Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Hobbiton Hilton

While in this area of the world, I have been staying at The Lion Gate Inn, an old hotel located at the north gate to the grounds of Hampton Court Castle. The gate and the inn are named for the two great stone lions adorning the huge wrought iron gates. The lions crouch imposingly atop the ornate concrete pylons from which the gates hang.

The hotel is a nice one, do not get me wrong! I prefer it because it is nice, clean, the breakfast is tasty, and the rate is more reasonable than some in the surrounding area. I get to walk across the grounds of Hampton Court Palace on my way to the office each morning, and my favorite pub is right next-door.

The rooms, however, are a bit small, which is what has earned it the moniker of “the Hobbiton Hilton” among the set of coworkers of mine that have stayed there. I had an excellent room last time (number twenty, in the Mews) that made it nearly impossible to appreciate the humor. Had I not been offered the room that we all joke about, I would not have understood it.

You see, like many of the guesthouses in the area, the rooms were not originally en-suite. The norm was to rent a room and go down the hall to a common bathroom to use the facilities. The more upscale travelers (and the Americans) however, insist on having their bathroom en suite so the hotel has retrofitted a number of the rooms. In some cases, this called for tucking the bathrooms into convenient alcoves under the adjacent stairways, or removing a room between two other rooms to convert it into two bathrooms and a storage closet. In other places, they simply framed-out a box within the room itself, added the requisite plumbing, tiled the closet, and viola! En suite room!

This means that a number of the rooms tend toward the small side. But, if like me, you use a hotel room to store stuff and to sleep; occasionally doing a little work on weekends, you don’t really need huge sweeping expanses of hotel room. It is not as if I am planning on throwing parties or anything.

Contrary to the lines that I use to capitalize on the reputation of the place for comedic value, I have never really

  • Accidntally broken a window by sticking the key too far into the lock on the door…
  • Had use the bathroom for its intended purpose by standing outside the hotel and sticking what-ever I wanted to wash in the bathroom window…
  • Had to leave the room to change my mind...
  • Hidden my luggage by leaving it behind one of the two quarks that serve as nightstands…

I prefer to think of the room as cozy. The hotel has an annex across the street called “The Mews.”

mew n.

  1. A cage for hawks, especially when molting.
  2. A secret place; a hideaway.
  3. mews (used with a sing. or pl. verb)
  • A group of buildings originally containing private stables, often converted into residential apartments.
  • A small street, alley, or courtyard on which such buildings stand.

This is the part of the hotel I prefer. The notorious room, the one that we all joke about is in the main building. To find it (you will be told it is on the second floor) you go up three and a half floors. It is then tucked away behind a small curtained doorway off the landing between floors.

The room has a full bed that consumes approximately 90% of the room. There is a writing desk that is best suited to writing on stationary no larger than the average business card. There is a chair but it is probably there for show, it is hard to get it out from under the desk without moving the bed, and it is more comfortable to sit on the bed when using the desk.

The bathroom has a shower that appears to have been manufactured by the people who make water part attractions. Anybody using it would look like Augustus Gloop getting sucked up the chocolate tube in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. There is a basin in the room but you would have to stand in the shower to use it. I have been in a Winnebago with a larger bathroom.

If you should ever stay here (and seriously, I do recommend this hotel!) ask for a room in The Mews. I have not yet been disappointed. They are also really nice people who take care of their guests!

I hope you have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Don Bergquist – 15-March-2005 – Thames Ditton, United Kingdom

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