Recently I went to the Naidex event in Birmingham – Europe’s largest show dedicated to disability and independent living – which you may have seen me mentioning on social media recently. I explain more in my full review of the show in my next post. But here I thought I’d tell you about my travel to Birmingham and review my hotel stay, to get that out of the way.
And to be clear, I paid for everything out of my own money, I didn’t have any special arrangements with Naidex or anyone involved with it. I helped to promote them a bit on social media, in return for them promoting my blog, but that was as far as our connection went. So I hope you enjoy this post, before I get on to my epic show review!
My journey to Birmingham was nearly scuppered when I developed a bad cold in the days leading up to it, because I felt awful on the day before I was due to travel. I’ve definitely been more prone to colds since being in London, which probably isn’t surprising given how regularly I go out and about, amongst crowds of people on the streets, Tube trains and buses, and all the vehicle pollution. Compared to my old home in the Westcountry, there’s a lot more in the London air for my body to adjust to. This has been my second cold so far this year, and my third during the autumn/winter period as a whole, so hopefully this one is my last for a while!
Thankfully, although I still wasn’t perfectly well, I did feel able to travel to Birmingham on the Tuesday night, catching a fast train from London Euston to Birmingham International that only took 1 hour 10 minutes. It’s great that places like Birmingham are so easy for me to get to now, I should go there and explore it properly really. Same goes for other places that are a short train ride away from the capital, I want to try venturing out of the city more.
I used a mobile ticket purchased on the Trainline app to make the journey, instead of getting a paper ticket. And of course I used my Disabled Persons Railcard to get a third off the price. Having a mobile ticket basically means you activate your ticket in the app on the day of travel, which then gives you a square barcode – like a very complex QR code – to scan at the ticket gate by holding your phone’s screen over the reader. So that’s really useful. However, as it happened, I never actually got to use it.
On the outward journey from Euston, I asked the member of staff at the ticket gate where I needed to scan the barcode, as I couldn’t quite remember for sure having only done it once way back last year. And he just let me through the gate, as he could see the ticket on my screen and was happy to keep things simple for me. And at Birmingham International the gates were open for everybody to exit freely anyway. And then on the way back, the gates at Birmingham International were again open for anybody to walk through to the platforms, and the gates were open at Euston when I got off there. And nobody came round to check the tickets on the trains either. So I never got to use the mobile ticket as intended, but I do know they work.
The hardest part for me was finding my seat number, which is always difficult on Virgin Trains. The numbers are really small and difficult to see, so I have to lean over the seats to look at the tiny screens, which have poorly contrasted text above them. I can get on the right carriage, and at the right end of it – although even the signs on the outside of the trains aren’t as clear as they could be – but finding the seat number is more of a challenge. I do manage it, but it is awkward, and it does feel rude leaning over people to read things. So I do wish the numbers were bigger and more prominent. The train journeys were comfortable though, and there were no delays.
From Birmingham International station it was a very short walk to the Ibis Styles Birmingham NEC & Airport Hotel. Coming out of the downstairs part of the station, you turn right, exiting the station from the opposite end to the taxi rank. You then just follow the pavement around the back of the small car park, up a slope to the dual carriageway, turn right, and then a short way down the road is the hotel around the next corner.
The staff there were really friendly and welcoming, and when I said I was visually impaired they asked if I wanted a room on the ground floor to make things easier, whether I would need additional assistance in the event of an evacuation, and any other help I might need. As it happened, they didn’t have any rooms spare on the ground floor anyway, but then I didn’t need one either, so I wasn’t bothered about that. But it was lovely that they offered and checked. I actually ended up being on the third floor (right at the top), but the lift was easy enough to use, so that was fine. And it was good to know that they had made a note of my visual impairment in case an evacuation was ever necessary. Which thankfully it wasn’t, and it should never be required, but it’s better to be safe.
I was able to find the room quite easily, because the numbers on the doors were big and clear, having large white bold digits on a dark blue background, so the contrast was great for me. The keycard was a bit temperamental in the door though, it took a few tries to get it work sometimes. And the room itself was alright. It was nothing special, but it had a double bed, a sofa, a desk, a free bottle of water as well as the usual tea and coffee supplies, a TV (whose Freeview tuning clearly hadn’t been updated for a while, but there were still plenty of channels available), and a bathroom with a shower and no bath (so the shower actually had its own large, proper cubicle, which was great, as I prefer showers to baths).
The bed was reasonably comfortable to sleep in. I think Premier Inn’s beds are better on that score, but it was reasonable enough to get a good night’s sleep. And as the hotel name suggests, it is near the airport, as well as the dual carriageway, so you can hear noise from those areas nearby. But it’s not very loud, at least to me. I didn’t find it disruptive or noisy anyway, it was just atmospheric noise in the background really. But others may have different views of course.
The food in the hotel was delicious, and again the staff were really nice. For dinner on my first night I had the steak burger, which was topped with cheese and bacon, and came with chips and salad, and it was amazing, I loved it. And I had their hot breakfast, which is one of those buffet type affairs where you can pick what you want. So I asked the lady member of staff if she could help me, and she was only too happy to take me around and made sure I had everything I needed. So that made things really nice and easy first thing in the morning. And on my last day there, when I had to check out, I was able to leave my luggage with them until I’d finished at the event and was ready to catch my train home in the evening.
So I had a nice stay at the hotel for the 2 nights I was there. It’s not luxury, but it does the job nicely, and the staff were really kind and respectful of the fact that I was visually impaired. And there were no major problems on the train journeys.
So that’s it for this post, I hope you enjoyed it. My next post is the big one though, with all the details of the Naidex event itself, including some of the people I met, the seminars I went to, and the various companies, products and services that I discovered.