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Lost In Hotel Hades
Hotels in Birmingham in general
Member Name: shewhosmiles
Hotels in Birmingham in general
Date: 05/02/03, updated on 05/02/03 (135 review reads)
Advantages: Excellent Company
Disadvantages: Too hot for comfort and noisy, Short of staff, Only one lift working
I stayed in the hotel Britannia in Birmingham for a weekend last August where I met a large group of Dooyoo and Ciao members. The hottest weekend of the year was certainly very memorable, a fantastic time but what about the hotel?
My first impression of the Britannia wasn't very favourable. That could have been because the instructions that the hotel had sent on how to get there from the M6 were not very good and after driving around for ages only the car park which isn't attached to the hotel could be found. We lugged our cases up and down steps through a shopping centre after Mel (cheekychicken) asked for directions and were slightly travel worn by the time we found the entrance that was down an alley.
Access was through revolving doors and then down a rather steep wheelchair ramp into a dark and dismal looking reception. We had no problems checking in, but I was witness to two of our group checking in the next day and a mix up which meant that they had been given a double room instead of 2 singles. The receptionist promised that something would be sorted for them but it wasn't and they had to rearrange things themselves - that's their story though.
There were 2 lifts but one of them was broken down the whole weekend. Apart from the long waiting the other had a mind of its own but more about that later.
It was a big relief to reach my room on the sixth floor where I freshened up quickly and hung my clothes up before going to meet cheekychicken (Mel) and Deano76 (Dean) who I had travelled down with, in the hotel bar.
I wasn't madly impressed with the room either, the decor was a bit dingy, the furnishings were old and some of the wallpaper was peeling off. In my room there was a tiny single bed, a small table with a TV on it which I didn't watch, a dressing table and chair, a smallish built in wardrobe with shelves, a bedside table with a lamp sitting on it that worked and a standing lamp that d
idn't work. Apparently you were supposed to use different combinations of switches to turn the lights on reminding me of the Crystal Maze, but who would imagine that one switch for each wouldn't do the job. It was very noisy in my room due to building work that was going on outside and the hotel being in the middle of a busy shopping area.
The bathroom had standard white fittings with a shower in the bath. No shower mat, which I think should be an essential to help avoid slipping in the bath. White towels, two sachets of body and hair shampoo and soap were provided.
Also provided was a kettle, cup and saucer, just two tea bags, two sachets of coffee, two tubs of milk (good job I drink black tea) and four sachets of sugar. I was glad that I had brought some bottles of Doctor Peppers to quench my day after the night before thirst that I expected on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
I had a balcony that looked grubbily ancient. A net curtain with a big hole in it covered the door that I always left open due to the stifling heat in the hotel - apparantly the radiators were on full blast. I stood on the balcony which had a metal grill around it for a little while just to cool off before going down to Harvey’s bar which was situated 2 floors below the first and the floor above the ground floor reception.
Mel and Dean weren't in the bar so instead of waiting in the by now suffocating heat I left the hotel and took a walk around outside. As it was late afternoon the shops were closing so it was just nice to window shop and get some fresh air. There didn't seem to be any noticeably working air conditioning in the hotel or fans, so at any given time over the weekend it was hotter inside than out.
Refreshed I lost my way twice before I found my room again. The hotel, which used to be a Department Store, was like a rabbit warren, but the layout was no more confusing than the roads into Birmingham or the general are
a surrounding the hotel. I took a cool shower before getting ready for the evening. I felt hot and sweaty again almost before I’d dried off and had to escape to the balcony several times in various stages of undress and regardless of whoever might be at the windows overlooking mine – I didn’t care the heat was that bad.
Mel and Dean still weren’t around when I went back to the bar but I quite happily chatted to members of a Bermudan cricket team while I waited. One of the players Reggie, treated me to my first half of much needed cool lager which tasted great. The lowest of the fluctuating prices was £1.10 - quite good for a hotel bar, but I would question why the prices fluctuated.
The 23 year old bartender was very friendly and attentative, quickly satisfying my every need – well as far as serving me drinks and fetching the ash tray and emptying it as soon as I stubbed my cig out was concerned. After my speedily consumed second half – well it was hot and Reggie was threatening to take me back to Bermuda with him – I nipped out for something to eat. On my return about 20 minutes later I was slightly relieved to find that Reggie and the rest of the players had left and sat on a bar stool until Mel and Dean turned up, chatting to the cricket coach and the bartender who again provided excellent service. That is until I told him that I was there for the meet.
The truth came out then. He thought that I was one of a party of three from head office in London visiting to check up on the place. We laughed about his mistake but after that the level of service deteriorated, still quite good but not excellent as previously.
I missed out on an extra 20 minutes of chatting with KirstyJane and Superpricee because they were tucked away in a corner which was hidden from where I was at the bar. Not long after Mel and Dean turned up Michaird and Kittykat18 arrived and we all had a brilliant night
hat ended around 3.00 am.
I was really cheesed off at 8.00 the next morning to be jerked out of my self inflicted booze coma by building work in progress. I was just dozing off again when a busker started up outside. He was playing 2 Caribbean drums (can’t remember what they are called), lovely to listen to normally but not when you have a skanking hangover.
Giving up on sleep I made a cup of tea, then a coffee and chilled out for a while reading a magazine. Just after 10.00 am a maid walked into the room without knocking first. Apologies were made but I was not happy about the unannounced intrusion that ended my chill out time. I washed and dressed and got out of the hotel as soon as I could before melting. First I hid the remainder of the drink sachets before leaving because I knew that if topped up to the previous level there wouldn’t be enough for my needs. My search for somewhere to eat that wasn’t junk food took over an hour because I lost my way several times and kept coming back to square one. I didn’t want breakfast in the hotel, which was in with the cost because of the heat.
Back at the hotel I was pleased to find that double the previous amount of drink sachets were waiting for me but I only wanted water at that point. I went to look for the room where we were all meeting but the lift showed me its quirk of depositing passengers at the wrong floor. I got out without realising and started to wander one of those endless look-alike passages. Boy what a relief it was to spot a friendly face. My night in shining armour (ok jeans kenjohn) knew the way and escorted me to the room. No prize for guessing what he does for a living in Dublin.
The initial meeting was a great success despite the heat that made most of us beat a path to the water cooler. Jo (pinkle) and I left the meeting a couple of times to grab some food and air. Going in a lift with her is hilarious because of the funny comments that she
makes in front of strangers; just as well that we could laugh because trying to escape from the furnace was testing to say the least.
Every time we left the building that day and on Sunday the heavy ramp had been moved to one side making escape by wheelchair impossible. A coffee table hindered the straightening up of Jo’s wheelchair to enable us to get it up the ramp. Weakened by the heat it was a struggle for me to drag it back into place. When we got to the top of the ramp we couldn’t get the wheelchair through the revolting doors and had to wait for a member of staff to push the revolving bit to one side. This happened on another 2 occasions convincing me that the entrance was not suitable for handicapped people or I would think anybody with more than one medium sized suitcase.
Getting ready for the evening I got in a bit of a flap when the antiquated shower handle came off in my hand. I couldn’t see well enough to replace the handle in its slot so I had to climb out of the shower and find my specs. It took a bit of sorting and by the time that I’d done that the bathroom floor was swimming. The towel wasn’t big enough to mop the floodwater up so I got wet feet every time that I used the bathroom mirror. More times than expected because as soon as I went into the bedroom area the bulb in the lamp flickered before it gave up the ghost. Left with only twilight I tried a few combinations of switches to get the standing lamp going without any success. I have a vague impression that it didn’t have a bulb in; my fingers didn’t encounter one anyway.
Before joining the others I decided to go to reception and get the lights sorted out. The lift stopped at the wrong floor again and I forgot to get back in again before it set off. Walking down the steps was thirsty work but by accident I found the bar rather than the reception. Thirst quenched with a lager I set off on my journey again. It took 5 att
empts in the lift to get to the ground floor reception. Each time I was diverted back to Harvey’s bar much to the amusement of my newfound friends who laughed and cleared a space at the bar every time they saw me. Obviously the lift wanted me there so I took advantage of 3 of the extra visits to quench my thirst.
I didn’t want to be drunk by the time I got to reception so I risked the stairs again and found it straight away. A promise was made to sort out the lights in my room immediately so I waited and waited for the lift to come to take me to the third floor where the rest of the group were. It didn’t get there. Once again I was taken to the bar and grabbed a quickie before using the stairs.
One and a half hours later I went to my room to fetch something. It was in darkness and the light from the bathroom wasn’t adequate enough. I propped the door open with the chair and stumbled round with a lighter in each hand, stubbing my toes and burning my thumb in the process. I’m sure that the guy at reception could tell how angry I was because it was then fixed immediately. He tried to tell me later that I’d pressed the wrong combination in the silly switch system but when a bulb flickers for several times before going out even I know that the bulb has gone.
It was 4.00 am when I crawled into bed looking forward to a few hours sleep. No sooner had my eyes shut then 2 men started to sing in the next room. Loud enough for me to think that they were in my room and make me half open my glued together with make up eyes while I looked round to allay my fears. Once the singing had stopped I settled down to be disturbed again by a chorus of very loud seagulls grrrrr. Not the hotels fault I know but perhaps earplugs should have been available in every room.
I only slept until 7.00 am and took full advantage of the tea and coffee, remembering my hidden cache while I came round. I packed and was enthroned when
the outside door of the room which was just opposite the loo started to open. After shouting a warning in the nick of time I got another apology but I can’t understand why on earth the maids don’t knock first, common courtesy I would have thought.
I managed to get to the breakfast room before eleven. There wasn’t much food left though I was told that it was a very nice buffet style breakfast, so I settled for juice, a slice of toast and a gossip. I had to ask 3 members of staff for some life saving coffee. Stood there waiting and waiting while they busied themselves with anything but. I was nearly falling over with weakness by the time somebody got me some and it was only after asking her for the second time.
I went up to the fifth floor to see if Jo was awake and we got lost on her floor while looking for the lift. The umpteen doors were a normal width and part at the side had to be pushed open to accommodate the wheelchair. Endorsing my feeling that the hotel is eminently unsuitable for wheelchair access and a big risk if a fire broke out.
We met in the meeting room again while waiting for the bar to open at the promised 12.30, it didn’t but somehow it wasn’t much of a surprise. I was told that there was a shortage of staff. Pretty evident from the events of the weekend. The staff were friendly and helpful enough but I had the feeling that they were so used to complaints that they weren’t as quick as they might be handling them.
I paid £90 for a single room for 2 nights but the price according to the list in reception should have been £200. If I had paid that much I would have been choked and demanding a refund. The hotel wasn’t worth that much by a long chalk.
Jo called it Hotel California, my name for it is Hotel Hades. Despite the hotel I had a brilliant time and am looking forward to the next meet. Thanks Offy, Ana, Craig, Dean and Mel for organising it.
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