The Brazilian T2c needs a service every 6 months and we’ve continued to have Absinthe’s done at Danbury in Yate, where we first bought her in August 2011. This may seem quite inconvenient, given that Yate in Somerset is 175 miles away from home, but it suits us as it allows us a couple of days away in the South West, twice a year. Normally, we book her in around late February before the season starts, but this year, for various reasons, we were slightly later taking her down.
In July, when we book her in for an MOT and major service we sleep in the van at Knights Folly campsite in Bitton, but for the early season one we always treat ourselves to a hotel or inn and leave Boris with his Grandparents in Bolton. We’ve yet to find a hotel that really suits us but this time we thought the Crown Inn at Tolldown would fit the bill.
It’s a 25-30 minute drive to Danbury from the hotel, so the plan was to drive down on Sunday, have breakfast on Monday morning, then take Absinthe to Yate. I checked that weekday breakfasts were served from 7.30am, so we’d have plenty of time afterwards to drive to Danbury. More on that later…
The journey down to Wiltshire was fine and, as usual, we stopped at Gloucester Services on the M5 for lunch and to stretch our legs.
As always in the VW world, if you can park next to another Dub, then you have to, as evidenced by the van in the adjoining bay when we came to leave the services.
We arrived at the Crown at 4pm and soon checked in to the motel-type rooms at the rear. The room was ideal and the car park had the bonus of a couple of classic Austins to admire.
We had a less than great meal in the Inn in the evening although I did sample all four of their draught beers. As we left the bar to go back to our room, we asked the staff where breakfast was and told them we’d be in at 7.30 to eat it. That’s when they told us that they wouldn’t be serving until 8am on Monday, When I asked why, she said that they weren’t full and only did 7.30 when they had “businessmen” in who needed to get away. I explained that we had to be in Yate for 8.30 but she wasn’t for changing.
In the event, we did without breakfast and were at Danbury just after 8.30. We collected the courtesy Fiat Panda and drove to Chipping Sodbury for a coffee and a Danish before driving back to Yate Train Station to pick up our daughter, Gabrielle, who’d caught the train from Cheltenham where she lives.
The plan was to spend the day in Bath, which is a great City and one that Gabbie hadn’t visited before. We mooched round the shops and bought a few things before having an excellent lunch in Côte Brasserie.
Whilst the girls went into Primark, I had a bit of a wander and listened to a great Czech busker doing some Melody Gardot covers out of the rain. Her name is Terez Wrau and she sounded great.
We got back to Yate, just too late for Gabbie’s 4pm train so instead took her to Danbury where we picked Absinthe back up. There were only a couple of minor issues so we can relax for a while until she has her MOT in July.
Danbury have a heck of a lot of stock at the moment and are aiming to expand into the building next door, very shortly. They’ve been acquired by the French Company, Pilote and the future looks good for them.
After a quick trip to the supermarket we dropped Gabbie back at the station and drove back to the Crown. It was great to see her smiley face – we miss her now she’s in Cheltenham but she’s developing her career (and not missing the Lancashire rain one little bit).
We didn’t eat in the Inn on Monday night although we had a quick beer before spending the night in our room. We went for breakfast just before 9am and, frankly, the service was appalling. We were greeted by the waitress as we went in, found ourselves a table and I grabbed a couple of juices from the buffet table. Then we sat and waited for someone to take our food order and to offer us some hot drinks. After ten minutes, I had to find the waitress and ask her to come over to get us some drinks. Ten minutes later she arrived and took our order. When she brought the food she was actually on the phone so we had to take the plates off her. I would have liked some brown sauce but she carried on with her telephone conversation and went away. We’d actually finished our food before the drinks arrived and even then she spilled tea all over the table.
When I went to check out, I asked her to knock off the price of two breakfasts and explained that we’d not been able to have them on Monday because they weren’t serving until 8am. She refused and said that the breakfasts were a courtesy for guests and they weren’t charged for, so she couldn’t knock anything off the bill. I pointed out that two guys had come in who weren’t guests and that she’d served them breakfast, so she could knock off the amount she’d charged them. She still refused and explained that doing breakfasts at 8am when they weren’t full didn’t work for them. I asked her if she was stressed that morning because she hadn’t looked after us very well. She told me she’d only just started doing breakfasts again and it had been quite busy!
I’ve dropped an email to Wadworth Brewery who own the chain of pubs, not to get a refund, but to suggest that some staff training might be necessary, particularly as we’d heard another waitress on Monday night slagging off a group of guests who’d stayed a few weeks ago, to a new guest who was checking in. Very strange.
I guess the pub is a bit like one of their breakfast items – you either love it or hate it.
The drive back home could have been a nightmare if we hadn’t seen the signs saying the M5 was closed at J3 – we managed to leave at J9 and went cross country through the Vale of Evesham to pick up the M42 and get on to the M6 Toll. We were back home for 2pm on a relatively benign M6. There was only one stoppage, which, for my nemesis motorway, is a miracle.
Things We’ve Learned
All Motorway services should be owned by the Westmorland Family
Despite some other people’s experiences, Danbury have always looked after us really well
Don’t judge an Inn by its outside appearance
Bath is a beautiful city, even on a grey miserable day
Toulouse Sausages on a bed of Puy Lentils? Yes, please…
There’s a full set of photos here: FLICKR
The Manager of the Crown has just rung me to apologise and is sending me a voucher for a free night. Whether we’ll use it or not, I’m not sure, but he sounded genuinely shocked by the way we’d been looked after and promised to make some changes and extra staff training. I’ve always said in our business that it’s what happens after a problem that matters. If you respond positively then you often have a customer with stronger loyalty that one who hasn’t had a problem in the first place, so well done to him.
Just to finish this off, a month has gone by and, despite a reminder from me, I still haven’t received a voucher for a free stay. I’m chalking it down to experience and definitely won’t be staying at the Crown again.