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Not your usual hotel doorpeople
What happens when you hold an upmarket music festival in a place with no accommodation just outside a major hotel town or city? Neon everywhere and flower headdresses in totally unthinkable hotels, that’s what.
Yes, if you thought Coachella was
bad enough unique for colonizing Palm Springs, you clearly haven’t heard of Tomorrowland, a gargantuan EDM festival that takes place in Boom, an appropriately named town 20 miles outside of Brussels, over two weekends: this and last.
Boom doesn’t really have any hotels, which is where Brussels comes in. For two weekends of the year, the supposedly staid (it’s not, but more on that another time) centre of the European Union is full of dayglo, and three of the city’s poshest hotels get done up as rave accommodation, having been bought up by the festival for the exclusive use of their guests.
Take The Hotel, the European Union's hotel of choice for businessmen, diplomats, and President Obama, where we’ve spent the last few days. Normally, it’s full of suits; this weekend, it’s awash with fairy wings, bro baseball caps and t-shirts that read “Fuck off reality, we’re going to Tomorrowland”. The lifts are paved with fake grass instead of the normal marble, and there are butterflies and flowers 'embroidered' all over the lobby.
If you’re anything like us, you will frown at this picture of the set up of the “tea and coffee-making facilities” in our room at the Atlas Hotel in Brussels. You will raise your eyebrows, sigh ‘this is exactly what I stooped to when I booked a three star hotel’ and wonder how on earth one is meant to raise one’s pinky when drinking from a plastic teacup.
But then you will realize the genius of the Atlas Hotel’s tea and coffee-making facilities set up. Because it is the set up of dreams for hotel germaphobes. If you have any level of OCD, or worry about housekeepers cleaning mugs with spit/mirror cleaner/nothing, it is for you. Because these cups are replaced – new – after every use.
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On January 1, the former Hotel Conrad in Brussels changed hands and reopened as the Steigenberger Grandhotel. We don’t hear much about the brand in North America, so here’s the scoop. They’re 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 “gentlemen’s club” type bar and lounge. There’s even a smoking lounge if that’s your thing which, as you know, is quite scarce these days. Their restaurant, Cafe Wiltshire, has a lovely terrace overlooking the hotel’s courtyard.
We only bring this up because The Hotel Inspector was the name of the UK’s (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. It’s 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 hotel’s 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 hotel’s courtyard. Hazel is outfitted with a double bed, shower and WC, a separate seating area, WiFi, a flat-screen TV and air conditioning. (BTW, it’s the only room at the hotel that’s air conditioned.)
The future is slowly getting here.
It's been a while since we last heard of a hotel using keyless hotel cards (that would be the Clarion Hotel in Stockholm) but we've just learned that The Hotel Brussels will install the Mobile Key by OpenWays system which allows guests to open their hotel room door by using their smartphones.
Currently, the landmark hotel is undergoing a top-to-bottom renovation from its old life as a Hilton but once finished, guests will be able to bypass the front desk and open their hotel room using any mobile phone, any make with any mobile network. Sooo cool. (And on a side note, the hotel has free WiFi as well.)
Not heading to Brussels anytime soon? Word is the Mobile Key by OpenWays will be installed stateside shortly at the Delano in South Beach. We'll keep you dialed in as to when that happens!
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.
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).
The Times' T Magazine takes a deeper look inside the hotel, including its beanbag-outfitted roofdeck, mod lounge and appropriately vibrant breakfast buffet. There's not a review, per se, but they do state something we absolutely agree with, and that's the fact that Brussels suffers from a lack of cool hotels like this. The Pantone is filling a need there, and its rooms from $137 including free WiFi are hopefully a hit.
We were recently tipped off about a new hotel concept in Brussels, The MaxHotel which is a one-star hotel and supremely proud of it. But unlike most dodgy one-star hotels, which are really a small grotty step above a hostel, the MaxHotel promises guests "brand new, very shiny, non smoking, equipped with flat screen tv and WIFI connection, individual air-conditioning and private bathroom." That sounds promising.
MaxHotel also has done away with the front desk, allowing guests to check into the hotel via automated kiosks in the lobby. These kiosks will do everything a human used to do, even deliver your messages. (But just in case, MaxHotel will have humans on hand.)
There's also no restaurant or bar on-site but rather a vending machine room that serves snacks and drinks, both hot and alcoholic. And much like Tune Hotels, the MaxHotel you pay extra for amenities like shampoo, TV, the internet and cleaning service. (The WiFi is an affordable 5 Euros for 24 hours.)
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Sofitel hotels at select locations in Paris, London, Munich and Brussels, now offer iPads to guests at check-in loaded with "The Kiosk" app which features top daily newspapers and magazines from around the world. More specifically, guests can access six newspapers and magazines from six different countries--France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Italy and the United States.
And that includes some pay-for publications like the Wall Street Journal and Vogue. Bonus!
Rates at Sofitels vary but we spied rates at the Sofitel Munich Bayerpost for just $187 a night this summer. Of course, the London location at St. James is much pricier at $360 a night. Good thing you can get the news for free!
Fast Company reported yesterday on a very new type of designer hotel--The Pantone Hotel in Brussels. Yes, Pantone as in the company that created a precise-color matching system by which all designers of anything live and dye by.
The company, while extremely well-known in its industry, is looking to reach out to real consumers. Hence, The Pantone Hotel.
Designed by Belgian interior designer Michel Penneman and Belgian architect Olivier Hannaert, each of the hotel's 59 rooms, which range from $84 to $184 a night, is inspired by different Pantone color palettes. On-site Pantone Color consultants are apparently available for "color consultations and educational seminars on color psychology and trends."
But what we love, absolutely love, is that guests can choose their room at check-in based on their MOOD. It's like a Mood Ring Hotel!