Today's post is sponsored by Angela at Just Go!--the theme? My strangest trip. Let's go!
Seven years ago I chaperoned a student trip to the U.K. with my good friend Kara. It began innocently enough. We told the students we'd do whatever they wanted to in London. They wanted to go on a Jack the Ripper Tour. We spent the darkening hours wandering the indisputably ill-reputed streets of East London with our tour guide who took us to every single spot where a body had been found. He described with vivid detail how each woman had been murdered while I kept edging away from the tourist pressing against my back. The tourist with the video camera that he kept aiming at me. The tourist with the creepy wandering eye. We ended at the Ten Bells Pub where Jack the Ripper reputedly drank. I can tell you they haven't refurbished it much since his last visit in the 1800's. The entire experience gave me chills. We started calling the trip "Blood and Gore U.K. '06."
We wound up the trip in Edinburgh with a Witchery Tour hosted by Adam Lyal. It seemed appropriate. The deceased (dressed in black cape and white face paint) took us around Old Town and at various points stopped to tell us about murder and mayhem in Scottish history. Ghouls would leap out at us from the dark shadows, doorways and corners of the narrow streets. Screaming and cowering, our group would back away, inevitably to be surprised again from behind. This went on for over an hour--my heart rate didn't settle until after I'd had 3 pints of ale.
But it was in between Jack the Ripper adn Adam Lyal that we were most freaked out. Our group stayed in Waterville, Ireland, on the coast in County Kerry. It was a postcard of a place, and we were deposited a couple miles outside of the village at a hotel.
The hotel had no other guests.
It had no working phones.
It had 2 employees--a creepy older man in a 3-piece suit and a creepy older woman in a dress.
They gave us room keys and advised us not to try calling out. Of course.
We strolled around the grounds and saw the sign, now facing backwards & upside down indicating we were at a Club Med. In Ireland. Who knew?
The grounds were overgrown and we soon learned that NONE of the other rooms were in use. The mattresses were tipped on their sides, the dressers were blocking the doors and no bedding was in sight. Out of 187 rooms, our group used 10. The only 10 that were made up and ready for guests.
We discovered the swimming pool--covered in a toxic green slime. The creepy old man told us it was used to give lessons to the children from the village. Not recently, though. Even the walls had the green algae growing on them.
We walked into the village and in turns used the pay phone in the pub to call home. The one gift shop had closed at 4:00, only the pub remained open and Kara and I drank stout until we had to return to the Club Med for dinner.
We were served in a half-lit dining room that had once been resplendent and gorgous. Now it was shut down, dusty and out of use. The crabby old lady brought us our soups, then our main course. Outside giant picture windows overlooking the sea we saw the storm clouds rolling in.
Abandoned hotel, no working phone, storm rolling in across the sea. All I needed was Scooby Doo sitting at my feet.
After dinner, we convinced the girls on our tour to scout the place out further. We discovered many locked doors at the end of dimly lit hallways. We managed to open one and found the old Club Med bar and kareoke lounge--complete with the menus and song lists last in use. Everything was covered with the stale air of desertion. Once upon a time this place had opened its doors, hopeful and expectant. The staff had waited for guests to arrive--to fill the pools and the lounge, a Love Boat on land--but what had happened?
Waterville, Ireland is rainy, chilly and quiet. It's not a hotspot for singles or couples to find adventure, romance and luxury. Clearly the Club Med people were fooling themselves. And now, now the building was vacant--how had the tour booked us here? Where did they drum up the crabby couple to check us in and serve us our meal? Replacing the song list on the bar, I followed the girls back through the labyrinth of basement corridors to the stairs and through the vacant lobby. The storm now slashed at the windows and filled our ears with its fury.
I slept poorly that night on thin sheets, aware of the storm, lacking television reception and any way of communicating with the world outside the gates of Ireland's only Club Med. The village was 2 miles away and I felt vulnerable.
I've been strange places, met strange people and seen strange things, but that abandoned Club Med in Waterville Ireland creeped me out to the core.