Tag Archives: Hotel

What makes a hotel great?

The view

The view

So what is it that makes a hotel great? Different from the others? After all, amenities, service, food – these are all product, not emotional benefits. Even Mrs P, ever one to indulge in the Spa offerings, knows she can get this almost anywhere. These have become expectations, not differentiators…

Gazing out across the Caribbean

Gazing out across the Caribbean

This question came up today at dinner. We’re at the Cap Maison, St Lucia, and we all decided that this was definitely a great hotel. But why?
Immy, 12, came up with the answer. Its the texture, she said. What did she mean, we said?
Good place for a snooze
Well, it’s got everything that you would expect from a hotel in a nice resort. It’s beautiful, manicured, great view, wonderful restaurant, pool to die for, private beach etc. But that’s not it. It feels like it belongs. Colonial in style, and quirky in atmosphere. It’s not a Premier Inn, she stated, rather emphatically. Everything is very thoughtfully done. For example the tiles on the walkways have got fossils of plants imprinted into the stones. The evening bar, library and shop have all got honesty boxes. The staff have all clocked Immy’s name, and use it. We’ve only been here 2 days…
Curvy pool

Curvy pool


Ubiquitous palm

Old style

Old style

This isn’t perhaps the place for everyone. It’s small and boutique. But it is very lovely. Immy finished up: It’s a fantasy, not a fact.
Not a bad review, for a twelve year old…
The view, again.

The view, again.

Shattered dreams on the Croatian coast

A beautiful view

A beautiful view

Today tourists admire the view. But two decades ago this was the vantage point for the artillery guns, and Dubrovnik suffered under bombardment.

Dubrovnik's main street

Dubrovnik burning

Where the shells landed

Where the shells landed

Fox hole, dugout, now grave

Fox hole, dugout, grave

Round the bay from our villa is Kupari, a once-posh hotel resort heavily shelled during the war. It’s very weird to be a tourist in 2013, and to look at the tourist areas of 1991 that were being torn apart by high explosive…

Someone has a sense of irony...

Someone has a sense of irony…

Shell damage

Shell damage

Easy to get inside. But not comfortable. Eerie. Deserted. Haunted

Once, a grand staircase...

Once, a grand staircase…

A beautiful dining salon...

A beautiful dining salon…

A wrecked staircase...

A destroyed staircase…

Wreckage framing a delightful view...

Wreckage framing a delightful view…

A shell must have come straight into this bedroom...

A shell must have come straight into this bedroom…

This view is in the huge atrium of the hotel. There are definitely ghosts here.

Trees vs concrete

Green vs grey

What a sorry waste. The remnants of dreams and hopes of developers, hoteliers, guests, staff and local businesses. Just some caustic graffiti to reference the raw emotions. Thank heavens such times are over in this area.



The madness of a Peck weekend in Suffolk!

This last weekend we decided to take a break. Instead of having guests to us, we decided to be guests ourselves! And so, courtesy of a Mr & Mrs Smith hotel deal, off we went to Suffolk to stay at the grand, wacky and totally over the top Ickworth Hotel. In my mind I had pictured a relaxing, gentle, pootling sort of weekend. The papers, tea & scones, a nice bottle of wine with dinner. That sort of thing. And we did do all those things, but, well, ‘gentle’ is perhaps pushing it a bit ….

The kids, God bless 'em

It all started with trying to get there on Friday night. Getting the kids out of the house, with their gear, plus the wife, with her gear. We left at about 8.30 and made it as far as…. McDonald’s. Then onwards, with the satnav to guide us. But although we were only travelling 38 miles, it took an hour and a half (we had the setting on shortest route – so it was windy roads the whole way). Sometimes tech can get in the way…

But the following day we decided to be intrepid and hire some bikes. I had a secret plan – to ride around the whole Ickworth estate (7.5 mile round trip). Within 200 yards Charles crashed into Isobel, sending her sprawling over the handle bars and onto the road, right in front of 2 girls walking up to the main house to be waitresses or whatever. Now, every time we went into the house, there would be sniggers and jokes about townies in the country (quite justified actually, I don’t know why Isobel was even trying to ride a bike in Loubertins…)

Isobel comforting Immy after another crash

Eventually, in spite of the rain, the sheep poo, the hills (God the kids complained – you would have thought it was an Alpine stage in the Tour de France!) we made it round the estate. The relief of the tea and scones!

Immy finds her ideal chair

Luckily Ickworth Hall has a games room for the kids. To give them a chance I staged tournaments of ping pong where I had to play left handed (still won). And there’s a swimming pool, where it quickly became evident that Immy is almost a teenager (she posed incessantly and only dipped her toes in the water – it was rather cold.)

"It's tooooooooooo cold"

And in the evening we ate in the conservatory. Because all the other guests had left we decided to play fizz buzz (counting where 3 and multiples of 3 = fizz, and 5/multiples of 5 = buzz. Get it wrong and you have to drink). We made it to 31! – the kids are better than me at drinking games. Mind you, I was on Malbec and they were on OJ.

The following morning I had another cunning plan. First, get the whole family to visit the National Trust Ickworth property (house of the Hervey family, as I said: wacky – the main building is a rotunda!), then walk down to the lake and admire the walled gardens. Again, that sort of worked if you ignored the complaints at walking. Complaints until we actually got to the lake where we were treated to the spectacle of 2 Canada Geese having a massive scrap. Hissing, feathers flying, pecking, charging across the lake after each other – nothing like a bit of violence to cheer everyone up, it was ace!

Below stairs

The path to the lake

And so our weekend came to an end and it was time to head back to reality. Good weekend really – we’ll never forget it!

Ping Pong Champ

(By the way, if you like these photos, they were all taken on my iphone using an app called Hipstamatic. As you can see it fakes old film/old format cameras. Great fun for £1.19! Put away the Leica!!!)

Parisian Pillow Moments

Carrying on with a theme I’ve mentioned before: working for an international company does mean you get to go to some fantastic places. And this week it was Paris!

Montmartre to be specific, which is where this pic was taken, looking from the Place Dalida up towards Sacre Coeur.

Backstreets of Montmartre

We were all staying in quite an amusing hotel – The Hotel Terrass, so called of course, because it had a terrace overlooking the city. I was one of the lucky ones who got a refurbished room, all mirrored wall with inset hidden tv. Plus trendy bathroom with the smallest shower I’ve ever been in. It was like a tube, very narrow. Bijou is the word. Impossible to turn around and forget soaping your feet – impossible to bend down.

But the hotel did have one innovation that I thought was rather neat. So I abused it shameless – a pillow menu!

Joni had it right, in Paris they really do kiss on the mainstreet.

The first night I had the standard hotel pillow, but the second I went for a Goose Down Pillow. I’d say that was the softest pillow I ever chanced to lay my head on. The third night I wanted to go for the Musical Pillow – it has built in speakers to play music and drift you off to sleep. Now I’d managed to forget my ipod, so I asked to borrow an MP3 player. At first the concierge said I could have one, then that I couldn’t. When I then suggested that a Musical Pillow was a bit pointless if it couldn’t play music, and could I try a Silk Pillow instead, the concierge started to get a bit shirty. Hadn’t I already tried one pillow, wasn’t that enough? No, I said. I felt I needed to try out the Silk one. It was brought up to my room, grudgingly.

Sacre Coeur plus trinkets

Now I knew I was pushing my luck on the fourth night, but hey, it was a menu – I was determined to sample as much as possible! So I went for the Bamboo Pillow. Sounds weird, but my favourite of the lot! The menu description doesn’t do it justice. how unappetising does this sound: Perfectly suited to those who are constantly too warm in bed, this bamboo pillow has anti perspiration properties that will guarantee you a pleasant, cool night’s sleep. Sounds pretty functional to me. The Terrass hotel marketing department needs to work a bit harder on the emotional benefits of bamboo, I think…But in spite of the inept marketing description, this one was the best of the lot. 10/10 for comfort. And not a peep from the concierge.

So, Au revoir to Montmartre. I never did get to the Moulin Rouge (pity). Because I really would have liked to see today’s cabaret girls. Still, the memories of the greats are still with us. La Goulou, Jane Avril. And on a Montmartran Bamboo Pillow the dreams of dancing girls is as sweet now as in the heyday of the cancan! Bisous a tous!

Garters, stockings and frilly skirts. The good old days...