Sunday : From Birmingham to the Heady Heights of Hounslow

And the morning breakfast at Premier Inn at the Birmingham International Conference Centre (or whatever it’s officially called), notable only really for Richard doing odd things with the butter. I’m not for gossip, but Steve and I didn’t say anything of course. Richard mentioned the fried eggs were cold, but I was content with my breakfast, although the coffee machine was strange as it produced more coffee than there was space in the cup (there was a handwritten sign mentioning this) which I felt wasn’t ideal. I’d add that I was pleased that Steve also sat there patiently removing the fat from the bacon in the same annoying (but correct) way that I do.

I mentioned in yesterday’s scintillating blog entry that I had a story about Premier Inn and something that had annoyed me. I had breakfast at 08:00 and was back in my room by 09:15, after safely seeing Richard and Steve on their way back to Norfolk. I put the “do not disturb” sign on the door and at 09:45 a staff member knocks. This slightly annoyed me, although I was only at the desk typing away, so I go to the door and be polite and the staff member apologises and says she was going to clean the room. I checked with her that check-out was 12:00 and she confirmed it was. I thought that was the end of that, another matter I’d successfully dealt with.

At 10:30, she did the same (despite her knowing that I wasn’t leaving until midday), and I’m going to call that slightly sinister. Without making any accusations about staff members, this is unfortunately often a sign of staff theft, or more serious incidents that I won’t list here, so it’s very rare in my experience to have this issue. It’s an ideal way for a staff member to take something without the guest realising as they’re shortly about to leave, and I know it’s in the training of one hotel company to ensure staff don’t break “do no disturb” notices for that reason. A staff member can also easily explain the log of the keycard entering the room by saying they thought the room was empty, so they entered and left again. It’s also pointless trying to clean a room of a guest about to leave if they’re about to come back and move everything about again, so there’s no logical reason why someone should try and enter the room when they know the guest hasn’t checked out.

By now feeling a little uncomfortable, at 11:30, the staff member tries again and I must admit to nearly asking for them to get the hotel manager, but I decided that sounded a little rude and I didn’t want to annoy anyone. Although, to be honest, if I had paid for the room, I likely would have done. But, based on that (and also the hotel saying to another guest that they don’t keep items found in rooms, they dispose of them immediately) I wouldn’t recommend ever staying at this hotel on the grounds of guest safety and I will leave it at that….

My next little moan, and I might consider renaming this blog “walking, things that annoy me, gossip and travel”, (which will probably particularly appeal to my friend Nathan who inspires me to think of things to be annoyed about that I’d never even dreamed of), is this little arrangement.  There was another Ramblers person at breakfast who was going to walk to the railway station and she claimed that it would take 37 minutes, including walking through the NEC and across car parks. She was right, that’s exactly what Google maps said. However, if you walk around that wooden gate it’s actually only an 18 minute walk, but because that twenty metres doesn’t have a pavement, Google hasn’t realised it’s walkable. So, there’s another top tip for anyone wanting to walk to the railway station, just walk around that wooden gate…..

The rest of the walk is along a pavement.

I was amused at this sign. I do usually use stairs instead of the lift, but I liked the upbeat messaging.

The Avanti West Coast train roaring into Birmingham International railway station.

I got on the train and someone was in my reserved seat. As the train seemed full, I mentioned they were in my seat, and they didn’t say anything and just moved. I then spent the next twenty minutes feeling guilty, although they were sitting under a sign saying “seat reserved from Birmingham International”….. The guard mentioned over the tannoy that the train was full due to a series of cancellations caused by driver shortages, although it got quieter later on in the journey and I was able to move to a table seat. There was a friendly chap on the other side of the table (who had left when I took this photo, I didn’t create an imaginary friend) who was rather conversational.

I commented about Euston just a couple of days ago, so I won’t take the opportunity to do so again, but it was handy to be back on time into London. I thought given that I’d have a little meander about.

Guess the underground station…..

I got off at Hounslow West underground station as my hotel was on the Bath Road, and I fancied an hour walk (and the free transport zone has been suspended, otherwise I might not have been so tempted). It was quite entertaining watching aircraft landing every twenty seconds, that kept me occupied for quite a while.

I have far too many photos of aircraft about to land, but this is my favourite as it incorporates an interesting building. I thought it might be listed, but it’s not, although Historic England mention on their web-site a little about it:

“The Berkeley Arms Hotel was built in 1932 to the designs of E P B Musman. It was constructed in a ‘chateau-type’ style, matching the buildings of Berkeley Parade on the opposite side of Bath Road.”

It seems to be flats and individual shops now, nowhere near as grand as it was unfortunately.

The bridge over the river which separates the parishes of Cranford and Bedfont.

It’s an interesting area to compare the maps from 100 years ago and from today, as this was a sleepy village at the turn of the twentieth century. Today, Heathrow Airport just reaches the bottom left of this map and of course consumes the entire area to the south west. West and East Bedfont still exist, just south of the airport, but the road that leads from the above bridge to the Bedfonts is now under the BA training facility.

Flowing under the bridge is the River Crane, a tributary of the Thames. It feels peaceful from this photo, but it’s all urban and airport just a short distance down this river.

My walk ended at the hotel where I was staying, the Ibis Styles. This is the bar area, although I have more to write about this entire set-up tomorrow…..

My room, which was clean, but the design isn’t entirely functional and feels very dated. The lack of desk was a nuisance and the choice of carpet misguided given the number of stains on it. The windows don’t open and the air conditioning was poor, but despite all of that, I didn’t dislike my four nights here. On the desk issue, this is something that a few hotel chains played with from around 2014 to 2017, when this hotel was designed, but they nearly all put them back. I wouldn’t stay at this hotel again solely because of the desk arrangement, I think it’s misguided, but each to their own as they say. Some, or event most, leisure travellers don’t need or want desks I accept, but I’m not sure Heathrow is really just an airport for leisure travellers, as if anywhere, that’s more Gatwick, Stansted or Luton.

And a random aside…. I haven’t been to Subway in years, but they messaged me and mentioned that I had enough points for a free footlong Sub. I got this on Tottenham Court Road and carried it back, and I must admit it was rather lovely, although I think if I was paying it was £7.49. That pricing is a little too decadent for me, but I was impressed at the quality.