Posted by Tania Kindersley.
I would like to tell you all about the delightful town of Kirby Lonsdale, but I am too tired. I got up at four this morning because I will do anything to avoid the traffic round Birmingham.
That part worked like a dream, and I zoomed through, but I rather forgot that rush hour affects the M6 all the way up to Preston. Suddenly, there were walls and walls of lorries, like some dystopian nightmare, snaking streams of red and white lights, as far as my poor squinting eye could see, as if the whole of Blighty was just one great line of cars. This went on at full bore between 6.45 and 8am, past Stafford and Manchester and Liverpool.
Then, as I moved into Lancashire, the traffic just disappeared. The sun came up. There was a gentle mist over the hills. Sanity returned, like a snowfall on a still day. The tarmac was suddenly smooth and empty.
I swooped into Kirkby Lonsdale in the blinding sun, under the gaze of bright white sheep on the high fells.
I have spoken before of Plato’s, the little restaurant with rooms where I sometimes stay. I like it because the rooms are very chic and pretty, everyone smiles a lot, and they adore dogs. Here is what the people at Plato’s do when you ring up and say you have arrived for your room booking at 8.55am, because you madly got up at four: ‘Give us an hour.’
Can you imagine any other hotel in existence saying that? Hotels in London which charge hundreds of pounds a night have an infarction if you arrive before tea-time.
So, at ten o’clock, I pitch up, exhausted, with The Pigeon.
Here is what the people at Plato’s do, when that happens. They greet your dog first.
I know I am not quite thinking straight on account of only five hours’ sleep, but I do think there is something splendid about that. I was so excited, I went straight out and bought the Pidge a new blanket in festive red, and also a very smart black leather collar. Then I took her to look at Ruskin’s View. Then we both collapsed on the bed.
Anyway, I should not say this, because I’d really like it to be my special secret, and if I shout about it then I’ll never get a room, but if you want somewhere lovely to stay in the beautiful countryside of Lancashire, go to Plato’s in Kirkby Lonsdale. It is utterly lovely, and its staff are the kindest and most charming I’ve ever met.
Photographs are of the lovely place:
And The Pigeon, looking really too chic for words:
Please notice how she coordinates perfectly with the fixtures and fittings:
The sweet little courtyard at Plato's:
A glorious green door:
The market town of Kirkby Lonsdale:
This must be the prettiest branch of Boots in the British Isles:
(They have a really, really good pharmacist there too. When I stopped here on my way down, I had a hideous red eye, all weeping and scratched. The pharmacist diagnosed conjunctivitis, gave me the correct drops, and lo, I could face The Man of Letters with limpid irises.)
I love that you can see the hills over the roofs:
And here is Herself on her special new festive blanket:
And doing her Cleopatra look:
Those last two are specially for my small relation, The Dancing Queen (so-called by me because she once danced her way through the entire length of Mamma Mia without missing a beat, when she was only seven), who loves that Pigeon almost more than anyone else could.
One final, practical point:
The reason I can write this despatch from the road is that Plato's has fast, free, wi-fi in all its rooms. In my more extravagant younger days, I used sometimes to go to the Covent Garden Hotel. It is one of the most enchanting hotels of London. It is also highly expensive. On top of the vast room rate, they used to demand thirty quid for a day's internet access. I loved that hotel, but every time I paid the wi-fi charges, I ground my teeth and felt a small black start of disdain and resentment. It seemed so cheap, in such a high tone establishment.
Hotel people: take your lead from the elegance of Plato's, and give your guests free wi-fi. Charging for it just feels petty and as if you are taking the piss. A small gesture of generosity will make your blogging clients in particular love you, and they will tell all their friends.
I know bugger all about business. But it is what I would do.