Around the World

Miles flown for stories
2014: 258,704
2013: 330,818

Hotel Review: The Fairmont Vancouver Airport

Reading a fun website while looking out the hotel room is awesome.

Reading a fun website while looking out the hotel room is awesome.

There are hotels and then there are AvGeek hotels. The Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel is surely an AvGeek’s hotel, but can still be enjoyed by those who are more practically-minded. The hotel is located inside Vancouver International Airport (YVR), which makes it convenient for people who are flying. There is no need to find a shuttle and you can sleep in until just before your flight, roll out of bed, and either start or continue your journey.

But for many who enjoy aviation, these rare hotels provide something a little bit more: sleeping and relaxing while airline spotting. Heck, it is a thrill to stay at an airport like this, even if you are not flying anywhere. Recently, that is just what Malcolm and I did to check it out, and we wanted to share what we found.

Continue reading Hotel Review: The Fairmont Vancouver Airport

A Review of the Hilton Garden Inn at Paine Field

Yes, blue skies can exist in the Seattle area in January (this is Friday, most other photos are taken on Saturday with rain).

Yes, blue skies can exist in the Seattle area in January (this is Friday, most other photos are taken on Saturday with rain). This photos of the Hilton Garden Inn was taken from the entrance of the Future of Flight.

Not all hotels are created equally. Many compete with a long list of amenities to help entice travelers to stay in one of their rooms. Coffee makers, robes, Wi-Fi, breakfast are just some of the common weapons used to gain your business. But for AvGeeks there is something else that can trump all others: spotting airliners from your room.

There is the rain and clouds I have grown to love. A Qatar Airways Boeing 777-300ER about to land at Paine Field - taken from my hotel room.

There  are the rain and clouds I have grown to love. A Qatar Airways Boeing 777-300ER about to land at Paine Field – taken from my hotel room. When it is sunny, there are plenty of wonderful mountains in the background.

There are hotels around the world where you can watch airplanes come and go, but there is only one hotel that is located right at the edge of Paine Field, where Boeing builds their 767, 777, 747-8 and 787 aircraft and that is the Hilton Garden Inn Seattle North/Everett.

Just off the lobby is a bar (no draft, but they have bottled beer and hard alcohol) and restaurant.

Just off the lobby is a bar (no draft, but they have bottled beer and hard alcohol) and restaurant.

Since I live about 15 minutes away from the Hilton Garden Inn, I have never needed to use it. However, talking to other AvGeeks who have stayed there, I heard positive things and wanted to see how good the aviation spotting would be from the hotel. When given the opportunity to stay at the hotel on a Friday night, I figured why not (they provided me the room for free for the review)?

It was mighty cold outside, but warm inside my room when I took this photo of Paine FIeld.

It was mighty cold outside, but warm inside my room when I took this photo of Paine Field.

The hotel is situated in the northwest corner of Paine Field, right next door to the Future of Flight. I visit Future of Flight quite often, so I was no stranger to the area. I was given the keys to the most premium room at the hotel: The Presidential Suite. Normally when a room has such an impressive name, I end up having pretty high expectations. And those expectations were more than met.

Yea. This is living. Nice big tub overlooking Paine Field?

Yea. This is living. Nice big tub overlooking Paine Field.

I have been very fortunate to see some pretty impressive hotels around the world. Not to say that Everett/Mukilteo/North Seattle are bad places (I mean, that is the area that I call home), but I wasn’t expecting to find such a nice room. I think when I first walked in I said something like “Holy cow, I wasn’t expecting this.” Maybe I said something a bit more adult than “holy cow,” but you get the idea.

This is the view after walking into the Presidential Suite. Kitchen to the left, dining and living room straight ahead and bedroom to the left.

This is the view after walking into the Presidential Suite. Kitchen to the left, dining and living room straight ahead and bedroom to the left.

The Presidential Suite is the size of three standard rooms and has an almost full kitchen, a living room, full dining room, two fire places (not real fire, but whatever), and two bathrooms. I was hoping that there might be a jetted tub in the room and was excited when I found there were two: a smaller one in the bathroom off the bedroom and a quite large one overlooking Paine Field in the bedroom next to the king sized bed.

This Lufthansa Boeing 747-8I delivery flight was a few hours late, but still able to enjoy it taking off.

This Lufthansa Boeing 747-8I delivery flight was a few hours late, but still able to enjoy it taking off.

Sure, all these amenities are fabulous, but I wasn’t there for the trinkets, I was there to check out the view. Unlike other rooms that only have window views to Paine Field, this suite had three sliding glass doors that look out to PAE, making it perfect for spotting (which Malcolm Muir spotted me spotting from my room). Yea, I felt that this room was built for me and I was pretty certain I never wanted to leave.

There is a fire place (fake, but still gives the ambiance) in the living room and bedroom. This is looking into one of the two double doors going into the bedroom.

There is a fire place (fake, but still gives the ambiance) in the living room and bedroom. This is looking into one of the two double doors going into the bedroom. Also notice the aviation themed-art.

To make sure that I wasn’t only looking out the window the whole time, I brought my girlfriend Shannon with me to handle reviewing the  decor inside the room.

“When I first walked into the room, my first thought was that it was beautiful in every detail,” Shannon explained to me. “Then as I discovered the view directly overlooking Paine Field, the giant whirlpool tub that was positioned toward that amazing view, the incredibly spacious bathrooms (there were two in the Presidential Suite), and the firmness-adjustable king-size bed, I was awed by the luxury.  The full fridge, stove range, dishwasher, counter space and full silverware and glassware sets, as well as a wood dining table, all added to the exquisiteness of the room by offering functional amenities that are hard to find away from home.”

There is much more than just cereal and toast at this breakfast.

There is much more than just cereal and toast at this breakfast.

There is also the option for breakfast the next morning. I wasn’t really in the mood to get out of the nice warm bed, but luckily Shannon was willing to head down and check things out. “When I walked down to the lobby for breakfast, I wasn’t sure what to expect,” Shannon recounted to me. “Many hotels boast their breakfasts, but often disappoint.  However, when I was greeted by a smiling young woman who showed me the options for self-serve (including fresh juices, muffins and pastries, a variety of cereals, a self-serve waffle maker, bagels, and plenty of fruit), my doubts were quickly abated.  I selected the gourmet breakfast, an omelet with your choice of fillings and a selection of cheese, with sausage, bacon and hash-browns on the side.  Definitely a great way to start the day.” Don’t worry, she also brought me up coffee, juice and a waffle with strawberries to enjoy. The breakfast is not part of the room and costs $10.95 and is served from 6am to 10am (11am on Sat and Sun).

An Emirates Boeing 777-300ER prepares to take off a Paine Field. Taken from the room. That is the Future of Flight on the right.

An Emirates Boeing 777-300ER prepares to take off a Paine Field. Taken from the room. That is the Future of Flight on the right.

The hotel opened at Paine Field on October 5th 2005 and offers 102 rooms and 13 suites. They estimate that about 90% of guests are connected to Boeing or one of their subcontractors somehow. This means that their busiest times are weekdays, which normally leaves plenty of rooms open on weekends for you AvGeeks to visit Seattle.

For guests, there is a free shuttle that will take you up to five miles of the hotel (you can walk to the Future of Flight, but this would be handy to check out the Flying Heritage Collection and Historic Flight Foundation) and they will also take you to the Alderwood Mall and Everett train station (which are outside the 5 miles).

The hotel has a small pool and hot tub. Also a pretty nice gym.

The hotel has a small pool and hot tub. Also a  well-appointed gym.

Shannon and I argued over what our room must cost. We were both way off (we guessed much higher). Get this: a night in the Presidential Suite ranges from only $159-$250 per night depending on the date. Now, I am definitely not a person of means, but that is totally affordable, even for a staycation. Heck. I am at Paine Field all the time, but was quite giddy with staying at the hotel and watching airplanes take off and land from my room (and a bubble bath).

This is a great hotel for a non AvGeek, but a must-see if you are coming into Seattle to check out some of our great offerings or even a local looking for some AvGeek excitement.

Maybe you have already stayed? I also know Aviation Geek Fest 2013 is coming up soon and the hotel is still offering a special #AGF13 rate. So, if you have stayed or will stay, drop a line or two in the comments to share your thoughts — the hotel will be listening.

 ALL 38 PHOTOS FROM MY HOTEL STAY

This story written by…David Parker Brown, Editor & Founder.

David started AirlineReporter.com in the summer of 2008, but has had a passion for aviation since he was a kid. Born and raised in the Seattle area (where he is currently based) has surely had an influence and he couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in the world.

@AirlineReporter | Flickr | YouTube

Only in Dubai: Tour of the World’s Seven Star Hotel — The Burj Al Arab

The Burj Al Arab is hard to miss and is beautiful, even on the outside.

The Burj Al Arab is hard to miss and is beautiful, even on the outside.

Dubai is known for going to the extreme. Just being there feels like a big enough adventure, but if you want to take it to the next level, then you have to stay at the Burj Al Arab. You might know this hotel better as, “the only seven star hotel in the world.”

Actually, no official guide or rating agency has given the hotel its famous “seven star rating.” While taking the tour, I was told that the hotel has never advertised that, nor do they actually support its usage. It was a journalist who coined the phrase a long time ago and it has stuck. Surely, the saying can’t hurt the Burj Al Arab’s reputation.

Once entering the The Burj Al Arab, be sure to look up for an amazingly rainbow view.

Once entering the The Burj Al Arab, be sure to look up for an amazingly rainbow view.

Not just anyone can get in the front door. There is a security gate, probably about a quarter of a mile from the hotel’s front door, and you need to show you have a room reservation to get through. If you want exclusive — this is it.

Luckily for me, when I recently visited Dubai, I was given a tour of the Burj Al Arab and just had to share what I experienced.

Al Muntaha Restaurant at the Burj Al Arab has an amazing view of the Palm Islands.

Al Muntaha Restaurant at the Burj Al Arab has an amazing view of the Palm Islands.

Construction on the Burj Al Arab started in 1994 and was completed in 1999. It is the fourth largest hotel in the world, at 1,053 feet. The design of the building was meant to mimic a sail and it has become an iconic symbol for Dubai.

When first walking inside, you are greeted by dancing fountains and escalators that have large fish takes for walls. Make sure to look up and check out the 590 foot atrium that is in the lobby (maybe don’t do that if you have vertigo).

The Al Mahara Restaurant at Burj Al Arab might has the coolest view I have ever seen.

The Al Mahara Restaurant at Burj Al Arab might has the coolest view I have ever seen.

The hotel might be large, but there are not that many rooms — only 202. That is because each room is its own two-story suite, ranging in size from 1,800 square feet to 8,400 square feet.

There are two restaurants in the hotel; one up high and one down low. The Al Muntaha restaurant is found up top and provides amazing views of the Persian Golf and the Palm Islands.

I figured that view would be hard to beat, but in my opinion, the Al Mahara (which has no windows to the outside) has a more impressive view.

If you are afraid of heights -- do not look down from the top floor.

If you are afraid of heights — do not look down from the top floor. There are 25 floors down and three main levels you can see.

That is because every table has a view of the 350,000 cu feet of water aquarium with a wide variety of fish swimming around. No, you can’t point to a fish and order it, but you are able to enjoy the free show of fish swimming around during your meal.

When heading to the rooms, each floor has its own concierge desk. Help is always close at hand to assist with anything that you might need. There are even butlers available 24 hours if you need one.

The big mistake I made was first looking at the Royal Suite before looking at one of the smaller ones. If I had looked at one of the smaller ones first, I most likely would have been blown away, but after viewing one of the largest and extravagant hotel rooms I have ever seen, anything else was going to pale in comparison.

What a sight. A main stair case when you first walk into the Royal Suite.

What a sight. A main stair case when you first walk into the Royal Suite.

The Royal Suite is just ridiculous. I couldn’t help but think how anyone could ever need to stay in a room like that. Although at the same time, I really wanted to stay in a room like that.

The colors, the decor, pretty much everything was over the top — including the price of about $20,000.00 per night. That probably sounds like too much money for mostof us, but realize that a first class ticket from Seattle to Dubai on Emirates is going to cost you about $15,000.00. If you are bringing someone to enjoy Dubai with you, that is $30,000.00. Now, a $20,000.00 per night room doesn’t sound so crazy does it? (okay, it still does to me).

I am pretty sure the dining room has more square footage than my first apartment in college.

The Royal Suite has a very large (and colorful) dining room.

When walking into one of the two Royal Suites, located on the top floor, you are welcomed by a staircase — to go up or down? Or heck, if you don’t feel like taking the stairs, the room has its own elevator to go between floors.

The first floor has a huge dining room, study, living room, and a large Arabic majlis style lounge.

The office in the Burj Al Arab Royal Suite.

The office in the Burj Al Arab Royal Suite.

If you are color blind, you are missing out on seeing all the vibrant pinks and yellows and gold (lots and lots of gold) that is in the room. Heck, even the TV is painted in gold — boo ya (see the photo gallery below)!

There is also a kitchen downstairs and if you want to have a cook come in to fix you something, no worries about them having to use the front door, the “help” have their own private entrance directly into the kitchen.

One of two master beds in the suite.

One of two master beds in the suite.

Upstairs are two very spacious master bedrooms. Each with their own sitting area and enormous bathroom. I am pretty sure that the bathroom (with full walk in shower and jetted tub with columns) was bigger than my first apartment.

One of the master baths.

One of the master baths.

My eyes were hurting a little bit after leaving the Royal Suite. I could see where some might like the color scheme, but I am not much of a pink/yellow/gold guy and those colors were quite popular.

I have been in many nice hotels and settings, but this one actually made me feel a bit out of place, being so large and costly. Not that I wouldn’t be willing to try and get used to such accommodations.

Probably my favorite sitting area in the Royal Suite.

Probably my favorite sitting area in the Royal Suite.

Honestly, after leaving the Royal Suite and looking at a smaller room, I forgot to take photos. I was pretty much like it just didn’t matter anymore after seeing the larger room.

Although the suite can set you back $20,000.00 per night, the smallest rooms start at about $1000.00 per night, which isn’t totally unreasonable.

Cigar and scotch bar in the Burj Al Arab.

Cigar and scotch bar in the Burj Al Arab.

At a hotel like this, you can expect some high-end service. They offer a fleet of Rolls-Royce cars to take you around town, but that might be too “common” for some folks. They also offer helicopter transfers, as well as scenic tours from the air. More common is the access to the Assawan Spa and Health club, a private beach, a kid’s room and much more.

Much like Dubai itself, the Burj Al Arab is a unique experience that is hard to find anywhere else. I was not able to have the opportunity to stay the night in the hotel (only the tour), but I would imagine with the number of hotel employees I saw everywhere, the customer service experience would match up well with the product.

VIEW ADDITIONAL PHOTOS OF THE BURJ AL ARAB HOTEL IN THE GALLERY BELOW OR ON MY FLICKR