“ Address: South End / Temple Gate House / Bristol BS1 6PL / England „
Since my younger son moved to Bristol in 2008, I had never stayed the night there when visiting him. However, in May 2012 my elder son and his partner were driving up to Snowdonia and wanted to stop somewhere on the way for a night. They suggested I go with them on the Friday afternoon and we spend the night in Bristol. We wanted a hotel in the city that wasn't too expensive and had a car park. I offered to do the research, and the choice was between the Holiday Inn Express and the Ibis, both at £59 for a room. I've seen the rooms at the Portsmouth Ibis and found them claustrophobic; we all agreed that the Holiday Inn Express ought to be a better choice. I booked the rooms a few weeks in advance through hotels.com. For my son and his partner I booked a twin room, and for myself a standard room. No reduction was offered for single occupancy, but as breakfast was included it seemed a reasonable price for a city centre hotel. Payment was required at the time of booking and was non-refundable, presumably because of the discounted price.
Being very close to Bristol Temple Meads station, the hotel is easy to find. To park a car, however, necessitates driving round to the back of the hotel. There are several temporary parking bays where you have to leave your car while you check in. You are then given access to the hotel's car park, and the access code changes each day. We arrived at around 4.30pm and after leaving the car, we made our way to reception. Almost immediately a receptionist greeted us and began the check-in process. I had brought printouts of our booking confirmations, but there was no need to produce them. My son and I each had to fill in a form; an address was already printed on them, but this turned out to be the address of hotels.com so had to be amended. I was asked if I would like to join the hotel chain's priority reward scheme and I accepted. We were handed our key cards and my son's partner was given access to the car park. The receptionist asked if we needed any information about Bristol, but we didn't. I noticed at the desk that the hotel's rack rate is £139.
Our rooms were next door to each other on the fifth floor, and the lift worked efficiently. On entering your room, you insert your key card into a small device on the wall that enables you to switch lights on. I was quite surprised that my room was fairly spacious; I had once stayed in a Holiday Inn in Paris, but I thought perhaps the Holiday Inn Express rooms would be on the smaller side. Furnishings and decor were predominantly navy and a peachy tan, with white bed linen. I presume that the bed was a queen-sized one, and there were four pillows, two labelled 'firm' and two 'soft'. On either side of the bed were a small cabinet and a reading lamp above, plus a telephone, notepad and pen on one cabinet. Between the bed and the window was a small round wooden table and an upholstered upright chair. On the opposite wall was a desk with a kettle, teabags, sachets of coffee, sugar and sweeteners, milk and two mugs with teaspoons. A chair similar to the other one was positioned by the desk, and there was a reading lamp on the desk too. The television wasn't particularly big, but that didn't worry me. Underneath it was a drawer and two shelves with a hand towel and bath towel on one of them. Just beside the television was a hairdryer in a wall bracket, and to the right there was a full-length mirror. Opposite the bathroom door was an open wardrobe with several fixed hangers, including some with clips.
The bathroom was actually just a shower room as there was no bathtub. It was a reasonable size with a mirror on two adjacent sides above the washbasin and plenty of room to put your belongings. Another set of towels was hanging on the rails, but there were no free toiletries other than Carex antibacterial foaming handwash by the basin and Imperial Leather hair and body wash in the shower, both bracketed to the wall. There was, however, a notice saying that if you had forgotten items such as a toothbrush, nail flle, comb, etc., you could obtain them free of charge from reception. I had a shower the following morning and there was plenty of hot water, but I didn't use the soap on my hair so can't comment on its suitability as a shampoo. The handwash had a very sweet smell that I can imagine some men might find too effeminate.
When we came back to the hotel in the evening we wanted to make hot drinks. My son's partner asked what I had in the way of coffee, as they only had decaffeinated sachets in their room. Fortunately I had two sachets of ordinary coffee and one of decaffeinated, so we were able to do a swap. I was happy with decaff as I'd been up since 6am and wanted to have an early night. At first I had been glad to have a room at the front of the hotel with a view of Brunel's Old Station and Temple Meads Station a little further away. It soon became evident, however, that even with double glazing there was still quite a bit of noise from the traffic. I woke up around 3am and even then there were a fair few cars on the road below; at one point some noisy people were passing by too; Friday night is certainly not peaceful in Bristol. The temperature of the room was rather on the warm side, but of course if you open the window the street noises are louder. It might be an advantage to have a room at the back of the hotel, but perhaps they are allotted to guests who are paying more. I can't fault the comfort of the mattress, but if it's noisy outside, sleep can be elusive.
Breakfast is served from 7am until 11am in a fairly spacious area beside the reception desk, overlooking the main road. When I booked the rooms the information was that continental breakfast was included in the price, but when we arrived there was a notice up to say that hot breakfast was now available too. Self service is the order of the day, and the hot breakfast consisted of a tray of scrambled egg, one of baked beans and one of sausages keeping warm inside a display case. None of it looked particularly appetising so the three of us decided to stick to cereal and/or continental fare. There were four kinds of cereal, various jugs of milk, bread for toasting, rolls, croissants, mini pains au chocolat, butter, sunflower spread, jams and marmalade. Slightly healthier options were grapefruit, pear halves and strawberry, cherry or plain yoghurt. Drinks included a variety of teas as well as coffee, apple juice and orange juice. I had a yoghurt, a croissant with apricot jam, two mini pains au chocolat and some orange juice. There didn't seem to be any limit to the number of times you could go back for more, but we had eaten well the night before and didn't need to overdo it. What was disappointing, however, was that some of the cutlery, and in particular the teaspoons, were just not clean.
I checked out around 9am, and the process was very straightforward. As there is no minibar in the room, there wouldn't be any extras to pay, and I hadn't used the telephone. My son and I went to sit down in the small lounge area beside the bar, next to the dining area, to wait for my son's partner. The receptionist came over to me to give me a temporary card for their priority reward scheme as she had just noticed that I had applied for it at check-in. She explained that a permanent card would be posted to me in a couple of weeks. Check-out is up until noon, or 2pm for members of the priority reward scheme.
I'm giving a four-star rating for the hotel as the room itself was comfortable and spacious, the staff at reception were very polite and efficient, and overall it was good value for the price we paid. Had I paid £139 for my room I would not have been so happy, especially with the state of some of the cutlery. Internet access is available throughout the hotel, including free Wifi in the communal areas. The location is ideal for anyone travelling to or from Temple Meads station. Areas such as the shopping centres and the harbourside are within walking distance, and there are plenty of buses from Temple Meads. It's a shame about the noise of the traffic, but in a city the size of Bristol, that could be a common problem.