Brilliant Hotel Marketing by Radisson Blu: The Greatest Holiday on Earth

I’ve entered the Greatest Holiday on Earth contest.

The Scandinavia based hotel brand Radisson Blu (Formerly Radisson SAS and SAS without Radisson) has launched this brilliant and simple internet driven Web 2.0 contest. The participants have to enter the competition with a slogan, 4 photos and possibly a video to explain why they deserve the price, 365 nights in one or more of the 200 plus Radisson Blu hotels. They win the price when they have received the most votes. The hotels of the Radisson Blu portfolio are basically located in Europe and the Middle East. The winner may use the 365 free hotel room nights in 5 years. A brilliant prize and there is a lot of buzz forming already.

Once entered the participants have to use their social contacts to vote for them. Mind you, every 24 hrs they and their contacts may cast their vote. The contest runs until July 24st.

Would you like to vote for me?

As we will never be able to take all nights ourselves, I’ve decided that if I win, I will throw 300 nights into a Travel Bloggers Camp somewhere in Europe so that 300 Travel bloggers can enjoy 1 free night for a two days event, or 150 Travel bloggers can enjoy two free nights for a three days event.

Com on travel blog friends let’s flex our muscles and show the world we can do this:-) Vote!

Dutch Design (56): Head over to Sudeley Castle

Head over to Sudeley Castle? Why? What with this awful skull?

I’ll tell you:

  1. Sudeley Castle in the Cotswolds (UK) is worth a trip to the UK in it self. Especially when it is late spring / early summer when it’s beautiful garden is at its peak. I know, because I visited it once in the 90ies myself and have fond memories of that visit. Moreover, if you are a garden enthusiast, you should combine a visit to Sudeley Castle with a visit to Kiftsgate Court Garden and to Hidcote Manor.
  2. The castle is a beauty. Part of it still inhabited as a residence. Part of it artful ruins that act as beautiful backdrop for some exceptional climbing roses. Sorry, I don’t confess it here often, but I’m a real rose lover!
  3. If you are interested in British history, take a tour inside the castle and you will learn a thing or two.
  4. And now Sotheby’s has deemed Sudeley Castle worthwhile as a backdrop for a sales exhibition of 25 pieces of contemporary artists that runs until August 1, 2010 (and thus is combined with the garden’s high season).

Situated in the Cotswold Hills in Gloucestershire, the partially ruined Sudeley Castle thrived during Tudor times as a royal household for Queen Katherine Parr but suffered damage during the Civil War. Since its restoration in the 1830s, it played host to many of the greatest politicians of the Victorian age. Sudeley is today the home of Lady Ashcombe and the Dent-Brocklehurst family, who are dedicated to the regeneration of the castle and its gardens, with a particular emphasis on environmental sustainability. Since 2005, Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst has staged a series of contemporary art exhibitions at Sudeley including Vertigo and Reconstruction and the success of these shows has resulted in the forthcoming collaboration with Sotheby’s.

One of the eye catchers is the Huge Sudeley Bench by Pablo Reinoso

Among the contemporary artists is Dutchman Joep van Lieshout of Atelier van Lieshout or AVL whose Wellness Skull is on exhibition:

Wellness Skull represents a highpoint of AVL’s provocative creations. The human skull – universal symbol of knowledge, wisdom, evolution, and eternal token of fugitive life – is transformed into a center for indulgence and relaxation. The upper cranium houses a fully working sauna and the lower section offers a bath/shower facility. The pierced eye sockets provide ventilation on the inside, whilst delivering a dramatic haze of steam when viewed from the outside. Commenting on the bizarre functionality of this giant memento mori, Joep van Lieshout, founder of the atelier, states: ‘the heavenly power is the big unknown, the death of the hereafter, the skull of the physical shell of the mind. The earthly power is an economical power. Money plays an important role in our contemporary society. Gradually faith loses all importance and is replaced by an alternative ‘self experience’, through travelling, sporting and wellness centres.’

In the meantime the Wellness Skull has traveled a bit: Here are photos I took  when it was on exhibition in Vienna:

With the Karlskirche in the back

Combining Art and Garden is excellent Destination Marketing

It’s not new, a sales exhibition of sculpture has been done many times, but an outdoor sales exhibition of modern design is reasonably new. I believe it is an extra ordinary idea to bring together three power houses: A destination powerhouse like Sudeley Castle, a curating powerhouse like Sotheby’s and a Gallery powerhouse like the London based The Carpenter Shop Gallery that traditionally has strong ties with the Dutch design scene….

Ah and -very modern- Sudeley Castle has a Twitter account

10 Questions For (31): Gesa Noormann of Escapio

Happy to present Gesa Noormann of Escapio

1) Who Are you?
My name is Gesa Noormann. I am doing PR for Escapio, a booking platform for exclusive, handpicked hotels. I especially love testing out and reporting on our gorgeous hotels in the Escapio Blog. I live in the middle of Berlin with my twin daughters and two rabbits. Aside from travelling, I love cooking and having friends over to share food and drinks

2) What do you like about what you do?
It may sound a little kitschy, but I have always dreamt of landing a job like I have at Escapio. It combines my passions for travel, great hotels and writing. The internet offers so many possibilities to communicate with people and to develop new marketing ideas that I really feel I’m doing exciting and new things every day.

3) What don’t you like about what you do?
Sometimes I miss meeting people personally instead of having virtual contacts on the internet.

4) Please tell us all about your site / blog and your aims with it.
Escapio is a booking website with a selection of handpicked hotels. Our concept is that customers can choose their hotel by lifestyle criteria like romantic or design hotels rather than just by destination or price. In times of bargain deals we want to give our customers the security of enjoying a special stay in an excellent hotel. Our blog is a complement to the website, for our customers to share our experiences with hotels, locations and lifestyle.

5) Your top 3 destination experiences you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
Egypt: so many things to see, such a rich cultural heritage, the Nile in the middle of the desert… just great!

Provence/Côte d’Azur: beautiful landscape, great food, my favorite language, fabulous shopping opportunities.

Venice: The City of my heart, a mix of beauty, decadence and melancholia.


6) Your top 3 accommodations you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
La Posta Vecchia, Rome. The perfect hideaway for lovers (ex-villa of Paul Getty and his lover). You actually sleep in the bed of Katharina de Medici, enjoy great food and eternal beauty near the city. Great restaurant with one Michelin star

The Hotel Al Moudira Louxor. The Lebanese owner brought all the antiquities and style from her villa in Cairo to this new built hotel in the middle of the desert. This hotel near King’s valley is a real oriental dream.

The Hollmann Beletage in Vienna: A very special and unique place in the historic center of Vienna. Actor Robert Hollmann realized with this hotel his personal idea of feeling at home – only better.

7) Your top 3 most memorable food / wine experiences to date and why?
Restaurant Hugo’s in the Intercontinental Hotel Berlin: Thomas Kammeier got his Michelin star for a good reason. He serves excellent, honest food with regional influences (his interpretation of the “currywurst” is unforgettable). Great panoramic view of Berlin.

Restaurant Le Castelleras near Fayence, France: This attractive stone villa is perched on a hillside and overlooks Fayence and the valley. A hidden and splendid location to enjoy refined Provençal-style cuisine. Great home-made ice cream with olive oil from the olive plantation behind the villa.

Harry’s Dolci in Venice with a great view on the Canale Grande. The food is fantastic and the other reason why I will never forget this experience is that my boyfriend and I, freshly in love, were not allowed to kiss. The manager’s severe call “Not in my restaurant” has become kind of an idiom between us since then.

8) Your top 3 worst destination/ accommodation /food experiences to date and why?
Unfortunately, I have canceled the names of these places out of my memory, so I cannot warn you

A hotel in downtown New York City, a so called in-place for artists. Perhaps I am not bohemian enough to live cockroaches in my bed as an interesting experience.

A hotel in Etropole/Bulgaria (best place in town!): My boyfriend is still getting spots on his face when he remembers the 50-years-of-socialism-carpet, 40 degrees in the room and no curtains…The wedding of my ex au pair was great, however, and for 19 euros per night you cannot really complain either.

9) Can you offer the readers 3 destination/ food / accommodation / things to do tips about the city you are currently living in?
Well, just have a look on Escapio’s Berlin hotels. I would send my most stylish friends to the Hotel Q in West Berlin. It is really fashionable and cool with guests like Angelina Jolie and Amy Whinehouse. Prices are really affordable, and the bar is a great chill out place.
The Ellington Hotel is great, too. Or for party people, I would choose the Arcotel Velvet in Berlin Mitte. If you want more luxury and are post materialist-design lover, please do not miss The Mandala at Potsdamer Platz, it is just gorgeous!

For people who like to spend money on food, I would suggest the Hugo’s (mentioned above), the Margaux at Unter den Linden or the Horvath in Kreuzberg. For a lower budget, a great rustic Italian is the Café Aroma in Kreuzberg or the Vietnamese Si An in Prenzlauer Berg.


10) Any Question(s) you’d expected me to ask that you would like to answer?
Perhaps why people should choose Escapio? Because we believe in our choice of hotels (one of the best in the Mediterranean) and have a great, enthusiastic team that loves to help our customers book their dream hotel.

My Take

Thank you Gesa! In Berlin you mention places I certainly will check out at a future occasion and your mention of Hollmann Beletage will surely make me try out that one once over my current Vienna favorites. Big question: When will Escapio follow up my suggestions for Dutch additions to its site?

Happy 2009! – Oliebollen and New Year’s Concert

Happy New Year!
On another forum an insatiable curious lady asked me yesterday: “What will you be doing ?” and that is a good item for my first post of 2009.

We looked after some guests. We had some typical Dutch Oliebollen. Oliebollen are sweet dumplings. They taste a bit like donuts. Ours were filed with some raisins as you can see them stick out from them on my photo. In addition we sipped some – better than Champagne – sparkling wine (Creme d’Alsace and Creme de Burgundy).

As usual my DW (Dear Wife) and I were a bit floored and watched, also a Dutch tradition, two Dutch stand up comedians commenting the year 2008. We laughed a bit. We are always a bit subdued in remembrance of my mother in law who passed away January 2, 2003. Ever since we aren’t in the mood to party excessively into a New Year anymore.

Thereafter we watched the London life coverage on BBC with the countdown and magnificent fireworks at the London Eye and went to bed. BTW the BBC has a nice World Fireworks Compilation Here

Actually I would have liked to be in Vienna, to waltz into the New Year and to visit the New Year’s Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra life.

Today we watched it on TV. It is hardly possible to get tickets. Via e-mail you can enter their lottery as of tomorrow. I tried last year to no avail, but I’ll try again. If you don’t try I’ll have a bigger chance:-)

The conductor of Russian Israely Argentinean ancestry asked for peace in 2009. Especially important in the Mid East now that the Israeli and Hamas are misbehaving again.

The Austrians do a tremendous job with this worldwide concert coverage. In the pause they show beautiful footage of their magnificent country. This year they asked attention for the city of Linz, which, together with Vilnius, is appointed European Cultural City of 2009.

My city The Hague is in the race to become European Cultural City of the Year in a future year. I will report about that separately.

We will forgo the traditional TV coverage of the New Year’s Ski Jumping in German Garmisch Partenkirchen to visit a New Year’s party of friends.

And, tell me, dear readers: What did you do yesterday and today?

Vienna: Sachertorte, Fachertorte and Truffeltorte

When Pam Mandel answered my 10 Questions For: Pam Mandel of Nerd’s Eye Views, she mentioned a Fachertorte as one of her most favorite pieces of pastry. Initially I believed she’d made a mistake and accidentally had changed “Sachertorte” into “Fachertorte”. I thought only an American lady could make such mistake, because I as a Vienna Veteran for over 40 years would know of a Fachertorte (actually a Fächertorte) and had never heard of it. I had even posted a photo made by a German lady that I’d found on Flickr of a Sachertorte to go with Pam’s post. The lady in question didn’t like it that I had pinched her photo without asking her on beforehand. She kindly gave me her opinion. So I removed her photo of the Sachertorte just in time before Pam could check the interview….Pam immediately saw my editorial liberty and informed me accordingly. After readjusting the text I would have liked to place a photo of a Fachertorte, but couldn’t find one….

Now I’m happy to be able to present you photos of both pieces of pastry and to clear my own confusion.

A photo of the original piece of Sachertorte that I enjoyed at the very temple of the Sachertorte, the Hotel Sacher in Vienna (I tasted it on the very table you see on the excellent video here). It is a chocolate cake. It stands apart from all Sachertorte copies, because the cake is not so sweet as the copies. The one apricot jam layer in the cake is very thin. In the copies the apricot jam layer is thicker and sweeter. In addition the original’s jam layer is just under the chocolate icing. Finally the original is quite dry and should be eaten with unsweetened whipped cream.

And here the Fächertorte that I enjoyed at the very temple of pastry in Vienna: Demel. As you can see the Fächertorte is a layered (hence the Fächer) piece of pastry with three layers: a poppy seed, a walnut and an apple layer.

The Fächertorte is delicious, but I prefer the Sachertorte over the Fächertorte, and the Demel Truffeltorte above both. The Demel Truffeltorte is chocolate cake layered with truffle chocolate cream.

Yes I had a couple of nice days in Vienna. More to follow.