Pic: InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Apr 2014)
In October 2013, InterContinental Amstel opened the World’s first Champagne Suite by Dom Perignon. Last week, I had the pleasure to enjoy this ultimate luxury suite in Amsterdam.
Pic: Bedroom of Dom Perignon Suite at InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam (Apr 2014)
My booking was an Executive City View Suite at €855, but thanks to IHG’s Best Price Guarantee, my stay was free! I had jokingly tweeted InterContinental Amstel requesting an upgrade to their exclusive Dom Perignon Suite. To my surprise, the hotel answered “Let us see what we can do ;) #youneverknow”. And yes, after some confusion at check-in, I was assigned the Dom Perignon Junior Suite room number 122. As IHG Rewards Club Platinum member, I was entitled for a one level upgrade to an Executive River View Suite. I assume the hotel appreciated my photography and provided me this exceptional upgrade. Note: I didn’t have access to the full Dom Perignon Executive Luxury Suite which is even larger and has a separate dining area and can be combined with the Junior Suite via connecting doors. (102 sq. meter)
Pic: Dom Perignon Suite at InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam (Apr 2014)
Pic: Living room at Dom Perignon Suite, InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam
Pic: Illy Coffee Maker at Dom Perignon Suite, InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam
Pic: Living room of Dom Perignon Suite at InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam
Pic: Dom Perignon Towel Rack at InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam (Apr 2014)
Pic: Bart Lapers at the Dom Perignon Suite of InterContinental Amstel (Apr 2014)
Pic: Swimming Pool at InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam (Apr 2014)
Video: Elliot’s Cafe, Borough Market, London
Pic: Double Room at Town Hall Hotel in East London (Mar 2014)
For my Friday night stay in London, I used last-minute booking app HotelTonight which had Town Hall Hotel in hip East London on offer for €156. Thanks to the promo codes I published in February (+ referral credits), my stay was free. Unfortunately, most promo codes are no longer valid, but you can still get €20 or $25 discount on your first booking using my referral code BLAPERS. I expect more HotelTonight promo codes to surface in the next months, so make sure to follow my blog, twitter account and TravelMagic Facebook page for instant updates.
Pic: Swimming Pool at Town Hall Hotel in East London (Mar 2014)
As points & miles addicts, we tend to stay at chain hotels most of the time. The beauty of alternative booking apps like HotelTonight and Airbnb is the fact you often end-up with independent hotels and B&Bs what can result in surprising experiences… Town Hall Hotel was one of them. What an amazing Art Deco property!
Pic: The Pool at Town Hall Hotel in East London (Mar 2014)
Did you know only 64 out of 1069 hotels in London have a pool? Well, Town Hall Hotel is one of them and gosh is it beautiful!
Pic: Corner Room at Town Hall Hotel in London (Mar 2014)
Another exceptional venue at the Town Hall Hotel is their restaurant ‘Corner Room‘ where I had an excellent breakfast served (menu) in a great atmosphere on Saturday morning.
Pic: Breakfast at the Corner Room, Town Hall Hotel London (Mar 2014)
Pic: Poached Eggs with Streaky Bacon at the Corner Room, Town Hall Hotel London
Pic: Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard in London (Mar 2014)
A visit to The Shard was on my todo list for a while now, as it will be hosting the much hyped Shangri-La The Shard hotel on floors 34 to 52 offering beautiful views of The City. The hotel will officially open on May 6, but don’t get too excited as rooms start at £450 (€540) per night! Lets hope HotelTonight adds it to its portfolio. ;-) Anyway, you don’t need to stay at the Shangri-La to enjoy The View from The Shard. You can access viewing platforms on the 69th and 72nd floor (244m) for £29 (bloody expensive!). Make sure to make advance reservations (e.g. early morning on the day of your visit) as sunset hours tend to sell out fast.
Pic: Tower Bridge as seen from View from The Shard in London (Mar 2014)
More nice venues I discovered during my weekend trip:
Bistrotheque (Dinner, walking distance from Town Hall Hotel)
Elliot’s Cafe (Borough Market, walking distance from The Shard)
I had dinner at both venues seated at the bar (I was by myself) and really loved the suggestions made the bartender at Elliot’s Cafe (menu). Make sure to try the Pig Head Kromeski with tartare sauce and the Sweetbreads, Black Pudding & Caramelized Apple!
Pic: The 340 strong LSU Tiger Marching Band on St. Paddy’s in Dublin (Mar 2014)
Another one to tick off my bucket list: Saint Patrick’s Day in Dublin! Days after I published my book review ‘101 places to get f*cked up before you die‘, I received an invitation from the tourism board of Ireland to attend St. Patrick’s day in Dublin. I generally don’t accept comped trips, as it takes away the fun of scoring those exceptional hotel and airline deals, but I made an exception for this one. Aer Lingus flew me from Brussels to Dublin in 1h40m arriving at the new Terminal 2 (opened in Nov 2010). I was surprised by how modern the Dublin airport was and the high number of international destinations it serves. Did you know Aer Lingus has a direct flight between Dublin and San Francisco? That’s probably linked to the fact many large internet companies have major offices in Dublin: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, eBay, PayPal, Yahoo!, … which makes it the Silicon Valley of Europe.
Pic: Lord Mayor of Dublin, Oisín Quinn, welcoming us in Ireland (Mar 2014)
St Paddys day is celebrated on March 17, which was a Monday this year. As I arrived on Saturday March 15, I had time for some other activities too. I joined a group of 40 journalist from around the globe for a Welcome Reception hosted by the Lord Mayor or Dublin followed by a guide city tour. Later in the afternoon, we were offered a master class Irish Coffee making at the beautiful rooftop lounge of The Marker hotel.
Pic: Master Class Irish Coffee Making at The Marker Hotel, Dublin (Mar 2014)
On Saturday night, I met up with Belgian friend Bart and his Facebook colleagues Chris and Daniel to watch the Six Nations Championship Rugby Finals in Irish pub The Barge. The Irish won from the French, which resulted in a outburst of joy & emotion. For our ride from the pub to our dinner venue Bear, I ordered an Uber car which turned out to be an awesome 6 door Mercedes-Benz stretch limo!
Pic: Our Uber 6-door Mercedes-Benz stretch limousine ride in Dublin (Mar 2014)
After our dinner at Bear (try the delicious ribs!) it went on to Bar with No Name and 37 Dawson Street where we partied away the night.
Pic: Breakfast at Radisson Blu Royal in Dublin (Mar 2014)
Sunday was more relax with a late breakfast at the Radisson Blu Royal, followed by a visit to Dublin coastal village Howth.
Pic: St Patricks Day crowds in the streets of Dublin, Ireland (Mar 2014)
And then it was finally the big day, the St Patrick’s Day parade in the streets of Dublin! Everyone wearing green, fun hats, shamrock and a great atmosphere. As international journalists we had the privilege to ride a double deck bus in the parade to enjoy everything with a birds eye view!
IHG Rewards Club released the new PointBreaks list for stays from March 24 to May 31, 2014. You can book these hotels for just 5000 points per night as of Monday March 24. As usual, IHG Rewards Club point reservations are refundable. Make sure to make a new booking for each night (5 night stay = 5 bookings). This will allow you to shorten your stay without loosing your complete PointBreaks reservation.
Asia & the Pacific
People’s Republic of China
Holiday Inn Zhuhai
Holiday Inn Zhengzhou
Crowne Plaza Zhengzhou
Crowne Plaza Beijing Zhongguancun
Holiday Inn Jasmine Suzhou
InterContinental Marine Drive-Mumbai
Republic of Korea
Holiday Inn Gwangju
Holiday Inn Clark
Holiday Inn Express Taoyuan
Middle East & Africa
Crowne Plaza Nairobi
Crowne Plaza Al Khobar
United Arab Emirates
Staybridge Suites Abu Dhabi-Yas Island
Holiday Inn Villach
Pic: Prinsengracht Canal View King Room at Andaz Amsterdam (Mar 2014)
A quick visit to Amsterdam loaded with great experiences last weekend. A long overdue stay at Andaz Amsterdam: amazing interior design by Marcel Wanders, attentive staff, great Bluespoon Bar & Restaurant. Rather expensive at €252 for Canal View King room (upgraded from Andaz King as Hyatt Gold Passport Platinum member)
Pic: Andaz Amsterdam Lobby – Interior design by Marcel Wanders (Mar 2014)
Pic: Breakfast at Bluespoon restaurant, Andaz Amsterdam (Mar 2014)
Pic: Dinner at 2* Michelin restaurant &Samhoud Places, Amsterdam (Mar 2014)
Friend of mine recommended &Samhoud Places for dinner on Saturday night. Booked it after quick look at food pics on Tripadvisor. Turned out to be a rather expensive choice. :)
Pic: Inca / Alpaco Chocolate / Banana Lime / Coconut dessert at &Samhoud Places
Pic: My UberLUX Mercedes-Benz S-Class ride in Amsterdam (Mar 2014)
Enjoyed 2 UberLUX (Mercedes-Benz S-Class & BMW 7 Series) and 4 UberBlack (Mercedes-Benz E-Class) rides in Amsterdam. As usual, excellent Uber service by friendly drivers. Two cool venues I discovered during my 24 hour trip:
Door 74 (Speakeasy Cocktailbar, reservations required)
EYE Bar-Restaurant (part of EYE Film Institute)
My favorite private driver app Uber, just announced its launch in Brussels. Due to local regulatory restrictions, Uber was forced to limit its service offerings to uberPOP. At least for now. uberPOP allows private individuals to offer transportation services using the powerful Uber app. My personal favorite is still Uber Black, the luxury car service by Uber which is now available in more than 25 countries. I’ve used Uber Black in Paris, New York and Cape Town and was blown away by their phenomenal service every single time.
Pic: Uber launches uberPOP in Brussels on February 25, 2014
To encourage customers to try uberPOP in Brussels, Uber offers €15 discount on your first ride with code ‘uberPOP’. Make sure to sign-up for Uber using this link to get an additional €20 free credit. Enjoy your free rides! :)
Video: Uber is just awesome, see it for yourself! #UpForWhatever
Pic: The Ultimate Travel Guide to Partying Around the World (Matador Network)
In the past couple of years, I had my fair share of (in)famous parties around the world:
And partied in places like Barcelona, Las Vegas, Athens, Seoul, Tokyo, Monaco, Saint-Tropez, Cannes, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Macau, Bangkok, Taipei, Jakarta, Phuket, Bali, Hong Kong, Boracay, Shanghai, Berlin, Shenzhen, Davos, CopenHagen, Dubai, Prague, Bucharest, Kiev, Reykjavik, Sharm el-Sheikh, Riga, Johannesburg, Krakow, Cancun, Sydney, Porto, West Hollywood, San Francisco, …
Pic: Sambadrome Parade during Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Feb 2010)
Looking for more inspiration, my attention was drawn to the newly released “101 Places To Get F*cked Up Before You Die” by Matador Network. The 278 page guide lists 101 places in 8 categories:
Pic: Bart at Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Ipanema Beach Blocos (Feb 2010)
With only 13 major events detailed in the ‘Blowouts’ section, 101 Places To Get F*cked Up Before You Die isn’t a listing of the 101 best parties or festivals in the World. Instead the guide focuses on places where you can have fun all year round. Don’t expect in-depth practical information for each party destination either. It’s the anecdotes and inspirational stories by the 60 contributors of the guide which read like party invitations. Practical info is easily found using Google.
Pic: Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA (Feb 2009)
My personal top 3:
On my todo list:
What are your favorites / recommendations? Share them via the comments section. Thanks!
Order 101 Places to Get F*cked Up Before You Die via Amazon.co.uk (£7.93) or Bol.com (€10,99)
Pic: Bourbon Street, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA (Feb 2009)
Pic: Coco Bongo in Cancun, Mexico (Jun 2011)
Pic: Hacker-Pschorr beer tent at Oktoberfest in Munich (Sep 2009)
Pic: Hacker-Pschorr beer tent at Oktoberfest in Munich (Sep 2009)
Pic: Bart Lapers at Burning Man, Black Rock City, Nevada, USA (Sep 2010)
Order 101 Places to Get F*cked Up Before You Die via Amazon.co.uk (£7.93) or Bol.com (€10,99)
Pic: Visited Cape Town thanks to a Turkish Airlines Business Class Error Fare
Back in June 2013, Turkish Airlines (TK) published a oneway business class error fare from South Africa (CPT, JNB) to Switzerland (GVA, ZRH). It was their second (known) business class error fare of the year. I had already booked a business class roundtrip error fare (€638) between Warsaw and Kuala Lumpur back in February 2013 which I flew and reviewed in Nov 2013. As I had no vacation days left for 2013, I booked my Cape Town – Geneva flight for January 2014 and paid just €339.
Pic: My favorite Business Class seat (4E) on the TurkishAirlines A330-300 (Jan 2014)
Turkish Airlines TK41 from Cape Town to Istanbul via Johannesburg.
Pic: The excellent Turkish Airlines Business Class DO&CO inflight catering (Jan 2014)
Pic: Very spacious Intra-Europe Turkish Airlines Business Class on B737-900ER
Turkish Airlines flight TK1917 from Istanbul to Geneva was operated by a brand new Boeing Next Generation 737-900ER.
Pic: Turkish Airlines DO&CO Intra-Europe Business Class Breakfast (Jan 2014)
Pic: Flatbed Business Class seats on South African Airways A340-600 (Jan 2014)
For my positioning flight from Brussels to Cape Town, I used 52,500 Avianca Taca LifeMiles to book Brussels to Frankfurt in Lufthansa Business Class and Frankfurt to Cape Town (via Johannesburg) in South African Airways Business Class. I had bought the required miles (€611) during a 100% bonus LifeMiles promotion. With the taxes & fees (€79) included, I paid a total of €690 for my BRU-CPT Business Class flights.
Pic: Sunroof Terrace at Park Inn by Radisson Cape Town Foreshore (Jan 2014)
For my first two nights in Cape Town, I booked the Park Inn by Radisson Cape Town Foreshore using the Club Carlson Family and Friends promo. This rate is intended for travelers who have a friend or family member working at the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group. Don’t we all have extensive networks of friends via Facebook, LinkedIn, etc…these days? No worries, most hotels don’t ask questions. ;-) Check this Flyertalk thread for individual hotel’s ‘behavior’. To use the rate, go to ClubCarlson.com and enter ‘CARLSONF’ in the ‘Promotional Code’ field. It will lower most Park Inn rates to the equivalent of €70 and Radisson (Blu) rates to €80 or $80. The rate has same day 6pm cancellation flexibility and includes breakfast + 25% discount on F&B. Note: The Carlson F&F rate is capacity controlled and thus not always available. Make sure to double check the cancellation conditions and other rate features at the time of booking.
Pic: Sunset at Kloof Neck in Cape Town, South Africa (Jan 2014)
Pic: Presidential Loft Suite at DoubleTree By Hilton Cape Town Upper Eastside
After my Park Inn stay, I moved to the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cape Town – Upper Eastside where I had booked 3 nights using the Hilton Any Weekend Anywhere sale. Via this promo I managed to book the 122 sq.m. Contemporary New York Style Presidential Loft Suite at ZAR1336 (€89) for my first night, and a Queen Guest room at ZAR934 (€62) for the second and third night. As a Hilton HHonors Gold member (obtained via credit card link), I was upgraded to a Deluxe room on my second and third night and could enjoy complimentary breakfast and internet access.
Pic: The City Sightseeing Red Bus is a great way to see Cape Town (Jan 2014)
The first two days of my trip, I didn’t have a rental car. I found the City Sightseeing Cape Town Red Bus an excellent way to discover the city and it’s beautiful surroundings. I managed to complete both the Cape Town Red City Tour (Red Line) and Cape Town Blue Mini Peninsula Tour (Blue Line) in one day, including the cable ride to the top of Table Mountain!
Pic: Cable Car to Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa (Jan 2014)
Pic: Abseiling from Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa (Jan 2014)
Pic: My Uber private driver in Cape Town, South Africa (Jan 2014)
On my second day in Cape Town, I used my favorite private driver app Uber to drop me at the start of the Lions Head trail. (try Uber yourself, €20 free credits via my referral link)
Pic: The money shot at the Lion’s Head summit in Cape Town, South Africa (Jan 2014)
Pic: The amazing Camps Bay in Cape Town, South Africa (Jan 2014)
Pic: Culinary lunch at Waterkloof Wines, Somerset West, Cape Town (Jan 2014)
South Africa is famous for it’s wines, so we had try some in style. Waterkloof Wines proved to be an excellent venue for both wining and dining… and what an amazing estate! Thanks to the weak ZAR, the 6 course degustation menu including wine pairing was less than €50!
Pic: Porcini Custard – Rocket Pesto, Crispy Quail Egg – Waterkloof Wines Restaurant
Pic: Dessert by Chef Gregory Czarnecki at Waterkloof Wines Restaurant (Jan 2014)
Pic: Coffee with a view to finish my amazing lunch at Waterkloof Wines (Jan 2014)
Pic: Monkey Valley Beach Nature Resort at Noordhoek Beach, Cape Town (Jan 2014)
Another absolute must-do is Chapman’s Peak Drive, one of the world’s most stunning coastal roads! You’ll discover the incredible Noordhoek Beach on your way to Cape Point.
Pic: Bart at Noordhoek beach near Cape Town, South Africa (Jan 2014)
Pic: African Penguins at Boulders Beach near Simon’s Town (Jan 2014)
Pic: Bart Lapers at V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa (Jan 2014)
Conclusion: If Cape Town isn’t on your todo list yet, you should add it today. It’s insanely beautiful, friendly and affordable!