Being a highly original sort of a chap you understand, having already written here about my experiences at a Holiday Inn, and previously about my time spent in Slough on work business, today I thought I'd give you the benefit of my personal take on the Holiday Inn in Slough. But before you drift off into a state of slumber, yes ok I have had to spend an inordinate amount of time in said establishment over the last few weeks and months, and yes, it may on the surface be a fairly predictable subject choice. Yet fear not, for my dear reader, I hereby promise to take you to a world of mystery and intrigue as together we will unravel the mysteries of an electronic ticket barrier that requires a ticket to get in, but never to get out, how anti-climb paint is not just the kind of thing you'd expect Batman to whip out of his gadget box in a crisis (assuming he'd remembered to put it in next to the anti-shark repellent spray) We'll even ponder as to why the ceiling of the lifts is covered in soft velvety strokeable furry material even though only the few above 6ft 2 can ever hope to touch it. Ask any half-term frazzled parent in attendance and they'll tell you - this is the gateway to Lego Land..... ~~~~Location, Location, er.....~~~~ The Holiday Inn Slough (the artist formerly known as The Courtyard Marriott) is located in Chalvey, a small suburban expansion on the borders of Slough Central, easily locatable just off the first main roundabout, barely a half a mile from Junction 6 of the M4 motorway. Like me, your first impressions are very likely to be - concrete tower block. It stretches up over 8 floors including an underground basement for parking. Unlike the Stevenage Holiday Inn that I previously reviewed, this place has certainly yet to have it's full image make-over and for that reason you are unlikely to be overwhelmingly inspired by your first impressions of the face. As if to underline the charming location, just a couple of doors down is the Flags pub, which is in fact an Exotic Review bar. Can't tell you how many times I've passed it during the day and pondered about the nature of the "Crystal Hand Car wash" service it advertises. Anyway as ever I digress, but the message is clear enough when you park up and will most likely see the 5K security portacabin sitting prominently by the entrance to the underground parking as well as the surrounding walls advertising the aforementioned anti climb paint. Clearly, this is not necessarily the safest of areas to go out and take a walk at night, but in the hotels defence, although one of my ex-colleagues experienced a car break-in a year or two back, I've never had an issue parking there, and feel assured by the manned security presence and CCTV. You have to buzz the door to get into the hotel. ~~~~The Rooms~~~~ Now me being a more times than I can care to remember business travel regular Holiday Inn Platinum points card holder and all that, this means that I always get a room on the "executive floor" at the hotel. Before you get too excited, this essentially means that up on the "Penthouse" that is the 8th floor, we have direct access to an Ice machine, there's a mini-bar fridge, and we get a complementary daily mars bar (made in Slough ready made local supply tastic), a pack of biscuits and a bottle of still water, plus a couple of Home and Household type magazines to peruse . The Ritz Carlton this ain't, and I've certainly yet to spot my in-room butler Other than that the rooms are fairly similar in layout. Typically a double or twin beds, that weird selection of pillow menus, and a few legacies from the Marriott days like a wall mounted heater / fan instead of a proper air conditioning systems, a mahogany wooden tv surround, and matching draw and desk units. As ever there's an infuriating lack of lighting in the rooms, just lots of spot lamps dotted around the place. There's a power shower and bath unit, and that where else could we put it toilet flush handle peculiarly placed above the bath taps. You've got a 10 channel TV service, including the mighty ITV2 being there for you if you do happen to need to catch up on the latest from Jordan and Pete's self obsessed journeying into vacuous celebrity we put our kids first honest lala land. The view from the floors consists on the one side of the panoramic vista that is Slough, highlights of which are the Slough Borough Council buildings and Leisure Centre (where apparently Torvill and Dean used to Skate). Over to the other side, you overlook a housing estate, plus some playing fields, but way in the distance you can actually glimpse the outline of the majestic Windsor Castle. ~~~~Food and Restaurants~~~~ Having made many a solo stay here, I've pretty much sampled the entire room service menu. A £22.50 company meal allowance doesn't actually go all that far when you consider they add a hefty £4.50 tray service charge. Tolerable main course options I've sampled include the blackened / seared salmon, the ravioli and mozzarella pasta, and the chickpea curry. For the lighter appetite and wallet, there's a good selection of sandwiches on Ciabatta, baguette etc available for around £5-7 which come with crisps. Don't make the mistake I made and get the chilli nachos at around £8.95 as well as the sandwich - the chilli portion is very generous , plus you are doubling up on your nachos and crisps. A couple of odd ball options are beans on toast and scrambled egg on toast, listed as (s) "light options to help sleep - depends how many beans you have I reckon! Puddings wise, cheese and biscuits is a good pick for £6.50 and there's always the Banoffee waffle if you are a little more sweet toothed. Restaurant wise, it's situated on the 1st floor, serving breakfasts from around 6.30am till 10 and evening meals 7-10pm. When it's really busy at Breakfast time(usually during holidays) there's spill over into the bar down stairs, and you can get a selection of bar snacks similar to the room service selection in there. I can only really vouch for the breakfasts, as part of my regular routine. Although it's hot and cold buffet self service, I appreciate the fact that you can ask for extras like Porridge to be prepared freshly for you. I do like the standard holiday inn Yogurt and Mixed Berries, and there's plenty of bacon, egg, sausage, beans and the rest as well as cold meats, cereals and pastries for the lighter appetite. Well blow me by the time Dooyoo approved the category they've come out with a brand new fresh looking room service menu. Certainly a few more options now, including more Pizza and Pasta dishes, more grill choices plus some healthy side order additions like broccoli or a jacket potato at a very reasonable £2.50 a go. ~~~~Fitness Room~~~~ After all this talk of food it's good to know that there is an exercise room available down in the basement near the car park door. There's no sign-in / staff on duty, but it's got a water cooler, a telly, a selection of fresh towels and a disposal basket. If you get in to difficult there's a red alarm string as well as a phone to call through to reception. Equipment wise there are some free weights, some work benches, a running machine an exercise bike and a rowing machine. The running machine's still in good nick, the bike has definitely seen better days, featuring an annoying sticky pedal on one side that you have to keep adjusting. Likewise the rowing machine is getting on a bit, I do remember one time when it actually came off it's support frame the screws were so lose, so be warned! Wow it's almost as if they knew the review was coming - stop press, there's a brand new bicycle with working pedals and everything. Only thing is the display fails after a couple of minutes but teething problems I'm sure! ~~~~Any other hotel business~~~~ There's wi-fi available down in reception at a £6 for an hour rate. In the rooms there is I-Bahn internet cable access connections which is reasonably fast, but the usual pricey affair at £15 for 24 hours access. As I mentioned earlier, one of the main draws for the hotel is it's relatively low price and close proximity to the attractions of Windsor as well as Lego Land. This means that all of a sudden in holiday weeks the place transforms into something out of the set of Charlie and the Chocolate factory, where dozens of mini people are suddenly scurrying around your feet at the breakfast chanting excitedly about the day ahead. What I thought was a nice touch, was that during the holidays they convert one of the few downstairs conference rooms into a kids play room, equipped with tv, puzzles, and games like giant connect four. Kids always eat free in holiday inns which is another plus. Pricing wise, it's the usual thing - the bill board rates behind the counter are way higher than we pay on our company rates. £225 for executive room and £150 for a standard room - nonsense. We get a £90 including breakfast rate, and I'm pretty sure that at weekends it'll be significantly less than that. One other key source of trade is the relatively close proximity to Heathrow airport. Certainly a couple of extra promotional efforts on at the moment - including a free drinks voucher on arrival for us lucky Priority club punters. At least it saves you having to venture down the road to The Flags to sample its pink sign scribed promise of a "friendly atmosphere" ~~~~Summary~~~~ To conclude, I've got used to it's shabby round the edges appeal over the weeks, but I still admire its efforts to improve and the service touches that make a difference over time. It's a convenient hotel, it's never going to be a luxury one. Maybe one day I'll understand why you have to take a ticket out the machine still to get in, but the barriers (I assume are permanently broken) are always up on the other side. It's no doubt somewhere on someone's to do list. But for now, from me, it's toodaloo. As I'll be there a few more weeks yet, if you are ever in the vicinity, do look out for me with the long (not another day in the data centre) morning face at breakfast time and smile It all helps!