“ Address: Bristagatan 16190 / 60 Märsta / P.O. Box 55 / 190 45 Stockholm / Sweden „
Most hotels, offices, shops and museums in Sweden are heavily influenced by what most people will recognise as the 'IKEA-look'. Wherever you go, it's typical to see lots of light bare wood, lots of clean minimalist lines and splashes of bright and sometimes amusing colour. You can ask yourself - chicken and egg style - which came first, Sweden or Ikea? Sadly at the Park Inn, you'll see almost nothing that will make you aware that you are actually in Sweden.
~Any Port (or Park) In a Storm~
I had never stayed at a Park Inn before but I had an uncomfortable suspicion that they weren't a chain I would want to use. When my colleagues tried to get me a room at the Ibis at Stockholm's Arlanda airport so that I could stay there with them they found out that the Ibis was already full so the travel agent sent me to the Park Inn instead. We have a Park Inn in Northampton that always looks to be a rather shabby place so it's fair to say my expectations were low but sadly even those low expectations were far better than I actually found at the Arlanda Airport branch of the Park Inn.
After a long train journey we arrived at the airport and went for dinner in one of the restaurants there. Wisely we'd feared that food at the hotels might be both expensive and unpleasant and since we were staying in different places, this meant we could eat together. We then headed outside in search of a taxi but were so disgusted by the prices being demanded and the behaviour of the taxi drivers that we went in search of a shuttle bus. I would have paid a fair price to avoid the wait for the bus but the taxi drivers were outdoing one another in their determination to part us from unreasonable amounts of money, one demanding nearly £40 to drop my colleagues at the Ibis and then take me on to the Park Inn. The hotel is allegedly just 4 miles from the airport - work out the rates per mile on that one! Apparently in a country where everything usually seems to be regulated and terribly civilised, there is no control or regulation of the taxis at the airport. They can basically charge you whatever they want to. Since many travellers will find their first interaction with the locals is taking a taxi, as a 'Welcome to Sweden' it's a pretty shabby start.
We found the bus stop for the hotel shuttles and rang our hotels to ask for pick up. It was just before 9 in the evening when we called and, this being June, the sun was still high in the sky. The lady at the Park Inn checked I was in the right place, told me a driver would come in a minibus and he'd arrive within 15 minutes. The cost, she told me, was included in the room rate. It was a pleasant evening with the summer sun still high in the sky at 9 o'clock when I rang. By 9.30 I was getting bored with the view and thinking of calling the hotel again to ask where my ride was and wondering how many people would die of exposure in the 6 months of the year when Sweden's under snow. Just as I looked up the number to ring again I saw the minibus. The driver was very apologetic claiming something about the hotel lady telling him I was at Terminal 4 rather than 5. It made little sense since he then went to Terminal 4 to pick up another person. By then I didn't care, I was just glad the wait was over.
~Parking my Butt~
The drive felt like rather more than four miles but perhaps the claim of proximity relates to distance as the crow flies. We passed through green flat fields, past golf courses and then turned up a side road into what seemed to be a small industrial estate and shops selling specialist industrial stuff that I couldn't translate. We passed a large factory making John Deere forestry equipment and then found the hotel tucked between more industrial units. There had been a service station down the road which looked like it might have some kind of food outlets but in general it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say there was a little to attract a guest out of the hotel to go looking around. Sadly, there was little attract a guest INSIDE the hotel either.
I arrived at 9.50 and was checked in quickly and efficiently by the receptionist who told me that the kitchen was about to close. I was glad I'd eaten at the airport when I saw the disconsolate faces of the weary travelers sipping beer and eating uninspiring food. Airport hotels are seldom much fun but this one looked like everyone in it would prefer to be somewhere else. I took a grey and rather industrial looking elevator to the top floor and passed along a corridor with uncharacteristically jolly patterned carpet before getting to my room, 305. I passed the breakfast room and thought that the top floor was a strange place to put it and vaguely registered that it was probably going to be a noisy place to have a room.
~My Parking Space~
My booking had been for a twin room for single occupancy. Considering it was costing over £100 for the night, I wouldn't have thought it unreasonable to expect a half-decent room. What I got was one of the smallest and ugliest single rooms I've seen since I left student accommodation. Almost everything about the place irritated me. The single bed was much too squishy and the duvet was so thin I wondered if it really qualified for the name. The floor was a pleasant enough light wood but the rest of the décor was poor. Most of the walls were grayish emulsion over textured wall paper. Two of the walls were a deep blood red. The curtains were ugly but effective black out curtains but there were no nets so I had to go black out just to change my clothes. I didn't much like that I could see out of my window into lots of other people's rooms and they presumably could do the same to mine. The window had some light grey concertina blinds but these blocked out more of the light than I wanted and left me in a dull and dreary room. Whilst the day was still bright outside despite the late hour, I was struggling to see my way round the room with a pitiful spotlight over the desk and a dim bulb in the hallway by the bathroom. There was a light over the bed and after 10 minutes moving furniture and trying to work out how to turn it on, I gave up and called reception, not from my room phone which didn't work at all, but from my mobile. When the same man who'd driven me from the airport finally turned up I had eventually worked out where the switch was hidden on the underside of the lamp which unkindly had been place so high above the bed that I couldn't just reach up and turn it off.
The desk was of mid size but so cluttered by television, non-functional phone and other tat that I was restricted to just one end which happened to be the end with the drawers. The knee-well was barely accessible because of the television. Next to the desk was a surprisingly large and much appreciated bag stand and the only hanging space for clothes was provided by a small rail jutting out into the room. I hung up my raincoat and found it the next morning lying on the floor - the coat hanger had broken during the night, the metal hook still hanging from the rail whilst the wooden part was inside the shoulders of my coat.
There was a mirror over the desk and a second over the bag stand and I wondered if somebody somewhere had imagined that this might help to make the room look bigger. If they did they were wasting their time. There was a wall mounted trouser press in the hallway with a built in ironing board and iron.
The bathroom was poorly fitted with lots of exposed pipes. There was no extractor fan so smells lingered and the moisture from the shower hung around. The sink was one of those tiny narrow ones that people put in tiny downstairs cloakrooms and spitting my toothpaste in the right direction and avoiding the wobbly glass shelf was a challenge. The shower was one of the narrowest I've ever seen and was a little like showering in a coffin.
~I'll Park Elsewhere Next Time~
I slept fitfully. The room was warm but opening the windows was unhelpful due to the aircraft noise. The noise from the corridor woke me many times during the night. I slept badly and woke up resentful of this ridiculously inadequate hotel. I skipped breakfast, fearing that it would only put me in an even worse mood and headed downstairs to check out. The man on reception was kind and efficient and when I asked if the coffee machine on one side of the room worked, he kindly went to a better machine and made me a fresh cup, even opening a new pack of milk for me. I sipped my coffee and waited for the shuttle but thinking that my first stay at a Park Inn was likely - if I have any control over it - to be my last.