Remember a time when there wasn’t a house in Ireland that didn’t have net curtains? And over years soaking up cigarette smoke they would take on a yellow hue, one that could turn a bright day bad? Well they’ve been gathered into one giant bloody container and shipped to……New Zealand!
The hoteliers of this lovely land must have formed an orderly queue dockside by the time the ship berthed. Lots to go round by the look of it. We got them in the oddly named Scenic City Hotel in Dunedin, and Bingo – here is another batch in the Brentwood Hotel in Wellington which at least makes no claims whatsoever about being scenic.
In fairness to the Dunedin gaff there was a nice view of the harbour if you were on the right side of the corridor. And I was. But it was dowdy and dull and utterly shameless when it came playing its part in the national pastime of extracting maximum cash from visitors. Top dollar charge for wi fi, take it or leave it. The best though came on the morning of theIreland v Italy game.
Housekeeping start banging on the door unusually early. Hmm. Phone call follows from reception:
“Good morning sir, what time are you checking out at this morning?”
“Eh, I was going to leave it till tomorrow?”
“Oh, it’s just that you’re only booked in for six nights.”
Panic stations, scrambling through the wreckage looking for the paperwork, fearing that if the hotel booking was wrong then so was the flight. Flight details were ok. We somehow managed to get the date wrong on the hotel. These things happen. So ring down to reception.
“Problem sorted, my flight is fine – I’ll just stay the extra night then.”
“That’s no problem sir. That will be NZ$500 please.”
So from 250 lids a night to 500 (circa €285). As in overnight. Mindful of the shock to my system, and that this policy might be interpreted as excessive, the manager rang back quickly. “I’m going to do you a favour,” he said.
TBTF as they say in text speak. He doesn’t want this presented as a financial disembowelling. He’s going to keep the rate at 250.
“I can move you to a better room! And give you couple of drinks vouchers!”
We won’t be going back there anytime soon. But Dunedin? A grand spot, especially when the sun shines. If you travel to that part of the south island then take the train trip to Raieri Gorge, or the road trip to Queenstown, both of which are beautiful.
So after a week of the sun beating down and an impressive Irish performance fresh in the mind, we flew up to Wellington where our luck ran out with the weather. It’s back to winter, and when the wind blows in this neck of the woods you need to be weighed down. Two years ago when Ireland played here the traffic lights literally were waving about the place it blew so hard. The Ireland team were forced indoors for training today. Why would you want to spoil that good mood by getting soaked as well as battered?
Bad luck on the hotel front as well. Another down at heel den, a pony ride out of town, and more net curtains. Cheap formica is the furniture of choice here. For €200 a night. I’m afraid to ask if that escalates to stratospheric levels on match night when Ireland and Wales get down to business at the Cake Tin, which, of all the stadiums I can think of, needs a roof. By that stage the emotional farewell from Dunedin will be put behind me.
On leaving there – Monday lunchtime – the receptionist looked like she had been dragged through a hedge backwards. She lifted her head reluctantly to deal with the tedium of having to check a guest out of the hotel.
“Been a hard day already has it?” I asked.
“Yeah, can you tell?”
Ah no, just a wild guess. Taxi!