Finding the right accommodation.
When I’m planning a trip, one of the
I face (apart from the packing) is finding reasonably priced accommodation to suit my style of travel. Yes, I occasionally love nothing more than the pampering a five star resort can provide but I’m mainly a go, see and do sort of traveller. One who likes to have flexibility and freedom to make or change plans whenever I want to and one who doesn’t want to be dictated to when it comes to what time I can eat or when and where I can sit and have a drink. It’s essential to me, and to most of you I’m sure, to find just the right place when I’m heading off to places distant.
Decide what you want.
So, first up you need to decide.
what sort of accommodation you’re looking for.
When my cousin and I decided to spend a month in Europe a couple of years ago our accommodation was something that we put a lot of thought into. We really didn’t want the cost and the restrictions that hotels would impose for the whole month. Hotels can be great but we were after something a bit more relaxed, something that would give us a bit of flexibility, something within our limited budget and somewhere we felt comfortable.
Taking your shoes off in the lounge and having breakfast in our pyjamas type of comfortable.
We talked about it and we both got on to the internet and we finally came up with a good compromise. We would mix self catering in the UK, Paris and Rome with boutique hotels in Paris and Florence. The combination worked brilliantly for us.
Self catering cottage in the New Forrest
We landed at Heathrow at 6.00am on a bright sunny day (thankyou to the weather gods there), picked up our hire car and were on our way down the M3 by 8.00am.
Our first stop was in Lyndhurst, the major tourist centre of the New Forrest. I lived in Lymington, only a few kilometres from Lyndhurst, for five years in the early nineties so I knew the area well and knew that Lyndhurst would be the perfect central spot from which to explore the New Forrest and the south coast.
The accommodation we chose was a
self catering cottage
in the centre of the village. Half way down the motorway we’d called the owner and she was there to meet us when we arrived. She showed us how to work the washing machine and where to find everything, then gave us her phone number and told us to call if we needed any help.
It was a lovely cottage, downstairs was a cosy lounge, a dining room with a table that would seat eight (just in case we decided to throw a dinner party) and a well stocked kitchen, with three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. There was also a quiet garden with an area of lawn surrounded by well cared for garden beds and a table and chairs. A perfect spot to relax with a
glass or two
after a tiring day sightseeing.
With plenty of fresh produce to be found around the New Forest and fresh bread from the bakery we could cook for ourselves and eat at whatever time we chose.
Idyllic Beatrix Potter country
After a few days down south it was back on to the motorway for a six hour drive up the spine of the country and into the Lake District. Again we’d chosen a self catering cottage from the huge array available on the internet. Again we certainly weren’t disappointed –
I could live permanently in this one!
We stayed in this gorgeous stone cottage, at the end of a row of three, on the outskirts of Hawkshead. It was along a quiet lane and was just what you’d expect from a Lake District cottage; local stone walls, sheep in the field next door and the
audible peace of the countryside.
The living area was upstairs with the large picture windows of the lounge/dining room overlooking the open fields and the big kitchen had more gadgets than my own. On the lower level the two double bedrooms were done out in white linen and an abundance of pillows and the bathroom was big enough to hold a party in.
After an exhausting day on the motorway we brought out the wine and the cheese and we relaxed into our home for the next week.
Beatrix Potter’s cottage, a boat ride on Coniston Water, cake (and more cake) at Poppy Red in the village and twilight in the churchyard.
How quintessentially English.
But then it was time to move again, this time it was a short flight from Liverpool across the channel to Paris. I’m used to long haul flights between hemispheres – this was more like a bus ride into town.
Paris to me is the Astrid Hotel. I first stayed here in 2007 when I was travelling with my daughter, she’d found it after trawling the internet for days, and it’s the perfect French boutique hotel.
It’s a small hotel with no bar or restaurant, only a breakfast room, and the rooms are tiny but I love it. It’s very reasonably priced and in a perfect spot – you can see the Arc de Triomphe from the small balconies picturesquely hung outside each window. There’s a restaurant right next door and dozens more within five minutes walk so the lack of food and drink on the premises isn’t a problem.
The Champs Elysées is at the end of the street for heaven’s sake.
After a few (i.e. not enough) days in Paris we took the train from the Gard du Nord, down through the European countryside, to the beautiful city of Florence. Here we stayed in the old part of town at the Hotel Rivoli. This boutique hotel is a restored 14th century Franciscan convent and, although reasonably priced, offers good sized rooms, a cosy bar, a lounge area for late night cocktails
(Margaritas being my personal favourite)
and a restaurant that’s open during the summer months (that’s if you need to stay in at night – but with stacks of alfresco restaurants set amongst the beautiful architecture of this city, why would you?)
This is a really relaxing hotel within walking distance of all the attractions and, even though we were there in July, the place never felt crowded. It’s only a few minutes walk from the central Santa Maria Novella train station so if you’ve got a suitcase with wheels or a backpack you can walk it, you don’t need to take a taxi.
Location, location, location.
Our final stop on our month long trip was Rome and the self catering apartment we found here was absolute perfection as far as location goes. It was tiny but it had everything we needed. Not that we actually spent a lot of time there, you don’t go to Rome to stay cooped up inside …
… you go to Rome to absorb – the culture, the history and the sheer Italianness of everything.
(I know – no such word).
We all know that location is everything and, although all of our accommodation on this trip had been in ideal locations, the positioning of this apartment in Rome topped the lot. Our little hideaway was only twenty one steps from the Trevi Fountain. Amazing!
You know how generally you can’t get close to any major attraction in Rome without the rest of the world being there at the same time, and how you can never get a photo without someone else’s head getting in the way? Staying so close to the Trevi Fountain meant that we were able to stroll those few steps bright and early in the morning before most people were out of their hotel and we got to take those perfect shots with no one else in the picture. Except the guy with the scrubbing brush, cleaning the pigeon poop off the Baroque figures.
Take time to plan
We had a ball that month and it was made all the more enjoyable because we’d taken the time to think about what we wanted from our accommodation.
Yes, I’ll still be booking a resort, complete with pampering massages, when I next go to Bali, because that’s what I go there for but in Europe self catering will always be high on my list.
We booked all of ours through Homeaway and we found all of the owners to be friendly and helpful. Every property came complete with information on the local area, tourist attractions, local shops and menus from the local takeaways and restaurants and they all had a stock of books and games in case you wanted to spend time just relaxing.
The main thing when planning holiday accommodation is to make sure that it suits you and your holiday style.
Are you a self catering type or do you prefer hotels?