A long, long, long time ago in this galaxy, I had a job that paid good money. I bought a sporty little sports car and when I went on a business trip, I stayed in high-class hotels. The best ever was The Banff Springs Hotel, in, well, Banff, Alberta Canada. Yes, those were the days. I’ve had my share of fleabag hotels too. Availability and roll of the dice can often mean you end up in a guest house or a hotel that is nothing like its advertised opulence.
The various accommodations I have stayed at over the course of my life add up to a smorgasbord of choice from the low to the high. The worst place ever was in the south of Tunisia. The toilet consisted of two planks over a pit. Your business was completed between the planks. Lizards darted about in the pit below. Lovely. And I have stayed in every kind of place in between that and Banff Springs during my time on the planet.
Hotels and Motels are one thing. Accommodations come in all shapes, sizes and types. I’ve stayed in plenty of those, mostly in Canada. Always searching for the best budget accommodation without going for lizards in the toilet or uncomfortable beds. The best sleep I’ve had is in any of the Premier Inns I’ve stayed at around England. You can’t beat their mattresses and pillows. The rest of the place isn’t much, but a good night sleep is a must. For me it is anyway.
Since those heady days of pre-millennium, the choices regarding accommodation have changed considerably. Hotels and motels are old school. Even B&Bs (Bed & Breakfast establishments) are passé. They still exist, of course, and are frequented, especially by the more senior among us. But the trend nowadays is to find an Air B&B or accommodation through another group called Home/Away. There are probably others, but I ain’t that trendy.
I’ve stayed in a few B&Bs in my day….mostly in Britain. One that comes to mind is a place I stayed in back in 1978 in Inverness. I have never met a more crusty, ill-tempered old lady in all my life before that visit or since. Why she was in the business confounds me. She actually told me she merely tolerates people. She and her sister had owned and run the place until her sister died suddenly leaving Miss (a spinster) Fussydrawers to keep the place going. “My sister, the selfish cow, was the outgoing one. She loved people,” she told me at breakfast. “I just had to do the breakfasts and stay out of the way. Then she drops dead and leaves me with the whole thing. I’ve never forgiven her.” I really needed to know that. And no trip adviser back then to register a negative review.
There have been a few Youth Hostels too….during that fateful Tunisian trip. Swore I’d never stay in another one again in my life and I’ve lived up to that promise. The Air B&Bs have been another thing altogether. The best one so far was in Paris a few years ago. Right in the heart of the city a few blocks from the Georges Pompidou Centre. We were in a very small apartment on the top floor (no lift) of a very old, historical house. The price was incredibly cheap for the location. People rent out their homes or part of them to strangers. I’ve stayed at one in Amsterdam, a Dutch comedian’s (an oxymoron if ever there was one) house and one in York.
The problem with Air B&B is that not every participant is reliable. We have booked places where providers never respond. In one case we booked a place in Liverpool at the Albert Dock. The woman replied, said it was available, we asked for details to send payment and never got a reply. Not good business. And a place we got in York (Yorkshire) had mold everywhere. Hit and miss principles apply.
But the most promising accommodation yet was in a place you’d never expect…. Droitwich Spa. Not a household name. And I had never heard of it either until some friends moved their boat to a marina just outside of town. We travelled up there to see them and decided, because they live with 3 dogs on the boat, to stay at a local hotel. And there it was, on the internet….Chateau Impney, at a very good nightly rate too. The name is weird. Impney. Where did that come from?
Don’t know. It began as Impney Hall back in the late 1800s. A chap named John Corbett built it for his French/Irish wife in the style of a French Chateau, thinking this would make her happy. It didn’t. It turned into a miserable marriage and the good lady moved to one of Corbett’s houses in Ireland. Corbett was the salt magnate of the Spa and made a lot of money. His dad owned and ran a barge (narrowboat) on the canals from Birmingham to London. Enterprising family. In 1925, Impney Hall became a hotel and survived troop devastations and enemy prisoners from WWII. It was re-branded as Chateau Impney in the 1960s. The extensive grounds and gardens were restored near to their former glory as well.
And having booked online, we didn’t know what to expect. As we drove up the lane toward this magnificent place, we couldn’t believe our luck. We checked in and were told our room was in one of the out-buildings. Nice room, but in a brown-bricked, flat-roofed annex….and no room service. But, breakfast was included and we did get to eat that in the Chateau….basement. Even so, one lady, dressed very smartly asked if her party could move elsewhere when they were seated next to us….wearing our leisure wear. Snooty bitch.
We walked the gardens before we left and headed home to our boat and our normal life. The pretentious Chateau, as ornate and as spectacular as it was, could stay or go as far as I’m concerned. Next time it’s the Premier Inn for me.