Taplow House is a rambling Edwardian English country house hotel on the outskirts of the village of Taplow, not far from Windsor, across the Thames from Maidenhead. I’ve stayed there twice, at the end of one segment of the Thames Path and, the next year, picking up the walk where I’d left off.
When I travel on foot, I’m more careful than usual about the accommodations I reserve, as moving on, if they aren’t up to snuff, can be problematic. And, in general, I like to get the best I can find on my modest budget, with an occasional splurge. This one was a splurge. And to be sure I’d be getting what the pictures showed, I emailed the hotel and asked if the room I’d reserved would be like the lovely online photo and was assured it would be.
On arrival, on a rainy day, having crossed the river and climbed the hill to the hotel, I’m sure I didn’t appear quite the usual civilized guest, with wet pack and boots. I checked in and was pointed toward my ground floor room. It was definitely NOT like the online photo, not terrible, but pokey and ordinary, window onto a scruffy bit of driveway. It was a disappointment but I was too tired to object. A friend picked me up later for a Thai dinner out and the buffet breakfast in the posh dining room next morning was nicer than the usual. I didn’t think much about my disappointment again until I was checking out. I paid my bill, then asked to speak to the manager, a very un-English behavior. The unfriendly young woman who had given me the substandard room was again at the desk and looked distinctly concerned as she asked me to wait in the bar off the lobby. I was served a good cup of coffee as I waited.
Before long, a well-dressed man arrived, the FOH manager, front-of-house. I explained my dissatisfaction, telling him it was specifically because I’d discussed the issue in advance by email and was asked again if I could wait. The armchair in which I sat had a view directly across the lobby into the office, behind the antique desk that was the front desk. I could see the 2 of them pouring over the emails on the office computer. When he was apparently satisfied that what I’d said was true, he returned with apologies and an offer of a complimentary room, should I return. I knew then I would.
Cut to the following spring and I entered the hotel and sat again at the antique desk. I’d emailed Mr. FOH who’d made my reservation and when I was given the form to sign on check-in, it had a rate printed. To be sure the arrangement was understood, I asked if the room was, indeed, to be complimentary and a look of confusion passed over this latest young woman’s face. No, there was no mention of it on the reservation. I asked for Mr. FOH and was told he would not be in for the next couple of days. Murphy’s Law. But herein lies the lesson. I went into my pack and withdrew a printed copy of the email conversation with Mr. FOH, which she took and withdrew to the office. On her return, she confirmed that the stay was, indeed, on the house and sent me off with my room key.
The room was, exasperatingly, identical to the previous year’s. Substandard for such an establishment and, no doubt, meant to convey the social standing of any guest put there. This time I didn’t even remove my pack and went right back to the desk. I explained that the room was not what I wanted. What I wanted was the room that would make up for my previous disappointment. The young woman called a bellman who took a new key and this time, unlike the other 2 times, up the staircase we went. Then up another smaller out-of-the-way staircase. Things were getting more interesting. We passed 2 doors with ostentatious names, rather than numbers, and arrived at the end of the narrow hallway. The young man opened the door into my more than satisfactory spacious top floor suite, windows overlooking the garden. At last.
Taplow House Hotel website.
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