’ve saved myself 14,000 Marriott Points — there are about 1,700 Marriott (and Starwood) hotels in the world were those 14,000 points could get my one or two free nights.  I’d be a fool to ignore this savings!

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

This also goes the other way too. If you were planning on staying at the St. Regis San Francisco, that property will cost 30,000 points less than it does now! You can go ahead and book it now, but just know that you won’t automatically get those points refunded, you’ll have to call and ask for them to be credited back.

Marriott has a great website that helps you review their properties, how many points it takes now and how many it will take in the future. Go check out your upcoming travel plans and see if you should book now or after August 18th.
Where are you traveling and how are you favorite hotels working out with this change?

San Francisco Proper, a Member of Design Hotels

Hotels in San Francisco were not inexpensive for the weekend we were looking to stay. Even using points seemed a bit cost prohibitive. After a few weeks of checking and rechecking hotel prices, we found we could snag a room at the San Francisco Proper, a Member of Design Hotels, for only $210/night. The room we’d select into was a Bunk Room – yes, a room with bunk beds. We hadn’t slept in bunk beds since college and thought it would be a fun change of pace, plus the price was right for us.  We knew we wouldn’t be spending much time in the room, so even a tight space would suffice.

We checked into the hotel close to midnight after taking BART in from SFO. The public transit connection was easy, as BART goes directly from SFO to the Civic Center Station which is just meters from the hotel. The hotel is located in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco and if you haven’t been before, know that it isn’t the bright, shiny, tourist friendly area that you usually see in magazines. This area is gritty, dirty and full of homeless and drug users. As we walked up the stairs from the BART Station we had to step over many people laying on the stairs. We saw people buying and selling various narcotics and something I hadn’t seen this up close and personal since I studied in London many years ago – we had to step over a man who was actively shooting up, needle dangling out of his arm.

I don’t live in an ivory tower thinking this stuff doesn’t happen, but it was more blatant and obvious than I had seen in years. I won’t pontificate on the state of the opioid crisis in America or the horrible state of our mental healthcare system, but I will say that this problem is multifaceted and more specifically for this post, be aware of your surroundings when you stay at this property. Other than the difficulty in carrying suitcases upstairs and over people we had no other issues with the people in and around the hotel.

The night manager was working check-in when we arrived. She greeted us by name, I’m assuming because we were the last people to check in that day. She was very welcoming and gave us a quick, but thorough rundown of the hotel and reminded us of their award winning restaurant (Villon) and rooftop bar (Charmaine’s) . If we wanted to visit the bar, she suggested we seek a staff member to escort us. At first I thought this was because of the homeless on the streets, but it was actually because the line to get to the rooftop bar was quite long and with an escort we can bypass the line. We opted not to visit the rooftop bar our first night, but did swing by the next day. The bar was lovely, but just too packed and understaffed when we were there. It was an utterly beautiful day in San Francisco, so everyone wanted to be outside enjoying the sun and the warm breeze.

Charmaine’s, the rooftop at San Francisco Proper

A simple beer on a beautiful day. Plus who doesn’t love a cat coaster?

Our room was exactly as presented, a bunk room. I never really pay attention to square footage stats on hotel websites, I just figure a standard rom is a standard room. This bunk room was small, 16m² (175ft²). There was a small table and chair that one could use to work or dine.

The eponymous bunk beds in our Bunk Room

The closet had the minibar, which was properly stocked and had luggage racks, an iron and ironing board. It was tough for us to use the ironing board because we had two suitcases that were taking up much of the room, but we managed.

A surprisingly well stocked mini-bar.

The liquid refreshments in the mini bar.

The room had two TVs though, placed at the foot of each of the bunk beds, and they were controlled by the same remote, efficient, but strange, nonetheless.

The remarkably elaborate system to control the room the size of a shoe box.

The bathroom housed the toilet and the shower, while the sink was in the main living space. The bathroom had a rolling barn style door, which doesn’t give you much privacy, but in a room as small as this, there isn’t much privacy period.

Bathroom

Bathroom

Single Vanity in Main Room

The water temperature and pressure were on point throughout our entire stay.

The hotel uses Aēsop bath products, which were in bulk containers, which I do appreciate as I find it so wasteful to have those mini shampoo, conditioner and body wash containers. My biggest concern with the bulk containers is a previous guest messing with the contents (pouring something into the shampoo, for example). These quality products smelled like mint and other herbs, when times comes we may swap out our current guestroom toiletries for this brand. Have you used them before?

We chose not to dine at the Proper, despite the rave reviews of the restaurant. San Francisco is such a great food town, the idea of dining in our hotel was a bit unpalatable. Have you dined at Villon? I’d love to hear your take on it.

While the Bunk Room at the San Francisco Proper doesn’t come close to rivaling the Mosaic Suite at the Prince de Galle Hotel in Paris, or quite frankly the AC Hotel Portland Downtown by Marriott, it was a fun experience to try a Bunk Bed and a beautifully designed hotel. I would consider staying here again, but I think I’ll steer clear of the small Bunk Room.

Have you stayed at the Proper before? What did you think of the neighborhood? What about your room? Did you get a bunk bed? Speaking of, when was the last time you slept in a bunk bed?