Just back from a micro-mini-break to Eastbourne, featuring a night in the Grand Hotel, which was a calming and soothing reintroduction to the outside world. However, we started off with a visit to the Towner Gallery to see the newly-opened John Nash exhibition. Although the exhibition was really excellent, and we will go again when it is a bit quieter, Battleaxe would not recommend the Towner experience for the more Covid-anxious! So, instead of John Nash, I’m finishing with some pictures of bluebells in Pett and Guestling Wood.
Let’s start with the hotel. Now, remember, we visited on the 19 May. They had only re-opened on the 17th, going from months of zero to full 5 star service… Given that, the hotel’s all-round performance was excellent. In Battleaxe’s last post she said how much she had wanted to enjoy a bit of real hotel luxury, and we got it. Sure it cost a bit, but as Philosopher said, one doesn’t mind paying when you get good faciltities and good service. The hotel is exactly the sort of historic rambling Victorian pile that Battleaxe enjoys – imagine those BBC Grand Hotel concerts being broadcast from the Great Hall in the 20s and 30s… and apparently Debussy completed ‘La Mer’ in Room 200 in 1905… Anyway, fans of modern minimalism and arty design need not apply.
The doormen-blokes at the front door who take your luggage and sort the car seemed genuinely welcoming and pleased to see us, which was encouraging. At Reception, they told us we had been given a slight upgrade, to a Junior Suite. It was on one of the side-wings of the hotel, with a sea view. Very big room with a hallway-corridor leading to a big bathroom, big telly, big comfy bed, well-supplied tray including a Nespresso machine, spotlessly clean, and blessed bonus – wonderfully quiet.
I had booked us in for a late afternoon tea, in the hope that we would not need any dinner afterwards, which indeed proved to be the case. Now, unlike some of her friends, Battleaxe is no connoisseur of posh hotel afternoon teas – have only ever had one, when I took two women friends for tea at the Ritz years ago to mark a Big Birthday. The tea at the Grand was very good, but maybe ideally one needed a tiny bit more bling – those gilded Empire chairs to sit in instead of big squishy armchairs which were not great for Battleaxe’s back (yes, I still have a bit of sciatica after all these weeks. Don’t get me started on those GPs…), slightly daintier sandwiches… and where was the live music tinkling away in the background? But it was fine, and we cheerfully chomped our way through sandwiches, little quiches, scones/jam/cream, selection of patisserie etc.
I had been particularly looking forward to the hotel breakfast. Well, for the staff, all of whom had only been back a couple of days, and some of whom must have been new, that breakfast service was clearly a nightmare. The dining room is absolutely vast – we thought we were walking back to Hastings as we followed the waiter to find our table, and very busy. Great classic old posho hotel style… expanses of spotless white linen and napkins, shining silver domed plate covers whipped off with a flourish by the waiter, those silver-plated cruets that never quite seem to shake any salt out, those (slightly dented) silver-plated hot water jugs with hand-blisteringly hot handles, those teapots that drip tea over the table cloth as you pour – yes, check, check, excellent.
Of course, there was no breakfast buffet, but the table-service menu seemed to have exactly the same range of continental and hot options as before, and a huge range of drink possibilities. Added to that, at breakfast, guests will have endless customised requests. No this please, but extra that, it has to be well done. Just one of the other and can it be lightly poached? Two croissants and a slice of wholemeal toast please. Are the kippers Scottish? The staff coped as best they could, but it was a bit of a struggle – I don’t think you could expect much else so early in their reopening, and I am sure it will soon improve. The tables had no numbers, and staff would forget which table had ordered what. Our main courses arrived suspiciously quickly, before anything else – we tucked in before realising that we had been mistakenly given another table’s food. We kept our heads down and hoovered up our (very yummy) ill-gotten gains while the deprived ones complained bitterly about their over-long wait. We ended up having our orange juice, fruit and yogurt for ‘pudding’ along with our croissants but hey….
Anyway, Hastings Battleaxe would totally recommend the Grand for anyone wanting a restorative taste of old-fashioned hotel luxury.
So, as I said above, no John Nash this time, but here are the bluebells. Last Sunday we walked from the Two Sawyers at Pett into the wood at the back, and then through into Guestling Wood. It was just beautiful. One small downside it was very muddy and slippery and Philosopher and I ended up sliding down a bank and ending up on our backs in the ditch below – unhurt, as it was soft leaf-mould, but very muddy!