Tourists Find Surprises In England

It is enormously flattering that you Americans find our country so quaint. You lap up our history and assume that we all live in ancient castles with upper class ghosts or oak-beamed cottages with roses round the front door. It is only fair to point out that not everywhere is quite like that.

If you do come over you'll welcome this year's cold summer. Because few of our hotels, even the big ones, have yet discovered air-conditioning. But that's normal.

The shocks come when you get out of London. For example, would you be prepared to share a hotel bedroom with several thousand noisy winged insects? One couple recently had to. They booked in at what looked like a typical country house hotel only to find their room was already swarming with a nest of hardened honey addicts. The management couldn't understand why anyone would complain about bees and told the guests to buzz off.

I would love to be able to promise that these things very rarely happen. But I can't. A team of brave researchers has just completed a dangerous nationwide tour of British hotels as "mystery shoppers" for a retail consultancy that advises the regional tourist boards.

Take the pair who visited a top hotel in the northern seaside town of Blackpool, famous for traditional family holidays. Our intrepid travelers were puzzled when another couple, total strangers, kept inviting them for drinks. Then notes began to appear under the door, from the occupants of rooms 3, 24, 38 and 50, all anxious to make contact. They called reception. Nobody had bothered to warn them. They had inadvertently checked in for a swingers weekend.

Nor am I able to recommend the proprietor of a lovely hotel in Devon, one of our most unspoiled counties in the south west, who shuts the bar at half past ten sharp and ejects all his customers with a cry of "if you want breakfast tomorrow go to bed now." Welcome to Britain.
By Ed Boyle