4 Lanyon Place Belfast BT1 3LP, Northern Island Tel 44 (0) 28 9027 7000 Fax 44 (0) 28 9027 7277 Web site: www.hilton.co.uk
I caught a cab from the Belfast International Airport, and within about 10 or 15 minutes was at the Hilton Belfast, right next to the BT (British Telecom) towers, just a few minutes walk from the centre of the city. The imposing building had around 12 storeys, and overlooked the River Lagan, which looked more like a 60 metre-wide canal. The cab fare was just six pounds, and from there I went into the reception. Very high ceilings struck me, with a certain vibrance about the surroundings, although it was deathly quiet. There were two reception attendants on deck, and one checked me in, although with a little difficulty because their computers were down. I had come in on an all-inclusive rate of 109 pounds (booked through the Hilton.co.uk Web site), which included dinner, breakfast and taxes. I was also told as I was on an executive floor that I was entitled to complimnetary drinks and snacks during 6 to 8pm in the bar, as the Executive Lounge was closed. I was given Room 1101 on the eleventh floor. This co-incided with requests I was able to make on the Hilton Web site, where I designated a room on a high floor, and near the elevator. I took the lift to the eleventh floor, and entered the hallway. Room 1101 was the first on the right hand side, and directly opposite the Executive Lounge (which was closed). On entering the room I noted it was spacious, although not overly so, but for UK standards it was. The bone coloured carpet had a royal blue insignia pattern, the room was entirely wallpapered (but for the white painted ceiling, with a bone pattern. There was a large cabinet on which the TV was placed. The TV connected to local and cable TV channels, including Belfast stations, BBC, Sky News and CNN. There were three large drawers in the cabinet, and a telephone book in one, which was a delight as most hotels in the UK seem to lack them. There was also a small fridge with mini-bar treats. There was a work desk-come dresser, which had a good size mirror, a drawer, which contained a hairdryer, a lamp and a phone. I looked for a high speed Internet access data point, however there wasn't one. The Hilton Web site indicated the hotel's rooms had the facility. I picked up the phone and called reception. They confirmed the hotel did not have high speed Internet access, but a data point was located on the phone. I told them about the Web site, and they said the facility could be provided but they required 24 bours notice. I don't know what they were talking about, and I'm not sure they did either. They were quite friendly and I wasn't all that fussed about it, as it was a weekend and I wasn't going to be doing too much. It was a negative though that Hilton indicated the facility was available when it wasn't. I had encountered this before with Hilton at another hotel, which advertised it had the facility, but on check-in I was told it was only available in a small number of executive style suites. In any event back to Room 1101. There was a large free-standing two drawer wardrobe, which included some shelves, a trouser press, and a safe; but no luggage rack. There was a chair at the dresser/desk and a purple coloured arm chair in the room facing the TV, coupled with an occasional table. There was an ash tray on the table, which signalled it was a smoking room. I had designated non-smoking when I made the booking but the Web site indicated no non-smoking rooms were available, so I was prepared for this. In fact I didn't detect any smoking smells, a credit to the Hilton Belfast housekeeping staff. The king size bed had two timber shelves, one on each side, with both housing a lamp, and one, a second phone. The windows were large and looked out over the river, a splended view! There was a set of see-through drapes, a second set of bome patterned drapes, and a third set of picture drapes hemmed to the wall, which were of a blue and bone colour pattern. There was a standing lamp behind the armchair. The lighting I must admit was barely adequate, although in many hotels these days this is the norm, promoting what is supposed to be an 'intimate' atmosphere. Nice when you have company. The bathroom, all in white tiles, was perfectly lit, with plenty of bench space, a combined bath and shower, with flexible shower head, and toilet. The shower provided a good stream of water, and was easily managed in terms of flow and temperature control. The room wqas fine overall, of a very good standard, comfortable , and was touched off with two very large prints, and one smaller one decking three of the walls. The hotel I learned had 195 rooms, including 13 suites, and 3 Executive Floors, comprising 38 of the 195 rooms. >From the room I took the lift back down, got some directions from the reception staff, and a couple of guide books containing maps and headed off to the city. It was only a few minutes walk down one street directly outside the hotel (May Street), which took me direct to the City Hall, built in 1906. From there I took to the city centre, and it was streaming with people. They were everywhere, out shopping, going off to pubs, cafes, listening to buskers and more. The city was very vibrant, and struck me as being completely at odds to the scene that greeted my last visit to Belfast many years ago. Then the mood was sombre and the city deserted, but for the many British tanks cruising the city, and soldiers stationed at various vantage points, and check-points. I remember arriving then for a review of the famous Europa Hotel, where U.S. President Clinton stayed, and seeing the newspaper banners 'Bombers Target City Centre'. It seems now like it was a lifetime ago, and for the many now milling the city streets, it was. Later back at the hotel I clambered down to the bar on the ground floor, to one side of the reception area. It was a very busy area, apparently a great attraction for the locals, as well as for hotel guests. There was Kronberg and Fosters beer on tap, and others, and of course Guinness. I settled for a Fosters lager, and was told there was no charge as I was on an 'all-inclusive'. After one-and-a-half pints I then wandered into the restaurant, situated further along on the right of the reception area. I was welcomed into a very large restaurant, over two levels, and was greeted with a menu that was a delight. I started with an avodcado, prawn gateaux, followed by Irish beef with vegetables and potatos, and finished with an Irish pudding. The whole meal was excellent, very tasty, very well presented, and the service was superb. I asked for the check, but was there there wasn't one because I was 'all-inclusive'. The next morning I tried the breakfast, not that I was hungary, but just to provide a complete review. Breakfast was served in the restaurant, and interestingly it didn't start until 8:00am, although it was a Sunday. I was offered tea and coffee, and toast, and then asked to attend the buffet. There was a selection of cereals, no bircher muesli, though, or any type of muesli. There were yoghurt packets, weet-bix, all-bran, Korn Flakes, and a number of others. There were small packaged cheeses, and a variety of fruits including orange portions, prunes, pears, and peaches. The hot dishes includes haggis (what appeared to be minced meat with herbs and spices), black pudding (I don't know what it consisted of), potato scones, hash browns, bacon, scrambled eggs, baked beans, and probably a couple of dishes I've forgotton. So much just to sight for a review; I waded into the buffet and tried it all, and it was all delicious. Again at the end, in response to my request for a check, I was reminded I was on an 'all-inclusive'. That pretty much wrapped up my stay at the Hilton Belfast, a hotel that I could easily recommend. It has all the features of a top quality hotel establishment, in a very good location in the city, with good views, and obviously well managed and staffed.