I have nothing against cats. Let’s just clear the air on that right now. Perfectly fine pet. Now, onward.
We’ve been having good luck booking motels on the fly here in New Zealand. The height of summer is over and kids here are back in school. So we’ve been winging it, booking as we go. It’s been working out fine. Until now.
Today we finally paid the price for not booking ahead. And it’s called The Cosy Cat Cottage.
We arrived in Whitianga around 2:00pm and dropped in on the local I-Site information center. We’ve found these little shops to be staffed by really friendly, helpful, enthusiastic people. Until now.
Gladys’ enthusiasm ran out a few decades back. When Tam said that we were looking for accommodations, she huffed and said, “Good luck with that. There’s a fishing tournament this week.”
To her credit (and likely for the sake of her commission), she started making some calls to local motels. Her gruff, cigarette-soaked voice turned all sweet and syrupy whenever she was on the phone. But it didn’t help. Fully booked. Fully booked. Full. Full. Full.
Finally, she said, “I’ll call Gordon.”
“Really?” he co-worker asked.
“My cat loves staying there,” she said.
I waited for the punch line. There wasn’t one.
“Did you say your cat loves staying there?” the co-worker asked.
“Yes,” she said.
Again, we all waited for more explanation, but none came. There was nothing more to explain. Her cat loves staying there.
She rang Gordon. He had one apartment unit available. We had no choice.
“He’s deaf, so just keep knocking when you get there,” Gladys said. “He’s old, and he’s not really good with the cleaning. If the room was in the main house, I wouldn’t send you there. But he’s got the self-contained unit available, so you should be fine. He’s a very nice man. Here’s a map.”
Off we went.
We saw the sign as we pulled up: The Cosy Cat Cottage. And below it: Cat Vacancy.
The mailbox was covered with painted cats. The window ledges of the main house were lined with dozens of cat figurines. Little bits of cat sculpture and cat memorabilia and general cat-ness started to appear all around us in a very Twilight-Zone-meets-Garfield kind of way.
Gordon was there on the front porch, waiting for us. He was indeed a very nice man and seemed to hear us just fine.
Long story short: here I sit, in our unit at The Cosy Cat Cottage. I am surrounded (and I use that term in the ‘Help, I’m surrounded!’ sort of way) by cat-themed art hanging on the walls: a countrified handkerchief; a tapestry of cats reading the menu at a fish restaurant; a framed painting of a cat looking wistfully out a window; a black and white photo of a box full of kittens; an art-deco-ish laminated poster of cats flying through space; and so forth. Then there’s the Garfield remote control holder by the TV, the lovely needlepoint pillow of a fat cat in a top hat named Jakob (his name is stitched on the pillow), and in the bedroom a leopard-print bedspread overlaid with a blanket emblazoned with a giant air-brushed face of a sleeping kitten. It looks like the set of a 70s adult film. Cathouse indeed.
What a difference a day makes. The night before, we were in the lap of luxury at the Tuakau Hotel. We’d had a long day of driving, coming out of the far northland of New Zealand and down past Auckland. When we finally stopped at a gas station it was around 10pm and deserted. (New Zealand, it seems, rolls up the sidewalks promptly at 9 and everyone goes to bed.)
A police officer named Rachel came into the gas station to get a candy bar and I asked her if she had any suggestions on where we could stay the night. She immediately took out her cell phone and started making calls for us. (With the exception of Gladys, I’m going to call the Kiwis the friendliest people you’d ever hope to find. And even Gladys wasn’t that bad, considering that she has to spend much of her day coddling dumb Americans who show up on a weekend in the middle of a fishing tournament expecting to find a room).
Officer Rachel found us a place and said, “You best follow me.” Just like that, we were getting a police escort to our motel. When we arrived, Rachel woke the proprietor (it was now pushing 10:45) but it turned out that the motel didn’t have any vacancy. Rachel just pulled out her phone and made more calls. Off we went again. All told we drove about 20 miles with a police escort. The boys wondered what would happen if she suddenly got an emergency call and had to speed off. I said that I’d been instructed to follow, so I’d just have to see how our Toyota Estima minivan would handle in a high-speed chase.
Rachel finally delivered us to the Tuakau, by far the nicest place we’ve stayed so far in New Zealand. Totally renovated, stylish, quiet and comfortable. Even the pillow top comforter that the staff put on the floor for the boys was as nice as any bed we’d been in.
We slept in. The boys had a soak in the big Jacuzzi tub. All was right with the world.
Fast forward to the Cosy Cat. If I can offer a little advice to the fellas out there, whatever it costs to book a place like Tuakau instead of a place like the Cosy Cat, it’s worth it. When your wife is afraid to use the towels or touch the bedspread, you can guarantee that the only thing getting frisky at the Cosy Cat are the cats.
We checked out in the morning, venturing into the main house for the first time. It was a virtual shrine to all things kitty. I’d describe it but I would be accused of stereotyping elderly cat people. Let’s just say this is where the stereotype came from.
Gordon was once a breeder of Siamese cats. “Once you do that,” he said, “you’re kind of tied in. Now I just board cats. And people.”
“Which do you have more of?” I asked.
“Cats,” he said. “I have seven right now.”
There were four of us, so the math says that we may have been the only humans willing to take a chance on the Cosy Cat.
So if you’re a cat and you happen to be reading this (and I know you can read because I saw the tapestry of you guys reading the fish restaurant menu), I give this place 5 stars.