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Walking Over Haddon in The Peak District

I confess I'm a fair weather walker, which means I often want to walk on our holidays, but whether we go is always dependent on the weather. I have a Goretex jacket but it's like a talisman. I own it, but I don't want to wear it and I hope vainly that just by having spent so much on it an schlepping it with me that it's going to ward off the rain! As you can see my travel planning involves a good deal of "magical thinking!" In California our cultural exuberance (paired with low standards) means we shamelessly call anything a "hike"  - as if we've scaled Everest in an afternoon. Here in England I'm not sure I even qualify as a "walker" because that denotes a level of seriousness I've failed at previously. Minimally it means you're wearing boots  and have an Ordnance Survey map (and possibly a compass) in your back pocket. I guess I'm more of stroller to be honest and I've blogged about my strolls all over the world; m…

The Mondrian Hotel at The Sea Containers, London


There are a lot of lovely, pricey hotels in London ranging from hipster havens to tradition Anglophile fare but in general our hotel choices are determined by value. People ask me where to stay in New York or London all the time, but I find it a difficult question to answer because it  depends so much on budget, expectation,  time of year and your particular preferences. We liked the mid-range Apex Temple Court (which I reviewed here ) but we often change where we stay, not because I don't have preferences for one hotel over another, but because costs can vary so much over the years and the exchange rate. For example,  in London I'd recommend Flemings or the Chesterfield in Mayfair for anyone looking for a  traditionally British experience. Both offer good service and  a small boutique feeling in a traditional, but stylish setting. However, to be really comfortable in either of them you'll want a junior suite which was well beyond our budget this time around. 


Value Traveling When I say I'm a value traveller I mean that I want to get the most I can for the money I'm prepare to spend. We travel a lot which means a large number of hotel nights per year and I'm inclined to think of hotels in relation to what the money could buy me in travel elsewhere. I'm reluctant to spend a lot for a room in London when the same amount could purchase a pool villa in Bali - whether I have immediate plans to go to Bali or not! I realize this logic doesn't apply (or even make sense to others)  but for us it creates an ongoing comparison and it  means we are likely to pick the stylish, mid-range options in European cities while splashing out  for  destination hotel experiences like Ashford Castle in Ireland or luxury resorts in  Asia or the Middle East where our dollar goes much farther. For example see my reviews of  pool villas in the Seychelles  and  Bali.
So, back to London! I was looking for somewhere reasonably priced (under $200 per night), well located, stylish and comfortable. I was delighted to get an excellent Cyber Monday deal by booking directly with the hotel and we paid an an astonishingly low $160 per night (including taxes) for  the Mondrian London at the Sea Containers. Wonderfully located  on the Southbank of the Thames, between the National Theatre and the Tate Modern this hotel offered far more than I would expect for the price. Traveling off season (we were there in early January) in combination with the stronger dollar made this an excellent value. One of the advantages of staying on the Southbank was  walking out of the hotel onto the river walkway and seeing such lovely views of London. I'm sure I'd find it too touristy in the summer, but in early January it suited us very well and it was ideally situated for our visit to the National Theatre.
Known for their stylish hotels in New York, Miami and Los Angeles, the Mondrian chain has a trendy vibe, luxurious interiors and is known for hip watering holes. Named after the building which previously housed a shipping company,  the interiors were designed by the British designer Tom Dixon and very designy it is indeed! I do like a bit of  modern glamor in a hotel and this place has it. Unfortunately I took my photos rather quickly and they don't show the beauty of the spaces. I spend more time enjoying myself than worrying about photos which is an enormous downfall in a blogger! Designed to evoke the feel of an ocean liner, the check in desk feels like a copper hull. The downstairs spa  is meant to be below the water and the rooms have something of the feeling of a spacious ship's cabin.
I liked this place and I'd recommend it. I'm always dubious about a hotel touting that it has five stars as it does nothing to measure service, but  the Mondrian certainly had more amenities than many city hotel. There are lots of public spaces, a spa, pool, and steam room, restaurant, a cinema, an award winning hipster cocktail bar downstairs at river level (Dandelyan) and The Rumpus Room a hip rooftop bar with a fabulous view and live music . Here you can see the view of St Paul's from the Rumpus Room, there's even a small outdoor terrace which was charming, thought too cold for me in January!
I like to have options and there seemed to be both lots going on and plenty of places to lounge and do nothing in the hotel. The service was efficient and I was impressed by the housekeeping who made sure our room was well prepared everyday. As in most places we had to call for a second luggage rack - why oh why do they only ever give you one?! But overall I found them responsive and fast acting. We didn't use the concierge for local suggestions so I can't review that aspect of the hotel. 
SERVICE CULTURE: Most importantly when something went wrong they escalated things and sent an apology. I often think this is the true measure of service, are they able to acknowledge mistakes and make things right? While we were in our room a member of staff (who was cleaning the corridor) mistakenly opened our room door without knocking which was rather disconcerting.  I called  the front desk and was put through to a manager. They took the matter seriously and I received a bottle of champagne along with a handwritten note from the Housekeeping Manager explaining that a new member of her staff had mistaken our room for the cleaning closet next door. The explanation made sense, and I greatly appreciated their level of concern and responsiveness. The bottle of champagne was far more than was necessary or expected but it was a very nice gesture.
ROOM: The room was comfortable and though we had booked a standard room they gave us one on a higher floor with a nice city view which I appreciated. As always the lesson is to email in advance and ask for what you're hoping for. I asked for a high floor room, without a connecting do,  away from the lifts and if possible a view! It doesn't hurt to be a bit cheeky and I have to say next time I would  pay the extra for a river view room. 
By London standards their rooms are large, starting at 312 ft and thankfully they  have nothing smaller than a Queen size bed. The modern bathrooms take up a good percentage of the space  and feature Malin and Goetz  amenities, which while luxurious feel more New York than London to me, but that's a small quibble. There's the usual coffee and a tea kettle which I'd expect in any decent London hotel room, along with some less predictable  mini bar selections along with some lovely crystal glasses, overall there's a nice balance between the luxurious and whimsical.



Overall this is a strong recommendation and an excellent value. While I wouldn't count on the same rate next time around, I'll definitely consider the hotel again. It's large enough to have a slightly anonymous feel but I don't mind that and it's balanced by the nice public spaces and amenities you wouldn't find in a boutique property. It's fun to stay on the Southbank which if you like to walk is well located for the West End as well as places like the Globe, the Old Vic, the Tate Modern, Borough Market, The Fashion and Textile Museum and the scene in Southwark. We were happy to try the Anchor and Hope gastro pub while we were staying and I highly recommend it  for modern British fare in a relaxed settling.

Tip: When you're looking at hotel rooms in London do pay attention to the square footage. Some rooms are very quaint (read small) and a British double is considerable  less roomy than the Queen bed you may be used to! 
Loved the large modern art in the dimly lit rather atmospheric lobby! Incidentally the hotel is right next to Banksy's gallery and the vaults at Waterloo where you can see some great graffiti.

To see all of my London recommendations including museum reviews, walks and restaurant reviews click here...



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