October 31, 2010

Tallink Silja Superstar, Ferry Tallinn-Helsinki…business lounge was great stuff

Filed under: Estonia, Ferry, Finland, Travel — Tags: , , , , , — PEr @ 2:45 pm

Tallink Silja M/S Superstar line provides the fast ferry connection between Tallinn and Helsinki South harbour.  The travel time is slightly over 2 hours as Helsinki and Tallinn are only 80km apart.

Embarkation starts 30 minutes before departure, and there was a mad rush to board the vessel. They could have got assigned a different gangway for passengers on business class, I feel. Disembarkation in Helsinki was a straightforward affair, due partly to that fact that there is no passport control. I still felt that business class passengers should have priority of a different gangway.

Superstar has a well-equipped business lounge for 138 passengers. It offers wifi all the way! And comfortable seating. We had complimentary buffet dinner, and free drinks included in the price of the ticket. Great stuff.

This is the true truth an I say it as it is…

October 30, 2010

Hotel Kamp, Helsnki…opulence reigns but service does not match product

The best thing about Hotel Kamp is that the rooms and bathroom are very spacious and that it’s situated at a lovely cobbled street in the heart  of the CBD and 5 minutes walk to the harbour and the central station is only slightly further. Right off the main shopping street, Hotel Kamp is literally a two minute walk from a large, beautifully landscaped park that is populated by Finns enjoying the autumn days. This fabulous (and clean) park had dozens of park benches, wide expanses of lawn for relaxing, and numerous outdoor cafes perfect for a quick espresso and some people watching. Don’t miss the beautiful Helsinki Cathedral, which is just around the corner from the hotel.

Opulence reigns – outfitted in plush carpets, draperies, and upholstered furniture reflected vividly in the sparkling chandeliers and spectacular mirrors.

Often a hotel website paints an unrealistic image of the rooms and facilities. There are photographers who can make a puddle look like an Olympic sized swimming pool but there had been no trick photography at Hotel Kamp. The hotel room looked exactly like the one in the pictures on the website and is breath-takingly beautiful. Mind you,the massive king-sized bed was so wide that if I had a partner, my partner would be in a different time zone.

The bathroom – a huge marble room decorated in subtle greys and taupes, this was a bather’s delight. There was a huge tub with a grey marble surround. Behind the tub, the heated towel rack was piled with plush white cotton towels that tempted me to thievery (don’t worry, I didn’t succumb!). Perched jauntily next to the tub was a green rubber ducky, a sweet touch! There was an oversized shower stall with two shower heads. The water pressure was fabulous and the controls had a specific setting for heat, allowing you to set the heat of the water to a precise setting. The marble toped vanity had two large sinks and the entire wall behind the sinks was a large mirror. The toilet was discretely tucked into a nice sized room to the side, separated from the rest of the bathroom with a frosted glass panel and door.

If I sound like I am a big fan of this hotel, I am.  However, for the room rates they charge, they should have got some service touches right:

The pillows were extremely soft. You literally feel that there were no pillows a all,despite the fact that I had piled two of them on top of on another. There was a pillow menu but when I called for harder ones, they brought up the same ones I already had. Housekeeping left me two bottles of body lotion but no shower gel. When I called guest services from my room, nobody answered the phone and I was forced to walk to the lobby to request for my shower gel. Upon check in, they upgraded BeRt to  suite  when both of us had paid for similar room type. The front desk lady offered to send me a bottle of wine when I inquired why I was not offered an upgrade. I told her a wanted white wine but they sent me red wine instead. In fact, they sent me the wine two days later, after I called and reminded them 3 times.

Long story short, the service does not match the product and certainly does not justify the sky high prices. This is the true truth because I say it as it is…

October 26, 2010

Olde Hansa, Tallinn…the toilets are an eye opener

This is a tourist trap. I think it’s over-rated. It’s extremely dark and whilst the candle light is atmospheric its disorienting and  hides what is on the plate. The food is so-so. To me, it’s a notch below pub fare. Everything is served in old crockery type dishes and bowls and old-style glassware.  The waitresses and waiters are dressed in very traditional looking garb (right down to the leather shoes). The whole place looks like a set for a historical reenactment.

The toilet is an eye-opener. It’s also quite dark and done in as medieval a style as possible for indoor plumbing. Visit the toilet before you leave…and bring a camera.

Yes, this medieval restaurant is touristy. But that doesn’t mean it’s not good, though once is good enough for me. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

October 25, 2010

Swissotel Tallinn, Estonia…modern hotel with a nice touch of Nespresso coffeemaker in-room

It is very modern and top quality hotel. The rooms have a luxury “Nespresso” coffeemaker. Be careful you don’t flood the room before you get the hang of the machine. The room was set up with a comfy arm chair and foot stool beside the window and I would have been happy to sit there all day watching the world go by with a coffee in my hand. Free wi-fi was  also available.

Location was slightly out of the way, but the old town (15 mintes for us Gen Y’ers trapped in baby boomers’ bodies) , restaurants and attractions are all easily accessible by foot.

Taxi from the airport to the hotel is approx. 120 kronas and from the hotel to the center depending on the taxi is between 35-80 kronas. As usual the one waiting in front of the door is the most expensive one in town; we got ripped off on one of the nights with a bill of 700 kronas while the return trip was only under 200 kronas.

Quite about the only thing, what irritated me was that concierge helps with check-in and we had to wait a mighty long time just to borrow a couple of umbrellas. My only other slight criticism would be that the square shallow handbasin in tasteful black looked good but was rather impractical in use – an example of design before function!

A truly memorable stay, as BeRt would agree…memories are made of this. This is the true truth because I always say it as it is…

October 23, 2010

Restoran O, Tallinn…outstanding by any standard

This is a classy, candle-lit restaurant, featuring exposed steel beams, soft music and well-schooled waitresses. Featuring modern Estonian cuisine, the atmosphere is lush and romantic. The interior is hung with dark, gauzy drapes and lit by chandeliers whose lightbulbs are adorned with angel wings

O is outstanding by any standard. It’s “delicate food” as BeRt so exquisitely described it. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

October 22, 2010

Aparjods Hotel Restaurant, Sigulda…great food for reasonable price

Filed under: Food & Beverage, Latvia, Travel — Tags: , , , , — PEr @ 9:43 pm

This restaurant in Aparjods Hotel has great food for reasonable price!!! We ate outside on the patio where the temperature was perfect. Though the food was fairly simple it tasted very good and the quick service pleased us too.

The Aparjods hotel sits on the edge of town, in the natural beauty of Sigulda (only 50 km from Riga). The hotel is charming. A warm, cherry wood-lined reception, comfortable sofas, water fountains and nice grassy grounds are some of it’s initial pleasing features

Great atmosphere!!! I love this place and highly recomend it to others!!! This is the true truth because I say it as it is…

October 20, 2010

Lido Atputas Centra, Riga…Mind-blowing buffet. Worth the money and experience.

One of the best places to eat in all of Riga. They have a mind-blowing well assorted buffet filled with all the best of what Latvian cuisine has to offer. The system: a point-and-order combination of traditional local staples like solyanka soup and rye bread mixed with spaghetti, potatoes, chips, salads and meat dishes, all charged for by weight. It’s filling and there’s something for everyone’s tastes and it’s the perfect accompaniment for the home-brewed beer which is, of course, the main reason to visit.

There’s even a bar downstairs and one big log cabin with a windmill at one end. This place has the feel of a roadside inn on steroids.

LIDO combines good traditional Latvian food, some international dishes, good home-made Latvian beer, good atmosphere and lots of fun! It’s a really good place to taste Latvian food.  It’s well worth the money and experience to go there. This is the true truth and I say it as it is…

October 17, 2010

Grand Palace Hotel, Riga…superb in location and friendliness

It is located directly in the old city of Riga. Almost anything is within walking distance, ie only a couple minutes walk from the busy square, and 5 minutes walk from the city centre.

The hotel is kinda like a small luxury boutique European property – comfortable and quiet – traditional yet modern. The  money-service correlation is very good. The staff were exceptionally friendly, polite, charming and helpful. Vitor Cardoso (Front office supervisor) is a living proof of what I’d just mentioned.  Breakfast was a wonderful experience and the staff in the restaurant were attentive too. Where else in this day and age do you have beautiful cooked to order breakfast  in addition to a full buffet with plenty of variety?

A couple of minor aspects: there is no elevator from the street to the reception and the fitness centre was a joke. Apart from that, I’ll recommend to give this a try if you are passing through Riga. This is the true truth because I always say it as it is…

October 16, 2010

Vecmeita Ar Kaki, Riga…brutally awful

The name of this restaurant translates as the ‘Spinster with her cat’. This is a little restaurant tucked away in a cellar across the square from Riga Castle, on the North West of the Old Town,where it remains relatively undiscovered by tourists…come to think of it, it should never be discovered by anyone to spare them from this brutally awful place. 

I went there because it was ranked #1 on tripadvisor by 8 reviewers. I just think that these reviewers should get out more often. They are missing a lot of other eateries.

This is the true truth and that’s because I say it as it is…

October 13, 2010

Restaurant Lokys, Vilnius…menu features all kinds of wonderful game

Restaurant Lokys (which means ‘bear’ in Lithuania) is a lovely medieval restaurant  located in a cozy, 15th century cellar in the Old Town. They serve Lithuanian food and use traditional recipes  where a large stuffed bear presides over the proceedings.  I was escorted by a medieval maiden down to the cellar via a brick stairway so narrow and winding anyone slightly fatter or broader-shouldered than I am would almost certainly get stuck.

They have a big menu to choose from, and game dishes are their specialities. If stewed beaver with prunes doesn’t take your fancy, try hare in chocolate sauce. I perused the menu and ordered the roasted boar for main course served with cowberry sauce and sweet pears. My wild boar was quite delicious, fairly tender with a few slightly chewy pieces, not particularly “gamey” but also not something I would have mistaken for one of our everyday meats.

The service was quite slow, but I guess it’s like that everywhere in Vilnius. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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