Every travel year has its ups and downs. I’ll just have to add my stay at the Hilton St. Anne’s Manor to the list of downs. The disappointing part about the Hilton St. Anne’s Manor is that it could be a really classy, unique property, but it will take a bit of renovation to get it to that point. Read on for the full report.
After landing at Heathrow, Blue Diamond Car service (which I must give a shout out to – Zam and the other drivers there are fantastic!) picked me up, and we drove 30 to 45 minutes west to the Hilton St. Anne’s Manor. This is a funny property in that you would probably never stay at unless you had a real reason to do so. It’s not located in London – in fact, it’s not located anywhere near London. It’s closer to Reading than London, and there is nothing accessible by foot near the hotel. In fact, there’s not much even located nearby with a car. The reason I was staying out there was that I had a lot of work to do with a coworker who lived in the area, and he requested that I stay out there as this was our first trip working together. Reasons you might stay there include the Ascot Race Course, the polo tournaments, or one of the many annual golf events in the area.
Driving up to the hotel is actually a very nice experience. You enter through some gates via a winding road through beautiful greenery, and the hotel has a very unique, striking look. It is an old English manor, and the brickwork is lovely – it blends in with the scenery quite well. You can click the picture below for a full-size image, if you like.
The drive in was the highlight. As a Hilton Gold Member, I called the day before arrival, to see if there were any upgrades available at the property. The person on the phone said I had the option of confirming an upgrade or bonus points. I decided to go with the upgrade. Thus, I expected be informed of my upgraded room when I rolled my bags up to the Hilton Hhonors carpet for check-in.
Well, I wasn’t offered anything at first, except for a long wait. The “computers were down,” and the current manager on duty just showered me with apologies as he scrambled to get things working. The line of customers waiting to check in began to grow, and you could see the manager visibly sweating. Finally, the computers were up and running. He began to check me in, bunch of apologies. The manager didn’t mention any upgrade, and so the following conversation went like so:
Me: I called yesterday to confirm my reservation, and I inquired about an upgrade. The person I spoke to offered me the choice to confirm an upgrade or bonus points. I selected the upgrade. I’m just confirming that the upgrade still stands.
Manager: Sir, I’m sorry. We do not have any upgrades. You must understand that these are depending on available space.
Me: Certainly I can understand that, but once an upgrade is “confirmed,” that space should be mine. Right?
Manager: Sir, I’m sorry. We have no upgrades available. Can I offer you some bonus points?
I could have fought harder, but I was pretty exhausted after the long flight.
Annoyed about the lack of upgrade, I headed up to my room. The room was quite small, and there was no king size bed. I understand that because this hotel is so old, many of the rooms are smaller, and therefore they cannot capacitate the larger beds. My TV was on an awkwardly low stand that could not be reasonably viewed from the bed. There were some random stains on the carpet. I plopped my bags down and sat down on the edge of the bed for a moment to rest. As soon as I sat down, I could feel the individual springs moving, and they also made quite the squeaking noise. Terrific.
The room was quite underwhelming, especially considering that I was expecting some sort of an upgrade. <sarcasm>At least they gave me a nice view!!!</sarcasm>
Yes. This was my view. I looked straight at a brick freaking wall. They really know how to treat their gold members! I went in the bathroom to check things out in there. Pictures below.
The bathroom was fine. I wouldn’t really describe it as nice, but the water pressure was quite good, at least. I wasn’t sure what the thing behind the toilet was, but it turns out it was a towel warmer. This was my favorite part about the room! It was quite nice to be able to hop out of the shower to a nice, warm towel everyday. If the towel warmer was the high point, then I would have to say the low point was the shower mat.
Do you think that is the natural color of the shower mat? I’m guessing not. Every day, the housekeepers would pick the shower mat up and lay it over the side of the tub. That would mean that I would have to pick it up and put it back in the tub. It’s a shame they didn’t give me rubbing alcohol or some type of disinfectant to clean my hands with, rather than normal soap. I could have used it. At least I have my hepatitis vaccinations!
The annoyances continued. I went to my computer to connect to the wi-fi, and my screen showed the following:
Are you kidding me? No Wi-Fi? This is freaking 2011. I plugged the computer into the wall, and I used my Hilton Honors code to connect to the free wired internet. I was annoyed that I couldn’t lay in bed and play on my computer. Speaking of wi-fi, the hotel may advertise to you that they have wi-fi in the lobby and restaurant. This is true! However, the wi-fi they provide in the common areas is provided by BT, a third party. Thus, in order to connect to this wi-fi, you have to buy a 90-minute or 24-hour card from the front desk. I was able to finagle a free one from the front desk two out of three days I got one, based on my Gold status, but I shouldn’t have to do this. The hotel should have wifi throughout the entire property, and the same connection that gets me in on my room should apply in the common areas. VERY annoying!
Breakfast is included with most rates, however, and I’m happy to report that the breakfast buffet is quite nice. Forgive me for not remembering to take pictures. Fresh fruit, fresh bread, eggs, sausage, cereal, bacon and more were available every morning. If you wanted an omelette made to order, you could order one for free. The omelettes were delicious, and I had two of them. I had dinner at the hotel restaurant twice (and given that there’s nowhere to go nearby, where else should I go?), and that food was pretty average. The steak I had was poor, but the Indian food I had was great.
Again, I forgot to take pictures of the gym and pool, but these are both quite nice. I think the gym needs better temperature control, though, as it got quite hot in there during one of my runs. And while I never used the indoor pool, it was quite large, with a dedicated area for swimming laps.
All in all, I think this property needs a renovation. The bathrooms need to be re-done. They need to implement wi-fi properly. They need to replace the mattresses. To save space in the rooms, they should mount the TVs on the wall to give more space. They also need to replace the carpeting. For now, skip it if you can. There aren’t many other major chain properties nearby, though. So if you need to stay there, then you probably don’t have much choice. I’m sure I’ll be back to this property, and I’m not exactly looking forward to it. On my next trip, I’ll be a Diamond member with Hilton – we’ll see how that affects my treatment.
Oh and P.S. I never got the “bonus points” that I was offered upon check-in.