Tagged in: hotel

I hate Leny Henry – BUT – Premier Inn Gatwick Airport

I really do not like Lenny Henry but we staged through Gatwick on our way to and from Egypt for the 2015 New Year and again on our way to and from Turkey in March, staying at the Premier Inn, adjacent to the North Terminal, on all occasions and, as the advert states, one gets a good nights sleep.
Not only that but one gets a reasonably spacious and immaculately clean room; friendly, helpful staff; and a first class restaurant all at very reasonable prices.

Greenisland Golf Club, Formal 2014

2014-11-15 20.03.36

The Ross Park Hotel in Ballymena was chosen for the 2014 bash and a very good one it turned out to be.

A bus was laid on to transport us to and from the do so our evening started at the club for a couple of warmers into the bank. Amazingly enough there was no problem getting the group of some 50+ embarked on time. Or maybe they were just scared of Anne Clarke!

There was champagne, or non alcoholic punch if you like that kind of thing, served on arrival and a photographer to record proceedings – Well the early parts anyway. One does not really want a photographer recording all one’s antics!!

The service and meal, a proper vegetable soup followed by roast beef and a dessert, could not be faulted and the bar prices were reasonable. What more could one ask for a start to the main proceedings.



The group proved to be a great success so, by the time the bus arrived to ferry us home, we had danced our feet off.

Thanks to George Boyd, Anne Clarke and the organizers for producing a great evening all round.

Grand Hotel Aminta, Serrento

We selected the Grand Hotel Aminta as appearing to be the the best value for money, its general rating on TripAdvisor and the fact that that one could get a sunset view room across the bay towards Capri.

We arrived mid afternoon and one could not fault the welcome we received in reception, having got over the shock of a €22.50 taxi bill for the 3 kilometre drive from Tasso Square (it’s on the meter the driver had told us – and it was).

The promise of  a stunning view from our balcony out across the Bay of Naples was fulfilled, everything was clean and tidy and the double bed extremely comfortable.

Room with a View

The hotel have a free shuttle bus that runs every hour into the town centre starting at 9 am with a last run back at 11.30 pm. It misses a couple of hours at lunch time and again thre is no 10.00 p.m. down or return.

It is also possible to walk down the old road into town which takes about 20 minutes if one utilizes the steps which cut off many of the hairpins. Coming back up is a bit of an effort and it it easy to miss the turn off to the hotel .  The staff were horrified that we had done it after dark and advised against a repeat performance.

The Breakfast Room

Breakfast is buffet style although it is possible to order from the waiters who circulate with coffee and tea.  Personally I preferred to mix and match continental and crispy bacon.

We did not eat in the restaurant as there was such a good choice in the town at exceptionally reasonable rates.

The bar was comfortable and it prides itself in the number of whiskeys available – apparently over a hundred including a number of Islay malts. They also have an enviable selection of Grappa without which no Italian holiday is complete.

Cons?  We could hear the television in the next room even when the volume was turned down.  They have them back to back on wall mounts and I suspect that the power boxes are shared between the rooms.  Also any movement in the corridor was clearly audible. We had to request additional shower gel twice before it appeared and our towels were removed but not replaced on one occasion.

Pros?? Spotlessly clean and pleasant helpful staff . Beautiful views from the 2nd and 3rd third floors at least.

There were a number of regulars, who had been returning for a number of years, staying  so it  obviously has a great appeal for some.

Perhaps we are too picky but we will return to Sorrento but not the Aminta.

REME Junior Leaders Unit Reunion 2011 – Stow-on-the-Wold

I flew in to Birmingham and from thence by train to Kingham, via Oxford. All transport on time and clean and tidy. Well done the two rail operators.

Kingham - The trains do run on time

I was informed by the taxi company recommended by the hotel that there was a race meeting in Cheltenham and there was no way he had any cabs available! I finally took the one suggested by the station master and we wended away along the misty Cotswold country lanes for about 4 miles and I was charged £20 for the privilege of the commentary on the Cotswolds.

Wyck Hill House Hotel...and Spa

The Wyck Hill House appeared out of the mist and proved to be a very fine venue. I have reviewed it here rather than detract from the reunion.

Arriving in the bar I found Geoff Powell and his good lady (I have difficulty enough remembering the lads so excuse me for not naming the ladies) and we chatted over a drink until the arrival of Mike Payne, sporting a neat Oz accent. A couple more drinks passed as more participants, I hesitate to use the word delegates, arrived. Barry had provided name tags this year so it was easier to identify people we should have known.

Shortly after this I retired to bed for a couple of hours in order to be in good form for the evening festivities.

It had been decreed in the ORBAT that we would assemble in the bar at 19,00 for preprandial drinks, but most made it early in order to find a comfortable spot.

I left you in this position

Maurice Quinnell and co

I was pleasantly surprised to meet Maurice Quinnell, whom I managed to half recognise, and we exchanged some old stories. It was a good time for getting to chat to people who I didn’t really remember but whose stories were so similar to our experiences.

And so to dinner and more good conversation.  Our table was occupied by the “bachelor group”, Barry obviously having decided that we would not be safe let loose amongst the ladies until after the formalities.

Following dinner we were entertained by an updated slide show from the 60’s. All human life was there but, unlike the NOTW , all with their clothes on.


Now where was I ?????


Then followed the tales of woe and embarrassment from a number of those present.  Forgive me but I have forgotten the stories and all the names but James Rafferty who “performed” last and won the whisky! I’m sure he deserved it.

And so back to the bar to discuss topics of great worldly import and generally enjoy ourselves.

Those were the days

I maintained my reputation of being the last to leave once again, but only just!

I breakfasted with Roger Smith and his wife, another couple who had flown in from Australia for the gathering, who assured me that it had all been worth it.

After this I made my farewells as I was being collected to join another reunion, this time Intelligence Corps, in Cheltenham.

I will attempt to get the details, and any photos, of the Cotswold bus trip and any further adventures from Barry and add it to this post later.

I’m sure everybody will join me in thanking Barry and Alan for getting this put together again and we look forward to the next gathering in 2012.


London Town

Trafalgar Square by night

How to spend a weekend break in London. As usual Julie-Anne of Oasis Travel organised everything in her inimitable manner including a “surprise” hotel which turned out to be the Cavendish in Jermyn Street and you don’t get much more central than that.

We went directly from Gatwick to the BETT  exhibition in Olympia. This grandstands educational technology which is an important aspect of  my business.  It is amazing to see what is available to the modern teacher and the enthusiasm with which many of them enter into the spirit of it.

Anyway, having completed my imperatives and had a general swan abound the stands we headed off to the hotel to prepare for an evening out with my old (by way of length of time) friends Les and Dot Jones.

The hotel is excellent, positioned directly opposite the rear entrance to Fortnum & Mason, and the service could not be faulted, with one exception which I will mention later.

The Chandos

We decided to walk down to St. Martin in the Fields where we had arranged to meet up in the Chandos Bar a well known hostelry which does a nice line in John Smiths for £2.00 a pint.  This is amazing if you are used to Belfast bar prices!

Great place for a chat and a bit of craic with other clientèle.

Jacksons & Joneses at Veeraswamy's

A couple of pints later we headed off to  Regent Street and the Veeraswamy Indian restaurant, the oldest in the UK having been in the same location since 1926.

For a more detailed account of our visit try this link.

From here we wandered up towards Picadilly for  a nightcap before parting from our friends.

Of course we stopped in the Cavendish lobby bar for a couple before retiring.  Their prices are what one would expect in a hotel anywhere, but, to give them their due, the spirit measures were better than the usual English offering!.

Breakfast the next morning was somewhat of a revelation and our one issue with the service.  One leaves ones name with the maître d’ and sits and reads the paper, Daily Telegraph is free to all, until there is a table free.  This can take up to half an hour.  I had a chat with the said maître and he told me that the only way to miss the “rush” was to be down before 8.30 (or after 11.00 – they serve until noon) or use room service. The choice is excellent and the quality unbeatable, however, they ran out of scrambled egg and it took nearly 15 minutes before a refill arrived.  Of course all eggs are free range they were worth the wait.

From breakfast we headed out to Forntum’s for a quick look round their sale. Suckered into buying an apple cake and Christmas sweets (will be in date for next year) and a jar of cognac cream (which was confiscated at Gatwick).

From there we walked up Picadilly to Liberty’s, my favourite London shop, beats Harrods into a cocked hat. I acquired three new Liberty Print bow ties at a saving of £120 from the retail, happy days indeed. Unfortunately the shirts I liked only came in slim fit and, as  those of you who know me will vouchsafe, that is not a fitting to which I could aspire.

Real Ale list at the Clachan

All this shopping gave us a bit of a thirst so we walked round the corner into Kingly Street and were confronted by the Clachan Bar a Victorian Pub with a huge array of real ale and a very appetizing Great British Lunch menu which, but for our late breakfast, we may well have partaken.

Refreshed we wandered on and Josephine found a nice pair of boots in Canvas and I invested the money I had saved in Liberty’s plus a heap more in a pair of Russell and Bromleys casuals.

Caffé Concerto

We found ourselves back in the Nash Arch and outside the Caffé Concerto.  One cannot pass this patisserie; it has a magnetic force. So that was a millefeuille and juice for Josephine and the soup of the day and a Pinot Grigio for me.

We retired to the hotel and had wash and brush up and a couple of hours rest before heading off once again.  This time for dinner at the Café des Amis in Hanover Square which is the subject of a separate post.

From here we walked the short distance to the Lyceum Theatre to see the Lion King. I am not a musical fanatic but this was spectacular, if not for the music then for the technical brilliance. There was a row of kids behind us who were up and down like Jacks-in-a-box until the curtain went up – then mesmerised into silence. In my book well worth the money.  Pretty good reviews all round.

We walked back up to the hotel and nipped into the bar where we got into conversation with some other guests so a pleasant end to a busy day.

Unfortunately the fire alarm went off at about 7am so we were all evacuated into the courtyard.  Long way down the stairs from the 9th floor. Apparently it was triggered in a room on the 10th. Finally got back in after 20 minutes waiting for the fire brigade to clear the building. Could have been worse.

Due to the usual breakfast debacle we had to leave to catch our flight without food but made up for it at the Armadillo in Gatwick.

Flight home on time concluding a very enjoyable weekend.

Rochestown Park Hotel, Rochestown, Cork

Rochestown Park Hotel

The Rochestown Park is another of my favourite haunts on the South Coast.  It is quite a while since I was last there as business needs made the Blarney Park (unfortunately now closed down) or the Carrigaline Court more convenient.  As it was my appointment was in Curraheen,  just off the south circular road as is the hotel.

Last time I boooked in they were looking €120 a night and it is now back to €89 for B&B, a sign of the times.  Having said this they were fully booked which cannot be bad for mid-week.

The rooms are “old world” with plent of space, mine had an L shaped desk with Leather swivel chair as well as the usual dressing table, combined ironing board and trouser press, tea and coffee, etc. etc. Free WIFI as well.

The leisure centre

They have an excellent leisure suite and pool plus a spa which, due to time constraints, I did not get round to using on this trip.

I went for an evening meal in the Sutton Bar rather than the main restaurant. They have quite a good menu and I picked on the duck breast with oriental vegetables and noodles.  The duck was well cooked but I felt that the sauce/glaze was a little too reliant on 5 spice powder.  The vegetables were very good but relied too heavily on various coloured peppers for the volume, whereas I would have preferred a little more in the line of water chestnuts and bamboo shoots.  What I did like was that they served the noodles seperately in a bowl so that one could mix in the sauce as one wanted.  They have quite a good line in wines by the half bottle.

Sutton Bar

The bar was really busy but they have service very well organised with waiters and waitresses allocated to specific areas of around a dozen tables (you may guess the overall size) and you get typical Cork service with a smile and a chat.

I had a fairly early night and was up early for breakfast; there was a notice in the lift suggesting that, due to the number of people in residence this would be a good idea. There was plenty of fruit and a comprehensive selection for an Irish breakfast. My only complaint would be that the cold table consisted of chorizo and a rather bland cheese, not a sign of Irish ham or smoked salmon, which was rather disappointing.  Never mind the tea and toast was most acceptable.

If you want a good hotel on the south side of the City with perfect access to routes out to West Cork then you could do far worse than this.

Portaferry Hotel, Portaferry, Co. Down

Portaferry Hotel

Following our walk around Mount Stewart Gardens we felt a little peckish so, being on the right road, where else would one go for lunch but the Portaferry Hotel.  I had a few qualms about getting a table as it is one of the most popular venues in the area on Sundays and holidays.  They do not accept bookings for bar lunches but one can book a table in the restaurant.  We arrived about 1.45 and found the bar full but the bartender suggested we have a drink and he would see what he could do.  Being a sensible commercial enterprise they threw open the restaurant for the bar overflow so we were only kept ten minutes or so.

The lunch menu is pretty extensive but, as the hotel is famed for its fish and the haddock and mussels had run out, there was only one choice to my mind;  seared scallops with bacon and garlic and sauté potatoes.  Josephine went for the Steak and Guinness pie with champ and fresh vegetables. Unfortunately they do not have a Pinot Grigio by the glass so I settled for a McGuigan’s Chardonnay. Passable, just!

The scallops were a dream with piles of chopped garlic and julienne strips of bacon in a butter sauce.  The sauté potatoes were more like wedges which mad them ideal for soaking up the sauce and garlic.  This is not a dish for the cholestroley challenged patron!!

Josephine’s pie consisted of about half a pound of steak, in 2″ dice chunks, with the Guinness sauce and a feather-light puff pastry crust set on top.  A  generous helping of champ was served on a side plate and the vegetables, cauliflower and peas also came separately.  Even with my taking one chunk of beef Josephine struggled to finish and enthused over the taste of bothe the pie and the champ.

I was unable to resist a portion of the double chocolate torte with fresh cream.  Very nice if you are into chocolate as I am.

It is not surprising that it is so popular and one hopes that the lady chef, who has been in residence for 38 years, never decides to leave.

Greenhills Hotel, St. Peter’s, Jersey

Our last day, a beautiful September morning in the garden

Our last day, a beautiful September morning in the garden

We went to Jersey, and the Greenhills Hotel, on the recommendation of a friend. It was a short break from work, flying from Belfast on Wednesday and back on the Saturday. From the moment we arrived we were made to feel totally at home and the staff could not have been more friendly or helpful. The management team of Carmelita and Joe have everything organised to a T. As we only had a few days we booked half board. This was a good decision as, after a days walking the cliffs and visiting the attractions, it was great to have a shower, a drink in the bar and then be served some of the best food I have had in a hotel anywhere, (5 courses if you include coffee and canapes). The soups and fish would warrant special mention. Breakfast with a magnificent choice of fruit (and cereals if you are that way inclined), kippers, smoked haddock, or complete fries set one up for the day. All in all, considering the price of a hotel of anywhere near this quality in Ireland, at £188 a couple with a car thrown in, this realy was value for money. The gardens are beautiful and I would like to see them in the spring or summer. Although the weather was really good we did not venture into the pool. Altogether a memorable experience. We will be back

The Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge

Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge, Ballingarry, Co. Limerick

Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge, Ballingarry, Co. Limerick

I stayed at the Echo Lodge on a business trip to Ballinvreena, Count Limerick, and an excellent choice it turned out to be.  Built as a convent in 1884 it has an old world charm which is reflected throughout, including the welcome from the owner, Dan.  There is no bar as such and on requesting a campari and soda before dinner I was seated on a large sofa in the library. The drink arrived accompanied by complimentary smoked salmon mousse with radish on crispbread.  This definitely set the standard for what was to come. The Mustard Seed menu is compact but offers a variety to cater for all tastes.  I started with a crab and nori seaweed roll in tempura batter with mango and avocado salsa which brought out all the flavours. This was followed by a leek and potato soup.  The soup was a puree and had a delicious hint of lovage.  As a main course I indulged in a pan fried breast of guinea fowl with foie gras.  This was accompanied by garden greens (they have their own kitchen garden) a truffle and shallot velouté  and crispy sweet potato.  This was washed down with a half bottle of an excellent Pinot Grigio. The wine list leaves nothing to be desired either.  To complete this delightful meal they served a crème brûlée that was to die for.  I was listening to a party of Americans discuss whether or not to try it and my recommendation not to hesitate reaped an avid response.  As often happens in such a congenial atmosphere we got talking over a bowl or two of Armagnac and thus concluded the best meal I have had this year. With a price tag of €63 for dinner, plus €17 for wine, it cannot be said to be expensive, in fact I have had far poorer meals with double the price tag.  A word of caution, do not expect early an breakfast.  The chef starts at 8 am.  Of course this is worth waiting for as well!