We arrived at the lovely guest house hotel in Killarney on our second day of a driving tour through Ireland. It was a gorgeous little hotel surrounded by a lovely garden and overlooking a beautiful lake. We had been on the road for a few weeks by that time and were looking forward to the stay. This place was very nice, posh, no question. A treat!
We wandered into the lobby area, which looked a bit like a stately old family home, with a small table in the midst of a luxuriously appointed sitting room, foyer and curved staircase. The furnishings and rugs were all beautiful and lush with big cosy looking couches covered in a variety of lovely cushions, wing chairs in an array of lovely old world fabrics, marvellous woodwork and polished tables. It was very quiet and serene and expensive looking.
There was not a person in sight so I called out hello? a few times. Suddenly the hotelier popped out of a doorway taking us by surprise. I said Hello, I’m checking in. Without the trace of a smile and in a clipped tone he asked me in rapid fire fashion, Who are you, where did you come from, how long are you staying, where are you going..? The Irish seem very direct and no nonsense but this fellow was abrupt to the point of rudeness! I tried to answer him in a friendly way, smiling, while following his instruction to sign the registry card. But he continued the very terse instructions about what was what, where the dining room was, what time breakfast was served – promptly at 8am – and that supper was a set menu and he waved vaguely at the sitting room saying the menu was there. He asked that we let him know very quickly if we were dining in! I suppressed a chuckle. There was something very reminiscent of Basil Fawlty about the encounter.
We declined help with our luggage, got our bags and headed for our rooms. The hotel was so silent it was as if we were the only guests. My friend glanced at the set menu – €42 each – and we dismissed that as an option for dinner.
The rooms were lovely and spacious, with a king size bed, gorgeous marble bathroom, views of the lake and a meadow full of sheep next door. Rabbits hopped in the grass. Deep chairs invited you to sit and read. Sunlight streamed through the windows. Gorgeous!
After settling in, we decided to go in search of dinner. As we were exiting the hotel, our host suddenly popped up out of nowhere and said ” you’re off then?” again in a slightly accusatory tone. We’re Canadian and felt mildly guilty denying him four dinner guests.
After our dinner, we returned to the hotel and the quiet serene foyer. There were a few guests in the dining room so we felt less guilty. And once again, as we were heading up the carpeted stairs, barely making a sound, our host leapt out of the office and wished us a good evening.
The next morning we headed down for breakfast and once again our host, now truly Basil Fawlty in our minds, popped up from somewhere to greet us with a terse good morning. We wondered how he managed to jump out of hidden corners every time we arrived. And what we had done to annoy him so much!
In the lovely dining room the Fawlty Towers comparison continued when the host’s slightly surly wife appeared to ask if we wanted coffee. Without so much as a smile and barely looking us in the eye she gestured at the buffet of cold breakfast items and left to fetch tea and coffee. She was back in moments with menus and wandered off frowning slightly at the other guests.
While we had an initial impression that perhaps we were not quite their usual caliber of clientele, it was obvious that the hotel was full of characters. One guest arrived in her pajamas with a sweater thrown over them. Another guest, dressed in a toque and plaid lumber jacket, was wandering back and forth in the gardens. And someone else arrived for breakfast in bedroom slippers. We were all giggling to ourselves by that point .
Mr Fawlty came to take our order and continued in the same surly manner as his wife. I asked for the omelette and he asked what I would like on it. I asked what was available. And he snapped back “what do you want?” I was tempted to order something ridiculous but settled for onion, mushroom and cheese, please. He wrote it down with no reply. I should have ordered lobster and truffles! My friends were hardly able to contain their laughter as the curt engagement continued. When our hot breakfast arrived it was delicious and the omelet was one of the best I’ve eaten.
As we left for our day of site-seeing our host once again appeared from nowhere to give us a goodby and sounded the most friendly and animated we’d seen him. Obviously happier to see us leave than to see us stay.
When we returned from our day, we wandered into the sitting room. And again our host jumped into the room from somewhere, startling us, to ask if we’d had a good day, where we’d been, and to let us know that breakfast would be served at 7:30 the next day as the power was being cut at 9. He seemed slightly more amiable but never once cracked a smile. As we were heading upstairs we heard him informing an American family about the early breakfast and we could hear them shouting “What?” repeatedly, truly affronted by the early start. The man complained about his son’s having to get up so early. Again we laughed at the Fawlty Towers like encounter.
In the morning we arrived happy to have breakfast at 7:30 as we were heading off to another destination. Our hostess was in the same surly state of mind as the day before as she brought us coffee and tea. And our host arrived to take our orders for the hot items. This time I ordered two boiled eggs and toast. He replied rather mysteriously “two goosheens then”. When my friend ordered the omelette, I commented on how good my omelette was the day before. My host gave me a sullen look and replied ” and yet you’re having boiled eggs instead today!” in his accusatory way. Grumbling to himself, he headed to the kitchen. We burst out laughing quietly at our table.
When we departed from the hotel a short time later, Mrs Fawlty poked her head out of the office and wished us happy travels. There was genuine happiness in her voice. I believe she was much keener to see us go than she’d been through our entire stay!
I’ve never stayed in a more unusual hotel where the host literally jumped out of doorways or popped up from behind furniture with no warning. Nor have I met such surly hoteliers! Despite that, or maybe because of it, we loved that visit very much! One of our favourites of the trip!
Farty Towels indeed!