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The UK’s second (and third, and thereafter) cities don’t often get much of a look in when it comes to attracting Americans – whether visitors or investors. But all that might be about to change with the news that Aloft is preparing quite an aggressive British invasion.
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The “Northern England Hotel Scene” has hitherto not been a phrase that slips easily off the tongue, but the northern cities are killing it this year, with a Beatles hotel, a football hotel and a retro Manhattan hotel all journeying north of the Watford Gap.
You’ll find no Beatles murals here. Instead, you get a magnificent conversion of a grand 1903 building which was on English Heritage’s At Risk register, and had been closed for 20 years, before Starwood jumped in and turned it into the UK’s second Aloft.
Because of the history, the 116 rooms are pretty much all different (there are 97 room types, according to the Liverpool Echo). All, though, have high ceilings, ‘floating’ beds and Bliss amenities - and "Savvy" rooms have more architectural features, while "Aloft" rooms are more standard. And then those public areas – stained glass windows, wood-paneled conference rooms, and a stucco-roofed lobby. What more could you want?
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Ibis Styles Liverpool
As hotel group after hotel group rushes to create new brands that will appeal to millennials, with what feels like new launches bragging about social media-friendly spaces every week, one brand has been quietly reinventing itself. There’s been no real fanfare around it – no extravagant boasts, no flagrant appeals to the self-obsessed generation – just a focus on stylish, unchainlike rooms, low prices and free WiFi. The name of that chain? Ibis Styles.
Not too long ago, Ibis was a byword for budget – in a bad way. Ibis rooms were dark, boring, fusty. They weren’t hotels you planned to stay in, they were hotels you ended up in when you couldn’t find or afford better. (I say this with the hindsight of adulthood – when I was a child, going on holiday to France and staying in an Ibis – or Eebis, as they called it – seemed like the most exciting thing in the world.)
But Ibis Styles are different from proper Ibises (Ibes?) – they have style and verve. Even better, they’re different from each other, too, and relate to the cities they're located in. There’s nothing in the design that screams Ibis, and, speaking (just) as a millennial, that is what we like.
Ibis Styles Brussels
My Ibis Styles revelation came this summer, when I was walking down Avenue Louise in Brussels and noticed two giant smiley faces staring out at me from a nearby window – it was the lobby of the Ibis Styles Brussels Louise, whose chic, startling white rooms start at just €71. Then I read about Ibis Styles Liverpool (from just £71) and was sold.
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There are certain things in Liverpool you can never have too much of. Shellsuits. Scallies. Rascals. And Beatles-themed hotels. (Joking on the first three, honest.)
So in view of the fact that the Hard Day’s Night now charges from £99 ($170) and inclines us towards doing Liverpool as a Day Tripper, it’s nice to see Ibis offering a budget alternative. Yes, Ibis, purveyors of cheap but bland and soulless motel-style rooms around Europe.
This is no ordinary Ibis, though; it’s the photos, this one appears to have gone for psychedelic swirly carpets, sixties bright, clashing colors, and Beatles cartoons acting as headboards. Love it, and especially love the I am the Walrus mural in the lobby.
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When a floating Titanic-themed three-bedroom hotel opened in Liverpool earlier this year, people complained that the idea was in poor taste. With that misstep still fresh in Liverpudlian minds, Signature Living had better tread carefully in their new project to develop the old White Star Line headquarters into a hotel.
Albion House, the 19th-century building that was the home of the White Star Line in 1912 when the shipping line's Titanic sank, has stood empty for decades but was recently acquired by the development company. Signature Living began work this month and (optimistically) hope to have the first part of the 350-room hotel and apartment building named The Titanic open by April.
As many of you know, we are very high on places of personality, properties that go out on a limb to be themselves. It's admirable for a number of reasons, but mostly because of the risk associated with being yourself, especially when it comes to business -- while going out on a limb can please some, it can easily turn others off.
Well, let us officially give the Signature Living Hotel in Liverpool a standing applause. Talk about a hotel with a personality -- the hotel has rooms that are movie-themed, individually modeled after flicks like Sex and the City, The Hangover, James Bond, and Moulin Rouge. And calling them rooms is an understatement. The James Bond is a duplex, for example, and Moulin Rouge is a single dwelling that takes up an entire floor.
The reason we are so fond of this bravery is because it is lacking in so many areas of the hotel industry. There are thousands of hotels in which we could spin you around and you wouldn't know if you were in Oklahoma or Oregon. Sure, we don't expect every hotel to paint a movie star on the wall, but it wouldn't hurt to put a personal spin on things beyond cliched, trendy, barely-noticed design traits, such as "featuring local artwork in the lobby."
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And this one's a goodie. Described by the Daily Mail as an "eccentric businessman," UK-based Alfie Bubbles has purchased an old narrowboat and transformed it into a psychedelic, fully-functional 3-bedroom hotel that's inspired by, and remains faithful to, the Beatles' original yellow submarine.
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Despite just having opened a new branch on Liverpool Street last week, Tune Hotels is now aiming for yet another two new hotels in London between now and the start of the Olympics. And don't think they'll be taking a break after that, either. Oh no. CEO Mark Lankester told The Star that though the Olympics is good for business, "we are in [it] for the long term."
What this means is rapid expansion throughout the rest of the UK. And now we've gotten a few more details on the upcoming hotels, the first of which Lankester confirmed would pop up in Edinburgh and Liverpool (the city, not the London street) by 2013. And just to throw in a little extra excitement, he added: "With a name like Tune Hotels, we have to have one in the birthplace of the Beatles."
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Chances are, if you're heading to Liverpool to take in the Beatles and pop music history of the city, the Hard Day's Night Hotel is on your list of must-sleeps or at least must-sees. You almost can't avoid it, since the hotel sits at the entrance to the famous "Cavern Quarter," down which alley-like street you'll find the various underground music clubs that nurtured the young Beatles, The Who, and basically name any famous British musician from the 1950s through 1970s.
We've already given you a full look around the hotel's Paul McCartney suite and a peek at room service, but downstairs there's so much more going on. The HDN isn't just a hotel with a slight glaze of Beatles theme; the fab four are baked into the place, with priceless artwork at every turn and design flair that keeps it far away from looking anything like a Hilton or Marriott.
If you're an American traveling up to Liverpool, there's a pretty healthy chance that at least a portion of the trip is going to be The Beatles-related. And you know what? That's perfectly okay. There's pop music history all over the place in that city and they embrace it quite well, partially evidenced in the existence of The Beatles Story museum at Albert Dock.
And, if you're really serious about hitting all The Beatles hot spots, you'll probably either be staying at the Beatles-themed Hard Day's Night Hotel or as close to The Beatles Story experience as possible. For the latter, that means the Premier Inn Albert Dock.
The answer: not this! Despite the fact that both Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are vegetarians, the Liverpool Beatles-themed Hard Day's Night Hotel proudly features the "Hard Day's Night Burger" on their room service menu, ringing up at a cool 13.75 GBP. That, with the current exchange rate, is a $22.18 burger, a cost made up for by the giant potato wedges qualifying as gourmet chips on the side.
If it weren't for Ringo's history of stomach issues, maybe he would have ordered it. But you know what? We're still sticking with not, since the hotel features a Lennon Suite and a McCartney Suite, but no Starr Suite...yet.
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It's a music fan's dream to make The Beatles pilgrimage to the English town of Liverpool, and experience not only the famous Cavern Club (where the Fab Four played some 292 times!), but The Beatles Story exhibit and maybe...just maybe...the entire Beatles-themed Hard Day's Night Hotel.
The Hard Day's Night, or HDN as we'll call it for short, is an extremely new hotel for the areaopened in 2008situated in a striking historical building with a serious presence in the Cavern district. Every bit of the hotel is named for something Beatles-related; there's Blake's Restaurant (for Sir Peter Blake, illustrator of the Sergeant Pepper album cover), Bar Four (for the Fab Four themselves), and the Paul McCartney Suite. This weekend, we stepped into the latter for a look around and emerged with an old fashioned case of Beatlesmania.