Review: Palmer’s Lodge London

In a city as large and congested as London, it’s nice to have a place that feels like a home away from home. That’s how Palmer’s Lodge hostel feels for me. This is where I’ve always stayed while in London over the past few years, so when they asked me to write a review while staying there during the Olympics this summer, I gladly accepted.

Photo courtesy of Palmer’s Lodge

LOCATION

Located in the Swiss Cottage neighborhood of London, the hostel is less than a 5-minute walk from the Swiss Cottage tube station. This is especially convenient when carrying a heavy pack around on your back. Palmer’s Lodge is also located in close proximity to the Camden area, which is one of the best areas for nightlife and where most pub-crawls take place. Even better, there’s a 24-hour bus that runs to and from Swiss Cottage to Camden.

For those on a tighter budget, the hostel is roughly a 5-minute walk to 2 major supermarkets: Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer. Both supermarkets have a wide selection of sandwiches and microwavable dinners. The hostel provides a microwave and refrigerator for those wanting to heat up or store their own food.

ROOMS

The hostel provides a variety of dorm rooms ranging from 5-beds to 28-beds, as well as a selection of private rooms if you prefer a bit more privacy. I’ve always stayed in the 28-bed dorm because 1) it’s cheapest, and 2) it’s on the main floor so I don’t have to climb any stairs. With 14 beds on one floor and another 14 on a loft-style second floor, this dorm is always surprisingly quiet.

Photo courtesy of Palmer’s Lodge

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iPhone 4S – Initial Reactions For Travel

First off, let me say that this is not meant to be a tech blog, but since I do follow the tech industry a lot I wanted to give my initial reactions on the new iPhone 4S announced by Apple today as it relates to traveling.

As far as looks go, the iPhone 4S is practically identical to the iPhone 4 that I currently own. It is significantly faster and does have some new features baked into iOS 5, but there are two features on the 4S that make this device ideal for travelers.

World Phone Capability

First, the new iPhone 4S will be a “world phone,” and will be available on Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint. I’ve had an iPhone 4 since Verizon got it on its network, but it’s basically useless outside of the USA except to use Skype over Wi-Fi. I can still use all the apps and Skype people, but I’ve never had the ability to swap a different SIM card into it. This will change that. I love Verizon’s service and having a phone that I can put a SIM card into in different countries will be extremely useful. The only thing is that I’ll have to see how much it will cost me to get one off contract. I bought my current phone off of eBay shortly after it came out and have on a month-to-month contract ever since. This is great because the early termination fees carriers charge is outrageous! I also don’t like to be locked into having the same phone for 21 months or whatever the timeframe is now, especially since a new iPhone comes out every year.

Improved Camera

Second, and probably more important, is the fact that the iPhone 4S has a much-improved camera built in. Ever since I got my first smartphone a few years ago, I’ve been hoping that one will come out that will allow me to use for my main everyday camera. Ideally when I travel, I only want to carry my iPhone and a DSLR camera when I get around to buying one. I want a smartphone with a camera good enough that I can get rid of my current point-and-shoot. Not only does it have an 8-megapixel sensor, it also has a larger f/2.4 aperture for brighter pictures and an IR filter for more accurate colors. Face Detection technology and better white balance will also help to give sharper pictures.

A big thing for me is the time it takes to load up the camera app and snap a picture. On my current iPhone, it takes a little bit to do. On the new 4S, Apple is claiming 1.1 seconds for the first picture and half a second for each one after. This will be awesome, especially when there’s something that goes by quickly that you don’t want to miss.

Throw in 1080p HD video recording and video image stabilization and this is going to be a very good device for photography, likely eliminating my point-and-shoot camera.

Summary

In my opinion, for the average person who already owns an iPhone 4 I would say that this model is not worth an upgrade. For people that own an older iPhone or other smartphone, this is probably a worthwhile upgrade. For someone like myself that travels a lot and wants to carry as few devices as possible, this is a definite upgrade. I will probably be getting one as soon as I can find one for a reasonable price off-contract (probably once they launch in all of the international markets).

What do you think of Apple’s new device? Will you buy one?