In our mission to inspire and inform Grown-up Travellers we continue our series of articles containing ideas for alternative things to do and see in well-known destinations. So far we've…
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I think it was the bread rolls that really brought it home to me. The sheer scale of the place was one thing, the madness of the entire concept another. But it was when our guide told us about the bakery that I truly understood how reality hadn’t been factored into these grandiose plans. How many workers would be required to produce fresh rolls for 20,000 people each day? In the 1940s?
Okay, I think you need to back up a little there buddy. What?
Sorry, let me start at the beginning. Early last year while surfing the web I came across an article about this place – an enormous holiday resort conceived by the Nazis but never completed.
Located on the idyllic island of Rugen in former East Germany, it had been off the radar (and off the maps) for years as it was used by the DDR military. After the wall came down the unified German army took over before giving it back to the local council in 1990. The problem was what to do with it now – the reason it was in the news was that the biggest youth hostel in Europe was due to open in one of the renovated blocks and this was the subject of huge controversy – would it become a place of pilgrimage for neo-nazis?
They like hanging out in youth hostels?
No, that’s not the point…given the sensitivity of the period I suppose it was inevitable that there would be opposition, but if we are to abandon all buildings tainted by the Nazi era then there will be a lot of vacant office space in European cities. And this place was never completed either.
True. Okay, so having found this interesting place you jumped on a plane?
No. We were already planning a trip to Germany by rail and needed somewhere to break the journey from Berlin back to Ystad. Rugen has some great beach resorts, including Binz (which also has a station).
I see. So you hijacked the family holiday to satisfy your fetish for abandoned buildings?
Hmm, it sounds a lot worse when you put it like that. We all ended up happy – we had a hotel on the beach in Rugen with a pool, which was handy as it poured with rain the day I hired a bike and cycled to Prora.
So the time has finally come. After all that nagging you’ve decided to give in and finally take your daughter to Legoland in Windsor, England.
You mean after all these years she’s developed enough interest in Lego to justify the trip YOU have been waiting for?
Well, there’s a bit of that in the mix, yes. But that was more about the real Legoland for us of a certain age – the one in Denmark. Having made the journey there in the summer we had already planned a holiday during the autumn half-term, and it was her that wanted to check out the UK version. Honestly.
You were easily persuaded though...
That’s true enough. I mean who doesn’t dig Lego? We’ve shown our love for the plastic bricks by covering the London Christmas Tree, Underground map and Big Ben on this very site, so assuming we could sort out the practicalities of course I was keen.
Like a place to stay?
Right. After doing a little surfing I found this place which wasn’t far from Legoland and had a pool (those were essentially the criteria). We’d already booked a hire car so would be independent – which is pretty much essential given the location. But more on that in a mo’; here’s our unbiased review.
Crowne Plaza Hotel Marlow
Fieldhouse Lane, Buckinghamshire, SL7 1GJ
ENGLAND +44 (0)1628 496 800
Early October 2011
Four stars. Built in 2002. 168 rooms over 3 floors
Location, location, location?
Not its strong point. You basically need a car, and to reach the hotel you have to drive through an industrial estate (the unattractive walk from Marlow centre will take you at least 30 minutes) but things improve when you finally reach the property as it is located in pleasant surroundings with a lake behind the main building. A taxi would be your other option – a very expensive one.
What about parking?
There is plenty of free parking here, which is just as well as I would imagine that every guest has a car.
Why choose this place?
As stated above it was the short driving distance to Legoland that was the main appeal. We wanted a place with a pool as there would’t be much else to do in the evenings without a journey and the price was competitive given the criteria – this was a “Book Early and Save including Breakfast” rate, payable upfront. Make sure you try all the usual tricks to secure the best rate you can – see our Grown-up Travel Tips category for the low-down. Note that the hotel also offers Legoland packages including accommodation and entrance tickets but these may not be the cheapest option.
Three different types of room – Guest Rooms, Executive Club Level Rooms and Suites. We booked a regular Guest Room and had two comfortable double beds. Executive Club Level grants access to the (otherwise locked) Club Lounge, which has some food an drinks but was completely dead whenever we passed it. Our room was clean and comfortable but rather dated – I mean an old style CRT television in a wooden cabinet? The TV signal was bad too.
CRT TV(!), work desk, tea/coffee making facilities, mini bar, small fridge space, safe, iron, ironing board. The majority of rooms are listed as non-smoking rooms – I didn’t realize you could still smoke in a hotel room in the UK but it may be that the information provided was out of date.
Unfortunately, yes. They were clean enough in our room but a little worn. Regular readers will be aware of my dislike of carpets in hotel rooms, but it is rare to find anything else in an English hotel. Or an English house, for that matter.
Images (c) Andy Higgs, Grown-up Travel Guide
The bathroom was fine and a bathrobe was provided. Always a plus to have both a bathtub and a shower cabinet. Hair-dryer provided.
Free internet I hope?
There was supposed to be a free 30 minute period but the connection was unusable in our room. This is a major flaw for a four-star hotel in this day and age and even if you could get online the charges after this initial period were also excessive, with an ‘initial charge’ of GBP 14.95.
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