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Hotels in Essex in general

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      05.03.2006 20:02
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      When we visited London last year, we thought long and hard about where to stay. In case you didn't know it, London's fairly big. This means that no matter where you stay, it's never going to be convenient for all the things you want to do. With that in mind, we decided to stay outside the city in a hotel that was easy for us to get to, and had good links to the City. We chose Travelodge Thurrock because of those very reasons...that and the fact we got it for 25 quid a night. Using the Travelodge.co.uk website is easy-peasy; you can either click on the map, or enter a town to search the hotel you want. BUT, before you do that, check the little box in the right-hand side of the page - this is where you will find the current offers. Clicking on this takes you to another page where you can do the exact same search...only less expensively. The hotel is situated in the service area, just off the M25 on the north side of the Dartford Crossing. It's a fairly modern, ugly block of 4 floors but most the rooms are on the far side of the hotel and overlook a reservoir - quite an unexpected bonus for a hotel which sits right on top of one of the busiest stretches of roads in the world...it's almost impossible to see any tarmac or even glimpse a car. Check-in is 3pm and Travelodge operate a strict policy on this - there's not much chance of getting into a room early. At 3.01pm, I slapped my confirmation on the desk and was swiftly checked in. Travelodge policy is for the customer to pay for the rooms up front when checking in - this facilitates easy departure...and ensures they don't get burned. The reception area in Travelodges is basic, to say the least. There's usually a rack with some tourist information, and a couple of cabinets where you can purchase soft drinks, snacks and any little bits-n-pieces you may have forgotten to pack, but the Travelodge at Thurrock doesn't even have this. However, there's a shop directly next door and a tourist office on the floor below. Our room was on the same floor as the reception, so a quick stroll saw us safely ensconced therein. I've stayed in quite a few Travelodges, and although the building design can vary enormously, the rooms are almost always identical. The rooms are a decent size and the walls are an off-white, cream colour with the carpet, curtains and soft furnishings all a deep blue. There are plenty of lights scattered around the walls. The rooms are usually equipped with a King-size bed (as this one was) and a sofa that converts into two single beds. There's a long desk/dresser which houses the TV - in most Travelodges, I have usually had all the terrestrial channels plus sports, news and music channels. This one only had five terrestrial channels and the sound was pretty bad on the TV. There's adequate storage space in the open wardrobe, a couple of large mirrors, and a welcome coffee/tea maker which the staff will top-up gladly. Our room was clean enough, if a little tired looking - nothing a fresh coat of paint wouldn't fix. Although there were signs of water damage around the windows. The bathroom was fine. Clean and roomy enough with good lighting and a large mirror above the sink. There's just enough room around the sink to store all those necessities of bathroom life. Toiletries are of the very basic variety - a small bar of soap and a tiny bottle of bath gel. There were plenty of towels and a handy heated towel rail to drape them over. The bath-tub was a little shallow, but the shower was powerful and hot. Breakfast isn't included but there are any number of eating opportunities in the adjacent service area (as I said, immediately next door to the reception and occupying the same building. They'll also deliver a continental breakfast to your room for £4.45. The rack rate for this hotel is £59.95, but if you book far enough in advance, you can almost guarantee getting the offer price of £25, or even a tenner. The hotel doesn't have much in the way of facilities, but there are all sorts of leisure opportunities right on its doorstep. Lakelside, one of the biggest shopping malls in Europe is under a mile away. With the adjacent retail parks, sports centres, cinemas, entertainment complexes etc., there's plenty to do. It's also around 20-25 mins to Central London from the nearby train station at the Lakeside shopping centre, or from Purfleet. ©proxam2006

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