Review: Metropolis weekender
18th February 2010
Date: 12th - 14th February 2010
This is my first time venturing forth to a weekender by train. Normally I have to travel by car with everything but the kitchen sink in the boot, due to that necessity requirement of having to supply my own creature comforts, cleaning products and portable heater as mandatory requirement for the mostly poor state of the chalet I would be staying in. This time though, it's take-a-deep-breath-risk-and-hope that the accommodation is clean and tidy, warmish, with adequate duvets and towels. I can't cart all I want in the one suitcase that would be un-managable on the train, I can only take 'me' stuff this time. It's February. It's cold. I can't imagine staying in one of the chalets at Pontins in the Winter. Please God let it be at least warm.
Why Metropolis? Why not?
So, why am I choosing Metropolis and not Southport? (held a week earlier). I'm not going for the Tango at either, as a regular attendee of Tango venues now more than MJ venues, I know I will end up dancing with beginners, and I don't really want to do that to be honest. Southport, will be too cold and I will have to supply a monsterous amount of electricity coins for the meter, I've been there previously, so I know!
Whereas Metropolis Manchester, well, I haven't tried it, I'm going to have to give it a go and assume the best. Will it be like the cold chalets of previous? Is this hotel going to be the hell hole that you read from TripAdvisor on the Internet? It is time to find out.
I was looking for "Value for money". Was the room ok? Would I have hot water? Would the room be warm? Would the food be good? It's going to be strange this time as apparently the West Coast Swingers are not going to be there - they have their own thing now. It's down to Modern Jivers who just do Jive (the majority) and those Modern Jivers who are trying out Tango (the minority). Do you think they will still play WCS music? Personally I hope not. I do hope they will play some Tango though, you would thing so as their main draw is the accomplished dancers Vincent and Flavia of Strictly Come Dancing fame.
Well, it is a metropolis...
An advantage that Manchester has over Southport is that if the events are crappy, well, you are in the heart of a big cosmopolitan city so you can literally pop out and do something, whereas Southport it's a drive away (you can't walk there) and er, not so great - you could go down the chippy I suppose or walk along the beach...
Most of you folks reading this will know the set up for Jive Addiction and their weekenders, so my feedback will be on some of what happened, but mostly on the accommodation and food, I mean, after all we are paying a premium for it.
It was really tempting for me to go and stay at the Premier Inn Hotel just up the road and also eat out - but the whole point of going was to be able to be under one roof and 'flit' between dance rooms, maybe even eat with friends we haven't seen for some time.
The train journey was done in no time at all, after I had got across London to the main terminal at Euston. It took just over two hours to get to Manchester Piccadilly on a comfortable Virgin train. The hotel is a 10 minute walk away, dead easy.
We were booked into room 106.
All Mod Cons
On entering the room, we found that it was spacious, modern, no nasty smells, no train noise, clean, warm, really quite beautiful. I thought I was in John's room, it must be a mistake, I'm not high up enough in the pecking order to get this standard of accommodation - this is usually for the teachers and close friends of the boss.
There was a proper iron and ironing board, a largish telly in a cabinet, a trouser press, a warm soft carpet, a huge double bed, a nice picture on the wall, very large drapes covering the windows, double glazing, a switch to booster the heating up if you needed to do so, bedside cabinets with tissues in decorative boxes on either side of the bed along with a pen and paper to make notes, bedside lights independent of each other.
Big fluffy pillows (four of them) on the king sized bed, a big blanket over the soft king size duvet, big full size mirrors on the walls (two of them!), a large dressing table, a seat at the bottom of the bed, a comfy chair to relax on, a 'lounger' where you can lay back on and read the complimentary up-to-date magazines (Elle) provided on the coffee table.
There was a big 'crane' spotlight on the dressing table (more on that later).
There was a folding thing to place your cases on, there was enough space to hide both our cases from sight, there was a separate cupboard area for hanging clothes up, storing shoes etc which on opening automatically turned on the light. There was a safe to lock valuables away too. In the modern up-to-date bathroom was a large area for stacking your cosmetics and things, the sink was wide and taps powerful with instant hot water. The bath was huge with handrails, a powerful jet of hot water available.
The power shower was so powerful and easy to use I will state categorically that I have never been in a better shower anywhere at any time in my life (that's a statement if ever!). Complimentary cosmetics, a bath mat and big fluffy thick to touch good quality look-brand-new white towels also supplied.
Well, I'm happy. So far.
The Saga Of The Light
The aforementioned 'crane' light had a broken bulb in it. The towel heater in the bathroom was not working. These things are minor, I don't have to have the light on, the bathroom was far from cold, I could have lived with this all weekend without batting an eyelid, it was simply not a problem.
The thing is though, I read that TripAdvisor report about minor details that become mountains (out of molehills) for some people. I wanted to see what would happen if I made a complaint, and why shouldn't I?! Time to get things put right. Off to reception...
On reporting (politely mind) my problems to a young member of staff at reception, they seemed to immediately seek the help of a more senior member of staff, who promptly replied 'yeah yeah'. Oh, no problem then? Alright. Oft I went. Two hours later, still nothing happening. Back to reception. Spoke to junior member of staff, doesn't know what I am talking about. Immediate help required (again) from same senior woman by junior member of staff. 'Yeah, yeah'. Oh, ok, must be in hand. Next day, back down, this time, speak to elderly chap. Could you tell me the progress of my complaints in room 106? Huh? Nope, didn't have a clue what I was talking about.
Looking back, I'm not surprised. No one wrote anything down. No complaint had been passed forward to the next shift. I see. Can you tell me the problem. Should I bother? Yes, tell me. He got the problems resolved within ten minutes.
What is the point I am making here? There are certain individuals that make it difficult for not only customers, but other staff too. The 'yeah, yeah' girl clearly wanted me to just 'go away', thus shifting the problem and wrath of anger to her other work colleagues when she went off shift. It starts to make sense now about why this hotel gets a bad reputation. Some staff let the majority of other staff down.
Most of the staff I encountered were polite, helpful and anxious to please. I had the weekend package where I was also eating in the hotel. Staff encountered in the restaurant were professional and eager to please, promptly attending to you with a smile and good manners. There was some confusion regarding meal bookings and the requirement required, but on looking at the Jive Addiction brochure for this event, it clearly asks for you to pre-book your meals. The meal provided on Friday (you have a choice) was a starter of Figs and ham with salad, main meal of home made steak and kidney pudding with mash, gravy and carrots, followed by a dessert of peach, strawberry and pancetta, all served up on nice plates and not just dumped on the plate but presented neatly. It was really tasty. Going back to the room at around 8pm, I'm laying there on the bed when suddenly there is this loud thumping noise! Oh lordy, I'm above a disco!
I started to have doubts about staying here - but in fact it turns out that was the only major noise the whole weekend, although I can also understand that if you were staying just one night, you may well have been cheesed off with what has happened so far!
There was also a bit of noise from the street outside, but then, you are in the middle of Manchester, it's a Friday night, and after a while you become immune from the drone, as you would elsewhere.
And finally the dancing
It was time to try out the dance rooms, take a mosey. There was two rooms - a main hall on one side of the hotel and a smaller 'blues' room, both located in the basement/ lower level floor. There was a connecting corridor within the hotel between the rooms, bit of a walk but just 'flitt-able' to pop your head in without making the commitment of staying. Both rooms had large areas of laid down flooring. This was not like Skegness like that black and white checkered flooring, with bits sticking up etc. There were no ridges to trip over when dancing, there was a bit of spring in it too which was good, it did feel a bit slippery at times, but overall a good floor. Seemed to be a lot of ladies requiring dances, the gender balance was a bit lob-sided. There did seem to be a lack of a 'hub', for instance in Camber there is the pub, in Southport there is the bar area outside the blues room, here though, nothing has found its feet yet.
Up for breakfast, something I don't usually do on a weekender, as I'm normally comatose in bed after dancing all night. This time I was starving. Eating in the dining area - a huge open space with a long self service food counter - I was pleasantly surprised on the amount of food on offer (that was part of the deal). This thing on TripAdvisor about the food being cold - not true. As soon as you sat down an army of young waiters/waitresses descended offering tea/coffee and brown or white toast. Admittedly the toast could have been hot but wasn't but then we are born with mouths and vocal cords and you could ask if they could bring hot toast. As soon as you asked for something, they would bring it to you without quibble. You would have to go and get your own breakfast from the counters, but you could have as much as you wanted, and the selection was vast. There was also a 'special' on offer each morning with things such as haddock or waffles, all part of the package, no extra cost. Breakfast was a good experience.
I didn't fancy any of the classes in the daytime so we went off to the town centre to do some retail therapy.
We did some late afternoon dancing in the blues room and then in the main room to dance Tango in the oddly timed one hour slot (7.30pm to 8.30pm) assigned. Unfortunately Amir ran over his class and we only got around 40 minutes. That really cheesed me off, we looked forward to the Milonga. Hope it doesn't happen tomorrow night (it did though).
After the Milonga we went for our evening meal. It was a bit confusing when we turned up for our dinner (dressed to the nines) as we were told we should have booked. Huh? Yes, we should have - it says so in the brochure that I failed to read properly. Fair point. Saying that, we didn't have long to wait for our meal. Might be worth flagging that one up for future events. There was a carvery buffet. It was a good meal.
Afterwards we went dancing until 3am-ish.
Did the big lazy thing all morning, and then a bit of dancing later on in anticipation of Vincent & Flavia's Tango class that we were looking forward to attend. I thought the class was quite good. Many attended. He put together a series of moves (rather than techniques) for the modern jivers to incorporate into their jive. It would have been challenging for them. The routine started with a leg decoration, followed by an off axis carousel, followed by a sacada and gancho, then a colgada into a volcada out to a cross.
Sunday evening we were presented with a display from V and F. I had seen both before on SCD, but to see them live was just great. They voth then surprised us all by dancing in the blues room and partnering us Joe Sixpacks. Not everyone got a dance, and unless you were a predatory type, you didn't get much of chance to dance with either of them. I know a certain lady would have loved to have had a dance with him, but surely Vincent knows that Tango ladies do not ask the men to dance, I'm afraid he just got to dance with his instant harem of predatory females. You missed out matey.
The all in all
I think that Metropolis was a good event.
Would I go again? Yes. Absolutely.
The hotel is fine. Don't read rubbish on the internet about it, there will always be someone who will give it a knock. The hotel management have spent £130 million on doing the place up, I am led to believe that almost all the rooms have been refurbished, although some haven't.
I do believe that for a first time at this event, things are on the up, this is the future, not the chalets that we are so used to and that really need to be bulldozed/burnt to the ground.
You've got my business, John.
- Ken Royden, 18th February 2010