Friday, 8 January 2010

A Holiday vs Year Round Luxury


Usually at this time of year I think about escaping to some fragrant, welcoming paradise where I don't have to look like a Michelin woman every time I step out the front door. But alas, with our Prime Minister now insisting we are to be X-rayed at airports (and perhaps more than once per trip), I think I'll stay in the comfort of my own home.

One year I decided I'd be patriotic and had a break in Scotland in a February, but it was the most miserable experience (with the exception of a holiday in Turkey in the early 70s), that I've ever had. The heating in the hotel was non-existent and other guests had been fleeter of foot in claiming the few electric heaters available. The bedding felt damp, the carpet felt damp and I'm sure if I'd touched the wallpaper it too would have been damp. Fortunately there was always hot water and I was able to have two or three baths a day to revive my goose-pimpled skin.

The roaring fires advertised in the brochure did exist, but I never managed to get near enough to even hear one whisper far less roar. Other residents always seemed to be huddled round them like bunches of bananas in colourful fleeces.

It's good to feel pampered once in a while isn't it. The past week or so I've been considering pampering myself on a regular basis instead of splashing out on a short holiday. The sound of a bed which gives me a warm massage, raises my legs if they're tired, sits me up to just the right height to read and gently pours me out in the morning, (after another massage if desired), sounds just the ticket. Don't anyone dare comment that such luxury is only for the elderly!

One problem I'm finding browsing 'adjustable beds' is that so few companies offer the opportunity to try before I buy. Some offer the unsettling comment 'an experienced salesman will call to discuss your requirements'. These businesses were the first to be crossed off the list because we all know the pitfalls of pushy salesmen. A local reputable furnishing shop advertised a well known adjustable bed and it looked a reasonable deal in the catalogue. When I visited the shop just before Christmas I discovered the price was for the bed shell and the mattress was extra - a great deal extra and well out of my budget range.

So it's back to searching for a quality lift-me-up, lay-me-down piece of equipment on which to rest my weary bones. Or should I grit my teeth and submit to lengthy airport security, which many feel is superficial, for a few expensive days in the sun?


Wrinkled Weasel said...

I have had a few good breaks in Scotland, following my desire to get to know the place better.

The Black Isle, where I found a great restaurant, run by an American, and a fabulous B&B run by some people from the Midlands. On Luing, I stayed at a modest but comfortable cottage, owned and run by English people who have settled on the island. In the Trossachs I stayed at a Baronial lodge, run by, the ... er English. All of this was more or less done at random. On Skye, found a decent inn in the North, run by English.
I am afraid incomers are doing the job the Scots cannot manage. Even the English, who are traditionally shite at hospitality realise they have to offer something for our money.

Unfortunately, home grown "service" industries leave a lot to be desired, especially if you have ever been abroad, or outside Scotland, and are able to make a simple comparison.

Cal Mac Ferries. Do they really believe people on holiday want to drink cheap instant coffee and eat stale muffins? British Rail, circa 1970.

Plockton, made famous by "The Wicker Man and Hamish McBeth" - overpriced and overrated. Tobermory, made famous etc, ditto, and Pennan, made famous, yada yada ditto, the Pennan Inn was revolting when we visited it a few years ago. Gretna - Don't go there, just don't.

The last time I ate in Scotland, at a Scottish establishment, I was served a rotten steak, that was moribund and laced with vinegar (an old trick restauranteurs use to hide the smell of off meat.) It is just not good enough.

Granted, the English tend not to gush with friendliness, but I can stand that if they give me value for money.

I am still thinking of island hopping this year, due to the terrible exchange rate, but I learned long ago to be as self-sufficient as possible. Either that, or we do the MG up and go for a long drive.

Mr. Mxyzptlk said...

such luxury is only for the elderly!..still i spose you qualify.

Mrs M wants a new memory foam mattresses (cos all here mates have one) only prob is cost about £1000 for one.(there are more expensive ones)

i said WHAT!

anyway she says its for her back i did point out perhaps an orthopedic one might be more suitable.........

Fashion over medically approved Product. We continue to argue and haven't changed mattress yet.

have said if advised by back specialist would sleep on a bed of bricks.
But to spend a fortune and then find no difference is not what i am prepared to do.

Vronsky said...


If island hopping, there is an excellent restaurant in the Coll Hotel.

Tory Totty Online said...

Hhhmmmm! Now that's a toughy!

Personally I'd keep on the hunt for a decent 'lift-me-up-lay-me-back' bed-type thingy. Only because, mind you, I'm rather impervious to 'weather.' I love melting in tropical climbs, but I also love cold, frosty shivers. Rain doesn't depress me - neither does a dull, cloudy day. Hence my decisions to 'vacate' anywhere are not generally a knee-jerk reaction to my discontentment with the British weather! I always seem to see the beauty in whatever's going on meteorologically!

That said, I'm looking forward to buggering off somewhere hot at the end of the month - more motivated by the fact that I haven't had a vacation for a year and a half on account of illness, than anything else.

And let's face it - you can take a holiday whenever you like - but a bed like that'll last you a looooooooong time! Imagine waking up in that every morning . . . . ! :-)

(BTW . . .Tory Totty is back! :-) Sorry to do this to you (again) but my feed has changed to:

I promise this will be the last time and thank you for your continued support :-) x

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Thanks Vronsky, I am checking it out now.

subrosa said...

There are a couple of superb restaurants in my town WW and run by Scots.

I'll get into trouble here (again!) but I'll tell you why I think so many B & Bs are run by English folk.

Twenty five years ago B & Bs were rooms in people's homes that they rented for pin money. When I was a child my family used B & Bs and it was always full-board. Breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, high tea, supper. Usually home baking which was mouth watering.

That suddenly changed. These stalwart women who provided the service became too old and the younger ones had 'day jobs' and no interest in hard work for small pay.

At the same time owners of large homes started to downsize owing to the cost of maintenance or the family had grown up and left. This left a surplus of large houses which most Scots couldn't afford or didn't need. In the meantime in the south of England salaries were way above the average Scottish one but the lifestyle down there was becoming unpleasant for many older people.

Suddenly an influx of English people started to buy up these large Scottish houses and being a B & B/guesthouse. They had the money to buy them in the first place, most Scots did not. Some properties sold for nearly double their basic offers over price.

For some it was a success and others hated it and returned south or left the business.

Now the 'big house big business' scenario is crumbling because the cost of maintaining these places is too much even for those who did arrive in Scotland with a healthy sum from the sale of their semi-detached in Guildford.

I refute the fact that incomers are doing the job the Scots can't manage. Scots are perfectly capable of offering first class hospitality to anyone. Their problem is they still don't earn enough money to buy into the B & B/guesthouse business in comparison with the salaries and property prices in many places south of the border.

We do have problem with service businesses here and by that I mean all over the UK. It's a class problem as well. The service industry still regarded as the 'servant' industry and it's still thought of as an industry which requires no 'real' skills. That is the fault of the industry itself because many refuse to train their staff adequately. Prices must be competitive they say.

Compare the UK with Switzerland. I doubt if many hoteliers or any others in the service industry would last more than a couple of days in a Swiss hotel school. Those who do return and run extremely successful businesses. Our training system tries to provide everything on the cheap. Hence we get the result of the low standard we provide in our colleges.

Apologies for the length of this.

PS I agree with you about Pennan. It's some years since I visited but it was a hell of an experience. Pat and Norrie (the owners then) appeared to work against their customers and were resting on their laurels because of the hotel's 'fame'. I stupidly stayed overnight too!

subrosa said...

Niko, there's no need to buy a memory foam mattress. You can buy a quality 'topper' for around £100 and it's just as good. Around 3" of good memory foam on top of your mattress certainly does make a difference. Give it a try.

subrosa said...

Vronsky that place has a great reputation. I was booked to stay there just a few years ago but the sailings were cancelled because of the weather. Unfortunately I've never managed to rebook. Scotland isn't a place to holiday in during the winter months unless you're into winter sports.

Anonymous said...

Does any of the serve bamboo shoots and leaves?

subrosa said...

Hi TT. Glad to recognise you and hope your feed works now. :)

Like you I haven't had a holiday because of medical problems but I don't like sleeping in a cold bed or being cold when I'm relaxing.

Think I'll keep looking for the action-packed bed.

subrosa said...

TT, that feed works! The last one, for some reason, wouldn't register on my blog roll although it did on my reader.

Oldrightie said...

The most memorable rest I ever had was a huge feather mattress. Sometimes old fashioned is best for a reason!!

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Actually, I think you are probably right about the money side of things. As you know, one could sell a flat in WC1 and buy up a sizeable part of the Lothians. Also that naff service is UK wide, and also, as you well know, Swiss concepts of hospitality aim somewhat higher.

Still, I just cannot get over the fact that after hundreds of experiences, cafes, restaurants and hotels are best not attempted by people who have not the faintest idea about providing value for money.

subrosa said...

WW, it's all down to training. The training for the servant industry is perhaps the worst in Europe and that's throughout the UK.

Also, in popular tourist areas, there are those who think running a cafe or restaurant because they can cook a decent family Sunday roast, will be easy. Nobody controls them for quality except their (tourist) customers who they know full well will never be back in the area.

The quango visitscotland is not run by top class hoteliers but my those who have never run a hospitality business in their lives. Yes Peter Lederer fronts it but few, if any, of the quality decisions are made by top class business people. As is the norm these days it's all about ticking the right boxes and nothing else.

banned said...

I've never slept in a hotel in Scotland but for many years my crowd visited Scotland in the week before Easter staying in a variety of self-catering places of varying quality until we found the place we liked which was a small grouping of cottages just south of Fort William at Onich.
Our visits had the same pattern each year, 3 days on the mountains, 3 days being 'tourists' and a day on the pish in Fort William.
The only time that I can recall a problem with hospitality was at a newly opened burger bar on the road back to Glasgow where we stopped for beakfast. I asked for a full fry-up plus beans on toast.
" We don't do beans on toast"
"Do you do beans?, do you do toast?
Could you perhaps put the beans on the toast?"

subrosa said...

You're reminding me of one of those fast food chains banned - you know the type which does a meal and a drink for £x. I didn't want the chips with the meal and I ended up having to have them because the couldn't give me it for the price otherwise.

So ridiculous.

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