Oh. My. God. There is a telly in my bathroom. I’m not even lying!
I was really sheepish about booking an overnight hotel at Heathrow Airport because it is crazily expensive. It feels like a tax on the lily livered with no London connections. Last time I did a long haul flight I pulled an overnighter, got a coach at 10.30 at night and arrived at Heathrow at 4.30 a.m. thinking I’d be able to check my luggage in and go sleep. Not so, i had to roam the twilight zone of an empty airport, with its muffled sounds. I felt like a zombie, couldn’t dump my luggage, couldn’t clean up, boarded the long haul flight knackered and less than fresh as a daisy. Never again. I resolved. Never again.
When I made that resolution though, I had assumed it would be really easy to get some accommodation near Heathrow, but tripadvisor warned me off some of the cheaper options with tales of sick in the corner of unkempt rooms or, places that were remote and hard to get to. In the end, after being ill with this blooming virus for so long I decided I’d do what I really, really wanted and sod the expense. Granted, I felt a bit sick at the moment of paying, it is ridiculous the cost, but I went for it, and right here, right now, you know what? I’m delighted!
I’m staying at the Sofitel at Terminal 5 Heathrow Airport. It is the only hotel actually at the airport and they price accordingly. I have never, ever stayed anywhere so posh in my whole life. On the booking form, they ask if you have any requirements and mention you can get a room overlooking a zen garden. I put on my booking that ‘this is the first time I’ve ever stayed at a hotel of this type and in case I never ever get to do so again, please can I have the zen view room if available?’ Well, dear reader, on check in, the suave and be-suited multi-lingual reception staff (of which there appear to be thousands), read my notes and gave me a choice. I could indeed have the room with the view of the zen garden, but there is an event being hosted there, so as an alternative, to avoid any disturbance, I could instead have a free upgrade to a luxury suite. ‘What would you do?’ I asked him, he did a demure slightly suppressed chortle at the very notion I was indecisive. ‘I’d take the luxury suite madam, because it has a larger bed and an external view – of the car park admittedly, but it is the only view we have.’ ‘Will I be able to lie in a star shape on the bed?’ I queried, (I really did, I was a bit giddy by the whole poshness quotient I think). ‘You may lie on the bed in any shape you wish‘, he said. So I did. I went for the free upgrade.
Oh. My. God! I have never been in anywhere so lavish. The reception area here is a wall of glass accessed through labyrinthine tunnels from the airport itself. It seemed miles down long empty corridors, think of the tube late at night but with carpets and better decor. I had a baggage trolley from coach station so that was OK. On arrival, I gawped at the trailing chandeliers overhanging a soothing water feature, with marble and steel surround. Not quite on the scale of The Blade at Sheffield Railway Station, but not too far off either! The hotel is enormous, so it was quite a trek to get to my room. I nearly didn’t make it, not because of any minotaur (though there could well be one I’ve just not yet seen it), but because of initially failing the intelligence test in the glass elevator I needed to use to get to my room.
I stepped in, pushed the buttons. Nothing. Tried again, nothing. Tried to press exit so I could escape elevator and ask for assistance. Nothing. I felt a rising panic, I couldn’t even see the alarm button. Anyway, it turns out there is a security feature, whereby the lift wont work unless you first activate it by waving your room key (which of course isn’t a key, but is a card) over a security panel in the lift itself. Phew, disaster averted, and the lift shot upwards in true glass elevator style, with such a shunt I got a slight flash of motion lift as we ascended. It was genuinely exciting. I see why Farage was looking so manically amused with Trump now. Never thought I’d have anything in common with either of them, but I must reluctantly concede whizzing up in a glass elevator is actually a lot of fun.
Once I got to the right floor, lugging my baggage around (they did offer to have someone send it up but I couldn’t cope with the etiquette of that – should you tip – nor the inevitable delay), the place is so huge I managed to misread one of the signs and went off-piste for a bit before finding my room.
Once in, well, it’s enormous for a start. It has a huge squishy chair for swiveling around in or sitting on stroking a white cat. It has lots of lights with confusing light switches all of which dim. I had to play with these a lot so now I have no idea at all which light is which any more. Each ‘light switch’ actually has six buttons, that’s SIX variations. It’s insane. There are swanky toiletries, that I desperately want to nick, but don’t know if I’ll be able to squeeze any more into my already bursting-at-the-seams luggage. I have a bath robe (won’t be using that, I’ve worked in a five-star hotel in Alice Springs and it put me off some aspects of luxury appointed accommodation). The tea selection is awesome, the telly ENORMOUS, the view stupendous. It is a ‘car park’ but I’m so high up I can see for miles, roads and the airport itself sort of unfolding beneath me. It is urban, but it’s quite exciting. The double glazing is like looking through a fish tank the panes of glass are so far apart, so it is completely silent. However, the tour de force is obviously that THERE IS A TELLY IN THE BATHROOM! I have never seen this before. It makes you wonder if perhaps there really is a parallel universe populated by people for whom this addition to their ablutions seems completely normal. Not to me though, oh no sooooooree, I am wildly excited by it. I wish I was staying long enough that I could have a bath – overflowing with bubbles too, just so I could watch telly whilst doing so. And don’t try to persuade me that this is doable at home with the simple expediency of using an extension lead. I’m not that naive that I’ll be balancing electrical appliances on the edge of my bath tub any time soon no matter how much you might wish it to be otherwise! I’ve seen enough murder mysteries with ‘accidental’ deaths that weren’t built around just such a premise, even if I never did sit my Physics O-level.
Well, as you can imagine, what with all the distractions in my room, I had to do quite a bit of exploring and opening and closing doors. Checked out the complementary wi-fi which works super fast, way, way better than my pitiful offering at home. I made a quick necessary phone call, and whilst talking on my mobile, was actually able to stride up and down, such are the dimensions of this suite, something I couldn’t do in my attic flat at home without bumping my head. I could get used to this…
After a bit, I went in search of food. The downside of such palatial surrounds, is I can’t really afford to eat anything here. I asked for ‘cheap and cheerful’ option, wincing as I did so. ‘light snacks’ in the bar was best option. The bar is like a very posh lounge, squishy chairs, bubbling fountains, orchards around the perimeter and soft lighting that is so soft I fear I may have suffered sudden onset blindness until my eyes have adjusted. It is calm though, and frankly fun to be lounging in such a venue. There is also a wall of fire, that might be alarming in many contexts, but is in fact atmospheric here!
FYI, the light bar snacks may be light on the stomach, but they aren’t light on the purse. Fortunately, there was very little in the vegetarian department so that limited spending options. Fair play though, what came was delicious, albeit minimalist. Why the slate plates and wooden serving things. I had crisp chips with a garlic mayonnaise sauce, and some beetroot humous with pitta bread. The presentation of the humous was in my view unfortunate, but it did taste absolutely delicious if you could erase the inevitable mental image from your mind before tucking in. I also got huge glass of tap water (I was scared they’d make me pay for mineral water which was £3 a pop, but they obliged my eccentric request for eau d’eathrow without an obvious change in facial expression. Bravo!
I am properly excited now. I’m on my way. It is ridiculous to spend so much of my budget on a hotel of this calibre. It feels incredibly decadent, but it is lovely. I expect to sleep well tonight (apart from the risk factor associated with being so wildly over-excited), no panicky dash for the flight, and I anticipate a fine breakfast buffet that will keep me going all the way through to Phnom Penh. Yay!
You know what, I could get used to this, is this how the other half live*? Who knew?
I typed this blog post before paying the bill. £13.95 for that meal. Gone off this place now, it included an optional-but-mandatory-really because it’s already on the bill 12.5% service charge. Service was good, but ouch…. Novelty wearing off, even so, I look at home on arrival you have to admit!
Bed time now, I’ll check out my star shapes. Sweet dreams y’all.
*(Well other 1% probably to be fair, but you get my drift)