Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Traveling Can Be Painful Giveaway


Over the weekend as Justin and I wandered through Costco trying to figure out if we needed anything (we had come for a 50lb bag of dog food for my parents), Justin spotted a bottle of melatonin in the healthcare aisle. Knowing that many of the people I babysit for use it for themselves and their kids … and also knowing that I have a tendency to stay up all night keeping Justin awake too… he decided to get it and try it on me, the guinea pig. I'm pretty anti-unnecessary pills; I only take what I need when I need it assuming that I can't cope with whatever is bothering me on my own. I hate going to the doctor, and I hate taking medication. Unfortunately, Justin and I collide in this perspective, because he actually likes sleep. Go figure, right?

Anyway, more or less the melatonin has been killing me. The first two nights I took 5mg of it and when I woke up to get a glass of water in the middle of the night, I could barely keep my eyes open let alone think of what it was that I wanted to do. Then the next day I was groggy as all get out. Yes, I did sleep, but was it worth feeling like that? My opinion: absolutely not.

After two nights of this, Justin dropped it down a notch. He broke the pill in two and gave me 2.5mg instead of 5. The first night on the new dosage I did not sleep at all, but the second night I slept incredibly well and had a hard time getting up the next morning. I didn't feel groggy though, so that's a plus. Perhaps I can convince Justin to cut down the pill even more to 1.25mg? It would definitely be amusing to see him break it into 1/4 for me. *evil laugh* ;)

Given that I am already anxious to return to Europe, I started thinking about the jetlag I experienced in Europe and how I perceived it to be prior to my trip. Would melatonin help on future trips?

I think, because I screw up my sleep schedule so easily, I wasn't exactly tired during my first few days in Europe. I didn't actually start to get tired until we had Germans take over our schedule having us wake up at early-o'clock in the morning to go walk up all of the stairs and climb all of the mountains that exist in Europe. (There are a lot.) No, my jetlag did not exist in an "I'm tired" form. My jetlag existed in the form of headaches and can't eat even if I'm starving form. It was great for weight loss! … Both going and coming! :) Needless to say, I never had medicine when I needed it (because I don't like taking it unless I absolutely need it) and even then I managed to run out only a few days into the trip. (It's impossible to even consider climbing mountains and stairs when your head is throbbing.)

Luckily for you, you won't have to worry about a headache or any other kind of pain, traveling or not, if you win today's giveaway! In honor of all of my friend's traveling abroad this month and thanks a billion to Crowdtap's generosity I have 3 $3 coupons toward Advil, my favorite pain reliever, to give away! :) I'm still prepping my beauty giveaway (to come soon), but I figured you all wouldn't mind a "traveling can be painful" giveaway. :) Just enter the rafflecopter below for your chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
* Giveaway sponsored by Crowdtap. I am not getting paid or compensated for my review or hosting this giveaway.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Venice, Italy – Hilton Molino Stucky

from Tripadvisor

In following along with my Tuesday hotel reviews, today I will be reviewing the Hilton hotel Molino Stucky located in Venice, Italy.

Destination: Venice, Italy
Date: May 2014
Hotel: Molino Stucky
Brand: Hilton
Status: Gold
# of travelers: 4 (2 couples) in 2 rooms

Hotel & Brand – Making the Decision

The search for a hotel in Venice began much the same as my search for a hotel in Paris. I knew we would have limited time, so I wanted to stay as close to the city center (and tourist attractions) as possible. I also wanted to either stay at a cheap AirBnb or a hotel that I had status with. What I came to discover though, was that the majority of US hotel chains were actually located outside of the city rather than in it. To top it off, there would be extra costs for parking a vehicle outside the city limits. All of a sudden, picking a hotel became overwhelming and stressful. After a bit of time on Flyertalk looking at my options, figuring out how likely I was to receive an upgrade at the hotel, and discussing the subject with my husband and the friends who would be traveling with us, we decided to stay at the Hilton Molino Stucky. I was looking forward to taking advantage of the rooftop terrace for a gorgeous sunset view over Venice, and I was pretty certain we would receive an upgrade (because of my status) including breakfast.

Getting There

The hotel has no parking, so you will have to park your vehicle outside of the city in a large local parking garage before hopping aboard a boat to get to your location. Overall it wasn't too bad to do. It was perhaps a bit confusing figuring out where we were going, but if we can do it, so can you! :) Honestly I don't remember too much about the metro and getting there via that. It's possible, obviously, but you will have to speak with someone more familiar with that mode of transportation than myself. The key, I think, is not taking more luggage than you need. In fact, I would suggest minimizing your luggage as much as possible. It's much easier to trade off dragging one piece of luggage between two people than it is to have each person carrying their own piece.

Location


from Hilton's website

My cohort may disagree with me, but I found the Hilton Molino Stucky to be pretty central to everything we did. Yes, you had to take a boat from one island to the next, but we seemed to be hopping between islands anyway. The other nice bit was that the hotel had it's own boat that you could use for free. Rather than using the Venetian transportation system, if you could time it just right, you could hop aboard the hotel's boat and be dropped off right at the hotel! Who wants to drag their luggage over zillions of stairs and across all of the tiny Venetian bridges? (Not me.)

(I'd talk a bit about the tourist attractions, but I simply don't remember too much about Venice. I blame jetlag.)

Hotel Room & Room Price


from here

When I first booked the hotel room, I was trying to book with a code that would get us a stay for cheaper. I checked and the code worked, so I spoke with my husband and friends about whether or not to book it. They agreed that I should, and when I went to check again, the code didn't seem to work (or at least not for as cheap as I had originally seen which wasn't all that cheap to begin with). It turns out, the cheapest price I was seeing was for a room with two single beds, which would have worked fine if I had realized when I booked that the price difference was merely the difference between two single beds and one queen. Oh well. I booked the fancy queen bedroom, which I have to admit I don't regret in the least. :)

I didn't see any of the other rooms in the hotel, but I was enamored by the upgraded hotel room (a deluxe room with a view) that my husband and I received. It was simply enormous! It was spacious for two people, and I could easily see a family (or group of close friends) being able to fit a rollaway cot in there with more than enough room to spare. Over the bed hung a gorgeous chandelier. I promise that for a bit of time I totally thought I was staying in a castle! The room was so fancy and beautiful. Even the bathroom was amazing. To top it off, the manager had left a note on a table in our room with a free water bottle and chocolate letting us know that if we needed anything, we merely had to ask. Yes, I definitely could have felt like royalty staying at this hotel…

view from the room; from Tripadvisor

One of the coolest things about the room was that the window opened out onto the water. That is, it was a cool feature until our room was filled with pesky mosquito-like bugs that room service had to come clear out for us at 1 in the morning. Argh. About that royalty bit??! Hmmm…

The view from the "room with a view" was decent enough. I'm not sure it is worth paying anything extra for, but I'm also not sure it is worth not paying extra. Let's just say that I've had both better (Panama City Beach Holiday Inn Resort) and worse (Holiday Inn Notre Dame) views. :) One of the nice bits was that I could see the sunrise from the hotel room. When you don't go to bed until 1AM, not having to change to view the sunrise at 5 or 6 am is actually pretty nice. (Or was it 4am? It was waaaaaayyyyyy toooooo early whatever time it was!)

There were a variety of amenities available in the room as well as on the hotel property. My husband and I did not take advantage of many of them, but the room contained snacks (that cost too much), a hair dryer, iron and ironing board, coffee maker, and mini soaps/shampoos that make your stay more relaxing (and suitcase lighter if you use them rather than bringing your own). Other amenities in the hotel included elevators (which I never considered an amenity until I went to Europe!), laundry service, a fitness room, and (apparently, as seen on their website) babysitting services. Do I know anyone going to Venice that needs a night out without their little ones?! ;)

Staff, Room Service, & Member Status Upgrades

A few weeks before our trip, I contacted the concierge desk about putting something additional in our friend's room. They were on their honeymoon and I wanted to do something nice. First of all, we'll just say that room service is EXPENSIVE. It's not just expensive at this hotel, in my experience it is expensive at EVERY hotel. (Feel free to let me know of one that does not have expensive room service.) The concierge desk was extremely helpful despite their broken English and sent me a menu of options and worked with me from the day I contacted them all the way up until our arrival confirming even after checking in that my request had gone through. I cannot speak about the room service food however, because my friends did not comment on it.

I did have some issues with the hotel though. Upon booking I received not one but two emails saying that my room(s) had been upgraded. Naturally, I assumed that both of the hotel rooms I booked had been upgraded. I had status, so why not? It turns out Hilton only upgrades one room per visit. On the one hand, I understand that the hotel is trying to make as much money as possible, but on the other hand, this is incredibly stupid if one person books two rooms because they are traveling with someone else (especially if it's family!). When we booked our stay, we were booking with another couple to spend time with them … not so that we could be in a room halfway down the hall from them. On top of that, the hotel staff checking us in told us that not only had our room been upgraded but that we also had free breakfast, in front of our friends whom they had not upgraded. In my opinion, that was incredibly rude and unthoughtful of the hotel staff, who had been forewarned that the couple we were traveling with were on their honeymoon. Seriously! If anyone should get the upgrade, it should be them … even if I was the one with status. And if there was any question about which room should be upgraded, the hotel should have contacted and asked me. Argh! #petpeeve Anyway, the end result was that I felt like a terrible human being for having an upgraded room and free breakfast which made it hard to enjoy my time in Venice.

Rooftop Terrace, the Lobby, & Hotel Space


from Hilton's website

I probably am not the first to admit that the hotel was absolutely gorgeous inside. Chandeliers hanging in the lobby entryway made you feel like you were in an exquisite palace. (Yes, I love chandeliers!) There were couches all over the lobby for guests to relax on and even a spot for you to take advantage of free computers and wi-fi. Off to the left of the front desk (if you are looking at the front desk), you could find the guest lounge where customers with status could take advantage of free breakfast in the mornings and presumably coffee and cookies at night. You have to scan your keycard to get in.

from Hilton's website

The rooftop terrace was incredibly difficult to find. I'm sure the view was astounding, but given that our friends were uncomfortable, we did not take advantage of the hotel's rooftop restaurant and view for very long. Prices were expensive, as I expected, but I think our friends were hoping for a free view and/or cheaper prices, neither of which are readily available at (what I imagine to be) any Hilton hotel (or even any hotel with a view). When my husband and I decided to venture up separately from our friends so that my husband could enjoy an alcoholic beverage before going to sleep, we discovered that the staff was incredibly unhelpful and the music was far too loud for our patience. Rather than wait to get helped by staff (who seemed uninterested in helping us), we left after about 10 minutes of waiting.

Because we were at the hotel during the early part of spring, the rooftop pool was closed, but we did manage to take in a bit of relaxation in one of the empty conference rooms on the upper levels as we continued planning the rest of our trip with our friends. It was nice to relax after a long day and listen to the rain as it poured outside our window. We sipped on wine, chatted about everything, and booked a hotel all before going to bed that night. The room was a nice neutral territory for people who were still getting to know one another, but I could also see it being great for individuals (families, friends) who bring a picnic breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert and just need a place to relax before venturing out again. I'm sure that they occasionally have events where the area is needed, but I imagine that the majority of the time the rooms and tables are empty.

Breakfast. Internet, & Bugs

As a gold member, I was suppose to receive free breakfast and free internet. Unfortunately, the internet bit didn't pan out so well during our first night. We tried desperately to connect to the hotel's wi-fi with no luck. Finally, on night 2, we were able to connect just in time to book a hotel for the continuation of our trip in Italy.

I'm not sure how much breakfast would have cost us if we were paying, but it was a decent amount of food for not having to pay. We were able to pick between pastries, cheese, fruit, eggs, bacon, sausage, cereal, coffee, juice, and milk (typical hotel fare). Nothing was extremely amazing or extravagant, and I ended up losing any appetite I could have had when I noticed more of those pesky mosquito-like bugs in the dining room. Ick.

Speaking of bugs in the bedroom and the dining room, I have decided (and voiced my opinion to the Hilton as well) that they really need to find some sort of bug repellent to use on the hotel property. There is absolutely no reason I can think of to have as many problems with bugs as they do. At $200+ a night, hotel guests deserve a property that is bug free. Furthermore, if opening one's window can cause bugs to enter the room, then they really ought to have a sign up that says so! Anyway, you've been warned. Don't open your hotel room window if you want to go to bed at a decent time without worrying about being eaten to death while you sleep.

Overall Review

★★★★ (above average)

The hotel was gorgeous, the staff was helpful, the rooms were large, the breakfast was decent, the shuttle service was nice, and the member upgrades were fair. An open pool, a lack of bugs, empathetic staff, and a cheaper price (on anything: room, breakfast, room service, or at the hotel restaurant!) could have raised my star count. Most likely, I would stay here again if given the chance. My overall experience was very positive even if the hotel still has a few issues to work through.

Your Turn

Given what I have shared about the hotel, would you consider staying here? Do the bugs sicken you? Do the chandeliers intrigue you? Is there anything else I can tell you about this hotel before you plan your extravagant trip to Italy? ;)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Top Eleven Places I Want to Travel in Europe

If I were to return to Europe with no time constraint on my visitation, the following are the places I would most want to visit.

1. France

I want to return to Paris and go shopping. I didn't get to visit the Luxembourg Gardens or even the gardens that Monet worked from. There are pictures that still need to be taken from various vantage points including a few night shots. Going at Christmas time would be A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! Oh - and my hairdresser says that I simply must have my hair done in a French salon. I'd eat more delicious crépes, cheese, croissants, baguettes, and soooooo many macarons (especially now that I know how hard they are to find in the US!).

The French countryside is extraordinary as well. Justin's uncle said that we needed to spend more time experiencing the wine of France; he said he'd quiz us later. ;)

French Disneyland, maybe? I'm still undecided. It's probably not nearly as awesome as Florida's WDW. If I ever had kids, I could definitely see it being an interesting *immersive* cultural experience. :) Yes, you can see Mickey IF you speak to him in French! :-P

2. Germany

We didn't really visit or explore many of the cities in Germany, and the places we did explore were so fast! I'd definitely like to go visit some of the gardens that I didn't get to see there as well as visit a WWII memorial, I think. That last bit might be a bit depressing… :-/ Seeing castle ruins is also a consideration. Okay, Okay… I'm not sure what exactly I want to see in Germany. I'm sure there is something though. Honestly seeing friends and hearing the language is enough to make me consider a return trip. I'm pretty easy to please. :) I'd really love to go to my friend's boyfriend's family home and pick raspberries off the bush though! That sounds de-lic-ious! YUM! <3.

3. Switzerland -

for fondue. ALL OF THE FONDUE. I've heard the rolling hills are gorgeous with the cows wearing those bells like you see in the commercials? hehe. Proof is necessary!

4. Italy

More art, please? Or history? Or gorgeous sunrises and sunsets? Pizza! Gelato! Olive oil and balsamic vinegar with the best tomatoes and mozzarella in the world?!?! Sounds good to me. I have yet to see Florence, Milan, Rome, or Naples! Plus, I've heard (thanks to Travel and Leisure magazine) that they have some of the most gorgeous beaches in the world. As with Switzerland, proof is necessary! I'm not going to believe it until I see it! :)

5. Greece

Not sure what to expect there other than delicious food. Or at least delicious desserts. (Will I eat their food? Hmmm…)

6. Spain

I don't know what's there either, but I want to go! :)

7. Norway

Because of Anna and Elsa from Frozen. :) And … My husband's family is originally from there, and they are always sharing pictures  of the gorgeous countryside. Unfortunately, like with so many other European countries, I have no idea what all the country has to offer visitors. I'm a quick learner though! :)

8. Netherlands

I am interested in seeing Amsterdam. I blame the movie adaptation of John Green's Fault In Our Stars. It looks lovely. Plus, I've always loved (or hated) the Anne Frank story; seeing the location where they hid would be interesting.

9. Ireland

The culture is interesting. I don't know what else to say about it. :)

10. U.K.

London to see the palace and Big Ben.

Scotland, where apparently my dad's family has (or had?) a castle?!?! :)

11. Czech Republic

Four words: The city of Prague. I've heard positive things, and I've seen pretty pictures; that's enough to convince me. :)

Of course, there are a million other places I want to travel to as well. Canada, Australia, Japan, maybe Africa (wild animals are cool for the most part, but ebola is not…), Russia, Mexico, and even other parts of the US (Hawaii, California, Colorado, Boston, and Chicago come to mind)!

Where are you most interested in traveling? Anywhere I've mentioned? Have you already traveled to any of those places? I'd love suggestions or thoughts! If I'm lucky one day I will be able to travel to some of these places (in some instances, again), and recommendations are always useful! :)

* This post is part of the Girl Meets Life October Blogging Challenge

Friday, October 17, 2014

Poshmark Review


A few weeks ago I was looking around Free People's website when I spotted a combination I just happened to love and had to have. Ok, so I didn't really have to have it… I don't ever really have to have anything. I like it though. But then I noticed that the person who shared this combination on Free People mentioned that the sweater coat she was wearing was from a year ago. It was no longer being sold on the FP website and it wasn't available on ebay either. *cue disappointment* I wasn't certain I'd ever be able to piece together this kind of ensemble even if I bought the dress portion that had just gone on sale (and is still on sale for those that are interested).

When I want something or want to know something or in any way shape or form becomes just the tiniest desperate, I will do whatever I can think of to try to get what I want. Sometimes I don't get anywhere and I'm unsuccessful no matter how much I want something to be, but sometimes I actually get what I want. As it turns out, even though ebay and FP no longer had the sweater jacket available to buy, someone had recently listed it on Poshmark. Through a google search of the product name, the picture from Poshmark appeared and I clicked. All I morning I read comments going back and forth between the lister and others that were interested… would the seller sell it for $15 less? what about $10 less? blah blah blah. I have this weird thing where I don't buy anything without talking to my husband first; it's good for our budget and it gave me the afternoon to ponder whether or not the item would still be available and how badly I wanted it.

Luckily (for me) when Justin got home, he was all for me buying it. The commenters were still going back and forth, so I worried that even if I commented, the seller would choose someone ahead of me. That's when Justin pointed out the "buy it now" button. While the commenters were going back and forth over cost and whether or not they wanted it, I simply bought it at full cost out from underneath them.

The product was shipped to me within 3 days from the seller. It was in great condition, and I had a great experience with my first buy on Poshmark. After you get the item, you have to let the people at Poshmark know that you received and then you have to rate it, which I suspect affects the buyer's ability to list and continue selling on Poshmark. You should keep in mind however that there is a no return policy, much like ebay, so be sure to ask the buyer any questions you have before purchasing. Research your product in full to determine you are buying the "real deal" and not some knock off replica, if you even care about having the "real deal". Poshmark is pretty big into the community aspect where they encourage you to share and "like" the clothing that you like with anyone that follows you on Poshmark (after you create an account) as well as bargaining with sellers for what you want.


I'm very much looking forward to taking advantage of the selling aspect of Poshmark in the near future. Supposedly (and I'll have to review this separately after I try it) they have an app that allows you to take and post pictures of your used clothing you no longer wear or like to be sold on Poshmark. You have the opportunity to build up a community and following (like on facebook) as well as participate in parties (like on twitter) to get your clothing seen. Once you sell an item, you have to ship it within a certain time period, obtain a tracking number and wait for the buyer to receive the product before you are paid. When you are paid, 20% of the cost is subtracted and given to those who work at Poshmark. Yes, it's a huge chunk of money, but you also have to keep in mind how much time you are saving by not taking pictures and posting on ebay. To some it may be worth it … and to some it may not. It really depends on you and your situation. I'm considering trying it simply because of how fast and easy it is. I never seem to make the time to sell any of my items on ebay. Usually I just donate my old clothes to Goodwill or *try* to sell them to Plato's Closet. With Poshmark, I'd have the chance to make money without even leaving my house!

What do you think? Have you tried Poshmark before? Are you willing to give them a shot?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Adjustments


Within 24 hours my week went from sorta' kinda' busy in a comfortable way that would allow me time to get everything done to a fast-and-furious stressful how-am-I-even-going-to-find-time-to-sleep busy. I was out until 1am last night and it's looking like I'll be out late again tonight … and tomorrow night! No rest for the weary?

Here are a few blog posts that I wanted to share with you all since I don't really have a whole lot of time to share and post my own thoughts:

You are enough. - an inspirational post about why it's ok if you can't fix your hair, make DIY pottery barn furniture, and live in a perfectly clean house every day of the week.
• Who knew you could get so creative with balloons?
30% off booties at Anthropologie

Is there anything you've found recently on the interwebs? I've barely touched on the awesomeness that can be found due to lack of time, but I'd love to see what you've found!

I guess it's time to get back to work. Hope you all are having a fantastic Thursday!

**
 I'm participating in 31 Days; are you?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Life is…


what happens when I edit.

Recap:

I set my 10 minute timer and finished within 5 minutes. Then I was like am i really finished? And I ran an action on my image just to see. It looked pretty good and I still had a few minutes left, so I start bringing out the shadows and lowering the highlights, giving the clouds more depth, working on the water… When the alarm went off, I thought to myself it will only be a few more minutes. HA. An hour later and I don't have time to write a post. Or rather I have ten minutes which I suppose fits in just perfectly with the whole 5 minute post every day in October. Unfortunately for you all it means a sad little post explaining why I can't post. :( And holding off on the giveaway for another day. Maybe Friday? I really should start planning my posts better!

Here's what to expect on my blog coming soon:

• Giveaway featuring Skintimate and Schick products
• Poshmark Review
• another European hotel review next Tuesday
• Giveaway featuring Purex Aromatherapy Crystals!
• A review of Neil Diamond's new album (Have you heard his song "Sweet Caroline"? It's super old.)
• And who knows what else! :)

Hope everyone has a fantastic Wednesday! :)

** I'm participating in 31 Days; are you?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Holiday Inn Paris Notre Dame Review

Over the weekend I went searching for reviews of hotels in the DC area. I was hoping for a good, solid blog review with intricate details that would help me make my decision. Given that my husband and I are only going to be in DC for approximately 1.5 days and at least .5 of those days will be spent with friends, I wanted to make sure that even we paid more for a hotel room, we would be in a good area within walking distance of monuments and the hotel would provide the most value for the cost of the room.

Guess how many reviews I found that were truly helpful?



none.

I only read one in depth review, but it still wasn't incredibly helpful in my decision making.

As such, I have decided to do a comprehensive review of a number of hotels I have stayed at over the course of the year to try and provide you as much of the information as I was looking for as I can. This won't be an everyday thing, but more like a once a week review (until I run out of hotels). I'm hoping it will help google searchers and travel planners as they figure out their vacations and work-travel hotel destinations. I don't necessarily have pictures to complement my writing, but in the future I will try to remember to take pictures for review purposes.

–––––––––


Destination: Paris, France
Date: April/May 2014
Brand: IHG
status: Gold
# of travelers: 2

Hotel & Brand – Making the Decision

With hotel status at IHG, Hilton, and Marriott, when Justin and I decided to spend a night in Paris before traveling on to Germany for a wedding, I really wanted to stay in a hotel where I would get benefits and feel like "first class travelers". Paris is such a huge city that finding a hotel in one of the American chains that I had status with was quite easy. From that point forward, I became more concerned with cost, benefits, location, and views. I chose the Holiday Inn Paris Notre Dame, because of the low cost (compared to other chain hotels in the area), reviewers' recommendations of the close proximity of attractions (within walking distance), and the rooftop view. I had also read on FlyerTalk that people with Gold status were usually upgraded.

Getting There

Because Justin and I were driving to Germany the next day (and around Europe during the following 3 weeks), we had rented a car for our stay. This made getting to the hotel complicated since the parking garage was easily a 10 minute walk away. (An easy uncomplicated walk for Europeans, but a long confusing walk for Americans who are used to being able to park at the hotel they are staying at.) Many guests would park in the truck loading zone in front of the hotel to take in their luggage and check-in. We did not, but I definitely recommend it for future visitors to the hotel. In fact, I highly recommend using the metro system for most of your travel while in Paris given that parking is expensive, driving is complicated, and everything is centrally located. The hotel is on a one-way street with only smart car parking in front, so if you miss it, it can be complicated turning back around and getting to the correct street.

Location

image from Priceline

Paris is made up of 20 arrondissements with 1 being the closest to the city-center and 20 being the furthest away rotating clockwise as you go from the city center outwards. The Holiday Inn Notre Dame was located in the 6th arrondissement which is close to many tourist attractions but not quite in the center of the city. Walking around the area, my husband and I found many local restaurants including one amazing créperie, Crêperie des Arts, where we sampled both a savory crêpe and a sweet one for a reasonable price. We had been looking for a more traditional French restaurant for dinner, but we were so glad we got to experience this little créperie instead.The staff did not speak much English, but if you are familiar with cooking terms at all, you should be able to point to what you want. :)

Since we were in Paris on May 1 and we had a lot of driving to do, we didn't really venture to too many tourist attractions, but we did take a long walk soaking in the beauty of local parks and imagining having the money to shop in all of the boutiques with the gorgeous umbrellas (yes! They have shops just for that!), antiques, and clothing. I do not recommend going during the May 1st holiday however since most shops are closed and all you can really do is peruse the shop windows. (Great idea for those on a budget!)

Hotel Room, Amenities, Staff, View, Price

Because we were only visiting for a day, Justin and I paid the higher price for the room with a view. That turned out to be a disappointment as all we could see from our room was the very tip of the eiffel tower. When we went down to the lobby, they told us that all of the other rooms were booked and that they could place us in a better room the next night, when we would be leaving. We really should have downgraded but with Justin stressed out, we simply paid the high cost for the not-so-great room and let it be. I highly recommend asking for a room on a higher floor and perhaps only upgrading to a room with a view once at the hotel to ensure that you don't get a half-view.

from IHG website; rooms were not as spacious as indicated.

The hotel room with a double bed wasn't entirely bad, but I would not recommend it for a larger party than two. There was no room for a rollaway cot. It was a small room compared to American standards but definitely decent sized for France. We had a corner room with a small balcony and (as mentioned before) a tiny view of the Eiffel Tower (but mostly of rooftops). The room included a desk, bed, two chairs (no tv), and reliable wi-fi, something we found to be scarce in all of Europe. The bed wasn't incredibly comfortable, perhaps a little hard, but we were excited to see little notes left on the pillows indicating that we could ask for whatever pillows we wanted – feather, soft, hard, etc… The bathrooms were normal sized compared to US hotels and were decorated with a modern style. Even with gold status and a complaint about our room, we were not upgraded or even offered a discount which was disappointing but not surprising.

While the staff was not exceptionally helpful with regards to our room, they were incredibly helpful in many other ways. For example, they directed us to where good local spots to eat were, gave us a map of local phone shops that we could try, and inserted a code into the elevator so that we could watch the sun rise from the rooftop. Their English was superb and we hardly had any trouble communicating.

my image; view from the rooftop at sunset

from IHG website; rooftop bar as advertised

The rooftop view at Holiday Inn Notre Dame was surprisingly empty most of our stay except for sunset when viewers clamored up the elevator to watch the beautiful sun set over Paris. Even then, only a handful of people joined us on the rooftop for the lovely view at dusk. We were, however, very surprised to not find a bar or restaurant on the roof catering to hotel guests or serving drinks. The hotel could make a killing if they had provided such an offering. Instead, the rooftop area almost looked forgotten about with dirty (not disgusting, mind you) tables and chairs. It was a relaxing experience but certainly not a highlight for the hotel (despite how it is advertised online).

image from TripAdvisor

As for breakfast, the hotel's offerings were pricey with much smaller portions and fewer choices than most American-style buffets typically offer. The May 1st date, however, meant that there weren't many breakfast options open and available to us as early as we were eating (7AM). We were given the choice between a 9€ pastries option or the 20€ buffet. We choose the buffet not knowing when we would get the chance to eat again; it included eggs, pastries, cereal, a few meat selections, sparkling water, juice, and coffee. While I cannot recommend the food at such high prices and low taste quality, the staff was friendly offering all of the women that came through the restaurant a flower, a sweet gesture to be sure.

Overall Review

★★★ (average)

This is a great, small, reasonably priced (given the location) hotel to stay at in Paris close to many attractions and restaurants with a rooftop view of the sunset. The rooms are small and the views are dependent upon which room you get. Don't expect an amazing view just because you paid for it. I recommend grabbing breakfast at a local créperie if it is open or eating a croissant from a bakery rather than paying the exorbitant hotel fee for a buffet breakfast at the hotel's restaurant. I also suggest using the metro (or walking) over driving while in Paris. You can get a day pass for a few euros in comparison to the 20€ or 30€ fee you will pay in the parking garage. The staff at this hotel is friendly, courteous, helpful, and speaks English which will be extraordinarily helpful to those visiting Paris for the first time. I'm not sure I will ever consider staying at this hotel again, but it is definitely not a bad choice.

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