Advantages Location, Views and Pool in better weather than we had
Disadvantages Website is a bit rose-tinted - treat with caution
|Value for Money|
|Quality of Rooms|
|Standard of Service|
|Quality of Food & Drink|
|Quality of Facilities|
Best Laid PlansThe Plan was "Forest Lodge, Ajloun Reserve". The news was: site washed out. This provoked a succinct e-mail from my other half at home. Forest? Washed out? Neither of these compute with my notion of the middle East.
Indeed not, but it had been a very wet start to the year in Jordan just as in England. In fact, at this point in March 2012 it was warmer in London than it was in Amman, and we'd heard how the previous week had been non-stop rain, so it came as less of a surprise to us. Whilst not camping out in some idyllic backwater was a disappointment, there actually seemed to be some relief among the group. Whispers about 'shared facilities' weren't going down too well (oh, come on, guys!) but more importantly, it WAS cold. The consensus was that those in the chalets would have been ok, those in the tents might have spent a fairly miserable night. Who knows? It was not to be. The notion of a hot shower, a fire, and a bed indoors seemed to temper any disappointment with what can only be called relief.Just to be clear though: we weren't wimping out. The Lodge had actually been closed. Half of the accommodation was unusable. So between them Ramblers Worldwide and their local agents set about finding us a bed for the night… well, about 18 beds for the night, to be precise.
The people who came to the rescue were The Olive Branch on the outskirts of Jerash.Our Experience ~ Arrival & Room
It has to be said that, as a Group, we weren't in the best frame of mind when we reached the hotel. For many it hadn't been a good day. Me? I was just hoping that the griping would subside and the Group would gel in a more positive spirit as the holiday went on. (I'm pleased to say that it did just that.)It's a strange place to arrive into as there doesn't appear to be a "Reception" as such. We were lucky in that there'd clearly been a lot of phone-calling going on while the agents tried to get us all booked into the same place at no notice whatsoever. As a result two trestle tables were set up on the wide entrance hallway – one with complimentary fruit juices, the other with our room keys.
"Checking in" didn't, as such, seem to happen. We just milled about drinking juice for a very short while, during which Hazel & Mahdi (UK & Jordanian guides) had the necessary conversations with the owners. Then we identified ourselves, collected our keys, and our luggage and away we went. It would have been nice if the person handed over the key could at least have pointed us in the right direction, the signage isn't overly clear. Fortunately Mahdi was on the case and saw us all right.I was downstairs, which felt a bit odd. I hadn't been conscious of entering on the first floor and so did wonder if I was heading down into the basement. First impressions were ok, though. A simple enough room: two double beds, off-wide fixtures of headboards, a shared bedside table, a dresser-cum-desk, and a cabinet that held a TV (that I never bothered to try).
A pleasant surprise was on drawing back the curtains to discover I had a wall of window that opened onto the terrace, which at a sunnier time of year would have given direct access to the pool. This early in the season, in this unseasonable weather, the pool wasn't open.Hazel was in 'checking' mode (or maybe she'd had representations from my fellow-travellers). Eithery way, I'd barely dumped my baggage when she was at the door asking if everything was alright. "Oh, you've got heating!" Erm, yes?? It seems that not all of the rooms had been warmed up – maybe they weren't expecting to fill them. I don't remember later complaints so maybe this got resolved.
"How's the bathroom?" Er… ? You see the thing is, I must be easily pleased. It was clean. The water in the handbasin was hot. I hadn't got as far as testing the shower. "But do you have a plug?" "I'll check" Yes the handbasin quite definitely had a plug. This isn't soviet Russia after all. It seemed that this might have counted for luxury. Some of the cohort had already complained about the absence of plugs, and had apparently been told that this was deliberate policy on ecological grounds. Come on… you have to give them points for the excuse!Actually, given that Jordan is incredibly short of water, I don't think it's unreasonable. But maybe they could sell it better… a friendly, funny, notice explaining that they don't provide plugs as a matter of course because they'd prefer us to conserve water… ?
As I discovered later – there wasn't a plug for the bath. And the shower water was tepid at best.Eating & Socialising
The dining experience was somewhat reminiscent of school. The hotel's website pictures create a slightly soft-focus view. The restaurant is a hall. We were seated at one long table (which in fairness is what we wanted as we were still in the getting to know you stage of a group tour). Food was served buffet style and to be honest, given the extreme simplicity of the establishment, was very good. There was nothing elaborate about it: soup, salads, fish, chicken, but there were not complaints.I believe there is a bar but don't recall actually seeing it. In our case, beer and wine were brought out from the kitchen and charged at what we'd establish was pretty much the going rate at the time.
Breakfast the next morning must have been equally ok-but-nothing-special.The true boon of the evening was the open fire, which we all gathered round after dinner. We may have sat up later than they'd have liked, but the waiters wandered past every now and then and threw another chunk of wood on for us.
Location: 5km from the centre of Jerash, 20km from Ajloun
Facilities: the pool wasn't open and the terrace seemed to be in the final stages of reconstruction when we were there. The official website boasts a campsite, but reviews on Tripadvisor suggest that this might also be temporarily out of action. It seems the hotel is trying to make a place for itself in the Conference market – indeed there was a Christian Conference underway while we were there – but I suspect it might be more in the 'team-building' market than the swish end of corporate conferencing.Website: http://www.olivebranch.com.jo/
RecommendationRecommendations elsewhere on the web are a little unkind to the Olive Branch, but that's probably because they do oversell themselves a tad.
In the western context of Hotel gradings the Olive Branch probably comes in somewhere between 2 and 3 stars. It is quite basic in some of its approach and facilities, but tries hard in others. They weren't expecting us and did well to welcome us. Swish, it isn't. But it is in a good location, does have some great views from the dining room (terrace available in Summer), serves us decent food with a smile. And consider those prices.Has Potential would probably be my overall assessment. It's a decent enough place to stay and given that most western visitors will be touring and won't be staying too long, on that basis I'd be happy to recommend it. I would just like to see it develop into the place it could become, and might just go back one day to see if the opportunity has been grasped.~
© Lesley Mason
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