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Radisson Blu

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Radisson Blu, Malmö

Radisson Blu, Malmö

I really do not remember how I came to choose the Radisson Blu for my 2 night stay in Malmö. Location? Price? Brand?

Certainly the first two possibilities turned out well. The cost for 2 nights was SEK 1,760 (£141 or €166) including breakfast, and I was upgraded to a junior suite! The city centre location, close to the railway station, was ideal.

Malmö Radisson Blu

Malmö Radisson Blu

The brand…

In the 1990s when I travelled a lot for work, it was always one of my favourites. In those days it was SAS, and part of the airline. Then it was Radisson SAS, and now it is Radisson Blu.

I remember stays in several of the SAS hotels in Copenhagen, plus the Royal Viking in Stockholm and one in Oslo.

Radisson Blu Royal, Copenhagen

Radisson Blu Royal, Copenhagen

Their London hotel was my first choice there, and an oasis of style in a city which is full of 3rd rate, overpriced hotels. The Brussels SAS was excellent too, but it had plenty competition. The Amsterdam SAS was a real favourite too.

However, it was in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia where they really came into their own for me. I was reminded of this by a set of articles in the in-house magazine in my room in Malmö.

They invested in privatised state hotels very soon after the Communist walls came down. The Astorija in Vilnius was one of their first. Having stayed there in 1993 when it was state run, I knew how much had to be changed - pretty much everything.

Aušros Vartụ, Vilnius

Aušros Vartụ, Vilnius

They now own the Lietuva in Vilnius too, which I have never stayed in. However my firm represented the government in its privatisation so it will always be special for me.

Vilnius

Vilnius

In Rīga, the Daugava was their first. I stayed there several times. The location just across the river from the city centre was ideal. The walk across the bridge was the perfect way to leave a day’s work behind.

Rīga

Rīga

I see they now own the Latvija too - the former Intourist high rise.

Their first hotel in Tallinn was one of my stopovers. I do not remember it’s name. It was a boozy trip. Thanks, Aivar.

Tallinn

Tallinn

I see they now own the Olümpia too - another former Intourist tower block, built for the Moscow Olympics. The yachting events were held in Tallinn. My stay in the Olümpia was much more sedate. I had 7 meetings in one day, so I had no time or energy left for getting into mischief.

Tallinn

Tallinn

Well guys, thanks for bringing back some memories as well as helping to create new ones.

(As a wee footnote, and declaration of interest, I worked in hotels quite a bit when I was a student and eventually reached the dizzy heights of being manager of a small beach motel in Westhampton Beach, Long Island. It has made me a very critical hotel guest! If I praise someplace, it is well earned.)

Posted by IainT 13:53 Archived in Sweden Tagged stockholm oslo england sweden belgium norway estonia brussels denmark copenhagen malmö sas riga tallinn vilnius lithuania Comments (0)

Best of 2017 (3)

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View Ouarzazate & Girne & Lismore & Arran & Oslo & Islay & Colonsay & Abbotsford & Ben y Vrackie & Blair Atholl & The North & Gaimersheim & Eigg on IainT's travel map.

Hotels now...

I think I only stayed in three hotels during 2017. When I visited Belfast in April I stayed in an Ibis, but it was a nightmare - noise from other (drunk) residents at 3am. I also stayed in the Ibis Ouarzazate. Quiet. Comfortable. Great value (£22 including breakfast - which wasn’t available when I left at 5am, oddly enough).

Ibis Ouarzazate

Ibis Ouarzazate

Then I stayed in the Casablanca Novotel... twice. It was delightful. I’d stayed there for a couple of nights in 2009, so as well as being a lovely place in a good location, I enjoyed that sense of familiarity.

I stayed in apartments a few times - in Oslo and Girne, and on Colonsay. The one in Oslo was particularly memorable.

Airbnb

Airbnb

Bed and breakfasts - I had a lovely one on Islay and a quirky (in an enjoyable way) one on Lismore. I stayed in another one in Roy Bridge on my way to Eigg - it was very good but nothing unusual or memorable.

Eigg... Yes... That was an unusual place. I loved it. No frills and the toilet was 10 yards away across the field, but an experience.

Eigg

Eigg

Then there was the Terrace Guesthouse in Istanbul - an officially designated Special Place which I hadn’t visited since 2008. It was fantastic to go back.

Ayia Sofia from the Terrace - Istanbul

Ayia Sofia from the Terrace - Istanbul

My previous experience of riads (Marrakech and Fes in 2009) is very positive. Le Petit Riad in Ouarzazate didn’t let me down. I spent 5 nights there - plenty time for something to go wrong, but it didn’t.

Room 1 - Berber Thunderbox

Room 1 - Berber Thunderbox

The same can be said of the Riad Lamane in Zagora - a 3 night stay.

I find myself trying to decide between the “caravan” on Eigg and the Terrace Guesthouse. Breakfast with a view of the Bosphorus, or with a view of Ardnamurchan.

The View

The View

The Blue Mosque on your doorstep, or a herd of cows.

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

And the winner - in a photo finish - is the Terrace Guesthouse.

Posted by IainT 12:51 Archived in Scotland Tagged oslo scotland ireland istanbul morocco norway cyprus belfast casablanca kibris ouarzazate zagora lismore islay eigg islandlife colonsay nesodden girne best_of_2017 Comments (1)

Best of 2017 (2)

all seasons in one day 0 °C
View Ouarzazate & Girne & Lismore & Arran & Oslo & Islay & Colonsay & Abbotsford & Ben y Vrackie & Blair Atholl & The North & Gaimersheim & Eigg on IainT's travel map.

This category is for transport other than flights - the Edinburgh Airport buses and the occasional taxi don’t count!

I had my share of Calmac ferry trips - again... this has become a trend! Eigg, Islay, Colonsay and Arran were on my island hopping adventure list. I always enjoy them. The one from Mallaig to Eigg was memorable for the perfect weather, but so too were the Port Askaig (Islay) to Kennacraig and Colonsay to Oban mini cruises.

Bliss

Bliss

I also used the cute wee ferry to Lismore from Port Appin. 5 minutes each way. I even used the Western Ferries service from Dunoon to Gourock.

Firth of Clyde

Firth of Clyde

On a more exotic note I used a couple of ferry services when I visited Oslo. Scottish ferry trips are usually accompanied by dramatic scenery, but crossing Oslofjord between Nesodden and the city was spectacular in a different way. I loved it.

B10 from Akers brygge

B10 from Akers brygge

I used the train services in Oslo and Casablanca - but just the airport services. I took the train in Bavaria in January - Munich Airport to Ingolstadt. German train journeys seldom disappoint, but I’ve had many in the last 6 years so they aren’t especially memorable!

I took the Scotrail train from Fort William to Mallaig to get the Eigg ferry - the line made famous by the Harry Potter books. It is spectacular. I had a number of good awaydays by train around Scotland over the summer as well.

Scotrail's 8:30 to Mallaig

Scotrail's 8:30 to Mallaig

On business I took the Transpennine Express train to Lockerbie - you see some good scenery on that journey, plus it’s fast and comfortable. Last but not least (as far as trains go) is my day out in Derry courtesy of NI Railways.

I had a rented car (Renault Clio) in Ouarzazate and rented bikes on Colonsay and Lismore (makes unknown). The Clio became a friend. She kept me safe from other Moroccan road users.

Road Home

Road Home

The bike on Lismore was fun - in a way. It was the first time I’ve cycled with a full rucksack (20kg) on my back. Tough going.

I took a dolmuṣ (twice) on Kıbrıs. A new experience and a fun one. Ultra cheap too.

Dolmuṣ to Lefkoṣa

Dolmuṣ to Lefkoṣa

I’m really spoiled for choice in this category. The decision came down to a choice between that warm, dusty trip by dolmuṣ between Girne and Gazimaǧusa and the cool, sophisticated commute in Oslo.

Oslo Harbour

Oslo Harbour

Oslo’s the winner.

Posted by IainT 13:19 Archived in Scotland Tagged boats trains oslo scotland paris france germany ferries ireland transport morocco norway cyprus bavaria belfast casablanca kibris derry eigg calmac lockerbie ingolstadt islandlife colonsay famagusta nesodden gazimaǧusa girne best_of_2017 Comments (0)

Best of 2017 (1)

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View Vilnius 3 & Vilnius 2 & Toulouse & Lockerbie 2 & Barraigh & Bergen & Vilnius & IIHF & Aberdeen & Steòrnabhagh & Girne '18 & Eagles & Ouarzazate & Girne & Lismore & Arran & Oslo & Islay & Colonsay & Abbotsford & Ben y Vrackie & Blair Atholl & The North & Gaimersheim & Eigg on IainT's travel map.

At the end of every year I do an annual review, and award a "best of" in a few categories.

The first of the 2017 awards is for flights.

2017 saw a big change in my travel patterns. No more regular, monthly commuting to Munich on easyJet (it’s a long, messy story).
The change (like all these things) has had its positive angles. One has been more variety in my travel, and air travel in particular. easyJet did figure a couple of times in January, but let’s dump that in the past.

I used two airlines I’ve never used before - Royal Air Maroc between Casablanca and Ouarzazate, and Hebridean Air from Oban to Colonsay.
I renewed friendships with Turkish Airlines (Ercan via Istanbul), Norwegian (Oslo) and Air France (Casablanca via Paris).

Atatürk Arrivals

Atatürk Arrivals

I’ve used them before (many times in the case of AF).

Mohammed V International Airport

Mohammed V International Airport

I flew with FlyBe too - but it has never been a regular in the same way as Air France or easyJet. The short hop from Edinburgh to Belfast doesn’t allow much time for passenger experience, so its a question of whether it was on time and the staff were pleasant!

Norwegian was a 2 hour flight, but it is a slightly upmarket version of easyJet, so it’s hard to get excited.

Turkish Airlines was a 4 hour flight to/from Istanbul and a bit more than an hour from there to Ercan and back. All in all I was very happy with it. My last long flight with Turkish Airlines was in 2006, so my memory is a bit rusty.

4 Hour Flight

4 Hour Flight

Air France - the flight from Paris to Casablanca seems to get a better quality of service because it’s inter-continental. It was fine, but nothing to get excited about. the connecting flights to/from Paris CdG were on AF’s Hop! brand. I think it’s their “no frills” version. Well, as you’d expect the French do “no frills” with style.

RAM? My flight to Ouarzazate was a 22:40 departure so the crew just left the lights switched off to let people sleep - no on board service! It’s only 80 minutes, of course. My flight back to Casablanca was a 6.55 am departure - again no service, but early departure and early arrival. I like that!

Ouarzazate Departures

Ouarzazate Departures

Anyway, the Hebridean Air flight stands out. Unusual. Special. Fun.

Ready?

Ready?

An 8 seat plane with just the pilot to do it all.

Tight Squeeze

Tight Squeeze

Loved it. Easy winner.

Posted by IainT 13:53 Archived in Scotland Tagged oslo scotland paris france germany istanbul transport morocco flights norway cyprus bavaria airlines belfast casablanca kibris colonsay best_of_2017 Comments (0)

Hygge

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View Oslo on IainT's travel map.

Hygge

Hygge

I’ve blogged about Airbnb before, but my experience in Oslo (or Nesodden, to be more accurate) gave me more cause for reflection.

My Airbnb experience in Oslo was fabulous. The property is what Brits would call a “granny flat”. It’s 100% self contained (with its own entrances) but attached to the owner’s house. Inside, you’d describe it as a split level studio. It’s an open plan kitchen/living room/bedroom space, with the sleeping area being up a few steps from the rest.

Airbnb

Airbnb

It is 100% pine - floors, walls and ceilings - so it smells like a sauna. Wonderful! It has a little balcony leading onto the owner’s back garden.

Terrace

Terrace

My lasting impression is of a quiet, calm, relaxing and comfortable place to stay. I slept well. The only thing which comes close to resembling an interruption is the owner’s cat wanting to check you out. You choose...

It’s a 5 minute walk to a good corner shop and takeaway pizza shop. I used both. They are excellent (Oslo prices, but so is everything else!) There’s an Asian restaurant in the same building, but I didn’t try it.

Oksval (in Nesodden) is 30 minutes from the centre of Oslo by bus (5 minutes) and ferry (20 minutes).

Location

Location

The sail is great.

Oslo Harbour

Oslo Harbour

The cost was included in my Oslo Pass. The ferries run every 30 minutes for most of the day. The buses connect with the ferries. You can get coffee and something to eat at the Nesoddtangen ferry terminal, or on the ferry itself. It’s all fun and easy.

Nesoddtangen Ferry Terminal

Nesoddtangen Ferry Terminal

At the city end of the ferry trip you have tram and bus services right there, and the T-Bane (Nationaltheatret station) an easy walk away.

Aker brygge

Aker brygge

Nationaltheatret station also has mainline train services to/from the airport or you can take the tram to the central station (5 minutes).

The property suited me perfectly. It gave me easy access to the city centre for sightseeing and food. It gave me peace and quiet when I wanted it in the morning and evening.

Oksval is like a seaside village crossed with a suburb. Summer houses mixed with year round properties. It has a little beach, and yes, I did go swimming. And yes, I did find a deer in the garden one evening.

Intruder

Intruder

The owner was friendly and helpful, but I only saw him on arrival and departure.

Now, crunch time. The cost. £153 (€167) for 3 nights, which includes a cleaning fee of £13 and Airbnb’s fee of £17. £51 per night. In a place where a takeaway pizza costs £12, that’s fabulous value for money (even for those who aren’t Scottish).

In comparison terms, that is much better value for money than where I stayed on Colonsay and Islay this year (although both were excellent). Colonsay was a self catering apartment (much like Oslo) and Islay was a normal B&B.

It would be hard to compare anything with my accommodation on Eigg - it was unique.

Eigg

Eigg

Oslo was massively better than my Belfast experience in an Ibis hotel - wakened at 3am by a disturbance in the corridor right outside my room which turned out to be the manager trying to eject a drunk. 4 hours sleep that night...

Oslo was my 9th Airbnb experience in 4 years, in places as diverse as Rīga and Amsterdam.

Rīga Airbnb

Rīga Airbnb

They’ve all been different and all have been positive. It won't be my last.

Footnote: The Danish word hygge is derived from a 16th century Norwegian word - hugga. The German word Gemütlichkeit is a close translation. None of them translate well into English. English speaking folks often think the meaning is close to “cosy” and implies sitting in front of an open fire in winter. In fact, it can just as easily mean sitting on a deserted beach in mid summer whilst appreciating the fresh air and solitude.

Posted by IainT 12:46 Archived in Norway Tagged oslo norway belfast islay eigg colonsay nesodden Comments (0)

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