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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Wandering Earl wanders into Slovenia

I just came across a blog by traveler Wandering Earl, who set off on a three-month trip to Asia in 1999. He’s still on the road 4,294 days later.

He arrived in Ljubljana a few days ago via rail from Vienna, so check out his blog and say ‘Hi’, ok?

His is a lifestyle many fantasize about, but very few have the wherewithal, resourcefulness or guts to actually take the plunge. His website and blog are worth spending some time with if you’re looking for experience-tested ideas on how to sustain yourself on the road long-term.

Best of luck, Earl, and I hope you enjoy your stay in this little corner of the planet. It’s a pretty nice one, too.

slo train 006, a photo by pirano on Flickr.

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 – Athens

29 Athinas
Athens, Greece

This is the view from the rooftop bar of the Hotel Attalos, just a few steps up from the sixth floor. Nice, no?

As big cities go, the 48 EUR/night price is right. It’s two stars, which are enough if you don’t spend too much time in your room. There is free wi-fi in the first floor reading room, along with a couple of computer terminals, an extremely nice touch. Breakfast not included.

But best about the Attalos is the location. Just a couple hundred meters from the Monastiraki underground stop, there’s plenty in the immediate area to keep you thoroughly amused and on your feet for the duration of your stay: the Plaka, the flea market, scores of museums, ruins and parks.

FYI, Monastiraki is roughly 30 minutes from Port at Piraeus, and 40-50 minutes to the airport, no change required for either.

I’ll definitely return. Soon.

acropolis, originally uploaded by pirano.

30 Second Cheap hotel Advisor – Stuttgart

Mercure Hotel Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt
Teinacher Strasse 20
Bad Cannstatt

There’s nothing cheap or budget-minded about this place, so I’ll spare you (and me) much of these 30 seconds. At about 140 EUR/night, it’ll work for business travelers (or for those who aren’t paying themselves).

WTF is up with hotels these days? 25 EUR/day for Wifi? I’ve stayed in tiny dives for a quarter of the price with FREE wifi. Unforgivable.

The room was decent, there are smoking rooms available, breakfast is quite good (at 15 EUR extra), and there’s a nice park nearby. Note that Bad Cannstatt is a suburb of Stuttgart; public transport (a tram/U & S bahn combo) will get you to the main Stuttgart station in about a half hour at best, depending on the connections.

I don’t think I’ll ever stay here again.

mercure-stuttgart-10-sept-08, originally uploaded by pirano.

30 Second Cheap hotel Advisor – Lausanne

Hotel du Marche
Rue Pre-du-Marche 42

When I’m on the road and paying my own way, the only rule I’m guided by is to find the cheapest room available with a private bath. Hostel days are behind me. In Switzerland though, nothing is cheap, and rules are meant to be broken.

I embarked on the search too late, and all I could come up with that was reasonably inexpensive in Lausanne was this place, and at 70 CHF (44 EUR), shared facilities notwithstanding, it was a terrific deal.

The location was great, easy to get to via public transport, pleasant staff, and free wifi throughout. I particularly enjoyed a Vietnamese restaurant just around the corner.

I’m definitely returning.

Hotel du Marche – Lausanne, originally uploaded by pirano.

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.