“ Address: 1 Great Colmore Street / Birmingham B15 2AP „
There are, as you would expect, a lot of hotels in Birmingham . Since we wanted a room for 3 adults, that narrowed the selection somewhat, as did budget since we were staying Saturday and Sunday nights, and the former seems automatically to equate to hiked prices. We ended up at the Etap, a brand I regularly drive past in Manchester but one I've never stayed in as it met both criteria - with triple rooms available for reasonable prices.
I booked directly with the hotel and received an email confirmation along with all sorts of James Bond style instructions regarding check in and obtaining keys and having to get an access code from the machine outside the hotel unless I was arriving within a specific 2 hour period. You can imagine my disappointment, then, when we arrived at noon to find the reception open and a boring, normal check in process. We got a key card and directions to our room, but no information about breakfast timing or anything so we thought maybe we'd find that upstairs.
I'm not sure what I had expected, but our room was definitely on the compact side and had a touch of cruise-liner to it in the way the space was used. The first thing we noticed was that they had indeed turned a normal space for 2 into accommodation for 3 by going up rather than out. We had a double bed (just a double, mind, nothing nice like a Queen or glorious King) and above it was a single bunk which was accessible from a ladder at one side, a little too high to climb into without it, but you could probably tumble over the side and onto the bed without hurting yourself too much. All the beds came with sheet and duvet bedding, though only the main bed was made up. We'd booked it as a triple (and standard doubles are also available) but they clearly hadn't paid any attention to this as we were only provided with 2 towels (and one measly bar of soap). Luckily we'd noticed a maid cart on the corridor as we arrived so I darted out to ask for an additional towel. I was very impressed with the service of the (Brummie) chambermaid as she immediately stopped what she was doing and went to fetch me not one but 3 more towels. It sounds like a lot, but between three of us we had one each, threw down one as a bath mat, and had one for hand drying by the sink so that took care of all of them. The next day the room was made up, towels removed and only 2 fresh ones left. Sigh.
There wasn't really anywhere to sit in the room which is more inconvenient when there are 3 of you. We had a mini desk with one stool but no other chairs, so it was a case of picnicking on the bed or on the floor. Storage was also limited to 5 coat-hangers on an exposed rail with no drawers or wardrobe. When there are multiple people in a room, things can look messy quickly so this didn't help matters. The double bed had bedside shelves (you couldn't call them tables) which jutted out just enough to hold a book and a bottle of water. The bunk bed had nothing but was against the wall and had a wrap around edge so you could sleep with stuff next to you.
The room had interesting lighting including an illuminated waist-high bar that was independent from the main lights and could be switched on from the over-bed controls. Both beds had bedside (technically bed-over) lights with their own switches, and the double bed had these at both sides. There was a TV too which glowed an alluring red dot all night, but only got switched on for X Factor results and then gave a fuzzy performance...unless that was just the contestants.
The oddest part of the room was the bathroom, or lack thereof. Instead of a separate room, we had 3 individual bits, a sink just across from the double bed, a shower cubicle and a toilet in what can only be described as a cupboard. In some ways it was helpful because one person could brush teeth while another showered, for example, but it also meant a total lack of privacy not least because the shower had an opaque-but-still-see-through door to it. There were certainly some design quirks that stood out: the shower was powerful but there was no where to hang your towel meaning you pretty much had to step back into the main room naked, or faff around opening the door a smidge and pawing blindly for your towel. The toilet was declared higher than a normal loo (my mother is a connoisseur of these things, rarely willing to pass a ladies' room without paying a visit) and the door made it a little claustrophobic, especially when it was hard to open again from the inside.
The hotel describes the room as having a "modern, relaxing design". Overall I would say it couldn't really be described as comfortable when fully occupied but it was fine for a few nights as we didn't plan on spending much time there aside from for sleeping. The rest of the hotel was the same - practical but not a place to linger. Facilities were limited to a few chairs in reception and some computer stations, and an odd service-station styled café/shop which doubled as the breakfast area.
We had booked breakfast in advance but it seemed you could also pay on the day. Signs in the lift and in the vestibules indicated the timings and had a very specific display of what we could expect so we went down wondering whether we really would get Nutella and were not disappointed. The breakfast was spread out along the side of the reception desk and was a decent spread for the money, with things being regularly restocked. Hot food was limited to toast but there were also croissants and baguettes (a bit on the large size for breakfast, so we split one), jam AND marmalade AND honey AND Nutella (plus rather frozen butter that needed wafting over the toaster to make it spreadable), different types of cheeses, fruit, cereals and chocolate and blueberry muffins (plastic wrapped so perfect for keeping for later). The orange juice was a bit nectar-like, while they'd run out of the apple, and the coffee was basic, but all in all it was perfectly acceptable and we found different things to eat each day.
The hotel is on a main road but our room overlooked the car park and the back and was quiet enough even though we were right next to the lift as well. The temperature was more of a problem as the window had a safety catch on so couldn't be opened properly (though on the plus side it did have a nice blackout blind). There was air con which was definitely needed, even in Birmingham in November, as we discovered to our peril the first night. Small room + lots of people = heating up fast.
We were back and forth between here and the NIA, New St station and the Christmas markets, and we could walk to all easily though it wasn't an especially attractive location. A sign outside promised a Spar a few minutes up the road but we didn't find this though there was an old-man pub and some delightful exterior corridor council flats.
I didn't know much about Etaps before but would now put them on the list near Premier Inns or the more modern Travelodges. It's not a luxury brand that you'd choose from a special treat trip (or a dirty weekend) but the accommodation is clean and well maintained, the location at least for this one is convenient and the price appropriate for what you get.
We paid £46.95 for Saturday night, and £28.95 for the Sunday, room only for 3 people.
You pay separately for the extras: breakfast is just under £4 a head, while wifi can be bought on an hour or daily bundle.
Etap is part of the Accor group: www.accorhotels.com
Tel :0121 622 7575
1 Great Colmore Street
I first started using the Etap hotel in Birmingham about 4 years ago when my friend suggested we booked a hotel for a night out as it would work out cheaper than getting taxi's home and it would be more fun. I asked how it was possible that it would be cheaper and she pointed out that (at the time) it was only £28 for a room and our individual taxi's in opposite directions are usually around £20 each. So I agreed as it did sound like fun being able to have a drink while getting ready to go out instead of just meeting in town. My friend booked the hotel the first time we stayed but the second time I booked.
The booking process was fairly straight forward with regards to navigating my way around the website; www.etaphotel.com and finding the Birmingham City Centre Etap. Once found I selected the date we were planning our night out for and selected one room. I was then taken to the page to enter my card details to reserve the room. You must enter card details to make a reservation however you don't actually pay for your booking until you check in at the hotel reception. I entered all my details and clicked to continue, however I was greeted by a web page telling me that my card cannot be used to make online reservations. It didn't give a reason why but gave me a phone number I could call to make my reservation, so I phoned the number and spoke to a pleasant lady who took all of my details again and explained that it must just be a fault with the system and that my reservation was fine. I accepted this reason as I know things can and do go wrong and thanked her for her help. The next booking I made using the Etap website was for an Etap in Paris when we decided to take our random road trips to the next level. Again I followed the online booking system and this time everything went through fine. However since then I have again tried to book online with Etap Birmingham and it keeps telling me I cant use my card to book online. I have asked the question why? but no one seems capable of answering this or investigating why this happens so instead of even trying it is now my friends who make the reservations and I just turn up, its easier this way.
With regards to city centre shopping the hotel is located approximately a 10 minute walk away from the main shops including the Bullring and also the bars, clubs and theatre are all within around a 20 minute walk depending on your walking speed.
After making the reservation the next thing to do was find exactly where the hotel is. I live in Birmingham and I drive past this hotel every morning on my way to work, however for those of you who don't live here it is nice to know that the hotel is relatively easy to find. It is on the Bristol Road not far from a junction with a big Mc Donalds on it. If you are arriving by bus or train it is about a 10 - 15 minute walk from most of the city centre stops and New Street train station. If you are arriving by car from the M6 motorway you will need to leave at J6 and follow signs to the A38(M) Aston Expressway, follow this road through 3 tunnels and as you come out of the 3rd tunnel you will see the hotel to the right of you, however you are on a dual carriageway so you will need to continue to the traffic lights and take a left up to the roundabout and then come back on yourself and turn right at the traffic lights to be on the right side of the road. The not so simple part then is finding the hotel car park. From taking the right at the traffic lights you need to take the 2nd turning on the left into a side road, follow this up to the end and turn right then the car park is on the right about half way along this little side road.
The car park itself is very small for such a large hotel, the hotel has I think around 240 - 250 rooms, however the car park only has approximately 30 - 35 spaces depending on how well people park. Driving up to the barrier you are either told the car park is full, in which case you will need to awkwardly reverse out of the entrance and try to find a parking space somewhere on the side roads. If it isn't full then you will be issued a ticket and the barrier will lift. The car park isn't free even for hotel guests. Last time I stayed there which was the beginning of this year sometime it cost me £3 for 24 hours. This is relatively cheap when you consider city centre parking prices, however if you can and you don't have too much luggage then I would park on the side streets it is free and although the area looks a bit dodgy in parts it is safe, I have done it many times with no problems.
After finding a parking space and meeting my friend we enter the hotel reception to check in. The reception area is a reasonable size with seating areas and computers for the internet, however you do have to pay to use these. There is Wifi available but again this is at a cost. To the left of the reception is an area with more seating and some tables for people who book breakfast with their room. The reception is always kept clean and has a pleasant smell. Usually we arrive around 3 or 4pm however we were told that we can check in from 12 noon. When we arrive there is usually a small queue at the desk but the staff are pretty efficient so we're not usually waiting too long. All the times we have stayed there we have found the reception staff to be pleasant and helpful. When you arrive at the desk you can either give them a print out of your reservation if you booked online, or if you booked by phone they can find you by your name. Once they have found your reservation they will ask you if you want to add breakfast to your booking, at around £7 we always say no as we favour walking into the city for a KFC instead! The person who made the booking will then be asked to fill in a form with name and address details, once this is done you will be given either one or two key cards and told which room number you are staying in. The key card also activates the lift. Finding your room is very easy. The numbers starting in 1 are 1st floor, 2 are 2nd and so on. After taking the lift to your relevant floor you will see the room numbers clearly signed with arrows to guide you along. Once you have located your room you need to swipe your key card in the door, a little green light will then flash and you can open the door.
Upon entering the room you will have a door to the one side which has a toilet in it, just beyond this there is a small sink and next to this a shower. A double bed takes up the majority of the room and above this there is a single bunk bed. In the corner there is a table and a TV above this and in the other corner there is a hanging area. There is a window in-between the table and the hanging area. The window has a blind that rolls up and down and the window itself can be opened but is on a safety catch so not very far. There are heating controls in every room though so you can keep the room as warm or cool as you like. The rooms we have stayed in have all had the same layout and are a good size. We have had 3 of us staying in a room on many an occasion and sometimes we have had 2 rooms between 6 of us and all got ready in the same room... admittedly this was more cramped but still possible.
On our return to the hotel after our night out I have a vague memory of a security guard on the door asking what room we were staying in and the name it was booked in and then crossing us off on a list. I presume this is for both security reasons and also to stop people sneaking more than 3 people into a room. Staggering back to our room didn't take long which highlights how easy it is to find your way around we enter the room and literally get changed and fall into bed. I have slept on both the double bed and the single bunk and surprisingly they are both really comfy and I have always had a decent nights sleep there.
The cleanliness of the rooms I have always found to be of a high standard, including all the bedding, the shower, sink and toilet. Even the floor always appears clean. The only grumble I have about the rooms is that they never leave a spare toilet roll even if it is obvious the old one is running low, but a quick trip down to reception and they will gladly give you a spare.
The shower in the room is concealed by a translucent door which has a hole in an inconvenient place to open and close it. As we are all friends who stay here we have a strict code of staying the other side of the room when we shower and also we usually hang a towel over the shower door just to be sure. The shower itself is easy to use, the temperature is easy to adjust and the shower heads are also always clean and have a nice water flow, not too strong but not too weak either.
Check out from the hotel is by 12 noon. You can pay a fee for a late check out if you wish. The check in procedure is simple, simply leave your room and return your keys to the reception and leave the hotel.
There is a car park pay machine by the exit door to the car park, simply put your ticket in the machine followed by your money and then your ticket will be returned to you. Then simply drive to the exit barrier, insert your ticket, the barrier will lift and you will have completed your Etap experience.
My overall opinion of the Etap hotel in Birmingham city centre is a good one. I have never had any problems with regards to cleanliness or comfort. I have always found the staff polite and helpful. I have just been on the website to check the current prices as I haven't stayed since the beginning of the year and they are actually advertising at rooms from £28 per room per night, however on my way to work this morning the board outside the hotel said rooms from £35, so your guess is as good as mine on this one!
I would recommend staying at the Etap in Birmingham city centre, the prices are reasonable and you will receive a good service. I have heard comments before now about people being rowdy in the corridors in the early hours, however I have not experienced this, I have always known the corridors to be quiet and I'm certain if there were any disturbances then the security staff they have would be quick to respond.
Thanks for reading :)