I, like many others, do not live in London - in fact it’s about a three and a half hour drive from where I live, as the 02 is quite difficult to get to and always has hordes of traffic. This makes it increasingly difficult to commute back and forth for anyone who isn't local. So how do you solve a problem like commuting? Hotels of course!
The best hotel to stay at is a question raised with many who go to the O2 for an event. Where is the nearest hotel? Which is the cheapest? Which is the best value for money? Which hotel is nearest to public transport? I have raised these questions myself. I have also stayed in various locations as well as commuting to and from home for the O2 Arena.
Last year, 2016, I stayed over the river and, whilst it seemed like a good idea, it was actually quite stressful.
Now it does depend on the individual. You have to ask yourself what do you want to go to the O2 for? Late night event? An event over a couple of days?
Now I know that there are many factors to consider here, such as affordability - or just not wanting to spend more on a conveniently located hotel, when you can stay slightly farther out for a lot less. I had these exact same thoughts. However, I chose to stay at The Intercontinental this year during a festival at the O2, mostly as I wanted to be in certain places at certain times to catch interviews, press conferences and signings - and to see as many of the shows as I could manage. There is no way I could have seen half of what I did, had I stayed elsewhere.
The Intercontinental really should have a sign up in flashing lights that reads
‘If You Were Staying Here, You Would Be In Bed By Now.’
That would have me sold.
So, budget aside, let's break down why The Intercontinental is a good proposition.
We’ve mentioned location. That’s a given as it is located right at the 02 and there is a walkway that leads you directly to entrance H of the main arena, which means you will be there or back to your hotel in less than five minutes. Why else is it good to be staying so close? You buy things. You know those moments when you have absolutely no intention of buying anything? Then you get soaked up in all the event goodness and atmosphere and end up buying loads of merchandise. When this happens, nothing is more irritating than having to lug them about all day. So ask yourself, do you really want to carry that around? I don't. What a pain, especially in the main arena where you have little leg room as it is. I found being able to leave things in my room and go back and get things was a godsend.
Then we have the option of being able to get changed. If you are at the O2 all day and plan on going to dinner or drinks after your event, you may want the option to go and change your outfit- or even have a shower. How about a nap? You may find you have some free time, maybe an hour or so and think, ‘You know what? I have a long night ahead of me. I can squeeze in some sleep’.
Also, FOOD!!!! How many of you are sick of the ridiculous queues at every food outlet? It consumes half your free time and by the time you get a table, order and food arrives, you are lucky to have even five minutes to eat it.
In the lobby of The Intercontinental, you will find Meridian Lounge. Set similar to that of a French Patisserie, this quaint lounge has glorious, mouth watering cakes and macaroons that you simply could not say no to. The macaroons in particular were delicious, delightful and light with flavours that melted in your mouth and a taste you never wanted to replace.
The prices aren't even excessive when you consider the quality of food and the service you will get, not to mention the absence of crowds or queues and, better yet, you can dine in any of the hotel’s dining areas without being a hotel guest.
Having breakfast included in your stay is a great idea, as it is a buffet. I was in my element. The selections were out of this world. You had everything you could think of and more. What a great way to fill yourself up if you know you won't have time for lunch. There was unlimited tea and coffee brought to your table. You could have any kind too - Latte, Cappuccino,anything. There are also unlimited fruit juices and smoothies. You can have various cereals, yoghurts, cold meats, pastries, cakes, fruit, boiled eggs and pancakes with maple syrup or compote. Then of course a Full English breakfast. Two types of bacon, two types of sausage, hash browns, tomatoes, mushrooms, beans, scrambled egg, fried egg -everything. You can even ask for an omelette. I haven't even named half of what was available but I went for pancakes and mango yoghurt one day, Full English the next and so on. The staff at the breakfast buffet are the friendliest people. They are so welcoming and always ensure you have what you want. They always check if you need more tea or coffee too.
The views are also wonderful. Ask for a window seat and have your breakfast overlooking the river, beautiful. Also….you never quite know who you may bump into at breakfast. Let's just say that I may have seen a star or two, or three or maybe even four? Perhaps, more?
The Hotel also offers a Pre Show Menu in their restaurant. This includes two courses for £28 or three courses for £35.You also have the Clipper Bar which has every alcoholic drink you can think of, including a custom Gin of their very own, and a bar menu.
Eighteen Sky Bar Menu right at the top on the 18th floor has wonderful views, especially at night and is a great place to socialise. It also has a selection of light bite snacks. If you are a smoker, there is also a smoking area. The bar has floor to ceiling windows for amazing views - even the bathrooms do which, by the way, are immaculate with luxurious soap gel and moisturiser.
Peninsula Restaurant A La Carte/Tasting Menu – offers another option, slightly more expensive but probably the best quality food in the area.
As far as facilities and service are concerned, the hotel has a wide, immaculate and openly lit lobby which is immediately inviting. Staff are quick to welcome you and assist you where needed. We were offered help with our bags as soon as we arrived and every staff member even greeted our 14 month old son.
There are complementary drinks in the lobby - fresh water and juice, which was a wonderful touch, especially if you were waiting in line or simply waiting to meet a friend or colleague.
I felt as if I belonged there - just as important as the next guest and everyone was equal. It was certainly clear that every guest was incredibly important.
The entire hotel was spotless, not a speck of dust or overflowing waste basket in sight. No empty glasses or bottles laying around, no clutter. Every inch of the hotel had wide open spaces ensuring that no one had to squeeze past anyone or anything.
There is a Concierge, newspapers and tourist information in a stacked trio of old style suitcases and welcome seating areasfor guests to relax or have a conversation with family or friends.
If you have time or are staying with people not too interested in much of the daytime activities, well then why not visit The Swimming Pool? Open to all guests, the pool is relaxing, stress free and almost always empty apart from one or two people.
You also have The Spa – granted treatments cost, but if you want to, then the option is there.
Finally – the rooms. These are all beautifully furnished, withbeds which are some of the most comfortable I have ever slept on. The pillows are lush and so very soft that when you leap into bed - and yes leap - they are that comfy, you sink into the large pillows and just drift away…..
Each room has a mini bar, at cost of course, and they all have:
Nail Kit in the bathrooms.
Ironing Board and Iron in the room.
In addition to this, Studio Suites, 1 bedroom Suites, 2 Bedroom Suites and the Penthouse also have:
Bath Salts and a comb.
The guests that I saw were all very happy and many came up to me saying such things as:
“We stayed at the Holiday Inn last year but booked the Intercontinental to avoid the cold walk back over a main roadand because we wanted to be able to pop back in between day time activities and just before the main show”
“Yes, it costs more than hotels over the river, but with my daily schedule, I was able to get to every signing, every performance and every surprise meet and greet that was announced last minute” (C2C Festival)
“I wish that I could take the breakfast room home with me. There is so much choice - I wish I could eat like this every day”
There is also secure parking which is much cheaper than the arena parking fee.
Add up your costs: