2 Cities, 2 SNAs and 2 Mini-TIPPLES (over 7 nights in 4 hotels)
Well Mrs BrightlyBob and I ended up on something of an odyssey staying 7 nights in 4 hotels, 2 in London, 2 in Budapest. It wasn’t quite meant that way but as one door closed another opened necessitating changes that led me to this:
Thursday 23 May - Intercontinental London Park Lane. What a beautiful property this is, here I used an expiring IHG credit card free-night certificate, originally for a mini-TIPPLE with jerryl, I got the wrong date and accidentally booked in for 23 instead of 25 May. Alas, I realised my error too late and had I then cancelled I would have lost the certificate so I decided to keep hold of the night though was very unsure whether I’d use it. As it happened a trial came up in Southampton and although London isn’t the most convenient place to start from, it’s better than Manchester!
Beautifully kept property we were upgraded to a Park Lane Suite for our night.
This is a lovely spacious hotel with great public areas. It’s not in the same league as London’s grandest Hotels such as Claridges, The Savoy or the Gresham, but it holds its own against The JW, County Hall and, as I found out, the Sheraton Grand. Alas IHGs highest elite level, Spire, qualifies for neither free lounge access nor breakfast at the Intercontinental brand and although it costs 70,000 IHG points they are really the equivalent of 50,000 Bonvoys so it does at least cost comparatively less. As it turned out my 6am start on Friday wouldn’t have permitted breakfast anyway, but I did miss the Thursday evening lounge access.
Friday & Saturday 24 and 25 May - London Sheraton Grand. Here I used 2 SNAs for a upgrade to their Park View Suite and they cleared 5 days beforehand.
It’s a bit Tracey Emin now but trust us, it was a lovely bedroom when we walked in!
I was meant to be meeting jerryl for a mini-TIPPLE on the Saturday but his plans changed however mine didn’t as me and Mrs BrightlyBob were flying from Stansted to Budapest so we kept the weekend. And what a lovely weekend it was! There’s nothing quite as relaxing as an impromptu weekend in a Luxury London hotel in a beautiful suite with no sightseeing or agenda. As a Bonvoy Titanium I received free lounge access and an enquiry via Chat confirmed that as we’d chosen restaurant breakfast as our amenity we could have it in our room paying just the tray charge. Now there’s a relaxing start to each day - or it would be if it hadn’t arrived 45 mins late and totally cold! Honestly, it had clearly been plated on-time and then left standing despite a couple of calls from me over the 45 mins asking when I was likely to eat. A somewhat irritated word with management produced a fresh cooked to order breakfast and an offer of a bottle of Moët by way of apology. Alas neither I nor Mrs BrightlyBob are champagne drinkers (Mrs BB is teetotal and I already had a Welcome bottle of red from the hotel to consume - yes bejacob, the hotel in-Room Welcome gift is still not dead!) and although the mother-in-law would have loved it we were travelling hand-baggage-only on RyanAir to Budapest so there was no way it could even join us on our travels and end up back in Blighty in a week, so I requested points instead and they very generously posted 5,000 points to my account that same day. As it turned out that wasn’t to be the only bottle of champers offered to me that day!
Now usually I operate via the mottoes “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” and “a classic sign of insanity is doing the same thing twice and expecting a different result” but breakfast in bed is such a rare treat that I tried it again on the Sunday morning, this time booking for a little earlier on the basis if it didn’t turn up we’d just make our way to the restaurant. This time it turned up on time and hot. A lovely treat indeed.
I’ve already mentioned the 2 key benefits Bonvoy brings to the table over IHG, and with breakfast working out well (eventually) I guess we should address the other key benefit of Bonvoy over IHG, the lounge access.
Unlike most Marriott branded lounges, the Sheraton Grands is huge with a variety of seating in a lovely art-Deco style room, something that is maintained via the background soundtrack, no piped “muzak” here! Cream Tea was a real treat with both fruit and plain scones, lemon curd, clotted cream and a constantly changing selection of lovely cakes. This was the same food as they were serving in the Palm Court for £30pp!
The lounge Evening food was meatballs and pasta both nights with a couple of cheeses, a wide variety of breads and salads. There’s a full open bar including bottled Peroni, red and white wine and top-shelf liquor. Mostly manned you’re welcome to help yourself if it’s not. One oddity, as closing time approaches at every lounge I’ve used, someone usually tours the lounge offering a final food and liquor opportunity, but not here. By 7.40pm it was packed-up and gone! Alas that last-minute reminder is a part of lounge service I rely on so ended up going to the counter at 7.40pm both nights to find it dry!
Now you may remember I’ve referred to mini-TIPPLES. 2 were planned one with jerryl in London where I’d join him at the County Hall Lounge, the other with jw99 where I’d be joining him in the Budapest Marriott lounge. Well the one with Jerry, he had to rearrange his plans so it went by the wayside but as I sat in the Sheraton lounge on Saturday evening I was approached by a lovely lady who out of the blue asked “excuse me, but are you BrightlyBob?” And with those words commenced a mini-TIPPLE with 2 Insider-lurkers, Diane and her husband, Jim. Although neither have yet joined Insiders they’ve been lurking for a couple of years and on this trip to London took the advice of yours truly staying at the Renaissance Heathrow for a cheap arrival night, the Renaissance St Pancras for a few nights to try out that side of town and of course the fabulous Chambers lounge and finally the Sheraton Grand for the full Mayfair experience. I reckon they made great choices and certainly seemed to have enjoyed their transatlantic London visit!
Impromptu mini-TIPPLE, now it’s time to join in you two. You’ve much travel knowledge to share with us!
You may have noticed I’m without MrsBrightlyBob here and that’s because although MrsBrighlyBob enjoys the lounge provisions she enjoys her kids too so while I was supping my last beer she was calling the kids before we took a bath and made our way out into Mayfair for the night. We often do that when we’ve got lounge access, it gives her an opportunity to relax in the room and call the kids and I get a last beer or two and post on Insiders! Anyhow, later that evening the very kind Diane called me in my room to say Jim was at our door with a bottle of champers which was really kind, but for the same reason I didn’t accept the hotels Moët, so I asked Diane&Jim (which is the handle I’m giving them till they join and choose their own, partly in tribute to the wonderful brianandlin handle that did get discussed, yup brilin that Bud&Crisps thread is a legend!) if they would enjoy it themselves as we just couldn’t have got it drank, being just a teetotaller and a beer (and single malt scotch) drinker. It was a really kind gesture you both and I hope you enjoyed it yourselves!
So Saturday turned into Sunday and our journey from the Sheraton onto the Victoria line at Green Park changing to the Central Line at Oxford Circus and alighting at Liverpool Street for the Stansted Express to the airport, a total journey time from hotel to airport security of 90 mins. The usual cramped but on-time style of a £50 RyanAir flight and we’d arrived in Budapest.
Sunday, Monday & Tuesday 26 and 27 & 28 May is spent in Budapest for our bargain 3-night redemption stay at the Intercontinental where as usual they upgraded us to a river view room.
The Budapest Intercontinental has always been a bit of a bargain at 35,000 IHG Points which is the equivalent of just 25,000 Bonvoy. Of course there’s no lounge access and no breakfast but food and beer is very cheap here and we like to get out and about in Budapest. Plus, of course I’d get my lounge fix by trailing into the Marriott lounge in jw99’s wake for my second mini-TIPPLE.
Me with jw99 and his wonderful wife on the Marriott lounge terrace, Buda Castle in the background
It turned out that JW99 was there with his charming wife on a lengthy Central European tour having already visited Vienna and Prague staying at the Marriotts there and they were meeting me on their final night before departing Budapest moving on to Split, picking up a hire car to the Dubrovnik Hilton and planning a daytrip drive over the border into Montenegro and the the old walled town of Kotor
Leave your car at the town gates, Kotor is a motor-free town!
As usual the Budapest lounge was busy but plenty of food, full bar and help-yourself beer and wine. I don’t think jw99 much appreciated the sugared milk and rum I brought out to them but I certainly appreciated their company as our TIPPLE took us around such subjects as the new scheme, lounges, point-hoarding, airline Miles, Trump, Brexit, Budapest (obviously) past TIPPLEs and brianandlin (have I mentioned that Bud and Crisps thread?). I had a great time and it was a wonderful meet-up sat on the Terrace overlooking Budapests historic Chain Bridge and Buda Castle. Thank very much you two for agreeing to share a little of your vacation time with me, and I hope you’re enjoying Split right now!
Wednesday 29 May. And thus as I wake up this morning it’s time to move on again, this time to the Budapest Courtyard chosen because our Thursday morning plane is 6am which means leaving the hotel at 4am and I couldn’t countenance spending 35,000 IHG points on such a “short night” when I was able to get the Courtyard on a €86 BRG and having just checked in online we’ve been upgraded to one if their suites too!
If there’s any doubt the City Centre Courtyard is a business hotel, this version of a suite settles it! Spacious, with a full boardroom it’s air-conditioned and with a comfy bed, it does the trick. Happy endings one and all!