Space in­vader

Sue Milne finds less is more in a room at Heathrow’s Yo­tel

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel -

BEAM me up, Scotty, I mut­ter un­der my breath as the door slides shut be­hind me and I step into a pool of pur­ple light. At my back is the noise and chaos of Heathrow air­port’s Ter­mi­nal 4; ahead is a long, straight corridor. Apart from dis­creet doors lead­ing off to the left and right, there is noth­ing (and no­body) to be seen. It is weird and, thanks mainly to the strange pur­ple light that suf­fuses ev­ery­thing, quite un­nerv­ing.

Af­ter a few weeks wal­low­ing in the glo­ri­ously bu­colic English coun­try­side at the height of sum­mer, I am ripe for ad­ven­ture so, clutch­ing my suit­case in one hand and a Heathrow Yo­tel key card in the other, I set off to find my room in what must qual­ify as one of Lon­don’s most un­usual ho­tels.

I find a num­ber that matches my card and swing open the door to my stan­dard room, al­though room doesn’t quite de­scribe this space: cap­sule, per­haps, or berth, or even shoe­box. It is tiny, with space for me or my suit­case, but prob­a­bly not both. I strug­gle to lift the suit­case on to the bed and, let­ting go of the door, it slams shut be­hind me with a prison cell-like fi­nal­ity.

Mo­men­tary panic sets in: there is no mo­bile phone sig­nal here and no phone con­nec­tion to the out­side world, only an in­ter­com to the cheery chap at the checkin gal­ley. I try the door and it opens. Panic over.

I have booked overnight ac­com­mo­da­tion on a friend’s rec­om­men­da­tion, in the hope of a good night’s rest be­fore catch­ing an early morn­ing flight to Aus­tralia. Shower, wash­basin, toi­let, bed, tele­vi­sion and mir­ror: all the es­sen­tials for a short stay are here.

Sud­denly the usual trap­pings of lux­ury ho­tels — a sur­feit of pil­lows and cush­ions, sig­na­ture toi­letries, mood lighting, hectares of use­less if taste­fully car­peted floor space — seem su­per­flu­ous. Ad­just­ing to my sur­round­ings, I man­age to ex­tract overnight es­sen­tials from my suit­case and wedge it upright be­tween the shower screen and a tiny fold-down desk, which gives me a square me­tre of floor on which to stand.

I stretch out on the bed, which is rather like the berth on a yacht or a train. It is slightly wider than a con­ven­tional sin­gle and comfortable, with good-qual­ity linen and pil­lows. On the wall at the foot of the bed is a flat-screen TV with a re­mote con­trol. The re­mote, I dis­cover, is the real key to a good time at Heathrow Yo­tel. Need a wake-up call, room ser­vice, in­ter­net ac­cess (a key­board is pro­vided), travel goods, one of 5000 tunes on a vir­tual juke­box or myr­iad tele­vi­sion and ra­dio sta­tions? Just key in the ap­pro­pri­ate code as ex­plained in the wel­come book­let. This does re­quire some ba­sic pro­fi­ciency with a re­mote but most guests will man­age. ( My mother, I fear, and oth­ers of her gen­er­a­tion could find it all too dif­fi­cult and quite pos­si­bly go hun­gry, or over­sleep and miss their flight.)

It’s still early evening and I es­chew the temp­ta­tions of 24-hour room ser­vice (es­pe­cially the Aberdeen An­gus lasagne) and, feel­ing much braver now, boldly re­trace my foot­steps along the still-de­serted corridor to the exit to emerge blink­ing from my pur­ple-hued sanc­tu­ary into the real world.

Like most of Heathrow air­port, Ter­mi­nal 4 is un­der­go­ing re­fur­bish­ment and the din of jack­ham­mers res­onates through the crowded halls, mak­ing pre-flight shop­ping in un­ex­cit­ing but handy stal­warts such as W. H. Smith and Boots not es­pe­cially plea­sur­able.

Din­ing choices are lim­ited; my only op­tion for an in­ex­pen­sive evening meal and a glass of wine is at Wether­spoons pub, on the mez­za­nine level ad­ja­cent to the Yo­tel. It’s an en­tirely for­get­table meal and I am quite happy to re­treat to my room.

Grap­pling with the re­mote, I pro­gram in a 6am wakeup call, slip be­tween the sheets and turn off the light above the bed. But now there is a prob­lem: the room is black as pitch. With no win­dow to al­low fil­tered light and no dim­mer switch, the only choice is lights on or off. For claus­tro­pho­bics, the Yo­tel ex­pe­ri­ence could be pretty dis­tress­ing. I turn off the light again, fo­cus on a tiny green beam glow­ing on a fire alarm set in the ceil­ing and sleep won­der­fully well.

Eight hours later, I’m show­ered, packed, checked-out and aboard the free shut­tle train en route to Ter­mi­nal 3 and a flight back to Syd­ney.

I feel rested, re­laxed and I am only £80 ($200) poorer for my overnight stay, a snip com­pared with most air­port ho­tels.


There are Yo­tels at Heathrow, Gatwick and Am­s­ter­dam’s Schiphol air­port. Heathrow Yo­tel is on Ter­mi­nal 4’s mez­za­nine level. Stay overnight or for a min­i­mum of four hours, £25 ($62.30), be­tween flights. Stan­dard rooms at Heathrow are from about £80 for an overnight (12-hour) stay. Pre­mium and twin rooms are also avail­able. More: www.yo­

Snug as a bug: A stan­dard Yo­tel room at Heathrow

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