Rachel Gaffney's Letter from Texas

Rachel Gaffney

The famous foodie who’s flying the tricolour for us in Texas is also always on the lookout for the very best Irish places to recommend to American visitors. This month, she shares the details of a disappointing Irish hotel stay that she thinks the owners need to know about - and wonders about the best way to pass on constructive criticism.

I parked my car and checked in to my hotel for the evening. I was looking forward to visiting this property. I had not stayed here before but had viewed the website a few weeks prior to my arrival and the imagery looked promising. My check-in was quick and easy. Now, key in hand, I returned to my car to get my suitcase. I was travelling for almost 2 weeks and did not have a small bag.

Unfortunately, I had to haul my bag across the gravel drive myself as I could not find anyone to assist. The hotel did not have a lift. Now I dragged my bag up the staircase and was already feeling the strain. Multiple neck and shoulder surgeries, as the result of a bad car crash years ago, have left me much weaker.

I unlocked the hotel room door and walked inside. Immediately something was bothering me. You may find this a little strange but I could not figure out what it was that was bothering me. A beautiful old wardrobe flanked the large wall between the bedroom and the bathroom, old books were stacked on a shelf, heavy curtains hung from beautiful old sash windows and vintage lace was draped across the dressing table.

I placed my car keys on the dresser next to the Russell Hobbs kettle. The kettle with crusted limescale in the spout. This was it, this was what bothered me, the kettle, the packets of sugar, instant coffee and pots of creamer all sitting on a formica tray on this lovely old dresser.

My night’s sleep was, to say the least, fitful at best. The mattress was old, uncomfortable and lopsided. The sheets did not fit the mattress.

The next morning, I made my way down to the dining room for breakfast. The buffet was laid out. A selection of cheeses was on offer on a slate. They were not labelled so one had to guess their provenance. It was a warm summers day and the flies flitted from cheese to cheese.

A rustic pottery bowl was filled with fresh apples from the orchard. Plastic bottles of tomato ketchup and YR sauce were lined up like soldiers alongside the bowl of apples. Home made marmalade, raspberry jam, local honey and rhubarb jam filled pretty glass jars. One spoon was provided for all these condiments. This spoon was placed in a cup of murky water with pieces of marmalade peel floating to the top. Only the one spoon was provided. In this hotel you had to rinse the spoon.

If you wanted tea, then you took a tea bag from the box of tea and I do not mean from a wooden casket with individually wrapped bags but from the box you purchase in the supermarket. Antique furniture filled the dining room. Great ornate ceilings caught your eye. I could not bring myself to eat anything from the buffet. The flies had turned me off.

I ordered a pot of coffee and some of their ‘home made brown bread’. I could not spread the butter on the bread. It completely disintegrated as soon as the knife made contact. Ideal for making brown bread ice cream. I asked the waitress if I could have some more. She informed me that no-one else had had that problem. She huffed and said I would have to wait as they would have to defrost another loaf. I declined breakfast and set about looking for another location for my morning repast.

To the reader this may seem petty and insignificant. Perhaps one might think my complaints are petty. After all, they cannot just build a lift in an old building. Surely I am being picky about this kettle in the hotel room? And on and on and on.

I wear two hats when I stay and/or visit any property in Ireland. The first is one I will probably be buried in and that is the hat worn by one trained to work in hotels. Trained to spot the details, trained to sell and market hotels, trained to listen to the customer.

The second hat is the one worn by one who knows what their clients want and what they expect for their money and is always looking for places for them to stay. I tell them that if “I won’t stay there, then I won’t put you there”

If you were me, how would you handle this? Unfortunately, in this day and age people can be so critical and harsh and even like to publicly humiliate and shame. I would dearly like to suggest ways to change all these situations, which in essence would not cost any money. Sometimes, all you need is a fresh set of eyes. Someone who can see the things that you cannot. I ask you - what should I do?

Rachel Gaffney's Real Ireland


: Rachel Gaffneys Real Ireland
Follow me on Twitter: @Rachelgaffney

Email: Rachel@Rachelgaffneys.com

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15th September 2015
Kitty Herrmann
As a specialist on travel in Ireland I'd be horrified if I unwittingly booked clients into this hotel. I hope you at least forwarded your review to the management of the hotel, although management attitudes often are responsible for the attitude of staff

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