A little while ago, Jordan and I toyed with the idea of getting Royal Ascot tickets as a bit of a late birthday treat for me (and an early birthday treat for him) and spending a few days down south. Just as we were about to press confirm on the website, I got an email off Accor hotels offering us a complimentary stay in their Reading hotel which had just been refurbished.
Without a hesitation, I said we would love to stay and mentioned that we were going to Royal Ascot and asked whether we could come on those dates. They said that would be fine and a lot of other people would be doing the same. I’m not saying Reading is Manhattan or Paris, but it did exceed my expectations. If you are heading to Ascot or anywhere else down south for that matter I would recommend it as an alternative to staying in London as it is much cheaper, and less than 30 minutes on the train.
I didn’t really know much about Reading, apart from they have a festival every August bank holiday, and I was pleasantly surprised. We drove down on the Thursday afternoon and it took us roughly about 3 hours to get there (with a snack stop in the middle). The hotel was easy to find, and they have a deal with the local NCP so you can park for 24 hours for £10.
Once we had parked up, we wandered over to the Ibis Central, which was on one of the main roads (opposite a Revs De Cuba and next door to a Nandos, if you need convincing…) The decor inside the hotel was very modern, and we were checked in by one of the staff members using an iPad. They had lemon water in reception, but also a bar and restaurant – they also had a breakfast area on the 1st floor, but we didn’t take advantage of this.
The lift could only be accessed with your room key card, which made us feel very secure. When we got up to the room, I was impressed with how big and bright it was. We had a king sized bed, a view of Reading and an en-suite with a huge shower.
We dropped our bags off and went to explore the city, which was on our doorstep. We walked into the main shopping area, which had all of the names you would expect, and through the shopping centre. I remembered seeing on the map that there was an area with loads of restaurants, so I made it our mission to find somewhere for dinner.
Once we had come through the shopping centre, there was a river with restaurants on either side of it and a pop-up beach bar that had been put up for summer. I was really overwhelmed with the amount of choice we had and enjoyed looking at some of the menus for places that we don’t have in Manchester.
We decided to go back to the beach bar a little bit later on after we had showered and got changed, and we made our way back to the hotel (via Tesco for G&T’s obvs…)
After we had recouped a bit, we wandered back over to the beach bar, where we had frozen cocktails and beer and sat in deck chairs on the sand whilst people played table tennis. Although it was the UK, the weather was about 26 degrees, and it really did feel like we were abroad.
Once we were suitably tipsy, we decided to eat at The Real Greek, as the menu caught our eye. The dishes were served on a plate holder that reminded me of what you get when you went to afternoon tea. I adore Greek food, and we were spoilt for choice. We ordered a bottle of red to compliment the meat dishes and ordered an assortment of hot and cold dishes – all of which were amazing.
I’ve never been to Greece, so I can’t say whether the food compares to authentic Greek cuisine, but it tasted amazing, and I already can’t wait to go back next time I’m down south.
When the meal was over, we were absolutely stuffed but decided to head to Revs De Cuba for one drink as it was opposite our hotel. I’ve been to a couple of different Revs in my time, but this one was by far my favourite. The overall vibe of the place was so chilled and relaxed, and everyone was just having a really good time.
The next day we woke up quite early to go for breakfast at a place called The Shed Cafe which was incredibly cute and had the most amazing fresh coffee smell. I went for crumpets and jam, and Jordan had a bacon and egg baguette. For the price, I would definitely recommend this place if you find yourself in Reading, plus the staff were lovely.
After a quick walk around the town to wake ourselves up, we went back to the hotel to start getting ready for Ascot. Even before we got back to our room, we saw people dressed for the races, already starting to drink before 10am – bearing in mind the first race was at 2pm….
Once we were ready, we took a couple of drinks and headed to the train station, which was less than a 5-minute walk away. We were slightly early for our train, so decided to make the most of the sunshine and have a drink on the platform, with a bunch of rowdy Southerners. I was impressed with how quick the train was to Ascot, and how little we had to walk to get there.
Overall I really enjoyed my time in Reading, as it wasn’t as overwhelming as London can sometimes be, but had everything you needed a short walk away. I would highly recommend the Ibis because of the great location and really lovely facilities – rooms start from around £60 a night.
It always amazes me when this little old space on the internet allows me to do new and exciting things, and visit new places – thank you for all your support.
Thank you to Accor Hotels for the complimentary stay. All views are my own.