A Tale of Two Hotels

September 25, 2008 at 10:51 am 2 comments

C and I enjoyed a glorious weekend at the Goodwood Revival , an historic race meeting which celebrates the classic and classy in the period 1948 to 1964. It was awesome. The weather was fantastic. Foolishly we set out on day one without any sun cream. Consequently by that evening I looked as if my head was boiled (it’s the rosacea!) At least it wasn’t sore, unlike Lesley’s chest – we could have cooked eggs on that. And in some respects I wish we had. It would have been much, much better than the “food” we were served in the so-called hotel.

Indeed, the weekend was as much about the contrast between the two hotels we stayed at. On the Friday night we stayed at the Arrow Mill Hotel which sits in splendour opposite Ragley Hall.

The hotel is owned by two wonderful, friendly, and characterful hosts, Denis (who arrived very late in a shockingly striped blazer after rather too long at the 19th hole), and, the lovely Margaret, who blessed us with her company and good humour and who belies her 70 years. The staff were excellent. The food was excellent (they have a Nepalese chef who put on a curry banquet for us). The rooms were gorgeous – C and I had a four-poster. And, the beer was good. Consequently, our group of nine (including sister-in-law D, her partner Smithy and 5 of their friends) looked a little jaded over our bacon and egg. While C and I had retired around half past midnight, the lads had apparently still been putting the world to right past 3am and making good use of the honesty bar.

Our second hotel, for Saturday night, promised much too. The New Place De Vere near Southampton:

Their website claims “The name might be New Place but this Grade I listed manor house, set in 32 acres of lush parkland, is full of period charm……From the moment you drive through the wrought iron gates and up the driveway you know you’ve chosen the perfect Hampshire meeting venue.” Yeah right. It is a glorified Travel Lodge. I feel a complaint to the advertising standards agency coming on.

Our room, once we eventually found it, was nice enough. But modern – not a smidgen of “period charm” in the place. Mind you, it took some finding as the signage in the place was appalling. Instead of pointing us straight up one flight of stairs it took us all around the Wrekin (a Midland expression for going an unnecessarily long and circuitous route).

Most disturbing was the attitude of the staff. The two year old at reception (he sported several earrings!) was abrupt and unhelpful. He advised us that the restaurant was fully booked and was unapologetic and lacking in alternatives, seemingly content for us all to go without. Indeed, he even omitted to mention that their bar served bar meals! And so to the bar……..

No “period charm” here either. Indeed, the lighting in the bar was as subdued as the light beam at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas. Or, I suppose it could have been the glow from my head and Lesley’s chest……. And we found ourselves sat beneath speakers that were banging out some rather irritating hip-hop music, which was hardly conducive to chat and banter. The evening, therefore, consisted of a form of music tennis – we would ask for the music to be turned off, and then, another group in the bar who clearly did not feel the need to engage in conversation, would insist that it be turned back on.

We ordered bar snacks from the one menu they had (between 9). Our “food” arrived at various points during the evening (the concept of us wanting to eat together seemed beyond them). I had cardboard on a bun (which had been advertised as a burger). Our dirty plates seemed destined to outstay our visit, until C asked for them to be removed.

But then, the late previous night and a day in the sun got the better of us all and we retired early – around 11pm – and I spent the next couple of hours listening to the guy in the next door room snoring, and, climbing the wall! Have English hotels never heard of soundproofing? And, incidentally, why don’t they ever give you more than one small bottle of shower gel and shampoo?!?

By the way, SatNav let me down! Badly. I have an in-built system in the car. It is supposedly a super-duper system with real time updates which recalculates your route in the event of traffic problems and should you be foolish enough to ignore its directions. Now C has never been a fan of SatNav. She gets irritated by the voice and constantly disbelieves the advice that is given. So, en route to Goodwood (day one) we used SatNav to navigate our way from the Arrow Mill via the M40, M25 and the A3. But, once we got within spitting distance of the venue, C decided she new better. She chose to ignore the command “take the next junction”. She chose to ignore the helpfull bright-yellow sign declaring “All Goodwood traffic turn left”. And, we spent the next half an hour sitting in roadworks!

Words were exchanged. C declared that she would never, ever navigate again. Ever. Never. And so, that evening I had to entrust myself to SatNav to get us to our piece of “period charm”. Despite setting off a good 45 minutes earlier than the rest of our group we arrived at the same time. SatNav had deemed it better to go through the middle of Chichester rather than use the ring road. SatNav deposited me within a street or two of the hotel (we only had the post code) but it took a good 20 minutes or so of trawling up and down badly lit streets before we found it. C looked pretty smug. C still looks pretty smug. Damn you SatNav. This will come back to haunt me.

But, for the Goodwood experience it was all worth it. Now I am by far a Petrol Head and wouldn’t know an Austin Healy if I fell over one. But, I loved it all. Most people had dressed in appropriate costume (anything for the period 1948 to 1964). A few Johnny Foreigners had got it wrong – there were a number of 1920s slappers and flappers around with Italian accents. I was a James Herriot lookalike – sporting a flat cap, and a vintage tweed jacket that I had bought on the web and which smelled of dead people, and with a vintage pipe and pair of binoculars which I had found in an antique shop. C looked stunning dressed in a vintage 1950s dress, with vintage gloves and bag, and some gorgeous red shoes to boot:

We saw Murray Walker, Sterling Moss, and Jackie Stewart. We drank Pimms. We saw air displays, including a couple by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight– Smithy’s brother was flying the Spitfire. We drank Pimms. We sat in the sun. We people watched. We had burgers from a van. We drank Pimms. It was Hell! So much so that we have decided that this is to be a regular event in Middle Man’s social calendar.

Thank you all who shared it with us. Here are a few photos.

Classic cars outside the Goodwood Shop

Classic cars outside the Goodwood Shop

Jackie Stewart

Jackie Stewart

Smithy and Murray Walker

Smithy and Murray Walker

Sterling Moss

Sterling Moss

Spitfire and Hurricane

Spitfire and Hurricane

Dad's Army


The Glamour Girls

The Glamour Girls

Lancaster Bomber

Lancaster Bomber

Race Start

Race Start




Entry filed under: driving, poor service, travel. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

The Belts Are Being Tightened! Bad Parents!

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. scribbles08  |  October 4, 2008 at 10:58 am

    Wow, sounds like a fantastic day, despite the ‘period’ hotel and the sat nav problems!

    I’m a bit anxious about my own satnav, just don’t trust it and I have to go to Heathrow tomorrow to pick up errant son from New Zealand. Am thinking of leaving at least two hours before I need to!! I know I’ll get lost!!


  • 2. Violet  |  October 18, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    I share C’s views on satnav. Even if I choose my own route, we’re bound to have a dissagreement at some point. That’s why having not only non-iritating but fun voice , helps 🙂
    Goodwook looks like a really good time *daydreaming*



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