Thursday, April 06, 2006

Bedknobs And Room Picks

Just back from a short business trip which involved a short stay at the Manor Hotel, Crickhowell. This hotel is snuggled into the side of the Black Mountains and overlooks the dramatic Usk Valley in the heart of the Brecon Beacons.

These regular work-away breaks have to be one of the best things about the job I'm doing. The hotels I stay in are invariably booked for me by a central booking agency and are selected on the basis of the proximity of the relevant business I'm attending, but through this random process it does seem to reveal some true nuggets.

The Manor Hotel dates back to the early 1700 s . It can be seen from the main road jutting out of the hill and looking as if a giant child had pushed a miniature house into a green mound of Plasticine. It sits, all white-washy and glassy at the top of a winding road, the route of which dates back to the 10th century, laid for horse drawn carriages to clip-clop rattle-snort their way up to during the last few centuries.

Typical of old manorial homes that have been turned into hotel and country clubs, there are space adding building bolt-ons all over it, making it into a bit of a mish-mash of dates and styles; odd juxtapositions of dowdy looking Eighteenth Century drawing rooms, connecting to modern conservatory like breakfast rooms, and balustered staircases. The stairs lead, in one direction to grand, creaky floored bedrooms, and in another direction to rooms which could easily have been snatched and grabbed from the an Ikea bedroom display and dropped in by chopper.

Previous owners and occupants of this pile could fill a couple of pages of Debrett's Peerage but the main contender and most likely to be profiled in Hello Magazine today, surrounded by his family, pets, all the in-house finery, was Sir George (Mount) Everest. Sir George who preferred Eve-rest to Everest apparently but the pronunciation never caught on, was the former Surveyor General of India and height calculator and namer of the famous mountain, was born in the house in 1790 and consequently his name features heavily around the the place - the dining room is Everest ( Eve-Rest) Dining Room and so on.

And I have a feeling there are other legacies. I wouldn't mind betting that the bed in my room - one of the grand old rooms, not one of the MFI mock ups - was his.

This bed is so big it had to have been built in the room. Carved out of mahogany and shaped like Santa Clause's Sleigh, it was immense. Whole forests must have been left weeping and bereft once George's wood order had been made known. Lumberjacks must have died, Suez canal style, during the cutting and gathering process. Battalions of Sherpa's unbreakable backs, broken. I tried to lift it at its end, I have no idea why, perhaps it was its challenging sturdiness. I couldn't move it an inch, couldn't even disturb it by a courteous, acknowledging creak.

I have since learnt that these beds are known as, surprise surprise, Sleigh Beds though whether any modern floor could possibly support their weight - roughly similar to a couple of old fashioned lead filled upright pianos or professional snooker tables, is anyone's guess.

But the setting of this hotel and the scenery surrounding it makes it worth a visit.

I hope this doesn't sound too much like a review or an advertisement. Then again, it's a break from going on about stats and weird search requests though they'll be back soon enough.

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