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Itís a Novotel, but not as you know it. Because this Novotel is wrapped around the ancient city walls.
Itís the Novotel Brussels Centre Tour Noire, and is built around the Tour Noire Ė or Black Tower Ė which was built in the 13th century behind the St Catherine church as part of the original city walls. Weíre looking at it here from outside the old walls.
Here's the front entrance:
While he can't say that he's overly religious, a recent stay at Martin's Patershof, a church that was converted into a hotel in Belgium, has Wake thanking the lord.
This 2008 conversion project came with a series of fantastic stipulations, mostly surrounding the fact that they could not alter any of the original church structure when building the hotel. This means that the alter, stained glass, and curved architecture could not be removed or compromised. In fact, the hotel had to be built using a removable steel frame with absolutely no changes to the exterior shell whatsoever.
The result is a hotel with tremendous personality and beauty. None of the 59 rooms are the same, their shape and windows dependent upon where it is located within the church walls. We loved walking in and seeing the way the stained-glass window lit up our room. The ceiling swooped with the arch of the roof, showing off a dome-like ceiling and epic columns. The dining room was probably our next favorite aspect as it incorporated the old alter as the mother of all centerpieces. As you can see from the photos, the strict regulations resulted in a masterpiece.
Have you ever been so tired you might just sleep anywhere? Well, that's the hope of a new Belgian pop-up hotel concept that is wandering all around the country. The hipster haven is called Sleeping Around and it promotes...well, sleeping around. Where ever the mobile hotel sets up shop, that's where you will call home-base while traveling.
Using abandoned shipping containers, the hotel creates a small 'village' of 6 units. Out of the six, four are individual rooms with air conditioning and en suite bathrooms, one is a breakfast and lounge room and one is for the sauna. Since each room is a recycled shipping vessel, Sleeping Around acts as environmentally conscious by creating a boutique hotel experience made from completely recycled materials.
A truly pop-up experience, the hotel actually moves around to different locations. To find its current location, potential guests need to hop on the website to track the exact site through a GPS tracking. Currently, its hanging out on a shipping pier in Antwep but has the potential to go anywhere that is about 400 square meters with drinking water, electricity and an amazing view. The site even take recommendations.
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On January 1, the former Hotel Conrad in Brussels changed hands and reopened as the Steigenberger Grandhotel. We donít hear much about the brand in North America, so hereís the scoop. Theyíre a Germany-based group that manages 81 hotels all over Germany and in Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Egypt and now Belgium. This includes their upper mid-range hotel brand, InterCity Hotels and the higher-end Steigenberger Hotels.
The hotel is located on the swishy Avenue Louise with its high-end boutiques and restaurants. We had the chance to get a look inside the hotel this past summer when it was still a Conrad and then, as now, the hotel falls into the deluxe category. It has an old-school glam feel to it with a great ďgentlemenís clubĒ type bar and lounge. Thereís even a smoking lounge if thatís your thing which, as you know, is quite scarce these days. Their restaurant, Cafe Wiltshire, has a lovely terrace overlooking the hotelís courtyard.
We only bring this up because The Hotel Inspector was the name of the UKís (first-out) version of Hotel Hell, and that show was hosted not by Gordon Ramsay, but by Alex Polizzi. Serious hotel geeks know that Alex's clan are owners of Rocco Forte Hotels. Itís all coming together!
Well, we had the chance to stay at Brussel's Hotel Amigo for our own hotel inspection and will say that it does pass inspection, so Polizzi (or Ramsay) needn't have worried.
The hotel has 173 rooms and feels cozy and intimate. The decor is very authentic with original Surrealist artwork and other Belgium touches scattered throughout, and leans more toward a contemporary, refined style in both the public areas and the rooms.
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When we think of Brussels, we think about the European Union, beer and chocolate. Never had we thought of the city, although scenic and somewhat quirky with its love of surrealism, as the headquarters of cool. And then in 2009 along came the 29-room Vintage Hotel (a former home for the elderly), that's in a great location close to swish shopping street, Avenue Louise. Suddenly the "it" factor went way up.
Now, in 2012, the hotelís added a symbol of pure 1950s Americana: a refurbed vintage 1958 Airstream trailer that has all of the mod-cons one expects.Yes, Brussels has discovered "glamping" !
We got a peek at this eccentric hotel and the Airstream Room (known as "Hazel") parked in the hotelís courtyard. Hazel is outfitted with a double bed, shower and WC, a separate seating area, WiFi, a flat-screen TV and air conditioning. (BTW, itís the only room at the hotel thatís air conditioned.)
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We've all experienced the thrill of visiting an old-world European city, staying in a perfectly-situated hotel, and then going out during the day to discover all the city's sights and monuments. But what if you could bring those sights to you?
That's exactly what a new art-installation-cum-hotel-room in Ghent, Belgium is trying to do. Supported by a web of scaffolding on top of the city's train station, Hotel Ghent is a temporary one-room hotel that's been built around a clock tower.
As in, you better appreciate public monuments because once you check into this room, it's all clock, nothing but clock, all the time. The project was designed by artist Tazu Rous and is intended to make the visitor experience an iconic object in a new or "different" way. Yep, we'd say this is pretty different, alright...
The HNA Resort Sanya (obviously not Brussels)
Hotels and airlinestwo peas in a pod, or occasionally, the same pea. Airlines that have successfully spun off hotel chains are many; off the top of our head we can name Pan Am (Intercontinental Hotels), SAS (Rezidor/SAS) and Icelandair (IcelandAir Hotels). One that's lesser known, however is the Asian carrier Hainan Airlines and their chain of "business hotels" throughout China. They're 40-something in number, so it's not a boutique venture or anything; Hainan is serious and the good Tripadvisor reviews of their properties reflect this.
Naturally the next step is to make a big move towards a luxury development in a city outside of Asia. In Hainan's case, that city will be Brussels, Belgium.
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A hotel room high in the sky with a price to match too!
As if the weak dollar to euro/dollar to pound exchange rate wasn't enough to deter you from booking that trip to Europe, a recent surge in hotel prices provides yet another reason to plan a staycation this year.
According to a report in the U.K.'s The Independent, European hotel rates are reaching ridiculous highs, jumping "19 percent since last month," with popular destinations seeing the biggest increases of all. Per a survey by Trivago:
What pops into your head when you think of a New York-inspired hotel room? Turquoise carpeting? A Nespresso coffee machine? Black walls? We only ask because those are the three main features that make up the newly-unveiled "New York Mansion" business class rooms at the Radisson Blu Brussels. Now, we know Brussels has the whole mood ring hotel concept down pat. But, New York? We're not so sure.
These rooms are supposedly going for "sophisticated," but we can't help feeling the design is a little all over the place. That armchair? The bedspread? The clashing headboard-wall combo? The only New York vibe we're getting from this room is its size (small).
Not the kind of thing you want to see in the information kit in your hotel room: a notice informing you that mosquito nets are available at the front desk.
What makes it worse is that this wasnít the steamy South, or somewhere exotic. This was our hotel room in Belgium. Bruges may be the prettiest town in Belgium, but even that wonít swing it a get out of jail pass when it comes to mosquitoes.
Luckily, weíve just emerged unscathed after three days at the Grand Hotel Casselbergh, so it appears the hotel may just be being a little protective of its guests. Better safe than sorry, though.
Among the printable things that make us gasp are unexpected sightings of grand dame hotels. So imagine the excitement yesterday when we were on a tram in non-descript Zeebrugge, Belgium, and caught sight of the corner of what looked like a huge old hotel. We got off at the next stop and ran back to the building.
And this is what we found: the shell of what had obviously once been a belle epoque hotel, but sadly gone to seed and renovated into what looked like apartments, from the for sale signs in a few windows.
A local informed us that it had indeed been a hotel, but that it had closed after the war, and been apartments ever since. And, rootling around online, we established that this started life as the Palace Hotel, Zeebrugge, then was later called the Residence Palace.
According to the garbled Google translation on this page, it seems that the hotel was built in 1914, just after the port of Zeebrugge was founded in 1907, to attract rich German cruise passengers stopping off on their way from Hamburg to America.