Introduction One of the main advantages of going away on fieldwork with my boss is that he refuses point blank to stay in grotty hotels if he can help it, but also makes sure that I get to stay in a good hotel too. Generally, we have a budget or around £50-£80, which means three star hotels - perfectly adequate, but sometimes it is nice to stay somewhere a bit more extravagant (especially when I'm not paying for it). My first introduction to the Malmaison chain was in Leeds and I have to say I was very impressed. Booking This is very easy by visiting www.malmaison.com and clicking on the relevant hotel. Alternatively, you can call 0121 246 5000. Location The hotel is located in Birmingham's Mailbox complex, home to designer shops such as Emporio Armani. The Mailbox was apparently once a Royal Mail sorting office, hence the name. The hotel is within walking distance of Birmingham New Street and therefore the Bull Ring Centre and all the entertainment, restaurants and pubs around it. Checking in This couldn't have been easier. The staff are extremely polite, no-one is kept waiting and keys were quickly handed over. Someone will carry your bags upstairs if you need help. The registration area is decorated much like the rest of the hotel with expensive fabrics and beautiful furniture. The rooms Absolutely stunning. My room was enormous and contained all the usual furniture, except that it was beautifully decorated in browns and creams with splashes of colour from the art work on the walls. There were many facilities in my room (which was standard), including a CD player (with CDs that you are encouraged to buy!), a mini-bar, hairdryer, tea/coffee facilities and TV. The bathroom was fabulous, large and airy and with an amazing power shower. Luxuries such as body lotion, soap and shower gel are also included and not in the tiny bottles usually found in hotels, but large bottles that you are encouraged to take away and that smell divine. The bed and chairs were all extremely comfortable. Facilities There is a spa and gym, although as far as I could work out, these were not free to hotel guests and booking was recommended. Food I ordered room service for dinner, although there is an amazing brasserie if you prefer to eat with friends. The room service food was excellent - I just ordered a burger, which cost about £12, with a glass of wine. The service was very quick and the food was excellent - it clearly hadn't been hanging around in the kitchen. There was a good selection of food, including fish and vegetarian choices. I also ordered room service for breakfast, which I ordered for a certain time and which came dead on the dot, with piping hot coffee. Excellent. The staff Couldn't be more helpful. There was very much an orientation towards the customer always being right, staff talked quietly and were polite at all times - far removed from staff in the usual standard of hotel I frequent! Nothing was too much trouble. The price This is the tricky bit. The price for a standard room booked over the internet came to a cool £135. Ouch. Thank goodness I wasn't paying. Checking out Again, this was quick and easy and although there were a number of guests wanting to check out at the same time, no-one was kept waiting. I asked for a taxi and someone called one immediately; there is a taxi rank just down the road from the hotel. Conclusion If I was paying for myself, I would steer well clear of a hotel charging these prices - I believe that if all you are going to do is sleep in a hotel, it just needs to be clean and functional. However, I do spend a lot of time in hotels for work purposes, travelling all over the country and sometimes, especially if I am going to spend more than just the night there, I do like a bit of luxury. And that is certainly what you get at the Malmaison. Service, food and facilities are all fabulous and I would highly recommend this hotel to anyone travelling to Birmingham and wanting something a bit classier than a Premier Travel Inn. You get what you pay for, no doubt about that.
The Days Inn Birmingham was the last resort, I had one of my bored days at work and decided yet again at the last minute that me and hubbie should hit the city. I tried the hotels in Manchester, some in Nottingham, then the last resort Birmingham. I rang a few of them and all were booked up, so when I rang Days Inn I was expecting them to say "sorry we are booked too". That wasn't the case , the girl at the other end of the phone mumbled something like £68 a room per night, I thought sod it we will stay two nights. She asked for my debit card number to secure the booking and I told her we would be there by 8pm that Saturday night. The Days Inn is located in The Mailbox shopping centre. As we pulled up we noticed it was all lit up bright red, we had seen this building in December and always wondered what it was. We had to park our car in the multi storey car park which is located in the shopping complex. You then have to go up in a lift to the Days Inn, but it wasn't as easy as that. When the lift doors opened we looked as though we were in a normal multi storey car park, then went through a door and what a shock we had. There were posh shops galore, posh cocktail bars, further down was another apartment type hotel, well at least that's what we thought it was. We couldn't find the Days Inn at first as we had turned left at the door, but when we asked the security guards, they said it was right and overlooking the canal. As we approached the hotel, we noticed there were bars underneath it, I was worried we wouldn't get any sleep. But double glazing is good nowadays and it wasn't to be. Arriving at reception, it was quite small but tidy, nice and clean and modern. The girl behind the reception was the same one who had booked me in. She was lovely, very friendly and polite. I had forgot to tell her that I work for the Holiday Cottage Group and we get discounts off Days Inn, but was meant to book it online, but didn 't have time. She said I will see what I can do. She got a supervisor out, another nice lady, think she was French and I showed her my wage slip and proof that I worked there,she thought about it for a minute, then said I could have the rate for friends and family, which was £48, I was very pleased. I told them that we might not stay two nights, but could they hold the room just in case, they said they could as long as I let them know by 11am the next day. In the reception area was some leaflets of local attractions, Cadburys World etc, and there was a payphone with a useful directory of numbers. We used it to ring a Pizza Delivery service who came right up to our room within 20 mins of ordering. The hotel didn't have 24 hour room service, but that wasn't a problem as we were in the middle of the shopping area etc and near to takeaways. There wasn't much else in reception only a drinks vending machine and a couple of chairs. Altogether there are 90 rooms in this hotel and probably only two or three floors. We were given our electronic key, which didn't work at first, and opened the door in surprise. What a lovely sight, everything looked brand spanking new. The rooms were all done out in a Light Beechwood, the quilts were whiter than white, and everything looked so inviting. I headed straight for the bathroom as this is my favourite room of the house and was pleasantly surprised. I normally like a bath, but this room had an enormour walk in shower and yes it was a power shower. It had a white tray which looked brand new, I was glad about that as that is the reason I don't normally like hotel showers on their own, the walk in tray sometimes looks unhygenic. There was a very handy rail leading you into the shower along with a soap holder. The shower had a metal bar with different settings, it's hard to describe as it was quite unusual. The shower was very very powerful and I felt wonderful after one. The C ream tiles looked elegant and clean and there were a few gentle orange tiles too scattered about.These were edged in Green and set them off very nicely. This was very impressive, I could stay here all day. There were tissues in a holder on the wall next to the mirror, the mirror was massive and went right round the sink. There was a handy ledge near the sink for toiletries, but talking toiletries, there was Lux Bodywash on the wall which I do find hard to squeeze out, so I take my own just in case.There was even "his n hers" toilet roll holders. The shaver point was powered for 230V and 115V. There were plenty of nice fluffy white towels, which were filthy by the time my foundation got on them, tut tut. The bedroom was basic, but modern and clean. It had a pale blue carpet, Beechwood everywhere. The headboard was a light Beech, it set the bed off nicely. We had a double bed with nice clean white duvets. Very plain, but looked expensive material. It was a shame to get in the bed, it was so pristine looking. In the room was the usual desk with TV on top, a Kettle, cups, coffee, tea etc, but alas no biscuits. There was a staionary pad, notelets and pen and a sitting area with two drawers. In the drawers were extra pillows and towels and a hairdryer. The wall behind the bed was painted a nice Heather Blue and Minty Green, it was very modern. The curtains were Yellow, Greens and Blues, they set the room off nicely. There were a couple of paintings on the wall done in nice pastel colours. There was a storage heater too, but we didn't need it as the room was warm enough without being suffocating. The wardrobe only had 6 coat hangers in it, but then I suppose these sort of hotels are for one or two nights only. The full length beech mirror was useful too. Opening the curtains, our room looked over the Birmingham canal and I started thinking about work. I work selling Boating and canal Holidays and Iam sad to say, I was trying to s pot one of our boats.It's not an eyesore as someone might think, it's a very trendy area where loads of students, business people walk by and sometimes sit overlooking the canal on the many seats outside the pavement cafes. After a great nightout at Edwards No8 Rock Club, we headed back to the hotel at about 2am. There wasn't any security which I was surprised about. The reception chappie told us we could order a pizza and have it delivered to our room, which we did, he said there was no room service. Within 20 mins it came, and we scoffed the lot. In the morning we went down for breakfast in a pleasant room. It was a buffet breakfast and all you could eat. This was in the price of the room, we never got offered a room only price, and breakfast charged extra, it was all in one price. I didn't think paying £48 with my discount was bad at all especially for this lovely and clean place. Breakfast was ok, the usual was laid out, fruit, cereal, english brekkie etc. There were quite a few tables, but wasn't too packed. They even had a widescreen TV to sit and watch Breakfast TV, ha ha. After breakfast we decided to check out and let the room go, not because we hated it, but we decided to go shopping on the way home and thought the money would go towards that. Overall it was a lovely place to stop and we will be visiting there again even if we have to pay the full price, afterall it's been voted "International Property of the Year". Days Inn 160 Wharfside st the Mailbox Birmingham B1 1RL Tel 0121 643 9344 Fax 0121 643 2044 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
I stayed in the hotel Britannia in Birmingham for a weekend last August where I met a large group of Dooyoo and Ciao members. The hottest weekend of the year was certainly very memorable, a fantastic time but what about the hotel? My first impression of the Britannia wasn't very favourable. That could have been because the instructions that the hotel had sent on how to get there from the M6 were not very good and after driving around for ages only the car park which isn't attached to the hotel could be found. We lugged our cases up and down steps through a shopping centre after Mel (cheekychicken) asked for directions and were slightly travel worn by the time we found the entrance that was down an alley. Access was through revolving doors and then down a rather steep wheelchair ramp into a dark and dismal looking reception. We had no problems checking in, but I was witness to two of our group checking in the next day and a mix up which meant that they had been given a double room instead of 2 singles. The receptionist promised that something would be sorted for them but it wasn't and they had to rearrange things themselves - that's their story though. There were 2 lifts but one of them was broken down the whole weekend. Apart from the long waiting the other had a mind of its own but more about that later. It was a big relief to reach my room on the sixth floor where I freshened up quickly and hung my clothes up before going to meet cheekychicken (Mel) and Deano76 (Dean) who I had travelled down with, in the hotel bar. I wasn't madly impressed with the room either, the decor was a bit dingy, the furnishings were old and some of the wallpaper was peeling off. In my room there was a tiny single bed, a small table with a TV on it which I didn't watch, a dressing table and chair, a smallish built in wardrobe with shelves, a bedside table with a lamp sitting on it that worked and a standing lamp that d idn't work. Apparently you were supposed to use different combinations of switches to turn the lights on reminding me of the Crystal Maze, but who would imagine that one switch for each wouldn't do the job. It was very noisy in my room due to building work that was going on outside and the hotel being in the middle of a busy shopping area. The bathroom had standard white fittings with a shower in the bath. No shower mat, which I think should be an essential to help avoid slipping in the bath. White towels, two sachets of body and hair shampoo and soap were provided. Also provided was a kettle, cup and saucer, just two tea bags, two sachets of coffee, two tubs of milk (good job I drink black tea) and four sachets of sugar. I was glad that I had brought some bottles of Doctor Peppers to quench my day after the night before thirst that I expected on Saturday and Sunday mornings. I had a balcony that looked grubbily ancient. A net curtain with a big hole in it covered the door that I always left open due to the stifling heat in the hotel - apparantly the radiators were on full blast. I stood on the balcony which had a metal grill around it for a little while just to cool off before going down to Harvey’s bar which was situated 2 floors below the first and the floor above the ground floor reception. Mel and Dean weren't in the bar so instead of waiting in the by now suffocating heat I left the hotel and took a walk around outside. As it was late afternoon the shops were closing so it was just nice to window shop and get some fresh air. There didn't seem to be any noticeably working air conditioning in the hotel or fans, so at any given time over the weekend it was hotter inside than out. Refreshed I lost my way twice before I found my room again. The hotel, which used to be a Department Store, was like a rabbit warren, but the layout was no more confusing than the roads into Birmingham or the general are a surrounding the hotel. I took a cool shower before getting ready for the evening. I felt hot and sweaty again almost before I’d dried off and had to escape to the balcony several times in various stages of undress and regardless of whoever might be at the windows overlooking mine – I didn’t care the heat was that bad. Mel and Dean still weren’t around when I went back to the bar but I quite happily chatted to members of a Bermudan cricket team while I waited. One of the players Reggie, treated me to my first half of much needed cool lager which tasted great. The lowest of the fluctuating prices was £1.10 - quite good for a hotel bar, but I would question why the prices fluctuated. The 23 year old bartender was very friendly and attentative, quickly satisfying my every need – well as far as serving me drinks and fetching the ash tray and emptying it as soon as I stubbed my cig out was concerned. After my speedily consumed second half – well it was hot and Reggie was threatening to take me back to Bermuda with him – I nipped out for something to eat. On my return about 20 minutes later I was slightly relieved to find that Reggie and the rest of the players had left and sat on a bar stool until Mel and Dean turned up, chatting to the cricket coach and the bartender who again provided excellent service. That is until I told him that I was there for the meet. The truth came out then. He thought that I was one of a party of three from head office in London visiting to check up on the place. We laughed about his mistake but after that the level of service deteriorated, still quite good but not excellent as previously. I missed out on an extra 20 minutes of chatting with KirstyJane and Superpricee because they were tucked away in a corner which was hidden from where I was at the bar. Not long after Mel and Dean turned up Michaird and Kittykat18 arrived and we all had a brilliant night out t hat ended around 3.00 am. I was really cheesed off at 8.00 the next morning to be jerked out of my self inflicted booze coma by building work in progress. I was just dozing off again when a busker started up outside. He was playing 2 Caribbean drums (can’t remember what they are called), lovely to listen to normally but not when you have a skanking hangover. Giving up on sleep I made a cup of tea, then a coffee and chilled out for a while reading a magazine. Just after 10.00 am a maid walked into the room without knocking first. Apologies were made but I was not happy about the unannounced intrusion that ended my chill out time. I washed and dressed and got out of the hotel as soon as I could before melting. First I hid the remainder of the drink sachets before leaving because I knew that if topped up to the previous level there wouldn’t be enough for my needs. My search for somewhere to eat that wasn’t junk food took over an hour because I lost my way several times and kept coming back to square one. I didn’t want breakfast in the hotel, which was in with the cost because of the heat. Back at the hotel I was pleased to find that double the previous amount of drink sachets were waiting for me but I only wanted water at that point. I went to look for the room where we were all meeting but the lift showed me its quirk of depositing passengers at the wrong floor. I got out without realising and started to wander one of those endless look-alike passages. Boy what a relief it was to spot a friendly face. My night in shining armour (ok jeans kenjohn) knew the way and escorted me to the room. No prize for guessing what he does for a living in Dublin. The initial meeting was a great success despite the heat that made most of us beat a path to the water cooler. Jo (pinkle) and I left the meeting a couple of times to grab some food and air. Going in a lift with her is hilarious because of the funny comments that she makes in front of strangers; just as well that we could laugh because trying to escape from the furnace was testing to say the least. Every time we left the building that day and on Sunday the heavy ramp had been moved to one side making escape by wheelchair impossible. A coffee table hindered the straightening up of Jo’s wheelchair to enable us to get it up the ramp. Weakened by the heat it was a struggle for me to drag it back into place. When we got to the top of the ramp we couldn’t get the wheelchair through the revolting doors and had to wait for a member of staff to push the revolving bit to one side. This happened on another 2 occasions convincing me that the entrance was not suitable for handicapped people or I would think anybody with more than one medium sized suitcase. Getting ready for the evening I got in a bit of a flap when the antiquated shower handle came off in my hand. I couldn’t see well enough to replace the handle in its slot so I had to climb out of the shower and find my specs. It took a bit of sorting and by the time that I’d done that the bathroom floor was swimming. The towel wasn’t big enough to mop the floodwater up so I got wet feet every time that I used the bathroom mirror. More times than expected because as soon as I went into the bedroom area the bulb in the lamp flickered before it gave up the ghost. Left with only twilight I tried a few combinations of switches to get the standing lamp going without any success. I have a vague impression that it didn’t have a bulb in; my fingers didn’t encounter one anyway. Before joining the others I decided to go to reception and get the lights sorted out. The lift stopped at the wrong floor again and I forgot to get back in again before it set off. Walking down the steps was thirsty work but by accident I found the bar rather than the reception. Thirst quenched with a lager I set off on my journey again. It took 5 att empts in the lift to get to the ground floor reception. Each time I was diverted back to Harvey’s bar much to the amusement of my newfound friends who laughed and cleared a space at the bar every time they saw me. Obviously the lift wanted me there so I took advantage of 3 of the extra visits to quench my thirst. I didn’t want to be drunk by the time I got to reception so I risked the stairs again and found it straight away. A promise was made to sort out the lights in my room immediately so I waited and waited for the lift to come to take me to the third floor where the rest of the group were. It didn’t get there. Once again I was taken to the bar and grabbed a quickie before using the stairs. One and a half hours later I went to my room to fetch something. It was in darkness and the light from the bathroom wasn’t adequate enough. I propped the door open with the chair and stumbled round with a lighter in each hand, stubbing my toes and burning my thumb in the process. I’m sure that the guy at reception could tell how angry I was because it was then fixed immediately. He tried to tell me later that I’d pressed the wrong combination in the silly switch system but when a bulb flickers for several times before going out even I know that the bulb has gone. It was 4.00 am when I crawled into bed looking forward to a few hours sleep. No sooner had my eyes shut then 2 men started to sing in the next room. Loud enough for me to think that they were in my room and make me half open my glued together with make up eyes while I looked round to allay my fears. Once the singing had stopped I settled down to be disturbed again by a chorus of very loud seagulls grrrrr. Not the hotels fault I know but perhaps earplugs should have been available in every room. I only slept until 7.00 am and took full advantage of the tea and coffee, remembering my hidden cache while I came round. I packed and was enthroned when the outside door of the room which was just opposite the loo started to open. After shouting a warning in the nick of time I got another apology but I can’t understand why on earth the maids don’t knock first, common courtesy I would have thought. I managed to get to the breakfast room before eleven. There wasn’t much food left though I was told that it was a very nice buffet style breakfast, so I settled for juice, a slice of toast and a gossip. I had to ask 3 members of staff for some life saving coffee. Stood there waiting and waiting while they busied themselves with anything but. I was nearly falling over with weakness by the time somebody got me some and it was only after asking her for the second time. I went up to the fifth floor to see if Jo was awake and we got lost on her floor while looking for the lift. The umpteen doors were a normal width and part at the side had to be pushed open to accommodate the wheelchair. Endorsing my feeling that the hotel is eminently unsuitable for wheelchair access and a big risk if a fire broke out. We met in the meeting room again while waiting for the bar to open at the promised 12.30, it didn’t but somehow it wasn’t much of a surprise. I was told that there was a shortage of staff. Pretty evident from the events of the weekend. The staff were friendly and helpful enough but I had the feeling that they were so used to complaints that they weren’t as quick as they might be handling them. I paid £90 for a single room for 2 nights but the price according to the list in reception should have been £200. If I had paid that much I would have been choked and demanding a refund. The hotel wasn’t worth that much by a long chalk. Jo called it Hotel California, my name for it is Hotel Hades. Despite the hotel I had a brilliant time and am looking forward to the next meet. Thanks Offy, Ana, Craig, Dean and Mel for organising it.
Birmingham's increasingly impressive city centre is now visited by thousands of people from all over the world - here on business rather then pleasure, mainly. But the good impression left by places like the Mailbox and Brindleyplace is offset by the poor standard of accommodation in the city. Birmingham's hotels and B&Bs are pretty dire, and a night in one of them undoes all the good work. What must people think, etc. I've stayed in the Comfort Inn on Station Street - pretty shabby. I've stayed in the Lyby Guesthouse in Bearwood - and that was pretty awful, too. But the worst was the elegant-looking Astoria Hotel on the Hagley Road, which offered very poor value for money. Myself and a business partner stayed in room 16 last Saturday night. We hated it immediately and couldn’t leave quickly enough on Sunday morning. With some modifications this could be a decent hotel. They may even *want* it to be a decent hotel, although my instinct tells me that if they did, the causes for complaint wouldn’t exist to begin with. Let’s begin with the driveway. I’ve driven along better stretches of road in remote parts of Albania. The potholed disintegrating driveway looks unattractive, and is made for tripping over or plunging your feet into unseen puddles. Not a great first impression. When I saw the reception and corridors, optimism failed to return. The place had clearly last been decorated in the 1970s. A lethargic, musty atmosphere pervaded everything. The reception desk was filled with out-of-date What’s On magazines. The corridor leading to our room smelled, and our room itself was small, cramped and reeked of stale tobacco – a smell we couldn’t get rid of, despite opening windows and doors constantly. Decoratively the room did not exactly scream 21st Century Britain. A herd of goats with diarrhoea could have had a merry time vomiting about the place and the room would not have loo ked and smelled any worse. The pillow was as thick as a postage stamp, and I decided against using the one in the cupboard when I saw the dirty pillow case (hair etc) it came in. Tiny TV stuck in a corner. Some tea bags and associated what-not flung into a resealable plastic tub - not exactly resonating with appeal. Have any of this hotel's owners ever stayed in a hotel before? Do they know anything about what makes a hotel an attractive place to stay, a place that can help make either a business trip or weekend break better? On this evidence, no. Their convenient Hagley Road location has made them complacent – still stuck in an age when all British hotels were this bad and renowned for it – about thirty years ago, when the hotel was presumably last decorated. Comparing these facilities to the Ibis in the Arcadian or the Wetherlodge on Bennetts Hill which offer rooms for under £40 at weekends puts yours to shame. This room was not in any way shape or form worth £55 – a complete and utter rip-off. Breakfast: Dirty cup. Only one sausage, which tasted foul. Pots of instant coffee. Glum looking people wanting to be somewhere else. A hotel is supposed to be somewhere you look forward to returning at night and leave reluctantly the following morning. Us, we couldn’t wait to leave. We were out of there by 9am, and ended up in the city centre where nothing was open. This hotel is a disgrace and an embarrassment to Birmingham; small wonder people have such a bad impression of the city, if this is their abiding memory of it. I imagine many hoteliers who hear such sentiments nonchalantly shrug and think, “Well, we’ve been going [however many] years and have had no other complaints.” I would ask, does that denote that there is nothing to complain about, or that the British do not like to kick up a fuss? Hmmm, I wonder… I’ve stayed in a lot better, for a lot less. Avoid the Astoria. A nd if anyone knows of a decent place to stay while in Brum - and not the Hotel Du Vin, too expensive - I'm all ears.
As my wife Binnie was fastly approaching the BIG 40, I wanted to do something special for her. Normally we don't go to shows or the theatre, but what else can one do when it's a cold day in December. I did a quick search on the internet and found the shows she might like to see. Grease was the only one around her Birthday (Dec 8th) which I thought might be suitable for her tastes. The show was in Birmingham , shame really because I would have liked something in London. I then did another search to find a hotel nearby to the show. The show was held at The Alexander Theatre. I eventually found The Comfort Inn on Station Street right across from the railway station. I then rang the hotel to book, I prefer this method, I like to speak to humans. The cost of the room was for a double with breakfast for two nights, £60 a night. Normally it would have been £75 a night, but I got a discount upon phoning them. The confirmation came through almost immediately, it was something like the day after. Well the day eventually came, I printed a map off route finder and we set off. We had to be there for 7pm or else they could sell on our room. We arrived there at 7.15 after getting lost in the city centre. Be warned this hotel isn't that easy to find. I must admit we were looking for the normal type Comfort Inns which were set at the side of the motorway. We decided to phone the hotel to ask for directions and believe it or not, we had passed it several times. It was in an area which was a bit shabby to say the least. There was a strip club and table top dancing just a few yards away. Now Binnie does like dancing on the tables but with all her clothes on. There wasn't a car park, so we pulled onto double yellow lines and I went into the reception to ask where there was a car park. On entering I noticed how small and dull the reception area was. I was a bit wor ried if the hotel was going to be a dump. The receptionist told me of a car park just round the corner. Still it was a bit of a nuisance when you have to lug around your cases from an underground car park to your hotel room. The check in was quick, we were given a key to a room on the third floor. There was a lift but it looked like something out of the ark. You had to open a door, then behind it you had to pull shut a concertina door before the lift would move. It was very cramped, it wouldn't hold more than two people in it with all their luggage. There were stairs but Belinda had a sore toe and couldn't walk very far. At the third floor, we got out and noticed a water machine, this I haven't seen before in other hotels. Walking along the corridor, we noticed how grubby and dirty the carpets were. They were a pinky colour which I thought was the wrong colour for a landing and stairs carpet. We got to our room which was more or less opposite the lift. Then with baited breath we unlocked the door to room 302. Well what a surprise, we had a long corridor to go down, the door even had a full length mirror attatched to it. There was a small window along the corridor, this you couldn't see anything out of it, but at least the curtains were ok. The bathroom was the first room we came to. This was pleasant enough, it had a tiled floor, a bath with shower over it. A sink and a loo which might have been new as it still had a sticker attatched to the lid. There were three soap dispensers, one high up next to the shower, one next to the bath, and one next to the sink. These were just the standard Comfort/Quality hotel range, but still very useful, saved on packing our own in future. Overall it was very clean. The bath was white with a lovely silver motif in the bottom of the bath. There were just enough towels along with just enough loo paper. The bedroom was round the corne r, it had a double bed, so they say, compared to our king sized bed it felt like a queen size. We had bedside cabinets with a lamp each attatched to the wall at either end. There was a dressing table loaded with a kettle and coffee making facelities and biscuits. There was a trouser press, a TV with some Sky channels, and a nice wardrobe. There wasn't loads of space for your clothes, but mostly people stay in these sort of hotels for one or two nights, so we didn't find it a problem. The carpet was a grey/beige colour which was very clean, maybe this was new also. I felt as though the rooms had just be renovated, they weren't posh but were clean and tidy. There were another two windows but no views. We had two radiators which could be temperature controlled, whenever you felt too cold or too hot. The bed was comfy, but Belinda found it to be a bit too hard, (the bed I mean). I think there were about 40 rooms and the levels only went up to 5. Everyday we saw the maids, even on a Sunday. They always made your bed, cleaned the rooms etc. The only thing lacking was they didn't take away my empty plastic cups which we had got from the water machine. Also they didn't top up the water machine when it had run out. Breakfast was between 8-10am, but this was on a Saturday and a Sunday, it was earlier during the week allowing businessmen to get up early. The choice was very good. You could have fruit, yoghurts, croissants and pastries, cereal. Then there was three choices of juice, grapefruit, apple and orange, also coffee and tea. The waitresses on entry would show you to your table which was very nicely decorated. Then they came for your order if you were having a cooked breakfast. You just served yourself for the cold stuff. The choice was great, you could have eggs any way, bacon, sausage, black pudding, mushrooms, beans, fried toms, sauteed potatoes, Belinda had a ba con sandwich the second day, I always had the full breakfast. You could also have toast, there were a few choices of jams on offer. The waitresses were very quick, sometimes bringing you your cooked breakfast before you had finished the first lot. The room was very nice, just a nice size, with Xmas decorations up and all. It was very clean with good food. They are planning to open a restaurant soon where they probably will be serving dinner. There was plenty of choice for eateries though, even right next door was a chinese restaurant. Downstairs just offf the reception was a bar/lounge, we walked through this on the first night, but I'm sure everybody in there, and it was busy, smoked. It stunk, I couldn't have stayed in there for even five minutes, so I can't tell you about the service or drinks. I would go there again, if we were to visit Birmingham, it was in a location near to everything, shops, restaurants, train stations etc. The staff were friendly enough, one thing that worried me a little, was everytime you wanted to get in the hotel, you had to buzz for assistance. I thought maybe it was beacause it was in a roughish area. Saying that, our rooms must have been safe, they wouldn't let anybody in who they didn't like the look of, says the receptionist. The first impressions weren't so good, we almost walked back out and went home, but after going up to the rooms we were pleasantly surprised. I'm not sure, if the price is too expensive compared to other Birmingham hotels, but I have got better and cheaper.
Two years ago my elder daughter went off to Birmingham to university. Several times we have had to go and stay there. There seems to be a lack of motel type accomodation ie Travel Lodge. Although there are some they are not in very obvious locations. I have driven miles round and round Birmingam and surrounding areas trying to spot one! After 2 years I have them all sussed out, but you do need to book in advance as they seem to be mostly full and some don't have many family rooms. Update:29 Aug 01 The two I used were the Ibis at Bordesley and the TravelLodge at Yardley.The Ibis is situated at Bordesley, opposite the Citroen dealer. It has it's own restaurant which was useful for breakfast, but the food was not much to shout about and the air-con made it too cold to sit in there for long. The room itself was fine. They didnt have a family room so they wheeled in a z bed. I wasn't enormously impressed with that as it was not the cheapest motel. The en-suite looked fantastic and we all got quite excited about it until we realised the huge drawback! The shower had no tray. The floor was one level so that the water swilled around by the bath and loo. It was a miracle it didn't go under the door!! There was a drain under the shower but even when the worst of it had drained away the floor was soaking wet! I ended up with soaking socks on a trip to the loo later. Also, it had become slippery which could be dangerous for somone elderly or a small child. Other than that the Ibis was perfectly acceptable. The Travel Lodge at Yardley was pretty much as any other. It was cheaper than the Ibis. Overall I prefer it. It has a nice Harry Ramsden's in it's car park with an excellent and reasonably priced breakfast menu. It also had waitress service. It made the whole experience much more pleasant. Also, it was a purpose built family room and therefore the sleeping arrangements were much better for my children. Yes I think Brum has improved- they have done some nice restoration around the canals where there are some very nice eating places and pubs. Of course Symphony Hall swings it for me- and it has the CBSO. I'd go just to hear them!
I have been researching in glamorous Birmingham for the last month or so. But as a PhD student my budget for accommodation is limited. I personally have an aversion to B&Bs and prefer 4 star hotels (don’t we all) but sadly the Economic and Social Research Council don’t run to such luxury. Cheap accommodation is hard to come by but I recommend considering the University of Birmingham’s self catering accommodation. It is university accommodation and therefore only available during the summer vacation (June to September). The University of Birmingham rents out 2 of their self-catering blocks of flats during summer. I stayed at the Beeches which is about 10 minutes walk from Five Ways station if you are travelling by train. Trains to Birmingham New Street are fairly regular, though strangely not between 8.40 and 10.10, and it’s about 10 minutes away. By car it’s in Elvetham Road, off Wheeley’s Road, Lee Bank Middleway, A4540. It’s near Edgbaston and located down a nice leafy street, though I’m sure the local residents don’t like having a student complex there! There are about 50 flats in the complex. There is a large car park if you are driving. Each flat has 5 bedrooms, a kitchen/ dining room, a shower room and toilet. The rooms are of a reasonable size. In fact all student rooms I have stayed in seem to be exactly the same size. Maybe there is an architectural standard which determines how much space a student should be allowed. Anyway, they have a single bed, wardrobe, desk and shelves. The bed was fairly comfy and they provide bed linen. However, it is a single bed because students are probably the least sexually active group within society! The wardrobe doesn’t have any hangers so you need to bring your own. Each room has a phone, though you can’t actually dial out! The kitchen is fairly standard and comes provided with crockery, cutlery and so on. There is a gas cooker and a fridge freezer but no microwave. There is a Tesco’s about 15 minutes walk away which is very convenient. Apparently there is a laundry on site though I didn’t use it. You also allowed to use the university sport’s facilities, the Barber Institute of Fine Art and the Botanical Gardens. Sadly I didn’t have time to do any of this! Costs If you are a student of the University of Birmingham then the costs will be less as they don’t charge you VAT. Otherwise: £15 per night (this includes bed linen and cleaning) £58 per week (without bed linen) There are some other price scales but you would need to ring and ask. There is some information on the website (www.birmingham.ac.uk) and the phone number for the office is 0121 440 6265. The official office hours are 2.30pm to 4.30pm. You are meant to complete a booking form in advance but in actuality this wasn’t a problem. They also only accept cash or cheque. If you are looking for budget accommodation during the summer it’s well worth considering staying here. The flats are fairly new, very clean and definite value for money. The only thing I didn’t like was how quiet it was! There were some other people around but they were in different flats. If you are on your own I would bring a radio with you. I personally like to have a reasonable amount of background noise and find going to stay at my friend’s farm vaguely scary as it is so quiet! I guess it would be a good option of you are travelling with a group of friends. Though except for going to see the cricket I’m not exactly sure how many tourists Birmingham gets! I would stay here again but as I still have a few months to go I have decided to rent a room in a house, sharing with professional rugby players! Should be interesting….