Sunday 3 April 2011


Last week, we spent a few days in Christchurch, Dorset because it's a beautiful place, particularly its beaches and views, and we wanted to see whether we'd like to move there because one of our dreams is to live by the sea - probably the same dream that the majority of the population have.

And my choice of hotel was The Christchurch Harbour Hotel so it was all my fault.

The first problem with this hotel was that it was not in the right place. To be precise, it was 1.8 miles not in the right place.

My map of the area is in the form of a booklet and the section on Christchurch is on several pages. If I'd had a copy of a map just of Christchurch on one page, just like the one we bought belatedly at The Tourist Information Office, I would have seen quite clearly that the hotel was not on the waterfront close to the centre of the town but actually on the waterfront of Mudeford harbour 1.8 miles away.

Therefore, instead of taking a casual walk to the centre and the surrounds to get a real feel of the place, we had to drive or take taxis to get in and out.

Now, don't get me wrong. Mudeford Harbour is a beautiful place, with walks along the beach and several good pubs around. But it's not the right base if you want to get to know the town well.

The hotel itself is an imposing white building, partly old and partly new, although you wouldn't notice that from either the outside or the inside. And it has spectacular views of the harbour at the back with terraces which lead down to the water's edge.

This is the view which we would have seen from the large dining room were it not for the fact that the terrace was being re-laid with wooden flooring. So what we actually saw were noisy builders at work. Rather pee-ed off that no mention of this was made when we booked.

It also meant that instead of the soothing sound of water lapping against the shore, we heard, both in the dining room and bedroom, that wonderful sound of banging, drilling and sawing plus the cheerful banter of men at work/lounging around having a fag break. (Which was very naughty of them 'cos even the terraces are no smoking.)

Our first bedroom was a great disappointment: too enormous, too impersonal and too cold (the radiator didn't work.) Plus, and this was very important, there were only two single beds which were acres apart. Therefore, the pleasure of the views from the windows (which didn't open properly) were negated. To add to this, a couple in the room below were talking so loudly that I felt like an eavesdropper. (And it wasn't even an interesting conversation.)

So, whilst John was searching for access to the beach, I used my great negotiation skills (start off quietly, resort to firm assertiveness if necessary) to secure another room. This one was smaller, with windows that opened, a view of the harbour if you stood on tip-toes over the wall in front, and a double bed. Now there was just the background symphony of the builders at work without the distraction of intrusive conversation.

I must say, however, that the hotel itself (probably a four or five star one) was impeccably clean and the staff were very friendly and helpful. However, the decor of dull moss green walls and modern attempts at art deco just didn't work for me. Wierd and unpleasing to the eye is how I'd describe it.

On the plus side, the swimming pool in the spa area was large enough to accommodate three or four swimmers and the jacuzzi was a welcome indulgence. However, I decided not to book in for one of the beauty treatments that looked so appealing on the website. This was partly because the prices were excessive and partly because the area was not a place I wanted to linger in. Too cold and impersonal. Instead, I booked myself a couple of treatments at the Tony and Guy Salon in Christchurch. (The beautician, Holly, was an absolute delight, and my soothing leg and eye treatments were a dream.)

Breakfast in the dining room was a noisy affair: the tables were too close together and the noise of people talking and babies crying echoed around the vast room. In fact, it was hard to hear the workmen outside. We chose the continental breakfast and the coissants, pastries and marble cake (jummy) were excellent as was the bread and coffee. The toast, however, was like limp cardboard.

On our last evening, as John and I sat on the bench close to the water and the Captains Club Hotel, a stone's throw from Christchurch town, listening to the roar of the sea beyond the headland and gazing up at the stars, we were both in agreement. Should have booked in at the Captains Club Hotel. Shall do next time.

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