MY NEW LOVE IN THE HEART OF BUCHAREST

In Bucharest, the capital of Romania, you can find more than 140 4- and 5-star hotels. But, excepting those part of international chains – big boys like Marriott, Hilton, Sheraton or Intercontinental – finding a real high-quality accommodation can be a hit miss because “return business” and “consistency” are lessons needed to be learned by the Romanian hoteliers.

Couple weeks ago, due to a unexpected changes in my travel plans, I book for one night a basic room in one of the newest hotel in Bucharest: Lido by Phoenicia. The experience of those less than 12 hours was far above all my expectations. And therefor on my next trip I decided to upgrade my experience to an Executive Suite and since then I discovered a new love in the heart of Bucharest.

The Lido, opened on June 1930, brandishing a luxurious architecture and the first pool with waves in Europe, complete with underwater spotlights that lured and fascinated Bucharest’s beau monde, was one of the landmarks of interwar Bucharest — a city that back then bore the nickname “Little Paris”. It was characteristic for the lifestyle of those crazy years. European beauties such as Miss Austria, Miss Serbia, Miss Turkey or Miss Bucharest were paid to bathe in the waves of the Lido and delight the sunbathers with their Jentzen bathing suits as live jazz music played and fiery dancers gave their best on the same stage that at night showcased a roll-down movie screen. It was a meeting place for local celebrities, members of the royal family and the nobility and of the most important foreign visitors to the Romanian capital. This jewel in the crown of Bucharest was designed by French architect Ernest Doneaud on a land that belonged to Doctor Constantin Angelescu, former senator and prime minister of Romania.

The Lido complex was nationalised in 1949 and was reopened to the public in 1957, under the same name — much to the displeasure of then Prime Minister Dr. Petru Groza, who pointed out that it was unacceptable that the pool bore the name of a place where in the interwar period “business people had lunch on the terrace while looking at various beauties bathing”, and instead suggested that it be called “the Carpathians”. It was managed by the Bucharest Hotels and Restaurants Tourism Enterprise and was one of the hotels preferred by tourists and the members of the Communist party, even though at the time the atmosphere was a lot more austere and less luxurious than in the heyday of the Lido.

After 1990, the ownership of the hotel changed hands several times, until it was at last granted to the Romania Intercontinental Hotel Company in 1999 but their ownership was being threatened by the heirs of Doctor Angelescu. They had sued the Romanian state and were asking to have the Lido complex returned to them. In 2009 the waves of the Lido went to a standstill: Alexander Adamescu sold his own family €10 million stolen from shareholders for 200 RON and impressive building located on one of the most important Bucharest boulevards started to be a sad ruin for more than 10 years.

Fortunately for the hotelier market of Bucharest and all the international tourists visiting the Romanian capital, Lido reopened in January 2019, under the label of Phoenicia group (Lido by Phoenicia) after a EUR 5 million upgrade. Mohammad Murad, one of the biggest hotel owners in Romania, leased it from the owners for a period of 15 years, refurbished it and brought the unique Phoenicia’s approach of hospitality in the centre of Bucharest – the power of understanding each guest, the desire to share happiness with the loved ones.

Staying at Lido by Phoenicia gave me the chance to experience the scent of the interwar period, combined with the modernity and comfort requested by modern traveller. Some original items have been preserved, such as the elevator, the ceiling in some rooms and the stairs. Nothing is too much and whoever thought the interior design was extremely inspired bringing a lot of atmospheric elements in the lobby without being too crowded, over the top, mixing a lot of “dust collectors” like in the other “boutique” hotels experienced in Bucharest in my previous stays.

But for sure the biggest value of the “first contact” with the hotel is the Front Desk team. A genuine smile, a “nothing is too much” attitude, an impressive service excellence attitude are all strong points in starting a stay at the hotel with the right foot. Everybody at the reception is always ready to help, friendly but very professional at the same time. I still didn’t get used to the fact that while I was doing the check-in somebody already took care of my luggage and was waiting to escort me to the room. And to be honest I don’t remember last time when in Bucharest, somebody, in a hotel, gave me a short briefing about the room, services and facilities at my arrival.

The entire ambience is a stylish mixture between luxury, functionality, elegance creating the feeling of an old-fashioned boutique hotel cloned with a contemporaneous hospitality: the lobby, the staircase, the corridors, the elevator.

My choice this time was an Executive Suite. Spacious and decorated in a way that combines the comfort of our days  with the elegance and luxury of interwar Bucharest, the 40m² , brings together a spacious lounge – the perfect combination of comfort, functionality and style, a comfortable bedroom with an extra-large double bed, a, believe or not, a cosy but spacious walking in dressing and a spacious bathroom with a walking in shower. An excellent choice for stylish and modern city breaks in the heart of Bucharest. The only thing missing was a proper working space with a desk and a chair, but who wants to work when you stay in such a lovely room?

In my travels around the world I learned to discover in each hotel small details which show if the hotelier builds its concept around profit or quality of the guest experience. And in my room at Lido by Phoenicia those details were easy to spot. Call me nitpicky but I will accept the risk:

  • I hate in a hotel, especially, the 4- or 5-star ones, to have a list of TV channels which, when you check your screen you need 30 minutes to discover them in the menu and most of them are coded or not tuned. At Lido the story is completely different: the channels on your 2 TVs are tuned in a logical order and the choice is amazing: news, sport, entertainment, movies. And guess what the in-room premium movie package is a reality not just a promise.
  • The amenities in the bathroom are another indicator of the level of guest experience. in the Executive Suite, the quality and quantity of the bathroom’s amenities are a strong proof that “cutting corners” is not part of the hotel’s vision and “replaced daily” is a rule not just an on-line marketing line.
  • The Turn-down service, the well-stocked minibar with decent prices, the excellent internet WIFI and an amazing pillow menu transform a stay at Lido by Phoenicia in a memorable experience.
  • Each room offers complimentary tea and coffee making facilities but big surprise: on each floor, next to the elevator, a fridge with still and sparkling water and a coffee machine add a special touch to your stay.
  • Do you remember the nightmare of the hotel’s bathrobes when one size doesn’t fit all or the slippers with a size forcing you to adopt a “geisha walk”? At Lido 2 different sizes for bathrobes and slippers was the perfect solution found by my host. Another example of putting guests at the heart of your daily business
  • The hotel is located on one of the busiest and nosiest streets of Bucharest and the views from the two balconies are amazing, day and night. An open window brigs in the room the buzz of the Romanian capital, but the excellent phonic isolation of the room make possible to lock all the city’s vibes outside and have a quiet and comfy sleep.

And I can carry on but is better to stop here and let yourself to discover all these little touches.

In a hotel with so many architectural and design elements cleanliness can be a challenge. But, believe me, each corner, public spaces or rooms, is sparkling clean and doesn’t matter how hard you try you can not fail the hotel housekeeping. Believe me I check everything during my stay, and everything was PP: Perfect & Professional. And another important detail:  during my stay I had the chance to meet on the corridor members of the housekeeping team and once again the passion for customer service was obvious. A little friendly genuine chat, a subliminal checking of the previous night sleep and service quality made me feel like home away from home!

The breakfast is an important stay in any hotels. At Lido, where the breakfast is included for the stay in an Executive Suite, is another memorable moment. Tailored to the different nationality using the hotel, the breakfast is served every morning in Lido’s Brasserie. The place itself is fabulous: quite large, with the L-shaped salon, and glass walls – and it is very good so – to see the great boulevard and the centre of Bucharest. An excellent breakfast with a view

And the breakfast menu was another pleasant surprise: from a continental version to full English one, healthy options and Middle east touches everything was delicious, permanently refilled on the buffet and elegant presented. Add to all these elements a smooth, friendly and efficient service to have the accurate image of a perfect start of the day. And to don’t forget: the coffee is EXCELLENT!

I was always looking at the sad closed building of the old luxurious hotel trying to discover the hidden glory, and when I had a chance to book a room in the newly opened hotel my expectations were very high. I am now overwhelmed and in love with this place. Mohammad Murad, the owner of Lido by Phoenicia, wanted to restore the hotel to the interwar environment. Which made me very happy, because it would irritate me, without a doubt, to find there an industrial ceiling or who knows what depressing minimalisms. He managed in a genius way to combine tradition with modern luxury and the hotel is with no doubts a big success.  And this also fits with the inclination towards the Eastern luxury that I have observed in many places that Mohammad Murad prides himself on, such as the Phenicia Hotel in Baneasa, or the colorful Mandaloun restaurant. And on top of that the high standards of the services round in a very inspired and professional way the entire experience.

Bottom line: I’ve had 3 bookings from the beginning o the year, another 5 until the end of 2019 and I can’t wait to come to LIDO, Bucharest!

~ by leonard69 on August 6, 2019.

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