Stay here: The Bubble Hotel, Iceland

The Buubble, Iceland
http://www.buubble.com/

While husband was flicking through a travel magazine on a flight we took in early 2016, he came across a picture of a bubble, and a few lines describing it as newly built ‘bubble’ accommodation somewhere in the middle of Iceland…

Upon landing, I started Googling, and found it to be Buubble, the self-proclaimed 5 million star hotel. Basically, a “hotel room” that’s one giant, clear, bubble, where you can rest your head and enjoy a non-stop 360 degree view of the Icelandic night sky, and hopefully catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. “I’m concentrating on offering the accommodation during the wintertime, so that people can see the Northern Lights and the starry sky,” Róbertsson explained in the website not long after it launched. That sounded pretty good to me!

My birthday happened to fall in the middle of our Icelandic stay, and I decided then and there that if I had to be another year older, I wanted to stay in one of these bubbles for my birthday. I braced myself for what I was sure would be a ridiculously high price, and was more than pleasantly surprised to find out it was only going to set us back AUD$300 for the one night. Wanna take a look around?

 

WHAT’S IT LIKE IN THE BUBBLE?
Despite the fact that they are a self-proclaimed 5 million star hotel, given that the ‘hotel’ is actually a giant bubble in the middle of a forest (the exact address and location is not revealed until you’ve booked, for safety and privacy reasons), don’t expect 5 star facilities. The bubbles themselves (there were only 2 when we booked ours, but it’s now grown to 8!) just contain a big, comfy bed, a little coffee table, a lamp, and a power point (yes, devices can be charged, no there isn’t WiFi in the bubbles, but there is WiFi available in the communal service house). There was no TV or sounds system, and no lights – just a small lamp for dim light; you won’t need it, because once it gets dark (sunset is around 4 – 4:30pm in November) and the stars come out, you won’t be able to look away!

HOW DO I STAY WARM?
How on earth are you going to keep warm in the middle of winter inside one of these guys? As the website will tell you, “The bubble structure is kept inflated by a slight over-pressure from a noiseless ventilation system. It permanently renews the air inside 2-7 times the volume per hour and this way it prevents humidity. The system has heating elements with thermostat so the bubble stays warm all winter.” That system, combined with an extra little plug in heater, kept us pretty cosy despire the snow and frost outside. Oh, and electric blankets. Thank goodness, because the temperature fell to around 10° C overnight! That said, a middle of the night toilet run isn’t real fun…

WHERE’S THE BATHROOM?!
In terms of facilities, there is a shared service house tucked away on the property, containing showers and toilets (toilet paper and shower towels are provided) – they’re centrally located, so only a 2 – 3 minute walk from any of the bubbles. But when it’s below freezing and you need to pee in the middle of the night, it’s hard work getting your layers and snow boots on!

ARE THERE ANY OTHER AMENITIES? WHERE CAN I EAT?
There is free car parking available, and the service house has a small kitchen space with a dining table, coffee machine and elecrtric kettle, sink, microwave, dishwasher, and even a small stovetop – as well as pots, pans, cutlery and crockery! Once you get there, you’re probably not going to want to venture back out to look for a restaurant because a) driving at night in Iceland is scary when the weather can change at the drop of a hat, and b) Iceland is expensive beyond what you’d expect (as in a margherita pizza and a vegetable salad cost us AUD $55.00. Yup, seriously). Your best option is to stop at a supermarket like Bónus or Krónan (there’ll be a ‘how to do Iceland on the cheap’ post coming soon, because it actually IS possible!) and BYO dinner – we took a cup of instant noodles each and bought 2 capsicums – we chopped them up and cooked them in a fry pan in the share kitchen, then stirred our noodles through! And shared a small bag of M&Ms for dessert!

UMMM… PRIVACY?!?
This was one of my concerns, given that there are actually several bubbles on site. Above is a photo of the path we walked from our bubble to the share service house, and if you scroll back up, you’ll see the thicket of trees behind the bed. Yes, there are other bubbles around, but at best you’ll only see a peep of them through the trees if their lamps are on. When we visited, there were only 2 bubbles occupied by independent travellers (us and another couple), and a few more occupied by tour participants, and we didn’t see or hear any of them except for a brief crossing of paths making dinner. And, there are no animals other than the odd bird.

WORTH IT?
Absolutely!!! While we didn’t see the Northern Lights, we saw the stars like we’ve never seen them before. We lay on the bed and watched a snow flurry slowly dust the dome. We woke up to a winter wonderland you couldn’t even conjure up in your dreams (see below – the snow actually shimmered and sparkled in the morning sun). It was one of those experiences that although it cost money, I couldn’t put a price on, and I’ll remember forever.

Click here to see what it’s like to walk to the bubble we stayed in from the service house. And head on over to their website for answers to more of your questions and to book your bubble. You know you want to.

Stay & eat here: Moraine Lake Lodge, Alberta, Canada

Moraine Lake Lodge
1 Moraine Lake Rd, Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
https://morainelake.com

5 hour layover in Seattle? Perfect time for a blog post! We’ve been on the road for a week so far,  and I’ve slipped back into travel life likea duck into a pond 🙂 We spent week 1 in Alberta, Canada, and I think I can pretty confidently say it’s the most beautiful place in the world. I’ll have a longer post coming on how to DIY road trip the Icefield Parkway so you won’t have to join the hoards of buses doing the rounds, but for now, a quick look at our one night of fancy accommodation for the trip, at Moraine Lake Lodge!

I, like many others, had the dream of spending a night at the Fairmont Lake Louise, and was prepared to shell out a bit of money for the honour. Until I saw that the $800 or so for a lead in room type was one of the crappy out-the-back no view rooms, and we’d have to pay more for car parking and breakfast. Ummmm no. I started hunting for an alternative and found Moraine Lake, with the Moraine Lake Lodge coming in at the top of my searches for lake view cabins in the area. And as far as alternatives go, this was perfect.

 

Location?
Right on the lake. As in, any closer and you’d be in the water. Moraine Lake is completely breath taking, the most perfect shade of blue you could possibly imagine, and surrounded by mountains and trees. As you can see from the shot below, taken from our balcony…

 

Rooms?
We stayed in a Lodge Queen room, which was located on the second floor. No TVs in the rooms to encourage you to really switch off and relax, but there is free wifi available to guests if you get desperate. We also had a gorgeous antique gas fireplace, a nice big balcony, complimentary tea and coffee, and a nice big bathroom.

 

 

Amenities?
– Free parking in a private guest carpark, away from the day visitor lot
– Complimentary buffet breakfast
– Free wifi throughout
– Complimentary tea and coffee service in the Library each afternoon
– Guided hikes and canoe hire

 

Cost?
It varies depending on time of year and room type, but we paid around AUD $475 for one night. We thought it was money well spent; the location was beyond anything I could have imagined, waking up and being able to walk straight up the top of the path to look out over thr lake with hardly anyone else around was priceless, and the service was so friendly and professional all at the same time – we even had a bottle of bubbles on ice and a happy anniversary card waiting in our room upon arrival 🙂

 

Dining?
The Walter Wilcox Dining Room is the restaurant where breakfast is served to guests only, and dinner is open to anyone – but your best bet is to make a reservation, as it’s a fairly small and intimate place. The menu is elegant, and takes full advantage of the local produce and specialties. Not a cheap feed, but a really memorable special occasion meal. Special mention to not only the chefs, but the servers – friendly, helpful and attentive service made a good meal a great one!

Stay here: Hoi An Holiday Villa, Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An Holiday Villa
414/9 Cua Dai street, Hoi An, Quang Nam, Vietnam
http://hoianholidayvilla.com/

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I loved this place, or how wonderful our stay was here. Right from the very first contact via email when we booked, up until our final footsteps out of the lobby, the team at the Hoi An Holiday Villa couldn’t have been more kind, accommodating, friendly and welcoming 🙂

We found it quite by chance while looking for somewhere to stay in a particular area of Hoi An near Cua Dai Street, and this little place with only a handful of rooms available at very decent prices, looked perfect for us. We booked it in, and I had a lot of communication with Cherry who looks after the bookings in the lead up to our trip. She was an angel, helping us to organise everything from car transfers to collect us from the airport upon arrival and bring us back at the end of our trip, to tailor recommendations for the husband who was in the market for a new suit. She also kept an eye out for us of an evening, to make sure we got back to our room safely for the night 🙂

On arrival at Da Nang airport, we were promptly met by a driver who whisked us away to our new home for the next 6 nights; we were met again with a smiling face and two glasses of ice-cold passionfruit and orange juice and a seat at the lobby. Despite the fact that we arrived several hours before official check in time, we were assured our room was already prepared for us. Before we were taken over, we were given a map with a whole lot of information on where to find food, coffee shops, markets, etc.

Our room was gorgeous – clean and bright, with amazing air conditioning and heaps of room, it was the perfect headquarters for our Hoi An leg of the trip 🙂

In terms of the specifics, we had:
– king size bed
– free wifi
– mini bar fridge
– desk
– sitting area with complimentary tea & coffee
– toiletries (toothbrushes, shampoo, shower gel, etc)
– cable TV channels
– breakfast included

There was also a small but beautifully kept pool area, where you could order little bites to eat and drinks from the shade of your umbrella and lounge chair. After our early starts around 7am and several hours of walking around in the Hoi An heat, arriving back to lounge in and around the pool for an hour or two after lunch each day made alllll the difference!

Because it’s such a small place, breakfast wasn’t the usual buffet, but an order-from-the-menu scenario. But as I mentioned above, your accommodation rates include breakfast, so you can order until your heart’s content and your belly’s full! On our last day, we were due to fly out quite early in the morning which meant we’d miss breaky, but as our 6.30am car service was pulling up to take us to the airport, we were given special packed little breakfast boxes for our drive. Warm baguettes with butter and jam, fruit and yoghurt – not at all necessary, but another example of the wonderful service 🙂 And another – as we were climbing into the car with our breakfasts, another one of the lovely staff members came running out to us with a parting gift – a beautiful, traditional Hoi An lantern each!

It may not have been  a fancy la-di-da 5 star resort, but the team at Hoi An Holiday Villas made us feel like absolute royalty. We couldn’t have been more grateful for their kindness and hospitality, and wouldn’t dream of staying anywhere else the next time we visit 🙂

Stay here: Hotel Grand Chancellor, Hobart, Australia

Hotel Grand Chancellor
1 Davey St, Hobart
http://www.ghihotels.com/hgc/hobart/hotels.aspx

I was lucky enough to be gifted a voucher for a night’s accommodation at any Hotel Grand Chancellor in Australia by my very generous boss at work last year, and I knew immediately that I wanted to use it during our visit to Tasmania over Easter; their property in Hobart is the most popular one on their roster, and for good reason!

Sitting right on the water, the hotel may not look like much from the outside with it’s older brown brick facade, but step inside and you’re in a completely difference world. The 4.5 star stunner has views of the Derwent River out one side and Mount Wellington out the other, so you’re not going to be disappointed either way; we were lucky enough to get a room with a view over the water…

It’s in the best location, a stone’s throw from pretty much everything, particularly the great food and bar district at Salamanca Place. If you can’t be bothered, though, they also have a bar and restaurant on site, as well as a pretty well decked-out gym and indoor heated pool area.

We stayed in a harbour view spa room, which was big, beautiful, open, bright and everything you could possibly want to end a trip with. If you’re thinking about staying, some of the other perks you’d get to enjoy are:
– big, comfy king beds
– work desk/station
– mini bar
– tea & coffee station
– hairdryer (I know the men don’t care, but the ladies do!)
– Peter Morrissey toiletries
– dry cleaning and laundry services
– room service
– 24 hour front desk
– on site parking (charges apply)
– post and parcel services
– currency exchange
– there’s even an on site hair dresser and massage services!

While I wouldn’t have been able to justify spending the money on something this nice before we visited (lead in rooms started at AUD$189.00 per night), being a very budget-conscious traveller, now that I’ve actually been I’d have no problem expanding the budget a little if I visited again to treat myself to a night or two here. I mean, look at the view from our room as the sun went down…

Stay & eat here: Port Arthur Motor Inn, Tasmania

Port Arthur Motor Inn
29 Safety Cove Rd, Port Arthur, Tasmania
http://www.portarthur-inn.com.au/

Husband and I decided to spend a few nights in Port Arthur because, well, I dunno. We just did! Being a history nerd, I was really keen on seeing the historic site of the convict settlement, and I read that the Port Arthur Motor Inn was the best place to stay, as it’s the only accommodation that gives you walk-in access to the site, literally a few metres away.

First up, let me say that if you’re a bit precious about your accommodation, this isn’t the place for you. It’s a proper motor inn; it’s not only accommodation, it’s also the site of the local pub. It’s not modern or fancy, but it does have all the essentials (including a small fridge, TV, reverse cycle air con/heater, bathroom with hairdryer, bedding and towels), and the view from the motor inn grounds over the historic site is absolutely unbeatable.

The restaurant does great proper Aussie pub grub – I had a chicken parma with chips and veggies, and it was fantastic! Big servings for decent prices, quick and friendly service as you’d expect from a country town area, and again, the most stunning view out over the grounds as the sun goes down…

Leave any pretentiousness at the door and enjoy the stay at one of the most fabulously located accommodations in Australia!

Ladies who glamp – a night at St Jerome’s – The Hotel, Melbourne

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St Jerome’s – The Hotel
http://www.stjeromesthehotel.com.au/

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I am beyond lucky to have this woman in my life. My best friend and soul sister, one of the only people who truly gets me and accepts me completely as I am. Someone I have never felt the need to censor myself around (there are only, like, 2 or 3 of those humans in my life). We’ve worked together and travelled together, laughed together and cried together. Any time I’ve needed her, she’s been there without fail and without even needing to be asked. She’s without a doubt the most generous person I know, with her time and money and talents. I’ve never seen her hesitate to help anyone needing it. She’s stronger than you’d think, takes no shit, and somehow manages to keep her smile and optimism in tact even in the face of the most stressful, hurtful, heart breaking situations.

And this beautiful lady treated me to the most spectacular birthday present ever – a night at St Jerome’s roof top hotel in Melbourne   : )

The level 3 rooftop at Melbourne Central was converted into one of the most stunning camping ground in the world, where glamping is taken to the next level. The tents (with heating, air conditioning, electric blanket and electricity) are cozy little cocoons in which to spend the night with a favourite person. You have a perfect view of the old Daimaru cone, the old Myer building, and the stars… You also get all of the following:


* 24-hour reception and the ability to text the crew at any time if you need a hand with anything at all. And they are without a doubt the most friendly, helpful, lovely bunch of people you could hope to meet!

* Nice big bathrooms with all of your toiletries from shampoo to make up remover.

* Complimentary stocked esky with local craft beer, cider and water in your tent.

* Gourmet house-made breakfast box, delivered to your tent.
–– Butter croissants
–– Yarra Valley preserves
–– Fruit and nut granola
–– Banana and chocolate chip banana bread
–– Fresh seasonal fruit salad
–– Juices by Noah’s
–– Fresh milk
–– Coffee bags by Robert Timms
–– Fully biodegradable cutlery and crockery
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* On-the-house coffee for early campers from 7.30am to 9am.

* Sweet treats from Cupcake Central from 3pm to 5pm.

* Complimentary cocktail during Cocktail Hour from 5pm to 7pm.

* Complimentary Grill’d sliders (x 2) and chips, per tent (8:30pm or 9:30pm).

* Voucher for complimentary pizza at Slice Girls.
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* Complimentary bowling at Strike Bowling.

* Complimentary meditation classes in the mornings on weekends.

* Custom-made dessert from Gelato Messina delivered to your tent (1 per tent) – we got a Messina S’Mores kit, complete with blow torch! That was FUN!!
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* The General Store, where you can enjoy beer, wine, cocktails and an incredible platter of antipasti.
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We enjoyed a cocktail at The General Store and our Slice Girls pizza around the corner at Thousand Pound Bend. Then we made our way back to our tent and sat out the front in our fluffy white robes, eating our sliders and making s’mores and watching the stars. We woke up with a fantastic meditation class, had a tent picnic with a pile of pillows and our delicious breakfast box, then opened up our tent to the sunshine and snuggled under a blanket like kids. I left feeling like a new person.

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I am so thankful for having had the chance to relax and re-set and re-calibrate.
I’m thankful for the fact that I’m still here.
I’m thankful for the life I’ve managed to create for myself, the life that I didn’t even bother dreaming about because I never thought I’d have it.
I’m thankful for my stubborn streak that’s never allowed me to give up or give in.

Most of all, I’m thankful for the angels in my life who love me oh so much and share such incredible experiences with me  : )

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Stay here: IBIS Tokyo Shinjuku, Japan

Last stop in this week’s whirlwind trip around the world; I found out at the Japanese Film Festival that Australian tourism to Japan has risen by around 20% over the last year or so, and when I thought about it, I realised I’m hearing about a lot more people travelling there now, so I thought this might be a good post to end the week on!

 

IBIS Tokyo Shinjuku
7-10-5 Nishi Shinjuku, Tokyo
http://www.ibis.com/gb/hotel-8620-ibis-tokyo-shinjuku/index.shtml

When it comes to accommodation, Tokyo isn’t the cheapest city to visit. Similarly to Europe, rooms have the reputation for being on the small side, and, like Melbourne, they come with a decent price tag.

After a bit of research, I found the Ibis in Shinjuku, which was pretty reasonably priced compared to similar alternatives at just under $1000 for 9 nights.

I arrived to a pretty modern foyer staffed by an incredibly friendly and helpful team. They had me checked in within a few minutes, and apologised for the renovations that were taking place. Half of Shinjuku seemed to be under construction during our visit, and I was assured that work would only be taking place strictly between 9am and 5pm so as to minimise any disruptions to guests.

As you can see above, my single room was pretty small – a king single took up most of the space, with my suitcase just fitting lengthways in the space between the end of the bed and the bar fridge. About three end-to-end footsteps were all that fit between the bed and wall. The bathroom was similarly small:

But space aside, I couldn’t have been happier with my temporary home, and it did instantly feel like home! Big positives about this property:
– free WiFi (duh)
– 24 hour front desk with staff who speak English
– restaurant on site for breakfast, lunch and dinner, should you need a quick and easy option
– super comfy bed
– hair dryer
– robe and slippers (wore these EVERY DAY!! Loved them!! haha)
– small bar fridge in room
– kettle
– TV with option to purchase extra channels
– complimentary Shiseido shampoo, conditioner and body wash
– air conditioning
– on site parking
– option between smoking and non-smoking rooms
– across the street is a Family Mart (mini convenience store)
– on the same street are a McDonalds and a Cafe Veloce, both of which open for breakfast/early morning tea and coffee (these are few and far between!)
– only a few minutes walk to Shinjuku station

While the room was small, it was surprisingly comfortable! The smiles and greetings each time I left and returned made it feel instantly homely, the room itself was very clean, and little things like having a kettle and fridge made an enormous difference to my stay. The location was incomparable as well; a few minutes from one of the biggest stations on the city, a heap of shopping malls, and beautiful parks in most directions, not to mention super safe – not once walking home from the station in the dark at night did I feel scared for my safety or well being.

The team at the front desk were also super helpful in terms of helping me with directions, and even getting me to an authorised seller for my Disneyland ticket! They had maps and public transport directions printed out and ready to go, and were genuinely more than happy to help with anything I needed. You just cannot underestimate how important and comforting that is, particularly when you’re travelling solo in a country where English isn’t widely spoken.

If you’ve read along here for a while and seen some of my other posts relating to accommodation (like the pub at Warburton that I prefer over the B&Bs), you’ll know I’m no princess when I travel. I don’t need a magazine-perfect resort, a king size bed, luxurious surrounds. I’m not travelling to enjoy time in my room. I need helpful staff, a comfy bed and a clean and functioning bathroom. A fridge for fruit and water, and a kettle with which to make my tea is a bonus. I got all that and more at the Ibis, and if you’re another traveller who’d rather spend your cash on the experiences instead of the sleep space, I’d highly recommend it for your trip to Tokyo!