Sliding down the star scale
In May this year the company for whom I work threw its big annual management shindig in the Dutch coastal town of Noordwijk aan Zee - a delightful little town with pristine beaches and the kind of place that rarely sees foreigners because the Dutch have kept it secret for a long time to avoid having to share it. The influx of a large number of colleagues from all over the world was a little too much for the five-star 'Huis ter Duin Hotel' to cope. Our company had booked up all the available rooms in that hotel but there weren't enough for everyone to stay on the third night so a dozen of us were 'evicted' and sent off down the road to the much more modest Golden Tulip. It's easy to get accustomed to the high life and to hit the ground with a bump when you slide down the star-ratings but I wasn't too bothered about moving because I'd not really loved the Huis ter Duin. I wasn't too optimistic about the Golden Tulip though since some of the worst hotels I've used in Holland have been Golden Tulips. Dutch hotel chains as a rule are not great - I think it's something to do with the egalitarian ethos of the Dutch that they just aren't very good at service. If you aren't willing to play at sucking up to customers, chances are your service levels might just stink.
My colleague and I hopped in his car to go looking for the hotel and got completely lost. We thought Noordwijk only had one road and the Golden Tulip clearly wasn't on it. We stopped a passer-by and she pointed us in the direction of Koningin Wilhelmina Boulevard, a road parallel to the one we were on which ran right beside the sand dunes. We parked up in one of the hotel's 15-minute parking spots whilst we checked in but were surprised to find out that the hotel has no car park of its own. We could have parked in spaces on the street outside but these were charged at a high price and the main public car park was further away than the hotel we'd just moved from. The Dutch may be famously tight with their money but my Belgian colleague decided we'd just drive back to the other hotel and leave the car there.
Check in was easy and because our company was paying directly with the hotel so we only needed to sign the papers. We both were allocated rooms on the first floor and passed quite an attractive bar filled with dark wood and lots of leather armchairs on our way to the lift. Stepping out of the lift we were confronted by a slightly shabby corridor with a bright red striped carpet. The rooms had old fashioned metal keys and the locks were not automatic so it's important to make sure that you lock the door behind you when you leave. My room was not very big but in a strange way I rather liked it perhaps because I'd been so turned off by the massive room in the hotel that I'd just left. I was on the front of the hotel and whilst my view was less grand than at the Huis ter Duin, it was still rather charming, I overlooked the roof of the hotel restaurant and a beach bar before I could see the sea. The room was long and narrow and the bed was arranged lengthways which is not something you see very often but I rather liked it because the hotel were keeping the rooms narrow so that more rooms had sea views.
The room had a hideous chocolate brown carpet and white textured wall paper. There was an attractive framed poster of the sand dunes and a long wall-mounted mirror. The TV was a small old cathode ray set which was wall mounted. Furniture included a double bed, a suitcase stand, a wardrobe, small arm chair by the window with a coffee table on which was placed tray with kettle and tea and coffee supplies. There was a desk with an oversized table lamp and a vase of fake amaryllis flowers. The bed had a radio built into the headboard and lots of lighting. The hotel doesn't have free wi-fi but you can buy access if you need it.
The bathroom was small but clean with a curtained shower, a toilet and a sink unit. There was quite a large step up to get into the bathroom and I made a mental note to take care if I went in there half asleep. The tiling was green and mottled and there were wall-mounted dispensers for toiletries.
At last - a decent bed but an indecent breakfast
The bed was surprisingly comfortable. I say surprisingly because beds in Dutch hotels are generally dreadful with a tendency to be too short and too soft. Dutch colleagues have claimed in the past that the national attitude to mattresses is one of 'soft is good' which I find very hard to accept. I suspect the reality is 'soft is cheap'. I slept really well and both the mattress and pillows were perfect.
After a good night's sleep I headed down for breakfast which was disappointing. It was more like a scavenger hunt than a breakfast and I'm just not awake enough in the morning to hunt down every last thing one by one. The food was very processed - even the eggs were perfect circles in both fried and omelet options and looked like they'd been bought in and not cooked on site. The fruit salad looked tinned and both juice and coffee were from machines. However, the restaurant was laid out inside a nice road-side conservatory.
Check out was very quick because our rooms were pre-paid. The Golden Tulip isn't a grand place but if you can get a room on the front overlooking the sea it's quite a nice place to stay. If I were spending my OWN money, rather than my company's, I thought that I would be much more likely to choose this hotel rather than the much grander and more expensive Huis ter Duin. However, on making a quick check on some hotel price comparison sites, I was amazed to discover that the Golden Tulip is supposed to be a 4-star property and is not always much cheaper than the grander hotels. My recommendation would be to shop carefully and if you want a bargain in Noordwijk, choose your dates carefully. Off peak you may well be able to get one of the best hotels in town for little more - or even less - than a mid-range place like this. Even at busier times, I would avoid the Golden Tulip at any price over about £80 per night.