Archive for the ‘hotels’ Category
The bar was our introduction to the Royal Breakwater in Castletown, Isle of Portland, and though slightly shabby it was also welcoming and friendly in the way that only a dimly lit dive can be. Worthy of an evening’s drinks if you somehow find yourself in this somewhat rundown part of town. There are several other bars and hotels bunched up there as well so you could do a proper crawl with no more than a 100 meter walk between the farthest one.
We were staying there, too, and the room was absolutely adequate although the shower pressure was shit and disinfectant smell from the hallway seeped into the room. For fifty quid, we got an en suite and breakfast, though. And, the staff were perfectly lovely (if a little tardy on repairs):
Not all the neighbouring bars were still afloat and I was disappointed to find the Jolly Sailor shuttered:
Two doors down from the Breakwind, it looked like a grand old boozer. Hopefully it will return to service in the future (there’s a large bank of flats going in right behind it in some old naval facility…fingers crossed).
I stayed at the Olde King’s Arms for a lot of reasons but amongst those was that it has WIFI available in the rooms; however, the signal is so weak it can’t be depended upon unless you go down to the bar. With a backlog of pub reviews to dump on the blog, I made the sacrifice and headed down to the lovely, old rooms. I had a Spanish lager which was very good but a bit pricy and started to systematically dump the notes and photos here.
A tall Irishman with a Mohawk (they say, “Mohican,” here) staggered in holding up another fellow who was in quite desperately bad shape. They ordered up some food and had a very loud, drunken conversation — all swaying and slurring and absolute comic gold in a Punch and Judy sort of way. Soon after, another fellow came in and sat near them; not nearly so hammered he was fairly indulgent.
It turned out the new guy knew the non-Irish guy and said, “oh, yeah, we used to play on the team together! We were the shit, back then.”
“Yeah,” answered the sot. “What was your name?”
The new guy told him, “Mark Jones.” [I’ve changed it, here.]
“Yeah, you know I used to play on the team,” drunken guy answered.
“I know, I was just looking at some old team photos and rosters this weekend.”
“Grand. What was your name?”
“It’s Mark Jones.”
“You know what…” pause, pause, then look up again and “…I used to play on the team.”
“Yeah, I remember that. We were the bollocks, then.”
“That’s right. What is your name?”
This was the cycle for 2 minutes and poor Mark patiently stated his name at least 8 more times. In the meantime, I drew the attention of Dave the Mohican who wanted to talk about music. After about 5 minutes he asked where I was from but had no clue where Atlanta is. We compared notes on Army experiences as two 51-year-old veterans (he was safe in the Falklands but on the night Bobby Sands died he got shot in the leg in Belfast). We compared notes on physical therapy for a broken shoulder (his happened falling into the street “right there…sponsored by Strongbow”) and clumsily showed how far his arm extensions were coming along.
Mark’s mate was sleeping heavily and he came over and we had a nice talk about the pubs in the area and the building trade. He’d been down the Old Bell most of the evening watching Arsenal beat Borussia Dortmund in a Champion’s League match that I caught the first half of during dinner; so, he’d already had a few by now, too, but the scale of devastation was nothing compared to Dave and his mate (who used to play on the team).
Awesome pub. Say “hi” for me when you visit.
Before I start, I liked the place, the people, and plan to stay here again.
“We booked a room,” I told the bartender at 10 minutes past 2.
“You’re very early. Check in is at 3,” he chastised me. This was strange because I had an email from the manager stating that I could probably check-in early and that they would prioritise our room. No matter, though, since they stored our bags and put us back on the road to our meetings.
We arrived back at 6pm and the next bartender rang Patrick (the B&B ‘manager’) to say we were here. “Would you like some drinks while you wait?” We deferred these till later since we already learned how important clockwork was to this establishment. Fifteen minutes later, Patrick ambled in and awkwardly directed us out and around to the B&B entrance and up to our room where he showed us the amenities and explained procedures.
We left the large room with our host to see the bathroom facilities down the hall (with no eye contact at any time from our methodical but somewhat surreal guide). Stepping in to see a shower room another Irishman (we were the only non-Irish there) dove past us with an armfull of towels saying, “DON’T GO IN THERE!” then after an awkward pause as he knelt with the bundle of towels, “another guest is using it.” It may just be my past life experiences, but I got the distinct felling they were called for our check-in mid-disembowelment of a corpse slated for disposal. I don’t have a problem with that, except for the lack of butchery professionalism…but I have to admit, the place was spotless the next morning.
Happy with the room, we headed out to find some food then returned for a night cap at the bar. Jackie went with the large V&T (of course) and I was going to do a Guinness as seemed appropriate but before I could place the order the barkeep already dashed off to make the cocktail…in order NOT to be rude, I went for the less-time-consuming lager option, which was just grand.
Our hostess wandered through will a giant mastiff which smelled something he liked on me and came over. As she started to apologise for the beast, I scratched his ears and he collapsed against my legs pushing me half a foot to the left. “You’ll never be rid of ‘im, now,” she said to either me or the dog.
I already mentioned the Irishness of the pub, but it seemed almost like a family place, as well. Everyone there in the initial visit was still there late evening as were everyone else in attendance when we finally checked in and the lot of them were leprechauns. Jackie wondered how they could stay open doing the business they were but I think with the cadaver disposal business they are probably doing fine.
Honestly, though, seek the Westport out. They are dead friendly, the pub is pleasant, and if you are staying in London and were going for a hostel you’ll get a better, private, and more, ahem, interesting experience here a quarter mile walk from the Northern Line (tube) and Hampstead Heath.
We’ve visited the New Inn for beverages in the past but due to a night-time race I signed up for (the “Beat the Bore at Night”) we needed a room and decided to give this place a shot. I guess I’ll start with the good, first.
The room was huge (about 350 square feet including a bathroom as large as many hotel rooms we’ve had in the past). The atmosphere was fantastic, too, as the house was built around 1430 as a hostel for pilgrims to Gloucester Cathedral which we could see from the front windows.
Legend has it that Lady Jane Grey was staying here when she was proclaimed queen (which lasted for a week and a half). More likely, it was an adviser that stayed there but it still is a cheap thrill that the building was in use before Christopher Columbus was even born.
That may be the last time they cleaned the shower, as well…the mould appears to have been around for a while, anyways. The carpet was in pretty good shape despite being absolutely filthy (an occasional cleaning wouldn’t hurt, but it hasn’t been done in recent days, at least). It was strange, considering there was no dust to be found on the tops of the large furnishings.
It was nice for Jackie that there was a hair dryer there, except that most of the air blew out through the hose that has long ago needed a replacement:
Personally, I wouldn’t stay here again but I would recommend it for a history or architecture buff (one of the best medieval courtyards I have ever seen). The pub is great and had a good boogie-woogie band Friday night. Stay for a night, for sure, but if your visit to Gloucester is longer then plan on a nicer place for the rest of the trip.
Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 14-hundred and 92…and the New Inn was in its 5th decade already. The New Inn should be visited any time you travel to Gloucester. It is ancient, professional, and atmospheric. It was a pilgrims hostelry in the 15th century (there’s a fantastic shrine to Edward II in the Cathedral across the way), and the first tennis court in Gloucester was on the site during this time (try and reconcile those two things, why don’t you).
We entered off the main, pedestrianized street (Northgate) and spotted the small plaque (bottom right of the above picture) that informed us about Lady Jane Grey’s ascendency to the crown. It is claimed that she has haunted the place since her beheading in 1554.
The pub is more than the bars (two in the Old Tap and another wine bar), a restaurant, a coffee shop, and the inn (all respectfully restored and maintained). Inside the Old Tap, the bars are archaic bits of darkened lumber but we took our beverages out to the courtyard which was lively and allowed a bit of fresh air.
Next trip up, we plan to stay here.
So, four years now (or, rather, next week it will be…here’s the annual reports for years Three, Two, and One for historical perspective).
We just received our new visas valid until 2016 but plan to take the next step toward citizenship in a year, Indefinite Leave to Remain…sort of the British Green Card. There is an exam, first, but in general it is all downhill from here.
The view from Western Street near the new house…also all downhill
Additionally, we are in the process of moving house (which is why I rushed the annual report a week forward) from just north of the Oasis over to Old Town to a house situated close walks to either the Beehive or the Castle or the Globe (recently reopened!)—three locals instead of one and all three of high quality—and dozens of others a short walk. The new house has three bedrooms each larger than its counterpart in the old house, the two receptions are larger and made into more of an open-plan configuration, the bath is larger and has a tub (not just a shower), and there is a finished basement; on the down side, the kitchen is a little narrower and more primitive as is the small garden but everything we do and everywhere we normally go in Swindon (save for the butcher) is so close.
The only races I did this past year were the London Marathon (5 pubs plus a can of Carling on the last mile) and the Beerathon (5 miles with a pint and a hefty food item between each) and the mileage run for the year suffered from this lack of focus—1950 give or take about 25 (most estimates pretty good using gmap-pedometer), while the last several years (except for the year of the wreck) were in the 2200-2500 range.
On the runs, I visited 255 new pubs with a stunning 67 new ones (steep part of the graph) in September when I took two weeks off work and ran at least 10 miles per day in new territory each day. The 1000th wasn’t as big a thrill as I thought it would be, but I saw some really nice places and met some really fine folk. The September holiday found me visiting Gloucester, South Wales, Slough (exotic, I know) and Exeter along with some nearer-to-Swindon trips. The 100 Yellow Beer Challenge was responsible for a lot of second visits to pubs I might not otherwise have gone to after an initial stop and many of these seemed better the second time around. Oh, and my Workingman’s Club appears to have failed or at least hasn’t been open the last several times I’ve popped by (I have a grand one scoped out for the new neighbourhood, though).
Best pubs in Year Four (reverse order by First Visit write-up):
The Southgate Inn, Devizes
The Hop Inn, Swindon
Dicey Reilly’s, Teignmouth
The Brass Monkey, Teignmouth
One Eyed Jack’s, Gloucester
Ye Olde Red Lion, Tredegar
The Rose of Denmark, Woolwich
The Volunteer Rifleman’s Arms
The Green Dragon, Marlborough
The British Lion, Devizes
The Blue Boar, Alsbourne (for the Dr. Who connections)
British Citizenship Exam Prep
Assize Court, Bristol
Paul Simon in Hyde Park
The Bremen Musicians (German children’s story)
Sex Tourism in Wiltshire
Modern Algebra for Omid
Burns’ Day Lunch
There are others search for ‘made me laugh.’ The blog may or may not have made some of the over 100,000 visitors laugh, but the damn fools keep checking in (that’s you, that is).
Still boiling sweat after the final dash down the Thames Path to the White Hart, I ordered my third Wiltshire Gold of the day (yet another Arkells pub) and begged directions to the loo: “I have some dry kit in my bag…I may smell better after that.”
“Oh, bless. It’s right down there.” In the States, Southern ladies have this way of saying, “why bless your heart,” that might be interpreted as “thank you, how very sweet,” or, just as often, “go fuck yourself.” In England, they just say, “bless,” but it is just as multifunctional. I think the landlady here was using it both for saying thanks as well as, “damn straight, stinkpot…get your foul arse down to the w.c. and maybe use a little soap.” My humblest apologies.
The building is huge and the interior is charming. To get to the outside drinking area you can go out a side door but I walked the length of the building–a decent hike–emerging in an old stable now used as parking. Great house, good beer…sorry I left it so long to visit.