24-Hour Room Service: Aggie Grey's, Apia, Samoa

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The Independent Travel

With its bustling markets and ramshackle streets, the Western Samoan capital of Apia still retains an old-fashioned charm. Robert Louis Stevenson once made it his home as did hosts of pirates, whalers, fallen missionaries and American servicemen who swarmed into the South Pacific in 1942 in anticipation of a Japanese invasion. For one enterprising local lady, Agnes Genevieve Grey, their arrival proved a fortuitous turn of events. Years earlier, Ms Grey had converted an English gentleman's club into a small pub catering to local businessmen and tourists.

With its bustling markets and ramshackle streets, the Western Samoan capital of Apia still retains an old-fashioned charm. Robert Louis Stevenson once made it his home as did hosts of pirates, whalers, fallen missionaries and American servicemen who swarmed into the South Pacific in 1942 in anticipation of a Japanese invasion. For one enterprising local lady, Agnes Genevieve Grey, their arrival proved a fortuitous turn of events. Years earlier, Ms Grey had converted an English gentleman's club into a small pub catering to local businessmen and tourists.

When the Marines came, she started selling hamburgers, and her club swiftly grew into a three-storey clapboard hotel.

Among the servicemen who drank at Aggie Grey's was the US naval historian James A Michener. Many locals are convinced that she was the role model for Bloody Mary, the Tonkinese woman who provided servicemen with wine and song in his Tales of the South Pacific.

In later years, Gary Cooper and Marlon Brando enjoyed cocktails beneath the whirling fans of the bar. Today, the characters are less colourful, but the hotel, run by Aggie's son Alan, is far more luxurious.

A selection of traditional bungalows dotted around lush gardens provide respite from the city. Down walkways flanked by banana trees, ladies with flowers in their hair keep things running smoothly. Evenings pass easily among the wicker chairs and memorabilia at the bar. For dinner there's a choice between the traditional restaurant or the sleeker modern version.

LOCATION

The white façade of Aggie Grey's stands on the harbour road, a sedate sight amid Apia's bustle. For reservations call 00 685 22880; www.aggiegreys.com.ws.

Time to international airport: Faleolo airport is about 30 minutes' drive away. The hotel will arrange return transfers for 40 Western Samoan Tala (WST) (£8).

COMFORTABLE?

Among its 156 rooms and two suites, the hotel offers flower-filled deluxe rooms with views of the ocean or the verdant mountains around Apia. While less lavish, the 26 fales (island-style bungalows) have more character. They are not traditional enough to be open to the elements and do have air-con.

Freebies: The usual basic bathroom toiletries, and a surprising array of shoe-shine wipes, considering most people are wearing sandals. Free golf for guests at the Royal Samoan Country Club.

Keeping in touch: All rooms have satellite TV and direct-dial telephones, while the business centre offers internet links for WST 5 (£1) for 15 minutes.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Double rooms start at around £70 per night.

I'm not paying that: Try the Cloud 9 Eco Lodge, set among tropical rainforests in the mountains above Apia. Double rooms for WST 100 (£20) per night or singles for WST 70 (£14). For details: www.samoa-hotels.com/cloud9.



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