Travelodge are currently doing supersaver deals - room only for £10. A good deal, but not as good as the deal I got in 2004 when it was only a fiver for a room. Using the Travelodge.co.uk website is a breeze - 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 boxes to the side - 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 cheaper. We decided on Ashford in Kent, mainly because we wanted to combine a few days in England, with a trip to the continent, and Ashford is only 10 miles from the EuroTunnel. The hotel is just off junction 9 on the M20, and is situated in a leisure park alongside: a multiplex cinema, a nightclub and a fitness centre. There is also a KFC, Burger King, Frankie & Benny's, Pizza Hut and a Little Chef in the area, so there's no need to go hungry. The hotel is a fairly modern, 4-storey affair with a view of a fast-food joints and parking lot on one side, and a much prettier prospect of a large pond resplendent with water-fowl on the other. We had a view of the car-park. Check-in is 3pm but we arrived around 2pm with the hope that we could check in sharpish. Some hope! The doors were locked and only key-holders could enter the building. Oh well. 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 gypped. No need for a credit card this time, I could just about scrape the 15 quid together in hard currency (incidentally, the charge was £12.77 - the remaining £2.23 being VAT). 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. Oh, and a desk. This isn't a problem for me, I never usually plan to spend more time than is necessary in the reception area and anyway, I hate those hotels which have grandiose entrances - invariably it means they've blown the budget on this and the rooms just don't match up. With key in hand, we proceeded to the elevator and on to our room on the top floor. 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 (these are only really suitable for children). 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 three terrestrial channels. According to the desk, they were modernizing their TV system. 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. One of the windows had a handle missing. This wouldn't have been a problem as the other window could open and close, but the broken one was jammed in a slightly open position and meant there was a bit of traffic noise. Not a major problem, but still sloppy. The bathroom was fine. Clean and roomy enough with good lighting and a large mirror above the sink. There's plenty of room around the sink to store all those bits-n-bobs that live in a bathroom. Toiletries are of the 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 on the small side, but the shower was powerful and hot. Breakfast isn't included but the Little Chef on the ground floor can supply you with everything from tea-n-toast, to the full English. They'll also deliver a continental breakfast to your room for £4.45. Was it good value? Well, I wasn't too happy with the TV situation or the broken window handle, but at 15 quid for 3 nights, I reckon I got reasonable value for money....in fact, with my free 40p newspaper everyday, and two or three coffees a day each, I think I actually made a profit on the deal! Was it good value? - Just a bit...duh! The rack rate for this hotel is £59.95 and I think if I'd paid that I may have felt a little overcharged. Actually, I wouldn't have, because I wouldn't have paid that much for this hotel. The Travel Inn at nearby Folkestone charges a maximum of £44.95 and it's even closer to the EuroTunnel. ©proxam2006
Sitting in a classroom, head resting in hand, my reverie was broken by a teacher telling me to pay attention. Of course, nobody ever really listened to the ever so slightly camp, Mr Darby anyway but some teachers can be spoilsports at times. That advice came back to haunt me earlier this year. When I booked this year's holiday, I didn't pay enough attention to detail. So when I realised that the ferry crossing from Dover was at 9.30am, it finally dawned on me that we would have to get up at about the same time as most burglars where going to bed and desperately keen binmen are out and about servicing your trash. Sooooo.....we decided to stay overnight in a guesthouse. With my razor sharp grasp of the benefits of the WWW I logged onto Google and typed in "accommodation in Dover". Hey, this was easy! A response came back taking me to http://www.doveraccomodation.co.uk. This was quite a colourful page with details of guesthouses including suitable links enabling us to have a nose to see if we could find a half-decent one. Only problem was that leaving things as late as I did meant that having rung around, most of the family rooms had been booked (tip 1: arrange accommodation sooner than within 2 weeks of going away). The site was pretty cool with a map of Dover giving us a feel for how close we would be to our departure point. Having eliminated nearly all of the options (as they were booked already), we were left with either a Premiere Lodge or Owler Lodge just outside Dover. Hmmmmm...cost is an issue and Premiere came in at £43.75 for bed only whilst Owler Lodge wanted £75 including breakfast. I hadn't needed to speak to anyone at Premier as it was possible to go through their website (www.premierelodge.com) and simply tapping in my requirements told me whether a suitable room was available. However cost wasn't the only issue. Premiere had only got smoking rooms left which we'd stayed in last year at Gatwick. N o matter how much air freshener is used, our room still ponged so I opted for the more expensive Owler Lodge booking the room by telephone with the erstwhile Mrs Patricia Owler. A minor drawback is that she'd only take cash or cheque and I usually pay by credit card but we decided it was no big deal so she scrawled Mr & Mrs Marandina into her booking ledger. Needless to say, women being women, my good lady wanted a scoot at what the rooms would look like so we noticed that the guest house had it's own web site at www.owlerlodge.co.uk. The site was attractive with suitable views of Owler Lodge clinching the deal for Mrs O! Location: Well, if you read the main portal, it mentions the fact that the guesthouse is set in the picturesque Alkham valley, midway between Dover & Folkstone. We took the M20 off the M25 from London, picked up the A20 which takes over where the M20 finishes taking us through Dover itself. Having passed the Eastern Docks where the ferry terminal is, we took the Dover bypass leading us back out of Dover. The drive is a further 3 miles, taking a turning for Alkham village with Owler Lodge set on the right hand side of the road (the web address mentioned above has a clear map i.e. www.doveraccommodation.co.uk). Rooms: Owler Lodge has been awarded the English Tourism Council silver award so I guess you'd expect the rooms to be nice. Having mildly interrogated the owner (with a pink feather duster and the threat of a review on Dooyoo), it turned out that the lodge had 4 rooms and a family room. Our room was simply lovely. The décor was very tasteful with plenty of paintings mainly with a sea theme, a large master bed (he he), 2 single beds, shower/WC, an en-suite, a chair, lounger and a hairdryer. Our view overlooked the beautiful hills of Kent giving us some pastoral relief from coping with the kids. There was a TV although no satellite. Still, I managed to keep up with the test match (much to my good lady's mild chag rin). All of the rooms are non-smoking with en-suite and coffee making facilities. There are no baths though for those that prefer a long soak. It did seem a little strange lurking and lingering to make both real and mental notes but that's the price you pay to be an intrepid website reviewer. Dining: There is a dining room, which is a reasonably sized room with 3 tables. It has a sliding patio door leading onto a patio area and steep garden. We only had breakfast in the morning, which had to be taken between 7.15am - 8.30am. Conspicuous in the corner is a rather charming glass showcase with an elegant display of dolls. I managed to scoff a full English breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausage, etc) whilst my good lady and the kids had the veggie alternative. Evening meals are available on request to be eaten between 6 - 7.30pm. As ever, with Dooyoo in mind, I had a look at the menu list, which showed: Starters from £3.25 including things like egg mayonnaise, prawn cocktail, melon etc Main meals from £7.25 including things like roast beef dinner, chicken, chips & peas etc Salads from £6.50 e.g. prawn & cold meat & cheese. Kids meals from £3.50 e.g. fishfinger chips & beans, chicken nuggets chips and beans and the like. All food is cooked to order and if the breakfast were anything to go by would be first class! Rest of the accommodation: Having entered through the nicest but most ordinary of front doors, the hall is quite austere with wooden benches and tasteful pictures lining the sides. The first thing you notice is the wonderful, wooden staircase leading up to the bedrooms. On the way up, there is a gorgeous Chinese tapestry adorning a wall, whilst a glass chandelier forms the centrepiece of some delightful works of art complimented by exquisitely placed mirrors. My kids managed not to break or damage anything the whole time we were there this preserving the fabulous set up that is Owler Lodge. The lounge has an ornate fireplace heralding numerous ornaments of mainly brass, glass cases housing model traction engines, a leather chair, 3-piece suite with the windows diamond leaded throughout. I couldn't see a TV in the lounge so whether it ever became communal was debatable. We didn't linger too long as it had a bit of a sterile feel to it. I'm sure with a hearty fire lit and a glass of wine in everyone's hand it soon transforms into Bob Cratchet's parlour on Christmas Day afternoon. The garden is a huge, sloping affair with a large fishpond being home to some huge, koi carp. There are lots of elegant looking flowers and shrubs hugging the pathway leading to the top of the garden with a couple of swings at the summit. We did go for a stroll which my good lady and the kids enjoyed. Service and rates: As I mentioned earlier, we paid £75 for a family room but single rates started at £22 room only. The best thing to do would be to either e-mail the owner or call her on the contact numbers given on her website. The service was typically English i.e. a little reserved although, by no stretch of the imagination, did Basil Fawlty enter our thoughts (I was free to mention the war whilst comfortable in the knowledge that Mrs Owler would know the contents of a Waldorf salad). It seems that the guesthouse has been in business for 10 years although the plaque on the front of the house proclaims "1987 Owler". Alkham is a small, quiet Kent village with our closest attractions either the local pub (a short walk) or the local cemetery which was a convenient 2 doors away. We did sleep well the night we stayed and was car was still in the carpark (capacity for about 6 cars) the following morning. Overall, I would recommend Owler Lodge. The scenery was stunning, the service was pleasant and we started a holiday in a nice frame of mind. There are cheaper alternatives, especially for famili es, so it depends on your budget and what things are important to you. I'm glad we went for the option we did but I suppose you're cheapest alternative is to book a ferry/flight at a time that means you don't have to stay over at all! Thanks for reading Marandina *Well you did say on my last hotel op you wished you were name-dropped occasionally, Amber **This should have it's own cat...erm...one day
Picture the scene. It's my birthday and I'm going to the seaside with my sister. I can't wait to get away from the bustling city and relax, breathing in the fresh sea air while eating fish and chips. I imagine a quaint little seaside town with cobbled streets and homely B&B's run by a jolly lady with rosy cheeks. Flowery curtains and a steaming pot of tea to wake me up. Ahhh, bliss. We didn't book anywhere to stay in Margate because we imagined it would be easy to find a room. How wrong and silly we were. Upon arriving in the time warped town of Margate in Kent, a journey which took 4 hours to go 50 miles, we were tired and hungry.The huge family seated around us had been whining all the way and other unpleasant incidents had occurred which I won't go into as they are rather distracting and disturbing. We found ourselves on the Canterbury road, a busy street leading to the seafront and lined with places to stay. We visited several B&B's all of which were full. We were getting rather desperate and faint in the 25 degrees sun, carrying our heavy bags, so walked straight up to the next place with a vacancy sign. This was the private Tyrella hotel, a three storey Georgian white house, 5 minutes from the beach. The basement was an Indian restaurant which looked quite trendy (hmmmm). After ringing the bell several times, we were greeted by an unenthusiastic man with no shoes on who carried a distinctive whiff of curry and sweat about him. Several small children scurried at his feet. He appeared to have a very poor grasp of the English language and the displayed prices mysteriously increased. Any normal person would have major alarm bells ringing by now and would have politely declined, but who said we were normal, and besides, we were desperate. So up we went to view our room, which he told us was "family room. Very nice. See sea". On going up the stairs, we were hit with the stenc h of curry and spices which pervaded the whole house, and not in a nice way. However, I presumed they had just cooked a lovely meal and the smell would be gone after a while. Unfortunately, the smell remained for the duration of our thankfully short visit and I imagine it's a permanent fixture of the house. The peeling wallpaper in the corridor was a bad omen for what we were about to view. On stepping into the room, it looked slightly mismatched and "worn in", but there was two beds, a TV and it would do. By now it was too late. We handed our money over (£30 for the two of us, and a £5 key deposit) and with that we had consigned ourselves to spending a whole night of our little lives in that awful place. Once we were left alone (without being shown the toilets or given any friendly hospitality), the cracks started to show. "Ugh, look at the sink". There were remainders of spit and gargled bits of toothpaste in the old fashioned plastic sink. Nice. We also had a used, old looking toothbrush for our use (how thoughtful) but no soap. We were actually given a "family" room for the same price as a double, but how any family could fit into that room I don?t know. There was one double bed and one single. The wallpaper was stripy, peeling , stained and there were several large holes in the walls. The bedcovers were a mismatched, cheap and nasty looking flowery pattern. They also stunk and I am sure they had not been washed previous to our arrival (or even in that year). The room consisted of a double bed by a large window, a single bed, a wardrobe, sink with a mirror and a shabby armchair. We had a bedside table with a lamp on. The furniture was sturdy looking pine, but old and dusty. One window had a sea view (in the distance) and the other overlooked the main road and a large hotel opposite. I found some old cigarette stubs and ash on the floor, accompanied by various bits of rubbish. There was a shower in the corner of the room, separated only by a dirty plastic curtain. Neither of us were brave enough to take a shower, so I can't comment further about that. The fact that we had only been provided with one stained tea towel between us made a shower seem even more unappealing. Then there was the issue of there being no hot water running from the taps. It just gets worse and worse. Still, at least we had a telly, albeit tiny and very fuzzy. By this point I was feeling very miserable at the thought of spending my birthday in this shit hole. We decided we would try to air it a bit to get rid of the smell while we went out. Before going out I decided to find the bathroom by myself even though I was apprehensive as to how much worse my birthday could possible get. The bathroom, once I found it, was passable apart from dangerous looking exposed wiring from the light. My sister stole some carpet freshener in the hope of freshening our room up a bit. With a great sense of relief we went out, leaving the windows wide open and taking all personal and valuable possessions with us in fear that they would be rifled through otherwise. We quietly slipped out, trying to avoid the dodgy man, but we obviously weren't as quiet as we thought, for a crowd of women and children gathered at the window to stare at us. Maybe we were the first and only visitors they had ever had. Didn't anyone ever tell them it's rude to stare? -You may be thinking that we should have complained and demanded more for our money. However, we felt uncomfortable about the whole situation and doubt we would have been understood anyway- We agreed not to return to our room until we were exhausted so as to avoid spending any more time there than necessary. In fact we even considered hiding in the pub and sleeping there, as it would have been cleaner, more comfortable and a far more pleasant experience. O n our return we crept up the stairs hoping to reach our room unnoticed. We were almost at our door when we heard a creak on the stairs. We cracked up laughing and made a frantic dash inside our room, locking ourselves in to escape No-Socks Man. It wasn't quite as bad as we remembered (but the beer goggles may have helped). The air had circulated and by the light of our tacky map, with squinted eyes, it *almost* looked cosy. Neither of us relished the thought of placing our youthful naked flesh on the stained sheets, as we didn't know what deeds had been committed on them. We would rather not know. Although it was summer, we both slept in trousers and long tops. We placed T Shirts on our pillows so our faces didn't have to touch them. Yes, it was that bad. I discovered that my bed had sharply protruding springs, so I slept on top of my pillow. Surprisingly we both slept fairly well and were relieved to be alive and well, and not part of that days curry. "I know, we'll watch TV in bed". Oh no, we won't. The TV which was fine last night, now mysteriously didn't turn on. Upon trying the light, my suspicions were confirmed. The electricity had been switched off. Whether this was due to the bill not being paid, or the owners being major cheapskates I don't know. By that time we just wanted to go. I briefly toyed with the idea of nicking something to make me feel a bit better about spending my birthday money on that dump, but there was nothing worth nicking (unless you count some very old looking plastic flowers). Besides, I didn?t really want a reminder. On our way out, we eventually managed to get our deposit back from the huge family gathering downstairs. In our whole time there we saw no trace of other guests. I can't comment on the food available as we did not want to pay £3 for regurgitated curry. Needless to say, we won't be going back. No wonder the British seaside resorts are losing money. My advice to you- if you are going away for the weekend, book first, go on recommendations and don't be a mug like we were. In case you want to make a recommendation to an enemy, or you are an enviromental health officer, the address of the Tyrella Hotel is: 19 Canterbury Road Margate Kent I hope my 21st is better.