REVIEW: ibis Hotel, Amsterdam City Centre

My work colleagues and I visited Amsterdam for a quick weekend trip to celebrate a successful year for the company and to enjoy some time away. We were looking for a hotel that was centrally based and had the bare essentials for our stay. We decided to stay at the ibis Amsterdam Centre as it was located centrally, had all that we needed for our two-night stay and was very well priced. The hotel is a 1-2-minute walk from Amsterdam Central Station and was perfectly placed to access the centre of Amsterdam quickly.

Here is my review of the Twin ibis Beds and One Extra Bedroom at the ibis Amsterdam Centre Hotel.

Arrival and Check-In

We arrived at the hotel at approximately 11:30pm on Friday night. It seemed that quite a few people had also taken late flights as all the staff were attending to guests and the lobby was full of guests waiting to check in.

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Reception

The reception was designed in a way I have not seen before. The receptionist’s worked from a desk in front of the counter which created a more personal encounter as there was no desk between the customer service agent and me.

Although the hotel was very busy, we were quickly seen. We had pre-booked and pre-paid for our hotel room meaning the receptionist only had to check our passports to confirm the names of the booking. The group all had separate rooms around the hotel and we all set off to find our rooms.

The Room

My group were given room 563 on the 5th floor. It is hard to explain but the hotel is split into two blocks with floors 1-4 in one block and floors 5-9 in another block. To access floors 1-4, you need to take the elevator from the lobby to your floor. To access floors 5-9, you also need to take the elevator from the lobby to the 5th floor and cross a hallway bridge and take another elevator to your floor.

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Room 563

Room 563 was the new Twin ibis beds With One Extra Bed. We had this room because there was three of us sleeping in this room.

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Room Layout

The room was not very spacious because there was an additional single bed added and the storage space was limited. You cannot open your suitcase and just leave it open and out because there is very little room to move.

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Beds

The single beds were placed together and if you moved them apart, one of the beds would be blocking the entrance to the bathroom. Surprisingly, the bed was comfortable and okay to sleep on, but I found the pillow to be too soft, which seems to be my main issue with hotels.

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Storage Space

The storage space available would be perfect for guests who take out all the contents of their suitcase as the suitcase could be placed in the wardrobe area and clothing and shoes could be placed on the shelves next to it. As we were only staying for two nights, we did not empty our suitcase and instead, laid our suitcases on the floor whilst using them and then closed them when finished due to lack of space in the room.

A flat-screen television with international channels was available and we did make use of this once, but I did not pay attention to what we were watching. A telephone, information sheets and a safety box were also situated in the room, we did not make any use of these items.

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Only two charging plugs in the whole room

To my surprise, I believe there were only two plugs available in the whole room. I say I believe because we searched in the regular places you may find a plug, but we did not see any and I cannot be certain if there were any hidden away. This was not ideal considering there were three people sleeping in this room with the need to charge their devices.

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Bathroom

The bathroom reminded me of the bathroom facility that my old university had in one of their halls, it was small but functional. There were three hand towels and three bath towels prepared for us on arrival. The hotel asks that you use your towels for the duration of your stay as they are trying to help save the environment by minimising the number of washes they need to do, therefore not needing to use any electricity.

The shower area was very spacious and provided a lot of room. The shower was good and produced a good amount of pressure. My only issue with the shower was the temperature gauge. It was very hard to find the perfect temperature and the shower was either too hot or too cold but never the perfect temperature.

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Hairdryer

The bathroom also had a hair dryer on the wall and a plug for toothbrush chargers and shavers.

Services and Amenities

The hotel does not offer any services that I have previously seen at other hotels I have stayed in. The hotel does have a restaurant and bar and depending on your booking, breakfast is included during your stay. The amenities inside of the room include a sweet bed, a safe deposit box, satellite/cable colour TV and Wi-Fi. I cannot comment on the Wi-Fi speed and reliability as I did not make use of this service during my stay. If you require an iron during your stay, this can be requested at reception. The channels available on the TV are the standard main channels.

On-Site Dining

The hotel has a restaurant, a bar and a small convenience store inside the hotel. Breakfast is served in the dining area on the first floor and is available during the morning. As mentioned earlier, depending on your booking, breakfast is included during your stay.

The all you can eat breakfast buffet provides with a variety of food choices including a new seasonal special every two-months, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, various pieces of bread and more. Freshly ground coffee and fruit juices are the drinks available. I would advise not arriving at breakfast near the end of the time slot as the food is not changed consistently which limits your food choices. The restaurant was closed during our time at the hotel.

Positives

  • Central Location
  • Well priced
  • The option for breakfast to be included
  • Right next to the central train station
  • A little convenience store is on site

Negatives

  • Limited space in the room
  • Only one power socket in the whole room
  • Soft pillows

Final Say

This hotel and room met our needs perfectly. We wanted a centrally based hotel, close to central station and for a reasonable price and that is exactly what we got. The breakfast provided was average and the small shop on site was convenient. On the other hand, having three beds in a double bedroom was restricting and having only one power socket available was not ideal.

If you are looking for a hotel based in the centre of Amsterdam and just need a room to sleep in and leave your stuff, this hotel is perfect. If you would prefer a comfier sleep and a more spacious room, you may have to look at other options and pay more for the luxury.

Have you stayed at the ibis in the centre of Amsterdam before? What were your thoughts? Share them below in the comments.

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REVIEW: Freehand Los Angeles Hotel​

Located in Downtown Los Angeles, The Freehand Los Angeles hotel (part of the Sydell Group) was, as described on the Sydell Group website, created for a new generation of urban travellers. The hotel has combined the culture of a hostel with innovative design, comfort and quality food and beverages at an affordable price.

Established in 2017, the hotel offers a variety of rooms including suites, premium hotel rooms and shared accommodation with the interior designed by Roman and Williams. With its Downtown location, restaurants, bars, markets and pharmacies are all within walking distance. The hotel also has four restaurants/bars where you can purchase anything from coffee to a cocktail and breakfast to dinner. With a variety of services and amenities available including 24-hour front desk and security, convenient and affordable parking, complimentary Wi-Fi and a rooftop pool, I am sure this hotel has everything you need.

I had the pleasure of staying at the Freehand Los Angeles from Monday 27th November 2017 to Friday 1st December 2017 and here is my review of the experience.

Arrival and Check-In

I was able to check-in to my room at 3pm but after a flight from JFK and a Lyft ride from LAX, I arrived at the hotel at approximately 6pm. I was greeted at my taxi by a lady who worked at the hotel and she assisted me by taking one of my bags through to reception. At the reception desk, I was welcomed to the hotel and asked for my ID to confirm who I was and what room I had been assigned. The receptionist also informed me that a deposit would be taken to cover any damage to the room or if I was to purchase any snacks during my stay.

After receiving my room keys and being informed about things I may need to know, the receptionist wished me a pleasant stay and I headed to my hotel room. The lady who previously assisted me with my bags offered to help again but I declined the offer and thanked her for asking.

The Room

I booked the King Room with a city view for my stay and I was given room 917 which was located on the 9th floor. There was not much of a city view as all I could see was the car park below and two tall buildings which blocked any view of the city. There was no additional cost for a view of the city but if you did want a real view of the city, I would recommend emailing the hotel to ask for a room with a view.

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The room had one king sized bed which was very large. I used the bed as a place to sit when watching the TV and when I sat with my back against the wall and spread my legs across the bed, there was still room at the side of the bed. When fully laid across the bed, there was a tiny amount of room left. I am six feet tall, so this gives you an idea of how big this bed was.

The bed itself was very comfortable but I found the pillows too soft and had to use both pillows to provide a bit more firmness. I normally only use one pillow to sleep as two pillows cause my neck to hurt the next day. On the left-hand side of the bed was a bedside table with a lamp. The bed was situated against the wall so there was no bedside table on the right-hand side.

Situated in the corner of the room were a workstation and chair and on top of the workstation was a selection of snacks available. The desk was roomy and had plenty of space for my Macbook and my external hard drive. In the cabinet below the workstation was a fridge full of light refreshments. The prices of the snacks and light refreshments were stated on the menu that was situated on the workstation. If you were to take one of the snacks, the price for the snacks would be taken out of the deposit you paid at check-in. I did not purchase any snacks during my stay as I mostly ate out and did not feel hungry whilst in my room.

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Above the workstation was a 43inch LED HDTV with access to a variety of channels. During my stay, I used the TV in the evenings and watched the live American Football games and also college basketball. The quality of the picture was great and there was a lot of channels to choose from. As mentioned earlier, I used my bed as a place to sit and watch the TV.

The bathroom was very large and had more than enough room. The bathroom had a toilet, wash basin, a mirror and a shower. The shower area was separated from the toilet area by a small step and a shower curtain. The shower was hot and powerful and came with toiletries but I had purchased my own to use during my stay. Two medium sized towels, two small sized towels and two facewash towels were provided with each day as well as a towel to place on the floor outside of the shower.

A robe and slippers were also provided in the room. They were both situated in the wardrobe and whilst I did not use the robe, the slippers were very comfortable and useful for when I had just woken up or gotten out of the shower.

Inside the wardrobe, there was a clothing rail with clothing hangars, an iron and ironing board, a safe for your personal belongings and space to put your shoes at the bottom. The safe was easy and simple to use, you just shut the door, type the code you want to use and press lock.

Services and Amenities

I tend not to use services provided by hotels during my stay, not for any bad reason but I have never felt the need to. The Freehand Los Angeles offers a few services and also some extra amenities that can be viewed here. < insert link

One of the amenities that caught my eye when booking this hotel was the fact the hotel has a rooftop pool and bar. At the time of booking, I did not really pay attention to this as I thought it would be freezing cold in LA but it turns out I was quite wrong. On my first day in LA, it was 25 degrees and the days that followed it was between 18 and 23 degrees. There are plenty of sun loungers surrounding the pool and there was a very peaceful atmosphere.

The hotel also offered complimentary Wi-Fi, daily housekeeping and in-room dining but I believe this is the standard offering from all hotels. The Wi-Fi was strong and I never had an issue with browsing the internet and uploading to YouTube. The housekeepers were polite and did an excellent job maintaining the room during my stay.

On-Site Dining

The Exchange Restaurant, Café Integral and Rudolph’s Bar & Tea are all situated within the hotel premises and offer a varied choice of food and drink. As I mentioned earlier in the review, the hotel even has a rooftop pool and bar called Broken Shaker.

 

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Café Integral

Café Integral offers small breakfast and lunch selections made with fresh, seasonal ingredients which can be accompanied by a choice of hot drinks and juices.

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Rudolph’s Bar & Tea

Rudolph’s Bar & Tea is located in the hotel’s lobby. The bar offers a menu full of tea-infused cocktails alongside light bites and a full tea service. I tried one of the cocktails when I arrived at the hotel, from what I can remember I paid $17 for it and it was really good! I asked the barman to surprise me with a strong cocktail and he did not let me down.

The lobby was full of seating for both the café and the bar. The whole lobby provided this very chilled and relaxed feeling. The windows provided great lighting and the furniture was very simplistic. The lobby kind of reminded me of garden furniture but the whole area looked amazing.

The Exchange Restaurant, which menu explores the multi-cultural flavours of urban LA through an Israeli lens is led by the team behind Bar Lab and is situated on the ground floor of the building. I did not eat here during my stay but from just looking at the menu, I am sure the food would have tasted great.

Check Out

Checking out was quick and easy. The latest I could vacate my room was at 12pm but I left the hotel at 11am to head to the airport. There was no queue at the reception desk and I was seen to immediately. I handed over my room key and informed them that I would like to check out. The receptionist asked me how my stay was and then wished me a safe flight back to the UK and also informed me that the deposit I paid on arrival was placed back onto my card.

Staff

During my stay at the hotel, I came into contact with a lot of different staff members. The staff were polite and helpful at all times and ensured I was happy during my stay. I did not feel like I was bothering any of the staff members and they always made sure my query or request was dealt with quickly and with a smile. The receptionists were welcoming and seemed to genuinely care, the housekeeping staff always had smiles on their faces and the staff members at the bar and rooftop bar always engaged in good conversation.


Positives

  • Very large and comfortable bed
  • The lobby is beautifully designed and is a great place to relax
  • Rooftop bar and pool
  • Good selection of TV channels

Negatives

  • Pillows were too soft
  • I booked a city view but got a view of the tall buildings and a car park

Final Say

I was not sure what to expect when I originally booked this hotel. I think this was because the images online portray the hostel culture very strongly and I thought the hotel would be full of groups on holiday, but I was so wrong. The mood around the hotel was very relaxed and it was often very silent during the day. The hotel is very well designed with the open plan lobby and the rooms are all good sizes. The rooftop bar and pool are great additions and together with a great bedroom, a choice of places to eat and drink, they make this hotel a great place to stay.

Disclaimer: The room at the Freehand Los Angeles was purchased using my own money and I am not in partnership with Freehand Los Angeles. All opinions stated in this review are my own.

 

REVIEW: Superior Queen Room, The Time New York Hotel

Located just a two-minute walk away from the bright lights and excitement that is Times Square, The Time New York Hotel is a luxury Midtown Hotel. Having opened in 1999, the hotel (part of the DreamHotelGroup) has gone on to become a place for many entertainers, celebrities, artists and the rest of the creative class to stay when they are in New York.

With a variety of room choices available including superior king and queen, superior and deluxe suites and a penthouse, you can see why The Time New York Hotel is a popular choice. With a variety of amenities and services available including on property dining, wireless internet, access to parking, concierge services and an indoor fitness center, everything you require is readily available.

I had the pleasure of staying at the hotel from Sunday 19th November 2017 to Monday 27th November 2017 and here is my review of the experience.

Arrival and Check-In

Check in was not until 3pm but I was on an early morning flight and decided to try my luck anyway due to having two large pieces of luggage. On arrival, the doorman kindly assisted me with my luggage and directed me to the reception which was located on the second floor. As expected I was too early to check in and my room was not yet ready but the bell boy kindly took my bags to store and gave me receipts which I needed to use to collect my luggage later in the day.

After wandering around Central Park, I returned to the hotel at 2pm to relax in the lounge area before my room became available. To my surprise, the receptionist got my attention and informed me that my room was ready and my bags would be brought up to my room. The bell boy rang the doorbell (yes the rooms have doorbells) and brought my bags into my room. He proceeded to explain where everything was in my room and that if I required any assistance the staff were always available. He then wished me a good day and left me to settle in.

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Room 703

The Room

I booked the Superior Queen room for the duration of my stay and I was given room 703 which was located on the 7th floor. My room was based at the front of the hotel and overlooked the Ambassador Theatre.

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Queen Size Bed

The room had one queen size bed with Italian Ferette Linen bed sheets.  There were bedside tables and lamps on either side of the bed which had USB ports built into the wall to charge electronic devices. On the left bedside table, there was a clock radio with Bluetooth connectivity, meaning you could stream your music effortlessly. Although the hotel is just a stone’s throw away from the hustle and bustle of Times Square, I found it quite easy to fall asleep and often found myself asleep immediately after getting into bed. Getting to sleep so easily was probably because the pillows were incredibly soft and combined with the blackout blinds, the bed provided a good nights sleep.

The room also had a large mirror facing the bed, a desk with a chair, a fully stocked snack area and fridge and an extra chair with a table. I did not purchase anything from the fridge or snack area as there is a shop at the end of the street and I found most of the items I needed in there for a more reasonable price. The desk was a good size and was able to fit my MacBook and external hard drive without having to move things for space. The desk also had a table lamp for when you needed some extra light whilst working.

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Samsung Smart TV built into the mirror

I was quite surprised when I walked in as I did not see a TV on the wall. The bell boy showed me that the TV was built into the large mirror on the wall which faced the bed meaning I could watch TV from the comfort of the bed. The TV had access to most channels and I often found myself watching the NFL or New York Knicks before bed. The Samsung Smart TV also has USB and HDMI connectivity meaning you can connect your games consoles or laptops.

The bathroom facilities available were fantastic. The bathroom had a washbasin, a toilet, a mirror with surrounding light, a powerful shower and a selection of toiletries. The shower was both hot and powerful but I did not make use of the toiletries as I purchased my own in the UK before travelling.

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Wardrobe

The room also had a wardrobe to store any clothing that I wanted to hang up and I could leave other pieces of folded clothing on the bottom shelf. Underneath the wardrobe was a safe which I could use to store personal belongings whilst I was out of the hotel.

Services

I did not make use of any of the services on offer by the hotel other than housekeeping. Housekeeping cleaned my room whilst I was away and ensured my room had new bed linen, my bed was made, new towels and they also left one light on just in case I came back when it was dark.

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Concierge

The hotel did have a concierge on site to arrange any tickets for events, shows, sporting events, your travel or dinner reservations plus much more. The hotel also offered room service which I did not take advantage of. On the 4th floor was a fitness center but I also did not make use of this facility.

On-Site Dining

The hotel is home to a restaurant, a bar and a coffee shop which are open throughout the day, every day. The Goldfinch Coffee Shop is located on the 1st floor and can be accessed right from the street or as you enter the hotel through the main doors. The coffee shop has one aim – making the best possible coffee.

The Serafina at The Time Hotel has its heart in Northern Italy but it’s feet planted squarely in Midtown Manhattan (as the website describes it). With street access and access to the hotel, the restaurant offers a breakfast, brunch/lunch, dinner and has a great selection of cocktails and wine available. I had the pleasure of dining at this restaurant twice, once for breakfast and once for dinner. I found that the prices of the meals available were average compared to the other places I had eaten in New York. The prices for breakfast were anywhere between $7 and $22 per person and for dinner, $9 and $32 per person.  The waiters and waitresses who served me did so with a constant smile and were always kind during our short conversations. Drinks were always made quickly and the food arrived shortly after placing an order, even when the restaurant was busy.

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LeGrande Lounge

A coffee shop for the quick drink and snack in the morning, a restaurant for a lovely meal in the early evening and finally a lounge to relax and unwind in the late evening. Located on the second floor and just a few short steps away from the reception is the LeGrande Lounge.

With the lounge being semi-hidden from the reception and lobby, it is the perfect place to grab a quick drink or to enjoy a long conversation. The dimly lit lounge offers a place to enjoy your drink and company in a peaceful, comfortable environment. With the bar staying open late into the evening, this is the perfect place to relax and unwind after a day exploring the city or after a meal in the Serafina restaurant.

Check Out

Checking out was quick and easy. The receptionist asked if I had enjoyed my stay at the hotel, to which I informed her that I loved the hotel and would be back for sure one day. She informed me that the deposit I paid on arrival had been sent back to my bank and she wished me a good day.

Staff

Where do I start? I think the staff made my stay at the hotel extra special. Throughout my stay, every member of staff from housekeeping all the way up to management always made an effort to ask how I was and if I needed anything. Housekeeping always ensured my room was clean and tidy for my return in the afternoon, the receptionists answered any queries I had and the doormen always wished me a good day when leaving the hotel.  During my meals in the Serafina, staff were always polite and provided their service with a smile on their face.

Final Say

I really enjoyed my stay at The Time New York and would recommend staying here. I found the hotel great value for money compared to other options in the area. The room, the staff, the location all add up to make this hotel a fantastic place to stay in New York. The room was a perfect size and had everything you required (even a TV in the mirror!). The staff always made the extra effort to ensure you were pleased during your stay and with the location only being a 1-minute walk to Times Square, you will not regret staying at The Time New York Hotel.

DISCLAIMER: This hotel was purchased using my own money. I am not in partnership with The Time New York. All views are my own.

REVIEW: Aspire Double Room, Bloc Hotel at London Gatwick Airport

I was scheduled to fly out of Gatwick at 9:20am on Saturday morning and due to my home being in Oxfordshire and Gatwick being 2 hours away by train, I did not really fancy getting up incredibly early and facing the possibility of train delays. So, I did what any normal person would do, I booked a hotel.

I chose the Bloc Hotel mainly because the hotel is based in the south terminal of the airport where my flight was departing from and because they have also partnered with Norwegian which allows you to gain points for your booking.

After a nightmare train journey to Gatwick with all trains to the airport being delayed or cancelled I finally arrived at around 8:30pm. The Bloc Hotel reception is located on 3rd floor and if you are arriving by train you will need to go up one floor to the reception.

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Bloc Hotel Reception

Check in was very quick and easy, the receptionist asked me if I had ever stayed at the hotel before. Due to this being my first time she told me about what to expect in my room and explained that all the lights, air-conditioning and blinds were controlled by the tablet in the wall.

When I booked my room in the hotel, I requested a room with a view of the airport and runway and the hotel gave me room 844 on the 8th floor which is the last room on the floor. I must mention that although I requested a room with a view, sadly these are not always available.

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8th-floor hallway

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Room 844 entrance

To access floor 4 and above you need to be staying at the Bloc Hotel and with the use of your room key card, the lift only gives you access to the floor your room is on.

After entering my room and standing at the window admiring the view the hotel had kindly given me, I went to grab some dinner. I fancied a Nando’s but the receptionist informed me that the restaurant was through security but directed me to a restaurant called Giraffe which was just around the corner from the hotel. The restaurant was not very busy and I sat in a quiet corner as I was eating alone. Immediately after sitting down the waitress came over to ask how I was and would I like something to drink. The waitress recommended the ‘whiskey cooler” cocktail and I also ordered a bacon cheeseburger with skin on fries which were recommended by the waitress.

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My meal at the Giraffe restaurant

After dinner, I headed back to my hotel room to relax for the rest of the evening. The rooms are quite small but as most people only use the hotel for overnight stays before their flight the next day, you only need a small space.

As I mentioned, the view from my room was incredible and I spent most of the evening watching planes take off, land and move around the airport.

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The morning airport view from the bedroom 

I booked the Aspire Double room and the room had a king bed with four pillows, a mounted smart TV, a bathroom, a desk, a control tablet, a wardrobe and an area to relax and take in the views.

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Aspire Double Room – Bed

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Aspire Double Room – Smart TV

Aspire Double Room – Shower

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Aspire Double Room – Sink & Toilet

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Aspire Double Room – Desk

 

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Aspire Double Room – Control Tablet

 

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Aspire Double Room – Wardrobe

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Aspire Double Room – Relaxing Area 

I woke up very early because I wanted to get a time-lapse of the airport whilst the sun was rising and I set my camera up and got back into bed to flick my attention between the airport and the TV. The bed was incredibly comfy and although my sleep was only 5 hours and 45 minutes long, I felt okay when I woke up. Despite being next to the airport and runway, you barely hear the sound of the airport meaning you can get a good nights sleep before your flight the next day. The only disappointment about this booking is that coffee and tea making facilities aren’t available in the room and although two bottles of water are provided, a coffee in the morning is the best way to start the day.

Checking out was incredibly quick with the receptionist asking how my stay was and then proceeding to wish me a safe and pleasant flight.

Final Say:

I was incredibly excited about staying in the Bloc Hotel and I cannot complain about my whole experience. The room has exactly what you need for your airport stay, a bed, a shower, a TV, workstation, helpful staff and if you ask, a fantastic view. When I fly from Gatwick again in the future, I will always book with Bloc Hotel and I could not rate them high enough.

Disclaimer: The room at the Bloc Hotel was paid using my own money and I am not in partnership with the hotel. All opinions stated in this review are my own.