Since we’ve moved to BC, I’ve often written of the new adventures and discoveries we’ve come across in our new home and backyard. I’m afraid that those experiences aren’t always that positive, for one reason or another.
We decided to take our first drive-out-of-town vacation to the Harrison Hot Springs Resort on the Easter holiday weekend. That was probably the first and biggest mistake we made. Rather than take the Trans Canada Highway (Route 1), we decided to take the more scenic Route 7, also known outside of town as the Lougheed Highway. We’ve been on that road many times before, usually going to IKEA or some other store to the east of us. We weren’t in a hurry, and the rental car, a bright blue Toyota Yaris, seemed to be comfortable enough and it wasn’t necessary to get to our destination in record time. When we left at about 12:30 The weather started out grey, and the further we went, the worse it got. We stopped for lunch at the Milestones in Coquitlam, and by the time we were navigating some of the more hazardous looking turns amongst the mountains in Mission and Aggasiz, it was pouring.
We arrived at Harrison Hot Springs at about 4:00 PM. There was a long line of cars that looped around the driveway to the front entrance, and followed on at the back of the line. After about 15 minutes or so, we finally got up to the overhang, and a bellman cheerfully unloaded our clothes and other valuables on to a hotel cart. It sat there, near the edge of the overhang (but mostly out of the rain), while we got on the line to the front desk. I parked the car (about a 5 minute walk away), and returned to the line with Pam. We got to the front in about an hour (We checked to be sure). Pam remarked that it felt like we were in an airport.
The lady at the front desk had all of our particulars, but was surprised to see that although we were signed up with the ‘Easter Package’, and had certificates for several meals, none of our reservations for seatings of those meals had been made. This meant that we had to see essentially the concierge. We waited another 15 minutes or so while she dealt with another customer. She helped us as we tried to get spots in the meals we had in our package: an ‘Italian Buffet’ that evening and an Easter Brunch on Sunday. The spot left for the Buffet was fine (8 PM, a time at which we are used to eating) but the brunch was set for 1:30 PM, which was already 2 hours later than our car was due back at the rental agency back in Vancouver. I contemplated calling to extend the rental but didn’t do so at the time (which was, in retrospect, a good thing).
We finally went up to our room, which was comfortable enough, except for it being very cold. Our luggage had been delivered, and we would have gladly tipped whoever did it, but they were long gone. I turned on a heater to get things a bit warmer and after a short rest, joined Pam, who was scouting around the resort.
The place was a zoo. Not only was it very crowded, but most of the crowds were families with children. Now, I’m not a person who normally has a problem with that (being a couple without children, we’re frequently among others who have their offspring along with them in social situations; that’s to be expected). In fact, I usually get along really well with kids — maybe even better than a lot of beleagured parents. However, consider what it’s like to be in a restaurant with a table that has a screaming child or two. Now multiply that by 300. This may give you an idea of what we faced for nearly every moment that we left our room (fortunately, the walls were thick enough that we weren’t kept awake by the squeals all night). We couldn’t get near the hot springs (which were really just hot swimming pools) as they were so full of people at nearly every hour that one frequently couldn’t find a place to get in the water. We walked over to the the ‘Healing Spa’, where by this point I hoped that a massage, or perhaps some hot rocks, a ‘detox’ or even some mud treatment would make up for our frayed nerves. Too late, we were told. Everything was booked up for every hour of the next day. Sunday was nearly always booked up too.
We retreated back to our room and changed for dinner. I anticipated that there would be might be a wait again for our table, so we to the ‘Lakeview Café’ a little before 8:00 PM. We indeed waited again, for about 25 minutes. I noted that our wait time (with reservations) was only 10 minutes less than what the people without reservations were told they’d have. The buffet was not bad, although I had to dodge children right and left as I brought my plate back to our table. Most of the meal was once again spent waiting on line, trying to get near some largely depleted platter of vegetables, fish or pasta.
The next morning, we got up, showered and looked out on the lake (we had splurged on a nice room with a view). The rain appeared to have stopped. We headed up back to the Lakeview Café for some breakfast. It was at the point when we were told that there would again be another wait that I realised that things weren’t going to get any better. I told Pam it was time to cut our losses and head back home. We’d still have half of the weekend left to us, and trying to make the best of the situation just wasn’t something I wanted to do any more. We went to the front desk, and the woman there (who had actually checked us in) was somewhat understanding. She went to a back room and talked to her manager. ‘It’s amazing what you can get when you get down on your knees’, she said. She offered to refund us about a third of our reservation and I didn’t think we were going to get any more at that point. We headed back to the Café, waited some more, and finally got some breakfast.
It looked as if the sun was going to show for a bit, and we peeked outside. It was indeed taunting us with a nicer day, but it was also very cold (I’d estimate around 4° or 5° C). We took a few photos before we left. We did some shopping at Linens and Things and IKEA before returning home. After a delicious and unruly-tot-free dinner at the Dockside Restaurant (with some marvelous Jamaican-style Fruit Beer scented with Hibiscus brewed in their brewery) in nearby Granville Island, and finally some grocery shopping and we collapsed gratefully into our own bed.
Today I’ve had a little time to think about our outing and looked at the Web site for the resort once more. I was looking for peace, quiet, and perhaps even a bit little of a romantic getaway. I maintain that they gave no inkling that instead, we’d be staying at a Disneyland-style family resort. You can bet I’ll be writing them about what I feel is false advertising, but in the meantime, I’m getting ready for a work of week with some new sheets and towels, but not much of a renewed body and mind.