* Prices may differ from that shown
I used to stay at the City Inn in Birmingham which was very handy as it is close to my favorite restaurants in Brindley Place. However, i had been there for about 18 months (5 nights a week) and just couldn't take the chaos at breakfast time any more. It wasn't the staffs fault it was just too many people converging at the same time. Anyway, my company booked me into the Marriott which is a 10 minute walk away from Brindley Place, so it's not too far. The hotel lobby is attractive and inviting, and the rooms are very comfortable (for hotel rooms). They are well decorated, and the bed is kingsize, and it is the most comfortable hotel bed I have ever stayed in. It is also so well prepared (it looks like something out of a magazine). I have about 6 pillows and a duvet. The room has a nice table with two armchairs, a desk and a large interactive TV. No internet unfortunately (unless you want to pay). The bathroom is very large, with lots of towels, facecloths etc. and the combined air conditioning/heating system works perfectly well. The hotel has an inviting bar, and a reasonable restaurant (I eat there when it's raining and don't want to get soaked walking to Brindley Place). The menu is not extensive but again it is fit for purpose. The food is not bad either and the staff take great care of you. Most of the staff in general are very friendly but of course you get the odd one that is false but don't all hotels have one of these? I am very pleased, and have just booked the next 3 months. Oh, and breakfast is quite good (the chef needs to improve his skills a bit), but is the choice is good, and I must say the breakfast experience is a very peaceful one. The lady that runs the breakfast restaurant is just superb, very motherly and very caring.
As ever, the first few paragraphs don't seem to allow capital letters. Read on, anyway! I remember once, when training as a teacher at Oxford University, being implored in a lecture to avoid, at all costs, the use of the somewhat bland word "satisfactory" when assessing students' work. "Imagine", said the lecturer, "that you have just - pardon the expression - come to the conclusion of a passionate experience with your beloved. (S)he leans over and asks the inevitable question: 'How was it for you, Darling?'. You reply 'Satisfactory'. Can you imagine the ensuing thermo-nuclear explosion?" It's a very fair point. So, this hotel is not just "satisfactory". No - It's absolutely, blooming marvellous! We were driving to Scotland to visit Amanda's parents - and decided to split up the journey both ways, staying in the Birmingham Marriott on the way up, and the Newcastle Marriott (review to follow) on the way back down a week later. Both hotels were booked via "Priceline" and I thought that the (room-only) rate of £45.00 (plus fees and taxes amounting to about £12 in total) per room per night that I managed to secure was superb. Before we left, I checked availability on the Marriott website and our room was available for £195.00. So - we'd definitely got a great deal! On the other hand, I don't think I've ever paid the rack-rate for a hotel - and I doubt whether I ever will! Our only real problem with this hotel - and it isn't really its fault - was actually finding it! It's pretty centrally located and the directions from the Marriott website were very clear indeed. Both Amanda's driving and map-reading skills are infamous (or, at least, they are now - thanks to the power of the Internet!). I could, I suppose, have navigated and let Amanda do the driving. Wanting, however, to arrive in one piece, I drove and she navigated. This would have been fine, but - although I love her to bits - she just can't read a map. So we enjoyed a jolly tour of the many suburbs of Birmingham before returning to our centrally-located hotel after about a ten mile detour. I'm not saying that you'll get to enjoy the same sightseeing trip, but Birmingham was not a terribly brilliant place to get lost in! Anyway, we eventually arrived, parked the car in the car park (£8.00 per night, although it's usually free, I think) and went in to reception. The reception experience was fast, efficient and friendly, and the lobby area was elegantly furnished in marble. We were quickly allocated to room 520 on the fifth (top) floor of the hotel and were asked whether we needed any help with our luggage. We didn't - and headed off towards the lifts. These were spacious and efficient and we were soon outside our room. We had two keycards, each T-shaped. Insert the big end into the slot in the door to unlock it, and then - having gained entry to your room - stick the other end into a slot just inside the hallway to activate the lights and various electrical appliances. With one keycard, I can imagine that this system would go some way towards saving energy resources and expenses, although if they are going to give you two cards, you could still leave the lights on when you leave the room. Just an observation! The room was large and, although traditionally L-shaped, it was somehow arranged so that you felt that it was square! It was also a corner room, so there were plenty of windows, all double-glazed in such a way that you could forget that you were in the centre of England's second city; there was no noise nuisance at all. It was very comfortably furnished and made an extremely good impression on the eye - impeccably clean, the carpet was deep green, the walls were cream, and the bed and sofa (actually a double sofa bed) were furnished in a striking red and gold design. Josh's pre-booked c ot (or crib) was already in place - and this is so often not the case. Attention to detail is obviously important at this hotel! Also in the room was an armoire, containing an interactive TV and minibar and tea / coffee-making facilities, a glass-topped coffee table and a decent working desk with a leather swivel chair - which is where I ought to be sitting right now. However, the huge bed is so comfortable that I've decided to type the first part of this review from there. Fear not! I'm still fully clothed! There are two bedside cabinets, one of which - in true Marriott style - contains a Gideon Bible, a Mormon Bible and J W Marriott's guide to success in business - just in case you can't get to sleep by more conventional means. On the way in to the room you pass a wardrobe on your right, complete with safe, iron, ironing board and the type of coat hangers that you can actually remove. On your left is the bathroom - and what a marvellous bathroom it is! Very spacious, complete with a good sized bath and over-bath shower and plenty of hot water. There were plenty of towels and a sink unit almost heaving under the weight of various "Neutrogena" products. All in all, we were delighted with the room. One problem was that there was no sound on the TV. Amanda 'phoned reception and they promised to send somebody round to see to the problem. It was less than five minutes before there was a knock on the door and the problem was rectified immediately - apparently, some of the TVs suffer from a build up of static, and removing the wall plug and replacing it restores the sound. Thus, in little over five minutes from initially 'phoning reception, the problem had been satisfactorily (oops!) solved. I was, yet again, highly impressed by the standard and friendliness of service. The hotel has an impressive looking restaurant, called "West 12", complete with a bar of the same name. The menu looked good and th e décor was clean, stylish and contemporary. Not wishing to subject other diners to Baby Josh's less-than desirable table manners (although, to be fair, he's getting there), we headed off into town; the centre of Birmingham is only about half a mile away and the route is liberally bedecked with trendy bars, clubs and eateries. If you're looking for a good night out, you could do a whole lot worse. There's also a lot of social deprivation, however, and no sooner had I locked the car after retrieving Josh's pushchair, when a young girl begging for money approached us. I politely refused - I do have a heart but, believe me, had I donated to every beggar that approached us that night, I would have spent an absolute fortune. As I was to find out the next morning, the rear offside tyre of my car was as flat as a pancake - we later discovered that it was caused by a three-inch nail stuck in the tyre. Now, I'm not saying categorically that I didn't run over the nail, but the jury is out over exactly how it got into the tyre. Enough said. There's certainly a lot to do in Birmingham (not to mention some decent art galleries, the National Exhibition Centre, The National Indoor Arena and - further out - "Cadbury World" (chocolate heaven) and Stratford-upon-Avon) and it is said that Birmingham has more canals than Venice! I wish we'd had more time to explore all that it had to offer! On returning to the hotel, we decided to visit the bar - "West 12" - simply in the interests of completing this review, you understand! Somewhat compact, but decorated in a very contemporary style, it was a relaxing venue to enjoy a few drinks before retiring to bed. I had a few beers and a Scotch; Amanda enjoyed a Southern Comfort and a Café Latte. All well presented by extremely friendly staff and not too expensive for what Marriott market as a 5 star hotel. The AA and RAC, I think, give this hotel four stars. Th e decision between 4 and 5 could, I think, go either way ? a turn-down service is available (on request), but there's no doorman in livery. The staff are superb, the rooms are large, well-furnished, digitally air-conditioned and very adequately sound-proofed. The hotel has a very decent leisure centre and indoor pool. There's 24-hour room service and - as we were to discover in the morning - the Concierge go out of their way to be extraordinarily helpful. Rating organisations have check-lists. I go more by gut feeling. Checkout was friendly, if slow - but only because they were quite busy with some typically demanding guests! My bill was accurate and, had it not been for the flat tyre, we would have been on our way to Scotland pretty much on time. On discovering the flat tyre, I headed for the Concierge and asked if, on the off chance, he had a foot-pump. He (Paul) looked for one but - not at all unreasonably - they didn't have one. It was a long shot! However, he did kindly offer to help me change the tyre (although I did it myself - I like to be reasonably independent!) and even came out regularly to check that all was OK. On the last trip out to the car park, he came bearing gifts - namely a map of Birmingham with a route marked out in highlighter pen leading to a tyre repair shop so that we could make the temporary repair more permanent. Service beyond the call of duty! (When we got to the repair place ("Quick Fit"), they not only repaired the damaged tyre and put the spare tyre back where it belonged, but they also refused to charge us for the work. Big thumbs up all round! I gave them some money for a few beers before you say I'm a complete cheapskate! In conclusion, this was a really superb hotel - the staff were completely praiseworthy and the accommodation was of an extremely high standard. Nothing was too much trouble and minor problems were rectified almost instantly - and with a smile. This comes ve ry highly recommended - especially if you can lay your hands on a superb bargain like we did! Andrew