LONDON HEATHROW: Sofitel Hotel - An Oasis!

Returning from my vacation in the Netherlands, I had a layover of slightly less than a day in London and decided it would be best to stay at Heathrow airport to make it easier to catch my flight home the next day.

I originally booked a room at the Hilton at the airport's Terminal 4 but during my flight in, I saw an advertisement for the Sofitel in an in-flight magazine. I've been a Hilton HHonors member for years and they're generally fine, but the Sofitel looked like it offered a little more luxury, so I decided to check it out and see if they could offer me a competitive rate.

Adjacent to Heathrow’s Terminal 5, the hotel is attractive and new (only open about 18 months). The gentleman at the desk offered me a rate that was only £7 more than the AAA rate I’d been offered at the other property, and checked me in even though it was well before noon. I canceled my reservation at the Hilton and checked in to the Sofitel.

I was very glad I did. My room was modern but in an elegant way. It had all the amenities we’ve come to expect today in similar properties: hairdryer, iron and ironing board, safe, desk/work area, and a large flat screen TV. The bathroom was a pleasant surprise, featuring both the deep European tub and separate shower. The only thing missing was an in-room minibar, but the hotel bar was so convenient and convivial that it hardly mattered.

After a whirlwind trip into central London for photos of the Abbey Road zebra crossing, lunch at the venerable Rules Restaurant, a meeting nearby, and nighttime shots of the London Eye, Big Ben, and Piccadilly Circus, I was more than ready to return to the Sofitel.

Depositing my gear in my room, I repaired to the Sphere Bar for a couple of glasses of wine and some nibbles. SOME nibbles; no mere “pub grub” here! In addition to the snack of mixed nuts, pretzel bites and Wasabi-coated crunchies that the bartender brought immediately, I enjoyed appetizer-sized dishes of prawns with tonkatsu sauce, and roast figs in a honey, lemon, and thyme syrup. Outstanding!

Accompanying the great food was some good conversation. Unlike many establishments, the bar staff at the Sphere Bar actually took the time to chat with me (and several other fellow travelers). High marks there.

Back in the room, I watched the plasma TV until drifting off in a comfortable bed covered by a very cozy duvet.

The one minor glitch involved Internet access. I purchased an iBahn Internet access card that provided 90 minutes of on-line access with the presumption that I could use some of the time now and some later. Too late, I found out that I could not; I could only use the card for a single session, no matter how little of the 90 minutes it consumed. I should have been advised of that limitation going in.

Checkout the next morning was smooth and, given the hotel’s convenient location, I made my flight with plenty of time to spare. If your travels take you to London or through Heathrow, I highly recommend the Sofitel….and, of course, snacks at the Sphere Bar!

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Photos by Carl Dombek
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