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Someone told us not to expect any kind of view when we checked into the Hotel Ibis Darling Harbour in Sydney, and when we booked a last minute special for A$89 ($60) we definitely expected to be shoved into a room resembling a corner closet.
But no--the Ibis Darling Harbour really surprised us. Sandwiched between the more expensive Novotel and Grand Mercure Apartments, the Ibis turns out to be great value for such a sought-after tourist spot. And our cheapie room even had a view--not over Darling Harbour but in the other direction towards the Star City casino complex and the "other" bridge in Sydney, the Anzac Bridge.
Just before Sydney went mad with its annual New Year's Eve fireworks, we snuck into the Menzies Hotel quite pleased with a last minute rate of just A$110 ($75) a night; the average rack rate is more like A$250 so don't expect bargain prices like that all the time.
The Menzies belongs to the Accor gang of hotels and seems to live up to its four stars. Friendly service seemed the order of the day, even if the concierge team weren't really too clued up on the info we'd expect them to know like basic ferry timetables and routes. At least they admitted their failings in that friendly Aussie way we love.
The rooms were comfy and new-looking, without anything that made us spectacularly satisfied, but also nothing wrong: a good shower, air-con that dealt with Sydney's humidity well and that all-important decent bed.
With a location directly opposite Wynyard train station and easy walking access either down to Circular Quay with its famous Bridge and Opera House, or in the other direction to the shopping and eating of Darling Harbour, we can't complain, and we'd happily stop by again.
Sydney-siders will know that the future of the Swiss Grand Hotel Bondi Beach is a little uncertain at the moment: developers want to soften the famous "wedding cake facade" and turn the interior into a combination (smaller) boutique hotel and residential apartments. But since the council hasn't decided yet, any change is a long way off.
Just the same, there's been a flood of journos reviewing the Swiss Grand, which perhaps hopes to remind people you can still stay there. A recent Sydney Morning Herald review spoke of all the good sides to the Swiss Grand, the best of which is of course the view over Bondi Beach.
There's something odd about the Altamont Boutique Hotel in Sydney. Their website describes it as being "formerly Sydney's most exclusive boutique hotel."
We're not sure which bit is "former", but it is still a boutique hotel and still in Sydney. However we think what they're trying to hint at is that the building used to be a nightclub with hotel attached and a bunch of celebrities stayed here, apparently including Madonna and the Rolling Stones.
The NY Times dropped by Sydney's new art hotel, The Storrier, over the weekend, and gave it a pretty reasonable write-up. The Storrier's the first in a new chain of art hotels being done by the A Hotels Group--they're planning to have seven art-themed hotels up and running by 2010.
For a Sydney hotel, The Storrier is a little out of the way in Potts Point (and verging on Kings Cross), but it's in a great art deco building that kind of makes up for the distance to town. The NYT review doesn't really sell us on the décor, which it describes as "minimalist, vaguel 1980s-style", but cheap and fancy breakfasts definitely appeal to us. Back to the downside, though, WiFi is available but only for the ridiculous fee of A$10 (US$9.50) an hour or A$29.95 ($28.50) for the day.
So why should we stay at The Storrier? Well, the hotel itself has this to say:
The Storrier is the ultimate cocoon in which to chill and the ideal retreat to return to after burning the rope at both ends.
Poetic, and almost convincing. More persuasive is the fact that The Storrier comes at a reasonable price, from A$185 (US$175) a night.
[Photo: 40ish couple]
In Sydney, you can splurge on a high-rise harbor view hotel if you're greedy for photos of grand ol' Sydney Harbour, or you can get historical and exclusive and try someplace like the Manor House Boutique Hotel.
It's still in central Sydney but rather than a high-rise, it's an 1850s building (old for Australia) that originally belonged to a guy named Edward Flood, who was one of the first mayors of Sydney. Flood is now long gone and these days his home is an 18-room boutique hotel, renovated and then filled with antique furniture.
Medusa Hotel bills itself as a chic boutique hotel in Sydney's achingly hip Darlinghurst neighborhood. This fashonista outpost opts for a reflection pool instead of a swimming pool, is without a restaurant or bar, but every one of their 18 rooms are style-concious in every way.
There are two big questions about Medusa. First, is this a gay hotel? The standard answer is "all types stay here", so no, it is not a hotel that exclusively caters to a gay clientele. However, Medusa is well aware of the market segments they appeal to.
Second, how much is too much to pay for a room at Medusa? Guest reactions to Medusa fall conclusively into two camps -- those who pay under $200 a night and those who pay over $200 a night. Folks who snag a room for anywhere between $99 - $199 seem quite pleased with their hip surroundings. On the other hand, guests who pay over $200 a night complain about the balky service and come away thinking the Medusa is nothing more than an overpriced boutique hostel.
Have a Medusa hotel take? Drop it here.
· Sydney Hotels [HotelChatter]
We've tried out lots of great hotels in Sydney but the current #1 on TripAdvisor has so far eluded us, probably in part because it's such a small boutique hotel that it only has twelve rooms. But we're intrigued anyway about the Simpsons Hotel of Potts Point in Sydney, which is housed in an old mansion originally built in 1892--that's very old by Australian standards.
TripAdvisor guests give plenty of good reasons to justify Simpsons #1 rating, including the breakfasts in the sunny solarium, the free high speed internet service, a cosy living room with a fire burning in winter, the short walk from Simpsons to downtown Sydney, and the friendly staff who have plenty of good recommendations for sightseeing, transport and restaurants.
Rates aren't even that exorbitant, starting at A$175 (US$144) for a single as a rack rate. Special (higher) rates do apply at Christmas, New Year and Mardi Gras--which should be a good clue that it's also ranked highly as a gay-friendly hotel. But then again, Sydney's a gay-friendly city, so we figure we're all welcome at Simpsons, anyway.
· Simpsons of Potts Point [TripAdvisor]
· Sydney Hotels [HotelChatter]
It's not in Switzerland, and some say it's not even very grand, but the Swiss Grand Resort & Spa Bondi Beach does have the best location at Sydney's world famous beach. Without knowing it, you've surely seen pictures of the Swiss Grand because it truly is the backdrop to Bondi.MORE
If you want to hit the shops in Sydney and hang out in the fashion district, a well-located hotel is the 16-room boutique L'Otel in Darlinghurst Road. It's right near the fashion heart of town, and the cafe strip is also right outside.
But whether the inside of the L'Otel really lives up to the hype is definitely not clear. A heap of recent guest reviews have plenty of complaints to make: it seems to have been allowed to get rundown and shabby, or sometimes it's even unclean, and several people have been upset that the quilts don't have covers.
Yet time and again the great location comes up as a huge plus. Whether it's worth the A$250 ($215) a night for the deluxe rooms (or almost half that for the Junior Victoria room) is up to you.
· Sydney Travel stories [Jaunted]
· Sydney Hotel reviews [HotelChatter]
Staying at the Radisson Plaza Hotel Sydney is a nice enough experience, but eating there is something quite special. It's home to the very well renowned French-influenced Bilson's Restaurant and the mountains of praise it gets in local Eatability reviews say it all (and these comments each come from satisfied customers):
I'm not sure how they've done it but the food has become even more sublime at this restaurant ... The food was exquisite - unique, delicious and so artistically flavoured ... Found the service to be very friendly and attentive ... it's definitely somewhere to dine at, at least once.
The Bilson's website also has a few neat features: you can make your booking online or watch a few YouTubes of interviews about the restaurant. The head chef, Manu Feildel, is a minor celebrity Down Under, so local diners love to meet him and grab a photo with him.
· Sydney Hotels [HotelChatter]
Central and friendly, but a bit on the expensive side for what you get, has been the general opinion on the Sydney Hilton of late. But now it's got something extra going for it: as well as having Australia's largest hotel gym, it's now been awarded the prize as the 2007 Health Club Facilities of the Year by the Australian Hotels Association.
It's no ordinary hotel gym, having already the quite big name of the LivingWell Premier Health Club, and a big bunch of facilities to match:
Spanning the entire footprint of the Hilton building, LivingWell includes a 25m indoor pool, cardiovascular gymnasium equipped with a free weights area and the latest interactive equipment ... There are also four saunas, steam rooms, a large spa pool and pampering treatments from The Sensory, LivingWell's beauty concept.
And use of the gym, unlike at some money hungry hotels, is a free service for any Hilton guests. Some might say pounding the beaches of Sydney or climbing the Harbour Bridge is enough exercise, but if you're a gym junkie, it's the place to stay.