Hotel We Love: Point A London Shoreditch
The colorful mural in the lobby of the Point A Hotel London Shoreditch would be well suited for an urban skate park or a trendy coffee shop—the kind that sells matcha lattes. If that—plus the free digital jukebox—doesn’t tip you off to this hotel's cool factor, nothing will.
The Point A Hotel London Shoreditch is one of the newer members of the Point A family, which includes six hotels in London and one in Glasgow, with several more London properties in the works. The company's calling card is more bang for your buck, and it delivers with reasonable—if not astonishing—rates for centrally located accommodations. Safety comes at a premium here, with keycards required to access the hallways and elevator as well as the front entrance, a wide glass façade, after hours.
The hotel has 181 guest rooms, ranging from standard doubles to twins to handicap-accessible doubles and twins, each adorned with colorful Shoreditch-themed murals. (Accessible rooms are larger than the standards but do not have windows.) The rooms are small—86 to 129 square feet—but given the efficient use of space, it's almost easy to forget the compact size of the room. There is a drop-down desk with a foldable chair and a light that switches on right above; shelves are strategically placed out of the way. Hooks around the room hang as an alternative to closets. Amenities enhance the modern sensibility of the room: 40-inch smart flatscreen televisions, fast free Wi-Fi, and touchpad-controlled mood lighting that changes color and intensity. There are also all the standard conveniences: air conditioning, a safe, bedside USB ports, blackout curtains, and high-powered showers. The hotel has an ironing room on the first floor.
The hotel is smack in the middle of Shoreditch, easily one of London’s hippest neighborhoods, a mosaic of cafés, pubs, music venues, and convenient stores, plus Bunhill Fields, a very pretty, sprawling park encompassing old burial grounds. It’s a few minutes’ walk to the Old Street tube station (Northern Line) and about ten minutes more to several others--Liverpool Street (Central, Circle, Metropolitan, and Hammersmith & City lines) and Moorgate (Circle, Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City, and Northern line). Nearby eateries include Thai, Indian, and Italian.
Breakfast, or “brekkie,” is available from 9:00 a.m. in the lobby lounge or to-go. Options include fresh pastries, fresh fruit, cereal, and yogurt, plus a gluten-free selection. (There’s no kitchen for hot meals.) A case in the lobby is stocked with snacks, juices, and soft drinks that are available for purchase anytime. Espresso drinks can be made to order around the clock, too.
All the Rest
Point A pushes its loyalty program, and it’s advisable to sign up for the free program. In addition to 10% off all future bookings at Point A hotels, membership affords benefits like special deals and complimentary items at local restaurants, discounts at nail salons and on guided tours, and free access to the nearby DW Fitness First Spitalfields Tower gym.
Rates & Deets
Starting at $90
Point A Shoreditch
8-10 Paul Street
+44 20 7655 1720 / pointahotels.com
Hotel We Love: Revolution Hotel, Boston
In the lobby of the Revolution Hotel, there’s a vibrant mural by Tristan Eaton, a well-known West Coast artist. It features JFK, Paul Revere, and all the other individuals that people associate with Boston. But what catches your eye first when you walk in is the white tower in the back of the lobby. It’s a cleverly arranged assemblage of telephones, typewriters, lawn flamingos, a Polaroid camera, Converse sneakers, Bose stereos, and more, all painted white and affixed to a wide column. These seemingly random objects have one thing in common: They were all invented or created in Massachusetts. This hotel, which opened in December 2018, telegraphs a very clear message: Revolutions in the Bay State are not limited in the colonists. It’s a region that cherishes invention, innovation, and disruption. The Story In 1908, the building at 40 Berkeley Street opened as a YWCA, a sanctuary for women working to get their lives in order. In 2018, after a massive overhaul, it opened as a hotel. In addition to the aforementioned lobby design, all things Massachusetts extends to the lower garden level, a work or hangout area for guests around the clock and a co-working space by day (more on that in a minute). Adorned with photographs of Jack Kerouac, Donna Summer, John F. Kennedy, Tom Brady (of course), and dozens more, an expansive wall that's a veritable who's who of Massachusetts notables. The Quarters There are several room sizes and bed options among the hotel’s 177 rooms, but they all fall under one of two categories: Some have in-room bathrooms and others require a walk down the hall to a shared bathroom, which isn’t what you’re likely envisioning. The shared facility has the look of a locker room in a high-end gym, with private compartments containing a shower and toilet and linens neatly arranged for the taking. Rooms without bathrooms feature rubber totes for guests to carry their toiletries down the hall. There are three styles: one king-size bed, one king-size and a lofted twin, and a “quad” with two bunk beds and plenty of outlets within reach of each, an ideal arrangement for friends traveling together. These rooms all come with a desk. Bath-in-room guestrooms do not have a desk. Rooms are compact and space-efficient with well-integrated storage space. Each is equipped with a safe, and all the requisite high-tech amenities, like LCD televisions and a small bedside Tivoli radio that boasts sound quality worthy of a much bigger stereo. Lather bamboo-lemongrass soaps, shampoo, and conditioner in the showers are large pump bottles, a clever eco-minded choice. Wi-fi is complimentary. The company also runs the Revolution Lofts next door, which feature bigger suite-style rooms, each with a bathroom and kitchenette space with a stove, sink, fridge, plates, and utensils. The Neighborhood The hotel is located a few short blocks from Tremont Street, the main artery of the restaurant-dense South End. The neighborhood features a tremendous Whole Foods (allegedly New England’s largest), and a sizable variety of boutiques, trendy eateries, and lively bars. A 10-minute walk in the other direction lands you in Copley Square, the buzzy green space surrounded by the historic Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel, the iconic Trinity Church, and a shopping mall with a roster of familiar stores. One block beyond that is Newbury Street, Boston’s famous retail strip. The hotel is an easy walk to the Back Bay station on the Orange Line and the Arlington Station on the Green Line. If you're heading to or from the airport or the bus/train station, Both the airport and the bus/train station require only one transfer from the Orange or Green lines. The Food A small café counter in the lobby serves complimentary coffee from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and sells all sorts of pastries, coffee, and espresso drinks throughout the day. A restaurant is scheduled to open this summer, but in the meantime, it’s close enough to a range of notable local eateries that its absence is easily forgivable. All the Rest The hotel’s lower garden level is a spacious room with ample tables, each equipped with plenty of outlets for anyone wanting to hunker down for a few hours. During the day, it serves as a laid-back coworking space that non-guests can use with the purchase of a pass for a day, week, or month. The 24-hour gym, on the same level, is an exercise, if you will, in well-curated fitness spaces. Small yet comprehensive, it features weights, a treadmill, a Peloton bike, and more. Rates & Deets Starting at $175 for bath-in-room quarters; $145 for others. Revolution Hotel40 Berkeley St.Boston, MA 02116(617) 848-9200 / therevolutionhotel.com
Confessions of a Lifetime Hotel Concierge
Cynthia Van Zandt has seen a lot from behind her desk—guests panicked because of lost luggage, couples euphoric from a recent engagement, families excited for a graduation ceremony, businessmen and women anxiously on their way to give career-making presentation. As concierge at Sofitel Washington DC Lafayette Square for 11 years (and other hotels for several years before that) she’s met—and helped out—people from all over the planet. How, you ask? Let us count the ways. She’s zoomed to the airport to deliver a left-behind iPad, and tracked down where to buy catheters and rare European game meat. She’s made such an impact throughout her career that she was awarded membership in the Les Clefs d’Or, a national professional society of hotel concierges that only accepts people based on recommendations. Ask Cynthia about her work, and she will tell you how lucky she feels, how there’s never been a doubt in her mind that she made the right career choice in her life. She’ll also tell you that it comes with intense challenges. “I’ve always worked in fancy hotels, but the job isn’t as glamorous as some might think. It’s the hardest profession there is," she says. "You have to love people and love taking care of people. You’re seeing them at all of their moments, high and low.” We checked in (no pun intended) with Cynthia to get the skinny on some of her more memorable moments and astonishing feats she pulled off. 1. A Wizard in Disguise One morning, two little boys and their parents were checking in. They had clearly never been to a hotel before, and they were trying to grasp what it meant to have access to the comforts of home while they were so far away from home. Cynthia greeted them, explained that she could help them if they got hungry or if they wanted an extra pillow. She could help them get anyplace and answer any questions about where to go in the city. “So, you’re like a wizard?” the boy asked matter-of-factly. Cynthia still laughs when she tells that story. 2. Baby’s Very First Hotel Stay Cynthia has met no shortage of couples on their honeymoon in the nation’s capital. Babymoons are a tad less common. A young pair was visiting from Europe, their final trip as a party of two. Soon after, they returned to D.C. as a party of three and checked in again. To welcome them back, she gave them a toddler-size Sofitel bathrobe. They thanked her and went on their way. Less than two years later, they emailed her a photo of the baby all dolled up in the robe. “It was so lovely to know that they remember us. I had to take a minute,” she said wistfully. 3. A Last-Minute Valentine’s Day Triumph Few days of the year are busier for the hotel industry than Valentine’s Day. One year, a high-rolling man wanted to surprise his girlfriend, but he made the unfortunate mistake of waiting to the last minute to figure out how to do that. Well, in a rookie’s hands it would have been unfortunate. But Cynthia did not balk when, at 4:30 p.m., he asked for his room to be filled with 1,000 red roses. By that point in the afternoon of Valentine’s Day, it’s slim pickings for flowers in any city. But Cynthia’s connections run deep and wide, and within 30 minutes, the roses were delivered and his room transformed into a romantic fantasy world. 4. Detective Work A good concierge never reveals her secrets. If you don’t believe us, just ask Cynthia about the time a family that was staying at the hotel for their son’s graduation from George Washington University. The parents asked her to get hold of the graduate's kindergarten picture for a celebration they were throwing for him. And get hold of it she did. “The world is much smaller than we think,” she said in response to us asking her how. “You just have to do a little detective work and be creative in your thinking.”
New Airline Will Fly You to Hogwarts, Narnia, and Other Out-of-This-World Destinations
We’re cheering the announcement this morning that a brand-new airline will be offering flights to some out-of-this-world destinations that we never thought we’d actually see. Charybdis Air, the new flagship airline of Freedonia (one of Europe’s lesser-known gems), plans to fly from several major U.S. and Western European airports, including JFK, LAX, and Heathrow, to an array of magical lands that you can finally start crossing off your bucket list. Here, a look at some of the top destinations Charybdis will be accessing. 1. Hogwarts With limited access and baffling railroad platform nomenclature, the legendary school for wizards has been historically secretive and less than welcoming to travelers. But all of that is changing thanks to Charybdis Air’s initiative to fly fans of Harry, Hermione, and Ron to the new HGW airport, a short drive from the imposing castle-like building and literally enchanting grounds, where you may come face-to-face with a Hippogriff. Visitors should be aware that the more famous students of Hogwarts are, of course, now grown up and no longer attending the school, but ogling the great hall, staircases, and classrooms will be a thrill nonetheless. 2. Narnia Travelers wishing to visit Narnia have always had to resort to the reliable but clumsy “proceed to the rear of the wardrobe” approach. But starting soon, the land made famous by C.S. Lewis’s meticulously researched books and their film adaptations will be accessible to anyone who wants to jump on Charybdis Air’s new value fares to NRN airport. 3. Oz First of all, the implication that Oz exists only in Dorothy Gale’s dreams, as strongly implied by the 1939 MGM film The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland, is false. But getting to Oz to explore must-sees such as the Emerald City, Yellow Brick Road, and poppy fields that rival California’s has always been a challenge, with the land surrounding by what is clearly marked on maps as a “Deadly Desert.” Get ready to fly into the Emerald City (EMC) for an unforgettable three-day weekend! 4. Never Never Land There are two advantages to flying to Never Never Land (NNL), home to Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, and the Lost Boys: First is the gorgeous forest scenery and panoramas of the sea (where you may spy a pirate ship moored offshore). Second is that, while visiting Never Never Land, travelers will not age. True fact: Spend a week, a month, or a year in Never Never Land, and you’ll arrive home the same age as when you left! Also, Charybdis Air’s subsidiary, Scylla Cruise Line, plans to offer fabulous floating holiday trips to Never Never Land as soon as some pesky cruise-port negotiations are resolved. 5. Middle-Earth While the people chronicled in J.R.R. Tolkien’s accounts of Middle-Earth in The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy are long gone (the books recount events that took place centuries ago), the stunning geography remains the same. Fly to JRR airport, in the iconic northwest and be greeted by the surprisingly welcoming modern-day Eldar and spend some time relaxing on the beaches of the Great Sea Belegaer. But do bear in mind that the subcontinent Beleriand is now off-limits, having been some time ago engulfed by the ocean. Book Your Flight Charybdis Air is offering a one-day-only rock-bottom value fare to any of the above destinations as long as you book by midnight tonight, April 1.
Join Our #BTChat: U.S. Road Trips
We're hosting a #BTChat on Twitter this Thursday, March 28, at 2 p.m. Eastern all about U.S. Road Trips. We'll be joined by a multitude of participants who have an insider's perspective on affordable, scenic drives from coast to coast, plus Alaska, Hawaii, and even the Caribbean. Here are three easy steps to follow along and chime in with our #BTChat. 1. GET ON TWITTER Log in to your Twitter account (or create one at Twitter.com) on Thursday, March 28, shortly before the #BTChat starts at 2 p.m. Eastern 2. JOIN THE #BTCHAT First, follow @BudgetTravel on Twitter. Then, in a separate tab or window, search for the hashtag #BTChat and click on "Latest" at the top of the page so you can see the questions (which will be numbered Q1, Q2, etc.) and other people's answers (numbered A1, A2, etc.) as they come in. Depending on how chatty you are and how many people are responding to your answers, you may want to open a third tab or window to help keep track of notifications. 3. READ, RE-TWEET, AND POST YOUR OWN RESPONSES Feel free to re-tweet our questions out to your own followers so they can participate, too! The most important thing is to add #BTChat to your answers so the rest of us can see them. Take this as a fun, informal opportunity to chat with other people who care about travel as much as you do. Use the questions we ask as a jumping off point for conversation and to make new friends over the Twittersphere, and above all, have fun!