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May 5 1930 . This was the date of the first solo flight to Australia by a woman, non other than Amy Johnson. She took off from Croydon Airport and 11,000 miles later landed in Darwin. The feat is even more amazing when you consider that the plane in question was a single engined plane made ostensibly of wood. Along with Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin, Amy is believed to have stayed at the impressive Aerodrome Hotel, which was part of the airport complex. As Croydon Airport gradually lost most of it's civil airline business to Heathrow after the second world war, the airport went into decline, subsequently closing in 1959. The adjacent hotel, however, seems to have gone from strength to strength. A small hotel with just 50 bedrooms originally, it catered mainly for the staff and crew using the airport itself, but within the last five years it has been sold by the Forte Posthouse group and the owners now advertise as having a total of 110 bedrooms. I came here for an annual Christmas do last month as I have done for the past couple of years. It's a dinner and dance, this year entitled Casino Night. Four of my friends who do not live locally anymore had booked two twin rooms for the night, so they could stay over, I myself, however, had no so luxury and had to toddle off home afterwards. We've chosen this venue before for our festive get-together because it has more character than many of the hotel's in the vicinity, it's easy for all of us to get to and there's plenty of parking. Previously, the evening has been in the part of the hotel they call the Amy Johnson suite, however this year the organisers moved it to the Courtyard restaurant. I personally think they are both very nice venues, but one of my friends commented that she was cold this year, which was probably due to the location. I'm sure that in summer on a nice evening, you'd appreciate the location more. There were six of us dining that night, and we'd arranged to meet once my friends had checked into their rooms, so as discussed I was met in the lobby by one and taken up to their room, until the time of our meal. This is the only time I've been in one of the bedrooms here, although I know the hotel well, as I've never stayed here myself. The room was quite compact, with two large single beds and a little bedside table each. There was also a dressing table against the opposite wall on which sat a flat screen television, the room's telephone and a kettle with a tray of coffee and tea. The room was a bit dull and impersonal, however, it did look clean and there was a blue colour scheme running through the carpet, curtains and bedspread, which looked quite attractive. Once we had all arrived, we headed downstairs for dinner. It was a busy evening when we went, with every table taken. We had a table for six, but there were larger tables which I imagine were work outings. The staff were already busy, as it looked like some of the tables had already ordered their food by the time we arrived. It was a three course meal, and I had ordered homemade soup as my starter. Within a few minutes of sitting down, our waitress returned with the wines we had ordered on arrival. Less than ten minutes later, and the starters all arrived. The soup was Leek and Potato, and although not my favourite variety, it was very nice all the same, with a very creamy consistency. For the main course, I'd opted for Spinach and Ricotta Canelloni as a change to the traditional Roast Turkey, which I knew I'd be having on Christmas Day, and didn't fancy it here as well. Again, the main course arrived without too much delay for our table. My Canelloni was well cooked, and tasted very nice. Apart from the spinach and cheese, it had finely chopped mushrooms and there was a small hint of garlic as well. For desert, I had the Christmas pudding with brandy sauce. The pudding was slightly on the small size, but this turned out to be just as well, because it was incredibly rich when I started eating it. I couldn't have finished it if the portion had been any bigger! The meal was then rounded off with coffees and mint chocolates. For the evening, they had a small casino open here. Included in the price of the meal was some of the hotel's 'Aero' money, which you could play at the casino tables after the meal. I'm not much of a gambler, alas, and so my money didn't last long at the roulette table, but I enjoyed watching my friends play. ~ Overall ~ There was a very good party atmosphere at the Aerodrome, both whilst eating and later in the 'casino' area which was probably down to everyone letting their hair down before Christmas, but I did feel that the staff had made a good effort in trying to entertain us afterwards. The meal had cost each of us £27 excluding drinks, which considering I didn't leave the hotel until about midnight, I thought was very good value for an evenings entertainment. As for the rooms, my friends had paid £95 for each of the bedrooms, and told me afterwards that they thought they were fairly good value, with breakfasts included the following morning. If you're thinking of staying here, it's situated on the A23 main London to Brighton road, between Purley and Croydon town centre itself. The website contains more specific information if you need it: http://www.aerodrome-hotel.co.uk/index.html.