“ Address: Terminal 5 / London Heathrow Airport / Hounslow / TW6 2GD / England „
Our flights to Australia were due to depart from Heathrow at around midday and so I decided to book a hotel for the night before in order to avoid travelling around the M25 during the morning rush hour. The Sofitel is the newest hotel at Heathrow but initially I hesitated to book as it is located at Terminal 5 whereas I was flying from Terminal 3. I have always liked the Gatwick Sofitel though and eventually decided that taking the Heathrow Express from T5 to T3 was just as easy and cheaper (i.e. free) than taking one of those airport hotel buses.
I booked on line through the hotel's own website. And as this was a trip to celebrate not only my 40th Birthday but also being granted Australian permanent residency, I pushed the boat out and opted for a more expensive club room. On the day, my husband was working so I travelled down in a taxi with both sets of luggage. It was during this taxi ride that I realised I might not be going anywhere as the "disruption" due to volcanic ash I had heard about that morning escalated into total UK air space closure. I crossed my fingers and hoped that by the time I was due to fly the problem would quite literally have blown over.
To the best of my knowledge, the Gatwick Sofitel can only be accessed by via the airport terminal and so I had prepared myself for trudging through Heathrow with both sets of luggage upon arrival. I was thus pleasantly surprised to find that the Heathrow Sofitel has its own entrance, separate to the airport terminal and my taxi driver was able to stop immediately outside and he was even able to leave the car and help me carry bags to reception.
There were about four members of staff manning the reception desks and I was attended to more or less straight away. I was pleased to be informed that as the hotel was full that night they were upgrading me to a junior suite. My room was on the ground floor, but there were some steps to negotiate so the receptionist arranged for the bags to be brought to the room and these arrived within about five minutes.
I was initially a little bit concerned to be in a room on the ground floor as I thought it could be noisy. However the route took me well away from the reception area, beyond the restaurant and lounge area and through key pass controlled double doors which kept out all but the handful of guests allocated rooms in this area.
The room was enormous; one half was taken up by a huge king size bed and the other half contained two sofas facing each other with a glass coffee table in between. The TV was wall mounted with a 40 inch screen. A good range of complimentary teas and coffees was provided but the minibar was locked. I was not particularly concerned as these things are so overpriced anyway. The decor was contemporary and everything felt spanking brand new. The bathroom was also very modern and stylish with separate shower cubicle and bath and premium range of toiletries.
There were two things I did not like about the room, firstly that it overlooked a car park and although it was not a very busy car park, I was on the ground floor and felt that I needed to keep the curtains closed to protect my privacy. I also did not like the huge mirrors which were on every wall of the room, I could not move or even sit still anywhere without staring at myself and I found that annoying after a while, although I am sure some people won't mind.
After a quick look around the room, I decided to find somewhere for lunch. As I had paid a premium for Club Millesime access I decided to see what was on offer over lunchtime. Well not much. Despite it being 1pm, the only food was packets of biscuits that hotels normally leave in rooms and the fridge containing drinks in was locked. There were no staff in the lounge or anywhere to be seen and so I departed empty handed. I then checked out the two eateries I had passed on the way to my room, but one was too formal and a bit too expensive for lunchtime and the other only offered pastries and cakes which wasn't what I was looking for. In the end, I went back to my room and ordered room service. My club sandwich and glass of wine arrived in about 20 minutes.
A couple of hours later I was glad to take a break from the rolling news coverage of volcanic ash and went to the spa for my pre-arranged appointments. I think I was hoping that the problem would have all blown over whilst I was in the spa, but as we all know that was not the case. Nevertheless I enjoyed a pedicure and another spa treatment for a reasonable cost. I believe that the hotel has a swimming pool and sauna, however I did not use them as I was still optimistic and did not want to put wet swimming costume into my suitcase ahead of a 24 hour flight.
My husband turned up at the hotel in the early evening and as we found the room comfortable and spacious we opted for a room service dinner. Again this arrived within about 20 minutes although there was a bit of a mix up with the wine as they decided to send an alternative to the one we chose but overall the standard of room service was good.
The next morning after a peaceful and comfortable night's sleep, we awoke to the certainty that our holiday was not going to happen, something we were mentally prepared for by this time. For breakfast we went to the Club Lounge for a rather insubstantial offering of mini Danish pastries and coffee, I was a bit annoyed with myself when I later realised that breakfast in the restaurant was included in our room rate. Check out was at midday.
The Sofitel is a beautiful hotel that would fare well in any city centre and is in my opinion a real cut above other airport hotels. Despite the disappointment over our cancelled holiday we enjoyed our stay and it would have got the holiday off to a good start. But the Club room was not worth the premium and whilst I don't think the hotel is overpriced for what it offers, we paid £230 for one night (a standard room is about £180) which is probably a fair bit more than people want to pay for a night at the airport.