Well today didn’t quite go as planned or as expected! I woke up to find the car iced up and Heathrow hiding behind a veil of fog so it was a bit of a slow drive from the hotel to the car drop off point. Thankfully check in and security were surprisingly quiet; I was through in a couple of minutes and soon on my way to the United Airlines lounge for which I had managed to wangle a pass. My last memory of being in here was a delicious full English breakfast; I wasn’t disappointed this time either and I can thoroughly recommend it! I sat looking out of the window wondering how quickly the fog would dissipate and wondering if we would be delayed, then before I knew it, it was time to make my way to the gate for boarding.
Boarding was well planned and I was in my seat in no time. United’s economy seats have a great pitch and there was actually a gap between my knees and the seat in front – I don’t get that very often! The service from the cabin crew was excellent, there was a good selection of food (not that I really needed anything after my breakfast) and a ready supply of drinks. The flight (all eleven hours of it) went quickly as my seat was comfortable and there was a good choice of entertainment to keep me occupied.
Eventually I arrived at the Queen Mary, my home for the next couple of nights. There seems to be so much to do but it’s all going to have to wait until tomorrow when I’m a bit more awake and have a bit more energy. For tonight I’ll grab something to eat then have an early night so my adventure can start in earnest tomorrow…
This morning was a morning of hotel inspections; the first in Long Beach was brilliant, a great hotel in a fabulous location and I was guided by someone who was clearly passionate about their hotel. If we can get some good rates and the availability that we need then I am sure our customers will love it as much as I did.
Next I drove into downtown LA for the second inspection of the morning; I knew the hotel was undergoing a major renovation but generally you can still get an idea of what the hotel is going to be like. I introduced myself to the front desk and advised them I had an appointment for an inspection and was told that the lady I needed to see was busy on a call. I was happy to wait, but it became apparent that she wasn’t expecting me (even though she herself had confirmed our appointment), that she was too busy to see me and didn’t have any rooms to show me anyway, so I very politely thanked them for their time, wished them a good day and walked out, never to return! I have a very low tolerance for bad service – if I don’t receive the standard of service I expect, odds are our guests won’t either, and to me that’s absolutely unforgivable.
The third hotel was nearer to the airport and also going through a refurbishment. Thankfully they were expecting me! I had a lovely lady take me around and show me their newly renovated rooms; they were brilliant, attractive to look at and practical too which is not combination you always find. However, it was so close to the airport and not to the other amenities, so unfortunately I think I will have to rule this one out as I don’t believe our customers would be happy in the location. My job is always about finding the perfect hotel, one that ticks all the boxes, not just some – I never want our customers to have to compromise.
It was then back to the Queen Mary for a full inspection tour of the ship and the cabins. What a great experience! With so many of the original features it was almost like stepping back in time to the original glory days of cruising. Whether we end up staying on board or just visiting the ship, I believe it has to be included on our itineraries as there are so many interesting stories belonging to the ship and to those who sailed on her.
Hopefully I have already proved that not everything goes smoothly for the Holiday Hunters on their trips but if you needed any more proof, it took me nearly 45 minutes to check out this morning due to a mistake on my bill! Eventually it was corrected but it is still frustrating, even for seasoned travellers like us!
Thankfully the second part of the day more than made up for the first part as we made a stop at Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens. Although I didn’t get to see the library or any of the galleries, I did manage to spend a couple of hours walking around the beautiful gardens and taking some photos of some of the spectacular plants and flowers. I think this would be a great addition to a west coast tour and if we do manage to squeeze it in somewhere then we’ll also have to allow sufficient time for our customers to have a cream tea in the Rose Cafe, a treat not to be missed!
Our final stop for the day was Santa Barbara where we just had time to do a very quick tour of the Old Mission before it closed and then headed down to the coast for a walk along the pier. Unfortunately by the time we got there the clouds had started rolling in along with a strong breeze which made it feel a bit cool; it was still nice but not as nice as last time I was here. That time was mid-morning, the skies were blue and the sun was shining, and I could really understand why it is so popular – and now I know it isn’t as good in the early evening, I’ll make sure our customers see it in the morning, when it’s at its best!
Can’t wait for the a tour? You can experience the Western Wonders of the USA on our fabulous tour available now.
Look out for Chris’s next installment – hopefully things start going a little smoother…
Check out our other wild west USA articles:
Two days at the Grand Canyon
A day in San Francisco