45 Second Cheap Hotel Advisor – Istanbul

Sphendon Hotel
Akbiyik Degirmeni Sk no:46
Istanbul, Turkey

That is the view from one of the two small rooftop terraces. It’s taken with a zoom but yes, this budget hotel is really that close to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet district. Pretty nice, no?

The rooms were a bit small but comfortable, there’s free wifi throughout, and the breakfast (included) was quite good, a blend of western and local, with the emphasis on the local. All that, plus a very hospitable and welcoming staff, for 35 EUR/46 USD/night (I booked through venere.com).

What’s most appealing is the location, set on a quiet mostly residential street but less than a 10 minute walk from the Blue Mosque. Both the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market/Eminonu Square were a leisurely 20 minute stroll away. Nearest tram stop is Sultanahmet (2 TL per ride), roughly midway between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, is also a 10 minute walk. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants just a short walk away as well.

It’s a bit difficult to find initially, so be sure you give your cab driver the exact address. Taxi ride to the airport (40 TL/16.50 EUR/22 USD) took just over 20 minutes in mid-morning but you should probably give yourself twice that.

Oh almost forgot: the wall surrounding the courtyard is 1600 years old.

(I stayed at the Sphendon for three nights, 12-15 March 2012).

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Germanwings coffee

Isn’t really all that good. But how important are onboard purchase to these low budget carriers’ bottom lines? According to a story in its in-flight magazine glorifying its bistro selection, GW sells, on average, 400,000 to 450,000 cups per year at €2.60 a pop, totaling €1,040,000 to 1,170,000 ($1,458,420 to 1,640,723).

Ometepe, originally uploaded by pirano.

SAS strike in Paris

Stumbled onto this on my way out on Sunday evening (19-Jul) at about 7 pm, striking SAS workers at De Gaulle’s Terminal 1. Day 4. Definitely livened the place up. Those who are down on the French for their language skills will be happy to know that half the signs were in English. The woman working the counter –presumably a Polish ‘strike breaker’?– remained quite cool and friendly.

A quick search of English language sources found no info. Anyone know more about the strike?

Paris 071, originally uploaded by pirano.

Ljubljana to and from – budget flight reference

I spent most of the day booking my European summer travel –again, lots!– and as has become custom, was again frustrated by the lack of budget carriers that operate out of Ljubljana’s Pučnik airport. (Currently, there’s one.) So, when going by train –always choice No 1– wasn’t an option, I had to look at nearby airports. And instead of depositing my notes in the recycle bin, I thought I’d put them here where others may find them of use.

What characterizes nearby will vary from person to person. For me Venice Marco Polo (roughly 3 1/2 hrs by bus from Ljubljana) is the outside limit.

So here is a list of airports that will make Destination Ljubljana a little bit closer for you, and the budget airlines that operate to/from there. I’m assuming that these all list the current 2009 spring/summer timetables, but can’t be 100% certain of that. So if they’re not, don’t waterboard me. Instead, let me know! Enjoy!

Graz, Austria
RyanAir – [route map] – Tuifly – [route map]

Klagenfurt, Austria
GermanWings – [route map] – RyanAir – [route map] – Tuifly – [route map]

EasyJet – [route map] – At the moment, only one flight daily to/from London-Stansted.

Pula, Croatia
GermanWings – [route map] – RyanAir – [route map] – ThomsonFly – [route map]

Rijeka, Croatia
Tuifly – [route map]

Trieste, Italy
RyanAir – [route map]

Venice (Marco Polo)
(Buses from Mestre rail station: ACTV linea n°15, about 35 min; ATVO FLY BUS, 17-20 min)
EasyJet – [route map] – SkyEurope – [route map] – ThomsonFly – [route map] – Transavia – [route map] – Tuifly – [route map] – Wizzair – [route map]

Venice (Treviso)
For more on this airport that even The Village People use, read this.
GermanWings – [route map] – RyanAir – [route map]

Zagreb, Croatia
GermanWings – [route map] – Tuifly – [route map] – Wizzair – [route map]

Slovenia’s Adria Airways website is here. It’s a very good airline, and while it can hardly be considered a budget carrier, good deals can be found.

And while we’re at it, here’s the website for the Ljubljana Bus Station.

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30 Second Cheap hotel Advisor – Paris

Hotel De La Paix
19, rue du Gros Caillou – 75007 Paris

I liked this place! Located on a pleasant and quiet street in an otherwise fairly lively neighborhood –a couple minute walk from the Parc du Champs de Mars, and perhaps 10 to the Eiffel Tower– it’s about as off-the-beaten-path as you can find in Paris.

Rooms are cozy, free wifi throughout, and an extremely pleasant owner and staff. There are plenty of bars/cafes in the vicinity that won’t break the bank, along with a few wines shops that will. Nearest metro is Ecole Militaire, and you can order a shuttle to De Gaulle Airport at the front desk (17 EUR, about 40 mins).

The hotel’s website is here; for Paris I generally book through venere.com.

I think I’ll definitely return.

Hotel De la Paix – Paris, originally uploaded by pirano.

30 Second Cheap hotel Advisor – Rome

Hotel Luciani
Via Milazzo, 8
00185 Rome, Italy

Luciani is one of the dozens (or perhaps hundreds?) of little hotels that appear in every nook and cranny near Rome’s Termini (main) train station.

A tiny room, Spartan bed, old bedstand, barred windows and rickety closet gave this place the feel of prison chic. But looks can be deceiving, since you are allowed to come and go as you please and you don’t have to share a shower. Breakfast –a pile of bread washed down with coffee from a cheap machine– lends itself nicely to the incarceration theme.

In fairness, you can’t expect much more in Rome these days for 50 EUR/night to enjoy 2-star comfort.

Upside? It’s less than a five minute stroll to platform 6 at the Termini station. Wifi is available, 5 EUR/6 hrs.

I will not stay here again.

Luciani – Rome, originally uploaded by pirano.

30 Second Cheap hotel Advisor – Milan

Cityhotel Central Station
Via Giovanni Battista Sammartini 15
Milano, Italy

True to its name, this place is a five-minute stroll from Milano Centrale Station. As you can see, I had a fairly large room, with a big window overlooking a boulevard through which I learned, among other things, that Milanese streetcleaners are particularly loud at 3:30 in the morning.

On the plus side? Free wifi (that doesn’t work everywhere) and the parakeet in the lobby with a firm command of English, Italian and Mandarin Chinese. And a decent and relatively inexpensive sushi joint a few doors away.

59 EUR/night for a single, w/private bath.

I’m never one to say never, but I shall (probably) not return.

Cityhotel Central Station – Milano, originally uploaded by pirano.

Dollars and euros.

Unless they’re living under a rock, Americans know that the US$ really sucks these days in Europe. About two years ago, the exchange was at about $1.20 to the euro; these days it’s consistently hovering near $1.50.

While there is nothing terribly cheap about much of Europe these days (it’s not for most Europeans either, which is why hordes are going on shopping sprees to the US), that doesn’t neccesarily mean Americans should be putting off their visits.

In his February newsletter, European travel guru Rick Steves lays out 20 tips that will go a long way to make up for the 20% drop in the USD. Some useful info.

My favorite? #12, ‘Don’t over tip.’ Having worked in the restaurant trade for years in the US, that’s an odd one for me.

dolce vita, originally uploaded by pirano.

30 Second Cheap Hotel Advisor – Linz, Austria II

Wienerstrasse 404-408
4030 Linz

Stayed three nights (Jan-2008)

I kept calling this place Le Petit Munchen for no reason besides the odd way that my limited French seems to effortlessly roll off my tongue in German-speaking countries. Weird.

Small room, small bed, small bathroom, basic breakfast. 45 EUR/night ain’t much, but I was expecting something more. Big minus is the distance from the center of Linz, roughly 15 minutes by tram; two lines run from the corner of the hotel, so it’s convenient in that sense. Big plus was free wi-fi in each room.

There’s a restaurant on the premises, basic Germanic fare.

I’m never one to say never, but I shall (probably) not return.

kleinmunchen-linz, originally uploaded by pirano.

Ta-ta Ryanair, ciao Wizz

Well, that was fast.

Just six months after beginning service from Maribor, Slovenia’s second city, to London Stansted, it looks as though Ryanair is abandoning the route. Bookings can still be made through 27-March.

It’s not a total loss. Ryanair is one of the Europe’s least loved budget airlines, is notorious for its hidden costs, fleeces customers with its own unique brand of currency conversion, and apparently lists ‘surly’ as a requirement for their cabin crews. [Check out Ryanair Campaign for plenty of testimonials and this tidbit about Ryanair’s surcharge for passengers traveling with excess ‘emotional baggage’.]

Meanwhile, Wizz Air, the Hungary-based airline, flew it’s last Brussels-Charleroi flight out of Ljubljana on the 14th. There’s no word on whether service will be resumed. Slovenian dailies Delo and Vecer both reported last week that Wizz Air is looking into filling the void in Maribor.