The first of my fly-by-night micro-reviews - Reviews based on stays of less than 24 hours in one town! The George Hotel is a 3* with 5* style and friendliness.
I have often stayed for just one night at hotels across the country. It might be that I'm due at a distant airport at silly o'clock in the morning, or that it was too late to drive home after performing a gig, staying over between two days of SCUBA diving in some remote location, or flying through on a business meeting. The fleeting nature of your hotel stay shouldn't mean you have to settle for less, though. So I'll be nae dropping hotels that I've briefly visited on my travels.
DISCLAIMER: Though I have not been sponsored or gifted by the Hotels themselves, some of the links in this article may include affiliate links for travel agents and hotel booking websites. If you click one of my links and decide to book - I may make a little commission (at no cost to you, of course)
One such recent experience was at The George Hotel in Cheltenham, a member of the CULT HOTELS group (birthed in 2006 by the folks that create the Lucky Onion group of hotels.) The George website proclaims that the group focuses on being:
"Warm and welcoming, without being overwhelming. Stylish and comfortable, without all the fluff."
and that's exactly what I found it to be. (Maybe a little hipster fluff, but just enough!)
The George is a 46 room, design-led hotel, with a relaxed vibe that should please all ages and tastes 21 through 65, assuming stairs are not a problem! Both the decor and the facilities are lead by the Grade 2 Listed Building status - so no elevators, although assistance with baggage and accessibility entrance to the hotel are available (big tick!)
ARRIVING, CHECK-IN & RECEPTION
Arriving after a hellish motorway journey from Cornwall (6 hrs that should have been 3), and just having solved a mini-crisis for my rental apartment guest in Cyprus, I was in a bit of a ragged state.
PARKING: The postcode pretty much took me bang on to the front door, using satnav, however the street parking was very full. I cruised around a little until I found a paid car park one block away, behind The George, with foot path access to the hotel. I thought I'd give the hotel a quick ring to see if I was missing a trick. It took a lonnnnng time for someone to pick up (a good 5 minutes on hold, I'd say) which made me a bit nervous. However, once I did get through the lady on the phone was really friendly and helpful. I was informed that there were 20 private car parking spaces at the back of the hotel, which was up a tiny alley. The spaces were first come first serve, which is fair enough. A 30 second walk to investigate showed me that all the spaces were full, but the paid car-park I was in was free over 8pm. I set an alarm for just before 8am, to extend my stay via the parking app from my (hopefully) cosy bed. The walk from the paid car park was only 2 minutes anyway and I was dying to get in and settled.
RECEPTION: I'm pretty sure it was the same woman I'd spoken to on the phone at reception. Again friendly and relaxed. I was given a very brief rundown of the hotel amenities, and checkin was touch-screen automatic and easy. The reception has a goodies cupboard of snacks and drinks in lieu of in-room mini-bars. I was furnished with a wifi details card and off I went. The George is 3* rated - so I wasn't expecting a bell-boy!
The entrance set a good tone, very on-trend dark natural colours on the walls, along with 'cult' film, music and political posters, as the chain name would refer. They have respected the heritage building style, whilst brining the vibe slap bang up to ironically-retro date.
BOOK THE GEORGE THE GEORGE HOTEL, CHELTENHAM AT LASTMINUTE.COM
NAVIGATION... and that's where the fun started! Not a huge problem, but the receptionist neglected to note the slightly odd double stair-well system that you find in so many venues that have extended on to older buildings. I'm sure it didn't help that I was flustered and bursting for the bathroom! Certain rooms, including mine were located on 'half floors' or 'sub floors' to the outside of the building. I jogged up the couple of flights, passing room 44 on the way (I was room 45), and met the room numbers signage at the top... 46 - 53...
Hold on a minute! Quick lap of the two corridor wings confirmed the same - no room 45 on this floor! Luckily, a kind cleaner recognised my confusion (I got the impression she had revealed the solution to many a consternated guest) and pointed to the first door on the corridor wing, which was un-numbered. It opened on to a whole second staircase, hidden in it's own little tower, right next to the first one!
Down one flight, where 44 had been in the 1st stairwell, was my room FINALLY!
I hurtled down the stairs and through my door, with such desperation to alleviate myself, that I completely missed the 'MIND THE STEP' signage on my room door. I nearly fell right over my ankle as the the room stepped down right at the door way! Luckily no harm was done, and bathroom break complete, I was finally calm enough to take a look round.
A really delightful surprise. I knew there were technical reasons that this hotel could not achieve a star rating above it's modest 3 (no pool, no elevators, no trouser press), but the style was right up there with a boutique 4 of 5 star.
DECOR AND FACILITIES: For a moment I thought that my client or the hotel had caught wind of my jazz leanings. Photos of famous musicians adorn the walls, along with vintage classic literature for your perusal. Although all the fixings seem to be spanking new, everything is styled in a classic-vintage manner with brass look fittings and simple but high end tiling in the bathroom. No nasty plastic cups, but six, count 'em SIX decent glasses, in three pairs that would suggest The George are expecting you to mix cocktails! Of course all the usual tea and coffee making facilities were in place too, all in a small wall alcove desk that doubles as vanity area. Panelled walls held a flat screen TV to while away some time and 'de-frag' after a long drive.
THE BED: was a good size (even better for little old me on my lonesome!). Clean crisp white sheets and super soft and sinky for snuggling down. 4 huge pillows to bury into. I was in my happy place and drifting off to sleep within 5 minutes of climbing under the covers. Plus good heavy curtains to block out light for an undisturbed rest. In the morning, the heavy curtains opened to reveal a pretty nice view of the town, with a church spire off in the distance. I genuinely felt a little bit upset that I had to rush away, as Cheltenham looks like it would be a great place to spend a weekend. I'll definitely be back (my drive out to my client suggested plenty of cultural activities and attractions in town).
BATHROOM: All important - even more so than the bed for some! Spotlessly clean, stacks of fluffy white Towels for 2 and a HOT, POWERFUL Monsoon type shower. Heaven! Yes the bathroom was hella compact, but it was perfect for one. Maybe go for a luxury room if you're thinking of getting up to any couples synchronised tooth-brushing, though! Cult hotels have made a concerted effort to rid The George of single use plastics, but stock the stock the shower and sink with high-end pump bottle toiletries from Sprekenhus that smelled beautful and left hair and skin feeling clean and pampered. The toilet flushed, and filled to flush again quickly (you'd be surprised how much that means to some couples!) The only fault that I would put on the bathroom, is that, though there was a hand held movable second head on the shower, I'd be damned if I could find the secret to switching between the two!
THE MORNING AFTER
Rested and refreshed, I smugly added a little time to my parking over the phone app and luxuriated in a long shower, before heading down to the diner for breakfast. There were some fun and games with secret second staircases again on the way to the diner, which is located a floor down from reception.
Continental breakfast is included for all guests as far as I could see, and you can pay as you go for cooked breakfasts. I took the avocado toast with poached eggs (always a great test of a hotel chef). I informed them that I was on a bit of a time limit, and, as promised, my breakfast was out in 5 minutes. Glorious golden eggs, poached to perfection.
The continental breakfast would be plenty for anyone, however, with a range of pastries, decent coffee options, over night oats and compotes on top of your usual serials, and a variety of fruit juices, with the orange juice coming freshly squeeze by a machine right in front of you. The diner was light and airy, in spite of it's position below street level and staff were courteous and constantly moving, checking stock and tending to guests instead of chatting to each other or nursing a hangover (I see it plenty on my travels!)
CHECK-OUT: was as easy as the check-in, simply drop my card on my way out at reception, all done and dusted.
BOOK DIRECT BONUSES
It should be noted that the hotel never solicited my review, and are not paying, gifting or otherwise. However, I do believe in encouraging people to book direct with hotels where they can (even if I don't earn commission! haha) as it tends to put more of you cash in the hands of the actual hotel and their staff, rather than agents.
Cult Hotels obviously feel so too, and offer a range of bonuses to encourage you to do so:
- free bottle of Prosecco on arrival
- free upgrade to cooked breakfast (in addition to continental)
- free 1pm late checkout
An absolutely kick-ass over-nighter. Only sad I couldn't stay longer to check out Cheltenham, which I'll definitely be back to to - and I'll be staying at The George when I return!