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Friday, 3 November 2017

Grand Mercure Auckland: My Grand Story

Is it possible to get emotionally attached to a hotel? Because I think I am. So much so that I found myself actually procrastinating writing this as I didn't want the experience to be over. Or maybe I was just busy last week... but I digress.

I stayed at Grand Mercure Auckland over the Labour weekend and it was the most magical staycation I've ever had. Two weeks later and I'm still dreaming about it, feeling the warm fuzzies as I went through my photos and started writing this post.


The day started with some pretty epic surprises. The day before, Grand Mercure Auckland's Guest Relations Manager, Carla Bencivenga, double checked what time I was arriving and I told her I was heading in early in the morning as I had a full day ahead of me and if it was okay if I dropped my suitcase off so I didn't have to lug it around with me all day. She said it was absolutely fine and that she'd try her best to get the room ready as early as possible for me. I told her it really wasn't an issue as I was out and about anyway, and I knew that most hotels have a standard check in time at 2 pm anyway. So imagine my surprise when I rocked up at 8 am, brother in tow (because he was sweet enough to carry my big suitcase in the train for me) to drop my bags off when the lovely man in reception (I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to catch your name!) told me that my room was ready.

I was so surprised and kept asking if he was joking, and after my third time asking, he said "Ma'am, why would I lie to you?" and we both cracked up. Carla came out to greet me and she had such a warm smile and welcoming presence that I immediately felt right at home. I told her she was crazy for getting the room ready this early and hoped that it wasn't too much of an inconvenience. She said it was no trouble at all and as we got into the sleek, cherry red elevator, she told me that they've put me in a suite on the 12th floor, also known as the executive floor. She gave me a brief history of the hotel and told me that the suites were named after an iconic New Zealand place.
We got to the Devonport Suite and as soon as Carla opened the door, I gasped. There it was, a lot bigger than I imagined from looking at the photos. But even better because it was happening in real life. She gave me a tour of the suite and by then all I could say was 'Oh my god' repeatedly. How do I even begin to tell you about this suite?! I did a bit of a tour on Facebook as soon as it started kicking in that this was going to be my home for the next couple of days:
       
When I got to the bedroom, I saw a robe with my name in gold embroidery. I was so overwhelmed that after some squealing I went to hug Carla! It was such a surprise and something I didn't expect at all. I mean, one of my favourite parts of going on staycation is putting on the lush, pristine hotel robe so to have one with my name on it that I get to keep?! I felt like an audience member of the Oprah show during one of her iconic Christmas giveaways! As if I wasn't feeling so spoilt already, Carla let slip that more surprises were coming. I think I looked at her like what??? What do you mean? You've already given me this amazing suite and now a robe... you've been so kind to me and this was just in the first 15 minutes of me arriving!
A little peek of my suite (yes, I am claiming it now lol) in photos:
It actually pained me to leave the place for a couple of hours as I wanted nothing more than to jump in bed and wrap myself in that beautiful robe. So when I came back in the afternoon, that's exactly what I did. Because the suite was insanely huge, especially as I was staying on my own, I made it a point to sit in every corner and really look at things in detail like the green velvet chairs and the glass birds (a gorgeous part of the decor at the lobby too) are by local artist Luke Jacomb. I also really loved the little touches of elegance that the suite had with the crystal glasses, marble furnishings, and the most exquisite glass mugs accompanying the Nespresso machine. Oh yeah, have I mentioned my suite had its own Nespresso?!

Then there's the bathroom. We absolutely must talk about that bathroom. I mean, I seriously contemplated writing a separate post about that bathroom because it deserves the best of the best to be honest.

Since we're all friends here, I'm not going to lie to you - prior to my stay, I've been stalking the hotel's Instagram account almost obsessively looking at photos of the bathroom. Is that weird?

No, no it's not. Because look at it! I showed my mum a photo of it and we both squealed. Even my brother was very impressed (he's very meticulous about bathrooms and refuses to stay in places with bathrooms not up to his standard)!

But all that stalking did not prepare me for seeing the real thing. As Carla opened the door to it (it's discretely hidden in the suite - you'll never guess that hiding behind that pocket of a door was this enormous
bathroom! This is the closest I'll ever get to opening the wardrobe to Narnia), I was quite speechless.

There it was, all smooth grey marble. So polished that the floor was shiny. My immediate thought was that I would come back just for the bathroom. Heck, I would sleep in that bathroom if I could, specifically in that gorgeous tub. The TUB! It's perfectly shaped and spacious and for someone like me who can take up a lot of space, it was the right size. True to my word I wanted to fall asleep in it when I decided that midnight on a Saturday night was the perfect time for a pink bath filled with bubbles so that I did. Because the bathroom was sort of tucked away in the middle of the suite, it was so quiet too which really is what you're looking for when you want to have a nice bath.

But just look at how amazing is this rainfall shower for real though?

Don't worry - the other end of this was a 'normal' shower if you're not the dramatic showering type.

I wasn't the only one obsessed with the bathroom. On the first night of my stay, I had a 'late birthday celebration' with a few friends. Except I completely forgot that I was organising this (even made a Facebook event and everything!) and didn't send the invite to most people. Also as it was the long weekend, people were away and half my messages that Friday was a 'sorry I can't make it'. So it just ended up being a drinks thing, which was fine by me.
We started the night downstairs at Custom Lane , a cafe by day/cocktail bar by night area in the lane right by the hotel. While I didn't get a chance to pop by during the morning (there's a confirmed rumour about amazing donuts being served there....), I did get to enjoy the cocktail bar side of things. Inspired by character cities like San Francisco and Melbourne, Custom Lane honestly has the most extensive espresso menu for cocktails. Bar manager Michael told me the story behind it too - each of the items on the menu are original concoctions by the bar staff! I particular loved (like I drank it everyday kind of love) the espresso martini and then this little magical drink called the divinity which had nutella AND salted caramel. The cocktails are reasonably priced too!

Afterwards we moved up to Attica on the top floor of the hotel. Now earlier in the day my team and I had cheeky after work drinks there and I didn't think the view could get more spectacular until I went up there at night. Huge glass windows, the city view and skyline at night with buildings lit up.... now thats a view. The drinks kept coming and we got to sample the delicious platter and ordered more of the waffle fries before taking heaps of photos. What's a drink outing without a quintessential group photo taken by the lovely bartender, am I right?
The best part about your hotel having 2 bars in the building though, is that the trip "home" is really easy. I was one floor down so we all went back to my suite where we had more drinks (#YOLO) and wanted to just chill out and play music while deciding if we were going out or not. Which brings me back to the bathroom again (I told you I'm obsessed!)... I remember saying earlier that night that I wanted a bath tub pic with everyone.
So all my dreams came true as my friends and I hopped in the tub and took some photos. We rung Shiri, the kind concierge who went up to take photos and videos especially. By then we were all in the lovely tub, Beyonce was blasting, and danced we did. We even managed to get Shiri to dance with us (it's caught on video somewhere)! I apologised for being nosy and taking up a lot of his time which he humbly brushed off, saying it was his pleasure and assured me we weren't being annoying! Also good to note now that earlier that night we were having issues plugging in music (which in the end we found out we couldn't on the TV anyway) and Shiri was on to it, helping us fix the problem. He even told me quietly after that he was really sad that he couldn't solve it that night. This is just the kind of customer service level that Grand Mercure Auckland has - they really cared about giving me the best service possible, no matter how big or small the request was.
This lot (Hiiii Lio, Steph, Benny, Jess, Angela, Hannah, and Simon!) ended up hitting Family Bar that night - but not before playing Dua Lipa's New Rules excessively and recreating the music video... which was perfect given the location.

I got back to the hotel just before 3 am, feet sore and hungry. How convenient because Grand Mercure offers 24/7 room service so I ordered the soft shell crab gourmet burger with a brioche bun and some fries. You know how they say nothing good ever happens after 3 am? Well, the soft shell crab burger is an exception. Perfectly crispy yet the bread was soft... it was the ultimate after party indulgence. Don't worry, it had some vegetables too so it was healthy.
I ended up just watching TV while eating (the TV right in front of my bed is humongous!) and planning my day. I wanted to make sure that I actually made time to rest and relax too as I had some filming I had to do that day (but more on that very soon!). I remember emailing Carla just before I went to bed, asking what time breakfast was served.... typical. Always thinking about food! Also just a note on the food too - I've tried many room service food before but nothing compares to Grand Mercure's menu. Not only was it reasonably priced, the delivery charge was relatively low for $5 compared to other hotels I've stayed with in the past, and the portions are generous! I tried the beef tataki, the salmon dish (crispy skin and succulent bok choy OMG), and my favourite was the rib eye steak and bone marrow served with waffle fries!

The buffet breakfast was being served at Vue restaurant from 6 am until 11 am so I had time for a bit of a sleep in before heading back up to to the top floor. This time instead of the city skyline, I had a view of the ocean. It was such a calming start to the morning, looking at such a serene view while having breakfast. I sat in one of the huge booths they had with plush yellow velvet accents even though I was alone. I had enough food in my table to pretend I was eating with a group, though! Carla came up to catch up with me for a bit at breakfast and I showed her some videos of the evening's antics and assured her that no hotel facilities were damaged in the making of the tub photo. The first photo is of me and Carla. My face is puffy from an evening of partying and going to bed at 5 am but I don't even care because look at how elated I look and look how gorgeous Carla is!
The rest of my stay was spent just relaxing mostly in the bedroom. I loved the fluffy duvet and the view of Britomart and the ocean from my window. While I wished that I had spent more time in the other parts of the suite (the dining table was the perfect size for a family dinner, and because the lounge area had its own TV it would have been the perfect place to host a movie night!), for me this only means there's more things to look forward on my next staycation. In fact, I was already dreaming about my next stay way before I even checked out!
I had this moment right before checking out where I was just lying in bed in silence. It was the most blissful state, especially after having a final bath in the tub. I was under the covers and I had the curtains open and I was just staring at the view. I couldn't help but think about how lucky I felt even to just be invited to stay. It's no secret that this year has been a really rough one for me so to have a break and just reconnect with myself again was much needed.

I'll leave you with a little bit more of my staycation in photos. I lingered for a bit after checking out and went to have dinner at Vue. Except of course I was that girl who had so many requests like ordering off menu and sitting at the bar rather than in the restaurant. I also bumped into Patrick, one of the bartenders, who brought up most of the espresso martini menu ingredients from the bar downstairs (which was closed that day) for me and made a variation of my favourite drink that I tried to force him to call The Jess. This type of above and beyond service is truly exceptional, and never did they once made me feel as though I was being a pain in the ass (I was well aware of it...) for having all these special requests. They did it with a smile and we had great banter. Just another reason I'm coming back here.
My Grand Story was one of the books and my first experience at Grand Mercure Auckland was beyond phenomenal. One of my favourite parts about staying in a hotel is the people I meet along the way so a big big thank you to Julie, Carla, Shiri, Rajat, Ashleigh, Michael, Rangi, Patrick and to the rest of the team for having me. I loved every minute of my stay, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to create freely and be given a wonderful space to do so. While #mygrandstory is a collaboration, views are my own. Keep an eye out for part two of my magic making weekend with Grand Mercure Auckland, especially if you've always wondered why I go on so many staycations!

8 Customs Street East
Auckland 1010

This post was brought to you in collaboration with Grand Mercure Auckland.

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