“ Address: 2 Sydenham Hill / Crystal Palace / SE26 6SJ / Tel: 020 8778 9844 „
As a freelance photographer I regularly travel all over the place and occassionally require accomodation. Back in June I was shooting Bromley pagent car show which required me to be on site by 6 in the morning, I didn't fancy driving from home (south coast) to get there that early, so the company employing me booked me and my assistant a hotel room for the night and this is how I came to stay at the Astra Palace Hotel. Where is it? The Astra Palace Hotel is in Crystal Palace, very close to the park of the same name. So it's handy for various car meets that go on there, or using as a base for nearby Croydon and central London etc. What does it look like? The building itself looks like it would have been quite grand when it was first built - it's large, with sash windows and a relatively pleasing design. That said both the building and the area in general, have clearly seen better days - the hotel sign on the outside of the building is cheap, tacky looking and generally drags the look of the building down. There is a carpark which consists of a relatively large section of tarmac outside the hotel. Apparently this is big enough for 30 cars, but personally I think that's being optimistic. We were there on a Saturday evening and there were only about 4 other cars there, I don't imagine it gets much busier there though so you shouldn't have any trouble parking. Unfortunately on the inside it gets worse - the decor is incredibly dated. Thankfully the walls are neutral, but the carpets have very strong and colourful designs (very much like those in my grandad's house which was last decorated in the 70's!). When you get into the rooms everything you see is a real mish mash - the curtains (also heavily patterned and dated) don't fit with the carpets and the furniture is mismatched. Our room was a double (my employer thought my partner was going to be my assistant, but he couldn't make it so I took a friend and we didn't mind sharing a bed). The carpets were just as garish as those that greeted us on our first entrance into the building, the curtains were a completely different style and very thin and none of the furniture matched. On the plus side the ensuite, although very small, was functional and an unoffensive off white colour, the bed had clearly been freshly made with clean white sheets and the room was very clean (no dust and I looked hard!). What facilities are there? The rooms all have colour TV's in them, however in our room we had a very old CRT TV, which only had the standard 5 channels, and the remote had gaffa tape holding the batteries in - I think either no TV at all, or at least no remote would have been better, as the condition of them really dragged it down. The website also claims you have tea and coffee facilities in your room - this isn't true, instead there is a small kitchenette serving all the rooms where you are expected to help yourself. How is the customer service? We arrived at the hotel about 8pm on Saturday evening, however at 7pm my employer had rung me asking how far away we were because the hotel manageress had rung him asking where we were as she wanted to go to bed! Needless to say I felt a bit hurried. When we got there there was a lady was sitting behind the reception (a desk in the hall way), she knew who we were (I'm guessing she was expecting no other guests) but seemed a bit suprised to see two women when a double room was booked - she kept trying to convince us to have a twin instead. Not sure if she thought we'd made a mistake on the booking, thought we were lesbians and didn't approve, or wanted the extra money that a twin room cost. Either way we stuck with a double and she relented in the end! We paid up front, I was given a VAT receipt to give to my employer and we had to give her a phone number to contact us on (still not sure why). We were led up to the room, showed the bathroom, then she took us back into the hall where she showed us the kitchenette and said there was some cereal in the cupboard if we wanted breakfast. She also asked what time we would be leaving in the morning and when we said 5.30am she asked us to leave the room keys on the reception desk on our way out. While we were given all the information we needed to know, I felt that the level of service was quite cold - she seemed uncomfortable with two women sharing a bed and seemed annoyed at us for arriving so 'late'. What else? As mentioned earlier the curtains were rather thin so the room was never truely dark and when the sun rose it was so bright that there might as well have been no curtains. The sash windows, while a nice feature, were not sound proof enough to block out the loud noise of chavvy cars and buses driving past at all hours of the night (the hotel is on a relatively main road, by a roundabout). Finally we were woken up at 4.30am by a baby crying loudly and the slamming of several doors - of course the behaviour of guests isn't the fault of the hotel, but it seems that there is a real need for some sound proofing. Price: Our double room cost £60, but here is the price list off their website - Twin - £50-55 Double - from £55 Triple room - £65 Family room - £75 1 family studio with kitchen facilities - £75 I'm not sure if this list is outdated or we were given the wrong information, but we were told the twin rooms cost from £65. Their website, while basically contructed and by no means inspirational, does provide some basic information and photos. It can be found at: www.astrapalace.co.uk Overall I probably wouldn't recommend a stay at the Astra Palace hotel, although it really depends on the reason for your stay. If you are having a holiday or romantic getaway etc then I definately wouldn't recommend it, however if you need somewhere to stay for business purposes then this may fit the bill - I wouldn't pay to stay there again myself, but I wouldn't refuse to stay there if an employer was paying for it. That said I should hope there are better standards of accomodation in the area for a similar cost.