Ideal and cost-effective place to stay for a business or shopping visit to central Birmingham. Well-lit secure underground car parking with direct lift into lobby. This is a plus when street parking is on a meter and in generally short supply. Usual modern and practical rooms. No restaurant on site but within a short walk of Broad Street with numerous pubs clubs and restaurants. Asian restaurants are excellent. Tyr Jimmy Spice's buffet off Broad Street - all you can eat for £9.99. Standard fare at the continental breakfast included in the price but the dining area was not particularly cosy - particularly on the busy day we stayed. A 5 minute walk brings you to the new Bullring with more shops than you could visit in a day. The new Selfridges is well worth a visit if only for its architecture - with the interior as interesting and surprising as the space-age exterior. Room rate seemed a bit high at £85 but we stayed on a week-day and during a busy conference period. Well worth a return visit with the family - hopefully when the rate is a bit more realistic.
To book a room at a Holiday Inn Express hotel you can dial their central reservations number on 0800 731 8710, which is actually a call centre based on the continent. You use the same number if you want to cancel a booking, something you can do at very short notice without any financial penalty. The last time we used the hotel chain was when we visited my son at Exeter University. The hotel is ideally suited for this as it is just off the M5, close to the city and handy for the university campus. The day before we were due to start our two-night stay, circumstances dictated that we had to curtail our weekend away to just the first night. I rang the appropriate number and was answered by a polite and efficient sounding operator. I explained my predicament, which she understood, but said it was not possible to amend a booking, I would have to cancel and rebook the first night. I told her the reference number, which they give you when make the booking in case you have to cancel and she successfully completed the first part of the transaction. That’s when all the fun and games started which would have made a wonderful scenario for Fawlty Towers. Attempting to rebook the first night, she regretfully informed me that there were no vacancies. I said there must be, as she had that very minute created a vacancy by cancelling my original booking. But she was unyielding, if the computer said there were no vacancies, there were no vacancies – would I like to stay a different night? Try as I would to convince her, she wouldn’t have it, even though the system would allow her to cancel my cancellation! Eventually I gave up, contacted the hotel direct and after a similar sort of experience initially I managed to get through to them eventually and booked the original room on the night we wanted. Apart from that bemusing incident I can’t speak too highly of the Holiday Inn Express Chain, particularly the on
e at Exeter which we must have stayed at, at least ten times now. So what is so good about it: Well, for a start there are over sixty five Express by Holiday Inn hotels in the UK on major motorways, in town and city centres and at major airports. They all have family rooms sleeping up to 2 adults and 2 children (up to 19 years old) in a double bed and sofa bed at the standard room rate - including breakfast. The 5 airport hotels they have offer ideal stopover accommodation - and many provide discounted parking too. It is incredibly easy to book, using the central reservation system. The staff are efficient and helpful and providing that you have your dates and credit card ready the whole process can be completed in a couple of minutes. Every time I’ve rung them I’ve got through straight away and they answer the phone very quickly. You can also book over the internet – I’ve done this once and had no problem though my preferred option is the telephone as I always ask them if there are any offers on, a facility that doesn’t seem to be readily available via the net. It is also (normally!) very easy to cancel a reservation. Just tell them either before 4.00pm or in some instances 6.00pm on the day of the stay and you incur no charges. This is a really good facility and by no means universal amongst hotel chains. The rooms are incredibly good value. The standard rate is about £63 for a family room for four including breakfast. However, I’ve found that there’s nearly always an offer on. I’ve often had the same accommodation for £43 and on occasions £39 with their Weekender Plus deals. I’ve also joined their Priority Club, which gives you loyalty points redeemable against future stays. Once a member they e-mail you with offers, e.g. the latest is £10 off their lowest rate for Valentines Day weekend. Continental breakfast is included in the price, for all the family, and a ver
y nice breakfast it is too. As much as you want on a self serve basis including tea, coffee, hot chocolate, all sorts of fruit juices, a range of cereals, croissants, pastries and other bakery items, a selection of preserves, yoghurts and a range of reduced-fat breakfast products. My own favourite is the make your own toast machine. It is fascinating to watch the people who haven’t stayed before trying to work out how to use it. A piece of advice to the manager here – turn up the heat, everyone who likes their toast to look at least a little bit brown has to put it through twice! As you would expect, the rooms are exceptionally well appointed with very comfortable beds, en-suite bathroom with power shower, direct-dial phones, modem points, workspace with task lighting, remote control Sky TV/pay movies, comfortable duvets and tea/coffee making facilities I’ve always found the staff very polite and helpful and each hotel has a reception area / lounge, where you can relax. These feature a spacious lounge area, with a fully licensed bar, comfortable seats, Sky TV and tea, coffee and refreshment facilities. This area is probably my only gripe about the hotel. It is completely lacking in atmosphere, tends to be full of some of the most boring businessmen in the world, is dominated by the TV and tends to be cold. Best to go for a drink to the pub usually sited very close to the hotel. In Exeter’s case it is the Barn Owl, a 100 yard walk to a cosy pub with a nice atmosphere and pleasant food at reasonable prices. Anything else? A free newspaper, bowls of complementary fruit and a very quick check out. All in all, it is an excellent place for a short stay. Not the sort of place I’d like to spend a week, but ideal if you are on business, en route somewhere or like us just visiting a city for a couple of days.
I am spending a bit of time in Exeter at the moment on business, I was looking around for places to stay and found the Express by Holiday Inn, as I had a great time the last time I went to a Holiday Inn hotel I decided to give it a try. When I arrived the hotel looked brand new, the car park was large and in very good condition with lots of lighting. When I went to check in the young lady asked if I had used an Express hotel before, as I hadn’t she explained the differences between a Holiday Inn and an Express by Holiday Inn hotel. The main differences is there is no restaurant, this means there is no facility in the hotel for an evening meal and no room service, but apparently all Express hotels are built with an adjoining pub/restaurant as was the case in Exeter. Just past the reception desk there was a bar and beyond that was the breakfast room, even though there is no restaurant they do provide breakfast but more about that later. Just opposite the reception desk there was a room with a number of dispensers, here you could buy hot and cold drinks, hot and cold food and snacks. All of which goes onto your room bill, you don’t need money you just swipe your room card before you make your selection. By hot food what I mean is a selection of items such as Cornish pasties etc and a microwave where you can warm them up, they also had pot noodles, sandwiches, soft drinks, beers etc. Then it was off to my room, as far as I know most of the rooms are the same, unlike the Holiday Inn hotels where you can upgrade to a superior room, but I was very happy with the room I was in. I had requested a non smoking room so my room was on the 2nd floor as this whole floor was non-smoking, there was a lift so carrying my luggage up the stairs was not required. One thing that got me for a couple of minutes was how to turn on the lights, there is a slot just inside the door, you have to put your key card i
n this slot to operate the lights. I was impressed with the size of the room, this was not a suite by any means but it had a double bed and sofa bed and didn’t feel cramped, although I should imagine if you had the sofa bed in use then you may feel a little bit squashed. In my room I had a nice double bed, desk and chair so I could carry on working (Groan), a couple of sets of shelves where I could unpack, a wardrobe type of thing, Bedside Tables with Lamps for Reading, Hairdryer, nice neat Tea and Coffee making facilities all built into a shelf on the wall. The TV was tuned into BBC1, BBC2, ITV, CH4, CH5, Sky News, Sky One, Sky Sports 1 and Cartoon Network, there was also a selection of radio channels and a selection of pay channels where you could watch movies at £6.95 a night. There was also a very comfortable sofa bed positioned so you could sit on the sofa and watch TV. You could also use the TV to view your bill, check your messages and set it as an alarm clock to wake you up in the morning. The bathroom was nice, everything looked new, there was the toilet a nice sized shower cubical, sink, large mirror and shaving point. Unlike a lot of hotels there was no collection of soaps etc, but there were dispensers fixed to the wall where you could squeeze the right amount on to your hands, better for the environment I suppose. The only complaint I had was the lack of power sockets, I wanted to do some work on my laptop and the only socket available was the kettle point, not a big problem but I had to unplug the laptop every time I wanted a cup of tea. As I mentioned earlier, there is nowhere to get an evening meal at the hotel, but just across the car park there is a pub called the Barn Owl, I will not do a review on the pub here, but I went over to the pup for my meal, suffice it to say the food was reasonably priced and tasted great, the service was brilliant and they served beer, what more is there to say. I
n the morning off I went to get my breakfast, this was buffet style in the breakfast room on the ground floor, There was Tea, Coffee, Milk and a selection of juices to drink. Food wise you had a massive selection of cereals, a selection of fresh fruit and yoghurts, bread rolls, croissants (with and without chocolate) and sliced bread with a handy toaster by the side so you can make your own toast along with a selection of butter, margarine, marmalade and jams. Not the same sort of choice you would expect from a 4 star hotel, but fine for bed and breakfast. Checkout was quick and easy, just paid my bill, picked up my free copy on the Independent newspaper and off to work again. This hotel probably won’t suit you if you are expecting all the trimmings of a smart hotel, but if you want a nice comfortable place to stay with a breakfast thrown in then I would not hesitate in recommending this hotel to you. In fact I have to go back and I think next time I will take my family with me. For those of you who want to know more here are the facts and figures. The hotel I have written about is: Express by Holiday Inn Exeter, Guardian Way, Exeter Business Park, EXETER, EX1 3PE, ENGLAND. The phone number is 01392 261000 And Fax Number is 01392 261061 Directions are easy, find your own way to M5 (It is on all the maps) and leave at Juction 29 (A30) Turn right at the trafic lights to the first roundabout,go straight on at the roundabout signposted to exeter city centre, the entrance to the hotel car park is on your right hand side just past the pedestrian vrossing at the Barn Owl pub. Price (When I stayed in March 2001, I assume it will change so you better phone to check). £52 per night, All rooms appear to be the same price, prices are for Bed and Breakfast; At the weekend the prices are a little bit cheaper at £48 You can check out the website at http://ww
w.basshotels.com/hiexpress?_franchisee=EXEUK on this site you can check availability and prices and you can even book online.