Bed in a Tree and Other Amazing Hotels from Around the World

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What Comes First, the Destination or the Accommodation?

When planning a holiday or a short break most people choose a destination, book the flights or train tickets and then go looking for accommodation that fits in with their plans. In Bettina Kowalewski’s book “Bed in a Tree” the author has turned this ‘destination-led’ approach to travel on its head.Bed in a Tree and Other Amazing Hotels from Around the World by Bettina Kowalewski, book review She introduces us to 27 unique hotels and other types of accommodation and then tells us what else there is to do in the area if you go to them. It’s an ‘accommodation-led’ approach that puts the place you’ll sleep in at the heart of the holiday and creates a sense of ‘Hotel as Destination’ that may well get readers to stop and think about the nature of holiday. Even if you cannot afford to travel to some of these fabulous and funky hotels, castles, tree houses and really weird places, it might just make you stop and think about places nearer to home that you could consider booking. Hopefully the advice it gives about what you’ll find to do in the area will also stop you doing what I’ve sometimes done – booking a fantastic looking hotel and then discovering that it’s miles from any form of civilisation. If one of the places in the book appeals, it’s good to know that just over half of them will give you a discount of 10% off bookings made for stays before April 30th 2011.

I received my copy of Bed in a Tree through the end of year charity book auction. I was clearly not the only person who fancied this one as it generated quite a lot of bidding. If I’d seen it in a book shop or on Amazon I probably wouldn’t have bought it because I expected it to be a bit of a ‘coffee table’ book, full of beautifully staged ‘travel porn’, lots of artistically lit and mucked about with pictures. I generally prefer a guide book that’s more practical but since the money from the auction was going to the fabulous Room to Read charity which supports literacy and schooling for girls in the developing world, I was more than happy to indulge in a bit of travel eye-candy. Despite my preference for the practical, sometimes great photography, blue skies and aspirational accommodation can raise the spirits on a cold January evening.

A Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

My book arrived a few days ago and I’ve been dipping in and out several times a day enjoying the weird and the wonderful and feeling very jealous of Bettina Kowalewski. Who wouldn’t love to get paid to go and stay in places like this? Sixteen of the listed places are in Europe, five are in north America and the remaining few are split between South Africa, the Maldives, Australia and New Zealand so this is probably a more relevant choice for readers in Europe and the USA or for those with big budgets. There are lots of crazy places in Scandinavia in particular – clearly all those long dark nights are good for creative architecture.The accommodation – really, I can’t call them hotels – ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous. Some will make your jaw drop open in admiration whilst others will give you the giggles and have you asking why on EARTH anyone ever thought to do THAT. There’s a B&B in Idaho that’s shaped like a dog. I’m no expert but I’d say it’s a beagle and it’s called Willy so there’s plenty of scope for some smutty titles in a review of that one, I’m sure. There’s a stunningly beautiful Gaudi-esque accommodation formed in the shape of two big white seashells that looks like there can’t be a straight line in the entire place. Mind you, it’s very expensive and you’ll have to get to the Caribbean to visit. Cheaper and a lot more down to earth is a youth hostel in Sweden that’s a collection of wood ‘colliers’ huts. They have no electricity or running water and will cost you about £20 a night but you can indulge all your fantasies about going back to the woods. Sweden also has a very strange semi-submerged floating raft house in the middle of a lake or you could pop over to Lapland for some astonishing glass igloos, located in a place where you can see the Northern Lights. Just imagine lying in your little glass pod watching the swirling of the Aurora Borealis – heaven on earth and you don’t even have to get cold. A few places are quite famous like the Swedish Ice Hotel that’s built from scratch each year and is perfect if you want to sleep on an ice bed under a pile of reindeer skins but most of the places were completely new to me.

Do you remember the end of the Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me where Roger Moore and Barbara Bach end up in an escape capsule getting frisky? Two North Sea oil rig survival capsules had been converted into floating accommodation and if you don’t mind a chemical toilet and a bed that’s a string hammock it could be perfect. If you’ve ever bought into the myth that Germans don’t have a good sense of humour, then maybe you’d like to try sleeping in a giant suitcase in Saxony or the very weird hotel in Berlin with rooms where you can sleep in a coffin or on a suspended platform. There’s a hotel where all the rooms are old giant wine barrels.

My personal favourite and the place I’m most likely to go for is the Gothic Lodge at Stowe in Buckinghamshire which is only about 40 minutes from where I live. Despite being expensive, if you go off peak and split the costs with another couple then it might be manageable. I could be tempted to take a few days off-season, especially if we could book it when the sheep are lambing around the park. I think I’d better start saving up.

For each of the listings we get several pages of spectacular photographs both exterior and interior as well as a fascinating text about how the place came into being, the people responsible and what makes it such a special place. There is enough detail about where to find these places and how to book them and price indications are given. Prices of the places covered go from youth hostel level up to super-luxury with most price points in between. Most importantly, perhaps, if you’re someone who needs lots of things to do when you’re on holiday, there are always details of at least three things that you can do in the area.


Bed in a Tree is a lovely book stuffed full of great photography and plenty enough practical detail to keep my satisfied. In its 240 pages Bettina Kowalewski squeezes in something for all budgets that’ll be ideal for those with a very wide range of holiday aspirations and interests. It’s not just a pretty face!

Bed in a Tree and Other Amazing Hotels from Around the World by Bettina Kowalewski
Thank you to Dorling Kindersley (my favourite guidebook company) for supporting the Curious Book Fans Christmas charitable auction.

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Bed in a Tree and Other Amazing Hotels from Around the World
by Bettina Kowalewski

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Written by koshkha

Koshkha has a busy international job that gives her lots of time sitting on planes and in hotel rooms reading books. Despite averaging about 3 books a week, she probably has enough on her ‘to be read’ shelves to keep her going for a good few years and that still doesn’t stop her scouring the second hand books shops and boot-fairs of the land for more. At weekends she lives with her very lovely husband and three cats, but during the week she lives alone like a mad spinster aunt. She will read just about anything about or set in India, despises chick-lit, doesn’t ‘get’ sci fi and vampire ‘stuff’ and has just ordered a Kindle despite swearing blind that she never would.

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