Wednesday, June 25, 2014

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO BEIJING

Our Norway team reports on a 27-hour trip to Beijing, flying Business Class - Swiss one way and Austrian back. They review airline food and flatbeds, airport facilities, and some good hotels. Discover an excellent tip for a dayroom in Zurich and more...

27 hours in Beijing

Report written by Ada (front right)
on behalf of our Norway team

SWISS BUSINESS CLASS

Oslo-Zurich. On this leg of the journey, very good food was served, though the seats were quite ordinary. We found much better seats on the next leg...

Good food served on Swiss Business

Zurich-Beijing. Very good seats, for sitting comfortably and sleeping on flat beds, though we found it quite hot in the cabin. The food was satisfactory but not amazing. We liked the cold cuts for breakfast, a nice alternative to omelette and pancakes on some other airlines. Plus points for very good Swiss wines and a good selection of movies on an acceptable screen (12.1 inch).  Tip: Avoid the window seat on the 2-seater as it's not so easy to get in and out. We recommend that couples book the seats in the middle section. In all, an elegant airline with feeling for detail and quality.

Ada enjoying excellent seats on Swiss
(Ada is the author of this blog insert) 

New First Class, Swiss 

ZURICH AIRPORT

This airport is new, small and easy to find your way – efficient. Good shopping, but expensive. The business lounge is always full, but space might be found in the smoking section. There are several nice cafés and restaurants outside the lounge, try the Balik Salmon. Our Norway team had an interesting visit to the Airline staff education center.

Good food

RADISSON BLU ZURICH AIRPORT 

Very nice surprise. The rooms are welcoming and large, with nice interiors and bathrooms that are a good size; there is a window between bathroom and bedroom, and you can see through the upper part. The rooms are very quiet despite the close proximity to the runway and the bar downstairs. Some even have view to the runway, paradise for Dag-Åge.

If you have atrium rooms make sure to close the curtains if you don’t want to be seen by those staying in the same room type on the opposite side.

The Business rooms have some extra amenities like Nespresso machine, newspaper etc.
The bar in the lobby has an enormous wine tower in glass with climbing ladies inside the tower. Though it might sound a little tacky,  it was just elegant.

The hotel offers a nice breakfast restaurant with hot & cold food, and small gourmet restaurant in the lobby. There is a lounge in the conference and dayroom area on the top floor with a large terrace with view to the runway; and a 24 hour fitness room. The hotel offers plenty of meeting rooms of all sizes, and can house meetings for up to 550 guests.

The good news is that dayrooms and showers can be rented in case of a long transit in Zurich. Absolutely one of the best airport hotels we have seen and such easy access – 3 minutes through the tunnel from the airport terminal.
 
Dayroom at SAS Radisson

Shower for rent

AMAN AT SUMMER PALACE

This hotel is part of the Summer Palace, dating back 100 years, originally used by people waiting for audience with the Empress Dowager Cixi at the turn of the 20th century. It reflects traditional architecture and the courtyard style of the Summer Palace.

Everything is made to recapture the old Ming Dynasty in China, with Tea Ceremony in the library, paper dragons for sale in the shop and a lotus pond in the restaurant. It is child friendly with traditional Chinese activities like dragon making and Chinese Caligraphy.

Ada and Lars enjoy a Tea Ceremony

Summer Palace

Rooms

The rooms are pleasant, offering autheticity and absolutely no bling-bling. The bathrooms displayed more conventional luxury….

For the best atmosphere we insist our clients upgrade to one of the 25 suites, as the guest rooms and courtyard guest rooms are in two newer buildings with a plainer feel. The comfortable Courtyard Suites give a flashback to the Chinese movie “Hidden Dragon Crouching Tiger”, though you do share a living room with your neighbours (or family).

There are three restaurants, Chinese, Grill and French/Japanese and in addition a small lobby restaurant for breakfast and light meals for lunch and dinner.

Under the hotel is a 5000 sqm spa,  beautifully designed. There is also a library, a cinema downstairs and a very nice fitness centre. This area is in a different spirit to the rest of the hotel, brand new and modern.

Who to stay

If you enjoy movies from China or are into Martial Arts, you will love staying here for a couple of nights. Maybe have a breakfast picnic in the Summer Palace grounds, before it opens to other guests. Note that  it can take time to soak in the special atmosphere. The hotel is authentic, unexpectedly rustic, and full of museum treasures.

PENINSULA BEIJING

Once named Beijing Palace, this 25-year old property is centrally located in inner Beijing ringroad, within walking distance to high-end shopping, local foodmarkets, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.

There is a luxury shopping centre in the building. Very expensive high-end shopping.

We enjoyed a very good breakfast buffet with Eastern, American and European choices, and a rather leisurely pace. Their Chinese restaurant Huang Ting serves very nice crispy duck and had a cozy interior and nice ambience and chamber separe. The rooftop bar was quiet, not in full swing. There is a very nice spa with indoor pool with glass roof…and fitness centre - built after Peninsula takeover in 2006.

Our favourite Peninsula hotels are still nevertheless the sister hotels in Shanghai & Hong Kong….


Huang Ting restaurant

Dag-Åge and Lars Johan in the rooftop bar

Excellent spa at Peninsula Beijing
               

FOUR SEASONS BEIJING

What an amazing property! It is perhaps the best Four Seasons property we have seen. Opened in 2012, the spa was voted as best spa in China in 2013.

Especially suitable for business travellers, the hotel is 25-30 mins drive from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Though the area totally lacks tourist attractions, there are shopping centres (Lucky Food Street and Langang Shopping Plaza) within walking distance, and the whole area is very safe.

Art was everywhere, including a whole wall of butterflies, and the lobby area is a showcase for Chinese artists. Even the cushions in the sofas are art. The whole first floor is a pleasant place to be with cozy lobby bar with deep sofas, small tables for a light meal, and a couple of small shops.

The rooms are cool and comfortable, with a large window over the bathtub and TV integrated in the mirror.

The lead-in room categories are 46 sqm (Deluxe, Premier and Club). These room types are similar, but on different floors. They felt fresh, new and welcoming. We particularly liked the Four Seasons room (59 sqm) with great views. There are 66 suites. The smallest suite (73 sqm) is the Ambassador Suite, which connects to a Deluxe room.

For leisure, the hotel offers an indoor pool on the 6th floor and a 24-hour gym.

There are two very impressive restaurants, Cai Yi Xuan (Chinese) and Mio (Italian) – wow! Just entering the restaurants made my day. SPIN designs from Tokyo – designer Akihiro Wakasa  has done the design of both restaurants. We tried the Chinese fare and  the food was exceptional – Sweet & Sour Pork with Strawberries – yummy!

The Tea Garden with traditional Tea Ceremony was cozy and the Executive Club Lounge was large and elegant, with a nice terrace  for pre-dinner cocktails for Club room guests…open only until 7.30 pm

Entrance to the Chinese restaurant

Four Seasons lobby bar

Four Seasons room

The blooming Four Seasons lobby

BEIJING AIRPORT

Very very big airport. Quite long immigration queues, so remember to fill in the immigration form correctly and walk quickly to the queue. Beware of people trying to jump the queue. There is a train from terminal to terminal and within the terminal, well signposted. Luggage arrived quickly and our guide from Destination Asia was there and spoke very good English.

AUSTRIAN AIRLINES

Beijing-Vienna. We were impressed by the style and casual feel. I loved the seats, the blankets, the storage space, the cook, the way they served the excellent food, the menus, the coffee menu (10 different coffee varieties to choose from). I slept better on Austrian than in the Swiss seat, but I think it was more due to lower temperatures than the actual seat. For some of us the fact that the footrest was a bit shorter that our legs made the seat less comfortable than the Swiss seats. This was a problem when sitting, not lying down.

There was also a small issue with the control panel for the seat. It was on the arm rest, which meant we were accidentally pressing buttons often. The choice of films was very limited, and that’s a pity as for many that’s quite important on a day flight. But it is 15 inches and touch screen…


Ada in comfort on Austrian

Good food




Vienna-Oslo - Quite ordinary, but pleasant. Food satisfactory.

VIENNA AIRPORT

Small and easy to transit. Some good shopping and food outlets, but not that many. The Business Lounge had a good selection of snacks, wine and beer. I spent 4 hours there in comfort, taking a shower, using Wi-Fi and doing some window-shopping. Without the lounge it would have felt like a long wait.
   

HOTEL SACHER 

Dag Åge, Lars Johan, Therese and Astrid from our Oslo team visited this hotel. They reported as follows:

Perfectly located beside the Opera, this family owned hotel has a personal touch in a Belle Epoque style with a mix of modern amenities, cutting edge technology, history and timeless style. It is an old building with narrow hallways and a small elevator. The common areas are outstanding with a cozy and classic atmosphere. The Blaue Bar was small and intimate with a fantastic ambiance, full of crystal chandeliers and relaxing couches - indeed the whole hotel has a superb ambience.

Café Sacher is a part of the hotel, but with entrance both via the hotel and directly from street level for the public. Not to miss: the original Sacher Torte.
 
There are four dining options. Restaurant Anna Sacher, Restaurant Rote Bar, Sacher Eck and of course Café Sacher Wien. According to our discerning Dag Åge, the breakfast was very good. They also have a Spa with a fitness room on the 5th floor.

The hotel is an old building with narrow hallways and split levels so perhaps not for guests with physical disabilities.


Restaurant Anna Sacher

Lobby Lounge Hotel Sacher

Rooms

Dag-Åge stayed in a Top Deluxe Room (see picture) with a fantastic feeling, and sense of space. We actually preferred this to the yellow Junior Suites. The rooms are all very different. They offer a fantastic Presidential Suite with a large terrace overlooking the rooftops of the city.

Top Deluxe Room - the place to be

Our comment

All in all a WOW 5-star property with an amazing ambience and exquisite service in a classic style but still with some modern touches.
 

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