For months I had been boring people at 4Networking groups across the North West that I was up for two UK Blog Awards in my 40 seconds pitch ! Now it was time to head down to London to see if I could flourish in Food & Drink and triumph in Travel.
Choo Choo Thomas
Having booked my train tickets in advance, I was armed - like all substantial journey British train travellers - with my pack of orange playing cards. Yes, even though trains were privatised many moons ago, there is not such much of a hint of this when it comes to ticketing.
Here's the situation: if I wish to get a train from Bolton to London I have no choice but to engage with the services of First TransPennine express for the Bolton to Manchester part of the journey and then Virgin Trains for the Manchester to London leg. As with most industries that were privatised, what has happened is that they have gone from being a public monopoly to being private monopolies.
I accept the fact that the zig zag National Rail logo is being retained, but I firmly believe that the orange needs to be axed in favour of red for Virgin Trains and purple for FirstTransPennine express etc on all tickets. Network Rail can continue to kid themselves, but the fact is the rail system is a collection of private monopolies and not a fully integrated public transportation system like it should be. Orange represents a bygone era that they are clinging onto, whereas they should accept that signposting the various ticket elements - in glorious bespoke branding and technicolours - should be at the heart of all they do.
In my view this is what my deck of orange cards should have looked like:
- Bolton to Manchester - Purple for FirstTransPennine express
- Manchester to London - Red for Virgin Trains
- Bolton to London terminals - Dark blue. This is the London Underground ticket, but there is not a whiff of it being so in writing on the ticket. I had to ring an 0345 number the night before to confirm that I could use it to do "open sesame" at the barriers !
In a recent Daily Mail article, it has been confirmed that tickets are changing (for the first time since the 80s), but do not get your hopes up too much...
Photo removed due to miserable stock photo agency
The award ceremony was being held at the five-star The Montcalm, and my hotel was located slap bang behind another of the capital's legendary five-star haunts, The Landmark (which coincidently used to be British Rail's head office). Checking in at the London Central Marylebone Travelodge, there was a bit of a wait to check-in, but I used the opportunity to discover that a small bottle of Coke would set you back £1.75 from the well-stocked vending machines. Budget beds, but clearly no budget bevs ! The gentleman who checked me in was very friendly, asking "Have you stayed with us before?" and reassured me that if I needed more teas, coffees, milks etc to pop back and see him.
- 100% cleanliness in 100% of Guest rooms...at all times
- 100% maintenance in 100% of Guest rooms...at all times
- 100% cleanliness in 100% of public areas...at all times
- 100% maintenance in 100% of public areas...at all times
- 100% friendliness by hosts...at all times
|A city escape with a classic London view|
Below, ease of opening bottles and six as standard clothes hangers
We didn't win at Friday's @UKBlogAwards but had a fab night. Thanks for your warm welcome and certificate #UKBA15. pic.twitter.com/8crWXmvIGt— Little Touches (@LTportal) April 19, 2015
In all honesty the toilets at The Montcalm deserved an award of their own. If the Loo of the Year inspectors were there they probably would have been doing cartwheels with excitement. Not only were tissues well stocked in decorative casing, when it came to hand drying the paper towels looked and felt quality. This is in stark contrast to the bluey green ones that most of my generation were used to throughout school. I'm not going to lie, I would have preferred mini cotton hand towels with a basket to put used ones in, but it was a nice surprise to find an upmarket version of a paper towel on my big night out in the big smoke. I hereby throw down the gauntlet to more places to up their loos.
Little Touches might not have the big blog budgets or the sizeable teams tasked with churning out content day to day, but I feel that an epic post around once a month works for us. OK, so maybe we are not everyone's cup of tea, but I am incredibly flattered that feedback from our most committed readers all leans to them liking the blog because I have developed - in their view - an outlet for outlandish no holds barred hospitality insight that is refreshingly different.