Shown here in its original location in Docklands, the traffic light tree was removed in December 2011 and relocated in Poplar.
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…
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.
In this new occasional section we share some of the travel photos from our archives - when we paid our dues but rarely our way. Times were tough, hitch-hiking was…
What a difference 22 years makes... I had the pleasure of living and working in Berlin from 1990-92 and have been back many times since. I was rummaging around in…
[UPDATE: I stayed at the Adina Apartment Hotel Berlin Hauptbahnhof in February 2012, this time in a studio apartment. Once again I had a wonderful experience and my top score of 6/6 remains in place – also for those travelling alone]
Having stayed at – and been wowed by – the Adina Apartment Hotel in Copenhagen, expectations were high when we arrived at one of the three properties Adina runs in the German capital. The hotel is about a ten minute walk from the new main station in Berlin (hence the name) or a couple of stops on the bus. If you’re travelling with more than hand luggage then it may be worth taking a taxi.
Ooh those lovely Berlin taxis. Are they all still Mercedes with leather seats?
Pretty much. It does seem rather grand if you’re used to South London mini-cabs but is basically par for the course in Germany. By the way the station itself is worth a look around; there are tracks running through the glass-dominated building on several levels, there’s practically a small town’s worth of shops and restaurants and the usual facilities for travellers. If you’ve seen ‘The International’ you can play out the opening scene on the area outside the entrance facing the Reichstag should you be so inclined.
A bit of a step up from the old Zoo station, right?
It certainly is; and gives arriving visitors a far better first impression of Berlin too.
Anyway back to the hotel…
Ah yes there was that. The Adina is located just over the former border in ex-East Berlin and to get there from Haupbahnhof entails walking past the site of the once notorious Invalidenstrasse checkpoint.
This was the scene of a failed escape attempt using a bus in May 1963 which was peppered by machine gun fire from the border guards and got wedged in a street blockade close to the Western side. The wounded would-be escapees were immediately arrested.
Plenty of grim stories have played out on these streets. Still, sounds like an ideal location for a place to stay then?
Yes, you’ve got the historic centre close by and Berlin’s excellent public transport system will get you wherever you need to go. There is also a bike stand for the fabulous scheme run by the German railway company DB right over from the hotel.
Okay, so we need somewhere to stay in Berlin…
Of course there are a mass of hotels to choose from but again if you are looking for a little more flexibility, travelling with children or planning to stay more than a couple of nights the Adina Apartment Hotel Berlin Hauptbahnhof may provide the answer. Just as in Copenhagen, the property offers the facilities of an apartment (fully equipped kitchen, washing machine and dryer etc.) you get daily cleaning and concierge service and there’s a bar, restaurant, gym, sauna and an indoor pool.
Same kind of prices as in Denmark?
In fact the Adina in Berlin was a lot cheaper which makes it a real bargain. This is presumably due to the generally lower costs of accomodation in Berlin rates compared with Copenhagen. Once again the hotel runs about the same or less than a mid-range hotel and special offers are often available. Early booking will also ensure a good discount on the standard rate. Just as in the Danish capital families travelling with children will find an Adina apartment a much better deal than booking two hotel rooms and will be able to wash clothes too.
Okay, let’s have the low-down then…
Coming right up:
Adina Apartment Hotel Berlin Hauptbahnhof
Platz vor dem Neuen Tor 6, 10115 Berlin, Germany +49 30 2000 32-0
Late July 2011
Four stars. Built in 2005. 139 rooms over 7 floors
Location, location, location?
As mentioned above the apartment hotel is located near the main station in the Mitte district. In other words very central and ideal for exploring both sides of the former path of the Wall which is marked on the ground:
What about parking?
Outdoor parking is available at extra cost. If you’re driving your own car, first of all don’t. But if for some reason you have to make sure you read up about the environmental zone which is in force in the city centre.
Why choose this place?
Continuing on from Copenhagen and travelling as a family on a two week holiday visiting several countries, the opportunity to wash clothes was a big plus. The rate was extremely good too for an almost identical one-bedroom apartment to the one we enjoyed so much in Denmark and we would have spent far more in a hotel. Again the pool was a major draw as was the proximity to the main station as we planned to take the train down to Tropical Islands to enjoy the crazy indoor water park.
Again the same set-up as in Copenhagen: three different types of room – or ‘suite’ as they call them – studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom. Studios do not have full kitchen facilities (but do have a fridge, kettle and microwave) or washing machine/dryer. The one-bedroom we stayed in was perfect for the three of us but we needed to pay for an extra bed which was set up in the lounge area. The suites are modern, stylish and have everything you need. Washing powder can be purchased in single-use packs. There is a supermarket close to the hotel and you can also make use of a grocery delivery service.
You get an LCD TV in both the bedroom and lounge, a work desk, CD player, hair-dryer, mini-bar and safe. All rooms are non-smoking.
Yes, but once again immaculately clean. Wooden/laminate floors are our first choice in hotels but when they are kept in such perfect condition carpets can be okay too. May be a problem for those with allergies but I highly doubt it – and of course the hotel is non-smoking.
Modern bathrooms with underfloor heating and complimentary toiletries. Washing machine and tumble dryer (with powder and instructions). Combined bath and shower.
Free internet I hope?
No. The charges are not excessive but we will continue to campaign for free hotel Wi-Fi. At least there is a signal in the rooms too, unlike in Copenhagen.