Thursday, 22 March 2007

Speedy Pit Stop

M1 Motorway
Junction 21/21a
Leicester Forest East
Leicester
LE3 3GB
United Kingdom

http://www.welcomebreak.co.uk/FindMotorwayService/LeicesterForestEast.htm


Where is it?

For the north bound services – Go through the main entrance and head right. The toilets signs are well marked by the signs above. The men’s are to the right.


What’s it like?

I was heading North in a hurry (strictly at the speed limit mind -- ahhem) and with 180 miles still to go on the trip only stopped out of desperation. This was only ever going to be the speediest of pit stops. Given that this is what many people who use these facilities are looking for, accessibility and capacity have to play a big part in my evaluation.

Pulling off the Motorway and parking was quick – none of the faffing around you get at some services. Given I used to stop here every other week many years ago I was surprised that I’d forgotten the layout. It took me a bit to see the signage. The key is to look up – the biggest sign tells you exactly where to go!

Inside the toilets are of the fairly basic variety. They are not spotless by any means, but given the number of people who go through them (lets say 20 every five minutes equals 120 per hour) they are surprisingly clean. There were plenty of urinals – certainly no queuing – and the sinks had hot water right away. The mirrors were large and functional too.

Unlike many service stops though I think they fall down on the shower front. Not one, but two truckers were to be seen tops off soaping up and getting clean. I didn’t find it offensive, but I'm sure they’d rather not have everyone gawping.

So what’s the final verdict. Well they were not as terrible as service stations can be, and given the throughput I was actually quite impressed. But did they perform on the real test? Well the GPS showed that I only added 4 minutes to my trip by having to stop. That sounds pretty good to me.


Marks out of 10:

6 for cleanliness and utility.


Comments to the management:

OK, but give the truckers some more facilities.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

4 Stars for Marriott York



Marriott York Hotel
Tadcaster Road
York
YO24 1QQ
United Kingdom

http://marriott.co.uk/Channels/hotels-uk/hotels/travel/qqyyk-york-marriott-hotel/


Where is it?

From the main entrance go off to the right. Go past the bar and fork right by the restaurant. The toilets are ahead on the right.




Whats it like

This is a 4 star hotel with a view of the York racecourse from the dining room and the historic centre of York in the distance. I guess this and the swimming pool, tiny as it is, gets this place its four stars. It’s a pity that facilities like this don’t do it for me and, although spacious, better cleaner rooms and more inventive and tasty menu would have to be a top priority if I was going to give this hotel 4 stars.

Still, the distinctly 3 star experience doesn’t run to the toilets. Bright and extremely smart the toilets are actually the best thing about the place. Very modern, the white tile half way up the wall gives it a clean feel. The subdued brown and white stripe of the wallpaper complements this well. The beach effect surround for the sinks with black marble top and modern lighting carries through the modern feel.

The only thing that is out of place is the god awful grey plastic towel dispenser. Who could go to the trouble of picking a top of the line bin and then do that. What intrigued me here was the dispenser for a ‘chewable toothbrush’. I’ve not noticed these before, but they're a cool life saver for anyone who needs to freshen up and hasn’t bought their own toothbrush with them. I wonder if anyone actually uses them?

Marks out of 10:

Clean and cool gets an 8.

Comments to the management:

Pity the toilets are the best thing about your hotel. Flowers would add the personal touch needed for a 10.

Friday, 16 March 2007

Mony mony.... Mony mony......


Tom and Mony's
4757 S Orange Ave
Orlando, FL USA 32806

www.tomandmonys.com/

Where is it?

From the main entrance, go straight, past the dining room to your left and game room to your right. Just before you get to the bar, turn right down a little hallway (if you go straight you'll end up in the kitchen). The bathrooms will be on your right.

What's it like?

This is a homey neighborhood bar in South Orlando that caters to a lot of working class people. Good food (some of the best wings in town) and a very laid back atmosphere that's good for both kids and adults. The decor is a bit on the dark side and the bar is of the old American style, with brass fixtures, TVs with ESPN on them and dark woods.

Given that, you'd expect the bathrooms to be a bit dingy, but like the Fillin' Station (another homey neighborhood bar in east-central Orlando) they are suprisingly clean. Not much in terms of decor, mind you -- just standard white walls and white porcelain sink and toilets and such -- but still clean regardless. Quite a surprise, considering the number of kids roaming the place during my visit.

Also impressive are its amusing attempts to ensure bathroom cleanliness whenever possible. A sign reading "We aim to please, you aim too please" can be found over the urinal and a sign reading "Please DON'T flush the brown hand towels or another other than toilet paper down the toilet" can be found in the stall. Obviously, this place has seen the worst of it and lived to tell about it.

Marks out of 10:

7. Not spectacular, but still surprisingly clean and comfy.

Comments to the Management:

Keep up the good work. Obviously the signs are doing the trick.

Orlando's Citrus Club: Posh almost to a fault

Citrus Club
255 South Orange Avenue
1800 Citrus Center
Orlando, FL USA 32801-3481

www.citrus-club.com/

Where is it?

To the left and right of the elevator lobby. Just exit the elevator and look left and right for the loos. Of course, you'll need to be a member to reach the floor (it's a private club) -- and be dressed somewhat formally to be allowed entrance after that -- so don't expect any emergency pity here.

What's it like?

This is a posh, old-fashioned social club filled with elaborate decor at every turn. The bar area is filled with velvet chairs, dark woods and high-end bottles galore. The dining room looks much like a cruise ship's interior -- and with some spectacular views of Orlando. And the food is fantastic, if not a bit on the excessively rich side. This is a classic special occasion spot which just happens to be frequented almost daily by its membership. (Does that mean every day is a special occasion to them? Perhaps.)

The bathrooms, as expected, are equally ornate, with heavy green marble counters, heavy-wood stall doors, gleaming white floor tiles, thick hand towels (terry cloth, not paper) by the sink for drying your hands, a bunch of toiletries (mouthwash, hand sanitizer, cologne, etc.) available on a counter before you go and more. The only drawback is that with all that stuff in there, it makes the bathroom feel a little bit crammed. Heck, it's such a production, you'd expect the place to be as expansive as Caesar's Palace in Vegas. Still, it's impressive and spotless at every turn.

Marks out of 10:

10. Even if it feels a bit small, it's still a wonder of bathroom-based engineering. Kudos.

Comments to the Management:

If only I didn't have to wear a tie and jacket to enter......

Brit Pub Blues


Cricketers Arms Pub
8445 International Drive
(in the Mercado Marketplace)
Orlando, FL USA
http://www.cricketersarmspub.com/

Where is it?

This British-style pub is set in the somewhat tacky -- yet somewhat dilapitated -- Mercardo Marketplace mall in Orlando, which in itself is in the heart of International Drive, Orlando's tacky tourist-driven strip. The pub has two main entrances -- one from the mall itself and one from the parking lot. To get to the loo from the parking lot, go through the entrance, past the outdoor bar, into the inside bar and immediately turn left, down a narrow corridor that's just before the dining room. The men's and ladies' rooms are about 10 feet down the hall, on your left.

If you missed the hallway coming from the outdoor entrance, you will then end up in the main dining room -- which means you can then follow the same directions to the loo as those coming from the mall. In this case, you enter and face the dining room. Directly ahead of you is a performance stage (there's live music here about every night) and a projection TV. To the right is inside bar. Walk to the stage and go to the left of it. Once past it, go right down a small hallway there -- the bathrooms will be about 10 feet down the hall. (Go left and you hit the outside bar area.)

What's it like?

The restaurant puts much effort into giving the interior the look and feel of a historic British pub. You've got wooden beams on the ceiling. Wooden walls covered with soccer medals. True draught beer on tap. Decent fish and chips and other pub grub. Etc.

Yet the bathrooms are of the standard white-wall variety you'd find in any mall, save for a few beer signs peppered about. My visit features some pungent urine-based aromas, as well as a a floor covered with water and paper towels. The fixtures could have used a scrubbing, as could have the toilet. Given the fact that there aren't many true bars on Internantional Drive (most are part of restaurants or inside hotels), and given the high quantity of Brits who visit the area, I can only imagine that the bathroom here gets increasely more dirty as the evening progresses.

Marks out of 10:

4.

Comments to the Management:

A little more monitoring of the place's cleanliness will do wonders here. Then again, judging by my counterpart David's comments on the pubs he visits across the Pond, perhaps the status of the bathrooms here are pretty commonplace.

Cowboy commodes

Longhorn Steakhouse
5351 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy.
Kissimmee, FL USA 34746
http://www.longhornsteakhouse.com


Where is it?

A little harder to find than you might expect. The restaurant is filled with Old-West-themed knicknacks, and the corners of the restaurant all seem to have doorways and corridors placed in them -- all of which makes looking for the toilet rather distracting. One would expect it to be by the bar, but really you have to cross the length of the dining room and to into the back corner of the place, past the bar and main dining room -- on the opposite end of the kitchen -- and into a corridor that looks like a waitress station but isn't. Once there, the men's room is on the left and the women's on the right.

What's it like?

This is a decent steakhouse chain with good food and a friendly, somewhat purposefully tacky atmosphere (though what it has to do with cowboys, I'm not sure, since there isn't a single location in Texas). Given the popularity of the place (we arrived at 10pm on a Saturday night and it was humming there), you'd expect the bathrooms to be a shamble. But they weren't -- very clean with only a little bit of splashed water around the sinks and some mis-thrown paper towels found on the floor beside the trash cans. Very clean -- even cozy. Double that with the fact that the restaurant's western motif extended to the decor here (the stall doors were shaped like outhouse doors, complete with corney carved-moon shape) and you've got an impressive pitstop.

Marks out of 10:

9. For chain restaurants, this one may be the rootin'est, tootin'est one around.

Comments to the Management:

Keep up the good work, cowboys!

Sunday, 11 March 2007

The Craic's Out of Date




Oneills
23 Montpelier Walk
Cheltenham
Gloucestershire
GL50 1SD
United Kingdom



Where is it?

There are four routes into this pub. From Montpellier Walk you head to the bar and then left. There are some stairs. Go down them, doubling back on yourself as you go. Go to the end of the passage and follow it around to the right. In front are the ladies and to the right the mens’.

From Montpellier go midway up the bar and double back on your self around the wall to get to the stairs.


What’s it like?

Oneills asks ‘What’s the Craic?’ in their advertising. Given the variability of service in this bar you’re more likely to wonder if the toilets will be crap. Well you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The toilets seem to have had a makeover. This means they have moved from the other side of the basement, have new tile and fittings and were in good order. The d├ęcor is rather old fashioned, but this is the want of the place. It has always aimed at being an old Irish pub from the 1920’s rather than the sort of hip thriving bar you’d see in Dublin today.

The green and white tile on the wall and the black and white on the floor make things all a little busy, and the dark wood in what’s already a dark place really make you question if this is a format that should change now its nearly 20 years old. The mirrors did not fit well with the overall style but were the most modern element of the place. The cleanliness extended to the sit down cubical as well. So, overall a good show, even if the style is so out of date.


Marks out of 10:

7 for a good effort.


Comments to the management:

Clean, but plenty to do to catch up with the homeland.