By the time I arrived at my last destination before going to Dublin for the TBEX conference I’d slept in a variety of beds and places, from the cold benches of Barcelona airport; to my friend, Wendy’s, elegant and comfy guestroom bed in France; to couchsurfing with my son, and with my dad in England, and with a friend in Ireland; plus a couple of hotels…quite a variety. I’m blessed with the ability to sleep anywhere, and also an addiction to diversity, so all were ok by me.
Still, I was looking forward to the sort of privacy you can only find in a big hotel by the time I arrived at the Montenotte Hotel in Cork. It seems to be that accommodation is a matter of compromise much of the time. If you want luxury and privacy, then you sacrifice the friendliness you find in smaller accommodations. Some travellers swear by the camaraderie of hostels, and feel uncomfortable in hotels. Others, who can afford it, like the comfort and anonymity of hotels.
In Ireland I found that it’s possible to have both, and this hotel was the key to my discovery.
My abiding memory of Ireland isn’t the landscapes, though they took my breath away; and it isn’t the history, at least not directly; it isn’t even the wonderful food and drink I sampled – and all of those things were beyond compare – it was the friendliness of the people…..which began with my short stay at the Montenotte.
I arrived windblown, and probably a little muddy, after a whale-spotting trip, and a long drive from Baltimore. Isn’t one of the off-putting things about big hotels that feeling that the staff are secretly judging you? Didn’t cross my mind for a single second at the Montenotte because of the very warm welcome I received! Given that I was also around 10 hours late, that was even more remarkable. How often do you find a hotel receptionist who has the time to chat with you about your boat trip?
Tired, and with work to do before I pulled down the covers on a comfy bed, I ordered room service, (including a glass of Murphy’s which I’d been advised not to leave Cork without trying). The food arrived fresh and the beer cold, what more could I ask, as I settled down to take advantage of the free wifi?
Yep! That was FREE wifi. It’s a common complaint among folk who travel for work, whatever their profession, that whilst wifi is most often free in lowly hostels, hotels charge. My last experience was £6 per day, and that adds up over a week or even longer….not all travelers are on expense accounts, so this was great to know.
Before turning in I peeked out the window, the lights of Cork City glittered below, promising a new adventure for the next day.
I slept like a log, and woke late. Expecting that I was too late for breakfast I stopped by reception with a question about laundry (those muddy pants from the previous day – which were perfectly cleaned and ironed and returned to me well in time for my early departure the next morning btw)….there was concern that I was preparing to face the day without sustenance, and I was promised, with what I was learning was typical Irish hospitality, that it was no problem that I was breakfasting so late. I found plenty of hot choices under the tureens, eggs, bacon, sausages and black puddings, all still piping hot and not greasy, and a perfect way to begin the day.
The Montenotte is a Best Western hotel, but is also family-run, which is perhaps one of the secrets to its warm ambience. It felt as if that ambience transferred to the guests. When I popped into the bar it seemed as if everyone was friendly and relaxed too – or it might have been the upcoming hurling final the next day, which was keeping spirits high (Cork lost to Co Clare in Dublin the following day)!
I had a wander around before I left. I would love to have had time to give the leisure club a try. I popped in to take a look, and the staff in there were every bit as friendly as in the rest of the hotel. Although the hotel is elegant, the beds comfy and the food excellent, my lasting memory is the friendliness of the staff, the concern about me missing breakfast, the help with my new computer, the laundry which I handed over a tad late.
I did have another treat in store, though, and what a treat! I was invited to dine at an associated establishment, the Boardwalk Bar and Grill. This was a taste of the sophisticated side of Cork City. The chic frontage on Lapps Quay would be equally at home in New York, and the restaurant, indeed, describes itself as an American Steakhouse and Bar. To be sure the plush furnishings and gleaming woodwork did make me feel as if I’d perhaps walked into a Frank Sinatra movie, but yet again, there it was – the genuine friendliness from the doorman who greeted us to our superb waiter, Paul. I felt …… welcome.
Paul proved to be a gem, describing the food and the wines, so we, a party of five, didn’t falter in our choices. It was clear that we all had different tastes and expectations, and not a single one of us was disappointed. It was nice that everything looked as good as it tasted, yet didn’t sacrifice quantity for the sake of art – would you look at that burger, for goodness sake! And when it came to dessert I might be lost for words, the choices read like poetry, but, end of the day, I can only tell you that the cheesecake, made with fresh fruit, was the I’ve tasted. Really, can’t say more than that, can I!
And here’s a nice surprise I didn’t note at the time The Boardwalk also boasts wifi. Since it opens for lunch and morning coffee and offers corporate dining that’s a huge plus.
Both the Montenotte and the Boardwalk cater for parties and functions, from weddings to product launches. So if anyone living in Cork should read this …. Do give them a try! If you’re visiting Cork, you couldn’t stay anywhere better than the Montenotte, perched on the hillside overlooking the city; and The Boardwalk is a full dining experience, not only are the surroundings both elegant and relaxing, and the food great, and the staff lovely, but afterwards you can take a stroll along the river to complete your lunch or dinner….which would be nicely romantic if you are a couple!
This is where I tell you that I was invited to try these establishments, but that opinions are my own, which is true. I’m at a stage in life where I’ve done a fair amount of stuff, well before the days of blogging too. I’ve had some great food and stayed in a huge variety of accommodations from famous five star city hotels to camp grounds. I still enjoy that variety, all I ask is that whatever is on offer is the best it can be, and I value my own small reputation. If you’re reading this blog I want you to be able to take my word for it.