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Sunday
Jan012012

Happy New Year

It was noticeably quieter at breakfast this morning. A few tired looking parents with young children who couldn't care about a new year were already down for breakfast, but most guests without their children with them were presumably enjoying a nice lie in.

We'd decided to take the longer, but presumably faster, motorway route back to Heysham and the roads were almost deserted as we set off that New Year morning. The motorway traffic was also very sparse, but the drive was somewhat spoiled by miles and miles of average speed cameras on 50 mph sections of deserted road works.

After the obligatory stop at ASDA in Lancaster we boarded the Ben My Chree and settled down in our executive cabin for the journey home. We' d decided to book a cabin rather than sit in the executive club lounge so we could relax a bit more and it worked out well as my mother by now had a bad chest infection and she could at least lie down on the bunk beds.  

Saturday
Dec312011

York

This morning we walked up through town to York Minster. My mother paid to go inside, my wife waited in the weak sunshine outside and I decided to go up the tower.

I'm far from fit, being overweight and with blood pressure issues, but I'd managed to go right to the very top level at St Pauls the last time we were in London so this couldn't be too bad.

I thought I was going to die about half way up the final tower part. I was very glad I was a minute or so behind the main group when we set off so at least I could rest on the steps and try to get my breathe back. When I finally made it to the top the views over York were excellent and it was pleasant tp spent 10 - 15 minutes looking around before heading back down the steps to meet up with my family.

We had lunch in the upstairs cafe of an antique shop, where I also bought a Burlington pocket watch. The afternoon was spent window shopping and I ended up in the Golden Fleece again.

My mother was feeling tired by now and seemed to be starting a chest infection so I walked her back to the hotel while my wife stocked up on some excellent cheeses and meats from the Hairy Fig artisan food shop.

I was glad to find that the drinks we had with our evening meal were successfully charged to my room without being made to feel like I was trying to con the hotel out of a few beers.

Despite it being New Year's Eve we headed off to bed befroe midnight, partly becasue i can't get excited about a new year and partly becasue we needed to be packed and checked out fairly early then next morning.

Friday
Dec302011

Bad Reception

Breakfast was absolutely packed this morning. It seems the hotel has some special offer for kids and the hotel was awash with them.  After breakfast we wandered into town to look around the shops and sights. We ended up buying more hats and then had an excellent later lunch in the Loch Fyne seafood restaurant before going back to the hotel feeling very worn out.

In the evening we ate in the hotel and yet again had a problem charging drinks to the room.  I noticed the waitress scampering off ahead of us to the reception desk and feeling like a criminal trying to steal a beer and a coke I followed her to see what the problem was.

The same bloke on the reception desk at last night said to me "I told you last night we'd need to authorise your card". Feeling absolutely aghast at his lack of manners to a guest I explained to him as politely as I could manage that I had gone to my room last night and immediately returned with the credit card. He was busy so another receptionist had pre authorised the card for charges.

After much tapping in the computer it was discovered that they had only authorised charges against my mother's room. "Let me get this straight" I said, trying to understand it myself. "You've allocated room 101 to my mother and room 103 to me and my wife. I've asked for both rooms bills to be charged to my card. When I came back with my card last night you only authorised charges from room 101, the room I'm not in, to be charged to my card?"

After waiting silently for a while for the situation to percolate through their minds they eventually agreed that it would be best if my room was also given the ability to charge items to my card.

I was beginning to get a bit fed up with the reception staff in the Novotel hotel in York...

Thursday
Dec292011

Off to York

As I expected, I had a totally crap night sleep with all of the wind related noise. Breakfast in the hotel did nothing to cheer me up. Instead of the usual hot buffet I had to wait fifteen minutes after being seated before they took my order and another fifteen minutes later I was server a single slice of bacon, a single sausage and a fried egg that was brown around the edges and had a solid yoke. I've had more appetising meals in motorway services.

In the end I was glad to be leaving the Midland Hotel. I had been really looking forward to my stay here but sadly found it a very disappointing experience. Perhaps it would be better on a sunny summer day?

I met my wife off the boat from the Isle of Man and we headed off to York for a few days. The drive across country was a lot longer than expected, perhaps the longer but faster motorway alternative would be a better choice for the return leg?

We were staying at the Novotel hotel in York, just outside the city walls and not too far a walk in to the centre. Once we'd checked in, which included the usual registering of our credit card, we headed off to York city centre.

Unsurprisingly my wife headed off in to Marks and Spencer and I was more than happy to settle down in the nearby Golden Fleece pub to try their local beers. When we met up again we went to the nearby hat shop, The Hat Company, where I bought yet another hat. It's becoming one of my favourite shops in York.

We had our evening meal in the hotel as we were on a dinner, bed and breakfast rate, and we had the set buffet and a few extra drinks. When it came time to charge the drinks to our room there seemed to be some problem so I had to accompany the waitress to the reception desk where a male receptionist eventually found that although they had taken the charge for the two rooms from my card they hadn't pre authorised it for any additional charges to the room. I had to go back up to the room to get my card and when I came straight back down with he was busy with another customer so the female receptionist who had first checked us in swiped my card for room charges. I wasn't too impressed that they hadn't done that in the first place when I handed them my card on arrival.

Wednesday
Dec282011

Edinburgh to Morecambe and the Midland Hotel

We went down for breakfast this morning and sat with all of the people we'd said goodbye to last night so we ended up saying goodbye all over again. We packed and loaded up the car we'd left there on the first night in Edinburgh before Christmas.

On the drive up to Edinburgh I'd noticed signs for Rosslyn Chapel, which was featured in the film The Da Vinci Code. As it wasn't too far off our route and we had all day to get to Morcambe I decided to stop off there. A free talk inside the chapel has just started when we arrived so we sat through it and it was very interesting as it gave a lot of insight and detail that may otherwise have been missed. The "no photos" policy was a pity, but I guess they hope to sell you the guide books instead. As it was raining quite heavily I didn't really get the photos of the outside I wanted so we left to continue on to Morcambe, where we were staying for the night.

Morcambe isn't really a place I'd be normally interested in but we were meeting my wife off the Isle of Man ferry the following day and I wanted to stay somewhere close to Heysham. We'd booked in to the Midland Hotel which is the art deco hotel that Hercule Poirot sometimes stays in the television series. I had been really looking forward to staying in the Midland but instead I found it a very disappointing experience.

It was very windy and the Isle of Man boat had been canceled that day. When I went in to my room the first thing I could hear it the wind whistling around an ill fitting bedroom window. There was also a low humming sound which I initially thought was some hotel plant or machinery but it turned out that was also wind related. It looked like it was going to be hard to get a decent night sleep in the room. My mother's room next door also seemed to suffer from the same noise.

I wasn't too impressed with the layout of the room. someone obviously thought it was an exciting and innovative room design but I thought it was too much of a pain in the ass. The pull down hanging rail in the wardrobe was more trouble that it was worth for one night so I lived out of my suitcase again. The angle poise type lamp on the built in desk was all angle and no poise. You could either balance it straight up or let it hang straight down; it wouldn't remain in any other position. The television was OK, but when you turned it off the screen stayed a fairly bright blue colour and lit the whole room. I couldn't unplug it as it was hard wired in so I had to cover it over when I wanted to try to sleep.

The bathroom was a triumph of design over practicality. From the fold out toilet compartment, more suited to a caravan than a hotel bathroom, to the lovely metal rack in the shower so carefully positioned at head hight to catch the face or eyes of the unwary. It all seemed designed to frustrate and make me wonder "who the fsck thought this was a good idea?". The tiled floor had a step between the basin and the towel rail, great for catching you out at night or with your eyes full or water. You probably get the feeling that I'm nitpicking, but I'd love the management of the hotel to spend a night in one of their own standard rooms and see what they really thought of the design.

The dining area in the hotel would have been spectacular on a clear summer but on that dark winter night with a gale howling it was like trying to enjoy a meal while someone was using a jet powered vacuum cleaner nearby. I've never known a hotel suffer so much wind related noise.

I retired to my bedroom not expecting to get much sleep that night.

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