“ Address: Clasper Way / Riverside Way / Newcastle Upon Tyne NE16 3BE / England / Tel: 44-0120-7541100 „
Following our recent trip to Butlins in Skegness I decided to break the journey up on the way home back to Edinburgh. The North East seemed the perfect place to stop - with Gateshead always being a good choice as it's right off the A1 and the Metro Centre means there are lots of restaurants and hotels, never mind shops. I decided this time not to stay at the Travelodge, instead opting for the Holiday Inn Express and I got a room for £53 including breakfast for myself and my daughter. ~~Location~~ The Holiday Inn (HI) Express is located on Clasper Way, which is just a short drive from the Metro Centre. This area has a plethora of hotels and restaurants so you won't find yourself having far to go if you are hungry. The A1 is only about five minutes drive away, making this location perfect for the weary traveller. There's also an Asda nearby, and a branch of Aldi. ~~First Impressions & Check In~~ The hotel is set out over 4 floors and has a spacious lobby area. We arrived by car and I was delighted to see a large car park with plenty of free spaces. Every parking space right beside the entrance is designated for the disabled - there is a long row of spaces. When I was there only a couple were being used. The reception is light and airy, with vending machines on the right hand side of the reception desk and the bar/restaurant area to the left. Check in was fast and friendly, and we were given the choice of a double room or a twin room - we opted for a twin room. We were given one key card and the receptionist informed us that breakfast was served in the morning between 6.30 am and 9.30 am. ~~The Room~~ Our room was on the ground floor and not far from reception at all. We walked past the hotel lift on the way. The room was spacious but had a basic feel about it. Modern hotels tend not to have wardrobes that close over or have desks that aren't attached to a wall, and the HI Express Gateshead was no different. The open wardrobe area housed 6 hangers and on a shelf above we found 2 spare pillows. There's no drawer space for smalls - I ended up keeping most of our stuff in our bag as we were only there for the night. There are some shelves underneath a ledge located to the left of the wardrobe space - the ledge houses tea and coffee making facilities. So if you don't mind your undies out on view, this is probably the place to put them. Our room also had a full length mirror with a hairdryer hanging on the wall beside it. Adjacent to the window is a desk - at the far corner opposite the beds was a Samsung LCD TV which had a small selection of channels - no full Freeview here. The five terrestrial channels were available, along with Sky News, CBeebies and E4 and a handful of radio stations. The desk had one chair and there was some shelving at the right hand side of the desk. There was an Ethernet cable for wired internet (at additional cost) and a telephone on the desk too. The twin beds were comfortable and had one pillow on the bed as standard. In typical Holiday Inn style there was one soft pillow and one firm pillow per guest but if you prefer a different combination you can call reception and ask for more of the pillow typie you like. There was a telephone beside one of the beds and reading lamps beside both. There are three power points in the room - we found this adequate for charging up all the things my daughter had used in the car on the drive up from Skegness, meaning her iPod, Nintendo DS and portable DVD player well all fully charged for the rest of the trip home the next day. The desk was fine for working at - I had taken my netbook and we surfed the internet using my phone as a modem and we were both perfectly comfortable sitting there. The hotel hosts conferences and business guests so this has clearly been taken into consideration when designing the hotel room and selecting the chair. The bathroom has a walk in shower cubicle which has a shower curtain. I'm not a huge fan of showers like this - I far prefer a cubicle with a sliding door, but I suppose this is the cheaper end of Holiday Inn and the shower curtain represents that quite starkly. Water pressure is excellent in the shower however and I found it very easy to set the water at the correct temperature - sometimes I get frustrated doing this in hotels but no such problems here. The bathroom also has a decent sized wash hand basin with enough space for toothbrushes etc. Hand soap is provided in a dispenser attached to the wall beside the wash hand basin - similarly there is a shampoo/shower gel dispenser located on the wall inside the shower. Each room has two hand towels and two bath sheets provided, along with paper face cloths, tissues and sanitary disposal bags. The toilet is located to the left of the shower cubicle, beside the door leading into the bathroom. The door is quite ingeniously designed, enabling you to completely close off the toilet area when you go in, which gives far more privacy when you are sharing the room. ~~Breakfast~~ We got up for breakfast around 8.00 am and it was quite busy when we arrived but we found a table without any problems. Breakfast is self serve and while HI Express like to proclaim your rate includes a "hot" breakfast, the only hot food on offer were some sausages and scrambled eggs. Neither looked particularly appetising, so we passed. I think my memories of HI Express hot food at breakfast time in New York earlier this year perhaps clouded my judgement! There was still plenty to choose from with fresh fruit, yoghurt, croissants, cereal and toast ton offer. The toaster was predictably slow but did toast bread reasonably well - although I found it toasted better on one side of the bread than it did on the other. Preserves and butter are available. The pain au chocolat was lovely - but sadly they ran out while we were there, but we weren't ravenous so some toast, fruit and one small pain au chocolat was sufficient for us, along with a couple of glasses of orange juice. Tea and coffee were available too. As breakfast is included in the rate it seems churlish to criticise it but the "hot" breakfast claims are a bit hollow when there are actually only two genuinely hot items to choose from. We had been at Butlins and had cooked breakfast three days in a row so we didn't mind the breakfast on offer but don't expect Full English at this hotel. The local newspaper "The Journal" is available at reception free of charge for guests to read at breakfast. ~~Final Thoughts~~ Overall we enjoyed our stay at the Holiday Inn Express Gateshead - the location is useful for both tourists to the area and for travellers seeking somewhere to break a journey. We dined at Taybarns nearby but the receptionist recommended in particular the Skiff Inn, a pub a short walk away. TGI Fridays is located on the other side of the car park too so you don't have far to go for lunch or dinner. The hotel itself isn't anything like as luxurious as a regular Holiday Inn hotel, but it's perfectly adequate and the prices are good - although it's worth bearing in mind you might find a cheaper rate at some of their better hotels if you don't mind a lesser location. The breakfast wasn't brilliant, but if you consider how much other hotels charge for something not much better then I feel you can't really complain. We slept well in our room, finding the beds to be comfortable and the covers kept us warm. A train line is located behind the hotel and we could see trains going past - they were mostly medium sized passenger trains but the occasional heavy freight train went past too. The noise didn't bother us at all, however rooms are available which face away from the railway line so if you fear being disturbed by the noise I would suggest you request a room facing to the front of the hotel when you check in. I certainly found this hotel to be a nicer place to stay than the nearby Travelodge and was happy with what we got for the £53 rate, however at the end of the day this is still a budget hotel chain and as such still lacks some of the touches you take for granted in a regular Holiday Inn. If this hotel were located far away from other restaurants and pubs I might have a problem with the fact dining is restricted to breakfast only, however the Gateshead HI Express is perfectly located to ensure there's plenty of choice for guests in search of dinner. I certainly would recommend this hotel if you find yourself in need of somewhere to stop for the night in the North East and you can get some great deals here too - especially if you book in advance. The rooms are basic but cleanliness is second to none and the helpful and friendly staff will make you feel very welcome. So while it's not the Ritz, it's definitely better than a Travelodge.