Accommodation comes in all shapes and sizes these days, and I’ve had some variety in the little travelling I’ve done this year. I’ve stayed in a couple of “old-fashioned” hotels, those with dark and heavy woodwork, classic prints and red and gold carpets. The advantage of these is that they are predictable, and usually have good breakfasts. Also the older ones often have single rooms, which is a godsend if you’re travelling solo. In Guildford in April, I stayed in the YMCA, which was excellent. I had a private room, and it was comfortable enough for what I needed (i.e. to put my head down and shower). The breakfast wasn’t so cool, but the price was right. A couple of weeks ago in Guildford I stayed in a B & B, which was beautifully decorated, and had a private bathroom. If you were planning to spend any time at all in your room it was a great place, but since I wasn’t, and only wanted breakfast one of the two days, it didn’t work out that well at 70 pounds a night, not to mention I hurt my arm lugging my suitcase full of books up an exceptionally narrow staircase. The price had shot up from when I’d enquired in April, but I hadn’t realized! For a B & B to work for me the owners need to make me feel at home, and whilst they were formally friendly enough I still felt just a bit as if I was intruding in a private house. I cancelled a booking for later. I’ve also used Ibis a couple of times, their prices in April were terrific, 39.50 at Gatwick and 45.00 in York, sans breakfast, but otherwise clean and basic, and, actually cheaper than the Y, and the private bathroom makes up for the no breakfast.
But, by far the most novel, cleanest, most comfortable and definitely most fun is Yotel at Gatwick Airport. I’m in the happy position of being able to write exactly what I think and feel here, so if I recommend something, it’s because I found it a really good experience.
The Monarch schedule flight which I like to take from Tenerife gets me into London at around midnight, so all I want to do is tumble into bed. When I planned my April trip I totally forgot about Yotel. Austin had used it a few years back, just after it first opened, and if I’d remembered it would have saved me time and cost of taxi fares, and probably I would have had at least an extra hour’s sleep……which I badly needed then, after a delay of about an hour, but then a much longer delay waiting for the baggage to appear, and an early start the next morning. This time I planned better. Even though I had an 8 hour delay it still worked out really well.
The concept is Japanese. Remember how shocked we were by those programs about the pigeon-hole sleeping accommodations for workers in Tokyo? Well, think that…..only luxurious. Creator, Simon Woodruffe, according to the group’s website, actually, was inspired by the sleeping arrangements on BA long haul, first class flight, but for me it spoke of days-of-yore train travel. I once had the hedonistic delight of travelling on the Orient Express, but, honestly, this is more comfortable, and the space is around the same size from what I remember.
This was my snug bed on the first night.
I arrived weary but uncomplaining (first rule of travel, always have a good book with you), and found that the entrance is happily located right opposite arrivals at the South Terminal. Nothing fancy about it, just a lift, which deposits you outside the glass doors of what appears to be Babylon 5. It was all prepaid, so the formalities were cheerfully over with quickly. I’d booked online. You can ring to book, but booking online is cheaper, and it’s credit card only. Within a few minutes of making my booking I’d received a text message to my cellphone, so I didn’t need to worry about printing the confirmation off, which was great the second time, because I didn’t have access to a printer.
A charming young man asked if I needed to avail myself of any of their services, which, other than the bed at that moment, I didn’t – it was 3am. He directed me to my cabin, and I wandered quietly along a corridor which made me think even more of a spaceship, and then down a couple of steps into my womb-like space.
To my right was the bed (above), complete with tv (above), shelf and reading light. It looked so inviting I could hardly wait to find my toothbrush and crawl in. To my left was the bathroom, divided by glass doors which ran the length of the cabin, and with the best shower I had in all the time I was there. There was one towel, but it was soft and comfy, and so big I could have used it for a sheet.
Straight ahead was a mirror with a hook and a large coat hanger, and a folding table, and hooked onto the back of the door was a folding stool. In other words, all you might need to overnight when travelling, or even just to freshen up and nap. Rooms can be rented on an hourly basis. On the inward journey I was too tired, but on the return journey I had plenty of time to check out the wifi, and it was so fast it would break the heart of anyone living here in Tenerife. I almost cried!
On the second visit I ascended rather than descended a couple of steps to the cabin, and the bed was higher up, with a step to access it, like a bunk bed, but everything else was the same.
Not being mathematical I couldn’t figure out exactly how the layout worked, but obviously it maximized the space, and obviously my upper bunk probably fitted above a lower bunk in the cabin below or something. Whatever, it’s very clever. The only thing which worried me was that given this design it might be noisy, but I didn’t hear a thing the entire time, so obviously it is well sound-proofed (unlike some hotels, or even my apartment at home!) It was also a delight to find the temperature was perfect, unlike the hotels I’d used, where they always seem to assume that one needs to feel as if one’s being cooked for Sunday lunch. There was a control, but I didn’t need to touch it.
The staff were friendly and gave every appearance of being willing to be helpful, had I needed it. Shampoo is provided and there are lots of power points, so you can charge up your phone and dry your hair whilst you’re online if you like. There is room service, but I’m afraid I didn’t check it out, tempted as I was to curl up in that inviting space with a huge bowl of popcorn and a Jack Daniels, and watch t.v. I paid 59 pounds for a standard room for the length of time I stayed. A couple of days afterwards I got an email asking if everything had been ok, which was a nice touch.
The two nights I spent there were easily the two best night’s sleep I had on the trip, but mostly it was fun. I felt like a kid again, especially on the second visit, as I climbed into my personal cocoon. Maybe that’s why I slept so well, I don’t know, but I do know where I’ll be sleeping over on future visits.
Overall assessment: it was fun, comfortable and it all just seemed so easy, stagger off the plane and into bed almost, or on the return, a great wake-up shower before setting off, instead of arriving by train or car all hot and sweaty and already stressed out. It’s almost a Zen experience!
As well as Gatwick, there are Yotels in Heathrow and at Schipol in Amsterdam……and they are creating one in the heart of New York too. Check out their website: