Have just been watching an episode of Fawlty Towers – the one with O’Reilly, the builder – and it got me thinking to some of the hotels I have stayed in over the years.
There have been some grotty ones, like the Howard Johnson in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. It wasn’t much fun at the time – the smoky pillows, the dark green murky pool water, the polystyrene cups – but the motel experience there has become part of our family golden standard… nothing will ever be that bad again. (We really should have taken note of the Trip Advisor reviews.)
But there have been some great ones. One of my first vivid memories is staying in the exotically-named St Moritz hotel in Trebetherick, Cornwall. I was four years old and we went for a week, Mum, Dad, my two older brothers and our grandparents. It was heaven. Cooked breakfast and cream teas. Sunshine, mowed lawns, sandy beaches, St Enodoc’s Church… Whenever I smell crispy bacon or drink grapefruit juice, I am back in 1972, playing hide-and-seek with my brothers. (And the incident involving a wardrobe.)
Another unforgettable trip was to Indonesia in 1993 with my husband, my cousin and her boyfriend. We went out to stay with my step-brother who was living and working in Jakarta. We did a little island-hopping and saw some staggering sights like the sunrise at Borobudur. But the most magical place was Bali where we stayed for a time at the Padma and by some quirk of fate got an upgrade to the Presidential suite, with our own pool and steps down to the perfect surfing beach. Bali was the most peaceful place I have ever visited, relaxed, laid-back, fun and full of colour. One night, my cousin and I went clubbing, accompanied by our stepbrother who was worried about us going alone. But we felt so safe. No seedy men trying to pick us up. No tension or out-of-hand drunkenness. It was a coming-together of cultures and languages and pop music. We danced and danced and had a lovely time.
It was such a shock when nine years later the same nightclub was blown up by terrorists. 202 people were killed and many, many more injured. They came from across the world, from all 6 continents, 23 different nationalities, all faiths, races and political beliefs. All those young lives lost and all those families left grieving.
The tenth anniversary has just passed and it still feels so unbelievable that a place like Kuta could be targeted as it represents some of the best sides of human nature: inclusivity, spirituality, friendship, peace. Maybe that is why: evil hates goodness.
I have only good memories of our stay in Indonesia and one day hope to return to Bali. I also want to go to Israel and Egypt and will not be put off by the possibility of violence. It really can happen anywhere. No one is immune. So you have to embrace life, the grotty and the great.