Hotel Review

Hotel Review: W Beijing Chang'an



After deplaning in Beijing, a quick pass through customs and passport control, I jumped a train into Beijing. Catching one of the last subway trains to my hotel, I arrived a little after 10pm at the subway station. The W Beijing Chang'an is a very short walk from the north east exit of the subway station. 

Arriving to the W hotel at night is quite a sight to see. The side of he building is lit up with a huge W covering almost half of the 23 story building. It leaves one impressed no matter what. Then entering the lobby you can immediately tell that W hotels take design as the most serious part of the hotel. From the front desk to the elevators to the room, the design aesthetic is impressive and beautiful in a Hollywood, night club sort of way. 

Checking in required a few minutes and a verification of my identity and even my visa. My gold status earned me an upgrade to a better room. Upgrading was fantastic since this was the room I had wanted to stay in, but couldn't justify the additional expense. Once again, i can't say enough about how much i really like the Starwood brand.

After checking in, I made my way to the elevators where an attendant called for the elevators to come get me. Even the lighting showing which elevator is coming to get you is impressive. After boarding the elevator, once again the design forward approach showed in the floor selection buttons which were long thing lighted areas through frosted glass, and angled at 45 degrees, gorgeous. Up to the 15th floor went the elevator and quickly the room was in front of me.

Entering the room is an impressive reveal. Everything in the room is automated and controlled from switch panels at various locations around the room. This is a techies dream, and boy am I ever a techie. As soon as you scan in for the first time, the lights activate coming into the room, the window curtains automatically draw back and a warm red glow fills the room from the accent lighting panels on opposite walls.

In the middle of the room is a huge tub that takes roughly 30 minutes to approach full, but is a nice relaxing environment. While the placement of the tub is definitely a hit or miss with people, I rather likes the look of the tub. It may have been different, but I'm a fan of different and unique. Over he tub is a mirror surrounded by florescent lighting, and just under it is a sink/bathroom amenities attached to the back of the tub. The sink area acts as a bathroom vanity area that is completely integrated with the rest of the room seamlessly, an open concept if you will.

Next to the door is the toilet and shower both in their own separated small glass enclosed rooms. The toilet is pretty standard with an industrial strength suction system... don't sit on this and flush, you might lose a butt cheek. Next door is the shower stall with both a shower wand and a larg overhead rain shower type head. It really is a unique but amazing shower room. Inside the shower are the shampoo, and other soaps. These soaps have to be some of the best I've ever used, a mint and citrus blend.

Exiting back into the main room, the bed if flanked on both sides by controls that manage the lighting and curtains int eh entire room. One nightstand had my complimentary waters, always love that perk. Behind the bed is the lighted panel, and the opposite wall has accent lighting in a range of colors. Across from the bed and next to the temperature controls is the lighting control for the accents. This panel allows you to choose almost any color that you want. I like purple and chose that for most of the time.

Over in the back corner of the room is a big spotlight, a bit of a signature item at W hotels. The spotlight can actually be turned on with a foot switch on the floor. It shines a light onto the ceiling that has the W hotel symbol in it, almost like a bat signal in your room. A totally unnecessary, but still cool feature.

Also included in my room was a welcome amenity, most likely for being a Gold member. It was a silver box and inside was a few fresh pieces of fruit. The granny smith apple was awesome, and the kiwi might have been awesome had I any knife to cut it with.

One oddity is that all W hotels participate in the SPG Keyless program, meaning you are able to use your phone to unlock your door. Unfortunately with the Great Firewall Of China blocking many website, SPG Keyless never worked at all for me, couldn't even connect the app despit my repeated attempts.

If you haven't been able to tell by now, this was one of my favorite hotel stays of all time. Te staff was great, design aesthetics really fit with me and my likes. At the end of the day, Beijing has a ton of Starwood properties to choose from, but I'm not sue I'd want to try another hotel. W Beijing Chang'an really blew me away and provided a place i was ecstatic to stay at, and I highly suggest that you give it a try if you ever get the chance.

Hotel Review: Park Tower - Buenos Aires

After landing in Buenos Aires, I made my way to passport control and customs, through winding hallways and a terminal that looked like it was straight out of the 1970’s… not sure it had actually been cleaned since then. Don’t despair though, terminal A is actually quite nice on the way back to the US. After clearing customs, my taxi was called for me by some of the most rude people I’ve interacted with, and this really started a trend in Buenos Aires. More on my thoughts about the city later thought.



Arriving at the Park Tower is a little bit of an odd experience. When booking the hotel, I came across the discription from many people that the Sheraton and Park Tower were attached. Hearing this description I had expected a mutual lobby, or connecting hallway on the ground floor, but this wasn’t the case. Park Tower and the Sheraton Convention Center hotel are literally the same building. Separated by a door on every level, the only difference is the decor in each of the hotels.

Once I got out of the taxi, someone offered to help me immediately, there was a good level of service here for the most part. I declined and made my way to the front desk. Design for the hotel is meant to be upscale, this is an SPG Luxury Collection hotel after all. Finding the front desk is almost a confusing thing, I am used to a counter and a few employees checking in guests. Park Tower uses desks like you might find in a CEO/Executives office, these are lined along the left side of the lobby. While the aesthetic is well executed, there really isn’t any waiting area, I can see this causing a lot of confusion during a busy check in time...though the building is fairly small as are the number of rooms, so the influx a check in may be fairly tame.

Decorations all around the lobby do remind you of a lavish style, with marble tile floors, gold accents everywhere and employees in full business suits. The upscale feel is pulled off fairly well. Staff was pleasant, clearly described how to use the internet and how my status would allow me certain perks… so on and so forth, normal check in speech.

After a few moments, I was on my way up the elevators to my room. Stepping off the lavish elevator on the 16th floor, I stepped into my room which was the first one on the left. Stepping through the door it was a beautiful room to see. On the right was a gorgeous display of wine, glassed, and then a really awkward snack selection… why would I need an entire jar of dulce de leche?

The room was  beautiful, the desk was set up in the far corner, and everything was fantastic to walk into. Really it hits you as a great room right off the bat. Turning around and walking into the bathroom, the beautiful marble with gold trimming around the room is carried into the bathroom as well. Here the setup is interesting, but something I liked. Dual sinks and a bathtub are present walking into the main part of the bathroom. Two doors with frosted glass are on the left, one for the toilet, and one for the shower. The separated rooms for each was nice. Had my girlfriend been traveling with me, having the separated spaces would have been nice. Getting ready would not mean someone else didn’t have privacy in the bathroom should they need to use it.

Overall the room was beautiful, but live in the room for a few days and the negatives start to show. This place was obviously old, and everything in the room showed that age. Lamps were plugged in with old wiring that I wasn’t entirely convinced wouldn’t flame up at any moment. Also, there was no convenient place to plug in electronics at night. Shorts of unplugging everything, the next closest outlet was at the foot of my bed. Outlets were, however, well set up by the desk.

Moving into the bathroom, things became obvious that they needed a better maintenance crew. The shower leaked into the main bathroom, a lot! At the bottom of the door was a bad seal and if no one was in the shower while it warmed it, there was no issue. As soon as someone gets under the water and some splashed toward the door, it held nothing back. Stepping out of the shower looked like Lake Erie had let loose on the floor, and I had to start keeping multiple towels on the floor to contain the flood.

Amenities in the bathroom was another point where things were well intentioned, but poorly executed. On the first night when I walked in, I thought the idea to base a soap line on wine was a great idea. Shampoos, conditioner, lotions and shower gels were all named after different wines. One was Pinot Grigio for example, and the grape smell was appealing. Give that one shower and the fake grape smell starts to remind you of all the bad, fake gum flavors and medicine like flavors you’ve ever tasted. The smell quickly went from pleasant to near cringe inducing. Even the hand soap was this way, shaped like a bunch of grapes, it had the same smell to it.

This hotel touts itself as having a butler on every floor. As described earlier, there aren’t many rooms here, I’d estimate 8 -10 per floor, which seems like having a butler on every floor would be impractical. Well I’d have to say that the hotel thinks the same thing, as there was no butler that I ever saw. Service was great when I ordered room service, and a chocolate + bottled water were brought by the room every night, so I can’t complain about the service I did receive.

Breakfast was included every morning, and this is probably the only place I can say the service was terrible in the hotel. No one came by to seat you except on random days, don’t know how those days were determined. Half the time, no one ever checked that I was supposed to have free breakfast or not. Getting a refill on juice or water was basically a fools errand, and the buffet was terrible for a vegan. There was some fruit available, but half was canned and super sweet. Really the food was unimpressive for a place that is supposed to be so upscale.

Really, the take away here was to just stay at the Sheraton Convention Center which was on the other side of the wall. While the Park Tower wasn’t overly expensive, the extra money it did cost was not worth it in my opinion. While I did not actually stay at the Sheraton, it did share the same building, and from what I did see of the Sheraton, seemed to be a fine hotel. At the end of the day, opulence isn’t really my thing, but it was fun to check out the hotel.

Hotel Review: Renaissance - Aix En Provence

Booking a room at the Renaissance in Aix En Provence was something I’ve been set on since the last time I came to Aix on business. When I last visited France for work, we stayed at a Best Western which is closer to my actual place of business. Best Western does not have the best places to stay in my opinion, though this one was actually fairly nice. Another downside is where the hotel is located, you have to drive and I prefer to take the commuter bus in the morning if at all possible.



Really for sake of being in a nice area, a nice hotel, and having access to the work site by bus… Aix is the logical choice. Once again, we run into the problem of not having a lot of hotels with good loyalty programs available to make use of. That’s where the Renaissance came in. Outside of the hotel, it is fairly easy to recognize that the building is fairly new, with beautiful lighting at night, projecting lettering on the exterior walls. The hotel itself is located very close to much of the best parts of Aix En Provence.

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Walking into the hotel, the front desk staff greeted me. At this point I had  been driven from Philadelphia to Newark. Flew from Newark to Paris, connected in Paris, then flew to Marseille. Once landing in Marseille, there was another bus ride to Aix and then a walk to the hotel… I was tired from the trip, but it was only 1pm. Luckily Marriott allows you to request an early check in through a notification in the app. Before leaving the US, I had already requested a 1pm early check in. At the front desk they were able to verify that the room was ready to go.

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Once they had me checked in, the woman working the front desk escorted me up to my room, which wasn’t very far. She got me inside did a really fast explanation of everything and times things were available… which I promptly forgot, then said goodbye. While I really didn’t need an escort upstair, I do appreciate the gesture and that she didn’t linger. My trip was decently long, I don’t sleep in economy, and I was tired.

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Soon after arriving, sleep was required, so I took a quick nap. Just as I was about to sleep, an attendant paid a visit to my room. It took me a moment to wake up and head to the door about then he was coming in. After a quick apology, he handed me a welcome gift of a few chocolates and some water. The water was much needed, long flights with lots of dry air can really dehydrate anyone. Back to sleep I went.

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My impressions with the check in were great, a very helpful staff, attentive but not overbearing, they really were a wonderful group.

Not everything was sunshine and rainbows though. At work the next day, I looked over the cost of the hotel to issue a report to my company, immediately I was confused on the expense of the room. Why was I paying way over what I had expected? Quickly it became apparent that there was an extra night tacked on to the stay. Now my first reaction was wondering if the concierge who had booked the stay might have heard me wrong and booked the incorrect stay. Pulling up my email, quickly it was found that the booking had been 100% correct, and no other emails existed to show that things had been modified. The only way this could have happened, was that the front desk added a night.

When I returned to the hotel that night, I requested that the extra night be removed. She promised to do so and I went up to get some sleep. Before sleeping and when I awoke, I once again checked my Marriott account to find that nothing had changed. That morning, one more time I requested the change to the departure date, this time the desk clerk quickly solved the issue.

So while the stay was great, I do wonder about the extra day. Why was it added without informing me? What was the clerk thinking to add another day after verbally confirming 5 nights with me? I don’t know there was any ill intent meant here so I’ll just assume it was an honest mistake, but I kept an eye on my account the remainder of the stay.

At the end of the trip, this is a hotel I would certainly recommend. If you end up in Aix, this is the place I’d suggest you stay.