I had problems in my last job and realised that nothing would happen if I did nothing about it. So I applied to go to University and got myself a place starting this October. I planned to keep working until mid-September, but when things went from bad to worse, I quit my job and left mid-August. With a whole month more time than I had expected to have, plus lots of work stress to shake off, I decided a holiday would be a good idea. As it was, my mum had decided to take a week off, so I suggested to her that we take a few days and get away somewhere near the sea. On a budget, I scanned the Internet until I found a good deal. The Southampton Park Hotel offered two nights bed and breakfast for just £136, which sounds great, especially for a summer break by the sea.
Before I say anymore, when I was looking for a hotel I foolishly overlooked the fact that mum would drive us there. I normally would take a train, so I paid no attention to parking availability and this is where the big catch comes in. The hotel does not offer parking at all, instead you have the choice of parking next door (admittedly still convenient) in the council-run car park. This will cost you £8 a day and £3 a night, so left in for nearly three days and two nights ran up almost £30 to pay. We searched for other places to park but all shopping areas also charge for using their car parks and other car parks close after a certain time anyway. Really this hotel is fine if you are coming on public transport (in fact, Southampton is ideal for public transport users as they even offer a free bus service between the station, town and port), but the hassle over what to do with the car makes it less worthwhile if you drive.
I saw a picture of the hotel on Google Street view and to be honest it didn't look great, nor much better on the outside when we arrived, but inside it is alright. Like a Tardis, it seems to have more room on the inside than you'd expect. There is a large bar area, but we didn't not buy drinks there. Reception greeted us very pleasantly on arrival, in spite of the fact that while I was checking us in, mum was grilling the other woman about their lack of parking space. She felt bad for that later, because surely the poor woman couldn't do anything about it!
Anyway, it didn't take long to get our key sorted, but one disappointment was that when mum tried to ask about things to do in the area, the answers we got were vague and useless.
I was apprehensive when we made our way up a small, creaking lift to the second floor. The room was small, but adequate. I noticed that the matresses on the beds were a little on the soft side and also a bit small. Aside from beds, it had a small dressing table with chair, hairdryer, trouser press, tea and coffee making facilities with small biscuits, a nice wall-mounted flat screen telly, wardrobe, an iron and fan, bedside table and lamps and window that opens two ways.
The bathroom looked clean if old-fashioned. It had a power shower, but the water temperature was near impossible to control. Rather than small complimentary toiletries, we had four large bottles with lotion, hand-wash, shampoo and shower gel. To make sure you don't take them home there's a notice advising on how you can ask to buy them. I suppose it is fair enough that they should not have to waste money and packaging on small bottles.
There was no air conditioning but we had no problem with that because we could leave the window slightly open. The only trouble with that was the noise from outside, mainly being the church bell and traffic, so I would say that if you have trouble sleeping due to noise this hotel is less than ideal.
We were on the second floor and could not hear any noise from other guests. The place did not seem that busy to be honest but I'm sure there were others on our floor so the noise didn't travel. Our room view was not great, basically backing onto another building, but it could have been worse, and we didn't plan to stay in the room too long anyway.
We had breakfast on two mornings, and the first was much more disappointing. We were not properly served at all, in fact nobody even asked for our room number and we could have easily walked in from the street and helped ourselves to the buffet then left. An awkward looking man stood in the doorway and told us to have a seat and someone would come to take our tea orders. We picked up a few things from the buffet, which to be honest was lacking in choice, but was sufficient. Finally mum went to find someone to ask for a pot of tea. She didn't realise there were cooked options like eggs and fish that you can order from the staff and we were not told, which was a shame.
The second day was much better as we had service from two members of staff, and it made me wonder if it had to do with where we were sat. I don't think the staff had a very efficient routine of service, because it was not that busy on the first day. Anyway, the staff were friendly and keen to please, so we ended up with tea, toast, a kipper for mum and porridge for myself. The food quality was not bad but we didn't not touch the cooked breakfast buffet.
We paid a couple of visits to the leisure centre and used the pool, jacuzzi, steam room and sauna. The steam room and sauna were based in the changing rooms, so I can only assume that men have the same facilities in theirs. We didn't bother with the gym.
The changing area was a bit cramped and there were no private cubicles, much to our discomfort. There were ample showers but with a single drain at the end of the row not very hygienic. We showered again in the room afterwards. I can't actually recall seeing toilets in the room. but there were sinks opposite the showers. There were not enough rubber mats on the floor so it was a bit slippery. The room got very hot but there was a fan that was switched on and off by staff. The lockers required £1 for use but were just big enough for us to fit all our stuff into one.
The leisure centre is also open to membership so there were some people that used it regularly, and actually they were much more helpful with advising us on what to see in the city!
The sauna was never hot enough when we used it because we went early in the morning and apparently the care taker comes in to switch it on in the morning but not straight away. The steam room got hot quicker, but once it was hot it was much hotter than normal so we could not stay too long in there.
Anyway, the pool was a reasonable size and had seats around it. When we went there were not many people around. I think had it been more busy the pool would not have enough room for more than three or four people. The jacuzzi was also reasonably sized for three or four people, but the bubbles switched off far too soon and this was a bit frustrating. Also on our second visit there was a horrible cheesy smell that I really hope is not how it normally smells!
We were in a hurry on leaving as we didn't want to pay for an extra hour of parking. It's sort of funny thinking about it now the pair of us racing against the clock to pack up, mum racing round to the car park whilst I checked the room over and took pictures for this review, cramming luggage into the lift when we finally managed to get the lift for ourselves (that had not been a problem at all the whole time we stayed!). Then I got to the desk and of course there was a queue. Suddenly there was only one person on the desk, and a customer with a lot of questions. Anyway she was very polite when I finally got to the front of the queue and check-out was swift from then.
I don't think we were charged the parking fee for the next hour, but the irony was that there were no barriers on exit anyway. I said they would probably check people's number plates or something if they didn't pay, just to make us feel better really!
I think I would have been much happier about staying here had we come on a train, because the parking really was a bother. I also felt that the breakfast was nothing special and in terms of decor the place could do with an update. However, it was comfortable enough and it did the trick, so although I will probably not bother going there again, I did not regret booking this hotel.