“ Address: Beaufort Road / London KT1 2TQ / Tel: 0844 567 8955 „
~I hope it's not karma~
Sometimes when things go badly, I wonder if I did something really bad in a previous life and am being punished for it. Sometimes I wonder if the travel agents we use at work have heard how rubbish I think they are and are trying to get revenge. Surely there must be some black mark against my name that made them offer me a hotel as awful as the Antoinette Kingston. After I'd checked in I called my husband who used to live not far away from Kingston upon Thames. I told him I was in a dreadful hotel and he started to laugh (don't worry - I'll make him pay). "What's it called?" he asked. I told him and he exploded in hearty guffaws. "But that's a really rubbish place" he told me helpfully. "It'll be full of builders working locally and OAPs who are too mean to pay city prices. I bet it's REALLY rubbish". So much for the expression "wise after the event" and equally for the expression "Don't forget that nobody loves a smartarse".
My colleague Laura and I flew into Heathrow, followed the confident instructions of the Tom Tom and arrived at the hotel about half an hour later. It was mid-evening so you'd need longer at busy times. The travel agency had offered me three choices for the night; a place that was around £120, the Antoinette at £77 and a Travelodge at slightly less. I'm a hotel snob - I make no pretence I'm not - and I wasn't about to go for a Travelodge and I wasn't too keen on spending quite so much for just a few hours in a hotel. I checked out the hotel reviews on one of the booking sites and it looked like the Antoinette wasn't too bad. I should have read more and been more skeptical.
~First Impressions - "Are you SURE this is the right place?"~
The car park is large and not secured. I was surprised at the number of large white vans in the car park, although they slotted into place when my husband made his comment about it being full of builders (nothing wrong with builders, noble tradesmen I'm sure - it was just an observation and unusual to find a hotel with quite so many vans and their owners). We took our luggage to the reception where the chap got us to fill out registration cards and took our credit cards. He didn't like the look of my American Express but I got the impression he was just being picky as when I asked if they didn't accept it, he said something like 'Not really'. Well you either do or you don't so I took that to be a case of "yes we do but ONLY if we have to" which is pretty unprofessional. Don't worry, when I checked out I made sure to use my Amex.
Laura was sent to a room in the main building and I was sent on a magical mystery tour in search of my room in a strange annexe out the back of the hotel. Laura asked if the rooms were quiet and the receptionist said they were. I can only assume he must be deaf. I asked if it was really necessary for us to be so far apart but he said they were fully booked. I walked through the car park then through the garden, checked all the room numbers until I found a door to the rooms on the back of the annexe. If I were German I'd say 'on the backside' of the hotel and it's quite possible that I'd have been unintentionally accurate.
~Hi de Hi~
The annexe looked like a cross between a bunch of Butlin's chalets and a post-war inner city sink estate. Walking along the corridor I got a sense of déjà vu (or whatever the smelling equivalent is - déjà whiffed?) that took me back to student accommodation. The institutional scent of a hall of residence came to mind or nose. This was followed by a sense of doom when I saw how close together the doors were on the corridor. It seemed highly likely I'd be able to stand in the middle and touch the walls on both sides of the room and it was clear the room would be more of a corridor than a room.
Opening the door my fears were confirmed with a long narrow room with a single bed by the window which was wide open. Since the window opened onto the pavement beside a road and had such a big opening that Santa Claus could have climbed in without breathing in, I was really angry. No hotel should put such windows on a ground floor room and if they must, then it's completely unacceptable to put women on their own in rooms like that. It was a rare hot August evening; one of those days when air conditioning seems like something you really might need but since it's England, there's the square-root of sod-all chance that a hotel like this has it. There was no way I could imagine being able to sleep without opening the windows for air and no way I was going to leave a window that size open. To add insult to injury the curtains were hanging badly with half of the hooks missing and a dodgy net curtain that wasn't as long as the window.
Putting on my 'look on the bright side' head, the room appeared to be pretty clean. There was a small cupboard, a desk and chair, a wall mounted mirror, a small bedside table and a coffee table with a kettle and a single mug. On the downside the bed was soft and squishy and filled me with despair and the bathroom was so small that I had to stand in the shower to take a photo and had to sit on the toilet sideways because there wasn't enough space for my legs if I sat straight unless I adopted the position used by rugby players in team photos. I spent quite some time wondering how men would ever be able to pee in such a bathroom. Clearly there wasn't enough space to stand in front of the toilet even if there hadn't been a towel rail sticking out of the wall at head height. They would have to stand way off to one size and have a really good aim as the bowl was the tiniest I've ever seen. Fortunately, I have to guess that either the room was only ever allocated to women or men with excellent aim or the cleaners were particularly good with 'spills'. To give the bathroom its due, aside from being smaller than most wardrobes, it was spotlessly (or driplessly) clean. I had wondered why the towels (rather pitiful little things) were placed on the bed, origami style and concluded it was probably because there simply wasn't enough space to put them in the bathroom.
The carpet looked fairly new (in contrast to the curtains), there were a couple of nice mirrors on the walls and I didn't hate the framed prints. As you can see, I struggled for something positive to say about the place. There were two electrical sockets by the desk but the kettle shared the use of a socket with the television - a small ugly bracket-mounted old fat television set.
~No Room at the Inn~
I went off to meet Laura in the lobby and decided to speak to the receptionist. I asked why they would ever put a woman in a room with such wide opening windows. He claimed nobody had ever complained before. I asked if they had ever done a risk assessment and he shrugged. I asked if there was any chance of a fan but they had none. Any chance of changing rooms? They had two that hadn't checked in yet but both were doubles so I couldn't have them but he might be able to move me to a hotel in Wimbledon, he suggested. Yep, now that would have been REALLY unhelpful. He suggested I fill in a feedback form and I thought how much more satisfying it would be to utterly slate the place on as many review sites as possible.
We headed off into Kingston town centre which was about three-quarters of a mile away. This proximity was very handy as we chose to leave the car in the car park the next day and walk (in pouring rain - not the Antoinette's fault) for our meetings as the car parking and one-way system looked like they might be a challenge. This 15 minute stroll was pleasant and we didn't get lost each time we used it.
The hotel has quite an attractive rose garden that looks as if someone has made a lot of effort. There's a strange deck-like construction in the middle of the garden with a rather handy sign warning ladies to watch their heels in the gaps. I'm baffled that a hotel can be so considerate to the risk of a trapped stiletto and blind to the risk of someone climbing through a window. The hotel has lots of 'function rooms' and gave me the impression that it was probably a 'hot' venue for wedding receptions and corporate Christmas dinners in the 1960s but more likely to get a meeting of double glazing unit re-fitters in the 21st century. There's a bar which looked lively and a restaurant which seemed to be offering pretty good value if you wanted something 'n' chips. Both bar and restaurant seemed busy but mostly with pensioners and men who looked - as hubby predicted - like builders.
Fortunately by the time I was ready for bed the temperature had dropped a few degrees and I was able to close the window without sweating all night. The road outside was mostly quiet but since I was directly opposite one of the buildings of the Kingston University campus I think it would have been a different matter during term time. I didn't sleep well but I can't say it was a disaster either. The bed was far too soft and the pillow so thin that the housekeeping person had propped it up in the corner of the bed, presumably trying to hide that it was only a couple of inches thick. Testing the shower, I found the pressure to be pretty good but with only one mid-sized towel on offer, I had to pass on washing my hair.
We passed on breakfast and got something at a coffee bar in the town centre instead. Check out was trouble-free but I couldn't help thinking that if I hadn't had a colleague with me I'd have checked straight out the night before and gone round to my friend's house to sleep on her erratic blow up mattress rather than stay at the Antoinette. I cannot recommend this place at all and I'm baffled that the reviews I read before booking were as good as they were. I definitely made a mistake and should have asked for the Travelodge. Of the many hotels I've stayed in during 20 years of travelling for work, this is the first where I felt I and my property were unsafe. Hell will become a chilly place indeed before I go near this hotel again.