They always make us so welcome and I always hate having to leave. The place looked extra lovely with the layer of snow that decorated it. They run a little bed and breakfast from the place and, despite our protestations, always put us up for free and make a lovely breakfast for us.
The weather forecast was looking to be a bit grim across the Salisbury Plains and the last thing we wanted was to be stuck in the middle of nowhere due to heavy snow and slippery roads. Especially as we had a train to catch to Paris on the 14th of January.
The evening before we left we had dinner at our friend's house. Whilst we were there I went online to book a hotel in London. It took ages and was made more difficult by me not really knowing where the hotels were situated in relation to familiar landmarks.
Then I spied upon what seemed to be the bargain of the century. Two nights accommodation for the three of us, including breakfast, for only $180 (Aus). And, it was situated in busy Cromwell Road, just near all the good things we wanted to see. The rooms on the website link seemed okay so I booked it. My husband and friends were a bit surprised at the cheapness of it but I thought I was just lucky.
Well, you know that old saying "Too good to be true"? Yes, well, it certainly applied to the awful hotel that I booked.
It was called the The Cromwell Crown Hotel and if you are ever in London for a cheap stay, do yourself a favour and avoid this place no matter how poor you are. As the taxi made its way up Cromwell Road, passing a line of lovely hotels, we were a little bit excited at the standard of everything we saw.
Then the taxi pulled up in front of the hotel and I realised that I had possibly made a mistake in booking the two nights stay here. The paint was peeling from the facade, there was a pile of semi frozen full garbage bags stacked up near the steps to the entrance. It did not look very promising.
As we made our way into the dingy reception area the smell of stale smoke welcomed us. The staff were friendly which gave me a bit of hope. Perhaps the place was a bit tired. Tired is okay. Dirty is not.
We had to take the lift up the the third floor. Only two of us with two suitcases could fit in the tiny contraption which shook and rattled its way unhappily to the destined floor.
Initially it was not obvious, amongst the maze of doors and corridors, as to where our room was and had to ask a couple of unfriendly cleaners. They could not speak English and, along with that communication barrier, had not the faintest idea on how to smile.
In the advertisement it had said the room had an en suite. Well, that was a bit of a furphy. There was a toilet next to our hotel room door with a handwritten sign on it that said "Do not use, is for room 309 only". Oh, yeah, like someone wanting to have a pee is going to take notice of that.
The bathroom was then next to that toilet. And it was a dirty one at that with hair in the plug hole! Plus the door did not lock.
We opened the door to the hotel room and walked in. My stomach sunk and my anxiety rose. It was about a dire as a cheap and nasty hotel room could be.
I took some photos in a vain attempt to capture the dingy interior. But I cannot capture the stale odour that was in the room. The odour of old carpet, old bed linen, old smoke and general grubbiness.
My husband turned to me and said "Boy, am I glad I did not book the room". Huh? What did he mean by that I wonder.................?
Below is a view of the paint finish in the room.
And the window coverings. Incidentally, I kept the curtains (if you could call them that) shut as the view from the window was pretty hideous.
The hotel room was like a movie set from film noir. One would expect a drug deal or a sleazy rendezvous of a sexual nature to take place here. Cheap, dirty and nasty.
As it was late in the afternoon we had to stay the night in the room. But we spent as much time as possible out at the Natural History Museum and then dinner just to prolong the inevitable return to the room.
The double bed felt like it had been filled with stacks of newspapers and the single bed actually had springs come through the mattress and then through the sheets. Fortunately the sheets and pillow cases were clean even if a bit threadbare.
During the night I was woken by people using the "en suite" toilet and bathroom. The three of us were bitten by what we figured were bed bugs. My head was itchy and I worried I had head lice. I woke up the next morning and the first thing I said was "I am not staying here one more night". None of us even had a shower. I would rather spend the day unwashed than used a filthy hotel shower.
So went made our way up the road and booked into a lovely hotel and spent our last night in clean and professional surroundings.
Oh, and the breakfast room consisted of pre set breakfast tables upon which was a bowl of cornflakes and a tea cup. The staff were the most surly faced women I have met. Who knows how many times the bowls of cornflakes had been emptied back into a container when not eaten. Needless to say, both S and I refused point blank to eat there and we headed out to a cafe.
The photo below shows a nice mark from the back of someones greasy head.
As I sat on the edge of the sagging single bed, thoroughly depressed, in the room contemplating the surroundings I happened to pick up a book that was featuring what was on in London during the month of January. In it I noticed that the musical Oliver was playing at Theatre Royal in Drury Lane.
Now, in all the times we have been to London we have never actually gone to the theatre. People always ask if we have as London is well known for its theatre. Another thing is that Oliver is one of my favorite stories and I loved the musical that featured Oliver Reed in the 1960's. The songs are great and the adaptation of the story is well done.
So, I put that thought away in my mind as thing to do.
After we booked the second hotel I suggested we make our way to Covent Garden and perhaps see about going to see if it was possible to get tickets to Oliver.
When we arrived at the theatre and got to the ticket office we saw that there was a matinee session and decided to go to that one. As we bent over looking at what seats we could afford we struck up a conversation with the ticket seller. Being from London himself he was fascinated as to why an Australian would want to leave the warm weather to come to the UK in Winter.
The friendly chat continued and then he suddenly said "I have a special today for you if you like".
"Oh, okay, what is it," I asked.
"Well, for the cheaper price you can have three tickets to the Royal Box," he pointed to where that was situated.
"Really? That would be great," said my husband.
And so we got to see the musical in the best seats possible. Royal Box seats originally were for Royalty and important sorts.
It was the first time that my son has gone to a live musical and it was a great introduction to it.
The production was great. The songs were wonderful and the actors, especially the children, were just so engaging.
So, had we not gone to that awful hotel I would never have picked up that booklet and seen that Oliver was playing.
Which means that we would have missed out on a fantastic afternoon out and the opportunity to sit in the best seats in the house.
Later that evening I danced down Cromwell Road towards our new hotel singing "Oliver".
My son stormed off in complete embarrassment and only agreed to return if I promised not to do such a thing again.
"Yes, okay, I promise to be a complete and utter bore," I replied before singing 'Consider Yourself" and skipping far enough away from him to be just a middle aged lady being silly on the snowy sidewalk of London.
It was a very happy moment for me.
It was a very happy moment for me.