Member Reviews

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Paris Review 

The location is pretty good. A little far to walk anywhere, but that’s to be expected. The hotel we chose with your help was the PULLMAN PARIS CENTRE-BERCY which is about 400m to the nearest Metro station – a 5-minute walk. In the area and between the Metro and the hotel is a pretty cobbled street filled with various eateries – burgers to sushi so not hard to find something. We ate in 3 of them and apart from them being expensive – again as expected – the food was good. There are also a few shops on this street, which were good. The other attraction of note is the local cinema, which attracts customers from all over Paris. Whilst we were there, there was a premiere performance by a new rapper! On the subject, there was also a temporary exhibition giving visitors the chance to preview and play on a yet-to-be-launched- video game, X-Box, I think. One word of caution; the cobbled street that everyone uses is okay but the one behind it, running parallel and towards the Metro, is uneven.  

Walking slightly further away, there is a really cheap restaurant on the corner of Rue Joseph Kessel and Rue de Bercy, called ‘La Terrasse’. They are great value, but are least good at speaking English. There are also a couple of supermarkets in the vicinity. The Parc de Bercy is also worth walking around, and you can walk through the park and pick up the Metro at the far end, at Bercy station.

The hotel was really nice. Check-in was simple and all on reception spoke English – actually to the point of replying in English when I spoke to them in French (perhaps my French isn’t that great!). It’s an informal desk, kind of looks like an internet point really. After checking in they gave us a tour of the ground floor so we knew where to go for breakfast, and then showed us to the lift. The lift is secure, needing your room card to activate it. The boys room was on the 2nd floor and ours was on the 9th. Their room was fine, though there were one or two small things which irritated them (but not us): the room wasn’t serviced one day; they had lights that didn’t work; TV menu didn’t work; door lock failed on the day of departure; coffee/water not replenished one 2 days. There were twin singles and a convertible couch which formed the 3rd bed. Our room was very comfortable, and there were no issues other than them not replacing the water one day and the TV reception being a little unreliable. There was free Wi-Fi. Breakfast was excellent. Self-service, there were hot drinks and cold juices, cheeses and cold meat and salmon, a hot breakfast, fruits, cereals, nuts, yoghurts, breads and pastries. We didn’t have dinner in the hotel as it was a bit pricey, but in reality we were out and about most of the time. Lastly there is a fitness suite as well. I intend to give them a good review on Trip Advisor. 

Now, about tips to make your visit as easy as possible. First, when you get off the plane you buy your train ticket into Paris which includes the Metro to your stop. It cost €10 each but the machine didn’t take bank-notes so we had to pay on a card. You will need your ticket twice, so don’t discard it.

National security is at the highest level, so be prepared to see armed police or soldiers around. This also means security checking happens at all major attractions as well as train and Metro stations.

On the Metro, the ticket machines give the options of English on the first screen. Then we bought ‘books’ of 10 tickets which were better value than buying individually. When swapping Metro trains, you need to know the line number and the terminus in the direction you are travelling. 

Be prepared to queue for the popular attractions and keep well hydrated. Bottled water in the shops is usually around €2-2.50, but there are often water sellers at the sites selling 500ml bottles for €1. You can buy a Paris attractions & museums ticket, which gives access into a number of the city’s best-known sites. However, you will either have to hurry to a range of attractions and won’t see the ones you go to very well, or you won’t get good value from it.

Children and young adults up to 25 years old get free admission into many of the attractions – but you must take your ID to prove that you are from the UK. Some give a lower rate for over 60’s, and others give a reduction for disabled sometimes also including the nominated carer. Take evidence of this too. Some attractions have special disabled access, so use it if you can (e.g. the Eiffel Tower). We only paid for me to go into the Louvre and only 2 of us to go into the Pompidou Centre, Musee de l’Armee and Musee D’Orsay.

To see the Louvre you really need to allocate a full day to include queuing. I believe that you can buy tickets online or enter through different ‘doors’, which is quicker, but we didn’t. The room with the ‘Mona Lisa’ is a crush. The Musee d’Orsay was my favourite, because I love Monet. I haven’t seen as many original works by the big artists anywhere – there must have been over a dozen by Monet, Manet, Van Gogh etc. including sculptures as well, one notably by Rodin. There is a great view across Paris from the outside terrace, through the café on the top floor.

We also saw the Musee de l’Armee on a wet day as it was indoors. It contains the remains of Napoleon, and the chap selling tickets made a joke about how popular a sight this is with the Brits! There are others in the Eglise du Dome, so don’t just walk in and out. The artefacts in the museum do take time to look at, and there are special exhibitions on from time to time. We enjoyed the WWI and WWII displays as well as the exhibition of street models, which was impressive.

The Eiffel Tower is a must, even if you have no head for heights. Queuing seems confusing because there are 4 queues, 1 for each leg. One was closed and one is for stair ascent by foot, and when you are in a queue, beware of queue jumpers – we had 2 lots trying this out and a number of us in the queue gave them a really hard time. They let us go in front of them (quite rightly) but stayed in the queue to the place where the objections stopped! There is a good value sandwich cabin by the West leg. If you use the lift it takes you directly to the 2nd stage going up. From here you can go to the top or take the downwards-bound lift (or stairs) to the 1st level.

We took a river trip on one of the ‘Bateaux Mouches’, which gives a good view of the city, but it is best to sit on the top and/or at the very front for the best views and to avoid being ‘photo bombed’ by the numerous oriental visitors who want to take selfies everywhere and all of the time. It is best to choose your timed crossing so as to avoid being stuck with a seat which isn’t what you would have hoped. There are other boat trips available, located on the opposite bank and closer to the Eiffel Tower or the Musee D’Orsay.

The Sacre Coeur is located in the Montmartre area. We took the Metro to ‘Blanche’ to see the Moulin Rouge, and walked up from there. The street artists really abound when you are close to the Sacre Coeur and some are good, some not so, and you can have a portrait done if you like on the Place du Tertre. The prices and quality vary! The Sacre Coeur itself is free to get into and one of the few places in Paris where they do not permit any kind of photography inside the church. It does cost to go up into the dome. There is a funicular up to the Sacre Coeur. We didn’t use it (as we walked through Montmartre etc.) but there is a stairway beside it and Corcoran’s Irish bar towards the top where we had lunch, which was great value and very filling. Coming down from the Sacre Coeur a shop called Sympa on the corner of Rue de Steinkerque and Boulevard de Rochechouart sells clothing, some of it by well-known brands but at a significant saving. From here you can hop onto the Metro at Anvers.

Finally, the cathedral of Notre Dame is also free admission and they are not sniffy about you taking photos. I lit a candle there and said a prayer as my mum passed away earlier this year. It was actually quite emotional. It does cost to go up the towers, but we didn’t bother to do this.

I guess that’s all for the moment but if any member wants more advice I'll be happy to help!

Chris Goldthorpe

Crete Review

We arrived at Gatwick in plenty of time and made use of the airport lounge which was very pleasant and took advantage of the breakfast there.

We boarded the plane in good time and we took off on time too, always a bonus. The flight was just under 4 hours, we had plenty to read to keep us occupied as we were both jumping in our seats with excitement.

Having arrived at Heraklion airport, Crete, and obtained our luggage we went in search of our coach for the transfer. This was very easy and soon we were driving along the road. The coach was full and we made what seemed like a thousand stops. We suddenly pulled over and stopped and the driver indicated for myself, my Daughter and another couple to get out and in broken English that we were to travel the rest of the way by taxi. This was after a 2 hour journey already and we had to squeeze in a normal size car with 4 large suitcases as well. This was the only down part of the whole week.

Finally we arrived at Blue Palace in Elounda, our hotel for the next week. We were greeted very warmly, offered drinks, which were very welcome and soon checked in. Dinos, hotel guest liaison and perfect gentleman, gave us a tour of the facilities, pointing out the different restaurants, pools and local points of interest on our way to our room. The hotel is built into the side of the mountain so standard rooms above reception, the bungalows on the next level, a restaurant and larger bungalows next then the bottom ”floor” was the Spa and beach.

You could walk this but the best way was to ride the small glass surround lift, this enabled you to see the magnificent views as you traversed the side of the mountain.

Our room was a dream, clean, fresh well maintained, a stunning view of Spinalonga Island opposite us across the bay and everything we could ever need, extra pillows, plenty of storage space, bathroom filled with the little necessities, shampoo, body wash, hair dyer, etc. There was also a complementary half bottle of Greek Brandy for us, some fruit and a welcome card.

We soon unpacked, had a walk around to get our bearings and then went off to dinner in the hotel’s restaurant, Olea. This was a buffet style affair but the amount of food and different choices you had for 3 courses or more, was astounding!! Everything was fresh and well presented with labels as to the name and ingredients and the taste was really scrummy!!!

There are 5 restaurants to choose from, Olea, Flame, which was mainly beef steaks all flame grilled in front of you, Isola, which is Italian, Blue Door, traditional Greek fare and Asian Blue, oriental cuisine. We had plenty to choose from.

The week slipped by easily, lounging on the many sun loungers at the pool side (there were 3 pools) or down at the beach. Towels were in abundance and always freshly laundered. Waiters and Waitresses were constantly walking around to get you drinks or snacks and bring them to you. One thing stood out immediately… No one was getting up at 6 am to place a towel on a particular sunbed to reserve it!!!

Every morning our room would be tidied, cleaned and beds made, with the extra touch of putting our night wear into different patterns and styles and 2 bottles of water, complementary, placed in the fridge for us. Every night when returning to our room our beds would be turned down, a sealed packet containing a face wipe placed on the beds, foot cloths at the side of the bed to place your feet on as you get in and out of bed and a post card of some interesting thing and the weather forecast for the next day. It was these little touches that made all the difference.

We took a trip to the Island, Spinaloga, by speedboat. We walked around and saw the many little dwellings there, a church and the fort. This was a battle ground, well defended, in the 16th Century. This Island was constantly being over taken either by the Greeks, Turks or the Venetians until the 1903 where a Leper colony was established and remained there until 1957 when the last Leper was transported to a proper hospital. It now remains desolate but for the many tourists visiting it every year. The ride back on the speedboat was something else, they picked us up and then took us on a tour right around the Island and out to sea, it was very exuberating!!

Another little place we discovered, only 10 minute walk down the road, was Plaka. A small village of a few Tavernas, gift shops and a small supermarket. The atmosphere was warm and friendly, we mixed with the Greeks, sitting drinking Greek coffee… Very civilised.

One night the lift broke down so the hotel laid on their buggies (like golf buggies) to ferry all the guests to and fro to their desired destination. Magnificent service.

One other thing that was paramount all through the week was the staff never looked for a tip and if you did they were very grateful.

Our last day was a bit of a washout as we had thunder storms, torrential rain and high winds all day. All week we had had an average temperature of 32* with sunshine from morning to night so we could not complain really. Unfortunately the high winds and rain continued into Sunday so our flight home was a little bumpy!!

Our trip back to the airport was less eventful, only taking an hour and a half and by coach.

We had the time of our lives and I would recommend this hotel to any one, especially if they are looking for a restful holiday or a romantic getaway. There was not a thing the staff would not try to accommodate for you and everything was with a smile and they were all very friendly and helpful, from the Manager to housekeeping to the bell boys.