Hotel review: Hostal Las Acacias, Malaga, Spain

June 2014

Las A is a charming, blue, two-storey house on a short block that ambles happily from the busy street (Avenida Juan Sebastian Elcano) to Las Acacias beach, a sand strip that offers a refreshing, sardine-scented change from the Brit and German-spattered beaches of neighbouring costas. Amazingly, this beach has Actual Spanish People on it doing Spanish Things! Activities observed on this visit included; men with fine moustaches grilling and eating sardines, extended family groups having leisurely after-work picnics, and little old ladies, clad head to toe in black, putting on an extra layer or seven whenever the temperature threatened to dip below 25 degrees. All this instead of spending years working on forbidding frowning techniques and planning high security fortifications in order to defend prime palapas like my countrypeople and our Teutonic cousins often do…

Meanwhile back at the hostal, things are quiet and pleasingly quirky. Some hotel rooms are cozy. Some divide cozy by broom closet and then shear off a few inches. I only saw one room at Las A and it veered towards the latter. However, it did demonstrate impressive optimism and perseverance on the parts of the owners. Most humans would have contemplated trying to manhandle two beds into a room of that size, spent two seconds chortling at such folly and trundled one Ever-rest off to other quarters. Not so, those determined Las Acacias characters! Nope. This is a one-bed room squished to contain twice that number of sleep-centric furnishings. As a result, unless you have excessively thin legs and/or are a member of the stick insect family, you have a 73% chance of bruising both shins every time you stumble to bed in the dark. The distance between bed ends and wall is approximately the width of the average human knee.

If you enjoy a place that celebrates every strata of decor since it was built, Hostal Las A is a splendid choice! You can while away hours tracing the history of this hostal and its every guest on the walls, surfaces and ceiling. A white gouge through the glowing green paint here that was perhaps a hasty guest, dashing to catch a few more mouthfuls of sardines before a late flight. A mosquito squish there that performs as an effective warning sign against leaving the stately floor-to-ceiling glass doors open overnight. A minor constellation of duct tape detailing on the blackout shades that were perhaps the result of a ripping good swordfish duel. There is also a perplexing profusion of curtain rods. Including on walls with no windows.

In contrast to the enthusiastically duct-taped blackout shades, over-bed illumination comes courtesy of inquisition lights bright enough for those who wish to study detailed aviation manuals by night, those who spend evenings doing micro-surgery on small woodland mammals or those wishing to work on perfecting signals to encourage incoming intergalactic tourism.

On this instance, I voted against use of the blackout shades (and against swordfish fighting/squirrel surgery) and left the shades open to admire the gracious floor-to-ceiling French doors, the greenery beyond and the occasional red and green splash of a passing parrot. This also allowed excellent eavesdropping opportunities from the hostal’s leafy garden restaurant below. People quietly singing “Feliz cumpleanos” over vinos! Most pleasing.


Who would this hotel suit?

* Those seeking somewhere serene compared to atmospheric accommodations of El Centro Historico (see Echegaray Suites) and looking for a down-to-earth budget choice. A fine night’s sleep for all here!

* Those who vote for character and quirkiness over the fussiness of fine hotels. My mum would have enjoyed Las Acacias for its gentle pace, welcoming hosts, multi-course leisurely breakfasts and for the leafy views, particularly on days with a plethora of parrot pass-bys.

* Those partial to neighbourhood stays rather than those who must be in the midst of top tourist sites.

* Some rooms best suited to worryingly thin people or members of the gazelle species able to vault over the beds rather than suffer shin attacks on every pass.

The Summary:


*Ninety seconds walk to the beach, most useful when you realise you’ve forgotten to bring your money/ beach read/ favourite sardine condiments.

*Miles of hopping beachside bars and restaurants along seafront leading back to Malaga Centro or east to former fishing village El Palo.

*Guest rooms with soaring high ceilings! Charming tiled balcony with views of abundant foliage! Elegant floor-to-ceiling French doors!

*Room stayed in painted an emphatic shade of leafy green. Other rooms of similar upbeat hues. Not partial to such splashes of colour? See Cons.

*In a nice, quiet area, twenty minutes from the delights and overnight noise of downtown Malaga. Frequent buses. Most of the time the buses are quiet and easy to navigate, while, of course, any times you need to be on them with unwieldy suitcases, they will be crammed to their diesel-powered gills, but the Malaguenos are a delightful people and will chat, help control Samsonites with eager wheels, dispense advice as to where to get off/ sit/ eat grilled sardines. I like Malaguenos.

*Charming, multi-course breakfast featuring delights such as freshly squeezed orange juice, pots of yoghurt, bowls of plums, plates of jamon y queso, fresh warm bread, bowls of coffee, served outside in the leafy garden restaurant.

*Leafy garden restaurant! Eavesdropping opportunities from rooms above!

*Genial, unobtrusive host couple that happily stores suitcases when you want one last wander down to the beach after checkout.

*Parrot sightings!



*Room stayed in painted an emphatic shade of leafy green. Other rooms of similar upbeat hues. Partial to such splashes of colour? See Pros.

*Twenty minutes from the delights of downtown Malaga. On a bus that sometimes has many other humans on board. See also Pros.

*More paint/ primer/duct tape archaeology than is strictly necessary. Decor definitely a little ramshackle, but nothing that actually affected the comfort of the place overall.

*A rather haphazard approach to previous guest towel removal.

*Tricky to shower without breaking a rib or performing unexpected self-Heimlich manoeuvres on mixer tap in the world’s most minute shower.

Hotel review: Annebrook House Hotel, Mullingar, Ireland

August 2014

I’ve stayed in hotels with many very different decorative statements and themes over the years. The Golden Age of Hollywood (Prohibition era cocktails! Dim lighting! Sepia tones!) Fashion (Menacing arrays of creepy, randomly placed, store mannequins, without even Andrew McCarthy around to make these sorts of props acceptable.) Llamas (fear not, this review is coming!)

But I’ve never before stayed in a hotel with a bee theme. I’m not saying that bees aren’t stars or that they shouldn’t be celebrated for their all-round awesomeness; After all, without them, there wouldn’t be honey, flowers or a significant proportion of income reaped by epi-pen manufacturers. No, bees rock and honey is delicious, but you generally wouldn’t smather some on an art board and pin it on your wall… or line up haphazard bits of hive and stick them, jenga-like, in your front room, now, would you? Well, the fine folks behind the Annebrook House Hotel have done exactly this. My favourite bee-work was the series of honey splats that looked like someone had bought three really gooey cinnamon swirl buns, squished them down briefly but enthusiastically on a sheet of paper, and then stuck it in a frame. Yum.

But, really, other than a misplaced desire to give bees the artistic acclaim they have been long denied, the AHH is quite delightful. The hues of honey, wood and caramel are soothing, the rooms are roomy and bright, the bar is crammed with exuberant Irish people and the restaurant is in an atmospheric cellar. Staff include a super helpful front desk lady called Martha who hummed happily as she checked train timetables and a slew of excellent restaurant servers who remained cheerful, polite and unbothered despite my dad’s repeated efforts to insult them at every meal.

Who would this hotel suit?

*Anyone wanting to explore the wonders of County Westmeath. Presumably there are some.

*Couples, families, solo travellers, larger groups.

*People not planning to sleep before 2am on Friday or Saturday nights/people who enjoy covers of The Cure, various Irish bands of the 80s and 90s until the bar closes.

* Beekeepers.

*Retired bees.

*People not allergic to bees.

The Summary:


*It seems that most people who stay in Mullingar of a weekend are rather intoxicated for the duration. A few wee stings, courtesy of the bee hives up on the third floor smoking balcony, could be a helpful way of waking guests up when they pop out for some fresh air the morning after. Also, yay, bee preservation!

*Sarcastic Estonian restaurant manager, well able to out-insult persistently cheeky 74-year-old guests.

*Atmospheric restaurant in the House’s old cellar with best food in town and a generous breakfast buffet for all guests. Great, dark alcove/nook for romantic dinners or for those wanting to avoid sunlight at breakfast time.

*Views of rooftops, the old church, river and park, chefs having a sneaky smoke out by the bins.

*Perfect location on the main street of Mullingar, opposite a coffeeshop and the fascinating Dealz bargain store – if you need some religious statuary or toilet cleaner for your stay, you are in luck.


*Bee art.



Hotel review: Echegaray Suites, Malaga, Spain

June 2014

Are you going to Malaga? Do you like windows? Yes? Well, the Echegaray Suites may be the place for you! It offers a whopping 28 panes of glass in the living room alone! Floor-to-ceiling ones arrayed in a charming bay arrangement on the corner of a historic, pleasingly Spanish street corner! Plus more shutters than you’d find in a particularly sleepy Andalucian village at siesta time. AND the windows have delightful decorative wrought iron railings thoughtfully positioned over the lower bits of window so that you, your cat** or an inadvertently dropped bagel don’t cascade onto the streets below.

And then there are the views! Looking through these 28 panes allows views of quaint marbled streets, bustling restaurants, Malaguenos doing Malagueno things below. And, depending on shutter situations on the other side of the streets, you also sometimes get views into the little old Spanish lady opposite’s apartment, complete with ancient chandeliers and dark, aged, oil paintings of religious scenes. Sounds perfect? Well, it is… unless you are a person even partially partial to sleep.

The variety of noise that will prevent you getting even four consecutive minutes of sleep during the night really is truly amazing. The Spanish may be the most impressively creative noisemakers in the galaxy. And such energy! They think nothing of a rousing chorus of an Enrique Iglesias classic to celebrate it turning quarter past five or an impromptu 6 am drum recital. There’s the general restaurant chatter from the three restaurants opposite, the one below and the two on the side street. There’s the booming gong that echoes through the streets, letting waiters know that it’s time to thunk a plate of overpriced tapas down in front of a baying table of drunken stag lads. There are the whoops and bellows of “Ole” when they do. There are the sporadic whistling competitions, the saxophone versions of The Pink Panther Theme, the flamenco guitar duels, the surprisingly frequent and belligerent piccolo solos. The squeals, the shouts, the singing. My, how the Spanish like to sing! And such a varied repertoire! There’s the nightclub below, which is obviously the most hilarious place to stagger out of in Western Europe. My, how they cackle! And apparently it is necessary to empty all glass recycling bins in the historic centre every 37 minutes all night with a thunderous crash.

And those lovely marbled streets? The Malaguenos love them so much that they despatch armies of tiny marble mopping trucks to clean and polish them on the hour every hour, their tiny wheels squeaking like swarms of terrified piglets throughout the night until 7 am… when the church bells start and the swifts start shrieking their ear-piercing delight at the beginning of a new day.

BUT, despite having detailed these diverse diversions from sleep, it’s such a supremely Spanish cacophony that I was actually happy to stay here for the first night. By the fourth, I was ready to murder myself.

Who would this apartment suit?

*This would be a good apartment for my dad who has excellent eyesight, so would enjoy peering into the darkness of the wee lady opposite’s apartment, trying to identify religious scenes in her paintings. And his abysmal hearing would edit out the worst of the piccolo performances.

*It would also suit someone only wanting to stay on a Sunday night, when restaurants are either closed early or, joy, don’t open at all.

*It would also suit someone with the ability to harness a 747’s worth of white noise and batten it closely to their ears.

The Summary:


*Awesome, unbeatable location in the historic centre.

*A truly stunning apartment with soaring high ceilings and gorgeous light streaming in.

*Photos of shoes, plus other perks such as washing machine, TV, microwave, kettle, toaster.

*Pets can come too! (**and are unlikely to cascade out of the windows…)

*This place is so vast that I got different phone network options at one end of the apartment and the other.

*Walking home up atmospheric Calle Echegaray is a splendid experience.

*The ancient original door adds to the awesomeness.

*The soundproofing WITHIN is great… so, um, you won’t be bothered by someone blasting white noise in a desperate attempt to snatch fragments of sleep in the next room.

*Great aerial views of the tops of people’s heads and bird life.

*Excellent opportunities to drop inexplicable things onto plates of people eating below, such as plastic octopii and paper planes featuring poetry about goats.


*A tad noisy.