We were due to take a CMV cruise on the Astoria departing on Easter Tuesday. The weather forecast threatened more snow, so thought it prudent to get nearer Tilbury sooner rather than later. We didn’t want to run the risk of missing the cruise, due to depart somewhat early at 2pm. It also meant a 7.30am departure from home.
We looked for hotels in the area which are thin on the ground and thankfully we found Stifford Hall. Reading the reviews, other hotels seemed to attract contractors and weren’t really what we wanted.
We arrived at around 2.30. Check in was very efficient and friendly and we were given room 243. All rooms are in a modern annexe where you very briefly have to leave the main hotel. It’s now a “Bespoke Hotel” having been a “Park Inn”. There’s no lift so we left our main luggage with reception – ground floor rooms are available, and the staff did offer to help with the luggage. The main building is lovely with the annexe having a more 1980s feel. Our room was fairly modern with a nice looking shower, although the water pressure is rather low, but just about adequate. Thinking I was in London, I put more shower gel than I needed, the water is much softer here than London! Rather strangely, the room had a balcony which needed some TLC, and even had the weather been better, we couldn’t really see us using it.
There isn’t a lot to do in the immediate vicinity, so after a quick walk round the village, we drove to Southend which took about 30 minutes.
Our tariff included dinner, however, as it was a Sunday the main restaurant was closed. We ate in the bar, choosing from the main menu. The choice was fairly varied, although somehow tuna dishes were marked as vegetarian! I started with the chicken with saté sauce followed by pork which had a lovely crispy outer. The hotel wasn’t busy and chatted to the staff who were super friendly. I even got a lesson in napkin folding from the Deputy Manager Amanda!
Our room was quiet and the bed was comfortable so we got a good night’s sleep. We finally got to see the restaurant for breakfast which is a lovely room, and sat at a table overlooking the garden. As there weren’t many guests, the cold options were buffet style, and we ordered the hot selection.
After breakfast we visited Rainham Hall, an interesting National Trust property, although there’s no car park so we parked in Tesco nearby, where we also had a cuppa as Rainham Hall was only serving hot drinks in paper cups as it was Easter! What has the National Trust come to!
We also went over the river (costing a fiver and necessitating internet access) to the Red House in Bexleyheath. Coming from Birmingham, the Burne Jones windows were of interest.
On the way back we popped into Lakeside shopping centre, but there wasn’t really anything different from the shops in Merry Hill, so didn’t stay very long.
Dinner was served in the restaurant which was lovely, especially as Amanda came to chat with us!
All in all it was a nice prelude to the cruise and a good alternative to driving down the same day. It’s a shame we didn’t know about the hotel beforehand, as they do a special offer for staying and parking for the cruise, although a taxi is apparently about £15 each way.