Is a hotel the sort of place you really want to bring children? Well actually yes, or at least why not as we were quite last minute in our search for a couple of days away from the roost. We wanted to celebrate a big anniversary and break up the endless half term with a trip to the West Country. Also, our trip to Devon as I wrote last time, had sadly been cancelled.
The Victorian mock Gothic Hotel with Italianate tower was owned by a Celebrity Chef, less than one and a half hours from our door, though a traffic jam made it twice as long. It was dark when we got there but the rooms had been booked, and we were looking forward to our celebration meal and an earlyish night.
Confusion at the Reception desk. Our two rooms – a double and another with twin beds close together on the same floor, couldn’t be found. There were now two members of staff crowding around the computer trying to find a solution. Quarter of an hour later. Would we mind taking a family suite in the modern annex down the driveway and much nearer the main road. Well yes as we wanted to stay in the atmospheric main building – an old house full of character, and decorated to the taste of the Celebrity Chef (who I’ll call CC from now on). Still, six pm and dark, we were too tired to get in the car and find somewhere else, so we dragged ourselves and bags down the gravel path, to new building, up in the lift, into the modern suite and, after starting to unpack, watched as the stocky mustachioed man picked up the phone and listened to an update from Reception. They’d double-booked this room too and we couldn’t stay there after all. Slumped back to main house. More muttering and staring at the computer by increasing numbers of staff. Eventually we were offered their two best rooms – the Bridal Suite and a Deluxe Double. Can live with that. So we thought.
In short, Bridal Suite was on three floors. It had a double bedroom and bath, then up some stairs was a room with a 4 ft wicker chaise long and no bed. Up some more stairs a tower room with single bed and wonderful views from 6 stone gothic windows on two outside walls. No curtains or blinds, but what better way to wake up when the sun rises. No lazy sleep-ins for us! Then there was the line-up of dead flies and wasps between the window recesses. They may have been placed there as a work of art, as was the interestingly designed mildew creeping up the architraves – after all there were a couple of Damien Hirst dot paintings in the dining room.
And as CC was clearly friends with him, then it would only take a short leap of the imagination to recognise the black men’s underpants left on the bathroom floor to be the work of Tracey Emin! We couldn’t have be more excited to be ALMOST rubbing shoulders with such eminent artists.
The Deluxury Double was dominated by a dark carved oak four poster bed which was possibly designed for the diminutive King Charles I. Even without his big puffy wig, he may have had trouble stretching out. We did, but sleeping with your legs bent at right angles to our bodies was nothing if not excellent practise for the ski slopes next season, so no complaints there.
I also liked the very modern way we were encouraged to sit Japanese style on the floor if we wanted a cup of tea in the room, as the electric cord from the kettle to the plug wasn’t long enough to put it on the table.
We preferred this bathroom with its frosted window and single-setting monsoon shower (fantastic for giving the floor a quick wash down while abluting), to the one in the Bridal Suite which had clear glass looking out over the car park. The loo there was cleverly placed right next to the window so the view was useful for car-watching – especially the ones that swept into the forecourt with their headlights on. The loo seat was great too for getting rid of that annoying cellulite: every time one stood up, the heavy wooden lid came crashing down on your bum, so within two days your orange peel is almost guaranteed to vanish. Sadly children wouldn’t be the first to appreciate this fact – especially little boys going for a pee in the middle of the night.
You’d never be in doubt for a moment about who owned the hotel. CC had cleverly hung upwards of about forty black & white photographs of himself on the walls of all public areas. Here he is waving his kitchen implements like a Delacroix on the barricades, there, naked and prone like a model that Caravaggio was about to do, or posing with a keffiyeh wound around his head and sharp knife in hand. We were relieved to see that here, clearly, was a man in charge. A man who believes in himself enough to put down his own stamp. Again and again. A man who knows his mind and isn’t afraid to show it. But most important of all – a man who knows the hotel business inside out.
One of the things we thought was most impressive was how eco CC was. None of the bulbs in the hotel could have been higher than 5 Watts, so although it was hard to see at times, for the most part we took it in our stride. Apart from tripping over the shallow stair just inside the bedroom door.
The staff couldn’t have been more helpful, though I did worry about the morning Receptionist being a little cold going into November. Perhaps her Living Wage doesn’t provide for a cardigan, but luckily she had quite a Winter covering in other ways. I can understand that a crisp white shirt – however certain it is to give a good impression at the front desk – is a frightful hassle to wash and iron. Again, very ECO, so two stars right there as I say to the children.
Our favourite person wasn’t CC. Sadly he wasn’t around when we were there despite helpfully making his presence felt throughout. No, our vote for the best ever staff member was Manuel. At least, I don’t know his real name but just think Manuel from Fawlty Towers with a West Country accent. I know he had our best interests at heart.
Because we had been told by the Housekeeper that the tap water in the Bridal Suite wasn’t fit for drinking as it was full of chlorine, my husband called Room Service at night to ask for bottled water and a glass. Mr Mustachio answered the phone and gave him an instructive lecture as to why he didn’t need it. Eventually, though, he was persuaded upstairs with a bottle of drinking water. At the door, he again he remonstrated with husband that there was nothing wrong with the water from the tap. Here was a dedicated professional who had learnt the art of service from his boss.
At least we slept well. When we got home. It was great to hear so many guests enjoying themselves – revellers crashing up the stairs and around the landing at 2.30am. And so lucky to be woken up early by the slamming of doors, as I’d left the alarm clock at home. Nothing worse than oversleeping on holiday! During the small hours, and having brought no reading matter, I found the only book on the bookshelf that wasn’t about military equipment. I am proud, I think, to tell you that I have now read SIX CHAPTERS of a Catherine Cookson novel. On my wedding anniversary. At least I think I read it as the bedside lamp was so dim and was so obscured by the brocade drape around the four poster, that I might just have imagined it all. But then, so did Catherine Cookson.
The best thing about this place was the restaurant. The local radio station blasted out some useful traffic and weather updates in between the commercial breaks from a small radio on the floor. Just what you need to start the day.
In the final analysis, the food was very good and the staff did what they could in the face of adversity. I’ve spoken with CountryWives who recommended CC’s restaurant in London for a wedding venue. But would we stay here again? If they paid us a couple of thousand … perhaps
Bloomin brilliant! I was thoroughly gripped by this post! Really funny. A bit rubbish for you though. I hope you got your money back? Please tell me where it was? Xx
Thank you! Funnily enough we enjoyed it in a perverse sort of way, though it was a bugger to get good enough lighting for the iphone shot of the black underpants in the gloomy bathroom. Going to stay at Travelodge after Blogfest on Sat night so hoping it’ll be an improvement! Didn’t ask for money back as they did upgrade us and we thought their computer system was so incompetent, we’d end up having our bank account debited by twice the amount. Even though you’ve sent two lovely kisses, I won’t tell you where it is at the moment as he can afford lawyers and I can’t. Mind you, I’ve got the iphone photos …
Oh no, what a disaster! But funny 🙂 I thought better of CC…
Ah so you know who it is?
I think I know who it is but I could be wrong. Marco Pierre White? If I am right…can I win a prize please? I like prizes 🙂 x
“You might think that; I couldn’t possibly comment”. Therefore my dear, I’m afraid I cannot say whether you would win a prize or not! 🙂 However, if you like prizes, why not enter my caption competition which will be going up next week x
That sounds…amazing. If amazing meant the complete opposite of amazing. Pleas please please add this review to a very prominent review site on the internet.
Ha! May just do that although there are loads of other reviews of this hotel but none with drawings, and the ‘excellent’ ones say things like: There were lots of photographs of famous people on the dining room wall so a great talking point during the meal, in fact I heard one of the artworks was worth over £10,000. Those sort of comments from obviously genuine guests …
Oh no what a night! They must presume those in the Bridal suite aren’t going to think about the hotel. Am glad you enjoyed it of sorts and seriously hope your next night away is much improved.
Love the drawings you are so talented.
Thank you! BTW it was two nights:( I think you’re right about the Bridal suite expectations – perhaps some people could still get in the mood in a room full of dead flies and other people’s knickers, though I am not that person. At least we don’t have illusions about Travelodge !
Very funny! Pleased the food was good.
Glad you liked it. Yes, very good food apart from uneccessary £4 extra for full English Breakfast on top of existing charge (fine if it was half a dozen Colchester No.1 oysters). Also, not being too exact about where cuts of meat came from – just said ‘Butcher’s Steak’ on menu. Hmmm. But what a shame he needs to prop up his ego with a hotel. A bit like a kid playing Monopoly in my opinion
Aaaaaargh….and you didn’t even get your soft landing in Devon! Except it would have been just as unpredictable – although quiet at night and fewer dead flies. No beds at all though (due to no floors), just may have left us equally open to criticism had we attempted to go ahead.
Better luck next year!!
Devon without floorboards would have been interesting – did you see my previous post? Wouldn’t dream of criticising unless you were charging the same as CC! Yes next year we hope 🙂 xx
Oh crikey what a hole! Glad you saw the funny side but the place sounds like it would only be improved if the whole place was levelled to the ground!
Good idea! Turn it back into the beautiful countryside that surrounds it! The sad thing is that it wouldn’t take much to turn it around: one really good manager who had the confidence of the owner, but somehow I don’t think he’s listening.
The perfect wedding anniversary then… avec enfants AND Catherine Cookson! Can I recommend the Luxury Family Hotel group next time… especially The Polurrian Bay Hotel. We went there last week and it was, how can I put this, not like CC’s Fawlty Towers…
This looks great. It also has the one word in the English, or French,language that’s guaranteed to raise a smile on a parent’s face. CRECHE! Thank you for the recommendation and we love Cornwall
Crickey I’d be spitting feathers if that had been me.
I can confirm that the travelodge in london is indeed nicer
That’s good to know about Travelodge. At least it is without pretention even if it has no hairdryers or shampoo!
I loved the Fawtly Towers tale but it all sounded like an experience you could do without! Anyway sorry you did not make it to Devon – I share this one with you as we too were unable to get there on our planned weekend due to Peter being ill. So I guess the ‘Two mad aunties” will have to take a rain check on Nos!
Thanks Rosita – glad I was able to share a laugh about this! It makes for a better story than a boring stay in a good but bland hotel. Crashed at Travelodge in London on Saturday night after a conference, now THERE’S another place I wouldn’t want to spend my honeymoon! XJ