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Big Sur - Hiking Andrew Molera State Park

One of the great delights of living in the Bay Area is the proximity to the natural beauty of California and it's hard to beat the stunning drive down Highway One to Big Sur. This is certainly one of the iconic American road trips, but for me the joy of being in the area is getting out of your car and hitting a trail, so you can be "in" the landscape rather than just looking at it from the asphalt. 

Sofitel Gendarmenmarkt - A Berlin Hotel Review

I've already written about how we got a great rate at the Sofitel Gendarmenmarkt and I will be writing about our impressions of Berlin, but I wanted to start with a review of the hotel. It's difficult to decide where to stay in Berlin, whether to go to the old center in the West or the new center in the East. I was learning towards several boutique hotels which were fully booked and we ended up at the Sofitel because it offered an excellent rate (including breakfast), a central location (we could walk very quickly to public transport and museum island), and a larger room (we were booked into a junior suite).


The hotel fronts directly onto the lovely Gendarmenmarkt but it isn't very large, with only 70 rooms and 22 suites this feels like a boutique property. The last Sofitel we'd stayed in was one of their Legends properties the stunning Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan  (which I blogged about here) and so my expectations from the brand were high. The check in went smoothly and we went up to the room quickly, they were able to accommodate an early check in and had given us a Junior Suite overlooking the Gendarmenmarkt as requested. Note it's important to request the view as there are rooms in this category that do not have it.
If you are considering this property do look at the room sizes as neither the Classic, Standard nor  the higher category Luxury  rooms are very large. When we arrived our Junior Suite looked good but it was uncomfortable warm in there. We turned up the air conditioning and waited for it to kick in. Berlin was in the middle of a heat wave and the room was intolerable. The bad news is that there seemed to be a problem with the cooling system in that particular room. When we went down to tell the front desk staff they were able to check the temperature remotely and they confirmed the problem. I was very impressed -and here comes the good news- they didn't  ask us to wait for it to be repaired. They proactively upgraded us to a Prestige Suite with a lovely view on the fifth floor. I was delighted, we were staying eight nights and it was fabulous to have the extra room.The suite was spacious, comfortable, had a lovely view and best of all was cool despite the heat outside.Here'a picture of a similar room from the Sofitel website, our room was more spacious than this one but had a similar dividing panel.
We'd only been there an hour and I was a happy camper.. The staff were clearly trained to resolve problems in the customer's favor and they were empowered to make the decisions quickly and without reference to the management. As you can see from the photo below the bathroom was well pointed though the shower was over the bath. I always enjoy the Hermes amenities that Sofitel stock.
I took this photo to give you an idea of the view, the Gendarmenmarkt really was RIGHT there. I loved sitting on the couch in the small living room and looking out at the square, delightful. I didn't find Berlin a particularly lovely city (more about that later) but the view from our room was very was gorgeous. The panel on the right could be pulled out to separate the bedroom and the living room areas. It was very well designed and very tasteful.
I was impressed by the included breakfast served in a lovely light bright atrium downstairs. It was an excellent buffet with eggs cooked to order and for me the most significant factor was that it ran till 11am!  Although it was the height of summer they had no seasonal fruit such as strawberries, cherries or peaches but when I mentioned it at the front desk i was happy to see they made a change in time for breakfast the next day. In addition to the imported fruits there was an enormous bowl of strawberries! Again I was impressed with how seriously they took customer feedback.
As this is a small property there is limited public space, though there is a small spa on the top floor. The restaurant accommodate us when we walked in without a reservation, they clearly go out of their way to accommodate hotel guests. Overall I'd highly recommend the hotel at the rate we paid and would consider staying here again.



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