Tag Archives: B&B

Hotel Apacheta, Arica, Chile

It feels slightly ridiculous booking treat nights during what is, essentially, an entire treat year. With nothing to do but head vaguely south, stopping when we find somewhere we like to drink coffee, wander streets or beaches and devour cloth-eared spy novels, it hardly seems necessary to spend more money on the building in which we sleep.

And yet there are times when a hostel just won’t do. When shared bathrooms of varying cleanliness, neighbours of alternating volumes and kitchens with a hundred spoons but no knives starts to wear a little thin. At times like these hotels towards the middle of the sorted price list start to look very tempting, and it doesn’t take much – “it was my birthday last month”, “we didn’t go on that dive in January”, “it’s, um, Wednesday”- to justify spending that bit more. Which is exactly what we did before making our way to Chile’s northern coast.

When we arrived in the town of Arica we weren’t overly impressed, the closed metal and chipboard buildings and huge motorways doing little to pretify the vast swathes of arid desert. There was sea, to be sure, but limp waves and a string of high-rise resorts didn’t make it all that tempting to spend a day on the beach. As we’d arrived late the night before our booking we chose to stay the first hostel we saw, a dark place opposite the bus station run by a monosyllabic man with a tribal neck tattoo. Our room fit two single beds at an angle and no more. But we didn’t mind much, as it would provide a stark contrast to the hotel we’d booked for the following nights. Or so we hoped.

In the morning we left the hostel early and made our way into town to wait it out until check-in. The centre was a bustle of pedestrianised streets full of shops, bars and cafes and we set about drinking coffees at a snails’ pace to pass the time. Eventually we were on the road to Hotel Apacheta, a place so fancy it didn’t even have a sign. Online we’d been wooed by pictures of sea views, minimalist designer interiors and promises of giant beds and drench showers. In real life, that’s exactly what we got.

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Saturday afternoon

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Our bags were swept away by the owner, athletically rich in a former-banker–now-surfer kind of way who bore an uncanny resemblance to Prince Eric from the Little Mermaid. We took in the views of waves crashing all around, the building designed in a clever L-shape that means all the rooms point to the sea, blocking the view and the noise of the road behind. Safely in our room we launched ourselves across the huge bed and watched seagulls and a handful of pelicans bob on the surface of the water; as bigger waves struck, there would be an explosion of noise and feathers as they all took flight.

So unaccustomed are we with such settings that, once we’re in, we’re likely to stay. We decided we’d seen all that ‘town’ had to offer, so instead spent our days reading, snoozing and horizon-gazing to the sophorific melody of the tide. The only times we ventured out were for food, forcing our sluggish bodies down the road for dinner, or down the small set of stairs to our hotel breakfast – and it was here that we were most in our element. Bagging a table closest to the huge windows we’d watch for the resident sea lion as plates of food were brought by friendly staff. Granola, yoghurt and honey, fruit salad and scrambled eggs were all on offer, as well as individual caffitieres of coffee that I tried to deny made me feel fanciest of all. This would be life for three blissful days and on our last we eked out our breakfast for as long as possible. Finally we had to admit that the road – and its myriad hostels – was beckoning us on.

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Breakfast at Hotel Apacheta

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Hotel Hostal del Cafe, Xilitla, Mexico

A long and winding road brought us to Xilitla, a small town perched in the mountainous jungle of the Sierra Madre. The journey had been long, and hairy – tight, tight corners with nothing but hard desert rock or, later, steep and abundant jungle to capture the incongruously large bus as it toppled over the edge. Thankfully, it was not to be and our B&B was close; so close, the taxi drivers laughed at the prospect of a lift uphill.

Into the Hostal and it was like arriving at an old friends’. Set up by Alejandro and his wife, the building was full of family photos, brightly coloured rooms and interesting ephemera, Mexican quotes about the richness of life on the walls and fantastic B&B rooms set into the (practically) vertical, verdant tropical garden.

This being the jungle, the air was thick with moisture and nothing dried (the backpacker’s pants wash in the sink all for naught); the town, however, was a wonder, with rooftop bars looking to the mountains, excellent taquerias and cowboy-only establishments (even a hoe-down in the local square).

The next morning, breakfast was served by locals in the great dining room, one long table set up for the handful of guests. From the kitchen came chicken and spicy maize, baked in a banana leaf and served with beans. Coffee was local – next door’s, to be precise – and flavourful, if a little less strong than the Bristol palettes were used to.

After such a feed, we were set for our adventure to Las Pozas, unaware then that this wholesome feed would see us through a more convoluted experience than we could have imagined…

Price: from $465 MX. Breakfast $70 MX per person.

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The Swan at Wedmore, Somerset

IMG_2070[1]Nothing quite screams ‘bank holiday weekend’ than a leisurely Sunday roast, followed by a nap on a giant double bed in one of Somerset’s multitude pub with rooms. The Swan does all of these things will aplomb: the young staff deliver great plates of roast beef, fresh gnocchi and delicate crab washed down with local lagers or a multitude of wines by the glass, while upstairs the rooms are cool and inviting, with woolen throws and tartan armchairs adding a touch of texture to otherwise neutral Farrow & Ball tones. Ours had a small balcony overlooking the main strip of yellow stone buildings, the nearby church chiming on the hour to complete the Archer’s feel; better still, a claw-foot bath and a host of Bramley products meant an afternoon bubble bath in the sunshine (pint included for good effect).

And of course, one of the best bits about an overnight stay is the fact that breakfast comes with it. Like their dinner menu, the focus is on local fare – the bread comes from a bakery a short stroll from the door, and bacon is home-smoked; elsewhere suppliers are listed on the chalkboards around the bar. The menu is simple and traditional, and offers plenty for those less egg-averse than me (my bacon and mushrooms on toast looked somewhat lacking without the mound of scrambled egg). Nonetheless, with ingredients this good the flavours win the day, and, importantly, the coffee is just as well-sourced and made with equal care.

There’s plenty to love here, and lucky locals flock (expect a troupe of chinos and well-polished sprogs mussing their Sunday Best in the garden out the back). For those less close, it’s worth the journey – come armed with the papers and your PJs and you’ll be in for a weekend treat.

Price: from £3 (toast & jam) to £11 (The Swan Full English) B&B from £85.

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Villa Magdala, Bath

20130203-162945.jpgLovely Bath. On a chill December weekend we descended on the city in search of romance – the Egg Poacher and I were celebrating 3 years of brunch hunting and needed somewhere with an excellent breakfast reputation. Enter Villa Magdala.

Set apart from the sharp-elbowed tourist centre, the hotel is a sanctum of calm. On arrival our bags were whisked to our room before we’d even noticed we’d put them down, their staff attentive and friendly (with a welcoming waggle from Billy the dog). Following a gorgeous dinner at The Olive Tree (the owner is a gin expert) and a fine nights’ sleep in their lovely beds, we were hoping for another good feed. Things were looking promising with the weekend papers delivered to the door, a buffet table groaning with pastries and fresh fruit juices, Classic FM on the Roberts radio and one of the best possible questions at breakfast: “Would you like some Bucks Fizz?” YES.

The cooked menu is a bible of brunchy goodness – buttermilk pancakes with bacon and maple syrup, enormous kippers on toast, eggs doused in freshly made hollandaise and a proper full English. Cafetieres of coffee and topped up toast-racks appear from nowhere, and a young waiters were keen to make sure all was well. Nicely full (and with a slight Bucks Fizz buzz) we headed off in search of the Spa, smug in the knowledge we’d be back for more the next morning.

Price: B&B from £120 per night for 2.

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