I have just returned from a brief stay in New South Wales, where I had the experience of staying in two Formule 1 motels.
I have to say I was rather unimpressed with the sort of accommodation that was on offer at their Newcastle and Gosford establishments and wanted to share my experiences with you all in the form of a review.
I have been aware of the budget Formule 1 chain for quite some time but I had no idea what I was in for as I’d never stayed in one before. Clearly, the price should have been an indication to me, but it wasn’t.
The first stay was at Formule 1 Newcastle, which is actually in a far-flung dull suburb called Wallsend on the west of the city. I have stayed in motel rooms in Tokyo and in all honesty, this was hardly any bigger. In fact, I suspect that many of New South Wales’ petty criminals would enjoy a similar level of amenity in the state’s low-security prisons, but without the various hanging points.
Here’s how my room presented itself as I stepped in.
It was exceedingly hot in the room, so I had to turn on a loud and rattly air-conditioner to cool it down. As can be seen here, there is a double and single bunk bed, a single chair, a basin, a towel, a television and a clock-radio; the latter two of which are bolted to a peculiar angled bracket on the wall. Clearly there’s been a spate of clock-radio thefts that I was unaware of.
The room was tiny. The space between the end of the bed and the wall would have been no more than 40cm.
When I turned around, I could see the bathroom:
When I stayed in Tokyo, the motel had a similar Portaloo-styled prefab bathroom arrangement, but in the Japanese case the basin was within proximity of the toilet /shower and not on the other side of the room. There was no shower curtain and the aqua green paint had come off in places:
Now I can live with basic amenities for a night on a short holiday, but this was barely on the threshold of acceptability.
There was no bath mat or shower curtain and the disgraceful shower-rose sprayed water absolutely everywhere which meant that water unavoidably ended-up all over the floor. Ironically, this fountain that masqueraded as a shower rose made rinsing shampoo from my hair nearly impossible. Unhelpfully, the basin was on the other side of the room so I had nowhere to rest my possessions whilst showering.
There was a creepy hole above the shower that was supposed to act as an exhaust fan. Now that wouldn’t be an issue in itself except for the stern notice on the bathroom door which informed me that my cubicle must be enclosed whilst I shower unless I wanted to make a donation to the Rural Fire Service.
After I had my shower, fearful of setting-off the fire alarm and with nowhere to hang my towel, I decided that a cup of tea was in order.
But I was wrong.
For whilst there was a modest basin and a small disposable plastic cup from which I could drink, there was no kettle and no sachets of tea or coffee. Even Wollongong’s Worst Motel in Australia could manage to provide an electric kettle for its guests. Come to think of it, the Worst Motel in Australia was also able to provide a refrigerator whilst Formule 1 couldn’t.
So there I was, in an overheated dog box where I couldn’t open the bathroom door, or make myself a cup of tea or even buy some food to eat in the morning. Pathetic.
The window to my room was miserably small, more like a portal really. Keen to have something to eat, I decided to leave. Outside was this rather long, hot and dingy corridor:
It felt like a prison block. Curiously, there was a P.A. system in the corridor that was playing rock music off one of the local Newcastle radio stations. Even when I was trying to sleep at 11pm, I could still hear its tunes wafting under my door, although it had been switched-off when I awoke at 7am.
As I proceeded downstairs, I saw a sign offering a $7 breakfast in the morning. When I enquired, the friendly manageress informed me that it was a “cold continental breakfast”. I had no idea what that was, but decided that for $7 I could go to McDonald’s and have a breakfast that might have been just as nutritionally deficient but at least it would be hot.
Of course that was easier said than done because it seems that Wallsend is serviced by no-one except a Franklin’s supermarket and a “meat warehouse”. I had to drive more than 10 kilometres before I found a supermarket! I have no idea what Wallsend residents do with their lives, but supermarket shopping clearly isn’t part of the routine.
Tired and frustrated, I returned to my prison-like room and looked at the car park view out of my window, before retiring for the night knowing that despite it all, I had only parted with $75 for this substandard room.
I felt comforted because the next night, I would be staying in the Gosford version of Formule 1 and surely when I was paying $100 a night there, I could expect something better.
Alas, I was wrong.
The Gosford Formule 1 was almost a clone of the Newcastle/Wallsend one, except that the basin was thoughtfully placed into the bathroom this time. Unfortunately the shower curtain was merely decoration and had no effect on preventing a lot of water from flooding the bathroom.
As you can see, the toilet is almost within the shower, so small is the bathroom. Just as was the case with the Newcastle Formule 1, threatening signs regarding the smoke detectors were placed on the walls.
Another distinction between Newcastle and Gosford’s Formule 1 motels was that in Newcastle, one could open the window to collect a breeze (or act as insurance against wayward steam from the shower). Clearly such conduct would not be tolerated in Gosford, where a cable lock had been applied to ensure that nothing more than a slither of the outside world could be experienced from within the
I can’t say that I was too impressed with the service at Gosford, either. When I arrived, I gave my name but the manager was adamant that he couldn’t find my booking, until he looked at me and said “I can only find one here that starts with ‘Doctor’”. When I replied by saying “That’s correct” he demanded to see a driver’s licence as he clearly didn’t believe that I could have earned the title. In fact, there was a generally condescending tone throughout his conversation with me.
Unfortunately service and hospitality were not features of my Formule 1 experience. For anyone wanting a bed and nothing else for the night then Formule 1 is probably the way to go. But if like me you may want to have a comfortable shower, make a cup of tea, use a cupboard, make a phone call, open a window, use a microwave or store food in a refrigerator whilst in your
dormitory room, then perhaps other local options may be preferable.
To be fair, the Formule 1 website never said that such commonplace facilities were provided. Like a colour television, I had always just assumed that every Australian motel provided such basics in 2012.
Perhaps the final symbolic observation comes from this emergency evacuation plan on the back of my
cell room door. As you can see, it wasn’t really of any help as they hadn’t even bothered to mark my room on the plan.
For a mere $10 more in Gosford, I could have stayed in a real motel and actually been comfortable. This will serve as a lesson for next time.