A March 2007 trip
to Horley by MichaelJM
Quote: All international holidays have to start somewhere, usually an airport, but we like to start ours by relaxing a few miles off site.
Hotel | "The White House"
There was an air of slight inefficiency, probably caused by the fact that it is more normal to stay in the room before the holiday starts rather than returning at the end, but having sorted that out we were given clear directions to the off-site parking and a credit note to indicate that the parking was paid for. It’s around a ten-minute car ride to the parking lot and the real advantage of parking this way is that we’ll have secure parking close to the airport (a five minute bus ride from car park to the terminal).
All the bedrooms in this 27 bedded hotel are non-smoking and on our return in the early hours we were only too pleased to crash out in a comfortable but extremely compact bedroom. Getting into the hotel was an experience in itself as the door was firmly locked and no-one was on reception. We rang the doorbell and hammered on the door for about five minutes before a dishevelled and weary looking guy appeared at the door, unceremoniously gave us a key and then pointed us in the general direction of the room. No offer to assist us with luggage as we struggled our way down the corridor. Certainly no prizes here for customer relations. We woke surprisingly early, considering our lack of sleep and ate a hearty breakfast, surprisingly all in the price, before heading off home to Nottinghamshire.
Despite our lack of enthusiasm for the hotel we returned to in only four months later, prior to our second trip to India. This time we had a coffee in the lounge (uninspired and tasteless – and that’s both the coffee and the lounge) before heading off to Gatwick. This time we were only using the hotel facilities to gain cheap parking and as our return flight was early afternoon we had no intention of staying the night. Crazy that it’s cheaper to book three weeks parking through a hotel than direct with the car park!
I really wasn’t over-enamoured with the hotel and we certainly won’t rush back for an overnight stay. I don’t commend it to you, but for a base with cheap parking it’s got to be worth a shot!
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on April 18, 2007
White House Hotel
50/52 Church Road
Gatwick, United Kingdom
+44 (1293) 402 777
Hotel | "The Cambridge Hotel"
The hotel is in the town of Horley and we were pleasantly surprised by its outward appearance. Internally it has clearly seen better days, but we guessed it takes a bit of a hammering with the majority of guests spending only a night or two there, but they really need to touch up some of the paintwork and sort out the threadbare carpet . We were in room 41, with a large bay window overlooked by a massive cypress tree and ourselves overlooking the main road to the left, a woodland to the right and a small babbling brook acting as a moat in front of the car park. Surprisingly the room was comparatively quiet from outside noise and although only boasting a small percentage of its former self the tall ceilings and elaborate cornice confirmed that our bedroom room was part of prestigious quarters.
Still it was fairly sizeable with two beds, a wardrobe, bedside cabinets and a couple of comfortable bedroom chairs, but after that you’d be hard pressed to "swing a cat", not least of all because you might jeopardize the very existence of an elaborate chandelier.
There was a small fridge tucked under the coffee bar (I over egg that a bit as it was a homemade shelf with a petite kettle and enough coffee and milk for three cups of coffee each. The bathroom was neat and tidy and was entirely adequate for a single night’s stay. TV the odd picture on the wall completed the scene and once we’d recovered from dragging our luggage up the staircase (no signs of a lift and certainly no porter service) we pondered our choice. It was comfortable, the staff were polite (if not a little elusive), and there was a secure parking area on site
The next morning a computerised early morning call raised us at 7.30 in good time for our lift to the airport and prompt to the minute the driver arrived to put our bags in the car and chauffeur us to the airport. Somehow dragging the cases down the staircase was much easier! Although breakfast is served from around 7.00am we opted for a cup of tea in the bedroom taking in a full English at Gatwick. There's an à la carte menu for evening meals at not unreasonable prices.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 18, 2007
Gatwick, United Kingdom
Gatwick is said to be the busiest single runway airport in the world, the second largest airport in the UK, and the seventh busiest international airport in the world with almost 90 airlines operating from its two terminals. You can fly to around 200 destinations from Gatwick (LGW) and the day we arrived it seemed as if thousands of people were intent on accessing all those destinations. The luggage conveyors had broken down and the queues at each booking-in desk were weaving between each other. It was chaos and it took us over 90 minutes to book in and a further hour to get through to the departure lounge. We were starving, and it was the first time I was grateful for a delay in flight time–at least it gave us time to eat. The Café Est was our preferred eatery and we settled down at a window seat, in this first floor restaurant, having uninterrupted views over the airport. Despite wintery conditions the clear blue skies and warmth of the sun through the window made for a pleasant setting.
The restaurant is bright and modern in appearance and the staff were all cheerful and smiley. We opted for the all-day vegetarian breakfast which was freshly and proficiently prepared for us whilst we enjoyed watching the airport activity.
After our meal we headed off into the shopping area for a last minute browse before leaving for Cuba. Of course my wife went straight for the perfumery and I tagged along dutifully. After the odd spray or two she decided that she currently had enough "smellies" and I maneuvered her towards "the world of whiskies." Now I like a "wee dram" but there’s no way that I was forking out £200 for a litre of a a 30 year malt. It would need to be exceptional to merit even half that price.
I bravely checked out the prices at Dixons and was both surprised and relieved to note that my recently acquired compact digital camera was more expensive here than at home. How can that possibly be the case? We mouch around Ted baker, Timberland, and Harrod's before buying a magazine for the flight. Gatwick's great for window shopping!
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on April 23, 2007
Gatwick, United Kingdom
When our eldest son gets wind of the holiday he suggests that Oliver Stone’s 2003 film-doc, Comandante, would make good pre-holiday viewing. Why not? So we hire it on DVD and prepare ourselves for 100 minutes worth of concentrated viewing. It’s a wee bit hard going (I’m not a big fan of sub-titles – it requires more concentration than I’m really able to give a film) but it gave us an incredible insight into the recent background history of Castro’s Cuba. Right at the beginning – in an early newsreel film – he proclaimed that he would not shave his beard until all his revolutionary pledges had been fulfilled. I wonder if that’s why he’s still bearded?
Now we’re used to taking some foreign currency with us, not a lot but enough to see us to the nearest ATM but going to Cuba we couldn’t get Cuban money in the UK. This was a weird feeling and one that I never real came to terms with. We’d checked the availability of ATM’s and apparently there were plenty in Havana. We still felt a bit exposed but after Havana we were all inclusive so it wasn’t going to be a major issue. Or was it. That uncertainty was not a great sensation, but there were no choices other than the amount of pounds or euros (I’d read that euros were easiest to convert over there and that although American Dollars were acceptable they carried a high conversion fee) that we were going to carry with us.
It was a bit unnerving to read that anyone carrying a DVD player would have it confiscated at customs. Why would that be the case we pondered and what else hadn’t we read about. Were our I-pods safe and what about digital cameras or videos. We needed to check with the tour operator just so we could be fully reassured. However, all the books only talk about DVD’s and some of the more up-to-date ones don’t even mention them. I’m reassured.
Once booked people started talking about the perils of being out alone in Cuba, the risks that a perceived wealthy tourist might suffer, the preying fraudsters and muggers that lurk around each and every corner. This time I’m ready for the alleged expert and my response is "so what precautions did you take when you visited Cuba". A pause followed a silence and then the embarrassed experts succumb and admit that they "actually haven’t been – it’s just what I’ve heard!" Isn’t it amazing how influential people without knowledge want to be, based only on their personal prejudices and their seeming desire to perpetuate the myth they’ve heard from others.
Of course we scoured the web to check out what injections were vital and were reassured that there was nothing sinister lurking in the country, no special course of injections and certainly no malaria. We were now mentally prepared for our early break. A break that marked a significant change of life style for myself as this was the holiday that was to come between my last working day and retirement. Yes, after 40 years of employment in Local Authority Social Care I was retiring early and looking forward to spending my time pandering myself and not being a slave to the office. What a great feeling. This surely was an experience that I would never ever repeat and this holiday (all inclusive for the first time in our life) would always be a significant and hopefully memorable event for all the right reasons.
Having confirmed in our minds that it was indeed the right holiday to have chosen we set about our preparation - a novel experience for a couple of holiday makers who usually book last minute and just have time to throw a few items of clothing into our half-packed cases. "Half-packed" I hear you say. Yes, you see there are so many standard items that need to be packed each holiday and we always ensure that consumables (such as sun-cream, insect repellent, first aid medication) are replenished on our return from holiday and standard requirements like t-shirts, shorts, sunhats, sunglasses etc are packed ready to go. There’s always the visit to the local library when they are selling off books – we "consume books" on holiday as if reading is going out of fashion and at 20p for second books we happily leave them in our room for the next guests to read - and I made a killing when I popped down there a month or so before the holiday. Enough books to see us through the next few holidays and many as cheap as 10p a book and so I left the library with four carrier bags full of light-reading novels.
But back to Cuba and I’m dead keen to have orientated myself well before we get there. The time in Havana is brief and I really want to make sure I make the best use of the days we have. So I’ll need to re-visit the guidebooks and sort out an itinerary. This holiday I plan to be organised and ready to hit the streets running, although I have that sneaky feeling that in Cuba I’ll need to be laid back (although not quite horizontal!). Just as I’m regaining my confidence that this will be a holiday to remember some "plonker" at the office tells me that the whole country is so restrictive that I’ll hardly be able to take anything with me. "Make sure" they said earnestly, that none of your clothes are made for or in the USA, don’t take your I-pod, because they’re made in California, and whatever you do don’t take digital cameras. They’ll confiscate all of these before you get through customs. You see they don’t like anything to do with America" My confidence is rocked and I’m now going to have to re-assure myself yet again by speaking with the travel company. I just hate no-it-alls!!
So on the pretence of checking where the tickets are I ring the company and they are categorical. The two items that are not permitted are DVD players, or cameras that use DVD’s as a storage medium, walky-talkies and GPRS devices. I checked and double-checked and finally put the phone down feeling confident that we would not be in contravention of any import regulations. Now I just needed to wait for the tickets and entry visa (supplied by the holiday company) to arrive. All is well and the planning can re-commence!
As the days approach the same work colleague loans me their DVD of Buena Vista Social Club – "just to give you a flavour", she explains of Cuban music. This will alongside the guide books take care of the following weekend – the last one before we set off on our Cuban Adventure. The film is set in 1949, my birth year, and I’m looking forward to "feeling the birth of Cuban music", before setting off on the ten hour flight to the shores of the island.
The day we left home snow was on the ground and the wind chill factor made the conditions particularly inclement. Always a great start when you’re planning on somewhere hot and dry. Will the holiday measure up? I hope so! But you can be sure that whatever the outcome this IgoUgo fanatic will be faithfully recording the details – warts and all.