I was born and still have my base in the beautiful English city of Bristol, 'built on seven hills like Rome,' as my mother used to say. Whether you come from UK or anywhere else on the globe, visit Bristol and love its kind people and extraordinary places.
I have an 89 year old widower friend, once a globe-trotting chartered accountant, who suffered three powerful strokes when he was 70. They left him without speech for a year, and still people struggle to understand him, as he fights to find words. He is alone now, in a Surrey house near London, with a wonderful garden, which is his pride and joy. It is full of birds. 'They are my friends. They talk to me when I am alone.'
These days I support and care for my friend five nights each week, at his house which he so much loves. He cannot bear to wake up alone. And other carers are there the other two nights. But last week, one of his carers needed a holiday, so he faced being alone when I was in Bristol. He became upset; and eventually we decided to stay, in separate rooms but as close to each other as possible, in a Bristol hotel, because my home in Bristol is just a Victorian studio flat.
I have taken my friend to Bristol hotels twice before, but each time he became frightened and disappointed.
The first, in Clifton, was too cold for him, and he lamented its lack of a garden where he could sit and speak with Bristol's birds.
The second, part of a prestigious chain, was in central Bristol. It's a good hotel. But at that time he had bruniferous cataract in both eyes and the hotel had clearly been designed for romantic assignations, because it was dark. For him, the darkness became almost black and he could only negotiate the hotel's quirky corridors with a powerful LED torch. His bedroom there had the lowest bed I'd ever seen, which he kept tripping over.
So this had to be 'third time lucky'; and I chose Best Western Henbury Lodge, because I have had good experiences in Best Western hotels before. Via the Trip Advisor website and Booking.com, I secured two double rooms, each for two nights, for £394. In booking, I requested that the rooms were adjacent. My friend does not have dementia but his strokes left him cognitively impaired and he can take a while to manage new situations.
Henbury is a village - and now also a suburb - on the northern edge of Bristol, conveniently close to the M5 and M4 motorways, but with excellent, regular bus services into the heart of the city, day and night. Henbury Lodge is a Grade 2 Listed eighteenth century building with outhouses. Just across the road is the striking old Henbury Church and Henbury Village Hall. Very close are Blaise Woods. This is a great corner of Bristol to explore.
I drove my friend to Henbury Lodge in his own car (he still drives). At reception, his legs stiff after the journey, he slumped into a capacious leather armchair. The receptionist sized up the situation and let me sign all the paperwork. When he led us to our rooms - in an outhouse - he very carefully adapted his pace to my friend's slow gait.
The outhouse was perfect for us. It was very close to the hotel, on the ground floor, and just contained our two bedrooms. This meant I could help him as needed during the night, without disturbing other guests. He quickly adapted to his room and was delighted that there was a plug-in fan heater, as well as a central heating radiator.
Breakfast at Henbury Lodge is incredible value - both continental and 'English Cooked.' We had 'English Cooked' each day, and the quality of bacon, sausage, and eggs was very high. Everything arrived to individual order and was hot. Portions were generous, to say the least. The range of cereals, seeds, and dried fruits was spectacular. The fruit salad was marvellous. Toast. Coffee, tea. Soya milk or semi-skimmed milk. Masses of fresh fruit in peak condition. Warm, caring, thoughtful waiting staff. Aesthetically, a fine dining room, with views out into the garden, where it is also possible to eat.
The walled garden is itself a little marvel of Henbury Lodge. A very skilled gardener has planted and tends this space, full of colour, interesting shapes and spaces and waving grasses, with a small pond. My friend was in seventh heaven. I had found him a Bristol hotel where he could sit to converse with his avian companions.
The hotel has a small but sumptuously furnished lounge, with a bar next door. We sat there one night, and his original thought of finding a local pub for the beer that helps him sleep quite went out of his mind, because he was so relaxed in the lounge.
The bedrooms were spotlessly clean and cleverly designed. The beds were warm and comfortable. There was ample wardrobe and storage space. The information for guests was full, clear, and interesting.
This was a hotel where everybody from senior management to junior staff took their guests' needs seriously, listened sensitively, and were warm and friendly I had the sense of a happy, well-managed, and cohesive staff team, but these people were not institutionalised 'have a good day' zombies. They were allowed to be themselves.
I stay in many hotels, and my parents had connections with hotels and catering, so I guess I have quite a developed sense of what's going on in an establishment. This was a great place to be and I recommend it to you all. less