Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Holiday From Hell

I have just returned from a two week holiday with my partner.

Holidaying in the British Isles is not cheap and never has been compared to other European destinations such as Greece or Turkey.

To give you some point of reference, It costs us over £2000 just for the accommodation alone. We could of bought a 2 week half board 5 star hotel holiday in Greece for less than that!
And trust me, Greece is far more interesting and beautiful than where we stayed for the first week.

We initially booked 2 weeks staying in a cottage in the Lake District in Cumbria. The website pictures of the place looked fine, all mod cons such as Sky TV in all rooms and even a computer with high speed WIFI access. (yea I know, I'm a tech head.. your meant to avoid PCs and not care about TVs on holiday but I like a "home away from home" holiday)

The owner kind of made a passing comment that he actually lived in this cottage which was one of 3 on a working farm. But I assumed considering his prices, the place would be clean and new.
I assumed wrong.
When we arrived, we found a bedroom with the bedding left unmade but stripped revealing sweat stained pillows.
The lounge area was thick with dust and thats not an exaggeration.

The kitchen had someones washing in the old rusty washing machine and half eaten food in the fridge. Additionally the cooking utensils and equipment and even the light switches had months or years worth of food and grease left from sticky fingers. The kitchen on the whole was filthy and the equipment rusty and old.

The final straw was he bathroom.

On the whole it was like the rest of the house, dirty and lived in (recently) but in the corners of the bathroom floor were thousands of public hairs.

Now, I admit I am a bit of a neat freak but when my partner says:
"OMG I can't stay here!", you know its bad.

I say that because to most men dirt and dust is something they tend not to notice were as to a woman its almost florescent!

Additionally there were plug sockets over loaded with plugs and exposed wiring in ceiling lights.

So, we were stood in this cottage/converted barn having spent £900 for the 2 weeks and as you can imagine, I was stressed.

We toyed with the idea of cleaning it up but seriously it would take weeks to bring that house to a clean and acceptable level and it's one thing cleaning your own dirt and quite another cleaning someone else's.

So we decided to drive home and try find somewhere else for us to stay starting the following day knowing we may loose the £900 we had already spent to stay here.

I spent most of that night sat at the PC emailing cottage owners and holiday companies which were all closed on a Saturday night and went to bed on edge still not knowing if we would get anywhere.

Staying at home wasnt an option, we were having a new bathroom put in and tiled which was going to take around 2 weeks to complete and would be noisy and dirty and my partner had booked 2 weeks off work.

Long story short, I found us another barn conversion in Newquay, South West Wales. (thats where the "Lazy Daze" photograph was taken, in a little cafe called Friends)

The barn conversion was better but by no means luxury.
The place was damp and cold after a long and empty winter. The bedding was damp, the cobwebs were everywhere and it took 4 days to heat the place up and loose the smell of damp, not to mention the black mould behind furniture.

We were stuck in the middle of no where too. After 7 days, I had had enough and once again tried to find us a nicer place for the last week.

We landed a beautiful jacobean farmhouse  cottage back in the Lake District not a mile away from the first place we had booked.

Bridge End Cottage

This cost us £600 for the week (and that was half price!) But it was a 4 bedroom house, designed for 8 people and it "was" beautiful with original old wood flooring and panelled walls.

But even that week was tainted with stress. We had my parents stay for one night on a last minute "off the cuff" decision.

The following day the caretaker Bob approached my parents just as we were leaving the property for a day out.

I approached him and asked "Are you Bob?" He immediately turned to me and gave me a talking down to literally telling me off for inviting two more guests without informing him adding:

 "I am only a phone call away, you could of telephoned me!! "

He continued to bark at me as my parents stood there looking and feeling uncomfortable.
He then went on to chastise me about fire hazards and how he would need to get 2 cleaners in now instead of one because 2 more people had stayed for ONE night.

 I asked him if he needed more money and he kept on saying how it wasn't his decision but that of the owner who he would be informing.
For someone who didn't own the property and had no say in decisions which needed to be made, Bob sure had a lot to say about the whole affair.

I told him to "tell his boss" and we would take it up with him directly.

It wasn't the complaint so much as the manner in which it was delivered. I got the impression he thought we had sneaked my parents in on purpose and were trying to take advantage.

We have stayed in several holiday cottages recently and are fairly familiar with the rules and regulations and generally, if you rent a house you're renting the "house" not a limited number of rooms within  that house as would be the case with a hotel for example.

The whole incident cast a shadow on the rest of the day for us and then I got the email from Greg the owner who is a very nice man who handled the issue with tact and diplomacy. He was under the impression we had 4 people staying in the cottage for the whole week.

Despite correcting him and assuring him we had every intention of informing Bob about the unexpected overnight stay of my parents and adding that Bob had not given us chance to do that as he lunged straight into the lecture when we left the house, Greg apparently felt we owed him more money but was "kind enough" to allow me to decide how much that amount should be.

I offered a further £50 and he took it.

I could of gone on about the hard mattresses and less than squeaky clean kitchen not to mention the fact the extractor hud fell off as I opened it, but it would of only been seen as some kind of defence tactic and with the stress of the previous two property issues, I just wanted to pay up and put it behind us.

Bridge End Cottage is indeed quaint but in my opinion over priced at £1200 a week and the tiny village of Boot where the cottage is located seemed to have that typical "small village snooping" vibe were everyone knows what everyone else is doing.

When your away, you want to feel at ease and the whole affair with Bob the caretaker left us feeling like we couldn't fart without him reporting back to head quarters.

We won't be booking there again!

That aside, for me personally, I only really started to relax in the later part of the second week of our two week holiday and I did enjoy the meals in the local pub in Boot as well as the walks close by.

On our way home we found this very nice cafe/bistro called Chesters By The River

I LOVED this place. The food was to die for, the service like no other and the location was beautiful. The little arty shop there was pricey but the products were clearly bespoke.
I bought a silver chain with two heart shape pendants, one made of rock from the local area.

It's a shame we only found it on our last day but I'm glad we stumbled upon it and think the next time we go away I will look for accommodation in the same area that this place was locate, Langdale Valley.

As we drove through the little villages dotted on the road leading to Chesters, you couldn't help but notice there was a "middle class" vibe about the location.
The views were stunning and the hotels clearly catered to those whole could afford a little luxury.

The irony is, the £2000 we spent on the 3 holiday properties in our two week break could of easily afforded us to stay in a hotel in Langdale Valley.

We are waiting a full refund from the owner of the first property after several emails and threats to publish the 40 photographs I took of the cottage.

Part of our refund requires me not to mention the cottage name or make official complaints or public reviews. Hence I am unable to name the cottage in this or indeed any online website or blog.

On a plus, I did manage to take 200 photos for my texture stock website,

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