Our Airbnb Experience in Nice, France

An invitation to a friend’s wedding in Nice was just the incentive I needed to begin planning a fifteen-day trip to Europe. This time I would be traveling with my brother and sister-in-law. We hit a slight bump in the road when we began searching for accommodations in Nice; not a hotel room could be found! By chance, my brother was watching HGTV and happened to hear mention of Airbnb. I recalled one of my friends (an avid traveler) recommending it several years earlier, so we began doing some research. We settled on a two-bedroom apartment just steps from the Promenade des Anglais in the heart of Nice. From the Airbnb web site, we sent a request to book along with payment authorization. We received a prompt response and confirmation from our host, Laura, along with directions and helpful information about the apartment and the area. The entire experience was well organized and painless. We exchanged contact information (cell phone and email) with Laura and, upon our arrival, she met us at the apartment in person. In addition to handing over the key, she gave us a tour of the apartment and passed along pertinent information regarding it, the building, and the neighborhood. Fortunately, we had no problems and, thus, no further contact with Laura. The apartment was spacious and clean and offered us the opportunity to relax, spread out, and recover from a week of hotel life. Granted, this was our first and only Airbnb experience but, based on our level of satisfaction, I expect to enlist their services during future travels. The company’s Community Standards—Safety, Security, Fairness, Authenticity, and Reliability—reflect a belief that “you should feel at home no matter where you are in the world.” In this case, we certainly did! 24/7 Customer Support is available, so you never have to feel alone in a foreign land!

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If you find yourself in Nice, I highly recommend this Two Bedroom Listing in City Center. It is fully furnished and equipped with a double bed in each bedroom and separate baths—though that was a little different by American standards. One bedroom has a shower and sink; there is a separate bath with a tub and sink; the toilet is in a separate room with a sink. That’s right…only one toilet, but we managed! (The supply of toilet paper was rather meager, so we made a quick trip to the corner market.) The living, dining, and kitchen areas are spacious and there is also a small balcony with a side view of the sea. There is also a washing machine and a drying rack, so we were able to do laundry while we were there. The building is quiet and the location is ideally situated for sightseeing on foot. We walked an average of seven miles a day while in Nice and never used public transportation.

We found the whole Airbnb experience to be simple and straightforward. Just follow these easy steps if you are beginner:

  1. Set up an Airbnb profile
  2. Search for a place (be sure to include your dates and number of guests to get the most accurate pricing)
  3. Make a reservation (some hosts allow instant booking; others prefer to approve reservations before confirming)
  4. Communicate with the host when contacted

Here are a few things you will probably want to know:

  • You will be charged for the total cost of your reservation when it is confirmed.
  • Some hosts require a security deposit, cleaning fee, etc. so be sure to read the terms thoroughly before booking.
  • There are several ways to pay, depending on your country of origin, but case is not accepted at all. Click here for more details.
  • You may write a review for your host within the 14-day period following your visit.
  • Cancellations are subject to the Cancellation Policy indicated by your host.

We were delighted with our Airbnb experience but, as I said, we have only used the service once. I would love to hear about any Airbnb experiences you may have had. Happy travels!

Where to Stay in London: The Ampersand Hotel

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I feel that if I am going to take the time to plan an international trip, save the money to make it happen, and fully enjoy the experience once I arrive, fabulous accommodations are a must. I adore boutique hotels and have stayed in some lovely ones across the United States and Europe!

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The Ampersand Hotel in South Kensington is no exception, offering affordable luxury in a prime location. The hotel’s main areas are elegantly decorated in pristine whites and grays with pops of bold color in the drawing rooms and guest rooms. A soaring tree of white lights forms a central pillar for the beautiful curving staircase. Guest rooms are decorated according to five themes: botany, music, geometry, ornithology, and astronomy. Fittingly, ampersands are seen throughout the hotel, from an intricately carved wall piece to the rubber ducky in our bathroom. We stayed in a Deluxe room which was gorgeous as well as spacious. Our room had a full bath with a bath/shower combo and also a small balcony which was not actually accessible beyond being able to open the French doors a bit.

The hotel offers many amenities, comforts, and conveniences.

I found the concierge to be more than helpful in arranging our visit beforehand, scheduling transportation to and from the airport, acquiring theater tickets to a show of our choice, and emailing me regularly with information and updates. The desk staff were helpful if a bit remote; the bellmen, on the other hand, were extremely helpful and friendly.

In 2015, The Ampersand Hotel was named by TripAdvisor as the second-best new hotel in Europe and the eighth most-highly rated in the world. I concur and would readily stay there again should my travels take me back to London.

Related posts:

Mind the Gap: Navigating the London Tube

When In London, Afternoon Tea at The Ritz…

A Stroll in St. James’s Park

Big Ben…or whatever it’s called!

Paris vs. London…What say you? (Part 1)

Where to Stay in Charleston…The French Quarter Inn

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If you are looking to indulge in a relaxing, luxurious boutique hotel experience, look no further than the French Quarter Inn in Charleston, SC. From the moment we walked in the door, hotel staff went above and beyond to make our stay a true pleasure in every way. The hotel is conveniently located a few steps from Charleston’s most popular tourist attractions, yet is quiet and secluded.

We were celebrating our 20th anniversary and decided to spring for the Luxury King Balcony Suite. The spacious bedroom included a king-size bed with premium bedding, an armoire, desk, clock radio/docking station, mini-fridge, and in-room safe—not to mention, an incredible view. We had access to high-speed internet both in our room and in the hotel common areas. Each time we returned to our room after it had been serviced by housekeeping, soft music was playing. Turn-down service was provided as well—complete with a chocolate treat!

We had a full living room with a fireplace (a little warm for June, but aesthetically pleasing, nonetheless), flat screen TV, and private balcony access. The sofa included a pullout bed, and there was a blu-ray DVD player.

The large bathroom was fully stocked with plenty of fluffy towels, luxury spa products, waffle weave robes, and even a super fancy toilet paper receptacle!

I spent quite a lot of time sitting on our balcony. We were on the third floor overlooking a quiet street and a picturesque garden with beautiful wrought-iron gates and charming statuary.

A continental breakfast was served daily in an area adjacent to the hotel lobby. Selections included fresh fruit, pastries, cereal, boiled eggs, coffee, milk, a variety of juices, and more. We ate there several times and enjoyed the gorgeous weather each morning in the outdoor terrace dining area. There is an evening wine and cheese reception, and freshly baked cookies and milk are offered each evening in the lobby area. 24-hour coffee service is provided, as well as all-day availability of flavored iced teas and snacks.

The concierge arranged for our transportation to and from the airport and we never entered or left the hotel without a doorman opening the door for us and inquiring after our needs and comfort. We decided to extend our stay by one day, but our suite was not available so we were moved to a Traditional King Room. Honestly, the only difference was size! Though smaller than the suite, the traditional room was roomy and every bit as comfortable and commodious! We were 100% pleased with our stay at the French Quarter Inn and can’t wait to return on our next visit to Charleston!

Charming Boutique Hotel in Central Paris…

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Finding good accommodations is a high priority for me when traveling—whether here in the U. S. or abroad. I want to stay somewhere safe, comfortable, and within walking distance of major attractions, whenever possible. The first thing I usually do is check out the top-rated hotels on TripAdvisor and read customer reviews. I also put out the word to my friends and ask for personal recommendations. While planning my trip to Paris, a friend suggested that I consider a boutique hotel where she had stayed previously and loved it. I followed her advice and reserved a room at Hotel de la Motte Picquet. It was a wonderful experience. The hotel is centrally located in the 7th arrondissement and is within walking distance of most everything I wanted to see. (This was crucial since I had only a day and a half and would be sightseeing on foot.) I was traveling with my niece and requested a room for us with two single beds and a bathroom with a tub and shower—which is exactly what we were given. The cost was reasonable; I pre-paid online before our arrival so as to have one less thing to worry about. Our room was clean, comfortable, and quiet—if a bit small…but it is Paris! It was equipped with a wall-mounted television as well as a small refrigerator (which was stocked with drinks each day). Our window opened onto Rue Cler, one of the best market streets in Paris. The hotel has charm and character from its pink-trimmed hallways and banisters to the tiny basement dining area where a buffet breakfast is served daily.  The elevator is miniscule!  We are not light packers, so got quite a charge out of cramming ourselves and two rather large suitcases into the elevator. We backed up as far as possible against the wall and just did manage to get the doors shut! Henri, the desk attendant, was more than helpful! Each time we set out, he produced a map and marked out the best route to our destination. He was friendly and cordial at all times.  (The other desk attendant was not so much so, but we saw little of him.) There is an ATM machine very close to the hotel entrance (a few feet away on the same wall), which was super convenient!  Also, right around the corner on Rue Cler is a Post Office. If—rather, when—I return to Paris, I intend to stay at the Hotel de la Motte Picquet again. Highly recommend…

4-Star Digs in Venice…

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Ruzzini Palace Hotel and Campo Santa Maria Formosa

The most desirable way to experience and appreciate Venice is to simply hit the streets!  Though criss-crossed by canals and bridges, much of Venice can best be explored on foot.  (More about gondola rides in a future post.)  To quote Rick Steves, “Don’t worry about getting lost.  In fact, get as lost as possible.  Keep reminding yourself, ‘I’m on an island, and I can’t get off.'”  (Rick Steves’ Italy 2011, p. 45)  We took Rick at his word and trekked all over this fascinating city.  While most of the streets are unmarked—which can be a bit confusing—there are signs posted in various places that point you to the nearest landmark…i.e., San Marco, the Rialto Bridge, etc..  We picked up a map from our hotel and used it to (successfully) navigate around the city.  In a brief period of time, we came to recognize our surroundings and found ourselves depending less upon the map.  On occasion, we ditched the map entirely and wandered wherever our feet took us.

We selected a hotel that was conveniently located within easy walking distance of St. Mark’s Square and other points of interest.  Abutting Campo Santa Maria Formosa–a peaceful and picturesque square in historic Venice–the Ruzzini Palace Hotel occupies Palazzo Loredan Ruzzini Priuli, the former home of a prominent Venetian family.  Dating to the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century, the hotel is beautifully decorated and offers modern conveniences with an old-world feel.  Our room boasted Venetian marble floors, an exposed-beam ceiling, and luxurious furnishings.  A number of exquisite paintings bedecked the walls.  The hotel staff were extremely accommodating and the deluxe breakfast buffet offered the perfect way to begin each day.

We arrived at the hotel by water taxi via the rio del Paradiso.  We and our luggage were deposited right outside the hotel lobby–talk about convenient!  We departed from Venice by the same method.  I learned about the Ruzzini Palace Hotel from TripAdvisor, making our reservation based on the overwhelmingly positive reviews.  I was completely satisfied with our stay at the hotel and will plan to stay there again the next time Venice is on our travel agenda.  For more information or to make a reservation, visit the hotel web site at http://www.ruzzinipalace.com/.

Interesting fact…  According to our Italian guide, Elisabetta, “Formosa”—the name of the square and the neighboring church—relates to an alleged appearance of the Virgin Mary disguised as a voluptuous woman.

Break out your walking shoes and prepare to take on the most alluring city in Italy…