Friday, 29 June 2012

Reviews, Tripadvisor and other comments....

In my last post I asked if you wanted to hear reviews and details of places I visited, even if they were freebies. Got so many good comments that I thought I'd do a whole new post in response to what you said.

Nearly everyone wanted the details, so I'll be happy to provide them in future, though I agree with LL Cool Joe that what I love, others might hate, and vice versa. As for Tripadvisor reviews. I agree with Muriel (MuMuGB) and I don't trust them. I've read so many plain old lies there and I know for a fact that some people earn money writing reviews to order.

It's also a bit of a burden on owners, who can be victimised by bad reviews. Or they might be too focused on the reviews, and lose sight of other things, like the apartment where I stayed last time in New York. It was the basement and was like a cave with no natural light.

But hey it was a basement. Still, there were annoying niggles, and two serious problems, one of which could have been dangerous.. The owner's main interest was in whether my problems would affect the good Tripadvisor review she hoped I might do. She made excuses for them, but strongly hinted she'd compensate me for the problems if I gave her a good Tripadvisor review. I wasn't interested.

As for that spa ... I interviewed the owners and they'd taken so much trouble. They read over 200 books on all aspects of their plan before starting building and spent a fortune on customer feedback, and everyone except me loved it. Truth was, it was me, not the spa that was the problem. So I shut up about feeling lonely, bored and homesick, and concentrated on what the owners had worked so hard to get right - and what was really pleasing their customers. 

As for the Cornish farmer's wife, I contacted the letting agency suggesting they tactfully spoke to the owner as I felt her attitude might spoil peoples' impression of her nice cottage. The agency didn't reply to me, forwarded my letter directly to her and she contacted me spitting nails - oh, was she mad with me for even suggesting that she might have room for improvement.  That didn't encourage me to recommend others to stay there, so I didn't mention her cottage at all in my piece. My job isn't to take revenge. Anyway, maybe she has regular customers who don't mind being spied on, and don't use the toilet much... :)

The hotel where I stayed in Aldeburgh was the Brudenell (click here for its website) . Aldeburgh is still a fishing town, surrounded by enormous flat marshes, along a coast which is constantly being eaten by the sea. Every year it has a big cultural festival. Years ago, before we even had kids, T went up to record it for the BBC every year.

.... and I'd stay with him and his mates in a rented cottage in the town. The top producers always stayed in the Brudenell. ENVY. But our turn came round at last!

The Brudenell is not "grand", although it's comfortable and priced accordingly. It's several Victorian houses knocked into one. fronting the shingly beach and a tiny no-through-road.

It has an attractive seasidey decor, and well trained, friendly helpful staff. I got up early and was the first visitor at breakfast.

A nice terrace, and a top breakfast, excellent coffee, home made meusli, good toast, top smoked salmon and scrambled egg muffin, and the sparkly sea.

Aldeburgh's a small town, with interesting and quirky architecture. The hotel is at the southern edge, and just a couple of minutes' walk took me into the marshlands where I spotted a couple of swans on their nest with their cygnets.

The lunch was Aldeburgh's White Lion Hotel - here's the website. It feels comfortable, airy and cheerful but you can tell it's old. This fireplace dates from the early 17th century in one of the function rooms.

It was a set lunch (with lots of options) at £10.50 for two courses. Before my home made ices, I had salmon and dill sausages with local asparagus and terrific fries. I'd never had fish sausages before but they were so good.

You can just see some magnificent grilled herrings in the background which T. had. The White Lion organises all kinds of "foody" events for local people, and it's a hotel too - the receptionist was turning people away because they were full.

The self catering house was in Southwold, north of Aldeburgh. Southwold has a lighthouse, Adnams brewery (which you can tour) but to me the best thing is an updated traditional pier which houses a collection of extraordinary amusement machines called "Under the Pier Show." Click here for more - it's crazy. unique and fun. Here's a radioactive sweet I won on the pier.

It's not really radioactive, (I hope)

The house is called Marston House (click here for the website) a 1920s house in a fairly ordinary residential neighbourhood. But it is really near the sea and the pier, had a trendy, cheerful decor. I kept wishing we'd had the kids with us because it was just perfect for families - they even provided buckets and spades. Once again, very well modernised with lots of books and games and maps and local things to do and quirky little toys to play with, and very comfortable.

We had a few niggles during our stay and the pier (who handles the letting) couldn't have been more helpful in putting them right. In fact, I liked it so much I enquired about renting it for a week and going there with the whole family. But they were booked solid all summer. I can't say I was surprised.

To finish, let me give you a review somewhere in Suffolk where we had a family reunion - and this one we did pay for. It's called Potash Barns and it's a collection of old barns and outbuildings. You can rent the whole place, as we did, or just stay in part of it.

Yeah, weather was awful, and it was all "rain and mud and 'sheeps' " as one young member of the party said. But that wasn't their fault, and even so, we did love the barns, and they weren't overpriced. There's an indoor games room, kids' playground, meadow, pettable farm animals, a wheelchair-and-dog friendly lodge, Agas in the kitchen and lots of medieval timbering. One of the rooms had a huge skylight, almost like a glass ceiling which would have been wonderful if the clouds had cleared long enough to see the stars! Wish I could show you photos but my family don't like being put on the blog, so you'll have to take a look at the website - the pictures look accurate.

So there we are, reviews all round.

And in future, I'll mention places sometimes if I feel they are worth it. But, as so many people suggested, on the whole I won't go into details about places I dislike. Even those apartments were probably better than most in Manhattan. At least I wasn't sleeping on a park bench. 


  1. I never get tired of your travels and reviews. You always afford me the luxury of taking a vacation without having to pack, find my passport, or leave the house!

  2. Rain, mud and sheep doesn't sound like fun (I don't mind the sheep, but rain and mud during a holiday sure dampens anyone's spirit!)

    1. unless of course you were there for the mud! ;p

  3. I was interested in your comment about the spa..young cousins visited Costa Rica recently, booked into a spa - and were quickly bored.
    They can't be spa people either.
    The planning undertaken by the spa owners you interviewed would have been fascinating, though.

    Nice to see more of Suffolk!

  4. We stayed in a cottage in Northumbria years ago that had a few problems, some of which were put right eventually, but the main complaint was the beds which were so uncomfortable, with mattresses full of bulges and bumps. When the lettings agency asked for feedback on a standard form, I told them. Then, we had the same experience as you, with the agency forwarding our feedback to the owner. She then rang me at my home and ranted on at me, telling what a filthy family I had into the bargain, and how she’d had to spend ages cleaning up after us! I’m not sure what the point of that was unless she thought I suffered from amnesia and had forgotten that we spent the mornng of our departure cleaning the place - it was spotless. The conclusion I came to was that she was barmy, but I’m amazed that agencies are still carrying out this practice.

  5. Jenny, I think you have come upon the perfect balance. I agree with Jon, I love following your travels. I may never actually get to walk the same path, but I learn so much from reading about your adventures. Thank you, Bonnie

  6. It sounds like your Suffolk experience was similar to mine. After spending a weekend in Swilland Mill at a Hen's party, I had such a good time that I booked 7 nights there for the whole family in December. Suffolk is like that - you have to keep going back.

    Aldeburgh was top on my list to visit but sadly we never made it so thank you for this post! It is back on top of my list when we return.

  7. Agreeing with Jon, reading about these places, the way you write, makes me feel like i got away from it all for a bit. You also give me great ideas for future trips.

  8. This post has made me think a lot about reviews now! Reviews are interesting things, as they can never be entirely objective. They will always be influenced by a unique set of circumstances (and often personalities); they are a snapshot in time rather than an accurate representation of an ongoing, dynamic, evolving business or place, even film, album, book or art collection. Your experiences of writing reviews (or not) is interesting, and illustrates this perfectly.

  9. So many places so many reviews.

    Love reading about them. :)

    What will make return to a palce apart from location is the people there. Staff (or owners) matters. Like you, I'd book a place even though it wasn't perfect on ym first visit if the people there are responsive and attentive to my feedback. ^^

    p.s. how does a radioactive sweet taste like? ;p

  10. I always feel like I've travled far and wide after I read your blog. :)

  11. AH makes me want to book a vacation to the seaside of England. However, since I've never been to England, I wouldn't stay there long since I'd be too busy making sure to see everything and anything!

  12. make me forget for a moment being without power and water and the heat...def would not mind a good vacation right about now...stinks on the weather but...

  13. I find your reviews to be very interesting and invaluable to someone like me who lives in England but hasn't had a lot of experience having to find places to stay. But it looks like we are going to be venturing out and about a little more and I suspect your blog will be quite helpful to us in our UK travel adventures. Your experience with the lady and the toilet paper -- she is so out of touch with how things have changed in this country. That attitute is so 30 years ago!!!

  14. I really enjoyed this post Jenny, very honest and informative. I have put a few reviews on Trip Advisor when I felt a place I had visited deserved it.

  15. I loved hearing even more about those travels. Thanks, m'lady! ;)

  16. I feel like I'm traveling vicariously through your reviews. Thank you!

  17. I'm with Shelly, I love "traveling" with you.
    The basement was creepy! Enough said.

  18. Great post today. I enjoyed reading your reviews and how funny/strange about the agency forwarding the letter instead of understanding the problem. I wonder if they find her cottage being rented less and less.

    cheers, parsnip

  19. Since I don't travel much its nice to read about it :)

  20. I love reading your reviews too. You have a nice, relaxed style of writing, but still get the important information down.
    The barns look lovely!

  21. You've definitely convinced me I need to visit Suffolk! I must admit to relying on luck more than judgement when it comes to picking holiday cottages or B+Bs. Although I've been asked to rate them on Trip Advisor, I never have, nor have I looked at it for reviews. Surely at best it's a bit like a visitors' book - most people, even if genuine, are going to put something polite. And afterall, one person's ideal holiday is another's nighmare!

  22. Hi Jenny,
    Wow, what a lot of information on all those places and your very interesting reviews. You are saving me a fortune in travel costs just by going on these virtual tours :)
    However, I'm off to the Mermaid Inn, near Leek Staffordshire. Must check out nearby Black Mere pool and talk to the 'mermaid'.
    Have a peaceful week ahead and thanks for your Canada Day wishes.
    In kindness, Gary

  23. I don't travel as much as I would like so I enjoy these posts. That radioactive candy looks hilarious! I wonder if it's spicy. :)

    BTW, thank you for the warning about the Blogarama malware. I had a bit of code on my blog and just removed it, so problem should be solved, thank you!

  24. Based on your review, I'd give this place a chance for a day or two but probably not much longer.

  25. The reason I enjoy your reviews is that your give the good and the bad. Yes, it's nice to be positive, but I wanna know drawbacks too, if I'm going to travel somewhere.

    I don't get to travel much anymore (no $), so I live vicariously through you! lol

  26. That's just enough information for people to make up their own minds, helpful but not pushy. And not as if you have a personal interest (i.e. cash) in the outcome.
    Yes, on the whole, I think this is a very good way of telling us about your impressions of a place.

  27. Nice report with wonderful shots! Your composition is always interesting and excellent. I have not traveled so much. So I enjoy reading your wonderful posts.

  28. Definitely the prettiest arrangement of sausages I've seen. I don't trust trip adviser at all anymore. We stayed at a place nicknamed Iggy J's in Belize but it turned out to be Icky J's. It was so horrible in fact that we left the next morning. Thankgoodness we were able to walk up to an awesome place and book a whole week.

  29. Thank you, Jenny! Should I ever happen to travel in any of the areas you talk about here, I'll make use of this information.

  30. Hi Jenny.

    I saw your message on Tabor's blog comments. Sorry you have had a problem with getting on my blog. I don't know what happened. If you like here is my URL (address) that you can go to. Thanks, Dave.

  31. I always read the reviews before I book a hotel. Some reviewers are just too plain picky about the little things, but if one reads the overall reviews from different sources, it will pretty much give you a general idea. I am so thankful for these online reviews and don't know how we lived without them before the internet. I like your "radioactive" candy and the spa looks wonderful. Maybe someday you'll go back and get a different perspective.

  32. Wonderful details - thank you for sharing them with me; although I might not use them for a while, it's great to keep in mind.

  33. Thanks for those interesting links. I'd love to spend a few holidays visiting places on the mainland, so these were especially interesting.

    I have to admit I've never come across fish sausages before.

  34. When an owner is given compliments, she or he is very happy, and so good responses from them. But, we cannot see their true nature. When it comes to complains, I am sure, her or his attitude shows how much they have true hospitality to customers. Even though there are some troubles or complains, I will come back there when I see them attentive, hospitable and more. So, the owners “why don’t you take advantage of niggles or complains. It is a great chance to show real you.”
    Jenny, thanks a lot for sharing.

  35. Even though I have no likelihood of visiting the area in the near future it's still good to read and get ideas and information for the future.

  36. I see a new blog for you. Travel reviews. I don't pay any atttention to trip advisor as it never matches my experience. It would be good to have a reliable review forum. Interested?

  37. It is hard to trust reviews. I was looking at reviews for hotels in an Italian town – for the same hotel some reviews were saying the place was horrible and some gave it 5 stars…. It’s nice to read unbiased reviews if they can be found. The people in the independent hotel I use in Paris are wonderful. Last year we missed our plane for a package tour to Vienna and their son searched for one hour on his computer and found another cheap flight for the same day to Vienna – so we did not miss the whole tour – that is what I call super nice.

  38. Hi Jenny,

    Again, I realized what an idiot I had been for trusting online reviews. I guess there is no such thing as honesty, except for a few blogs like yours who stand by their integrity.

    By the way, I loved your depicting the horrid farmer's wife in your previous post as Grant Wood's "American Gothic". I can imagine what a dour woman she must have been!

    - Jenny

  39. Hi Jenny, I enjoyed reading this post and look forward to future details of the places you love. I've heard good things about Aldeburgh and I think that same hotel from another blogger. Of course, it's not likely I will ever's a very long way from California! But 'never say never' - it could happen.

  40. you should work for a travel magazine and get some $ from these posts!


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