Getting to know you . . .

I had the wonderful privilege tonight of sitting with a Japanese guest who has been with us for the last 3 days and getting to know her a little. When people come to visit us, it is not possible to get to know everyone, much less intimately. However, tonight was an exception in that I had the opportunity to chat with this lovely lady over the course of 2 or more hours and in the process, we both felt that we had gotten to know each other a little more.

Hiromi came to us as a single traveller, having booked her room last year for her 3-night visit this year. Over the long distance relationship of emails back and forth, we managed to tease out her preferences for room types and budget. Hiromi chose Claife Heights, a standard double room on the first floor of the house for single occupancy. She was keen on the window seat that we had built into the floor to ceiling bay window and wanted a room with a good view of Lake Windermere and its surrounding mountains and fells.

A Laura Ashley wrought iron sleigh bed with a window seat in the Claife Heights room at Blenheim Lodge.

Make a beeline for the window seat and look out over Old Bowness and Lake Windermere from Claife Heights, our pretty standard double room with Laura Ashley wrought iron sleigh bed and And So To Bed pocket sprung mattress.

When Hiromi arrived 3 days ago, it was a Saturday and we were too busy to take time out to do more than be friendly and helpful to our guests. Today, however, was less frenetic and when Hiromi found out that we had been featured in Madame Figaro, a Japanese magazine for aspirational ladies, she was keen to take a look at the article. Having trotted into our apartment to retrieve the magazine and joined Hiromi in the lounge, our conversation meandered from one subject to another, and in the process, 10 minutes turned into a good 2 or more hours.

We spoke on all sorts of topics, from Hiromi’s desire to visit the UK because she is an Anglophile, to her job and family in Osaka. I discovered that we were only 3 years apart age-wise, and that we both had children who were very close in ages. We talked about Osaka having some of the best food ,in Japan including special udon noodles, the Japanese culture of families staying together, the cost of private education in Japan and other issues close to Hiromi’s heart.

‘Udon noodles are not original to Osaka, but local shop owners here created this inexpensive, delicious and filling dish by adding a thin piece of fried tofu, called kitsune, to the broth. The sweetly flavored kitsune is a perfect match for the udon noodles. Many small noodle shops, each with their own special broths and handmade noodles, serve bowls of hot kitsune udon. Now it’s standard Osaka fare.’ (Words and image courtesy of

As we spoke, my admiration for Hiromi increased. I saw before me an intelligent and industrious individual who, despite her dual obligations of looking after her parents (one of whom has become partly paralysed) and children whilst working part-time as a housekeeper in order to put them through university, dared to hope through a quarter century of hard slog and careful saving so that she could one day visit the UK, her dream destination. Her family relied on her to cook, clean and keep house for them, as well as her earnings as a part-time housekeeper to help support them all.

Hiromi explained that 2012 would be the only year that she could travel long and widely. Her younger daughter was currently at home and could help her mother look after her semi-paralysed father, while she took this long-planned 2-month trip. Once back in Japan, and with her daughter about to graduate next year and begin a new job, she would have the sole responsibility of taking care of her parents again.

Getting to know someone always opens one’s eyes to that individual’s personality. I felt honoured that Hiromi enjoyed speaking with me and telling me something about her life and dreams. When one is busy running a guest house, it is easy to forget that some of our guests do not come to the Lake District simply to enjoy its beauty; for some, their ‘pilgrimages’ to the Lakes – and perhaps the UK – also reflect the fruition of their fondest hopes and hold a deeper meaning for them in their lives. As is this extended time in the UK for Hiromi.

Hill Top, Near Sawrey, was Beatrix Potter’s home and remains very much like it was when she lived there. Hiromi had expressed a desire to visit Hill Top, so we arranged for a bus tour that included Hill Top in its itinerary to pick her up and drop her back at Blenheim Lodge, Bowness-on-Windermere. (Photo courtesy of

‘Blenheim Lodge . . . panoramic Lake views, peace and tranquillity, nestled against acres of beautiful fields and woodlands, in the heart of the English Lake District National Park.’

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