Category Archives: Hotels

Hotels

Satisfying the Shakespeare in Me | Radisson Blu Metropol, Helsingborg

Satisfying the Shakespeare in Me!

A delightful side-trip to Kronborg Castle

Visited in Sep 2016
Written Apr 2017

I was never fond of English Literature and had absolutely no interest in Shakespeare’s work, and yet, this trip brought me to the setting of one of his most popular work!

Kronberg Castle is the royal castle in the famous play of Hamlet and is known as Elsinore in the story.

While researching the places to visit in Denmark, the castle appeared as one of the interesting sights and after searching, there were no chain hotels in the town around the castle. Not good for me, I love my upgrades and points!

Then, I noticed there was a Radisson Blu in the region, but across the Øresund in the Swedish town of Helsingnor.

Further research revealed that ferries still provide transport across this narrowest part between Denmark and Sweden!

So, I made a refundable booking with my points at the hotel a few months before my trip.
Just 2 weeks before my flight, there was a sale for Club Carlson hotels and the rate was pretty good!

Thus, I booked the cheaper non-refundable rate and then cancelled my prior booking.

Points saved!

Landing in Copenhagen, I took a train to Helsingborg via Malmo and the experience was uneventful.

The hotel was a short 15 min walk from the station, which is also the ferry terminal. So I ended up visiting the terminal several times, for food, for the ferry as well as the train back to Copenhagen.

The hotel looked clean and updated and I went up to the counter immediately. As it was only 10am, my room was not ready and I was unable to check in.

The front desk ladies were very polite and proactively advised what I could visit while waiting for the room, with my luggage under their care.

Front Desk

After a quick tour around the small town, I returned to a small, but adequate-sized room.
There was not much of a view from the room, but hey, I didn’t really come to visit Helsingborg.

I like brightly lit corridors!
Ice machine at the lift landing
Small room with a Queen bed

 

Small toilet

 

View from room

The hotel restaurant Nelly’s Food is apparently rather famous and was definitely packed during lunch and dinner times.

After a good sleep in the comfortable bed, I woke up to a great breakfast at Nelly’s with its open kitchen concept.

 

 

 

 

The restaurant itself is beautiful and drinks, coffee and tea machines were by the side.

 

 

After the scrumptious breakfast, perhaps it is good to check out the small gym.

Well it could be better, but no one’s using it anyway.

 

A short walk back to the terminal and with ferry tickets in hand, I was ready to see Kronborg Castle!

A lovely rainbow added colour to my visit and it was indeed an epic side-trip.

A reminder to readers who may want to try this route, passports are required for the ferry to Denmark and I resisted telling the officer off when he asked if Singapore is a real country as he had never heard of ‘The Little Red Dot’.

Just smiled and waited.

Happy and Healthy travels to all!

Miami, no vice: Red Roof Inn IAH Airport

Miami, no vice: Planning
EVA Air Business Class SIN-TPE
Decoding the lounge situation in Taipei
EVA Air Business Class TPE-IAH
Red Roof Inn IAH Airport
United Economy IAH-MIA
Renting with Sixt Miami
Element Miami International Airport
Miami, the Keys and everything inbetween
Orlando: Disneyworld and other distractions
Jetblue Economy MCO-JFK
EVA Air Business Class JFK-TPE
EVA Air Business Class TPE-SIN


Some airport hotels are great architectural marvels, inspiring in their form and function. Others are passable relics of grandeur long passed. And then there’s the airport motel.

In the States, you’re likely to find airport motels clustered around every major airport. Most of these are run by big chains like Motel 6, Days Inn, Comfort Inn, Quality Inn, Super 8, Travelodge and other names that evoke thoughts of frugality, function and wearing slippers when you walk around the room.

The Red Roof Inn is another operator of budget motels.Sure, the marketing photos will have you believe it’s some sort of idyllic retreat.

Image result for red roof inn

Image result for red roof inn

But in reality it’s more like one of those places where Walt and Jesse hide out on Breaking Bad. You’ll often find Red Roof Inns and other budget chains located near highway rest stops, airports and inner city areas. Basically- the kind of place you don’t want to be outside at night.

However, I needed somewhere to crash for 8 hours during my transit from IAH to MIA. And the Red Roof Inn was only $62 a night, plus I got some cashback by using Shopback on top of that. And it allowed me to live out my hardboiled detective fantasies. So I put on my most noir-ish trenchcoat and went with it


I cleared immigration in record time thanks to my shiny new Global Entry. To be fair, you don’t really need it if you’re from Singapore because Singaporeans can use their APEC business travel card to skip the queues. Even if you don’t have an APEC card, you can use the Automated Passport Control kiosks if you’re from a Visa Waiver program country.

But both the APEC and APC methods still require you to talk to a CBP agent before you get into the country. And I don’t know about you, but any opportunity to avoid social contact is a plus in my book, especially when it’s with a surly CBP agent who strongly suspects that this well-built Chinese man infront of him is some sort of sleeper agent.

With Global Entry, everything is DIY. The machine prints out a slip which you pass to the agent before you exit with no conversation. And after you collect your bags, you have a special line for customs clearance as well. The other benefit to getting Global Entry is that it allows you to enrol in TSA Precheck, which can be a big timesaver if you travel domestically in the US a lot.

Once I picked up my bags, I called the Red Roof Inn to arrange a shuttle pickup. They confirmed my reservation details with me and 20 minutes later a shuttle with Red Roof Inn branding pulled up to the curb of the pickup area. It was about a 10 minute ride to the motel.

Image result for red roof inn iah houston

Even the exterior of the Red Roof Inn conjures images of the Bates Motel. I made a mental note to ensure my last will and testimony was up to date (I’m leaving The Milelion to the first person who can write a haiku about

I love how the litigious environment in the US obliges businesses to put up warning signs everywhere, like this nifty one on the automatic door. Because you know, danger. (It’s also amusing how every TV advertisement in the States that has the protagonist doing something vaguely interesting has a disclaimer at the bottom saying; Professional actor, do not attempt)

At check in, I asked if I could pay for the room in cash (to avoid incurring foreign transaction fees on my card) and was greeted with that suspicious look usually reserved for men who visit adult video stores. The clerk tried to fiddle with the computer but ended up taking so long I told her to forget it. Before I got my key, I asked her what time check out was, half hoping she’d say “you can check out any time you like” so I could make a pop culture reference. “11am” was the answer.

My room was on the first floor, just down the corridor. First impressions of the room were positive, although part of me felt that I’d do well not to use a blacklight.

The air conditioner was on the wall and competed with the sound of taking off jumbo jets. It had precisely two modes: arctic winter or heat blast.

The sink is outside the bathroom, next to the bed. Basic toiletries were provided. I’m glad they used disposable cups because I’d sure as heck not want to use anything else here.

 

There’s a tiny shower and toilet.  I was confused- how were you supposed to dissolve bodies from drug deals gone wrong if you don’t have a tub?

I bathed quickly, trying my best not to open my mouth. To my pleasant surprise, the tap water didn’t Flint Michigan me.

As I stepped out of the shower and dried my hair, I noticed I had a visitor. Or at least, had a visitor. He was curled up next to the A/C, probably enjoying some of that arctic blast.

I considered calling the front desk to make sure they didn’t charge me extra for an additional guest. But it reassured me to know I was in good company. If you read the reviews for this property on Yelp (which, in retrospect, I probably should have), you’ll find a veritable gallery of roach pics.

Ready?

Photo of Red Roof Inn Houston - IAH Airport - Houston, TX, United States. The small critters you'll get to cuddle up against if you stay at this hotel.

Photo of Red Roof Inn Houston - IAH Airport - Houston, TX, United States. Little dude enjoying the art work

Photo of IAH Red Roof Inn Airport Parking - Houston, TX, United States. The cockroach on our bed.

Image result for yelp red roof inn iah cockroach

Image result for yelp red roof inn iah cockroach

The presence of roaches made me hypervigilant to zip up all my bags and place them on the table.

I carefully inspected the bed for telltale signs of bedbugs. Not seeing any, I gingerly crawled in and made a mental note to bathe again the first thing tomorrow morning.

As I dozed, I listened intently for gunshots, or at least creaky bedsprings. Instead all I heard was the reassuring scuttle of something moving beneath the bed. I did not investigate.


My flight the next morning left at 7am, so I caught the 530am shuttle to the terminal. Breakfast only starts at 6, so I didn’t have a chance to sample what I’m sure must be the gastronomic delights this place had to offer.

But on the plus side, I didn’t get typhoid. And did I mention it’s only $62 a night?

Miami, no vice: Element Hotel Miami Airport

Miami, no vice: Planning
EVA Air Business Class SIN-TPE
Decoding the lounge situation in Taipei
EVA Air Business Class TPE-IAH
Red Roof Inn IAH Airport
United Economy IAH-MIA
Renting with Sixt Miami
Element Miami International Airport
Miami, the Keys and everything inbetween
Orlando: Disneyworld and other distractions
Jetblue Economy MCO-JFK
EVA Air Business Class JFK-TPE
EVA Air Business Class TPE-SIN


I’ve been a fan of Element hotels ever since I made my first stay at the Element New York Time Square a few months ago. You get rooms which are much bigger than your standard hotel, complete with a fully-stocked kitchen, hot breakfast and high-end toiletries and bedding you’d usually find in premium hotels.

So when I was looking for hotels in Miami and saw the Element available for 7,000 points a night as a Cat 3 hotel, it was a no brainer.

The downside was the hotel was located at the airport. But Miami is compact enough in the sense that you can get to all the places worth going to in about 20 minutes of driving. Besides, all the hotels in the South Beach area were upwards of 12,000 points a night, and I prefer the drone of airplane engines to the thumping bass of youth.

Starwood lets you book 5 nights for the price of 4, so my total points outlay was 28,000. An annoying thing was they still charged for parking, though. When I asked the SPG concierge what the parking rate was they quoted me US$10 a night plus taxes, which I was still willing to accept. At check out, I was told the rate was US$18 a night plus taxes. I reached out to the concierge and they refunded me the difference in price (S$40) in the form of 2,000 Starpoints, which I appreciate them doing.

The Element is less than 5 minutes away from the airport by car. After picking up my shiny convertible I was out of the parking garage and into the hotel lot in no time at all.

Image result for element miami international airport
photo credit: jacob kim

There was no one in the lobby at 12pm. My guess is that most of the people staying here would check out early in the morning for morning flights, and the real deluge of people doesn’t happen till the evening arrival of international flights.

This property supports SPG’s keyless check in, which allows you to use your NFC-enabled phone as your keycard and bypass the front desk entirely. Unfortunately every time I tried checking in with the app I got an error message

So I still had to head to the front desk. Check in was smooth and I took the 250 points as my Platinum amenity (breakfast is anyway included with all stays). This property also participates in the MAGC program, which I always opt for when I see. This led to a few complications, as I’ll explain below

I used 5 of my Suite Night Awards to get a 1 bedroom apartment. In all my previous years of being Platinum I’ve never actually finished using all 10 of my SNAs so I figured might as well start burning them early this year.

The apartment was furnished nicely. I got excited when I saw the full kitchen, complete with induction cooker, full sized fridge, microwave and dishwasher.

There was a spacious living room with a flat screen TV and DVD player.

And a well-equipped writing desk.

The bedroom has a Westin Heavenly Bed, which is probably the best hotel bed I’ve ever slept on. The W bed is a close second though.

The loo was also fairly spacious with a shower instead of a tub.

 

The amenities were Pharmacopia branded. Pharmacopia has some really nice toiletries and I was glad to see them featured again here.

I wandered down the next morning to check out the breakfast spread. They have oatmeal and egg mcmuffin type sandwiches

Sausage, pancakes and buns.

Cheese, ham, yogurt and milk

A selection of cereals and breads

Juices

The usual tea and coffee

I assembled myself a small plate of stuff

It was perfectly passable as breakfast, if not very inspiring. I could sense I’d get bored of the spread within a couple of days.

Which is why I went to the supermarket and bought my own supplies. The next day I made scrambled eggs, bacon, spinach and crabmeat with blistered cherry tomatoes. #howisthismanstillsingle

The stay had major housekeeping issues, however. Upon checking in I found this delightful collection in the cupboard

I mentioned I opted for the MAGC program, which allows you to decline housekeeping for 250/500 Starpoints per day, depending on where in the world you’re staying. You can opt to do the MAGC program for up to 3 consecutive days, and on the 4th day you must take housekeeping. Then you can do another 3 consecutive days. You cannot do MAGC on the day you check out.

I’m pretty well-versed with the program having used it many times. So on the morning of the 4th day as I stepped out of the room I removed the MAGC voucher from the door and the do not disturb sign. When I came back in the evening the room had not been cleaned. I called downstairs and was told that housekeeping had left already.

So on the 5th day, as I went down I expressly told the front desk clerk about what had happened yesterday and asked her to send housekeeping to my room as soon as I left (my room was getting pretty gnarly by now). She acknowledged this and wrote something down. And naturally, I return to my room at the end of the day and see nothing has been cleaned, again.

I’m not sure what happened but I ended up doing my own housekeeping during the stay there. I’m sure that builds character, but I didn’t understand why it was so difficult to make sure a room got cleaned. Naturally, none of my Green Choice points posted either.

I wrote to Starwood customer service detailing the incident and got compensated with 25,000 Starpoints, which is fairly generous. To put things in perspective, a night at the St Regis or W Singapore would cost 20,000 Starpoints.

So all in all, far from a perfect stay but good service recovery. I’m still going to look for Element hotels whenever I stay in a place for an extended period of time.

Now it’s time to share with you a bit more what I got up to in Miami…