Big Plane, Heavy Plane! Short-Haul A380s with British Airways
To Heathrow, Holiday Inn Ariel

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Index:

The day before

As National Express were deciding to charge stupid amounts for a coach ticket (I’m sorry, £36.70 + £1 booking fee isn’t great value when I can get the Holiday Inn Ariel for £42.50 a night all in), it was a case of exit work on Thursday evening, and heading straight from work to London.

As usual, I’m taking the Chiltern Main Line (as I’m cost conscious, and I have a spare return segment in my pocket)… but first I have to leave West Bromwich. This for me, means heading to the Midland Metro and changing at The Hawthorns for a real train to Birmingham Moor Street, and then the connection onto London.

Midland Metro

(Covered by Transit Pass)

Opening Trash shot. Yes, I’ve got a shoot on the way home. That’s why I have the fawn bag…

The Metro is my go-to service when I need to get to and from work. It’s clean, reasonably well timed (if annoying at times when the tram pulls out and I’m heading down the stairs for the station). Still, for an effective £2.51 a day for public transport in the West Midlands – including Tram, Buses and some trains, it’s a no brainer (considering it’s quicker than bus by a long shot, and even driving the 5 miles through city traffic 50 minutes vs 15 minutes).

Heading towards Snow Hill.

The tram dropped me off at Snow Hill Station, where my train to London had already pulled in.

Chiltern Railways Birmingham Snow Hill to London Marylebone

Class 168/2, Chiltern Clubman

A bit different from last time, as we’re into commuter-land timings – and the train was busy enough to show it – with a good loading to London Marylebone (and the train taking a leisurely 2 hours thanks to all the stops that had to be made on the way).

Leaving Birmingham

Normally there are no issues on this service – but today, there was a bug in the WiFi. It worked after Bicester North (where the train packed out as all the shoppers heading to London were coming back from Bicester village), but was just refusing point blank to connect on the way.

Passing the evening countryside.

Still, the train was pootling along to London – and let’s be honest – it’s not as if I had any pressing engagements when I arrived in the City.

The train made good time, and soon it crossed the M25 and into London.

A sure sign you’re in the outskirts of London – passing a Tube depot (West Ruislip)

the train speed through, only slowing for the final approach into London Marylebone, and soon enough it pulled into the platform, ending this segment.

From there, it was straight down to the Underground, as the next stop along would take me to the next terminus I need to get to: London Paddington

Bakerloo Line service approaching.

Soon enough, I surfaced into one of my favourite terminals in London: Paddington Station. Whilst I’m not a fan of some of the prices of destinations of the services that depart from there (HINT: Heathrow Express), it is a great sight for Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Great Western Railway’s terminus

Paddington Station.

And of course, it’s home to a certain famous bear.

Those of a certain age, head to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eMZPEUR9As. You all know the theme tune.

But enough of looking at bears. It’s time to head of too the Holiday Inn Ariel. This hotel is near the 27R Threshold at Heathrow. But rather than pay the full £9.50 to go to Heathrow, I’m going to use my Oyster Card to get to Hayes and Harlington, and bus 140 – which would cost the princely sum of £4.40. And yes, I took a Heathrow Connect train to do it (Remember, Heathrow Connect is the stopping service, Heathrow Express is the real rip-off service).

As a local service, it was unsurprisingly busy – even at half eight in the evening.

A short ride, and I was at Hayes and Harlington, with dusk settling.

Within minutes of me exiting the station, a 140 Bus had turned up. It was then a quick ride through the village of Harlington, to the boundaries of the Northern Perimeter of Heathrow… and the Holiday Inn Ariel Heathrow Airport.

Holiday Inn Ariel

Hotel: Holiday Inn Ariel

Price Paid £85.50 (2 nights for 1 – IDEX1 Rate)

The Holiday Inn Ariel is… a timeless property. By which I mean some of the world has moved on, whilst some of it stays still.

Reception

Bar area

I was welcomed in, and I was confirmed that I had a room reserved for two nights. I was processed as an elite member, with only a signature required to check in.

I was upgraded from my cheap single room to an Executive Room (don’t get too excited kids – this is the Ariel)

Keys were issued, and I was offered an elite choice – a drink from the bar or 500 Priority Club Points. I think we all know what I chose (and those who don’t know… my Priority Club Balance grew another 500 points).

Route the hallway. The building is circular after all…

I then headed up to my room on the 3rd Floor – and for once, I actually got an upgrade on a room that faced OUTWARDS as opposed to the single rooms facing inwards.

Wonders will never cease.

The room itself… is a typical refreshed Holiday Inn room. And that’s no bad thing. This one featured a king bed in a reasonably large room (room to swing multiple cats), and a view over the maintenance pad/threshold of 27R

Bed

TV


Documents


Magazines


Well, not much of a view at night…

And not much better on a cloudy wet morning…

Moving onto the bathroom, and it’s the usual compact bathroom… but hang on, there’s NEW BATHROOM AMENITIES!

Sorry. I got over excited there. Yes, there are new bathroom amenities that 1) smell reasonable and 2) actually are effective.

Additional scouting indicate there was a safe in the room (good to fit a MacBook Pro in), Kettle with Tea/Coffee/Hot Chocolate… and a MiniBar.

Ah. Hotel MiniBar. A sign of something expensive? Oh yes.

A quick examination of the minibar indicated it was a weighted trigger unit – so I would not be stowing anything in it.

However, there was a welcome amenity. Two bottles of water (One sparkling, one still), and a KitKat Chunky Bar!

Welcome amenity for Premium Members.

It may be a small thing, but it is a well thought out thing. It’s also interesting to note that the welcome amenity was restocked the days I was there. Which is nice.

After decanting the bags for travel purposes the next day – as well as putting all my batteries back on full charge (I swear this Canon 6D chews through battery power compared to my old 40D), it was time to get some rest before the excitement of the day

Little did I know HOW exciting things were going to turn later…

Wall art.

Overall: This Holiday Inn has gone through a few changes each time I’ve been there, and its mostly for the better. IDEX1 helps make any Heathrow Holiday Inn a lot more bearable in terms of cost though…

So 4:30 comes round, and I fall out of bed… quite literally. After nursing a small bump, I headed down to reception. Now, had I done my homework, I would I caught a Transport for London Red Bus.

But no, I decided to catch a Heathrow Hoppa. What a mistake to make.

Next: The Heathrow Hoppa and a sinking feeling….

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