Even during a pandemic, one should ideally get away from their own environment once in a while to take a break from things. For me, this means getting away from the neighbours’ dog that wants to tell the world about everything that happens around it whenever it’s in the house. When it’s outside the house, I’m pretty sure the entire street (which is on a main road) can hear it too.
So I found a cheap Premier Inn deal nearby and spent two nights in Staines-upon-Thames – from Friday PM through to Sunday morning. My first mistake was not to book a meal deal (£23.99 for a two-course dinner and full breakfast the following day), and the second was not to pre-book.
As it was, it turns out that I was able to head straight into dinner without booking – there was sufficient capacity for decent distancing and I very much enjoyed cheesy mushrooms and haddock and chips. I even enjoyed my first draught Guinness in two years:
I didn’t like the price (£6.50) which was close to what I paid for my nightly cognac during the 2017 Nordic cruise.
Meanwhile, 5G reception in the restaurant was pretty bad, and the free Wi-Fi is absolute rubbish (provided by Virgin Media), so I ordered a £5 Wi-Fi upgrade. I then realised that iOS 15 sets a private MAC address to stop companies from tracking devices across their networks. I wasn’t sure whether this would impact things the following morning, so I turned it off and found I had used 2 out of my 3 device limit.
So after dinner, I had a word with reception who kindly gave me vouchers for the whole stay (potentially saving me £5 in the process, but, ALAS, you’ll see why it didn’t shortly).
Back in the room 5G speeds were significantly better. With Premier Inn Ultimate Wi-Fi you’ll get around 10Mbs download and about half that for upload. With EE 5G, I got a maximum of 541Mbs download and nearly 23Mbs upload. It varied, of course, but it was never slower than 250Mbs. In terms of latency, however, Virgin Media’s service won – 4ms vs 26ms.
The big problem was that 5G was pretty unreliable. Attempting to download a few shows from Apple TV via 5G and Ultimate Wi-Fi confused the hell out of macOS and ended up with broken video files and insane gibberings from the macOS Apple TV app:
Even if I wanted to renew the Premier Inn Ultimate Wi-Fi, the blasted system wouldn’t let me. I could only log in to my account via the captive portal (which is rubbish – utter tripe IMHO) and nothing else. So the codes given to me by reception were useless.
In the end, I just deleted the files and kept on using 5G in my room, Wi-Fi in the restaurant.
Oh, I forgot to bring USB-C to USB-C cables with me. Now that the 14″ MacBook Pro uses MagSafe, I don’t usually carry a USB-C to USB-C cable around anymore. The MacBook Pro charger usually did well to cover the computer itself AND the iPad Pro. With 13% battery left on the iPad Pro, I ordered an Anker special – two 6ft USB-C to USB-C cables for £10. I had it delivered to the nearest Amazon locker which happened to be at.. Premier Inn Staines-upon-Thames. Alas, the thing didn’t turn up until quite late the following day, but when it did arrive, picking it up was a cinch. Well done Amazon.
I had a bit of wonder around Staines-upon-Thames. The area I was staying in was dead in the centre of the shopping district, so there were a LOT of cars. When arriving the queue for McDonald’s drive-through alone was insane. The shopping centre itself wasn’t too bad, and they had a mini Christmas market around the bigger shops/car parking area.
I was tempted by a Bratwurst stall, but at £5, having been stung by the Guinness fiasco, I didn’t think much of it – especially the portions. But it did smell very, very good. Ended up getting a piri-piri chicken panini from Wenzels instead.
Back at the Premier Inn, after a few hours of relaxing, I decided to head to the restaurant and get dinner. ALAS, I didn’t pre-book, and nothing was available. But I was invited to have a drink at the bar and wait to be called. 45 minutes and one pint of San Miguel (£4.50) later, absolutely nothing. There appeared to be spaces, but at this point I’m fuming and walk out. I ordered a McDonalds via Uber Eats and had that in my room, but before doing that I pre-booked breakfast for the following morning to play it safe.
The next morning I skip breakfast entirely (I saved a mince pie from the McDonalds meal from the following evening – it was enough) and get up late – shower and get ready and head home. It was a nice change to the routine and got me out of the house even though I stayed in the hotel room for most of it. I at least headed out – though not far – given the rising cases of omicron, that may have been a wise decision.