The kids (7 and 4) had already gone off on a two night trip to Scarborough with their Grandparents. Anyone who has children will understand the sheer feeling of pleasurable relaxation that seeps through you when you realise you have a temporary rest from parental responsibility. It's pretty difficult to not shout "whoop, whoop" and run around naked waving your arms in the air. Or is that just me?
Our weekend jaunt was to Forest Pines Hotel in North Lincolnshire. We had never visited before, but our partners in crime on this trip assured us that the golf was good, and that the Spa brochure looked promising.
We were booked in for two nights. The hotel does plenty of packages, the main ones being for golfers. A double room, breakfast, dinner and a round of golf set us back £195 per night. Similarly a double room, breakfast, dinner, forty five minutes worth of spa treatments and a lunch was also £195 per night. So we order two nights of each package between the four of us so the men could go and play golf and my mate and I could indulge in an hour and a half of spa treatments. Two nights away... Yippee!
My hubby and I arrived at 5pm on the Friday, giving us chance to get settled, book in for dinner at restaurant 1852, unpack, and get down to the bar for pre dinner drinks before our mates arrived at 8pm. A couple more drinks in the extensive lounge area and we were called in to the restaurant for our 9pm sitting a few minutes early.
A strange menu option
The items on the menu all sounded divine, but I was hankering after fish and chips, it being Friday and all, so that is what I had. Nothing special when it came (I think the chunky chips were oven chips) but perfectly edible. I followed with profiteroles and they were gorgeous. However my husband made the mistake of ordering the intriguing sounding 'smoked vanilla' ice cream. The really helpful, courteous, and friendly chap behind the bar insisted that lots of people had raved about it and that it was made especially just for Forest Pines by a local ice cream makers.
We all tried a bit.
It was horrible.
I don't just mean a little bit horrible. I mean a lot. Like eating smoke.
We went back to the bar after the meal and told the chap that it was horrible. He insisted that it was an acquired taste and that lots of people rave about it.
Oh well. I guess we just weren't most people.
So what about the rest of the stay?
It was fabulous.
Don't get me wrong. It's not like everything was perfect. The grilled chicken my mate and I ordered on the second night in The Grill was bone dry; but the waitress, another lovely, courteous, friendly and helpful member of staff, immediately took it away and sorted us out with an alternative. She also brought over a sample glass of every Rose wine that they had in stock, so that I could pick the nicest one to buy a bottle of.
How often have the staff been that helpful when you've been out for a meal?
The rooms were neat, clean, fairly modern, and came with a robe to wear during the stay, a selection of toiletries, a fridge, tea and coffee facilities, a hairdryer and free Wi-Fi access. What more could you ask for?
The Spa treatments were absolutely divine! I had a half hour back massage, a half hour facial and a half hour scalp massage all wrapped up into 90 minutes of heavenly pampering. The pool area was lovely, but did get busy with families too, as there were two weddings on that weekend.
And the golf?
On the second day we had to check out by 12, but my husband had gone out to play golf and had taken his car keys with him, so I couldn't pack my stuff into the car. I popped over to the golf shop and spoke to the staff over there. It turns out it was the golf pro I was talking to, who immediately said he'd give me a lift on a golf buggy right out to the boys, who'd have reached the 13th hole of their game by this point (confusingly hole 4) right over the far side of the grounds.
I was really jealous of the boys as we rode the golf buggy out onto the sunshine, onto well kept fairways and past immaculate greens, the sun shining in bright blue skies. It doesn't happen very often in this country, but it was bright and summery. It felt just like being abroad. Safe to say that when we tracked them down they were happy and smiling in the sun.
I am told that the three 9 hole courses are just difficult enough. The boys were more than happy with the golf facilities. And again, I was very happy with the service provided by the staff.
And what else? Well, they've started doing discos at the golf bar on a Saturday night. It turned out that, on the Saturday night we were there, there were hardly anyone else on site that wasn't either a wedding guest of one of the two weddings being held in other function rooms. We had the disco to ourselves. And the DJ was more than happy to basically play any record we could think of.
Cue frantic and slightly drunken dancing to incredibly cheesy 70s and 80s hits until 1am.
We had a brilliant time, and dispite some hiccups with service (they had one of our rooms booked on the wrong weekend when we arrived.. We never did tell our friends that! Oops.. I guess the cat is out of the bag) the staff there were so friendly. And they smiled! It's amazing what a difference a smile makes.
It's funny, but we compared this hotel and resort to other hotels, and we have technically had fewer things go awry at other hotels, but each thing seemed like a big deal. Here, at Forest Pines, they understood that customer service is all about listening, being interested in your customers, having a smile for everyone and ensuring that you try and meet customers requests, and be accommodating, even and perhaps most importantly, when something doesn't go to plan.
Our waitress for both nights, an 18 year old, with auburn, curly hair, was so professional I immediately put her at much older than her 18 years. She was a natural. She will go far working in customer relations. I wish her well and congratulate her conscientiousness.
They did have a lot of young (approx 18 years old) staff working in the bar and I wondered whether that helped? Do younger workers have more enthusiasm? I suspect it's not that at all, I just think they are very good at recruitment there, and get the best staff of any age.
I'll say it again, because I think a lot of places could learn from it... It's amazing what a difference a smile makes.
I very much suspect we shall be booking in again soon. I just hope they keep up the good work.