The Swan Whisperer renewed his annual Gold Card (season ticket, basically) at Clapham Junction station this year instead of, as he normally does, at Redhill. And, to his delight, South West Trains sent him a reward of 6 free train tickets, each of which could be used for a day's travel at weekends (including Fridays) on South West Trains.
So as we have a major wedding anniversary on Monday, we thought we would treat ourselves to a weekend away. And settled on Weymouth, as neither of us had ever been there, and I booked us into the Riviera Hotel. I thought it would either be delightful or disastrous....
It's a long train journey down to Weymouth, nearly 3 hours, so we set off early afternoon, and arrived shortly after 6:00 pm. The room absolutely stank of damp and mildew, and the door didn't fit very well. I hadn't worked out how to use the key by the time it was time to leave! And it was either too cold or too hot until we found the radiator thermostat (which helped get rid of the smell by the second day). No toiletries were provided, although they did give us a handful to take back to the room when we complained. And quite the worst is that there were no individual switches for the reading-lights - really, why do they think people are going to want to snuggle down at the same time? One switch controlled both, and is why I've given the hotel such a scathing review on TripAdvisor.
We had decided to eat in the hotel restaurant because the hotel itself is quite a long way out of town, but we wished we hadn't bothered - the food was mediocre and the service appalling. I was quite ready to go back to London next morning!
However, after a bad night's sleep because I was so cold, we discovered that the towels they provided were huge and luxurious, which is always nice, and the breakfast was delicious, copious, and adequately staffed! So we felt different.
We went out after breakfast and walked along the beach into Weymouth, which was a lovely walk on a very windy day. Usually nothing is sadder than a seaside resort out of season, but the sea was actually full of kite-surfers, which were great fun to watch. There were a couple of sailboarders, too, by midday, but most people were doing kite-surfing and having enormous fun. We stopped in a random café for a cup of surprisingly good (slightly weak!) coffee and a sit out of the wind. Then we walked on, and found the shopping drag (I needed tissues after all that wind!), and pottered around for a bit, until we found a café to have lunch, which was a crab and salad sandwich which would have been nicer if thicker, and if the bread hadn't sat out for half an hour too long! But it was good.
Then we found a bus back to the hotel, which, improbably, turned out to be free! And then we explored the swimming-pool and sauna/steam room complex, which was very good. To have been perfect, they should have provided shampoo, but they did provide more of those lovely big towels.
There was no way we were going to eat in the restaurant again, so we walked half-way back into town, up a huge hill and down again, to a pub we'd noticed en route that advertised a carvery, which was very popular and deservedly so. Very good food! But I was exhausted by then and insisted on a taxi back to the hotel! They had changed the towels when they did the room, despite our having hung them up, so I used the clean bath-sheet as an extra blanket and was warmer.
This morning, after another delicious breakfast, we decided not to linger as there was a possibility of seeing my parents (which didn't happen as the party they'd come to Town for finished late), and we knew there were engineering works. So we caught the 9.15 bus into town, marvelling at how different the sea looked now the wind had dropped, and there was just time to buy a paper before the train arrived. We had to change at Bournemouth on to a rail replacement bus for a rather pleasant drive through the New Forest to Southampton Airport Parkway, where we caught a train to London, and thus home. I slept most of the way on the trains and then again when we got home.... An early night tonight and I might just have caught up with myself!