Michael and Andrea: European Trip 2005 travel blog

Andrea in the Pavilion Gardens in Buxton.

And me...

And us...

Buxton is a surprising little town. It has, besides this opera house,...

It also has (had?) a hot springs spa, just like Bath.

Between 1780-1789, some Duke built this Royal Crescent to rival Bath's. Compare...

Back in the Pavilion Gardens...

And a miniature train, put into storage. I think they'll be bringing...

And then we're in Whitby. It is a dark and stormy night......

The Abbey as seen from the West Cliff. We'll climb those 199...


After checking out of the Sevenways this morning, we walked around Buxton a bit. It is a surprising little town with an apparently thriving arts community. They even have a Theatre Fringe Festival, which was gearing up to start on Friday the 8th. There were banners going up and barriers, and a trailer with a sign reading "Festival Office and Information." As I mentioned in one of the photo captions, there is also an opera house and a Gilbert & Sullivan Museum. The town also has its own set of hot springs, which was developed into a spa in the 18th Century—just like Bath. We need to return (some year) to find out more, because Bath bills itself as the only natural hot springs in England!

Also just like Bath, the town has a Royal Crescent—a semicircular street with stately homes arranged around it. The Buxton Crescent is on a much smaller scale than Bath's and has recently undergone renovation, but it was expressly built to imitate... Also in apparent imitation is the Pavilion Gardens, a large and very beautiful park right near 'downtown'.

= = =

Our drive from Buxton to Whitby was a little adventuresome—if only because I made a wrong turn! It ended up taking us several miles out of our way, but it was through some very pretty villages, so all was not lost. By the time we made it to the motorway, though, we were both tired and maybe just a little bit carsick. We pulled off on the first service stop—I haven't talked about how amazing British rest areas are, have I?—and took a break.

Whitby, for those who don't know, is located on the Northeast coast of England (though still south of Scotland), in the North York Moors National Park. For North York Moors, think Hound of the Baskervilles and for Whitby think three chapters of Bram Stoker's Dracula—although do be sure to think about the book and not the more recent "Francis Ford Coppola piece of junk, he can kiss my...", as Andrea puts it. It is the town where Dracula arrives in England. Dracula's ship was named the Demeter; a few years before Bram Stoker was in Whitby, a Russian ship named the Дмитрии (Dmitri) had been wrecked on the beach nearby.

In any case, as we approached the North York Moors, the rain just started coming down. It poured and it poured and the temperature dropped (how very moodily appropriate, no?). We drove past a RAF base that does not exist (it's not on any of the maps I've seen, and the sign said something about "official secret"!). If it had only been foggy, the setting would have been complete.

= = =

What follows is a story of how not to treat your clients if you run a B&B. :-|

When we were in Bath, we decided on our itinerary for the remainder of England and consequently made reservations for the rest of our time here. In Whitby, this was to be the Grantley B&B, or the "Ghastly", as I have taken to calling it. When we arrive (fully within the 1-hour window I had told the hosts), the place was shut up tight, the lights were all off, and it was cold inside—our first warning sign. I will grant that it is July and no heating should be needed, however, one needs to make adjustments to reality and not simply to the calendar—the weather was inclement and temperature was 11°C (~52°F).

Our second warning sign should have come when the hostess insisted on telling us that they sometimes go out and are not reachable. This may seem like a small point, but allow me to finish so comparisons can be made. Our third sign was, literally, a sign. "No take-away allowed." It continued, "If we find evidence of such," you will be kicked out or evicted or some other such forceful language. Again, we certainly understand the desire not to have food in the rooms, and we have stayed in places with similar policies, but the need that the Ghastly hosts felt to announce loudly rubbed us wrong.

On our way up the stairs, they pointed out the guest lounge—with the lights off and no heating it was not an inviting space. The last sign came when we checked into the room itself; it was awkward, with a low sloped ceiling, small and inconvenient bathroom, and it was cold. Our custom has become to unpack ourselves as soon as we arrive in a new place; here we just sat on the bed and shivered. In an effort to get her warmed up, I wrapped Andrea up in my sweater (in addition to her own sweater) and an extra blanket.

After about ten minutes, I walked downstairs to ask whether they might have a non-attic room that might be warmer (no), any other warmer room (the next room over might warm up "if the sun comes out"—the forecast was for no such thing), any way of turning on the radiators (no), or any space heaters (no). I was, however, welcome to look for someplace else tomorrow. I went back up to report to Andrea, and then decided that if we were welcome to look for someplace else tomorrow, we were pretty darn well welcome to look for someplace else right now! I left Andrea shivering in the garret while I took the umbrella and my coat to search.

B&Bs, holiday flats, and rental cottages are everywhere in Whitby. There were at least a score on the same street as the Ghastly, half a dozen after turning left, and probably another dozen down the next street. The question was finding places with available rooms for the next four nights. I found four places with rooms... The one we settled on, the High Tor, could not have been more different. This is just a touch surprising, because all these houses were built in the same era, on more-or-less the same floor plan, with more-or-less the same amenities. The hosts here were warm and friendly, the heat was on, and the lights were on. Once I explained the situation, they offered us the "family room" (which they could have held out on in order to rent out for quite a bit more), turned up the radiators and brought out extra blankets.

I walked back and got Andrea out of the garret, loaded down the luggage, and then told the Ghastlys (their name was actually Stewart, but 'Ghastly' seems so much more appropriate, somehow...) we were leaving. As we had made a reservation that we were now canceling, and we had been in the room for half an hour and had indeed used the hand towel, they were within their rights to charge us for one nights' use—and they did. :-( Oh, well. At least we learned our lesson at the Pommeray in France; if it doesn't seem right, get out! Don't try to tough it out for a night—we wouldn't have been able to sleep in that cold, anyway (and we like to sleep in a cold room!).

Anyway, we moved around the block into the new B&B—where Denise and Steve sympathetically welcomed us both, helped us with the luggage, made sure we had everything we needed. The large comfortable room (with large, convenient bathroom—with bathtub!) was now nicely warm and comfortable. We promptly unpacked and went out for dinner.

So, the lesson we have learned (for when we open our own B&B) is that while you may have four diamonds and a guest lounge, if you can't make your guests comfortable—you can at least charge them for a nights' stay! We have subsequently walked past the Ghastly—they didn't have any problems booking up for the weekend.

Ah, yes! The comparisons: Our hosts at High Tor also sometimes leave. However, they simply put a slip of paper inside their "Guest Information" folder giving their mobile phone number. They didn't feel the need to announce that they sometimes aren't available... The hotel in Bath didn't allow take-away in the rooms, either—their Guest Information booklet mentioned this—but they welcomed you to use their dining room to eat your own meals. Denise and Steve have offered us space heaters (for when the central heating is off—central heating in the UK is sometimes controlled off-site) or, in anticipation of the warmer weekend coming, fans!

There is a reason it's called the hospitality industry—it's about hospitality, not about running a B&B on the cheap.

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