The Intercontinental Hotel in Sydney

The Intercontinental stands mighty and tall against other buildings surrounding the Circular Quay in Sydney. We heard that Oprah treated her 300 guests to a room here during her Sydney visit and the likes of presidents of the U.S.A have also enjoyed its luxury that we felt it was time we also basked in its glory too.

I had booked an internet special of a Bayview King Room and was given a room on the corner of the building looking onto Elizabeth Street and the Conservatorium of Music. There were bay views; however the water can only be seen by turning our heads sideways toward the awkward corner of the window for a glimpse of the bay.

The room was spacious, with ample lounge space between the bed and flat screen TV. The pillow was oh-so fluffy, however the bed was slightly stiff and minutely uncomfortable. The bathroom was small and had the shower over bath-tub layout, which was disappointing compared to hotels of its class in the city which had separate showers and baths.

Being 13 floors above ground the room was surprisingly noisy. Noticing that the windows were not double glazed and soundproof, we were woken up a few times by loud music and shouting from the streets below.

The pool area was located on level 31, with great views of the harbour in a small indoor heated room. Do not expect to be able to lie down on a bench and relax the hours away, as the air is filled with strong sense of chlorine and the heat makes the place feel more like a roman bath area. The size of the pool is nothing to write home about, you would feel more comfortable sitting in the small bathtub in the privacy of your own room.

Breakfast was included in our room rate, which was great considering it comes with a price tag of AU$45 per person. The buffet had plenty of fruit and cold cut choices, but the hot food section lacked imagination. Nevertheless, the dining room at Cafe Opera was clean and orderly, and things were done when requested.

Throughout our stay, staffs at the hotel were courteous yet distant. They greeted us like a machine, saying what they have memorized from their hospitality handbook, lacking warmth and rapport. A mechanical smile and a cold “have a nice day” after our check out was immediately followed by a quick glance behind us and a sharp “next please”, leaving us scrambling with our bags, feeling like we’ve over-stayed our welcome by 2 seconds.

Luxury as it may be, the hotel really lacked personality in every way. After a bit of research we realized that perhaps all the rich and famous have not stayed in a Bayview Room, but in their Australia Suite instead, a full level suite located on the 29th floor with its own access elevator, complete with a baby grand piano. Perhaps the service provided to customers in those suites would be different, and perhaps we simply just have to admit that commoners like us should never be expected to feel special, no matter how much we think we’ve paid – unless you can pay the $7000 per night price tag, you are just another customer.

Intercontinental Hotels – www.intercontinental.com

Four Day Trips Around Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne is a scenic and cosmopolitan city in Australia that offers wonderful food, shopping and culture. There are times, though, when you just want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and spend the day exploring another area. Yarra Valley, Adelaide, Phillip Island and Great Ocean Road are good choices for day trips from Melbourne.

Yarra Valley
Yarra Valley is a short drive from Melbourne. While there is enough to see and do for longer, it makes a perfect day trip from the city. Spend some time sampling at the wineries, from the large ones like Domaine Chandon and De Bortoli, to some of the smaller ones you will pass all along the roads between the peaks and valleys.

While in Yarra Valley, make sure you spend some time at the Healesville Animal Sanctuary. The entire family will enjoy this zoo, where the creatures are all native to Australia. Stay for the bird show and be sure to have lunch at the Sanctuary Harvest, which will rival many restaurants in its selection of gourmet food and local wine.

Adelaide
Even though Adelaide is technically in South Australia, you can get there from Melbourne in under an hour on a direct flight from Melbourne Airport. If you don’t have time for a long visit to this quaint city, it’s still worth it just for a day. Adelaide has a great public transit system that can get you from downtown to the beach in no time. Genelg Beach is worth the trip to Adelaide alone. It has cute little shops, restaurants and coffee houses and the long stretch of sand is open to the public.

Adelaide is a major foodie town so don’t get filled up at the beach. The Central Market is the place for the freshest of produce and it’s located just outside Chinatown. Gouger Street is full of restaurants from every nationality. Cocolat, where they make everything imaginable out of chocolate, is a place not to be missed.

Phillip Island
From Melbourne, it’s only about an hour and a half to Phillip Island. The main attraction here is the Penguins and there certainly are a lot of them. Be sure to catch the “penguin parade.” Those aren’t the only creatures you will want to see at this on the island, a non-profit nature park that’s dedicated to nature conservation. You will also find the Koala Conservation Centre, Nobbies Centre and Churchill Island Heritage Farm.

Great Ocean Road
If the urge to take a day trip from Melbourne comes upon you and you don’t have time to plan anything, hop in the car and take a ride on the Great Ocean Road. The best thing about this scenic drive is you can go as long as you’d like and always find something to see. Among the sites along the Great Ocean Road are: 12 Apostles, a formation of a dozen rocks that jut up from the Southern Ocean; Bells Bridge, one of the top surfing spots in the region; Cape Bridgewater, where you can see a petrified forest, the blue waters of the bay and a magnificent blow hole; and Cape Otway, home of beautiful Johanna Beach, a remote rainforest and the Centre for Conservation, full of kangaroos, koalas, wallabies and other wildlife native to Australia.