We just returned from a couple days in Stratford-upon-Avon where we did the obligatory Shakespeare tour and visited a castle, but before I relate those adventures (they are planned for subsequent posts, so don’t be surprised if you never hear about them) I want to talk about the hotel and the weather.
The hotel we staying in was A) a bargain and B) a sign of the times. My wife found the deal some months ago and we couldn’t believe how cheap it was to spend 5 days there—with meals included! But times are hard and hotels—especially during their slack seasons (and really, who wants to visit Warwickshire is March)—need to do all they can to keep warm bodies in their beds, so we found the too-good-to-pass-up deal too good to pass up.
The hotel was three-star and, honestly, that turned out to be an advantage. I’ve stayed in four-star hotels and, while I appreciate the additional luxury, there are significant advantages to basic service as long as you don’t mind missing out on a few unessential frills. The rooms were comfortable and homey, the staff—with few notable exceptions—cheerful, attentive, eager to please and generally grateful to have a job that didn’t involve a hairnet and a name tag.
The food was good. It was not exceptional, it was not artfully arranged on large square plates and it was not, more importantly, piled up so high we couldn’t finish it; there is little worse than spending your holiday in a chronic state of indigestion due to overindulgence. We were served good food, hot and palatable, better than what we would get at home and we didn't have to do the cooking or the washing up.
The weather, too, was good. Not brilliant, but then it wasn’t pissing down, either. However, it was a bit dull.
My wife and I, always ready to look on the bright side, kept referring to it as “atmospheric” but in truth it was simple cold and grey, the kind of cold and grey that only Britain can produce. For every day of our holiday, the sky was a smooth, unblemished expanse of grey that gave no hint of where the sun might be and which made 8 in the morning, 1 in the afternoon and 5 in the early evening all look identical. It was disconcerting and, after a while, pretty boring; the kind of weather Bill Bryson eloquently described (and this is why he is a best-selling author and I am not) as “like living inside Tupperware™.”
But I’ll take boring over wet and windy any day so, with our inadequate outer garments, we gamely fulfilled our sightseeing quota, which I will cover in separate posts (if I get around to it). So, for now, I’ll leave you with a few additional words about the hotel:
The difference between a three and four star establishment (and between the US and UK, for that matter) became painfully evident when a waitress dribbled my appetizer into my (full) wine glass. She was suitably chagrined and apologized profusely but, when she removed my sullied wine glass, she returned with an empty one. Hardly a like for like exchange; in the US, I’d have gotten a free drink, and likely a free entrée, as well.
The other difference was in the bathroom. Levels of luxury are noted mostly by the little details; anyone can feed you and make sure you have clean linens, but folding your toilet paper end into a diamond, that is a mark of quality. We didn’t get a diamond, just a point, but then of course we weren’t in a four star hotel, just a three star: