Staying in a Hotel Vs a Vacation Rental – What’s a Better Choice?

It is again time to plan your next holiday. This of course does not feel like a chore. It’s one of those relaxing mind activities that get you daydreaming during those drowsy Monday mornings at work. Glancing out of the window, the sky returns a solid gray (or do you work in a cubicle?), the chair is uncomfortable, and the computer screen too bright. Yes, you deserve that holiday. You start thinking about it more and more consistently as your work holiday approaches. And all of the sudden the planning process is at full regime, with plenty of questions coming up and very little answers.
This is usually the time when you sit down and, above all other questions, ask yourself: do I want to stay in a hotel or in a vacation rental? Do I want the convenience and service of a hotel or the freedom and larger space of a vacation rental? And what will ultimately be cheaper, yet pleasant?

When comparing hotels and vacation rentals you are really comparing pears and apples. But you have to choose eventually. In order to make the right decision you should look at the following factors and prioritize depending on your needs.

Usually hotels are set in more convenient locations than holiday rentals. Hotels rise in high service areas (such as airports) or very convenient and central locations (such as city centers) because that is going to be one of their major selling pitches. Provided minimum standards are met, one primarily books a hotel room out of its location, while other factors, such as decor and services may be lower tier factors.

For vacation rentals, on the other hand, there is much more variation. You could find one you like in a far-off location, or a very central, very noisy, one. As an example, there are Tuscany apartments located in the heart of Florence overlooking trafficked streets, while others are in quiet, wonderful remote country locations. What is your priority, convenience or tranquility?

When thinking of vacation services the natural winner between hotels and holiday rentals would be the hotel. Hotels are great at making you feel pampered and taken care of. Let’s face it. Coming back from an abundant breakfast to find your bed in mint conditions and your fluffy bathroom towels freshly changed makes you feel great. While in a hotel you do not have to worry about hundreds small details that make your everyday life a bit tedious. No food preparation, no house chores. It feels like the real vacation. Moreover, hotels can provide extra services at little or no extra charge. Depending on their location, they will organize daily excursions, beach activities, or guided city tours.

Vacation rentals do not provide these kind of services, as they usually are self-catered apartments or villas. You will have to do all your house chores, just like at home. You will also have to plan for your activities and daytrips. Holiday rentals do provide services, however. There usually is a discreet presence of the owner who will provide a very personalized service if requested to. Usually, property owners tend to be much more flexible than hotels when providing services. If you need a special delivery, or would like to have a special dinner catered for you and your family or your group, at your villa or apartment it can be arranged just with some prior notice.

Booking conditions.
Hotels apply a very flexible booking policy. All hotels accept any length of stay and provide you with the freedom of renewing your booking for the next 24 hours, given they have availability. You will usually be able to reserve a room without any down payment and cancel the reservation without any cancellation fees until up to 24 hours prior to your intended arrival date.
Vacation rentals often have a much stricter booking policy. Especially during the high season, they may apply a Saturday to Saturday only rental condition, which may be quite frustrating in terms of flight availability and fares. Even in medium season many apply a weekly rental only condition, while others have a minimum stay of fewer days. Although discounts may apply, you often have to pay for the full stay even if you leave earlier. There usually is a down payment to be paid to secure your holiday rental. Cancellation policies are much stricter, with no refund given if the booking is canceled 15 days prior to arrival. Some are stricter than others, take this as a general rule of thumb.

Freedom and living space.
This factor for some people is a biggy. Hotels are left a bit astray on this one for obvious reasons. Unless you have the money to pay for the imperial suite, any vacation rental will beat any hotel, given the same price range. Hotels usually offer one bedroom and one en suite bathroom. Although you might get a large room at a good price, there will not be much left to do in there for you after your daily morning routine. After a few hours it will feel like a cage. Many hotels do provide wonderful communal areas, although you can never fully relax in them, and never make them “your private space”. Even outdoor swimming pools, gyms, or sun bathing areas do not provide that sense of comfort necessary for you to fully relax and enjoy.

For the same price range, holiday rentals offer much more freedom, independence, and space. Most of the time interiors are personable and cozy. You will have plenty of room to stay indoors without feeling constrained, yet with all the comforts and the liberty to be in your underwear, if you wish so. In a rental apartment or villa you can create your personal space, even if you are there for just a week. If you rent an apartment off a city center, the property will usually come with a private garden area to eat outside and other communal areas. Private villas also provide complete outdoor freedom. Additionally, vacation rentals give you the often sought freedom and space to organize a self catered dinner, or even a small event.

Have you decided what is the best choice for you yet? I hope I made it a little easier for you by spelling out the common pros and cons of staying in a hotel Vs a vacation rental.

Chinese Snuff Bottles – Sensations in Glass!

The first Chinese snuff bottles we decided to buy that were not carved out of stone were made of glass. A huge range of glass bottles is to be found in all shapes and colours as well as a variety of manufacturing techniques.

Much more research is needed in order to date these bottles, but it is generally now agreed that glass and metal bottles were the earliest materials to be used. The problem is that glass has been used throughout the whole snuff bottle period right up to the present day.

The Chinese had little use for glass prior to the 17th century mainly because of their highly refined porcelain skills. They had no glass windows, favouring translucent paper. We are not sure if glass had been used centuries earlier in China but it was certainly introduced to them by Europeans in good time for snuff bottles.

Cameo Glass
They considered it as a valuable material and excelled in producing very fine works of art. Sometimes they treated it just like a stone and carved bottles out of a solid piece, otherwise they blew glass into moulds. Creating many unusual snuff bottles ranging from transparent to white as backgrounds for colour overlay work. They were also able to control bubbles and by the addition of white flecks in the glass, colours such as these apt names suggest were created: – Sodden Snow, Camphor, and Snowflakes.

These bottles would then be dipped into bright coloured molten glass which later would be carved away to leave a cameo style of design. Some were dipped more than once to provide more than one coloured layer. Another technique was to apply to different areas of the bottle coloured molten blobs of glass. When these were carved the snuff bottle could have up to as many as eight different colours cameo carved without increasing the number of layers.

Quality Counts
To a connoisseur, the number of colours or layers is not so very important, as it was not such a difficult process and a far softer material to carve than stone. What really should be valued is the quality of the carving and the overall design. Quite often a wonderfully carved and well-designed single colour overlay will be worth far more than a multicolour but poorly finished bottle.

To assess these snuff bottles the colour is a consideration but great attention is paid just as with stone cameo carving, to the quality of the carving and especially to how well the background is finished close to the edge of the overlay. I have selected a ruby red single overlay as a good example to photograph. It shows a coiled ‘Chih Lung’ or dragon on both sides; also having mythological animal mask and mock ring handles on each shoulder 1750 – 1860. The dragon is a birth sign used rather like our zodiac signs. (See the photograph by clicking on the link at the end of this article).

There is a group of rather special, very finely worked overlay snuff bottles known as the `Seal School’ because they always include a seal with the design. They were made later and date back from the second half of the 19th century.

Although these were made in the same way, the overlay is far more delicately carved and often even the thickness of the overlay is controlled to create shading. They normally used opaque white bottles as the background but some were also worked on other opaque colours. So far, I have never seen any on the clear or snowflake backgrounds. The photograph shows a fine seal school bottle depicting a pair of cats at play with hovering insects amongst the flowers. On each side there is a bowl of fruit on a table and on the reverse is another scene of a drunken poet asleep in a garden. (See the photograph by clicking on the link at the end of this article).

Layers of Glass
Apart from these overlay types there are many interesting mottled, swirling and colourful designs as well as the plain colour bottles, both uncarved and carved.

Many of these were quite complex in the way they were made: some were blown into moulds then finished by hand; others involved blowing a clear glass into a mould but then another layer was blown inside the first bottle. This layer was a thin colourful one, sandwiched by yet a third clear layer that was also blown in. When looking down at the neck of one of these bottles you can clearly see these three layers.

A variety of colours were successfully used, together with gold in the creation of snuff bottles. There is no doubt that their advanced knowledge acquired in firing porcelain, and how metallic oxides react, was put to good use in glass.

It has also been suggested that apart from mixing in metals, even small particles of precious gemstones such as Sapphires, Emeralds and Rubies were added to the molten glass.

Particular attention was given to the feel of the finished material, which was achieved by the type of polishing and even the weight was controlled by the addition of lead. With transparent bottles the inside could be controlled and made to appear crazed as these names suggest – Cracked Ice, Fish Net or Sea Spray.

Most of the really fine snuff bottles were made in the Imperial Workshop and other small glass works around Peking.

Stone Imitations
With such expertise the Chinese were able to make astounding imitations of other materials. There are many bottles that look and feel just like Jade, Aquamarine, Agate and other stones. There has been a view in the past that the Chinese made these as fakes with the intention to deceive. I am sure that this was not the case, as it was far too easy to find them out by careful inspection. Under magnification little holes on the surface that could not be polished out and tiny bubbles would be seen proving it must be glass. Lastly, glass unlike the stones can be scratched quite easily by steel.

The Chinese enjoyed making convincing imitations of highly valued minerals as a demonstration of their skill. One other mineral cleverly copied was Realgar with its bright red and yellow swirling colours, impossible to use because of a high arsenic content, so these copies would have caused a lot of intrigue.

Imperial Yellow
I have already mentioned that a wide range of colours was used for glass snuff bottles. Such colours as sapphire blue and ruby red seem to have been the most popular of the earliest ones. However the Emperor Chien-Lung had a favourite colour that he decreed could only be used by the Imperial family and this was an opaque shade of yellow that is now referred to as ‘Imperial Yellow’.

Not all bottles of this colour really are Imperial as after his death this colour was available to all. A true ‘Imperial Yellow’ bottle must be one from his period and that can only be confirmed by the quality of the bottle and the carving. The ‘Imperial Yellow’ bottle pictured is well carved with an archaic design on both sides and is of the period 1736 – 1795. (See the photograph by clicking on the link at the end of this article).

Painted on the Inside
There remains one other area of glass bottles that really amazes everyone, these being the `Inside painted’ bottles. I have only a couple of examples in the collection, as I do not generally favour them as in my view they were never made for use. Once snuff was put into them the picture would not show up well, and the spoon would soon ruin the painting.

I should also explain that they did not restrict inside painting to glass but have applied the same techniques to Crystal and Chalcedony. The vast majority however are in specially designed glass snuff bottles of a uniform shape.

What is remarkable is that through such a tiny hole in the neck they could paint on the inside landscapes, animals, calligraphy and even portraits. In order for the image to show through the glass the painting had to be done in reverse, all such fine details as the eyelashes for example, had to be painted first! All of these bottles are signed by the artist and many, some very attractive ones too, are still being made today.

For our own collection I felt that we should have one or two examples and I was lucky enough to buy the earliest known, dated and signed inside painted snuff bottle by Kan Huan-Wen. He is one of the first well-known artist and highly respected. He has painted inside a rock crystal bottle, a scene of Buddhist Lions with a poem on the reverse. This Chinese snuff bottle is signed and dated 1822. (See the photograph by clicking on the link at the end of this article).

Later we acquired another rock crystal example, and these two are the only inside painted snuff bottles that we have. I think that this one is quite remarkable, as the interior space is so limited, it is hard to imagine how such a beautiful painting was achieved on one surface without completely ruining the other.

It originally would have been a rather poorly made double bottle. I do not know if the damaged half that has been removed was done so before it was painted, but I believe that it would have been. This was a very badly hollowed out bottle, of little value, before it was painted.

To my mind it is the fact that it was so poorly hollowed that makes the painting even more amazing! Have a look at the photograph. A continuous scene of fish amongst aquatic plants was painted in red, gold, pink; white, green and grisaille dated 1896 and signed Chu Chan-Yuan. This crystal has a natural flaw in the stone that adds to the under water appeal of this picture. (See the photograph by clicking on the link at the end of this article).

Most of the glass bottles purposely made for inside painting are much larger than this crystal one. Some of the paintings achieved however are hard to believe possible. There are even portraits that are so well done that they just look as good as black and white photographs!

Imperial Delight A New Trend Of Mumbai Hotels

The cosmopolitan conurbation of Mumbai is a fusion of Hindustani and colonial panache. The financial capital of astonishing India is a city of dreams and fantasy. The mesmeric city of opportunities and energetic lifestyles is a domicile to navigators from across the world.

The entertainment hub attracts both business as well as pleasure travelers to its vivacious city life adorned with culture, history, commercial core and glamorous night life.

The rainbow city is emerging as a metropolis of hotels and resorts providing assorted collection to meet the need and preference of every traveler. The Mumbai accommodations are globally admired for their hospitality and soothing accommodation.

The Mumbai hotels assorted collection can be easily classified into 5 star deluxe, 5 star, 4 star, Airport hotels, 3 star and budget hotels.

Mumbai 5 star deluxe hotels:

These hotels are personification of imperial luxury as well as lavish comfort and a perfect accommodation nucleus for self rejuvenation. The cosmos recognized hotel chains are Grand Hyatt, Leela Kempinski, the Oberoi, Hyatt Regency and the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower.

Mumbai 4 star hotels:

The Mumbai 4 star hotels provide top notch accommodation and flawless services which are almost parallel to 5 star hotels of Mumbai at a price lower than the former.

The four star hotels in Mumbai are the most preferred hotels of business corporate as well as leisure travelers. The world class hotel brands are the Ambassador, Marriott Executive Apartments, Fariyas hotel and Fortune Select Exotica.

Mumbai Airport hotels:

These hotels of international standards as well as fame are intentionally located near the Mumbai airport to accommodate visitors who visit for a special purpose and for a short span of time. The globally renowned hotels are ITC Maratha, the Orchid, Intercontinental the Lalit and Le Royal Meridien.

Mumbai Budget hotels:

These hotels are adorned with all luxury and fashionable amenities to give utmost satisfaction to all budget conscious soul at amazing rates. The hotels of great economic value are Airport International, Hotel Ajanta, Hotel garden and Hotel Galaxy.

The Mumbai hotels are an easy access from aerodromes as well as railway terminus and are well connected to every nuke and corner of the city. The hotels in Mumbai are an imperial treat of being in home away from home and are a great value for money.