Review: Grasse – Bastide Saint Mathieu – A Real Gem!

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Bastide Saint Mathieu: Entrance

I’ve preluded to this review a long time ago in French Riviera and The Art of Booking Online: Nothing Zen! Part 3. I didn’t publish this review earlier, because I had terrible problems organizing my photos last year. That problem I only solved recently.

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Front

In July 2007 we were probably among the last guests of the Dutch couple who had started Bastide Saint Mathieu:

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View from our James Gordon Bennet Suite

A French Bastide recently restored with meticulous care, surrounded by 2 hectares of its own gardens and parkland. It Sleeps 14/17 in beautiful large bedrooms, with marble ensuite bathrooms. Fine terracing and gas flare lit cuisine d’ete for outside parties and entertaining. Huge swimming pool, boules piste. Great views; splendour and privacy in the triangle between Mougins, Grasse and Valbonne; 15 minutes Cannes, 25 minutes Nice.

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our beautifully appointed sitting room

It is a villa with 2 suites and 4 rooms, 1 of which is a single room.

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Our Bathroom

All rooms are individually and elegantly decorated with period pieces, open log fires, air conditioning and all of today’s facilities. The property is also available fully staffed on an exclusive basis with catering arrangements made available to suit the individual wishes of guests. In a corner of the typical Provencal garden is a lovely pool and sun deck overlooking the olive groves and hills of Mougins. There guests can spend some lazy hours soaking up the sun rays and enjoying the fragrances of lavender, flowers and herbs bordering the area. It is surrounded by various old villages and a vast choice of restaurants and golf courses,

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View from the outside breakfast area over the garden

Bastide Saint Mathieu offers a truly unique ambiance of luxury, charm and tranquility.

The former Dutch owners had sold to the present British owners who would start operating it August 2007. That was another reason for publishing this not immediately. It is my view that a lot of the fun of a staying in a hotel is made out by the way the owners/staff receive you. I am glad I could find two recent positive reviews in the meantime.

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The Pool

We stayed two nights in the James Gordon Bennet Suite, which has a separate sitting room and bedroom and we were pampered well by the former owner Inge.

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La cuisine d’été

Since our stay they have added a pergola to the swimming pool and made a covered area on the terrace for Al Fresco breakfasts, lunches and dinners. They have a marvelous photo gallery on their site.

I wouldn’t mind going back.

Post Alia: Still Nothing Zen!
While doing online research for this post, I found out that sites like Tripadvisor really are putting the smaller hotels like Bastide Saint Mathieu to a disadvantage vis a vis the big chains: Usually not many guests do write in a hotel’s guest book, I would estimate one out of 4 guests. If they write in the hotel’s guest book, they are not likely to write an online review. So my estimate is that less than one out of twenty guests writes an online review. Then the big question is where the review is written online, as there are many possibilities….
So Bastide Saint Mathieu has only 3 reviews on the US Site of Tripadvisor and the same three on Tripadvisor’s UK site. However when I looked at their UK an French sites three weeks ago, the UK site couldn’t find Bastide Saint Mathieu and the French site had 7 reviews….I see now the same 3 reviews. Probably they have now acknowledged he change of ownership…

It used to be a member of Chateaux et Hotels. I’m not sure it is now. Ah, darn, they still are! I wasn’t sure, because Chateaux et Hotels deemed it feasible to change their site. If you now are searching a hotel on their site you only can search for available hotel rooms. If the hotel is fully booked, you can’t find the hotel on the very site of their own marketing organization. This is Mighty Stupid! Chateaux et Hotels took away their maps……Why make it easy (as they did in an earlier version of their site) when you can make it difficult?

Motel One: Wrong Name for German’s Ultimate Designer Pod Hotels?

Motel One Logo

Recently, on recommendation of a friend, we stayed three nights in the Motel One Munich City Ost. It is important to mention the “City Ost” part in its name, as currently Munich has three and soon will have four Motel Ones. Currently, in Germany there are already 21 Motel Ones and they are expanding rapidly.

Why do I believe it is the Ultimate Pod Hotel?

Recently I reviewed the CitizenM Amsterdam Schiphol, the first of a chain te be rolled out, and I was really impressed by its philosophy and its design.
However, Motel One has four plus points when compared to CitizenM:

  1. Its double beds are old fashion placed and accessible on three sides. Not via one side.
  2. You can shower and use the toilet in a separate very cleverly designed small bathroom
  3. Has its own car parking in the cellar
  4. Has windows you can open

Motel One Locations
Are preferably inner-city locations or in peripheral areas of cities and then, with convenient access and visually prominent locations, next to motorways and surrounded by arterial routes and/or in busy locations such as commercial, industrial or mixed-use areas.
Motel One’s Lounge

Motel One Chairs

Has designer chairs and a wide screen with a fake fish aquarium program that I hate and have seen in other places as well. At the back of the chairs you see one of the structural columns that have brick or stone strips as wall covering. They have a function as separation of several compartments of the ground floor. They give the whole a bit homey feeling.

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Has a triple function as reception, bar and breakfast room, while the breakfast buffet is cleverly hidden when not in use by a folding separation. The people at our place were very friendly and check in is very simple: It is done by real life people and not by computer screens with the usually necessary assistance from people. Check out is very easy: At Motel One you are required to prepay for your whole stay, so at check out you don’t have to do anything else than return your key card. There are no mini bars and you are required to pay cash or by card when you order something from the bar which is open at least till one AM, but I presume you can get something during the whole night as the reception is staffed 24/7.

Motel One Lounge

Here you see the seating area for the breakfast part of the lounge with the folding separation that covers the breakfast buffet area.
Granted The CitizenM lounge is flashier, but this lounge is also okay.

Motel One rooms
Are small, no question about that. Hence I’m coining it a Designer Pod hotel rather than a Motel.

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But as you can see they are cleverly dimensioned. You can move around. At your left side you see a small sort of cupboard where you can hang some clothes.

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The bed, accessible from three sides, with clever easy to clean headboard and no footboard (I’m 6″4). good reading lights.

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Photo taken in the direction of the bathroom and entrance. Here you see part of the open cupboard with places for stuff.

Motel One Bathroom

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I have yet to find a pod hotel bathroom that has this good lay out and design. There is no bath, but a shower stall that measures 80 by 160 cm. I really like the huge horizontally placed white tiles. The floor of the shower stall is a simple Bette polyester showerfloor. Easy to clean and not slippery at all. It matches fine with the black tiles of the floor and the under side of the sink. You can easily reach for your towel from the shower. Waste basket under the sink where you anticipate it to be. The glass separation is partly glued to the side of the table holding the Philippe Starck designed sink. That gives it great strength. In addition the accessibility is good, even if you are a big fellow like me, and you don’t have to wrestle with a shower curtain while the Bette shower floor sees to it that the floor between the toilet and the sink is not inundated when you take a shower. This is an example of how a small bathroom can be. I really like it!

I have a few minor points of critique:

  1. If everybody wants to have breakfast at the same time the space is too cramped.
  2. The two coffee machines of the breakfast buffets give a unnecessarily bad quality coffee. I believe it is the quality of the coffee or the fine tuning of the machines. That’s not clever, because everybody for breakfast now orders a coffee at the bar from the fine Italian espresso machine. Hence you get lines…In addition they are understaffed when they have to make time consuming cappuccinos and have to serve guests with questions, for checking out or for checking in….
  3. No soap holders in the shower stalls???
  4. You don’t have to pay for WiFi in the lounge, but you have to pay for WiFi in your room.

About Motel One
Motel One
is operated by Motel One Management GMBH, which is 65 % owned by One Hotels and Resorts AG. 35% of Motel One Management GMBH is held by a Dutch BV, MSRESS Motel One Holding B.V., a holding company for Morgan Stanley Real Estate’s Special Situations Fund III that funded Motel One in 2007.

Company history:
1987 Astron Holding GmbH founded as a private limited company.
1993 Astron Holding GmbH converted into a PLC and renamed ASTRON Hotels & Resorts AG
1999 Motel One GmbH formed as a 100% subsidiary of ASTRON Hotels & Resorts AG
2002 ASTRON Hotels GmbH, a 100% subsidiary of ASTRON Hotels & Resorts AG, with 51 Hotels and over 8000 rooms sold to NH Hoteles, Spain
2005 Legal form and name of ASTRON Hotels & Resorts AG changed, creating Motel One AG which after the infusion of capital by Morgan Stanley is now known as One Hotels and Resorts AG, which has a couple of hotels left form the sale of its former portfolio to NH Hoteles.

Total number of hotels: 21 Motel Ones in Germany (see : Motel One Site)

Total number of rooms: 3,000.
6 Hotels under construction: München-Sendlinger Tor – 241 rooms opening in 2009; Leipzig – 189 rooms; Hamburg-Airport – 252 rooms; Berlin Urania – 411 rooms; Berlin Bellevue – 248 rooms; München-City – 463 rooms, which will bring the total number of rooms to slightly under 5,000 rooms.
Category – 2 star (rating issued by the German Hotel and Restaurant Association DEHOGA)
Room sizes – Clear room dimensions: 2,72 m × 5,80 m – Room dimensions between axes: 2,90 m × 6,21 m – Net Area per room: 13,28 qm – Gross area per room: 22 – 24 qm
Room prices: from € 49
Last updated 08/2008
Source: Motel One

Verdict

When I see “Motel” I have an association with seedy worn out US (or Dutch or German) side of the road accommodations too greasy to enter. Therefor I believe the name is ill chosen. I believe it is a pod hotel by the size and conciseness of its rooms, the 3 in 1 lounge, but from the pod hotels I have seen or been in, it is the most complete one.

If you want a bed to crash in, do go with rates from Euro 49 to Euro 89. I am already prebooking a room in a Berlin Motel One for the 2009 ITB Berlin Blogers meet up.

CitizenM Hotel Amsterdam Airport Schiphol Opening (3): Final Observations

I have uploaded my photos of the opening to Happy Hotelier’s Flickr Account. Some final observations:

The name
Correctly spelled the name is CitizenM and not Citizen M. I cannot change this in my prior posts because of the archiving system I am using here.

The Launch Party
After the Press conference there was the official opening. Rattan Chadha (Chairman) and Micheal Levy (CEO) held a speech and then everybody attending got a piccolo of champagne with the request to have the cork popping out at the same moment after a count down. The photos show a Happier Boss than at the press conference.

Rattan Gandha Opening the CitizenM
Rattan Chaddha Opening the CitizenM

He emphasized that the whole operation is a matter of teamwork, but as an onlooker I would say this is his baby and the team should do as he says. Not bad though, because the result is really innovative. See the glowing review of a frequent traveler as a comment to one of my prior posts.

Philips was represented by Andrea Ragnetti
Philips was represented by Andrea Ragnetti

I believe they made a giant step forward with Philips in applying domotica in hotel design with the Mood Pad.
Extensive coverage by the Press
There was a huge attendance of TV, writing press and Bloggers.

Extensive TV Coverage
Extensive TV Coverage

When returning home my wife told me Dutch TV had covered the opening with 4 whole minutes which is a lot of free publicity!
The “cameraman” here is not a cameraman, but my Italian friend and fellow Blogger Stefano Pugliese, who rather would be called “Director” and who organized the attendance of several Bloggers at the opening, among which: Hotel Chatter, Howard Greenstein and two of the grayest, err sorry Karen – I’m not a Grey Travel Blogger, Happy Hotelier! (lol) , Independently Minded Travel Bloggers :

Two of the grayest Travel Bloggers
Karen Bryan (R) of Europe A La Carte and Wandalust
and
Happy Hotelier (L)

Here is a good TV impression of the whole on: Bright TV and here is another link on Tech Digest and here is the Youtube Version of the Tech Digest Video:

Of course the WiWiH crew was there as well:

The WiWiH crew
The WiWiH crew

The Lobby
The lobby gives a feeling of your own living room and is filled with retro design furniture due to a collaboration with Vitra. Here is a picture of the check in screens.

CitizenM Check In Screens

Very cleverly your room number is not shown on the screen at checking in, because everyone could look over your shoulder, you get your room number and password for the WiFi printed on a decent paper slip. Don’t forget to take it with you from the printer though otherwise you might find someone else in your room, or worse, someone else taking advantage of things you have paid for.

You are requested to take the electronic key card and use it with your next check in. You can use it as luggage tag and in case you lose your luggage which is not uncommon with the present status of service from the airlines, and if, for security reasons you don’t want to label your luggage with your home address because you are afraid of unwelcome visitors during you stay abroad, you have a chance of reclaiming it through CitizenM. They know how to reach you…..

Last update July 3, 2008

CitizenM Hotel Amsterdam Airport Schiphol Opening (2): The Room (Dutch Design 27)

The CitizenM Room has various neat design features:

Its 2 m long and 2 m wide Bed under the window with, on the west side of the hotel, nice views on one of the landing strips of Schiphol Airport:

Under the bed, like in yachts, there is a huge trunk size drawer where you can stash your luggage away. Next to the entrance there are 5 coat and dress hangers over a small locker that can hold a small laptop without loading facility for its batteries.

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How do they manage to care for those beds? Very simple: They developed a system whereby the whole mattress can be pulled up to the front of the bed vertically. The used sheets fall of and the clean sheets can be hung up on the two upper corners in stead of crawling around the bed which would be impossible. They applied for a patent for the system.

The view gets nicer when the sun sets:

Citizen-M-Hotel-Amsterdam-Schiphol-Airport Window with Setting Sun

The shower and the Throne have each their own cylindric glass separation. The throne’s glass is etched. Between the shower and the bed there is a room wide curtain to separate the bath”room” part from the Sleeping part of the room. In the Throne’s cylinder an extra air suction facility prevents odors.

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Here you see the two cylinders closed. Left is The Hotel Throne. Even I with my considerable belly can easily pass between the two cylinders. In the middle you see the sink. Under the sink is a small cupboard that holds the waste basket. No tiles behind the sink. The floor of the room is quite slippery when wet.

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In this photo of Citizen M taken from the bed, you can see the mood lighting and, on the left,the separation curtain (they took care of the Yotel guest reviews that were complaining about the visibility of the Yotel Throne) and the rain shower. There are two tables in front of the bed and there is one chair available: The Vitra re issued C1 chair designed by Verner Panton.

Between the sink and the throne there is a turnable frame with on the one side a man high mirror and on the other side some small shelfs to store stuff and a shaving mirror and some international shaving wall sockets.

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This photo I took in the big mirror.

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This photo I took in the shaving mirror.

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Detail of the sink with huge soap block

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Two types of shampoo and a water bottle which is the only drink available in the room. Other drinks you have to fetch in the lobby cum canteen M…however I noticed they closed the lot during the night at around 2 AM while Rattan claimed during his introduction that it would be open all night!

Citizen-M-Hotel-Amsterdam-Airport-Schiphol-DOLL

I don’t know what to think of this feature: The Citizen M Doll. If you think it is a gift you are wrong: They charge a hefty Euro 20 for it!

Conclusions

Room rates vary according to demand and start with Euro 69 per night up to Euro 139 per night.

The bed sleeps fine.

All in all I am really impressed by the care for detail in this concept. Especially the lack of outside noise is amazing with all the planes flying around at Schiphol Airport.

Good value for money if you are looking for a bed to crash in.

Amsterdam CitizenM Opening (1) (Dutch Dutch Design 26)

an Chadha

He looks a bit tired, but here is Rattan Chadha, the founder of CitizenM and former owner of the Mexx fashion company who opened the press conference.

Some quotes as a starter:

  • They started 4 years ago.
  • Rattan traveled more in his prior life than many in the audience of the well attended press conference will ever do in their and their children’s lifetime.
  • It is very important that the whole operation is set up by a team.
  • One of the first team members is his cricket mate for over 20 years, Jan Wulf van Alkemade, who makes his living in hotel amenities.
  • A good hotel room is about a good bed, a good shower and a good TV.
  • TV films and Wifi are free.
  • Savvy travelers want short check in and short check out times. Rattan claims being a tech nitwit and managed a check in time of 40 seconds. My own not so nitwit experience is rather 5 minutes, but even that is fine.
  • In 2020 market expectations are 1,5 billion people traveling abroad, India alone 50 mio (India in 2002 had only 5 mio people traveling from India abroad)
  • If I have worked hard and late, I want to be able to get sushi at 3.00 AM rather than frozen spaghetti warmed up by the night manager or some soggy hamburger. On the other hand we don’t want the staff around until somebody orders food at 3.00 Am. Therefore we have developed our own food concept.
  • If you arrive at a hotel, you want to be welcomed by a real person. Therefor Citizen M has ambassadors who are not trained in the hospitality industry.

Michael Eman, the F and B manager who developed the F and B concept from the beginning adds: “We have two very important moments here: The coffee moment and the cocktail moment: All our ambassadors are first class barristas and cocktail makers”

Update
As usual I have been wrestling with both my old heavy laptop and the Wifi system in the Citizen M hotel room. The Blue Tooth connection of the

Citizen M Remote do it all control, developed by Philips
Citizen M Remote “do it all” Control, developed by Philips,

interfered with the remote control’s other functions and was not stable at all. After wrestling for an hour and a half I gave it up.

Rattan Chadha: Citizen M Says I'm Cold

Rattan Chadha may not like this photo, but I caught him with one of the Citizen M signs above the cold section of the self service food and beverage wall: “Citizen M Says: I’m Cold”. Well I felt left a bit in the cold with the non functioning of the remote control/Wifi combination. BTW here at home I rechecked and the old and heavy laptop does function perfectly with my own Wifi.
As a final observation I wonder why they didn’t let it read “Citizen M Says: I’m Cool

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