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The Hotel - Careys Manor


This is a 4 star hotel, which bizarrely seems to be made up of half 5 star and half 3 star bits.  Can I tell you that I recommend it and loved parts of it so much I want to come back, but there were also moments when all I could think of was "Fawlty Towers".


It’s important to also remember that access to Senspa isn't included for guests – you are welcome to use the pool and basic facilities (as good as most spas), but to use the Hydrotherapy area you need to choose an inclusive package or add use.  You can add on a session for as little as £20 and can also do a half and half for £40 – around 3 hours in the evening and 3 hours the next morning.  I think this is a great idea as often the worst offenders in spas are hotel guests who just take the facilities for granted and forget they're in a spa (mobile phones, newspapers, loud talking….)


When my sister visited Senspa with her husband they took my usual spa break formula and found a much cheaper local B&B to stay in and ate at Il Pallio II (which they said was wonderful so maybe I had an off day there) but, aside from the fact that I was shattered and wanted to take the path of least resistance, pretty much every other hotel in the area was booked up.  Also it didn't help that the only thing she could tell me about the B&B was that it was 17th century – there's a lot of them in Brockenhurst.


So I plumped for the Simply Serene Spa package, which was two days in the spa, plus an hour treatment and breakfast for £139.  Trying to tot up the relevant costs I figured (as the different spas and packages filled my dreams) that I was essentially paying only for the single supplement of £50.  I also then added another day to my stay for £119 B&B.  At this point I just wanted to get some kind of holiday before having to head home.


Another reason I chose to visit this spa and hotel was that it's wonderfully accessible using public transport (they'll even come and get you from the station and give you a 10% discount on standard rates – but as mine was already discounted I got a total of £2.90 off).


I'd forgotten that the hotel offer a pick up service when I booked, so I called from the train to see if they'd be able to pick me up.  Absolutely, they replied.  The biggest asset of this hotel is the staff – they are truly five star.  In fact when faced with a complaint their first reaction is devastation that you are not having a wonderful time, followed by an attempt to sorting out.


Here are the niggles I had with the hotel and spa:


Before I'd even checked into my room I managed to graze my leg on a corner in the Zen Garden where the mosaic had fallen off.  It started to bleed so I ended up with a blue catering plaster on my leg (sexy!)  When I checked in I was a little disappointed with the room – it was fine but nothing to shout home about.  The bathroom was particularly nice with two types of flannel, The White Company toiletries, a little tea and coffee station (yes, I did a little dance when I saw that I had not just Fruit Shrewsbury biscuits but Choc Chip too), two spa robes; one to wear to the spa and get a little damp, the other for hanging out when dry, two pairs of fluffy slippers, safe, ironing board… the usual suspects.


The room had a lot of pillows, which I love (I hate having just one or two, it makes it almost impossible to sit in bed and read), a little balcony with chairs just perfect for looking down on the fountains in the garden (and the car park and the back of the spa) in rain and at sunrise.


But… the mattress was just not up to much.  I decided to try it out for a quick nap (at which point the receptionist woke me up with a call to see if I was happy with my room), I grunted okay, but after twenty minutes of the springs digging into my back I called her back.  I didn't want to move rooms as I’d unpacked but I told her I would be very happy if they changed the mattress if they could find a better one.  (I remembered that my hotel in Huangshan was old, poor and threadbare but they had a mattress menu as well as a pillow menu – now that was luxury – for £18 a night).


Just as I came back from the spa (after decamping to the Quiet Room for a comfier bed) housekeeping arrived.  No new mattress, but they did bring a mattress topper.  Great idea.  Then the top of the kettle fell off.


That reminds me, the guy that came to fix my kettle I’d met before – when I walked into "The Retreat" – which I thought was another quiet room, but which is actually the staff's break room – oops.


I'd dressed up as much as I could be bothered for dinner, slicking down my hair as I didn't want to blow dry and then set out to see which of the hotel's three restaurants to go for.  The Manor Restaurant is traditional country house dining (a bit formal for single dining!) so I decided to head over to La Blaireau – the cute French bistro for a slightly more relaxed evening.  The food there was a little heavy for a spa weekend - so I spent the rest of my time at the Zen Garden.


It wasn't the quietest hotel room – with deliveries arriving at 7:30am (thank goodness I'm an early riser), and some strange sounds emanating from the spa – but it was fairly quiet at night and I didn't have to resort to earplugs.


Breakfast was another Fawlty Towers experience, with the skirt around the table falling off and the waitresses trying to hook it back up before it made a complete break for it, the toaster slinging my toast down the back and having to rescue it with a fork (giving another meaning to sticking your fork in the toaster) and apparently it broke down completely the day before, and when I ordered a cappuccino first I waited ages for it and then it arrived with no saucer (perhaps the reason I'd been waiting so long).  The hotel guest information  explains at length the way they source local produce, but the sausage and bacon were not really to my taste and I ended up with a mix of yoghurt and croissants.


Check out was another odd experience, they itemise everything (sometimes wrongly) so your gratuities and wine are separate from main course items ordered – this makes for a ridiculously long bill to check.  …but didn't include my original booked spa package which came on a separate bill.  I questioned one item as I don't think I had anything that could be labelled Rhassoul, but I know they left off at least another two or three items.  I used the phone, as so many hotels no longer charge for calls, or at least charge moderate rates, unfortunately Careys was true to its slightly 70s roots and charged an exorbitant amount for each call, so I’d definitely use my mobile next time.


I know it's easy to highlight the negatives, but I will say everyone was so friendly and helpful here.  Unlike some other hotels, despite the fact they were hosting at least one large wedding, they never forgot about their other guests.  The breakfast layout was extremely cute with little wooden logs carved with the names of the food, and I got a lift back to the station with no fuss whatsoever.


Yes, it’s hard to get used to making my own bed after this stay, but I was glad to be home and to introduce a little bit of Careys style back home (the clean white sheets and relaxed vibe, not the kettle falling apart!)



My room at Careys Manor

Around £255 for the accommodation packages:


I booked the Simply Serene Spa package, which was two days in the spa, plus an hour treatment and breakfast for £139.  I then added another day to my stay for £119 B&B.


I also got a further £2.90 discount (usually 10% for coming by public transport).


Prices correct as at August 2012


Advertised prices from £64.50 each for 2 people sharing a room on a bed and breakfast basis (not including use of Senspa)

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