Hotel Review: 1898 The Post in Ghent

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1898 the post

1898 The Post Hotel

Last Christmas, I decided to treat my mother to something really nice – she deserved it! She lives in Brussels so I had the idea of taking her to a beautiful hotel for a night and spending a lovely weekend together.

After trawling through hundreds of hotels in Bruges, Antwerp and Ghent on Booking.com, I fell in love with 1898 The Post. Located in the heart of Ghent, this former post office was recently refurbished and turned into a boutique hotel. The building is actually one of the most beautiful in town and features on many postcards and Instagram shots! Having opened only a few months earlier, the hotel didn’t have many reviews, but photos of the decor won me over.

If you’re thinking of staying at 1898 The Post, here’s my review and many photos to help you decide!

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1898 The Post sink

‘The Letter’ Room

We stayed in one of the Letter rooms, a duplex with high ceilings and big windows overlooking Saint Michael’s Church.

We were blown away by the attention to detail that has gone into the decor. Every surface has a quirky vintage trinket or antique book on it. All the home accessories are available to buy, in case you feel the need to take that ‘Nostalgic Scrabble’ with you! Even the mini bar impressed me, with fresh citrus fruit and a tiny homemade bottle of Negroni.

The bed was so comfortable that I decided I had to upgrade my mattress and my pillows at home ASAP, and the green paint on the walls completely changed my mind about having dark bedroom walls.

Not only do all of the rooms at 1898 The Post look beautiful and sophisticated, but everything has been done to a really high spec. My Mum couldn’t believe how thick the curtains are!

The upstairs open bathroom overlooks the bedroom. As with the rest of the hotel, I loved the design of it – marble hexagon shower tiles included. Only tiny complaint would be that the toilet is downstairs but the sink is upstairs! If you want a bathtub you’ll have to book a suite because most rooms only have a (very nice) shower.

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The Cobbler

It’s rare for me to want to have a drink at the hotel bar. Usually I’ll go out and find a cool bar elsewhere, somewhere locals hang out. With 1898 The Post, things are different! The Cobbler is the hotel’s very cosy cocktail bar, café and kitchen, and it’s very much in demand on a Saturday night! Luckily when we checked into the hotel we were told to reserve if we wanted to go for a drink there in the evening, so we did. We saw so many people being turned away!

It’s easy to understand why the bar is so popular, with its cosy interior, stunning views of historic Ghent, and impressive cocktail menu. Even if you don’t end up staying at 1898 The Post for the night, I’d recommend going here for a tipple or a hot chocolate. Top tip: don’t order the apple pie cocktail before dinner – it comes with a spoon!

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The Honesty Bar

I love this concept: let hotel guests help themselves to drinks, and rely on them to be honest and write down what they’ve taken. The Honesty Bar at 1898 The Post is tucked away in a tower, and only hotel guests have access to it. It provides a nice place to go after dinner, when you’re not quite ready to go to bed but you don’t want to go too far from your bedroom. It really feels like someone’s warm and cosy house, where you can just help yourself to a drink and sit down for a late night chat.

I wish we could have stayed at the hotel more than one night to really make the most of this room!

In all honesty, I could not have designed a better hotel myself. Every detail is perfect, from the decor and the views, to the bar, the breakfast and the location. We loved every minute of being there, and we had to force ourselves to go out and explore the city instead of spending the whole weekend inside the hotel! I’ll admit it wasn’t cheap, but if you want to treat yourself or a loved one to a weekend in Ghent then this is the best hotel you will find. 1898 The Post is one of the best hotels I have ever stayed at!

I paid for the hotel myself and I would 100% do it again!

The most beautiful boutique hotel in the heart of Ghent, Belgium.

A Londoner’s London Bucket List

By Posted on 6 min read 3240 views

westminster sunset

Exploring London as a Local

It’s always easy to overlook all of the amazing things on your doorstep. Growing up in Belgium, I didn’t realise that beautiful places like Dinant or Ghent were just a train ride away. Now, having lived in London for around 7 years, I often take the city for granted. I often think “I’ll do that one day” and put things off, which is a shame because I might never get around to doing them! So my new resolution is to do more things in London, including all of the things that have been on my bucket list for ages.

Tate Britain

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I’ve always loved visiting Tate Modern, but I think going to Tate Britain when I was very young kind of put me off – I thought all that classic art was very boring at the time! (Thanks mum for dragging me there) Recently though, I’ve been thinking it’s time to pay the museum another visit. If anything, I’ll definitely enjoy the architecture and that beautiful spiral staircase!

Tower Bridge Glass Walkway

This is on my list because I’ve never done it, but I’m actually not sure if I’d enjoy it at all! I’m a bit scared of heights, and glass floors make me feel very uncomfortable. It does look like an amazing experience though, so I’m keeping it on the list!

Strawberry Hill House

Strawberry Hill House is a Gothic villa that was built in Twickenham in the 18th century. Isn’t it so pretty? I think it looks like it belongs in a fairytale! Have a look at pictures from Town & Country magazine to see what I mean. My plan for this summer is to have a picnic in the garden with the villa’s tower as a beautiful backdrop.

Make sure you check the opening days and times on the website before you go, as the house is not open every day.

Highgate Cemetery

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Visiting graveyards isn’t usually on my bucket list, but Highgate is different. From its website: “Highgate Cemetery opened in 1839. It was run by a private company. But when in the 1970s they found it was no longer profitable to run commercially, nature took over and vandals had their day.” Fortunately, the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust took over in 1975 and rescued this amazing Victorian cemetery.

Many people go there just to see famous graves, like that of Karl Marx and George Michael. I really want to go on a guided tour of the spooky and overgrown West Cemetery, which is where some of the most beautiful Victorian monuments are. I bet the guides have some interesting stories to tell!

I hope I’ll get to meet the resident black cat one day.

God’s Own Junkyard

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I’ve been meaning to visit the neon wonderland that is God’s Own Junkyard for years. Its owner Chris Bracey has built a whole career around creating neons for hollywood films, famous artists, music videos and fashion shoots. The “Junkyard” is his own collection of reclaimed neon signs, old movie props and retro displays. You might recognise something from Batman or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory sitting next to a salvaged fairground piece. It looks like nothing I’ve ever seen before! I want to go at the weekend when The Rolling Scones Cafe is open!
 

Inside St Paul’s Cathedral

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I’ve walked past St Paul’s countless times and have taken many photos of it, yet I still haven’t been inside!

At £18 a ticket (£16 online) it isn’t cheap, but it’s definitely worth going at least once. Highlights include the Whispering Gallery, which gets its name from a quirk in construction which means a whisper on one side of the dome is heard on the opposite side. Climb 528 steps and you also get a fab panoramic view of London from the Golden Gallery at the top of the Cathedral.

New Design Museum

As soon as the new Design Museum announced its opening in November 2016, I knew I wanted to go there. Initially what attracted me were some aerial pictures of the roof of the building, which made it look very cool – like a spaceship or some origami. Since then, the museum has had many interesting exhibitions but I still haven’t been! Who’s coming with me?

Maltby Street Market

On Saturdays and Sundays, artisan producers serve up their goods at Maltby Street market in Bermondsey. I’ve heard that the market is quite small, but the food looks amazing! I want to try the caramel hot chocolate with a marshmallow rim from Fatties Bakery some doughnuts from St John bakery (I’ve heard they’re amazing).

Update: went to Maltby Street on Sunday and it was great! Definitely recommend the hot chocolate from Fatties and we had some waffle with fried chicken which was great (although a bit pricy!). The market is quite small but has a nice atmosphere without getting crowded. A lot less touristy than Borough Market (which I love too).

The Emirates Air Line

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Again, I’ve been meaning to do this for years but just haven’t got around to it. Cable cars are always fun and I never get tired of a nice London view!

The Emirates Air Line takes around 10 minutes to connect the Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Docks. The journey costs £3.50 and you can use your Oyster or contactless card. I recommend exploring Greenwich while you’re at it – it’s a beautiful part of town!

Berners Tavern

Maybe it’s because I haven’t been yet, but I feel like Berners Tavern has become a real London classic. It’s run by Jason Atherton, the renowned chef that’s also responsible for Michelin-starred Pollen Street Social and my personal favourite, Sosharu. It’s the interior that’s the real reason I want to go there though: high ceilings, walls covered in beautifully framed art, and Grand Central-inspired chandeliers.

Who wants to go for brunch with me?

The Conservatory at the Barbican

Hidden in the Barbican centre, this conservatory houses over 200 species of plants. If you haven’t been to Barbican complex before, the brutalist architecture alone is worth a visit. The contrast between the lush greenery in the conservatory and the harsh architecture is pretty cool, if you ask me.

Top tip: Check the opening hours and dates before you go because the conservatory is only open on selected Sundays and Bank holidays.

I actually made it to the conservatory right after I started writing this post, so that’s one ticked off!

I’ll definitely be adding more things to this list at the same rate as I tick things off! One of my favourite quotes is “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life” (Samuel Johnson) – because how could you get tired of this city when there are so many things to discover here?

What’s on your London bucket list? I’d love to know!

Review: Flying with Aeroflot – A320 & A330 to Tokyo

By Posted on 5 min read 3049 views

My Review of Aeroflot

I was on the train back from Gatwick Airport when I booked our flights to Japan.

London felt cold and a bit gloomy after spending three days on the sunny Spanish island of Fuerteventura with some of my closest friends. After scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, I turned to my emails for some kind of distraction on my way home. There it was! An email from Jack’s Flight Club made me sit up straight and open my eyes wide: Aeroflot were offering flights to Tokyo for £240! I immediately messaged Chris to ask him if I should book. It was around 11:30pm by then, and he was about to fall asleep.

Here’s our Whatsapp conversation:

I booked the flights there and then.

It literally took me ten minutes from telling Chris about the fare to booking us flights to spend Christmas in Japan. Never have I ever made a holiday booking decision quicker than that! Particularly as we hadn’t booked the time off work or mentioned to our parents that they may not see us at Christmas… but I was sure we could get around those issues!

It’s with Aeroflot but I’m sure it’s fine” – I hadn’t heard great things about Aeroflot but I wasn’t about to miss out on that AMAZING deal!

A quick Google told me I had nothing to worry about: although Aeroflot’s reputation was awful in the sixties and seventies, it’s now become one of the safest airlines to fly with. It gets 6 out of 7 stars from AirlineRatings, and even my uncle says that its fleet is very good (he’s in the biz).

So how was it? I promise to make this is a completely unbiased, super honest review! We flew Economy, so if you’re flying Business you can stop reading now, you lucky thing. Before you read I think it’s important to repeat the starting point for this review: the cost! Only £240 for a return trip to Tokyo. Chris was surprised that we didn’t have to fly the plane ourselves for that price.

 

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Comfort

In total, we actually got to experience four Aeroflot flights (lucky us!): our first trip was Rome-Moscow-Tokyo, and the return was Tokyo-Moscow-London. We flew on the A320 from Rome to Moscow which was surprisingly roomy (see leg room photo above). The overnight flight to Tokyo was on the A330-300. I found the seats to be really uncomfortable. I struggled to find a good position for sleeping and my neck ended up feeling a bit painful. Maybe it’s because I’m kind of short (5’4, 1m64) but the cushion bit that sticks out just pushed my head forward, which is a super awkward position to sit in. I think there’s something wrong with the design! It’s something I’ve experienced when flying on older planes before. I hope that Aeroflot has improved this in its newer fleet, but if not, more consideration to passenger comfort wouldn’t go amiss.

Rating: 2 out of 5

 

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Entertainment

Aeroflot only had entertainment systems on the A330 plane, so we relied on iPads and magazines on the four hour journey on the A320 from Rome to Moscow. On the longer flight to Tokyo, we fortunately had screens and a decent selection of films to choose from. Don’t get too excited – those screens are very clunky to use and kind of look like they belong in another decade, much like the chairs. Across the two long haul flights we did manage to watch a good selection of new releases, including Baby Driver and The Zookeeper’s Wife.

Rating: 3 out of 5

 

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Food

I’d seen Aeroflot ads around London showing off their food, but I wasn’t expecting much from an economy class dinner. I was quite pleasantly surprised! The food I had definitely tasted better than the majority of the plane food I’ve tasted before (except for the millet porridge with pumpkin – weird breakfast). It was a great mixture of Russian/Asian inspired dishes. There was also regular re-fills for drinks and a snack bar for passengers to visit.

Rating: 4 out of 5

 

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Extras

I couldn’t write this without mentioning the cute little Tokyo pouch we were given on the overnight flight to Narita Airport. It contained some lip balm (great for the dry cabin air), ear plugs (an essential for me), slippers, and an eye mask. The eye mask is brilliant, with one side telling air hostesses to wake you up for food and the other side telling them not to disturb you. A nice touch! We were also given pillows and blankets.

 

Service

Quick mention about service – Chris and I both thought some of flight attendants were not very nice. Very blunt, no smiles, bordering on rude. That’s across 4 different flights. They did nothing wrong, but I guess that we’re used to a friendlier service, even on budget airlines, which generally helps to make flights little nicer.

Rating: 3 out 5

 

moscow airport

Moscow Airport

I’m not gonna sugar-coat this: Moscow Sheremetyevo is NOT a nice airport. After getting a bus transfer from the plane to the terminal, we had to join a big, slow queue to get through passport control. Past customs, there isn’t much at all. The staff appear over-stressed and this gets passed on to the passengers.

Once you’re through the transfer gate you find a couple of shops selling Russian souvenirs and snacks, and a few unappealing restaurants including TGI Fridays and Burger King. The whole place was so crowded and was nowhere near big enough for the volume of people it’s taken on! This was on both journeys. We also had to take buses to and from the plane on each journey, which seemed to take an age. Cue the comedian (Chris *cough*) who said “oh, are we driving to Japan?”.

Luckily we were only at Sheremetyevo for a couple of hours each way.

Rating: 1 out of 5

 

Conclusion

Overall Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Now this rating doesn’t really reflect how we feel about the journey or Aeroflot. We were actually very satisfied, but this was principally down to the cost. If I factor that in, the rating would be closer to 4 out of 5. But there’s definitely some room for improvement.

It does feel like a budget airline venturing into the world of long-haul journeys, but when you’re paying a budget price there are certain compromises you’re willing to take. The great fare we got meant we had much more money to spend on the holiday, and we would 100% do it again. This may just take off!

 

Would I fly with Aeroflot again? Yes, definitely!

Would I choose them over another airline at the same price? Probably not.

 

Want to find your own cheap flight deal? Read my post to find out how.

Visiting a Hedgehog Cafe in Tokyo

By Posted on 2 min read 2189 views

hedgehog cafe

HARRY HEDGEHOG CAFE

I’ve already shared my experience of staying at a capsule hotel in Tokyo. Another item I’ve ticked off my Japan bucket list is a hedgehog cafe. I first heard about the cafe when it opened in 2016 – right after my first trip to Japan!

Last month was my second time visiting Japan, and I managed to drag Chris over to Harry in Harajuku on our second day in Tokyo. No hedgehogs were harmed in the making of this post!

hedgehog cafe in Tokyo
What you need to know:
  • Harry is open from 12am to 8pm, with the last admissions at 7pm.
  • It costs 1,400 yen (around £9 or $12.60 USD) per person for 30 minutes, or 1,630 yen (£10.60 or $14.70 USD) including a hedgehog snack. This also includes a free drink from the vending machine – that means lovely Green Tea!
  • The hedgehogs are well taken care of. Staff at Harry’s will constantly keep an eye out and check how the hedgehogs are doing. Hedgehogs are given breaks, so they’re not constantly being handled.
  • The staff all speak great English and will teach you how to handle the hedgehogs.
  • Harry is located very near Harajuku station. There is another one near Roppongi station.

When Chris and I arrived, the first thing we saw was a tiny vending machine. We purchased one ticket including hedgehog snacks and one normal ticket. A member of staff asked us to clean our hands with disinfectant before showing us to our seats.

We had the pleasure of hanging out with 4 hedgehogs, all with different attitudes and energy levels. A member of staff showed us how to properly scoop up and hold the hedgehogs and then left us to enjoy our 30 minutes. Chris went for the gloves after one of the hedgehogs had a nibble on his finger during the demonstration.

The hedgehogs loved the snacks we got them so I would recommend paying the extra money for that. You’re basically given a tiny bucket filled with a few dried worms and some tweezers to handle them with. If you have the snacks, they’re guaranteed to be interested in you!

feeding hedgehogs

To be honest, I think our hedgehogs would have preferred to sleep rather than play with us and we quickly learned which ones out of our 4 were the most willing to be scooped up. A couple of times we scooped them up so gently that they didn’t even wake up, which was really sweet to see! The Japanese girls next to us thought our sleeping hedgehogs looked very kawaii!

tokyo hedgehog

Check out the video below to see how you’re meant to scoop up and feed the hedgehogs:

I really enjoyed the experience and would love to do it again! Hedgehogs are much better animals for this sort of thing than owls. Even Chris enjoyed the experience!

Have you ever been to an animal cafe? What do you think of this one?

hedgehog cafe Tokyo

Staying at a Capsule Hotel in Tokyo as a Couple

By Posted on 4 min read 4973 views
capsule hotel in tokyo

nine hours Capsule Hotel Review

I just got back from my second trip to Japan and there is so much that I’m excited to share with you! I’m starting with the very last thing we did in Tokyo.

Every traveller will have some sort of Japan bucket list, with things like a karaoke night, a sushi breakfast, eating live octopus or driving a go-kart around Tokyo. Sleeping in a capsule hotel was one of the many things on my list! Although this is definitely a budget-friendly option, it has become very popular for tourists as an experience in its own right.

When planning our trip to Japan I knew I wanted to experience a capsule (or pod) hotel for one night, so I researched all I could find on Booking.com and found nine hours. It looked really cool and modern and its Shinjuku location seemed perfect for our last night in Tokyo.

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nine hours shinjuku desks
nine hours capsule bed

What you need to know if you’re staying at a capsule hotel

This is all specific to nine hours but a lot will apply to most other capsule hotels as well.

Gender separation

Many capsule hotels will be male only, but nine hours is a mixed-gender hotel. One thing that my boyfriend and I were aware of before going is that they have separate floors (and lifts) for men and women. For one night, at the end of our trip, it wasn’t a big deal though. There is a common area on the 8th floor behind reception where you can hang out together, but it’s not the most lively of spaces. If you’re travelling as a couple and really want to stay together, Kiba Hotel offers double capsules – it just isn’t quite as nice and modern as nine hours.

Checking in & out

Check in begins at 1pm and you have to check out at 10am every day. Even if you have planned to stay several days you will have to check out, check in, pay, and change pod every day. When checking in you receive a bag with a towel, toothbrush, toothpaste, pyjamas, and slippers.

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Lockers

You don’t get much space in your pod so you have to keep all of your things in a locker. I had a big suitcase and it (just about) fit in the locker I was provided at nine hours. I hadn’t prepared for the night so I had to open the suitcase to get what I needed – don’t do that! Definitely pack a small overnight bag or at least make it easy to find everything you’re going to need.

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The Capsule or Pod

I found the bed to be comfortable and there was enough space to sit up. There’s a light and a plug to charge your phone and that’s about it! You can’t lock it so don’t leave any valuables unattended. The only thing that really bothered us is the sound of snoring, people coming back late at night, and alarms ringing multiple times early in the morning. I recommend ear plugs! The pod areas are for sleep only and are otherwise silent, so if you’re travelling with friends or want to use your phone, I suggest that you hang out in the common area or a local bar until you are ready to sleep.

nine hours bathroom
Bathrooms

Toilets are on the same floor as the capsules but the showers are on a different floor. I found the showers to be very clean, stocked with soap, shampoo and conditioner, and there were enough of them that nobody had to wait. There were plenty of sinks and mirrors for the girls to use, and hairdryers were available.

Food and drink

There are no food or drink facilities at nine hours so you’ll have to bring your own water. We made the mistake of assuming there would be some kind of vending machine there! Eating or drinking in the pods is not allowed. In the washing areas you tend to hear strange slurping sounds as people get a last drop of water from the tap before bed… I’d recommend keeping a bottle in your locker.

Shinjuku Omoide Yokochō
Shinjuku
Location

The Shinjuku-North location was great for us. The area around the hotel seems to be a kind of Korea town filled with K-pop shops and Korean barbecue restaurants. It’s a very short walk to Shin-Ōkubo station aand about a 15 minute walk to the famous Shinjuku neighbourhood with its bright lights, games arcades and buzzing nightlife. I recommend going to Omoide Yokochō alley for a yakitori dinner before having a drink in the Golden Gai area.

capsule hotel review

It was a fun experience and it’s really convenient for solo budget travellers. However if you’re looking for a more social experience with an on-site bar or an opportunity to make friends, then I think a hostel would be better. Capsule hotels are far more functional and really just provide a place to sleep – one of my Japanese friends regularly uses First Cabin after a late night at the office.

As a single traveller it’s cheaper than a budget hotel, but as a couple we didn’t save any money. The fact that you have to check-in and check-out each day also makes it less attractive to me. Capsules are really aimed at no-thrills one night stop overs and for this they’re great! The nine hours at Narita Airport is perfect if you have to catch a very early flight.

Would I stay at a capsule hotel again? No.

Would I recommend staying at one? Yes! – if only for the experience and photos.

Would you stay at a capsule hotel?