Thornton Hall Hotel and Spa: Relaxation and Fine Dining

feature wall at hotel

It was nice to brush away the cobwebs and be pampered with a spa break at the Thornton Hotel and Spa in the Cheshire countryside recently – a birthday present from my lovely family. The overnight stay at this 4-star Wirral hotel, which boasts an award-winning luxury health club and ultra-posh restaurant, was a wonderfully fun and relaxing experience. I’ve been to a few spas before, but this was definitely my favourite. Continue reading

Escaping from a Nightmare Basement to a Posh Hotel

Wrapped in a white fluffy dressing down, fresh from a long luxurious shower, I wandered into the bedroom and admired the king size bed that was sumptuously layered with cushions. Then I moved into the spacious office room where a plush couch, coffee table and desk could be found. I was staying in an executive suite at a posh hotel in Toronto. So what? you might think. The story here is how I unexpectedly wound up staying here for the night.

No, I didn’t throw the towel in and decide I couldn’t spend another night in a hostel (I like staying in hostels). Nor did I necessarily feel like indulging in luxury. It was a set of circumstances that led me to be in Toronto one Friday night with nowhere to stay. The International Toronto Film Festival was underway and everywhere was fully booked.  How had I missed the small detail that a major event was taking place here and why was I arriving so unprepared?

Toronto buildings

Longtime readers of my blog might have read about my unfortunate time spent working on a farm near Ottawa, where I slept in a dark, dirty basement that reminded me of a scene from a horror movie. Well, I was running away from this situation and the only bus heading out of town that afternoon was going to Toronto. During my three long days at the farm, I had been offline and hadn’t had a chance to book accommodation. Saying this though, I’d planned on staying here for two weeks and didn’t know I was leaving until I finally decided to stop fighting against all of my instincts and just get the hell out of there.

On my way to Toronto, I didn’t think there was anything to worry about as there always seemed to be space in hostels last minute for one person; even if it meant going in a mixed dorm for a few days. I quickly realised this wasn’t the case when I was sitting in a food court in Toronto on my laptop, looking up availability. ALL of the hostels were full and ALL of the budget hotels were full. It was then that I clicked about the film festival.

view from cn tower in toronto

It was 9pm and getting darker by the minute. I was in an unfamiliar city. I didn’t know anybody here. Was I scared? Not at all. I was just tired, very tired. I decided to walk around and pop into any hotel I came across to see if there was any space. I had become resigned to the fact that, despite being skint, I’d have to probably have to fork out a lot of money if I wanted to find somewhere to sleep. The first hotel I went in had the honeymoon suite available some ridiculous amount of money and didn’t budge on the price despite me trying to negotiate (a night in the honeymoon suite would’ve made an interesting article!). I gave up and the guy in reception said they had a database showing availability at the local hotels.

He said there was a room left at a hotel down the road that wasn’t too expensive. Ah great, sounded like I might get some sleep after all. As it turned out, it was a smoking room. I’d rather spend the night in a train station than sleep in a smoke-filled room. The receptionist said there were rooms left at the Ramada Plaza Toronto a short distance away and I decided to just pay out on my credit card and get some rest. I must’ve looked like a dishevelled mess, but decided to turn on the charm to work for a discount. Ha, who am I kidding, it was more like ‘hope they take pity on me’ situation rather than a me ‘working my charm’. Either way, they gave me a small discount and a free upgrade to the executive suite.

cn tower in toronto

To say that the room was nice is an understatement. It was one of the loveliest hotel rooms I’d even been in. Funnily enough, I didn’t do any sleeping and decided instead to enjoy the room to the fullest. That’s where the long luxurious shower and fluffy white dressing gown bit came in. I pulled an all-nighter, did a bit of work and took advantage of this luxurious time out that was a far cry from the horror film basement I’d been in 24 hours earlier. Spending the equivalent to a week’s hostel stay hurt quite a bit though!

Have you ever landed somewhere with nowhere to stay? Do you have any stories like this?

Annoying People in Hostels: The Inconsiderates

Without hostels, many people wouldn’t be able to afford long-term travel. But, despite my appreciation for them overall, there are quite a few aspects I don’t enjoy.

Inconsiderate people has to be one of them.

I always try to be tolerant, appreciating that in shared accommodation there’s going to be noise and people will be on different sleeping schedules. Saying this, basic consideration for others seems to go right out of the window with some people, which can eventually get on my nerves. 

A big emphasis on the ‘some’ as many people I’ve met in hostels are great.

 

 Here are some of the annoying types of people I’ve met in hostels (luckily, they were the minority!):

 

The rustler…

They always seem to be digging around for something in their luggage, rustling plastic bags, dropping things on the floor, and making general noise either late at night or early in the morning.

There’s no tiptoeing around with this type, in consideration for the people who are trying to sleep in the same quarters, they really just have to make as much racket as they can at the worst possible time.

It’s fair enough when people have just arrived and need to sort their things out, but for the others I never understand why they don’t get the stuff they need organised earlier on, to save them from digging for goodness knows what in the dark.

 

The vomiter…

“Oh that’s gross…I’m so sorry,” was what I woke up to. As my senses came around, I then noticed the awful stench in the air and realised it was vomit. The girl staying in a bed opposite me had been sick all over the place and a member of the hostel staff was looking over her as she frantically scrubbed and sprayed in an effort to clean up the mess.

Usually I would’ve felt sorry for this person, gone to get them a glass of water and ensured they were sleeping on their side.

But, before I could even consider a reaction, she’d made a jump to the bin right at the end of my bed to spew up her guts for a second time. Now there was not only the awful smell to contend with, there was also a monstrous visual right before my eyes.

Slumping back into her bed, the rest of us in the room had a sleepless night trying to hold our noses. There was one person I felt sorry for: a pregnant girl who had to leave the room to be sick herself, having an extra sensitive sense of smell.

What annoyed me was the fact there was a toilet literally next door to our room, which she should’ve stuck her head over and maybe even slept next to, saving us all having to witness her drunken episode.

She seemed cohesive enough to have been able to move herself to the bathroom. To make it worse, the following day she didn’t apologise and simply ignored us all. Not cool. 

The dazzler…

It’s late at night and most people in the dormitories are sound asleep in a comforting blanket of darkness. Then, all of a sudden, it’s like full beam as all of the lights are switched on.

This never fails to wake me up from my slumber and it really, really irritates me. If I arrive back late, I take care to be quiet and would never even dream of turning on the lights.

Others don’t seem to care though.

 

The screamers…

The thing about staying in youth hostels is that sometimes there are a lot of youths around. At one hostel, I awoke at around 3am to a load of hyperactive screaming, laughing and thumping.

Dozens of youngsters, possibly on a school trip, had descended on our corridor, slamming doors, shouting their friends and probably waking up everybody on the floor.

The worst thing was that the adults with them seemed totally useless at controlling them and, despite the noise continuing for a good hour, there was no effort by anybody to shut them up.

 

I’d love to hear your experiences with inconsiderate people in hostels. What kind of behaviour annoys you?

 

 

Hostel Review: Green Tortoise, Seattle

The award-winning Green Tortoise in Seattle is the best hostel I have ever stayed in for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the beds were amazing…

They were designed in the style of old railway cabins and featured curtains, which was certainly a novelty, a reading light, fan and four plug sockets.

Each bed had a spacious cupboard underneath, which could be secured with your own padlock as is standard in most hostels.

My favourite feature of the Green Tortoise was the fantastic bathrooms.

While they are shared, each room had an individual shower, sink and toilet.

Far from the basic, crammed facilities you come to expect from hostels, these showers were huge and luxuriously tiled.

The hostel can be found in the perfect location – a stone’s throw away from the bustling Pike Place Market.

There is free breakfast every morning. You can make yourself some toast or there are eggs and pancake mix if you feel like cooking yourself something more substantial.

Fruit and juice are provided and coffee and tea are on tap all day.

Free dinner is even served three evenings a week – alternating between tacos and spaghetti.

You can really save a lot of money by taking advantage of all of the freebies.

If you are not travelling with your laptop, free internet terminals are available.

There is free WiFi, but you will be unlikely to get a signal in your room and will have to come downstairs to browse the internet.

But plenty of comfortable seating is provided and there is free WiFi at the Starbucks across the road if you fancy a change of scene.

This was a lovely colourful hostel with a great communal feel.

So, overall, this is a top hostel that I would not hesitate to recommend.

The only negative aspect for me was that all of the dormitories are mixed and there were a few couples in the room that I was staying in.

This threw me at first, but I just adapted and it was okay.

While having the curtains was a blessing overall, there were times when they actually prevented you from getting to know the people in the room.

In effect, each of the beds are separate rooms.

This was both a luxury and a hindrance at the same time, depending on how you look at it.

But there were plenty of opportunities to make friends, with hostel activities such as pub crawls and food tours and plenty of people to meet by hanging around in the communal areas.

Book this hostel if you want a fun and friendly place to stay in a great location, with lots of free meals and cheap activities.

Tip: If you are a light sleeper, you might be disturbed by the street noise. I would advise you to bring ear plugs or purchase some from the reception.

I managed to sleep through the noise, but I know others in my room had to wear ear plugs.