Tag Archives: Travel

Hotel Review : Hilton Newbury North

I stay in hotels every single week and every now and then, things go wrong. But occasionally you get a stay that is a disaster from start to finish and oddly a large percentage of these types of stay seem to occur in a Hilton hotel. Indeed I can’t remember a stay in a Hilton hotel that has not resulted in me vowing never to return again.

So I arrived at the Hilton Newbury North around 7:30pm on a Thursday evening in November. Once again, we see that somebody has been to the EasyJet school of geography as this isn’t so much in North Newbury as it is North of Newbury.

My timing wasn’t great as I had arrived just as a bus full of foreign tourists had unloaded so the lobby area was chaos. I had to assume that somewhere beyond the crowd was a check in desk but as there were no staff on the entrance (don’t Hilton employ a concierge anymore) I had to wait (and wait and wait).

IMG_2375

Eventually the crowd subsided and after some time I was checking in. I was “upgraded” to an “executive” room (which is always welcomed) and before long I was leaving the still heaving lobby and bar area and wandering down the rabbit warren of very tired corridors searching for my room.

Upon arrival the room itself was of an OK size although was rather bare and unwelcoming. The room had a very strong chemical smell to it and no air conditioning or ventilation. Opening the triple glazed windows revealed that the room is a matter of feet away from the M4/A34 roundabout which is always very busy. Also being on the ground floor meant that security would be a concern. I am guessing staying here on a warm summers day would be impossible.

At this stage I also discovered that my Executive Room did not have a safe and that the remote for the TV didn’t work. It also had a selection of water, wine and chocolate spread out on a side table with no indication if this was complementary or just part of the Hilton ever spreading mini bar. I ended up having to ask at reception to get the answer (it was complementary)

Ever expanding minibar?

By now it was getting late so I went for dinner. Because of the location of the hotel, your options are limited to eating in as you are long taxi drive from the town centre.

Dinner itself was fairly average but as seems to be the norm for a Hilton, the cost of a glass of wine at £9 is just crazy. After a couple of drinks in the bar, I retired for the night.

In the morning I awoke with a pounding headache which I put down to the very stuffy unventilated room and the chemical smell

I went for breakfast and waited and waited. Plenty of staff were busy clearing tables and kept walking past me and the other guests waiting to be seated but not one member of staff acknowledged us. Would it really hurt to perhaps say good morning and explain that somebody would be with us shortly rather than just ignore us?

Eventually I was seated and ventured over to the hot buffet to find a rather disappointing selection of empty dishes sitting under a heat lamp. I went and helped myself to a coffee from the self vend machine before returning just as a “pot” of bacon was being put out and a fresh plate of fried eggs.

I filled my plate and returned to my table. Why there was no ketchup to be found anywhere is beyond me

The fried eggs were clearly not freshly cooked being totally solid. I have to guess they had been sat in the kitchen for some time. The bacon was very salty (cheap) and seriously over cooked. The rest was just as bad. For £15 this is disgraceful. One bite was enough for me to give up and leave.

Back in my room, I discovered that the bathroom was not only tired and worn but that it didn’t work very well. The shower gave out a dribble of water that was sprayed in all directions (except downwards) and that was at best tepid. I got cold and almost wet but felt somewhat short changed. The hot water in the taps was the same and I ended up having to shave in “almost” warm water.

With no breakfast, half a cold shower and a cold shave I really did not leave my room feeling ready for the busy day ahead.

I did raise these points at checkout but I got the impression the receptionist had heard them all before

So a disaster of a stay.

I thought I had hit rock bottom in Newbury hotels a few weeks ago. I was wrong. It could (and did) get worse and once again I have found a Hilton hotel that I will not be returning to.

It wouldn’t be so bad if this were not one of the more expensive hotels in the area that tries to set itself above the crowd. It fails at this especially when you realize that this is a number of miles outside Newbury.

If you are staying in the town, there are better hotels for less money.

Hotel Review : Holiday Inn London-Heathrow M4, JCT 4

Airport hotels exist for a single reason. In the case of this one, it is to serve Heathrow. It is not somewhere you would normally stay if you were visiting central London or the rest of the UK.

Arriving by car (as usual) the hotel was easy to find (just off the M4) and there was plenty of space in the car park (not always the case with airport properties). As expected, the entrance area outside the hotel and the lobby was very busy. Lots of coaches, taxis, suitcases, aircrew and tourists.

But the lobby was large and well staffed and I did not have to wait more than about 30 seconds before I was at the front desk checking in. My IHG Rewards status was recognised and I was soon checked into an executive room on the 6th floor.

The room was clearly newly refurbished and the smell of fresh paint still lingered in the air. I do like the style they have gone for and the room itself was well thought out, of a good size and comfortable. The addition of a good quality bluetooth speaker in the room meant I could play some music from my phone and was a really nice touch. The WiFi (free because of my rewards club status) was average for a hotel like this (meaning you would not want to be streaming Youtube videos on it)

I ate in the Sampan Asian restaurant in the hotel which served up mainly Chinese and Thai food. The food was OK and whilst not the cheapest Chinese food I have, the price offered fair value and the service was good.

After dinner I first retired to the on site irish “pub” but the lack of comfy chairs (plenty of stools but few actual chairs) saw me relocate to the lobby bar. Here there were proper chairs but to be honest, you felt like you were sitting on the chair rather than in the chair. Eventually after watching the world go by (airport hotel lobby areas are always fascinating to observe) for a while, I retired to me room for a good nights sleep.

Breakfast was a fairly typical affair but had plenty of choice then before I knew it I was checked out and back in my car for a day of meetings in the Heathrow area.

Normally I stay in the Crowne Plaza when needing a hotel near Heathrow. Based on this stay, i would score the Holiday Inn to be just as good and at a much cheaper rate (I paid £100 including breakfast plus £10 for parking). I do understand that not all the rooms have been refurbished yet so would expect those rooms to feel tired and in need of some TLC. A stay in one of those rooms might have resulted in a very different review so make sure you get one of the refurbished rooms.

So a nice stay in a nice room with OK food and no drama. All in a hotel a few minutes from the airport.

Hotel Review : Holiday Inn Reading M4 Jct10

Lets get the bad news out of the way first. Location wise, this hotel is right in the middle of a business park surrounded by offices. If you are looking for a city centre location or somewhere surrounded by bars and restaurants then this is going to leave you disappointed and wanting.

So i stayed here for one night arriving by car around 7pm. The hotel has a large car park underneath with plenty of parking spaces for even the busiest nights.

Arriving at reception I was greeted by a large clean and modern reception area and was quickly checked into my room on the 6th floor.

My room was again, of a good size with clean and ultra modern furnishings, a nice work area and a view out across the business park and beyond. This is Reading so you don’t expect a view.

Being an IHG platinum rewards member, the WiFi was free and whilst it wasn’t great, it was usable and didn’t have me reaching for my MiFi device instead.

Because of the location, I had little choice but to eat in the hotel. Always something I am very wary of. The restaurant menu looked typically heavy and pretentious. Exactly the kind of food I avoid when staying in hotels.

The bar menu however was a refreshing change. Sure you had the usual Holiday Inn burger and other typical hotel bar snacks but there was also a full page of Indian dishes and another of Thai. The food when it arrived was actually quite good. I have had worse currys in genuine Indian restaurants before now. The only complaint I would have is that the chairs in the hotel bar area are quite low and the tables quite high. For relaxing with a drink they are fine but for eating food it is far from ideal. There are some “proper” tables but they are few and far between so arrive early of be patient.

That evening I met up with a colleague and whilst we sat and talked, the table service for drinks in what was a busy bar was efficient and polite. The final bill was quite reasonable too.

Breakfast was more typical of a Holiday Inn. Lots of heat lamps but generally OK.

Checkout was swift and before I knew it I was back in my car and heading off for my day full of meetings.

So this is a great business hotel located well for the main business parks in Reading. It’s large, clean and modern with good facilities and attentive staff. The rooms are comfy, quiet and have a good work area for those late night emails.

BUT

If you are looking for somewhere for a romantic weekend away or perhaps a family holiday, this might be a bit to cold and sterile for your taste.

It’s a while since I gave a hotel a 5 star review but it deserves it. This is a proper business hotel and I genuinely enjoyed my stay here (as much as you can when away on business) and will certainly use this hotel again when in the area

Hotel Review : Holiday Inn Reading West

For some reason, on the night I stayed here, most hotels in the area were fully booked so my options were limited. First things first, this is not in West Reading. As somebody else said, it is west of Reading. On the subject of location it is also miles from anywhere on foot so once you get here, unless you have a car, you will not be leaving the hotel again until the morning. The hotel itself is quite small (about 50 rooms). Check in was OK. At no point was I acknowledged as a Platinum Priority Club member so was not offered any of the perks or upgrades that the status normally attracts. The staff at check in seems a little disengaged and unapproachable so I didn’t feel inclined to question this. The room was on the 1st floor (2nd floor if you are American) up a set of stairs and down a maze of corridors. My room had a great view of the main road outside but the triple glazing kept the noise down so this wasn’t a problem. The room was not that large but big enough however it was very very tired. Indeed this was theme of the whole hotel (including the reception) and whilst I am sure they were going for some old world charm (or similar) the fact my window ledge was actually falling apart due to the wood being so rotten does not make things “rustic” Considering they have a captive audience the restaurant menu unsurprisingly looked, rather uninspired and very expensive so rather than face a Holiday Inn burger I got in my car and drove the 5 minutes down the main road to Aldermaston Wharf where i found the Butt Inn and had an amazing evening meal Upon return, I had a couple of drinks in the bar before retiring for the night. Breakfast (which was not included in my room rate) is cooked to order. This really cheered me up as you normally get death by heat-lamp. Whilst service was a tad slow my order was eventually taken and I requested a fried egg, sausages, bacon and tomatoes. Again it took a while (20 minutes) to arrive but when it did, what I got was one fried egg, a single sausage, a single rasher of bacon and half a grilled tomato!!! For £10 I was expecting more but by now I had been in the restaurant for over half an hour and was running late so there was no point saying anything and to be fair, nobody had actually asked me if everything was OK anyway So i have to put this stay into context. The following night I stayed 10 minutes up the road in Thatcham in the Regency Park Hotel in a nice room, with really friendly staff for £100 including one of the best hotel breakfasts around. Wonderful The night before I stayed in the Millennium hotel in Reading. Again a good breakfast (indeed an excellent breakfast with loads of fresh fruit and choice) and change out of £120 For the Holiday Inn West (of) Reading I paid £135 for the room plus an additional £10 for breakfast and got a neglected hotel, with a rationed breakfast and lacklustre staff. I stay in a lot of hotels in the Holiday Inn chain. Indeed so far this year I have spent 49 nights in IHG group hotels and we are only in September. I thought hotels like this had died out. I especially thought that there were no more hotels like this in the UK with a Holiday Inn badge above the door Either refurbish the place or shut it down but don’t make wild claims about the location, charge top dollar, skimp on things like breakfast and leave woodwork rotting for all to see, Hotels like this deserve to go out of business.

The last days of summer – Wells Next The Sea

Summer 2014 is rapidly drawing to a close. In the evenings it’s getting dark sooner and the leaves are changing colour on the trees.

But it’s not winter yet and this weekend as a prime example has seen temperatures of 23 degrees.

So not one to miss such an opportunity, we decided a trip to the coast was called for but not the brash, loud Lincolnshire coast. Today we headed out to the North Norfolk coast and to the small town of Wells Next The Sea where life is a little more laid back and chilled.

The sun on our backs was warm and a light breeze really made the whole day rather nice especially as we stood eating fish and chips whilst watching the locals fish for crabs. Theres something about eating fish and chips at the seaside that makes them taste so much better.

So with a nice drive through the surrounding countryside and considering Wells is only 90 minutes drive from home, it’s a wonder we haven’t been here before.

Here are some photos for you enjoyment but if you get the chance, the North Norfolk coast is certainly worth visiting in person.