I am sorry if I am becoming a bit of a budget hotel bore, but there is just one more I have to mention. Just one.
As the family’s week in London came to a close, the wife and I wondered whether we ought to set off for Cornwall after rush hour on Friday night and stop midway in a hotel or get up early on Saturday morning and do the journey in one hit.
The second option was clearly more cost effective, but it would mean risking waking up my three-month-old nephew in the wee small hours. We were also without our in-car DVD player, potentially making a long haul all-in-one trip hellish.
Then the clincher. We found a hotel with a family room available. And it had a pool. Ok, it was in Swindon – but it had a pool.
So we booked it. The Swindon Hilton sounded like a complete paradox and I mocked it on my Facebook status, but I was soon – very gladly – eating my words.
Upon our arrival just before 11pm with two weary kids, just woken from sleep, one of the night managers handed our little charges a goodies bag each, gender specific (vital for our six-year-old girl at the moment) no less. He did this straightaway, before even greeting us adults. It was an act of genius and extreme thoughtfulness, one that almost brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it.
On that point alone I would have awarded the place a Michelin star – those bags kept the kids quiet and happy until tiredness crept up on them again and the wife and I were even able to enjoy a glass of wine. But the room was great, the pool lived up to expectation and breakfast was a feast. Kids always love breakfast in hotels, don’t they? Indeed these all you can eat buffets with their selection of separated muesli, meats and cheese you don’t really want to eat but, well, it’s there, and more varieties of cooked egg than even Alan Partridge could fit on his plate, it brings out the kids in us all.
So, happy and only 88 pounds lighter (I could even forgive the three quid car parking charge), onwards we went… probably a little too late, having been a little too comfortable.
Needless to say, the rest of the journey wasn’t quite so successful. A stop in nearby Avebury riled me something chronic. Their array of standing stones are awesome, absolutely awesome, but their attitude to tourists stinks. I appreciate they might not want their main drag and village car park overrun with visitors’ cars, but to direct them to a National Trust car park that charges a fiver for the day but no less for any shorter time is unacceptable. I was expecting maybe three pounds but a fiver? In a huff I sped down a nearby country road and found free parking. Meanwhile, the wife spent a tenner in the village gift shop. Oh, the irony.
Eventually we continued on our way, reaching a Little Chef on the A303 just before the M5. It could do with being Heston-ed this one. It was not so much my ice cream sundae comprised just ice cream, some squirty cream and a couple of Flakes (that’s not a sundae, it’s just a glorified 99 – I was so disappointed), but rather that the service was slow and it took an hour and a quarter before we were on the road again. By then the kids were so bored, bickering and fighting like monkeys on high energy drinks. No Dvd player remember. By the time we finally got home, the wife and I were frazzled and exhausted and swearing (sometimes literally) that we wouldn’t be doing that again in a hurry. We were shadows of our former selves, broken by endless cries of ‘are we home yet?’ and mindless car spotting games that only ever seemed to help pass 40 seconds.
But do you know what – it was all worth it for that night’s stay in the Swindon Hilton.