Warty Flowers

Ever wondered what it would have been like to experience Fawlty Towers in all its calamitous glory? Me neither. Apparently the hospitality gods had other ideas last weekend, because they delivered us a truly memorable experience up in the Adelaide Hills.

I’m not one for negative reviews or biting posts on blogs; ordinarily I’d take the weekend as a bit of a learning curve, say nothing more and move on. Two things are inspiring me to write this: 1 – I’m annoyed at the amount of money I shelled out for a night in a hotel that seems to have decided the 80s were a great decade and they aren’t going to bother leaving them; and 2 – It’s not every day you get seated at a table in the restaurant with this on the wall next to you:Not only was the dial like something off a 1970s heatbank (I know because my parents still have one in their house: identical switch, minus the dymo’ed ‘music’ sticker); but after a few drinks images of a group sing along to Toto’s ‘Africa’ or YMCA sprung to mind, and I was desperate to conjure Spinal Tap and turn it all the way up to 11.

Without mentioning names (go to TripAdvisor and look up ‘OzKate’ if you really want to know where we were), I will say that a night at a ’boutique’ hotel run by a major chain in Crafers should be met with trepidation and a light-hearted approach. A room that looked like it really was once the home of an orthodox nun and a shower curtain that looked like a science experiment were part of the package, as were a broken lamp, a bed that was really two singles strapped together and a ‘deluxe view’ of the car park – for an extra $30 for that privilege too!

Gordon Ramsey would have a field day in their restaurant. Three beers to choose from: Hahn, Hahn Light and Coopers, a vegetarian main that would probably cause grievous bodily harm if used as a projectile and a pie that was so tough it should have been shipped over to the World Athletics Championships to be used as a discus were some of the highlights. Paying for coffees as extras in the continental breakfast (cheeky buggers), menus that were in their original 1970s ‘small town Chinese restaurant’ plastic covers were others. If Manuel had come running out of the kitchen on fire, I wouldn’t have been surprised. Other property bonuses included a library with about 15 books, ‘tiered lawns’ that had an extra ‘e’ in the title and a balcony with one chair and an ashtray between three rooms.

Believe it or not, as cranky as I sound, the experience was fun and worth the memories. It’s been filed under “so bad it must be good”.  Half the reason for writing about our adventures is finding ones like this: it’s taken me six months to finally be able to write a ‘You had to be there to believe it’ post. And we were laughing the whole time. Thinking about it, the free bottle of wine on arrival makes perfect sense now: rather than refurbish the hotel, ‘get them drunk on cheap booze’ is the obvious and most cost-effective way to stave off the cranky customers!

The mystery hotel is in a gorgeous part of the Adelaide Hills, with views of the Piccadilly Valley (from other rooms). Saturday, we ditched Basil and Sybil and headed to the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens. Heading into spring, they are spectacular. With daffodils in bloom, camellia bushes lining the paths and a rhododendron alley, the hills are covered in colour and fragrance. On a good day you can share your picnic with the local bandicoots, or feed the biggest ducks I’ve seen for a long time! The gardens are spread over a fairly large distance, with a tower at the top of the hill to visit and three dams below in the gully. It’s not hard to cover 15kms in a single day. Walking back into Crafers, we passed Shetland ponies, sheep, vineyards and garden sheds that looked like they were older than some states in Australia. Far from the kitchen nightmare the night before, the Crafers Inn was well and truly up to the taste of keeping us fed and watered, with a fantastic (and cheap) wine list and food that was sourced locally.

This is really just a chance to share some of the beautiful photos taken in the gardens on Saturday. Spring in SA is shaping up to be pretty special – the cherry blossoms are blooming, the sun is shining and the magpies aren’t swooping yet, so it’s looking great so far.

Anyone figured out the ‘Warty Flowers’ connection yet? Add it to comments if you have and we’ll compare episode favourites.

Do: head to Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens for the day.

See: Mount Lofty Summit, for views of Adelaide and the Fleurieu Peninsula. You’ll also see Southern and Eastern Rosella, Fairy Wrens and if you’re lucky, bandicoots!

Wine of the Week: Petaluma 2010 Riesling, Adelaide Hills

Happy third anniversary to my hubby Ross!


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