We visited four cities in three weeks on this trip, which allowed for a variety of lodging experiences. Here’s a brief report on each.
We stayed four nights at the Sofitel in Munich. Our room was two levels, with the first floor the living room with a half bath, and the upstairs the bedroom and full bathroom. The room had a floor to ceiling window that looked out onto the train station, as well as automatic blinds that were easy to raise and lower. Overall, a very pleasant room.
We had the breakfast plan, so we ate breakfast at the hotel every morning, which was varied and delicious. One plus and minus about the hotel was its location. It was close to the train station, which made our morning trip to Berlin a breeze, but it also meant there weren’t many appealing restaurants very close by. Partly for that reason (and partly because we were always exhausted by the end of the day), we ate dinner at the hotel twice. Both meals were excellent, which is one benefit of staying in a French hotel chain.
Bottom line: Recommended
Next up was the Circus Apartments in Berlin. The Circus started as a hostel in the 90’s, then added a hotel and finally the apartments. I love their philosophy, which embraces the joy, adventure and community of travel. Their entertainment manager, Andrew, will provide touring suggestions based on your interests, and the hotel offers programs, such as walking tours, just for guests. We took advantage of both.
The apartment was spacious and comfortable. There was a living area with a kitchen, table and sofa. We opted for a room with a balcony, which looked out on a quiet street and had a view of the TV tower – of course! A slight oddity of the layout is that the bedroom is only accessible through the bathroom. The only real downside to the apartment were the bed and bedding, which were both IKEA quality, i.e., rather skimpy. But we even adjusted to that.
The Circus lodgings are in Mitte, the center of the city, and a great location for touring. The apartments are a short walk from the hotel and hostel, right at the edge of Prenzlauer Berg. It’s another great area with a slightly different character than Mitte, with plenty of cafes and restaurants.
Bottom line: Highly recommended. Only caveat would be for summer travel. The apartment doesn’t have air conditioning, so I think it could get quite toasty, though it does have automatic screens you can lower that block the sun and help keep the unit cooler.
Our hotel in Barcelona is what I consider the only bad decision of the trip. I had planned to stay in aparthotels for our longer stays, 7 nights in Berlin and 6 in Barcelona. I won’t detail my thought process, but I ended up selecting a hotel, Condes de Barcelona, instead of an apartment in Barcelona.
Going from the spacious apartment to a hotel room was a let down. And the real disappointment was that the balcony was too small for chairs and too noisy from the traffic below even if we could sit there. You could step out onto the balcony but not sit. It We also had a couple weird plumbing issues – an overflowing shower and a running toilet. Both were addressed, but it made for an overall bad impression. Wifi was also very spotty, which frustrated Jim to no end.
That said, the location was fantastic – very close to many Gaudi sites and less teeming with tourists than the Gothic Quarter and the port area. The beds were very comfortable, and we made use of the lively rooftop bar on our arrival and departure days. We also spent time at the rooftop pool almost daily, though space was limited so we did have to jockey for position most days.
Bottom line: Recommended for a short stay
Our final stay was at a hilltop inn overlooking the small town of Girona. Happily, this was another win.
After almost three weeks in cities, I wanted to end the trip in a more bucolic location. I first considered staying on the Costa Brava, but that would have required renting a car, which I didn’t want to deal with for just a few days.
I settled on the Montjuic B&B, which the hotel website and TripAdvisor reviews say is a 10-minute walk into town. It was indeed about 10 minutes going downhill. Unfortunately, we made a wrong turn going back to the hotel our first day and trudged about 90 minutes in 95 degree heat until we came across a restaurant and asked them to call us a taxi. Needless to say we paid more attention to the route the next time we went into town and made it back much more quickly, though it’s a little slower going back as it’s all uphill.
We spent some time every afternoon at the inn’s pool, where we were generally able to nab our preferred lounge chairs under what appeared to be olive trees. It wasn’t the Costa Brava, but it was relaxing with a lovely view, so it fit the bill.
The one downside to the inn is the availability of coffee. There isn’t a coffee maker in the room, and the common area only offered a kettle and tea. We asked the owner to make us coffee in the morning before breakfast, which she kindly did. But I felt bad asking for the extra service, and it wasn’t available quite as early as we’re used to. Morning coffee doesn’t seem as crucial to Europeans, even though they do drink it throughout the day.
Bottom line: Highly recommended