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My husband works with an international artists' co-operative. They have a biennial get-together and conference for British artists, usually in the summer, and usually 'down south'. This time around it was held in Winchester, and we (myself and our two daughters) were allowed to tag along. It was held in the relatively new Holiday Inn just outside Winchester, located next to the popular Intech hands-on science centre on Telegraph Way. From a very quick look at the card that I signed to acknowledge receipt of the keycard, I think that the rate we were on was a conference rate of £125 per room per night. You are required to give your car registration number at check-in, if you have driven yourself to the hotel. The free car park is of a good size, and has a generous quantity of parking near to the entrance set aside for Blue Badge holders. ROOMS We had two rooms - my husband and I were in a double, and our daughters were next door in a twin room. They are teenagers and mature enough to be trusted by themselves now! Both rooms were quite compact, but well laid out, with the beds, a good-sized desk and comfy office chair, a flat -screen wall-mounted TV that doubled up as a computer for a charge of £16 (which I believe also included pay TV options), an iron and ironing board which were stored in the very narrow wardrobe, two bedside cabinets, and a small table that housed the tea, coffee and kettle tray. They also provided a folding case rack for packing and a long stool at the end of the bed. The bathroom was interestingly designed - the bath with shower at one end was partly behind a wall that served as a shower cubicle, although there was also a fold-out glass panel to add to this. The sink was a very high Belfast-style sink, in other words a free standing rectangular sink on a shelf, with little space either side to stand your toiletries in, but it did have a shelf beneath it for that use instead (a bit impractical as the towels hung in front of this too, and you could be at risk of leaving important things behind if they migrated too far to the back). We had the extra demands on the space of having a wheelchair to manage as my husband uses one to get around, but we always manage with a standard room whether it be here, a Premier Inn or Travelodge. The adapted rooms tend not to be designed for married couples (or families, which was relevant when our kids were younger) so we prefer to do things this way! There was plenty of manoeuvring space in the main room despite all the paraphernalia that we dumped in it, so full marks to them for that. The rooms are air-conditioned, as even the ground floor windows are non-opening. The controls are easy to use, but even if you switch it off it can still be quite noisy as everyone else's are going on & off all the time and the noise seems to carry through the system through the night. This took a bit of getting used to, as did the lack of actual fresh air. The bed itself and the pillows however were the main sticking point for us, as is often the case in hotels. Where with Premier Inn it's the great height of their new beds that's a problem, here it was the substance of the mattress, which I likened to a giant marshmallow, and Ian referred to as 'mud'. It's lovely once you've got to a comfortable position, but for my husband who has very limited mobility it was a bit of a trial moving around on it. We managed however with a bit of perseverance. Where the pillows were concerned, we couldn't actually feel much difference between the pillow marked firm and the one marked soft - the only controlling factor seemed to be that one wasn't enough, while two nearly broke your neck due to the extreme angle. A folded bath towel under a single pillow rectified this problem for me at any rate - something tried and tested over many hotel stays over the years! CATERING We ate breakfast in the hotel restaurant on the lower ground floor every morning. It was a self-serve buffet, with almost everything that one could think of provided. Various fruit juices, cereals, pastries, cold meat, yogurts, fruit and of course cooked breakfast items with additional options available cooked to order, such as salmon. Tea and coffee were served at the table by the serving staff, with regular offers of top-ups. CONFERENCE ROOMS There were several conference rooms, and we used about four of them I think during the few days that we were there. The largest also doubled up as a dedicated dinner room on the one evening that we all had a meal at the hotel together. This room was also used as a wedding venue on the Saturday while the conference continued in other rooms surrounding it. (There were 'bouncers' in the corridor asking us to be quiet when passing by!) According to the hotel website, this room has a capacity of 250. The other rooms varied from generous to decidedly cosy, it's hard to judge how many chairs could be accommodated for a more conventional meeting since they were filled with easels and tables and so forth, but one room could only really comfortably fit five in this context, while another had around seven or eight, and another more than ten. PUBLIC SPACES In the public spaces, there were seating areas available in the foyer (from where bar food could also be ordered and consumed), with televisions also installed at either end of the space. This was also the case in the bar on the lower ground floor, which also had mini TVs on the bar taps, very useful since the Olympics were being televised at the time! As well as these main seating areas, there were chairs and the odd chaise longue dotted around in wider parts of the corridors, which came in handy if you were a bit weary and waiting for someone to get ready. One area that my eldest daughter and I particularly appreciated though was outside, opposite the hotel and over a stile - there was a butterfly meadow, which I think was more to do with the science centre, but was just right at the time that we were there to have a wander and watch out for the wildlife. Our youngest preferred to sit in the foyer lounge and do some writing while Dad was occupied with work, Summing up Overall, it was a pleasant stay. We were made to feel very welcome by the staff, who were always polite, friendly, and ready to help if needed. It felt 'posh' compared to our usual accommodation of this sort, but at the same time, as I commented above, it wasn't completely without its discomforts. Still, being philosophical, it's impossible to cater for everyone's comfort since we are all different shapes with different requirements. If we're invited to stay again, we won't be refusing!
Winchester Holiday Inn WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO STAY HERE? We recently spent three nights down in Winchester for a wedding and stayed at the nearby Holiday Inn on Telegraph Way next door to the INTECH Science Centre and Planetarium. We felt that we would like to see a bit of the local area and have a look around so we booked three nights. The first day we called in at my sister's in Oxford then drove straight to Winchester to have a wander around before driving out to find the hotel at about 4.30pm. The hotel is very new and only opened in the spring of 2010 and so was not on our sat nav but fortunately I had the postcode and we found it pretty easily. As we got closer there were brown signs that directed us there too. ARRIVAL The brochure for the hotel begins 'Welcome to the UK's first new generation Holiday Inn hote' It is in a fantastic location as it is just over 2 miles from Winchester and very close to both junctions 9 and 10 of the M3 motorway. It made a perfect base for exploring both Winchester city and some of the surrounding countryside too. The hotel is away from the road and we heard absolutely no traffic noise at all while we were there. We arrived at the same time as several other guests and parked in the more than ample car park. Interestingly there were several European number plates so obviously this is a popular place to stay before getting on the ferry at Southampton. CHECKING IN AND FIRST IMPRESSIONS The hotel is very modern and sleek looking from outside. The reception area and floor at that level was large light and fresh looking and huge. There were lots of chairs and tables for people to sit and chat or just sit and wait. Reception was efficient and I was welcomed as a Priority Club member and I had quite a few questions about the other two rooms I had booked for the next two nights. One was for my step daughter, partner and baby and we needed a travel cot and this room had to be next door to ours. The other room was for my daughter, partner and step son who was bunking in with them so I had to check all this was as I had booked and the girl went through it all and it was all okay. Once all that was sorted she gave me my room card and pointed us in the right direction for the lift. Reception was at ground level and then there was a lower level with rooms and a restaurant and bar and then we were on level 3 which appeared to actually be one floor up!! The carpets were a fairly modern non offensive stripy brown and green. And there were plenty of fire doors which we had to negotiate with our case and other bits we seemed to have acquired. There are a total of 141 rooms which seems an odd number but still. They vary from one executive suite, executive rooms (I did ask and they have a fridge I was informed), rooms that were Accessible and all are air conditioned. They are happy to add an extra folding bed or travel cot at no extra cost unless you want breakfast for the extra adult then that is £10 extra. There were a few inter connecting rooms but unfortunately they were not available for us on the Saturday night when we were going to be coming back from the wedding with little granddaughter while the young ones stayed on later. THE ROOM The room was not huge but was light and airy. It had the one double bed, a decent sized desk and one chair swivel and one arm chair. The TV was flat screen and fixed to the wall with a keyboard under it so that you could access the internet through the TV. There was another unit with a shelf underneath which had coffee, tea and a kettle. A very small wardrobe held an iron, board and a hairdryer too. The bedside unit on one side had three small drawers but none on the other side. There was ample storage for a night or two but not for much longer really. We had two firm pillows and two soft ones but we could have asked for any pillow we desired from allergenic soft to hard feather and all in between. The bed was comfortable but just a double so not huge. I noticed that there were executive rooms next to ours and asked what was in them and apparently they got a fridge so I'm glad I hadn't paid extra for that. You could also pay extra for movies and satellite TV. There was a special package of this combined with wifi for 24 hours for £14.99 which I think was quite expensive. BATHROOM The bathroom was small and very modern. The sink was a square Belfast type sink with single mixer tap. There was a shelf underneath for storage which was handy as there was very little either side of the sink. The shower was good and powerful and was over a very small bath. Two lovely large white fluffy towels were over the bath and two further smaller towels were by the basin. Toiletries provided were minimal, shampoo, tiny soap and bath gel not exciting but adequate for a night or two. FREE WIFI? They advertise free wifi but you get 30 minutes free then you have to pay £3.99 for two hours or £9.99 for 24 hours. You are given an access code should you want to take up the offer. On the first night we went down to the bar and enjoyed a couple of drinks at the bar. The restaurant looked very nice, black and silver modern decor and the prices were pretty standard. We hadn't realised there was a restaurant at the hotel and had bought some sandwiches in Winchester so I can't say what the dinner menu was like. The bar and restaurant were on the floor below the reception which also seemed to be on ground level so I am not sure how they achieved that. The bar opened out onto a patio area with lovely table and chairs to sit and lookout over a garden area. It was a lovely summer evening and we enjoyed sitting out with our drinks for an hour or so, just as we were leaving we noticed that people were arriving for dinner and the restaurant was filling up and looked to be fairly busy. BREAKFAST Breakfast was included in our room rate. This was served between 6.30 and 9.30 am from Monday to Friday and from 7.30 to 10.30 on Saturday and Sunday. You had to wait to be seated and give your room number then you were shown to your table and offered tea or coffee which was served at the table. The rest of breakfast was buffet service. Mini boxes of cereal, yogurt, fresh fruits, fruit juices, salami and cheeses were on offer as well as a full cooked selection of scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon tomatoes and hash browns etc. There were also pastries and white and brown sliced bread which you could put through one of those strange conveyor belt toasters that do very little to the bread except take it for a ride around. I didn't bother as there was a huge queue of people waiting to watch the bread go for a ride and so I just enjoyed the cheese! Unlike the American breakfasts this was served on china plates with metal cutlery and glass glasses. The food somehow tasted more real too. OTHER FACILITIES There was no indoor pool or gym but there are a number of meeting rooms available. These vary in size and can seat from 2 to 50 people. While we were staying there were a number of meetings, one was the 'Driver Awareness' course and they all looked thrilled to be attending that one. The hotel is fully licensed for civil wedding ceremonies and although it isn't an historic picturesque setting there are many worse places to get married. The restaurants as well as the bar and lounge were all on the floor below reception as the hotel is built on a small hill. You come into reception on the ground floor and the floor below is also on the ground floor at the back! The outside dining terrace was really lovely in the sunshine on our first evening. My husband was impressed as the beer taps had mini TV screens on them so you could watch sports while waiting for your beer at the bar. I liked the really light and open feel about the public areas opf the hotel. On our floor was a large open seating area that over looked the reception level which had a huge area with comfortable seats in small groups so you could sit and meet friends or wait for other people or just enjoy a coffee or tea and the newspaper. Everywhere was decorated in muted colours with interesting artwork around. I particularly liked a couple of very tall chairs that were either side of a long table just near the lifts, they wouldn't do in our house as we have really low ceilings but I was very taken with them. SUMMARY We were more than happy with our stay as it gave us a convenient and comfortable base for exploring the area and was just five minutes away from the wedding venue in Itchen Abbas as well so perfect really. We also had three rooms next to each other so we could help out with granddaughter while our step daughter was doing her bridesmaid duties. We found this a really nice modern hotel with lovely light airy rooms and public areas. The staff were all very helpful and pleasant and so no complaints at all really. I believe we booked in advance and paid about£180 for three nights for our room and the other two paid £120 each for their rooms for two nights and £10 extra for breakfasts for the extra adult in one of the rooms. I think we got good value for that price and would certainly stay there again if we came down that way. Thanks for reading; this review may be posted on other sites under my same user name, © Catsholiday