Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Not quite so Premier in Ross-on-Wye

Last weekend Mrs PBT’s and I spent a few days away. For the record it was my birthday, but not a significant one. However being the birthday boy I got to choose the location, and the area I chose was the Forest of Dean.

It is a part of the country which was new to both of us, although many years ago I skirted the edge of the Forest on a family trip to Wales, during my childhood. As my good lady wife is/was a big fan of Premier Inns, I booked us into their Ross-on-Wye hotel, a couple of miles from the centre of Ross.

We passed through Ross-on-Wye, on that first childhood trip to Wales;  it is after all on the A40, a road which, prior to the opening of the M4, was the main route into South Wales from England. It’s also worth remembering that until the first Severn Bridge opened in 1966, the crossing at Gloucester was the lowest on the Severn.

The strange thing is that earlier in the journey, as we were skirting around Gloucester, I recognised the crossing over the River Severn,  some 57 years or so after I had first passed that way. How spooky is that!

I digress, so back to the narrative. The Forest of Dean is a geographical and historical  region which occupies the western part of Gloucestershire. It forms a roughly triangular plateau bounded by the River Wye to the west and northwest, Herefordshire to the north, the River Severn to the south, and the City of Gloucester to the east.
The area is one of several surviving ancient woodlands in England, and is characterised by more than 110 square kilometres (42 sq mi) of mixed woodland. A large area of the forest was reserved for royal hunting both before and after the Norman Conquest and it remains as the second largest Crown Forest in England.

We arrived at our Premier Inn base just before 4pm. We had pre-booked a table at the adjoining Beefeater Pub for 6pm, which didn't really allow sufficient time for exploring prior to our reservation, so we decided to leave a look around Ross-on-Wye until the following day. This was a shame, and contrary to my usual preference of getting to know the local area as soon as possible.

The annoying thing was the pub wasn’t overly  busy, and I'm sure that if we'd just turned up later in the evening, they would still have found us a table. Every cloud has a silver lining though and as luck would have it we were in time to take full advantage of the Beefeater's "Value Menu", which runs between 10am and 6.30pm, and offers a selection of dishes that are almost half the price of the chain's normal offerings.

So it was the chicken and ham pie, with thrice-cooked chips and peas, for me, and a steak sandwich for  Mrs PBT’s. Not surprisingly the beer offering wasn’t up to much, with the dreaded Doom Bar as the only cask offering. I gave it a go, and whilst it was clear, well-conditioned and reasonably fresh, to say it was bland would be an understatement!

We'd ordered drinks to go with our meal; the aforementioned Doom Bar for me and a bottle of Erdinger low-alcohol wheat beer for my good lady wife. However, when the waiter arrived with the drinks, I noticed that instead of the low-alcohol version, they had brought the full-fat Erdinger Wheat Beer. I pointed out the error, but the bottle had already been opened.

Not wishing to see it go to waste, I valiantly said I would drink it, and whilst I am not normally a fan of wheat beers, I found that particular Erdinger to be tasty, enjoyable and possessed of far more character than Rock's "finest".

The following evening, after a day spent exploring Ross-on-Wye, Symonds Yat and Monmouth, we again ate at the Beefeater. This suited our purposes, as I’d already had a birthday beer, and getting behind the wheel again that evening would have meant restricting myself to just single a pint. I therefore reasoned it would be pointless to drive out to a pub where my beer consumption would be severely limited, and besides, the Beefeater was next to the hotel.

I’m sure the ardent pub-goers reading this will be disappointed, and I must admit that under different circumstances I would have liked to explore a few more pubs in both Ross and the surrounding area, but as I say, the Beefeater ticked the right boxes, apart from the beer offering.

So I celebrated my **th birthday with a rather nice mozzarella filled chicken, wrapped in pancetta, complete with stem broccoli and skinny fries. The bottled Erdinger Wheat Beer (full-fat version), was a good accompaniment to the food and after a dessert and coffee, we returned to our room where I polished off one of the bottle of  Pilsner Urquell I’d bought earlier. The beer was reasonably chilled after several hours in the boot of the car, although if truth be known, it could have been a little colder.

To end though, I have to say that Premier Inns have fallen mightily in the estimation of Mrs PBT’s. Perhaps I ought to add, as qualification that their Ross-on-Wye outlet has. It was all down to the bed you see, or should I say beds, as despite the company guaranteeing everyone a good night's sleep, neither of us did - certainly not on the first night.

Left to my own devices, I would have slept like the proverbial log, but Mrs PBT’s experienced great difficulty in getting comfortable and consequently spent much of the night tossing and turning and, at times, positively throwing herself about. It seemed that if she couldn't sleep, then I wasn't going to either!

Being the kind, caring and considerate husband that I am, I ignored her, or at least I did initially, but when her nocturnal movements became too pronounced and too annoying, I thought I'd better ask her what the problem was wrong. When you've been married as long as we have I more or less knew what the answer would be, and sure enough the bed was far too soft for her and she just couldn't get comfortable.

I suggested that Lenny Henry obviously hadn't tried that particular bed, and rolled over closed my eyes and went back to sleep. Like my father I can sleep anywhere - even in meetings at work, as my colleagues will gladly testify, but my good lady wife is a lot more particular as to where she lays herself down, and it certainly showed that night.

The following morning we asked at reception for the sofa bed, by the window to be made up. Great  thought I, a whole double-bed to myself and with luck one contented missus. But no, the sofa bed was not only too hard, but it apparently had a ridge running down the middle. With one more night to go, I opted for the sofa bed and she went back to the double, but sleeping on the left-hand side which is where I'd slept on the first night..

We reckoned that with single business travellers making up much of Premier's guests, certainly during the working week, they were more likely to have slept of the right hand side, purely because there's more room to get in and out on that side, and there was some truth in our logic, as we both had a reasonable night's sleep. The only problem I had was trying not to slide off the side of the sofa bed, as it had a pronounced slope.

So is Mrs PBT's love affair with Premier Inns finally over and, if so, can we go back to my preferred option of scanning Booking.com for somewhere that is more individual, cheaper and within walking distance of a decent boozer?


Curmudgeon said...

I have actually stayed at that particular Premier Inn, and back then (2010) they had Wadworth's 6X.

I always tend to sleep on the left-hand side of a double bed, which in the standard Premier Inn layout is the side nearest to the bathroom.

Ross is very pretty, but not a great town for pubs, so you didn't miss a huge amount.

Etu said...

A firm, for which I worked on a travelling basis for a few years, tended to book us into Premier lodges, so I can relate closely to your comments, Paul.

TBH, I still find the whole business of packing bags and going away something of a chore, unless the accommodation has some intrinsic merits and interest which make it worthwhile.

We stayed at a quirky south London hotel on Sunday just gone, in a "premium" room at the rear, away from the traffic noise. This was rendered pointless, by the hotel's staging "events" until two in the morning, with repetitive bass-and-drums thudding through the building.

Mrs E unleashed a broadside at the management, and the very pleasant receptionist did knock off half of the cost, but what was once a pleasant bolt hole seems to have lost its way.

This is what happens, when people are expected to have "ideas" all the time though, I suppose.

Etu said...

It would help if I remembered to come to my actual point.

Booking hotels is always hit-and-miss I find, whether you go for "reliable" chains, or individual ones that you think you know. The latter don't often stay the same for long, it seems.

I had a similar experience to your river crossing one, after fifty-odd years too, with a childhood holiday scene in Devon recently. Yes, it's quite startling.