Posts Tagged ‘UK Trips’

….is what the chap said to me at my hotel yesterday evening.

I’ve been staying at a capsule hotel – “hub by Premier Inn” – very near to St James Park tube station in Westminster. The rooms in these hotels – there are several in London – are very small but very well-featured. They have all the required elements – bed, bathroom, TV, air-con/heating, a bit of storage space – but all very modern and very high tech, and are extremely compact.

So I returned to the hotel after a meal out, walked in, and the lights came on automatically, exactly as they should have. Rather unexpectedly they went off again about 30 seconds later, leaving me in complete darkness. I found my way back to the door and opened it, and the lights came back on. Then the cycle repeated itself.

I did some experimenting with what was happening but eventually gave up and reported the problem, and a few minutes later a very helpful and polite chap arrived to ask me what was wrong. I demonstrated the problem which elicited the response “that’s not supposed to happen….. never seen that before, in fact!”. Then he said the unforgettable words – “I’ll need to reboot the room”. He opened a small panel and hit the Reset button, at which point everything in the room just shut down. Up to that moment I hadn’t realised just how hi-tech the room actually was – lots of systems all under customer control via a control panel on the bed head (or via an app on your smartphone). There are five different settings for the lights, for example. But right then all the systems were all off. There was silence (and darkness, of course). Then bit by bit the room rebooted and the systems came back up.

Sadly, the reboot didn’t resolve the issue – 30 seconds later we were in darkness again. At that point the problem had to go to Tier 2 support, and unfortunately they weren’t available in the evening; and as a result I got a new room in which I had an excellent night’s sleep.

Apart from the problems with the lights in the original room, this was an excellent stay. I haven’t mentioned the lounge by reception. There are no tea/coffee making facilities in the room; instead, there’s a ‘hot drinks’ point in the lounge where tea and coffee are available (from a coffee machine/hot-water dispensers) 24/7. The lounge is also where the continental breakfast is available – simple cereal, sour-dough bread, croissants, muffins, butter, preserves and a toaster, and also where they put out the same sort of things as a simple buffet in the evening. The evening buffet seems to be free, but breakfast was £4. You can also get drinks – they have wine and spirits available, but you have to get one of the staff members there to serve you.

All in all, this was a much better experience than my Airbnb in London experience last year, even with the lighting problem. I shall probably use something like this again.


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Airbnb in London

Now for something a bit different

Recently I was in London for one night at short notice, and the regular choices – Premier Inn, basically – were too expensive. So I thought I’d try Airbnb.

I booked a room online beforehand which came to £73. This was made up as follows: one night’s accommodation, £39; cleaning fee, £25; and Airbnb service fee, £9. The cost of the actual room therefore came to £64.  The cleaning fee is only charged once so this means that Airbnb is more cost-effective the longer the stay: a 4 night stay, for example, would have been (£39×4) + £25 = £181, which is £45 a night (plus the Airbnb service charge). That said, I expect there’s a weekly cleaning fee as a minimum.

The Airbnb information about the room all seemed OK but the on-line picture seems to be of a hotel front and indeed when I arrived that’s what it was – a small (single) room in a small hotel in Pimlico. It was OK, albeit a little basic. But after a slightly sticky start – it was cold when I checked in – it all turned out OK. The room warmed up later, it was very quiet, there was a private bathroom, and there was very good wifi. And it was just a few minutes’ walk from Pimlico tube station.

I got the chance to talk to the hotel proprietor the following morning. He was quite open that they were using Airbnb as an alternative channel for letting a few rooms in the hotel. These were their ‘classic’ rooms – they also had premium rooms which weren’t advertised through Airbnb. If you booked one of the classic rooms direct with the hotel then there was a room rate, plus separate charges for breakfast and wifi, but with the Airbnb approach all of these are included in the one charge. I was only in London for a few hours – from mid-afternoon one day until midday the following day with an evening appointment – and in that context it worked well. However, I’m not sure how I would have felt about it if I’d been staying for several nights as a tourist.

The other thing to say is that this wasn’t what I was expecting from an Airbnb booking, which would be a room in someone’s apartment or house, so it may not be typical. Next month I’m staying at an Airbnb in New York City, and that, I believe, will be a more typical stay. More details at the end of April when that trip is over.

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