Category Archives: Hotel Reviews

Cusco to Arequipa: travel hell

It was just not my traveling day. We were flying to Arequipa through Lima (so it would be our third out of five times in the Lima airport) and at the airport in Cusco, I beeped red through the metal detectors and they ransacked my bag because I accidentally packed an aerosol can of bug spray in my carry on. All this while Daniela and the TACA attendant were yelling at me to hurry because the plane was waiting for us since the airline bumped us up to an earlier flight. As if I wanted to hang out with security. Continue reading Cusco to Arequipa: travel hell


Cusco hotel review: Siete Ventanas

When we returned to Cusco from our five-day hike through the mountains, there was no way we could stay in a hostel. We needed the comforts of a hotel,  private bathrooms and some personal space. So after a long day of walking door-to-door to pretty much every hotel in Cusco, we found Siete Ventanas.

Apparently, Siete Ventanas is a newer hotel not too far from the San Blas neighborhood and a five-minute walk from the Plaza de Armas. Overall, I really liked the hotel. The building is relatively new and clean, with a nice courtyard-style lobby. Our room, although it had a slightly dysfunctional toilet, was spacious and had a great view of Cusco. And it had cable TV.

And even though there was kind of a construction site down the street, we didn’t have to suffer through any crazy construction racket like we did in Paris last year.

Not to mention, we got a pretty good deal on the room rate thanks to Adrian’s negotiating skills. So I would definitely recommend giving Siete Ventanas a try!

Algarve: Portugal’s southern coast

Waiting for our train to Albufeira at the Lisbon train station (Photo by Frances Uy)

Frances and I knew we wanted to end our Portugal trip in the south, since we were flying out from Faro. This southern region is known as Algarve and has many, many, coastline towns to choose from. Knowing our aversion to planning, we left booking our resort to the last minute – literally the day before we left Lisbon. The main towns we were considering in Algarve were:

  • Portimão
  • Vilamoura
  • Lagoa
  • Albufeira
  • Lagos

In the end, we decided to choose Albufeira for our Algarve stay. It seemed like the best balance of relaxing beaches and entertaining nightlife. Albufeira is a three-and-a-half hour train ride from Lisbon, so it was nice to roll through Portugal’s countryside for a few hours.

We arrived at the Golden Beach Apartments – and checked into room 13 of course. However, our room was awesome; a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen (perfect for making misto sandwiches a.k.a ham and cheese), balcony and living room. Plus, there was a pool, which comes in really handy when the beach gets overly packed with tourists and screaming kids.

Our view was of the ocean, over the rooftops of other apartments. It looks very mediterranean. At sunset, the sky is full of beautiful pastel colors. And when the moon comes out, it shines over the ocean and creates a glimmering path on the water. Most importantly, the apartment was literally up the street from the beach.

The view from our balcony at the Golden Beach Apartments

Hotel review: Arena-House Hotel

Our Rome hotel, the Arena-House Hotel, was in a great location – literally down the block from the Colosseum. And as impressive as the Colosseum is during the day, it’s indescribeable at night, when it’s lit up from the inside. It sure was convenient to be able to take a nighttime stroll there.

Colosseum at night

And while the Colosseum isn’t the most centrally-located attraction in Rome, being near the ruins ain’t bad. Plus there was a bus stop two block from the hotel which took you everywhere else pretty quickly.

Although the entrance to the hotel was technically in an alley, at least it was literally between the police station and the caribinieri station, so I felt safe.

There was AC in the room, which is absolutely crucial in Rome! Plus, the hotel had a station set up in reception for guests to make their own tea, which was a lifesaver for me when I was stranded in the hotel for two days. And the rooms even each had a PC in them with internet access.

In addition to a great location and comfy accomodations, the staff was super friendly, always willing to give tips, answer questions and help you out!

Hotel review: A Casa di Alino

Our hotel in Florence, A Casa di Alino, was technically more of an apartment – there was a living room, bathroom and separate bedroom in the back. More importantly, it was in a great location and offered a wonderful view of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, a.k.a. the Duomo. While the bedroom was in the back of the apartment, and quite dark and scary if you ask me, the living room had a window that literally opened up onto the cathedral and baptistry.

Our host, Giuliana, was super friendly and helped us with many questions – including tracking down the Accidental Tourist folks to make sure we could get in on their cooking class. And, when we woke up in time, the staff would bring breakfast into our room, which included juice, coffee, tea, yogurt, pastries and quiches.

Considering the size of the room, the friendliness of the staff, the reasonable rate and the unbeatable central location, I’d certainly recommend A Casa di Alino for your stay in Florence!

Hotel review: Miau

I was so excited that we stayed at Hotel Miau in Madrid! Last time I stayed there was in 2003 with my mom, so admittedly, I didn’t exactly remember what the hotel was like inside, but I just liked the idea of staying at Hotel Miau.

Hotel Miau, Plaza de Santa Ana, Madrid

The best thing about the hotel is its location – the Plaza de Santa Ana. This is my favorite plaza in Madrid. It’s just so charming, the square filled with tables from restaurants and surrounded by hotels, eateries and bars. Plus it’s easily within walking distance of Puerta del Sol and an endless array of nightlife options.

Our actual room was fine. The shower was kind of tiny, but we had nice balcony windows onto a side street leading to the plaza. But of course, knowing our luck, they were doing construction on that street, digging it up right outside our window! At least we had air conditioning so we could keep the window closed and keep most of the noise out. Plus, it was a small project that went on only a couple of days.

Temporary construction site right outside our hotel

Overall, I’d definitely recommend Hotel Miau for your stay in Madrid. The prices are extremely reasonable, the location is perfect, the rooms are nice enough, the staff is friendly – major points for letting us check in super early after a long, overnight journey to Madrid!

Hotel review: Arc la Rambla

Our hotel in Barcelona, the Arc la Rambla, was right on La Rambla, so a great central location right, between Port Vell and La Boqueria. Luckily, our room was towards the back of the hotel so it wasn’t loud at all. Plus, there was even a sundeck on our floor, which came in handy when Daniela’s laundry in the sink session went terribly wrong.

The best part about the hotel is that it has air conditioning – a necessity in Barcelona’s 100-degree summer weather!

Overall, our room was clean, quiet, air-conditioned and had a large bathroom.

But we did have an unexpected visitor the last day – a huge cockroach! We ran out and grabbed the cleaning lady, who started off acting calm and collected, spraying the roach with some kind of bug spray. But when the roach went on the run, even she panicked! Luckily she kicked him out of our room and we slammed the door shut. Needless to say, we carefully checked all our bags and inside our shoes the rest of the trip to make sure no other unexpected visitors tried to catch a ride with us.