“ Address: 38 St Giles Street / Norwich / NR2 1LL / Norfolk / England „
How´s this for dedication to travel reporting? Posted whilst on holiday in Spain!
Tell some people that you're staying in a "B&B" and they'll secretly conjure up mental images of Blackpool landladies locking you out after 9.30 pm.
Mercifully, this now only happens on cartoon postcards.
The B&B I've just spent two nights at, in the centre of Norwich fully deserves the accolade of "best place I've stayed at in Britain in a very long while" - not so much a lodgings as a luxury hotel with no dinner menu.
Well, actually it's better than that. How many luxury hotels would allocate one of the owners to look after you?
I'm not alone in thinking this - many accommodation and travel web-sites such as Tripadvisor now list reviews of the 38 St Giles B&B describing it as "the best place to stay in Norwich", and it's not the most expensive by a considerable margin.
Situated at 38, St Giles (the clue's in the name guys, you must keep up), this listed 3-storey Georgian town house has been lovingly restored and refurbished to a superbly high standard. St Giles leads conveniently down into the market place next to City Hall, just to illustrate how centrally-placed guests are when it comes to Norwich's undeniable charms. Once safely installed, you have absolutely no reason to need the car till you leave - the parking is secure so there are no worries there either.
Our room on the top floor, which was dual aspect, i.e. a view of both the street and the courtyard behind, was immaculately fitted with an mix of interesting antique furniture and a high-end B&O television, the robust metal remote control of which was enough to summon up the phrase 'blunt head trauma' in the minds of those of us that watch CSI and then have the temerity to doze off and snore! Cutting through the elegant Georgian airwaves into the 21st century comes free wi-fi - just find out how to log your laptop on from the information book by the bedside. I would say though, that if I'd been here on business I might have liked a small table to rest the PC on. To us it didn't matter - a few e-mails to keep up with, restaurants to book, that kind of thing.
Despite the need to modernize - I can't see many people being happy with authentic chambers pots from the period - all work has been carried out sympathetically to the extent that wonky floors and walls must have created a degree of blue air during the renovations. The bathroom, with its good quality fittings and travertine marble walls must have been a plumber's nightmare, and I suspect that never was the phrase 'don't worry, it'll look all right once it's grouted!" truer. My hat goes off to whoever it is that can match such large tiles to such non-uniform walls.
Public areas of the house reflect its vintage more so, with a splendid almost stately stair-case running up through the building, stained glass windows at first floor level and an outer lobby that acts as a passageway from the imposing double street-door to the courtyard behind. The charming panelled breakfast room makes for a relaxed start to the day.
If this all sounds a bit twee, worry ye not, it isn't in the slightest.
We were met by Jan, the lady of the house, who not only rode with us from where we'd parked outside on 'double yellows' to the parking place, which seemed a long way off till you realised that you were now only an alley-way away from the front door, but she then took our heaviest bag, and, throwing it over her shoulders preceded us up the stairs like Sherpa Tensing racing to get there first.
Jan, and her husband, whom we didn't meet but could smell his strawberry jam in the making, are what makes this place so special. The attention to detail is overwhelming.
When my wife mentioned that a hook on the back of the bathroom door would be useful (I'm sure she's derived some kind of "has it got a hook?" marking-scheme), one appeared by the time we came back in the afternoon.
Alex Polizzi, "The Hotel Inspector" would hate it - nothing to find fault with, no stroppy owner who wants to argue the toss. Where'd be the fun or confrontational TV in that?
It's the little kindnesses that also count for a lot. On our arrival, and on the following afternoon, having heard us come in, Jan presented us with delicious homemade cakes with which to 'take tea'.
One reviewer has even commented on the fact that, not knowing Norwich, Jan walked with them to the restaurant they'd booked.
My major concern would be that they might run themselves ragged before we get a chance to go back.
They have 5 rooms, and thoroughly deserve to have a waiting list of people wanting to stay in them.
Breakfasts are splendid, with a menu that would be the envy of plenty of "posher gaffs".
Freshly-squeezed orange juice just kept coming, starters ranged from a selection of quality cereals to hot dishes like the porridge with caramelized apples that I fell for on both mornings.
Main courses included the by-now expected Full English Breakfast with two eggs done how you want. Ingredients were all locally sourced if my memory serves me correctly.
If the "F.E.B." isn't your thing, then why not have the smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, or poached eggs and wilted spinach on sourdough toast.
As if you could now fit something else in, before waddling off into town, those home-made jams beckon, along with (on the days we were there), fresh honey-comb.
Of course, it doesn't come cheap, but bear in mind that this is a central location in a charming city (well it is, now my wife doesn't live there), in what you could easily see becoming 5-star accommodation once inspected. Room rates currently range from £80 single to £150 for a suite and two people. We were lucky enough to secure a lower rate via a magazine offer.
From the B&O TVs to the L'Occitane toiletries, this is a superb place to stay and feel pampered.
As for our stay in Norwich, it was equally superb with this summer's two fine days smack dab in the middle. This city appeals on many fronts. The shopping, the pedestrianised narrow streets full of character (and characters!), the famous open market, picturesque cobbled Elm Hill, pubs like The Belgian Monk or The Adam & Eve, and a clutch of excellent restaurants like the El Torero tapas restaurant and bar.
It's a friendly place, and I found myself entering into the spirit of things helping old ladies across roads (whether they wanted to cross or not) and generally chatting to shop staff. It also helps my wife top-up her accent, moy booties.
Pride of place when it comes to the success of the stay must go to the 38 St Giles B&B though.
Boutique bed & breakfast in a lovely Georgian town house.