Four Fantastic Hotels

Image via Tom Häkkinen
Tea on the rooftop terrace, Hotel de l'Horloge
1. Hotel de l’Horloge, Avignon

Fantastic hotel in a fantastic location. This hotel is situated in the Place de l’Horloge - in the centre of Avignon, in the heart of Provence. It is a good base from which to do tours of Provence and the city of Avignon itself is a beautiful city retaining lots of its old medieval character.

The rooftop terrace rooms are outstanding, the hotel is one of the taller buildings in Avignon and the views across the red-tiled roofs of Avignon out over the rest of Provence are incredible. Avignon is also a great city to amble about, even without the Palais des Papes the city has enough medieval character to charm you over and there are delightful shops all about, from designer boutiques to shops selling Provençal soaps and lavenders etc.

I also found the service standard and professionalism of one member of staff especially memorable and I wish I had enquired as to his name so I could mention it in this blog post. When we first arrived, it was very late due to train strikes on the way from Bordeaux and we were a party of four with my aunt and Esther’s mum sharing a room - obviously it would have be twin beds. However, for some reason, it could even have been my own negligence although I thought I remembered that detail, the hotel had received no such request. It was late, the phone was constantly ringing, the computers were down and there was only one member of staff on duty. To put my relatives up in a room of a lower standard than that which we had paid for - “out of the question” - so sweat running from his forehead, the man from the concierge went upstairs himself to find an available room with twin beds and of comparable or better quality than what we paid for. Outstanding. Although, as to the management decision to put only one member of staff on duty on a busy Friday night, not quite so well thought-out.

A fantastic stay in a fantastic city!

2. Silky Oaks Lodge, Cairns

This is a great hotel in the far north of Queensland - cane country. The hotel itself is just outside of a sleepy agricultural town called Mossman, twenty kilometres up the road from Port Douglas and 50 odd kilometres further North of Cairns. It is in fact situated in the Mossman Gorge in the heart of the Daintree Rainforest.

If you’re going to the far north of Queensland chances are you’re going to see the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest and this hotel has good access to both. It is in fact in the rainforest and your rooms are self-contained bungalows amidst the trees, some of which are up on stilts so as to literally be in the rainforest. The restaurant is on a balcony overlooking the Mossman river and there is also an adjoining bar and some old board games including chess. You can swim in the river, play tennis or go for walks in the bush or along the river. If you’re only interested in the reef then maybe you could find better hotels in Cairns or Port Douglas, but Esther and I found it easy to organise a trip on a boat leaving from Cairns to see the Outer Reef and the hotel staff are more than willing to organise any tours or day trips you might have in mind for you with pick-up from the hotel.

3. Crowne Plaza Gold Tower, Gold Coast

A spectacularly ugly sky-scraper along the edge of Broadbeach, Surfer’s Paradise. But the advantage of staying in an ugly hotel is that once inside your view isn’t spoilt by the ugly building that you’re in and the Ocean View rooms in this hotel are incredible. In late January when I stayed here with Esther we left the balcony doors wide open all night, we fell asleep with the sound of the surf in our ears and awoke with the sun rising through the morning mists of the Pacific Ocean ready to hit the day.

The words “Ocean View” can’t properly convey the serene atmosphere that reigns in the rooms of this hotel. Soaring above the Gold Coast these rooms have views of the Pacific Ocean, sounds of the Ocean - the surf and the gulls and the salty sea air of the Ocean whilst remaining at an appreciable remove from the traffic and the day-to-day din of the streets below.

Image via Tom Häkkinen
A wintery Letchworth Road
4. Mercure Letchworth Hall, Letchworth

I was originally not sure if I would include this hotel in my list, only because Letchworth in North Hertfordshire is such an unassuming and out of the way location. But the reality is, I had to stay here for work and it really was a charming country hotel. The hotel is a converted old country manor house called “Letchworth Hall” which in fact well predates Letchworth Garden City. Being built by Sir William Lytton in 1620. Arriving from Australia in the middle of one of Britain’s severest winters for many years, the roaring fireplace in the main hall adjoining the bar was a delightful place to sit down with a pint after having to commute home through the snow (and in my particular circumstances for commute read “walk”).

Although there’s not a great deal that Letchworth has to offer, the hotel sits amongst idyllic surrounds, overlooking English fields criss-crossed by hedgerows to the south and only a short walk from the old English village of Willian, a tiny village consisting of a church, post-office and two pubs that has probably hardly changed since being first assessed by William the Conqueror’s “Domesday” assessors.

The icing on the cake: the hotel has a swimming pool and gym and isn’t of the miserly variety that charges for access to its wi-fi.
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