Leo’s travel journal

Leo’s travel journal and other juicy bits…

Posts Tagged ‘Grande Bretagne

The Grande Bretagne, Athens

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As it was my first time to Athens, I heeded advice of more experienced travellers to book a hotel within the area of Syntagma Square – right in the heart of Athens.  Thus, it boiled down to two hotels; King George hotel and the Grande Bretagne.

Moreover, having stayed at Starwood hotels for over 50 nights last year and achieving the Platinum Starwood Preferred Guest, I would say that the choice was clear.  However, it all depended on rates, and suffice to say an EXTREMELY sweet rate of € 138++ for a room sealed the detail with the Grande Bretagne.  It was in my opinion, an extremely competitive rate for a Luxury Collection hotel in a very popular city such as Athens.

Perhaps it was my good luck that the unfortunate riots happened weeks before my trip or just an extremely bad season for the hotel – either way, I was going to stay at the Grande Bretagne.

A week before arrival, I was contacted by their “Pre-Arrival Concierge”, Maria who sent the Spa menu and transportation prices to me.  She also added that if there was anything that they (the hotel) could do to make my stay better to let them now.  As usual, I provided my flight details for them to anticipate my arrival and for me not to have to wait to check-in after almost 24 hours of flying.

A few days after, I checked my reservations online via SPG.com once more and noticed that I had been pre-blocked into a Deluxe Suite, a four categories upgrade from the room that I had initially booked.  What a pleasant surprise.

I arrived at the hotel after almost 24 hours of flights and transits from Kuala Lumpur, flying through Bangkok and Frankfurt.  Needless to say I was physically exhausted upon checking in and the staff members, starting from the doorman to the front desk staff member were most gracious and sympathetic with me.

After a 45 second (probably record time) verification of my reservations, I was ushered up to the suite by the butler, Mr. Spyros who then proceeded to do a suite “walk through”.  My room, a Deluxe Suite consisted of separated living area, bedroom, bathroom and wardrobe.

The Deluxe Suite that I stayed in had a view of Lycabettus Hill, and had an expansive balcony that stretched the entire width of the room.  There were two 32-inch LCD TV’s, one in the bedroom and another in the living room.

The entire suite featured furniture with walnut trims, excellent upholstery and an extremely luxurious carpet.  Walls were lined with Damask, and windows were double glazed to ensure sound of the crazy Athens traffic do not infiltrate the room.

There was a huge wardrobe where (unfortunately) I had to request for extra hangers twice (due to my obssesive compulsive disorder in hanging everything up).

Breakfast was served daily at the GB Rooptop restaurant, with fantastic view of the Acropolis, Olympic stadium, Parliament building and Syntagma square.  It was a full buffet with selection of cold cuts, hot items and my favourite – a myriad of fresh berries.

I also had the pleasure to consume pralines from Leonidas which was replenished daily as a little chocolate box thing.  Turndown service was prompt and little nice cubes of my die-hard favourite Valrhona Jivara chocolates were placed on the Egyptian cotton sheets.

The bathroom featured wall to wall marble and wooden trim, brass fittings and separated shower and bath.  I had the fortunate time to use the deep tub one evening and it was sublime to say the least.  Bathroom amenities were from Gilchrist & Soames of London, the oatmeal soap bars, and shampoo and conditioner were delightful to use.

The bed, was expectedly very nice to sleep in.  With splendid sheets, countless pillows and firm back support, the bed was fantastic!

As you can see from the pictures, the room and hotel in general was decorated in a very classical manner – elegant and not tacky as I thought it would be.

I must say that the Grande Bretagne has been one of the best hotels in terms of physical product and service level that I have had the opportunity to stay in.

More on Athens in the next post…

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Written by Leo

14 February 2009 at 18:14

And the journey begins…

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So… Here I go..

It started off with a early evening journey to Kuala Lumpur International Airport.  The weather was good, and it was turning dark as I approached the airport.

Honestly I was dreading the flight on Thai Airways (more so in economy class) due to the various reasons, perhaps I’ve been spoilt by the legendary service of Singapore Airlines with they excellent in-flight product (individual screens, etc).

Nevertheless, I reminded myself constantly that one should not write off something based on a one-time expreience.  After checking in, I got all my documents in order and headed toward the Royal Silk Lounge of Thai Airways in the Satellite terminal of KLIA.

It was a quiet evening, which was surprising as this flight to Bangkok was the one that connected with most flights to Europe.

I found my little quiet corner and proceeded to have a drink and something to eat (my first dinner).  Soon it was boarding time – and to my surprise and delight, we were flying Thai’s brand new Boeing 777-300ER.  I got booked into an emergency exit (EMEX) seat, which was plenty thoughtful (TG doesn’t charge for it, unlike a certain SINGAPORE AIRLINES).  Spacious leg room.

The leading steward came over and to my annoyance started to speak to me in Thai (one of the other factors why I don’t fly TG).  That was addressed promptly when I indicated otherwise (me not Thai OK?).  He came over to confirm my order of seafood meal.

Takeoff was punctual and meal service started thereafter.  It was delicious!  When a stewardess was asked what it was, I got the standard “plawn with rai, sir”.

After disembarking from the TG flight in BKK, I headed towards my next gate with about an hour to kill until my next flight to FRA.

The Royal Silk Lounge in BKK (a lot of them) were extremely spacious considering there were two of them opposite each other. Perhaps the majority of Europe-bound flights are in the evenings using 747’s were the consideration when Suvarnabhumi was built.

Needless to say the lounge was rather crowded and there was this really really annoying French dude who left his blackberry ringing continuously for a good 10 minutes or so until another person walked up to him and literally told him to shut it off.

To make matters worse, he then answered a call and was talking so loud that everyone in the lounge could hear him profess his innocence in not receiving emails sent by a lady colleague.

I decided that I had enough of this drama and headed to the lounge located opposite – calm and tranquility greeted me with open arms.

There was no announcements for boarding, by the time I got to the gate it was already boarding the first of economy passengers.

I was pleasantly surprised when I got to my seat in the Boeing 747-400, the seats were brightly coloured (see pic) and pitch for economy was fantastic. I could stretch my legs out without feeling cramped. I guess the choice of aisle seat in the middle groups also helped as the overhead compartments were smaller, hence reducing the feeling of “claustrophobicness”. *note to self – sit in the middle when flying 747’s in TG*

Not long after, it was push back and we were in the air on time.

Cabin service started, and my patience was being tested with numerous cabin crew coming up to me, speaking Thai once again (one of the few reasons why I don’t fly TG that much, or at all).

After making myself clear that I am neither Thai, nor do I speak the language, things settled down and turned rather pleasant. I must say that although the cabin crew came in all shapes and sizes, they were silently efficient.

My meal came thereafter, this time it was a roasted pepper fish appetiser (I think it was snapper fillet) and a grilled garoupa fillet with tomato (I think this is the standard seafood meal selection – had it a thousand times on SQ as well). It was alright, and more importantly served at the right temperature. I’m one of those “purist” that think seafood should never be served with tomatoes.

I managed to catch about 7 hours of sleep, which was fantastic due to the seat that reclined a lot (compared to SQ’s 777-300ER which I normally fly to Frankfurt).

There was this Thai girl behind me (who looked really provincial) who perpetually tried to stuff her feet in the crevice between the seats. After numerous sessions of turning back and asking her to remove her feet, I got furious and stood up and spoke to her firmly but loudly (do you really need to stuff your feed in my seat?). She obviously got the message.  Stupid Thai lady.


Frankly speaking, I miss the joy of flying the 747. Being an old plane, of course it was not fitted with individual screens on every seat (unlike SQ, or any other middle eastern carrier) but it was a good opportunity and further motivation to catch up with some snooze.  Snooze I did (with the help of sleeping pill).

I was really relieved to be able to fly Star Alliance (priority boarding, luggage and more importantly lounge access – no more spending unnecessary money at airports!).

Arriving in Frankfurt on time, I cleared immigrations and headed to the A gates located in the other terminal, passing through the infamous 10km tunnel hehe!

I parked myself at the Lufthansa Senator Lounge (near gate A26) and put my name in on the list for a shower.  I was pleasantly surprised by the state of the shower rooms, which surpassed SOME hotels that I’ve had my unfortunate experience to stay in.

After a short wait at the lounge, it was boarding time for the 2 hour flight to Athens.  Needless to say I was DEAD tired when I finally arrived at the Grande Bretagne in Athens – after almost 24 hours of flying and transiting.

More updates on Athens in the next post…

Written by Leo

12 February 2009 at 16:43

So I’m really leaving…

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This Friday for Athens (at the Grande Bretagne – Deluxe Suite), Istanbul (W Istanbul – Fantastic Suite), Zagreb (Westin Zagreb – Westin Guest Office), Ljubljana (day trip from Zagreb), and Riga (Monika Centrum – Deluxe Room).

Good to finally lift off to Europe after several months of grounding 🙂

Flying Thai, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines and Croatia Airlines.

Updates soon! Tatas!