“And when I turned to look, Freya was trying to wash her hands in the bidet,” I laughed, as I explained what happened to my mum on the phone.
That wasn’t even the worst part.
My goodness, what a weekend. My brother, sister-in-law and nephew came over from America (on a ship) and were staying with my parents in Ipswich, which was absolutely wonderful. I haven’t seen my sister-in-law (in person) for probably 10 years because she doesn’t like flying (completely understandable) and I was last able to hug my nephew and brother three years ago. It was a lovely, happy reunion – especially for Freya, who was delighted to see her only cousin.
As the house was full up, I booked me, Mark and Freya into a hotel in nearby Felixstowe, a seaside town we used to visit all the time as children, so we could be close and spend as much time as possible with them.
I used my birthday money to treat us to a night at The Orwell Hotel, one of Suffolk’s oldest and best known seaside hotels, so it felt like a little holiday for us too.
The hotel was designed by the influential architect John Shewell Corder and built in 1898 to cater for the influx of visitors who came by train to the fashionable resort.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel fairly extensively, staying in every sort of hotel you could imagine – from the five star St Regis Grand in Rome to a no star hostel near Gare de Nord in Paris.
The Orwell reminded me of a much-loved stately home; one that had seen generations of the same family happily grow up within its walls. Somewhere along the line, the family fortune was lost – probably gambled away by a drunken heir – and now the present generation has to overlook that it’s all a bit, well, frayed around the edges.
I was completely charmed by it.
The communal areas had an almost otherworldly elegance. I felt like I should be dressed in period costume (certainly not jeans) to step into the library, let alone sit on one of the chairs and read.
Our room was huge and had the added bonus that all the fixtures looked like they were older than me (or certainly Mark who was born in the ’80s). It was great. Like stepping back in time.
So often these days, hotel rooms are boringly uniform. Not so at The Orwell (although it was sold earlier this year and I believe it is being gradually refurbished).
While the furniture was “traditional”, shall we say, the sheets, towels, carpets etc were spotlessly clean (as was the room itself) and the toiletries rather lovely.
But, just as I was happily soaking in the atmosphere… (ok, using the free wifi) the music started.
I can’t even claim ignorance. Not only are you warned when you book that the hotel hosts functions and some guests might be disturbed by the entertainment but there are multiple signs up when you arrive at reception too.
How bad could it be? That was my thought at the time of booking.
As it turns out, pretty bad.
Our family room was on the second floor and I can only assume above the wedding reception. All we could hear was thumping base. When 9pm came and Freya was still wide awake, I rang down to reception to ask when it might go off.
Maybe 11.30pm but probably nearer midnight, the very nice lady said (in fact, all the staff were polite and as helpful as can be).
I’m not sure if I groaned but she must have sensed my displeasure because she said: “We are almost fully booked but we do have the honeymoon suite available.” She assured me this would be quieter so, dressed in our PJs, with Freya wrapped in a blanket, we all trotted along the corridor to the new room. The alternative was going to be leave and sleep on the living room floor at my parents house, which I would have been so sad about (not least because I would have wasted all my money).
Thankfully, it was blissfully quiet… but only had a double bed. As Mark goes to bed later than Freya and I, he volunteered to stay in the old (party) room while we took the new one, which was bathed in a glorious orange light from the setting sun.
The nice lady said there was no extra charge, which was a relief.
While Mark and I were talking about what bags needed to be transferred to the new room, Freya had put herself to bed and was already nearly asleep.
Knowing she gets up at 5am no matter what, I tried to get off to sleep myself – even though I really wanted to explore the suite. It was set across two main rooms plus a bathroom and separate toilet with the same faded glory apparent in the first room.
As it happened, I found it hard getting used to the new noises (including the lift next door going up and down). I’m the same in every hotel. The strange thing about this one was that I didn’t hear another person. No voices in the corridor, no doors closing. I’m not sure whether the walls are just thicker or the guests more considerate.
Freya woke up with a tummy ache at 1am and then she needed to use the bathroom a little while later before, as predicted, waking for the day just after 5am.
It was as I was attempting to work the shower (“turn on the cold water first and then gradually add in some hot” sounds simple enough but turned out to be a fine art) that she said she was going to wash her hands…and I turned just in time to see her turning the taps on the bidet.
“Noooooo!” I screeched, before trying to explain what a bidet is. She looked really confused, as well she might.
Once we had finally showered I took her to a very nice play area by the sea before returning to meet Mark for the buffet breakfast in the decadent restaurant at 8am.
Would I stay there again? If there wasn’t an event on, sure. I guess if Freya was older and we stayed out later it wouldn’t have been as much of a problem – although it really was loud.
Was it worth the £128? For the two rooms we had, definitely. For one on its own, especially with the noise, I would say no.
As I only seem to pick noisy hotels, I’m going to let Mark do the booking from now on.
Still, all was well in the end – and it’s probably the only time I’ll ever stay in a honeymoon suite!