“ Address: Gallowgate / Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4SD „
As part of my job description, I have to occasionally travel from London to Newcastle to perform training sessions. This often involves an overnight stay in a hotel booked for me by my company. I usually don't get much choice in the matter, and have ended up in a few different ones in Newcastle, all fairly close to the city's centre.
The Sandman Signature Hotel is a recent addition to the Newcastle hotel world, with the building opening for the first time in 2011. It is part of the Sandman Hotels group, a Canadian chain of hotels who have opened their first UK hotel in the city of Newcastle. Its location is mere minutes away from the city centre and directly opposite St. James Park stadium, the home arena for Newcastle FC. For a football fan, this would be a mighty treat to see outside of the hotel window - for me, a non-football fan, it was a strange looking building with lots of cars parked outside it.
My company have used this hotel several times in the past and have earned a corporate rate, which has made it our hotel of choice for work related trips. I have stayed here half a dozen times now and each time I have had no problems at all. The staff are all friendly, with some of them even recognising me from previous visits which adds a lovely personal touch to the trip. Considering I stay there maybe once every six weeks, I am surprised that they are able to recall me, since I don't think I stood out much.
There are two types of rooms - the standard and the guest suites. I have been 'bumped up' to the guest suite almost every time I've stayed there, which led me to believe the guest suite was the standard until one trip I was put into the actual standard room. The standard room is a lot smaller and has very little space between the bed and wall, leading to an unfortunate incident where I leapt out of bed into the wall. Besides that, the standard rooms are almost identical to the suites, except for the smaller size and lack of kitchen facilities.
Each room boasts an LCD TV mounted onto the wall, which contains a selection of Freeview channels, but I rarely watch TV (even at home) and preferred to take advantage of the free Wi-Fi, which was easy to set up and didn't require a lengthy log-in process as some 'free' Wi-Fi does. I found the connection strong enough to stream TV shows from 4OD, but not fast enough to download from iTunes, which seems to be the standard for public Wi-Fi accounts.
The bed is a lovely size, decorated with lots of pillows, a lovely soft bedding and a strange red cover at the foot of the bed, which I routinely pull off and use as a makeshift cloak to keep warm, which brings me to my next point: The Cold.
Now, it could be because my stays in the Sandman have corresponded with the Winter months, but I have found it rather cold in each room I've stayed in. The rooms don't seem to hold any heat at all, even with the heater switched on (which makes an awful racket, so I sparingly use it). This gets to be a bigger issue when get out of the shower and nearly freeze to death. I end up putting on the heater for 15 mins, having a shower and running over to the warm heater to get dry. I'm glad there aren't hidden cameras in the room, as it isn't a pretty sight.
The bathroom is lovely, with two shower options - the traditonal hose shower, or a built-in overhead shower. It's easy to set up the heat controls so you won't end up drenched in stone-cold water. The coldness is reserved for outside the bathroom! The only downside with the shower is that there isn't a traditional plug hole, the water is drained out through a slit by the shower door. I'm guessing the floor is sloped slightly for the water to trickle into the hole - however, it tends to result in massive puddles around the shower door. I combat this by creating towel carpets on the floor and using them to step out of the shower.
As I've said, the location is minutes away from the Newcastle City centre, and it's easy to walk towards the nearest Metro station if you are looking to travel further afield. The city centre has a large amount of stores in the area, with the mall-like Eldon Square shopping centre, a cinema complex with restaurants and there's even a local O2 Academy, with big names frequently playing. All of this is less than 10 mins from the hotel, so it's in a perfect location, even more perfect for football fans who may want to visit the stadium.
For those who like a bit of nightlife with their hotel stay, there is a 'Shark Club' sports bar next to the lobby, which has plenty of glamourous models/waitresses and an overdose of TV screens displaying every sport you could think of, and even some you couldn't. The sports bar fluctuates between quiet and busy, depending on the sports being played on that night, and has some evening meal deals based on the day of the week. I personally enjoyed the £6 double cheese burger on a Thursday night and the service was really friendly. The bar also doubles as a breakfast kitchen, and in the morning you can get a nice serving of your favourite type of breakfast - cereal, continental or cooked. Again, the staff are really polite and friendly, which goes for the whole hotel - from desk staff to cleaners - everyone was smiling and helpful.