Wednesday, 5 September 2012
Monday, 11 June 2012
|Allt Yr Ynys Country Hotel|
I got a super deal on this hotel from Kgb Deals last year and thought I would use it to escape from the rat race for a couple of days!
Allt Yr Ynys is a quaint little country hotel in Walterstone between Hereford and Abergavenny. More like a big house than a proper hotel, it features it’s own hot tub, sauna and pool and is set in some lovely grounds with a stream running through it. First impressions are very good. It’s quaint and quiet and looks beautiful. You enter the hotel from a big wooden door at the front and go straight into the dining area with the beautiful drawing room on your right hand side. It’s not far to wander to find the reception, its tucked around the corner - although there’s no indication as to where it is! The staff seem to have this remarkable ability to not seem to be present ever which is sort of nice, but frustrating if you need something.
We paid for an upgrade to stay in the Jacobean suite in the main building. The other rooms are in separate, modern, purpose built outhouses – a bit of a shame if you were expecting to be staying in a traditional country house as is indicated on the website. But the other rooms, from the photo’s we have seen, look really quite nice regardless of being modern and away from the main building. As for the suite, it was really lovely.
|Our upgraded room|
|The dressing room|
Chris and I weren’t looking for all the mod con’s and leather sofa’s we wanted to experience what it is like staying in a Jacobean room and that’s exactly what we got. The suite was made up of a huge bedroom and a separate dressing room which led into a bathroom with a spa bath. The furniture was lovely and the bed stunning (though very soft! Be aware this will do bad backs no good!). Everything in the room looked like replica antiques (rather than the real deal) but worked and it was all set off by the mahogany panel walls. We were rather looking forward to a relaxing bubble bath in the spa bath but were put off by the incredibly loud motors. A shame as it was the one real mod con luxury the room afforded. But then when we switched off the spa motor we had to contend with the remarkably thin floors, through which we heard every intimate detail of conversation between the staff below. The shower was pretty appalling so we stuck with having baths but if you’re expecting to have a quiet relaxing bath in this room… Well just don’t expect to have a quiet relaxing bath in this room. We did have a beautiful view of the gardens from the bathroom window though. The main negative point I have is, while it was nice to be the only couple staying in the main building we were asked frequently what time we were expecting to be back when we left for dinner in the evening because there would be no night staff to let us into the main building. It was made pretty clear that they didn’t want to be hanging around and having a curfew put a bit of a dampener on our break.
|The sadly noisy spa bath!|
|The view of the back gardens|
The pool and sauna have a bit of a bad review on Travelzoo but I honestly didn’t see the problem with them. The pool area is very pretty and well done with a cute Mediterranean design to it. It is right by the reception, separated by a curtain and there is a smaller bar just off the pool area (unmanned as was the case everywhere generally) which would have probably made me feel uncomfortable if the hotel was busier and there were people milling about not in swimwear. But the quirkiness of the layout just adds to the character for me. We didn’t get to try out the hot tub as it had broken down which was a bit gutting. The pool was on the cooler side but not totally unpleasant and the sauna small but did the job perfectly!
The real let down, which surprised me greatly due to the rave reviews on Travelzoo, was the food. We stayed for dinner at the hotel to take advantage of the free bottle of wine with a three course meal deal that came with our voucher and were really looking forward to it. But it was unbelievably disappointing. We had booked the table for 7.30pm as per the owner’s suggestion when I initially called to book before arriving, but decided to dress up a bit and have a couple of pre-dinner drinks at 7pm. As soon as we stepped off the staircase we were being ushered into the drawing room and given menus. The staff were persistent on asking us to order in spite of being asked to leave us alone while we enjoyed our drinks. After being approached 3 times in 15 minutes, we decided (begrudgingly) to order our food. My seafood salad starter was smothered in some strange, dodgy tasting mayonnaise-like dressing; the main of duck breast was grossly overcooked and chewy and poorly presented with a splodge of plain boiled rice (not wild rice as on the menu) and a dollop of butter soaked red cabbage. The cheesecake dessert was average but didn’t redeem the meal. Chris’s meal really wasn’t much better. Disappointing and certainly not worth the £60 paid. Breakfast was pretty poor as well though we only went for the standard breakfast and didn’t opt to pay an extra £7 for a full English. There was an unlimited buffet of standard cereals and basic fruits and warm yoghurts from Lidl. Toast had to be ordered (with no choice as to white or brown) and you were supplied with 6 triangles of it between two of you. A microwaved, shop bought croissant was the other option.
For all the negatives however, this hotel is a nice hotel and I’m really glad I visited. It is well turned out and the owner is lovely even if the same cannot be said for his staff. I would say if you do choose to stay in this hotel, just be aware. There is a real sense of trying to get as much as possible out of the guests whilst trying to save as much as possible on costs (like all hotels I’m sure) but this comes as a real detriment to the service and quality of the accommodation offered. If you have an unfinished bottle of wine and the waiter asks if you would like a couple of glasses to take up to your room with you, you will be charged £5 for the privilege. Another £5 if you want an ice bucket. All the best sounding dishes on the menu (though I wouldn’t recommend going to the hotel restaurant at all if I’m honest…) charge a surplus of up to £8. Cooked breakfasts are not included in your hotel rate unless previously arranged and again will be available at a surplus. As long as you know exactly what you are in for this is a nice place to be. If you’re frugal with money or don’t want to spend your stay being careful not to fall into the ‘optional extras’ trap I would advise you look for somewhere else to stay. But in terms of being in the middle of nowhere and having complete seclusion, this is close to perfect.
KGB Deal 2 nights incl. breakfast with free bottle of wine - £99
Optional upgrade to Jacobean suite - £60
Dinner - £60
Drinks - £8
If you are paying full whack the Jacobean room will set you back between £120-180 per night. Full and up to date details and tariffs can be found on their website.
Friday, 8 June 2012
I recently went up to Brecon with Chris to get away from the stresses and strains of the daily grind for a few days! Of course true to form (and in a bid to keep the boy entertained!), it wasn’t all relaxing countryside walks and chilling in the hotel pool. Oh no! The first day we threw ourselves into freezing water, clambered through and under tiny cliff overhangs and caves, smeared our faces with mud and launched ourselves off the top of waterfalls during gorge walking in Waterfall Country. The second day was a bit more chilled, heading out to Abergavenny Markets and driving around Hereford before stopping at an unlikely lay by to cook some dinner on the trangia! And the third day was spent exploring Hay-on-Wye before meandering through the Beacons, Blacks and Valleys on our journey home. Check out some of our photos below!
Keep an eye out for my reviews of Black Mountain Activity Centre and Alt yr Ynys Country Hotel!
|Home for a couple of days! Alt yr Ynys Country Hotel|
|We upgraded to stay in the Jacobean suite and it was beautiful!|
|All geared up and ready to go gorge walking with Black Mountains Activity Centre|
|Abergavenny Food Market|
|Trust the boy to find toys to play with at a food market...|
|Sugarloaf Mountain from Abergavveny Castle|
|We stopped outside Raglan Castle for a car picnic|
|Lay by dinner! Spaghetti and meatballs cooked on the trangia! Yum :)|
|Antiques shop in Hay|
|Chris playing dress up!|
|View across the Black Mountains|
|In the heart of the valley at Llanthony|
|Getting snazzy with iPhone app Snapseed at Llanthony Priory|
Keep an eye out for my reviews of Black Mountain Activity Centre and Alt yr Ynys Country Hotel!
Tuesday, 5 June 2012
This book… I really wasn’t expecting much at all. I thought I would just sort of let it glaze over me. I was pretty certain it was going to be some sort of chick lit drivel. I was pretty sure I would skim through it feeling a bit bored. I knew for certain I wouldn’t be affected by it.
I was wrong.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t some life changing story that you MUST read. It’s pretty average in terms of storyline and writing etc. Just nothing too special. But the cover sold a completely different image of what I thought this book would be so I was really quite pleasantly surprised when I found that it wasn’t actually chick lit drivel, I wasn’t bored reading it and I was definitely and absolutely affected by it.
Check out this synopsis from google books:
Step into the magical world of Cecelia Ahern. If you could wish for one gift this Christmas, what would it be? Everyday Lou Suffern battled with the clock. He always had two places to be at the same time. He always had two things to do at once. When asleep he dreamed. In between dreams, he ran through the events of the day while making plans for the next. When at home with his wife and family, his mind was always someplace else. On his way into work one early winter morning, Lou meets Gabe, a homeless man sitting outside the office building. Intrigued by him and on discovering that he could also be very useful to have around, Lou gets Gabe a job in the post room. But soon Lou begins to regret helping Gabe. His very presence unsettles Lou and how does Gabe appear to be in two places at the same time? As Christmas draws closer, Lou starts to understand the value of time. He sees what is truly important in life yet at the same time he learns the harshest lesson of all. This is a story about people who not unlike parcels, hide secrets. They cover themselves in layers until the right person unwraps them and discovers what’s inside. Sometimes you have to be unravelled in order to find out who you really are. For Lou Suffern, that took time.
So without giving too much away, I absolutely BALLED my eyes out at the ending. And this was after I had guessed the twist and knew what was going to happen. Totally took me by surprise (the crying, not the storyline). And then I staggered out from my bedroom to find Chris, where I proceeded to sob some more on his shoulder about how “I don’t understaaaaaand why I’m sooooooo affected!!!!!!!!!!” *cringe*
I guess when it comes to this book, it really taps into the heart of universal experience. We’ve all been there - not necessarily having enough time for the ones we love, prioritising the wrong things, just generally being selfish. And I think a lot of my over the top tears were an expression of my own guilt at being all the above things sometimes. Though this book has a bit of a heart warming, good feeling bit at the very end, I will warn you. This is NOT a feel good book. Whatever way you dress it up or take it on board, the message is clear – SPEND TIME WITH YOUR LOVED ONES AND APPRECIATE THEM OR YOU MIGHT JUST DIE AND THEY WILL BE DOUBLY DEVASTED BECAUSE YOU WERE A SELFISH BASTARD WHEN YOU WERE ALIVE.