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Do you trust hotel review sites? [Infographic]

Copenhagen's elegant Hotel D'Angleterre re-opens May 1 after a 2-year re-do (Chris McGinnis)

Copenhagen’s elegant Hotel D’Angleterre re-opens May 1 after a 2-year re-do (Chris McGinnis)

Nearly every traveler I know (including me) checks out hotels on TripAdvisor before making a booking. I’m sure you do, too. Right? The infographic below provides an interesting look at how travelers use the review sites and what makes them trustworthy. It also provides some tips on spotting “fake” reviews. (The infographic was prepared by Olery, an online reputation management company for hotels.)

How do YOU feel about hotel review sites? Do you use them? Trust them? Other than TripAdvisor, which sites do you find most helpful?

Please leave your comments below!

HotelReviews-olery-infograph-FULL

Chris McGinnis

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First look: London’s newest business class hotel

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Centrally located smack between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey on a quiet bend in Broadway.
Porte cochere on Broadway, a quiet street through central London. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Modern, sky-lit check in desk surrounded by original art and sculpture.
More art near elevator banks at each floor.
Light, bright rooms in blonde wood, leather and gold.
Flat screen TVs hidden behind glass wall that double as mirrors.
Big bathrooms, with marble, separate tub and shower, Molton Brown products.
Views are limited to nearby streets and alleyways.
Nespresso machine in every room.
Politically-inspired art throughout the hotel
US-style electrical outlets-- no adaptor required.
Check out the fingerprints in the carpet.. New Scotland Yard is next door!
Young, energetic staff had extra training while waiting for hotel to open.
Umm. BBQ Ribs at Blue Boar Restaurant & Bar. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)
Politically inspired art in the Blue Boar Bar
The handsome Blue Boar Restaurant is the setting for breakfast and dinner.
Hat tip to the British palate: Pulled lamb!
Pulled pork on a silver platter.
A solution for sticky fingers
The hotel is steps away from sites like Westminster Abbey

 

The brand-spankin’-new InterContinental Westminster is London’s newest business class hotel, with the central location, service, and style business travelers require. It also has a handsome restaurant and bar with a type of food you would not expect to find across the pond.

While in the UK over the holidays, I checked in at the hotel for two nights. Take a spin through the slideshow above… then take a read through what you need to know here:

>The 256-room hotel opened in early December in a quiet, yet very central area of London, in between Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. It’s next door to New Scotland Yard.

>The new hotel was built inside a group of 19th century buildings called the Queen Anne’s Chambers—so even though it looks traditional red-brick-London on the outside, everything inside is modern and brand new. As a matter of fact, when I was there, rooms on two floors of the hotel were still under construction.

>Room rates start at about $350 per night, and since its part of IHG, you can earn and burn Priority Club points here.

The new InterContinental Westminster near Buckingham Palace. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

The new InterContinental Westminster near Buckingham Palace. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

>This is one of the few luxury hotels in London that offers free wi-fi—and since the hotel is new, it has fat, fast pipes for quick and easy downloading, streaming, etc.

>Rooms are decorated in a pale palette of blondes, beige and gold, with classy wood, leather, marble and chrome finishes, which keeps the rooms bright—a good thing since most windows in the low-slung (6 story) building look out to other buildings across alleyways and streets or into light wells.

>Bathrooms are big, modern and bright with separate tubs and showers. However, I was not a fan of the large, heavy, sliding doors separating the bathroom from the sleeping room. They seem awkwardly heavy, and not very soundproof, which can be important when more than one person is in the room.

>Its fresh-faced, young, and professional staff is energetic, highly trained- delays in opening the hotel meant more training time for employees.

>Since the hotel hopes to attract London’s political set, the lobby and common areas are all connected, and designed to see and be seen. For example, when you walk in to the chic limestone, sky-lit lobby, you can look through to Emmeline’s, an elegant tea and champagne bar, then through that to Blue Boar Smokehouse, the hotel restaurant and bar.

>Art and interior design are inspired by the hotel’s location. For example, carpet in the corridors sports an unusual fingerprint design (for the spooks in Scotland Yard next door). Most of the paintings and sculpture include characters from London’s rich political scene, past and present—for example, there are busts are Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and London’s blustery mayor, Boris Johnson. (See slideshow above)

>Eventually, a gym and fitness center will open in the basement, but it was still under construction when I was there.

Umm. BBQ Ribs at Blue Boar Restaurant & Bar. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Umm. BBQ Ribs at Blue Boar Restaurant & Bar. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

>It felt a bit odd for me, someone who grew up in the BBQ-sauce-soaked South, to dine on smoke ribs, pulled pork, baked beans and cole slaw in London. But I did, and loved it! In typical British style, the, the BBQ at the hotel’s Blue Boar Smokehouse is served on (get this…) a silver platter. And in another hat tip to British tastes, the restaurant offers pulled lamb. Kudos to the chef Jon Ingram, who served up sweet, smoky and moist pulled pork, and spare ribs charred and spread with just the right amount of sauce. To finish, a classy finger bowl is provided to rinse sticky fingers.

>The Blue Boar Bar, with green leather love seats, plaid loungers, wooden floors and a full bar looked like it would be great fun with a crowd. But when we were there, parliamentarians were on Christmas break, so it was quiet.

>Overall, The InterContinental Westminster is a very nice, new hotel in a quiet corner of London. However, it is not as grand and flashy, nor does it offer the expansive high-rise views (or high rates), as InterContinental’s big flagship hotel on Park Lane.

>The neighborhood around the hotel is a hotspot for new hotels… nearby you’ll find the St Ermin’s hotel and 41 Hotel both opened within the last year and both worth a look-see!

-Chris McGinnis

Two exotic new hotels in Paris (Slideshow)

Earlier this month in Paris, I had a chance to swing by two of the city’s newest hotels: The W Paris- Opera and the Shangri-La.

Wow! The city of lights hotel scene has got it going on.

The W hotel is so new that the cab driver from the Gare du Nord did not know what I was talking about when I said,  ”S’il vous plaît me prendre à hotel W.” (Thank you, Triplingo!) I had to find the Google map on my mobile phone to show him the way.

This brand new 91-room hotel is located in the center of the city near the famous old Opera House. As in most W hotels, there’s always a scene in the lobby (spilling out onto the sidewalk in summer), with DJ’s, models, wannabe models and assorted poseurs. 

Rooms are small and unusually appointed… for example, there are stickers on the wall and pillows on beds with caricatures of famous French men and women. Throughout the hotel are walls of black enameled sheet metal punctured with holes through which lights sparkle— I was told this sparkle was supposed to represent the melding of New York and Paris.  In the less expensive rooms, bathrooms are separated from the room by a sink and mirror- not a wall or a door. This offers a bare minimum of privacy- the small, black-walled closet-like room for the toilet is separated from the rest of the room by only a sliding door. (See slideshow above) That’s no problem if you have the room to yourself… but not great if sharing with another.

On the upside, the hotel is brand new…and new is good in a popular city like Paris where much of the hotel stock is overused and outdated. Basic wi-fi is free. It has a super-convenient location in the center of the city with easy access to several metro lines. There’s a clean, bright fitness studio on the top floor. Speaking English is no problem, and the young, toned, well-coiffed  staff is eager to please— not a hint of French snootiness. High demand is keeping base rates this fall in the $500 per night range.

The chic new Shangri-La hotel opened in late 2010 and is giving established 5-star hotels like the Four Seasons Georges V or the Le Meurice the jitters. It took four years to restore this building- which was once the home of Napoleon’s grand nephew Roland Bonaparte- located in the Trocadero, a posh neighborhood of embassies and mansions between the Arc d’ Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower.

You’ll find a comfortable blend of Asian hospitality (hot tea delivered to rooms at check in, congee on the breakfast menu) and chic French design.  It’s not a huge hotel- only 81 rooms- about half of which offer dramatic views of the Eiffel Tower. Elegance like this does not come cheaply… room rates start at $900 per night. The Shangri-La suite in the penthouse fetches a cool $23,000 per night. (Flip through the slideshow above for a peek of this spectacular suite!)

And it’s not just the Shangri-La that is giving luxury hoteliers in Paris heartburn… a new Mandarin Oriental just opened near the Place Vendome this summer- just a few blocks away from the famous Paris Ritz hotel, which is closed for the next two years for a complete re-do.

What are your favorite Paris hotels? Please leave your comments below. 

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