We begin with the reality of checking out accommodation for the Bridgestone 100 Best Guides, and just what can be discovered in Ireland. Names have been changed here to protect the guilty: E. A. Poe House isn't actually the real name of this place, though it probably should be.
Then, it's a trip back a few months to when Eamon was whistle-stopping around the country. First, the painful bit…
E. A Poe House, Sometown, Ireland.
Judging restaurants and accommodation for inclusion in the 100 Best is never something that I take for granted. On some level, somebody at the heart of every operation thinks that they are doing a great job. Over the years, experience of all of the places we visit provide me with a set of benchmarking standards that I can apply. When places come very close to being a 100 Best experience, it is this set of 'standards experienced' that helps to sort out the nitty gritty.
Well, that's the theory anyway. And then there are places where no mental conundrum is necessary, either because it is so obviously ahead of the game or, as in the case of E. A Poe House, where we simply aren't on the right planet at all.We arrive at 8pm, park the car at the side of the house and are then met at the front door by the proprietor, who asks us if we have a booking. When we confirm that we do we're given the key to our room and then a sheet of paper. It's the menu for breakfast in the morning. We must choose now what we want and if we fancy the baked omelette, we have to specify the time we'll be down for breakfast as "they take 20 minutes." An omelette. 20 minutes. Really?
After that we're shown to our room, number 1, and left at that. No mention of a welcome, a cup of tea, a lounge, anything. The room is a grim affair made to look fancy. There's a kettle and cups with UHT milk and little individually wrapped biscuits - you know the type. The bed is faux four-poster but is too big for such a small room. The sheets are moss green, the pillows have diamantes sewn into them. The bathroom has no window, just an extractor so the ceiling above the shower is black with mould. There is no facecloth, no shampoo, no soap, just an anonymous dispenser bottle of gel handwash.
Sorry if this passes into 'too much information' but the toilet seat is cracked and is fully capable of giving you a nasty pinch as you go to the, well, you get the picture. There is a fancy flat screen TV. The carpet is grass green and cheap. We are both dying for a coffee so we wander downstairs to see if there is in fact a lounge but all there are are closed doors. And signs. "Guests are requested to settle their bill ON ARRIVAL". "Please make sure the door is firmly shut." "The car park is locked at 10.30pm." "Breakfast is served between 8.30am and 9.30am." "Guests are requested to vacate their room by 11am. We hope you enjoy your stay."We walk down to Main St and have that coffee in the bar of The Excelsior Hotel, read the papers and walk back up to E. A Poe House. In the absence of any sign of life, there's nothing for it but to go to bed and watch TV. In the morning the two of us are on tenterhooks as there is only that one hour window of opportunity to have breakfast, but in hindsight it might have been a blessing to miss it.
Orange juice that manages to taste of anything but oranges. A lifeless buffet with cereals and some 'not exactly jumping with freshness' sliced fruit. No yoghurt. My pre-ordered scrambled egg with smoked salmon is brought almost instantly. Of course it has, it's been sitting under a heat lamp for that long that all of the liquid has separated and the egg sits in it's own puddle. It has all the visual appeal of somebody who has wet themself. I eat a few forkfuls and all the energy drains from my body. I push the rest of it around in the hope that it will look like I've eaten more than I have. J refuses to have anything but coffee, clever girl.
When we're ready to go I tap on the kitchen door to pay the bill. My card is accepted almost without conversation except for a single sentence: "Have you got the key for me?." No 'thank you', no 'did you enjoy your stay?', not even a goodbye. In the car J has a few apples from Ballycross Apples that she bought in Ardkeen Stores the day before. I eat one as quickly as possible to get the taste of the scrambled eggs out of my mouth.A souless experience, devoid of any sense of hospitality. I really didn't think it could be like this. I am sorry that the only two other guests at breakfast, an American couple, might think that this is what the Irish B n' B experience is like.
Total Bill €80.00
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