Pietermaritzburg - It was close to midnight at the Pietermaritzburg StayEasy. The lobby was far from quiet or empty, as you might expect at that time of the night. Nope, kids ran around excitedly, a mini-photo session was in place and we joined in, smiling for the cameras in our travel-soiled gear, hoping the smiles made up for any travel-residual tiredness.
We were in town for a family wedding reception, and although the sense of hospitality runs deep in the Indian community, there just wasn’t enough room in the various homes, and it seemed as if half the family were staying at the newly-opened StayEasy, and making their presence felt in a not unpleasant way close to the witching hour.
The friendly staff took it all in their stride, however, and looked on indulgently as we posed for pictures before heading to bed.
At breakfast, it was like another family reunion, with various members of the family taking up a long table.
“First time I’ve even been to a hotel and met tons of family at breakfast!” said my companion with a smile. I smiled too, tucking into my toast with marmite – how I struggle to find this most necessary of breakfast accompaniments in most hotels, most of the five-star grading. And yet the StayEasy provided, as it did in so many respects.
We helped ourselves to a simple breakfast in the light and airy Breakfast Room.
Situated conveniently opposite the new Midlands Mall, the StayEasy is, as its name suggests, a simple stop for business travellers and those attending more fun activities such as wedding receptions where unions are celebrated with food and cheer and endless cups of tea.
Rooms are quite affordably priced in the R700-plus mark and although a little on the smallish side if you’re sharing, they offer all the comforts and amenities you need. Decor is simple and elegant, there’s the now obligatory flat-screen TV, a sleeper couch that folds out if you’re staying with kids and double bed. There’s wireless Internet access accessible to all hotel guests 24 hours a day. Prepaid vouchers are available, or you can choose to use the self-service workstations. The hotel also had conference facilities.
We didn’t jump into the pool as the KZN weather had turned a little temperamental. But we wandered across to the Midlands Mall, somewhat of a talking point – small towns sometimes lack in attractions. It’s also recently opened, and proved to be a big attraction – we’d all forgotten various items at home.
And when we’d shopped, we bumped into family members at just about every turn, and sat down for coffee catch-ups. That’s the wonderful thing about a large family in a small town.
And the reason for our sojourn: a wedding reception: a celebration of cross-cultural and cross-country unions celebrated with tasty delicacies at the Jewel of India, and finished off with a dessert table that had me smiling.
There’s something special and indescribable about the celebration of two people who have decided to join together.
l Arja Salafranca was a guest of Tsogo Sun’s StayEasy Pietermaritzburg. - Sunday Independent