If you think it might be difficult to eat a little chef in Bath, in my experience its the first course which is harder to swallow.
We left Stonehenge bound for Bath. We hadn’t reserved any accommodation but in the middle of winter we deemed that unlikely to be a problem. Yet, after having orbited the city of Bath for more than two hours, hotels were proving no less elusive than when we had arrived earlier during that brief part of the English day when the sun warms things up to a balmy seven degrees Celsius.
I note at this point that we did not have the benefit of technology such as a smart phone to assist in our quest for a hotel and while we did have a lap-top computer it relied on Wi-Fi for internet connection – a resource which was usually available to people who had checked into hotels however we were not, it pains me to emphasise, part of that demographic!
We continued our search for accommodation without success before happening upon what must be said was not a particularly attractive looking establishment. In all honesty, its dimly lit frontage screamed at you; ‘Do not enter this hotel’. And yet I approached what we shall call the ‘Bedrooms in Bath Hotel’ although the Receptionist pronounced the name; ‘Bedrooms in Barf’ which would not, as in the fullness of time I would discover, have been altogether misleading!
Approaching the reception desk, I asked; “Do you have any accommodation?”. “For when?” the young lady shot back. She was not wearing a badge bearing her name so I immediately decided that ‘Einstein’s Daughter’ would be an appropriate, if ironic, moniker. It was almost 8.00pm and I was standing in front of her, speaking in an Australian accent. If she was Sherlock Holmes she may have been shrewd enough to deduce that I was looking for accommodation for that very night.
However, I needed her accommodation more than she needed me. So, I politely explained that I was looking for accommodation for that evening. “How many nights?” she enquired. “Just one night”, I explained pleasantly, thinking that despite my misgivings about the look of the place, I was about to secure a hotel room for the night and after hours of searching I was starting perhaps to feel a little euphoric. Such feeling would be transitory.
“OK” she explains, “You will have to ring Bedrooms in Bath Central Reservations”. It had come to my attention, though maybe not to hers, that there was a computer monitor sitting between she and I – and I was willing to wager that it (and the box attached to it) contained all the information she needed, to establish whether a room was available in the hotel whose reception desk she was tending, and to place me into it. Therefore, puzzled, I said, “I don’t understand” which she thought meant I didn’t understand her instruction to phone Bedrooms in Bath Central Reservations and so she repeated those instructions. Incredulous that I was not making greater progress toward obtaining a room for the night. I asked Einstein’s Daughter, again, whether she had any rooms available, to which she responded, “I might have”. Euphoria … gone.
Truly, I am not making this up.
Einstein’s Daughter rang Central Reservations and then handed me the phone where I waited ‘on hold’ for around 5 minutes before speaking to someone whom I asked for accommodation at the Bedrooms in Bath Hotel. She replied that she needed to check and could I ‘hold’ and I agreed to wait. She seemed overly pleased with my decision as she responded; “brilliant” which I heard as “brill-yun”. I have no doubt that she then logged into the system which Einstein’s Daughter had at her disposal to determine whether there were rooms available at the hotel in whose ‘lobby’ I was waiting, predictably, alone.
Central Reservations advised that accommodation for the night was a ‘possibility’ before asking whether I would I like smoking or non-smoking rooms. I said; “non-smoking”. “Brill-yun” she said, and we continued to make arrangements. “How will you pay?” she asked, “Credit Card” I replied. “Brill-yun” says she. “Ok let me confirm; that’s two smoking rooms ……….” she said, self-satisfied. “Ah, that was non-smoking rooms” I said. “Oh, but we don’t have any non-smoking rooms” she says, “will that be alright?” “Yes”, I answered, deciding that asking her why we just went through my preferences for no earthly reason was not likely to advance my cause. “Brill-yun” she concludes and provided me some confirmation numbers to quote to the hotel.
Exasperated, I passed the phone back to Einstein’s Daughter who had been standing directly in front of me listening to this entire, in my mind, avoidable conversation. “How did you go?” she asked as if she had been in another solar system for the past 15 minutes. “Do you have your confirmation numbers?”. “Those would be the ones I borrowed a pen from you to write down and which are on the desk in front of you”, I thought, but didn’t say. God, we needed this accommodation badly!
She moved to her keyboard and the hitherto lifeless monitor sparked into action as she tapped away. She smiled. “I can give you two rooms side by side”. Her entire demeanour changed from playing hard to get, to being the gracious host.
As I turned to walk from the reception area, Einstein called out – what I heard as; “Will you be eating the little chef tonight?” By this stage after being given the runaround by her and her Central Reservations, I was hungry enough to eat a little chef, but I thought this woman was having a bit of sport with me. I assumed that ‘eating a little chef’ must be a uniquely Bathian euphemism for something or just a little humour, by her, perhaps. I figured I must have heard her incorrectly and I said “I’m sorry, I don’t understand?”. She said; “we have a little chef in the car park”. It was indeed conceivable that the hotel might employ a chef to cook for prospective hotel guests while they navigated their way through the Reservations process which, if my experience was any guide, would take most people past a meal time. But no – the Little Chef was the name of a restaurant located in the hotel car park. When this became apparent to me she said, “so do you think you’ll be eating there?” Initially I thought she was going to tell me to call Central Reservations to book a table (in which case she would no longer be around to confirm that this entire account is true) but fortuitously all she wanted to do was to give me a discount voucher for use at the restaurant.
So, that evening we ate the Little Chef!