Andaz is Special, Park Hyatt Not So Much

Through the generous offer of two free nights at any Hyatt property (all categories) with the opening of a Hyatt credit card, we were set for our NYC trip.  Booking one night at the Andaz Fifth Avenue and one night at the very pricey Park Hyatt (up to $1200/night), we had two very different experiences.   Andaz treated us like royalty even using points.  Park Hyatt, you disappointed and treated us like ugly stepchildren.  Andaz, you win hands down!  You have now got my loyalty for life–even as a paying customer.

Having stayed for two months at the Andaz in Shanghai for our transition housing when we moved to China, I did have high expectations.  The Shanghai Andaz had the most amazing service and amenities, including complimentary snacks, beverages, nightly wine and morning buffet.  In addition the rooms were lavish and service over-the-top.  Checking into the Andaz Fifth Avenue felt like coming home–no counter between myself and the Andaz host.  Without even asking:  Bottled water?  Yes please.  Early check-in and late check-out?  Yes please.  Even though we weren’t “paying” customers, we had a view of the NYC Public Library with a spacious especially by NYC standards, luxurious room featuring 20 foot ceilings, a marble bathroom with a shower bigger than most bathrooms and separate foot bowl/foot shower, great after a long day of walking around Manhattan.  At our last hotel, while they provided nice postcards, they did not have stamps available.  Of course the Andaz not only had stamps for our postcards but no charge and happy to mail them for us.  Classy and convenient.  We got in a little after the free wine happy hour last night so the bottles were put away but when I asked, they quickly poured me a complimentary glass to go to the room.  Ahhh….love the Andaz so much I would gladly pay the $300-400 a night to stay there if I was out of free Hyatt points, which I am now.

Now, on today to the Park Hyatt where there seemed to be a lack of service altogether and at up to $1200 a night, you would expect more.  Finding our way up to the check-in, there was no offer of water and no early check-in.  Yes, I’m spoiled.  The lobby was teeny tiny and I was already missing my Andaz.  But wait…the Park Hyatt decided to favor us with the worst room at the inn with a brick wall/construction/air vent view in a room so small you can hardly walk around the bed, which is typical for a NYC hotel but I thought the Park Hyatt would be different.  Guess I was wrong.

Now, the high tech tv in the bathroom mirror with remote control was cool and the tub is nice but don’t eat those snacks, Thom, because they surely aren’t free.  No complimentary wine for you, Ms. George!  So, we quickly escaped to the top floor pool that we had heard was very nice and it was.  Thom is taking his nap now while I write this and then we’ll enjoy the lap pool, cucumber water and hot tub.

hyatt2
Park Hyatt Pool is nice

Tonight it’s off to dinner with Ronnie and Andrea, old friends, and then Dublin tomorrow night.  Vacation is THE BEST and yes, I appreciate it even looking at a brick wall.  Life is good.

Our European Adventure continues..

So, I’ll try not to gush too much but OMG do I LOVE EUROPE!  I love the history and architecture, the lack of tacky skyscrapers and shiny malls, the friendly folk who love football (soccer to you Americans) and laidback lifestyle.  Yes, the coffee shops don’t open until 8 a.m. but since they don’t appear to go to work until 9-10 a.m., that works.  Three hour dinner-sure!  Keep on drinking and eating with your buddies-no rushing home to get some zzzz’s and be at work by 8 a.m.  At our hotel today, around 3 p.m. a hotel employee was seen taking two huge bottles of icy vodka into a meeting room for a group-think it was a bank. Now that’s how you should conduct business!  Think up an idea-take a shot to celebrate!

Luxurious elegance in lobby at Hotel Des Indes
Luxurious elegance in lobby at Hotel Des Indes

We have received such wonderful service to the point where we have to wrestle our bags away from well-meaning hotel staff who want to assist us.  We are very self-sufficient and used to wheeling around our own stuff, thank you.  Get us museum tickets?  Get us football tickets?  Change out our cash to Euros?  SURE!  Our slightly ditzy hotel staff member was changing out some cash for us and doubled what she should have given us.  Realizing her error, I handed her back $100 Euros and hopefully she will tell others, giving US tourists a good name for their honesty.  Good karma, baby!

Speaking of good karma, how about that Pope flying around DC in that modest Fiat?  Love that he is eating with the homeless instead of all those corrupt bickering politicians.  You go Father!  CNN International is covering all Pope all the time over here.  While there are a few shows in English, the street signs here are all in Dutch-even China was easier to get around with signs everywhere that we could read.  So far, we just guess and ask for help and everyone is quick to assist.  Most people do also speak English which makes it easy to get around.  BTW, always carry .50 euro coins with you as the public bathrooms all have attendants collecting money for use.  At least they aren’t squats like China-hallelujah!

antique and book market in front of Hotel Des Indes
antique and book market in front of Hotel Des Indes

Today, we finished up our time in The Hague, a truly lovely city which Rick Steves doesn’t even recommend visiting.  Rick, come on, don’t be a Hague-hater!   I disagree with Steves-lots to enjoy there with the beach nearby and the Peace Palace and museums galore.  We loved walking out of the Hotel Des Indes and seeing an antique/book market going on in the square.  If only I had a huge container to utilize to send back furniture and paintings!!!  I settled for a jazz CD and some antique postcards–my luggage is stuffed as it is.  Then it was off to the Mauritshuis Museum to see the Vermeers, Rembrandts and Reubens in a beautiful mansion built in the 1600’s on a pond.  So gorgeous and small enough not to overwhelm the senses.

Then, it was off to the train to zip back to Amsterdam for another stay at the Andaz-the best hotel chain around.  If you haven’t stayed in one, treat yourself.  We were lucky enough to stay for two months at the one in Shanghai as my temporary housing and they are in many cities now.  The one in NYC is right by the library.  They are small, well designed with unique rooms and the service is the best I have ever experienced.  TOTALLY!  With free mini-bar in room, free bikes to use (if my shoulder wasn’t hurting so bad), lavish breakfast included and free happy hour, it can’t be beat for amenities.  Cheers! Tonight, we’re off to the Red Light District and a jazz club!

utter elegance at musem
utter elegance at museum
Rembrandt
Rembrandt

Amsterdam First Impression-Bikes & Beer

Hot Damn-I finally made it to Amsterdam!  I have dreamed of this trip for years and I was right-it is gorgeous AND the perfect walking city for us to explore.  My Fitbit is loving me with 12,000+ steps in on our first day.  Touching down at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, we fumbled our way through buying a tram ticket at the machine, dealing with ALL our credit cards being rejected before I finally got an ATM to spit out some euros with the debit card.  Then, we were jumping on the #5 tram with a little help from a local who scolded us that the tram lets people off first, moves down the lane and THEN you are allowed in.  Okay-I had to appreciate the orderly fashion that they follow here in public transportation vs. my fond memories of the clusterf*&k of using China mass transit.

Bikes, Beer and Canals!
Bikes, Beer and Canals!

First impressions–bikes, German beer, brick streets and bridges over impossibly picturesque canals where the tour boats glide by slowly.  The architecture reminds me of SoHo in NYC with no big new ugly buildings ruining the vibe of little boutiques.  We noticed quickly that every building has a large hook hanging from the roof, probably we figured out to haul up furniture and such into the apartments.  Quirky and charming, our neighborhood is the perfect blend of residential and commercial.

After receiving the best service EVER from Corrodo at the Andaz Amsterdam, we checked our bags and off we went.  Learning very quickly that the sidewalks are narrow with random steep stairways to lower levels jutting into your way so you have to watch every step or fall, it seemed a relatively quiet Sunday with primarily (not a helmet in sight) bike riders and some sassy scooters filling the one way streets lining the canals, I can’t imagine the chaos that will ensue tomorrow when everyone jumps on their bikes to go to work.  We’ll be dodging and weaving to cross the streets for sure.  I figure if I lived through China though, I’ll probably survive here.

Gorgeous Andaz room!
Gorgeous Andaz room!

We ducked into the local grocery to check it out-to feel the culture is to see how the locals shop.  Lots of prepared foods and smaller portions (didn’t see a lot of families living around here) bread, waffles, chocolates and calories galore.  YUM!  Got a small bottle of wine tucked into my bag for later.

Cozy nook to sip wine at Andaz
Cozy nook to sip wine at Andaz

We’re saving the famous red light district for another night.  More to come on that experience!  I hear it is quite interesting.

For those not familiar with the weed culture like we have in Seattle, there is probably interest to visit the head shops here.  I’ve smelled more pot in the hallways of our building than I have here so no big deal for us.

Tomorrow we leave for the Hague and another train trip.  Every day is an adventure!