Tag Archives: traveling

Booking flight and hotels

The number of platforms dedicated to travels are increasing, especially the ones that offers the way to find and buy plane tickets, holidays and hotel reservations. I have to say that they are useful, but are the deals convenient? Generally there are good rates offered, but if you compare them with the proposals present on the hotel websites you can be surprised with better prices or with some extra benefits as the free minibar with soft drinks, the complimentary transfer and so on.

Many hotels complain about the platforms because they are useful to support the different structures helping them to occupy all the rooms, but they ask for an high commission. Also some hotels are not present on those websites. It is then easy to establish a cooperation between the companies that are managing the travel and booking sites, so they can find the way to have a deal and give less advantages to customers.

The same problem happens with flights, when you search for a ticket you just compare thousands websites and meanwhile your reserch become part of the site data, so if you go back to the same page, you will see an higher price. This tricks are common and well known, but in last period Google started to offer a new service. You can directly directly on Google Flights about the connnection you need and the prices. I noticed in the past months that generally there are always the higher prices.

Today I red an article on The Scottish Sun that describes how the improved Google Flight app reveals to readers if the flight and hotel fares are a good deal or not. The journalist underline the opportunity that you have receiving the alerts from Google when the price decrease. With some graphics you can check how the rate goes and the app helps to recognize the best offers using the colours about “cold” and the “hot” fares.

The application works for flights and hotels and I have to say that the service provided is really better than the past, but I have still few doubts. For instance I saw that they also propose the best deals on business class, but of course the cheapest fares are referred to the connections with the stopover, so you need to stay around the world more time before to arrive at your destination.

Meanwhile I was reading the article and checking the new app it cames to my mind the Austrian Airlines promotion, started few years ago and not only one among the airline companies. With your economy ticket you can bid an upgrade to business class. You make an offer and if it will be accepted, according to the amount and the different bids received, they can decide if accept and let you travel in business class with a bit more than what you spent for the economy ticket.

We all know that to find the best deals we need to check the dates, try to change them, to try to change airport, to make the reservation in a specific day of the week and so on. I agree with all tricks, but since the algorithms are changing so fast, I generally keep always in mind these advices, but I always prefer compare the official websites of the hotels and of the airline companies, deleting the computer chronology step by step to non influence the sites and their results, with the different booking services.

How do you reserve your flights and hotel rooms?

Anasa

Hotel’s butler: be a VIP in your room

It is becoming popular among hotel services. But not all the people know exactly what has to do the hotel’s butler. What about this support offered as complimentary service of the best suites? People who approach for the first time to this service they have not a clear idea about what to expect. And they don’t know what to ask the dedicate staff member. Maybe it is useful to clarify some aspects.

The number of structures that propose the hotel’s butler service up to request or complimentary is increasing. Generally, it is paired with special, signature or the biggest suites of the main brands. It happens to the mountains, to the sea and as well in the city. To have a butler means to be helped in managing the room and the stay. Of course, this professional is properly trained to satisfy most of the needs that a guest can have during the stay in the hotel.

It is important to know that hospitality companies offer the hotel’s butler to create a loyalty relationship with the guest. Obviously, the staff has to please the client and not the opposite. So you have to treat them with kindness and they have to reserve you courtesy and professionality. But you as a customer have to use the service and to ask what you need. Just keep in mind the competencies that they have.

 

The tasks of the hotel’s butler

Each hotel has different rules and this makes some differences in the service provided. Starting from the time: in some cases, the hotel’s butler is available only during the day. In many hotels, it is a 24 hours service. Anyway more or less the do the same things. What is common among the different structures are the unpack and pack, draw a bath and reserve a table to a restaurant.

Usually, the butler has also the task to superintend to the room cleaning. In order to keep always in perfect conditions the suite. So what a guest can ask (you should follow these indications in case you have a hotel’s butler service in your hotel room) concern mainly the management of the room. It is included the organization of an in-suite meal. Sometimes the complimentary service gives the availability of a chef and a dedicated concierge. So the butler can coordinate the contacts between the guests and those staff members.

 

What the butler does

The first approach of the hotel’s butler with the guests is in the room. She or he welcomes the clients of the suite and show them the different internal ambients and the amenities. This staff member explains as well the facilities of the entire structure. She or he generally tells to the guests what are the task that the butler has to accomplish to serve the customers in the proper way.

In this first meeting what is important for she or he is to understand the people who are in front of her or him. Why? To please them it is necessary to know what they want and need, providing customized service.

After that, the hotel’s butler manages the check-in, unpack the luggage and press clothes. if it is necessary and according to the hotel policy. She or he takes care of the room, meanwhile, in general, the concierge work on external need. For instance the reservation of a restaurant, the ticket purchase for some events and so on.

There is not a precise rule, so hotel by hotel these tasks can be done by the butler as well. For example, the task of the hotel’s butler is also to refill the minibar and the room with drinks and snack. Then this staff member brings the newspaper, the breakfast and a cup of tea in the afternoon or a glass of wine before dinner.

For any need, the guest can call and ask the hotel’s butler that will be discretely positioned close to the room. Or she or he will just be somewhere else with the mobile phone switched on. In order to answer immediately to the call or to the messages got from the guests. For instance, during the late night, you can write an SMS with some changes or orders about breakfast and she or he will provide to organize.

Some hotels are using the new technologies and this means that the hotel’s butler gives to the guests a tablet to manage the room. This is useful as well to interact with the staff. So the client can ask what he needs by the device and the butler will work to satisfy the request. In many hotels in the night, the butler cleans the guests’ shoes for the day after. During the day or the evening, this staff member prepares the bath and aromatherapy, where available.

 

Details and tip

When you book in some accommodation you can find more details about the hotel’s butler service. In some cases, they send to you a paper to be filled with your needs and interests. So they can personalize the assistance before your arrival. This will help you also to understand better what the butler will do for you during your stay. Then there will be specifics about other staff members dedicated to supporting you.

About the tip, it is totally up to you. It is of course not mandatory and the service received is included in the room rate. But if you think, at the end of your stay, that the hotel’s butler was particularly kind and professional or if she or he helped you also in some tasks not mandatory, well a tip is always welcome by the staff. Do not think anyway that the activities depend on it, otherwise, it means that the service is not well provided.

Updates

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Book your luxury hotel and get familiar with the butler‘s service. You will be satisfied.

Restaurant: 4 elements for you to choose the best one

When I travel I go to the restaurant for a need. But also because I am curious about the local food. I want to taste the typical recipes. When I am at home I like to go out and to eat in restaurants. But I think that it does not make sense to have the same dishes that I can have at home and prepared by myself. I search for something special and innovative and of course well served, in a lovely location and with a nice setting.

These elements help me to select the restaurants where to go. Then they also help me when I make an evaluation. So I can write on the blog about my best experiences. The question is: how to evaluate a restaurant? Or better: how I evaluate a restaurant? I am not a food expert, but I like to taste and I try to search for the quality, that sometimes is even in a pizza.

Sometimes to cook something simple in the perfect way it is more difficult than to create something innovative. If you mix a lot of flavors you can cover a bad taste and the mistakes made during the cooking session. That is why to measure a good cook it should be enough asked to her or to him to prepare a very easy recipe. Anyway, let’s go to the restaurant’s evaluation.

 

The Michelin stars restaurants

The stars of Michelin guide give consumers information about the level of a restaurant, as it happens with the hotels. But how they are given to the restaurants and their chefs. Since 1926 the experts of the famous tires’ brand are going to visit places around the world to select the best and recognize their high quality with the stars, from one to three.

What is the meaning of the stars? One means ”very good restaurant in its category”, two represent an ”excellent cuisine” and three stars indicate ”exceptional cuisine”. These are the results, but what are the criteria used to decide how many stars attribute to the restaurants? The parameters are four:

  • quality of the product
  • preparation technique
  • balance between ingredients
  • the creativity of the chef

The inspectors do not check only these aspects, but they also focus on the quality of service, atmosphere, furnishings, and location. Every single detail is important and the staff of the restaurant has to take care of all the elements to pass the exam and to give to the customers high-quality experience.

The examinators fill a data sheet with a list of the ingredients of the dishes tasted, then they analyze the setting, the service provided by the staff, the hospitality and the comfort. These elements receive an evaluation with a different symbol: the forks, whose increasing number from 1 to 5 is a function of a huge number of factors. The inspectors have to consider the service, the crowding, the furnishings, the atmosphere, the wine list, all the details including greetings waiters and the arrangement of glasses and cutlery on the table.

 

Tradition and innovation

In many restaurants is now trendy to follow the tradition, but the best cooks are using it as the base. The chef proposes the innovation, they mix the traditional recipes with some creativity to give to the guests something new and particular. I like this way especially when I go out to eat around my region. I know the local food, I like it, but it is nice to taste something different that reminds the main ingredients of the tradition.

Another feature of the dishes proposed in many restaurants is the international contamination, that is happening also because the chef is going to work and make experience abroad, so they learn how to prepare local recipes and they use also competences coming from the dishes of their own countries. The result is, in some cases, quite interesting and to discover the similar taste and the new combination gives the chance to have a journey into the food culture.

The leitmotiv of the cuisine today, proposed and sometimes just respected by the chefs, is the lightness. This is good for the health and of course, you can eat a complete mail with more courses without any problems. To be sincere I have to say that in this aspect I agree only in part because in Italy the tradition in the kitchen is not so light.

Why renounce to the real taste of the territory? I guess it is better to eat certain dishes fewer times but properly have them. Alto the creativity of the cook should be something not related to finding the light way of the preparation but to give more taste.

 

The taste

As I already wrote I am not an expert, but just a person who loves to eat well and in good places, sometimes in a pizzeria in a Michelin star restaurant. The recipe and its result is the most important part of the evaluation for everyone. What I check is the flavor of what the chef proposes. A dish must impress, offer a pathway to discover the ingredients and culture. Every bite is a part of the travel.

If the recipe realized can represent this, the grade is high. Then, of course, there are other elements, because a restaurant needs to give a unique experience to the guests, not only serving good food. What are you looking at before to enter in a restaurant? Well about me I can say that if it is exposed, I check the menu and then the entrance. Hotels have generally great halls, also when they have awful rooms, but the door and the setting of a restaurant are, most of the times not always, well related to the food offer.

 

The setting

When the chef reaches a high level in the kitchen, even if she or he has the chance to develop something new and find other challenges, works on the other parts. Improve the table, the plates, and the dining room. Take care of all details is important and I consider an elegant place, with modern or ancient furniture, is lovely, it is something more that helps the atmosphere.

A comfortable table and a spacious dining room with tables well separated are important to give to guests the privacy that they deserve to chat in peace and do not disturb the others or to be disturbed by other guests. The food is the first aspect, but to have the meal in a pleasant place makes the people happy. This is what usually happens to me.

 

The service

The chef is the main protagonist, but in certain restaurants, he is the master, so he (or she of course) needs a good team to be supported in the preparation. The main cook creates, gives the idea for the menu, but all of them are working together. This is what happens in Michelin star restaurants. The people in the kitchen are doing the best part, but they are not the only staff members of the restaurant.

Waiters and the maitre have the task to serve properly the plates, the drinks and also they are engaged as councilors. I know, this word is exaggerated, but they are most of the times responsible to suggest what to choose, as food and especially as a drink, selecting the proper wine according to the dishes.

They need to have competences for that, they need to know how to serve, starting from the right side from where to put the plate. Waiters have also to be kind, to answer properly to the question of the guests and to fill empty glasses maintaining the right level. The customer of the restaurant must be at the center of the attention during all meal, this is what the staff have to take into consideration to do its work correctly.

 

These elements help me to do an evaluation, even if I am not a professional inspector, I do the selections following a bit the procedure of the Michelin star experts. If a restaurant makes me happy and I want to visit it again, this means that I can write about it on my blog and suggest you try the same experience.

Last tips

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How to check an hotel

Reading my blog you noticed that my articles are telling positive feedbacks from my experiences, that is why I want to give you some information about places, restaurants and hotels you should visit. My bad experiences do not deserve to be published. I need anyway to take into consideration that not all opinions are the same, that is why I use high quaity experiences.

Writing about the good part of my travels is the way to tell you: “there you can go and you will be satisfied!

When I prepare an article I think to be brief, to not annoy my followers and readers, but what I write is the synthesis of a precise analysis. For instance about an hotel I observe different elements. I am not an inspector by profession, but I travel quite a lot and I am doing it since many years ago, that is why I developed my personal criteria.

The stay in a five stars hotel it does not mean that everything is perfect, but of course it is the proper place where to pretend a tailor made service and high standards for the accomodation. Especially when I travel for work reasons I need to have comfort as a good equipped and quiet room and also a professional staff ready to answer properly to my needs in terms of assistance in the facilities or reservation of external services.

I have anyway to respect the workers of the hotel, because kindness is always welcome everywhere and guests can be better served using it. So what are the main features to evaluate an hotel? The following points are just used by me to make the selection and be sure that telling you about some structure you can have a great stay. Of course it is not my job, so I take into consideration the features that are more important form my personal comfort. Anyway some hints can be useful to you, my readers, as well.

 

The reservation

The evaluation of an hotel starts at the moment of the reservation. Of course you can book through internet using websites not directly related to the hotel, but also in this case you can check how the management acts. For example once I used Booking, I completed my reservation and one day later I got an email from the hotel booked. They wrote to be closed and they did a mistake accepting the reservation by the system. Everything was cancelled and then I searched for another accomodation. You can imagine my feelings and what I thought about them.

If you contact directly the structure, as I do generally, the staff has to answer with courtesy to all your questions, even the strange ones. They have to explain the rates and give you the best offers, proposing the different options, if they have some special proposals for the period.

 

The pick-up and the transfer

Before the reception you may have contact with the driver if you asked or received the complimentary transfer from the airport with your reservation. The car has to be on time at the airport, the driver need to be there to wait for you with a paper with your name written and then to ask to you how are you and take you fast and with comforts to the hotel. About the private transport services there are many things to say, but I will dedicate an article about it.

 

The reception and delivery of the room

When you enter in the hotel you go directly to the reception. In this occasion you should find a well prepared staff. They should already know about you and your reservation or at least find everything when you say to them your name. They have to make the copy of your passport, ask for your credit card and for a signature on the registration paper. They have to be kind and fast manwhile they give you all the information about your stay and the facilities.

In some hotel the guests of the best suite can benefit of the in room check-in and this needs to have anyway the same features of the service given at the reception. Generally it is easier because they send a well prepared staff and they pay attention only to the room guests. It is part of a special welcome reserved to who is going to spend a huge rate for a special suite.

 

The room

After the check-in you enter finally in the room. First of all it is a good idea to check the cleaning level, starting from the bathroom and the bed. After that the control has to be done on the equipment, to be sure that everything is working and also to see the features of the room. According to the type of hotel and to what the guest booked the features of the accomodation have to satisfy different standards. Minibar has to be well furnished.

If the guest is accomodate in a signature suite of a five stars hotel it is possible to receive a butler service included in the rate. In this case the butler has to be present at the guest arrival, take care of the luggages, put the clothes in the wardrobe and be available to answer to the requests and the needs of the guest. The presence of this member of the hotel staff and his attention to the client has to be evaluated, because the butler is going to be the closest referent during the stay.

 

The stay

During the days spent in the hotel each client has the chance to try some services and their ”perfections” is part of the evaluation. To evaluate if services are good it is necessary to consider the offer in all the aspects, starting from the breakfast. That has to be complete, so with a big selection of salty and sweet food to be chosen by guests. The staff has to be ready to answer to the specific needs, maybe to prepare a coffee or explain where to find a specific food, as well the ingredients used in order to prevent allergies and intolerances.

In Bucharest I had one of the best experiences in terms of breakfast, a big dining room with real departments for the varaious types of food, including meat and fish. It was necessary to walk a bit around to find everything, but the staff was always ready to help guests to find what they were searching for. Any taste can be easily satisfied there. That means to give high grades for the evaluation.

Using the bar or the restaurant it is important to check the offer, the variety of drink and food, the professional staff and of course the prices well calibrated with the quality. About rates it is anyway necessary to say that i every hotel of the world the prices of food and drinks are always higher than in outside restaurants and bars.

If there is the chance to use the room service also in this case the evaluation is focused on the variety of food and drinks available, then the attention is on the staff: how much they are kind and fast, starting from the call to arrive when they arrive in the room. In general to put at the centre of the attention the client is a must for a good hotel, so kindness, ability to answer to the different need are very important, as cleaning and order in the rooms and in common spaces.

If there are other facilities as the gym, the spa, an internet corner or meeting room, it is a good opportunity to check how they are managed. The offers and the equipments are the main elements to evaluate the level of the hotel. The features should help the guest to feel in a safe environment and to feel like at home.

Also the concierge is a staff member to have a big role in the guest stay. He can suggest some places to visit, reserve tickets, deliver specific services, reserve restaurants and so on. His task is to give a real support to customers, to find the way to satisfy them. If there are complimentary newspaper or evening cleaning of the room and bed preparation, it is important to be sure to have the newspaper every day and to receive the visit of the waitress before dinner.

Some hotels then offer tailored experiences to tourists as a private show made by a musician, a visit to a fashion workshop of a famous brand, a special cuisine experience or supercars tour around the city and so on. In this case the evaluation depends mainly on personal taste and on a perfect organisation of the activity, without any time loosing or delays.

 

The departure

The moment of the check-out concern the last minutes spent in the hotel. The guest goes to the reception to pay the bill. It can be the occasion to give a feedback on the structure and maybe to complain about something. Part of evaluation is also the management of the complaints. The staff and the manager have to be professional and to try to find a solution, without be rude, also if they are right, in orther to fix the situation and to not loose the client.

If there is the transfer they have to make the car and the driver ready for the exact moment, so when you leave the hotel. They can take care of your luggages if you leave the room but not the place and thank you for your stay, in order to make you comfortable and interested to visit the accomodation again in future.

 

Other elements

It is more part of the choice then the evaluation, but the good connections of the hotel with the main attractions of the centre of the city is quite important. To have an underground station very closed, to be located in the main square and to have some taxi in front of the hotel door is surely useful.

In last years the respect of the environment protection became a priority in the world and also many hotels are doing their part. In some structures it is easy to find a card close to the bed and in the bathroom with a message: if the guest wants to change bed linen and towels it is necessary to put the them on the floor or tu put the card on them and so on.

This is good, but the question is: if you spend hundreds or thousands euros or dollars for a room and they change daily linen and towels, why if you decide to reuse them and the hotel save money you do not have any benefit. It is great to save nature from the pollution, but the price must be reduced. Starwood Preferred Guest found a solution. It is the fidelity program of Sheraton, Westin and many others hotel’s brands connected also with Marriott Reward. If you choose to not change the towels you get points to be used for services in the hotel and to add to your collection for free nights.

The ones written are the main elements that I always check when I go in a hotel and if it pass the “exam” I mention it in my articles, to recommend the best among the structure where I have the chance to stay.

Anasa

Sacra di San Michele: a monastery on the rocks

Few kilometers from Avigliana, at around 900 meters above sea level there is Sacra di San Michele. It is a jewel of the architecture. It is an abbey built 983 and 987 on the mount Pirchiriano and the building is directly posed on the rocks. It is amazing to go there on the top also because there is a marvelous panorama. It is possible to see all around Val Susa and a bit of Turin, but for this, you need a completely clear sky.

Inside there is a church completed in XII century where there are the tombs of some members of the Italian Royal family Savoia. It is dedicated to the cult of the Archangel Michael, defender of the Christian people. The Sacra di San Michele is part of a pilgrimage route over 2000 km long that goes from Mont Saint-Michel, in France, to Monte Sant’Angelo, in Puglia.

Sacra di San Michele: art, history, nature, and religion

What I like about Sacra di San Michele, apart from the sight, it is the way how the building is mixed with the rocks of the mount. It looks like a big sculpture born from nature and that is amazing. At the entrance of the abbey and the church, there are some flowers and hedges very well taken care of. The structure is well kept by few Capuchin friars and some people of the staff that are opening the building to visitors.

The religious artworks conserved inside are not the only objects present in the collections of the abbey. There is the museum of daily life with instruments used in the past by the people for their life and their different jobs. It is very interesting because it is a reconstruction of the local population activities in the past centuries. The inside library, visible by visitors, has more than 10.000 books, many of them ancient. During the year are realized different thematic exhibitions about different topics.

The place is connected with the closest towns by a unique road. But there I felt out of the world, in a magic atmosphere, kept as it was in the past. Sacra di San Michele represents the most important attraction of Piedmont, maybe because it can host tourists with any type of interest. It is a religious building but you can admire just the architecture, the nature that surrounds the place or explores the local life in the past.

If you like to walk in nature, you can go up using the trails from Sant’Ambrogio di Torino and Giaveno. They are well kept and realized completely in the woods. The pathways were already used in past centuries by the pilgrims. It is a great experience especially to stay with yourself and with your trip mate. If you want to walk you need a few hours, depending on your speed, to reach the top.

Piedmont and Italy

The region, that is the one where I live, is one of the biggest. It is known mainly for Turin, the first capital of Italy or the headquarter of Nutella fabric in Alba. Well, there are many things to see in Piedmont, like the Sacra di San Michele. A lot of attractions you should see. So if you want to know more about the region and Italy, you have to check out my posts. There is a section dedicated to the country on my blog. You can find impressions, information, facts, curiosities, and much more.

I am going to update it soon, so subscribe to my newsletter to get weekly news and extra contents. I will be happy to give you tips and tricks to support your holiday planning. Don’t forget to reserve a hotel. If you want to have some more tips about Piedmont, feel free to write to me. I will be happy to answer you.