101 Travel Guide
Hot hotelier Klaus Ortlieb brings his magic to Iceland. A HotelChatter Review
Iceland in the winter? Sure, why not? Unlike, say East Coast U.S.A, Reykjavik can be surprisingly temperate at this time of year (high 30s to low 40s while we were there). Windy? Yes. Chilly? A bit. But the chance of weather mayhem of snowpocalypse proportions is slim. Plus, the Northern Lights are at highest activity in a decade, so now might be your best chance to spot them.
Since learning that Klaus Ortlieb had resurfaced in Reykjavik last spring, we knew we had to check out the new hostel/hotel hybrid Hlemmur Square. Funnily enough, we came across Klaus himself chatting with friends in the hotel lobby in the morning. There's an endorsement! We didn't interrupt but we sure did eavesdrop: the hostel rooms "need some work" he says, "they need a splash of color."
The FlyBus from Keflavik International Airport drops off in front of the hotel. The hotel lobby was quiet when we checked in around 5 p.m., with just a handful of guests/bar drinkers hanging around; two of which were asleep, one of which was asleep on the floor. Well, we are all a little tired after the new year, no? Our receptionist was very friendly and even walked us up to our room herself. We already were getting a very laid back vibe. "Check out time is around 11, " we were told, "but if you're later than that, it's OK". We like.
When you turn up to stay at the Grand Hotel Wien in Vienna, you'll likely be thinking along the lines of "old elegance" and "grand luxury" rather than "high technology" – but you might be pleasantly surprised.
This grand old dame of a hotel has just got itself hooked up to a WiFi network system which claims to be one of the best. (Well, actually it claims to be the best, but we think that's hard to prove). The NonStop Wireless Networking, a Belden brand, has been installed in 140 different access points within the hotel – we assume that means that most or all of the guest rooms now have WiFi. The system has actually been extended to the hotel across the road, The Ring, which is owned by the same company.
In a country like Iceland where some parts of the year are simply drearily dark and cold, the interior of your hotel takes on a new importance. Which is why the entrance of capital city Reykjavik's first boutique hotel was a significant moment. The 101 Hotel also includes the 101 Bar and Restaurant, and the same owners are responsible for the nearby 101 Gallery. PR peeps try to explain that the 101 somehow captures the whole essence of Iceland:
The 38-room hotel adds extra appeal to the pure landscape of the land - the spouting geysers, active volcanoes, tumbling waterfalls, towering mountains, vast lava plains and stunning lakes ... 101 Hotel complements this natural Nordic coolness with the warmth of its heated oak floors, lounge fireplace and little spa Jacuzzi.
And while the designer aspect of being a boutique hotel has clearly been taken care of well, the service aspect might be a little lacking, if some of the guest reviews are to be believed: adjectives like "perfunctory" and even "horrendous" crop up when describing how hotel staff handled problems. For sheer building and room admiration purposes, however, it's a good stay. And at least the flacks never claimed to offer really great service.
This week the Amazing Race contestants were sent to Antananarivo, Madagascar. We know what you are thinking cuz we're thinking it too--Isn't that where are all those cute fuzzy animals that were trapped in the Central Park Zoo took a trip to?
But the show wasn't all about traveling to the land of fuzzy cartoon characters. Jaunted has the scoop on the new "Intersection" challenge twist that the producers introduced as a way to spice up a completely boring season. So skip on over there for the episode recap while we detail our hotel pick.
Since those cartoon characters were faced with some shady characters when they arrived in Madagascar (yeah, we watched the movie and yeah, we're lame), we decided we would play it safe and stay at the Hilton Madagascar...or so we thought.
Locataed in Antananarivo, the Hilton was completely refurbished back in 1998 (which is just eight years ago!) and offers 171 rooms to stay in. The place seems like a pretty standard Hilton and the reviews are so-so. Well, actually there's only three reviews but if you got Hilton Honors points to burn (about 20,000), you may as well do it here. Just watch out for the bugs:
Hotel is in a dated skyscarper in dowtown. we stayed on top floor in a superficially looking nice room with king bed. However, as soon as we turned lights on we had roaches crawl over fruit plate that was left for us. The furniture was very dates as well as the interior of entire hotel. The room next to ours had a kicked in door panel. We stayed here with Hilton Honor's Points and cannot imagine paying $200 per night for this place. I was really grossed out. I also felt badly that hotel did not help us negotiate taxi fare with hotel taxis and we were ripped off by taxi driver. the whole atmosphere was just somewhat unsafe and unclean.