Pros: It's clean, there and does as anticipated.
Cons: It's unexciting, more expensive than cheap, and populated by sales reps.
As it was a while since I've travelled for work, my recent stay in (the UK) Birmingham was a welcome break from the office routine. My travel was made just a tad more exciting by spotting Charles Clark (UK politician) at Crewe train station. I don't think anyone else would have sported that strange beard, red face and big ears combo.
As a public sector employee (but apparently unlike many UK politicians), I'm always keenly aware the cost of my overnight stay is paid for by tax payers, and was surprised to see I was booked into the Birmingham City Centre Holiday Inn Express for just over £60 ($100). I would have booked cheaper (and more individual), but by the time I realised, the deal was done. I was accompanied by a colleague unaware of my "sackcloth and ashes" hotel approach.
The hotel is about 20 minutes walk from Birmingham New Street (the main train station in town). I could have saved a little aimless wandering round if the website had told me it was very close to the tall BT tower. Get there and you are within a couple of minutes walk from the hotel.
The Holiday Inn Express is in a reasonable location, with a good choice of nearby restaurants. We chose the mid priced Milan Indian Restaurant, and really enjoyed the food. Almost next door to the hotel is the Shakespeare Pub, so if you want to enjoy a few beers, you don't have to suffer the depression of a hotel bar. I didn't go in, but it looked OK.
Our check in was pleasant and effective, although marred by the complaining sales rep by our side. I have a very one-sided view of sales reps, and assume they get through the stress of being treated like a piece of muck on the bottom of a shoe in their day job, by in turn taking their pain out on those lower than them. Hence, I witnessed a rather ridiculous argument about whose name the bill had been arranged in. The receptionist held her own but remained polite. Meeting wingeing but boastful sales reps is one reason to avoid hotel bars.
My reasonably sized room was on the sixth (seventh in US) floor, and gave quite a nice view over Birmingham. There was a time where I couldn't claim that any view of Birmingham was nice, but multi millions of pounds of investment have created a vibrant and good looking city centre.
My room was standard Holiday Inn Express fodder, with a soft or hard pillow, tea and coffee facilities, standard furnishings, nice modern lighting, and the faint remains of a glass of wine spillage on the carpet. Overall, the room was nice and clean and comfortable, although I did become annoyed with the TV automatically being on each time I entered the room. There were around 20 TV choices and the ubiquitous "sales rep's friend" (the porno movie) was available for an extra fee.
Unfortunately, the window didn't open, and although the air con system was reasonable, I still woke up stuffy a few times in the night with a raging thirst (for water... not porn!). The slightly tired but clean bathroom contained a good (but slightly small) power shower, and some nice smellies from a fixed dispenser. I might have thought the hotel was green as it avoided using little samples, were it not for the blaring TV set waiting on each visit.
I was more impressed with breakfast than I anticipated; I found a good choice of cereal good quality bread, French pastries, and a fruit bowl with basic fruit(apples, banana and oranges). The only thing letting the breakfast down was the fake, sweetened fruit juice. The breakfast restaurant was also quite nice and funkily furnished.
No surprise: the Holiday Inn delivered much as anticipated, and we had a reasonable and comfortable stay. Overall, a solid if average experience.
cr01 asserts his right to be associated as the author of this review -2009-
Phew, at 661 words, I've squeaked a Lean and Mean review.