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Sheesh - seems like ages since I've been here. So many changes, business up and running - bred my first litter of labs - moved house - guess I had better work on catching up now!

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since 20/03/2001


Ibis, Lincoln 07/01/2007

On a 15 minute promise!

Ibis, Lincoln With the memory of the IBIS Chesterfield barely cold in my mind, it was with a comfortable heart and no fear of what lay ahead as I trundled up the A46 towards Lincoln, because all these outlets are clones of one another, aren't they? WHO ARE THEY? IBIS are part of the French hotel chain Accor hotels, who are also responsible for bringing us Sofitel, Novotel, and Formula 1. IBIS stands one step ahead of Formula 1, and their 46 outlets in the UK are branded by the AA as Budget Hotels. Following my pleasant stay at Chesterfield, they were on the verge of becoming my preferred hotel for travelling to dog shows when a return journey in a day wasn't feasible, primarily because of their pet friendly policy at no extra charge. BOOKING This can be done on-line at; the process is quick and simple, you identify what city you want to stay in, the date of the stay and hey presto you will be provided with available options. If there are no IBIS outlets in the vicinity of where you want to go, the site will give you the option to search for outlets from their other chains within the region. You will generally be provided with two options for your room, a flexible rate that allows you to cancel up to 6pm on-line and 7pm directly with the hotel on the day of arrival, and a 'budget' rate which does not permit cancellation at any time. Despite the £10 price difference (on this occasion I paid £48) I tend to opt for the flexible rate because I am never ...

Ibis, Chesterfield 29/12/2006

Cheap, Cheerful, and I could take the dog !

Ibis, Chesterfield A 930 start in Belper, preceded by supper and a meeting in Chesterfield meant I needed somewhere to stay that would also allow dogs. On this occasion the unusual step of seeking advice from a local, and as a result landed up booking myself in the IBIS Chesterfield. = WHO ARE THEY? IBIS are part of the French owned Accor Hotel group who also own the Novotel, Sofitel, and Formula 1 outlets, and have strategically placed outlets across the UK and Internationally. The IBIS outlets are branded by the AA as Budget Hotels, so level and pricewise on a par with Holiday Inn Express and Premier Travel Inns. = BOOKING This was done on their website at The site is very easy to use, you simply enter the name of the town / city you want to stay in, the date you want your stay to start, the number of nights you want to stay and press OK. Their website is available in 5 languages including English, French, German, Italian and Portugese. If there is a hotel at your chosen destination, you will be presented with the hotel link to find out more about it, an interactive map of the area, and the rates / reservations. A word of caution is advised here, in keeping with their on-line Novotel bookings, you will typically find a number of different rates for the same room / time / date - please ensure you read the cancellation policy - in some instances if you cancel you will be charged for the stay. The standard rate offers a cancellation ...

Thistle Euston, London 26/12/2006

Just about on the right track

Thistle Euston, London I naively assumed that getting accommodation at short notice in Central London would be easy - WRONG!! No amount of trawling could throw up something with availability for three rooms. I thought I had struck gold when the Premier Travel Inn, Euston showed availability on-line, BUT by the time I got to confirming the rooms, they had gone. The Thistle Euston was found on our behalf, at a rather steep £120 B&B it was this or nothing. Now I've stayed in a few Thistle hotels, and their quality does seem to vary somewhat, so it was with some trepidation that I set off on the 200 mile journey. LOCATION & ACCESS This hotel, as its name suggests, is literally a couple of hundred yards from Euston Station, and about 10 minutes walk from Euston Square Underground. So if approaching by public transport, getting here is easy. On this occasion, for various reasons, I took the unusual step of taking my car into the city. Access to the hotel from the M4 is frighteningly easy, taking you past some of London's famed attractions such as the Planetarium and Madame Tussauds. When you turn into Cardington Street, if you are anything like me, your initial response could well be horror, the building on the corner is, shall we say derelict, making the whole demeanour of the surrounding area look really seedy. Arrival to the front of the London Thistle therefore is very welcoming, more reminiscent of an opulent 4 star outlet rather than its proclaimed 2 stars, the concierge are on ...

Cedar Court Hotel, Huddersfield 24/11/2006

Ainley Where?

Cedar Court Hotel, Huddersfield When travelling on business, I often decide where I want to stay, rather than seeing what is available, then set about finding the best rate I can for the chosen accommodation. It doesn't always work out, and on this occasion I was getting very nervous that things were not going to go to plan, and then 6 days before my due travel dates, Laterooms came up trumps. For anyone who has ever had the pleasure to visit Huddersfield, which despite many people's reactions, actually seems like quite a pleasant city with good education and shopping facilities, what it doesn't offer is many high quality hotels, at least, not that I have been able to find. ***LOCATION*** The Cedar Court Hotel, is a privately owned outlet, formerly owned by the Hilton Chain, is situated at Ainley Top, a short distance from junction 24 of the M62, and a few miles from the city centre. A taxi into the University would set you back around £5. The hotel is also about 5 minutes away from the McAlpine stadium. The city is on the edge of West Yorkshire and close to the Peak District, and therefore the Cedar Court makes a comfortable and convenient venue for exploring the area. The Cedar Court is an imposing looking 70's style building with ample on-site parking. To access the car-park, you need to turn immediate left off the roundabout from the dual carriageway as if you were going towards the local area, then almost immediate left into the hotel. ***CHECK-IN*** The hotel was booked through ...

Holiday Inn Express, Stafford 28/10/2006

On this occasion I was left eating my words

Holiday Inn Express, Stafford Under normal circumstances, following a few unpleasant experiences, wild horses wouldn't drag me into a Holiday Inn Express (aka Express by Holiday Inn), but I needed somewhere reasonably priced to stay near Staffordshire Country Show Ground that would accept dogs. My former Stafford hideaway, the Tillington Hall won't consider dogs unless they are guide dogs, and all the other 'larger chains' wouldn't either, so it was the HI Express or get up VERY early on the Thursday morning. LOCATION With 103 Guest rooms, it is conveniently situated a couple of hundred yards off Junction 13 of the M6 in Acton Gate, this place is extraordinarily easy to find. In fact, it is so close to the motorway it is commonly known as Express by Holiday Inn, STAFFORD M6, JCT.13. It is an ideal location for visits to Stafford, Alton Towers, Staffordshire University, the Potteries and the Staffordshire County Show Ground. CHECK-IN Reception was busy, alongside a bar, and I am sorry to say, very understaffed - sadly this seems to be a common feature of UK hotels in current times. That said, the staff were friendly and efficient when it came to check in, dealing with queries and serving at the bar. If you want to add extras to your room, you will be required, in common with most hotels, to provide a swipe of your credit card for pre-authorisation. You will also be required to provide address details (if not already available) and your car registration number. Once you have been 'processed' ...

Ramada Ealing, London 15/07/2006


Ramada Ealing, London **** See update at end Where possible, when travelling to London, I try to avoid staying, but there are occasions when I can't. Preferring to use the car rather than the train, I tend to elect to stay on the outskirts and take the train in, although having used a hotel in Harrow, this time I wanted something different! Hotels in the price / location category with the words "decent" and "affordable" usable at the same time are relatively few and far between. ***LOCATION*** Easily accessible from the M4 & M1 motorways, the hotel is situated on the edge of Ealing Common, and is about 2 minutes walking from Ealing Common Tube station. The hotel has ample on-site free parking with a rear entrance to the hotel reception, saves you traipsing around the street with your luggage. You would be forgiven if your first assumption of this hotel is that it is more reminiscent of an age old block of flats common in most city centres. Its façade, hammered by years of traffic passing by on the main road a few yards away mean the seventies style building is grimy on the outside. On our first arrival there we encountered a mass evacuation through a false fire alert, followed by discovering the hotel had no record of our booking on what was the busiest night in London (Chelsea playing Liverpool in the European Cup), and having searched over 350 outlets, we were a little stunned to discover that this place actually had rooms available. Luckily, my colleague had printed the booking ...

Hilton Croydon, London 15/07/2006

Looks nothing like it does on the website!

Hilton Croydon, London A late afternoon meeting in Croydon, followed by an early morning one in London meant I needed somewhere quick and convenient to stay, I also needed windows that opened, on-site parking, air conditioning and high speed internet access. The Hilton Croydon promised to comply on all these factors. *** ARRIVAL *** Providing you can navigate Croydon's rather complex one-way system to get out of town, based on the A23 Croydon to Gatwick and Brighton road, access is pretty easy. There is ample free parking on site in the form of above and below ground multi-storey. Even better and considerably rarer for most Hiltons, parking is free. The first thing that struck me was that the hotel looks NOTHING like it did on the website, and is reminiscent of a 1970s/80s build mini tower block! *** RECEPTION & CHECK IN *** Reception is nice, leading one way to a number of check in desks, the other to a refreshments café, bar area and restaurant. Check in was swift requiring addition to my Gold Honours number to me reservation, completion of my car registration details, a swift swipe of the credit card for extras and I was despatched to my room with a free drinks voucher, a promise of extras for being a Gold HH member. I was a little cross to discover not once was I offered an early morning call or a newspaper - the latter supposedly included free with your HH membership. *** THE ROOM *** The hotel consists of three floors serviced by lifts and stairs. The first thing I noticed on ...

De Vere Venues Shaw Ridge Hotel, Swindon 13/02/2006


De Vere Venues Shaw Ridge Hotel, Swindon OK - poor show on the title - sorry!! A late finish in London followed by an early start in Swindon meant an overnight stop en-route back home. Not a city I am familiar with, I did know that prices seemed generally high, and therefore was a little worried about our destination. A few phone calls later, and I had secured a room at the De Vere Hotel, Swindon. Part of the De Vere chain (who also own and run the Village Hotel chain) for some reason I had an underlying belief that many of the outlets were, shall we say tired, so I was pleasantly surprised, on arrival, to find a well packed car-park, and a modern looking pleasant hotel. BOOKING This room was booked through a third party, however, you can book on De Vere's own website at - or of course, you can reserve through the old faithful, LOCATION & GETTING THERE The hotel is well situated on the edge of Swindon West Centre, an out of town commercial development, and is within 5 minutes of junction 16 of the M4. As the hotel had been booked for us while we were on the move, we were restricted to verbal directions from hotel reception, and they worked perfectly. We also established at that point, that they stop serving food at 1030pm in the bar. There is ample on-site parking for around 200 cars, and there is a commercial area alongside, which I would imagine could be used for overspill during busy, out of hours parking. CHECK-IN & ...

Jurys Bristol Hotel, Bristol 05/02/2006

Verdict was unanimous on location!

Jurys Bristol Hotel, Bristol A two day event in Bristol, combined with two 9am starts meant that unusually, I had cause to stay in a hotel in a city which is normally deemed a day trip. I normally like to book, or at least select hotels I stay in myself, however, I wasn't a party in booking this particular outlet but felt reasonably safe in the knowledge that although some of the Jury's outlets are a little weatherworn, they are generally comfortable and offer reasonable value for money. BOOKING In this instance the hotel was booked on my behalf; however, you can also book through the Jury's Doyle website at The company is an Irish chain, with a number of outlets in Eire and the States, with their New Style Inns or older hotels in many of the major cities across the UK. (The majority of new builds for Jury's are 3 star Inns rather than hotels, although quite what the differences are between the two except that the Inns are more modern, I haven't quite worked out yet!) Rates can start from £69 on their site, or you can be lucky enough to pick up some cracking deals at REWARDS There isn't a reward scheme for Jury's customers as such, however, you can claim 1,000 miles with British Midland Diamond club for each night stayed (up to a maximum of 3,000 miles per stay) LOCATION & GETTING THERE In the centre of Bristol, alongside the Quay, the hotel is located a few miles off the end of the M32, and I would heartily recommend running off an AA ...

Hilton, Milton Keynes 22/01/2006

Concrete cows, roundabouts & ...skiing?

Hilton, Milton Keynes Getting hotels in the Milton Keynes area is neither easy nor cheap. The majority of reasonably priced outlets are usually booked up weeks ahead, and the major chains are more often than not charging well in excess of my (then) subsistence rates. As luck would have it, my first trip to the area in many years was standing in for someone else who couldn't make it. Ding, brainwave, check the Hilton website, as luck would have it the hotel was within walking distance of where I was presenting. Initially their website was offering me £150/night room only, but this fell to a far more reasonable £88 Bed and Breakfast a few days before arrival. BOOKING For UK Hiltons, generally, they don't tend to offer many of their outlets on sites such as laterooms and active hotels, so the recommended way to book is through the Hilton website, or The process is easy; each hotel has an individual website situated as extensions of the main Hilton home-page. Simply state where and when you want to stay, and subject to availability you will be presented with more rates than you know what to do with. Be aware that many of the lower priced offers require non-refundable advance payment, sometimes for the whole stay and others for the first night, and also do not include breakfast, which will set you back a gruesome £17.95, you have been warned. Once you have selected your required accommodation, you will be required to enter your personal details ...

Radisson Edwardian Kenilworth Hotel, London 21/01/2006

AKIN TO "Nice Legs, Shame about the Face"......

Radisson Edwardian Kenilworth Hotel, London OK, maybe not quite, but you'll hopefully get the gist A rare requirement to stay in central London; we had a location and needed to find a hotel nearby. I identified Jury's in Great Russell Street, unfortunately it was outside our budget, and we were offered two close alternatives the Russell Hotel or the Radisson Edwardian Kenilworth. Now, possibly naively, I had always associated Radisson with upmarket outlets, but had never stayed in any. Although we did have a drink in the R E Hampshire in Leicester Square, and at just under £10 for two cokes and a lemonade, well if money means quality, then it would be OK, wouldn't it? = LOCATION A grand looking historical looking building situated on Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, location wise, you could do far worse. It is a stones throw away from Theatre-land and Tottenham Court Road Station; a hop, skip and a jump away from the British Museum and about 10 minutes brisk walk from Leicester Square and China Town. As you would expect from such a central hotel, there is no parking on-site, although there is secure parking available about 1/3 mile away from the hotel at a rather breathtaking cost of £25 per day - gulp!! (And don't forget the congestion charges if travelling during a weekday). There is also a taxi-rank block which you can use for loading / unloading, although make sure someone stays with the vehicle or you could find yourself clamped! = RECEPTION / CHECK-IN Reception is a pleasant well lit affair, ...

Quality Hotel Harrow, London 15/01/2006


Quality Hotel Harrow, London When visiting London, quite often, I take the car, park it in Harrow and get the tube in. So the first time I had to stay, the concept of doing the same, and staying at a hotel with on-site parking was pretty much the same. The venue on this occasion was the Quality Hotel, Harrow where I vaguely remembered staying when the Swans won at Wembley (but that's another story). Although it had been renovated since my last stay, I am afraid that, from my limited experience, never was a chain of hotels more inappropriately named. Part of the Choice Hotels Europe group, the quality brand sits between Comfort at the bottom of the chain, and Clarion at the top, so what is on offer at a Comfort doesn't bear thinking about. I seem to remember vaguely that this particular outlet was once a Comfort but presumably changed its name when renovated. = LOCATION Relatively easy to access from Junction 4 of the M4, the hotel is situated on the edge of Harrow, and is about 10 minutes walk from Harrow on the Hill tube and mainline station.; the main bus station is also within a few minutes walk. The Quality is also in relatively close proximity to the North Circular and therefore the M1, and is great if your onward journey take you up North; we left in early rush hour, and although traffic was busy, we kept moving at all times. Heathrow airport is around 11 miles away, and planes can be regularly heard flying overhead. There is a reasonable amount of free parking on-site, and ...

Event planning 03/07/2005


Event planning When I stumbled across this category, it suddenly seemed like much more fun than writing up my PhD research, although having recently had a proposal accepted for a conference in the States, I really must get writing again. But enough about that; what about event planning? Or, more accurately in this instance, conference organisation. Interestingly since my rise to management, I have frequently become known as the 'noisy gerbil in the corner', with a dippiness and dizziness that accompanies my 'out of the bottle hair colour' perfectly. Nevertheless when a secondment opportunity arose with a national organisation, I decided to go for it, and with that came the requirement to organise a national e-learning conference which had a reputation as being one of THE events of the Welsh e-learning, incorporating several strands running concurrently over 2 days, a couple of hundred delegates. The potential for the words 'recipe' and 'disaster' were the writing on the wall, but nevertheless, where do you start? Events come in all shapes and sizes, and can range from ½ day to a few, a week or beyond and can be small training sessions to full blown international jamborees such as the six nations, the rugby and football world cup, or in Bobs case, Live 8 (although factors such as having 'done it before' and the prefix 'Sir' are almost mandatory requirements for such organisation). This op covers the organisation of a large(ish) event in conference terms, and hopefully covers most ...

Grosvenor Pulford Hotel, Pulford 26/06/2005

Begrudgingly sharing My 'Dirty' Little Secret

Grosvenor Pulford Hotel, Pulford An early morning start and an all day meeting in Wrexham combined with the prospect of getting up and 4am to get ready and drive there was not something I relished. Therefore it was off to trusty old laterooms to see what was on offer. There were deals at the local (ish) Ramada Jarvis and Holiday Inn, although I am getting wise to the fact now that quite often such superb offerings mean the outlets are quite often past their sell by date. The Grosvenor Pulford Hotel, situated in the village of Pulford, in between Chester and Wrexham was slightly dearer, but did look intriguing. At the point of booking, the rate on their own website was the same as that of laterooms, and therefore, I booked directly on-line with the hotel, in the hope of avoiding the problems I typically have getting a smoking room when using laterooms, HUH! BOOKING This was completed on-line at their website: The site was easy to use, requiring dates and number of travellers, and then went on to offer you a variety of rates starting at £85 per night bed and breakfast, up to £125 for a family / Bridal room. There was no capacity to select a smoking / non-smoking room, however there was a comments box, and I clearly stated in there that if they could not provide me with smoking to let me know. A credit card is required to secure the booking and, the cancellation period being 24 hours in advance of arrival. My verdict: 4/5 GETTING THERE Ridiculously easy to ...

Hilton Hotel, Belfast 16/05/2005

Drunken debauchery with a birds eye view

Hilton Hotel, Belfast My other half's 40something Birthday, a desire to go somewhere we could fly cheaply and somewhere luxurious to have a relaxing few days. Having been to Belfast twice on business, I considered it to hold something of an intriguing quality with its magnificent buildings and friendly welcome, and so the hunt was on for somewhere to stay. Firstly we booked the flights, through FlyBE for the extortionate (NOT) sum of £37 each, and then it was off to find somewhere to stay. The criteria was good leisure facilities, fairly central and not too pricey. I vaguely recall LostWitness telling me the Hilton was THE place to stay, and thus the hunt was on to find a deal. It did help that Hilton Honours members get 1,000 BMI Destination miles for each night of their stay, in addition to the accumulation of points for stays in Hilton outlets. BOOKING This was through the Hilton website,, returning a price of £208 for two nights bed and breakfast in a standard room. For a supposed 5 star hotel this seemed reasonable, although not particularly cheap compared with many weekend hotel offerings. Nevertheless, with the memories of my two previous hotel visits to Belfast still ringing in my ears (literally in one case) I decided to go for it, enrolling for the Hilton Honours scheme at the same time. Confirmation onscreen and by e-mail were instantaneous, and cancellation rules were 48 hours ahead of arrival. LOCATION The Belfast Hilton is a 15 storey tower block (the ...
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