We thought my friend Alex would never get married. He passed 35, 40 and 45 and was still a single man, albeit one with a live in girlfriend for the last few years. So when he called up and said he was getting married there was no way that we were going to miss such an event. We needed to see the ink on the register in order to believe it was really happening.
Alex and his bride, Katya, had chosen a spectacular venue in a stately home in Goathurst but when we rang to enquire about prices they were so high that we wondered if we were buying the entire house rather than just a room for one night. Going to weddings gets pricey by the time you've got something to wear, bought a decent present and travelled to the venue. Spending silly money on a room when we'd be too drunk to notice what it was like was a no no. I checked the points balance on my Holiday Inn loyalty card and booked us a room at the Holiday Inn Express near Taunton.
This HIE was at Junction 25 on the M5. It was a short drive from the wedding venue and my lovely husband volunteered to stay sober and drive us back at the end of the evening. Clearly he'd had no idea quite how much champagne would be on offer and I felt it essential to try to drink for the two of us. He had to compensate with lots of Belgian chocolates instead. The address for the HIE seemed rather vague and I wasn't feeling confident that we'd find the hotel but it really was literally on the roundabout at the exit from the motorway.
Check in was quick with nothing much to do because I'd booked on loyalty points. We were given two swipe cards and instructions to our room. I'll be honest and admit that I wasn't expecting much of this hotel other than a budget bolt-hole and probably a rather noisy place. I was completely wrong. The lobby was stylishly decorated and furnished in very modern style with a bar, a lounge area and lots of sofas.
I decided not to be fooled by the lobby - often a hotel has a nice lobby but rubbish rooms. Again, my preconceptions were wrong. The room was not enormous but it was bigger than many I've seen in similar chains. Our double bed had a crisp white cotton duvet cover and a gingery check-patterned throw. There was a sofa which I assume had a pull out bed in it as well so the room could have taken a third or fourth person without trouble. We had a work desk, drawers, hanging space and a television with more channels than we have at home. Hubby instantly set to work making a cup of tea and another of coffee whilst we settled down to the box of Belgian chocs that the happy couple had thrust into our hands before we left.
The bathroom was compact but had all you need and delivered it with some style. The sink unit had a black granite surround and the toilet was wall-mounted. Everything was very clean and some basic toiletries were provided. The wedding was in April so still quite cold but the room temperature was ideal. I'm very noise-sensitive and I had feared that any hotel so close to a motorway would be a nightmare but I can honestly say there was no noticeable road noise.
We didn't have much time to linger the next morning as my parents were due to arrive that day and we needed to set off home. Since breakfast was included in our deal we popped down to the lobby level to get something to eat. Like all HIEs the breakfast was a 'help yourself' affair and was a bit hit and miss in terms of the quality of some of the items though no complaints about the quantity. The dining area was kept clean and tidy and tables were cleared swiftly once diners had left.
We headed back to the room, packed up our things, dropped our swipe cards at the desk and thanked the staff before heading home. I was very pleasantly surprised by this Holiday Inn Express and whilst I doubt I'll ever have reason to be in the area and stay there again, they certainly changed my mind about the HIE chain in general and I'd be much more likely to use one of these again.