During my career inside hotels I had the pleasure of opening and transitioning several hotels to our brand, processes and systems. This always was a lot of work but well worth it because I met a lot of new cool people, and on top of that traveled to some pretty nice locations.
One of the best projects I ever worked on was a hotel transition in the UK. The hotel was owned by a famous doctor, professional car racing team owner and entrepreneur.
You might be asking yourself, “What’s the good doctor so famous for?” Well, in the late 1960s in America he was in partnership in a pharmaceutical company with another man. My Dr.’s division developed a revolutionary device and his partner refused to take it to market. My Dr. left the partnership and started his own company and obtained a patent for the device. Let’s just say the good doctor made the right move. The device was a revolution in medicine to say the least. This made millions and millions of dollars and he still owns the patent today.
Fast forward to 2006 and the Dr. now owns a few big things including this resort in the UK. This 200-plus room resort is on more than 500 acres of land and features two 18-hole golf courses and a spa. The resort is beautiful, sitting on a gentle hill overlooking the bay. The two golf courses, a links course and an American style course unfold along the water’s edge. Across the bay on a clear day you can see another famous course and its clubhouse stands out like a sleeping giant. What a beautiful place, especially in June, which is the month I was there. In this part of the UK in June the days are super long. The sun rises at 4 a.m. and it is not dark until 10 p.m.
One day a few of us were having lunch at the golf course and we had the pleasure of witnessing a photo shoot that featured the Scottish golfer and past British Open Champion Paul Lawrie with the much more famous Claret Jug. It is the trophy the winner of the British Open is presented with. Very cool. In the UK, which is the home of the game of golf, they take golf pretty seriously. Lawrie is the last Scotsman to win the Open. Let’s hope there is another soon.
The funny thing about these two beautiful golf courses is the hours they keep. Like I said earlier, the days are long in June in Scotland due to its 56 degrees of latitude. The courses opened every morning at 8:30 a.m. and were closed every afternoon at 5 p.m. I mean no golfers before 8:30 and everyone is off the course and the doors are closed at 5. Unbelievable! But it is not America or Canada, it is the UK and that’s their way. I think I played golf 30 times that trip. I could walk out of my hotel room at 6 a.m. and play 9 holes before 7:45. At the end of the day I could start at 6 p.m. and play 18 holes before dark. With my own golf clubs in hand, I made the best of it.
One of the best activities we had in the month we were there was attending the World Cup Soccer Championship at the local pub in town. The fans—the pub goers—are insane about soccer or as they call it: football. The thing that I did not know was just how much the Scots hate the Brits. Scotland did not have a team that qualified for the WC that year. When England played Ecuador in the first knock out round, the pub was full on in support of Ecuador. “Those English bums and bastards!” they would chant. This was incredible and kind of sad to see. Being from Canada I no idea the UK was so splintered. I certainly remember the Irish Republican Army’s activities and especially the pub bombings of the 1970s, but I thought the rest was a peace loving UK. Not so.
I remember coming home and having a chat with my neighbor in Ontario who is English. I told him about the pub and his reply was, “Every hoodlum in England is from Scotland.” Well, England lost in the second round to Portugal a week later and the pub fans staged an impromptu parade to celebrate in the streets, hundreds of Scots joined them.
The best part of the trip happened the last evening I was there
The Dr. was selling the hotel to an investment firm from England and my hotel company had won the bid and received the management contract to run the hotel for the new owner. The Dr. was packing up so to speak and one of his prized possessions was his Esparante GTR-1 which was always parked at the main hotel entrance. The Dr. and his son operated a Le Mans team and he started the American Le Mans series that still runs very successfully today.
I came back to the hotel after an early dinner and was with an old friend I had known and worked with for many years. We entered the lobby and we ran right into the Dr. and he was in a great mood. My friend and the Dr. were talking about wine and the Dr. had the idea that my hotel company should feature his Chateau wines in all of our hotels. Well, it turns out that the Dr. had been suggesting this all week and my friend told me at dinner just a few minutes earlier how BAD the wines were. Too funny. Their conversation on wine trailed off as I listened intently.
I then asked the Dr., “What are you doing with the car? Is it part of the purchase and sale agreement?” knowing full well that it was not.
He replied, “Do you want to take it for a spin?”
I said, “Yes, for sure, that sounds like fun,” thinking that he was just kidding. He stepped aside and opened a drawer in the doorman’s desk and threw me the keys and said, “Don’t come back for at least an hour.” Holy Toledo! What a car!
My friend came with me and we had a blast. 575 horsepower. At one point we were on the narrowest country lane doing more than 100 miles per hour and I was still in second gear. I have never driven anything like that before or since. The power, the acceleration, the handling and the brute force was simply stunning, and I love cars!
At one point I think I really scared my friend and being the passenger is not always easy especially when the driver is me! We bombed around the countryside, blew the doors off most of the shops and restaurants in town and even went to the Old Course Clubhouse for a drink and pictures by the famous foot bridge on the 18th hole.
What a blast. We returned the car about 2 hours after we left. The Dr. was long gone and the only thing we had left to do was to head to the hotel bar to reminisce and tell our comrades about our evening adventure.
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