Saturday, January 10, 2009

Our summer holiday: three hotels reviewed

My daughter and I stayed at three hotels during our five-day holiday this week:

1. Kingsgate Hotel, The Avenue, Wanganui. If you grew up in the 1950s, and feel nostalgic for the decor/fittings of the period, this is the place for you. The bathroom washbasin didn't even have a water mixer: just two taps, so that we had either hot or cold. Our evening meals were super-sized, which meant we ended up leaving about half the food on our plates. (I nearly choked on my mountain of fries.) The beds were uncomfortable, and the pillows large and hard. We had to turn off the noisy refrigerator.

2. The Waterfront Hotel, New Plymouth. This is the poshest place in town, with room rates to match its status. We paid $240 a night for a room with a view of the sea. Everything was glass, chrome, fake marble, and fashionable shades of gray. The evening meals, though not as stupendous as those at the Kingsgate, were still a little overwhelming. But as you would expect in a new hotel, everything was spotless. The beds were large and comfortable, the room cooler worked well, and the refrigerator was so quiet we barely noticed it.

3. Mountain House, Pembroke Road, Stratford. This place, which is run by a German, is about a third of the way up Mt Taranaki, a dormant volcano, and is surrounded by dense native bush. We were put into a detached chalet, a three-minute walk from the main building. Shortly after we had settled in, the girl from Reception arrived with a flower for our empty vase and some complimentary fruit and nuts for the wooden bowl on the bedside table. She told us that we could drink the contents of the refrigerator without incurring any extra charge. Following the map she had also given to us, we set off on an hour-long tramp through the bush — following a route that took us, via some nice new wooden bridges, over numerous streams and gullies. That evening, while waiting for our dinner, we were invited to sample some homemade German bread, which was delicious. The food was excellent, and came in sensible portions, which meant we could leave the table without feeling bloated. We noted the antique skis and old horns (from Germany?) on the walls, while we admired the view of the bush through the large dining-room window. In our simple, neat room, the beds were a little on the small side. But, hey, you can't have everything. I was particularly impressed by the hotel's readiness to trust us: There was no demand for a credit card as soon as we stepped through the door, and we were not required to sign chits after our meals.

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